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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Romans 7

Verse 1

1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?

Ver. 1. Know ye not, brethren ] Bellarmine saith of his Romans (more true perhaps of these), Romani sicut non acumina, ita nec imposturas habent. As they are not very knowing, so not cunning to deceive.

Verse 2

2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.

Ver. 2. She is loosed, &c. ] And so at liberty to marry again, though Jerome compare such to the unclean beasts in the ark, and to vessels of dishonour in a house, yea, to dogs that return to their vomit; which was his error. Patres legendi cum venia, saith one.

Verse 3

3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.

Ver. 3. So then if ] The sects then are out that say today, that if they have husbands and wives that will not turn saints, that is, sects, they may leave them, and marry others.

Verse 4

4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

Ver. 4. That we should bring forth fruit ] The ministry of the word, saith one, is the bridal bed; wherein God by his Spirit doth communicate with our souls his sweetest favours, and maketh them be conceived with the fruits of righteousness to everlasting life.

Verse 5

5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.

Ver. 5. In the flesh ] In our pure naturals.

The motions of sin ] Those maladies of the soul ( παθηματα ).

By the law ] By the irritation of the law.

Did work ] Gr. did inwardly work ( ενηργειτο ).

Verse 6

6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

Ver. 6. Not in the oldness of the letter ] That is, not in that old kind of life that we lived under subjection to the law, to the irritation, co-action, and curse of it.

Verse 7

7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

Ver. 7. I had not known lust ] Involuntary evil motions. The apostle calleth concupiscence sin, saith Possevine the Jesuit, but we may not say so. Most of the most dangerous opinions of Popery spring from hence, that they have slight conceits of concupiscence, as a condition of nature. But inward bleeding will kill a man, so will concupiscence, if not bewailed. The Council of Trent saith, that it is not truly and properly a sin, albeit it be so called, because it proceeds from sin, and inclines a man to sin. Neither want there among us that say, that original sin is not forbidden by the law; directly indeed, and immediately, it is not; but forbidden it is, because cursed and condemned by the law.

I had not known sin ] The law of nature discovers not original sin with its evil lusts. True it is that a philosopher could say (Timon apud Laertium),

παντων μεν πρωτιστα κακων επιθυμια εστιν ,

Concupiscence is the root of all evil; but whether he understood what himself said, I greatly question. Erras, si tecum vitia nasci putas, saith Seneca; supervenerunt, ingesta sunt: Thou mistakest if thou thinkest that thy vices were born with thee, they came in since, they were brought into thee. Tam sine vitio quam sine virtute nascimur, saith another; We were born as well without vice as without virtue. Quintilian saith it is more marvel that one man sinneth, than that all men should live honestly; sin is so against the nature of man.

Thou shalt not covet ] The word concupisco is inceptive: to show (saith one) that the very first motion is sin, though no consent be yielded.

Verse 8

8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.

Ver. 8. By the commandment ] Not commandments. Papists abolishing, or at least destroying, the sense of the second commandment, by making it a member of the first, that they may retain the number of ten words (so loth are heretics to have their asses’ ears seen) they divide this last; which yet Paul here calls the commandment; and sure he knew better than they the analysis of the law.

Wrought in me all manner of concupiscence ] The more the law would dam up the torrent of sinful lusts, the higher did they swell. ( Nitimur in vetitum. ) Corruption doth increase and begin by the law. The more God forbids sin, the more we bid for it: as if we did sin on purpose to provoke God; as if God had need deal with us as he did in the story, who was wont to command the contrary when he would have anything done, because he knew they would cross him. Howbeit, although sin thus take occasion by the law, yet this is per accidens, as in the dropsy, it is not the drink that is to be blamed for increasing the disease, but the ill distemper of the body.

Verse 9

9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.

Ver. 9. For I was alive ] As being without sense of sin, and conscience of duty.

Sin revived ] sc. In sense and appearance.

And I died ] sc. In pride and self-justice.

Verse 10

10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.

Ver. 10. Ordained to life ] By life and death understand peace and perturbation.

Verse 11

11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me .

Ver. 11. Deceived me ] Irritated my corrupt nature, and made me sin the more, per accidens, as Pharaoh was the worse for a message of dismission.

Verse 12

12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

Ver. 12. The commandment ] Vis legis in mandando et praecipiendo. The word ( εντολη ) properly signifieth an affirmative precept.

Verse 13

13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

Ver. 13. Exceeding sinful ] Sin is so evil that it cannot have a worse epithet given it. Paul can call it no worse than by its own name, "sinful sin."

Verse 14

14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

Ver. 14. Sold under sin ] But yet ill paid of my slavery, and lusting after liberty.

Verse 15

15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

Ver. 15. I allow not ] Gr. ου γινωσκω , I know not, as being preoccupated,Galatians 6:1; Galatians 6:1 , wherried and whirled away by sin before I am aware or have time to consider.

Verse 16

16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.

Ver. 16. I consent unto the law ] I vote with it, and for it, as the rule of right; I wish also well to the observance of it, as David did, Psalms 119:45 .

Verse 17

17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

Ver. 17. It is no more I ] Mr Bradford, martyr, in a certain letter thus comforteth his friend: At this present, my dear heart in the Lord, you are in a blessed estate, although it seem otherwise to you, or rather to your old Adam; the which I dare now be bold to discern from you, because you would have it not only discerned, but also utterly destroyed. God (saith another reverend man) puts a difference between us and sin in us, as between poison and the box that holds it.

Sin that dwelleth in me ] An ill inmate that will not leave, till the house falleth on tho head of it; as the fretting leprosy in the walls of a house would not leave till the house itself were demolished. Sin, as Hagar, will dwell with grace, as Sarah, till death beat it out of doors.

Verse 18

18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

Ver. 18. Dwelleth no good thing ] Horreo quicquid de meo est, ut sim meus, saith Bernard. It was no ill wish of him that desired God to free him from an ill man, himself, a For, though ingrafted into Christ, yet we carry about us a relish of the old stock still. Corruption is, though dejected from its regency, yet not ejected from its inherency; it intermingleth with our best works.

How to perform ] Gr. κατεργαζεσθαι , to do it thoroughly; though I am doing at it, as I can.

a Domine, libera me a malo homine, meipso.

Verse 19

19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

Ver. 19. For the good, &c. ] Nature, like Eve and Job’s wife, is always drawing us from God. As the ferryman plies the oar, and eyes the shore homeward, where he would be, yet there comes a gust of wind that carries him back again; so it is with a Christian. Corruption, egged with a temptation, gets as it were the hill, and the wind, and, upon such advantages, too often prevaileth.

Verse 20

20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

Ver. 20. It is no more I ] Every new man is two men. See Trapp on " Rom 7:17 "

But sin that dwelleth in me ] A scripture ill applied by that female Antinomian; who when her mistress charged her for stealing her linens and other things which she found in her chest or trunk, she denied that she stole them; and when she was asked how they came to be laid and locked up there? Did not you do this? No, said she, "it was not I, but sin that dwelleth in me." See Trapp on " Rom 6:15 " See Trapp on " Rom 7:17 "

Verse 21

21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

Ver. 21. When I would do good ] Something lay at the fountain head, as it were, and stopped him when he would do his duty. But God valueth a man by his desires. a There often cometh a prohibition from Chancery to stay proceedings at common law, so here; when we would pray, meditate, confer, &c., we are hindered and interrupted. But God considereth it; and as the service of a sick child is doubly accepted, so here.

Evil is present ] We can stay no more from sinning than the heart can from punting and the pulse from beating. Our lives are fuller of sins than the firmament of stars or the furnace of sparks. Erasmus was utterly out, that said with Origen, Paulum hoc sermone balbutire; quam ipse potius ineptiat, saith learned Beza. So Joannes Sylvius Aegranus, a learned but a profane person, reprehended Paul for want of learning, and said, Quod usus sit declamatoriis verbis, non congruentibus ad rem, &c. Nominabat sophisms, quod diceremus homines non posse implere legem. (Joh. Manl.)

a Tota vita boni Christiani sanctum desiderium est. Aug.

Verse 22

22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

Ver. 22. I delight ] Germanicus reigned in the Romans’ hearts, but Tiberius in the provinces. So here.

Verse 23

23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

Ver. 23. A law in my members ] Called the deeds of the body, Romans 8:13 , because corruption acteth and uttereth itself by the members of the body. a The πανσπερμια ( vox Empedoclea ) is within, but easily and often budgeth and breaketh out.

Warring against the law ] The regenerate part. Plato in Cratylo pulchre ait; Ut mentem appellamus νοον , ita legem dicimus νομον , quasi μενοντα νοον , alioqui mens hominum vagatur.

And bringing me into captivity ] The sins of the saints (those of daily incursion) are either of precipitancy, asGalatians 6:1; Galatians 6:1 , or of infirmity; when a man wrestles, and hath some time to fight it out, but for want of breath and strength, falls, and is in some captivity to the law of sin; this is the worse.

a επιθυμιαν Plato πολυκεφαλον appellat.

Verse 24

24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

Ver. 24. O wretched man ] We must discontentedly be contented to be exercised with sin while we are here. It is so bred in the bone, that till our bones, as Joseph’s, be carried out of the Egypt of this world, it will not leave. The Romans so conquered Chosroes the Persian, that he made a law, that never any king of Persia should make war against the Romans. (Evagrius.) But let us do what we can to subdue sin, it will be a Jebusite, a false borderer, yea, a rank traitor, rebelling against the Spirit. Only this we may take for a comfortable sign of future victory, when we are discontent with our present ill estate, grace will get the upper hand; as nature doth, when the humours are disturbed, and after many fit. And as till then there is no rest to the body, so neither is there to the soul. The conflict between flesh and spirit is as when two opposite things meet together (cold saltpetre and hot brimstone), they make a great noise. So doth Paul here, Miserable me, &c. Basil fitly compareth him to a man thrown off his horse, and dragged after him crying out for help. Another, to one that is troubled with a disease called the mare, or Ephialtes; which (in his slumber) maketh him think that he feels a thing as big as a mountain lying on his breast, which he can no way remove, but would fain be rid of.

Who shall deliver me ] Nothing cleaves more pertinaciously, or is more inexpugnable, than a strong lust.

From this body of death ] Or, this dead body, by a Hebraism, this carcase of sin to which I am tied and long held, as noisome every whit to my soul as a dead body to my senses; and as burdensome as a withered arm or mortified limb, which hangs on a man as a lump of lead. Some remnants of sin God hath left in us, to clear to us his justifying grace by Christ’s righteousness. This the apostle falls admiring,Romans 8:1; Romans 8:1 ; "Now then there is no condemnation," &c.; as I might well have expected, being carried captive to the law of sin. Herein also Christ deals as some conquerors, who had taken their enemies prisoners, but yet killed them not immediately, till the day of triumph came. This will keep the saints nothing in their own eyes, even when they are filled brimfull with grace and glory in another world.

Verse 25

25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Ver. 25. I thank God, &c. ] The Grecians being delivered but from bodily servitude by Flaminius the Roman general, called him their saviour; and so rang out, Saviour, saviour, that the fowls in the air fell down dead with the cry. How much greater cause have we to magnify the grace of Christ, &c.

So then, with the mind, &c. ] The stars by their proper motion are carried from the west to the east; and yet by the motion of obedience unto the first mover, they pass along from the east unto the west. The waters by their natural course follow the centre of the earth, yet yielding to the moon, they are subject to her motions; so are saints to God’s holy will, though corrupt nature repine and resist. Grace is the prince in the regenerate soul. The will may sometimes be drawn away from the king and fly to the enemy, as David fled to Achish for fear; yet when he went abroad to fight, he killed the Philistines in the south country, and he carried still a loyal heart to his king; so in this case. A ravished woman vexari potest, violari non potest, may be vexed, but not violated. We read of one that (when she could not otherwise help herself) thrust her shears into the belly of an unclean bishop that would have forced her.

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Romans 7". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.