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As if the apostle had said, "You Jews, who study the law and are well acquainted with it, cannot but know that the law of God hath power over a man to require of him exact, perfect, and perpetual obedience, and to accuse, condemn, and bind him over to the curse for the least breach and violation of it; and all this a long as he liveth under the law, and is not freed from the malediction of it by faith in Christ"
Learn hence, 2. That the law of God, in the force and strength of it, and as considered in itself, is a very hard lord and master, exacting perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience to its commands and binding sinners over to the curse for the least transgression and violation of it.
Learn, 2. That Jesus Christ has freed all believers from the rigour of the law, from the curse of the law, and from the irritation of the law: that is, from the power which is in the law, to stir them up in sin through the corruption of their own hearts and natures.
Blessed be God! we are by Christ freed from, and dead to the law, as a covenant of life; but we are under it, and may we all our days sit under the shadow of it with great delight, as an eternal rule of holy living.
Here the apostle doth exemplify and illustrate the foregoing assertion, namely, That believers are freed from the law, by a similitude taken from the law of marriage: As death freeth husband and wife from the law which bound them to each other, and empowereth the survivor to marry to another person; in like manner the death of Christ was the death of the law,, as a covenant of works, holding us under the bond of the curse of it; and so his dying gave a manumission or freedom from that bond, and a capacity of espousal unto Christ; that so living in conjugal affection and obedience to him, we may be made fuitful by his Spirit, doing such things as are agreeable to the will of God, and tending to the glory of God. Ye are dead to the law by the body of Christ: That is, through the offering up of Christ's body upon the cross.
Learn hence, 1. That he that is under the law, is as strictly bound to the rigour and curse of the law, as a married woman is bound to her husband during his life.
Learn, 2. That one great end of Christ's death was to purchase our freedom from the law, that we might be capable of being espoused to himself. For whilst we were under the curse of the law, we were not in a capacity of being married unto Christ. He or she that is a slave to another, is not capable to be disposed of in marriage until made free.
In like manner we were in bondage to the law, as well as in slavery unto sin and Satan; but Christ has bought out our liberty, and thereby put us into a capacity of being espoused unto himself.
Behold what manner of love the Redeemer has shewed unto us, that we should be called his spouse, and he our husband! He loved us, but not for any advantage he could have by us; for we had nothing but sin and shame to present him with. Nay, he must purchase us, and that with his own blood, before he could be united to us. Oh incomparable love! Oh fervent desires!
Learn, 3. That though believers are free from the rigour and curse of the law by the death of Christ, yet have they not an undoubted liberty, but are still under government, under an head and guide. As a wife is under the government of her husband, so are believers under the guidance and government of Jesus Christ, who in a special manner guideth them by his word and Spirit; and their being said to be dead to the law, signifies no more than the law's not having dominion over them, in regard of the curse and condemnation of it.
As if the apostle had said, "When we lived under the dispensation of the law, and were married to the law, we brought forth fruit suitable to that state and condition. But now being freed from the law, and married unto Christ, it is meet and right, equal and fit, that we should bring forth fruit answerable to our more excellent state and condition. That now we serve God with new hearts and lives by the Spirit of Christ, according to the law of grace, and not carnally in the bondage and terror of the old law, called here the oldness of the letter."
Learn hence, 1. That all sincere and serious Christians, who are dead to the law, and espoused unto Christ, ought to bring forth fruit unto God, suitable to their noble estate, and most honourable condition. Freedom and deliverance from the rigour and curse of the law ought to bind us more strongly to God, to love and serve him, to glorify and obey him.
Learn, 2. That all true believers, who are freed from the rigour and curse of the law, ought to serve the Lord in true holiness both of heart and life, and to yield a new and universal obedience to him.
This the apostle here calls the newness of the Spirit, to intimate to us, that new obedience is the work of the holy Spirit in us, as the author of all grace and sanctification. And whereas the newness of the Spirit is opposed to the oldness of the letter; that is, the ministry of the law, which is itself a dead letter, discovering sin, but not discovered how sin may be either pardoned or subdued; we may gather, That the law of God, and indeed the whole word of God, without the Spirit, is but a dead letter, unable to work grace and holiness in us, or to excite and quicken us unto newness of life.
Whenever then we place ourselves under the word, let us pray with David, Lord, open thou mine eyes, that I may see the wonderous things of thy law.
Observe here, 1. The objection (which the apostle answers) that some were ready to make against the holiness of the law. He had affirmed at that the motions of sin were stirred up by the law. Romans 7:5 "If so, say some, then the law may seem to be the cause of sin;" God forbid: says the apostle. the thought of such a conclusion ought to be abhorred.
Hence learn, 1. That the holiest doctrines and truths of God are subject to be perverted and abused, and to have absurd inferences and conclusions drawn from them.
2. That the ministers of Christ must be able and careful, not only to propound the truth soundly, but to defend it solidly, against all cavils, and wicked objections whatsoever, and to declare their utter detestation and utmost abhorrency of any such opinion as reflects dishonour upon the holy law of God.
Observe, 2. The apostle's argument to confute this wicked notion of the law's being the cause of sin: I had not known sin, but by the law. As if the apostle had said, "That which forbids sin discovers and condemns sin, cannot be the cause of sin; but so doth the holy law of God: It makes sin manifest in and to the conscience of the sinner; therefore the law is not sin, no exciter to it, or cause of it."
Learn hence, That the law of God is so far from being the cause of sin, that by it men came to a more clear, full, distinct, and effectual, knowledge of sin; I had not known sin, but by the law. That is, not so clearly and effectually, so as to be duly humbled for it, and turned from it.
The light of nature shews a difference between good and evil, but the law of God represents sin as the evils of evils. In it, as in a glass, we behold the foul face of sin, and are convinced by it of the monstrous evil that it is.
Observe, 3. How the apostle produces his own experience in this matter, and gives a particular instance in himself, that he had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet; that is, he should not have understood that the first irregular motions of the heart, the first inclinations and desires of the soul towards sin, (though not consented to by the will) were evil, had he not, by a more attentive consideration of the tenth commandment, found that they were so.
Learn hence, 1. That lust or concupiscence is sin; that is, original lust, the first motions of corrupt and rebellious nature, whereby our inclinations are towards evils, though our wills do not fully consent to evil.
Learn, 2. That so holy and spiritual is the law of God, that it discovers the sin of nature, and condemns the first motions and inclinations of the soul to sin, even to the pit of hell. All the wisdom of the heathen, yea, of the wisest and most learned persons in the world, was never able to discover the first motions arising from our rebellious natures to be sin; only the holy law of God makes them known, and discovers them to be sins. I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. Such is the holiness of the law of God, that it requires not only the purity of our actions, but also the integrity of all our faculties.
Observe here, A concession or grant made by the apostle, that although the law was not the formal cause of sin, yet sin was an accidental event of the law, through the depravity and corruption of our natures; lust or concupiscence in us being stirred up more strongly, and breaking forth more violently in us, by being prohibited and restrained by the law. As things forbidden us are the more desired by us; the more the law would restrain sin through our corruption, the more it enrages sin: As the more you could dam up a torrent, the higher it swells. Thus sin takes occasion by the commandment to work all manner of concupiscence in us.
Learn hence, That such is the depravity and perverseness of our present natures, that there is found within us a propensity and inclination to all sin; and although the law of God doth not give the least countenance to sin, yet sin takes occasion, from the restraints of the law, to grow more impetuous, and is the more irritated by being prohibited; and consequently it is not from ourselves, but from God's restraining grace, that those evil inclinations which are in our hearts do not break forth in our lives.
The apostle adds, Without the law sin was dead: that is, without the knowledge and due consideration of the law, sin is comparatively dead: that is, the corruption of nature lies hid, and is not so much known to be sin; nor had it so much power to terrify the conscience, and to stir up inordinate affections, as after the law is known and duly considered.
Learn hence, that such as either know not the word and law of God, or do not duly consider it, have very little sense of inward pollution. But their corruption lies, as it were, dead in them, and they in that without touching the conscience, or laying the soul under sensible apprehensions of its sin and danger: Without the law sin is dead. Sin in the conscience is like a lion asleep in his den; it awakes not, stirs not, terrifies and accuses not, till the law of God rouses it; and then the sinner sees himself under the curse, and liable to perdition.
As if the apostle had said, "Formerly, when I lived a Pharisee, and had the law in my hand, but did not consider in my heart what exactness and perfection it required in my life, I contented myself with an outward observation of it, and concluded my state to be good and safe: But when I came to a right understanding of the word and law of God, and to be convinced by it, that the inward lustings and ordinate desires of the heart were sins, then I found myself a guilty creature, obnoxious to wrath, and in a state of death."
Here note, 1. The good opinion the apostle had, and all unregenerate men have of themselves before conversion: I was alive once. By life understand liveliness, confidence and assurance of his good estate and condition; he was full of vain hope; false joy, and presumptuous confidence.
Learn hence, That natural and unregenerate persons are usually very full of groundless confidence and cheerfulness without the least suspicion of their bad estate and sad condition: I was alive without the law once.
Note, 2. The apprehension and opinion which St. Paul had, and others will have of themselves, when they come under the regenerating work of the Spirit, by the ministry of the word and law of God: When the commandment came, I died.
Death here stands opposed to life before, and denotes the sorrows, fears, and tremblings which seized upon his soul, when he was convinced of the badness of his condition: it stabbed all his carnal mirth, joy, and jollity, as the very heart: I died.
Note, 3. The cause and reason or this wonderful alteration and change of judgment in the apostle,; it was the commandment and law of God: When the commandment came, that is, close and home to my heart and conscience with a divine efficacy. The commandment was come before to him by way of promulgation, and he had the literal knowledge to it; but now it came in the convincing power and spiritual application of it. Accordingly sin revived, that is, the sense of sin was more lively imprinted upon his soul; and now he died, all his vain hopes gave up the ghost now, and his sin and guilt stared in the face of his conscience.
Learn hence, That there is mighty efficacy in the word or law of God to kill vain confidence, and quench carnal mirth in the hearts of men, when God sets it home upon their consciences: I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
Observe here, 1. The natural end and use of the commandment or law of God, It was ordained unto life; that is, it was given for a rule of life, a promised eternal salvation to the perfect fulfilling of it. But no man since the fall being able perfect the law in his own person, can be justified by the law in the sight of God. However, the proper end for which the law was ordained, was to give life to them that should perfectly keep it.
Observe, 2. The contrary use which the apostle found the law to be of, with reference unto himself. What was ordained to life, he found to be unto death: that is, through his own corruption and transgression, it became an occasion of death to him, by binding him over to punishment, and rendering him obnoxious to the wrath of God.
Thus the word of God, the sweet and saving word of God, that word which God had ordained to bring men to life and salvation, is found to some the savour of death unto death; but the fault is not in the word, but in themselves.
As if the apostle had said, " Sin, or the corruption of my heart and nature, being stirred up by the commandment which forbids lust, and condemns it, enticed me, and persuaded me, and prevailed over me, to yield to the lusts of my own heart, and then condemned me, and slew men for yielding to them."
See here the true and genuine nature of sin: it first deceives, and then destroys: It deceived me, saith the apostle, and then slew me. Sin doth perfectly besot the creature, and renders it injudicious: it befools and deceives us, it pollutes and defiles us, it doth debase and degrade us, and, without repentance, damns and destroys.
God keep us from being hardened in sinning through the deceitfulness of sin; let no profit tempt us, no pleasure entice us, no power embolden us, no privacy encourage us, to adventure upon any known sin; for its embraces are deadly, it leads to death, and ends in death; after it has deceived us, it certainly destroys us, Sin taking occasion, deceived me, and by it slew me.
Observe here, What care and holy caution the apostle uses to vindicate and clear the holy law of God from all fault and blame, charging his guilt, not upon the commandment, but upon the corruption of his own heart, which took occasion to be stirring in him, and by the commandment slew him; affirming nevertheless, that the law of God in itself, and in its own nature, is holy, just, and good.
Here note, that the apostle adorns the law with the most excellent eulogy and commendation.
'Tis holy, 1. As it enjoins all acts of piety towards God; namely, adoration of his majesty, imitation of his purity, resignation to his providence, obedience to his commands.
2. 'Tis just, as it directs us in our duty to others in every capacity and relative wherein we stand, and obliges us to walk by that rule of equity, to do to others as we would they should do unto us.
3. 'Tis good to the man that keeps it, commanding nothing but what is influential upon his well-being both here and hereafter.
Could we set aside the authority of the Lawgiver, yet all the precepts of the law, for their moral goodness, deserve our esteem, and choice, and entire observation; nothing being required of us but what is our duty and interest as men, and which tends to the perfecting and ennobling of our natures: Well then might our apostle determine, that the law is holy, the commandment holy, and just, and good.
From what the apostle had said in the former verse, he moves an objection unto this verse: "Seeing the law was holy, and just, and good, how comes it to be unto death? Was that which was good made death unto me? " To this he replies, both by way of negation, God forbid; for to find fault with the law, is to find fault with God himself! and also by way of affirmation, asserting, that sin is the true cause of death.
The commandment indeed condemns, or is death to the sinner, yet not of itself, but because of sin; as we say of a condemned malefactor, it is not the judge, but the law, that condemns him; or, strictly speaking, it is not the law, but his own guilt, that condemns him; the judge is but the mouth of the law, to denounce the sentence that guilt deserves.
And hereby sin appears to be what really it is, sin sinful, exceedingly sinful, masculinely and vigorously sinful, excessively and out of measure sinful, extremely and beyond all expression, nay, beyond our comprehension, sinful.
Learn hence, 1. That the law of God, in the whole, and in every part thereof, is holy in its institution with respect to man: for it was ordained unto life, Romans 7:10.
Learn, 2. That this good and holy law violated and transgressed, condemns and kills, and assigns a person over unto death.
Learn, 3. That though the law condemns man's sin, and man for his sin, yet still the law is good, and not to be blamed; the law is to be justified by man, even when it condemns man: as man had no reason to break the law, so he has no cause to find fault with the law, though it binds him over to death for the breaking of it.
Learn, 4. That 'tis not the law, but sin, that worketh man's death and ruin. Sin aims at not less, and will end in no less; for the wages of sin is death.
Yet, 5. Sin certainly worketh man's death and destruction by that which is good, to wit, the law; for when sin hath used man to break the law, it then makes use of the law to break man; that is, to undo him by condemnation and death for breaking of it.
Lastly, from hence it follows, that sin is therefore exceedingly, yea, unmeasurably sinful, poisonous and pernicious, because it kills men, and not only so, but it kills men by that which is good, to wit, the law. That which was appointed for life, becomes the occasion of death; consequently was in the world.
"Ah! sinful sin, hyperbolically and out of measure sinful, thou art a contempt of God's sovereign authority, a contrariety to his infinite holiness, a violation of his royal and righteous law, and the highest affront that can be offered to the majesty of the great and glorious God.
Thou hast made man like a beast, like the worst of beasts; worse than the worst of beasts; yea, sin is worse than the devil himself, than hell itself. Sin made the devil what he is: A devil and hell never had an existence till sin had one: God was never angry till sin made him angry.
Oh sin! 'tis thou that makest hell to be hell; and the more sin the more hell. Well might the apostle then say here, Sin, that it might appear sin, worketh death in me, and is become exceeding sinful."
Still observe, How the apostle goes on to assert the purity and spirituality of the law of God: The law is spiritual; spiritual in the author of it, God, who is an Holy Spirit; spiritual in the matter of it, requiring perfect purity both of heart and life.
Learn hence, That the moral law of God is in the nature of it purely spiritual, perfectly holy, being breathed forth by the Holy Spirit of God, and requireth perfect purity both of heart and life, and perfect conformity to it, both in the inward and outward man.
Hence some derive the word which we translate law, from a root which signifies to behold and consider, to contemplate and look about: Intimating thereby that the holy and spiritual law of God is diligently to be observed and considered, looked into, and mediated upon; it being so perfectly pure and holy, that it requires not only the purity of our actions, but also the integrity of our very faculties, our hearts and natures.
So may, 1. every unregenerate man truly say, I am carnal, having not only flesh in me, but prevailing in me, sin having a regency and dominion over me: he fights under the banner of corrupt nature, acting in a willing, ready, and full subjection to sin, and compliance with it; he is carnal, being under the power and unbroken strength of carnal lusts, and sensual propensions, and following them in the daily course of his life.
2. I am carnal, may a regenerate person truly say,
1. With respect to that exact purity and spirituality both of heart and life; which the holy law of God requires; the law is spiritual, but I, alas! compared with the spiritual law, am but a lump of corruption, coming infinitely short, God knows, of that uprightness and spirituality which the law of God requires.
2. A regenerate person may truly say he is carnal, that is, in part, in part so, having much, too much carnality in his carnal affections found with him, and carnal infirmities cleaving to him:
Such as are truly acquainted with the spirituality of the word and law of God, and also well acquainted with their own hearts, do see sufficient cause to complain of carnal corruption abiding in them and cleaving to them. I am carnal, have said, and may say, the holiest of saints, with respect to the perfect measure and degrees of holiness.
Thus that holy and blessed martyr, Mr. Bradford, complains, styling himself the heard-hearted, unbelieving, earthly-minded Bradford; yet was a man of a very tender spirit, full of faith, fruitful in good works, and exceedingly mortified to the world. Dost thou groan under the burthen of indwelling corruption? know, that the whole spiritual creation groaneth, and travelleth in pain together with thee until now: But blessed be God for the hopes of a deliverer and a deliverance.
This phrase is borrowed from bondmen or capatives, some of which are sold, others sell themselves into captivity. The unregenerate man, with Ahab, sells himself to work wickedness. This denotes willfulness and obstinacy; such a person doth prostitute himself to the lust of Satan: A regenerate person doth not, with Ahab, sell himself, but is sold, like Joseph by his brethren, and Sampson by his wife; being rather passive than active: He is sometimes sin's captive, but never sin's slave; he is never sin's willing servant, but sometimes its unwilling prisoner.
The holiest and best of saints, though not held in wilful slavery, thraldom and bondage unto sin, yet corruption holds them too much, though in part unwillingly, under the tyranny of sin; they do not yield to sin, as good subjects yield to their lawful prince, voluntary obedience; but as captives yield to a tyrant, paying him involuntary subjection. His soul is betrayed, says one, by corruption to temptation, and by temptation to corruption.
These words are an argument to prove what the apostle had asserted in the foregoing verse; namely, That he was held under the power of sin unwillingly, because he did not allow or approve of any evil which he did contrary to the holy law of God, but did hate and abominate it, was displeased with it, and with himself for it.
An unregenerate man's judgment and conscience is sometimes against sin; which makes him afraid to commit it; but a gracious person's will, heart and affections, are all set against sin;: Indeed there is a regenerate and an unregenerate part in the Christians will (he is sanctified totus, but not totaliter;) so far the will is renewed, it hates all sin, and meditates the ruin and destruction of it.
And observe, It was not this or that particular evil, but all evil which the apostle hated. A wicked man may hate a particular evil, as Absalom hated Ammon's uncleanness; but to hate all sin, is the character of none but a regenerate person.
Observe, lastly, That a good man sometimes, through the power of corruption, and the prevalency of temptation, doth that evil which is disallowed and disapproved by him; yea, which is very odious and hateful to him: he loaths in part what he doth, and afterwards loaths himself for the doing of it; and when he doth evil, allows not of the evil that he doth.
Note, 1. How readily the apostle consented to the equity and holiness of God's law; he did love the law of God, which made holiness his duty: I consent, says he, to the law, that it is good; he assented to it in his judgment, he complied with it in his will, he clave to it in his inward affections. So far as a person is regenerate, his heart doth correspond with God's law: But may not a unregenerate person consent in his judgments approve, yet not in their hearts like and love the law of God: At the same time, that they commend it with their mouths, they cast it behind their backs.
Note, 2. How the apostle disclaims though not disowns, the evil done by him; It is no more I, but sin that dwelleth in me. As if he had said, "My corrupt affections sometimes overpower me against the approbation of my judgment, the inclination of my will: But it is not I, (according to my better part, from which I am denominated,) but sin dwelleth in me."
Learn hence, That if we disclaim the evil done by us, as being contrary to us, contrary to the habitual frame and disposition of our hearts, contrary to the deliberate purpose and settled resolution of our wills, Almighty God will not charge our failings upon us to our condemnation, but mercifully distinguish between the weakness of the flesh, and the willingness of the spirit; between us, and sin that dwelleth in us. Sin will remain and dwell, but it must not reign and rule: 'Tis a busy inmate in a gracious heart, but 'tis a lordly master, yea, an imperious tyrant in a sinner's heart. Happy he that can in truth and sincerity say, It is not I, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Observe here, 1. The apostle's proposition; I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing: That is in my corrupt and unregenerate nature, there is nothing truly and spiritually good; and this I myself am sensible of, and privy to, and very well acquainted with.
Learn thence, That good men are intimately acquainted with themselves, privy to their own corruptions, sensible of the indwelling presence of sin in themselves, which calls upon them to be humble, and excites them to be watchful: I know that in me dwelleth no good thing.
Observe, 2. The confirmation of the foregoing proposition; for to will is present with me; that is, to will what is good, to purpose good, and to desire that which is good, is present with me; but I want ability to perform that good I purpose.
Learn hence, That though to will that which is good is ready and at hand with God's regenerated children, yet through that corruption which still abides in them, they are sometimes disabled for doing that good which they purpose, design, and desire to do; and that little good they do, is very brokenly and imperfectly done.
A mortal father may as soon beget an immortal child, as an imperfect saint can perform anything perfectly good: There can never be more in the effect than there is in the cause: A weak grape cannot make strong wine: Whilst we are saints on earth, though we may and ought to aspire after, yet we shall not be able to attain unto the sinless perfection of the saints in heaven: A real Christian is one that is continually labouring after the attainment of that which he knows in this life he shall never attain unto; namely, perfection in grace; In heaven we shall have no occasion to complain, that how to perform that which is good, we find not.
Here the apostle repeats what he had before asserted; namely, That he did not always do that good which he desired to do, but sometimes being overpowered by the flesh, did what the law prohibits, and what he would not do.
And further adds, That it was no longer himself, (chusing and approving the action in his mind) that did this, but sin dwelling in him, which sometimes hurried him to the commission of it, against the inclination and law of his mind.
Here note, 1. That the corruption of nature in the soul of man, is a real, but a distinct thing from the soul itself. A dweller in an house, is really distinguished from the house he dwells in. Sin is not a substance, but the pravity, and depravity of our faculties.
Note, 2. That the corruption of our own hearts and natures, is the root and cause of all that evil that is done by us.
Note, 3. That the habitual bent, the settled purpose, and determinate resolution of a Christian's will, is against all sin; and he doth not sin with the full consent of his will. Although there are not two distinct persons, yet there are two distinct principles in a regenerate man.
Sin and he are distinguished. In a good man there is a conflict between sin and grace, but in an unregenerate man there is no combat between the flesh and the Spirit; for he is all flesh; the flesh and he are one; the combat is not between grace and sin, but between one sin and another, and between one faculty and another: Light in the understanding, opposes lust in the will; whereas the conflict in a gracious person is not between his judgment and his will, but betwixt the regenerate and unregenerate part in his will.
Sin, like a preternatural bias clapped upon the soul, sometimes carries it away from the mark which the Christian aims at: However, though a good man be overcome in praelio, yet not in bello; though grace is sometimes foiled in the combat, yet it keeps the field, maintains and recovers its ground. The saint will not throw down the weapon till he lays down his life, and grace shall at length be finally victorious.
As if the apostle had said, "I verily find sin, having an impelling power and impulsive virtue in it, like a law in my members, thwarting and contradicting the inclinations of my mind, and the resolutions of my will , that when I would do good, evil is present with me to oppose and hinder me from the doing of it."
Note here, A double burden which the apostle complained of;
1. Of presence of sin at all times, Evil is present with me. It follows me, as if he had said, and is as inseparable from me as my shadow. This he calls a law, because of its mighty power and efficacy, and because of its constant residence in his nature.
2. Of the operation of it, especially at some particular and special times and seasons. When I would do good, then evil is present with me. As if he had said, "When I address myself to any holy duty, and heavenly employment, when I desire and design to draw near to God, and would hope for the sweetest fellowship and communion with him, then, alas! then to my great sorrow, is evil present with me.
Ah, when I promise myself most comfort and communion in the enjoyment of my God, how do I then find a bad heart in the best season, a dead and drowsy spirit when I would be most spiritual in the duties I perform!"
From whence we learn, That the holiest and best of saints in this their imperfect state, do sensibly feel, and sadly bewail, the working of sin and corruption in them,; and that in the very seasons and opportunities of their communion with God; When I would do good, then evil is present with me.
If by the inward man we understand the mind and understanding of a man only, then the unregenerate person may be said to delight in the all of God, with Ezekiel's hearers, Ezekiel 33:32; with Herod, Mark 6:20; with the stony ground, Matthew 13:20. That is, they delight and satisfy themselves with the bare hearing of the word, and with a notional and speculative knowledge of their duty; either the eloquence of the preacher whom they hear, or the pleasingness of some truths which they hear, affect them with a sudden joy: they delight to hear the word, but they take no delight to do it. It is neither a spiritual delight, nor an abiding delight, that such men take in the law of God.
If by the inward man we understand that which St. Peter calls the hidden man of the heart, the new man, or the regnerate part in man, as being seated in the inward powers and faculties of the soul; then, to delight in the law of God, is to love it for its purity and spirituality, becausse it makes holiness our duty; to take pleasure in the knowledge of the law, in meditating upon it, and in practising every good duty contained in it, and enjoined by it.
Thus David did delight to do the will of God, because the law of God was within his heart. Where there is lex in corde, there will be cor in lege; where the law of God is in the heart, there the heart will be engaged in that obedience which is by the law required, and by the Christians performed. He delights in the law, and the law is delighted by him.
Here observe, That in this and the foregoing verses, mention is made of four laws contending one against another, whereof two are on one side, and two on the other; namely, the law of God, and the law of the mind; the law of the members, and the law of sin. By the law of God is understood the word of God; by the law of the mind, is understood in the regenerate, grace in the heart; in the unregenerate, light in the conscience; by the law of the members, understand original lust and concupiscence; by the law of sin those corrupt principles according to which lust governs.
Learn hence, That there is a conflict or combat between the law of the mind, and the law of the members, and this both in regenerate and unregenerate persons.
This appears, 1. By the testimony of nature speaking in the Heathen. Thus Medea, video meliora proboque, deterior a sequor their rational appetite displeaseth reason, and leads it captive.
2. By the testimony of scripture, and that
1. As to the unregenerate, witness Herod, Mark 6:26. who had conflict between lust and conscience; as had also Pilate upon the occasion of our Savior's death: Conscience bid him spare, popularity bid him kill.
2. As to the regenerate, The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, &c. Galatians 5:17
3. By the testimony of experience: Who finds not every day within himself a contest of contrary motions and inclinations? A Christian's bosom is like Rebecca's womb, it has twins of two contrary natures: A smooth Jacob and rough Esau, flesh and spirit.
But wherein consists the difference between that conflict which is found in the natural and spiritual, the regenerate and unregenerate man?
Ans. 1. The conflict in an unregenerate person is not between grace and sin, but between one lust and another; the struggle is, which lust shall be in the throne, as rebels in a kingdom, having cast off the authority of their lawful prince, everyone snatches at the sceptre, and would command and rule. Thus every lust is ambitious of superiority, and usurps a regency in the soul: So that though the sinner oft changes his master, yet not his servitude, he is a slave still.
Now, from this contrariety of lust rebelling in a carnal heart, he is necessitated to oppose the lust which he favours less, to gratify another which he favours more. Thus the conflict is between sin and sin, not between grace and sin.
2. As an unregenerate man's combat with sin is betwixt one lust and another, so it is only between one faculty and another. Thus light in the understanding opposes lust in the will. The judgment and conscience of a sinner says, "Oh do not that abominable thing which the soul of God hates." But then lust in the will votes for it, and is angry with conscience for being so bold as to oppose it.
Whereas, the conflict in a regenerate person, is between grace and sin, not betweixt sin and sin, and not betwixt the understanding and the will, but betwixt the regenerate and unregenerate part in the same will.
And although grace be foiled in a particular combat, yet it keeps the field, and the Christian will not throw down his weapon, till he lays down his life.
These words are a sad and sorrowful complaint of the present and too great prevalency of indwelliung sin and unsubdued corruption; and in them observe,
1. The person complaining, St. Paul.
2. The matter of the complaint, not of affliction, but of sin; not of a death, but of a body of sin and death, which he carried about with him.
3. The manner of the complaint, 'tis with vehemence and affection, it is vox anhelantis, the voice of one that pants and breaths after deliverance; not of one that doubted, much less desponded of a deliverer and a deliverance.
As if the apostle had said, "Oh how am I tired and wearied with continual conflicts and strivings with indwelling sin? How do the remains of unsubdued sin, and (as yet) unmortified corruption, affect and afflict me? who will deliver me? and when shall deliverance be enjoyed by me?"
Learn hence, That there are sad remains of indwelling sin, and unsubdued corruption, in the very best and holiest of God's children and servants in this life, which they sadly complain of, sensibly groan under, daily watch against, continually conflict with, and shall, in God's time, be fully and finally delivered from.
Here the apostle spies a deliverer, the Lord Jesus Christ; one that had delivered him from the condemning and reigning power of sin, and would ere long deliver him from the presence as well as prevalency of sin.
And whereas the apostle styles Christ Jesus not his Lord, but our Lord; that is, the Lord of all believers; it gives us this consolation and joyful assurance, that the happy hour is at hand, when we shall be everlastingly freed from the indwelling presence of sin, from all temptations to sin, from all inclinations to offend, yea, from all possibility of sinning: when we shall obey God with vigour, praise him with cheerfulness, love him without measure, fear him without torment, trust in him without despondency, serve him without weariness, without interruption or distraction, being perfectly like unto God, as well in holiness as in happiness, as well in purity as immortality.
Lord strengthen our faith in the belief of this desirable happiness, (when and where nothing shall corrupt our purity, nothing shall disturb our peace,) and set our souls a longing for the full fruition and final enjoyment of it.
Here the apostle acknowledges two principles in himself; grace and sin, a sweet and bitter fountain, from whence did flow suitable streams.
The law of the mind inclined to serve the law of God; but the law in his members disposed him to obey the law of sin.
The habitual bent of a good man's heart is to serve the law of God; he loves it, and delights to obey it. Yet sometimes, contrary to his firmest resolutions, through the power of temptations and indwelling corruption, he is carried aside contrary to his covenant and his conscience; but he laments it, it is his grief, his shame, the sorrow of his heart, the burden of his soul, that ever he should be so false and unworthy.
In fine, if a good man, at a particular time, does the evil that he hates, he always hates the evil which he does.
Blessed be God, sin shall never hurt us, if it does not please us. As God will not finally judge us, so we ought not censoriously to judge one another, or injuriously to judge ourselves by a single act, by a particular action, but by the habitual and constant bent of our resolutions and the general course and tenor of our conversation.
Blessed be God for the covenant of grace!
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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Romans 7". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28