Page images

love, as the wages of sin, the fool ceases to be a fool, and becomes a partaker of eternal life. This is a part of the mighty triumph of God's goodness and grace, that sorrow and death should become part and parcel of the gospel, by being converted into instruments, through the right use of which, man may obtain possession of eternal life. For without them in his present moral condition, he could not be saved; whereas, by submitting to them in the Spirit of Jesus, he works out his salvation.

The Apostle now proceeds, in chap. vii., to show that the law, (in the sense already given,) cannot produce righteousness, but rather has a contrary tendency,—in confirmation of his remark, chap. vi. 14, “ sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace ;"—and he prefaces his argument with an illustration, by which he proves to those amongst them who were conscientious in their adherence to the law, that they were not defrauding the law of its rights, when they went over to the gospel, because in fact the gospel pays to the law its due, in the death of the old man, over whom the law hath dominion only so long as he liveth ; and at the same time, he carries on the subject of the last verse of chap. vi., by showing how we may suffer death and yet survive-how we may receive the wages of sin, and yet partake of eternal life.

The Apostle grounds his preliminary illustration, (contained in the first four verses of chap. vii.,) on the distinction between the common nature, and the individuals planted in it, which he had noticed in chap. vi. 6, and on which some observations have already been made in this work. (See pp. 273 and 281–284.)

By the man, távbgate, in ver. 1st, over whom the law is said to have dominion so long as he liveth, the Apostle seems evidently to intend the corrupt nature—the wanatos évbqwtosthe old man of chap. vi. 6, on whom the condemnation always rests, and through whom it passes on all men in consequence of their connection with him. By the woman which hath an husband, (verse 2,) he means, the individuals planted in the nature, which is the old man; and he compares their connection with him to the marriage-relation, in order to show that they are not to be considered as inseparable parts of the old man, but yet as so united to him that it is only by his

death that they are loosed from him, and from the obligations which arise out of their union to him. And he presses this compari

. son, in order to explain that by partaking in Christ's death, and by that alone, the sentence of death is truly executed on the old man, in such a way that the individuals consenting to that participation, survive the death, even as Jesus did, and pass through it, and thus escape from the power and condemnation of sin, by escaping from their connection with the old man, through whom sin influences and condemns them, and yet do not defraud the law, by thus escaping from it; they were under it, in consequence of their relation to the fallen flesh, or old man—they were under him, and he was under the law-but now he is dead, and their relation to him ceases, and their obligations rising out of that relation, are at an end.

If, whilst he was still alive—that is, whilst they still walked in the flesh,—they were to assume to themselves a freedom from the condemnation of the law, by taking the name of a new husband who was not under the law, they would be casting off obligations which truly belonged to them; they would be separating themselves from their lawful hus

band, and thus would be acting the part of adultresses; but, as he is dead, they may now rightfully join themselves in marriage to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that they may bring forth fruit unto God, and who, being himself under no condemnation, communicates the same freedom to all souls truly espoused to him.

This view of the illustration seems to me completely to clear the passage from all perplexity ; for we shall not feel that there is any thing unnatural or perplexed, in the Apostle's change of persons in verse 4th,where he uses the expression " Ye are dead to the law through the body of Christ,” as an equivalent for “Ye are delivered from the law through the death of your old man, who is slain by your participation in Christ's death,”—if we consider that it is truly our own death, inasmuch as it is our flesh that dies, although it is a death which instead of terminating our being, only terminates our bondage, whilst it is the destruction of the old man.

That word spoken to Eve, (Gen. iii. 16,) in reference to Adam, "To him shall be thy desire, and he shall rule over thee,” is the ground and explanation of the comparison



here instituted. “To him in thy restless longings,” shalt thou look for rest; and who. soever he be, to whom thou dost thus look, he must rule over thee. Whilst our hearts in their restlessness, look for rest to the things of this world; that is, whilst our desire is to them, the flesh or old man is our husband, and his law rules over us. And as it is only in the shedding out the life-blood of every such desire, that we can truly look with the longing of our souls, and for the rest of our restlessness, to him who has entered into his glorious rest through the cross, and who is the manifestation to us of that love of God, which would bless us also through the slaying of our flesh; so when we do thus look to him, he does indeed become our husband, and he rules over us ; and we fall under his law, which is the law of liberty.

Let us now bear in mind, that the object of the Apostle is to carry forward his demonstration, that in all circumstances we can only “accept the gift of righteousness” by partaking in Christ's death-and that he is through this chapter applying his principle to the case of those who were living under the law, either in its outward type of the Jewish dispensation, or in its inward reality

« PreviousContinue »