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of the dispensation of conscience; and who, from possessing a well-founded conviction that in these dispensations they really had to do with God, and were walking in a religion revealed to them by Himself, either outwardly or inwardly, or both, might think that there was no occasion for any thing farther, and might meet every call to enquiry by asking, “What more could a man have, in the way of religion, than a divinely-revealed religion ?”—and what is the use of this dying, if a man keeps himself from committing sin ? Let us bear in mind that his object is to answer such opponents, and we shall see how aptly and forcibly the whole of his reasoning is directed towards it.
He speaks as one who feels his oneness with the whole race. He speaks from human experience to human experience—confessing and deploring the little real moral progress that man makes under the law-the little benefit that he seems to derive from the knowledge of the will of God. Yes, he seems to retort upon them, If we could indeed keep ourselves from sin by the law, and without this dying to the flesh, we might be justified in rejecting this participation in Chrisť s
death: but do we indeed keep ourselves from sin by the law ?
When, in ver. 5th, the Apostle says, “For when we were in the flesh," he evidently does not mean, to describe a character decidedly alienated from God, but the character of persons who, living under the law, have not consented to die with Christ; that is, of persons still married to the first husband, (ongs being the παλαιος άνθρωπος,) and of them he testifies by his own experience whilst he was one of them, that the motions of sins, which were by the law, wrought in his members, to bring forth fruit unto death; and, in contrast with this condition, he gives his own present experience of the results of dying with Christ, that he now served or obeyed in the Spirit, and not in the old external way.
He then takes up the delicate point which he has already suggested in chap. vi. 14, and now again in the verse just quoted, by the expression, “ the motions of sins which are by the law. What! motions of sins by the law ? Is the law sin then ? or does it produce sin ? In his reply, he justifies the law; but he shows, from the history of the race, of which he makes himself the representative, that mere law, that is, authority, recognised, however fully, as emanating from sovereign power and founded on right, but not recognised as directed by a loving regard to the interest of those subject to it, never did produce true obedience, but rather, by its interference, has been the occasion of stirring up the enmity of the heart. At verse 9th, the Apostle seems to me to identify himself with human nature in its very infancy, before even that law was given, “But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat,” as if to show that the fall itself, in its outward manifestation at least, was occasioned by the introduction of a law;-not meaning thereby to imply that the law, which was holy, and which was unto life, had any intrinsic tendency to lead man to sin, but that man had an enemy, to whom he gave access into his heart, who took occasion from the commandment to deceive him, and so to slay him.
Now how did sin deceive man through the commandment? Certainly by persuading him that the prohibition proceeded from want of love to him, on the part of the Lawgiver. The fruit was pleasant to his eye and apparently good for food; and his appetite desired it, and it was a slaying of his appetite to
withhold it from him. He felt a death inflicted by the authority which withheld it, without seeing the love of the Lawgiver who desired to lead him through that death to a better life ; and therefore he refused to die voluntarily, or to partake in Christ's deathand thus he was slain by the sentence of the law,—he fell into the death of judgment.
The inclination to be our own masters is always interfered with, by any commandment whatsoever; and nothing but the belief that a wise and loving purpose towards us, in the heart of the Lawgiver, is the root and source of the commandment, can induce and enable us to shed out the blood of that inclination. We may restrain it and suppress it, but this will only produce an outside obedience, a dead obedience, for such an obedience is not an exercise of the life within us, but a restraining of it. It is a negative obedience, not a positive. But in order to give to God a living and positive obedience, we must have within us a life, which in its own natural and unrestrained actings would obey. And the Apostle's argument is, that we cannot be animated by this good life, which is the loving spirit of God, without consenting to shed out the
blood of the old life, in accordance with that word of John, “ Jesus came not by water only, but by water and blood.” We must have the new nature in us, not as a director only, but as a husband, in whom our restless longings find rest, and to whom our desire is; and this cannot be, without the crucifixion of the old man in us.
Verse 14. “ The law is spiritual,”_it comes forth from the loving purpose of God, and is fully intelligible to those only who are living in the knowledge of that purpose. The expression, “the law is spiritual,” as followed up by that other expression, “but I am carnal,” seems to me to indicate, that the dispensation of the law, as it has been manifested in the history of man, is not so much a direct and designed appointment of God, as a necessary consequence of man's unspirituality, and an example of the exercise of that condescending kindness on the part of God to him, which speaks the word to him as he is able to bear it.
The Apostle is here personating and addressing man, not in his Christian state, nor yet in his state of unresisted sinfulness, but in his state of honest legality. It is worthy of remark, that whilst personating this char