Romans 6The apostle begins this chapter with an objection, which some licentious person might be ready to make against what he had delivered in the close of the foregoing chapter; namely, that where sin abounded, pardoning grace and mercy did much more abound. If, say they, the riches of grace be thus manifested in the pardon of sin, let us then take the more liberty to sin, because grace so exceedingly abounds in the pardon of it. The apostle rejects such an inference with the greatest detestation and abhorrence, saying, God forbid, &c.. As if he had said, "Oh vile abuse of the most excellent thing in the world! What! did Christ shed his blood to expiate our guilt? and shall we make that a plea to extenuate our guilt? God forbid! surely there is forgiveness with God, that he may be feared, not that he may be the more abused."
In the words, observe, 1. An objection supposed, as if the doctrine of the gospel did countenance licentiousness, and encourage any sin, or to continue in sin.
2. Observe with what abhorrency and indignation such a doctrine and proposition is rejected by our apostle.
What! shall we continue in sin, because pardoning mercy doth abound?
God forbid, that such a direct blasphemy against the holy doctrine of our Saviour should be maintined by any professor.
Observe, 3. The confutation which he gives of this bold and impudent assertion; How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Dead to sin, that is, by our baptismal engagement, vow, and obligation; every Christian, at his first entrance upon the profession of Christianity doth take upon himself a vow of solemn obligation to die to sin, and to live no longer therein.
From the whole, learn, That to take any encouragement to live in sin from the consideration of God's rich mercy and free grace towards sinners, is an absurd, abominable, and blasphemous impiety, contrary to all ingenuity, gratitude, and love, both to God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ his Son.
To be baptized into Christ, is by baptism to take the name of Christ upon us, to be incorporated, ingrafted, and implanted into the church of Christ, being made visible members of his mystical body by baptism. To be baptized into Christ's death, imports, our being conformed to him in the likeness of his death; our being engaged to die unto sin; as Christ died for sin.
Learn hence, That the death of Christ was a lively representation of the death of sin; and believers are to imitate his death, in their dying daily unto sin.
Did Christ die for us a painful, shameful, and accursed death? such a death must sin die in us. Was his death for sin free and voluntary?
so must we die to sin.
Was his death an universal crucifixion, did no life, sense, or motion remain with him?
thus must we imitate the likeness of his death, by an universal mortification of every known sin, which occasioned his dying.
In a word, did Christ die and rise again, never to die more?
so must we die unto sin, and walk in newness of life.
How shall we that are dead unto sin, live any longer therein?
Thus it appears the indispensible duty of all Christians, to transcribe the copy of Christ's death in their hearts and lives.
To urge Christians to farther measures and degrees of mortification of sin, and living unto holiness, the apostle uses here a double argument, one from our baptism, the other from the resurrection of Christ.
Observe, 1. The argument to move us to die unto sin, drawn from our baptism; We are buried with him by baptism into death. The apostle alludes, no doubt, to the ancient manner and way of baptizing a person in those hot countries, which was by immersion, or putting them under water for a time, and then raising them up again out of the water; which rite had also a mystical signification, representing the burial of our old man sin in us, and our resurrection to newness of life.
Learn hence, That the ordinance of baptism lays every baptized person under the strongest engagements and highest obligations to die unto sin, and walk in newness of life. The metaphors of burying and rising again, do imply and intimate thus much: Burial implies a continuing under death; thus is mortification a continued act, a daily dying unto sin; and raising again, supposes a person never more to be under the power of death.
Observe, 2. Another forcible argument to encourage us to die to sin, and walk in newness of life, is drawn from the resurrection of Christ; As he was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so should we also walk in newness of life.
Here note, 1. The proposal of a pattern and examplar to us; Christ was raised from the dead.
2. The author and efficient cause of Christ's resurrection; He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father; that is, by the glorious power of the Father; yet not without his own power as God: So Christ told the Jews, Destroy this temple of my body, and in three days I will raise it up again.
Note, 3. The conformity or similitude on our part: as Christ arose, so should we arise out of the grave of sin, and walk in newness of live.
Learn hence, That Christ's resurrection is a powerful motive, and lays a Christian under strong obligations and engagements to arise from sin, and walk in newness of life. Christ's resurrection is both a pattern and a pledge of our resurrection; a pattern after which we are to conform in our rising from the grave of sin.
Did Christ rise early and speedily? so should we: He arose early in the morning of the day, so should we in the morning of our youth; he rose voluntarily and cheerfully, so should we, rejoicing at our spiritual liberty and resolution never to die more; so should we arise, with desires and endeaveours, that spiritaul death may never more have dominion over us.
And if Christ's resurrection be thus a pattern of our resurrection now, it will be a pledge of a blessed resurrection at the last day.
Observe, lastly, The duty which every baptized person lies under an obligation to perform, in conformity ot Christ, into whose death they are baptized; and that is, to walk in the newness of life.
Where note, For our encouragement, the account which the scripture gives of the properties of the new life, which such are buried and risen with Christ, do assuredly live: And here we find it is the most noble life, the most delectable life, the most profitable life, the most holy and heavenly life: holy in its principle and motive, holy in its aim and end, holy in its rule and actings.
In a word, newness of life is a preparation for and an introduction into eternal life, and must needs be the most excellent life; for it is a life from God it is a life laid out for God, ye, it is the life which God himself lives; and none must expect to live with him in heaven hereafter, that do no walk in newness of life but if we have our fruit unto holiness our end will be everlasting life.
Observe here, 1. A supposition, If we have been planted together in the likeness of his death; namely, by dying unto sin: If as Christ died, we die, he a natural, we a spiritual death: he for sin, and we to sin; he by way of expiation, suffering, and satisfying for sin; we by way of mortification, killing, and crucifying of sin.
Learn thence, That all baptized persons ought to labour for, and endeavour after, a conformity to the death of Christ, in their dying daily unto sin. As he died a painful and shameful death for us, such a death should sin die in us; living a dying life, and dying a lingering, but a certain death.
Observe, 2. The apostle's inference drawn from the foregoing supposition; If we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection; That is, we are under an obligation to imitate his resurrection, by rising from the death of sin, unto newness of life. Did he rise early out of his natural grave? so must we out of our spiritual. Did he rise to a new life? so must we arise and walk in newness of life. Did he arise never to die more? so must we that are dead to sin, live no longer therein.
Observe, 3. How the power enabling us thus to die unto sin, and to live unto holiness, is derived from Christ by virtue of our implantation into him by faith: If we have been planted together, &c. As the graft liveth, groweth, and fructifieth by the juice drawn from the stock into which it is planted: so Christians being taken out of the old rotten stock, degenerate Adam, and planted into the noble stock, Christ Jesus, are, by a virtue derived from him, raised to newness of life, into whom they are ingrafted.
Learn hence, That we experience the power of Christ's death and resurrection, in enabling us to die to sin, and live unto God, only by virtue of a real implantation into Christ, by an operative and lively faith. If we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.
By the old man we are to understand our corrupt and derived nature, so called, because it is as old as Adam, and divided from Adam; born and bred with us. This old man, or our corrupt and vicious nature, must be crucified, to shew our conformity and likeness to Christ in his crucifixion. The cross bringeth pain, shame, and death; the like must sin undergo in the work of mortification. By the body of sin, we are to understand the whole stock and mass of corruption, compacted as it were into one monstrous body, prepared with all its members to commit actual sins. Called a body, because composed of many sinful passions and lusts, as the body is of many members, and also because they are executed by the body.
And farther, because sin has a real a substance in us, as if it were a body; not that sin is a substance, but the pravity of a substance. Now this body of sin must be destroyed, not as to actions only, but as to affections and inclinations also; 'tis not enough that we scratch this old man's face, but we must stab his heart in desire, in purpose, in endeavours: We must seek the death and destruction of all sin, That henceforth we may not serve sin; that is, that henceforward we should renounce the service of, and all relation to sin.
Where note, 1. That before regeneration, we are all servants of, yea, slaves to sin; so many lusts, so many lords reigning in us, and tyrannizing over us.
Note, 2. That it is one thing to sin, and another thing to serve sin: To serve sin, is to yield willing obedience, to indulge ourselves in any presumptuous act or course of sin. 'Tis not the presence, but prevalency of sin, that destroys and damns the sinner; 'tis not the flesh being in us, but our being in the flesh, that displeaseth God.
Oh! happy for us, if sin's dominion be taken away, though its life be prolonged for a season.
He that is dead, that is, spiritually dead unto sin, in conformity to the death of Christ, is freed from sin: That is, not only from the guilt, but from the dominion and slavery of sin.
Learn hence, That freedom from the bondage and tyranny, from the dominion and slavery of sin is the privilege of all those that are crucified with Christ, and dead to sin.
Freedom from sin consists in two things:
1. In disposessing the soul of every evil habit and disposition.
2. In renouncing a sinful course of life and conversation.
If sin be weakened in the heart, the fruit of that will appear in the life: The strength of sin lies in the love of sin; if that be broken, the power of sin is shaken.
Observe here, 1. A supposition, or presupposed condition; the thing supposed, is the baptized persons being dead with Christ; If we be dead with him, that is, by the exercise of daily mortification: If we have fellowship and communion with him in his death, that as he died for sin, we daily die unto sin:
Then followeth, 2. The inference or conclusion, We shall also live with him; that is, We that have had fellowship with him in his death, shall have communion with him in his resurrection: We shall live with him a life of grace and glory, of regeneration and glorification, the one to newness of life, the other to everlasting life.
Hence learn, That all those that are dead with Christ, have no reason to doubt but that they shall also live with him.
But who are the persons that may be said to be dead with Christ?
Ans. 1. All such as own the obligation which their baptismal vow and Christian profession puts upon them, and solemnly lays them under; namely, to keep the whole gospel, even as they who were circumcised were obliged to keep the whole law.
2. Such as make conscience of it, daily endeavor to peform it, and obtain the success of their endeavours in such a degree, that the reign of sin is broken, though sin itself be not toally destroyed.
These may be said to be dead and crucified with Christ, having by the assistance of his Spirit, in some measure crucified the flesh with its inordinate affections and lusts; and if they here live like him, so they shall also live with him: Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.
Here the apostle declares both the death which Christ once died, and the life which he now liveth.
Observe, 1. The death which Christ died; he died unto sin once, that is, either,
1. He died for sin once, namely, to expiate the guilt of sin, and to make atonements for sinners; or else,
2. He died unto sin; that is, to destroy, conquer, and subdue sin in the hearts and lives of his children and people, by the aids and assistances of his Holy Spirit.
Observe, 2. The life which Christ now lives after his resurrection; he liveth unto God, and dieth no more.
Here note, 1. The perpetuity and immortality of his life; he dieth no more. Christ has done his work, in taking away the guilt and power of sin: let us look to it, that we do ours.
Note, 2. The perfection and blessedness of his life. He liveth unto God, or liveth forever with God; by which the Son hath with the Father; he is one with him, and lives forever in the enjoyment of him.
Learn hence, That the due consideration of Christ's resurrection from the dead, will mightily promote the spiritual life in us.
This it doth these three ways:
1. As evidences the truth and verity of the Christian religion, that Christ is no impostor or deceiver. In the judgment of the world, Christ died as a malefactor; but God justified him, acquitted and freed him from the imputation by raising him from the dead.
2. Christ's resurrection shews the perfection of his sacrifice and satisfaction, that nothing more is needful to take away sin; when the surety is let out of prison, the debtor may be assured that his debt is paid.
3. Christ's arising is a pledge and assurance of our resurrection, and so promotes holiness in us, by obliging us to live as the candidates of heaven, as the children of the resurrection, as becomes the heirs of such glorious hopes.
Here we have two parts of our sanctification described, namely, mortification and vivification, dying unto sin, and living unto God.
1. Mortification, or dying unto sin, Reckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin; that is, look upon the death of Christ, as a strong argument against the reign and power of sin; account yourselves dead unto sin.
Now deadness argues three things:
1. Disability. Such as are dead are disabled for working. Proportionable to the measure of our death unto sin, will be our disability to fulfil the lusts of it. Sin in a regenerate man is no more able to do all its will, than a crucified man is able to do what he will; He that is born of God cannot commit sin 1John 3:9; not as others do, and as himself formerly has done.
2. Deadness to sin argues disaffection towards sin, as well as disability: when we die to sin, our love to sin dieth.
3. Deadness argues liberty and unsubjection: he that is dead is freed from sin, as the woman by death is freed from her husband; and the Christian that is dead with Christ unto sin, stands fast in that liberty wherewith Christ hath made him free.
Observe, 2. The other part of our sanctification here declared: and that is, living unto God.
This likewise consists in three things:
1. In having our sensitive appetites in subjection, and under the subjection and dominion of reason; when we are governed like men, by reason and conscience, not like beasts, by sense and sensual inclination.
2. In having reason illuminated by faith, guided and directed by divine revelation.
And, 3. When this faith inclines and enables us to live unto God; when faith begets in us a resolution to obey God, and to persevere in our duty to him. This is to be dead unto sin, and alive unto God.
Observe lastly, Christians are said to be dead unto sin, and alive unto God, Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Which phrase imports, that Christ is the root and principle of our spiritual life by faith in whom we are enabled to live unto God: as the scion ingrafted into the stock, lives by the juice and nourishment it receives from the stock; so Christians are alive unto God, in, by, and through Jesus Christ, receiving from him that virtue whereby their spiritual life is begun, carried on, and maintained, and shall in due time be perfected and completed.
From whence we learn, that Christ is not only an head of authority, but an head of influence, to his church and members; He strengthening them, they can do all things, but without him they can do nothing: that is, without an interest in him, and an influence of grace derived from him.
Observe here, The duty which the apostle exhorts the Christians to; and that is, to prevent the regency and dominion of sin: Let not reign in your mortal bodies.
But when is sin said to reign?
Answer, When the bent and tendency of the heart is toward sin, and all the faculties of the soul are on sin's side, and wholly take its part; when sin is not opposed, or but slightly opposed,; when sin is committed industriously, and temptations to sin prevail easily; when persons sin without any sense of sin, with small remorse and check for sin; then sin is in its throne, and reigns imperiously.
But why doth the apostle say, Let not sin reign in your body, rather than in your soul?
Answer, Because sin and lusts do gratify the body exceedingly; that is, the sensual appetite, the brutish part of man: and further, because they are acted and executed by the body or outward man, called therefore the deeds of the body.
But why doth the apostle here call it a mortal body?
Let not sin reign in your mortal bodies.
Answer, 1. To put us in mind that the mortality of our bodies is the fruit and punishment of our sins; that sins having brought in death upon us, our bodies must die for sin.
2. To show the vanity and transitoriness of the delights and pleasures of sin, which do gratify a mortal body, which after all its pamperings, must perish.
3. The apostle may probably call it a mortal body, to show that our conflict with sin shall endure but a little while: ere long this mortal shall put on immortality. It may encourage to be violent in the conflict; ere long we shall be victorious in the conquest.
From the whole, note, 1. That sin is a great and mighty king, which has a regal power over the enslaved sinner. Sin has the love of an husband, the power of a king, and the worship of God, in the sinner's heart.
Sin, as a raging and commanding king, has the sinner's heart for its throne, the members of the body for its service, the world, the flesh, and the devil, for its grand council, lusts and temptation for its weapons and armour; and its chief fortifications are ignorance and sensuality, and fleshly reasonings.
O deplorable degradation, that man, who was created God's subject, is, by his shameful apostasy, become the vassal and slave of sin and Satan.
Learn, 2. That all baptized persons, who are dead with Christ unto sin, are strongly obliged to take care that sin reigns not in them, nor gets any dominion over them, by the desires and interests of this mortal body.
And the obligations which Christianity lays upon us not to suffer sin to reign over us, are many and great; namely, the precepts, promises, and threatenings of the gospel, the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the sense of baptismal and sacramental engagements.
Happy we! if by the help of these sin is dethroned, its empire dissolved, and it no longer reigns in our mortal bodies, that we should obey it in the lusts thereof.
As if the apostle had said, "Sin, which has such a kingly and commanding power, will be calling upon you to give up the members of your bodies, and the faculties of your souls, as instruments or weapons for its service: but yield not your consents thereto, turn a deaf ear to the voice of sin, and hearken to the call of God, who commands you to yield yoursleves unto him, and your members as instruments for his service."
Here note, 1. A negative exhortation, Yield not your members as as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin. Let not sin or Satan have an eye, an ear, a tongue, a foot, a hand, nay, not so much as a little finger devoted to their service, how strongly soever they may solicit and move for it.
Note, 2. A positive injunction, But yield your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
Learn hence, That Christians ought not to suffer any members of their body to be employed in the service of sin, but to yield them all up unto God, in obedience to his will. Here are two opposite masters, God and sin; the one a tyrant and usurper, the other a rightful lord and master. And here also are two opposite employments: unrighteousness, by which is meant all sin, whereby we deal unrighteously with God, our neighbour, and ourselves; and righteousness, whereby we give to God, to others, and ourselves, their respective dues.
Now the apostle calls loudly upon us to render unto God the things that are God's; to yield every member of the body to him, and employ it for him; for the members of the body were all created by him, and redeemed for him, and shall be glorified with him.
O let us then take heed of abusing any members of our body; let us not employ so much as a little finger or hair of our heads in the service of sin: for it is the Lord's: And let every one take heed of dishonouring God with his bodily members, lest he provoke God to deny him the comfortable use of the members of his body. When Jeroboam stretched out his hand against the prophet of God, he presently lost the use of his hand.
Oh! how suddenly can God wither an hand or arm, that is stretched out to do mischief? 'tis a righteous thing for God to smite an abused eye with blindness, an abused ear with deafness, an abused foot with lameness, a swearing or forwswearing tongue with paralytic deadness.
Lord, how justly mayest thou recal thy favours, when we fight against thee with them? Yielding the members of our bodies as weapons of unrighteousness unto sin!
Our apostle having, in the foregoing verses, exhorted them to take care that sin get not any dominion over them by obeying its motions, yielding to its inclinations, and employing the faculties of the soul, and any of the members of the body in the service of sin; in this verse he gives them an encouraging promise, that though sin may rebel, yet is shall reign no more in a regenerate person: And that if they did pray and watch against it, strive and contend with it, though it would have a being and existence in them, yet it should not have a regency and dominion over them; because they were not under the law, or covenant of works, which gave the knowledge of sin, and required exact and perfect obedience, but gave no strength to perform it; but under grace, under a gospel-covenant, which administers strength to resist sin, and to overcome it: Shall sin not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
Here observe, 1. The privilege of every regenerate and gracious person; Sin shall not have dominion over him.
Learn hence, That sin should not, and shall not reign over those who are in a state of grace, and under the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit of Christ: De jure, it should not; de facto; it shall not reign.
Sin shall not reign in us, nor have dominion over us.
1. Because of the mischievous influences of it, it plucks the sceptre out of God's hands, and puts it into Satan's. The throne of the heart is never empty, 'tis the design of sin to dethrone God and set up itself. And no less mischievous is sin to ourselves; for its servitude is base and burthensome, painful and shameful; the devil is a sure but a sad paymaster; he plagues them most, who have done him most service.
2. Because of the unsuitableness of sin to our renewed state we are not our own, but Christ's; his by purchase, his by conquest, his by convenant: Now if after such engagements we suffer sin to reign and have dominion over us, we rescind our baptismal vow, ratified by our personal consent.
3. The reason of the foregoing privilege, why sin shall not have dominion over us, because we are not under the law, but under grace.
Question, 1. But are not believers now under the law, though they live under the gospel?
Ans. Yes: They are under the rule and direction of the law, but not under the curse and malediction of the law: they are not under the law as a covenant of life, but they are under it as an eternal rule of living.
The law of God now binds the believer to the observation of it, as strictly as it did Adam in paradise; but upon the unwilling violation of it, he doth not incur the curse, Christ having redeemed us from the curse of the law, by being made a curse for us.
Quest. 2. But were not those that lived under the law of old, in a sort, under grace as well as we?
Ans. Yes, they were, but not in the same degree; good men then had help and assistance in the course of holiness and obedience, when they lived under the law; but they had it not by the law, but by the gospel, which was preached by them as well unto us, Heb 4:2. This administers stength to subdue sin, and power to overcome it.
Learn hence, That the gospel is a manifestation of the Spirit, and furnishes believers with sufficient helps against the power of sin, and with well grounded hopes of obtaining victory over it.
The grace of the gospel gives hopes of victory over sin several ways:
1. Because it was the end of Christ's death to slay sin.
2. Because of the new nature put into us, which is to help us against sin.
3. By assuring us of the Spirit's help, which is to assist us in the mortifying and subduing of sin; it inspires the Spirit's operation that we begin, carry on, and accomplish the work of mortification.
4. Because the gospel furnishes us with promises, and thereby gives us assurance of success: So then, if from all these encouragements we bid a confident defiance unto, and make a courageous resistance against sin, it shall never have a final and full dominion over us, because we are not under the law, but under grace.
Here the apostle starts an objection, which some licentious person might be ready to make: "If we are not under the law which condemns sin, but under the covenant of grace which allows the pardon, and promises the forgiveness of sin, why may we not then go on in sin, and continue in sin, forbidden by the law, seeing we are not under the law?" The apostle rejects such a suggestion with his usual note of detestation, God forbid.
From hence we may learn, That it is an high abuse of the covenant of grace, to suppose or imagine, that it countenances any licentiousness, or allows any liberty to sin. The design of the new covenant is to recover from sin, not to encourage any to continue in sin.
Learn, 2. That such doctrines and inferences are to be abhorred, which from the grace of God, in mitigating the law, would infer an utter abrogation of the law, denying that it hath a directive regulation power over a believer. True, we are delivered from the curse and condemnatory sentence of the law, from the severity and rigorous exactions of the law: But to refuse obedience to the law, under pretence of Christain liberty; to sin because we are not under the law, but under grace; is a turning the grace of God into wantonness, and to use our Christian liberty as an occasion to the flesh.
Two things are here intimated by the apostle;
1. That all men really are, and ought to be reputed servants to that master whose works they do, and whose commands they obey: Whom ye obey his servants ye are.
Learn thence, That we may infallibly know whose servants we are, and what master we serve, Christ or Satan, by examining and inquiring whose commands they are, which we execute and obey.
2. The apostle intimates, that every person or servant shall receive a reward suitable to the master he serves, and proportionable to the work he does. If Satan be our master, sin is our work, and death our wages; if we be the servants of God, obedience is our work, and eternal life will be our reward: There is a reward for the righteous, and wages for the workers of iniquity.
The devil's drudges shall have full pay, but no content; the wages of sin is death; there's pay, such as it is, woeful pay, a black penny.
God's servants, though they do not work for wages, yet they shall not work for nothing! Verily there is a reward for the righteous; a reward of mercy, not of merit; a reward of grace, not of debt:
And accordingly, the apostle says here, His servants ye are whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness.
But why doth he not say of obedience unto life, as well as of sin unto death? then the antithesis had been more plain and full.
Ans. Because though sin be the cause of death, yet obedience is not the cause of life, but only the way to it: Via ad regnum, non causa regnandi.
We must understand these words, as if the apostle blessed God, because they were once slaves to sin and Satan: but thanks God, that the time of that bondage was past and over; as if he had said, "God be thanked, that though formerly ye were the servants of sin, yet, since your conversion, you are become obedient to the precepts of Christianity, having obeyed from the heart, that form of doctrine, or (according to the original) being cast into the mould of that doctrine, which was delivered to you.
Learn hence, That to be turned from the service of sin, to the sincere obedience of the gospel, is a mercy that we can never be sufficiently sensibly of, and bless God for. God be thanked, that although ye were the servants of sin, ye are no longer so.
Learn, 2. That the doctrine of the gospel has a divine efficacy attending and accompanying it on the hearts of believers; it has a transforming power to change and fashion men's minds into the likeness of it, as the mould doth the metal that is cast into it: The doctrine of the gospel is the mould, and the heart is the metal, which, when melted and cast into the mould, receives its form and figure.
Oh happy they! who having all their days sat under dispensation of the gospel, are able at last to say, We are transformed and changed into the same image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord.
Our apostle goes on to put the Romans in mind of their past state by nature, and of their present state by grace; they were once the servants of sin, but now free from sin, and made by Christ servants of righteousness: All believers are made free by Christ for service, not one free from serving; to be free to serve is infinitely better than to be free from service; such as are by Christ freed from sinful servitude, are best fitted for, and most obliged to spiritual service.
Learn hence, That such as are recovered from sin to God, should shew the reality of their change, by being as zealous in the ways of holiness, as before they were earnest in the ways of sin. Shall we not do as much for God as for sin and Satan! Is not he a better master, his work better service, and his wages a better reward?
Lord, shall we not with as much zeal and vigour serve thee, as ever we served our lusts, those imperious exactors of our time and strength? Oh, had we the faculties and powers of angels, yet would our service for thee fall infinitely short of our obligations to thee!
Observe, next, How the apostle doth not barely urge the necessity of serving Christ in our regenerate state, but does enforce the proportion which our service now ought to bear to the disservice formerly done in our carnal state: As ye have yielded your members servants to iniquity,; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness.
Observe lastly, The great dignation and gracious condescension of Christ, that he should accept those members of ours as instruments of his service, which have been employed in the devil's service.
"Oh blessed Jesus! wilt thou come into that vile heart of mine, which was once the seat of Satan, where he has ruled, and every unclean lust been harboured? Oh holy Spirit! shall that body be thy temple to dwell in now, which has been so often defiled with lust and vomit heretofore? Shall that tongue ever praise him in heaven, which has blasphemed him by oaths and horrid imprecations here on earth!"
One would have expected, that Christ should rather have said, "Vile wretch? Satan has had the use and service of thy body, and all its members, from thy childhood and youth, unto this day; thy will has been his throne, thy memory his storehouse, and all thy members his tools and instruments to sin against me; thou didst indeed dedicate all these to my service and glory in thy baptism, but thou hast employed all these in Satan's service for many years past: However, if now thou art willing to yield those very members unto righteousness and to holiness, which formerly were servants unto uncleanness, I will both accept them and reward thee for them."
That is, you were free de facto, not de jure; when you were sin's servants, you were void of righteousness, that had no part of your service then; therefore sin should not have on joy of your service now; as righteousness had no part of your service in your carnal state, so there is no reason why sin should have any service from you in your gracious state.
Learn, That such sinners as are now become servants to God, ought to be as free from sin, as before they were free from righteousness: It will evidently appear so, if we consider the great and good Master which we serve, the nature of our present work, the certainty and transcendency of our future reward, the obligations we lie under as creatures, as new creatures, by the law of creation, by the favour of redemption, by the promise and hopes of glorification; all this should engage us to the love and practice of universal holiness.
Here the apostle puts them in mind of the several mischiefs and inconveniences which did attend their former vicious course of life: namely, unprofitableness, What fruit had you? Dishonourableness, whereof ye are now ashamed? Perniciousness, The end of those things is death. Behold the complexion of sin's face in this glass, it being for the time past unprofitable, for the time present shameful, for the time to come deadly; Most men consult their profit, their honour, their pleasure, their safety; but sin disappoints us in them all.
Observe, 1. The unprofitableness of sin for time past; What fruit had ye then? Are ye anything the better for it? Verily, not at all; there is no solid benefit, no real profit to be got by sin; those sins which we think to be advantageous to us, when all accounts are cast up, will be found to be quite otherwise; all the gain of sin will turn to loss at last.
Observe, 2. The dishonourableness and disparagement which sin brings along with it as present, Whereof ye are now ashamed.
Learn thence, That sin is really matter of shame and blushing, rendering us odious to God, infamous to others, loathsome to ourselves; it is a dishonour to our natures, a reproach to our reason and understanding: it doth therefore debase and degrade us, because it pollutes and defiles us, and is a reproach which we voluntarily bring upon ourselves.
Observe, 3. The perniciousness of sin, or the fatal consequence of it. The end of those things is death, natural spiritual, and eternal: The latter is principally meant, which consists in lively apprehensions of the happiness invaluable which they have lost, and in a quick sense of the pains intolerable which they lie under, and this accompanied with despair of all future relief. Now, when misery and despair meet together, they make a man completley miserable.
Good God! make sinners, all sinners, thoroughly sensible of the manifest inconveniences of a wicked life; that it brings no present profit or advantage to them, that it will not bear reflection, but causeth shame; and that it is fatal in its event and issue!
Oh then, let no profit tempt us, no pleasure entice is, no power embolden us, no privacy encourage us, to enter into any sinful way, or adventure upon any wicked word: for what fruit can we expect to have of those things whereof we are now ashamed, the end of which things is death?
As the former verse represented to us the manifold inconveniences of a wicked life, so this verse acquaints us with the manifest advantages of a holy and religious course of life; and this, first, as to the present benefit and advantage of it, Ye have your fruit unto holiness:
Secondly, In respect of the future reward of it, And the end everlasting life.
Here observe, 1. The description which the apostle makes of the change from a state of sin to a state of holiness: Ye are made free from sin, and become the servants by God: intimating, that a state of sin is a state of servitude and slavery; and indeed it is the vilest and hardest slavery in the world, it being the slavery of the soul, which is the best and noblest part of ourselves; it is the subjection of our reason to our sensual appetities, and brutish passions which is as uncomely a sight as to see beggars ride on horseback, and princes walk on foot.
Farther, it is a voluntary slavery, the sinner chuseth his servitude, and willingly puts his neck under this yoke.
Again, the sinner makes himself a slave to his own servants, to those who were born to be subject to him, I mean his own appetites and passions, chusing rather a life of sense and to gratify his lusts, than to obey his reason.
Observe, 2. The present benefit of an holy and religious life: Ye have your fruit unto holiness.
Ans. Inward peace and contentment of mind at present, length of days, and health and prosperity in this world, solid joy and comfort at the hour of death, a good name, and reputation among men after death; and it drives a blessing upon our posterity which we leave behind us.
Observe, 3. The future reward and recompence of an holy life in the world to come: The end everlasting life: By which the apostle expresses both the happiness of our future state, and the way and means by which we are prepared and made meet to be partakers of it.
1. The happiness of our future state is expressed by the name of everlasting life, which imports both the excellency of this state, it is a state of life; and the eternity, or endless duration of it, it is a state of everlasting life.
2. The way partakers of this happiness, and that is, by the constant and sincere endeavours of a holy and good life: Holiness in this life is the certain way, yea, the only way to happiness in the life to come.
This appears from the will of God, who has connected the end and means together; from the justice of God, who will reward every man according to his work; from the indecency and unsuitableness of the contrary.
Without meetness and fitness for heaven, there could be no happiness in heaven; heaven would not be a paradise, but a purgatory; not a place of happiness, but of the greatest uneasiness to a wicked man; therefore let us have our present fruit unto holiness, that our end may be everlasting life.
The apostle having all along throughout this chapter exhorted us to die daily unto sin, and to live unto God, concludes with a motive drawn from the different rewards and punishments in another world; eternal death will be the punishment of sin and sinners, and eternal life the reward of holiness and holy persons.
Observe, 1. The punishment of sin and sinners; The wages of sin is death.
Where note, The offence committed, sin; the punishment inflicted, death; the justice and proportion between the sin and the punishment, it is a stipend, or wages a metaphor taken from soldiers, who at the end of their service receive their pay and stipend.
Learn hence, That death is the punishment of sin, though not the end of the worker.
Quest. What death is that which is the punishment of sin?
Ans. Both temporal and eternal: The former consists in the separation of the soul and body from the presence of God, and in an imprisonment with devils and damned to all eternity.
Quest. What sin is that which is punished with death?
Ans. Consider sin in its demerit and desert, and so death is the punishment of every sin; consider it in its issue and event, and so it is the punishment only of that sin which is aggravated with impenitency: All sins are venial with respect to the mercy of God, and the repentance of a sinner; but the wages of every sin that reigns in us, and is not forsaken by us, is eternal death.
Observe, 2. The reward promised to holiness, and insured to holy persons; The gift of God is eternal life.
Here note, The happiness of holy persons:
1. In the Lord or Master whom they serve, God or Christ Jesus.
2. Happy in the reward of their services, eternal life.
3. Happy in the manner of their reward,
it is a free gift, not wages; a metaphor taken from kings, who bestow upon such soldiers as have signalized themselves, over and above their stipend, coronets and laurels, as badges of their favour; unto which our apostle alludes, calling eternal life a donative, a freely dispensed favour, which may be considered in our eternal destination thereunto before all time, in our conversion and sanctification in time, which we may call the embryo of eternal life; and in our coronation and glorification, when at the end of time full possession of eternal life shall be given to us: In all which instances heaven appears to be a free gift, not procured by any merit of ours, but by the mediation of Christ our Lord; The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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