Romans 7


The law has power over a man as long as he lives, 1.

And a wife is bound to her husband only as long as he lives,

2, 3.

Christian believers are delivered from the Mosaic law by Christ

Jesus, and united to God, 5-7.

By the law is the knowledge of sin, 8.

But it gives no power over it, 9-11.

Yet it is holy, just, and good, 12.

How it convinces of sin, and brings into bondage, 13-24.

No deliverance from its curse but by Jesus Christ, 25.


The apostle having, in the preceding chapter, shown the

converted Gentiles the obligations they were under to live a holy

life, addresses himself here to the Jews who might hesitate to

embrace the Gospel; lest, by this means, they should renounce the

law, which might appear to them as a renunciation of their

allegiance to God. As they rested in the law, as sufficient for

justification and sanctification, it was necessary to convince

them of their mistake. That the law was insufficient for their

justification the apostle had proved, in chapters iii., iv., and

v.; that it is insufficient for their sanctification he shows in

this chapter; and introduces his discourse by showing that a

believing Jew is discharged from his obligations to the law, and

is at liberty to come under another and much happier constitution,

viz. that of the Gospel of Christ, Ro 7:1-4. In Ro 7:5 he gives

a general description of the state of a Jew, in servitude to sin,

considered as under mere law. In Ro 7:6 he gives a summary

account of the state of a Christian, or believing Jew, and the

advantages he enjoys under the Gospel. Upon Ro 7:5 he comments,

from Ro 7:7-25, and upon Ro 7:6 he comments, Ro 8:1-11.

In explaining his position in Ro 7:5 he shows: 1. That the law

reaches to all the branches and latent principles of sin, Ro 7:7.

2. That it subjected the sinner to death, Ro 7:8-12, without the

expectation of pardon. 3. He shows the reason why the Jew was put

under it, Ro 7:13. 4. He proves that the law, considered as a

rule of action, though it was spiritual, just, holy, and good in

itself, yet was insufficient for sanctification, or for freeing a

man from the power of inbred sin. For, as the prevalency of

sensual appetites cannot wholly extinguish the voice of reason and

conscience, a man may acknowledge the law to be holy, just, and

good, and yet his passions reign within him, keeping him in the

most painful and degrading servitude, while the law supplied no

power to deliver him from them, Ro 7:14-24, as that power can

only be supplied by the grace of Jesus Christ, Ro 7:25. See


Verse 1. For I speak to them that know the law] This is a

proof that the apostle directs this part of his discourse to the


As long as he liveth?] Or, as long as IT liveth; law does not

extend its influence to the dead, nor do abrogated laws bind. It

is all the same whether we understand these words as speaking of a

law abrogated, so that it cannot command; or of its objects being

dead, so that it has none to bind. In either case the law has no


Verse 2. For the woman which hath a husband] The apostle

illustrates his meaning by a familiar instance. A married woman

is bound to her husband while he lives; but when her husband is

dead she is discharged from the law by which she was bound to him


Verse 3. So then, if, while her husband liveth] The object of

the apostle's similitude is to show that each party is equally

bound to the other; but that the death of either dissolves the


So-she is no adulteress, though she be married to another] And

do not imagine that this change would argue any disloyalty in you

to your Maker; for, as he has determined that this law of

ordinances shall cease, you are no more bound to it than a woman

is to a deceased husband, and are as free to receive the Gospel of

Christ as a woman in such circumstances would be to remarry.

Verse 4. Wherefore, my brethren] This is a parallel case.

You were once under the law of Moses, and were bound by its

injunctions; but now ye are become dead to that law-a modest,

inoffensive mode of speech, for, The law, which was once your

husband, is dead; God has determined that it shall be no longer in

force; so that now, as a woman whose husband is dead is freed from

the law of that husband, or from her conjugal vow, and may legally

be married to another, so God, who gave the law under which ye

have hitherto lived, designed that it should be in force only till

the advent of the Messiah; that advent has taken place, the law

has consequently ceased, and now ye are called to take on you the

yoke of the Gospel, and lay down the yoke of the law; and it is

the design of God that you should do so.

That ye should be married to another-who is raised from the

dead] As Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to

every one that believeth, the object of God in giving the law was

to unite you to Christ; and, as he has died, he has not only

abolished that law which condemns every transgressor to death,

without any hope of a revival, but he has also made that atonement

for sin, by his own death, which is represented in the sacrifices

prescribed by the law. And as Jesus Christ is risen again from

the dead, he has thereby given the fullest proof that by his death

he has procured the resurrection of mankind, and made that

atonement required by the law. That we should bring forth fruit

unto God-we, Jews, who believe in Christ, have, in consequence of

our union with him, received the gifts and graces of the Holy

Spirit; so that we bring forth that fruit of holiness unto God

which, without this union, it would be impossible for us to

produce. Here is a delicate allusion to the case of a promising

and numerous progeny from a legitimate and happy marriage.

Verse 5. For, when we were in the flesh] When we were without

the Gospel, in our carnal and unregenerated state, though

believing in the law of Moses, and performing the rites and

offices of our religion.

The motions of sins, which were by the law] ταπαθηματατων

αμαρτιων, the passions of sins, the evil propensities to sins; to

every particular sin there is a propensity: one propensity does

not excite to all kinds of sinful acts; hence the apostle uses the

plural number, the PASSIONS or propensities of SINS; sins being

not more various than their propensities in the unregenerate

heart, which excite to them. These παθηματα, propensities,

constitute the fallen nature; they are the disease of the heart,

the pollution and corruption of the soul.

Did work in our members] The evil propensity acts εντοις

μελεσιν, in the whole nervous and muscular system, applying that

stimulus to every part which is necessary to excite them to


To bring forth fruit unto death.] To produce those acts of

transgression which subject the sinner to death, temporal and

eternal. When the apostle says, the motion of sin which were by

the law, he points out a most striking and invariable

characteristic of sin, viz. its rebellious nature; it ever acts

against law, and the most powerfully against known law. Because

the law requires obedience, therefore it will transgress. The law

is equally against evil passions and evil actions, and both these

exert themselves against it. So, these motions which were by the

law, became roused into the most powerful activity by the

prohibitions of the law. They were comparatively dormant till the

law said, thou shalt NOT do this, thou shalt DO that; then the

rebellious principle in the evil propensity became roused, and

acts of transgression and omissions of duty were the

immediate consequences.

Verse 6. But now we are delivered from the law] We, who have

believed in Christ Jesus, are delivered from that yoke by which we

were bound, which sentenced every transgressor to perdition, but

provided no pardon even for the penitent, and no sanctification

for those who are weary of their inbred corruptions.

That being dead wherein we were held] To us believers in

Christ this commandment is abrogated; we are transferred to

another constitution; that law which kills ceases to bind us; it

is dead to us who have believed in Christ Jesus, who is the end of

the law for justification and salvation to every one that


That we should serve in newness of spirit] We are now brought

under a more spiritual dispensation; now we know the spiritual

import of all the Mosaic precepts. We see that the law referred

to the Gospel, and can only be fulfilled by the Gospel.

The oldness of the letter.] The merely literal rites,

ceremonies, and sacrifices are now done away; and the newness of

the spirit, the true intent and meaning of all are now fully

disclosed; so that we are got from an imperfect state into a state

of perfection and excellence. We sought justification and

sanctification, pardon and holiness, by the law, and have found

that the law could not give them: we have sought these in the

Gospel scheme, and we have found them. We serve God now, not

according to the old literal sense, but in the true spiritual


Verse 7. Is the law sin?] The apostle had said, Ro 7:6:

The motions of sins, which were by the law, did bring forth fruit

unto death; and now he anticipates an objection, "Is therefore the

law sin?" To which he answers, as usual, μηγεςοιτο, by no

means. Law is only the means of disclosing; this sinful

propensity, not of producing it; as a bright beam of the sun

introduced into a room shows; millions of motes which appear to be

dancing in it in all directions; but these were not introduced by

the light: they were there before, only there was not light enough

to make them manifest; so the evil propensity was there before,

but there was not light sufficient to discover it.

I had not known sin, but by the law] Mr. Locke and Dr. Taylor

have properly remarked the skill used by St. Paul in dexterously

avoiding, as much as possible, the giving offence to the Jews: and

this is particularly evident in his use of the word I in this

place. In the beginning of the chapter, where he mentions their

knowledge of the law, he says YE; in Ro 7:4 the 4th verse he

joins himself with them, and says we; but here, and so to the end

of the chapter, where he represents the power of sin and the

inability of the law to subdue it, he appears to leave them out,

and speaks altogether in the first person, though it is plain he

means all those who are under the law. So, Ro 3:7, he uses the

singular pronoun, why am I judged a sinner? when he evidently

means the whole body of unbelieving Jews.

There is another circumstance in which his address is

peculiarly evident; his demonstrating the insufficiency of the law

under colour of vindicating it. He knew that the Jew would take

fire at the least reflection on the law, which he held in the

highest veneration; and therefore he very naturally introduces him

catching at that expression, Ro 7:5,

the motions of sins, which were by the law, or, notwithstanding

the law. "What!" says this Jew, "do you vilify the law, by

charging it with favouring sin?" By no means, says the apostle;

I am very far from charging the law with favouring sin. The law

is holy, and the commandment is holy, just, and good, Ro 7:12.

Thus he writes in vindication of the law; and yet at the same time

shows: 1. That the law requires the most extensive obedience,

discovering and condemning sin in all its most secret and remote

branches, Ro 7:7. 2. That it gives sin a deadly force,

subjecting every transgression to the penalty of death,

Ro 7:8-14. And yet, 3. supplies neither help nor hope to the

sinner, but leaves him under the power of sin, and the sentence of

death, Ro 7:14, &c. This, says Dr. Taylor, is the most ingenious

turn of writing I ever met with. We have another instance of the

same sort, Ro 13:1-7.

It is not likely that a dark, corrupt human heart can discern

the will of God. His law is his will. It recommends what is

just, and right, and good and forbids what is improper, unjust,

and injurious. If God had not revealed himself by this law, we

should have done precisely what many nations of the earth have

done, who have not had this revelation-put darkness for light, and

sin for acts of holiness. While the human heart is its own

measure it will rate its workings according to its own

propensities; for itself is its highest rule. But when God gives

a true insight of his own perfections, to be applied as a rule

both of passion and practice, then sin is discovered, and

discovered too, to be exceedingly sinful. So strong propensities,

because they appear to be inherent in our nature, would have

passed for natural and necessary operations; and their sinfulness

would not have been discovered, if the law had not said, Thou

shalt not covet; and thus determined that the propensity itself,

as well as its outward operations, is sinful. The law is the

straight edge which determines the quantum of obliquity in the

crooked line to which it is applied.

It is natural for man to do what is unlawful, and to desire

especially to do that which is forbidden. The heathens have

remarked this propensity in man.

Thus LIVY, xxxiv. 4:-

Luxuria-ipsis vinculis, sicut fera bestia, irtitata.

"Luxury, like a wild beast, is irritated by its very bonds."

Audax omnia perpeti

Gens humana ruit per vetitun; nefas.

"The presumptuous human race obstinately rush into prohibited

acts of wickedness."

HOR. Carm. lib. i. Od. iii. ver. 25.

And OVID, Amor. lib. ii. Eleg. xix. ver. 3:-

Quod licet, ingratum est; quod non licet, acrius urit.

"What is lawful is insipid; the strongest propensity is excited

towards that which is prohibited."

And again, Ib. lib. iii. E. iv. ver. 17:-

Nitimur in vetitum semper, cupimusque negata.

"Vice is provoked by every strong restraint,

Sick men long most to drink, who know they mayn't."

The same poet delivers the same sentiment it another place:-

Acrior admonitu est, irritaturque retenta

Et crescit rabies: remoraminaque ipsa nocebant.

METAM. lib. iii. ver. 566.

"Being admonished, he becomes the more obstinate; and his

fierceness is irritated by restraints. Prohibitions become

incentives to greater acts of vice."

But it is needless to multiply examples; this most wicked

principle of a sinful, fallen nature, has been felt and

acknowledged by ALL mankind.

Verse 8. Sin, taking occasion by the commandment] I think the

pointing, both in this and in the 11th verse, to be wrong: the

comma should be after occasion, and not after commandment. But

sin taking occasion, wrought in me by this commandment all manner

of concupiscence. There are different opinions concerning the

meaning of the word αφορμη, which we here translate occasion. Dr.

Waterland translates the clause, Sin, taking ADVANTAGE. Dr.

Taylor contends that all commentators have mistaken the meaning of

it, and that it should be rendered having received FORCE. For

this acceptation of the word I can find no adequate authority

except in its etymology-απο, from, and ορμη, impetus. The

word appears to signify, in general, whatsoever is necessary for

the completion or accomplishment of any particular purpose.

Xenophon uses αφορμαιειςτονβιον to signify whatever is

necessary for the support of life. There is a personification in

the text: sin is, represented as a murderer watching for life, and

snatching at every means and embracing every opportunity to carry

his fell purpose into effect. The miserable sinner has a

murderer, sin, within him; this murderer can only destroy life in

certain circumstances; finding that the law condemns the object of

his cruelty to death, he takes occasion from this to work in the

soul all manner of concupiscence, evil and irregular desires and

appetites of every kind, and, by thus increasing the evil, exposes

the soul to more condemnation; and thus it is represented as being

slain, Ro 7:11.

That is, the law, on the evidence of those sinful dispositions,

and their corresponding practices, condemns the sinner to death:

so that he is dead in law. Thus the very prohibition, as we have

already seen in the preceding verse, becomes the instrument of

exciting the evil propensity; for, although a sinner has the

general propensity to do what is evil, yet he seems to feel most

delight in transgressing known law: stat pro ratione voluntas;

"I will do it, because I will."

For without the law, sin was dead.] Where there is no law

there is no transgression; for sin is the transgression of the

law; and no fault can be imputed unto death, where there is no

statute by which such a fault is made a capital offence.

Dr. Taylor thinks that χωριςνομον, without the law, means the

time before the giving of the law from Mount Sinai, which took in

the space of 430 years, during which time the people were under

the Abrahamic covenant of grace; and without the law that was

given on Mount Sinai, the sting of death, which is sin, had not

power to slay the sinner; for, from the time that Adam sinned, the

law was not re-enacted till it was given by Moses, Ro 5:13. The

Jew was then alive, because he was not under the law subjecting

him to death for his transgressions; but when the commandment

came, with the penalty of death annexed, sin revived, and the Jew

died. Then the sting of death acquired life; and the Jew, upon

the first transgression, was dead in law. Thus sin, the sting of

death, received force or advantage to destroy by the commandment,

Ro 7:8, 11.

All manner of concupiscence.] It showed what was evil and

forbade it; and then the principle of rebellion, which seems

essential to the very nature of sins rose up against the

prohibition; and he was the more strongly incited to disobey in

proportion as obedience was enjoined. Thus the apostle shows that

the law had authority to prohibit, condemn, and destroy; but no

power to pardon sin, root out enmity, or save the soul.

The word επιθυμια, which we render concupiscence, signifies

simply strong desire of any kind; but in the New Testament, it is

generally taken to signify irregular and unholy desires. Sin in

the mind is the desire to do, or to be, what is contrary to

the holiness and authority of GOD.

For without the law, sin was dead.] This means, according to

Dr. Taylor's hypothesis, the time previous to the giving of the

law. See before. But it seems also consistent with the apostle's

meaning, to interpret the place as implying the time in which

Paul, in his unconverted Jewish state, had not the proper

knowledge of the law-while he was unacquainted with its

spirituality. He felt evil desire, but he did not know the evil

of it; he did not consider that the law tried the heart and its

workings, as well as outward actions. This is farther explained

in the next verse.

Verse 9. I was alive without the law once] Dr. Whitby

paraphrases the verse thus:-"For the seed of Abraham was alive

without the law once, before the law was given, I being not

obnoxious to death for that to which the law had not threatened

death; but when the commandment came, forbidding it under that

penalty, sin revived, and I died; i.e. it got strength to draw me

to sin, and to condemn me to death. Sin is, in Scripture,

represented as an enemy that seeks our ruin and destruction; and

takes all occasions to effect it. It is here said to war against

the mind, Ro 7:23;

elsewhere, to war against the soul, 1Pe 2:11;

to surround and beset us, Heb 12:1;

to bring us into bondage and subjection, and get the dominion over

us, Ro 6:12;

to entice us, and so to work our death, Jas 1:14-16; and to do

all that Satan, the grand enemy of mankind, doth, by tempting us

to the commission of it. Whence Chrysostom, upon those words,

Heb 12:4:

Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, προςτηναμαρτιαν

αςταγωνιζομενοι, striving against sin; represents sin as an armed

and flagrant adversary. When, therefore, it finds a law which

threatens death to the violater of it, it takes occasion thence

more earnestly to tempt and allure to the violation of it, that so

it may more effectually subject us to death and condemnation on

that account; for the sting of death is sin, and the strength of

sin is the law, condemning us to death for transgressing it.

Thus, when God had forbidden, on pain of death, the eating the

fruit of the tree of knowledge, Satan thence took occasion to

tempt our first parents to transgress, and so slew them, or made

them subject to death; εξηπατησε, he deceived them, Ge 3:13;

1Ti 2:14; which is the word used Ro 7:11. The phrase,

without the law, sin was dead, means, that sin was then (before

the law was given) comparatively dead, as to its power of

condemning to death; and this sense the antithesis requires;

without the law, αμαρτιανεκραεγωδεεζων, sin was dead, but I

was living; but when the commandment came, (i.e. the law,) sin

revived, and I died. How were men living before the law, but

because then no law condemned them? Sin, therefore, must be then

dead, as to its condemning power. How did they die when the law

came but by the law condemning them to death? Sin therefore

revived, then, as to its power of condemning, which it received

first from the sin of Adam, which brought death into the world;

and next, from the law of Moses, which entered that the offence

might abound, and reign more unto death, Ro 5:20, 21. For

though sin was in the world from Adam to Moses, or until the law

was given, yet it was not imputed unto death, when there was no

law that did threaten death; so that death reigned from that

interval by virtue of Adam's sin alone; even over them who had not

sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, i.e. against

a positive law, forbidding it under the penalty of death; which

law being delivered by Moses, sin revived; i.e. it had again its

force to condemn men as before to death, by virtue of a law which

threatened death. And in this sense the apostle seems to say,

Ga 3:19,

the law was added because of transgressions, to convince us of the

wrath and punishment due to them; and that the law, therefore,

worketh wrath, because where no law is there is no

transgression, Ro 4:15, subjecting us to wrath; or no such sense

of the Divine wrath as where a plain Divine law, threatening death

and condemnation, is violated." See Whitby, in loco.

Verse 10. And the commandment] Meaning the law in general,

which was ordained to life; the rule of righteousness teaching

those statutes which if a man do he shall live in them, Le 18:5,

I found, by transgressing it, to be unto death; for it only

presented the duty and laid down the penalty, without affording

any strength to resist sin or subdue evil propensities.

Verse 11. Sin, taking occasion] Sin, deriving strength from

the law, threatening death to the transgressor,

(See Clarke on Ro 7:8,)

deceived me, drew me aside to disobedience, promising me

gratification honour, independence, &c., as it promised to Eve;

for to her history the apostle evidently alludes, and uses the

very same expression, deceived me, εξηπατησεμε. See the

preceding note; and see the Septuagint, Ge 3:13.

And by it slew me.] Subjected me to that death which the law

denounced against transgressors; and rendered me miserable during

the course of life itself. It is well known to scholars that the

verb αποκτεινειν signifies not only to slay or kill, but also to

make wretched. Every sinner is not only exposed to death because

he has sinned, and must, sooner or later, die; but he is miserable

in both body and mind by the influence and the effects of sin. He

lives a dying life, or a living death.

Verse 12. Wherefore the law is holy] As if he had said, to

soothe his countrymen, to whom he had been showing the absolute

insufficiency of the law either to justify or save from sin: I do

not intimate that there is any thing improper or imperfect in the

law as a rule of life: it prescribes what is holy, just, and good;

for it comes from a holy, just, and good God. The LAW, which is

to regulate the whole of the outward conduct, is holy; and the

COMMANDMENT, Thou shalt not covet, which is to regulate the heart,

is not less so. All is excellent and pure; but it neither pardons

sin nor purifies the heart; and it is because it is holy, just,

and good, that it condemns transgressors to death.

Verse 13. Was then that which is good made death unto me?]

This is the question of the Jew, with whom the apostle appears to

be disputing. "Do you allow the law to be good, and yet say it is

the cause of our death?" The apostle answers:-God forbid!

γενοιτο, by no means: it is not the law that is the cause of

your death, but sin; it was sin which subjected us to death by the

law, justly threatening sin with death: which law was given that

sin might appear-might be set forth in its own colours; when we

saw it subjected us to death by a law perfectly holy, just, and

good; that sin, by the law, might be represented what it really

is:-καθυπερβοληναμαρτωλος, an EXCEEDING GREAT and deadly evil.

Thus it appears that man cannot have a true notion of sin but

by means of the law of God. For this I have already given

sufficient reasons in the preceding notes. And it was one design

of the law to show the abominable and destructive nature of sin,

as well as to be a rule of life. It would be almost impossible

for a man to have that just notion of the demerit of sin so as to

produce repentance, or to see the nature and necessity of the

death of Christ, if the law were not applied to his conscience by

the light of the Holy Spirit; it is then alone that he sees

himself to be carnal, and sold under sin; and that the law and the

commandment are holy, just, and good. And let it be observed,

that the law did not answer this end merely among the Jews in the

days of the apostle; it is just as necessary to the Gentiles to

the present hour. Nor do we find that true repentance takes place

where the moral law is not preached and enforced. Those who

preach only the Gospel to sinners, at best only heal the hurt of

the daughter of my people slightly. The law, therefore, is the

grand instrument in the hands of a faithful minister, to alarm and

awaken sinners; and he may safely show that every sinner is under

the law, and consequently under the curse, who has not fled for

refuge to the hope held out by the Gospel: for, in this sense

also, Jesus Christ is the END of the LAW for justification to them

that believe.

Verse 14. For, we know that the law is spiritual] This is a

general proposition, and probably, in the apostle's autograph,

concluded the above sentence. The law is not to be considered as

a system of external rites and ceremonies; nor even as a rule of

moral action: it is a spiritual system; it reaches to the most

hidden purposes, thoughts, dispositions, and desires of the heart

and soul; and it reproves and condemns every thing, without hope

of reprieve or pardon, that is contrary to eternal truth and


But I am carnal, sold under sin.] This was probably, in the

apostle's letter, the beginning of a new paragraph. I believe it

is agreed, on all hands, that the apostle is here demonstrating

the insufficiency of the law in opposition to the Gospel. That by

the former is the knowledge, by the latter the cure, of sin.

Therefore by I here he cannot mean himself, nor any Christian

believer: if the contrary could be proved, the argument of the

apostle would go to demonstrate the insufficiency of the Gospel as

well as the law.

It is difficult to conceive how the opinion could have crept

into the Church, or prevailed there, that "the apostle speaks here

of his regenerate state; and that what was, in such a state, true

of himself, must be true of all others in the same state." This

opinion has, most pitifully and most shamefully, not only lowered

the standard of Christianity, but destroyed its influence and

disgraced its character. It requires but little knowledge of the

spirit of the Gospel, and of the scope of this epistle, to see

that the apostle is, here, either personating a Jew under the law

and without the Gospel, or showing what his own state was when he

was deeply convinced that by the deeds of the law no man could be

justified, and had not as yet heard those blessed words: Brother

Saul, the Lord Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way, hath

sent me that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with

the Holy Ghost, Ac 9:17.

In this and the following verses he states the contrariety

between himself, or any Jew while without Christ, and the law of

God. Of the latter he says, it is spiritual; of the former, I am

carnal, sold under sin. Of the carnal man, in opposition to the

spiritual, never was a more complete or accurate description

given. The expressions, in the flesh, and after the flesh, in

Ro 7:5, and in Ro 8:5, 8, 9, &c., are of the same import with

the word carnal in this verse. To be in the flesh, or to be

carnally minded, solely respects the unregenerate. While

unregenerate, a man is in a state of death and enmity against God,

Ro 8:6-9.

This is St. Paul's own account of a carnal man. The soul of such

a man has no authority over the appetites of the body and the

lusts of the flesh: reason has not the government of passion. The

work of such a person is to make provision for the flesh, to

fulfil the lusts thereof, Ro 13:14.

He minds the things of the flesh, Ro 8:5; he is at enmity with

God. In all these things the spiritual man is the reverse; he

lives in a state of friendship with God in Christ, and the Spirit

of God dwells in him; his soul has dominion over the appetites of

the body and the lusts of the flesh; his passions submit to the

government of reason, and he, by the Spirit, mortifies the deeds

of the flesh; he mindeth the things of the Spirit, Ro 8:5.

The Scriptures, therefore, place these two characters in direct

opposition to each other. Now the apostle begins this passage by

informing us that it is his carnal state that he is about to

describe, in opposition to the spirituality of God's holy law,

saying, But I am carnal.

Those who are of another opinion maintain that by the word

carnal here the apostle meant that corruption which dwelt in him

after his conversion; but this opinion is founded on a very great

mistake; for, although there may be, after justification, the

remains of the carnal mind, which will be less or more felt till

the soul is completely sanctified, yet the man is never

denominated from the inferior principle, which is under control,

but from the superior principle which habitually prevails.

Whatever epithets are given to corruption or sin in Scripture,

opposite epithets are given to grace or holiness. By these

different epithets are the unregenerate and regenerate

denominated. From all this it follows that the epithet carnal,

which is the characteristic designation of an unregenerate man,

cannot be applied to St. Paul after his conversion; nor, indeed,

to any Christian in that state.

But the word carnal, though used by the apostle to signify a

state of death and enmity against God, is not sufficient to denote

all the evil of the state which he is describing; hence he adds,

sold under sin. This is one of the strongest expressions which

the Spirit of God uses in Scripture, to describe the full

depravity of fallen man. It implies a willing slavery: Ahab had

sold himself to work evil, 1Ki 21:20. And of the Jews it is

said, in their utmost depravity, Behold, for your iniquities have

ye sold yourselves, Isa 50:1.

They forsook the holy covenant, and joined themselves to the

heathen, and WERE SOLD to do mischief, 1 Macc. i. 15.

Now, if the word carnal, in its strongest sense, had been

sufficiently significant of all he meant, why add to this charge

another expression still stronger? We must therefore understand

the phrase, sold under sin, as implying that the soul was employed

in the drudgery of sin; that it was sold over to this service, and

had no power to disobey this tyrant, until it was redeemed by

another. And if a man be actually sold to another, and he

acquiesce in the deed, then he becomes the legal property of that

other person. This state of bondage was well known to the Romans.

The sale of slaves they saw daily, and could not misunderstand the

emphatical sense of this expression. Sin is here represented as a

person; and the apostle compares the dominion which sin has over

the man in question to that of a master over his legal slave.

Universally through the Scriptures man is said to be in a state of

bondage to sin until the Son of God make him free: but in no part

of the sacred writings is it ever said that the children of God

are sold under sin. Christ came to deliver the lawful captive,

and take away the prey from the mighty. Whom the Son maketh free,

they are free indeed. Then, they yield not up their members as

instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; for sin shall not have

the dominion over them, because the law of the Spirit of life in

Christ Jesus has made them free from the law of sin and death,

Ro 6:13, 14; 8:2.

Anciently, when regular cartels were not known, the captives

became the slaves of their victors, and by them were sold to any

purchaser; their slavery was as complete and perpetual as if the

slave had resigned his own liberty, and sold himself: the laws of

the land secured him to his master; he could not redeem himself,

because he had nothing that was his own, and nothing could rescue

him from that state but a stipulated redemption. The apostle

speaks here, not of the manner in which the person in question

became a slave; he only asserts the fact, that sin had a full and

permanent dominion over him.-Smith, on the carnal man's character.

I am carnal, sold under sin.] I have been the more particular

in ascertaining the genuine sense of this verse, because it

determines the general scope of the whole passage.

Verse 15. For, that which I do, I allow not, &c.] The first

clause of this verse is a general assertion concerning the

employment of the person in question in the state which the

apostle calls carnal, and sold under sin. The Greek word

κατεργαξομαι which is here translated I do, means a work which

the agent continues to perform till it is finished, and is used

by the apostle, Php 2:12,

to denote the continued employment of God's saints in his service

to the end of their lives. WORK OUT your own salvation; the word

here denotes an employment of a different kind; and therefore the

man who now feels the galling dominion of sin says, What I am

continually labouring at I allow not, ουγινωσκω, I do not

acknowledge to be right, just, holy, or profitable.

But what I hate, that do I.] I am a slave, and under the

absolute control of my tyrannical master: I hate his service, but

am obliged to work his will. Who, without blaspheming, can assert

that the apostle is speaking this of a man in whom the Spirit of

the Lord dwells? From Ro 7:7 to this one the apostle, says Dr.

Taylor, denotes the Jew in the flesh by a single I; here, he

divides that I into two I's, or figurative persons; representing

two different and opposite principles which were in him. The one

I, or principle, assents to the law that it is good, and wills and

chooses what the other does not practise, Ro 7:16.

This principle he expressly tells us, Ro 7:22,

is the inward man; the law of the mind, Ro 7:23;

the mind, or rational faculty, Ro 7:25;

for he could find no other inward man, or law of the mind, but the

rational faculty, in a person who was carnal and sold under sin.

The other I, or principle, transgresses the law, Ro 7:23, and

does those things which the former principle allows not. This

principle he expressly tells us, Ro 7:18,

is the flesh, the law in the members, or sensual appetite,

Ro 7:23; and he concludes in the last verse, that these two

principles were opposite to each other; therefore it is evident

that those two principles, residing and counteracting each other

in the same person; are reason and lust, or sin that dwells in us.

And it is very easy to distinguish these two I's, or principles,

in every part of this elegant description of iniquity, domineering

over the light and remonstrances of reason. For instance, Ro 7:17:

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

The I he speaks of here is opposed to indwelling or governing sin;

and therefore plainly denotes the principle of reason, the inward

man, or law of the mind; in which, I add, a measure of the light

of the Spirit of God shines, in order to show the sinfulness of

sin. These two different principles he calls, one flesh, and the

other spirit, Ga 5:17; where he speaks of their contrariety in

the same manner that he does here.

And we may give a probable reason why the apostle dwells so

long upon the struggle and opposition between these two

principles; it appears intended to answer a tacit but very obvious

objection. The Jew might allege: "But the law is holy and

spiritual; and I assent to it as good, as a right rule of action,

which ought to be observed; yea, I esteem it highly, I glory and

rest in it, convinced of its truth and excellency. And is not

this enough to constitute the law a sufficient principle of

sanctification?" The apostle answers, "No; wickedness is

consistent with a sense of truth. A man may assent to the best

rule of action, and yet still be under the dominion of lust and

sin; from which nothing can deliver him but a principle and power

proceeding from the fountain of life."

The sentiment in this verse may be illustrated by quotations

from the ancient heathens; many of whom felt themselves in

precisely the same state, (and expressed it in nearly the same

language,) which some most monstrously tell us was the state of

this heavenly apostle, when vindicating the claims of the Gospel

against those of the Jewish ritual! Thus OVID describes the

conduct of a depraved man:-

Sed trahit invitam nova vis; aliudque cupido,

Mens aliud suadet. Video meliora, proboque;

Deteriora sequor. OVID, Met. lib. vii. ver. 19.

My reason this, my passion that persuades;

I see the right, and I approve it too;

Condemn the wrong, and yet the wrong pursue.

--------indignum facinus! nunc ego et

Illam scelestam esse, et me miserum sentio:

Et taedet: et amore ardeo: et prudens, sciens,

Vivus, vidensque pereo: nec quid agam scio.

TERENT. Eun. ver. 70.

An unworthy act! Now I perceive that she is wicked, and I am

wretched. I burn with love, and am vexed at it. Although

prudent, and intelligent, and active, and seeing, I perish;

neither do I know what to do.

Sed quia mente minus validus, quam corpore toto,

Quae nocuere, sequar; fugiam, quae profore credam.

HOR. Ep. lib. i. E. 8, ver. 7.

More in my mind than body lie my pains:

Whate'er may hurt me, I with joy pursue;

Whate'er may do me good, with horror view.




ARRIAN. Epist. ii. 26.

For, truly, he who sins does not will sin, but wishes to walk

uprightly: yet it is manifest that what he wills he doth not; and

what he wills not he doth.





EURIP. Med. v. 1077.

-----------But I am overcome by sin,

And I well understand the evil which I presume to commit.

Passion, however, is more powerful than my reason;

Which is the cause of the greatest evils to mortal men.

Thus we find that enlightened heathens, both among the Greeks

and Romans, had that same kind of religious experience which some

suppose to be, not only the experience of St. Paul in his best

state, but to be even the standard of Christian attainments! See

more examples in Wetstein.

The whole spirit of the sentiment is well summed up and

expressed by St. Chrysostom: οταντινοςεπιθυμωμενειτε

κωλυωμεθααιρεταιμαλλοντηςεπιθυμιαςηφλοξ. If we lust after

any thing which is afterwards prohibited, the flame of this desire

burns the more fiercely.

Verse 16. If then I do that which I would not, &c.] Knowing

that the law condemns it, and that therefore it must be evil.

I consent unto the law; I show by this circumstance that I

acknowledge the law to be good.

Verse 17. Now then it is no more I] It is not that I which

constitutes reason and conscience, but sin-corrupt and sensual

inclinations, that dwelleth in me-that has the entire domination

over my reason, darkening my understanding, and perverting my

judgment; for which there is condemnation in the law, but no cure.

So we find here that there is a principle in the unregenerate man

stronger than reason itself; a principle which is, properly

speaking, not of the essence of the soul, but acts in it, as its

lord, or as a tyrant. This is inbred and indwelling sin-the

seed of the serpent; by which the whole soul is darkened,

confused, perverted, and excited to rebellion against God.

Verse 18. For I know that in me, &c.] I have learned by

experience that in an unregenerate man there is no good. There is

no principle by which the soul can be brought into the light; no

principle by which it can be restored to purity: fleshly appetites

alone prevail; and the brute runs away with the man.

For to will is present with me] Though the whole soul has

suffered indescribably by the FALL, yet there are some faculties

that appear to have suffered less than others; or rather have

received larger measures of the supernatural light, because their

concurrence with the Divine principle is so necessary to the

salvation of the soul. Even the most unconcerned about spiritual

things have understanding, judgment, reason, and will. And by

means of these we have seen even scoffers at Divine revelation

become very eminent in arts and sciences; some of our best

metaphysicians, physicians, mathematicians, astronomers, chemists,

&c., have been known-to their reproach be it spoken and

published-to be without religion; nay, some of them have

blasphemed it, by leaving God out of his own work, and ascribing

to an idol of their own, whom they call nature, the operations of

the wisdom, power, and goodness of the Most High. It is true that

many of the most eminent in all the above branches of knowledge

have been conscientious believers in Divine revelation; but the

case of the others proves that, fallen as man is, he yet possesses

extra-ordinary powers, which are capable of very high cultivation

and improvement. In short, the soul seems capable of any thing

but knowing, fearing, loving, and serving God. And it is not only

incapable, of itself, for any truly religious acts; but what shows

its fall in the most indisputable manner is its enmity to sacred

things. Let an unregenerate man pretend what he pleases, his

conscience knows that he hates religion; his soul revolts against

it; his carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither

indeed can it be. There is no reducing this fell principle to

subjection; it is SIN, and sin is rebellion against God; therefore

sin must be destroyed, not subjected; if subjected, it would

cease to be sin, because sin is in opposition to God: hence the

apostle says, most conclusively, it cannot be subjected, i.e. it

must be destroyed, or it will destroy the soul for ever. When the

apostle says, to will is present with me, he shows that the will

is on the side of God and truth, so far that it consents to the

propriety and necessity of obedience. There has been a strange

clamour raised up against this faculty of the soul, as if the very

essence of evil dwelt in it; whereas the apostle shows, throughout

this chapter, that the will was regularly on God's side, while

every other faculty appears to have been in hostility to him. The

truth is, men have confounded the will with the passions, and laid

to the charge of the former what properly belongs to the latter.

The will is right, but the passions are wrong. It discerns

and approves, but is without ability to perform: it has no power

over sensual appetites; in these the principle of rebellion

dwells: it nills evil, it wills good, but can only command

through the power of Divine grace: but this the person in

question, the unregenerate man, has not received.

Verse 19. For the good that I would I do not] Here again is

the most decisive proof that the will is on the side of God and


But the evil which I would not] And here is equally decisive

proof that the will is against, or opposed to evil. There is not

a man in ten millions, who will carefully watch the operations of

this faculty, that will find it opposed to good and obstinately

attached to evil, as is generally supposed. Nay, it is found

almost uniformly on God's side, while the whole sensual system is

against him.-It is not the WILL that leads men astray; but the

corrupt PASSIONS which oppose and oppress the will. It is truly

astonishing into what endless mistakes men have fallen on this

point, and what systems of divinity have been built on these

mistakes. The will, this almost only friend to God in the human

soul, has been slandered as God's worst enemy, and even by those

who had the seventh chapter to the Romans before their eyes! Nay,

it has been considered so fell a foe to God and goodness that it

is bound in the adamantine chains of a dire necessity to do evil

only; and the doctrine of will (absurdly called free will, as if

will did not essentially imply what is free) has been considered

one of the most destructive heresies. Let such persons put

themselves to school to their Bibles and to common sense.

The plain state of the case is this: the soul is so completely

fallen, that it has no power to do good till it receive that power

from on high. But it has power to see good, to distinguish

between that and evil; to acknowledge the excellence of this

good, and to will it, from a conviction of that excellence; but

farther it cannot go. Yet, in various cases, it is solicited and

consents to sin; and because it is will, that is, because it is a

free principle, it must necessarily possess this power; and

although it can do no good unless it receive grace from God, yet

it is impossible to force it to sin. Even Satan himself cannot do

this; and before he can get it to sin, he must gain its consent.

Thus God in his endless mercy has endued this faculty with a power

in which, humanly speaking, resides the salvability of the soul;

and without this the soul must have eternally continued under the

power of sin, or been saved as an inert, absolutely passive

machine; which supposition would go as nearly to prove that it was

as incapable of vice as it were of virtue.

"But does not this arguing destroy the doctrine of free grace?"

No! it establishes that doctrine. 1. It is through the grace,

the unmerited kindness, of God, that the soul has such a faculty,

and that it has not been extinguished by sin. 2. This will,

though a free principle, as it respects its nilling of evil and

choosing good, yet, properly speaking, has no power by which it

can subjugate the evil or perform the good. We know that the

eye has a power to discern objects, but without light this power

is perfectly useless, and no object can be discerned by it. So,

of the person represented here by the apostle, it is said, To will

is present with me, τογαρθελεινπαρακειταιμοι. To will is ever

in readiness, it is ever at hand, it lies constantly before me;

but how to perform that which is good, I find not; that is, the

man is unregenerate, and he is seeking justification and holiness

from the law. The law was never designed to give these-it gives

the knowledge, not the cure of sin; therefore, though he nills

evil and wills good, yet he can neither conquer the one nor

perform the other till he receives the grace of Christ, till he

seeks and finds redemption in his blood. Here, then, the free

agency of man is preserved, without which he could not be in a

salvable state; and the honour of the grace of Christ is

maintained, without which there can be no actual salvation. There

is a good sentiment on this subject in the following words of an

eminent poet:-

Thou great first CAUSE, least understood;

Who all my sense confined

To know but this, that thou art good;

And that myself am blind.

Yet gave me in this dark estate

To see the good from ill;

And binding nature fast in fate,

Left free the human will.

POPE'S Universal Prayer.

Verse 20. It is no more I] My will is against it; my reason

and conscience condemn it. But sin that dwelleth in me-the

principle of sin, which has possessed itself of all my carnal

appetites and passions, and thus subjects my reason and domineers

over my soul. Thus I am in perpetual contradiction to myself.

Two principles are continually contending in me for the mastery:

my reason, on which the light of God shines, to show what is evil;

and my passions, in which the principle of sin works, to bring

forth fruit unto death.

This strange self-contradictory propensity led some of the

ancient philosophers to imagine that man has two souls, a good and

a bad one; and it is on this principle that Xenophon, in his life

of Cyrus, causes Araspes, a Persian nobleman, to account for some

misconduct of his relative to Panthea, a beautiful female captive,

whom Cyrus had entrusted to his care:-"O Cyrus, I am convinced

that I have two souls; if I had but one soul, it could not at the

same time pant after vice and virtue; wish and abhor the same

thing. It is certain, therefore, that we have two souls; when the

good soul rules, I undertake noble and virtuous actions; but when

the bad soul predominates, I am constrained to do evil. All I can

say at present is that I find my good soul, encouraged by thy

presence, has got the better of my bad soul." See Spectator, vol.

viii. No. 564. Thus, not only the ancients, but also many

moderns, have trifled, and all will continue to do so who do not

acknowledge the Scriptural account of the fall of man, and the

lively comment upon that doctrine contained in the seventh chapter

of the Epistle to the Romans.

Verse 21. I find then a law] I am in such a condition and

state of soul, under the power of such habits and sinful

propensities, that when I would do good-when my will and reason

are strongly bent on obedience to the law of God and opposition to

the principle of sin, evil is present with me, κακονπαρακειται,

evil is at hand, it lies constantly before me. That, as the will

to do good is constantly at hand, Ro 7:18, so the principle of

rebellion exciting me to sin is equally present; but, as the one

is only will, wish, and desire, without power to do what is

willed, to obtain what is wished, or to perform what is

desired, sin continually prevails.

The word νομος, law, in this verse, must be taken as implying

any strong or confirmed habit, συνηθεια, as Hesychius renders

it, under the influence of which the man generally acts; and in

this sense the apostle most evidently uses it in Ro 7:23.

Verse 22. I delight in the law of God after the inward man]

Every Jew, and every unregenerate man, who receives the Old

Testament as a revelation from God, must acknowledge the great

purity, excellence and utility of its maxims, &c., though he will

ever find that without the grace of our Lord Jesus he can never

act according to those heavenly maxims; and without the mercy of

God, can never be redeemed from the curse entailed upon him for

his past transgressions. To say that the inward man means the

regenerate part of the soul, is supportable by no argument.

οεσωανθρωπος, and οεντοςανθρωπος, especially the latter,

are expressions frequently in use among the purest Greek ethic

writers, to signify the soul or rational part of man, in

opposition to the body of flesh. See the quotations in Wetstein

from Plato and Plotinus. The Jews have the same form of

expression; so in Yalcut Rubeni, fol. 10, 3, it is said: The flesh

is the inward garment of the man; but the SPIRIT is the INWARD

man, the garment of which is the body; and St. Paul uses the

phrase in precisely the same sense in 2Co 4:16, and Eph 3:16.

If it be said that it is impossible for an unregenerate man to

delight in the law of God, the experience of millions contradicts

the assertion. Every true penitent admires the moral law, longs

most earnestly for a conformity to it, and feels that he can never

be satisfied till he awakes up after this Divine likeness; and he

hates himself, because he feels that he has broken it, and that

his evil passions are still in a state of hostility to it.

The following observations of a pious and sensible writer on

this subject cannot be unacceptable: "The inward man always

signifies the mind; which either may, or may not, be the subject

of grace. That which is asserted of either the inward or outward

man is often performed by one member or power, and not with the

whole. If any member of the body perform an action, we are said

to do it with the body, although the other members be not

employed. In like manner, if any power or faculty of the mind be

employed about any action, the soul is said to act. This

expression, therefore, I delight in the law of God after the

inward man, can mean no more than this, that there are some inward

faculties in the soul which delight in the law of God. This

expression is particularly adapted to the principles of the

Pharisees, of whom St. Paul was one before his conversion. They

received the law as the oracles of God, and confessed that it

deserved the most serious regard. Their veneration was inspired

by a sense of its original, and a full conviction that it was

true. To some parts of it they paid the most superstitious

regard. They had it written upon their phylacteries, which they

carried about with them at all times. It was often read and

expounded in their synagogues: and they took delight in studying

its precepts. On that account, both the prophets and our Lord

agree in saying that they delighted in the law of God, though they

regarded not its chief and most essential precepts." See farther

observations on this point at the end of the chapter.

So far, then, is it from being true that none but a REGENERATE

man can delight in the law of God, we find that even a proud,

unhumbled PHARISEE can do it; and much more a poor sinner, who is

humbled under a sense of his sin, and sees, in the light of God,

not only the spirituality, but the excellence of the Divine law.

Verse 23. But I see another law in my members] Though the

person in question is less or more under the continual influence

of reason and conscience, which offer constant testimony against

sin, yet as long as help is sought only from the law, and the

grace of Christ in the Gospel is not received, the remonstrances

of reason and conscience are rendered of no effect by the

prevalence of sinful passions; which, from repeated

gratifications, have acquired all the force of habit, and now give

law to the whole carnal man.

Warring against the law of my mind] There is an allusion here

to the case of a city besieged, at last taken by storm, and the

inhabitants carried away into captivity; αντιστρατευομενον,

carrying on a system of warfare; laying continual siege to the

soul; repeating incessantly its attacks; harassing, battering, and

storming the spirit; and, by all these assaults, reducing the man

to extreme misery. Never was a picture more impressively drawn

and more effectually finished; for the next sentence shows that

this spiritual city was at last taken by storm, and the

inhabitants who survived the sackage led into the most shameful,

painful, and oppressive captivity.

Bringing me into captivity to the law of sin] He does not here

speak of an occasional advantage gained by sin, it was a complete

and final victory gained by corruption; which, having stormed and

reduced the city, carried away the inhabitants with irresistible

force, into captivity. This is the consequence of being overcome;

he was now in the hands of the foe as the victor's lawful captive;

and this is the import of the original word, αιχμαλωτιζοντα, and

is the very term used by our Lord when speaking of the final ruin,

dispersion, and captivity of the Jews. He says, αιχμαλωτισθησονται,

they shall be led away captives into all the nations, Lu 21:24.

When all this is considered, who, in his right mind, can apply it

to the holy soul of the apostle of the Gentiles? Is there any

thing in it that can belong to his gracious state? Surely nothing.

The basest slave of sin, who has any remaining checks of

conscience, cannot be brought into a worse state than that

described here by the apostle. Sin and corruption have a final

triumph; and conscience and reason are taken prisoners, laid

in fetters, and sold for slaves. Can this ever be said of a man

in whom the Spirit of God dwells, and whom the law of the Spirit

of life in Christ Jesus has made free from the law of sin and

death? See Ro 8:2.

Verse 24. O wretched man that I am, &c.] This affecting

account is finished more impressively by the groans of the wounded

captive. Having long maintained a useless conflict against

innumerable hosts and irresistible might, he is at last wounded

and taken prisoner; and to render his state more miserable, is not

only encompassed by the slaughtered, but chained to a dead body;

for there seems to be here an allusion to an ancient custom of

certain tyrants, who bound a dead body to a living man, and

obliged him to carry it about, till the contagion from the putrid

mass took away his life! Virgil paints this in all its horrors,

in the account he gives of the tyrant Mezentius. AEneid, lib.

viii. ver. 485.

Quid memorem infandas caedes? quid facta tyranni?

MORTUA quin etiam jungebat corpora VIVIS,

Componens manibusque manus, atque oribus ora;

Tormenti genus! et sanie taboque fluentes

Complexu in misero, longa sic morte necabat.

What tongue can such barbarities record,

Or count the slaughters of his ruthless sword?

'Twas not enough the good, the guiltless bled,

Still worse, he bound the living to the dead:

These, limb to limb, and face to face, he joined;

O! monstrous crime, of unexampled kind!

Till choked with stench, the lingering wretches lay,

And, in the loathed embraces, died away! Pitt.

Servius remarks, in his comment on this passage, that sanies,

mortui est; tabo, viventis scilicet sanguis: "the sanies, or

putrid ichor, from the dead body, produced the tabes in the blood

of the living." Roasting, burning, racking, crucifying, &c., were

nothing when compared to this diabolically invented punishment.

We may naturally suppose that the cry of such a person would

be, Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this dead

body? And how well does this apply to the case of the person to

whom the apostle refers! A body-a whole mass of sin and

corruption, was bound to his soul with chains which he could not

break; and the mortal contagion, transfused through his whole

nature, was pressing him down to the bitter pains of an eternal

death. He now finds that the law can afford him no deliverance;

and he despairs of help from any human being; but while he is

emitting his last, or almost expiring groan, the redemption by

Christ Jesus is proclaimed to him; and, if the apostle refers to

his own case, Ananias unexpectedly accosts him with-Brother Saul!

the Lord Jesus, who appeared unto thee in the way, hath sent me

unto thee, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled

with the Holy Ghost. He sees then an open door of hope, and he

immediately, though but in the prospect of this deliverance,

returns God thanks for the well-grounded hope which he has of

salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Verse 25. I thank God through Jesus Christ] Instead of

ευχαριστωτωθεω, I thank God, several excellent MSS., with the

Vulgate, some copies of the Itala, and several of the fathers,

read ηχαριςτουθεου, or τουκυριου, the grace of God, or the

grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; this is an answer to the almost

despairing question in the preceding verse. The whole, therefore,

may be read thus: O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me

from the body of this death? ANSWER-The grace of God through our

Lord Jesus Christ. Thus we find that a case of the kind described

by the apostle in the preceding verses, whether it were his own,

before he was brought to the knowledge of Christ, particularly

during the three days that he was at Damascus, without being able

to eat or drink, in deep penitential sorrow; or whether he

personates a pharisaic yet conscientious Jew, deeply concerned for

his salvation: I say, we find that such a case can be relieved by

the Gospel of Christ only; or, in other words, that no scheme of

redemption can be effectual to the salvation of any soul, whether

Jew or Gentile, but that laid down in the Gospel of Christ.

Let any or all means be used which human wisdom can devise,

guilt will still continue uncancelled; and inbred sin will laugh

them all to scorn, prevail over them, and finally triumph. And

this is the very conclusion to which the apostle brings his

argument in the following clause; which, like the rest of the

chapter, has been most awfully abused, to favour anti-evangelical


So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God] That this

clause contains the inference from the preceding train of

argumentation appears evident, from the αραουν, therefore, with

which the apostle introduces it. As if he had said: "To conclude,

the sum of what I have advanced, concerning the power of sin in

the carnal man, and the utter insufficiency of all human means

and legal observances to pardon sin and expel the corruption of

the heart, is this: that the very same person, the αυτοςεγω, the

same I, while without the Gospel, under the killing power of the

law, will find in himself two opposite principles, the one

subscribing to and approving the law of God; and the other,

notwithstanding, bringing him into captivity to sin: his inward

man-his rational powers and conscience, will assent to the

justice and propriety of the requisitions of the law; and yet,

notwithstanding this, his fleshly appetites-the law in his

members, will war against the law of his mind, and continue, till

he receives the Gospel of Christ, to keep him in the galling

captivity of sin and death."

1. THE strong expressions in this clause have led many to

conclude that the apostle himself, in his regenerated state, is

indisputably the person intended. That all that is said in this

chapter of the carnal man, sold under sin, did apply to Saul of

Tarsus, no man can doubt: that what is here said can ever be with

propriety applied to Paul the Apostle, who can believe? Of the

former, all is natural; of the latter, all here said would be

monstrous and absurd, if not blasphemous.

2. But it is supposed that the words must be understood as

implying a regenerate man, because the apostle says, Ro 7:22,

I delight in the law of God; and in this verse, I myself with

the mind serve the law of God. These things, say the objectors,

cannot be spoken of a wicked Jew, but of a regenerate man such as

the apostle then was. But when we find that the former verse

speaks of a man who is brought into captivity to the law of sin

and death, surely there is no part of the regenerate state of the

apostle to which the words can possibly apply. Had he been in

captivity to the law of sin and death, after his conversion to

Christianity, what did he gain by that conversion? Nothing for

his personal holiness. He had found no salvation under an

inefficient law; and he was left in thraldom under an equally

inefficient Gospel. The very genius of Christianity demonstrates

that nothing like this can, with any propriety, be spoken of a

genuine Christian.

3. But it is farther supposed that these things cannot be

spoken of a proud or wicked Jew; yet we learn the contrary from

the infallible testimony of the word of God. Of this people in

their fallen and iniquitous state, God says, by his prophet, They

SEEK me DAILY, and DELIGHT to know my ways, as a nation that did

RIGHTEOUSNESS, and FORSOOK not the ORDINANCES of their God: they

ask of me the ordinances of JUSTICE, and TAKE DELIGHT in

approaching to God, Isa 58:2.

Can any thing be stronger than this? And yet, at that time, they

were most dreadfully carnal, and sold under sin, as the rest of

that chapter proves. It is a most notorious fact, that how little

soever the life of a Jew was conformed to the law of his God, he

notwithstanding professed the highest esteem for it, and gloried

in it: and the apostle says nothing stronger of them in this

chapter than their conduct and profession verify to the present

day. They are still delighting in the law of God, after the

inward man; with their mind serving the law of God; asking for the

ordinances of justice, seeking God daily, and taking delight in

approaching to God; they even glory, and greatly exult and

glory, in the Divine original and excellency of their LAW; and

all this while they are most abominably carnal, sold under sin, and

brought into the most degrading captivity to the law of sin and

death. If then all that the apostle states of the person in

question be true of the Jews, through the whole period of their

history, even to the present time; if they do in all their

professions and their religious services, which they zealously

maintain, confess, and conscientiously too, that the law is holy,

and the commandment holy, just, and good; and yet, with their

flesh, serve the law of sin; the same certainly may be said with

equal propriety of a Jewish penitent, deeply convinced of his lost

estate, and the total insufficiency of his legal observances to

deliver him from his body of sin and death. And consequently, all

this may be said of Paul the JEW, while going about to establish

his own righteousness-his own plan of justification; he had not as

yet submitted to the righteousness of God-the Divine plan of

redemption by Jesus Christ.

4. It must be allowed that, whatever was the experience of so

eminent a man, Christian, and apostle, as St. Paul, it must be a

very proper standard of Christianity. And if we are to take what

is here said as his experience as a Christian, it would be

presumption in us to expect to go higher; for he certainly had

pushed the principles of his religion to their utmost

consequences. But his whole life, and the account which he

immediately gives of himself in the succeeding chapter, prove that

he, as a Christian and an apostle, had a widely different

experience; an experience which amply justifies that superiority

which he attributes to the Christian religion over the Jewish; and

demonstrates that it not only is well calculated to perfect all

preceding dispensations, but that it affords salvation to the

uttermost to all those who flee for refuge to the hope that it

sets before them. Besides, there is nothing spoken here of the

state of a conscientious Jew, or of St. Paul in his Jewish state,

that is not true of every genuine penitent; even before, and it

may be, long before, he has believed in Christ to the saving of

his soul. The assertion that "every Christian, howsoever advanced

in the Divine life, will and must feel all this inward conflict,"

&c., is as untrue as it is dangerous. That many, called

Christians, and probably sincere, do feel all this, may be readily

granted; and such we must consider to be in the same state with

Saul of Tarsus, previously to his conversion; but that they must

continue thus is no where intimated in the Gospel of Christ. We

must take heed how we make our experience, which is the result of

our unbelief and unfaithfulness, the standard for the people of

God, and lower down Christianity to our most reprehensible and

dwarfish state: at the same time, we should not be discouraged at

what we thus feel, but apply to God, through Christ, as Paul did;

and then we shall soon be able, with him, to declare, to the

eternal glory of God's grace, that the law of the Spirit of life,

in Christ Jesus, has made us free from the law of sin and death.

This is the inheritance of God's children; and their salvation is

of me, saith the Lord.

I cannot conclude these observations without recommending to

the notice of my readers a learned and excellent discourse on the

latter part of this chapter, preached by the Rev. James Smith,

minister of the Gospel in Dumfermline, Scotland; a work to which I

am indebted for some useful observations, and from which I should

have been glad to have copied much, had my limits permitted.

Reader, do not plead for Baal; try, fully try, the efficiency of

the blood of the covenant; and be not content with less salvation

than God has provided for thee. Thou art not straitened in God,

be not straitened in thy own bowels.

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