Romans 7* Believers are united to Christ, that they may bring forthfruit unto God. (1-6) The use and excellence of the law. (7-13)The spiritual conflicts between corruption and grace in abeliever. (14-25)1-6 So long as a man continues under the law as a covenant, andseeks justification by his own obedience, he continues the slaveof sin in some form. Nothing but the Spirit of life in ChristJesus, can make any sinner free from the law of sin and death.Believers are delivered from that power of the law, whichcondemns for the sins committed by them. And they are deliveredfrom that power of the law which stirs up and provokes the sinthat dwells in them. Understand this not of the law as a rule,but as a covenant of works. In profession and privilege, we areunder a covenant of grace, and not under a covenant of works;under the gospel of Christ, not under the law of Moses. Thedifference is spoken of under the similitude or figure of beingmarried to a new husband. The second marriage is to Christ. Bydeath we are freed from obligation to the law as a covenant, asthe wife is from her vows to her husband. In our believingpowerfully and effectually, we are dead to the law, and have nomore to do with it than the dead servant, who is freed from hismaster, has to do with his master's yoke. The day of ourbelieving, is the day of being united to the Lord Jesus. Weenter upon a life of dependence on him, and duty to him. Goodworks are from union with Christ; as the fruitfulness of thevine is the product of its being united to its roots; there isno fruit to God, till we are united to Christ. The law, and thegreatest efforts of one under the law, still in the flesh, underthe power of corrupt principles, cannot set the heart right withregard to the love of God, overcome worldly lusts, or give truthand sincerity in the inward parts, or any thing that comes bythe special sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit. Nothingmore than a formal obedience to the outward letter of anyprecept, can be performed by us, without the renewing,new-creating grace of the new covenant. 7-13 There is no way of coming to that knowledge of sin, whichis necessary to repentance, and therefore to peace and pardon,but by trying our hearts and lives by the law. In his own casethe apostle would not have known the sinfulness of his thoughts,motives, and actions, but by the law. That perfect standardshowed how wrong his heart and life were, proving his sins to bemore numerous than he had before thought, but it did not containany provision of mercy or grace for his relief. He is ignorantof human nature and the perverseness of his own heart, who doesnot perceive in himself a readiness to fancy there is somethingdesirable in what is out of reach. We may perceive this in ourchildren, though self-love makes us blind to it in ourselves.The more humble and spiritual any Christian is, the more clearlywill he perceive that the apostle describes the true believer,from his first convictions of sin to his greatest progress ingrace, during this present imperfect state. St. Paul was once aPharisee, ignorant of the spirituality of the law, having somecorrectness of character, without knowing his inward depravity.When the commandment came to his conscience by the convictionsof the Holy Spirit, and he saw what it demanded, he found hissinful mind rise against it. He felt at the same time the evilof sin, his own sinful state, that he was unable to fulfil thelaw, and was like a criminal when condemned. But though the evilprinciple in the human heart produces sinful motions, and themore by taking occasion of the commandment; yet the law is holy,and the commandment holy, just, and good. It is not favourableto sin, which it pursues into the heart, and discovers andreproves in the inward motions thereof. Nothing is so good but acorrupt and vicious nature will pervert it. The same heat thatsoftens wax, hardens clay. Food or medicine when taken wrong,may cause death, though its nature is to nourish or to heal. Thelaw may cause death through man's depravity, but sin is thepoison that brings death. Not the law, but sin discovered by thelaw, was made death to the apostle. The ruinous nature of sin,and the sinfulness of the human heart, are here clearly shown. 14-17 Compared with the holy rule of conduct in the law of God,the apostle found himself so very far short of perfection, thathe seemed to be carnal; like a man who is sold against his willto a hated master, from whom he cannot set himself at liberty. Areal Christian unwillingly serves this hated master, yet cannotshake off the galling chain, till his powerful and graciousFriend above, rescues him. The remaining evil of his heart is areal and humbling hinderance to his serving God as angels do andthe spirits of just made perfect. This strong language was theresult of St. Paul's great advance in holiness, and the depth ofhis self-abasement and hatred of sin. If we do not understandthis language, it is because we are so far beneath him inholiness, knowledge of the spirituality of God's law, and theevil of our own hearts, and hatred of moral evil. And manybelievers have adopted the apostle's language, showing that itis suitable to their deep feelings of abhorrence of sin, andself-abasement. The apostle enlarges on the conflict he dailymaintained with the remainder of his original depravity. He wasfrequently led into tempers, words, or actions, which he did notapprove or allow in his renewed judgement and affections. Bydistinguishing his real self, his spiritual part, from the self,or flesh, in which sin dwelt, and by observing that the evilactions were done, not by him, but by sin dwelling in him, theapostle did not mean that men are not accountable for theirsins, but he teaches the evil of their sins, by showing thatthey are all done against reason and conscience. Sin dwelling ina man, does not prove its ruling, or having dominion over him.If a man dwells in a city, or in a country, still he may notrule there. 18-22 The more pure and holy the heart is, it will have themore quick feeling as to the sin that remains in it. Thebeliever sees more of the beauty of holiness and the excellenceof the law. His earnest desires to obey, increase as he grows ingrace. But the whole good on which his will is fully bent, hedoes not do; sin ever springing up in him, through remainingcorruption, he often does evil, though against the fixeddetermination of his will. The motions of sin within grieved theapostle. If by the striving of the flesh against the Spirit, wasmeant that he could not do or perform as the Spirit suggested,so also, by the effectual opposition of the Spirit, he could notdo what the flesh prompted him to do. How different this casefrom that of those who make themselves easy with regard to theinward motions of the flesh prompting them to evil; who, againstthe light and warning of conscience, go on, even in outwardpractice, to do evil, and thus, with forethought, go on in theroad to perdition! For as the believer is under grace, and hiswill is for the way of holiness, he sincerely delights in thelaw of God, and in the holiness which it demands, according tohis inward man; that new man in him, which after God is createdin true holiness. 23-25 This passage does not represent the apostle as one thatwalked after the flesh, but as one that had it greatly at heart,not to walk so. And if there are those who abuse this passage,as they also do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction,yet serious Christians find cause to bless God for having thusprovided for their support and comfort. We are not, because ofthe abuse of such as are blinded by their own lusts, to findfault with the scripture, or any just and well warrantedinterpretation of it. And no man who is not engaged in thisconflict, can clearly understand the meaning of these words, orrightly judge concerning this painful conflict, which led theapostle to bemoan himself as a wretched man, constrained to whathe abhorred. He could not deliver himself; and this made him themore fervently thank God for the way of salvation revealedthrough Jesus Christ, which promised him, in the end,deliverance from this enemy. So then, says he, I myself, with mymind, my prevailing judgement, affections, and purposes, as aregenerate man, by Divine grace, serve and obey the law of God;but with the flesh, the carnal nature, the remains of depravity,I serve the law of sin, which wars against the law of my mind.Not serving it so as to live in it, or to allow it, but asunable to free himself from it, even in his very best state, andneeding to look for help and deliverance out of himself. It isevident that he thanks God for Christ, as our deliverer, as ouratonement and righteousness in himself, and not because of anyholiness wrought in us. He knew of no such salvation, anddisowned any such title to it. He was willing to act in allpoints agreeable to the law, in his mind and conscience, but washindered by indwelling sin, and never attained the perfectionthe law requires. What can be deliverance for a man alwayssinful, but the free grace of God, as offered in Christ Jesus?The power of Divine grace, and of the Holy Spirit, could rootout sin from our hearts even in this life, if Divine wisdom hadnot otherwise thought fit. But it is suffered, that Christiansmight constantly feel, and understand thoroughly, the wretchedstate from which Divine grace saves them; might be kept fromtrusting in themselves; and might ever hold all theirconsolation and hope, from the rich and free grace of God inChrist.
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