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these Romans to whom he wrote: that “ sin had not dominion over them, for they were not under the law, but under grace ;” that they were “made free from sin, and were become the servants of righteousness.” And then, throughout the whole seventh chapter, and the beginning of the eighth, he illustrates this matter; and shows in what respect they are not under the law, and how, or in what respects, they are made free from sin.
This, Sir, appears plainly to be the scope and connection of the first seven chapters of the Epistle to the Romans; as may be easily observed by any one that will impartially look into the case, without prejudice in favour of a party, or a preconceived opinion which he is resolved to maintain.
And thus I come to a more particular consideration of this seventh chapter, which, as was observed, is designed to clear up these two things—how we are made " free from the law," and how we are “ made free from sin, and become the servants of righteousness.'
The first thing considered by the Apostle in this chapter is, in what respects these believing Romans were under
and under the law. But previous to a direct attendance to this, it will be necessary to remove a stumbling-block out of the way, by considering again, what law it is that the Apostle refers to, when he declares these Romans s6 not to be under the law, but under grace;' to be « dead to the law;" and to " be delivered from the law, that being dead wherein they were held.” Does he herein speak of the ceremonial law, or of the moral law, or of both ?
To this I answer: The Apostle here speaks of the law in the same sense, and uses the word in the same extent of signification, as in the foregoing parts of this epistle. It is the scope and design of this epistle (as I have shown you) to prove that both Jew and Gentile must be justified only by the righteousness of Christ, received by faith, and not by their own observance of any law which they are under. The law, therefore, in question, is that law which the Gentiles have written in their hearts, and that law which the Jews rest in, boasting themselves of God, chap. ii. 14, 15, 17. It is that law, by the violation whereof both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin ; and against which “ all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God," chap. iii. 9, 23. It is that 6 law, without which there could be no transgression," chap. iv. 15.; and, in a word, that law by which“ every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God," chap. iii. 19. The law, therefore, here must be taken in the largest extent of the word, including the whole will of God, any manner of way manifested to any and every part of mankind, whether Jew or Gentile. Though it is evident, that the Apostle hath, in this seventh chapter, a special reference to the moral law.
1. Because the law here referred to is what these believing Romans had been married to, and been held by, as appears in the 4th and 6th verses. Now these Romans to whom the Apostle wrote, were most of them (if not all of them) Gentiles; as he expressly declares, chap. i. 13. and chap. xi. 13. and were therefore never married to the Levitical or
ceremonial law, never held by it, and consequently never delivered from it. It was the moral law only to which they had been married, and from that only they were therefore made free; and that, consequently, must be what the Apostle especially refers to in this chapter.
2. Because the Apostle, in exemplification of his meaning, instances in the moral law, and no other : the law by which concupiscence is known, and which forbids coveting, verse 7. The law which is spiritual, verse 14. Whereas, the ceremonial law, considered in itself, was not spiritual, but made up of carnal ordinances, Heb. ix. 10. It is the law in which the Apostle delighted after the inward man, verse 22. But he was so far from taking delight in the ceremonial law, that he strongly and pathetically exclaims against the observance of it, now that Christ is come, and represents the ordinances of this law to become now beggarly elements, Gal. iv, 9. and forward.
In fine, he instances in that law of God which he himself served with his mind, verse 25. But his heart was not so set upon the observance of the ceremonial law, as to desire to be again brought into bondage to it. From all which it is evident, if demonstration may be taken for evidence, that it is the moral law which is principally designed by the Apostle in this chapter and context; when he tells us that
no man can be justified by the law, and that believers are made free from the law by their interest in Christ.
I am now prepared to consider, in what respects the Apostle here represents believers to be “ freed
from the law, or to be not under the law.” And to set this matter in the clearest light, it will be proper to consider it,
1. Negatively, Showing in what sense they are not here represented as being freed from the law. Particularly, then,
They are not represented to be freed from the law, as it is a rule of moral conduct. No! " the law is holy; and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” Believers “ consent to the law, that it is good;” and “ with their mind they serve the law of God.”
They are not freed from endeavours after, and delight in obedience to the law of God. To will is present with them, even beyond their capacity of performance. They would do good, even when evil is present with them; and they delight in the law of God, after the inward man.
I add, they are not freed from being grieved and burdened, on the account of the imperfection of their obedience to the law of God; but must, on that account, groan, being burdened, while they are here in this tabernacle: and must cry out with the Apostle, “ O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?” And now let us attend,
2. To the affirmative description here given of the believer's freedom from the law of God.
They are here represented as free from their marriage-relation to the law, or from the obligations of it as a covenant of life. While in their carnal and unregenerate state, they were under the strictest bonds of subjection to the law of nature, or the
moral law. It rigorously exacted perfect obedience of them, as the only condition of their acceptance with God; and continuing in that state, they could have no righteousness at all to plead, but their own conformity to the whole demands of the law; and they must obtain eternal life by perfect obedience, or not at all.
But now that marriage-covenant is dissolved by their faith in Christ. They “ are become dead to the law, by the body of Christ, that they should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead. They are delivered from the law, that being dead in which they were held.” They have, therefore, another righteousness to plead, without a perfect personal conformity to the law; and their hope of salvation is held by another tenure, built upon another foundation, an espousal to Christ, the one only husband that is able to pay their debts to offended justice, and save them to the uttermost. They may now serve God in newness of spirit, from a new principle, from new motives, with new affections, and with new hopes; and not in the oldness of the letter.
Not from any expectation, that by doing these things they should live in them, nor under the terror of the dreadful curses pronounced against 6 every one who con. tinues not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.” This is evidently the design of the first six verses of this chapter.
Moreover, they are freed from that spirit of bondage which they were once under, when their guilt, danger, and misery were brought to their view by the law. This the Apostle exemplifies, by representing his own state, when under a law-work.