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66 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died; and the commandment which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.” That is, I thought myself once alive, was in a state of safety, and without the curse in my own apprehension, while ignorant or thoughtless of the spirituality, extent, and terror of the law of God; but when the commandment came home to my conscience, and I found what my state truly was, sin revived, rose up against me in its condemping power, or appeared to me, in its own nature and aggravations, exceeding sinful; for “ by the law is the knowledge of sin;" and so I found myself to be a guilty creature, a dead man, indeed under the law, under its curse and damning sentence; and dead to self-flattering hope, and confidence in the flesh. Now this is the very case of all awakened sinners, when the law comes near to conscience, lays the weight of their guilt upon them, and sets their danger of everlasting punishment before them. But now these believing Romans were delivered from this bondage to the law; there being “no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus;" and “ that being dead wherein they were held.”
I may add to this, that they were also freed from the irritating power of the law. When an awakened sinner first obtains a sensible view of the strictness, purity, and spirituality of the law, so of the vast number and dreadful aggravations of his sins, with the amazing wrath that hangs over his head; this fills his soul not only with horror and amazement, but with an impatient disquieting anxiety, which unhinges his mind for duty, inflames his corruptions,
and gives them the advantage against all his good purposes, resolves, and endeavours. So that the law inhibiting sin, without giving power to avoid it, does but make the singer's lusts (like a torrent dammed up) to swell the more, and to run with greater force when they get vent: and sin, taking occasion by the commandment, works in the soul all manner of concupiscence, deceives the sinner, and slays him, as it is expressed verse 8, 11. But these believing Romans were delivered from the law in this respect also. Having a discovery of the glorious way of salvation by Christ, and the safety of depending upon his righteousness, they were quickened by adoring views of redeeming mercy; acted by a principle of love to God; and strengthened by the divine influences of the Spirit of grace, to mortify their lusts, and to live a life of sincere and spiritual obedience; or, as the Apostle expresses it, verse 6. to serve God in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
These three things are most certainly represented in the context, as the servitude that unregenerate men are under the law.
This is too evi. dent to be disputed. Believers are certainly represented as being delivered from the servitude of the law. Whence it follows, that their freedom from the law, here treated of, must consist in these particulars which I have considered. And now I am further to observe to
that there is another glorious privilege of believers, distinctly insisted upon in the sixth chapter, which is (as I hinted before) particularly illustrated in this. And that is, that they are dead unto sin, and
alive unto God. Sin has no more dominion over them, they being not under the law, but under grace.” They are 66 made free from sin, and become servants of righteousness ;” and “ being made free from sin, they are become the servants of God, have their fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life,” chap. vi. 11, 14, 18, 22. This character of believers depends upon the other already considered. They being made free from the law, they are of consequence made free from sin likewise. A freedom from sin is the fruit of our freedom from the law; which is therefore first considered, and the consideration of this superadded as an appendage to it, or a necessary consequence from it.
But how are we to understand these strong expressions ? Are believers wholly freed from all sin ? Are they arrived at a sinless state of perfection ? Or in what other sense are they “ free from sin, and become servants of righteousness ?” This question the Apostle answers, from the 14th verse of the seventh, to the 3d verse of the eighth chapter; and particularly exemplifies the case, by representing.to us the state of his soul, with respect to his freedom from sin, and the remaining conflict he yet had with his corruptions. In the foregoing verses he had shown us what he once was, when in a carnal state, and under the tyranny of law. 66 I was alive without the law once,” &c. And throughout that discourse, he speaks wholly in the preterperfect tense, as of former matters, things already passed. From verse 14. and forward, he shows us what he now is; and speaks, therefore, only in the present tense, as being to describe his new state of freedom from sin. By
altering thus his form of expression, in this change of tenses, we may plainly see that there is such a transition as I am now supposing, and may easily know where it begins.
Thus, Sir, I have endeavoured to set before you, in the briefest and plainest manner I could, the scope and connection of the first seven chapters of this Epistle to the Romans. By a due attendance to which, you cannot but discover how groundless and impertinent all the reasonings of those gentlemen are of whom you speak.
However, that this may appear in a yet stronger light, I will now proceed to a direct refutation of the opinion, that the Apostle is here personating and giving the character of an unconverted or unregenerate person, struggling under the convictions of an awakened conscience. And,
1. It is undeniably certain, that the most holy of all the natural descendants of Adam, that ever were in the world, have had cause to make the same complaints of their remaining corruptions, as the Apostle here does; and have all, in like manner, experienced what the Apostle elsewhere calls “ the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” Have they not all of them some remaining carnality ? The most improved saints, comparatively but babes in Christ, and not so spiritual as they should be ? Nay, are they not even sold under sin ? that they do not voluntarily sell themselves to do
wickedly; this would denote the full dominion and - power of sin; but they are sold as captives are sold,
against their wills. Though, for the general, they make ever so great resistance, they have yet corrup
It is true,
tions that do and will at times prevail against them, and bring them into captivity. Have they not all cause to acknowledge, that they do what they allow not, what they would not, and even what they hate? That they fall short of what they would do; and that 6 when they would do good, evil is present with them?” That they “ find a law in their members warring against the law of their mind?” And do not they groan, being burdened, under a sense of what wretched men they are on these accounts ? In other words, are there any of them that does not feel in themselves sinful affections, sinful imperfections, and sinful actions, that are the grief and burden of their souls ? Here let the appeal be made to all the generation of God's children, whether they do not find these things in themselves, even in their most watchful periods. I must needs say, it argues a dreadful ignorance of, or an unaccountable inattention to, the plague of their own heart, in them who have not a feeling and experimental apprehension of these things. It may, therefore, be justly presumed, that the Apostle here complains of what every true Christian feels and laments.
Or at least I may confidently say, that the experience of all the chil. dren of God is a refutation of the principal arguments against my interpretation of this chapter.
It may be added, in the language of another, “ those objections are chiefly owing to a mistaken notion of the case described here, from verse 14." as if the Apostle spake of gross sinning in practice, with only some feeble reluctance of his will, and habitually transgressing, in a course of outward actions, through the power of some conquering and