Page images



3. The Apostle is here giving the character of a person who has a two-fold principle in him: the one a governing principle, that may be called himself; the other a subdued principle, which is “ not he, but sin that dwelleth in him.” Now, can any unconverted person in the world truly say, it is not he that transgresseth the law, when the natural bent and disposition of his soul is to evil, only to evil, and that continually, notwithstanding all the restraints of the law, and checks of conscience; and when all the sins of his heart and life are imputed to him, and will be punished upon him, if he remain in his present state? Can any unconverted person in the world say, that he himself (all in him which in God's account can be called himself) serves the law of God, though with his flesh (his remaining carnal affections and appetites) the law of sin, when it is certain that every unconverted man is, both with his mind and flesh, a servant to sin, and free from righteousness, as the Apostle assures us in the sixth chapter of this epistle.

4. What justifies my interpretation beyond all reasonable opposition is, that the Apostle draws that conclusion from those very characters here given of himself: “ There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit: for the law of the Spirit of life, in Christ Jesus, hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”

Two things do here appear to me certain and unquestionable. One is, that the first verse of this eighth chapter is here represented (as plainly as any thing can be represented by words,) as a necessary consequence, or just inference from the premises, and from the char

[ocr errors]

acters the Apostle had there given of himself; and is therefore a full proof, that every one in the same spiritual state described in the latter part of the preceding chapter, is in Christ Jesus, and freed from condemnation. 66 There is therefore now no condemnation," &c. Wherefore? Because they who are in Christ Jesus are freed from sin, and do not walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit, as before described; and, particularly, because they themselves do serve the law of God, as expressed in the verse immediately foregoing. This construction is necessary, to make the connection of this verse with what went before, congruous and rational. Nay, it is the construction on which the Apostle himself purposely leads us to in the second verse : " For the law of the Spirit of life, in Christ Jesus, hath made me free from the law of sin and death." As if he had said, they who are in Christ Jesus cannot be under condemnation, since they are made free from the law (from the dominion, though not from the remains) of sin and death; which I have already shown you to be my case, in the foregoing description of my spiritual state and experience, and in the characters I have given of myself.—Another thing that appears to me most certain and evident is, that the Apostle speaks of himself here in this second verse of chapter viii.) in the same manner, and to the same purpose, as he spoke of himself in the latter part of the foregoing chapter; and that these words, with the following verses, are the sum and conclusion of that whole discourse. This was the point the Apostle was undertaking to explain ; this the subject of the preceding chapter, as I have already shown: in this he

speaks in the first person, as in the former chapter: this is a natural and rational summing up, or drawing the conclusion, of the whole" the law of the Spirit of life, in Christ Jesus, hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Whence it follows, that those characters, in the latter part of the seventh chapter, belong to none but such who are in Christ Jesus; and by him freed from condemnation, and from the law of sin and death.

And now I leave it to you, Sir, to judge whether we have not reason to conclude, that the Apostle is here speaking of himself when in a renewed or regenerate state; and thereby representing the conflict which the children of God, in their highest attainments, have with their remaining corruptions: since there is so plain a transition, (by the change of the tense,) from considering what he once had been, to a representation of what he now was, at the time of writing this epistle. Have we not reason to conclude this, when all (the very best) of the children of God, do always experience the same struggle with their corruptions, as is described ? May we not confidently draw this conclusion, when we find that the characters here given are applicable to none but the regenerate only? None but they hate that which is evil, and have a will present with them to that which is good. To be sure, none but they hate all evil, and have a will to all good, without reserve or distinction. None but they delight in the law of the Lord after the inward man. None but they groan under the burden of the body of death, and maintain a constant war with the law of sin in their members. May we not safely maintain this conclusion against all oppo

sition, when we find a person described under the influence of a two-fold principle, corruption and grace? The former so brought into subjeetion, that its actings are not to be attributed, strictly speaking, to him, (being so contrary to the new man, his predominant principle, according to which God accounts of us, and denominates us,) but are imputable only to the remains of the old man, or indwelling sin. The latter having such an empire in his soul, as to be called himself, so that (notwithstanding his corruptions and the out-breakings of them) he can say, I myself serve the law of God.”

In fine, this conelusion most certainly appears to be necessary and unquestionable, that they must be in a regenerate state who are delivered from condemnation, and who 6 walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit ;" and who are by “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, made free from the law of sin and death;" as the Apostle shows to be his own case, according to the description he had before given of himself. To

suppose that he here personates a professor unregenerate, must, upon the whole, appear utterly inconsistent with the case described in these passages; and therefore such an exposition, as altogether forced, is not to be received.

But, after all, you will perhaps object, that my interpretation tends to make inen secure and careless, bold and presumptuous, in a state and course of sin.

I answer, It is so far from this, that it has a direct contrary tendency. It is a solemn admonition to the children of God, to be upon their guard, since they have such a domestic enemy to deal with; and

a like admonition it is to all careless, secure, habitual sinners, not to flatter themselves with a vain presumptuous hope of their regenerate state, on any pretences whatsoever.

It is here the character of a Christian indeed, that he hates evil without reserve. If, therefore, they who retain any favourite lust, and roll it as a sweet morsel under their tongue, cry peace to their souls, they are sleeping upon the top of a mast: “ There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” The peace of such is all a delusion; a most false, absurd, and dangerous peace.

It is here likewise the character of a true Christian, that he does not allow so much as his imperfections; that when these obtain, they are without his consent, and against his will. These are what he would not, and among the evils which he hates. They, therefore, are entertaining but a vain dream of a safe state, who are knowingly and deliberately living in any way of sinning, and who customarily allow any moral imperfection. They will certainly in the conclusion be rejected among the workers of iniquity.

It is here also represented as the property of every sincere Christian, that he has a will present with him to that which is good, that he consents to the law that it is good, and that he delights in the law of God after the inward man; that is, in other words, (as I have shown,) he truly loves God and godliness. Here is, therefore, no foundation for them to think well of their state, whose whole religion is constrained by fear, and whose heart and affections are not sincerely engaged in the service of God. As for them who love the world and their idols, more than

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »