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have some better strivings, but they are unsuccessful. The result is that he obeys the law of sin.
This is the picture which our apostle contemplated, and he saw in it nothing but misery: “O wretched man that I am !” Another might have seen it in a more comfortable light. He might have hoped that the will would be taken for the deed ; that, since he felt in his mind a strong approbation of the law of God; nay, since he felt a delight in contemplating it, and openly professed to do so; since he was neither ignorant of it, nor forgetful of it, nor insensible of its obligation, nor ever set himself to dispute its authority ; nay, since he had likewise occasionally endeavoured to bring himself to an obedience to this law, however unsuccessful his endeavours had been : above all, since he has sincerely deplored and bewailed his fallings off from it; he might hope, I say, that his was a case for favourable acceptance.
Saint Paul saw it not in this light. He saw in it no ground of confidence or satisfaction. It was a state to which he gives no better name than “ the body of death.” It was a state, not in which he hoped to be saved, but from which he sought to be delivered. It was a state, in a word, of bitterness and terror; drawing from him expressions of the deepest anguish and distress: “O wretched man that I am ! who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?”
EVIL PROPENSITIES ENCOUNTERED BY THE AID
OF THE SPIRIT.
ROMANS, vii. 24.
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me
from the body of this death?
He who has not felt the weakness of his nature, it is probable, has reflected little upon the subject of religion : I should conjecture this to be the case.
But then, when men do feel the weakness of their nature, it is not always that this consciousness carries them into a right course, but sometimes into a course the very contrary of what is right. They may see in it, as hath been observed, and many do see in it, nothing but an excuse and an apology for their sins; since it is acknowledged that we carry about with us a frail, not to call it a depraved, corrupted nature, surely, they say, we shall not be amenable to any severities or extremities of judgments for delinquencies to which such a nature must ever be liable : or, which is indeed all the difference there is between .one man and another, for greater degrees or less, for more or fewer, of these delinquencies. The natural man takes courage from this consideration. He finds ease in it. It is an opiate to his fears. It lulls him into a forgetfulness of danger, and of the dreadful end, if the danger be real. Then the practical consequence is, that he begins to relax even of those endeavours to obey
God which he has hitherto exerted. Imperfect and inconstant as these endeavours were at best, they become gradually more languid and more unfrequent and more insincere than they were before : his sins increase upon him in the same proportion : he proceeds rapidly to the condition of a confirmed sinner, either secret or open, it makes no difference as to his salvation. And this descent into the depths of moral vileness and depravity began, in some measure, with perceiving and confessing the weakness of his nature; and giving to this perception that most erroneous, that most fatal turn, the regarding it as an excuse for everything; and as dispensing even with the self-denials, and with the exertions of self-government, which a man had formerly thought it necessary to exercise, and in some sort, though in no sufficient sort, had exercised. Now, I ask, was this Saint Paul's
of considering the subject? Was this the turn which he gave to it? Altogether the contrary. It was impossible for any Christian, of any age, to be more deeply impressed with a sense of the weakness of human nature than he was ; or to express it more strongly than he has done in the chapter before us. But observe ; feeling most sensibly and painting most forcibly the sad condition of his nature, he never alleges it as an excuse for sin : he does not console himself with any such
He does not make it a reason for setting himself at rest upon the subject. He finds no relief to his fears in any such consideration. It is not with him a ground for expecting salvation ; on the contrary, he sees it to be a state not leading to salvation ; other
; wise, why did he seek so earnestly to be delivered from it ?
And how to be delivered ? that becomes the next question. In order to arrive at Saint Paul's meaning in
this matter, we must attend with some degree of care, not only to the text, but to the words which follow it. The 24th verse contains the question, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?” and then the 25th verse goes on, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Now, there is good reason to believe that this 25th verse does not appear in our copies, as it ought to be read. It is most probable that the passage stood thus : The 24th verse asks, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?” Then the 25th verse answers, “ The grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Instead of the words “I thank God,” put the words “ The grace of God,” and you will find the sense cleared up by the change very much. I I say, it is highly probable that this change exhibits what Saint Paul really wrote. In English there is no resemblance either in sound or writing between the two sentences, “I thank God,” and “ The grace of God;" but in the language in which the epistle was written there is reason to believe that, in the transcribing, one has been confounded with the other. Perhaps the substantial meaning may be the same, whichever way you read the passage : but what is implied only in one way is clearly expressed in the other way.
The question, then, which Saint Paul so earnestly and devoutly asks, is, “Who shall deliver me from this body of death ?” from the state of soul which I feel, and which can only lead to final perdition ? And the answer to the question is, “ The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Can a more weighty question be asked? Can an answer be given which better deserves to be thoroughly considered ?
The question is, Who shall deliver us? The answer, - The
grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The “grace of God” means the favour of God: at
present, therefore, the answer stands in general terms. We are only informed that we are rescued from this state of moral difficulty, of deep religious distress, by the favour of God through Jesus Christ. It remains to be gathered, from what follows, in what particularly this grace of favour consists. Saint Paul, haying asked the question, and given the answer in general terms, proceeds to enlarge upon the answer in these words:-" There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” There is now no condemnation : but of whom, and to whom, is this spoken? It is to them who, first, are in Christ Jesus ; who, secondly, walk not after the flesh; who, thirdly, walk after the Spirit.
And whence arises this alteration and improvement in our condition and our hopes; this exemption, or rather deliverance, from the ordinary state of man? Saint Paul refers us to the cause. “ The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death,” which words can hardly bear any other signification than this, viz. “ that the aid and operation of God's Spirit, given through Jesus Christ, hath subdued the power which sin had obtained and once exercised over me." With this interpretation the whole sequel of Saint Paul's reasoning agrees. Every sentence almost that follows illustrates the interpretation, and preves it to be the true
With what, but with the operation and the cooperation of the Spirit of God, as of a real, efficient, powerful, active Being, can such expressions as the following be made to suit ? “ If so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.” “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” “If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you.” “By his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” “Ye