Romans 7:2
The apostle is here continuing his discussion of the immoral suggestion to which he alluded in the previous chapter (ver. 15), "What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the Law, but under grace?"

I. THE RELATION OF THE LAW TO THE CHRISTIAN.

1. he Christian's union with Christ involves his freedom from the Law.

(1) From the Law as condemning him. "Ye are become dead to the Law by the body of Christ" (ver. 4). The Christian, by faith in Jesus Christ, becomes a participator in his death. "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died; There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus."

(2) From the Law as a motive-power. "But now we are delivered from the Law, having died to that wherein we were held [Revised Version]; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter" (ver. 6). The Authorized Version is here misleading when it translates, "that being dead wherein we were held." The apostle does not speak of the Law as being dead, but of Christians as being dead to the Law. The Law is not dead, but we are dead to it. We have a higher and a better life.

2. But this union with Christ and freedom from the Law do not imply that he is free to commit sin. The principles of the Law remain, though the power of it is gone, so far as justification or condemnation of the Christian is concerned. The Law was powerless to give fife. Through the sinfulness of our nature it brought forth fruit unto death (ver. 5). But our very freedom from the Law is in itself a reason for holy living. Christ implants in us a new principle. We now "serve in newness of spirit." Professor Croskery ('Plymouth Brethrenism') deals with this subject very fully in a chapter on "The Law as a Rule of Life." "If Old Testament saints," he says, "could be under the Law cud yet not under curse, because they were under the promise - that is, under the covenant of grace - why should not New Testament saints, saved by grace, be under Law likewise, as a rule of life, without being overtaken by the curse? What difference was there between David's sin and Peter's sin, in relation to the Law? If David was bound to keep the ten commandments, including the seventh, are not New Testament saints similarly bound? Does not James settle this point when he says, 'He that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill' (James 2:11), and says this, too, to Christians? The passage [ch. 6:14] means, 'Ye are not under the Law as a condition of salvation, but under a system of free grace.'" The Law still remains as the rule of life, the standard of obedience. St. Paul himself says in this same chapter, "With the mind I myself serve the Law of God" (ver. 25). And our Lord himself said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil"(Matthew 5:17).

II. THE RELATION OF THE LAW TO THE SINNER.

1. The Law reveals to him the depths and power of his own sinfulness. After the apostle has shown how, in the unregenerate nature, "the motions of sins, which were by the Law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death," he asks, "What shall we say then? Is the Law sin?" (ver. 7). That is to say - Is the Law therefore in itself sinful? does it encourage sin? Far from it, he says. "Nay, I had not known sin, but by the Law." That is - I had not known the force or power of sin but by the law. "Sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful" (ver. 13). Some would condemn the Bible because it describes sin, and pictures some of its best characters as falling into sins of gross description. But this, so far from being a defect of the Bible, is at once an evidence of its truthfulness, and an element in its purifying power upon humanity. The Bible does not describe sin to make us love it, but to turn us from it. So it is with the Law of God. It may awaken in our minds suggestions of sins that we would not otherwise have thought of (vers. 7, 8), but conscience at once recognizes that this is due, not to the Law itself, but to the sinfulness of our nature.

2. The Law remains as the standard of right life. "The Law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good" (ver. 12); "The Law is spiritual" (ver. 14). Here is the answer to those who regard the Law as abrogated. The Law is still binding as the rule of life, the standard of morality. It therefore condemns the sinner. Thus still it becomes our schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ. - C.H.I.







For the good that I would I do not: but the evil that I would not, that I do.
I.THE TWO I's; the I that wills; the I that does.

II.THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN THEM.

III.THE RESULT.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

The sight Christians have of their defects in grace, and their thirst after greater measures of grace, make them think they do not grow when they do. He who covets a great estate, because he hath not so much as he desires, therefore he thinks himself to be poor. Indeed, Christians should seek after the grace they want, but they must not therefore overlook the grace they have. Let Christians be thankful for the least growth; if you do not grow so much in assurance, bless God if you grow in sincerity; if you do not grow so much in knowledge, bless God if you grow in humility. If a tree grows in the root, it is a true growth; if you grow in the root grace of humility, it is as needful for you as any other growth.

(T. Watson.)

A well-known missionary tells of a poor African woman who once said to him that she had two hearts, one saying, "Come to Jesus," the other saying, "Stay away"; the one bidding her to do good, and the other bidding her to do evil; so that she knew not what to do. He read to her the seventh chapter of the Romans. When he came to the verse, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" she said, "Ah, Master, that me; and me know not what to do." And when he afterwards added the words, "I thank God through Jesus Christ," and explained them, she burst into tears of grateful joy.

Christian World Pulpit.
The barometer indicates approaching changes of weather — not by the high and low stand of the mercury in its tube, but by the rising or falling of the mercury. If a low barometer indicated storm, then there never would be fair weather on the tops of the mountains, where the rarity of the atmosphere causes a perpetual low barometer. But on the mountains, as everywhere else, the value of the barometric warnings lies in the tendency which they reveal. In like manner, many a poor Christian, surrounded by disadvantages and drawbacks, as by an atmosphere affording too little oxygen and lacking in pressure, displays to his own despondent self-examination a very low barometer of moral character and attainment. For his comfort we say, "Do not be discouraged; but take many readings, and find out whether the mercury is rising. It is not a high, but a rising barometer that should give you joy."

(Christian World Pulpit.)

The picture in the South Kensington Museum called "Contrary Winds" well illustrates the opposing influences of which we all — especially those who, like the drunkard, have long been the slaves of an evil habit — are more or less the subjects. A toy vessel is in a tub of water. Two little boys are seen bending over the tub, exactly opposite each other, blowing with all their might, in order to get the mimic barque to go. Which shall prove the more powerful, which shall eventually conquer in the case of the soul, ofttimes seems a doubtful question. The real and the ideal: —

I. THERE IS A FACULTY IN THE MIND WHICH PHILOSOPHERS CALL IDEALITY.

1. It is that quality which figures to our inward self something higher and more perfect than the actual; showing all things, not as they are, but as they might be.

2. See how this principle operates upon matter. A diamond in the rough is hardly better than quartz crystal; but the lapidary sees in it a blazing star. He has an idea, and he reproduces it on his wheel. Then how much higher is the diamond than it was in its undeveloped state!

3. This quality is at work upon society. It is the root of refinement in language. It is at work upon dress. It removes conduct far away from the gross and the vulgar, and gives a conception under which the family becomes nobler. It presents a view of the sweetness of affection which makes love more elevating and stimulating.

4. This principle, moreover, is the root stock of faith — that quality by which we discern relations and conditions, above all that nature knows, or that the ordinary thoughts of men have created. We hear men talking of reveries and poets' dreams. I tell you, the best things in this world are the things that men themselves create, and that fill the air round about them with strange thoughts, and noble desires, and higher intercourse than ever the vulgar necessities of life permit.

II. THIS QUALITY ENTERS INTO MORALITY AND RELIGION, BOTH FOR THEIR ELEVATION AND THEIR VEXATION.

1. Of sincere and earnest Christians four-fifths might trace their troubles to not knowing the difference between ideal and real standards of conduct. Not Paul alone, but a great company bear witness, "The good that I would I do not," etc. Is there anything this morning that seems to you meaner than a lie? And yet you will tell lies before next Saturday, and be ashamed of it, and wish you had not, and swear that you will never do it again, and then do it. There is not a man here who has not a sense of what is honourable; but you are jostled by anger, rivalry, fear, avarice, and the vision fades in the actual, and goes out, and you enter into a vulgar bargain with your neighbour by which you gain and he loses, and if the grace of God is with you you are ashamed of it. So all the way through life.

2. No man's real conduct comes up to his ideal if he has the slightest faculty and exercise of ideality. How low, poor, unfruitful, the man who never has a sight of anything higher than that which he every day does! A man without a desire is not a man; he is an animal. And there is a perpetual struggle going on in the attempt to harmonise the ideal with the real. And this is the very groundwork of religious endeavour; and it works both ways. A man that is honestly trying to conform his life to the principles of Christ must become a miserable man. I cannot conceive of anything so horrible to a fine-strung nature as to have a vivid ideal of love, as made manifest by Christ, and then to measure by that the actual development of love in his own life. As ideality takes on the colours of things beautiful, so it intensifies the colours of things ugly. It is when the ideal comes clown and gives a heightened glory to truth that transgression becomes intolerable and unbearable; and many persons are so weighed down by it that it deranges their whole balance of mind.

III. SUDDEN OR RAPID REALISATION OF THE IDEAL IS NOT TO BE EXPECTED. If a cannon ball should be fired through an organ, and I should say, "Return, you ball; and you, broken pipes, get up and put yourselves in your places," it would not be more absurd than for a man to say to himself, "Now everything in me has got to be harmonious at once." Harmony in a man is the result of a life-long education and drill. A man feels, "It was my duty to have acted thus and so." Yes, just as it is the duty of my apple trees to bear fruit; but my apple trees will not bear fruit until they are grown. And a man wants, in every process of his development, to wait for its ripeness. No one expects a young man just graduated from the law school to be an old-headed lawyer at the beginning. He may have the making of one; but there must be a great deal of unfolding by which he shall come to it. No man imputes blame to the child because he does not know the exercise of the gymnasium at first. And yet it is supposed that when a man is converted the whole weight of responsibility instantly rests upon him; and men feel, "There I come short; there I overreach; and God sets down great black marks against me"; and one and another give up. Now, rawness is not sinfulness, nor is imperfection disobedience. Where a man knows what he ought to do, and can do it, but deliberately omits it, that is a sin; but the omission is not sinful in one who is not competent or who does not know. How much more the Psalmist knew than we do (read Psalm 103:13-17). It is under the benediction of this God that I say to nervous and self-condemnatory people, who fear God and desire to obey His commandments, but who are constantly stumbling from imperfections, Be not ashamed; for you are under the administration of a God that pities as a father pities, and that bears with the world's imperfections as a schoolmaster bears with the imperfections of his scholars. If a child of eight cannot write a fine hand, how shall a man without a period of education write the invisible letters that come from the inspiration of God's Spirit?

IV. THE ATTEMPT TO REALISE IDEALS IS NEARER PERFECTION IN THOSE GREAT NATURES WHO HAVE BEEN AT ONCE THE STARS THAT GUIDED HUMAN NATURE UPWARD, THAN THE COMETS THAT HAVE FALLEN ON IT AND BLASTED MAN'S HOPES. Jonathan Edwards was a type of Christianity that flew, and he has developed a conception of possible being. It is transcendent literature that we cannot afford to lose; and yet, let men take Edwards' writing to test themselves by, and it will drive nine hundred and ninety-nine out of every thousand into despair; and they will say, "If that is the test of being a Christian, I am not one, and I never can be one." And by holding up this conception before the young and the infirm, we shut the door of heaven. It throws a pall over the Christian life; whereas the voice of wisdom says, "All her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." "Come unto Me, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke; it is easy. Take My burden; it is light."

V. THE WAY OF RELIGION IN THIS MATTER IS A GREAT DEAL EASIER THAN THE WAY OF NATURE. The way upward is easier than the way downward. At every step gained the complication grows less, and the impulse grows more. The religion of the New Testament is hopeful. It is dark only to those who know what it is, and whose reason recognises it as being holy, just, and good, but who deliberately say, "I will have none of it." They are on the same plane with him who knows very well what fire is, but who says, "I do not care, I will walk in the fire." So he can, and he will take the consequences. They are on the same plane with the man who says, "I know that drink fires the blood; nevertheless I will drink." So it is throughout the whole sphere of God's law of moral conduct. God says to every man that wants to learn, "I will give you time, opportunity, and encouragement; and I will forgive all your infirmities and transgressions so long as your face is toward the heavenly land"; but if a man says, "I do not care for the heavenly land," and does not strive to rise toward it, but follows his own devices, woe be to him.

(H. Ward Beecher.)

The text is one of those hard places of St. Paul which, as St. Peter says, the ignorant and unstable wrest to their own destruction. For the proper stating of this case of conscience there must be considered —

I. WHAT ARE THE PROPER CAUSES WHICH PLACE MEN AND KEEP THEM IN THIS STATE OF A NECESSITY OF SINNING, so that we cannot do the good we would? etc.

1. The evil state of our nature which we may know by experience.

2. The evil principles which are sucked in by the greatest part of mankind. We are taught ways of going to heaven without forsaking our sins, repentance without restitution, charity without hearty forgiveness and love, trust in Christ's death without conformity to His life, once in God's favour always in it, that God's laws are for a race of giants. No wonder, then, that men slacken their industry, and so find sin prevail.

3. Bad habits. An evil custom is as a hook in the soul which draws it whither the devil pleases. Thus evil natures, principles, and manners are the causes of our imperfect willing and our weaker acting in the things of God. But what then? Cannot sin be avoided? Cannot a Christian mortify the deeds of the body, or Christ cleanse us from our sins? The next particular to be inquired of is —

II. WHETHER OR NO IT BE NECESSARY AND THEREFORE POSSIBLE FOR A SERVANT OF GOD TO HATE EVIL AND AVOID IT? "He that saith he hath not sinned is a liar"; but what then? Because a man has sinned it does not follow that he must do so always. "Go and sin no more," saith Christ. The case is confessed "that all have sinned"; but is there no remedy? God forbid. There was a blessed time to come, and it has long since come; "Yet a little while and iniquity shall be taken out of the earth, and righteousness shall reign among you"; for this is the day of the gospel. When Christ comes to reign in our heart by His Spirit, Dagon and the Ark cannot stand together — we cannot serve Christ and Belial. As in the state of nature no good thing dwells within us, so when Christ rules in us no evil thing can abide. "Every plant that my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up." "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." As there is a state of carnality in which a man cannot but obey the flesh; so there is a state of spirituality, when sin is dead and righteousness alive. In this state the flesh can no more prevail than the spirit could in the other. Some men cannot but choose to sin (Romans 8:7); but we are not in the flesh, and if we walk in the Spirit we shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh (see 1 John 3:9; Matthew 7:18). Through Christ that strengtheneth us we can do all things. So it is necessary and possible to mortify sin and escape the slavery of "the good that I would I do not," etc.

III. IN WHAT DEGREE THIS IS TO BE EFFECTED, for no man can say he is totally free from sin. All men's righteousness will be found to be unrighteous if God shall enter into judgment with us: therefore after our innocence, we must pray for pardon. But concerning good men, the question is not whether or no God could not in the rigour of justice blame them for their indiscretion, or chide them for a foolish word and a careless action, a fearful heart and trembling faith; these are not the measures by which He judges His children; but the question is whether any man that is covetous, proud, or intemperate, can at the same time be a child of God? Certainly he cannot. But then we know that God judges us by Jesus Christ, i.e., with the allays of mercy; with an eye of pardon; with the sentences of a father. By the measures of the gospel He will "judge every man according to his works." These measures are —

1. In general, this. A Christian's innocence is always to be measured by the plain lines of the commandments, but is not to be taken into account by uncertain fond opinions and scruples of zealous or timorous persons. Some men say that every natural inclination to a forbidden object is a sin; if so, then a man sins whether he resists his inclinations or not. And there is no difference but this: he that yields, sins greatest; and he that never yields, but fights on, sins oftenest: hence the very doing our duty supposes sin. But God judges of us only by the commandment from without, and from the conscience within. He never intended His laws to be a snare to us. He requires of us a sincere heart and a hearty labour in the work of His commandments: He calls upon us to avoid all that His law forbids and our consciences condemn.

2. In particular —(1) Every Christian is bound to arrive at such a state that he have remaining in him no habit of any sin whatever. Our old man must be crucified; the body of sin must be destroyed.(2) He that commits any one sin by choice and deliberation is an enemy of God, and under the dominion of the flesh.(3) Every Christian ought to attain to such a state as that he shall never sin, even by passion, i.e., no passion ought to make him choose a sin.(4) The Christian must strive to gain so great a dominion over his sins that lie be not surprised on a sudden. This indeed is a work of time, and it is well if it ever be done, but it must be attempted.

IV. BY WHAT INSTRUMENTS ALL THIS IS TO BE DONE.

1. Faith. He that hath faith like a grain of mustard seed can remove mountains: "All things are possible to him that believeth." We pray in the Te Deum, "Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin." Have we any faith when we so pray?

2. Watchfulness — by running away from temptation, being always well employed, and laying in provisions of reason and religion.

3. The mortification of sin, which should be so complete that no nest egg, no principles of it or affections to it, be willingly or carelessly left. But if sin be thus eradicated some argue that we shall become proud. But how should pride spring up if there be no remains of sin left? Will a physician purposely leave the relics of a disease and pretend he does it to prevent a relapse? Is not a relapse more likely if the sickness be not wholly cured?

4. Experiment. Let us never say that we cannot be quit of our sin before we do all we can to destroy it. Put the matter to the proof, and trust to the all-sufficiency of grace.

5. Caution concerning thoughts and secret desires. "Lust, when it is conceived, bringeth forth death"; but if it be suppressed in the conception it comes to nothing.

6. If sin hath gotten the power of you, consider in what degree it has prevailed; if only a little, the battle will be more easy, and the victory more certain. But then be sure to do it thoroughly. If sin has prevailed greatly, you have much to do; therefore begin betimes. Conclusion: Every good man is a new creature, and Christianity is a Divine frame and temper of spirit, which, if we pray heartily for and obtain, we shall find it as hard and uneasy to sin as now we think it to abstain from our most pleasing sins.

(Jeremy Taylor.)

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