Romans 7:21
So this is the principle I have discovered: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
The Character Described in the Seventh Chapter of RomansJ. Leifchild, D. D.Romans 7:7-25
The Moral History of the Inner Man Illustrated by This PassageD. Thomas, D. D.Romans 7:7-25
To Whom Does the Passage ReferProf. J. A. Beet.Romans 7:7-25
A Common ExperienceC. Hodge, D. D.Romans 7:14-25
Believers Carnal in Comparison with the Law Which is SpiritualJ. Stafford.Romans 7:14-25
Believers Consent unto the Law that it is GoodJ. Stafford.Romans 7:14-25
Carnality and SlaveryHomiletic MonthlyRomans 7:14-25
Indwelling SinC. Hodge, D. D.Romans 7:14-25
Legal Experience a DefeatW. W. Patton, D. D.Romans 7:14-25
Man's Natural Incapability of GoodJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 7:14-25
Principles and Conduct At VarianceDean Alford.Romans 7:14-25
Sensitiveness Increases with Soul DevelopmentRomans 7:14-25
Sin Dwells Even Where it Does not ReignJ. Stafford., W. Howels.Romans 7:14-25
Sold to SinT. De Witt Talmage.Romans 7:14-25
Sold Under Sin!T.F. Lockyer Romans 7:14-25
The Bad in the GoodRomans 7:14-25
The Christian's ConflictT. Chalmers, D. D.Romans 7:14-25
The Condition of the Awakened SinnerJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 7:14-25
The Harmony of the Law and ConscienceJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 7:14-25
The Law, Man, and GraceJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 7:14-25
The Prevalence of Indwelling SinJ. Brown, D. D.Romans 7:14-25
The Principle of Progress Through AntagonismR.M. Edgar Romans 7:14-25
The Sinner Without ExcuseJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 7:14-25
The Spirituality of the Divine Law and the Sinfulness of ManEssex Congregational RemembrancerRomans 7:14-25
Thraldom of SinCharles Lamb.Romans 7:14-25
The Inward Conflict of the Christian HeartC.H. Irwin Romans 7:18-25
Delight in the LawJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 7:21-25
Delight in the Law of GodC. Neil, M. A.Romans 7:21-25
Delight in the Law, a Good Sign of a Gracious HeartJ. Stafford.Romans 7:21-25
Delighting in the Law of GodC. Hodge, D. D.Romans 7:21-25
Heart, its AberrationsC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 7:21-25
Sin -- Conflict with -- Victory OverR. T. Howell.Romans 7:21-25
Sin Tolerated and Sin Kept DownC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 7:21-25
Spiritual FluctuationsJeremy Taylor.Romans 7:21-25
The Bondage of SinJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 7:21-25
The Christian Warfare and VictoryR. M. McCheyne, M. A.Romans 7:21-25
The Conflict and CaptivityW. Tyson.Romans 7:21-25
The Conflict in Natural and Spiritual PersonsRomans 7:21-25
The Daily StruggleCanon Stowell.Romans 7:21-25
The Dual Nature and the Duel WithinC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 7:21-25
The Inward ConflictH. J. Gamble.Romans 7:21-25
The Inward ConflictB. Beddome, M. A.Romans 7:21-25
The Inward ConflictJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 7:21-25
The Law of Sin in Believers an Evil Ever PresentJ. Stafford.Romans 7:21-25
The Opposing LawsJ. J. S. Bird, B. A.Romans 7:21-25
Victory Amid StrifeE. B. Pusey, D. D.Romans 7:21-25
Why am I ThusC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 7:21-25
Two forces are for ever struggling for the soul of man. Goethe, the German poet, has immortalized that for us in his great drama of 'Faust,' where Mephistopheles, the prince of evil, tempts a human being too successfully into the paths of destruction. Milton has immortalized it for us in his great epic, 'Paradise Lost.' But these great poems are, after all, but echoes of the story of the Fall as told us in the Bible. These words of St. Paul are another echo of that story of the Fall. They might have been spoken by any of us. What folly to discuss the doctrine of human depravity as the result of the Fall, when every man carries the proof of it in his own breast! Thank God, there is a Paradise Regained as well as a Paradise Lost. There is a power of good as well as of evil working on the human heart. There is "a power, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness," and - something more than he who used those famous words meant by them - them is the personal power of a personal Saviour, coming down into this sinful world, and trying to lift men up again from their fallen and lost condition, by the power of his cress, by the power of his Divine love and mercy, by the power of his resurrection, by the power of his Spirit working upon their hearts.

I. A DESIRE AND A DELIGHT. St. Paul speaks of himself as having a desire for what is good. "When I would do good" (ver. 21), that is, "when I want to do good," "when I wish to do what is right." That in itself is a step on the upward path. But you might have a desire for what is right, and yet not be a Christian. Paul had something more than this desire for what was right; he had a delight in it. "I delight in the Law of God after the inward man" (ver. 22). That in itself marks him out as a true Christian. He takes pleasure in the Divine Word, although it reveals to him the sinfulness of his own heart. He delights in the Law of God, because it shows to him his Father's will. He delights in the Law of God, because it shows to him the ideal of human character, the standard of good to which he desires to attain. Here, then, is the test, the evidence, of a true Christian. When we delight in the Law of God after the inward man, making it our constant study; when we humbly, but with earnest resolution, set ourselves to obey its precepts; this is evidence of the renewed nature and the regenerate spirit. Do we delight in the Law of God, or do we find God's commands a burden? Is the sabbath a delight, or is it wearisome? Are the services of God's house a pleasure which we would not miss if it were possible, a pleasure into which we throw all our capacities and energies; or are they a routine form which we go through because we think we must - a kind of cold, uninteresting task, which we are anxious to get over just as soon as possible? And how is it with the duties of the Christian life - with the duty of charity, the duty of forgiveness, the duty of liberality? If you do not delight in these things, then there is much reason to doubt if you are a Christian at all.

II. CONFLICT AND CAPTIVITY. Paul was making an analysis of his own mind. It was a complete analysis, and he has left behind a true record of it. "But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (ver. 23). We know what is right, but we often fail to do it. Probo meliora, deteriora sequor. But some one may say - This conflict with sin and captivity to it were not the experience of a truly regenerate man. Are we not told that "he that is born of God sinneth not"? The previous statements of the apostle are an answer to this. He tells us that he delights in the Law of God after the inward man - a statement which none but a true Christian could make. The fact is, the Apostle Paul was no perfectionist. He did not believe in sinless perfection. Like every true saint of God, the older he grew and the holier he became, the more he felt his own sinfulness. The more he knew of Christ, the less he thought of self. It was a humbling experience, this conflict with sin and subjection to its power. Yet we are not to suppose that when the apostle said, "When I would do good, evil is present with me," he meant that in every instance when he wanted to do good he was absolutely prevented from accomplishing his purpose, and drawn away into positive sin by the corruption which still adhered to him. What he means is evidently this - that in all his endeavours to do the will of God, the power of sin so interfered with his efforts that he could not do anything as he wished to do it; that the power of evil seemed to pervade his whole life, and to taint all his actions, even the best of them. Is not this the experience of every child of God? Let any one who really loves and fears God, and desires to serve him, form a purpose, any one morning of his life, to repress all sinful influences, and to set such a guard upon feeling, and temper, and word, and action throughout the day as that there shall be no cause for regret or repentance in the evening; and I think it will be found that, if the work of self-examination be faithfully and honestly performed at night, the language of the apostle will accurately describe the experience of such a one: "I find a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me."

III. TRIAL AND TRIUMPH It was a great trial to the apostle, this indwelling presence and power of sin. Under its Power, clinging constantly to him, as the dead body which the ancients used sometimes to fasten to their prisoners, he cried out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death?" (ver. 24). This very agony of spirit was a further proof that he was a child of God. Had he been an unregenerate man, sin would have been a delight to him, instead of a wearisome and loathsome burden, from which he is anxious to be delivered. Here again is a test whether you are a Christian or not. What are your feelings in regard to sin? Is it a source of shame and grief to you when you yield to sin? Or do you see no harm in doing those things which God's Word forbids? Dr. Arnold, of Rugby, once said in that famous school, as is recorded in his life, "What I want to see in the school, and what I cannot find, is abhorrence of evil. I always think of the psalm, 'Neither doth he abhor that which is evil.'" The true Christian will abhor sin. It is in this sense that "he that is born of God sinneth not" - does not love sin. He will look upon it as the abominable thing which God hates. Its presence in his own heart, manifesting itself in his best services and in his dealings with his fellow-men, will be a sore trial to him. It will lead him to cry out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death?" But no one need despair of deliverance, no matter how strong is the force of temptation from within or from without. Even as Paul asked the question, he answered it himself: "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." This story of the inward conflict teaches us many lessons. It should teach us all watchfulness and prayerfulness. It should teach us all to cultivate the higher, the better, the heavenly side of our nature. It should teach us humility. It should teach us charity toward others, when we remember the faults and failings and frailties of our own nature. It should teach us to look for and to depend upon, more than ever we have done before, the Divine strength of the mighty Saviour, and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. - C.H.I.

I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
There is no word with which we are more familiar than "conflict." We see strife everywhere; amongst the elements of nature, the beasts and birds, nations and families. On the arena of political, mercantile, and social life there is ever a ceaseless conflict between opposing interests and wills. But there is no strife so severe as that which is carried on between the principles of good and evil in the soul.

I. THE GROUND OF THE CHRISTIAN'S COMPLAINT. "The law in his members," which —

1. Prevents him from attaining that standard of excellence which is presented before him in the Word of God. He "cannot do the things that he would." His desire is to be perfectly conformed to the law of God, but it is thwarted by corrupt inclinations, and often he is betrayed into acts which he bitterly deplores.

2. Hinders the full development of his spiritual life. Every Christian has the outline of Christ's image. Just as the oak is folded up within the acorn; just as the first beam of light is the sure precursor of noon; just as in the child there is the man, so in grace are all the elements of glory. The imperfection of Christ's image in the Christian arises solely from the corruptions of his nature; hence it is like the sun obscured by a mist, or a plant whose vitality is impaired by a poisonous atmosphere. The brightest light burns but dimly if the atmosphere is impure, and an instrument that is out of tune will give forth discordant notes, even though the hand of a master should sweep the chords. It is this corrupt nature that weakens your faith, contracts your knowledge, and damps your zeal.

3. It produces much mental distress. How can there be peace when there is constant warfare within? How can "a holy God" look with approval on beings so sinful? Hence doubt, discouragement, and fear. Moreover, anxiety is sometimes felt as to the result of the conflict.


1. Deliverance from the power of evil comes to us from without, not from within. Sin never works its own cure, nor does the sinner ever release himself from its miserable bondage, A poison may lose its virulence, and for a broken or a wounded limb nature has a healing art. But who ever heard of sin dying out from the soul?

2. This deliverance is vouchsafed to us by God through Christ. In no other way can deliverance from the power of sin be achieved. A man who has nothing to oppose to temptation but the power of his will, or his fear of consequences, is like a man walking on thin ice. Christianity finds an infinite evil and proposes an infinite remedy. Beholding us under the dominion of sin, it provides for us release, for "if the Son make you free, ye shall be free indeed." And He does so through His Spirit. What we need is no external reformation, such as law or moral precepts effect, but an inward and spiritual change. And God alone can do this. It matters not what is the evil that you dread, by the grace of God you can overcome it.

3. This deliverance will be progressive and eventually final. There may be many an alternate victory and defeat; but courage, the work is begun, and perfect freedom will come at length.

(H. J. Gamble.)

Notice —


1. Every real Christian would be conformed to the will of God in heart and life. Whatever advance he has made, he is still sensible of deficiency, and presses after higher attainments.

2. The spiritual principle imparted in regeneration has a necessary tendency to what is good. What the enlightened understanding approves the sanctified will prefers.

3. This prevailing inclination of the will to what is good is a manifest token of Divine grace, for it is God that worketh in us to will. The will is the man, and the obedience of the will is the obedience of the man (2 Corinthians 8:12).

II. THE IMPEDIMENTS TO THIS DESIRE: ''evil is present with me."

1. Sudden and unseasonable discursions of the mind, unfitting and indisposing us for duty (Job 15:12; Jeremiah 4:14).

2. Unbelieving jealousies and suspicions, either with respect to ourselves or God. Faith animates the soul, but unbelief weakens and destroys its energies. If the soul makes some efforts heavenwards this clips its wings (Psalm 13:5; 73:13; 87:9).

3. Unworthy motives and sinister ends. We are in danger of being influenced by selfishness, pride, or legality, in all our religious duties; and ere we are aware they become polluted with some evil which is present with us (Isaiah 58:3; Zechariah 7:5).

4. Worldly thoughts and cares. If we do not decline the invitation of the gospel, and go to our farms and our oxen, yet our farms and our oxen will come to us. In running the Christian race we must lay aside every weight, and the sin which easily besets us; and the world is a weight sufficient to impede our spiritual progress (Psalm 119:25).

III. THE REASON WHY THE ATTAINMENTS OF BELIEVERS ARE SO INADEQUATE TO THEIR WISHES AND DESIRES. "I find then a law," that when I would do good, evil is present with me.

1. This "law" is indwelling sin, which is said to be —(1) A law in the members (ver. 23), not only because it resides in the members, but because it employs them in its service.(2) The law of sin and death, being that which impels to sin and leads to death (Romans 8:2; James 1:15).

2. It is a law within us, which we carry with us into the closet, into the temple, into the city, into the wilderness, and even to a sick and dying bed. It mingles with our choicest duties, and spoils our sweetest enjoyments. It makes this world a Bochim, a place of tears (Romans 7:24; 2 Corinthians 5:2).

3. Indwelling sin still has the force of law, maintaining a complete ascendency over every unrenewed heart; and though it was not a law to Paul, yet it was a law within him, and the source of daily vexation.Conclusion:

1. We see that the Christian is better known by what he would be than by what he really is. If his progress were as rapid as his desires are strong, how happy would he be!

2. The best of men have no need to be proud of their performances, every work is marred in their hands.

3. Since the saints on earth have no perfection in themselves, let them be thankful for that perfection they have in Christ (Colossians 2:10).

4. We see the difference between the hypocrite and the real Christian. Sin has the consent of the will in the one, but it is not so with the other.

5. It is no wonder that amidst the conflicts and dangers of the present state the Christian longs to be in heaven (Romans 8:22, 23).

(B. Beddome, M. A.)


1. Miserable.

2. Salutary.

3. Hopeful.

4. Perilous.


1. That he is not free to do good.

2. That evil predominates over him.

3. That this is the law of his corrupt nature.


1. Condemnation succeeded by peace.

2. Sorrow by joy.

3. Complaining by gratitude.

4. Conflict by conquest.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

A "law" here means an habitual thing: as we speak of the laws of nature, the laws of electricity, etc.


1. The Christian "would do good," etc. The desires are an index of the affections. If a man loves a thing he desires that thing. The mother parted from her child desires her child again; the patriot, far from his country, desires and seeks to return to it. The child of God would do good, not merely to escape hell, but because he has a love for holiness.

2. He delights in what is good (ver. 22). "O how I love Thy law!" is the language of all the children of God. What excites the repugnance of the unrenewed mind is delightful to the new mind. "I love it, though my utmost efforts only show me how far I come short of its perfection; I welcome it, though it condemns, and I long to wake up after its perfect image."

3. He actually does good. We have no right to use a lower language than God uses; and therefore every child of God is called upon to do good, and may do good, and God is well pleased with the good he does. God hears the prayers and praises of His people, and has complacency in them. God marks the labours of love of His people, and will reward them. As far as anything we do is of the new nature it is good, for whatever is of the Spirit is spiritual, and whatever springs from the new nature is of God; "for we are His workmanship, created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works." And not only so, but being a law, it lasts, and being lasting, he will persevere in doing good. "He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved."

II. But that the Christian may know the conflict he is to maintain, let us look at THE LAW OF THE OLD MAN. "I find a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me."

1. Now this is not the mere sense of natural conscience that now and then reproves and then evil inclinations rise and burst like the waters when they are dammed up; for the spiritual conflict issues in habitual, I do not say invariable, victory. If a man were all holy, as he will be in heaven, there would be no conflict; but if a man is a heavenly scion grafted by the Spirit upon the old nature, so that the old stem is still corrupt, whilst the new branches of the new tree are holy, and therefore their fruit good, then there will remain the old stem. Still in the old man the imaginations, desires, affections, motives, are always downward, earthward, sinward; the desires, aspirations, affections, hopes of the new man are pure and heavenward and Godward: so you have the man as he was, and the new man as through grace he is. No man this side of heaven is out of the reach of sin and out of the danger of temptation. Opportunity acting upon sinful inclination may lead the best of men to fall into sin.

2. Then we have an evil world. This world which is ever about us, in our families, relationships, business; the world with all its show and pride, tempting some with its pleasures, baiting the hook for others with its riches, how tempting a world it is — when the Christian would do good it is present with him.

3. And when the believer would do good, the evil spirit is present with him. Satan with his emissaries is trying to hinder, harass, and destroy.Conclusion:

1. Does not this teach us that we have constantly to watch and pray, that we enter not into temptation? If you have not looked upon your Christian life as a conflict, you have not taken a right view of it.

2. And then, is there not in all this an encouragement to go continually to Him in whom we have righteousness and strength? "If any man sin we have an advocate with the Father," etc.

(Canon Stowell.)


1. The will desires, approves, attempts what is good.

2. But is overpowered and led captive by that which is evil.

II. WHY IS IT THE SOURCE OF SO MUCH MISERY? Because it makes man at variance —

1. With himself.

2. With the law of God.

3. With his own interest, bringing condemnation and death.


1. By the grace of God.

2. Through Christ.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

Learn —

I. THAT THERE IS AN EVIL PRINCIPLE EVEN IN THE HEARTS OF TRUE BELIEVERS. By nature it is treated as our familiar friend (ver. 20); not as a wayfaring man, or as a stranger that tarrieth for a night. It is ever ready to betray us into evil, or to interrupt us in duty, so that when we would do good evil is present with us, at all times, in all places, and in all duties.

II. THIS ABIDING PRINCIPLE HAS THE FORCE AND POWER OF A LAW. As the word, when applied to the principle of grace, in ver. 18, implies not merely the presence, but also the activity of it; so here. And though it be weakened, yet its nature is not changed, and this teacheth us what endeavours it will use for regaining its former dominion; and what advantage it has against us. It "doth easily beset us." An inmate may dwell in an house, and yet not be always meddling; but this law so dwells in us that when with most earnestness we desire to be quit of it, with most violence it will force itself upon us. "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."


1. How few are there who are concerned about it! As it is natural to us, so most men are ready to imagine, either that there is no such principle within them, or that if there be, it cannot be sinful, but only constitutional. Others represent it as belonging to the very essence of the soul, and they conclude it is all in vain for any to strive against it. But our apostle clearly distinguishes between sin and the faculties of the soul. The inhabitant must be different from the house in which it dwelleth.

2. If there be such a law of sin, it is our duty to find it out. What will it profit a man to have a disease and not to discover it; a fire lying secretly in his house and not to know it? So much as men find of this law in them, so much they will abhor it and no more. Proportionably also to their discovery of it will be their earnestness for grace.


(J. Stafford.)

The compass on board an iron vessel is very subject to aberrations; yet, for all that, its evident desire is to be true to the pole. True hearts in this wicked world, and in this fleshly body, are all too apt to swerve, but they still show their inward and persistent tendency to point towards heaven and God. On board iron vessels it is a common thing to see a compass placed aloft, to be as much away from the cause of aberration as possible; a wise hint to us to elevate our affections and desires; the nearer to God the less swayed by worldly influences.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

For I delight in the law of God after the inward man



(J. Lyth, D. D.)


1. Because it is the transcript of the mind and will of God our Father.

2. Because it is salutary and beneficial both to ourselves and to others.

3. Because it is congenial to our renewed nature.


1. By studying it.

2. By practising it.

3. By trying to bring others under its acknowledged authority. The word συνήδομαι is a very strong expression, implying real sympathy and inward harmony with the commandments.You might as well talk of a person without an ear for music delighting in the oratorios of Mendelssohn, as of one dead in trespasses and sins delighting in the Divine law. No unrenewed person ever yet delighted in the law as the law of God, and that too "in the inward man." A rebel may be able to see the wisdom of the measures framed by the monarch for the guidance of his subjects, but he cannot delight in them in his innermost soul as the laws proceeding from the throne. For this there must be a change in his mind, he must become loyal.

(C. Neil, M. A.)


1. That which binds: hence the law of God as a rule of life whether revealed in the Scriptures or in the heart.

2. The law as distinguished from the prophets.

3. The law as distinguished from the gospel.

4. The whole revelation of God as contained in the Scriptures. This is the sense in which the word is often used in the Psalms, and in which we now take it.

II. WHAT IS MEANT BY DELIGHTING IN IT. In general this is "to regard with lively satisfaction and pleasure." But what the expression really implies, depends on the nature of the object. To delight in a landscape expresses a different state of mind from delighting in a friend, and delight in a poem from delighting in the law of God. There is —

1. An aesthetic delight in the Scriptures such as Lowth strongly expresses in his "Hebrew poetry." Many admire the histories, prophecies, and portraiture of character in the Bible.

2. An intellectual delight in the wisdom of its laws and institutions. The principles of its jurisprudence and government have been the admiration of statesmen.

3. A mere delight in the purity of its precepts. This is exhibited by those who deny its Divine origin. All this is different from what is meant in the text.


1. This influence is —(1) A subjective change in the mind analogous to opening the eyes of the blind; such a change as imparts the power of spiritual vision. This is not enough. A man may have the power of vision in a dark room.(2) It produces a revelation of the truth in its true nature and relations. This is experienced much more abundantly at some times than at others.

2. The effect of these operations is —(1) An apprehension of the truth and, consequently, of the Divine origin of the law.(2) An appreciation of its excellence.(3) An experience of its power to sanctify, console, guide, etc.(4) An acquiescence in it and rejoicing in it as an exhibition of God's character, the rule of duty, the plan of salvation, the person and work of Christ and the future state. Conclusion: The more we delight in the law of God the more we shall be conformed to it, and the better able to teach it.

(C. Hodge, D. D.)

1. Of the blessed man the Psalmist says (Psalm 1) that "his delight is in the law of the Lord," and therefore doth he meditate in it, day and night. That which is the burden of a carnal heart is the delight of the renewed soul. This was the happy experience of our apostle. In the preceding verse he speaks of a living principle within him, willing that which is good. Here he carries his thoughts further: for to delight in the law of God is more than to will that which is good.

2. The word, here rendered "delight," is not found anywhere else in the New Testament. The apostle makes use of an uncommon word to express unspeakable satisfaction.


1. The children of God delight to know and do the will of their Father (1 John 5:3).

2. As every child of God hath his measure of light to behold the excellency of the Divine law, so he hath his measure of delight in it.

3. If you love the law of God, you will take pleasure in it, even though it condemns you; you will not wish it were changed for one less holy. You will also meditate upon it, and study conformity to it.


1. Such a delight must spring from love; and you know how studious love is to please; preferring the will of the object beloved to its own will. So love to God will turn all duty into delight.

2. This delight in the law of God supposeth some good degree of conformity to the object beloved. In all love three things are necessary. Goodness in the object, knowledge of that goodness, and suitableness, or conformity. These three things united beget love, and, if they increase, they will produce that delight which our apostle professes in the law of God.

3. This delight can never be produced, but by seeing the law as it is in Christ. It was in the heart of Christ: "Thy law is within My heart." By viewing the law in Christ, the believer unites the law with the gospel, and they mutually embrace each other: while both agree to promote the happiness of the creature, and the glory of the Creator and Redeemer.

III. ALTHOUGH THIS DELIGHT IS A PROOF OF OUR CONFORMITY TO CHRIST, YET OUR APOSTLE WOULD NOT HAVE US CONCEIVE TOO HIGHLY OF IT IN THE PRESENT IMPERFECT STATE. There is something, even in believers themselves, which does not, cannot delight in the law of God. So far as a man is sanctified, so far will he delight in the law of God, and no further. There is flesh as well as spirit in the best of saints upon earth.

(J. Stafford.)


1. It is a strife between two instincts called laws. The law of God desires to obtain the mastery over the soul. But the law of nature resists its influence.

2. This strife originates the fact of our dual nature. The inner man is the spirit of life which naturally has heavenly instincts and desires. But the "members" composed of the earth naturally desire earthly things. Hence the two desires do pull different ways.

3. The strife exists because the fall of man into sin. Originally man's higher nature was obedient to God. He sinned through yielding to the outer man. Through his higher instincts yielding to bodily impulses, he cast to the wind all the nobler feelings of the inner man.


1. It is, in a Christian man, a strife between what he loves and what he hates, between what he knows to be right and for his good and what he knows will be his ruin.

2. Although we are conscious of this fact, still we find the law of sin prevailing. In the warfare we find that the spiritual law and desire and knowledge often get the worst of it.


1. To teach us not to expect too much in this world. We are not to be cast down by failure. Half of those who go back do so owing to discouragement. They are too sanguine. We are not to look upon life in this world as life in heaven, where it will be without temptation. But —

2. We are not to relax in our struggles. The fact of our having to fight shows that God never intended us to enter heaven without doing something to show that we are worthy of the reward. We may not be able to obtain a victory at present, but we may hold our own and make advance.Conclusion: We learn —

1. That it is not always knowledge of what is right nor love of what is good that saves a man. The inner man may delight in Divine things, but worldly things may be too strong for him. What are you to do, then? Fight, strive.

2. That we long for that time when our higher nature shall be victorious, and our lower nature purified.

3. How foolish it is to meet worldly temptations with worldly weapons. The arm of flesh can never resist flesh. Arguments, reasonings, etc., are vain.

4. To appreciate the heavenly armour, and the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit.

5. Humility, and that victory is not to the strong.

(J. J. S. Bird, B. A.)

? —


1. The new nature cannot sin because it is born of God. We are made partakers of the Divine nature, and therefore delight in the law of God.(1) We would not wish to have one syllable of that law altered, though it condemns us. We perceive it not as truth established by investigation, but as truth all radiant, shining in its own majesty.(2) Nor would we have the spirituality of the law in any degree compromised. We are not only pleased with the law as we read it, but with the very spirit of the law. He never thinks that God is too exacting.(3) We desire to have no dispensation from the law. In the Church of Rome indulgences are regarded as a blessing. We ask no such favour. A license even for a moment would be but a liberty to leave the paths of light and peace to wander in darkness and danger.(4) We desire to keep the law according to the mind of God. If it were proposed to us that we should have whatever we should ask for, the gift we should crave beyond every other is holiness.

2. Now, every Christian that has that desire within his soul will never be satisfied until that desire is fulfilled, and —(1) This shows that we delight in the law of God after the inward man.(2) This, however, is proved in a more practical way when the Christian overcomes many of the desires of the flesh and of the mind. Often in striving to be holy he has to put himself to much stern self-denial; but he does it cheerfully. When a man is willing to bear reproach for righteousness sake, then it is that the man gives proof that he delights in the law of God.

II. WHERE THERE IS THIS DELIGHT IN THE LAW OF GOD, YET THERE IS ANOTHER LAW IN THE MEMBERS CONFLICTING WITH IT. Paul could see it first, and then he had to encounter it, and at length to some extent he was enthralled by it.

1. There is in each one of us a law of sin.(1) It may be seen even when it is not in operation, if our eyes are lightened. Whenever I hear a man say he has no propensity to sin, I infer at once that he does not live at home. Sometimes it is dormant. Gunpowder is not always exploding, but it is always explosive. The viper may be coiled up doing no damage; but it hath a deadly virus beneath its fangs.(2) Sin generally breaks forth suddenly, taking us by surprise.(3) But note when there is most money in the house, then is the likeliest time for thieves to break in; and when there is most grace in the soul the devil will try to assault it. Pirates were not accustomed to attack vessels when they went out to fetch gold from the Indies: they always waylaid them when they were coming home. Let us be more watchful than in seasons of tranquility.(4) It is remarkable how sin will show itself in the holiest of duties. When you feel that you ought to pray, do you not find sometimes an unwillingness? When your soul is led away with thoughts of things Divine, straight across your soul there comes a bad thought. Or perhaps you get through your devotion with much delight in God; but presently there steals over your mind a self-satisfaction that you have prayed so well that you must be growing in grace. Perhaps, again, you did not feel any liberty in prayer, and then you will murmur you might as well give up praying.

2. And this law in his members "wars against the law of the mind." There must be two sides to a war.(1) We have known this warfare on this wise. A wrong desire has come and we have utterly loathed it, but it has followed us again and again. We have been harassed with doubts, yet the more bitterly we, have detested them the more relentlessly they have pursued us. Mayhap, a hideous sentiment is wrapped up in a neat epigram, and then it will haunt the memory, and we shall strive to dislodge it in vain.(2) Whence these evils? Sometimes from Satan; but most commonly temptation derives strength as well as opportunity from the moods or habits to which our own constitution is prone.(3) But the war carried on by this evil nature is not always by the continual besieging of the soul, at times it tries to take us by assault. When we are off our guard up it will come and attack us.

3. This warring brought Paul into captivity to the law of sin. Not that he means he wandered into immoralities. No observer may have noticed any fault in the apostle's character, but he could see it in himself. It is a captivity like that of the Israelites in Babylon itself when a child of God is suffered to fall into some great sin. But, long before it comes to that pass, this law of sin brings us unto captivity in other respects. While you are contending against inbred sin doubts will invade your heart. Surely if I were a child of God I should not be hampered in devotion or go to a place of worship and feel no enjoyment. Oh, what a captivity the soul is brought into when it allows inbred sin to cast any doubts upon its safety in Christ.

III. IT IS SOME COMFORT THAT THIS WAR IS AN INTERESTING PHASE OF CHRISTIAN EVIDENCE. Such as are dead in sin have never made proof of any of these things. These inward conflicts show that we are alive. The strong man while he keeps the house will keep it in peace. It is when a stronger than he comes to eject him that there is a fight. Do not be depressed about it. The best of God's saints have suffered in this very same manner. Look up yonder to those saints in their white robes! Ask them whence their victory came. The richest consolation comes from the last verse. Though the fight may be long and arduous, the result is not doubtful. You will have to get to heaven fighting for every inch of the way; but you will get there.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)


1. Before a man comes to Christ he hates the law of God (Romans 8:7) on account of —(1) Its purity. It is infinitely opposed to all sin. But natural men love sin, and therefore they hate the law, as bats hate the light and fly against it.(2) Its breadth. It extends to all their outward actions, seen and unseen; to every idle word; to the looks of their eye; it dives into the deepest caves of their heart; it condemns the most secret springs of sin and lust that nestle there.(3) Its unchangeableness. If the law would let down its requirements then ungodly men would be well pleased. But it is unchangeable as God.

2. When a man comes to Christ this is all changed. He can say, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man." "O how I love Thy law." "I delight to do Thy will." There are two reasons for this:(1) The law is no longer an enemy. "Christ hath redeemed me from the curse of the law," etc.(2) The Spirit of God writes the law on the heart (Jeremiah 31:38). Coming to Christ takes away our fear of the law; the Holy Spirit coming into our heart makes us love the law.

II. A TRUE BELIEVER FEELS AN OPPOSING LAW IN HIS MEMBERS (ver. 23). When a sinner comes first to Christ, he often thinks he will never sin any more. A little breath of temptation soon discovers his heart, and he cries out, "I see another law." Observe —

1. What he calls it, "another law"; quite different from the law of God — "a law of sin" (ver. 25); "a law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2). It is the same law which is called "the flesh" (Galatians 5:17); "the old man" (Ephesians 4:22); "your members" (Colossians 3); "a body of death" (ver. 24).

2. What His law is doing — "warring." There never can be peace in the bosom of a believer. There is peace with God, but constant war with sin. Sometimes, indeed, an army lies in ambush quiet till a favourable moment comes. So the lusts often lie quiet till the hour of temptation, and then they war against the soul. The heart is like a volcano, sometimes it slumbers and sends up nothing but a little smoke; but the fire will soon break out again. Is Satan ever successful? In the deep wisdom of God the law in the members does sometimes bring the soul into captivity. Noah was a perfect man, and walked with God, and yet he was drunken. Abraham was the "friend of God," and yet he told a lie. Job was a perfect man, and yet he was provoked to curse the day of his birth. And so with Moses, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Peter, and the apostles.(1) Have you experienced this war fare? It is a clear mark of God's children.(2) If any of you are groaning under it —

(a)Be humbled.

(b)Let this teach you your need of Jesus.

(c)Be not discouraged. Jesus is able to save you to the uttermost.


1. He feels wretched (ver. 24). There is nobody in this world so happy as a believer. He has the pardon of all his sins in Christ. Still when he feels the plague of his own heart he cries, "O wretched man that I am!"

2. He seeks deliverance. If lust work in your heart, and you lie down contented with it, you are none of Christ's!

3. He gives thanks for victory. Truly we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us; for we can give thanks before the fight is done.

(R. M. McCheyne, M. A.)

We have here —


1. That there were within himself two conflicting principles.

2. That these principles were under the direction of opposing intelligences — "Warring." The conflict is not a collision between blind forces. In every war there is intelligence on both sides. The "law of the mind" is under the direction of the "Captain" of our salvation. That of "the members" is under the direction of the devil. The "Holy War" in the "Town of Mansoul" is more than a poetic dream.

3. That the tendency of sin is to make men slaves to itself. When sin is indulged in for a length of time the power of resistance is weakened, and man becomes the helpless prey of the foe. Witness the miser, sensualist, opium eater, drunkard, etc. The grasp of sin is a tenacious one. It rallies, too, after many a defeat, and clings with deadly obstinacy oftentimes to those most "valiant for the truth."


1. "Wretched,"

2. Loathsome. Sin was as hateful as a corpse is to living men.

3. Helpless. "Who shall deliver me?"

4. Hopeless. The whole verse seems a wail of despair. "Who shall," etc.

III. PAUL'S DELIVERANCE. "I thank God," etc. The darkest hour is nearest the dawn. This deliverance was —

1. From God. God alone is able. "Who can forgive sins but God?" It is He only who giveth us the victory, etc.

2. Through Christ. Paul knew of no other way. His good moral life (Philippians 3), his mental culture (Acts 17), his zeal for the cause of God (2 Corinthians 11); in none of these does he hope.

IV. PAUL'S INFERENCE FROM THE WHOLE. "So then with the mind," etc. Victory is at hand. The enemy is routed from the citadel.

1. The better part of his nature — the immortal part — was in the service of God.

2. Only the inferior part — the mortal members of the flesh — were in any sense in the service of sin.

(R. T. Howell.)

1. Such is the weary conflict which Adam's fall entailed on all born in the way of nature. In paradise there was no disturbance; God had made them for Himself, and nothing had come between them and God. They knew not sin, and so knew not what it was to sin; they could not even fear sin which they knew not. Man lived as he willed, since he willed what God commanded; he lived enjoying God, and from Him, who is good, himself was good.

2. To fall altered the whole face of man. Easy was the command to keep. The heavier was the disobedience which kept not a command so easy. And so, because man rebelled against God, he lost the command over himself. He would not have the free, loving, blissful service of God; and so he was subjected to the hateful, restless service of his lower self. Every faculty became disordered. Yet is there, even in unregenerate man, some trace of his Maker's bands. He cannot truly serve God, but he cannot, until he has wholly destroyed his soul's life, tranquilly serve sin. Yet, "lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life," are the more powerful. He obeys, though unwillingly, "the law of sin" which he had taken upon himself; not wholly lost, because not willingly.

3. Such was our state by nature, to heal which our Redeemer came. He willed to restore us; but He willed not to restore us without cost and trial of ours. He wills that we should know how sore a thing is rebellion against God. He willeth to restore to us the mastery over ourselves, but through ourselves; to give us the victory, but by overcoming in us. The strife then remains. To have no strife would be a sign not of victory, but of slavery, not of life, but of death. But the abiding state whereof Paul speaks cannot be that in which a Christian ought to be. "To be sold under sin," (which is only said of the most wicked of the wicked kings of Israel), to be "carnal," to "serve with the flesh the law of sin," to be "brought under captivity to it," cannot be our state as sons of God and members of Christ. If this were so, where were the "liberty wherewith Christ has made us free"? To what end would be the gifts of the Holy Ghost, the power of Christ within us, His armour of righteousness, wherewith He compasses us? No! the end of the Christian's conflict must be, not defeat, but victory. There are, says an ancient father, four states of man. In the first, man struggles not, but is subdued; in the second, he struggles, and is still subdued; in the third, he struggles, and subdues; in the fourth, he has to struggle no more. The first state is man's condition when not under the law of God. The second is his state under the law, but not with the fulness of Divine grace. The third, wherein he is in the main victorious, is under the full grace of the gospel. The fourth, of tranquil freedom from all struggle, is in the blessed and everlasting peace.

4. But however any be under the power of grace, they, while in the flesh, must have conflict still. It would not be a state of trial without conflict. In us, although reborn of God, there yet remains that "infection of nature whereby the desire of the flesh is not subject to the law of God." "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves."

5. Yet through this very truth some deceive, some distress themselves wrongly. They argue in opposite ways. We have a nature ready to burst out into sin, unless it be kept down by grace. But by grace it may be kept down increasingly. What is evil ought to be continually lessened; what is good ought to be strengthened. Yet this infection within us, although of "the nature of sin," unless our will consent to its suggestions; and so long as, by God's grace, we master it, is not sin, but the occasion of the victories of His grace. People distress themselves by not owning this; they deceive themselves if they make it the occasion of carelessness. The one says, "My nature is sinful, and therefore I am the object of God's displeasure," the other, "My nature is sinful, and therefore I cannot help it, and am not the object of God's displeasure, although I do what is wrong." The one mistakes sinfulness of nature for actual sin, the other excuses actual sin because his nature is sinful. Each is untrue. A man is not the object of God's displeasure, on account of the remains of his inborn corruption, if he in earnest strive with it. If he strive not in earnest with it, he is the object of God's displeasure, not on account of the sinfulness of his nature, but on account of his own negligence as to that sinfulness of nature, or his sinful concurrence with it. Nothing is sin to us, which has not some consent of the will. We are, then, to have this conflict; we ought not, by God's grace, in any of the more grievous sins, to be defeated in it.

6. This conflict is continual. It spreads through the whole life, and through every part in man. Man it besieged on all sides. No power, faculty, sense, is free from it. But though the whole man is besieged thus, his inward self, where God dwells, is hemmed in, but not overcome, unless his will consents. "Sin lieth at the door." The will holds the door closed; the will alone opens the door. If thou open not the door thyself, sin cannot enter in. Do thou submit thy own will to God, and God will subject this contrary will to thee. Thou canst not have victory unless thou be assaulted. Fear not. Rather thou mayest take it as a token of God's love, who sets thee in the conflict. He will uphold thee by His hand, when the waves are boisterous. So shalt thou have the victory through His Spirit.

(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind.

1. The first in order of time is the old Adam nature. It is born of and with the flesh. Some fancy that it is to be improved, gradually tamed down and sanctified; but it is enmity against God, and is not reconciled to God; neither, indeed, can be.(1) This old nature lives in our members; its nest is the body, and it works through the body. There are certain appetites of ours which are perfectly allowable, nay, even necessary; but they can be very easily pushed to sinful extremes.(2) The sin which lurks in the flesh will grow weaker in proportion as the holy principle grows stronger; and it is at no time to be tolerated or excused, but we are to fight against it, and conquer it.

2. When we are born again there is dropped into our soul the living and incorruptible seed of the Word of God. It is akin to the Divine nature, and cannot sin, because it is born of God. It is at deadly enmity with the old nature, which it will in the end destroy; but it has its work to do, which will not be accomplished all at once.

II. THE EXISTENCE OF THESE TWO PRINCIPLES NECESSITATES A CONFLICT. The lion will not lie down with the lamb. Fire will not be on good terms with water. Death will not parley with life, nor Christ with Belial. The dual life provokes a daily duel.

1. The conflict is not felt by all young Christians at the first. Christian life may be divided into three stages.(1) That of comfort, in which the young Christian rejoices in the Lord.(2) That of conflict. The more of this the better. Instead of being children at home we have grown into men, and therefore we must go to war. Under the old law, when a man was married, or built a house, he was excused from fighting for a season, but when that was over, he must take his place in the ranks; and so is it with the child of God.(3) That of contemplation; in which the believer sits down to reflect upon the goodness of the Lord towards him, and upon all the good things in store for him. This is the land Beulah, which Bunyan describes as lying on the edge of the river, and so near to the Celestial City that you can hear the music and smell the perfumes from the gardens of the blessed. That is a stage which we must not expect to reach just now.

2. The reason of the fight is this; the new nature comes into our heart, to rule over it, but the carnal mind is not willing to surrender. A new throne is set up, and the old monarch, outlawed, and made to lurk in holes and corners, says to himself, "I will not have this. I will get the throne back again." (Read the "Holy War.") And let me warn you that the flesh may be doing us most mischief when it seems to be doing none. During war the sappers and miners will work underneath a city, and those inside say, "The enemy are very quiet; what can they be at?" They know their business well enough, and are laying their mines for unexpected strokes. Hence an old divine used to say that he was never so much afraid of any devil as he was of no devil. To be let alone tends to breed a dry rot in the soul.


1. The very rising of the old nature. The old nature suggests to you some sin: you hate the sin, and you despise yourself for lying open to be tempted in such a way. The very fact that such a thought has crossed your mind is bondage to your pure spirit. You do not fall into the sin; you shake off the serpent, but you feel its slime upon your soul. What a difference. A spot of ink on my coat nobody perceives; but a drop on a white handkerchief everybody at once detects, The very passing of temptation across a renewed soul brings it into captivity. I saw in Rome a very large and well executed photograph of a street and an ancient temple; but I noticed that right across the middle was the trace of a mule and a cart. The artist had done his best to prevent it, but there was the ghost of that cart and mule. An observer unskilled in art might not notice the mark, but a careful artist, with a high ideal, is vexed to see his work thus marred; and so with moral stains, that which the common man thinks a trifle is a great sorrow to the pure-hearted son of God, and he is brought into captivity by it.

2. The loss of joy through the uprising of the flesh. You want to sing the praises of God, but the temptation comes, and you have to battle with it, and the song gives place to the battle shout. It is time for prayer, but somehow you cannot control your thoughts. In holy contemplation you try to concentrate your thoughts, but somebody knocks at the door, or a child begins to cry, or a man begins to grind an organ under your window, and how can you meditate? All things seem to be against you. Little outside matters which are trifling to others will often prove terrible disturbers of your spirit.

3. Actual sin. We do, in moments of forgetfulness, that which we would willingly undo, and say that which we would willingly unsay. The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak; and then the consequence is, to a child of God, that he feels himself a captive. He has yielded to treacherous banishments, and now, like Samson, his locks are shorn. He goes out to shake himself as he did aforetime, but the Philistines are upon him, and it will be a happy thing for him if he does not lose his eyes, and come to grind at the mill like a slave.

IV. THIS WARFARE, AND THIS OCCASIONAL TRIUMPH OF THE FLESH, MAKE US LOOK TO CHRIST FOR VICTORY. Whenever there is a question between me and the devil my constant way is to tell the accuser, "Well, if I am not a saint I am a sinner, and Jesus came into the world to save sinners, therefore I will go to Christ, and look to Him again." That is the way to conquer sin, as well as to overcome despair; for, when faith in Jesus comes back to your soul, you will be strong to fight, and you will win the victory.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Note here —

1. The combatants or champions — the law of the mind, and the law of the members. Grotius distinguisheth of a fourfold law —

(1)The law of God; recorded in Scripture.

(2)The law of the mind; the judgment between things honest and dishonest.

(3)The law of the members; the carnal or sensual appetite.

(4)The law of sin; the custom of sinning. To complete which we must add —

(5)The law of original sin propagated by generation, which is strengthened by custom, and, together with our sensual appetite depraved, makes up the law of sin.

(6)The law of sanctifying grace infused in regeneration; which completes the law of the mind.

2. The equality of this fight; sin indwelling fighting against grace indwelling, there being a pitched battle, in which some graces and corruptions bear the office of commanders, others of common soldiers.

3. The disparity of the fight, managed by way of "rebellion" on the part of sin, by way of loyalty and authority on the part of grace.

4. The dubiousness of the fight, both parties often fighting, as it were, with equal prowess and success; sometimes one, sometimes the other, seeming to get the better (Exodus 17:11).

5. The sad event too often on the better side which is led captive. In which term yet there is a mixture of comfort; sin, when in triumph, acting as a tyrant, not as a lawful sovereign. The law of the mind may be overborne by, but never indents with, the law of the members. Withal, note in the text a mixture of civil and military terms to illustrate the spiritual conflict; there being a lawsuit, as well as a pitched battle, between grace and corruption.


1. This appears —(1) By the testimony of nature speaking in the heathen — "Video meliora, proboque: Deteriora sequor."(2) By testimony of Scripture —

(a)As to the godly (Galatians 5:17).

(b)As to the unregenerate (Mark 6:26; Romans 2:14, 15).(3) By every man's experience.

2. Concerning this conflict note as follows —(1) As the great, so the little, world (man) is made up of contraries. The outward man of contrary elements, health, and sickness; the inward man, of contrary principles, reason and passion, conscience and sense.(2) Man is both an actor in, and a theatre of, the greatest action and noblest conflict in the world. He that conquers himself is a nobler hero than Alexander, who conquered a great part of the world (Proverbs 16:32).(3) In the state of innocency there was no conflict: in the state of glory there will be no conflict, there being no corruption to combat with grace, in infants there is a conflict; in a state of corruption there is no spiritual conflict, because there is no renewing grace to combat with corruption (Luke 11:21, 22).(4) The natural conflict is in every godly man, the spiritual conflict is in no natural man. This I note to allay the fears of drooping saints.(5) As the great wisdom of God lies in governing the great world made up of contraries, so the great wisdom of a godly man lies in governing the little world made up of like contraries.(6) This government lies principally in discerning these conflicting contraries, and improving their contrariety for the advantage of the outward and inward man. In this government Christ is principal (Psalm 110:2); a saint instrumental (Hosea 11:12).(7) This singular wisdom is attainable in the use of ordinary means, and that by the meanest who have grace to follow Christ's conduct; yet not by the power of free will or human industry, but by the bounty of free and special grace (2 Timothy 3:15; James 1:5; Romans 9:16).(8) It cannot be expected that any unregenerate person should understand to purpose the difference between these two conflicts; because he hath no experience of this double state, and double principle.


1. In the ground or cause of the fight; which —(1) In the unregenerate, is —(a) Natural principles, or the relics of God's image in the understanding. The notion of a deity, and of loving my neighbour as myself, cannot be razed out of any man's heart; nor can these principles lie always idle, but will more or less be in action against corrupt inclinations.(b) Acquired principles, from education and custom. This light discovers more of sin's obliquity and danger, thereby laying on stronger restraint, through fear, shame, etc.(c) The natural temper of the body, which indisposes to some special sins, and disposes to some special graces, or the reverse.(d) The contrariety of one lust to another. Thus ambition says, "spend"; covetousness, "spare"; revenge incites to murder; self-love restrains, for fear of a halter. Here, now, is a combat, but only between flesh more refined and flesh more corrupted.(2) On the other hand, in the regenerate, the combat ariseth from the antipathy of two contrary natures perfectly hating each other (Galatians 5:17). Of all affections, love and hatred are most uncompoundable. A godly man hates sin as God hates it, not so much for its danger as for its loathsomeness. As in persons, so much more in principles, there is a mutual abomination (cf. Psalm 139:22; Proverbs 29:27; Psalm 97:10; Psalm 119:128; Romans 8:7). Enemies may, but enmity can never, be reconciled.

2. In the object or matter of conflict; which —(1) In a natural man, is —

(a)Grosser evils that startle the conscience.

(b)Infamous evils that are attended with worldly fear or shame; or —

(c)Some particular evils that cross temper, education, or custom, etc.(2) But in spiritual persons it is —

(1)Little sins, as well as great.

(2)Secret sins, as well as open.

(3)The first risings, as well as the gross acts.

(4)Sins which promise worldly safety, credit, profit, contentment, as well as those sins that threaten the contrary.

(5)In a word, all moral evil; hatred and antipathy being of the whole kind (Psalm 119:128); especially of those evils which most endanger the new man (Psalm 18:23); and such as are beloved sins (Matthew 18:8, 9).

3. In the subject of the conflict. In natural men the fight is in several faculties; reason fighting against sense and passion, or the conscience against the corrupt inclination of the will; whence the fight is more at a distance by missile arms. But in the regenerate the fight is more close in the same faculty; the wisdom of flesh and spirit counteracting, in the same understanding, the lustings of the flesh and spirit in the same will; whence the fight is between veterans of approved courage, grace and corruption immediately; which at first, haply, was managed by the spearmen and targetiers, reason and interest. The former is like the fight of the soldiers of fortune, more lazy, and by way of siege; the latter more keen and vigorous, by way of assault and onslaught, like that of Scanderbeg, who fought with his enemies breast to breast in a box or grate.

4. In their weapons. The natural man's weapons are, like himself, carnal; to wit, natural or moral reason, worldly fears or hopes, and sometimes spiritual fears or hopes, but carnalised — i.e., slavish and mercenary. But the regenerate man's weapons are spiritual (2 Corinthians 10:4); to wit, gracious interest, and all the spiritual armour (Ephesians 6:11-18).

5. In the manner of the fight. The natural man's combat is more mercenary; admits of more parleys. But the spiritual man, as such, fights it out to the last, and will give no quarter. The former is like the strife between wind and tide, which often come about, and are both of one side; the latter is like the dam and the tide, that strive till one be borne down; or like stream and tide meeting and conflicting till one hath overborne the other.

6. In the extent of the conflict, in relation to its subject and duration.(1) The extent of the subject is double —(a) As to the faculties; the seat of war in the regenerate is every faculty, flesh and spirit being ever mixed; as light and darkness in every point of air in the twilight (1 Thessalonians 5:23). So that, in the regenerate, there is at the same time both a civil and a foreign war; that in the same faculty, this in one faculty against another. Contrariwise, in the unregenerate, there is usually nothing but a foreign war between several faculties, there being nothing of spiritual good in their wills and affections, to set the same faculty against itself.(b) As to acts, it extends to every act of piety and charity, especially if more spiritual (ver. 21); for which the natural man hath no conflict, but against them. Nor, indeed, doth he know experimentally what spiritual acts of piety are. But the regenerate find it by constant experience; faith and unbelief, humanity and pride, ever opposing and counterworking each other; whence he is forced to cut his way through his enemies, and to dispute it step by step. Others may seek, but he strives (Luke 13:24), and takes the kingdom of heaven by a holy violence (Matthew 11:12).(2) As to the extent or duration of the war, which, being in the regenerate irreconcilable, must needs be interminable, like the war between the Romans and Carthaginians; or as fire and water will fight forever, if together forever. In the natural man, contrariwise, the quarrel is soon taken up; as between the Romans and other nations; there being not that antipathy between reason and corruption as there is between grace and corruption.

7. In the concomitants and consequents of the fight.(1) Godly men sin more with knowledge, but wicked men more against knowledge.(2) The fight in natural men seeks only the repression, not the suppression, of sin; to lop the superfluous branches, not stub up the root; to charm the serpent, not to break its head. But the spiritual fight seeks the full mortification and abolition of sin (Romans 6:6), and the complete perfection of grace (Philippians 3:10-14).

(Roger Drake, D. D.)

I. THE LAW OF THE MIND. The mind has laws of sensation, perception, apprehension, imagination, comparison, memory, reasoning, and volition. But that law of which the apostle speaks is a law which has relation to morals and religion. It is that law in virtue of which we consent to the law of God that it is good, and delight therein after the inward man (vers. 16, 22); that law which prompts us to good, and restrains us from evil (ver. 19); that law which congratulates and makes us glad when we render it obedience (2 Corinthians 1:12), but which reproves and makes us miserable when we dare, against its warnings, to do that which is evil (Romans 2:14, 15, and this whole section). In one word, that law is "conscience." But we observe more particularly —

1. That it is of the very essence of this law to affirm the binding force over the man of truth, goodness, and righteousness. Its proper function is, not to determine what is right in any given case, but to affirm that the right is a matter of moral obligation in all cases. The function of conscience is not to make, perceive, or define law, but to affirm that we are bound to the lawful and right. Conscience, as is indicated by the very name, involves a complex knowledge. It includes a knowledge of —(1) Myself as capable of moral actions.(2) Of an external law of righteousness, according to the requirements of which I am bound to act; and —(3) Of the fact that I am so bound.

2. That this law, while it does morally bind, nevertheless does not compel, but only impel.(1) Prospectively, it impels to the right, or restrains from the wrong, and therefore acts as a motive force affecting the determinations of the will.(2) Retrospectively, it congratulates the mind, when the right has been chosen and achieved in opposition to the solicitations of wrong; and reproaches the mind, when the wrong has been elected and done in opposition to the inner consciousness of duty (Hebrews 10:22; 1 Peter 3:16).

3. That this law has its ground in the reality of moral distinctions. That of which it affirms the binding force is something distinct from and independent of itself. It recognises the distinction between right and wrong, good and evil, because that it has a special aptitude for such recognition; and, on the same ground, it affirms its own peculiar relationship to these discriminated things as a moral subject.

4. That this law involves implicitly the recognition of an absolute and infallible Administrator of righteousness. For it not only affirms that the law is binding, but also that it will certainly be in the end enforced. The joy of a good conscience, and the remorse of an evil one, are, in no case, pronounced by conscience itself to be final awards, but only premonitory and anticipative.


1. This is the law of the animal organism, which, inasmuch as it pertains to that in man which is lower, ought always to be subject to that which is superior.

2. Now this law is in itself, and within its proper sphere, perfectly right and good (Genesis 1:28). It includes —(1) The appetites of hunger and thirst, which are at the base of all the labour of mankind, to insure a continuous supply of food.(2) The susceptibility of pain and injury, which is at the foundation of all manufacture, architecture, hunting, and war.(3) The social and family affections, which are developed in marriage, in the care of children, and in the love of relatives and race.


1. In man's complex consciousness the two laws meet. Both alike are laws of his nature, and obedience to both, within certain limits, is required. So long as they impel onwards in the same direction there can be no difficulty. Within its own domain the inferior law is right. But it must not break through the fences set up by the moral law. It must not provide for the defence, support, or enjoyment of the animal life by any means that offend against truth, justice, and mercy.

2. It is just here that the conflict begins. The law in the members, regardless of any rule of morality, impels onward to the attainment of one end only, the preservation and self-satisfaction of the animal life. Then the law of the mind interposes to arrest that action. Then the inferior law, made all the more clamorous by the invention of authority, may prevail, and the whole man will be delivered captive to that other "law" which is described as "the law of sin and death" (James 1:14, 15).

(W. Tyson.)

As the needle of a compass, when it is directed to its beloved star, at the first waves on either side, and seems indifferent to the rising or declining sun, and when it seems first determined to the north, remains a while trembling, and stands not still in full enjoyment till after first a great variety of motion, and then an undisturbed posture; so is the piety, and so is the conversion of a man, wrought by degrees and several steps of imperfection; and at first our choices are wavering, convinced by the grace of God, and yet not persuaded; and then persuaded, but not resolved; and then resolved, but deferring to begin; and then beginning, but, as all beginnings are, in weakness and uncertainty; and we fly out often in large indiscretions, and we look back to Sodom, and long to return to Egypt; and when the storm is quite over, we find little bubblings and unevennesses upon the face of the waters, and often weaken our own purposes by returns of sin.

(Jeremy Taylor.)

What swarms of rabbits the traveller sees on the commons and fields near Leatherhead (in Surrey), and yet a few miles further on at Wooten one scarcely sees a single specimen of that prolific race. The creature is indigenous to both places, but at Leatherhead he is tolerated, and therefore multiplies, while at the other places the gamekeepers diligently shoot down all they see. Sins are natural to all men, but it makes all the difference whether they are fostered or kept under; the carnal mind makes itself a warren for evil, but a gracious Spirit wages constant war with every transgression.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

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