We may observe in this chapter,
I. Our freedom from the law further urged as an argument to press upon
II. The excellency and usefulness of the law asserted and proved from
the apostle's own experience, notwithstanding,
III. A description of the conflict between grace and corruption in the
Observations Respecting the Law.
A. D. 58.
1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the
law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he
2 For the woman which hath a husband is bound by the law to
her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead,
she is loosed from the law of her husband.
3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to
another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her
husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no
adulteress, though she be married to another man.
4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by
the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even
to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth
fruit unto God.
5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which
were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit
6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead
wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit,
and not in the oldness of the letter.
Among other arguments used in the foregoing chapter to persuade us
against sin, and to holiness, this was one
that we are not under the law; and this argument is here further
insisted upon and explained
We are delivered from the law. What is meant by this? And how is
it an argument why sin should not reign over us, and why we should walk
in newness of life?
1. We are delivered from the power of the law which curses and
condemns us for the sin committed by us. The sentence of the law
against us is vacated and reversed, by the death of Christ, to all true
believers. The law saith, The soul that sins shall die; but we
are delivered from the law. The Lord has taken away thy sin, thou
shalt not die. We are redeemed from the curse of the law,
2. We are delivered from that power of the law which irritates and
provokes the sin that dwelleth in us. This the apostle seems especially
to refer to
The motions of sins which were by the law. The law, by
commanding, forbidding, threatening, corrupt and fallen man, but
offering no grace to cure and strengthen, did but stir up the
corruption, and, like the sun shining upon a dunghill, excite and draw
up the filthy steams. We being lamed by the fall, the law comes and
directs us, but provides nothing to heal and help our lameness, and so
makes us halt and stumble the more. Understand this of the law not as
a rule, but as a covenant of works. Now each of these is an argument
why we should be holy; for here is encouragement to endeavours, though
in many things we come short. We are under grace, which promises
strength to do what it commands, and pardon upon repentance when we do
amiss. This is the scope of these verses in general, that, in point of
profession and privilege, we are under a covenant of grace, and not
under a covenant of works--under the gospel of Christ, and not under
the law of Moses. The difference between a law-state and a gospel-state
he had before illustrated by the similitude of rising to a new life,
and serving a new master; now here he speaks of is under the similitude
of being married to a new husband.
I. Our first marriage was to the law, which, according to the law of
marriage, was to continue only during the life of the law. The law of
marriage is binding till the death of one of the parties, no matter
which, and no longer. The death of either discharges both. For this he
appeals to themselves, as persons knowing the law
I speak to those that know the law. It is a great advantage to
discourse with those that have knowledge, for such can more readily
understand and apprehend a truth. Many of the Christians at Rome were
such as had been Jews, and so were well acquainted with the law. One
has some hold of knowing people. The law hath power over a man as
long as he liveth; in particular, the law of marriage hath power;
or, in general, every law is so limited--the laws of nations, of
relations, of families, &c.
1. The obligation of laws extends no further; by death the servant who,
while he lived, was under the yoke, is freed from his master,
2. The condemnation of laws extends no further; death is the finishing
of the law. Actio moritur cum personâ--The action expires with
the person. The severest laws could but kill the body, and after
that there is no more that they can do. Thus while we were alive to
the law we were under the power of it--while we were in our
Old-Testament state, before the gospel came into the world, and before
it came with power into our hearts. Such is the law of marriage
the woman is bound to her husband during life, so bound to him that she
cannot marry another; if she do, she shall be reckoned an adulteress,
It will make her an adulteress, not only to be defiled by, but to be
married to, another man; for that is so much the worse, upon this
account, that it abuses an ordinance of God, by making it to patronise
the uncleanness. Thus were we married to the law
When we were in the flesh, that is, in a carnal state, under the
reigning power of sin and corruption--in the flesh as in our
element--then the motions of sins which were by the law did work in
our members, we were carried down the stream of sin, and the law
was but as an imperfect dam, which made the stream to swell the higher,
and rage the more. Our desire was towards sin, as that of the wife
towards her husband, and sin ruled over us. We embraced it, loved it,
devoted all to it, conversed daily with it, made it our care to please
it. We were under a law of sin and death, as the wife under the law of
marriage; and the product of this marriage was fruit brought forth unto
death, that is, actual transgressions were produced by the original
corruption, such as deserve death. Lust, having conceived by the law
(which is the strength of sin,
1 Corinthians 15:56),
bringeth forth sin, and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth
This is the posterity that springs from this marriage to sin and the
law. This comes of the motions of sin working in our members. And this
continues during life, while the law is alive to us, and we are alive
to the law.
II. Our second marriage is to Christ: and how comes this about?
1. We are freed, by death, from our obligation to the law as a
covenant, as the wife is from her obligation to her husband,
This resemblance is not very close, nor needed it to be. You are
become dead to the law,
He does not say, "The law is dead" (some think because he would avoid
giving offence to those who were yet zealous for the law), but, which
comes all to one, You are dead to the law. As the crucifying of
the world to us, and of us to the world, amounts to one and the same
thing, so doth the law dying, and our dying to it. We are delivered
from the law
katergethemen--we are nulled as to the law; our
obligation to it as a husband is cassated and made void. And then he
speaks of the law being dead as far as it was a law of bondage to us:
That being dead wherein we were held; not the law itself, but
its obligation to punishment and its provocation to sin. It is dead, it
has lost its power; and this
by the body of Christ, that is, by the sufferings of Christ in
his body, by his crucified body, which abrogated the law, answered the
demands of it, made satisfaction for our violation of it, purchased for
us a covenant of grace, in which righteousness and strength are laid up
for us, such as were not, nor could be, by the law. We are dead to the
law by our union with the mystical body of Christ. By being
incorporated into Christ in our baptism professedly, in our believing
powerfully and effectually, we are dead to the law, have no more to do
with it than the dead servant, that is free from his master, hath to do
with his master's yoke.
2. We are married to Christ. The day of our believing is the day of our
espousals to the Lord Jesus. We enter upon a life of dependence on him
and duty to him: Married to another, even to him who is raised from
the dead, a periphrasis of Christ and very pertinent here; for as
our dying to sin and the law is in conformity to the death of Christ,
and the crucifying of his body, so our devotedness to Christ in newness
of life is in conformity to the resurrection of Christ. We are married
to the raised exalted Jesus, a very honourable marriage. Compare
2 Corinthians 11:2,Eph+5:29.
Now we are thus married to Christ,
(1.) That we should bring forth fruit unto God,
One end of marriage is fruitfulness: God instituted the ordinance that
he might seek a godly seed,
The wife is compared to the fruitful vine, and children are called the
fruit of the womb. Now the great end of our marriage to Christ is our
fruitfulness in love, and grace, and every good work. This is fruit
unto God, pleasing to God, according to his will, aiming at his glory.
As our old marriage to sin produced fruit unto death, so our second
marriage to Christ produces fruit unto God, fruits of righteousness.
Good works are the children of the new nature, the products of our
union with Christ, as the fruitfulness of the vine is the product of
its union with the root. Whatever our professions and pretensions may
be, there is no fruit brought forth to God till we are married to
Christ; it is in Christ Jesus that we are created unto good works,
The only fruit which turns to a good account is that which is brought
forth in Christ. This distinguishes the good works of believers from
the good works of hypocrites and self-justifiers that they are brought
forth in marriage, done in union with Christ, in the name of the Lord
This is, without controversy, one of the great mysteries of godliness.
(2.) That we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the
oldness of the letter,
Being married to a new husband, we must change our way. Still we must
serve, but it is a service that is perfect freedom, whereas the service
of sin was a perfect drudgery: we must now serve in newness of spirit,
by new spiritual rules, from new spiritual principles, in spirit and in
There must be a renovation of our spirits wrought by the spirit of God,
and in that we must serve. Not in the oldness of the letter;
that is, we must not rest in mere external services, as the carnal Jews
did, who gloried in their adherence to the letter of the law, and
minded not the spiritual part of worship. The letter is said to kill
with its bondage and terror, but we are delivered from that yoke that
we may serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness,
We are under the dispensation of the Spirit, and therefore must be
spiritual, and serve in the spirit. Compare with this
2 Corinthians 3:3,6,
&c. It becomes us to worship within the veil, and no longer in the
Excellency of the Law; Usefulness of the Law.
A. D. 58.
7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I
had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust,
except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me
all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.
9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the
commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found
to be unto death.
11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me,
and by it slew me.
12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and
just, and good.
13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid.
But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that
which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding
14a For we know that the law is spiritual:--
To what he had said in the former paragraph, the apostle here raises an
objection, which he answers very fully: What shall we say then? Is
the law sin? When he had been speaking of the dominion of sin, he
had said so much of the influence of the law as a covenant upon that
dominion that it might easily be misinterpreted as a reflection upon
the law, to prevent which he shows from his own experience the great
excellency and usefulness of the law, not as a covenant, but as a
guide; and further discovers how sin took occasion by the commandment.
Observe in particular,
I. The great excellency of the law in itself. Far be it from Paul to
reflect upon the law; no, he speaks honourably of it.
1. It is holy, just, and good,
The law in general is so, and every particular commandment is so. Laws
are as the law-makers are. God, the great lawgiver, is holy, just, and
good, therefore his law must needs be so. The matter of it is holy: it
commands holiness, encourages holiness; it is holy, for it is agreeable
to the holy will of God, the original of holiness. It is just, for it
is consonant to the rules of equity and right reason: the ways of the
Lord are right. It is good in the design of it; it was given for the
good of mankind, for the conservation of peace and order in the world.
It makes the observers of it good; the intention of it was to better
and reform mankind. Wherever there is true grace there is an assent to
this--that the law is holy, just, and good.
2. The law is spiritual
not only in regard to the effect of it, as it is a means of making us
spiritual, but in regard to the extent of it; it reaches our spirits,
it lays a restraint upon, and gives a direction to, the motions of the
inward man; it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the
It forbids spiritual wickedness, heart-murder, and heart-adultery. It
commands spiritual service, requires the heart, obliges us to worship
God in the spirit. It is a spiritual law, for it is given by God, who
is a Spirit and the Father of spirits; it is given to man, whose
principal part is spiritual; the soul is the best part, and the leading
part of the man, and therefore the law to the man must needs be a law
to the soul. Herein the law of God is above all other laws, that it is
a spiritual law. Other laws may forbid compassing and imagining,
&c., which are treason in the heart, but cannot take cognizance
thereof, unless there be some overt act; but the law of God takes
notice of the iniquity regarded in the heart, though it go no further.
Wash thy heart from wickedness,
We know this: Wherever there is true grace there is an
experimental knowledge of the spirituality of the law of God.
II. The great advantage that he had found by the law.
1. It was discovering: I had not known sin but by the law,
As that which is straight discovers that which is crooked, as the
looking-glass shows us our natural face with all its spots and
deformities, so there is no way of coming to that knowledge of sin
which is necessary to repentance, and consequently to peace and pardon,
but by comparing our hearts and lives with the law. Particularly he
came to the knowledge of the sinfulness of lust by the law of the tenth
commandment. By lust he means sin dwelling in us, sin in its first
motions and workings, the corrupt principle. This he came to know when
the law said, Thou shalt not covet. The law spoke in other
language than the scribes and Pharisees made it to speak in; it spoke
in the spiritual sense and meaning of it. By this he knew that lust was
sin and a very sinful sin, that those motions and desires of the heart
towards sin which never came into act were sinful, exceedingly sinful.
Paul had a very quick and piercing judgment, all the advantages and
improvements of education, and yet never attained the right knowledge
of indwelling sin till the Spirit by the law made it known to him.
There is nothing about which the natural man is more blind than about
original corruption, concerning which the understanding is altogether
in the dark till the Spirit by the law reveal it, and make it known.
Thus the law is a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ, opens and
searches the wound, and so prepares it for healing. Thus sin by the
commandment does appear sin
it appears in its own colours, appears to be what it is, and you cannot
call it by a worse name than its own. Thus by the commandment it
becomes exceedingly sinful; that is, it appears to be so. We
never see the desperate venom or malignity there is in sin, till we
come to compare it with the law, and the spiritual nature of the law,
and then we see it to be an evil and a bitter thing.
2. It was humbling
I was alive. He thought himself in a very good condition; he was
alive in his own opinion and apprehension, very secure and confident of
the goodness of his state. Thus he was once,
pote--in times past, when he was a Pharisee; for
it was the common temper of that generation of men that they had a very
good conceit of themselves; and Paul was then like the rest of them,
and the reason was he was then without the law. Though brought
up at the feet of Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, though himself a great
student in the law, a strict observer of it, and a zealous stickler for
it, yet without the law. He had the letter of the law, but he
had not the spiritual meaning of it--the shell, but not the kernel. He
had the law in his hand and in his head, but he had it not in his
heart; the notion of it, but not the power of it. There are a great
many who are spiritually dead in sin, that yet are alive in their own
opinion of themselves, and it is their strangeness to the law that is
the cause of the mistake. But when the commandment came, came in
the power of it (not to his eyes only, but to his heart), sin
revived, as the dust in a room rises (that is, appears) when the
sun-shine is let into it. Paul then saw that in sin which he had never
seen before; he then saw sin in its causes, the bitter root, the
corrupt bias, the bent to backslide,--sin in its colours, deforming,
defiling, breaking a righteous law, affronting an awful Majesty,
profaning a sovereign crown by casting it to the ground,--sin in its
consequences, sin with death at the heels of it, sin and the curse
entailed upon it. "Thus sin revived, and then I died; I lost that good
opinion which I had had of myself, and came to be of another mind.
Sin revived, and I died; that is, the Spirit, but the
commandment, convinced me that I was in a state of sin, and in a state
of death because of sin." Of this excellent use is the law; it is a
lamp and a light; it converts the soul, opens the eyes, prepares the
way of the Lord in the desert, rends the rocks, levels the mountains,
makes ready a people prepared for the Lord.
III. The ill use that his corrupt nature made of the law
1. Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner
Observe, Paul had in him all manner of concupiscence, though one of the
best unregenerate men that ever was; as touching the righteousness of
the law, blameless, and yet sensible of all manner of concupiscence.
And it was sin that wrought it, indwelling sin, his corrupt nature (he
speaks of a sin that did work sin), and it took occasion by the
commandment. The corrupt nature would not have swelled and raged so
much if it had not been for the restraints of the law; as the peccant
humours in the body are raised, and more inflamed, by a purge that is
not strong enough to carry them off. It is incident to corrupt nature,
in vetitum niti--to lean towards what is forbidden. Ever since
Adam ate forbidden fruit, we have all been fond of forbidden paths; the
diseased appetite is carried out most strongly towards that which is
hurtful and prohibited. Without the law sin was dead, as a snake
in winter, which the sunbeams of the law quicken and irritate.
2. It deceived men. Sin puts a cheat upon the sinner, and it is
a fatal cheat,
By it (by the commandment) slew me. There being in the
law no such express threatening against sinful lustings, sin, that is,
his won corrupt nature, took occasion thence to promise him impunity,
and to say, as the serpent to our first parents, You shall not
surely die. Thus it deceived and slew him.
3. It wrought death in me by that which is good,
That which works concupiscence works death, for sin bringeth forth
death. Nothing so good but a corrupt and vicious nature will pervert
it, and make it an occasion of sin; no flower so sweet by sin will such
poison out of it. Now in this sin appears sin. The worst thing that
sin does, and most like itself, is the perverting of the law, and
taking occasion from it to be so much the more malignant. Thus the
commandment, which was ordained to life, was intended as a guide in the
way to comfort and happiness, proved unto death, through the corruption
Many a precious soul splits upon the rock of salvation; and the same
word which to some is an occasion of life unto life is to others an
occasion of death unto death. The same sun that makes the garden of
flowers more fragrant makes the dunghill more noisome; the same heat
that softens wax hardens clay; and the same child was set for the fall
and rising again of many in Israel. The way to prevent this mischief is
to bow our souls to the commanding authority of the word and law of
God, not striving against, but submitting to it.
Conflict between Grace and Corruption.
A. D. 58.
14b -- But I am carnal, sold under sin.
15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I
not; but what I hate, that do I.
16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law
that it is good.
17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no
good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform
that which is good I find not.
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I
would not, that I do.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it,
but sin that dwelleth in me.
21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is
present with me.
22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
23 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.
24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body
of this death?
25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the
mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of
Here is a description of the conflict between grace and corruption in
the heart, between the law of God and the law of sin. And it is
applicable two ways:--
1. To the struggles that are in a convinced soul, but yet unregenerate,
in the person of whom it is supposed, by some, that Paul speaks.
2. To the struggles that are in a renewed sanctified soul, but yet in a
state of imperfection; as other apprehend. And a great controversy
there is of which of these we are to understand the apostle here. So
far does the evil prevail here, when he speaks of one sold under sin,
doing it, not performing that which is good, that it seems difficult to
apply it to the regenerate, who are described to walk not after the
flesh, but after the Spirit; and yet so far does the good prevail in
hating sin, consenting to the law, delighting in it, serving the law of
God with the mind, that it is more difficult to apply it to the
unregenerate that are dead in trespasses and sins.
I. Apply it to the struggles that are felt in a convinced soul, that is
yet in a state of sin, knows his Lord's will, but does it not, approves
the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law,
and yet lives in the constant breach of it,
Though he has that within him that witnesses against the sin he
commits, and it is not without a great deal of reluctancy that he does
commit it, the superior faculties striving against it, natural
conscience warning against it before it is committed and smiting for it
afterwards, yet the man continues a slave to his reigning lusts. It is
not thus with every unregenerate man, but with those only that are
convinced by the law, but not changed by the gospel. The apostle had
Sin shall not have dominion, because you are not under the law, but
under grace, for the proof of which he here shows that a man under
the law, and not under grace, may be, and is, under the dominion of
sin. The law may discover sin, and convince of sin, but it cannot
conquer and subdue sin, witness the predominancy of sin in many that
are under very strong legal convictions. It discovers the defilement,
but will not wash it off. It makes a man weary and heavy laden
burdens him with his sin; and yet, if rested in, it yields no help
towards the shaking off of that burden; this is to be had only in
Christ. The law may make a man cry out, O wretched man that I am!
who shall deliver me? and yet leave him thus fettered and
captivated, as being too weak to deliver him
give him a spirit of bondage to fear,
Now a soul advanced thus far by the law is in a fair way towards a
state of liberty by Christ, though many rest here and go no further.
Felix trembled, but never came to Christ. It is possible for a man to
go to hell with his eyes open
illuminated with common convictions, and to carry about with him a
self-accusing conscience, even in the service of the devil. He may
consent to the law that it is good, delight to know God's ways
may have that within him that witnesses against sin and for holiness;
and yet all this overpowered by the reigning love of sin. Drunkards and
unclean persons have some faint desires to leave off their sins, and
yet persist in them notwithstanding, such is the impotency and such the
insufficiency of their convictions. Of such as these there are many
that will needs have all this understood, and contend earnestly for it:
though it is very hard to imagine why, if the apostle intended this, he
should speak all along in his own person; and not only so, but in the
present tense. Of his own state under conviction he had spoken at
large, as of a thing past
&c.): I died; the commandment I found to be unto death; and if
here he speaks of the same state as his present state, and the
condition he was now in, surely he did not intend to be so understood:
II. It seems rather to be understood of the struggles that are
maintained between grace and corruption in sanctified souls. That there
are remainders of indwelling corruption, even where there is a living
principle of grace, is past dispute; that this corruption is daily
breaking forth in sins of infirmity (such as are consistent with a
state of grace) is no less certain. If we say that we have no sin, we
1 John 1:8,10.
That true grace strives against these sins and corruptions, does not
allow of them, hates them, mourns over them, groans under them as a
burden, is likewise certain
The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the
flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that you cannot
do the things that you would. These are the truths which, I think,
are contained in this discourse of the apostle. And his design is
further to open the nature of sanctification, that it does not attain
to a sinless perfection in this life; and therefore to quicken us to,
and encourage us in, our conflicts with remaining corruptions. Our case
is not singular, that which we do sincerely strive against, shall not
be laid to our charge, and through grace the victory is sure at last.
The struggle here is like that between Jacob and Esau in the womb,
between the Canaanites and Israelites in the land, between the house of
Saul and the house of David; but great is the truth and will prevail.
Understanding it thus, we may observe here,
1. What he complains of--the remainder of indwelling corruptions, which
he here speaks of, to show that the law is insufficient to justify even
a regenerate man, that the best man in the world hath enough in him to
condemn him, if God should deal with him according to the law, which is
not the fault of the law, but of our own corrupt nature, which cannot
fulfil the law. The repetition of the same things over and over again
in this discourse shows how much Paul's heart was affected with what he
wrote, and how deep his sentiments were. Observe the particulars of
(1.) I am carnal, sold under sin,
He speaks of the Corinthians as carnal,
1 Corinthians 3:1.
Even where there is spiritual life there are remainders of carnal
affections, and so far a man may be sold under sin; he does not
sell himself to work wickedness, as Ahab did
(1 Kings 21:25),
but he was sold by Adam when he sinned and fell--sold, as a poor slave
that does his master's will against his own will--sold under sin,
because conceived in iniquity and born in sin.
(2.) What I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that do I,
And to the same purport,
When I would do good, evil is present with me. Such was the
strength of corruptions, that he could not attain that perfection in
holiness which he desired and breathed after. Thus, while he was
pressing forward towards perfection, yet he acknowledges that he had
not already attained, neither was already perfect,
Fain he would be free from all sin, and perfectly do the will of God,
such was his settled judgment; but his corrupt nature drew him another
way: it was like a clog, that checked and kept him down when he would
have soared upward, like the bias in a bowl, which, when it is thrown
straight, yet draws it aside.
(3.) In me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good,
Here he explains himself concerning the corrupt nature, which he calls
flesh; and as far as that goes there is no good to be expected, any
more than one would expect good corn growing upon a rock, or on the
sand which is by the sea-side. As the new nature, as far as that goes,
cannot commit sin
(1 John 3:9),
so the flesh, the old nature, as far as that goes, cannot perform a
good duty. How should it? For the flesh serveth the law of sin
it is under the conduct and government of that law; and, while it is
so, it is not likely to do any good. The corrupt nature is elsewhere
and, though there may be good things dwelling in those that have this
flesh, yet, as far as the flesh goes, there is no good, the flesh is
not a subject capable of any good.
(4.) I see another law in my members warring against the law of my
The corrupt and sinful inclination is here compared to a law, because
it controlled and checked him in his good motions. It is said to be
seated in his members, because, Christ having set up his throne in his
heart, it was only the rebellious members of the body that were the
instruments of sin--in the sensitive appetite; or we may take it more
generally for all that corrupt nature which is the seat not only of
sensual but of more refined lusts. This wars against the law of the
mind, the new nature; it draws the contrary way, drives on a contrary
interest, which corrupt disposition and inclination are as great a
burden and grief to the soul as the worst drudgery and captivity could
be. It brings me into captivity. To the same purport
With the flesh I serve the law of sin; that is, the corrupt
nature, the unregenerate part, is continually working towards sin.
(5.) His general complaint we have in
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of
this death? The thing he complains of is a body of death; either
the body of flesh, which is a mortal dying body (while we carry this
body about with us, we shall be troubled with corruption; when we are
dead, we shall be freed from sin, and not before), or the body of sin,
the old man, the corrupt nature, which tends to death, that is, to the
ruin of the soul. Or, comparing it to a dead body, the touch of which
was by the ceremonial law defiling, if actual transgressions be dead
original corruption is a dead body. It was as troublesome to Paul as if
he had had a dead body tied to him, which he must have carried about
with him. This made him cry out, O wretched man that I am! A
man that had learned in every state to be content yet complains thus of
his corrupt nature. Had I been required to speak of Paul, I should have
said, "O blessed man that thou art, an ambassador of Christ, a
favourite of heaven, a spiritual father of thousands!" But in his own
account he was a wretched man, because of the corruption of nature,
because he was not so good as he fain would be, had not yet attained,
neither was already perfect. Thus miserably does he complain. Who
shall deliver me? He speaks like one that was sick of it, that
would give any thing to be rid of it, looks to the right hand and to
the left for some friend that would part between him and his
corruptions. The remainders of indwelling sin are a very grievous
burden to a gracious soul.
2. What he comforts himself with. The case was sad, but there were some
allays. Three things comforted him:--
(1.) That his conscience witnessed for him that he had a good principle
ruling and prevailing in him, notwithstanding. It is well when all does
not go one way in the soul. The rule of this good principle which he
had was the law of God, to which he here speaks of having a threefold
regard, which is certainly to be found in all that are sanctified, and
[1.] I consent unto the law that it is good,
symphemi--I give my vote to the law; here is the
approbation of the judgment. Wherever there is grace there is not only
a dread of the severity of the law, but a consent to the goodness of
the law. "It is a good in itself, it is good for me." This is a sign
that the law is written in the heart, that the soul is delivered into
the mould of it. To consent to the law is so far to approve of it as
not to wish it otherwise constituted than it is. The sanctified
judgment not only concurs to the equity of the law, but to the
excellency of it, as convinced that a conformity to the law is the
highest perfection of human nature, and the greatest honour and
happiness we are capable of.
[2.] I delight in the law of God after the inward man,
His conscience bore witness to a complacency in the law. He delighted
not only in the promises of the word, but in the precepts and
prohibitions of the word; synedomai expresses a becoming
delight. He did herein concur in affection with all the saints.
All that are savingly regenerate or born again do truly delight in the
law of God, delight to know it, to do it--cheerfully submit to the
authority of it, and take a complacency in that submission, never
better pleased than when heart and life are in the strictest conformity
to the law and will of God. After the inward man; that is,
First, The mind or rational faculties, in opposition to the
sensitive appetites and wills of the flesh. The soul is the inward man,
and that is the seat of gracious delights, which are therefore sincere
and serious, but secret; it is the renewing of the inward man,
2 Corinthians 4:16.
Secondly, The new nature. The new man is called the inner
the hidden man of the heart,
1 Peter 3:4.
Paul, as far as he was sanctified, had a delight in the law of God.
[3.] With the mind I myself serve the law of God,
It is not enough to consent to the law, and to delight in the law, but
we must serve the law; our souls must be entirely delivered up into the
obedience of it. Thus it was with Paul's mind; thus it is with every
sanctified renewed mind; this is the ordinary course and way;
thitherward goes the bent of the soul. I myself--autos
ego, plainly intimating that he speaks in his own person, and
not in the person of another.
(2.) That the fault lay in that corruption of his nature which he did
really bewail and strive against: It is no more I that do it, but
sin that dwelleth in me. This he mentions twice
not as an excuse for the guilt of his sin (it is enough to condemn us,
if we were under the law, that the sin which does the evil dwelleth in
us), but as a salvo for his evidences, that he might not sink in
despair, but take comfort from the covenant of grace, which accepts the
willingness of the spirit, and has provided pardon for the weakness of
the flesh. He likewise herein enters a protestation against all that
which this indwelling sin produced. Having professed his consent to the
law of God, he here professes his dissent from the law of sin. "It is
not I; I disown the fact; it is against my mind that it is done." As
when in the senate the major part are bad, and carry every thing the
wrong way, it is indeed the act of the senate, but the honest party
strive against it, bewail what is done, and enter their protestation
against it; so that it is no more they that do it.--Dwelleth in
me, as the Canaanites among the Israelites, though they were put
under tribute: dwelleth in me, and is likely to dwell there, while I
(3.) His great comfort lay in Jesus Christ
I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. In the midst of his
complaints he breaks out into praises. It is a special remedy against
fears and sorrows to be much in praise: many a poor drooping soul hath
found it so. And, in all our praises, this should be the burden of the
son, "Blessed be God for Jesus Christ." Who shall deliver me?
as one at a loss for help. At length he finds an all-sufficient friend,
even Jesus Christ. When we are under the sense of the remaining power
of sin and corruption, we shall see reason to bless God through Christ
(for, as he is the mediator of all our prayers, so he is of all our
praises)--to bless God for Christ; it is he that stands between us and
the wrath due to us for this sin. If it were not for Christ, this
iniquity that dwells in us would certainly be our ruin. He is our
advocate with the Father, and through him God pities, and spares, and
pardons, and lays not our iniquities to our charge. It is Christ that
has purchased deliverance for us in due time. Through Christ death
will put an end to all these complaints, and waft us to an eternity
which we shall spend without sin or sigh. Blessed be God that giveth
us this victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for 'Romans' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".