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commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death; for sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. 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 sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual [that is, enjoins spiritual service, 1 but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do, I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.' &c. 2 That the law, here treated of, was the Mosaic, is evident both from the foregoing part of the chapter, and from the succeeding context which runs into the next chapter.3 The object of the apostle was to remind his brethren that this former body of rules, which he had just called the oldness of the letter,' did not, even in its nobler parts, either remove or prevent sinful affections. In the conclusion, which follows, he directs his readers to the gospel as alone supplying the desired relief; and at the same time intimates that the inefficacy of the law to this purpose, arose from its not affording the spirit of righteousness: it left its votaries, after all their outward coinpliance, carnally minded, and of course opposed to God. There is therefore,' says he, 'now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law [of Moses] could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.' This carnal mindedness the written law supplied no power to overcome; and so long as it prevailed, it was in
'See Macknight's Note on Rom. vii. 14. 3 Compare vii. 1, 2, 4, 6, &c.; viii. 3.
2 Rom. vii. 7-16.
4 Rom. viii. 1-7.
vain to prescribe bare precepts of righteousness, since they would be observed, at best, only in appearance, and with a wrong state of the affections. That very carnal mindedness itself was death, was enmity against God, and could not in truth obey the law. There was a necessity for its being subdued; and this was to be effected by the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus,' in other words, by faith in the gospel, which wrought by love and purified the heart.
Such, then, was the second defect of importance in the Mosaic law, with regard to a capacity of producing genuine righteousness and justification. Though at present but seldom considered, St. Paul, we have seen, frequently recognized it.
Thus far we have shown, first, that the law was, for the most part, composed of rituals which could never affect the conscience nor be ranked as virtues; and secondly, that even in its purely moral requirements, it operated but as a lifeless letter, because it did not inspire the disposition necessary to hearty obedience.
Now, from both of these peculiarities a consequence necessarily flowed, which St. Paul has often mentioned, and which we may stop to point out before we proceed to another and more important result.
The law was a yoke of bondage, and all its votaries were in servitude. That such was the case, will be readily perceived, from the number and burdensome nature of its rituals. Its meats and drinks, fasts and feasts, washings and purifyings, offerings and sacrifices, and its intricate regulations of social intercourse and of domestic life, formed an endless round of tedious services, which it required the utmost vigilance to observe, and patience to endure. When, therefore, the Jewish Christians contended, in the council of Jerusalem, that they ought to require the Gentile believers to be circumcised and to keep the law of Moses, St. Peter rose and demanded, Why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?' 1 This oppressive servitude is more particularly mentioned by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians, whom he reproves for their inclination to Judaism. Having represented the subjects of the law as children shut up under a schoolmaster, and believers in Christ, on the other hand, as Abraham's seed and
heirs according to the promise,' he proceeds: 'Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; but is under tutors and governors, till the time appointed of the Father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world, (that is, under the law, for so he uses the phrase.) But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption. of sons . . . . . Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ . . . . How turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.'2 What were the weak and beggarly elements to which they turned? what was the bondage they sought? The answer is found in the next words, Ye observe days and months,' &c. plainly referring to the rituals of the law. These, then, constituted the yoke of bondage.
If we mistake not, however, the apostle sometimes alluded to the entire law, including even its moral precepts, when he spoke of it, as a rule of servitude; and this, on account of its governing by the letter, as we have already shown, and not by the spirit. While the gospel, by first imparting its own principles to the minds of its believers, enabled them of course to act freely in obedience, because they acted from the disposition of their hearts, the law on the contrary bound its subjects. down to the written directory which it compelled them to copy, not by the influence of a spiritual principle, but by the extraneous force of penalties and promises. The obedience, therefore, of the gospel, was freedom; the service of the law, bondage. This distinction, the apostle appears to have had in view, when he said to the Romans, But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead (or, being dead to that) wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.'3 They had formerly been
held' by the letter,' which they servilely followed; but now they were delivered' from this irksome and slavish method, by the influence of that 'spirit' which led them voluntarily to
2 Gal. iv. 1-11.
* Rom. vii. 6.
'Gal. iii. 23-29.
fulfil the law, without the mechanical guidance of lifeless prescriptions. It was only from this heartless adherence to the letter, that they were released; not from obligation to the virtues it enjoined. For that the apostle alluded, in this place, to the moral part of the law, which cannot be abolished, rather than to the ceremonial, is evident from the next words: 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.' And he proceeds, in a passage already quoted at large, to maintain that the law was holy and just, and that it condemned sin, but could not remove it.
In some places, again, in which he represents the law as a system of bondage, it is possible that he alludes at the same time both to the servitude imposed by its letter, and to the oppressive nature of its rituals. This may be the case in that noted allegory in his Epistle to the Galatians, where Hagar the bond maid, and Sarah the free woman, are said to denote the two covenants. And the same complex allusion is perhaps continued in the chapter next following. Of this, however, the reader will judge.
We must not close the illustration of St. Paul's views of the law, without bringing under a more particular inspection, the most remarkable, and the most debated of all; we allude to the principle, recognized in a variety of forms, that the righteousness which the law actually enjoined, was nevertheless unat.ainable by the means provided in the law. The law itself, was holy, and just, and good;' since, at the same time it prescribed a round of mere ceremonial observances, it also forbade evil affections, and required love to God and mankind. But, for reasons already explained to considerable length, it offered none of those high and appropriate motives, by which this internal conformity could be produced. It was not a ministration of the spirit. On the contrary, it left its adherents still under the dominion of carnal mindedness; so that while they sought to follow the letter, they lacked the principle necessary to real obedience. It was like an attempt to cleanse the stream, without purifying the fountain. This defect, as we have shown, the gospel supplied; for St. Paul certainly
1 Gal. iv. 21-31, and ch. v.
held that the righteousness of the law,' meaning that which it enjoined, might be fulfilled in those who walked not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." With those, however, who had no aid more effectual than that of the law, it was of course impossible to perform many of its requirements, or to attain its righteousness and consequent justification. Accordingly, St. Paul argues, that as many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law, to do them. But,' adds he, that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, is evident; for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith; but (quoting the words of Moses,) The man that doeth them, shall live by them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, (for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,) that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." By this Spirit, they fulfilled the righteousness of the law; while they who sought to accomplish it by the letter, necessarily failed. So the apostle observes in another place: What shall we say, then? That the Gentiles which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith; but Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law .... For they, being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth these things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith, speaketh on this wise, (quoting and applying the words of Moses,) Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above;) or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy. heart; (Deut. xxx. 12-14.) that is, the word of faith,
1 Rom. viii. 4. See also ii. 26, 27; xiii. 8-10. Gal. v. 14, &c. Gal. iii. 10-14.