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specimen of the Apostle's peculiarly animated and earnest manner, consists of a series of arguments and exhortations, in order to prevent abuse of the doctrine of justification by faith ; in order to prevent the possibility of its being supposed, that the restoration to the Divine favour could be permanent or complete, without the entire abandonment of those sins, which had occasioned the Divine displeasure.
Some, it seems, there were in the Apostle's days so ignorant and perverse, as to conceive that the grace, or favour, in which they had so largely participated, was to sanction future irregularity; and that the Christian liberty which they enjoyed, was to exempt them from those restraints upon the appetites and passions, which the theory even of Heathen moralists represented as at least seemly and becoming, if not of indispensable necessity. To such unenlightened and unworthy members of the Christian community, the Apostle addresses the indignant expostulation at the very outset of the sixth chapter. “ What shall we say then ? shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein ?”
By every variety of argument, by the utmost felicity of illustration, as well as strength of expression, he shews in the progress of the chapter, that a Christian life must necessarily be a life of holiness; and that every sin and impurity, which the Gentiles had committed in their unregenerate state, must be utterly abandoned, if they expected to reap any substantial benefit from their conversion, and to partake of that eternal life, which was held out as the glorious recompense of those, and those alone, “ who
by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality.” *
It seems to me impossible that any one of a sound understanding, who looks at the whole tenor of the Gospels and Epistles, can seriously maintain that Christian faith is of any value, if it be not subservient to a good life. All such error must have arisen from very partial and incomplete views; from catching up hastily some prominent expressions ; dwelling upon them and them alone; then forming a. capricious system, to which every other part of Scripture, however clear and however repugnant to such conclusions, is made to bend. Let such superficial and mistaken reasoners give due attention to this sixth chapter; let them consider it as in part qualifying, and in part extending, the statements of the preceding; they will then surely be enabled to survey the Gospel in its full dimensions of practice as well as doctrine; of utility as well as beauty; of inexpressible purity as well as boundless mercy. Thus will they be brought to the clear comprehension and grateful acknowledgment of entire perfection in the Christian scheme; and they will truly pronounce it to be as conducive to the moral improvement and final happiness of man, as it illustrates, in the very highest degree, the wisdom and the goodness of Almighty God.
a Rom. ii. 7,
THE MISERY OF SIN, DESCRIBED BY ST. PAUL UNDER THE CHARACTER OF AN UNREGENERATE PERSON.
ROMANS, VII. 24, 25.
O WRETCHED MAN THAT I AM! WHO SHALL DELIVER ME
FROM THE BODY OF THIS DEATH? 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 SIN.
To those, who read the Scriptures, as they do other books, very superficially, the writings of St. Paul may not appear charged with any peculiar difficulty, By those, who read them with attention, but have not taken sufficient pains to examine the state of things concerning which he wrote, nor the language which he employed in describing it, they must often be thought not only difficult but inexplicable. To such indeed he must appear occasionally to take unnecessary pains in proving many points, which, to the ordinary apprehension of Christians at the present day are plain and intelligible; as for instance, that the law of Moses was not intended to be of perpetual obligation ; that it was insufficient for justification, neither did it contain any sanctifying principle; neither were its provisions to be enforced upon the Gentile converts. But in carrying on the process of demonstration, and in endeavouring to lead the minds of his contemporaries to the acknowledgment of these truths, he must be thought by readers of a description just now mentioned, to bring forward arguments, of which the meaning and application are not very apparent. This is peculiarly the case, whenever the direction of his subject places him, as it were, in a state of involuntary opposition to the law of Moses ; and when he is compelled to deny its perpetuity and depreciate its efficacy.
We must however recollect that St. Paul had not only his own deeply-rooted attachment to the Law to overcome, but that he had to encounter the strong and even natural prejudices of his countrymen ; who could not be enlightened, as he was, with respect to the real nature, coincidence, and contrast, of the two Dispensations.
In the selection of arguments applicable to the singular controversy in which he was engaged, he was not to rely entirely upon the effect of logical deductions from acknowledged principles ; but he was to accommodate himself to the habits, understandings, and prepossessions of those, to whom he was opposed. Arguing with Jews in the character of a Jew, which he still sustained, although he felt and avowed its inferiority to that of a Christian Apostle, it was surely politic, if not absolutely necessary, to employ a mode of reasoning familiar and acceptable to them : he was in a manner constrained to draw from a common source, and build upon premises, which the teachers and disputants of the Synagogue were accustomed to regard as impregnable. We therefore observe great stress laid upon passages from the Old Testament as applicable to particular events; and upon some allegorical analogies, which were doubtless received in the Jewish schools with all the reverence due to antiquity; and which carried with them, by long acquiescence, the force and certainty of truth. Yet their peculiar force and propriety may not be so evident to us, who are placed in circumstances widely different.
We have been long accustomed to see the realities of the Gospel supersede the shadows of the Law; and to trace those events in the records of history, for the truth of which St. Paul was compelled to appeal to some dark sentence in their ancient oracles. If we would therefore duly estimate the merits of St. Paul as a reasoner; if we would derive that instruction from his writings, which may enable us to wind our way securely through the perplexing paths of theology, or wisely and virtuously through those of human life, we must take all these things into our consideration, and fully enter into the situation and feelings of the parties severally interested in the questions at issue. Otherwise, we shall be enabled neither to appreciate the weight of his arguments, nor perceive the length, to which alone they can, with safety or propriety, be carried.
Of the style of writing thus peculiar to St. Paul, and of the difficulties attending it, this seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is a remarkable, though by no means a solitary, instance. And I would recommend to all those, who think that the study of Holy Scripture can be conducted for the purposes of original research without unremitting