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labour; or rewarded by accurate knowledge without painful attention; or who contend that, by some inexplicable operation of Divine grace, every part of it is as accessible to the understanding of the unlearned as of the most learned ; to all such I would recommend the perusal of the chapter in question. It contains analogies so apparently forced, allusions so quaint, reasoning so uncommonly subtle, and figures so poetical and bold, that it certainly calls forth no ordinary stretch of attention thoroughly to comprehend it. Besides this, some little difficulty may arise from the use of concealed dialogue, to which I have, on a former occasion, adverted; but much more, from the singular introduction of an imaginary personage, acted upon by conflicting principles ; “ the mind”, and “the flesh ”; reason, and lust. The internal struggle carried on by these opposite principles, is described with uncommon power of language, and in terms sufficiently clear. But a variety of opinions has been entertained, even by the ablest theologians, concerning the person, so intended to be represented. Into the particulars of those opinions I shall enter, as well as into some observations upon the words of the text, towards the conclusion of this discourse. At present I shall take it for granted that the person described in such emphatic terms is an unconverted Jew; or at least, a man, unacquainted with the Gospel, possessed with a knowledge of duty, yet lamenting his inability to perform it; “enslaved to sin by the force of sensual appetite, yet sensible of his unhappy condition."
* Taylor, p. 305.
The course then, which it is proposed to pursue
in commenting upon the chapter before us, is already marked out to you. It consists,
First, Of a general account of the contents of the chapter.
Secondly, Of observations upon different opinions, which have been held concerning the person, who is introduced in the seventh verse; and whose struggles are so naturally described in the subsequent part.
Lastly, you will be furnished with some remarks upon the two concluding verses, which have been selected for the text.
First. The seventh chapter is addressed to the believing Jews ; “I speak to them that know the law”; as the two preceding were to the believing Gentiles. But while he addresses his countrymen with a dexterity of manner and with a desire of conciliation, which cannot be sufficiently extolled, he still keeps in view his main design of confirming Gentile converts in the faith, and supporting them against the attempts of his countrymen to subject them to the law of Moses.
The topic, which is chiefly handled throughout the chapter, but a topic that required to be handled with the utmost delicacy and caution, is the utter inefficacy of the Law as to all those purposes, which the Gospel professed to accomplish ; and that the ends, to which it really was subservient, being now attained, it was no longer necessary to be observed. He argues that it contained in itself no intrinsic power to remove sin; nay, that in some respects it had rendered the Jews more liable to punishment for sin, than they
would have been, if the law had not been revealed. He then proceeds to describe himself under the character of a sinner, in order to prove in a more lively manner how ineffectual the law was to cleanse from moral pollution ; or to supply sufficient motives or impart sufficient strength, in order to avoid it. He personates the feelings of a Jew in the state of sin and guilt, which he had described in the second and third chapters; and, in the strongest terms, represents the misery of such a condition; the better to establish his inference;-namely, that relief from such a state could not be afforded by the Law, but only through the knowledge of the Gospel, and the merits of the Saviour. “ O wretched man that I am !” he exclaims in his assumed character, “who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank my God," he rejoins, “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Thus the conclusion of this, as of most other chapters, certainly of his whole argument, is the infinite benefit procured through the mission and death of Christ ; the comfort and advantage of the Gospel--in the knowledge it reveals, in the motives it supplies, in the feelings it awakens, in the strength it imparts, in the mercy it displays, in the pardon it ensures.
When I mention St. Paul's anxiety to prove that the Law ceased to be obligatory after the publication of the Gospel, it is quite unnecessary here to restrict the assertion to the ceremonial part of the Law. The moral part, including the ten commandments, which indeed form a prominent and important summary of all moral duty, is “everlasting, unchangeable, and as such, can never be abrogated.” Hence it is that our
Saviour solemnly declared, “Not one jot, or one tittle, shall depart from the Law”; and again “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil the Law”; that is, the moral law, which the Gospel was undoubtedly intended to confirm and to improve. “Our Lord Jesus Christ”, excellently observes Mr. Locke, “ has promulgated it anew under the Gospel, fuller and clearer than it was in the Mosaical constitution, or any where else; having made the knowledge of it more easy and certain than it was before : so that the subjects of His kingdom, whereof this is now the law, can be in no doubt about their duty, if they will but read and consider the rules of morality, which our Lord and His apostles have delivered in very plain words, in the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament.
An argument, or illustration, which St. Paul employs in the outset of the chapter in proof of his
position respecting the nullity of the Law, may appear somewhat fanciful to us, though doubtless it was consistent with the mode of reasoning adopted by the Jewish Rabbies in their schools and synagogues. He compares the force of that obligation, which was imposed upon the Jews før observing the Law, to that, by which the wife is united to her husband. When the husband is dead, the bond by which they were held together is dissolved ; and so, contends the Apostle, the law being dead, because the Gospel has been published, the Jews are no longer bound to observe it. It is time however that we advert to the next por
a Note on Eph. ii. 15. Taylor, p. 307.
tion of our subject; which is, an inquiry about the person, who is introduced in so remarkable a manner in the seventh verse; and who continues to be mentioned in the first person through the remainder of the chapter. “ 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.”
That the reasoning throughout this remarkable passage is of a curious and subtle quality, and very difficult to apprehend, must be inferred from the different lights in which very able theologians have viewed it. I will state my own decided opinion, fortified as I am happy to find it by some of the greatest ornaments of our Church; and then I shall notice some, who take a different view of the matter. It appears to me then quite demonstrable, that St. Paul is here describing the situation of a person in a state of sin; without that knowledge which the Gospel alone can supply, and that relief, which it is alone calculated to impart. It is plain that he could not intend to describe his own sensations; because the whole character is totally different from the account, which he gives of himself even in a state of unbelief. The person introduced, as representing his own case in this chapter, describes himself after the following manner ; that “Sin wrought in him all manner of concupiscence"; that “ Sin deceived him and slew him"; that “ he was carnal, sold under sin ”; so that “what he did, he allowed not; and what he would, that he did not ”; that “the good