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which he would, he did not; but the evil which he would not, that he did”; and that “with the mind he served the law of God, but with the flesh, the law of sin.” Now it is impossible that St. Paul should speak of himself in these terms, and at the very time he was an Apostle, when he declared thus of himself both before and after his conversion; “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God, until this day.”* Again, “ Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a good conscience, both towards God and towards men.” In the Epistles he speaks with joy and gratitude of his spiritual state ; and, with no unseemly confidence, of his recompense after death. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also, that love His appearing." It is, I hold, impossible that St. Paul, who speaks thus of himself, should set himself forth as the guilty and miserable wretch here pourtrayed. Why then use the first person? Why, partly perhaps, giving way to his feelings, and anxious to express them as strongly as possible; but more from that delicacy, and that desire to avoid unnecessary offence, which prompted him to identify himself with those, whom he was admonishing or instructing ; and to place himself in the situation of those, upon whom he was inculcating so mor
a Acts xxiii. l.
b Acts xxiv. 16.
c 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8,
tifying a truth, as the utter inefficacy of the Law to all purposes of real righteousness. For these reasons, I conceive that he takes this method of describing, in a strong and lively manner, what the state of mind and feeling must be in one, who had to contend with the corruption of his nature without those weapons, which the grace of God and the sufferings of Christ supply effectually. He describes in short the state of the natural, unregenerate man, under the disease of sin, without being able to apply the remedy, which is to be found in the heavenly illumination and spiritual comfort, vouchsafed through Jesus Christ.
It is not a little remarkable that this conclusion respecting the description of person, whose struggles are so powerfully represented in this chapter, should be strengthened by some passages in Heathen writers; and that the combat between Reason and Passion should be depicted in the very same colours. One is that well-known delineation by Ovid of the struggles in Medea's mind between love and duty“. Another is the account given by Horace of his own feelings in the very condition, which is here only supposed :
a Excute virgineo conceptas pectore flammas,
METAM. VII. 17. b Vivere nec recte, nec suaviter : haud quia grando
EPIST. 1. 8. 3, sqq.
More in my mind than body lie my pains.-
I with joy pursue ;
may do me good, with horror view. The third is an exposition of a similar case by a professed Philosopher ; έπει γαρ ο αμαρτάνων ου θέλει αμαρτάνειν, αλλά κατορθώσαι, δήλον ότι, ο μεν θέλει, ου ποιεί, και ο μη θέλει, ποιεί 2. «For since the sinner doth not wish to sin, but to do right, it is plain, that what he willeth, he doeth not, and that which he doth not will, he doeth.” The conclusion, so singularly strengthened, has the entire sanction of that admirable Divine, Dr. Clarke, who, in an elaborate and most able Discourse, has gone through all the cases ; and clearly shewn that no other can correspond with the language of St. Paul. “ The whole discourse," he says, “must necessarily be understood of an unregenerate or sinful person, not yet converted to Christianity. I say it is plainly intended of a person, in his profession not yet Christian, and in his life vicious. Which though possibly it might equally be the case, either of a Jew or a Heathen; yet, because the Apostle is here more particularly directing his discourse to those of his own nation the Jews, for this reason I suppose it is that, according to his usual method of giving them as little offence as possible, he introduces his discourse in the first person.”
The same conclusion is supported by the high authority of Bishop Fell and Archbishop Secker, Drs. Hammond and Whitby, Taylor and Doddridge; and, what' may perhaps occasion some surprise, by that of
a Arrian. Epict. ii. 26. ap. Rosenm. b. Clarke's Sermons- cxxx. Vol. IV. p. 330.
John Wesley. His comment upon
passage clear and sensible, that I have great satisfaction in quoting it. “From the seventh verse to the beginning of the next chapter is a kind of digression, wherein the Apostle, in order to shew in the most lively manner the weakness and inefficacy of the law, changes the
person, and speaks as of himself, concerning the misery of one under the law. This St. Paul frequently does, when he is not speaking of his own person, but only assuming another character?. The character here assumed, is that of a man, first, ignorant of the law, then under it, and sincerely, but ineffectually, striving to serve God. To have spoken this of himself, or any true believer, would have been foreign to the whole scope of his discourse.”
But notwithstanding this concurrence of weighty opinions, it is by no means to be wondered, that all should not be unanimous upon so singular and so difficult a passage. Least of all, is it matter of wonder that Calvin should seize upon it as a strong hold for his peculiar doctrines, and consider part of the description, as intended for the Apostle himself, and part as representing the state of regenerate man.
I must however acknowledge my surprise and mortification, that so just a reasoner and so shrewd an observer, as Dr. Paley, should have distinctly sanctioned the application of this striking passage to St. Paul himself. This he has done in a Sermon divided into three parts, and entitled “Sin encountered by spiritual aid.” I can only account for this
à Rom. iii. 6. 1 Cor. x. 30.-iv. 6.
Sermons, 8vo. 1808.-pp. 406, sqq.
apparent want of perspicacity in such a sagacious writer by supposing, that he took
with a view to the practical lessons it supplied, without looking sufficiently to the context; and without suffering his mind to dwell upon the insuperable difficulties, which preclude any application of it to St. Paul.
For if, in the last place, we examine the words of the text minutely, particularly the last verse, the conclusion, to which we have already arrived, will receive additional confirmation.
But I shall first allude to the expression, “ body of this death.” This appears to be a periphrasis, not unusual with St. Paul. Thus we have “ the body of sin,”a and“ in the body of his flesh.”b Calvin naturally enough interprets it, “ massam peccati, vel congeriem, ex qua totus homo conflatus est;" corresponding pretty nearly with the words of Bishop Hall; “ this mass of inward corruption, which dwells in this mortal and sinful flesh of mine.” But Dr. Macknights exposition is much better. “The body of this death' appears to be an emphatical Hebraism, signifying 'the body,' that is, the lusts of the body, which cause *this death,' the death threatened in the curse of the Law.”
Let us however see how the question in the text is answered. “ O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death ? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” It will be seen immediately that this is no regular, grammatical answer. And Dr. Paley is of opinion, that the original
a Chap. vi. 6.
b Coloss. i. 22.