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aside the law of Moses, he finds himself impelled in two opposite directions, or prompted to act by two different laws; the law of the appetites and passions, and the law of conscience or of the mind. "I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?" What was there to give the preponderance to the law of the mind? "I thank God through Jesus Christ," that is, that he has accomplished this through Jesus Christ. The natural conscience, enlightened and strengthened by Christ and his religion, becomes a sufficient guide to man, and saves him from the dominion of sin.
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit." They did not become sinners and make themselves liable to condemnation because they forsook the law of Moses, if they had become real Christians, for they had substituted the law of the natural conscience, enlightened by Christianity for the law of Moses. Now, natural conscience, being the inspiration of the Almighty, may itself be called in the language of that age, the spiritual law of God. For the metaphysics of those
times had not drawn those sharp lines of distinction, which have since been drawn, between what was miraculous and what was ordinary in the operations of God upon the soul of man; and those who carry our metaphysics into the Bible will grossly deceive themselves. The ancients were accustomed to refer to the Spirit of God, not only knowledge and impulses strictly supernatural, but all that is good in man, and that leads to good. So when we read his language concerning walking after the flesh and after the spirit, we are not to suppose that he means, by walking after the spirit, obeying impulses supernatural, or knowledge derived from immediate inspiration, but only reason and conscience enlightened by Christianity, in opposition to the impulses of the passions and appetites. "For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, hath made me free from the law of sin and death." That is, the Gospel has been more efficacious than the law itself, in destroying sin and producing holiness. "For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh," unable to subdue the carnal passions, "God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh," that is, by his death sealing its pardon, and by his life and example showing that it does not necessarily inhere in humanity; so that Christians may fulfil the spirit of the law of Moses, without submitting to its letter; "that the righteousness
of the law may 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." Thus not only the pardon of sin is as amply provided for under the new dispensation as the old, but a law of action is given us in our own consciences, enlightened by Christianity, more efficacious to secure a holy life than the law of Moses itself.
The next subject which he treats, is introduced and managed with the most consummate skill, so much so that its bearing is not perceived by a superficial reader of the Bible. One of the principal boasts of the Jews was, that they were the sons, or children of God. This privilege, Paul says, belongs to the Christian on surer and more legitimate grounds; and his argument is strictly philosophical. A truly religious man, who obeys the impulses of his spiritual nature, feels a filial relation to God, has the conviction that God is his Father, loves him as a child, and confides in him with unlimited trust. This filial confidence in God, to him who possesses it, is a stronger evidence that he is a child of God, than a lineal descent from any parentage on earth. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of
bondage again to fear, but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. This very spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God."
The next topic he discusses, is the rejection of the Jews, and the adoption of the Christians. He clears himself of all imputation of personal resentment towards them for their cruel persecutions of him, and says he is so much grieved for their rejection by God, that he could wish himself rejected in their stead, if such a thing might be. This proceeding of God might seem arbitrary, a piece of unjustifiable favoritism on the part of the Deity. But he goes on to show that all privileges are necessarily so. Isaac was chosen for the enjoyment of certain privileges instead of Ishmael; Jacob was chosen in preference to Esau. God has a right to do as he will with his own, so far as what he bestows upon them is concerned, and the part he makes them act in the plan of his providence. This, of course, extends no farther than outward condition, and the instrumentality of certain individuals to accomplish certain ends. The ultimate condition of men is not here referred to, that having been despatched in the second chapter, where he declares, that there is no respect of persons with God.
The last five chapters are taken up in the commendation of certain duties, exhortations to fidelity, and
salutations to his friends, with whom he had become acquainted in other places, but who were now at Rome. The contents of the Epistle may be summed up in few words. The Apostle to the Gentiles sends his greeting to the Christians at Rome, desires to preach among them, and to edify them. He glories in the Gospel as the power of God unto salvation, equally applicable to Jew and heathen. All stand in need of it, because all have sinned; the heathen because he had violated the law of nature, and the Jew because he had broken the law of Moses. The gift of the Gospel is gratuitous in both cases; therefore the Jew has no cause to boast or claim superiority over the Gentile. The Gospel is all-sufficient for the religious wants of man, for it makes provision for the pardon of sin, and though it abrogates the Mosaic law, gives man a better in his own conscience, enlightened by Christianity. Its sufficiency is manifested by the religious experience of every true believer. For he that has believed in Christ and heartily repented, finds peace with God. Trials have lost their power over him, and he rather rejoices in them, and the hopes which the Gospel holds out, especially through the resurrection of Christ, give him spiritual strength, and fill him with all joy and consolation. The true Christian has the best of all evidences of the sufficiency of his religion, in its giving him the filial spirit, which none but a true child of God can possess.