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For the Christian Observer. A NY person who has read the epistle to the Romans with critical,
or even intelligent, attention, must have been struck with the apparent confusion and inconsequence of the apostle's argument and illustration of the commencement of the seventh chapter. The introductory assertion, that “the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth,” appears to flatly contradict a main object of this and other of his epistles, namely, that the christianized Jew is no longer under the law, and has, in fact, outlived his obligation to it. Then the example drawn from the married state, by which he illustrates this assertion, appears also directly to contradict it, by shewing that the law has not dominion over a woman as long as she liveth, but only as long as her husband liveth, and that she herself may survive her obligation to it : for · if her husband be dead she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.” Then again, in applying this illustration to the Christian in the following verse, he assumes, not as the analogy seems to require, that the law, or husband, is dead to us, but that we are dead to the law, (and this, undoubtedly, is the great principle which not only runs through and leavens the whole of the preceding chapter, but is distinctly asserted in it in so many words) and that the connection having been dissolved, not by the death of another, but by our own death, we may lawfully “be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God."
Various attempts have been made to remove this confusion and inconsequence ; but the four first verses appear so constructed, as to place their interpreter in this dilemma, that any interpretation which gives force or coherency to one verse, abstracts it from another.
Dr. Doddridge, and others, have proposed to translate éq' osov xpovov sp. “so long as it," the law, “ liveth.” This indeed reconciles that assertion with the apostle's declared views respecting the law,—and also with the illustration of a woman bound by the law to a husband, and emancipated by the husband's death : but then it has no bearing upon, no connection with, except it be to contradict,
Christ. OBSERV. No 35. 4 N
the conclusion which he draws from it in the fourth verse, and which is not that the law is dead to us, but that we are dead to the law; and this assuredly is introduced not inconsiderately, but of deliberate purpose ; for this, as I have already observed, is the grand principle which he labours most strenuously to inculcate in the preceding chapter. His conclusion is, “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”
The whole passage appears to me not merely an interesting subject for critical examination, but also of much practical importance; because I conceive that the only clue which will thread its seemingly confused mazes, and give meaning and consecutiveness to the apostle's train of thought, is to be found in the great spiritual principle on which he argues the obsoleteness of the law as regards the Christian.
Law, essentially involving in it the idea of compulsion and restraint, was not made for a righteous man, but for the ungodly and for sinners : to restrain, in some degree, the outbreaking of a corrupt nature; and where it failed in effecting this, being weak through the flesh, to condemn, convince, and thus shut up unto the faith. But when that corrupt nature, the old man, has been crucified,-is dead, and buried with Christ, and a new man raised up, sympathising with all the holy requirements of the law, and thus made the law unto itself, then the law, in its essential nature, as a system of compulsion and restraint, has vanished away: not that the law, which is spiritual, holy, and just and good, has been arbitrarily abrogated of God to give place to another dispensation, but that the state and condition of its subject has been so changed as necessarily to withdraw him from under it, as a system essentially compulsory. Grace and law can no more amalgamate or exercise a joint rule, than we can at the same time serve God and Mammon. They who are under grace love the precepts of the law, which therefore ceases to be law to them. Being dead as to that wherein they were held,—that corrupt nature upon which the law laid hold and riveted its chains, being crucified with Christ,-and through the indwelling and operation of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, the righteousness of the law being fulfilled in them who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, they are become dead to the law, because dead unto sin, which was the originating cause, and is still the strength, of the law.
I do not of course mean to deny that St. Paul sometimes, in speaking of the law, understood by this term the Mosaic ceremonial; and that his object then is, to teach the superstitious observer of days, and months, and times, and years, who “ touch not, taste not, handle not," that this ritual and typical dispensation has been wholly abrogated by the authority which imposed it, and superseded by the spiritual dispensation of the Gospel wbich it typified and shadowed forth :—that its rites, and ceremonies, and sacrifices, could never at any time “ make the comer thereunto perfect,” but derived their whole efficacy, whether as regarded God or man, whether as regarded justification or sanctification, from those "good things to come” to which they pointed, and of which they were the projected “shadow, not the very image and substance:" but that now, when Christ has come, the High Priest of those good things to come, whoever still cleaves to these beggarly elements of the typical dispensation, and seeks to unite its rites, and ceremonies, and sacrifices, to the finished work of Christ for justification, betrays an utter ignorance of the na. ture and object of both dispensations; has fallen from grace, and apostatized from the privileges and hopes of the Gospel. I do not, of course, mean to deny all this : but what I do deny is, that such is the apostle's leading object and meaning when he speaks of the law in the chapters before us. This is evidently not the point of view in wbich he is here contemplating the law. He does not, in fact, here contemplate the ceremonial but the moral law; and not with respect to justification but sanctification. The seventh chapter manifestly describes a conflict, not of opinions in the head of a Jew, as to the temporary or perpetual obligation of the Mosaic law, but a conflict of two hostile natures, waging irreconcileable and extermi. nating war upon the theatre of the heart of man.
The sixth chapter commences with that objection against the doctrine just inculcated, salvation by grace, which would naturally suggest itself to any corrupt heart that loved the pleasures of sin; “ shall we continue in sin that grace may abound ?" This objection the apostle answers, by assuming that grace is not merely justification, or pardon, which leaves the sinner as it found him in everything except the guilt of his sin ; but that grace, by the new motives, and new spirit which it imparts, lays the axe to the root of sin in the soul; that to be under grace is to be “dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” “How," he answers by asking, “ how shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein ?" He then follows up this deeply important subject, by shewing that the history of Christ is re-acted in the spiritual experience of his people : that they are baptized into his death ; buried with him by baptism into death ; planted together in the likeness of his death : our old man crucified with him, that the body of sin should be destroyed; dead with Christ : dead indeed unto sin : yet all this crucifixion, death, and burial, issuing in, and implying, a present resurrection, liberty, and life.
Now, keeping continually in view that death and resurrection which the apostle here repeatedly asserts has passed upon every Christian, let us see whether, with this key, we cannot give a clear and consistent interpretation of those otherwise unintelligible verses at the commencement of the seventh chapter.
When St. Paul asserts “ that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth,” let us remember his reiterated declarations, in this very epistle, that the Christian is not under the law, but dead to the law; and, to maintain his consistency, let us understand him as asserting this only, that as long as the old man liveth,—until it has been crucified, is dead, and buried with Christ, the law“ lords it " (KUPLEVEL) over him, as the slave of sin : but when those crucifying and regenerating processes have passed upon an individual, when he has been made conformable to the death of Christ; and out of the ashes of this death a new man has been raised up, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, then the law has lost its enslaving hold upon him. We being dead as to that wherein we were held,—that is, the carnal nature, which is enmity against God, which is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be, having been crucified with Christ, we are delivered from the law; for, “know ye not, brethren, how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth ?" ONLY.
But this limit to his assertion is demanded not only by the apostle's consistency, but also by the truth itself. The law hath dominion over a man as long as the old man liveth, and no longer; because the old man alone is the subject of law; for him alone law was made. The new man is no more a subject of law, in its strict and proper sense, than a spirit emancipated from flesh is the subject of imprisonment by bonds and bars of iron. We should ever carefully distinguish between law and the revelation of God's mind and will. The latter is essentially necessary to the new man; just as instruction in secu. lar knowledge is to the intelligent and inquisitive mind, in order to the attainment of that knowledge for which it thirsts. However fitted and disposed the intellect may be to lay hold upon and appropriate secular knowledge, yet without the instruction of books, and men, and experience, its attainments would be comparatively small. So a revelation of God's character and will is essentially necessary to the convert, however softened and prepared by the Divine Spirit to receive the impression of, and obey from, the heart that form of doctrine into which the Gospel would deliver him. And unless God were to supersede, for each individual, the revelation through his written word, by a revelation through His Spirit in the soul, such written revelation were essentially necessary to that soul's growth in grace and in the knowledge of God. But law, in its proper sense, as contradistinguished from the mere revelation of the mind and will of God, is not necessary to the regenerate, because he delights in the law of God after the inward man; he obeys from the heart the form of doctrine delivered unto him ; he loves the precepts of the law,all that are intrinsically moral for their own sake, and with a complacential love which is the instinct of his new nature,—all that are merely instituted and arbitrary in a spirit of adoption which cries Abba, Father, and delights to do God's will. His obedience is the fruit, not of compulsion and fear, but of complacency and love, and would be equally secured by a revelation of God's will, unaccompanied by those sanctions without wbich law, in its proper sense, cannot exist.
This death to the law the apostle proceeds to illustrate by marriage; in which illustration the husband is intended, as I conceive, to represent the carnal nature, or old man : the wife, when divorced by his death, the converted nature, or new man.
The law of marriage always contemplates, as its subject, two persons, cemented into one by an union so intimate that God himself declares that “they twain are one flesh :” that this very apostle speaks of them as
one body; " and argues that “men ought to love their wives as their own bodies ; for he that loveth his wife loveth himself; for no man ever yet hated his own flesh.” In this state of intimate union, that which the law lays hold upon in order to bind the woman, is the husband. She is not an adulteress if she be married to another man while she liveth, but only if she be married to another man while her husband liveth. But then in his death she, the married woman, dies to the law of marriage, to all its privileges and obligations, and as regards that law passes into a totally new state and condition ; to the widow old things have passed away, and all things become new : a state which has as little reference, and brings her as little into subjection, to the law of marriage, as if she had passed altogether out of existence with her husband : so, “my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ,” that body which “ was made sin for us ;” which, in its crucifixion, death, and burial, was the representative of our carnal nature; and in which, as regards justification, and with which, as regards sanctification, our old man is crucified, dead, and buried : and now we, divorced by our interest in, and conformity to, the death of Christ, may legally "be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God :" that instead of that “fruit unto death " which the apostle declares we brought forth “when we were in the flesh,"—when, wedded to the old man, our first husband, “the motion of sins which were by the law did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death,”now," being delivered from the law, that being dead,” (or, as some copies read it, we being dead as to that wherein we were held,” namely, the carnal nature, which converted into the slavery of law that service which to the regenerate is perfect freedom) we may serye in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter; not by a merely formal, literal, servile obedience, but in a new spirit, obeying from the heart that form of doctrine delivered unto us; and in this second marriage, which we were free to contract with Him who was raised from the dead, bringing forth fruit unto God, namely, the fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentle. ness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.
It may perhaps be objected to this view, that, in direct contradiction to the laws of spiritual experience, it makes the wife and the husband—that is, the converted and unconverted, the new and the old man-contemporaneous and co-existent in the same subject. But no. The woman, observe, does not represent the converted nature until the husband, the old man, who enslaved her to the bondage of the law, is dead : until, " that being dead wherein she was held," she passes into an entirely new state and condition. The wife, in fact, dies with the husband who represents the old man : the widow survives, and represents the new man. Nay, so far from affording a ground of objection, the contemporaneous existence of the woman with the first husband, in her former state of union, renders the analogy still closer and more striking. The woman, previous to the death of her first husband, represents so much of man as will survive the death of the old man, and be taken into the converted or new man: in fact, so much as is intrinsically neutral, so much as is the subject, not of extinction, but of the regenerating change. Remem. ber that it is one and the same man of whom we say, “ He was dead, and is alive again :" “He was darkness, but now is he light in the Lord :” or who says of himself, “I am crucified with Christ, yet I live.” But how is this identity of the converted with the unconverted man preserved ? I answer, just as in the case of the wife and widow. It is preserved by the continuance, in these different states, and under these rending and alterative processes, of a common substratum, namely, the visible, sentient, thinking, active being which we call man, and with which we are conversant in the ordinary transactions of secular life; and in which the old man did, in which the new man does, inhere, -in which the wife did, the widow does, inhere.
Nor let the assertion, that the married woman dies in her husband, be thought forced or fanciful. The principle which it involves is frequently put forward by this apostle. He repeatedly declares that a man is dead when only his corrupt nature, the old man, is dead, and