« AnteriorContinua »
For that which he terms a law,' in this verse, he calls in the foregoing, sin that dwelleth in him.'
Secondly, The way whereby he came to the discovery of this law, not absolutely, and in its own nature, but in himself, he found it; I find a law.'
Thirdly, The frame of his soul and inward man with this law of sin, and under its discovery; he would do good.'
Fourthly, The state and activity of this law, when the soul is in that frame, when it would do good, it is present with him.' For what ends and purposes we shall shew afterward.
The first thing observable is the compellation here used by the apostle. He calls indwelling sin a law.' It is a law.
A law is taken either properly, for a directive rule, or improperly, for an operative effective principle, which seems to have the force of a law. In its first sense, it is a moral rule which directs and commands, and sundry ways moves and regulates the mind and the will, as to the things which it requires or forbids. This is evidently the general nature and work of a law. Some things it commands, some things, it forbids, with rewards and penalties, which move and impel men to do the one, and avoid the other. Hence in a secondary sense, an inward principle, that moves and inclines constantly unto any actions, is called a law. The principle that is in the nature of every thing, moving and carrying it towards its own end and rest, is called the law of nature. In this respect every inward principle that inclineth and urgeth unto operations or actings suitable to itself, is a law. So, Rom. viii. 2. the powerful and effectual working of the Spirit and grace of Christ in the hearts of believers, is called the law of the Spirit of life.' And for this reason doth the apostle here call indwelling sin a law. It is a powerful and effectual indwelling principle, inclining and pressing unto actions agreeable and suitable unto its own nature. This, and no other, is the intention of the apostle in this expression; for although that term, "a law," may sometimes intend a state and condition, and if here so used, the meaning of the words should be, I find that this is my condition, this is the state of things with me, that when I would do good evil is present with me,' which makes no great alteration in the principal intendment of the place; yet properly it can
denote nothing here, but the chief subject treated of; for although the name of a law be variously used by the apostle in this chapter, yet when it relates unto sin, it is nowhere applied by him to the condition of the person, but only to express either the nature, or the power of sin itself: so, ver. 23. I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity unto the law of sin, which is in my members.' That which he here calls the law of his mind, from the principal subject and seat of it, is in itself no other but the law of the Spirit of life, which is in Christ Jesus;' chap. viii. 2. or the effectual power of the Spirit of grace, as was said. But the law, as applied unto sin, hath a double sense; for as in the first place, 'I see à law in my members,' it denotes the being and nature of sin; so in the latter,' leading into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members,' it signifies its power and efficacy and both these are comprised in the same name singly used, ver. 20. Now that which we observe from this name, or term of a 'law' attributed unto sin, is, That there is an exceeding efficacy and power in the remainders of indwelling sin in believers, with a constant working towards evil.
Thus it is in believers; it is a law even in them, though not to them. Though its rule be broken, its strength weakened and impaired, its root mortified, yet it is a law still of great force and efficacy. There where it is least felt, it is most powerful. Carnal men, in reference unto spiritual and moral duties, are nothing but this law; they do nothing but from it, and by it. It is in them a ruling and prevailing principle of all moral actions, with reference unto a supernatural and eternal end. I shall not consider it in them in whom it hath most power, but in them in whom its power is chiefly discovered and discerned, that is, in believers; in the others only in order to the farther conviction and manifestation thereof.
Secondly, The apostle proposeth the way whereby he discovered this law in himself, εὑρίσκω ἄρα τὸν νόμον, ‘I find then,' or therefore, 'a law.' He found it; it had been told him there was such a law; it had been preached unto him. This convinced him, that there was a law of sin. But it is one thing for a man to know in general, that there is a law. of sin; another thing for a man to have an experience of the
power of this law of sin in himself. It is preached to all; all men that own the Scripture acknowledge it, as being declared therein: but they are but few that know it in themselves; we should else have more complaints of it than we have, and more contendings against it, and less fruits of it in the world. But this is that which the apostle affirms; not that the doctrine of it had been preached unto him, but that he found it by experience in himself. I find a law;' I have experience of its power and efficacy. For a man to find his sickness and danger thereon from its effects, is another thing than to hear a discourse about a disease from its causes. And this experience is the great preservative of all divine truths in the soul. This it is to know a thing indeed, in reality, to know it for ourselves, when as we are taught it from the word, so we find it in ourselves. Hence we observe,
Secondly, Believers have experience of the power and efficacy of indwelling sin. They find it in themselves, they find it as a law. It hath a self-evidencing efficacy to them that are alive to discern it: they that find not its power, are under its dominion. Whosoever contend against it, shall know and find, that it is present with them, that it is powerful in them. He shall find the stream to be strong who swims against it, though he who rolls along with it be insensible of it.
Thirdly, The general frame of believers, notwithstanding the inhabitation of this law of sin, is here also expressed. They 'would do good.' This law is present, éλovti įμoì toietv τὸ καλὸν. The habitual inclination of their will is unto good. The law in them is not a law unto them, as it is to unbelievers. They are not wholly obnoxious to its power, nor morally unto its commands. Grace hath the sovereignty in their souls: this gives them a will unto good; they 'would do good,' that is, always and constantly; 1 John iii. 9. toɩɛīv ȧuapríav,' to commit sin,' is to make a trade of sin, to make it a man's business to sin. So it is said, a believer doth not commit sin; and so πoшïv тò kaλòv to do that which is good; to will to do so, is to have the habitual bent and inclination of the will set on that which is good; that is, morally and spiritually good, which is the proper subject treated of; whence is our third observation.
There is, and there is through grace kept up in believers,
a constant and ordinarily prevailing will of doing good, notwithstanding the power and efficacy of indwelling sin to the contrary.
This in their worst condition, distinguisheth them from unbelievers in their best. The will in unbelievers is under the power of the law of sin. The opposition they make to sin, either in the root or branches of it, is from their light and their consciences; the will of sinning in them is never taken away. Take away all other considerations and hinderances, whereof we shall treat afterward, and they would sin willingly always. Their faint endeavours to answer their convictions, are far from a will of doing that which is good. They will plead, indeed, that they would leave their sins if they could, and they would fain do better than they do. But it is the working of their light and convictions, not any spiritual inclination of their wills, which they intend by that expression: for where there is a will of doing good, there is a choice of that which is good for its own excellency sake; because it is desirable and suitable to the soul, and therefore to be preferred before that which is contrary. Now this is not in any unbelievers; they do not, they cannot, so choose that which is spiritually good, nor is it so excellent or suitable unto any principle that is in them; only they have some desires to attain that end, whereunto that which is good doth lead, and to avoid that evil which the neglect of it tends unto. And these also are for the most part so weak and languid in many of them, that they put them not upon any considerable endeavours; witness that luxury, sloth, worldliness, and security, that the generality of men are even drowned in. But in believers there is a will of doing good, an habitual disposition and inclination in their wills unto that which is spiritually good; and where this is, it is accompanied with answerable effects. The will is the principle of our moral actions, and therefore unto the prevailing disposition thereof, will the general course of our actings be suited. Good things will proceed from the good treasures of the heart; nor can this disposition be evidenced to be in any but by its fruits. A will of doing good, without doing good, is but pretended.
Fourthly, There is yet another thing remaining in these words of the apostle, arising from that respect that the pre
sence of sin hath unto the time and season of duty; I would do good,' saith he, 'evil is present with me.'
There are two things to be considered in the will of doing good, that is in believers.
1. There is its habitual residence in them. They have always an habitual inclination of will unto that which is good. And this habitual preparation for good is always present with them, as the apostle expresses it, ver. 18. of this chapter.
2. There are especial times and seasons for the exercise of that principle. There is a 'when I would do good,' a season wherein this or that good, this or that duty, is to be performed and accomplished, suitably unto the habitual preparation and inclination of the will.
Unto these two, there are two things in indwelling sin opposed. To the gracious principle residing in the will, inclining unto that which is spiritually good, it is opposed as it is a law, that is, a contrary principle inclining unto evil, with an aversation from that which is good. Unto the second, or the actual willing of this or that good in. particular, unto this when I would do good,' is opposed the presence of this law, 'evil is present with me,' wapákɛraì ἐμοι τὸ κακὸν ; evil is at hand and ready to oppose the actual accomplishment of the good aimed at. Whence,
Fourthly, Indwelling sin is effectually operative in rebelling and inclining to evil, when the will of doing good is in a particular manner active, and inclining unto obedience.
And this is the description of him who is a believer, and a sinner, as every one who is the former, he is the latter also. These are the contrary principles, and the contrary operations that are in him. The principles are a will of doing good, on the one hand, from grace, and a law of sin on the other. Their adverse actings and operations are insinuated in those expressions, When I would do good, evil is present with me.' And these both are more fully expressed by the apostle, Gal. v. 17. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that I cannot do the things that I would.'
And here lie the springs of the whole course of our obedience. An acquaintance with these several principles and their actings, is the principal part of our wisdom. They are,"