Images de page


which even the very brute beasts shudder. reasons partly from effects, and partly from the nature of correlatives. For, in the first place, he infers their servitude by their obedience, for this cannot take place, unless there is some person who has the authority of command, by which obedience can be compelled. This reasoning depends on the effects of slavery; and it hence follows, if you are slaves, that dominion is, on the other hand, in the power of the master. Or of obedience-If the apostle had intended the parts of the sentence mutually to correspond, he would have said, or of righteousness to life. Since, however, the sense of the passage is not injured by inverting the words, he preferred, by using obedience, to express the idea of righteousness, which, by taking the cause for the effect, denotes the very commands of God. His using the word without an adjunct, shows that God alone has power over the consciences of mankind; for obedience is referred to God, though the word is suppressed, because it cannot be misunderstood, or applied to any other object.

Thanks be to God-He now applies the simile to the case immediately before him, by admonishing the believers in Rome, that they were not the slaves of sin; and he adds also thanksgiving, for the purpose of showing them, in the first place, that their deliverance from the power of sin does not arise from their own proper merit, but the peculiar mercy of God; and, in the second place, their gratitude to God shows how great a blessing the Giver of all good had bestowed upon them, while their detestation of sin was thus more powerfully excited in their minds. He returns thanks on account of their deliverance from sin, which had resulted from ceasing to follow the course of their former iniquity, and has no respect to the period when they were the slaves

of sin. By tacitly comparing the former state of believers with their present, Paul emphatically attacks the calumniators of the grace of Christ, since he shows the whole human race to be led captive by sin, when grace ceases to reign, and the dominion of sin to be destroyed by the active operation of divine grace. We are not, therefore, as a necessary consequence, freed from the bondage of the law for the purpose of sinning, since the law loses its authority where divine grace claims us as its own, with a view to renew righteousness in us; and our subjection to the power of sin cannot possibly take place, because the grace of God reigns in our hearts, for, as we have already stated, the spirit of regeneration is comprehended under the word grace. Ye have obeyed from the heart-Paul opposes the secret power of the Spirit to the external letter of the law; as if he had said, "Christ forms our hearts in a more complete manner internally by his love, than the law can compel us by its threatenings and terrors." This removes the calumny of those who maintain the licentiousness of sinning to be introduced by Christ freeing us from obedience to the law, since he does not send forth his followers to indulge in unbridled wantonness, and to exult, without moderation and sobriety, as horses, when set at liberty, gallop across the plains, but conducts them to a lawful course and manner of life. Erasmus, following the ancient translation, adopts form, while I use type, the literal expression of Paul. Some may, perhaps, prefer to translate it pattern, for I consider the apostle to signify the express image of righteousness engraved on our hearts by Christ. This corresponds to the precept and rule of the law, according to which all our actions are to be formed and fashioned, without turning aside to the right hand or the left.

Being then made free from sin-It is absurd for

any one to remain in bondage after he has gained his liberty, for he ought to maintain the state of freedom bestowed upon him; nor is it consistent with the character of believers to be brought under the power of sin, from which they have been emancipated by Christ. This argument is taken from the efficient cause, and the following from the final: "you are delivered from the bondage of sin, that you may enter the kingdom of righteousness, on which account it is your bounden duty to forget all sin, and to turn your whole heart and soul to righteousness, under whose obedience you are now brought." It must be observed that none can devote himself to the service of righteousness, unless he has first been delivered by the power, kindness, and favour of God, from the tyranny of sin, as Christ himself testifies, (John viii. 36 :) "If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." What preparations then for divine grace shall we derive from the power of the freedom of the will, if the commencement of our goodness arises from that emancipation which the grace of God alone performs?

19 I speak after the manner of men, because of the infirmity of your flesh for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness, and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousnes unto holiness.

I speak after the manner of men-Paul means that he speaks after the manner of men with respect to form, not the subject matter, as Christ (John iii. 12) says, "If I have told you earthly things," when he is, however, discoursing on heavenly mysteries, but not with so much majesty as the dignity of the subject demanded, because he accommodated himself to the capacity of a rude, dull, and slow people.


apostle, by this preface, more fully proves the great wickedness and grossness of the calumny, which pretends and imagines a licentiousness to be granted for sinning by the liberty that Christ hath procured for his people. He, at the same time, also instructs believers, that there is no greater absurdity, or rather dishonour and shame, than for the spiritual grace of Christ to be inferior to an earthly emancipation in its power over their conduct. As if the apostle had said, "I could show, by instituting a comparison between righteousness and sin, with how much greater vehemence and zeal you ought, with all speed, to enter the service of the former than to obey the latter; but I spare your infirmity, and omit the adopting of such a plan. I may, however, showing you the utmost indulgence, justly demand of you not to practise righteousness, on any consideration, in a more cold or negligent manner than you have subjected yourselves to the dominion of sin." He means more than meets the ear, for he exhorts them to obey righteousness with so much greater earnestness as its dignity is much superior to that of sin, though his expressions do not seem to warrant the full extent of this sense. For as you have yielded— Your wretched bondage and devotedness to the affections of your flesh was clearly apparent from the readiness with which all your limbs and members paid obedience to the power of sin let your alacrity and promptitude be equally striking in performing the commands of God; nor let your activity in doing good actions be inferior to your former conduct in sinning. The apostle does not, as in 1 Thess. iv. 7, observe the order of the antithesis in opposing uncleanness to holiness, but the sense is evident. He considers, in the first place, two kinds of sins, uncleanness and iniquity; the former is opposed to chastity and holiness, the latter is considered in

relation to injuries inflicted upon our neighbours. In the second place, he repeats the word iniquity twice in a different sense; in the former passage, it means pillage, frauds, perjuries, and injuries of every description; in the second, universal depravity and corruption of life and manners: as if he had said, "You have prostituted your members to the commission of abandoned crimes, that the kingdom of iniquity might reign in you." I interpret righteousness to mean the law and rule of living righteously, the end of which is sanctification, that believers may indeed devote themselves entirely, purely, and simply, to the service of God.

20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22 But now, being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

For when ye were the servants-He repeats the disagreement already mentioned between the yoke of righteousness and sin, which are so contrary in their character, that whoever devotes himself to one must necessarily forsake the other. His object is, that by examining them separately we may more clearly see what is to be expected from both, for a just distinction gives greater light in investigating the character of any thing. After carefully considering the difference between sin and righteousness, he points to the consequences which may be expected to result from each. The apostle, it must be remem

« PrécédentContinuer »