Images de page
PDF
ePub

To pre

the purpose of confirming his statement. vent any reader from feeling perplexed, because the members of the sentence which are compared with each other do not correspond, we must remark, that the apostle designedly intended to remove the displeasure, which the adoption of too harsh an expression might produce, by a trifling inversion. The apostle, had he strictly observed the order of the comparison, would have said, the woman, after the death of her husband, is freed from the bond of marriage; the law which, with respect to us, is in the state and condition of a husband, is dead to us, therefore we are delivered from its power. Had the apostle said, that the law was dead, he might have offended the Jews by the harshness of his language, which he alters a little, and uses the expression, we are dead to the law. Some commentators consider Paul to argue from the less to the greater; but as I fear this interpretation may appear too forced, I give a preference to the former on account of its simplicity. The order of the argument is as follows:— A woman is subject by the law to her husband as long as he lives, so that she cannot take another; after his death she is delivered from the bond of the law, and can freely marry any husband she chooses. The comparison is thus applied by Paul. The law was in the place of a husband, by whose yoke we were bound, until it became dead to us. After the death of the law Christ took us, delivered us from the law, and joined us to himself. We, therefore, being married to Christ, who is raised from the dead, ought to cling to him alone; and, as the life of Christ is eternal after his resurrection, we shall never be divorced any more from our Saviour. The word law is taken in various senses: sometimes it means the mutual law of marriage; on other occasions, the power of a husband, to whom the wife is subject;

S

in some passages, the doctrine of Moses. We must keep in mind, that Paul alludes here only to such part of the law as peculiarly belonged to the ministry of Moses. For we must never dream of the abrogation of the law with respect to the ten commandments, in which God has taught us our duty, and appointed us a rule for the conduct of our lives, because the will of God ought to continue and flourish for ever. Let us, therefore, carefully remember, this is not a release from the righteousness taught in the law, but from its rigorous demand, and that curse which follows the strictness of its sentence. The rule of a good life, therefore, prescribed by the law, is not abrogated; but that quality which is opposed to the liberty purchased by Christ, and demands the utmost perfection, and, because we do not attain it, binds us under the guilt of eternal death. The apostle, not being desirous to state the causes on account of which a woman is delivered from the power and authority of her husband, had no wish to determine the law of matrimony. It would, therefore, be vain to seek here for any certain doctrine on this subject.

By the body of Christ-Christ, in the first place, triumphed over sin by erecting the standard of his cross, and for this purpose it was necessary that the hand-writing, by which we were bound, should be torn in pieces. The law is that hand-writing, whose force, when exerted, makes us debtors to sin, and it is therefore called the power of sin. By the abrogation, therefore, of this hand-writing, we are delivered from the law by the body of Christ, when it was fixed to the cross. But the apostle goes farther, and states the bond of the law to have been broken; not that we might live according to our own will, as the widow, while she lives unmarried, is subject only to her own authority; but we have now been bound

to another husband, nay, we have passed from one hand to another, from the law to Christ. He also mitigates the severity of the sentence, when he says, that Christ has delivered us from the yoke of the law for the purpose of ingrafting us into his own body. For although Christ voluntarily subjected himself for a time to the law, yet it is not right that the law should have dominion over him. He also communicates the liberty, which is peculiar to himself, to his own members. We need not, therefore, be surprised if he exempts the pious from the yoke of the law, whom he joins to himself by a sacred tie, that they may be one body with him. To him who is raised from the dead-We have already said that Christ is substituted in the place of the law, nor can liberty be conceived to exist out of him, nor dare any one effect a divorce from the law, who is not already dead to himself. Paul uses this circumlocution to point out that eternal life, which Christ attained by the resurrection, that his followers may thus know the endless duration of his union with them. Paul speaks more clearly in the 6th chapter of the Ephesians, concerning the spiritual marriage of Christ with his church. That we should bring forth fruit unto God-Paul always adds the final cause, that no believer might take this as a pretext for licentiousness by indulging his flesh, or its desires and lusts, because Christ has emancipated us from the slavery of the law; for he hath offered us with himself a sacrifice to his Father, and regenerates us for this very end and purpose, that we should bring forth fruit unto God by the newness of our life. Sanctification and righteousness are, we know, the fruits demanded of us by our heavenly Father. Nor, if we are the servants of God, does that detract any thing from our liberty. Nay, if we wish to enjoy so great a blessing as Christ, our whole thoughts must be engaged in pro

moting God's glory, on which account Christ took us to himself. If we pursue a different conduct, we remain the slaves, not only of the law, but of sin and death.

+

5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. 6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

For when we were in the flesh-Paul points out, in a still more clear manner by the contrast, how vainly the zealots of the law wish to keep believers subject to its power. For while the doctrine of the letter of the law reigns and is in force, without the Spirit of Christ, the wantonness of the flesh, so far from being restrained, boils up with greater force; the kingdom of righteousness, therefore, it necessarily follows, is only established when Christ emancipates us from the law. Paul, at the same time, acquaints us with the works which it becomes us to practise when delivered from the power of the law. While man, therefore, is kept under the yoke of the law, he can procure nothing for himself but death, by his constant practice of sinning. If the slavery of the law produces sin only, emancipation, which is opposed to bondage, ought to lead to righteousness; if the former conducts to death, the latter must confer life upon believers. Let us, however, carefully weigh and consider the words of Paul. He says we have been in the flesh, when he is desirous to describe our state during the time we were under the dominion of the law. Hence we understand, that all those who are under the law, have only their ears stunned with

the external breath used in speaking of its prohibitions and requisitions, without any fruit or advantage arising from what they hear, since they are destitute of the internal Spirit of God. They must, therefore, necessarily remain sunk in vice and frowardness, until they discover a better remedy for the healing of their disease. Observe also the common scriptural expression, to be in the flesh, which is used instead of " our being endowed with the alone gifts of nature, while the peculiar grace is wanting, which God condescends to bestow on his own elect." If, moreover, this whole state of life is spent and employed in vice, it is undoubtedly evident that no part of our mind and inclination is, by nature, in a sound and faultless state, and the freedom of our will is only possessed of the power of sending forth, in every direction, our depraved and abandoned affections as weapons of destruction. The motions of sins, which were by the law-The law excited our depraved affections, which exerted their power in every part of us, for there was no limb that was not the slave of depraved passions and dispositions. The work of the law, if we do not possess the Spirit, our internal Master, is to inflame the workings of our hearts still more, and make them boil over in inordinate desires. Paul compares here the law with the corrupt nature of man, whose perverse character and lust rush forth with still greater fury in proportion to the number of the restraints and checks imposed upon sin by righteousness. He again adds, while our carnal affections enjoyed the sovereignty under the law, they brought forth fruits unto death, and thus showed the law of itself to have been the cause of destruction. The madness of those who desire so earnestly a death-producing slavery, follows from our former statement.

But now ye are delivered from the law-He con

« PrécédentContinuer »