Images de page

tinues the argument from the contrast: "if the bond of the law rather excited us to sin than restrained the flesh from its own indulgences, we must necessarily be released from the power of the law, that we may cease from sinning. If we are, therefore, emancipated from the bondage of the law, that we may become the servants of God, all such as take a liberty for sinning from this cause, act with the greatest perverseness; and all teachers, who say the reins are in this way thrown upon the necks of our lusts, make a false and unfounded assertion. We are, it is worthy of being observed, then delivered from the law, when God imbues us with his Spirit, absolves us from the rigorous demand and curse of the law, and thus enables us to walk in his ways." That being dead-This part is confined to the reasoning of the apostle, or rather hints at the manner by which we are liberated, namely, while the law is so far abrogated that we are not crushed with its intolerable burden, nor does its inexorable rigour bury us under its curse. In newness of spirit-Paul opposes the spirit to the letter, because before our will is formed by the Holy Spirit to the will of God, we have nothing in the law save its external letter, which bridles and restrains our outward actions, but by no means represses the fury of our lust. He attributes, indeed, newness to the spirit, because it comes in the place of the old man, as the letter is called old, which perishes by the regeneration of the Spirit.

7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. 8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.

What shall we say then?-Because it was said that we ought to be delivered from the law, for the purpose of serving God in newness of the spirit, the fault of impelling us, as it were, to sin, seemed to be inherent in the law. The apostle very justly engages in refuting this uncommon absurdity, when he asks the question, Is the law sin or not? he means, does it so create sin, that the blame and fault of the latter ought to be imputed to the former? Nay, I had not known sin-Sin, therefore, resides in us, not in the law; for its cause is the depraved desire of our flesh, and we attain a knowledge of it from our becoming acquainted with the righteousness declared to us in the law. We must not understand the apostle, as if he meant there was no distinction between right and wrong without the law: but that we are either too dull to perceive our own depravity, or are rendered entirely stupid, while we flatter ourselves in the indulgence of our inordinate desires. The statement of Paul, I had not known lust, is a declaration of the former sentence, in which he proves the ignorance of sin, whose character and nature he is examining, which consists in not perceiving its own lust. He intentionally dwells on one kind of sin, in which hypocrisy chiefly reigns, and supine indulgence and security are always connected with this vice. For mankind are never so deprived of understanding as not to make a distinction between different external actions, nay, they are compelled to condemn wicked councils and enterprises of vice, while they feel themselves under the necessity of bestowing due praise upon rectitude of heart and mind. But the vice of lust is more secret and deeply hidden, so that no account can be taken of it, while men judge from their own feelings. Nor does Paul boast of his freedom from lust; but he so indulged his own inclinations, as not to consider the vice

of inordinate desire lurking in his heart. For though he was deceived for a time, when he did not believe righteousness to be prevented by lust and covetousness, yet he at last understood himself to be a sinner, on finding concupiscence, from which no human being is free, to be prohibited by the law. Augustine says, Paul included the whole law in the word covetousness; this, if properly understood, is true. For when Moses shows the actions we must avoid, if we are desirous not to injure our neighbour, he subjoins the commandment against covetousness, which must be referred to all these duties. The lawgiver, undoubtedly, in the preceding commandments, condemned all depraved affections conceived in our minds; but there is a great difference between the deliberate wilful desire of the heart, and the appetites by which we are provoked and moved. God, therefore, in the tenth commandment, demands from us such strictness of integrity, that no vicious desire ought to solicit us to evil, even though we should not give our consent. This consideration induced me to observe, that Paul carries his view of this subject farther than the common understanding of mankind goes. Political laws, indeed, cry out that they inflict punishments on plots and councils, not merely on events; philosophers also, with still greater accuracy, place both vices and virtues in the mind; but God, by this precept, penetrates even to our very concupiscence, which is more concealed than the will and inclination, and on this account not considered to be a vice. Not only did it secure the pardon of philosophers, but the Roman Catholics contend that it is not sin in the regenerate. But Paul says, he detected his guilt from this latent disease, and it hence follows that no excuse can be offered for any of those who are under the influence of covetousness, nor can they

expect the pardon of their offence from any but God. A distinction, in the mean time, must be observed between depraved lusts, which secure the consent of the will, and covetousness, that provokes and affects the heart and inclination in such a manner, as to stop in the midst of its persuading and exciting to action.

But sin, taking occasion by-All evil, therefore, arises from sin and the corruption of the flesh; the occasion exists only in the law. And, though the apostle may appear merely to speak of that excitement by which our covetousness is incited by the law to boil up into greater madness, yet I chiefly refer it to knowledge: as if he had said, "the law detected in me all my concupiscence, which appeared, when concealed, not to exist." I do not, however, deny the flesh to be more keenly stimulated by the law to concupiscence, and in this way, also, carnal desire is made manifest to the light, which might happen to Paul. But it appears to be more agreeable to the context to understand the passage of the manifestation of sin, since Paul immediately adds, for without the law sin is dead.

9 For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. 12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

Without the law sin was dead-Paul very clearly points out the sense of the former passage, for the expression he uses here implies that the knowledge of sin was buried without the law. This is a general

opinion, to which he adds his own example. I am surprised to find interpreters translating the tense in the preterimperfect, as if Paul was speaking of himself, though it is very evident that he commences with a universal proposition, and afterwards explains it by his own example.


For I was alive without the law once- -Paul intimates that there was a time when sin was dead to himself, or with respect to his view of his own character. We must not understand from this, that the apostle lived at any time without the law, but he appeared to live, from the absence of the law; and, being in- 1. flated by the confidence of his own righteousness, arrogated life to himself, when, at the same time, he was dead. The sentence will appear clearer by resolving it in the following manner : at one period, when I was without the law, I was alive." I term this word emphatic, because he claimed life for himself by imagining that he was righteous; his meaning is, "when, laying aside all thought of the law, I committed sin, my transgression of the law was so lulled to sleep, that it appeared almost dead, in consequence of not observing its operations and effect. On the other hand, because I did not consider myself a sinner, I rested in my own character, and conceived that life had taken up its abode in me. For the death of sin is a man's life, and, on the other hand, the life of sin his death.' But he proposes the question, during which period he confidently claimed life for himself through ignorance, or, as he terms it, absence of the law. For he was, undoubtedly, instructed from his childhood in the doctrine of the law; but it was the "theology of the letter," which does not humble its disciples. For, as Paul says, (2 Cor. iii. 14,) a veil was interposed to prevent the Jews from seeing the light of life in the law; so he himself also, in some degree, when he wanted the

[ocr errors]
« PrécédentContinuer »