LAST CHECK TO ANTINOMIANISM.
St. Paul was not carnal, and sold under sinThe true meaning oj Gal. v, 17, and of Rom. vii, 14, &c, is opened consistently with the context, the design of the Epistles to the Galatians and to the Romans, and the privileges of Christians, and the doctrine of perfection. IT is easier to raise dust than to answer an argument. I expect, therefore, that our opponents, instead of solidly answering the contents of the preceding section, will assert that St. Paul was an avowed enemy to deliverance from evil tempers before death, and of consequence a strong opposer of the doctrine of Christian perfection. And to support their assertion they will probably quote the following text:"The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit againt the flesh, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would," Gal. v, 17. For they conclude from these words, that, so long as we dwell in bodies of corruptible flesh, we cannot help breaking the law of liberty (at least from time to time) by sinful, internal lusts. As this objection passes among them for unanswerable, it may not be amiss to give it a fourfold answer:
1. St. Paul wrote these words to the carnal, fallen Galatians. To them he said, "So that ye cannot do the things that ye would:" and there was a good reason why "they could not do" what they had a weak desire to do. They were bewitched by the flesh, and by carnal teachers, who led them from the power of the Spirit to the weakness of the letter; yea, to the letter of Judaism too. But did he not speak of himself to the Philippians in a very different strain? Did he not declare, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me?" And cannot every believer, who steadily walks in the Spirit, say the same thing? Who does not see the flaw of this argument? The "disobedient, fallen, bewitched" believers of Galatia, of whom St. Paul stood in doubt, could not but fulfil the lusts of the flesh when they were led by the flesh: "neither hot nor cold," like the Laodiceans, they could neither be perfect Christians nor perfect worldlings, because they fully sided neither with the Spirit nor with the flesh: or, to use the apostle's words, "they could not do the things that they would," through the opposition which the flesh made against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; neither of these principles being yet fully victorious in their halting, distracted hearts: therefore this must be also the miserable case of all obedient, faithful, established believers through all ages all the world over! What has this Antinomian conclusion to do with the Scriptural premises? When I assert that those who have put out their knees cannot run a race swiftly, do I so much as intimate that no man can be a swift racer?
2. It is as unscriptural to judge of the power and liberty of established believers by the power and liberty of the Galatians, as it is unreasonable to judge of the liberty of a free nation by the servitude of a half-enslaved people; or of the strength of a vigorous child by the weakness of a half-formed embryo. I found this remark, (1.) Upon Gal. v, 1, where the apostle indirectly reproves his Judaizing, wrangling converts, for being fallen from "the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and for being entangled again with the yoke of bondage." And, (2.) Upon Gal. iv, 19, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you." The dawn of day is not more different from the meridian light, than the imperfect state described in this verse is different from the perfect state described in the following lines, which are descriptive of the adult Christian:"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God," Gal. ii, 20.
3. The sense which is commonly fixed upon the texts produced by our opponents is entirely overturned by the context: read the preceding verse and you will find a glorious, though a conditional promise of the liberty which we plead for: "This I say, walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the [sinful] lusts of the flesh;" that is, far from harbouring either outward or inward sin, ye shall, with myself, and as many as are perfect, steadily keep your body under, and be in every thing spiritually minded, which "is life and peace."
4. We should properly distinguish between the lawful and the sinful lusts or desires of the flesh. To desire to eat, to drink, to sleep, to marry, to rest, to shun pain, at proper times and in a proper manner, is no sin; such lusts or desires are not contrary to the law of liberty. Our Lord himself properly indulged most of these harmless propensities of the flesh, without ceasing to be the immaculate Lamb of God. Hence it is that our Church requires us in our baptism to renounce only "the sinful lusts of the flesh;" giving us a tacit leave lawfully to indulge its lawful appetites. I should be glad, for example, to recruit my strength by one hour's sleep; or by an ounce of food; as well as by a good night's rest, or a good meal. But the flesh harmlessly lusteth against the Spirit: so that in these, and in a thousand such instances, "I cannot do the things that I would." But do I commit sin when I use my body according to its nature? Nay, if I were as strongly solicited unlawfully to indulge the lawful appetites of my flesh, as Christ was to turn stones into bread when he felt keen hunger in the wilderness, would not such a temptation increase the glory of my victory, rather than the number of my sins? Is it right in our opponents to avail themselves of the vague, unfixed meaning of the words flesh and lust, to make the simple believe that, so long as we have human flesh about us, and bodily appetites within us, our hearts must necessarily remain pregnant with sinful lusts, and we shall "have innumerable lusts (as says an imperfectionist whom I shall soon mention) swarming about our hearts?" Does not this doctrine put a worm at the root of Christian liberty, while it nourishes Antinomian freedom; a freedom to sin, even to adultery and murder, without ceasing to be sinless and perfect in Christ?
5. Two lines after St. Paul's supposed plea for the necessary continuance of indwelling sin in believers, the apostle begins a long enumeration of the "works of the flesh, of the which," says he, "I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they who do such things, [or admit in their hearts such lusts as hatred, variance, strife, or envyings,] shall not inherit the kingdom of God '" whereas, "they that are Christ's [they that are led by the Spirit of God, for in St. Paul's account only such are Christ's, that is, properly belong to Christ's spiritual dispensation, Rom. viii, 9, 14,] have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts," Gal. v, 24. Now these spiritual believers "can do all things through Christ:" and accordingly the apostle observes that, far from bearing the fruit of the flesh, they bear the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance,the whole cluster of inherent graces which makes up Christian perfection; and then he observes that "the law is not against such, [because they fulfil it:] for all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," Gal. v, 14-23.
6. The sense which the imperfectionists give to Gal. v, 17, is not only flatly contrary to the rest of the chapter, but to the end and design of all the epistle. What the apostle has chiefly in view through the whole, is to reprove the Galatians for their carnality in following Judaizing teachers, and in bearing the fruits of the flesh, envy, variance, &c, insomuch that they were ready to bite and devour one another. Now, if when he had sharply reproved them as persons who ended in the flesh, after having begun in the Spirit, he had written Gal. v, 17, in the sense of our opponents, he would fairly have excused these bewitched men, absolutely defeated his reproof, and absurdly furnished them with an excellent plea to continue in their bad course of life. For if they could not "fulfil the law of Christ," but must remain carnal, and sold under indwelling sin, had they not a right to answer the apostle thus:"If neither we whom thou callest bewitched Galatians, nor any spiritual believer, can possibly do the things we should and would do, because the flesh sinfully and unavoidably lusteth against the Spirit; why dost thou blame us for our carnality? Why dost thou take us to task rather than other believers? Are we not all bound by adamantine chains of carnal necessity to break the law of Christ so long as we are in the body? Art thou not the very man who givest us to understand that we cannot do what we should and would do, because the flesh, which we cannot possibly part with before death, lusteth against the Spirit? And is not absolute necessity the best excuse in the world?"
7. Should Mr. Hill ask, What is then the genuine meaning of Gal. v, 17? We reply, that when we consider that verse in the light of the context, we do not doubt but the sense of it is fairly expressed in the following lines:"The flesh and the Spirit are two contrary principles. 'They that are in, or walk after the flesh, cannot please God.' And ye are undoubtedly in the flesh, and walk after the flesh, while 'ye bite and devour one another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit: be led by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh, as ye now do: for the flesh lusteth against the Spirit,' and prevails in all carnal people; 'and the Spirit lusteth against the flesh,' and prevails in all spiritual people; 'and these two,' far from nesting together, as Antinomian teachers make you believe, 'are contrary to each other.' They are irreconcilable enemies: 'so that' as obedient, spiritual believers while they are led by the Spirit, 'cannot do what they would do if they were led by the flesh; ye bewitched, carnal, disobedient Galatians, who are led by the flesh, cannot do what ye would do' if ye were led by the Spirit, and what ye still have some desire to do, so far as ye have not yet absolutely quenched the Spirit. Would ye then return to your liberty? Return to your duty: change your guide: forsake the carnal mind: let 'Christ be formed in you: be led by the Spirit: so shall ye fulfil the law of Christ;' and it shall no more condemn you, than the law of Moses binds you. 'For if ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the curse of the law:' ye are equally free from the bondage of the Mosaic law, and from the condemnation of the law of Christ," Gal. v, 16-18.
8. Should Mr. Hill say "that by the flesh he understands not only the body, but also the natural desires, appetites, and aversions, which are necessarily excited in the soul, in consequence of its intimate union with the body; and that the body of sin must needs live and die with the body which our spirit inhabits; because, so long as we continue in the body, we are unavoidably tried by a variety of situations, passions, inclinations, aversions, and infirmities which burden us, hinder us from doing and suffering all we could wish to do and to suffer, and occasion our doing or feeling what we should be glad in some respects not to do or feel:"
I answer, It is excessively wrong to conclude that all these burdens, infirmities, appetites, passions, and aversions, are those sinful workings of our corrupt nature which are sometimes called the flesh. You cannot continue a whole day in deep prostration of body and soul, nor perhaps one hour upon your knees. Your stomach involuntarily rises at the sight of some food which some persons esteem delicious: your strength fails in outward works: your spirits are exhausted; you faint or sleep, when others are active and toil: you need the spiritual and bodily cordials which others can administer: perhaps also you are afflicted with disagreeable sensations in the outward man, through the natural, necessary play of the various springs which belong to flesh and blood: your just grief vents itself in tears: your zeal for God is attended with a proper anger at sin: nay, misapplying what the apostle says of the carnal man under the law, you may declare with great truth, The extensive good I would, I do not; and the accidental evil I would not, that I do; I would convert every sinner, relieve every distressed object, and daily visit every sick bed in the kingdom, but I cannot do it. I would never try the patience of my friends, never stir up the envy of my rivals, never excite the malice of my enemies; but I cannot help doing this undesigned evil, as often as I strongly exert myself in the discharge of my duty.
If you say, "All these things, or most of them, are quite inconsistent with the perfection you contend for," I ask, Upon this footing was not our Lord himself imperfect? Did his bodily strength never fail in agonizing prayer, or intense labour? Did his animal spirits always move with the same sprightliness? Do we not read of his sleeping in the ship, when his disciples wrestled with a tempestuous sea? Did he not fulfil the precept, "Be ye angry and sin not?" Had he not the troublesome sensation of grief at Lazarus' grave; of hunger in the wilderness; of weariness at Jacob's well; and of thirst upon the cross? If he was "made in the likeness of sinful flesh, and tempted in all things as we are;" is it not highly probable that he was not an utter stranger to the other natural appetites, and uneasy sensations which are incident to flesh, and blood? Is it a sin to feel them? Is it not rather a virtue totally to deny them, or not to gratify them out of the line of duty, or not to indulge them in an excessive manner in that line? Again: did not his holy flesh testify a natural innocent abhorrence to suffering? Did not his sacred body faint in the garden? Were not his spirits so depressed, that he stood in need of the strengthening assistance of an angel? Did he do all the good he would? To suppose that he wished not the conversion of his friends and brethren, is to suppose him totally devoid of natural affection; but were they all converted? Did you never read, "Neither did his brethren believe in him: and his friends went out to lay hold on him; for they said, He is beside himself?" To conclude: did he not accidentally stir up the evil he would not, when he gave occasion to the envy of the Pharisees; the scorn of Herod; the fears of Pilate; the rage of the Jewish mob? And when he prayed that the bitter "cup might pass from him, if it were possible;" did he not manifest a resigned desire to escape pain and shame? If every such desire be indwelling sin, or the flesh "sinfully lusting against the Spirit," did he not go through the sinful conflict as well as those whom we call perfect men in Christ? And, consequently, did he not fall at once from mediatorial, Adamic, and Christian perfection; indwelling sin being equally inconsistent with all these kinds of perfection? What true believer does not shudder at the bare supposition? And if our sinless Lord felt the weakness of the flesh harmlessly lusting against the willingness of the spirit, according to his own doctrine, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak," is it not evident that the conflict we speak of, (if the spirit maintains its superior, victorious lusting against the flesh, and by that means steadily keeps the flesh in its proper place,) is it not evident, I say, that this conflict is no more inconsistent with Christian perfection, than suffering, agonizing, fainting, crying, and dying, which were the lot of our sinless, perfect Saviour, to the last?
If I am not greatly mistaken, the preceding remarks prove, (1.) That when our opponents pretend to demonstrate the necessary indwelling of sin in all believers, from Gal. v, 17, they wretchedly tear that text from the context, to make it speak a language which St. Paul abhors. (2.) That this text, fairly taken together with the context, and the design of the whole epistle, is a proof that obedient, spiritual believers, can do what the "bewitched Galatians" could not do; that is, they can "crucify the flesh with all its affections and lusts," and walk as perfect Christians who utterly destroy the whole body of sin, and "fulfil the law of Christ." And, (3.) That to produce Gal. v, against the doctrine of Christian perfection, is full as absurd as to quote the sermon upon the mount in defence of Antinomian delusions. I have dwelt so long upon this head, because I have before me 8 "An Essay on Galatians v, 17," lately published by an ingenious divine, who takes it for granted that the apostle contends, in this verse, for the necessary indwelling of sin.
Mr. Hill will probably say, "That he does not rest the doctrine of Christian imperfection so much upon the experience of the fallen Galatians, as upon that of St. Paul himself, who, in Romans vii, frankly acknowledges that he was still a wretched, carnal man, sold under sin, and serving with the flesh the law of sin. Whence it follows that it is high presumption in modern believers to aspire at more perfection, and a greater freedom from sin upon earth, than had been attained by St. Paul, who was 'not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles, but laboured more abundantly than they all.'" To this common objection I answer:
1. The perfection we preach is nothing but perfect repentance, perfect faith, and perfect love, productive of the gracious tempers which St. Paul himself describes, 1 Cor. xiii. We see those blessed tempers shining through his epistles, discourses, and conduct; and I have proved in the preceding section that he himself professed Christian perfection. This objection, therefore, appears to us an ungenerous attempt to make St. Paul grossly contradict himself. For what can be more ungenerous than to take advantage of a figurative mode of expression, to blast a good man's character, and to traduce him as a slave of his fleshly lusts, a drudge to carnality, a wretch sold under sin? What would Mr. Hill think of me, if, under the plausible pretence of magnifying God's grace to the chief of sinners, and of proving that there is no deliverance from sin in this life, I made the following speech?
"The more we grow in grace, the more clearly we see our sins; and the more willingly we acknowledge them to God and men. This is abundantly verified by the confessions that the most holy men have made of their wickedness. Paul himself, holy Paul, is not ashamed to humble himself for the sins which he committed, even after his conversion. 'I robbed other Churches,' says he, 'taking wages to do you service,' 2 Cor. xi, 8. Hence it appears that the apostle had agreed to serve some Churches for a proper salary: but, being 'carnal, and sold under sin,' he broke his word; he fleeced, but refused to feed the flocks; and robbing the Churches, he went to the Corinthians, perhaps to see what he could get of them also in the end; for 'the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,' Jer. xvii, 9. Nay, partial as he was to those Corinthians, for whom he turned Church robber, he showed that his love to them was not sinless and free from rage; for once he threatened to come to them 'with a rod;' and he gave one of them to 'Satan for the destruction of the flesh.' With great propriety, therefore, did holy Paul say to the last, 'I am the chief of sinners.' And now, when the chief of the apostles thus abases himself before God, and publicly testifies, both by his words and works, that there is no deliverance from sin, no perfection in this life; who can help being frightened at the Pharisaic pride of the men who dare inculcate the doctrine of sinless perfection?"
I question if Mr. Hill himself, upon reading this ungenerous and absurd, though in one sense Scriptural plea for St. Paul's imperfection, would not be as much out of conceit with my fictitious explanation of 2 Cor. xi, as I am with his Calvinistic exposition of Rom. vii. Nor do I think it more criminal to represent the apostle as a Church robber, than to traduce him as a "wretched, carnal man, sold under sin;" another Ahab, that is, a man who did "evil in the sight of the Lord, above all that were before him."
2. St. Paul no more professes himself actually a carnal man in Rom. vii, 7, than he professes himself actually a liar in Rom. iii, 7, where he says, "But if the truth of God has more abounded through my lie, why am I judged as a sinner?" He no more professes himself a man actually sold under sin, than St. James and his fellow believers profess themselves a generation of vipers, and actual cursers of men, when the one wrote and the others read, "The tongue can no man tame: it is full of deadly poison; therewith curse we men." When St. Paul reproves the partiality of some of the Corinthians to this or that preacher, he introduces Apollos and himself; though it seems that his reproof was chiefly intended for other preachers, who fomented a party spirit in the corrupted Church of Corinth. And then he says, "These things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos, for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written," 1 Cor. iv, 6. By the same figure he says of himself, what he might have said of any other man, or of all mankind: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass." Thrice in three verses he speaks of his not having charity: and suppose he had done it three hundred times, this would no more have proved that he was really uncharitable, than his saying, Rom. vii, "I am sold under sin," proves that he "served the law of sin with his body," as a slave is forced to serve the master who bought him.
3. It frequently happens, also, that by a figure of rhetoric, which is called hypotyposis, writers relate things past, or things to come, in the present tense, that their narration may be more lively, and may make a stronger impression. Thus, Gen. vi, 17, we read, "Behold I, even I, do bring [i.e. I will bring one hundred and twenty years hence] a flood upon the earth to destroy all flesh." Thus also, 2 Sam. xxii, 1, 35, 48, "When the Lord had delivered David out of the hands of all his enemies, and given him peace in all his borders, he spake the words of this song. He teacheth [i.e. he taught] my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is [i.e. was] broken by mine arms: it is God that avengeth [i.e. that hath avenged] me, and that bringeth [i.e. has brought] me forth from mine enemies." A thousand such expressions, or this figure continued through a thousand verses, would never prove, before unprejudiced persons, that King Saul was alive, and that David was not yet delivered for good out of his bloody hands. Now, if St. Paul, by a similar figure, which he carries throughout part of a chapter, relates his past experience in the present tense: if the Christian apostle, to humble himself, and to make his description more lively, and the opposition between the bondage of sin and Christian liberty more striking; if the apostle, I say, with such a design as this, appears upon the stage of instruction in his old Jewish dress, a dress this, in which he could serve God day and night, and yet, like another Ahab, breathe threatenings and slaughter against God's children, and if in this dress he says, "I am carnal, sold under sin," &c, is it not ridiculous to measure his growth as an apostle of Christ by the standard of his stature when he was a Jewish bigot, a fiery zealot, full of good meanings and bad performances?
4. To take a scripture out of the context, is often like taking the stone that binds an arch out of its place: you know not what to make of it. Nay, you may put it to a use quite contrary to that for which it was intended. This our opponents do, when they so take Rom. vii, out of its connection with Rom. vi, and Rom. viii, as to make it mean the very reverse of what the apostle designed. St. Paul, in Romans fifth and sixth, and in the beginning of the seventh chapter, describes "the glorious liberty of the children of God" under the Christian dispensation. And as a skilful painter puts shades in his pictures to heighten the effect of the lights; so the judicious apostle introduces, in the latter part of Rom. vii, a lively description of the domineering power of sin, and of the intolerable burden of guilt: a burden this, which he had so severely felt, when the convincing Spirit charged sin home upon his conscience after he had broken his good resolutions; but especially during the three days of his blindness and fasting at Damascus. Then he groaned, "O wretched man that I am," &c, hanging night and day between despair and hope, between unbelief and faith, between bondage and freedom, till God brought him into Christian liberty by the ministry of Ananias; of this liberty the apostle gives us a farther and fuller account in Rom. viii. Therefore the description of the man who groans under the galling yoke of sin, is brought in merely by contrast, to set off the amazing difference there is between the bondage of sin and the liberty of Gospel holiness: just as the generals, who entered Rome in triumph, used to make a show of the prince whom they had conquered. On such occasions the conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot crowned with laurel, while the captive king followed him on foot, loaded with chains, and making, next to the conqueror, the most striking part of the show. Now, if in a Roman triumph, some of the spectators had taken the chained king on foot for the victorious general in the chariot, because the one immediately followed the other, they would have been guilty of a mistake not unlike that of our opponents, who take the carnal Jew, "sold under sin," and groaning as he goes along, for the Christian believer, who "walks in the Spirit," exults in the liberty of God's children, and always triumphs in Christ.
5. To see the propriety of the preceding observation, we need only take notice of the contrariety there is between the bondage of the carnal penitent, described Rom. vii, 14, &c, and the liberty of the spiritual man, described in the beginning of that very chapter. The one says, "Who shall deliver me? Sin revives: it works in him all manner of concupiscence, yea, it works death in him: he is carnal, sold under sin," forced by his bad habits to what he is ashamed of, and kept from doing what he sees his duty. "In him, that is, in his flesh, dwells no good thing: sin dwelleth in him. How to perform that which is good he finds not." Though he has a desire to be better, yet still he "does not do good, he does evil; evil is present with him." His "inward man," his reason and conscience approve, yea, delight in God's law," i.e. in that which is right; but still he does it not; his good resolutions are no sooner made than they are broken: for "another law in his members wars against the law of his mind," that is, his carnal appetites oppose the dictates of his conscience, and "bring him into captivity to the law of sin;" so that, like a poor chained slave, he has just liberty enough to rattle his chains, and to say, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death," from this complete assemblage of corruption, misery, and death! Is it not ridiculous to conclude, that because his groaning slave has now and then a hope of deliverance, and at times "thanks God through Jesus Christ" for that hope; he is actually a partaker of the liberty, which is thus described in the beginning of the chapter? "Ye are become dead to the law [the Mosaic dispensation] that ye should be married to Him, who is raised from the dead, that [instead of omitting to do good, and doing evil] we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, [in the state of the carnal man sold under sin, a sure proof this that the apostle was no more in that state] the motions of sin which were by the law [abstracted from the Gospel promise] did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the [curse of the moral, as well as from the bondage of the Mosaic] law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve God in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter," Rom. vii, 4, 5, 6. Immediately after this glorious profession of liberty, the apostle, in his own person, by way of contrast, describes to the end of the chapter the poor, lame, sinful obedience of those who serve God in the oldness of the letter: so that nothing can be more unreasonable than to take this description for a description of the obedience of those who "serve God in the newness of the Spirit." We have, therefore, in Rom. vii, 4, 5, 6, a strong rampart against the mistake which our opponents build on the rest of the chapter.
6. This mistake will appear still more astonishing, if we read Rom. vi, where the apostle particularly describes the liberty of those who "serve God in newness of the spirit," according to the glorious privileges of the new covenant. Is darkness more contrary to light than the preceding description of the carnal Jew is to the following description of the spiritual Christian? "How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein? Our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we might not serve sin. [Note: the carnal Jew, though against his conscience, still serves the law of sin, Rom. vii, 25.] Now he that is dead is freed from sin. Reckon ye yourselves also to be dead indeed unto sin. Yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead. [Note: the carnal Jew says, "Sin revived and I died," Rom. vii, 9, but the spiritual Christian is alive from the dead.] Sin shall not have dominion over you [now you are spiritual: you need not say, I do the evil that I hate, and the evil I would not, that I do:] for you are not under the law [under the weak dispensation of Moses;] but under grace [under the powerful, gracious dispensation of Christ.] God be thanked that [whereas] ye were the servants of sin, when you carnally served God in the oldness of the letter, ye have obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine which was delivered you; [that is, ye have heartily embraced the doctrine of Christ, who gives rest to all that come to him travailing and heavy laden.] Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness: for when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.But now beingcarnal, sold under sin, [ye serve the law of sin? No: just the reverse:] but now being made free from sin, and become the servants of God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life," Rom. vi, 2-22. Is it possible to reconcile this description of Christian liberty with the preceding description of Jewish bondage? Can a man at the same time exult in the one, and groan under the other? When our opponents assert it, do they not confound the Mosaic and the Christian dispensations; the workings of the spirit of bondage, and the workings of the Spirit of adoption? And yet, astonishing! they charge us with confounding LAW and GOSPEL!
7. We shall see their mistake in a still more glaring light if we pass to Rom. viii, and consider the description which St. Paul continues to give us of the glorious liberty of those who have done with "the oldness of the [Jewish] letter, and serve God in newness of the Spirit." The poor Jew carnally sticking in the letter, is condemned for all he does, if his conscience be awake. "But there is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, [who are come up to the privileges of the Christian dispensation,] who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus [the power of the quickening Spirit given me, and my fellow believers, under the spiritual and perfect dispensation of Christ Jesus] hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law [the letter of the Mosaic dispensation] could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law," the spiritual obedience, which the moral law of Moses, adopted by Christ, requires, "might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For [so far from professing that [ am carnal and sold under sin, I declare that] to be carnally minded is death: [well may then the carnal Jew groan, Who shall deliver me from the body of this death!] But to be spiritually minded is life and peace! So then, they that are in the flesh, [i.e. carnal, sold under sin,] cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his:" he is, at best, a disciple of Moses, a poor, carnal Jew, and remains still a stranger to the glorious privileges of the Christian dispensation. "But if Christ be in you, the body is dead, [weak, and full of the seeds of death,] because of [original] sin; but the spirit is life, [strong and full of immortality,] because of [implanted and living] righteousness. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, [like the poor, carnal man, who through fear and anguish groans out, O wretched man that I am!] But ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we [who walk in newness of the Spirit, and please Godwe, who have the Spirit of Christ,] cry, Abba, Father! the Spirit itself bearing witness with our spirits that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God," whom we please, "and joint heirs with Christ," through whom we please God, Rom. viii, 1-17.
This glorious liberty, which God's children enjoy in their souls, under the perfection of the Christian dispensation, will one day extend to their bodies, which are dead [i.e. infirm and condemned to die] "because of [original] sin." And with respect to the body only it is that the apostle says, Rom. viii, 23, "We ourselves, also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption" of our outward man, "that is, the redemption of our body: for," with respect to the body, whose imperfection is so great a clog to the soul, "we are saved by hope." In the meantime, "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God. Who shall separate us," that love God, and walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, "from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress," &c, do it? "Nay, in all these things," much more in respect of sin and carnal mindedness, "we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us," Rom. viii, 23-37.
And that this abundant victory extends to the destruction of the carnal mind, we prove by these words of the context, "To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace; because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh," they that are carnally minded, "cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh," ye are not carnally minded, "if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. For where the Spirit of the Lord is," and dwells as a Spirit of adoption, "there is constant liberty: now if any man have not that Spirit," or if he hath it only as a Spirit of bondage, to make him groan, O wretched man! he may indeed be a servant of God in the land of his spiritual captivity, but "he is none of Christ's" freemen: he may serve God "in the oldness of the letter," as a Jew; but he does not "serve him in newness of the Spirit," as a Christian. For, I repeat it, "where the Spirit of Christ is," and dwells according to the fulness of the Christian dispensation, "there is a liberty, a glorious liberty," which is the very reverse of the bondage that Mr. Hill pleads for during the term of life: see Rom. viii, 14-21.
Whether therefore we consider Rom. vii, Rom. vi, or Rom. viii, it appears indubitable, that the sense which our opponents fix upon Rom. vii, 14, &c, is entirely contrary to the apostle's meaning, to the context, and to the design of the whole epistle, which is to extol the privilege of those who are Christ's, above the privileges of those who are Noah's or Moses'; or, if you please, to extol the privileges of spiritual Christians, who serve God "in newness of the Spirit," above the privileges of carnal heathens and Jews, who serve him only "in the oldness of the letter."