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Augustine, or Edwards, or Arminius, or Grotius, or any other theolo gian or commentator has taught or said, has been with me only secondary and subordinate. No one is farther from disrespect to the great and good, than myself; but when explaining the Bible, to call no man master, and to bow to no system as such, are sacred principles with me. If I have not always adhered to them, it results from my imperfection; not from any conscious and allowed design. Of course, all party men in theology, will probably find some things in the following pages with which they will not agree. How can it be otherwise? I have, to the utmost of my power, left their systems out of sight, and made it my constant and only effort, to follow simply the way in which the apostle seems to lead me. Such a course will be estimated differently from what it now is, when less attachment to system and party in theology, and more of simple-hearted love of the truth just as it stands in the Scripture, shall prevail in the Churches.
My views of Rom. v, 12-19, of vii, 5-25, and of viii, 28, seq., will no doubt be controverted. I have anticipated this; for who can help knowing, that these passages have, for time immemorial, been the great πρόσκομμα καὶ σκάνδαλον of theology ? Το hazard an interpretation here, and not to accompany it with reasons, would be justly deemed presumptuous. To give reasons, demands at least the appearance of theologizing. Whatever of this exists in the Commentary or the Excursus, is, I may say, involuntary on my part. It is inserted only to guard against being misunderstood, or else to support the interpretation which I have given. In order to do this, it is now and then necessary to show that a different interpretation is replete with difficulties, some of which are insurmountable.
Those who are disposed to find fault with what they may call my theological discussions, (brief and seldom as they are,) would probably not make any objections to such discussions, had the result of them been accordant with their own views, or with those of the authors whom they highly esteem. But how can I be under obligation, to make wishes of this nature a rule to guide my interpretations, or my explanation and defence of them? I know of no precept in theory, nor any obligation from usage, which hinders an interpreter from reasoning upon the doctrines which the Scriptures appear to teach, or which they have been represented as teaching. How can it be one's duty, not to guard against the misrepresentation of his own views in respect to the meaning of Scripture, and not to defend those views by producing the arguments which appear to justify them?
Whatever the following pages contain, either of truth or errror, they have been written under no ordinary sense of responsibility. The Epistle itself must needs create such a feeling in the breast of every reflecting man, who undertakes to comment upon it; and in addition to this, I have been repeatedly interrupted in my labors by my state of health; and this, under circumstances which rendered it not improbable, that I should not live to see the completion of my work. The day of my account cannot be far distant; and in view of it, can I publish to the world what I do not seriously regard as being true? Can party purposes have any strong attractions for a man in such a condition? I hope and trust I can say, that the tribunal before which this and all
other works are to be finally judged, appears to me a matter of immea surably higher interest, than all the praise or blame which men can bestow.
May that omniscient and merciful Being, the God of love and truth, forgive whatever of error may be in this book; and accept and bless to the good of his Church, whatever of truth is explained or defended!
I should be ungrateful, if I should omit to mention my special obligations to some of the interpreters, who have labored to explain the Epistle to the Romans. Calvin, Grotius, J. A. Turretin, Flatt, and Tholuck, have been my favorite authors; although I have by no means confined my reading to these. Most of all am I indebted to the excellent book of Tholuck on this Epistle. In particular, I have often relied on him, in my statements with respect to the opinions of other commentators, whom I had not at hand, or whom I did not think it important to consult myself, because I confided in his account of their views. But in all cases, where any considerable importance was attached to the opinion of this or that individual, and where it was in my power to consult, I have consulted for myself. Professor Tholuck will easily perceive, also, if the following sheets should pass under his eye, that I am indebted to him for various classical quotations and allusions, and also for not a few valuable philological remarks, as well as views of the reasoning and argumentation of the apostle. He has my most unfeigned thanks for all the aid which his excellent work has afforded me.
He will also perceive, that in some places I differ from him; I do this, as I trust, in the spirit of kindness and brotherly love. When I do differ, I always give my reasons for it. As I fully believe, that his only aim is to come to the knowledge and development of truth; so I trust he will put a candid estimate on the full and frank expression of my own views, where they differ from his. May our respective labors and inquiries help to promote the great object which we both have in view!
Throughout, I have adopted and expressed no views or opinions, without study; and none upon the authority of others. Those who read the following pages will perceive, I apprehend, that while I have not neglected the study of other writers, I have not omitted to study and think for myself. In this way only can any advance be hoped for, in the all-important work of interpreting the Bible.
I have only to add, that the present work is designed, in a special manner, for beginners in the study of interpretation; and this fact will account for the occasional repetitions and particularity of illustration, which the reader will not unfrequently meet with, in his perusal of this volume. If all the young men in our country, who repair to theological seminaries, or who devote themselves in any way to the study of sacred criticism, had been trained in early life to the study of the classics, on such grounds as are adopted in the Gymnasia of Europe, many a minute remark might be spared which is now made. The reader, who finds some things which are superfluous for himself, when he calls this to mind, will grant me pardon for being minute and particular.Commentary written in a general way, leaves only a general and indistinct impression. It is not my aim to accomplish merely such an end. VOL. IV.—April, 1833.
The more practised interpreter will not, for the most part, be displeased with being frequently reminded of principles in grammar and criticism, which are in themselves important, and which need, in our Biblical studies, to be kept constantly before the mind.'
After reading this preface, so like, in spirit and tone, the one prefixed to Wesley's translation and Notes of the New Testament, the reader is prepared to listen with attention and candor to what the commentator has to say. In running over the translation we cast our eye on chapter vi, 17, and then turning to the Commentary, we find the following remark :-To say that he' (Paul) thanks God with special reference to the fact that they were sinners, and because they were so, would be saying what contradicts not only the whole strain of Paul's epistles, but all the Bible.' This interpretation coincides exactly with Wesley and Clarke, both of whom represent the apostle as making the ground of his gratitude the fact of their being made free from those sins in which they had before been held in bondage, which certainly is the evangelical sentiment running through the whole New Testament.We were a little surprised, however, that the learned professor did not notice more fully the beautiful metaphor here used by the apostle, and which is lost in the common version ; ὑπηκούσατε δε εκ καρδίας εἷς ον παρεSóANTE TÚTOV didaxn, may be rendered, but ye have obeyed from the heart that mould of doctrine into which ye have been delivered; which,' says Mr. Wesley, 'as it contains a beautiful allusion, conveys also a very instructive lesson; intimating that our minds, all pliant and ductile, should be conformed to the Gospel precepts, as liquid metals take the figure of the mould in which they are cast.'
The seventh chapter of Romans has given rise to a multitude of interpretations and much fiery controversy; and a controversy too which involves a very serious and important theological question. Ever since the days of Augustine, (which may be termed the first era of Calvinism in the Christian Church,) the most of those divines and commentators who have arranged themselves in the ranks of the Calvinistic forces, have contended that this chapter is descriptive of the experience and character of the mature Christian. This they have done with a view to support their doctrine of the necessary continuance of sin in the hearts of believers while they live. On the other hand, many of all classes of commentators, equally eminent for learned criticism, deep theological attainments, and genuine Christian experience, have maintained that this chapter is descriptive of either a carnal Jew who was objecting to the apostle's doctrine, or to the exercises of a penitent sinner who might be struggling under the power of sin, and earnestly groaning for deliverance. For our part we had long been firmly per
suaded that this latter sentiment is the true one. Let us hear what Professor Stuart says on this subject :
The variety of opinion respecting the first four verses in this chapter, is so great, and so many difficulties present themselves in the way of almost every exegesis which has hitherto been proposed, that one is strongly tempted to abandon the hope, that any thing can be offered which will be satisfactory to an enlightened and inquiring mind. After long and often-repeated study of these verses, however, I have come to the persuasion, that the difficulty with most commentators lies principally in their insisting upon too minute comparison between the conjugal connection here mentioned, and the connection of Christians with the law. A minute and exact comparison cannot be made; for, (1) The apostle represents the husband as dying, and the wife as becoming free, in consequence of his death. Then, (2) Christians are said to die to the law, (not the law to them,) and they are thus prepared to be affianced to Christ; i. e. the party who dies is, in this last case, represented as married to another; while, in respect to the literal conjugal union, it is of course only the party who lives that can be joined to another. This apparent dissimilitude between the two cases has given great trouble to commentators; and in fact it appears inexplicable, unless we acquiesce in a mere general point of similitude as to the things compared, without insisting on minute and circumstantial resemblances.
Let us inquire first of all: What is the object of the writer in presenting the comparison before us? The answer is, to illustrate and defend the sentiment avowed in chap. vi, 14; viz. “For we are not under the law, but under grace." Those Christians who were inclined to be legalists, and to look for justification or sanctification (the latter is here the subject of the writer) by the law, and therefore to hold fast to the law as an adequate means of accomplishing this end, would easily take offence at such a declaration. "What!" they would naturally say, "does the Gospel then absolve us from our relation to the law? Shall we throw by the ancient Scriptures as of no more use to us, because we now come under a new dispensation of grace ?"
The apostle has prepared the way in chap. vi, 16-21, for the declaration which he is now about to make relative to this subject. He has there shown, as we have already seen, that a state of grace diminishes nothing of our obligation to refrain from sin; for by this very state are we made servants to righteousness; and the practice of holiness is at the same time urged upon us, by the prospect of a glorious reward, while the neglect of it is followed by endless misery. He now advances another step, and declares that we are "dead to the law," i. e. that the law as an efficient means of sanctification, (which the legalist holds it to be,) has been renounced by true Christians; for the death of Christ, "who is the end of the law for righteousness to every one who believes," in whom, moreover, we profess to trust as the ground of our sanctification as well as justification, has placed us in a new relation as to adequate means of being sanctified, and freed us from the vain and deceptive hopes of legalists, who were leaning upon the law both as the ground of sanctification and justification.
I have already stated reasons for supposing that the apostle is here speaking in particular of the law as an adequate means of sanctification; see the introduction to chap. vi. I merely remark here, that the close of ver. 4 shows very explicitly, that the special object which the apostle now considers as attainable by becoming dead to the law, and being affianced to Christ, is ἵνα καρποφορήσωμεν τῷ Θεῷ. Sanctification then, not justification, as many commentators suppose, is here the particular subject of the writer's attention.
Ver. 1-4 may rather be called an illustration of what the apostle had avowed in vi, 14, than an argument to establish the declaration there made. The simple basis of the whole comparison I understand thus : "Brethren, you are aware that death, in all cases, dissolves the relation which exists between an individual and a law by which he was personally bound. For example: the conjugal law ceases to be in force, by the death of one of the parties. So it is in the case of Christians.They not only die to sin, i. e. renounce it, when they are baptized into the death of Christ, vi, 2-11; but they also die to the law at the same time, i. e. they renounce all their hopes and expectations of being sanctified by the law, so that sin will no more have dominion over them.” They do, by the very fact of becoming real Christians, profess to receive Christ as their "wisdom, and justification, and sanctification, (ayaouós,) and redemption," 1 Cor. i, 30.
Let the reader consider, for a moment, the true nature of the decla- · ration just quoted. Christ is our wisdom; i. e. our teacher, he who communicates the spiritual knowledge and light which we need, "the light of the world." Christ is our justification, (dxaιodivn,) i. e. the meritorious cause, ground, or author of it; compare Rom. iii, 21–28. Christ is our sanctification; i. e. the author, cause, or ground of our sanctification, by what he has done in our behalf in order to ensure it. Christ is our redemption, (árodúrpwois,) i. e. he is (to sum up all in one word) the cause of our deliverance from the penalty and power of sin, and of our being brought to enjoy the glorious liberty of the children of God. The last word makes the climax of the whole sentence.
Christ then is as really and truly our sanctification, as he is our justification. If now, in despair of being justified by the law, (for so we must be if we rightly view the subject,) we go to Christ for justification, and receive him as our only Saviour, renouncing all merit of our own, and all hope of being saved by the law-if, I say, we feel and do all this, then we do renounce the law for ever as the ground of justification, and accept the gratuitous salvation which is proffered by Christ. In the same manner, when the sinner comes to an adequate and proper view of the strictness and purity of the Divine law, and also to right views of the state of his own heart while in a natural condition, he will utterly abandon all hope of being sanctified by the law; for he will see, what Paul has so fully asserted in chap. vii, 5-11, "that the law brings him (through his own fault indeed, but not the less surely because of this) into a state of deeper guilt and condemnation." How then can the law be an adequate means of his sanctification? It is impossible; and the truly convicted sinner renounces all hope of this, and betakes himself to Christ and his salvation as the only ground of hope in this respect.