What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. No, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust…
The gambler that can take another's money, and feel no compunction of conscience at his villainy, who can continue to walk the streets as if he were an honest man, while all the time a gambler's money is in his pocket and a gambler's joy in his heart, illustrates how thoroughly sin can get the mastery of a human being. How many people can lie in the way of slander, in the way of innuendo, in the way of suspicion, and still sleep at night as if they were as innocent as babes. Such people are dead in trespasses and sins. You run a pin into your body and you scream, because it is a live body. And so, while conscience is alive, the thrust of a wicked thought through it causes exquisite torture. But when one can lie, and steal, and be drunken — when these barbed iniquities can be driven day by day into the very centre of a man's life, and conscience receives the stab without a spasm — then is it dead. And this is the law, that with whatever faculty you sin, the sin which that faculty commits kills the corresponding moral sense. Hence, sin is moral suicide; the drug works slowly but surely. The spirit which is compelled to eat of it is thrown gradually into a torpor, which deepens and deepens with every breath, until the capacity for inspiration is fatally weakened and the spirit dies.
(W. H. H. Murray.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: What shall we say then? Is the law sin? May it never be! However, I wouldn't have known sin, except through the law. For I wouldn't have known coveting, unless the law had said, "You shall not covet."