For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.…
I. WHEN EVIL IS DONE BY ANY MAN AGAINST HIS MIND, WILL, OR FREE CONSENT, IT MAY, IN SOME SENSE, BE SAID NOT TO BE HIS SIN. This is an inference deduced from the two preceding verses — viz., that since he did not approve, but hated sin, he might justly conclude, "It is no longer I, my whole self, much less is it my better self, as renewed by the power of Divine grace." But before a man can take comfort from this consideration, he must be able to see that there is no consent, either express and formal, or interpretative and virtual. By express consent we intend a man's yielding up himself to any lust, as Cain expressly consented to the murder of his brother, and Judas to betray his Lord and Master. But a virtual consent is, when we yield to that from which such a sin will probably follow: thus a man that is violently intoxicated, if he kill anyone, etc., he may virtually be said to will whatever wickedness he may commit, though for the present he knoweth not what he doth. On the other hand, where sin is hateful, the believer may, and ought to, form his estimate, not from the corrupt, but from the better part of himself.
II. THERE IS A GREAT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE REGENERATE AND THE UNREGENERATE, BOTH IN THEIR INWARD CONFLICTS AND THEIR DAILY SINS. This difference may be learnt from —
1. The nature of the principles engaged in this conflict. The conflict may be known, whether it be natural or spiritual, from the quality of the principles which are engaged in it. If only the understanding or knowledge be set against sin, or if conscience be the only opposing principle, this, as it may be found in an unregenerate man, is very different from the conflict which was found in our apostle, and in all true believers.
2. The nature of the motives by which it is carried on. These motives are many and various, suited to the principles of the persons engaged in the conflict — such as the fear of man, the loss of worldly interest, character, or reputation, the loss of bodily health, etc. — and the greatest principle may be that of self-love, or the love of human applause, all which considerations when alone, and when they are the sole grounds or motives in men's opposition to sin — these and such like motives, as they spring from pride, flattery, and self-love, in opposition to the love of God, are no better than a prostitution of spiritual things to carnal purposes, and therefore they are far from affording any good evidence that such a heart is right with God.
3. The different desires, aims, and ends proposed in the conflict. The highest and best that can be proposed by a rational creature is the glory of God; but no such end was ever proposed by an unregenerate man; no, not in any one action — not in his best frames or highest attainments; and yet without this men do but serve themselves and not God.
4. The manner of sinning, both as to temper and behaviour. When believers sin —
(1) It is not with their full and free consent, at any time, or upon any occasion. Once they did as fully and freely consent to it as any other sinners in the world (Ephesians 2:2), but now it is not so.
(2) Yet sin does not reign in them, as it once did, or as it now does in others.
(3) They do it not habitually and customarily, as they once did, and as others still do.
(4) They do it not, as Satan does, out of malice and hatred against God.
(5) They do not abide or continue in it and under it, as others do, or as they themselves once did.
(6) They sin not without the loss of their peace and comfort as others do, or as they themselves once did.
(7) It is generally out of weakness, and not out of wickedness; it is for want of strength to conquer, or it is through infirmity.
III. THAT THE BEST OF SAINTS ARE NOT ONLY LIABLE TO SIN, BUT THEY HAVE ALSO SIN DWELLING WITHIN THEM. It is evident that we must understand original sin or corruption in the immediate actings of it in the heart of a believer. If it be inquired, "Why does our apostle call the corruption of human nature the sin that dwelleth in us?" we answer — because —
1. It hath taken possession of us, and its abode is in us as its house.
2. Of its permanency or its fixed and stated abode in us. It dwelleth in us, not merely as a stranger or a guest.
3. It is a latent evil, and herein lies much of its security.
I. ENDEAVOUR TO EXPLAIN THE TEXT. The apostle did not mean to offer any apology for sin; he did not mean to tell us that it did not emanate from himself. No; he was conscious it did, and this humiliating truth was eminently blest to him, as it has been, and ever will be, to all the family of heaven.
1. He was justified completely from sin. This is the glory of the Christian religion: Every other religion binds man hand and foot, soul and body; but there is this glorious provision in the covenant of the Eternal Three: in the work of the Son, and in the fulfilment of the covenant offices of God the Holy Ghost, the sinner is justified by faith in Christ, and the condemnation is transferred from the sinner to sin.
2. Sin was dethroned in the apostle's affections. "For," says he, "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." Sin is such a monster that no one can confine it but the Almighty. He is destined to die, and that too in a three-fold manner.
(1) By famine (Romans 13:14).
(2) By poison. Mercy is the food of the soul and the poison of sin (Psalm 130:3, 4).
(3) By suicide.
II. THE LESSONS WHICH THE BELIEVER IS DESTINED TO LEARN FROM THE CEASELESS ATTACKS OF INDWELLING SIN.
1. We learn sin in its origin and evil, necessarily connected with what we experience, with what God has been pleased to reveal to us.
2. The glory of Jesus Christ as a Mediator between God and man.
3. Self-knowledge. And this lies at the root of all religion. It is the foundation of everything that is excellent.
4. Wisdom and circumspection. We read of some who are "taken captive by the devil at his will"; and, indeed, their own will is fully identified with his will; and this is the reason he takes them captive so easily.
5. Sympathy. Sinners not changed by the grace of God hate each other, not their sins. Awful consideration! they love sin but hate sinners; they hate too the consequences of sin, when obliged to feel them; but sin itself they lure. Not so when man has been changed into the image of the living God — he is taught to love and pity the sinner, while he abhors his sin.
6. His absolute dependence on a covenant God for everything, and to prize that dependence.
7. Gratitude in the midst of the deepest calamities.
8. Sin is suffered to dwell within us, to prepare the saint for heaven. The daily conflict within gradually lessens his attachment to the things of time and sense.
Parallel VersesKJV: For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.