Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I serve the law of God, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
O wretched man," etc.! Some have been so shocked as to call this a miserable chapter, and have shifted the difficulty by passing it on one side. Others have adopted the notion that he is here describing, not his actual state, but the condition of an unregenerate man such as he was once. Yet the expression of the preceding verse, "I delight in the Law of God," and the change of tense from the past to the present after the thirteenth verse, indicate that we have here a vivid description of the struggle that continues, though with better success, even in the Christian who is justified, but not wholly sanctified, whilst he is imprisoned in this "body of death."
I. INQUIRE MORE CLOSELY INTO THE GROUND OF THIS EXCLAMATION. What is it of which such grievous complaint is made? He appeals for aid against a strong foe whose grasp is on his throat. The eyes of the warrior grow dim, his heart is faint, and, fearful of utter defeat, he cries, "Who will deliver me?" We may explain "the body of this death" as meaning this mortal body, the coffin of the soul, the seat and instrument of sin. But the apostle includes still more in the phrase. It denotes sin itself, this carnal mass, all the imperfections, the corrupt and evil passions of the soul. It is a body of death, because it tends to death; it infects us, and brings us down to death. The old man tries to strangle the new man, and, unlike the infant Hercules, the Christian is in danger of being overcome by the snakes that attack his feebleness. How afflicting to one who loves God and desires to do his will, to find himself thwarted at every turn, and that to succeed means a desperate conflict! Attainments in the Divine life are not reached without a struggle, and non-success is not simply imperfection; it is failure, defeat, sin gaining the mastery. This evil is grievous because it is so near and so constant. The man is chained to a dead body. Where we go our enemy accompanies us, ever ready to assault us, especially when we are at a disadvantage from fatigue or delusive security. Distant evils might be borne with some measure of equanimity; we might have a signal of their approach, and be prepared, and hope that, niter a sharp bout, they would retire. But like a sick man tormented with a diseased frame, so the "law of sin in the members" manifests its force and uniform hostility in every place.
II. DERIVE CONSOLATION FROM THE EXCLAMATION ITSELF - from the fact of its utterance, its vehemency, etc.
1. Such a cry indicates the stirrings of Divine life within the soul. The man must be visited with God's grace who is thus conscious of his spiritual nature, and of a longing to shake off his unworthy bondage to evil. It may be the beginning of better things if the impression be yielded to. Do not quit the fight, lest you become like men who have been temporarily aroused and warned, and have made vows of reformation, and then returned to their old apathy and sleep in sin. And this attitude of watchfulness should never be abandoned during your whole career.
2. The intensity of the cry discovers a thorough hatred of sin and a thirst after holiness. It is a passionate outburst revealing the central depths. Such a disclosure is not fit for all scenes and times; the conflict of the soul is too solemn to be profaned by casual spectators. Yet what a mark of a renewed nature is here displayed! What loathing of Corruption, as offensive to the spiritual sense! Sin may still clog the feet of the Christian and sometimes cause him to stumble, but he is never satisfied with such a condition, and calls aloud for aid. Would that this sense of the enormity of sin were more prevalent; that, like a speck of dust in the eye, there could be no ease till it be removed! Sin is a foreign body, a disturbing element, an intruder.
3. There is comfort in the very conviction of helplessness. The apostle sums up his experience as if to say, "My human purposes come to nought. Between my will and the performance there is a sad hiatus. I find no help in myself." A lesson which has to be learnt ere we really cry for a Deliverer, and value the Saviour's intervention. Peter, by his threefold denial, was taught his weakness, and then came the command, "Feed my lambs" We are not prepared for service in the kingdom until we confess our dependence on superhuman succour.
III. THE CRY ADMITS OF A SATISFACTORY ANSWER. A Liberator has been found, so that the apostle is not in despair; he adds, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Christ assumed our body of death, crucified it, and glorified it. Thus he "Condemned sin in the flesh." He bruised the serpent's head. Since our Leader has conquered, we shall share his triumph. He quickens and sustains his followers by his Spirit. Stronger is he who is for us than all against us. His grace is the antidote to moral evil; by its power we may contend victoriously. The indwelling Christ is the prophecy of ultimate, complete victory. Eventually we shall quit this tabernacle of clay, and leave behind us all the avenues to temptation, and the stings and infirmities of which the body is the synonym. Clothed with a house from heaven, there shall be no obstacle to perfect obedience - a service without weariness and without interruption. - S.R.A.
O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?I. THE SOUL'S OPPRESSIVE DESPOT. "The body of this death." What is meant by this? Corrupt animalism. What is elsewhere called the flesh with its corruptions and lusts. The body, intended to be an instrument and servant of the soul, has become its sovereign, and keeps all its power of intellect and conscience in subjection. Corrupt animalism is the moral monarch of the world. It rules in literature, in politics, in science, and even in churches. This despot is death to all true freedom, progress, happiness.
II. THE SOUL'S STRUGGLE TO BE FREE. This implies —
1. A quickened consciousness of its condition. "O wretched man that I am! "The vast majority of souls, alas I are utterly insensible to this; hence they remain passive. What quickens the soul into this consciousness? "The law." The light of God's moral law flashes on the conscience and startles it.
2. An earnest desire for help. It feels its utter inability to haul the despot down; and it cries mightily, "Who shall deliver me?" Who? Legislatures, moralists, poets, philosophers, priesthoods? No; they have tried for ages, and have failed. Who? There is One and but One, and to Him Paul alludes in the next verse and the following chapter. "Thanks be to God," etc.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
(F. Bourdillon.)Romans 1:16. To establish this, Paul begins by proving in the first four chapters that both Jew and Gentile are utterly lost. In the fifth he shows that through Christ peace with God may be brought into the conscience of the sinner. In the sixth he proves that this truth, instead of being any excuse for sin, was the strongest argument against it, for it gave freedom from sin, which the law could never do. And then, in this chapter, he inquires why the law could not bring this gift. Before the law was given, man could not know what sin was, any more than the unevenness of a crooked line can be known until it is placed beside something that is straight. But when the law raised before his eyes a rule of holiness, then, for the first time, his eyes were opened; he saw that he was full of sin; and forthwith there sprang up a fearful struggle. Once he had been "alive without the law"; he had lived, that is, a life of unconscious, self-contented impurity; but that life was gone from him, he could live it no longer. The law, because it was just and good, wrought death in him; for it was a revelation of death without remedy. "The law was spiritual," but he was corrupt, "sold under sin." Even when his struggling will did desire in some measure a better course, still he was beaten down again by evil. "How to perform that which was good he found not." Yea, "when he would do good, evil was present with him." In vain there looked in upon his soul the blessed countenance of an external holiness. Its angel gladness, of which he could in no way be made partaker, did but render darker and more intolerable the loathsome dungeon in which he was perpetually held. It was the fierce struggle of an enduring death; and in its crushing agony, he cried aloud against the nature, which, in its inmost currents, sin had turned into corruption and a curse. "O wretched man that I am!" etc. And then forthwith upon this stream of misery there comes forth a gleam of light from the heavenly presence; "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Here is deliverance for me; I am a redeemed man; holiness may be mine, and, with it, peace and joy. Here is the full meaning of these glorious words.
I. THEY LIE AT THE ROOT OF SUCH EXERTIONS AS WE MAKE FOR THOSE WHOM SIN HAS BROUGHT DOWN VERY LOW.
1. They contain the principle which should lead us most truly to sympathise with them. This great truth of the redemption Of our nature in Christ Jesus is the only link of brotherhood between man and man. To deny our brotherhood with any of the most miserable of those whom Christ has redeemed, is to deny our own capacity for perfect holiness, and so our true redemption through Christ.
2. Here, too, is the only warrant for any reasonable efforts for their restoration. Without this, every man, who knows anything of the depth of evil with which he has to deal, would give up the attempt in despair. Every reasonable effort to restore any sinner, is a declaration that we believe that we are in a kingdom of grace, of redeemed humanity. Unbelieving men cannot receive the truth that a soul can be thus restored. They believe that you may make a man respectable; but not that you can heal the inner currents of his spiritual life, and so they cannot labour in prayers and ministrations with the spiritual leper, until his flesh, of God's grace, comes again as the flesh of a little child. To endure this labour, we must believe that in Christ, the true Man, and through the gift of His Spirit, there is deliverance from the body of this death.
II. IT IS AT THE ROOT ALSO OF ALL REAL EFFORTS FOR OURSELVES.
1. Every earnest man must, if he sets himself to resist the evil which is in himself, know something of the struggle which the apostle here describes; and if he would endure the extremity of that conflict, he must have a firm belief that there is a deliverance for him. Without this, the knowledge of God's holiness is nothing else than the burning fire of despair. And so many do despair. They think they have made their choice, and that they must abide by it; and so they shut their eyes to their sins, they excuse them, they try to forget them, they do everything but overcome them, until they see that in Christ Jesus there is for them, if they will claim it, a sure power over these sins. And, therefore, as the first consequence, let us ever hold it fast, even as our life.
2. Nor is it needful to lower the tone of promise in order to prevent its being turned into an excuse for sin. Here, as elsewhere, the simple words of God contain their own best safeguard against being abused; for what can be so loud a witness against allowed sin in any Christian man as this truth is? If there be in the true Christian life in union with Christ for every one of us this power against sin, sin cannot reign in any who are living in Him. To be in Christ is to be made to conquer in the struggle. So that this is the most quickening and sanctifying truth. It tears up by the roots a multitude of secret excuses. It tells us that if we are alive in Christ Jesus, we must be new creatures. And herein it destroys the commonest form of self-deception — the allowing some sin in ourselves, because in other things we deny ourselves, because we pray, because we give alms, etc. And this self-deception is put down only by bringing out this truth, that in Christ Jesus there is for us, in our struggle with "the body of this death," an entire conquest, if we will but honestly and earnestly claim it for ourselves; so that if we do not conquer sin, it must be because we are not believing.
3. This will make us diligent in all parts of the Christian life, because all will become a reality. Prayer, the reading of God's Word, etc., will be precious after a new sort, because through them is kept alive our union with Christ, in whom alone is for us a conquest over the evil which is in us. So that, to sum up all in one blessed declaration, "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus will make us free from the law of sin and death."
(Bp. S. Wilberforce.)I. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE BODY OF DEATH OF WHICH THE BELIEVER COMPLAINS.
1. Indwelling sin is called the body of this death, as it is the effect and remains of that spiritual death to which all men are subject in unregeneracy.
2. The remains of sin in the believer is called the body of this death, on account of the deadness and dulness of spirit in the service of God, which it so often produces.
3. Remaining depravity is called the body of death, because it tends to death.(1) It tends to the death of the body. As it was sin that brought us under the influence of the sentence of dissolution; as it is sin that has introduced into the material frame of man those principles of decay which will bring it to the grave; as it is sin which is the parent of those evil passions which, as natural causes, war against the health and life of the body, so it is the inbred sins of the believer that require his flesh to see the dust.(2) But this is not all. Remaining depravity tends to spiritual and eternal death, and on this account, also, is justly called the body of this death.
II. THE GRIEF AND PAIN WHICH REMAINING DEPRAVITY OCCASIONS TO THE BELIEVER.
1. Remaining depravity is thus painful and grievous to the Christian, from his acquaintance with its evil and malignant nature.
2. Remaining sin is thus painful to the Christian, from the constant struggle which it maintains with grace within the heart. Even in eminent saints the contest is often singularly obstinate and painful; for where there is strong grace there are also, sometimes, strong corruptions. Besides, where there is eminent spirituality of mind, there is an aspiration after a freedom from imperfections which scarcely belongs to the present state.
III. THE EARNEST LONGINGS AND CONFIDENT AND JOYFUL ASSURANCE OF DELIVERANCE FROM INDWELLING SIN WHICH THE CHRISTIAN ENTERTAINS.
1. Mark his earnest longings — "Who shall deliver me?" The language implies how well the Christian knows he cannot deliver himself from the body of sin. This is the habitual desire of his soul — the habitual object of his pursuit. For this end he prays, he praises, he reads, he hears, he communicates. So earnest, in short, is his desire of deliverance, that he welcomes with this view two things most unwelcome to the feelings of nature affliction and death.
2. Mark his confident and joyful assurance of deliverance. Weak in himself, the Christian is yet strong in the Lord. All the victories he has hitherto achieved have been through the faith and by the might of the Redeemer. All the victories he shall yet acquire shall be obtained in the same way.
3. Mark the gratitude of the Christian for this anticipated and glorious deliverance. Sin is the cause of all the other evils in which he has been involved, and when sin is destroyed within and put forever away, nothing can be wanting to perfect his blessedness. Well then does it become him to cherish the feeling and utter the language of thankfulness.
(James Kirkwood.)1. Some years ago a number of peculiar photographs were circulated by spiritualists. Two portraits appeared on the same card, one clear and the other obscure. The fully developed portrait was the obvious likeness of the living person; and the indistinct portrait was supposed to be the likeness of some dead friend, produced by supernatural agency. The mystery, however, was found to admit of an easy scientific explanation. It not unfrequently happens that the portrait of a person is so deeply impressed on the glass of the negative, that although the plate is thoroughly cleansed with strong acid, the picture cannot be removed, although it is made invisible. When such a plate is used over again, the original image faintly reappears along with the new portrait. So is it in the experience of the Christian. He has been washed in the blood of Christ; and beholding the glory of Christ as in a glass, he is changed into the same image. And yet the ghost of his former sinfulness persists in reappearing with the image of the new man. So deeply are the traces of the former godless life impressed upon the soul, that even the sanctification of the Spirit, carried on through discipline, burning as corrosive acid, cannot altogether remove them.
2. The photographer also has a process by which the obliterated picture may at any time be revived. And so it was with the apostle. The sin that so easily beset him returned with fresh power in circumstances favourable to it.
I. THE "BODY OF DEATH" IS NOT SOMETHING THAT HAS COME TO US FROM WITHOUT, an infected garment that may be thrown aside whenever we please. It is our own corrupt self, not our individual sins or evil habits. And this body of death disintegrates the purity and unity of the soul and destroys the love of God and man which is its true life. It acts like an evil leaven, corrupting and decomposing every good feeling and heavenly principle, and gradually assimilating our being to itself. There is a peculiar disease which often destroys the silkworm before it has woven its cocoon. It is caused by a species of white mould which grows rapidly within the body of the worm at the expense of its nutritive fluids; all the interior organs being gradually converted into a mass of flocculent vegetable matter. Thus the silkworm, instead of going on in the natural order of development to produce the beautiful winged moth, higher in the scale of existence, retrogrades to the lower condition of the inert senseless vegetable. And like this is the effect of the body of death in the soul of man. The heart cleaves to the dust of the earth, and man, made in the image of God, instead of developing a higher and purer nature, is reduced to the low, mean condition of the slave of Satan.
II. NONE BUT THOSE WHO HAVE ATTAINED TO SOME MEASURE OF THE EXPERIENCE OF ST. PAUL CAN KNOW THE FULL WRETCHEDNESS CAUSED BY THIS BODY OF DEATH. The careless have no idea of the agony of a soul under a sense of sin; of the tyranny which it exercises and the misery which it works. And even in the experience of many Christians there is but little of this peculiar wretchedness. Conviction is in too many instances superficial, and a mere impulse or emotion is regarded as a sign of conversion; and hence many are deluded by a false hope, having little knowledge of the law of God or sensibility to the depravity of their own hearts. But such was not the experience of St. Paul. The body of corruption that he bore about with him darkened and embittered all his Christian experience. And so it is with every true Christian. It is not the spectre of the future, or the dread of the punishment of sin, that he fears, for there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus; but the spectre of the sinful past and the pressure of the present evil nature. The sin which he fancied was so superficial that a few years' running in the Christian course would shake it off, he finds is in reality deep rooted in his very nature, requiring a life long battle. The fearful foes which he bears in his own bosom — sins of unrestrained appetite, sins that spring from past habits, frequently triumph over him; and all this fills him almost with despair — not of God, but of himself — and extorts from him the groan, "O wretched man that I am!" etc.
III. THE EVIL TO BE CURED IS BEYOND HUMAN REMEDY. The various influences that act upon us from without — instruction, example, education, the discipline of life — cannot deliver us from this body of death.
IV. THE WORK IS CHRIST'S AND NOT MAN'S. We are to fight the battle in His name and strength, and to leave the issue in His hands. He will deliver us in His own way and time. Conclusion: We can reverse the illustration with which I began. If behind our renewed self is the spectral form of our old self, let us remember that behind all is the image of God in which we were created. The soul, however lost, darkened, and defaced, still retains some lineaments of the Divine impression with which it was once stamped. The image haunts us always; it is the ideal from which we have fallen and towards which we are to be conformed. To rescue that image of God, the Son of God assumed our nature, lived our life, and died our death; and His Spirit becomes incarnate in our heart and life, and prolongs the work of Christ in us in His own sanctifying work. And as our nature becomes more and more like Christ's, so by degrees the old nature photographed by sin upon the soul will cease to haunt us, and the image of Christ will become more and more vivid. And at length only one image will remain. We shall see Him as He is, and we shall become like Him.
(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)i.e., the body. A word or two about the human body.
I. IT IS IN THE UNREGENERATE MAN A PERSONALITY. "I am carnal," that is, I am become flesh. This is an abnormal, a guilty, and a perilous fact. The right place of the body is that of the organ, which the mind should use for its own high purpose. But this, through the pampering of its own senses, and through the creation of new desires and appetites, becomes such a power over man that Paul represents it as a personality, the thing becomes an ego.
II. AS A PERSONALITY IT BECOMES A TYRANT. It is represented in this chapter as a personality that enslaves, slays, destroys the soul, the inner man. It is a "body of death." It drags the soul to death When man becomes conscious of this tyranny, as he does when the "commandment" flashes upon the conscience, the soul becomes intensely miserable, and a fierce battle sets in between the two personalities in man. The man cries out, "What shall I do to be saved?" "Who shall deliver me?"
III. AS A TYRANT IT CAN ONLY BE CRUSHED BY CHRIST. In the fierce battle Christ came to the rescue, and struck the tyrant down. In this Epistle the writer shows that man struggled to deliver himself —
1. Under the teachings of nature, but failed (see chap. Romans 1). He became more enslaved in materialism.
2. Under the influence of Judaism, but failed. By the deeds of the law no man was justified or made right. Under Judaism men filled up the measure of their iniquities. Who, or what, then, could deliver? No philosophers, poets, or teachers. Only one. "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ."
(D. Thomas, D. D.)1. St. Paul was not thinking with any fear of death. Indeed, toil worn and heart wearied as he was, he often would have been glad, had it been the Lord's will. There was something that to a mind like Paul's was worse than death. It was the dominion of the carnal nature which strove to overrule the spiritual. The body of sin was to him "the body of death." Who should deliver him from it?
2. Now, is the feeling from which such a cry as Paul's proceeds a real and noble feeling, or is it the mere outcry of ignorance and superstition? There are not wanting those who would say the latter. "Why trouble ourselves," says one of these apostles of the new religion of science, "about matters of which, however important they may be, we do know nothing, and can know nothing? We live in a world full of misery and ignorance; and the plain duty of each and all of us is to try and make the little corner he can influence somewhat less miserable and ignorant. To do this effectually, it is necessary to be possessed of only two beliefs; that we can learn much of the order of nature; and that our own will has a considerable influence on the course of events." That is all that we need attend to. Any idea of God and a moral law belongs to cloudland. But is there not an instinct within us which rebels against this cool setting aside of everything that cannot be seen or handled? And is that instinct a low one? or is it the instinct of minds that come nearest to Divine?
3. Which is the higher type of man — which do you feel has got the firmer grip of the realities of life — the man calmly bending over the facts of outward nature, and striving to secure, as far as he can, conformity to them: or, the man, like Paul, believing that there was a moral law of which he had fallen short, a Divine order with which he was not in harmony — good and evil, light and darkness, God and the devil, being to him tremendous realities — his soul being the battlefield of a war between them, in the agony and shock of which conflict he is constrained to cry out for a higher than human help? I should say the man in the storm and stress of the spiritual battle; and I should say that to deny the reality of the sense of such a conflict was to deny facts which are as obvious to the spiritual intelligence as the fact that two and two make four is to the ordinary reason, and was to malign facts which are much higher and nobler than any mere fact of science, as the life of man is higher and nobler than the life of rocks or seas.
4. Minds wholly engrossed with intellectual or selfish pursuits may be unconscious of this conflict, and disbelieve its existence in other minds. So may minds that have reached that stage which the apostle describes as "dead in sin"; but to other minds, minds within which conscience still lives, within which exclusive devotion to one thought or interest has not obliterated every other, this conflict is a stern reality. Who that has lived a life with any spiritual element in it, and higher than the mere animal's or worldling's, has not known that consciousness, and known its terror and power of darkness when it was roused into active life? it is of this consciousness Paul speaks. Under the pressure of it he cries out, "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
5. And what answer does he find to that cry? Does the order of nature, or the powers of his own will help him here? Does not the very sight of the unbroken calm and steadfast regularity of the law and order of external nature add new bitterness to the conviction that he has forgotten a higher law and disturbed a still more gracious order? Is not the very conviction of the weakness of his own will one of the most terrible elements in his distress? Speak to a man under this consciousness of the power of sin about finding help to resist, through studying the laws of that nature of which he is himself a part, and through exercising that will, whose feebleness appalls him, and you mock him, as if you spoke to a man in a raging fever of the necessity of studying his own temperament and constitution, and of the duty of keeping himself cool. What is wanted in either case is help from some source of energy outside himself, who should restore the wasted strength from his own fountains of life — who should say to the internal conflict, "Peace, be still." And that is what Paul found in Christ. He found it nowhere else. It is not to be found in knowledge, in science, in philosophy, in nature, in culture, in self.
6. Now, how did Paul find this in Christ? How may all find it? He was speaking about something infinitely more terrible than the punishment of sin, viz., the dominion of sin. What he wanted was an actual deliverance from an actual foe — not a promise of exemption from some future evil. And it was this that Paul realised in Christ. To him to live was Christ. The presence and the power of Christ possessed him. It was in this he found the strength which gave him the victory over the body of death. He found that strength in the consciousness that he was not a lonely soldier, fighting against an overpowering enemy, and in the dark, but that One was with him who had come from heaven itself to reveal to him that God was on his side, that he was fighting God's battle, that the struggle was needed for his perfecting as the child of God. It was in the strength of this that he was able to give thanks for his deliverance from the "body of death."
7. The consciousness of this struggle, the engagement in it in the strength of Christ, the victory of the higher over the lower, are in all the necessary conditions of spiritual health and continued life. To deny the reality of that conflict, and of the Divine life for which it prepares us, does not prove that these are not real and true. I take a man who does not know the "Old Hundredth" from "God Save the Queen," and play him a piece of the sweetest music, and he says there is no harmony in it. I show a man who is colour blind two beautifully contrasted tints, and he sees but one dull hue: but still the music and the beauty of the colours exist, though not for him, not for the incapable ear and the undiscerning eye. So with the spiritual life. It is for the spiritual.
(R. H. Story, D. D.)
The living and the dead at his command
Were coupled, face to face, and hand to hand;
Till, choked with stench, in loathed embraces tied,
The lingering wretches pined away and died. — (Dryden.)Doddridge is not by any means singular in his opinion that the apostle derives an allusion from this horrid punishment; although perhaps the text is sufficiently intelligible without the illustration it thus receives. Philo, in an analogous passage, more obviously alludes to it, describing the body as a burden to the soul, carried about like a dead carcase, which may not till death be laid aside." (Kitto.) During the reign of Richard I, the following curious law was enacted for the government of those going by sea to the Holy Land — "He who kills a man on shipboard shall be bound to the dead body and thrown into the sea; if a man be killed on shore the slayer shall be bound to the dead body and buried with it."
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.I. MAN'S NEED.
1. While man is, in special organs, inferior to one and another of the animals, he is collectively by far the superior of everyone. And yet, large as he is, man is not happy in any proportion to his nature, and to the hints and fore gleams which that nature gives. He has, in being clothed with flesh, all the points of contact with the physical world that the ox or the falcon has. He is born; he grows up with all the instincts and passions of animal life, and without them he could not maintain his foothold upon the earth. But man is also a creature of affections, which, in variety, compass and force, leave the lower creation in a vivid contrast. He is endowed with reason, moral sentiment and spiritual life; but he has learned but very imperfectly how to carry himself so that every part of his nature shall have fair play. The animal propensities are predominant. Here, then, begins the conflict between man's physical life and his moral life — the strife of gentleness, purity, joy, peace, and faith, against selfishness, pride, and appetites of various kinds.
2. To all souls that have been raised to their true life the struggle has been always severe. To have the power over our whole organisation without a despotism of our animal and selfish nature is the problem of practical life. How can I maintain the fulness of every part, and yet have harmony and relative subordination, so that the appetites shall serve the body, and the affections not be dragged down by the appetites; so that the moral sentiments and the reason shall shine clear and beautiful?
II. WHAT REMEDIES HAVE PROPOSED!
1. To give way to that which is strongest, has been one special method of settling the conflict. Kill the higher feelings and then let the lower ones romp and riot like animals in a field — this gives a brilliant opening to life; but it gives a dismal close to it. For what is more hideous than a sullen old man burnt out with evil? When I see men suppressing all qualms, and going into the full enjoyment of sensuous life, I think of a party entering the Mammoth Cave with candles enough to bring them back, but setting them all on fire at once. The world is a cave. They that burn out all their powers and passions in the beginning of life at last wander in great darkness, and lie down to mourn and die.
2. Another remedy has been in superstition. Men have sought to cover this conflict, rather than to heal it.
3. Others have compromised by morality. But this, which is an average of man's conduct with the customs and laws of the time in which he lives, comes nowhere near touching that radical conflict which there is between the flesh and the spirit.
4. Then comes philosophy, and deals with it in two ways. It propounds to men maxims and wise rules. It expounds the benefit of good, and the evils of bad conduct. And then it proposes certain rules of doing what we cannot help, and of suffering what we cannot throw off. And it is all very well. So is rosewater where a man is wounded unto death. It is not less fragrant because it is not remedial; but if regarded as a remedy, how poor it is!
5. Then comes scientific empiricism, and prescribes the observance of natural laws; but how many men in life know these laws? How many men are so placed that if they did know them, they would be able to use them? You might as well take a babe of days, and place a medicine chest before it, and say, "Rise, and select the right medicine, and you shall live."
III. What, then, is the final remedy? WHAT DOES CHRISTIANITY OFFER IN THIS CASE?
1. It undertakes to so bring God within the reach of every being in the world, that He shall exert a controlling power on the spiritual realms of man's nature, and, by giving power to it, overbalance and overbear the despotism of the radical passions and appetites. There is a story of a missionary who was sent out to preach the gospel to the slaves; but he found that they went forth so early, and came back so late, and were so spent, that they could not hear. There was nobody to preach to them unless he should accompany them in their labour. So he went and sold himself to their master, who put him in the gang with them. For the privilege of going out with these slaves, and making them feel that he loved them, and would benefit them, he worked with them, and suffered with them; and while they worked, he taught; and as they came back he taught; and he won their ear; and the grace of God sprang up in many of these darkened hearts. That is the story over again of God manifest in the flesh.
2. Many things can be done under personal influence that you cannot in any other way. My father said to me, when I was a little boy, "Henry, take these letters to the post office." I was a brave boy; yet I had imagination. I saw behind every thicket some shadowy form; and I heard trees say strange and weird things; and in the dark concave above I could hear flitting spirits. As I stepped out of the door, Charles Smith, a great thick-lipped black man, who was always doing kind things, said, "I will go with you." Oh! sweeter music never came out of any instrument than that. The heaven was just as full, and the earth was just as full as before; but now I had somebody to go with me. It was not that I thought he was going to fight for me. But I had somebody to succour me. Let anything be done by direction and how different it is from its being done by personal inspiration. "Ah! are the Zebedees, then, so poor? John, take a quarter of beef and carry it down, with my compliments. No, stop; fill up that chest, put in those cordials, lay them on the cart, and bring it round, and I will drive down myself." Down I go; and on entering the house I hold out both hands, and say, "Why, my old friend, I am glad I found you out. I understand the world has gone hard with you. I came down to say that you have one friend, at any rate. Now do not be discouraged; keep up a good heart." And when I am gone, the man wipes his eyes, and says, "God knows that that man's shaking my hands gave me more joy than all that he brought. It was himself that I wanted." The old prophet, when he went into the house where the widow's son lay dead, put his hands on the child's hands, and stretched himself across the child's body, and the spirit of life came back. Oh, if, when men are in trouble, there were some man to measure his whole stature against them, and give them the warmth of his sympathy, how many would be saved! That is the philosophy of salvation through Christ — a great soul come down to take care of little souls; a great heart beating its warm blood into our little pinched hearts, that do not know how to get blood enough for themselves. It is this that gives my upper nature strength, and hope, and elasticity, and victory.Conclusion: We learn —
1. What is a man's depravity. When you say that an army is destroyed, you do not mean that everybody is killed; but that, as an army, its complex organisation is broken up. To spoil a watch you do not need to grind it to powder. Take out the mainspring. "Well, the pointers are not useless." Perhaps not for another watch. "There are a great many wheels inside that are not injured." Yes, but what are wheels worth in a watch that has no mainspring? What spoils a compass? Anything which unfits it for doing what it was intended to do. Now, here is this complex organisation of man. The royalties of the soul are all mixed up. Where conscience ought to be is pride. Where love ought to be is selfishness. Its sympathy and harmony are gone. It is not necessary that a man should be all bad to be ruined. Man has lost that harmony which belongs to a perfect organisation. And so he lives to struggle. And the struggle through which he is passing is the cause of human woe.
2. Why it is that the divinity of Christ becomes so important in the development of a truly Christian life. As a living man, having had the experiences of my own soul, and having been conversant with the experiences of others, what I want is power. And that is what they lack who deny the Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. God can cleanse the heart. Man cannot. And that God whom we can understand is the God that walked in Jerusalem, that suffered upon Calvary, and that lives again, having lifted Himself up into eternal spheres of power, that He might bring many sons and daughters home to Zion.
(H. Ward Beecher.)I. SOULS GROANING UNDER THE BODY OF SIN AND DEATH CAN FIND NO RELIEF BUT THROUGH JESUS CHRIST. None but an almighty Saviour is suited to the case of a poor sinner. This doctrine reproves the Church of Rome, and others, for directing men, not to Christ, but to themselves; to their vows, alms, penances, and pilgrimages; or, to their greater watchfulness and strictness in life. But as Luther observes, "How many have tried this way for many years, and yet could get no peace." Now, what is there in Christ that can relieve a soul?
1. The blood of Christ, which was shed as an atoning sacrifice for sin.
2. A perfect and everlasting righteousness. This our apostle, doubtless, had in view: for he immediately adds (Romans 8:1). "Christ is made unto us of God, wisdom and righteousness."
3. The Spirit of Christ which is given to all true believers, as an abiding principle, teaching them to fight and war with sin.
II. THAT SOULS THUS EXERCISED, FINDING RELIEF ONLY IN CHRIST, WILL ACTUALLY RECEIVE AND EMBRACE HIM. None will receive Christ, but they only who are taught to see their need of Him.
III. THEY, WHO SEE THIS RELIEF IN CHRIST, WHO RECEIVE AND EMBRACE IT, MUST AND WILL GIVE THANKS TO GOD FOR IT. The angels, those disinterested spirits, bringing the joyful news to our apostate world, sung, "Glory to God in the highest, for peace on earth, and good will towards men." And surely, if we who are redeemed to God by His blood, should hold our peace on so joyful an occasion, "the stones would immediately cry out."
IV. ALL THOSE WHO HAVE RECEIVED CHRIST, AND HAVE GIVEN THANKS TO GOD FOR HIM, WILL LOOK UPON HIM AS THEIR LORD AND THEIR GOD.
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. —
I. OF WHOM DOES THE APOSTLE SPEAK? Of those —
1. Who are enlightened.
2. But still under the law.
II. WHAT DOES HE AFFIRM RESPECTING THEM?
1. That they naturally approve the law.
2. Yet serve sire
III. WHAT IS THE NECESSARY CONCLUSION?
1. That there is no deliverance by the law, or by personal effort.
2. But by Christ only.
(J. Lyth, D. D.)I. THE LIFE OF A BELIEVER IS CHIEFLY TAKEN UP IN SERVING THE LAW OF GOD. For this end the law is written upon his heart, and, therefore, he serves God with his spirit, or with his renewed mind. His whole man, all that can be called himself, is employed in a life of evangelical and universal obedience.
II. THE BELIEVER MAY MEET WITH MANY INTERRUPTIONS WHILE HE IS AIMING TO SERVE THE LAW OF GOD. "With my flesh the law of sin."
1. Had our apostle contented himself with the former part of this declaration, it would doubtless have been matter of great discouragement to the children of God. But when we find that the apostle himself confesseth his weakness and imperfection, whose heart would not take courage, and go forth more boldly to the conflict than ever?
2. After all the encouragement afforded to the mind of a believer, yet this is a very humbling subject. We may learn hence, how deeply sin is inwrought in our nature.
III. ALTHOUGH THE BELIEVER MEETS WITH MANY INTERRUPTIONS, YET HE HOLDS ON SERVING THE LAW OF GOD, EVEN WHEN HE IS DELIVERED FROM ALL CONDEMNATION. I ground this observation on the close connection in which these words stand with the first verse of the next chapter. They are delivered from condemnation, and yet they serve the law of God, because they are delivered.
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