on Romans 5 :21
That as sin hath reigned unto death - As extensively, as deeply, as universally, as sin, whether implying the act of transgression or the impure principle from which the act proceeds, or both. Hath reigned, subjected the whole earth and all its inhabitants; the whole soul, and all its powers and faculties, unto death, temporal of the body, spiritual of the soul, and eternal of both; even so, as extensively, deeply, and universally might grace reign - filling the whole earth, and pervading, purifying, and refining the whole soul: through righteousness - through this doctrine of free salvation by the blood of the Lamb, and by the principle of holiness transfused through the soul by the Holy Ghost: unto eternal life - the proper object of an immortal spirit's hope, the only sphere where the human intellect can rest, and be happy in the place and state where God is; where he is seen As He Is; and where he can be enjoyed with out interruption in an eternal progression of knowledge and beatitude: by Jesus Christ our Lord - as the cause of our salvation, the means by which it is communicated, and the source whence it springs. Thus we find, that the salvation from sin here is as extensive and complete as the guilt and contamination of sin; death is conquered, hell disappointed, the devil confounded, and sin totally destroyed. Here is glorying: To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests to God and his Father, be glory and dominion, for ever and ever. Amen. Hallelujah! The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth! Amen and Amen.
What highly interesting and momentous truths does the preceding chapter bring to our view! No less than the doctrine of the fall of man from original righteousness; and the redemption of the world by the incarnation and death of Christ. On the subject of the Fall, though I have spoken much in the notes on Genesis, chap. 3, yet it may be necessary to make a few farther observations: -
1. That all mankind have fallen under the empire of death, through this original transgression, the apostle most positively asserts; and few men who profess to believe the Bible, pretend to dispute. This point is indeed ably stated, argued, and proved by Dr. Taylor, from whose observations the preceding notes are considerably enriched. But there is one point which I think not less evident, which he has not only not included in his argument, but, as far as it came in his way, has argued against it, viz. the degeneracy and moral corruption of the human soul. As no man can account for the death brought into the world but on the ground of this primitive transgression, so none can account for the moral evil that is in the world on any other ground. It is a fact, that every human being brings into the world with him the seeds of dissolution and mortality. Into this state we are fallen, according to Divine revelation, through the one offense of Adam. This fact is proved by the mortality of all men. It is not less a fact, that every man that is born into the world brings with him the seeds of moral evil; these he could not have derived from his Maker; for the most pure and holy God can make nothing impure, imperfect, or unholy. Into this state we are reduced, according to the Scripture, by the transgression of Adam; for by this one man sin entered into the world, as well as death.
2. The fact that all come into the world with sinful propensities is proved by another fact, that every man sins; that sin is his first work, and that no exception to this has ever been noticed, except in the human nature of Jesus Christ; and that exempt case is sufficiently accounted for from this circumstance, that it did not come in the common way of natural generation.
3. As like produces its like, if Adam became mortal and sinful, he could not communicate properties which he did not possess; and he must transmit those which constituted his natural and moral likeness: therefore all his posterity must resemble himself. Nothing less than a constant miraculous energy, presiding over the formation and development of every human body and soul, could prevent the seeds of natural and moral evil from being propagated. That these seeds are not produced in men by their own personal transgressions, is most positively asserted by the apostle in the preceding chapter; and that they exist before the human being is capable of actual transgression, or of the exercise of will and judgment, so as to prefer and determine, is evident to the most superficial observer:
1st, from the most marked evil propensities of children, long before reason can have any influence or control over passion; and,
2ndly, it is demonstrated by the death of millions in a state of infancy. It could not, therefore, be personal transgression that produced the evil propensities in the one case, nor death in the other.
4. While misery, death, and sin are in the world, we shall have incontrovertible proofs of the fall of man. Men may dispute against the doctrine of original sin; but such facts as the above will be a standing irrefragable argument against every thing that can be advanced against the doctrine itself.
5. The justice of permitting this general infection to become diffused has been strongly oppugned. "Why should the innocent suffer for the guilty?" As God made man to propagate his like on the earth, his transmitting the same kind of nature with which he was formed must be a necessary consequence of that propagation. He might, it is true, have cut off for ever the offending pair; but this, most evidently, did not comport with his creative designs. "But he might have rendered Adam incapable of sin." This does not appear. If he had been incapable of sinning, he would have been incapable of holiness; that is, he could not have been a free agent; or in other words he could not have been an intelligent or intellectual being; he must have been a mass of inert and unconscious matter. "But God might have cut them off and created a new race." He certainly might; and what would have been gained by this? Why, just nothing. The second creation, if of intelligent beings at all, must have been precisely similar to the first; and the circumstances in which these last were to be placed, must be exactly such as infinite wisdom saw to be the most proper for their predecessors, and consequently, the most proper for them. They also must have been in a state of probation; they also must have been placed under a law; this law must be guarded by penal sanctions; the possibility of transgression must be the same in the second case as in the first; and the lapse as probable, because as possible to this second race of human beings as it was to their predecessors. It was better, therefore, to let the same pair continue to fulfill the great end of their creation, by propagating their like upon the earth; and to introduce an antidote to the poison, and by a dispensation as strongly expressive of wisdom as of goodness, to make the ills of life, which were the consequences of their transgression, the means of correcting the evil, and through the wondrous economy of grace, sanctifying even these to the eternal good of the soul.
6. Had not God provided a Redeemer, he, no doubt, would have terminated the whole mortal story, by cutting off the original transgressors; for it would have been unjust to permit them to propagate their like in such circumstances, that their offspring must be unavoidably and eternally wretched.
God has therefore provided such a Savior, the merit of whose passion and death should apply to every human being, and should infinitely transcend the demerit of the original transgression, and put every soul that received that grace (and All may) into a state of greater excellence and glory than that was, or could have been, from which Adam, by transgressing, fell.
7. The state of infants dying before they are capable of hearing the Gospel, and the state of heathens who have no opportunity of knowing how to escape from their corruption and misery, have been urged as cases of peculiar hardship. But, first, there is no evidence in the whole book of God that any child dies eternally for Adam's sin. Nothing of this kind is intimated in the Bible; and, as Jesus took upon him human nature, and condescended to be born of a woman in a state of perfect helpless infancy, he has, consequently, sanctified this state, and has said, without limitation or exception, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. We may justly infer, and all the justice as well as the mercy of the Godhead supports the inference, that all human beings, dying in an infant state, are regenerated by that grace of God which bringeth salvation to all men, Titus 2:11, and go infallibly to the kingdom of heaven. As to the Gentiles, their case is exceedingly clear. The apostle has determined this; see Romans 2:14, Romans 2:15, and the notes there. He who, in the course of his providence, has withheld from them the letter of his word, has not denied them the light and influence of his Spirit; and will judge them in the great day only according to the grace and means of moral improvement with which they have been favored. No man will be finally damned because he was a Gentile, but because he has not made a proper use of the grace and advantages which God had given him. Thus we see that the Judge of all the earth has done right; and we may rest assured that he will eternally act in the same way.
8. The term Fall we use metaphorically, to signify degradation: literally, it signifies stumbling, so as to lose the centre of gravity, or the proper poise of our bodies, in consequence of which we are precipitated on the ground. The term seems to have been borrowed from the παραπτωμα of the apostle, Romans 5:15-18, which we translate offense, and which is more literally Fall, from παρα, intensive, and πιπτω, I fall; a grievous, dangerous, and ruinous fall, and is property applied to transgression and sin in general; as every act is a degradation of the soul, accompanied with hurt, and tending to destruction. The term, in this sense, is still in common use; the degradation of a man in power we term his fall; the impoverishment of a rich man we express in the same way; and when a man of piety and probity is overcome by any act of sin, we say he is fallen; he has descended from his spiritual eminence, is degraded from his spiritual excellence, is impure in his soul, and becomes again exposed to the displeasure of his God.
on Romans 5 :21
That as sin hath reigned - Note, Romans 5:14.
Unto death - Producing or causing death.
Even so - In like manner, also. The provisions of redemption are in themselves ample to meet all the ruins of the fall.
Might grace reign - Might mercy be triumphant; see John 1:17, "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."
Through righteousness - Through, or by means of, God's plan of justification; Note, Romans 1:17.
Unto eternal life - This stands opposed to "death" in the former part of the verse, and shows that there the apostle had reference to eternal death. The result of God's plan of justification shall be to produce eternal life. The triumphs of the gospel here celebrated cannot refer to the number of the subjects, for it has not actually freed all people from the dominion of sin. But the apostle refers to the fact that the gospel is able to overcome sin of the most malignant form, of the most aggravated character, of the longest duration. Sin in all dispensations and states of things can be thus overcome; and the gospel is more than sufficient to meet all the evils of the apostasy, and to raise up the race to heaven.
This chapter is a most precious portion of divine revelation. It brings into view the amazing evils which have resulted from the apostasy. The apostle does not attempt to deny or palliate those evils; he admits them fully; admits them in their deepest, widest, most melancholy extent; just as the physician admits the extent and ravages of the disease which he hopes to cure. At the same time, Christianity is not responsible for those evils. It did not introduce them. It finds them in existence, as a matter of sober and melancholy fact, pertaining to all the race. Christianity is no more answerable for the introduction and extent of sin, than the science of medicine is responsible for the introduction and extent of disease. Like that science, it finds a state of wide-spread evils in existence; and like that science, it is strictly a remedial system. And whether true or false, still the evils of sin exist, just as the evils of disease exist, whether the science of medicine be wellfounded or not.
Nor does it make any difference in the existence of these evils, whether Christianity be true or false. If the Bible could be proved to be an imposition, it would not prove that people are not sinners. If the whole work of Christ could be shown to be imposture, still it would annihilate no sin, nor would it prove that man has not fallen. The fact would still remain - a fact certainly quite as universal, and quite as melancholy, as it is under the admitted truth of the Christian revelation - and a fact which the infidel is just as much concerned to account for as is the Christian. Christianity proposes a remedy; and it is permitted to the Christian to rejoice that that remedy is ample to meet all the evils; that it is just suited to recover our alienated world; and that it is destined yet to raise the race up to life, and peace, and heaven. In the provisions of that scheme we may and should triumph; and on the same principle as we may rejoice in the triumph of medicine over disease, so may we triumph in the ascendancy of the Christian plan over all the evils of the fall And while Christians thus rejoice, the infidel, the deist, the pagan, and the scoffer shall contend with these evils which their systems cannot alleviate or remove, and sink under the chilly reign of sin and death; just as people pant, and struggle, and expire under the visitations of disease, because they will not apply the proper remedies of medicine, but choose rather to leave themselves to its unchecked ravages, or to use all the nostrums of quackery in a vain attempt to arrest evils which are coming upon them.
on Romans 5 :21
5:21 That as sin had reigned - so grace also might reign - Which could not reign before the fall; before man had sinned. Through righteousness to eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord - Here is pointed out the source of all our blessings, the rich and free grace of God. The meritorious cause; not any works of righteousness of man, but the alone merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. The effect or end of all; not only pardon, but life; divine life, leading to glory.