on Romans 7 :15
For, that which I do, I allow not, etc. - The first clause of this verse is a general assertion concerning the employment of the person in question in the state which the apostle calls carnal, and sold under sin. The Greek word κατεργαξομαι which is here translated I do, means a work which the agent continues to perform till it is finished, and is used by the apostle, Philippians 2:12, to denote the continued employment of God's saints in his service to the end of their lives. Work Out your own salvation; the word here denotes an employment of a different kind; and therefore the man who now feels the galling dominion of sin says, What I am continually labouring at I allow not, ου γινωσκω, I do not acknowledge to be right, just, holy, or profitable.
But what I hate, that do I-- I am a slave, and under the absolute control of my tyrannical master: I hate his service, but am obliged to work his will. Who, without blaspheming, can assert that the apostle is speaking this of a man in whom the Spirit of the Lord dwells? From Romans 7:7 to this one the apostle, says Dr. Taylor, denotes the Jew in the flesh by a single I; here, he divides that I into two I's, or figurative persons; representing two different and opposite principles which were in him. The one I, or principle, assents to the law that it is good, and wills and chooses what the other does not practice, Romans 7:16. This principle he expressly tells us, Romans 7:22, is the inward man; the law of the mind, Romans 7:23; the mind, or rational faculty, Romans 7:25; for he could find no other inward man, or law of the mind, but the rational faculty, in a person who was carnal and sold under sin. The other I, or principle, transgresses the law, Romans 7:23, and does those things which the former principle allows not. This principle he expressly tells us, Romans 7:18, is the flesh, the law in the members, or sensual appetite, Romans 7:23; and he concludes in the last verse, that these two principles were opposite to each other; therefore it is evident that those two principles, residing and counteracting each other in the same person; are reason and lust, or sin that dwells in us. And it is very easy to distinguish these two I's, or principles, in every part of this elegant description of iniquity, domineering over the light and remonstrances of reason. For instance, Romans 7:17 : Now then, it is no more I that do it, but Sin that dwelleth in me. The I he speaks of here is opposed to indwelling or governing sin; and therefore plainly denotes the principle of reason, the inward man, or law of the mind; in which, I add, a measure of the light of the Spirit of God shines, in order to show the sinfulness of sin. These two different principles he calls, one flesh, and the other spirit, Galatians 5:17; where he speaks of their contrariety in the same manner that he does here.
And we may give a probable reason why the apostle dwells so long upon the struggle and opposition between these two principles; it appears intended to answer a tacit but very obvious objection. The Jew might allege: "But the law is holy and spiritual; and I assent to it as good, as a right rule of action, which ought to be observed; yea, I esteem it highly, I glory and rest in it, convinced of its truth and excellency. And is not this enough to constitute the law a sufficient principle of sanctification?" The apostle answers, "No; wickedness is consistent with a sense of truth. A man may assent to the best rule of action, and yet still be under the dominion of lust and sin; from which nothing can deliver him but a principle and power proceeding from the fountain of life." The sentiment in this verse may be illustrated by quotations from the ancient heathens; many of whom felt themselves in precisely the same state, (and expressed it in nearly the same language), which some most monstrously tell us was the state of this heavenly apostle, when vindicating the claims of the Gospel against those of the Jewish ritual! Thus Ovid describes the conduct of a depraved man: -
Sed trahit invitam nova vis; aliudque cupido,
Mens aliud suadet. Video meliora, proboque;
Ovid, Met. lib. vii. ver. 19.
My reason this, my passion that persuades;
I see the right, and I approve it too;
Condemn the wrong, and yet the wrong pursue.
- indignum facinus! nunc ego et
Illam scelestam esse, et me miserum sentio:
Et taedet: et amore ardeo: et prudens, sciens,
Vivus, vidensque pereo: nec quid agam scio.
on Romans 7 :15
For that which I do - That is, the evil which I do, the sin of which I am conscious, and which troubles me.
I allow not - I do not approve; I do not wish it; the prevailing bent of my inclinations and purposes is against it. Greek, "I know not;" see the margin. The word "know," however, is sometimes used in the sense of approving, Revelation 2:24, "Which have not known (approved) the depths of Satan;" compare Psalm 101:4, I will not know a wicked person." Jeremiah 1:5.
For what I would - That which I approve; and which is my prevailing and established desire. What I would wish always to do.
But what I hate - What I disapprove of: what is contrary to my judgment; my prevailing inclination; my established principles of conduct.
That do I-- Under the influence of sinful propensities, and carnal inclinations and desires. This represents the strong native propensity to sin; and even the power of corrupt propensity under the restraining influence of the gospel. On this remarkable and important passage we may observe,
(1) That the prevailing propensity; the habitual fixed inclination of the mind of the Christian, is to do right. The evil course is hated, the right course is loved. This is the characteristic of a pious mind. It distinguishes a holy man from a sinner.
(2) the evil which is done is disapproved; is a source of grief; and the habitual desire of the mind is to avoid it, and be pure. This also distinguishes the Christian from the sinner.
(3) there is no need of being embarrassed here with any metaphysical difficulties or inquiries how this can be; for.
(a) it is in fact the experience of all Christians. The habitual, fixed inclination and desire of their minds is to serve God. They have a fixed abhorrence of sin; and yet they are conscious of imperfection, and error, and sin, that is the source of uneasiness and trouble. The strength of natural passion may in an unguarded moment overcome them. The power of long habits of previous thoughts may annoy them. A man who was an infidel before his conversion, and whose mind was filled with scepticism, and cavils, and blasphemy, will find the effect of his former habits of thinking lingering in his mind, and annoying his peace for years. These thoughts will start up with the rapidity of lightning. Thus, it is with every vice and every opinion. It is one of the effects of habit. "The very passage of an impure thought through the mind leaves pollution behind it," and where sin has been long indulged, it leaves its withering, desolating effect on the soul long after conversion, and produces that state of conflict with which every Christian is familiar.
(b) An effect somewhat similar is felt by all people. All are conscious of doing that, under the excitement of passion and prejudice, which their conscience and better judgment disapprove. A conflict thus exists, which is attended with as much metaphysical difficulty as the struggle in the Christian's mind referred to here.
(c) The same thing was observed and described in the writings of the heathen. Thus, Xenophon (Cyrop. vi. 1), Araspes, the Persian, says, in order to excuse his treasonable designs," Certainly I must have two souls; for plainly it is not one and the same which is both evil and good; and at the same time wishes to do a thing and not to do it. Plainly then, there are two souls; and when the good one prevails, then it does good; and when the evil one predominates, then it does evil." So also Epictetus (Enchixid. ii. 26) says, "He that sins does not do what he would, but what he would not, that he does." With this passage it would almost seem that Paul was familiar, and had his eye on it when he wrote. So also the well-known passage from Ovid, Meta. vii. 9.
Mens aliud suadet. Video meliora, proboque,
on Romans 7 :15