on Romans 7 :8
Sin, taking occasion by the commandment - I think the pointing, both in this and in the 11th verse, to be wrong: the comma should be after occasion, and not after commandment. But sin taking occasion, wrought in me by this commandment all manner of concupiscence. There are different opinions concerning the meaning of the word αφορμη, which we here translate occasion. Dr. Waterland translates the clause, Sin, taking Advantage. Dr. Taylor contends that all commentators have mistaken the meaning of it, and that it should be rendered having received Force. For this acceptation of the word I can find no adequate authority except in its etymology - απο, from, and ὁρμη, impetus. The word appears to signify, in general, whatsoever is necessary for the completion or accomplishment of any particular purpose. Xenophon uses αφορμαι εις τον βιον to signify whatever is necessary for the support of life. There is a personification in the text: sin is, represented as a murderer watching for life, and snatching at every means and embracing every opportunity to carry his fell purpose into effect. The miserable sinner has a murderer, sin, within him; this murderer can only destroy life in certain circumstances; finding that the law condemns the object of his cruelty to death, he takes occasion from this to work in the soul all manner of concupiscence, evil and irregular desires and appetites of every kind, and, by thus increasing the evil, exposes the soul to more condemnation; and thus it is represented as being slain, Romans 7:11. That is, the law, on the evidence of those sinful dispositions, and their corresponding practices, condemns the sinner to death: so that he is dead in law. Thus the very prohibition, as we have already seen in the preceding verse, becomes the instrument of exciting the evil propensity; for, although a sinner has the general propensity to do what is evil, yet he seems to feel most delight in transgressing known law: stat pro ratione voluntas; "I will do it, because Iwill."
For without the law, sin was dead - Where there is no law there is no transgression; for sin is the transgression of the law; and no fault can be imputed unto death, where there is no statute by which such a fault is made a capital offense.
Dr. Taylor thinks that χωρις νομου, without the law, means the time before the giving of the law from Mount Sinai, which took in the space of 430 years, during which time the people were under the Abrahamic covenant of grace; and without the law that was given on Mount Sinai, the sting of death, which is sin, had not power to slay the sinner; for, from the time that Adam sinned, the law was not re-enacted till it was given by Moses, Romans 5:13. The Jew was then alive, because he was not under the law subjecting him to death for his transgressions; but when the commandment came, with the penalty of death annexed, sin revived, and the Jew died. Then the sting of death acquired life; and the Jew, upon the first transgression, was dead in law. Thus sin, the sting of death, received force or advantage to destroy by the commandment, Romans 7:8, Romans 7:11.
All manner of concupiscence - It showed what was evil and forbade it; and then the principle of rebellion, which seems essential to the very nature of sins rose up against the prohibition; and he was the more strongly incited to disobey in proportion as obedience was enjoined. Thus the apostle shows that the law had authority to prohibit, condemn, and destroy; but no power to pardon sin, root out enmity, or save the soul.
The word επιθυμια, which we render concupiscence, signifies simply strong desire of any kind; but in the New Testament, it is generally taken to signify irregular and unholy desires. Sin in the mind is the desire to do, or to be, what is contrary to the holiness and authority of God.
For without the law, sin was dead - This means, according to Dr. Taylor's hypothesis, the time previous to the giving of the law. See before. But it seems also consistent with the apostle's meaning, to interpret the place as implying the time in which Paul, in his unconverted Jewish state, had not the proper knowledge of the law - while he was unacquainted with its spirituality. He felt evil desire, but he did not know the evil of it; he did not consider that the law tried the heart and its workings, as well as outward actions. This is farther explained in the next verse.
on Romans 7 :8
But sin - To illustrate the effect of the Law on the mind, the apostle in this verse depicts its influence in exciting to evil desires and purposes. Perhaps no where has he evinced more consummate knowledge of the human heart than here. He brings an illustration that might have escaped most persons, but which goes directly to establish his position that the Law is insufficient to promote the salvation of man. Sin here is personified. It means not a real entity; not a physical subsistence; not something independent of the mind, having a separate existence, and lodged in the soul, but it means the corrupt passions, inclinations, and desires of the mind itself. Thus, we say that lust burns, and ambition rages, and envy corrodes the mind, without meaning that lust, ambition, or envy are any independent physical subsistences, but meaning that the mind that is ambitious, or envious, is thus excited.
Taking occasion - The word "occasion" ἀφορμὴν aphormēn properly denotes any material, or preparation for accomplishing anything; then any opportunity, occasion, etc. of doing it. Here it means that the Law was the exciting cause of sin; or was what called the sinful principle of the heart into exercise. But for this, the effect here described would not have existed. Thus, we say that a tempting object of desire presented is the exciting cause of covetousness. Thus, an object of ambition is the exciting cause of the principle of ambition. Thus, the presentation of wealth, or of advantages possessed by others which we have not, may excite covetousness or envy. Thus, the fruit presented to Eve was the exciting cause of sin; the wedge of gold to Achan excited his covetousness. Had not these objects been presented, the evil principles of the heart might have slumbered, and never have been called forth. And hence, no one understand the full force of their native propensities until some object is presented that calls them forth into decided action. The occasion which called these forth in the mind of Paul was the Law crossing his path, and irritating and exciting the native strong inclinations of the mind.
By the commandment - By all law appointed to restrain and control the mind.
Wrought in me - Produced or worked in me. The word used here means often to operate in a powerful and efficacious manner. (Doddridge.)
All manner of - Greek, "All desire." Every species of unlawful desire. It was not confined to one single desire, but extended to everything which the Law declared to be wrong.
Concupiscence - Unlawful or irregular desire. Inclination for unlawful enjoyments. The word is the same which in Romans 7:7 is rendered "lust." If it be asked in what way the Law led to this, we may reply, that the main idea here is, that opposition by law to the desires and passions of wicked men only tends to inflame and exasperate them. This is the case with regard to sin in every form. An attempt to restrain it by force; to denounce it by laws and penalties; to cross the path of wickedness; only tends to irritate, and to excite into living energy, what otherwise would be dormant in the bosom. This it does, because,
(1) It crosses the path of the sinner, and opposes his intention, and the current of his feelings and his life.
(2) the Law acts the part of a detector, and lays open to view that which was in the bosom, but was concealed.
(3) such is the depth and obstinacy of sin in man, that the very attempt to restrain often only serves to exasperate, and to urge to greater deeds of wickedness. Restraint by law rouses the mad passions; urges to greater deeds of depravity; makes the sinner stubborn, obstinate, and more desperate. The very attempt to set up authority over him throws him into a posture of resistance, and makes him a party, and excites all the feelings of party rage. Anyone may have witnessed this effect often on the mind of a wicked and obstinate child.
(4) this is particularly true in regard to a sinner. He is calm often, and apparently tranquil. But let the Law of God be brought home to his conscience, and he becomes maddened and enraged. He spurns its authority, yet his conscience tells him it is right; he attempts to throw it off, yet trembles at its power; and to show his independence, or his purpose to sin, he plunges into iniquity, and becomes a more dreadful and obstinate sinner. It becomes a struggle for victory; in the controversy with God he re solves not to be overcome. It accordingly happens that many a man is more profane, blasphemous, and desperate when under conviction for sin than at other times. In revivals of religion it often happens that people evince violence, and rage, and cursing, which they do not in a state of spiritual death in the church; and it is often a very certain indication that a man is under conviction for sin when he becomes particularly violent, and abusive, and outrageous in his opposition to God.
(5) the effect here noticed by the apostle is one that has been observed at all times, and by all classes of writers. Thus, Cato says (Livy, xxxiv. 4,) "Do not think, Romans, that it will be hereafter as it was before the Law was enacted. It is more safe that a bad man should not be accused, than that he should be absolved; and luxury not excited would be more tolerable than it will be now by the very chains irritated and excited as a wild beast." Thus, Seneca says (de Clementia, i. 23,) "Parricides began with the law." Thus, Horace (Odes, i. 3,) "The human race, bold to endure all things, rushes through forbidden crime." Thus, Ovid (Amor. iii. 4,) "We always endeavour to obtain what is forbidden, and desire what is denied." (These passages are quoted from Tholuck.) See also Proverbs 9:17, "Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant." If such be the effect of the Law, then the inference of the apostle is unavoidable, that it is not adapted to save and sanctify man.
For without the law - Before it was given; or where it was not applied to the mind.
Sin was dead - It was inoperative, inactive, unexcited. This is evidently in a comparative sense. The connection requires us to under stand it only so far as it was excited by the Law. People's passions would exist; but without law they would not be known to be evil, and they would not be excited into wild and tumultuous raging.
on Romans 7 :8
7:8 But sin - My inbred corruption. Taking occasion by the commandment - Forbidding, but not subduing it, was only fretted, and wrought in me so much the more all manner of evil desire. For while I was without the knowledge of the law, sin was dead - Neither so apparent, nor so active; nor was I under the least apprehensions of any danger from it.