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WORKS OF ARMINIUS - VERSE THE TWENTY-FOURTH
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VERSE THE TWENTY-FOURTH
1. The lamentable exclamation, O wretched man that I am! -- a two-fold reading of it. 2. The body of death is the body of sin. 3. By four reasons it is proved that the body of death is not our mortal body. 4. This is confirmed by the testimonies of St. Augustine and Epiphanius. 5. An argument in favour of the true opinion. 6. Another argument in its favour.
1. From the condition of this man, when accurately considered by himself, follows the mournful lament and exclamation, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death, or from this body of death?" Of this, a two-fold explanation is produced, according the double meaning of the words -- either "from the body of this death," or "from this body of death," which some people interpret by "this mortal body that we bear about with us," and others, by "that body of sin which has the dominion in a man who is under the law, and which renders him liable to death." The latter interpretation, however, is more agreeable both to the phrase and to the context; for the pronoun, toutou must not be referred to Swmatov "the body," but to Qanatou "death," to which it is most nearly conjoined; and the clause ought to be rendered thus: "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death," [which is sin not only existing within me, but dwelling and reigning]? as it is expressed in the 17th and 20th verses.
2. For the apostle attributes a body to sin in the sixth verse of the sixth chapter of this epistle: "Our old man is crucified with him, that The Body of Sin might be destroyed," the destruction of which is followed by a deliverance from the servitude of sin, as it is expressed in the same verse. The phrase also occurs in Col. ii, 11: "In putting off the Body of the Sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ." Wherefore, according to this mode of reading it, the meaning of the exclamation is, "Who shall deliver me from this tyranny of sin, which, reigning in me and dwelling in my flesh, bringing me into captivity and subjecting me to itself, brings certain death to me?"
3. Some other persons are urgent about a different rendering, and give this meaning to the words, "Who shall deliver me from this mortal body?" That is, as the apostle speaks in another passage, "I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ." But this meaning does not agree with the exclamation,
(1.) On account of the construction, which declares that the pronoun, toutou "this," must not be referred to the body, but to death.
(2.) Because the preceding verses do not permit this meaning to be entertained. For the force and tyranny of sin, dwelling in this man, and impelling him to fulfill his desires, is the subject on which the apostle is here treating. But "the deliverance" which is earnestly sought in this 24th verse, opposed to "the captivity" which is the subject of the verse.
(3.) On account of the thanksgiving which is appended to it, and which ought not to be subjoined to a desire which was not then fulfilled [if the meaning of the phrase were, this mortal body].
(4.) Because the grace of Christ is not simply to deliver out of this mortal body, but to free us from the body of sin and from its dominion. It is true indeed, that, through the blessed analusin "dissolution" or "departure," for which we are waiting in the faith and hope of Christ, rest is granted to us from all our labours, and from the conflict of lusts with which we are inwardly attacked. But in this passage the apostle is treating, not about the conflict and impulse of lusts which exist within us, but about the fulfilling of those lusts by that impulse to which "the law of the mind" opposes itself in vain.
4. St. Augustine is one of my supporters, who says, in his treatise On Nature and Grace (cap. 53,) "The saints most certainly do not pray to be delivered from the substance of the body, which is good, but from carnal vices; from which no man is delivered without the grace of the saviour, nor at the time of his departure from the body, when it dies." It is no injury to my interpretation, that St. Augustine here says, that, according to his interpretation, "Saints or holy persons pray for deliverance from carnal vices" &c.; I only point out what he understood by "the body of death?
On the Perfection of Justice, against Celestius, St. Augustine also says, "It is one thing, therefore, to depart out of this body, which the last day of the present life compels all men to do; but it is another thing to be delivered from the body of this death, which divine grace alone, through Jesus Christ, imparts to his saints and believers?
Epiphanius, On the 64th Heresy, (lib. 2, tom. I,) from Methodius, says, "Wherefore, O Aglaophon, he does not call this body death, but sin which dwells in the body through the lust of the flesh, and from which God has delivered him by his coming?
5. Wherefore, from the 24th verse, when rightly understood, I argue thus for the establishment of my own opinion: Those men who are placed under grace are not wretched; But this man is wretched; Therefore, this man is not placed under grace.
The assumption is in the text, and thus placed beyond all controversy.
In reference to the proposition, perhaps some one will say, "Men, placed under grace, are partly blessed, and partly wretched -- blessed, as they are regenerate and partakers of the grace of Christ -- wretched, as they still have within them the remains of sin, with which they ought to maintain a constant warfare. This is a sure sign of a felicity which is not yet full and perfect." I confess that, while the regenerate continue as sojourners in this mortal life, they do not attain to a felicity that is full, complete in all its parts, and perfect. But I do not recollect ever to have read [in the Scriptures] that they are, on this account, called "wretched" with regard to the "spiritual life which they live by faith of the Son of God," though, in reference to this natural life, "they be of all men most miserable." (1 Cor. xv, 19.) The opposite to this may be easily proved from the Scriptures: "Blessed are the poor in spirit -- they that mourn -- that hunger and thirst after righteousness," &c. (Matt. v, 3-12.)
"But," some one will rejoin, "Is it not wretched to contend with the remains of sin, to be buffeted by the messenger of Satan, sometimes to be overcome, and to be grievously injured?" It is undoubtedly desirable that this were not necessary, that it never occurred, that they might be delivered from the messenger of Satan; but the contenders, and those who are thus buffeted, cannot be called "wretched" on account of that contest and buffeting. But it is wretched indeed, to be overcome; yet neither are they called "wretched," who, though they be sometimes conquered, more frequently obtain the victory over the world, sin and Satan.
6. He who desires to be delivered from the body of this death, that is, from the dominion and tyranny of sin, is not placed under grace, but under the law. But this man desires to be delivered from the dominion and tyranny of sin; therefore, this man is not placed under grace, but under the law.
The proposition is true, because regenerate men, and those who are placed under grace, are free from the servitude and tyranny of sin -- not indeed perfectly free, but yet so far as to render it impossible for them to be said to be under the dominion and servitude of sin, if the person who speaks concerning them be desirous of talking in accordance with the Scriptures. But it has been already proved, that this man is desirous of being freed from the body of sin which dwells and reigns within him; therefore, the conclusion regularly follows.