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WORKS OF ARMINIUS - THE FAVOURABLE TESTIMONIES OF MORE RECENT DIVINES
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V. THE FAVOURABLE TESTIMONIES OF MORE RECENT DIVINES
3. FABER STAPULENSIS
St. Paul transfers to himself a carnal man, and one who feels the weakness of the flesh, when he was by no means a person of that description, but was living entirely after the Spirit. But he transfigures himself into a weak person to those who are weak.
Since I have now, for the purpose of instructing you, taken upon myself the person of a man who is still liable to vices and affections. (Paraphrase on Romans 7.)
But I am carnal, sold under sin, &c. They interpret the whole of this passage so as to say that St. Paul does not speak concerning himself, but in the person of a man who is not yet born again. (Controversy respecting the Interpretation of Scripture, Quest. 5, fol. 508.)
The question is, "Which of these agrees -- that we will what is good, yet do it not, or that we do what is evil, and yet do not will it, but hate it -- nay, that we commit evil, and that we do not commit it," For the apostle affirms both these things.
The solution is this: We shall be able to understand these things as truly and properly spoken, from this circumstance- if it be evident of what description of man St. Paul is here speaking under the instance of himself, and then what original sin is capable of producing.
But if we consider what the apostle confesses about himself in this chapter, it is, I think, abundantly evident that he proposes, in himself, the example of a man to whom the law of God is known, and by whom it is loved. For he says -- "I consent unto the law that it is good; I will that which is good, and I hate evil. To will, is present with me. With the mind, I myself serve the law of God." These undoubtedly are not the traits of a wicked or profane man, and of one who is not yet approaching to God; but they are those of a holy man who loves God and who trembles at his words. For God rescues us by certain degrees from that death into which we are all born. First, he suffers us, for some time, to live in ignorance, disregarding his judgments. At this period, "sin is dead," &c. But when it has pleased God to terminate this ignorance, he sends forth his law, and gives us to see that it is "holy, and just, and good." From this, it necessarily arises that "we consent to the law," that we will what it commends, and that we are abhorrent from those things which it condemns. But if the Spirit of Christ do not afford unto us powerful succour, this love of God and consent to his law remain so weak, and the force of sin which is still within us prevails so strongly, that, through the correction and command of the law, the depraved lusts become the more inflamed, and we occasionally do, not only by lusting or desiring, but also by actually committing, that which we ourselves detest, and we neglect those things of which we are not capable of doing otherwise than approving and willing. But these things cause the dread of the divine judgment to increase within us, by which we are completely unnerved, and deprived of sensation.
All these effects are produced by the law, but through the corruption of our depraved nature; and it is the condition of the period now mentioned, which the apostle describes in himself in the present chapter. But whilst God, who is the Father of mercies, resolves more fully to impart himself to us, and vouchsafes more bountifully to bestow the Spirit of his Son upon us, by this, his Spirit, he represses and subdues that power of sin which otherwise impels us against the law and authority, how much soever we may consent to the law itself; he implants within us a true judgment concerning things, and a solid love, [honest, for that which is upright and honourable, so that now, with pleasure, and with a confirmed and perpetual inclination or purpose, we live the life of God. This condition of holy people is described by the apostle in the subsequent chapter, in which he declares that "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus had made him free from the law of sin and death." (Rom. viii, 2.)
As, therefore, the apostle in this place begins to declare what the law, of itself, effects in holy people, and from this begins to commend it when it is so exceedingly beneficial, yet he asserts that it cannot render a man just before God, but that it drives him to Christ who alone can justify. And he brings forward in this place, and points out, the condition of a man of God, which is that of the middle age of holy people, in which the law is indeed already known, but not yet fully inscribed on the heart; that is, when the mind of man consents to the law of God, but the appetite of nature still offers resistance, and impels to act in opposition to the precepts of the law. I repeat it, in this condition, the apostle has proposed himself for an example, that he might point out in himself what power the law possessed, and how all things are death, until the Spirit of Christ obtains greater influence within us. But St. Paul did not still contend with his nature after the manner which is described in this passage, for he soon afterwards declares that "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus had made him free from the law of sin and death," and that through the Spirit of Christ, "the righteousness of the law was now fulfilled in him, as he walked, not after the, flesh, but after the Spirit." (On Romans 7.)
7. WOLFGANG MUSCULUS
The law, indeed, has righteousness and justification, by commanding those things which are just. But it is impossible that it should have that by which to justify; for it is hindered and rendered inefficacious through the flesh, that is, through the corrupt and depraved inclinations of the flesh, through which it comes to pass that a man who is carnal, and the slave of sin, is incapable of obeying those commands which are holy, and just, and good. (Common Places in the chapter on the laws, under the title of The Power and efficacy of the law.)
We say that the power and efficacy of the law, which is called "the letter," is two-fold. The one is that which it produces of its own, and may be called proper. The other is improper, which it does not bring from itself, but which it performs through the corruption of our flesh. The first is proper, because it produces the knowledge of sin. On this subject, the apostle speaks thus: "I had not known sin but by the law; for I had not known lust except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." (Rom. vii, 7.) He also says, "By the law is the knowledge of sin." (iii, 20.)
He afterwards not only speaks about "the knowledge of sin," which consists of the understanding, but he also speaks principally about that knowledge of it which is received by a lively feeling of sin in our flesh; that is, the law causes me not only to understand, but likewise with gnawing remorse of conscience to feel and to experience that sin is within me. It is proper, because it convinces us that we are inexcusably guilty of sin, subjects and condemns us to malediction, (Gal. iii, 10,) and, through a feeling of sin, and when terrified of condemnation, it renders us anxious, and desirous of the grace of God. Hence, arises that which is the subject of the apostle's investigation in Romans 7, when at length he cries out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The grace of God through Jesus Christ."
After the apostle, in Romans 7, has disputed about the power and efficacy of the law, which works in carnal and natural men, speaking in the next chapter of the grace of the Holy Spirit, which is bestowed on those who believe in Christ, he subjoins -- "for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death," &c. under the title of the Law of the Spirit.)
St. Paul understands "the law of sin" to be the power and tyranny of sin reigning in our flesh, by which we are violently dragged and impelled to commit sin. "The law of death" is that by which sinners are adjudged to death eternal. Therefore "the law of the Spirit of life" not only produces this effect in us, that we are not condemned on account of the imputation of righteousness which is through faith in Christ; but it likewise extinguishes the power of sin in us, that sin may now no longer reign in us, but the strength and grace of Christ, and that we may no more serve sin, but righteousness, nor be obnoxious to death, but challenged and claimed for the true life.
For the more lucid explanation of this matter, we must observe the three degrees of the saints, by which they are divinely led to the perfection of piety: The first is of those who resemble drunken men, and who, having for some time lulled to sleep all judgment and every good inclination, live in sins, the law of God not having yet produced its effect in them; the second degree is of those who, by what way soever they may have returned to themselves, the judgment of their reason being now illuminated, and their inclinations changed, desire that which is good, and thus consent to the law of God and delight in it, and really abhor that which is evil; but the tyranny of sin still prevailing, they are reluctantly drawn to evil things; and, therefore, the good of which they approve, and which they desire and will, they perform not; but the evil which they hate and avoid, they perpetrate, though their consciences exclaim against it, and though the judgment of their minds dictate something far different, &c. To this second degree must be referred those things of which St. Paul here treats in his own example. The Third Degree is of those who have been rescued into the liberty of righteousness, after having, through the Spirit, subdued and conquered the power and wickedness of sin, that they do not now obey the law of sin, but the law of the Spirit that reigns in their members, and possesses the double faculty of willing and doing. About this degree, the apostle will treat in the subsequent chapter. (Comment on Romans 7.)
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. A most wonderful and sudden turn of the affections. He had just before deplored himself as a wretched man and a captive, and almost immediately he gratefully returns thanks. From this, we perceive that St. Paul now uses his own person, not that which he sustained when he wrote these things, but that which he had formerly represented.
There is, therefore, now no condemnation. As he had previously described the condition of the man who was living in a legal spirit, so now he describes and points out the condition of him who is endued with the evangelical Spirit. (On Romans 8.) The mutual and unanimous agreement of the witnesses whom I have here produced, will, according to my judgment, very easily liberate my opinion from all surmise and suspicion of novelty.