WORKS OF ARMINIUS - COMMON INTERPRETATION ANSWERED
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II. VARIOUS OBJECTIONS IN FAVOUR OF THE COMMON INTERPRETATION ANSWERED
1. An objection for the common interpretation; it is possible for this to be the meaning of Romans 7, "that the regenerate do not so frequently and so perfectly perform what is good, and omit what is evil as they wish." Reply: The gloss is contrary to the text, because this chapter describes the continuous state of the man about whom it treats. 2. The manner in which St. Paul would have spoken, if had intended to convey the meaning that generally obtains, and this in conformity with the style and modes of speaking which he usually adopts in other passages when writing concerning himself. An argument against the usually received opinion, taken from those things which have been previously spoken, and which are here reduced into the form of a syllogism. 3. Another objection in favour of the common interpretation, and this in two members. An answer to the first member. An answer to the second, "that when the regenerate sin, they sin with reluctance." Every inward struggle against sin is not a sign that the man is regenerate. 4. Another objection, and a reply to it. Remarks on a complete and an incomplete will. The regenerate will not, with a complete will, more good than they perform, neither perpetrate more evil than they will. 5. Each of us must institute a serious examination into self and into all the motions of his will.
1. But some one will say, in defense of this modern opinion, and in order to wipe away this double stain, "By this interpretation, no injury is inflicted on divine grace, and no harm is done to good morals." Some other man, possessed of still greater vehemence in defending the opinion which he has once conceived, will bring against me the charge of calumny, [and will say,] "It is a well known fact that they who give this interpretation to the chapter, do not take away from the regenerate the performance of all actual good, and the omission of what is evil, and consequently, [the work of] the grace of regeneration; but this is all that they affirm: Sometimes, nay, very often, those men who are regenerated by the Spirit of Christ do the evil which. they would not, and, far more frequently, omit or do not perform the good which they would; and the same regenerate persons never perform so perfectly the good which they do as they will to perform it, and they never omit evil so perfectly as they will to omit it. But neither of these assertions can be denied by those who acknowledge the imperfection of righteousness in this life, and who accurately consider the examples of the most holy of mortals which are depicted in the Holy Scriptures."
I reply, this subterfuge affords no defense or excuse for the modern explanation of Romans 7. For, (as the phrase is,) in this instance the gloss is contrary to the text. For that chapter does not treat about that which occasionally befalls the man who is the subject of discussion, but about what generally and for the most part is accustomed to happen to him; and it contains a description of the continuous state of the man about whom it treats. This is openly declared by the words themselves and by the mode of speech employed. The apostle says, "The good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do." This is said without any distinction or contraction of the general saying to its being specially understood as though he sometimes did not the good which he would, and sometimes did the evil which he would not, or as though he many times abstained from the evil which he hates, and performed the good which he would. But the apostle simply and indefinitely enunciates concerning the detested evil that he perpetrates it, and concerning the good which he willed that he performs it not.
But if this indefinite enunciation be said to mean "that the good which has been willed is more frequently performed than omitted, and that the detested evil has been more frequently avoided than committed," which must necessarily be affirmed by those who explain the chapter in reference to a regenerate man, for a regenerate man walks not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit -- then I say, the apostle did not know how to enunciate his own meaning. For indefinite enunciations possess equal force with those which are universal, or they approach as near as possible to them; they enunciate, concerning objects, those attributes which are in every one of them and at all times, or most usually and according to the more excellent part. Thus it is said concerning the Cretians, that they are liars. (Tit. i, 12.) The Athenians are said to be light and frivolous, and to take pleasure in "hearing some new thing;" and the Carthaginians are called perfidious. The Scriptures speak thus, that the Jews have been rejected on account of the greater part, (for "God doth not cast away his people whom he foreknew,") and that the gentiles were received into their place. For power was given, and a command enjoined on the apostles, to preach the gospel to all nations, and most of them have now long since been converted to Christ, or will yet be converted. Neither in this chapter is the apostle treating about a perfect and, in every respect, complete performance of good and omission of evil, but simply about the performance of the one and the omission of the other. For he says that the man commits evil, but not perfectly, if he is regenerate; otherwise, he would sin with an entire and full will. But this will be subsequently treated at greater length.
2. But if St. Paul intended in this chapter to convey such a meaning as those interpreters ascribe to him, then he must have spoken in the following manner, if he was desirous of saying thing, in accordance with himself: "We know that the law is spiritual, and requires from us an obedience perfect in all its parts, and continuous without any intermission or interruption. But I have not yet so far conquered the flesh, I have not yet such a complete dominion over sin, neither have I broken or subdued the lusts of the flesh so much, as to be able to perform that perfect and uninterrupted obedience to the law. For it occasionally happens to me, that I do the evil which I would not, and omit the good which I would; nay, I perceive that I never perform what is good in such perfection and with so much zeal as it is in my will to perform; nor have I omitted what is evil in such perfection as I have wished. For in both cases, even while I am performing what is good and omitting what is evil, I feel the concupiscence of the flesh struggling and resisting; and I consider myself to have experienced admirable success if I come victorious out of the combat, that is, if I do that which the Spirit lusteth, and not what the flesh lusteth."
Such a declaration as this would have been suitable to the sense which they attribute to the apostle, and this is properly the index and interpreter of that meaning. But many passages of Scripture, in which the apostle treats about himself, teach us that he ought to have spoken thus, if he had spoken things that were consistent with himself: "For I am conscious to myself of nothing; yet am I not hereby justified." (1 Cor. iv, 4.) "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so perform I my part as a combatant, not as one who beateth the air; but I beat down and keep my body under, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a reprobate." (vi, 26,27.) "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ." (xi, 1.) "- While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporary, but those which are not seen are eternal." (2 Cor. iv, 18.) "- Giving no offense in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed; but in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience," &c. (vi, 3-10.) "For I through the law am dead to the law, that I may live unto God. I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Gal. ii, 19, 20.) "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." (vi, 14.) Many other passages of a similar import might be cited.
Since, therefore, this interpretation does not agree with the chapter, it cannot, by this opinion, be excused from the two crimes which are objected against it, [as being injurious to divine grace, and noxious to good morals]. Wherefore I persist in preferring the same accusation, and I declare, The opinion which attributes to a regenerate man "that he generally does the evil which he would not, and that he most commonly omits the good which he would," is injurious to the grace of regeneration and hurtful to good morals; But the opinion which explains Romans 7 as referring to a regenerate man, attributes these things to one who is regenerate; Therefore, this opinion is injurious to the grace of regeneration, and hurtful to good morals. The light of the major proposition is so great as not to require either proof or illustration. The minor is in the text. For, as has already been shewn, to the man about whom the apostle is treating it is attributed, that he most commonly commits what is evil and omits what is good; therefore, the conclusion properly follows.
It appears, therefore, that I have not through calumny affixed this objection to the opinion which is opposed to my own; and I can sacredly affirm, now, that prior to the act of taking the pen into my hands, I had made a vow before God that [in the discussion of this subject] I would indulge in no calumny. Wherefore, though the objection were false, it would in that case have escaped from me through ignorance and not through malice.
3. Some one, however, who is desirous of pertinaciously keeping and retaining the thesis which has been once laid down, will here reply -- "Let it be granted, that this explanation is deficient in those things which the apostle attributes to this man; let it likewise be granted, that the interpretation produced by other persons is not suitable to the passage; yet it does not become disadvantageous to good morals, nor is any injury inflicted on grace through this opinion, provided that the whole together be excepted, as it equitably should be, and that one part be not separated from another -- this also being granted, that, though this interpretation be unsuitable for Romans 7, yet it is agreeable to the rest of the Scriptures and to the analogy of faith."
(1.) That I may not seem to be too rigid, I am willing to grant the former of these; about the latter we shall see something further. For I own, that the opinion of St. Augustine, which interprets the chapter as relating only to the act and motion of concupiscence, neither proves to be detrimental to grace, nor injurious to good morals, though he explains the passage concerning a regenerate man.
But I say that, after it has been impressed and inculcated on the minds of hearers or readers that the apostle is treating about a regenerate man in Romans 7, it is not in our power to hinder such persons from understanding the rest of those things which are attributed to this man in a different manner from that in which they ought to be understood, that is, from receiving them in an acceptation which is not agreeable to the text and design of the apostle, and as they are not received when they are explained as relating to a man who is under sin, and under the law, especially when the inclination is a persuasive to such an interpretation, and when the concupiscence of the flesh gives a similar impulse. This, as I have already related, has been actually done by many people, and certainly not without blame attached to the opinion itself, though "the whole of it be received together." For this is not the only thing declared by that opinion, "The regenerate sometimes commit sin; and they never perfectly perform what is good, and omit what is evil, while they continue in the present life;" but this is likewise added: "It is a property of the regenerate, to commit sin not with a full consent of the will, and while in the act of sinning to will not to sin; since the unregenerate sin with a full consent of the will, and without any reluctance on its part." Those persons who wish to excuse themselves by this chapter, and who, while engaged in sin, feel some resistance of the will and remorse of conscience in the act of sinning, conclude from the preceding assertion, that they commit sin not with a full consent of the will, and, therefore, that the very fact itself of their thus committing sin is a sign of their regeneration. Such a conclusion as this is both injurious to grace and inimical to good morals.
(ii.) It is inimical to good morals, because sin is neither so much avoided by that man who holds such an opinion as this, nor does its perpetration produce deep sorrow in him who is its author, because from the mode of the deed he still concludes that he is regenerate.
(2.) But let us now consider, whether those things which have been adduced to liberate their opinion from this two-fold criminal charge, be conformable to the rest of the Scriptures and to the analogy of faith, or not. I confess it indeed to be a very great truth, that, while the regenerate pass their lives in this mortal body, they neither perfectly perform what is good, nor omit what is evil. But I add, that, while in the present life, they never perfectly will what is good, or perfectly hate what is evil. I likewise confess, that even the best of the regenerate offend in many things, and sometimes actually sin, by doing what is evil and omitting what is good; for the regenerate do not always act from the principle of regeneration.
But I deny that, when they sin, they sin unwillingly, though they may do so with a struggle in their mind and conscience. For, while the contest and struggle continued between the mind and the flesh, how much soever they might nill the evil to which the flesh incited them, and will the good from which it dehorted them; yet they do not proceed onward to the deed itself except when the battle is terminated, the mind or conscience is overcome, and after the will has yielded consent to the flesh -- though such consent be not without stinging remorse of conscience. Then I deny, that it can be concluded from this opposition of the mind, that he is a regenerate man who sins in this manner. For, as we have often previously shewn, the commission of sin with a reluctant mind and conscience belongs to many of the unregenerate. Besides, as we have also previously taught, that resistance which immediately preceded the perpetration of sin, was not from the Holy Spirit who regenerated and inhabited, but from the mind which was convinced of the righteousness and equity of the law. For the life of the conscience continues; and from its life, action and motion remain, when the Holy Spirit is either wholly departed, or is so grieved as to employ no motion and act for the hindrance of sin. It is a well known fact, that the soul in man which is vegetative, performs the first and the last offices of life, while the rational soul ceases its operations as in the case of lunatics and maniacs, and the sensitive soul desists from acting in lethargic persons. I wish these observations to receive a diligent consideration; for they have a great tendency to induce a man to enter upon a serious and sure examination respecting himself, to attain a correct knowledge of the state of regeneration, and sedulously to distinguish between it and the state BEFORE the law, and chiefly between it and that UNDER the law.
4. Yet some person will here rejoin, and, for the sake of excusing or defending his opinion, will say, "It cannot be denied that the regenerate will more good than they actually perform, and perpetrate more evil than they will."
My answer is, this, when correctly understood, may be conceded; for it is stated with some ambiguity. "To will and not to will this thing," may be understood concerning either a complete or an incomplete volition and nolition, (to use the words of Thomas Aquinas,) though in a sense a little different.
(1.) I give the appellation of a complete will to that which is borne to a particular object that is particularly considered, approving or disapproving of that object according to the prescript or direction of the last judgment of the reason that is formed concerning it.
(2.) I give the appellation of an incomplete will to that which is borne towards the same object generally considered, approving or disapproving of it according to the prescript or direction not of the last judgment of the reason which is formed concerning it. The former of these, which is indeed complete, may be called simply a volition and a nolition. But the latter, which is incomplete, is otherwise expressed by the words, desire and wishing, and ought to be called vellcity rather than will.
Having premised these things, I now say, It cannot be affirmed with truth, "that a regenerate man wills more good with a complete will than he actually performs," unless without any fault of his own, he be hindered by necessity or by some greater force, or "that he actually does more evil than it is his will to do." For he does it not through coaction. A merchant who, for the sake of avoiding shipwreck, throws his heavy bales into the sea, willingly performs that act, having followed this last judgment of his reason -- that it is better for his bales of goods to be destroyed, than for himself to perish with them. Thus, with a complete (I do not say with a full) volition, David willed his adulterous intercourse with Bathsheba. Willingly, and with a complete volition, Peter denied Christ.
But if this be understood concerning an incomplete will, then I grant it may be said "that the regenerate will to perform more good than they really execute, and to omit more evil than they omit." This, however, is not an exclusive property of the regenerate; for it belongs to all those who are so under the law, that in them the law has discharged all its functions, and (the Holy Spirit employing it for this purpose) in them has produced all those effects which it is possible and usual for the law to produce. Both the regenerate, and those who are under the law, might indeed will, that there was not in them such a vast force and efficacy of sin yet existing and reigning in them; and might wish, that they were not solicited and impelled to evil deeds through concupiscence and the temptation of sin; nay, they might also will that they did not lust or indulge in concupiscence; but those evil acts to which they are solicited by sin which either is in them, or dwells in them and reigns, they do not perform, except through the intervention of the consent of the will that has been obtained by this temptation of sin. For lust does not bring forth sin, unless it has conceived; but it conceives through the consent of the will tanquam ex marito. But as long as the will remains in a state of suspense, inclining to neither part, so long no act is produced -- as we behold in a just balance, or true scales, of which neither part verges upward or downward prior to one of them receiving an accession of weight which depresses that scale and elevates the opposite one. All motion reclines or depends on rest as on a foundation. Thus, the will does not move towards the part of sin unless when acquiescing in its temptation.
5. These remarks are exceedingly plain, and capable of being fully confirmed by experience itself, if any one will only accurately ponder within himself all the motions of his own will. But the greatest part of us avoid this duty; for it cannot be performed without [inducing] sorrow and sickness of mind, which no man willingly brings upon himself. But it is by no means probable, that sin should obtain a full consent from the will of that man who is generally well instructed in the righteousness and unrighteousness of actions, before he has ceased to feel any sorrow or regret: Wherefore, the difference between a regenerate and an unregenerate man must not be placed in this particular when both of them commit sin. For, in that particular deed, they equally yield to the temptation of sin, both of them sin from the same principle of depraved nature, and in both instances the resistance is one and the same when sin is perpetrated, that is, on the part of the mind and conscience convicted of the justice or the injustice of the deed. For if the Spirit were itself that resistance, then sin would not be perpetrated in the very act.
"Is there then no difference between the regenerate and the unregenerate, when they commit sin?" That I may not deny this, I say that such difference must be brought forward from plain passages in the Holy Scriptures; otherwise, that man will deceive himself to his great peril, who follows some other rule of judging.
AN Examination and comparison of each of the three Interpretations of this chapter. 1. The FIRST, which is the latest of the two opinions embraced by St. Augustine, and which interprets this chapter concerning a man under grace, has various disadvantages:
(1.) in the meaning of the word CARNAL, and that of the phrase, "sold under sin."
(3.) In the explanation of the word To Do or To PERFORM.
(4.) In the interpretation of "indwelling sin."
(7.) In the distorted meaning given to the votive exclamation.
(8.) In assigning to a regenerate man a double servitude, and in interpreting "the mind" for "the spirit." These eight inconveniences are sufficient to induce a rejection of this First Interpretation. 2. The SECOND, which is that of modern divines, and which also explains the chapter concerning a man under grace, in addition to the inconveniences that it has in common with the First, has likewise some which are peculiar to itself.
(2.) In giving a rash explication of "performing that which is good."
(4.) In predicating contradictory things concerning this man.
(5.) In predicating with restriction those things concerning the regenerate, which the Scriptures simply attribute to them. 3. The THIRD, which is St. Augustine's first opinion, as well as that of Arminius, and which understands this chapter as relating to a man who is under the law, is plain and perspicuous, and not at disagreement either with apostolical phraseology or with other passages of Scripture; this fact is rendered obvious even from this circumstance -- that this man is said at once to be "placed under the law" and "under the dominion of sin." 4. This treatise is closed with an address, by Arminius, to his brethren in the ministry, in which the author offers himself for examination, with a most serious intreaty for them to admonish him, in a fraternal manner, if he has erred; but to yield their assent to the truth, if he has in this work written such things as are in accordance with the scriptures and with the meaning of the apostle.
Let us now briefly compare these three expositions of Romans vii, FIRST, that which St. Augustine gave not long before his death; Secondly, that which he taught in early life, which is likewise my interpretation, and that of many doctors of the primitive church, as I have already proved, and that of some even among our own divines; and, LASTLY, the exposition of those persons who assent to St. Augustine in this particular-that in common with him they explain it as relating to a regenerate man, but who dissent from him on another particular -- that they interpret GOOD and EVIL, not as relating to the act of CONCUPISCENCE, but as referring to ACTUAL GOOD AND EVIL.
1. That St. Augustine might be able to interpret this chapter as relating to a regenerate man and one placed under grace, (which he supposed would be serviceable to him in his disputes with the Pelagians,) he was compelled to put a forced construction on the apostolical phraseology, and to interpret many things in opposition to the express meaning and intention of the apostle.
(1.) He has interpreted a carnal man to mean one who yet bears about with him mortal flesh, who is not yet become spiritual in the flesh, and who still has and feels within himself the lusts of the flesh. But about the first of these two descriptions of men the apostle is not here treating: It is, therefore, quite beyond the purpose; and I beseech St. Augustine to point out to me a single passage of Scripture, in which the regenerate are called carnal because they still have within them the lusts of the flesh. If they are called spiritual in the Scriptures, "because by the Spirit they mortify the deeds of the flesh" and do not go after carnal lusts, but walk according to the Spirit, then indeed they cannot be called carnal from the fact of their still having those lusts. They may be called "those who are not perfectly spiritual" on account of the presence of sinful lusts; but they can by no means be styled carnal, because the dominion of sin is taken away from them.
In a similar manner he was under the necessity of distorting another attribute of this man, sold under sin, when this phrase properly signifies "one who is the slave of sin, and who serves sin," whether he does this willingly without any resistance of conscience, or in opposition to his mind and so far unwillingly. It is not allowed to us to frame petty distinctions, and, according to these, to attribute to persons certain words, which the Scriptures do not employ, in that sense, and which are not usually ascribed to those persons in holy writ.
(2.) Then he interprets the evil which the apostle says he did, by the word to lust or to indulge in concupiscence; and the good which he says he omitted, by the word not to lust -- a most absurd and distorted application of those terms!
First. Because the words, Katergazesqai, Prassein and Poiein "to do," cannot have the same signification as concupisco, "to lust." At least, so far as I know, the Scriptures have in no passage, explained "to lust" by any of those three words. And St. Augustine himself, in the definition of sin, when distinguishing between these things, says, "Sin is every thing which is spoken, done, and lusted or desired against the law of God."
Bucer, in his "Comment on Romans 7," says, "Some persons receive the three verbs here rendered 'to do,' in the acceptation, 'to lust,' but that is not St. Paul's mode of speaking. He understands by the word, the deed itself which is actually committed at the impulse of concupiscence, in opposition to that which the law dictates, and which the mind, consenting to that law, approves. Concupitio, 'to lust' or desire, is in reality, an internal act of concupiscence in the mind, which indulges in such concupiscence. But these verbs 'to do,' in this chapter do not signify an internal act of lusting, but, properly, the external act of doing those things which have been lusted or desired." (Fol. 369.)
Secondly. "Sin is said to do this evil, and, by the perpetration of the evil, to slay the man himself." Sin does not slay him through concupiscence. St. James speaks thus: "Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished [or completed by action], bringeth forth death." (i, 15.) But it slays the man through actual sin. This is declared by the apostle in the fifth verse of this very chapter, when he says, "for when we were in the flesh, the motions of sin, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death." I am now speaking, not according to the rigor of the law, but according to the grace of the gospel in Jesus Christ.
Thirdly. The evil and the good, the former of which, he says, he perpetrates, but the latter he omits, are so opposed to each other, that evil is what is forbidden by a prohibitive law, which law is usually proposed by a negative; but Good is what is commanded by a preceptive law, which is usually propounded by an affirmative. A sin is perpetrated against a prohibitive law by commission, but against a preceptive law by omission. On this account they are called sins of omission and of commission. If a prohibitive law be observed, evil is said to be omitted, but if a preceptive law be observed, good is said to be performed.
Now, to lust, and not to lust, are not thus opposed to each other. For though to lust be forbidden by a prohibitive law, yet not to lust is not commanded by a preceptive law; neither can it be commanded by such a law; for not to lust consists of a negative or the omission of an act; but by omission, an offense is committed against a preceptive law. But, by the omission of concupiscence, no offense is committed against a positive or preceptive law, but a prohibitive law is fulfilled; and by obedience, which consists in not lusting, good is not performed, but evil is omitted. That we may point out this absurdity [of St. Augustine's exposition], we will invert in the following manner what the apostle has said: "The good that I would, I do," that is, I do not lust; "but the evil which I would not, I do not," that is, I do not lust. For I will not to lust, and I do not lust; I nill to lust, and I do not lust. Therefore, in this case, the very same act is the performance of good and the omission of evil -- a complete absurdity. And that is called the performance of a good action which is the omission of an evil one -- an equal absurdity! O Augustine, where was thy usual acumen? Let the expression be pardoned; for a good philosopher is not always a philosopher, and our Homer himself will sometimes nod.
Fourthly. It is an illogical mode of expression to say, "I will to lust," and "I will not to lust," because actual concupiscence is prior to volition and nolition, and the act of concupiscence does not depend upon the choice or determination of the will. According to the trite and true saying, "first motions are not in our power, unless they be occasioned by some act of the will," as the schoolmen express themselves. But we must say, "I could wish not to lust," that is, "I could wish to be free from the impulse of concupiscence." And this is an expression of desire, not tending to or going out towards the performance or omission of our act, but earnestly demanding the act of another person for our liberation from that evil which impels us to an evil act, and which hinders us from a good act -- we approving of the good act and disapproving of the bad one.
(3.) He was compelled, when expounding what the apostle says in the 18th verse, "But to perform that which is good I find not," to interpret it by "completing what is good," that is, "I find not perfectly to do what is good," as is evident from those passages which we have cited from St. Augustine. This interpretation is absurd, distorted, and contradictory to the sentiments and meaning of the author; for,
First. The word, Katergazesqai does not signify "to perfect," that is, "perfectly to do any thing;" but it signifies "to operate, to perform, to effect, or to do," as this word is most commonly used, not for "doing any thing perfectly," but for "producing an effect." My observations on this point are evident from the text itself; for the same Greek word is employed in the first clause of the 15th verse, when the apostle says, "For that which I do, I allow not," yet he does not perfectly perform the evil of which he disapproves. It is also used in the latter clause of the 20th verse, "Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." But sin does not perfectly perpetrate evil in this man, especially if he be regenerate, as St. Augustine supposes; and he openly says himself the contrary to this, as is evident from the passages which we have already cited in the fourth part of this treatise.
Secondly. The synonyms of this verb which are promiscuously used in the seventh chapter, prassein and poiein prove the same thing. For the apostle says that he does and performs the evil which he would not, (verses 15, 16, 19,) yet he does not perfectly perform that evil; this is obvious from what he adds, "which I would not." Therefore he performs it not with a full consent of his will. For this is confessed by St. Augustine, when he explains the passage about the regenerate; but he does it not with a full consent of the will, that is, he does it not perfectly.
Thirdly. "The GOOD which the apostle would, but which he does not," (19,) is, according to St. Augustine, not to lust. But how is it that the apostle indeed does this "good," [by willing it, but does not perfect it, Therefore, a two-fold omission of concupiscence must be laid down [by those who adopt St. Augustine's argumentation,] one, under the term to do, is called an imperfect omission; the other, under the word to complete, receives the appellation of perfect. According to St. Augustine's sense, the apostle says in this verse, (19,) "I will not to lust, and this good I indeed do, but I do not perfect it." From this remark, the absurdity which I have mentioned is most manifest.
Fourthly. More good is attributed to the will of this man, than to its capability and powers or efficacy. But the perfect volition of good is not attributed to his will, neither can it be attributed. Therefore, from its capability and efficacy not only can the perfect performance of good be taken away, but the imperfect performance is likewise taken away from them. That is, it is denied respecting this man, not only that he perfects good, but that he even performs it. Wherefore, this passage must not be understood concerning perfection, that is, the perfect performance of good.
(4.) He was forced to interpret "sin that dwelleth or inhabiteth within me," by "sin existing within," and to create a distinction between it and "sin reigning and exercising the dominion over a man," while the phrase, "dwelling within me," denotes dominion, and the full and supreme power of him who is the resident, as we have previously shewn in its proper place. But it is apparent that sin reigns in this man; for it commits that sin in him which he himself would not, and leads him away as a captive under its power.
(5.) He was under the necessity of interpreting "the law of the mind" by "the law of the Spirit," though in contradiction to the great contrariety subsisting between the attribute which is given to "the law of the mind," and that which is ascribed to "the law of the Spirit." For, in Romans vii, 23, "the law of the mind" is said to be overcome in combat by "the law of the members," from which event, the man "is brought into captivity to the law of sin." And in Romans viii, 2, "the law of the Spirit" is said to make the man "free from the law of sin and death;" that is, it is stronger and superior in the conflict against "the law of the members;" and, when the latter is conquered and overcome, "the law of the Spirit" delivers the man from the captivity into which he had been brought by the force of "the law of the members."
(6.) St. Augustine was compelled to pervert the phrase, "captivity to the law of sin," and to give it the meaning of our primeval state in Adam, from whom we are born corrupt and under the captivity of sin and Satan, when, in this passage, the apostle is not treating on that captivity, but on another, which is produced from it, that is, by "the law of the members" which we have contracted from Adam, waging war against "the law of the mind," overcoming it, and bringing man, by his own act, under captivity to the law of sin. For we have the former captivity originally from Adam, but we bring down the latter upon ourselves by our own act. Even if the discourse of the apostle had referred to our primeval state, yet, because the regenerate have received remission of sin and are endowed with the spirit of the grace of Christ, they cannot be said to be captives under sin. For, though the fuel has not been extinguished, yet the power of commanding, and of subjecting us to itself, is taken away from sin by the power of regeneration.
(7.) He is forced to torture the votive exclamation in the 24th verse, to a desire different from that on which the apostle is here treating, and with which the thanksgiving in the 25th verse does not correspond. For, in this passage, St. Paul treats upon the desire by which the man requests to be delivered from the dominion of sin, which he calls "the body of death;" and St. Augustine is compelled [by the scheme of interpretation which he had adopted] to explain in reference to the desire by which he desires to be liberated from this mortal body, and when that event occurs, he will at once be free from the concupiscence of sin. A thanksgiving, however, seems [in this case] to be most unadvisedly subjoined to the votive desire, before the fruition of the thing which is said to be wished; yet this is done in this passage, according to the interpretation of St. Augustine.
(8.) Lastly, St. Augustine is forced to assign a double servitude to a regenerate man -- the one, as he serves God -- the other, as he serves sin; and this in contradiction to the express declaration of Christ -- "No man can at one time serve two masters." It is objected, "that in a different respect, and according to his different parts, man is said to serve God, and to serve sin;" but this remark does not clear this opinion from the stain with which it is aspersed.
(i.) Because the Scriptures are unacquainted with that distinction, when they are speaking about regenerate persons; let a passage to the contrary be produced.
(ii.) Because, if even the flesh war against the Spirit or the mind by lusting; yet a man cannot be said, solely on account of this resistance and warfare, "with his flesh to serve" sin, or "the law of sin;" for, with St. Augustine, these two are the same things.
He is likewise compelled to use the word, "the mind," for the regenerated part of man, for the man so far as he is regenerate, in opposition to Scripture usage and phraseology, as we have explained in the first part of this treatise.
These appear to me most equitable reasons for rejecting the latter opinion of St. Augustine, and for appealing from him when asleep to St. Augustine in his waking moments. I have no doubt that he would also have abandoned this his second opinion, had he taken into his consideration the arguments which are now adduced, especially when he had perceived the explication of the whole chapter to be so suitable and proper, and impossible to be wrested in any point by the Pelagians for proving their doctrine.
2. Our divines have fallen into some of these errors with which we have charged the opinion of St. Augustine, such as the following: They are forced to interpret "to be carnal," and "to be sold under sin," in a manner very different from that which the meaning of the apostle will allow; they call "sin that dwelleth in a man,"sin existing within," thus distinguishing it from reigning sin; they assert that "the law of the mind" signifies "the law of the Spirit;" they explain in a corrupt manner the votive exclamation; and, lastly, they attribute a two-fold servitude to a regenerate man. In addition to these mistakes, they fall into others which are peculiar to their interpretation, but which are agreeable neither to the meaning of the apostle in this chapter, nor to the rest of the Scriptures, for,
(1.) They are compelled to interpret that which, according to the meaning of the apostle, belongs to the continuous state of this man, as if it happened to him only occasionally, in contradiction to the express phraseology of the apostle, who says, "The good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do." This phraseology is by no means in accordance with the signification by which any one is said occasionally to perpetrate evil and to do good, as we have already rendered very manifest.
(2.) They are under the necessity of interpreting the phrase, "The good that I would, I do not" by "I do not good in the perfection in which I ought," or, "I do not so much good as it is my will to do;" yet neither of these explanations is agreeable to the meaning of the apostle, as we have previously seen.
(3.) They broadly assert, that while the regenerate are actually committing sin, they are unwilling to commit sin in the very act of sinning, in opposition to the whole of the Scriptures and to the nature of actual sin itself, which, if it be not voluntary, ceases to be sin.
(4.) They are compelled to say contradictory things about this man. For they take away from sin, which exists within him, the dominion over him; and yet they attribute to it a habitation or indwelling, and they ascribe such force and efficacy to it, that it perpetrates evil itself in the man in opposition to his will, and brings him into captivity to the law of sin. These are most undoubted effects indeed of sin reigning and exercising dominion.
(5.) Lastly, as there are many passages of Scripture, which attribute to the regenerate the willing of good, a delight in the law 0f God, and things of a similar kind, they are compelled to interpret those passages by this restrictive particle, "after the inward man," while, in the rest of the Scriptures, such attributes are simply ascribed to a regenerate man, because they have the predominance in him. But it is not necessary, at this time, to repeat all those things which we have before written and proved against that opinion.
3. But the opinion which I have undertaken to explain, is plain and perspicuous, under no necessity to affix any thing to the phraseology of the apostle, or to impinge against any other portions of holy writ. This may be perceived at one glance, by him who will cast his eyes upon these two things, that the man who is the subject of the present investigation, is said to be placed under the dominion of sin and under the law, that is, he is one in whom the law has discharged its entire office.
(1.) For, as he is placed under the dominion of sin, the following affirmations are correctly and without any contortion made concerning him: "he is sold under sin; he does that which he wills not, and omits that which he wills; sin dwells in him, and in his flesh dwelleth no good thing; he cannot attain to the performance of that which is good; he does not perform that which is good, but he perpetrates evil; evil is present with him; the law of his members wages war with the law of his mind and overcomes it, and renders the man a captive under the law of sin which he has in his members; and, being thus entangled and bound down, he is detained by the body of this death, (that is, by the body of sin,) and required with his flesh to serve the law of sin."
(2.) But, as he is said to be placed under the law, the following affirmations belong to him correctly and without any contortion: "He allows not (he approves not) that which he does; he wills that which he does not, and he wills not that which he does; he consents to the law of God that it is good; it is no longer he who commits evil; he has good dwelling in his mind; the good that he wills he does not, but the evil which he wills not, that he does; he delights in the law of God after the inward man; with the law of his mind he wages war against the law of his members; he is exceedingly desirous of deliverance; and with his mind he serves the law of God."
Nay, these two united classes of attributes, joined as they intimately are, in the text of the apostle, cannot belong to any other man than to this as he is placed under the law, and at the same time under the dominion of sin. So far from these two relations not being capable of belonging at once to the same man, that he who is under the law necessarily endures the dominion of sin, that is, the law is too weak to be able to release and liberate the sinner from the tyranny of sin. This is the subject upon which the apostle treats through the whole of this chapter, and points it out in the person of that man who is placed under the law in a mode the most excellent of all, that is, one in whom the law has fulfilled not only some part of its office, (for that did not serve the purpose which he had in view,) but in whom the law had discharged all its offices and acts; for this was required by the necessity of the cause about which the apostle was treating; because "the weakness of the law" could not be taught by the example of him who had not within himself all those things which are usually effected by the law. For the Jews might have always objected that some other persons had made still further progress through the power and efficacy of the law.
If this observation, as well as many others, be diligently considered, it will be of great potency in effecting a persuasion that the present chapter must be understood as relating to a man who is under the law. And I feel fully persuaded within myself, that if views similar to these had entered into the minds of our expositors, when they explained this portion of Scripture, they would undoubtedly have interpreted it in this manner; for such were their piety and their learning, that I cannot bring myself to feel any other persuasion than this concerning them. But it frequently happens, that the fear of falling into error or heresy, if any passage be explained in a manner different from that generally received, hinders those who are under the influence of such a fear from venturing the more diligently to inspect such passage, and to consider whether it may not be explained appropriately and agreeably to the analogy of faith, even by that mode which is said to be favourable to heresy.
I likewise believe, that this interpretation of mine is rejected by many persons who have never once thought on the mode in which the Scriptures define that man whom I assert to be described in this chapter. If they had earnestly endeavoured to ascertain this point, they would assuredly have discovered that all these things may be most commodiously explained concerning a man who is under the law. I will add, as the result of my own experience, that I have found multitudes who have not only not considered with sufficient diligence, but who also have not exhibited any desire to consider, what these names and epithets properly signify, and how they must be accurately distinguished from each other -- the natural man, the carnal man, the outward man, the old man, the sensual man, the earthly man, the worldly man -- also, the spiritual man, the heavenly man, the inward man, the new man, the illuminated man, the regenerate man, &c. The same persons also have not manifested any inclination to distinguish in an accurate and suitable manner between the acts and operations of the Spirit -- when making use of the law, and when employing the gospel -- when preparing a home or abode for himself, and when actually the inhabitant of his own temple -- of his enlightening, regenerating and sealing -- of his bringing men to Christ, uniting them to Christ -- and communicating to them the benefits of Christ -- of his operating, co-operating, exciting, aiding, assisting, and confirming or strengthening -- and of his infusing habits, and producing good actions. All these things seem to me to be of such a description that if any person were, without a consideration of these matters, to attempt a serious and solid explanation of those things of which the apostle is treating in this chapter, his conduct would appear to me like that of a man who should endeavour to construct a large and splendid edifice without stones and lime.
4. These remarks I offer, with a sincere and candid mind, to those pious and learned men, and those eminent servants of Christ, my beloved brethren in Christ and fellow-labourers in the work of the Lord, who ought ever to receive from me all due honour and deference, to be read, known, judged, and approved or disapproved; and I request and most earnestly beseech of them only one thing, in the name of our common saviour -- that, if they shall discover me to have written anything, in the preceding treatise, which is either contrary to the analogy of faith or contrary to the sense and meaning of the apostle, they will admonish, teach and instruct me about it in a fraternal manner. If they find any such matter, I testify, before God, that I will not only lend an attentive and patient hearing to their admonitions, teaching and instruction, but will also yield them full compliance. I likewise protest, that if, in the present instance, any things of this description have escaped from me, (for we all know but in part,) I consider them as not written and as not spoken.
But if they shall perceive that these very things are agreeable to the rest of the Scriptures and conformable to the mind of the apostle, then I may be permitted to request and intreat from them that they will grant a place to the truth, thus pointed out, in the church of Christ, which is the pillar and ground of the truth.
I solemnly engage, that there is no cause for them to be afraid lest disturbances, quarrels, dissensions, or the occasions of such great evils, in the Christian church, should arise from such an examination and conference. They will have to discuss the subject with one -- who knows in part how to distinguish between those doctrines which are simply necessary and fundamental, and those which have not in them an equal necessity, but are as the parts of a superstructure raised on a foundation -- who, next to the necessity for truth, thinks all things should be yielded to the peace of the churches -- who can, with Christian charity, bear with those that differ from him, provided they do not attempt "to have dominion over the faith of other persons" -- who is not desirous with an officious hastiness to obtrude on the public either his own admissions, or those of other persons, which had been confided to each other for the sake of a mutual conference, but who knows how to retain them faithfully, and has skill enough to revolve them in his mind for nine long years, according to the ancient proverb, "One day is the disciple of another; our later meditations are wiser and more accurate than our early ones; we daily grow old and yet are learning many things" Lastly, they will have to discuss the subject with one who may be in error, but who cannot be a heretic, and whose will assuredly it is not to be one.
Amicable, fraternal, and placid conferences of this description, instituted between professors of the same faith and of the same religion, are not only useful, but likewise necessary to the churches of Christ, for the further investigation of the truth, for retaining it firmly when discovered, and for boldly defending it against adversaries. From these friendly conferences, we may discover truth, since they are not undertaken through a desire for victory, or for the sake of defending some topic which had been formerly conceived and adopted. But from those others, which are not so much Christian conferences, as vehement, bitter and vexatious altercations, and which we perceive to be agitated by the followers and defenders of different religious professions, generally ensues the result that is comprised in the vulgar proverb, "Truth is lost in the midst of their wrangling." Such an issue is no ground of surprise when the very method and circumstances of the altercation very often declare that the whole affair was at its commencement undertaken, and afterwards prosecuted, without the spirit of truth, charity and peace; and that, as a necessary consequence, it has been conducted to a sad catastrophe, most lamentable to the churches of Christ.
And let no man rashly persuade himself, that as long as the [visible] church shall be a sojourner in this world, and shall have, in the midst of her, unskillful, infirm and wicked persons, she will maintain the doctrine of Christ so correctly as not to require a still further investigation of the truth from the Scriptures, which are the inexhaustible fountain of divine wisdom, as to be able to dispense with the examination of those dogmas which are built up as a superstructure on the foundation of the Scriptures, and as not to be under the least necessity of confirming and defending Christian doctrine, by the force and weight of solid arguments, against ancient heresies which have been polished up after a new method, and against novel heresies which are daily springing up and becoming still more prevalent.
It is not an act of arrogance to enter upon such an exercise and employment as this, but it is an act of true and solid piety towards God, which commands and prescribes that, as "a dispensation of the gospel has been committed to us," we ought to "stir up the gifts of God which are in us," to study and strive to augment the talents which have been divinely granted to us, and, with a pure conscience and in the fear of the Lord, to discharge the duties of this sacred ministry, to the sanctification of his name, the building up and edification of the church of Christ, and to the demolition and extirpation of the kingdom of Satan and of Antichrist -- which may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ vouchsafe to grant to us, through and for the sake of his only begotten Son, and in the power and efficacy of his Spirit. Amen.
END OF DISSERTATION ON ROMANS.