Verse 21. "That as sin hath reigned unto death" - As extensively, as deeply, as universally, as sin, whether implying the act of transgression or the impure principle from which the act proceeds, or both. Hath reigned, subjected the whole earth and all its inhabitants; the whole soul, and all its powers and faculties, unto death, temporal of the body, spiritual of the soul, and eternal of both; even so, as extensively, deeply, and universally might grace reign- filling the whole earth, and pervading, purifying, and refining the whole soul: through righteousness-through this doctrine of free salvation by the blood of the Lamb, and by the principle of holiness transfused through the soul by the Holy Ghost: unto eternal life-the proper object of an immortal spirit's hope, the only sphere where the human intellect can rest, and be happy in the place and state where God is; where he is seen AS HE IS; and where he can be enjoyed with out interruption in an eternal progression of knowledge and beatitude: by Jesus Christ our Lord-as the cause of our salvation, the means by which it is communicated, and the source whence it springs. Thus we find, that the salvation from sin here is as extensive and complete as the guilt and contamination of sin; death is conquered, hell disappointed, the devil confounded, and sin totally destroyed. Here is glorying: To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and has made us kings and priests to God and his Father, be glory and dominion, for ever and ever. Amen. Hallelujah! The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth! Amen and Amen.
WHAT highly interesting and momentous truths does the preceding chapter bring to our view! No less than the doctrine of the fall of man from original righteousness; and the redemption of the world by the incarnation and death of Christ. On the subject of the FALL, though I have spoken much in the notes on Genesis, chap. 3, yet it may be necessary to make a few farther observations:-
1. That all mankind have fallen under the empire of death, through this original transgression, the apostle most positively asserts; and few men who profess to believe the Bible, pretend to dispute. This point is indeed ably stated, argued, and proved by Dr. Taylor, from whose observations the preceding notes are considerably enriched. But there is one point which I think not less evident, which he has not only not included in his argument, but, as far as it came in his way, has argued against it, viz. the degeneracy and moral corruption of the human soul. As no man can account for the death brought into the world but on the ground of this primitive transgression, so none can account for the moral evil that is in the world on any other ground. It is a fact, that every human being brings into the world with him the seeds of dissolution and mortality. Into this state we are fallen, according to Divine revelation, through the one offense of Adam. This fact is proved by the mortality of all men. It is not less a fact, that every man that is born into the world brings with him the seeds of moral evil; these he could not have derived from his Maker; for the most pure and holy God can make nothing impure, imperfect, or unholy. Into this state we are reduced, according to the Scripture, by the transgression of Adam; for by this one man sin entered into the world, as well as death.
2. The fact that all come into the world with sinful propensities is proved by another fact, that every man sins; that sin is his first work, and that no exception to this has ever been noticed, except in the human nature of Jesus Christ; and that exempt case is sufficiently accounted for from this circumstance, that it did not come in the common way of natural generation.
3. As like produces its like, if Adam became mortal and sinful, he could not communicate properties which he did not possess; and he must transmit those which constituted his natural and moral likeness: therefore all his posterity must resemble himself. Nothing less than a constant miraculous energy, presiding over the formation and development of every human body and soul, could prevent the seeds of natural and moral evil from being propagated. That these seeds are not produced in men by their own personal transgressions, is most positively asserted by the apostle in the preceding chapter; and that they exist before the human being is capable of actual transgression, or of the exercise of will and judgment, so as to prefer and determine, is evident to the most superficial observer: 1st, from the most marked evil propensities of children, long before reason can have any influence or control over passion; and, 2ndly, it is demonstrated by the death of millions in a state of infancy. It could not, therefore, be personal transgression that produced the evil propensities in the one case, nor death in the other.
4. While misery, death, and sin are in the world, we shall have incontrovertible proofs of the fall of man. Men may dispute against the doctrine of original sin; but such facts as the above will be a standing irrefragable argument against every thing that can be advanced against the doctrine itself.
5. The justice of permitting this general infection to become diffused has been strongly oppugned. "Why should the innocent suffer for the guilty?" As God made man to propagate his like on the earth, his transmitting the same kind of nature with which he was formed must be a necessary consequence of that propagation. He might, it is true, have cut off for ever the offending pair; but this, most evidently, did not comport with his creative designs. "But he might have rendered Adam incapable of sin." This does not appear. If he had been incapable of sinning, he would have been incapable of holiness; that is, he could not have been a free agent; or in other words he could not have been an intelligent or intellectual being; he must have been a mass of inert and unconscious matter. "But God might have cut them off and created a new race." He certainly might; and what would have been gained by this? Why, just nothing. The second creation, if of intelligent beings at all, must have been precisely similar to the first; and the circumstances in which these last were to be placed, must be exactly such as infinite wisdom saw to be the most proper for their predecessors, and consequently, the most proper for them. They also must have been in a state of probation; they also must have been placed under a law; this law must be guarded by penal sanctions; the possibility of transgression must be the same in the second case as in the first; and the lapse as probable, because as possible to this second race of human beings as it was to their predecessors. It was better, therefore, to let the same pair continue to fulfill the great end of their creation, by propagating their like upon the earth; and to introduce an antidote to the poison, and by a dispensation as strongly expressive of wisdom as of goodness, to make the ills of life, which were the consequences of their transgression, the means of correcting the evil, and through the wondrous economy of grace, sanctifying even these to the eternal good of the soul.
6. Had not God provided a Redeemer, he, no doubt, would have terminated the whole mortal story, by cutting off the original transgressors; for it would have been unjust to permit them to propagate their like in such circumstances, that their offspring must be unavoidably and eternally wretched.
God has therefore provided such a saviour, the merit of whose passion and death should apply to every human being, and should infinitely transcend the demerit of the original transgression, and put every soul that received that grace (and ALL may) into a state of greater excellence and glory than that was, or could have been, from which Adam, by transgressing, fell.
7. The state of infants dying before they are capable of hearing the Gospel, and the state of heathens who have no opportunity of knowing how to escape from their corruption and misery, have been urged as cases of peculiar hardship. But, first, there is no evidence in the whole book of God that any child dies eternally for Adam's sin. Nothing of this kind is intimated in the Bible; and, as Jesus took upon him human nature, and condescended to be born of a woman in a state of perfect helpless infancy, he has, consequently, sanctified this state, and has said, without limitation or exception, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. We may justly infer, and all the justice as well as the mercy of the Godhead supports the inference, that all human beings, dying in an infant state, are regenerated by that grace of God which bringeth salvation to all men, Tit. ii. 11, and go infallibly to the kingdom of heaven. As to the Gentiles, their case is exceedingly clear. The apostle has determined this; see chap. ii. 14, 15, and the notes there. He who, in the course of his providence, has withheld from them the letter of his word, has not denied them the light and influence of his SPIRIT; and will judge them in the great day only according to the grace and means of moral improvement with which they have been favoured. No man will be finally damned because he was a Gentile, but because he has not made a proper use of the grace and advantages which God had given him. Thus we see that the Judge of all the earth has done right; and we may rest assured that he will eternally act in the same way.
8. The term FALL we use metaphorically, to signify degradation: literally, it signifies stumbling, so as to lose the centre of gravity, or the proper poise of our bodies, in consequence of which we are precipitated on the ground. The term seems to have been borrowed from the paraptwma of the apostle, ver. 15-18, which we translate offense, and which is more literally FALL, from para, intensive, and piptw, I fall; a grievous, dangerous, and ruinous fall, and is property applied to transgression and sin in general; as every act is a degradation of the soul, accompanied with hurt, and tending to destruction. The term, in this sense, is still in common use; the degradation of a man in power we term his fall; the impoverishment of a rich man ve express in the same way; and when a man of piety and probity is overcome by any act of sin, we say he is fallen; he has descended from his spiritual eminence, is degraded from his spiritual excellence, is impure in his soul, and becomes again exposed to the displeasure of his God.