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  • CHAPTER 5.


    THE learned writer, f396 whose performance I am now considering, affirms, “that the doctrine which teacheth that man, by the fall, hath contracted such a disability to what is good, that without the special grace of God he can do nothing that is truly good, and is fallen under such a servitude to sin, as renders it necessary for him to be still doing evil, has no foundation in the holy Scriptures.” And, whereas “it is very reasonable to expect both plain and frequent testimonies of the holy Scriptures, saying, that man is, by the fall of Adam, become utterly unable to do anything that is good, or anything that God requires of him in an acceptable manner; yea, that by reason of the fall alone, his faculties are so horribly perverted, that he can do only what is evil, and cannot but do evil; the whole Scripture hath not one saying of this nature.” The falsehood of which will appear in the following sections; where I shall endeavor to make it evident, that such is the corruption of human nature, derived from Adam, and such man’s disability, contracted by it, that without the special grace of God he can do nothing spiritually good, and only that which is evil; and that from those very passages of Scripture, this author singles out, sad objects to as proofs of it.

    SECTION 1.

    Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one. — John 14:4.

    ABEN EZRA observes, that the sense of these words is the same with Psalm 2:5, and the meaning of them is, who can bring one that is pure, bahasd rbg ˆn ˆybwjk, from a man defiled with sins? as the Targum paraphrases them; none but God can do this; of which there never was but one instance, the man Christ Jesus, who not descending, from Adam by ordinary generation, was not polluted with sin. Now Job makes mention of the corruption of nature, as the source of all the sorrows and frailty of man in general, verse 1,2, and as matter of humiliation to himself, and as a reason why he could not bear the strict judgment of God, but must humbly plead for his grace and mercy, verse 3. But, against this sense of the words, 1. It is objected, that they are obscure, and interpreters disagree about the meaning of them; and therefore can be no solid proof of the point in question. But, perhaps, the obscurity is not so much in the words as in the interpreters, who give either false or improper senses of them. Some understand them of the impurity of matter, out of which the body of man was formed at first; whereas, neither that matter, nor the body of man formed out of it, was impure. Others, of the vileness of man, when compared with God, as in John 4:17-19, and John 15:14,16, and John 25:4,5. When neither here, in the places cited, is any mention of a comparative uncleanness of men with God, but of the angels, the heavens, the moon and stars; from whence a real impurity in man is argued, who therefore must be abominable in the sight of God. Others think Job refers to the impurity of men’s actions; and that his meaning is, that nothing is to be expected from a polluted man, but what savors of the corruption of his nature. This is a truth, but not the truth of the text; yet not subversive of it, it rather confirms it. 2. It is urged, that Job here speaks not of a moral but physical uncleanness; such as diseases, filthy racers, etc., arising from the infirmity and corruptibility of nature; and that his meaning is, it was enough that he was attended with common infirmities, without being pressed with greater and extraordinary ones. But, are all men attended with diseases? Yea, are all so, who are born of distempered parents? Are all born with filthy ulcers?

    Was Job brought into the world with his boils upon him? If it should be said, though this is not the case of all men, yet there is the common infirmity of nature, the spring of all these disorders, in all men. It is true, indeed, that mini, in his fallen state, is subject to these things? but from whence does this infirmity of nature arise, but from the corruption and vitiosity of it? 3. It is said, that the meaning of this Scripture is, “that from parents, obnoxious to sin, will spring forth children; that when they come to discern between good and evil, will be obnoxious to sin also.” I answer, that parents and their children are not only obnoxious to sin, but are really sinners; and be it so, that they are only obnoxious to sin, from whence does this obnoxiousness arise? It must be either from example, or from depravity; not from the former, since men are obnoxious to, and capable of committing sins they never saw committed; wherefore, this must spring from the corruption of nature.

    SECTION 2.

    Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. — Psalm 51:5; with Psalm 58:3; Isaiah 48:8.

    DAVID, having committed some very great sins, and being made sensible of them, ingeniously confesses them, and mourns over the depravity of his nature, the fountain of them; which he mentions not as an extenuation, but as an aggravation, of his iniquities, since he had been so early and so long a sinful creature. The sin and iniquity he speaks of he does not call his sin, and his iniquity, though it was so, being in his nature, but sin and iniquity, being common to him with all mankind, and which attended his conception and formation in the womb, before he was born, and so before he had committed any actual transgression; and, therefore, cannot design any thing else but the original corruption of his nature. Now, to this sense of the words many things are objected. 1. It is observed f400 , from Clemens of Alexandria, Chrysostom, and Theodoret, that “David speaks this of his mother Eve, and of our first parents, whose posterity were begotten after they had sinned.” I reply, David indeed, might Well enough call Eve his too: then since she is the mother of an living; but could not, with any propriety, say that she conceived him: this could only be said of his immediate parent, not of his next grandmother, much less of Eve, at the distance of three thousand years. It is also certainly true of our first parents, that their posterity were begotten after they had sinned. But then it will follow, that if they were begotten not before, but after they had sinned, they must be begotten, not in the image of God, in which man was created, and was now lost by sin, but in the sinful and corrupt image of Adam; which was the case not only of Cain, but of Seth, and of all others who have since descended from him by ordinary generation, among whom David was one. 2. It is objected, that David here speaks not of his own, but of his mother’s sin, and a very broad f402 intimation is given, that this was the sin of adultery; and, indeed, if he was conceived in a sin of his mother’s, what else could it be? This shows, that these men are grievously pinched with this text, and miserably put to their shifts, to betake themselves to such an interpretation, at the expense of the character of an innocent person, of whom there is not the least suggestion of this kind in the sacred writings; but on the contrary, she is represented as a religious person. David valued himself upon his being related to her, and pleads, that he might be regarded by the Lord for her sake. ( Psalm 86:16, and Psalm116:16.) Moreover, had this been the case, David must have been excluded from entrance into the congregation of the Lord; for there was a standing law ( Deuteronomy 23:2.) in Israel, which forbade a bastard to enter there until the tenth generation; whereas it is certain, that David often went into the house of God with company, where he enjoyed much spiritual pleasure and delight. ( Psalm 43:4, 55:14, and <19C201> Psalm 122:1, Psalm 63:1, Psalm 84:1,10.) Once more, it is beside David’s scope and design to expose the sins of others, much less his own parents, whilst he is confessing and lamenting his own; and to what purpose should he mention theirs, especially if he himself was not affected by them, and did not derive corrupt nature from them? To say no more, the particle b , in, relates not to his mother, but to himself; it is not said, my mother in sin, that is, being in sin, or through sin, conceived me; but, my mother conceived me in sin, that is, as soon as I was conceived in the womb, and the mass of human nature was shaped and quickened; or as soon as soul and body were united together, sin was in me, and I was in sin, or became a sinful creature.

    Some, who do not run this length, yet say, that the sin and iniquity in which David was conceived and shapen, was the sinfulness of his parents, in the acts of begetting and conceiving him, though in lawful wedlock. But this cannot be true; since tire propagation of the human species, by natural generation, is a principle of nature implanted by God him-serf, and therefore cannot be sinful; and is agreeable to the first law of nature, given to man in a state of innocence, be fruitful and multiply. Marriage was instituted by God in paradise, and in all ages has been honorable in all, when the bed is undefiled. Besides, one of the words here used ytllwt , translated shapen, is of the passive form, and designs something in which both David and his parents were entirely passive, and means no other than that amazing and surprising act of formation he so much admires in <19D913> Psalm 139:13-16.

    Others interpret these words of his mother’s conceiving him in profluviis, which usually produces sw~ma ouj kaqaroton, a body impure, ill tempered, and subject to evil passions. The Jews and Isidore are referred to for this sense of them, though the former, as far as I have been able to observe, say nothing of 2:14. Sol. Jarchi, R. David Kimchi, R. Aben Ezra, and R. Abendana, f404 understand the words of [rh rxy , the corruption of nature in man as soon as he is born. And as for Isidore, both elder and younger understand these words of original sin, in which David and all men are involved. However, nothing of this nature can be concluded from the sacred Scriptures concerning David, but rather the reverse; since he is taken notice of, as no other man is excepting Moses, for his being comely, ruddy, of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to; ( 1 Samuel 16:12,18.) and so far from having an unclean body of an ill temperament, or subject to bad qualities. 3. It is observed, that David here makes no mention of Adam, and goes no higher than his mother, and, therefore, what he says makes nothing for original sin. In answer to which, it will be sufficient to say, that inasmuch as natural generation is the channel in which the corruption of nature is derived, David, in speaking of it, and his particular concern in it, had no need to take notice of any other than his immediate parents, through whom it was conveyed to him; for God hath made of one blood all nations of men. ( Acts 17:26.)

    This blood being tainted in the fountain of it, the first man, must be so in its streams; and so all are corrupted that partake of it. 4. It is further urged, that David is speaking here only of himself, and not of all mankind: he does not say that all men, but that he was shapen in iniquity, and conceived in sin; and, therefore, can be no proof of the original corruption of the whole human nature. To which may be replied, that what is here said of David is true of all men; since every imagination of the thoughts of men’s hearts, both in the old and in the new world, is evil ( Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21.) from their infancy; and that not only the wicked are estranged from the womb, ( Psalm 58:3.) but the elect of God are, by nature, children of wrath, even as others; ( Ephesians 2:3; 3) which suppose them to be guilty and polluted as others; and, how should it be otherwise? for that which is born of the flesh is flesh. ( John 3:3.)

    Besides, the argument from David to other men is very strong; for, if he who was so famous for his early religion and piety, a man after God’s own heart, raised up by him to fulfill all his will, from whose seed sprang unto Israel a Savior Jesus ; ( Acts 13:22,23.) if he was shapen in iniquity, and conceived in sin, is it not reasonable to conclude, that this is the case of others? Who can stand up, and exempt himself from such a conception and birth, and say, he was not shapen and conceived in this manner? 5. If all this will not do to set aside the sense of the text we plead for, we are told that the words are an hyperbole, of the like kind with Job 31:18, Psalm 22:10,11, and Psalm 71:6, and Psalm 58:3, Isaiah 48:8, and mean no more than that he had not only sinned now, but very often from his childhood. To which may be answered, that to say that being shaped in iniquity, and conceived in sin, means no more than a frequency of sinning from the youth upwards, is to contradict the express letter of the text; nor should we depart from the literal sense of words, and put a figurative one upon them,, unless there is an absolute necessity, of which there can be none here, unless it be to serve a turn. The places referred to are no hyperboles. The words in Psalm 22:9,10, are not the words of David, but of Christ, who, through the care of Divine Providence, and powerful operation of the Holy Ghost, was preserved from the original taint of sin. Job 31:18, Psalm 71:5,6, ought not to be any more accounted hyperbolical expressions than those which say, that Jeremy was sanctified before he came out of the womb; and that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Ghost from his motherwomb. ( Jeremiah 1:5, Luke 1:15.)

    But, admitting that the last-mentioned texts are aggravations of Job’s pity and compassion, and of David’s trust and confidence, it does not follow, that the words under consideration are hyperbolical exaggerations of sin, since the Psalmist is here making a sincere and hearty confession of sin, in which it is not usual with saints to hyperbolize, that is, either to make their sins lesser or greater than they are; and, indeed, the sinfulness of nature cannot well be hyperbolized; for the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? ( Jeremiah 17:9.) 6. To confirm this hyperbolical sense of the text, the words of the Pharisees to the blind man are produced, thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? On which it is observed, that had they a regard to original sin, they could not have justly objected this to him since he might have recriminated them with it. To which I answer, it is very true, no doubt they were both born in sin alike; but then these words are no hyperbole, but express the real sentiments of these Pharisees, who had either given in to the Pythagorean notion of the transmigration of souls, and supposed that this man’s soul had sinned greatly in another body before, and therefore was grievously punished in this; or at least, they imagined that none were born in sin, but such who had some marks of deformity upon them, as blindness, lameness, and the like; but I hope we are not bound to believe the same things, nor should any expression or doctrine of theirs be urged to disprove any truth of the Gospel.

    As for Psalm 58:3, it is true of all men, that they are estranged from the womb from all righteousness, and alienated from God, and the life of God, being dead in trespasses and sins; and therefore it is no strange thing that they go astray ˆfbm, from the belly; since they are devoid of the principles of real justice and truth: and hence, as soon as they are capable of speaking, they go about speaking lies. Now, to what can such early impieties be ascribed, but to the corruption of nature? To the same purpose are the words in Isaiah 48:8, and wast called a transgressor from the womb; in which the corruption of nature is represented as the spring and fountain of all that treachery, stubbornness, hypocrisy, and idolatry, the people of Israel are charged with in the context. It is objected that this passage implies something not common to all, but peculiar to the people of Israel, but surely if the people of Israel, who were an holy people to the Lord, and chosen by him to be a special people unto himself, above all people on the face of the earth, ( Deuteronomy 7:6. ) were called transgressors from the womb, much more may others be so called. It is further alleged, that this does not regard their natural birth, but their coming out of Egypt, when they were formed into a civil state, and in a figurative sense was their birth; from which time they discovered, a proneness to impiety and idolatry. Be it so that this is the sense of the passage, to what can this impiety and idolatry be ascribed, when they were a people indulged with so many peculiar and special favors by God, but to the abominable corruption originally seated in their natures? As to what is usually f410 objected to this and the preceding scripture, that they cannot be understood of original sin; because these holy men, David and Isaiah, must object to, and upbraid these wicked men with that which they themselves were guilty of; I need only observe, that the words under consideration, are not the words of Isaiah, but of God himself, who in his eternal prescience foreknew the original and actual transgressions of these people; which he observes both to prove his own Deity, and point out to them the fountain of all their iniquities. As to the preceding passage, David might, with great propriety, take notice of the original corruption of the wicked, of which he was so sensible himself, and acknowledged in as strong, or stronger terms than here used: since his design is to expose the internal wickedness of some who appeared outwardly righteous, and made great pretensions to holiness, justice and truth, when, in their hearts, they wrought wickedness, which sprang from the original depravity of their natures, as appears from the connection of the words with the two foregoing verses.

    SECTION 3.

    And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth; and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. — Genesis 6:5.

    THIS text represents not only the heart of man in general to be evil, but the thoughts of his heart; not only these, but the imagination r[y, the substratum of thought, the very first motion to it, and the formation of it; yea, every imagination, or formation, and that only so, nothing good in it, nay always, µwhy lk , every day; and so is a considerable proof of the general and original corruption of human nature: to which the following things are objected. 1st. That these words regard not all mankind, but only the antediluvian world: and not every one of them, since Noah is excepted as a just and perfect man; nor are they spoken of any sin common to all men, as original sin is supposed to be, but of some gross sins committed by the worst of men, who had corrupted themselves by a long course of continual impiety.

    To which I reply, that the former part of the text, and God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, has a special regard to the flagitious crimes of the men of that generation, which brought down the judgment of God upon them in an universal deluge; but the latter part of the text, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually, respects the fountain and spring of all their wickedness, which is the corruption of nature, common to them with all men that were before them, or have since risen up after them. The words are expressed in very general terms: it is not said, every imagination of the thoughts of the heart of these men, or the men of this generation, is only evil continnally; but every imagination of the thoughts of men’s hearts is so. Noah’s being a just and perfect man, was owing to the free favor of God; for it is said, that he found grace in the eyes of the lord, and to the righteousness of Christ, of which he was a preacher; otherwise, by nature he was as corrupt, as much a child of wrath of others; no thanks to his nature that he was just and perfect, but to the distinguishing grace of God he was made a partaker of. Moreover, what is here expressed, is elsewhere said of all men without any exception. It is to me very probable, that the Psalmist has reference to this very passage before us in Psalm 14:2,3, which the apostle Paul, in Romans 3:9-12, without any restriction or limitation, applies to all men, Jews and Gentiles. Add to this, that the very same thing, in almost the same words, is said in Genesis 8:21, of man after the flood, as is here said of him before it; yea, when there was only Noah and his family in being. But, on this last cited text, two things are observed. 1. That the words should not be translated, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake, for, but, although, or for this, or upon this account, that the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.

    And it is said, that the usual way of reading that text, carries in it this absurdity, that the same reason which moved God to destroy the world before, now moves him to spare it. But let it be observed, that the reading pleaded for, is contrary to the common sense of the particle yk , as these men themselves own, to the Targums of Onkelos, and Jonathan Ben Uzziel, who render it by µwra and yra , to the versions of the Septuagint, Syriac, Arabic, Samaritan, and Vulgate Latin, and to many modern ones, which translate the particle for, and not though: nor is there any absurdity in the common reading; for as the phrase, in the other text, accounts for the justice of God, and his proceedings against the men of the other world, this here represents the inconvenience of the continuance or frequency of such proceedings; since he must be always destroying the world, and the inhabitants of it, and consequently could have no church abiding; nor would there be any society of men subsisting, for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Besides, should the reading contended for be admitted, for it will be owned that the particle may be sometimes so rendered, nothing will be got by it; should the words be read, I will not again curse the ground man’s sake, though the imagination of manheart is evil from his youth, or for his, or upon this account, that the imagination of his heart is evil from his youth; either ending both expresses and implies, that the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth, which is the only thing for which we produce it. 2. It is objected, that “the word wyr[gm , doth not signify from their birth, but only from their youth; for he speaks of the imaginations of their hearts, and so only of the time when they are able to entertain and prosecute the thoughts of their evil hearts; nor doth this phrase, it is said, signify an original, but only a long-contracted custom, an habitual course of doing what is either good, or evil, or indifferent.” To which I reply, that the Lord here speaks not of what man did, but what was the imagination of his heart, the substratum of his thoughts, and which is antecedent to the entertainment and prosecution of them, that this was evil wyr[m ; which Onkelos renders by jywy[zm, from his infancy; and agrees with the derivation of the word from r[n , which signifies to shake out; and with the sense of the ancient, and some of the modern Jews, f415 who say that the [rh rxy, the evil figment, or corruption of nature, is in man from the time of his formation in the womb; or from his birth, as soon as r[ynçm he is shook out of his mother’s bowels. Moreover, some of the texts brought to disprove this sense of the phrase serve to confirm it.; particularly Job 31:18, Psalm 71:5,6, where from my youth, and from my mother’s womb, are mentioned as terms synonymous. Add to this, that such an interpretation well agrees with other scriptures; where men are represented as shapen in iniquity, and conceived in sin, and as transgressors from the womb. ( Psalm 51:5; Isaiah 48:8.)

    But to return to the consideration of what is further objected to our sense of the particular passage under consideration. 2ndly It is said, that “the wickedness the text speaks of was voluntary, and was the moving cause of God’s destroying the world by the flood; which cannot be said of original corruption, since that being always the same, would always have been a reason why he should do so; and besides, if the corruption of nature is here intended, in vain did God invite men to repentance by the ministry of Noah, and wait for it one hundred and twenty years; since, without the almighty power of God, they could no more conquer this, than they could change their sex, or raise a dead man to life.”

    In answer to which, let it be observed, that though the wickedness spoken of in the former part of the text designs personal, actual, and voluntary transgressions; yet the evil imagination, in the latter part of it, intends the corruption of nature, which is the fountain of actual transgressions; nor is this doing any violence to the text, or separating what the Scripture has joined together; but distinguishing between the cause and the effect, the fountain and its streams, the tree and its fruit. Nor do I see any reason why original sin, and the corruption of nature, may not be thought, with actual transgressions, to be the cause of the flood; since all actual transgressions flow from thence; and especially, since infants, who sinned not after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, suffered in the universal deluge; which cannot be accounted for, but by supposing original sin, or the corruption of nature, in them. Nor is it any sufficient objection to its being a cause of this calamity, that it had always been, and so must always, have been, a reason, for it; seeing God might defer such a strict and severe observance of it; partly until his elect in this interval were gathered in; partly to show his patience, forbearance, and long-suffering, until iniquity was fully ripe, and it is corruption had broken out, and showed itself to such a degree, that God must be, beyond all dispute, justified in his sharpest resentments against it. Nor was the long-suffering of God, which waited in the days of Noah, in vain: since, though such was the rooted corruption of human nature, that none can conquer it without the unfrustrable grace of God; yet these men, under the advantages they had, might have attained to an external repentance and reformation; which would have secured them from temporal destruction, and therefore were left inexcusable. Besides, God might, by these means, bring some of his elect to true repentance, whom he would not have perish, and whom he might take to himself, before the general calamity; as well as he saved Noah and his family in the midst of it.

    SECTION 4.

    That which is born of the flesh is flesh. — John 3:6.

    THESE words are expressed by Christ to show that men, by their natural birth, are carnal, and stand in need of regeneration, In order to entrance into the kingdom of God; and the meaning of them is, that that which is born in a natural way, is not only corporeal, but corrupt and sinful; so the word flesh is often used, see Genesis 6:3, Romans 8:1,5-8, Galatians 5:17,19. Hence man in his natural estate, can do nothing but what is carnal and sinful; and is wholly incapable of doing that which is spiritually good, until he is born of the Spirit. To which are excepted, 1. That this “exposition renders it impossible for a man to do any thing toward his own conversion; and so renders all God’s commands of it, exhortations to it, promises of pardon for it, threats of death if neglected, and complaints against those who would not do it, vain and absurd.” To which I answer, that it is, indeed, impossible, considering the. state of men, and the nature of regeneration and conversion, that he should be able to do any thing more towards it, than to make use of means; such as prayer, hearing the word, etc., in which God oftentimes is pleased to effect it, by the mighty power of his Spirit and grace. And as for commands and exhortations to regeneration, or promises of pardon to such who regenerate themselves, or threats of death to those who neglect it, or complaints against those who would not do it, I know of none in the whole word of God; what is referred to, only regards an external reformation of life and manners, and not regeneration, or the first work of conversion. 2. It is said, “that to be born of the flesh, here only signifies, that natural generation, by which a man is born into the world, of the vail of the flesh; and that this is the plain meaning of our Lord, that besides that natural birth, by which we receive only our flesh and body front our parents, there is need of a spiritual birth, to fit us for the kingdom of God.”

    I reply, it will be allowed, that our Lord is speaking of natural generation by which a man is born into the world; though how that should be of the will of the flesh, if flesh stands only for body, is not very intelligible: but then he speaks of men being born into the world as corrupt and sinful, which appears from the opposite part of the text, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, that is, that which is born of the Spirit of God is spiritual, as the new creature is; for by spirit, is not meant the soul, as is, when it is opposed to flesh, signifying the body, but that which is spiritual; and flesh being opposed to it, must signify that which is corrupt and sinful, as the nature of man is by his first birth: and therefore according to the plain meaning of our Lord, he must stand in need of a spiritual birth to fit him for the kingdom of God. And if man is not corrupt and sinful, what need would there be of regeneration? and since this is his case, though e does not he under any force, or co-active necessity to do only that which is evil, to which his will is entirely free; yet he is in an utter incapacity to regenerate himself.

    SECTION 5.

    For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good, I find not. For the good that I would, I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. — Romans 7:18,19.

    FROM these words the following things may be fairly concluded, namely, If no good thing dwells in a regenerate man, that is, in his flesh, much less in an unregenerate one, who is wholly flesh, carnal, and corrupt; and if in a renewed man, where there is a will, there is not a power to do that which is spiritually good, much less able is an unrenewed man to do that which is so, who has neither power nor will; and if such is the strength of corrupt nature in one that is born again, as often to hinder him from doing that good he would, and to put him on doing that evil he would not, how much greater must its strength be in unsanctified persons? These conclusions will appear to be just, if it is but allowed, that the apostle is here speaking of himself, and of himself as regenerate. But to this, the following things are excepted. 1st. “The scope of the place; which is to show the necessity of the abrogation of the law, from the inefficiency of it to deliver men from sin; since it rather increased it; to prove which, an unregenerate person, in whom sin reigns, was the most proper instance the apostle could pitch upon.” But to this may be replied, that though the apostle, in the beginning of the chapter, is speaking of the abrogation of the law to believers by the body of Christ, yet, nearer the discourse in controversy, his obvious scope and design is to show the spirituality and perfection of the law; that it was holy, just, and good, and that it was owing to the weakness of man that it was not fulfilled. This he could not better illustrate and exemplify than in a regenerate person; for if such an one does not come up to the spirituality of the law, and is not able to keep it perfectly, it cannot be thought that an unregenerate man should. 2ndly The coherence of the words; It is observed, “that the apostle speaks of an unregenerate man from verse 7 to the l4th, and therefore, why should it be thought that he discontinues his discourse concerning him?” In answer to this it should be observed, that the apostle, even within the limited period, is not speaking of a man in a pure, natural estate, but of himself, under great convictions of sin, under the powerful work of the law upon his conscience, showing him the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Besides, the apostle changes the tense; for whereas, within the mentioned compass, he speaks in the past tense; from verse 14, to the end of the chapter, he uses the present tense. And therefore supposing, that in the former part of the chapter, he considers himself as unregenerate; there is good reason to conclude, he does not continue his discourse of himself as such, or of any unregenerate man. And whereas it is urged, that he says in verse 9, I was alive without the law once, or I lived without the law once; which it is observed cannot be true of him in his own person, seeing he was born a Jew, and brought up under the law all his days: it may be replied, that though he never lived without the letter of the law, vet without the knowledge of the spirituality and perfection of it; or that he was alive, that is, in a fair way for heaven and eternal life, in his own apprehensions, before the law came with power, and entered into his conscience; but then sin, which lay before as dead, revived, and he died to all his hopes of obtaining life by his obedience to it. 3rdly The most considerable objection is taken from the description and character of the parson spoken of; as, 1. “He is said to be carnal, verse 14, whereas regenerate ones have crucified the flesh with the lusts, and are debtors, not to the flesh to live after the flesh, Galatians 5:24, Romans 8:12.” I answer, though regenerate persons have crucified the flesh, and are not debtors to it to live after it, yet from some considerations may be denominated carnal; as partly from their first birth, and the corruption of nature they bring into the world with them; partly from the continuance of the flesh, in which dwells no good thing and with which they serve the law of sin; and partly from the lusts of the flesh, which remain in them, and war against them; and on account of which the Corinthians, though babes in Christ, and so regenerate ones, are styled and treated as carnal. Add to this, that the apostle here says of himself, I am carnal, in comparison of the law, which was spiritual. And, indeed, when compared with this, the holiest man in the world must be reckoned carnal; for if the holy angels, when compared with the Divine Being, are chargeable with folly, much more must the saints, in this state of imperfection, be accounted carnal in comparison of the spiritual law of God, which is a transcript of the divine nature. 2. “He is said to be sold under sin, verse 14, which is a character of the greatest sin-hers; as of Ahab, 1 Kings 21:20, and others, Isaiah 50:1, and even of revolters from the true religion,1 Mac. 1:16, and signifies, that he was a servant and slave to sin; whereas regenerate persons are free from sin, and become the servants of righteousness. “ I reply, that though the person spoken of is said to be sold under sin, yet not to sell himself to work wickedness, as Ahab and others did; between these there is a wide difference; in the one, man is passive, in the other, active; the one is against his will, the other with it. So, though the apostle was sold under sin, it was not his own act, and was against his will, as a renewed man; with his flesh he served the law of sin, but with his mind the law of God; which proves, that he speaks of himself as regenerate: for his character as unregenerate was, that he was serving, that is, readily, cheerfully, and willingly, divers lusts and pleasures. Besides, the apostle is to be understood of his other I, which was carnal, of the flesh, or old man, which was under sin; and not of the new man. which is not under the law of sin, but under grace, as a reigning, governing principle. 3. “He is said hot to do the good he would, but the evil which he would not, verse 16, whereas it is said of regenerate persons, that they work out their salvation with fear and trembling, God working in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure; that they will, in newness of life, and after the Spirit, and not after the flesh, Philippians 2:12,13; Romans 6:4 and Romans 8:1.” To which I reply, that though regenerate ones do that which is good, ye not always, there is not a just man on earth, that doth good and sinneth not; ( Ecclesiastes 7:20.) nor does God always work in them to will and to do, but when he pleases, of his own good pleasure. Besides, the good this person did not, he willed it, he desired it; whereas a carnal man wills, desires, and savors the things of the flesh, and them only, and not the things o: the Spirit; and also hated the evil he did whereas an unregenerate man chooses his own ways, and his soul delights in his abominations: so that this character proves the person to be a regenerate, and not an unregenerate man. 4. “It is said of this person, that sin dwelleth in him, verse 17, 20, but regenerate ones are dead to sin and alive to God, and the Spirit of Christ, and Christ himself dwells in them, Romans 6:11, and 8:11, Galatians 2:20.” To this may be replied, that though the saints are dead to sin being justified from it by the righteousness of Christ, and freed from the dominion of it by the power of divine grace, yet they are not delivered from the being of it; sin is in them, dwells in them, lives in them, though they do not live in sin, and sometimes very strongly works in them; all which is no contradiction to the inhabitation of Christ, and his Spirit in them. These dwell under the same roof with sin, but not in the same apartment; sin dwells in the flesh, in the old man, in the unrenewed self, in which dwells no good thing; Christ and the Spirit dwell in the new man, in the new heart, in the renewed self. Moreover, the saints in all ages have found, and have complained of sin dwelling in them, as Job, David, Solomon, the church in Isaiah’s time, and the beloved disciple John. ( Job 9:20; Psalm 38:3,4; Proverbs 20:9; Isaiah 14:6; 1 John 1:8.) This character therefore agrees with a regenerate man. 5. This person affirms of himself that no good thing dwelt in him, verse 18, whereas there are many good things dwell in regenerate ones. This is very true, there are many good things in the saints; as the good work of grace and the good word of God, the good Spirit of Christ, and Christ himself, yea, God the Father dwells in them, and makes his abode with them. But then let it be observed, how cautiously and with what limitation the apostle expresses himself: In me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing. Now had he spoken of himself as unregenerate, or in the person of an unregenerate man, he had no need to have used this restrictive clause; for who knows not, that in an unregenerate man dwells no good thing? 6. “This man is said to will but not to perform that which is good, verse 18, whereas regenerate men are the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus, unto good works, and God works in them both to will and to do.” What has been said in answer to the third objection may be sufficient to remove this; for though the saints do that which is good, yet not always, nor does God always work in them to do, when they have a will to do that which is good. Besides, in unregenerate persons, there is no will present with them to that which is good; they desire not the knowledge of God’s ways; their carnal minds are enmity against God, and are not subject to the law of God; nor can they be subject to it, without the grace of God. 7. “This person complains that he was a captive of the law of sin, verse 23, whereas regenerate persons are freed from the law of sin and death, Romans 7:2.” But though they are freed, from condemnation by sin which is what is meant in the place referred to, as appears front the context, and from the dominion of sin, yet not from the being of it, nor altogether from the power of it; for it sometimes brings into captivity, though even then it has not the dominion; a man may be taken prisoner, and carried captive, and yet remain a subject of his lawful prince; so the saints may be brought into captivity to the law of sin, and yet not be under the dominion of it, but continue under the reign of grace, and in the kingdom of God’s dear Son. 8. “This same person bitterly complains of a body of death, and desires to be delivered from it; which shows that he was detained by it, and under it.” I reply, that the desire of deliverance from the body of death shows that it was distressing, uneasy, and uncomfortable to him, but not that it had the dominion over him; he was delivered from condemnation by it, and from the government of it, and was vary desirous of being freed from the very being of it, which was so great a clog and incumbrance to him; and this none but a regenerate person truly desires, as none but such an one knows from whence a deliverance of this kind comes, which proves the person speaking to be a renewed man, since he adds, Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. 9. “The apostle elsewhere speaks of himself in a different manner, as one that walked worthy of the Gospel, to be imitated by others, and who was able to do all things through the grace of God, 1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 3:17, and Philippians 4:13. But then this does not contradict what he here says in this chapter, which perfectly agrees with other passages of his, in which he owns his sinfulness and weakness, and ascribes all he did to the grace of God, see 1 Timothy 1:15; Corinthians 12:10; 1 Corinthians 15:10. It is evident, from all his epistles, that this great man God lived under a continual sense of the corruption of his nature, his own unworthiness and inability. 10. “Origen, Chrysostom, Theodoret, and others, interpret these words of men under the thraldom and dominion of sin, through a long use and custom.” This interpretation of the words was indeed first given by Origen, was greedily catched at by Pelagius, revived by Socinus and his followers, and some popish writers, and at last adopted by the Arminians. But Methodius, a martyr, whose judgment Dr. Whitby seems fond of, first in the words of one Procius, and then in his own, delivers the sense of them agreeable to ours, understanding them of a regenerate man. Wherefore what Vorstius affirms is false, that all the ancients before Austin interpreted these words of unregenerate men. I shall now, 4thly. Subjoin some arguments, proving that this part of the chapter, from verse 14 to the end or it, is spoken by the apostle of himself, and of himself as regenerate. 1. The apostle all along speaks of himself in the first person: That which I do I allow not; what I hate that I do; I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing; I delight in the law of God: I find a law in my members; yea, says he, With the mind I myself, aujto, serve the law of God; which can never be understood in a figurative sense as personating another; nor do the passages usually alleged prove such a way of speaking common, as 1 Corinthians 6:12, and 10:23, and 13:1-3; Galatians 2:18,20. 2. When he speaks of his unregenerate state, and the first convictions of sin, he speaks of them as things past: When we were in the flesh; [had not known sin, but by the law; Sin taking occasion by the law wrought in me all manner of concupiscence, deceived me, and by it slew me; I was alive without the law once, etc. But from verse 14 to the end of the chapter, he speaks in the present tense, of what he then was, and found: I am carnal, I do what I would not, I consent to the law that it is good, I delight in the law of God, etc. 2. The several things which are said of this person, cannot agree with the apostle, nor with any other, but as regenerate; such only hate evil, delight in the law of God, and serve it with their mind. 3. The distinction of flesh and spirit, the inward and outward man, is not applicable to any other but a regenerate man; for the spirit, and inward man, is not the soul, opposed to the body, but the spiritual man, the new man, the hidden man of the heart, the truth of grace, in opposition to the flesh, the old man, or corrupt nature. Now only the latter, and not the former, is to be found in an unregenerate man. 5. The struggle between flesh and spirit, between the law in the members and the law of the mind, proves that these words can belong to no other than a regenerate person; with which agrees Galatians 5:17. Only in the Shulamite ( Song of Solomon 6:13.) true believers are to be ‘seen, as it were the company of two companies, flesh and spirit, sin and grace, warring against each other. 6. The thanksgiving for deliverance from sin through Christ, towards the close of the chapter, can only come from a believer; none but a regenerate man knows any thing of the nature of it, from whence it is, and can only be thankful for it.

    SECTION 6.

    Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be; so then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God. — Romans 8:7,8.

    THE carnal mind, or to< fro>nhma th~v, which may be rendered the wisdom of the flesh, signifies the wisest and best part of man, the soul, with all its powers and faculties; and this being carnal is a strong proof of the wretched corruption of human nature. Besides, this carnal mind is not only an enemy to, but enmity itself against that God who made it, upholds it in life, and loads it with benefits; and therefore is not subject to the law of God, which is holy, just, and good; nor indeed can it be, considering its state and circumstances, without the powerful and efficacious grace of God; wherefore the apostle’s conclusion is exceeding just, so lien they that are in the flesh, that is, in an unregenerate state, and are wholly carnal and corrupt, cannot please God; that is, do those things which are pleasing to him. To which is objected, 1. That “this text with the preceding one, were abused by the ancient heretics, to prove that the flesh, or body of tomb is, by nature, evil; and they that are in the body of flesh, cannot be subject to the law, or please God.” But what is this to us, who by the flesh in both places, understand not the body, to which wisdom does not belong, and in which men may please God, and be subject to his law, but the corrupt nature of man, or men, in an unregenerate estate; who, whilst such, are enemies to God, unsubjected to his law, and cannot please him? 2. It is owned, that “the apostle doth indeed say, that they who thus mind carnal things, while they continue so to do, cannot please God, or live in subjection to his laws; but does not say, that they cannot be made good; for by his frequent exhortations to these carnal men, to crucify and mortify the flesh, to put off the old man with his deeds, joined with threats and promises, plainly shows, that men may cease to live according to the flesh, and may obtain that assistance of the Spirit by which they shall mortify the deeds of the flesh, and live after the Spirit.” Upon which I observe, that all that are after: the flesh, or in an unrenewed state, mind carnal things; and since it is allowed, that while they continue so to do, as they will, so long as they remain unconverted, they cannot please God; the words prove what we produce them for, namely, the corruption of man’s nature, and his disability to do that which is spiritually good. But it is observed, that the apostle does not say such cannot be made good: nor do we say so, but we affirm, that they cannot make themselves good, and that they cannot be made good but by the grace of God; and that until they are made so, they cannot do that which is spiritually good, no more than an evil tree can bring forth good fruit. And as for the exhortations to crucify and mortify the flesh, and to put off the old man, the passages in Romans 8:13. Galatians 5:24, referred to, are not properly exhortations; and neither they, nor the other, belong to carnal men, but to believers in Christ, who were Christ’s and had the spirit of Christ already; and were debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh, but to the Spirit, to live after the Spirit; and therefore fall short of proving that carnal men may make themselves good, or of themselves cease to live after the flesh.


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