Are you a Christian?
BIBLE STUDY COMMENTARY
THE Apostle describes in this chapter the blessed accompaniments, the security, and the foundation of justification. This last branch of the subject is interwoven with an account of the entrance of sin and death into the world; while a parallel is drawn between the first and the second Adam in their opposite tendencies and influences. By the first came sin, condemnation, and death; by the second, righteousness, justification, and life. From this comparison, occasion is taken to show why God had made the promulgation of the written law to intervene betwixt the author of condemnation and the author of justification. On the one hand, the extent, the evil, and the demerit of sin, and the obstructions raised up by law and justice to man’s recovery, were thus made fully manifest; while, on the other hand, the superabundant riches of Divine grace, in its complete ascendancy and victory over them in the way of righteousness, were displayed to the greatest advantage, and with the fullest effect.
Ver. 1. — Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore. — This particle of inference draws its conclusion from the whole foregoing discussion concerning justification by faith, though it may have a more immediate reference to the nearest preceding context. The Apostle having fully proved that salvation is by grace, and that it is by faith, now shows the consequences of this doctrine. Justified by faith. — This expression is elliptical; faith must be understood as inclusive of its object. This is very usual in all cases where the thing elliptically expressed is frequently spoken of, and therefore sufficiently explained by the elliptical expression. It is not by faith, abstractly considered, that we are justified, nor even by faith in everything that God reveals. It is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Even this phrase itself, namely, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is still elliptical, and supposes the knowledge of what is to be believed with respect to Christ. It is not believing in His existence, but believing on Him as revealed in the Scriptures, in His person and work. In the same manner as we have the phrase, ‘justified by faith,’ we have the phrase, justified by the blood of Christ. As, in the former case, faith implies its object, so, in the latter, it is implied that we are justified by faith in the blood of Christ. The blood of Christ justifies by being the object of belief and of trust. We have peace with God. — This shows that all men, till they are justified, are at war with God, and that He is at war with them. But when they are justified by faith, the wrath of God, which abideth on those who believe not on His Son, John 3:36, is turned away, and they cease to be enemies to God. Thus peace, succeeding hostility, brings with it every blessing; for there is no middle place for the creature between the love and the wrath of God. This peace, then, arises from righteousness, — the imputation of the righteousness of God by which the believer is justified, — and is followed by a sense of peace obtained. While guilt remains in the conscience, enmity will also rankle in the heart; for so long as men look upon their sins as unpardoned, and on God as the avenger of their transgressions, they must regard Him as being to them a consuming fire. But when they view God in Christ reconciling them to Himself, not imputing their iniquities to them, peace, according to the measure of faith, is established in the conscience.
This never can be experienced by going about to establish our own righteousness. If any man have peace in his conscience, it must flow from Christ’s righteousness — it must be the effect of that righteousness which God has ‘created,’ Isaiah 45:8; and of which the Spirit, when He comes, brings with Him the conviction, John 16:8. Resting on this righteousness, the believer beholds God at peace with him, perfectly reconciled. The belief of this satisfies his conscience, which, being purged by blood, Hebrews 9:14, he is freed from guilty fears, and reconciled to God. Through this sense of the pardon of sin, and of friendship with God, the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keeps his heart and mind through Christ Jesus. The maintenance of this peace, by preserving the conscience free from guilt by continual application to the blood of Christ, is the main point in the believer’s walk with God and the powerful spring of His obedience. In the New Testament God is frequently denominated ‘the God of peace.’ The Apostle prays that the Lord Himself may give His people peace by all means, and enjoins that the peace of God should rule in the hearts of believers, to which they are also called in one body, and that they should be thankful. Peace is the fruit of the Spirit; and the kingdom of God is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. — Peace comes through the death of Jesus Christ. The faith, therefore, by which it is obtained, must refer to Him who made peace through the blood of His cross. He alone, as the one Mediator, can make peace between God, who is holy, and man, who is sinful. God has established three covenants, or three ways of communication with man. The first was the covenant of nature; the second, the covenant of the law; the third, the covenant of the Gospel.
Under the first covenant, man, being in a state of innocence, needed no mediator. Under the second, there was a mediator simply of communication, and not of reconciliation, — a mediator as to the exterior, or a messenger who goes between two parties, a simple depository of words spoken on the one side of the other, without having any part in the interior or essence of the covenant, of which he was neither the founder nor the bond. Under the third covenant, Jesus Christ is a true mediator of reconciliation, who has produced a real peace between God and man, and is the founder of their mutual communion. ‘He is our peace.’ It is established by the new covenant in His hands, and is everlasting, being made through the blood of that everlasting covenant. ‘The Lord is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake,’ Isaiah 42:21. ‘The work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever,’ Isaiah 32:17. This peace, then, is through Jesus Christ and His righteousness, which brings this quietness and assurance.
He is the King of righteousness and Prince of Peace. In parting from His disciples before His death, He said, ‘These things have I spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace;’ and this peace He bequeathed to them. ‘Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you.’ When He met them again after His resurrection, His first salutation to them was, ‘Peace be unto you.’
Believers have access into grace as well as peace. — The one is distinguished from the other. In what, then, do they differ? Peace denotes a particular blessing; access into grace, or a state of favor, implies general blessings, among which peace and all other privileges are included. And as they are justified by means of faith, and have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ, so likewise it is through Him that they enter into this state of grace; for it is through Him they have access by one Spirit unto the Father, by that new and living way which He hath consecrated for them through the vail; that is to say, His flesh. They have access to a mercy-seat, to which they are invited to come freely; and boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Jesus — boldness to come to the throne of grace, and enter into the holiest by His blood. And as it is by Him they enter into this state of grace, so by Him they stand in it, accepted before God, 1 Peter 5:12; secured, according to His everlasting covenant, that they shall not be cast down; but that they are fixed in this state of perfect acceptance, conferred by sovereign grace, brought into it by unchangeable love, and kept in it by the power of a faithful God. ‘They shall be My people, and I will be their God.’ ‘I will not turn away from them to do them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from Me,’ Jeremiah 32:38,40. And rejoice. — This is an additional blessing. The word here translated rejoice signifies to glory or exult, and is the same that in the following verse is rendered ‘to glory.’ It may designate not only the excess of joy possessed by the soul in the contemplation of the future inheritance, but the language of triumph expressing this joy, which is properly meant by glorying. The Christian should speak nothing boastingly, so far as concerns himself; but he has no reason to conceal his sense of his high destination as a son of God, and an heir of glory. In this he ought to result, in this he ought to glory, — and, in obedience to His Lord’s command, to rejoice, because his name is written in heaven. The hope of eternal salvation through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ cannot but produce joy; for as there can be no true joy without such a hope, so it carries with it the very essence of joy. Joy springing from faith is called the joy of faith, Philippians 1:25, and is made a distinguishing characteristic of the Christian, Philippians 3:3. ‘Where Christ is truly seen,’ says Luther, On the Galatians, p. 85, ‘there must needs be full and perfect joy in the Lord, with peace of conscience, which most certainly thus thinketh: — Although I am a sinner, by the law, and under condemnation of the law, yet I despair not, I die not, because Christ liveth, who is both my righteousness and my everlasting life. In that righteousness and life I have no sin, no fear, no sting of conscience, no care of death. I am indeed a sinner, as touching this present life, and the righteousness thereof, as the child of Adam; where the law accuseth me, death reigneth over me, and at length would devour me. But I have another righteousness and life above this life, which is Christ, the Son of God, who knoweth no sin nor death, but righteousness and life eternal; by whom this, my body, being dead, and brought into dust, shall be raised up again, and delivered from the bondage of the law, and sin, and shall be sanctified together with the Spirit.’ In the hope of the glory of God — This form of expression will equally apply to the glory that God bestows on His people, and to His own glory.
The view and enjoyment of God’s glory is the hope of believers. It is the glory that shall be revealed in them when they shall he glorified together in Christ — when they shall behold the glory which the Father hath given to the Son, and which the Son gives to them, John 17:22-24. Thus faith relies on the truth of what God has promised, and hope expects the enjoyment of it. This hope is full of rejoicing, because everything it looks for depends on the truth and faithfulness of a covenant God. There can be no failure on His part, and consequently on the believer’s no disappointment.
Here it should be particularly observed, that before saying one word of the fruits Produced by the believer, the Apostle describes him as rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God. He represents him as drawing no motive of consolation but from a view of God in Christ, whom he has received as his Savior by faith; and this is the true source of his hope and joy. The disciples, after the day of Pentecost, as soon as they heard the word that Peter preached, gladly embraced it, and did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart. In the same way, when Christ was preached to them, the eunuch and the jailor rejoiced the moment they believed. This hope is indeed capable of confirmation; but if it has not its origin in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice alone, it is a false hope. As soon as a man believes the Gospel of Christ, he ought to imitate the faith of Abraham, and give glory to God, resting securely on the sure foundation which is the basis of the hope; and he never can acquire a different title to glory, than that of which he is in possession in the moment when he believes, although, as he grows in grace, he perceives it more distinctly. Paul, while he urges the brethren at Colosse to a higher degree of conformity, in many particulars, to the will of God, yet gives thanks to the Father, who had already made them meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, Colossians 1:12.
This was the state of the thief on the cross, and is so of every converted sinner, in the moment when he is united to Christ; for then he is justified by faith, and has peace with God. Christians are characterized as holding fast the beginning of their confidence, and the rejoicing of their hope, firm unto the end, Hebrews 3:6-15. The beginning of their confidence and hope of salvation rested wholly on the person and righteousness of Jesus Christ, the Surety of the new covenant. It is true that at the commencement of their new life, faith is often weak, and its object seen indistinctly. Love, and joy, and hope, cannot transcend the faith from which they flow. Hence the propriety of that prayer by all the disciples of Jesus, ‘Lord, increase our faith;’ hence also the necessity of using diligence in the work and labor of love, to the full assurance of hope unto the end, Hebrews 6:11.
Ver. 3. — And not only so, but hope glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience.
Not only does the believer rejoice in hope of future glory, but he rejoices even in tribulations. This rejoicing, however, is not in tribulations considered in themselves, but in their effects. It is only the knowledge of the effects of afflictions, and of their being appointed by his heavenly Father, that enables the Christian to rejoice in them. Being in themselves an evil, and not joyous but grievous, they would not otherwise be a matter of rejoicing, but of sorrow. But viewed as proceeding from his heavenly Father’s love, Hebrews 12:6; Revelation 3:19, they are so far from depriving him of his joy, that they tend to increase it. The way to the cross was to his Savior the way to the crown, and he knows that through much tribulation he must enter into the kingdom of God, Acts 14:22.
Tribulation, even death itself, which is numbered among his privileges, Corinthians 3:22, shall not separate him from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The Apostle Peter addresses believers as greatly rejoicing in the hope of salvation, though now, if need be, they are in heaviness through manifold trials. Tribulation worketh or effecteth patience. — Christians should be well instructed on this point, and should have it continually in their eye: their happiness is greatly concerned in it. If they forget the end and tendency of afflictions, they will murmur like the Israelites. Patience is a habit of endurance; and Christian patience implies submission to the will of God.
Paul says here that affliction worketh patience, and James 1:3, says that the trying of faith worketh patience. This proves that the afflictions of a Christian are intended as a trial of his faith. What by the one Apostle is called tribulation, is by the other called trial of faith. The effect of affliction is patience, a grace which is so necessary, as we are all naturally impatient and unwilling to submit unreservedly to the dispensations of God. Patience gives occasion to the exercise of the graces of the Spirit, and of submission under afflictions to the will of God.
Ver. 4. — And patience, experience; and experience, hope.
Experience. — The Greek word translated experience signifies trial or proof. Here it means proof; for trial may detect a hypocrite as well as a manifest saint. But proof implies that the trial has proved the genuineness of the tried person, and also of the faithfulness and support of God, which will enable us to overcome every difficulty. And proof worketh hope.
That is, when the genuineness of our profession is manifested by being proved, our hope of enjoying the glory promised to the genuine people of God is confirmed. Hope is here introduced a second time. This should be carefully noticed. At first, as we have seen, it springs solely from a view of the mediation and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here; it acquires a new force, from the proof the believer has of the reality of his union with the Savior, by his being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ. Thus the ‘good hope through grace’ must be produced solely by faith, and confirmed, not produced, by the fruits of faith.
Ver. 5. — And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us.
Hope maketh not ashamed. — This may import, either that hope will not be disappointed, or that hope will not allow us to be ashamed of its object.
Various passages speak of the believer as not being put to shame in the day of retribution; and the expression here is generally interpreted to signify that hope will not be disappointed, but will receive the object of its anticipation. This is an important truth; yet the Apostle may rather be understood as speaking of the usual effect of hope as exemplified in the life of a Christian; and that it is not the future effect of hope in believers, but its present effect, as it is the present effect of the other particulars mentioned, to which he refers. Besides, the primary signification of the word in the original is, not to disappoint, but to shame, put to shame, or make ashamed. Paul here evidently speaks of hope as a general principle, which, in every instance, and on all subjects, has this effect ascribed to it.
It is its nature, with regard to everything which is its object, to destroy shame, and excite to an open avowal, and even glorying in it, though it may be a thing of which others may be ashamed, and which is ridiculed in the world. The experience of every Christian confirms this view. When is he inclined to be ashamed of the Gospel? Not when his hopes are high, his faith unwavering, and his impressions of future glory strong. It is when His hopes fade and grow weak. Just in proportion as his hope is strong, will he make an open and a bold profession of the truth. Here, then, by a well-known figure, the assertion before us appears to import that, so far from being ashamed, believers glory and exult. Hope causes Christians, instead of being ashamed of Christ and His word (which without hope they would be), to glory and proclaim their prospects before the world, Galatians 6:14; 1 Peter 1:6-8, 5:1; 1 John 3:2. They glory in the cross of Christ through hope. This shows the great importance of keeping our hope unclouded. If we suffer it to flag or grow faint, we shall be ashamed of it before men, to which, from the enmity of the world against the Gospel, there is much temptation. Accordingly, our blessed Lord, who knew what was in man, has in the most solemn and awful manner warned His disciples against it; and the Apostle Peter enjoins on believers to add to their faith virtue — courage to profess it. Because. — This casual particle may be understood to intimate the reason why hope makes not ashamed, or to give an additional reason why Christians are not ashamed. Agreeably to the latter interpretation, hope is one reason, and then another is subjoined; and certainly the love of God is a strong reason to prevent us from being ashamed of the Gospel. Love of God — This phrase in itself is ambiguous, and, according to the connection or other circumstances, it may be understood, in its different occurrences, to refer either to God’s love to us, or to our love to God, — two things which are entirely distinct. God’s love to us is in Himself; but the love lie pours into our hearts may signify either a sense of His love to us, or, as Augustine explains it, our love to Him. The use of language admits of the first of these meanings, which appears to be the true one; and it is certain that it contributes more to our consolation to have our minds fixed upon God’s love to us, than upon our love to God; while our hope does not depend on our love to God, but on our sense of His love to us. The connection, too, leads us to understand the phrase in the sense of God’s love to us. It connects with what follows, where the Apostle proceeds to prove God’s love to His people from the wonderful manner in which, as is said in the 8th verse, He commendeth His love towards us in the way He has acted in the gift of His Son, notwithstanding our unworthiness and enmity against Him. In the same way it is said, John 3:16, ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ It coincides, too, with such declarations as, ‘In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.’ ‘We have known and believed the love of God to us,’ 1 John 4:9,16. We cannot be beforehand with God in love, and we must perceive His love to make us love Him. The first feeling of love springs up in the heart from a view of His grace and mercy to us in Jesus Christ. His love to us is the foundation of our love to God; and it is a view of His love that not only produces, but maintains and increases, our love to Him. ‘Thy love is better than wine.’ Poured out. — This refers to the abundant measure of the sense of the love of God to us, which is communicated to His people, and poured into their hearts, through all the faculties of their souls, moving and captivating their affections. By the Holy Ghost. — It is the Holy Ghost who pours out into the heart of the believer a sense of the love of God to him, fully convincing him of it, and witnessing this love to his spirit, Romans 8:16. This sense of the love of God never exists in the human heart till communicated by the Holy Ghost. All men naturally hate God, Romans 8:7; and it is only when they have a view of His love thus given by the promised Comforter, and behold His love in the gift of His Son, that they repent and love God. Given unto us. — The gift of the Holy Ghost, in His operation in the heart in His sanctifying influences, was not confined to Apostles and Evangelists, but is enjoyed in common by all the saints, in all of whom the Holy Spirit dwells, and who are habitations of God through the Spirit, Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:22; Romans 8:9. Here we see that everything in us that is good is the effect of the Spirit of God. Man possesses by nature no holy disposition. The lowest degree of true humility, and godly sorrow for sin, and a sense of the love of God, and consequently our love to God, are not to be found in any of the children of Adam till they are enlightened by the Spirit through the knowledge of the Gospel, nor can they be maintained for one moment in the soul without His sacred influence. Though sinners should hear ten thousand times of the love of God in the gift of His Son, they are never properly affected by it, till the Holy Spirit enters into their hearts, and till love to Him is produced by the truth through the Spirit. Here also we may see the distinct work of the Holy Spirit in the economy of redemption. Each of the persons of the Godhead sustains a peculiar office in the salvation of sinners, and it is the office of the Spirit to convert and sanctify those for whom Christ died.
What fullness and variety of instruction and consolation are contained in the first five verses of this chapter! The work of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is exhibited, all severally acting, as God alone can act, in the various parts of man’s salvation. The righteousness of God is imputed to the believer, who is therefore justified, and pronounced by the Judge of all the earth righteous. As righteous, he has peace with God, and free access to Him through Jesus Christ; and being thus introduced into the favor of God, he stands in a justified state, rejoicing in hope of future glory. Being justified, he is also sanctified, and enabled to glory even in present afflictions. He enjoys the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, through whose Divine influence the love of God is infused into his soul. Here, then, are the peace, the joy, the triumph of the Christian. Here are faith, hope, and love, the three regulators of the Christian’s life. Faith is the great and only means of obtaining every privilege, because it unites the soul to Christ, and receives all out of His fullness. Hope cheers the believer in his passage through this world, with the expectation of promised blessings to be accomplished in future glory, and is thus the anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, which holds it firm, and enables it to ride out all the storms and troubles of life. Love is the renewal of the image of God in the soul, and the true principle of obedience. ‘The end of the commandment is love, out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.’
Faith is thus the root of the whole. Faith in the resurrection of Christ produces a good conscience, 1 Peter 3:21; the conscience being discharged from guilt, the heart is purified; and from the heart when purified proceeds love. Thus faith purifies the heart, Acts 15:9; faith works by love, Galatians 5:6. Faith overcomes the world,1 John 5:4.
For. — This introduces the proof of the love of God to us, not a reason why the hope of the Christian will not disappoints him. Having spoken of the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, the Apostle here declares the evidence of this love. Though the Holy Ghost inspires our love to God, yet in doing so He shows us the grounds on which it rests, or the reasons why it should exist. In making us love God, He makes us perceive the grounds on which we ought to love Him. This also shows us another important fact, namely, that the Holy Spirit works in His people according to their constitution or the nature that He has given them; and, in endowing us with proper feelings and affections, He discovers to us the proper objects towards which they ought to be excited. The word of God through the Spirit, both in conversion and growth of grace, acts according to the original constitution that God has been pleased to bestow on the Christians. Without strength. — Christ died for us while we were unable to obey Him, and without ability to save ourselves. This weakness or inability is no doubt sinful; but it is our inability, not our guilt, that the Apostle here designates. When we were unable to keep the law of God, or do anythingtowards our deliverance from Divine wrath, Christ interposed, and died for those whom He came to redeem. In due time. — At the time appointed of the Father, Galatians 4:2,4.
The fruits of the earth are gathered in their season; so in His season, that is, at the time appointed, Christ died for us, 1 Timothy 2:6. For the ungodly. — Christ died for us, considered as ungodly, and without His gift of Himself we must have for ever continued to be so. It was not then for those who were in some degree godly, or disposed in some measure to do the will of God, that Christ died. There are none of this character by nature. It is by faith in His death that any are made godly.
Ver. 7. — For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
For. — This brings into view a fact that heightens and illustrates the love of God to sinners. A righteous or just man. — A just man is distinguished here from a good or benevolent man. They are quite distinct characters among men. A just man is approved — a benevolent man is loved.
Scarcely, however, would any one give his life for the former, yet perhaps some one might do so for the latter. Scarcely. — This furnishes the reason why the Apostle uses the word righteous or just, when he denies that any one would die in his stead, because he does not mean to make the denial universal. ‘Even.’ — This is designed to qualify the verb to die, not the verb to dare, though it stands immediately before it. It is not even dare, but dare even to die. This intimates that to die is a thing to which men are of all things most averse. It is the greatest trial of love, John 15:13. ‘Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid His life down for us,’ 1 John 3:16.
His love. — Here God’s love to us is distinguished in the original as His own love, which in this place takes away all ambiguity from the expression. Yet sinners. — This is literally true with respect to all who are saved since Christ’s death, and is substantially true of all who were saved before it. This may be said of Abel as well as of Paul. Christ died for him as a sinner. It was Christ’s death through which Abel was accepted. For us. — Not for us as including all men, but for those believers and himself whom the Apostle was addressing; and this equally applies to all believers, — to all who are or shall be in Christ. Christ’s death for us as sinners, in an astonishing manner, commends, manifests, or exhibits God’s love to us.
Ver. 9. — Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
If God’s love to us were such that Christ died for us when we were sinners, much more, when we are perfectly righteous through that death, He will save us from future punishment. The meaning of the expression much more in this verse, which is repeated in the 10th, 15th, and 17th verses, is not at first sight obvious in these different occurrences, since the things, which are compared to what follows, are complete in themselves.
The sense appears to be, that in using these expressions, the Apostle, though inspired, reasons on the common principles that commend themselves to the mind of man. Having stated one thing, he proceeds to state another as still more clear to our perception. Justified by His blood. — This shows that when we are said to be justified by faith, faith includes its object, and imports that we are not saved by faith as a virtue. It shows also that Christ’s death was not that of a mere witness to the truth which He declared, but that it was for sin, and in order that we should be saved from wrath through Him. All men are by nature the children of wrath; and without the death of Christ, and faith in Him, we must have continued in that awful condition. ‘He that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.’ Dr. Macknight’s explanation of this verse is as follows: — ’Much more then being now allowed to live under the new covenant, through the shedding of His blood, we shall be saved from future punishment through Him, if we behave well under that covenant.’ In his note he adds: — ’Here justified by His blood means, that, in the view of Christ’s shedding His blood, Adam and Eve were respited from death, and, being allowed to live, be and they were placed under a new covenant, by which they might regain immortality. This is what is called justification of life, ’ 5:18. And this explanation follows naturally from what he gives as the meaning of the foregoing verse: — ’His own love to man, God hath raised above all human love because we being still sinners, Christ died for us, to procure us a temporary life on earth, under a better covenant than the first.’ On such interpretations it is unnecessary to remark. They contain statements the most unscriptural and heretical, exhibiting most deplorable ignorance. He supposes, too, that it is here implied that some are said to be justified who are not saved from wrath.
But this is not the fact. Justification is spoken of as having taken place, and salvation as future, — not because any shall be punished who have been justified, but because the wrath spoken of is future. The salvation of the Christian from wrath is said to be future, in reference to the time of the general execution of wrath in the day of judgment. It is evidently implied in the expression, that they who are justified shall never be punished. This expression, justified by His blood, gives a most awful view of the infinite evil of sin, of the strict justice of God, and of His faithfulness in carrying into execution the first sentence, ‘In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.’ Without the shedding of His blood, and entering with it into the holy place, Christ could not have obtained eternal salvation for those who had sinned. On the other hand, what an astonishing view is thus presented of the love of God, who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for His people, and who with Him will freely give them all things.
The Divine wisdom is admirable in the manner in which the Scriptures are written. It is not without design that inspiration varies the phraseology respecting justification. Each variety is calculated to meet a different abuse of the doctrine. The human heart is so prone to self-righteousness, that the very doctrine of faith has been made to assume a legal sense. Faith is represented as a work; and the office assigned to it is not merely that of the medium of communicating righteousness, but it is made to stand itself for a certain value, either real or supposed. Had inspiration never varied the expressions, and always used the phrase justified by faith, though there would have been no real ground to conclude that faith is in itself the ground of justification, yet evidence to the contrary would not have been exhibited in the manner in which it is held forth by varying the diction.
Instead of ‘justified by faith,’ we here read justified by the blood of Christ.
This shows that when we are said to be justified by faith, it is not by faith as a work of the law, but by faith as a medium, — that is, faith in the blood of Christ. To the same purpose, also, is the expression in the following verse, reconciled to God by the death of His Son. On the other hand, there are some who, strongly impressed with the great evil of making faith a work, have plunged into a contrary extreme, and are unwilling to look at the subject in any light but that in which it is represented in the phrase, ‘justified by His blood,’ as if justification were independent of faith, or as if faith were merely an accidental or unimportant thing in justification. This also is a great error. Faith is as necessary in justification as the sacrifice of Christ itself, but necessary for a different purpose. The blood of Christ is the price that has value in itself. Faith, which unites the soul to Christ, is the necessary medium, through the Divine appointment.
Again, we have justified freely by grace, Romans 3:24.
Self-righteousness is fruitful in expedients. It is difficult to put it to silence. It will admit that justification is by faith in its own legal sense, and that it is through Christ’s blood, as a general price for the sins of all men; but it holds that every man must do something to entitle him to the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice. Here, then, the phrase justification by grace comes in to cut off every evasion.
Another variety of phraseology on this subject we have in the expression justified by Christ, Galatians 2:17. This points to the ground of our justification, or our union with Christ. We are accounted perfectly righteous, having paid the debt of sin, and having fulfilled the whole law, by our union or oneness with Christ, as we were sinners by our natural connection with Adam. It is of immense importance to the satisfaction of the mind of the believer, constantly and steadfastly to consider himself as a member of Christ — as truly a part of Him. He rose for our justification.
When He was justified from the Sins which He took on Him by having suffered for them, and when He had fulfilled the law, we were justified in His justification. We are therefore said not merely to be pardoned, but to be justified, by Christ. We have suffered all the punishment due to our sins, and have kept every precept of the law, because He with whom we are one has done so. It is also worthy of remark that, while the Apostle speaks of being justified by Christ, he had in the preceding verse spoken of being justified by the faith of Christ. This shows that faith is the way in which our union with Christ is effected.
Enemies. — It greatly enhances the love of God that He gave His Son for us while we were yet His enemies. Had we discovered any symptoms of willingness to obey Him, or any degree of love to Him, His love to us would not have been so astonishing. But it is in this light only that the proud heart of man is willing to view his obligations to redeeming love. He will not look upon himself as totally depraved and helpless. He desires to do something on his part to induce God to begin His work in him by His Spirit. But Christ died for His people when they were the enemies of God, and He calls them to the knowledge of Himself when they are His enemies.
Here, then, is the love of God. At the time when Christ died for us, we were not His friends, but His enemies. ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God.’ Reconciled to God by the death of His Son. — The word rendered ‘reconciled,’ signifies to change the state of matters between persons at variance, by removing their grounds of difference. The Divine word and declarations, as well as the Divine persecutions, forbid us to imagine that God will clear the guilty. In order, then, to reconciliation with God, satisfaction must be made to His justice. What is meant here, is not our laying aside our enmity to God, but God’s laying aside His enmity to us, on account of the death of His Son. It is true that we lay aside our enmity to God when we see that He has laid aside His enmity to us, and never till then will we do so; but what is here meant is, that God is reconciled to us.
In Scripture this is spoken of as our being reconciled to God. We are reconciled to God, when He is pacified towards us through His Son, in whom we believe. This is quite agreeable to the use of the term in Scripture with respect to other cases, 1 Samuel 29:4; Matthew 5:23,24. Socinians, however, maintain that reconciliation between God and man consists only in bending and pacifying the heart of man towards God, and not in averting His just anger. This error, arising from their denial of the satisfaction made by Jesus Christ, is refuted by the consideration that God pardons our sins: whence it follows that He was angry with us; and the redemption of Jesus Christ is declared to be made by a propitiatory sacrifice, which clearly proves that God was angry. To this the idea of a sacrifice necessarily leads; for a sacrifice is offered to pacify God towards men, and not to reconcile men to God. Aaron was commanded to make an atonement for the congregation, for there was wrath gone out from the Lord. ‘And be stood between the living and the dead, and the plague was stayed,’ Numbers 16:46. God’s anger was thus turned away by making this atonement. In David’s time, by offering burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, the Lord was entreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel. By this it is clear that the primarily intention of such sacrifices, and consequently of the priest who offered them, immediately respected the reconciliation of God. The same is evident from the following passages: — ’Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of The people; Thou hast covered all their sin. Selah. Thou hast taken away all Thy wrath; Thou hast turned from the fierceness of Thine anger,’ Psalm 85:2,3. ‘Though Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortedst me,’ Isaiah 12:1. ‘I will establish My covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: that thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified (reconciled, Leviticus 8:15 16:20; 2 Chronicles 29:24) toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God,’ Ezekiel 16:63.
All men being sinners, are in themselves, while in unbelief, under the displeasure of God, who cannot look upon iniquity, Habakkuk 1:13, and are by nature children of wrath, or of the judgment of God; but as viewed in Christ, and in relation to His death, the elect are the objects of God’s everlasting love, and this love in His good time takes effect. He sends His Son to be a propitiatory sacrifice for them, — thus making satisfaction to His justice, and removing every obstacle to His being reconciled. He unites them to the Son of His love; and in Him, clothed with His righteousness, they become the children of God, and then in themselves the proper objects of His love. The ministry committed to the Apostles is called the ministry of reconciliation. Men are besought to be reconciled to God from the consideration of His having made Him to be sin for His people who knew no sin. Here is a double reconciliation, namely, of God to men, and of men to God. The latter is urged from the consideration of the former, and this consideration is effectual for all for whom the reconciliation was made. The whole of this reconciliation is through the death of His Son. Thus does God call His people with a holy calling. He invites them to friendship with Himself, through an all-sufficient atonement; and they lay aside their enmity to Him when they see that God has laid aside His anger against them. They are reconciled to Him through the death of His Son.
What, in the preceding verse, is spoken of as the blood of Christ, is here spoken of as His death. These varied terms are useful to express the idea in such a manner that it cannot be innocently evaded. Christ’s blood was an atonement, as it was His death. This shows that no degree of suffering would have been sufficient as an atonement for our sins without the actual death of the sacrifice, according to the original sentence against man. Jesus Christ might have suffered all that He did suffer without a total extinction of life; but He must not only suffer, — He must also die. This phraseology, then, is calculated to meet the error of those Christians who, from a desire of magnifying the efficacy of the blood of Christ, have said that one drop of it would have been sufficient to save. Had one drop been sufficient, two drops would never have been shed. Much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. — If we were reconciled by His death, much more clear is it that we shall be saved by His life. Some find a difficulty in this, as if it implied that the atonement and price of redemption were not complete at the death of Christ. But the Apostle is not speaking on that point. He is speaking of the security of the believer from any danger, by Christ as alive. The meaning is, we shall be saved by Him as existing alive, or as living, Hebrews 7:25. We need Christ raised from the dead to intercede for our daily transgressions, and to save us from wrath. The efficacy of the death and the intercession of Jesus Christ have the same objects and the same extent, John 17:9. He intercedes for all those for whom He died. ‘It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us,’ Romans 8:34. For us, that is, for those whom the Apostle is addressing as beloved of God, and called,, and saints, ch. 1:7, and all that are such.
Two comparisons are made in this passage, one between the past and the present state of believers they were once the enemies, they are now the friends, of God. The other is between the past and the present condition of Christ: He was once dead, He is now alive. And the proposition that unites these two is, that reconciliation with God is entirely owing to the death of Christ as its meritorious cause. Since, then, the death of the Redeemer could produce so great an effect as the reconciliation to Himself of those who were the enemies of the Most High, what room can there be to doubt that the life of Christ is sufficient to accomplish what is less difficult; that is to say, to obtain the continuation of the Divine friendship and benevolence for those whose reconciliation has been already purchased at a price of such infinite cost? By the death which He suffered in their place, they are freed from condemnation, the rigor of the law having run its course, and received its execution by the punishment of their sins in Him; and thus they are saved from the effects of wrath. By His resurrection, His life, and His entrance into eternal glory, the reward reserved for His work as Mediator, they become partakers of that glory. ‘In My Fathers house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you.’ ‘Because I live, ye shall live also.’ ‘Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me.’ Thus Jesus Christ, who was delivered for the offenses of His people, was raised again for their justification; and this unparalleled love of God, who has not spared His well-beloved Son, is the surest foundation for the absolute and unlimited confidence in Him of every man who, renouncing his own righteousness, submits to His righteousness. At the same time, the necessity of the shedding of blood infinitely precious, in order to the justification of believers, is the strongest proof of the infinite evil of sin, and of the infinite holiness and awful justice of God. It shows the extreme difficulty there was in reconciling God to man, as it could only be done by a satisfaction to His justice, which could not be accomplished but by the death of His only-begotten Son.
Ver. 11. — And not only so, but we also joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
This verse exhibits the last of those fruits which proceed from being brought into a state of justification. The first of them is peace with God, involving the communication and enjoyment of every blessing which the creature is capable of receiving; for if God be with us, who can be against us? and when this peace is known to be permanently established, immediately the cheering hope of future glory springs up in the mind. This hope, transporting the believer beyond this world, and looking forward to unbounded blessedness, enables him to bear up under those tribulations that are inseparable from his present state. In them, through not in themselves joyous but grievous, be even glories; and, experiencing their salutary effects, they confirm his hope of future and eternal enjoyment.
The Holy Ghost, too, sheds abroad the love of God in his heart; while his attention is directed to what God has done in giving for him His Son to the death, even while he was in the most determined state of hostility towards God. From the whole, the Apostle argues how much more it is evident that, being reconciled, he shall be saved from all the fearful effects of the wrath and displeasure of God against sin. The view of all of these unspeakable blessings conducts to that feeling of exultation and joy, with the declaration of which the enumeration is here terminated, of the effects which the knowledge of his justification in the sight of God, by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, produces in the heart of the believer. Not only so. — That is, we shall not only escape the wrath to come, by the death of Christ, but attain to glory by His life. The measure of excess is future glory above mere exemption from misery. These two things are entirely distinct, and afford distinct grounds of thanksgiving. Joy in God. — The word here translated joy, is the same which in verse 2 is rendered rejoice, and in verse 3, glory. It was before declared that believers have peace with God, that they have access to Him, and that they rejoice in the hope of His glory. Now, the Apostle represents them as arrived at the fountain-head, looking through all the blessings conferred on them, and rejoicing, boasting, or glorying in God Himself as the source of them all.
The Christian’s joy is all in God. He exults in his prospects; but all are ascribed to God, and not to anything in Himself. God, even His own covenant-God, is the great and ultimate object of his joy. ‘My soul shall make her boast in the Lord.’ ‘O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.’ ‘I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.’ ‘The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, my portion for ever. I will go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy.’ The sentiment of the love of God, in so great a salvation, and of joy in Him, is more deeply impressed upon the believer, by considering the rock from which he has been hewn, and the hole of the pit from which he has been dug. In the above verses, the former situation of those who are saved is declared in the strongest language. They wereWITHOUT STRENGTH, GODLY,SINNERS,UNDER WRATH,ENEMIES TO GOD. If such, then, was their original condition, what reason have they not only to rejoice in the hope of glory, but, above all, in the goodness and mercy of God, who has now reconciled them to Himself! Philippians 3:1, 4:4. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. — Joy in God, with all those unspeakable blessings above enumerated, are again and again declared to come by Him, through whom God manifests His loves and is reconciled to His people.
The name of Jesus Christ being here introduced so often, should be especially remarked. The Christian joys and glories in God only through Christ; without Christ, God could not be viewed as a friend. He must be an object of hatred. Our friendly relation to God is all through Christ. By whom we have now received the atonement, or reconciliation, according to the translation of the same word in the preceding verse. Atonement has been made through the death of Christ. The Apostle, and they whom he addressed, being believers, had received the atonement, which Christ has not only accomplished, but makes His people receive it. Among the various errors that have discovered themselves in modern times, few are more lamentable or dangerous than the views of the atonement that have been adopted by many. Instead of considering the atonement of Christ as a real compensation to the Divine justice for the sins of those who are saved, so that God may remain just, while He is merciful to the chief of sinners, many look on it as nothing but a mere exhibition of the displeasure of God against sin, intended for the honor and maintenance of His government of the universe. This altogether destroys the Gospel, and in reality leaves men exposed to the Divine justice.
It is alleged by those who represent the atonement as only a expedient, subservient to the interests of morality, that sins are called debts merely in a figurative sense. But nothing can be more clear than that the Scriptures, which speak of sin as a debt, speak quite literally. The word debt extends to everything that justly demands an equivalent. We are said to be bought with the blood of Christ, as the price paid for our sins, which certainly implies that the blood of Christ is that which has given an equivalent to the justice of God, and made an atonement for those who, according to justice, must otherwise have suffered the penalty of sin, which is death. In the remission, then, of the sins of those who have received the atonement, God is at once the just God and the Savior, which He could not be without this atonement.
In reference to the sacrifice of Christ, by which He made the atonement, it is said, ‘Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood,’ Revelation 5:9. ‘Without shedding of blood is no remission, for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul,’ Hebrews 9:22; Leviticus 17:11. The blood is the life, Deuteronomy 12:23. It was the shedding, then, of the blood of Christ, which signifies His death, that procured this remission of sin. This was the ransom that God declared He had found, by which He saved His people from going down to destruction, Job 33:24. It was their redemption. Redemption signifies a purchasing back, and supposes an alienation of what is redeemed; and thus Christ redeemed them with His blood, which was the price He paid, and they are ‘His purchased possession.’ His blood was the ransom paid to the justice of God; without which it was impossible they should have been released from the bondage of Satan and the sentence of death. He died for the ungodly, who, being justified by His blood, shall be saved from wrath. The ransom, then, which Christ paid, was the price that Divine justice demanded; and, having made His soul an offering for sin, God has declared Himself ‘well pleased for His righteousness’ sake,’ He having ‘magnified the law, and made it honorable.’ It was necessary that He should yield obedience to its precepts, and suffer the penalty annexed to its violation.
The law condemned sinners to eternal death. In order, then, to redeem them, it behooved Him to suffer, and He did actually suffer, the full equivalent of that death by which He made atonement for sin, and through faith His people receive that atonement. His blood is put, by a usual figure of speech, for His death, in which His sufferings and His obedience terminated, and which was their consummation, containing a full answer to all the demands on His people, of law and justice. God, then, is now ‘faithful and just to forgive them their sins, and to cleanse them from all unrighteousness,’ 1 John 1:9. Believers have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins, Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14.
Ye are bought with a price, 1 Corinthians 7:20-23. ‘Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, from your vain conversation, received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ,’ 1 Peter 1:18.
Many who look on atonement as something real, yet overturn it by making it universal. This is an error which at once opposes the Scriptures, and could be of no service, even were it true. Where is the difference, as respects the Divine character, whether a man does not obtain pardon, from his sins not being atoned for by the blood of Christ, or because he has not been elected to eternal life? If Christ’s death pays the price of the sins of all men, all men must be saved. If His redemption be universal, then all are redeemed from the captivity of Satan and the guilt of sin, and delivered from wrath. For what can they be punished, if atonement has been made for their sins? If a man’s debts are paid, how can he afterwards be imprisoned for those debts? A just God cannot punish a second time for the same offense. If Christ has paid the debt of all sinners, there is nothing remaining to pay in the case of any man. Would it be just that any should be punished in hell for the sins for which Christ was punished on earth? If Christ bore the sins of all men in His own body on the tree, shall any man bear them a second time? Had the sins of all men been imputed to Christ, in that case His sacrifice did not answer its end. It left the greater part of them for whom it was offered under the curse of the broken law. But God, in appointing Christ to make atonement for sin, and Christ Himself, in undertaking to perform it, had in view from all eternity a certain select number of mankind, who were and still are known to God. For their salvation only was that atonement made, and for them it will be ultimately effectual. A Savior being provided for any of the lost children of Adam was an act of pure grace; and therefore the extent of this salvation depends solely on Him who worketh all things according to the counsel of His own evil.
As Christ prayed not, John 17:9, so He died ‘not, for the world,’ but for those whom God had given Him out of the world. And all that the Father giveth Him shall come to Him. For those for whom He is the propitiation He is the Advocate, and for whom He died He makes intercession, and for no others. In Israel there were sacrifices accompanied with the burning of incense, but these were not for the world but for Israel.
The sin-offering, on the great day of atonement, was for Israel only. It was for Israel, whose sins were laid upon the scape-goat, that intercession was made; and when, after offering his sacrifice, the high priest came out from the holiest of all, it was Israel who received the blessing. Of whose redemption was the deliverance of Israel from Egypt a figure? For whose healing was the serpent lifted up in the wilderness? In one word, of whom was Israel a type? Not of all mankind, but only of the people of God. As, then, the high priest under the law offered sacrifice only for Israel, interceded only for then., and blessed them only, so Christ, the High Priest of our profession, has offered His sacrifice only for His people, for whom He intercedes on the ground of that sacrifice, and whom, in consequence of His sacrifice and intercession, He will at last come out of the heavenly sanctuary to bless, Matthew 25:34; thus discharging for them, and for them only, the three functions of the priestly office. His sacrifice and intercession, then, which are inseparable, are of the same extent, and for all for whom He offered His sacrifice He presents His intercession, which is founded upon it. Could it be supposed that He never intercedes for those for whom He gave the highest proof of His love in laying down His life?
Did He bear in His own body on the tree the sins of those to whom at last He will profess, ‘I never knew you,’ and will leave them under the curse, saying, ‘Depart from Me, ye cursed,’ whose sins, as the Lamb of God, He had taken away, on account of which, notwithstanding, He will consign them to punishment everlasting? Far different is His language respecting those whom He calls His sheep, for whom He says He lays down His life.
Them He professes to know, and declares that they know Him. ‘I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine. As the Father knoweth Me, so know I the Father, and I lay down My life for the sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life.’
Witsius, in his Economy of the Covenants, observes: — ’That fictitious satisfaction for the reprobate and those who perish is altogether a vain and useless thing. For whom does it profit? Not certainly God, who by no act can be rendered happier than He is. Not Christ Himself, who, as He never seeks them, so He never receives them, for His peculiar property, and neither is He enriched by possessing them, though supposed to have purchased them at a dear rate. Not believers, who, content with their portion in God and in Christ, and fully redeemed by Christ, enjoy a happiness in every respect complete. In fine, not those that perish, who are constrained to satisfy in their own persons for their sins, to the uttermost farthing. The blood of Christ, says Remigius, formerly Bishop of Lyons, is a great price; such a price can in no respect be in vain and ineffectual, but rather is filled with the superabundant advantage arising from those blessings for which it is paid. Nay, the satisfaction of Christ for the reprobate had not only been useless, but highly unworthy both of God and of Christ. Unworthy of the wisdom, goodness, and justice of God, to exact and receive satisfaction from His most beloved Son for those whom He neither gave nor wanted to give His Son, and whom He decreed to consign to everlasting confinement to suffer in their own persons, according to the demerit of their crimes. Unworthy of Christ, to give His blood a price of redemption for those whom He had not in charge to redeem.’ ‘In respect of its intrinsic worth,’ says Brown of Haddington, ‘as the obedience and sufferings of a Divine person, Christ’s satisfaction is sufficient for the ransom of all mankind, and, being fulfilled in human nature, is equally suited to all their necessities. But in respect of His and His Father’s intention, it was paid and accepted instead of the elect, and to purchase their eternal happiness. Christ died for those only for whom He undertook, asSURETY, in the covenant of grace, in order to obtain their eternal salvation.’ Brown of Wamphray, in his Arguments against Universal Redemption, says: — ’All that Christ died for must certainly be saved. But all men shall not be saved. Christ’s death was a redemption, and we are said to be redeemed thereby. And therefore all such as He laid down this redemption or redemption-money for, must of necessity be redeemed and saved; and consequently He did not die for all, seeing all are not redeemed and saved. That all such for whom this redemption-money was paid, and this ransom was given, must be saved, is clear, otherwise it were no redemption; a ransom given for captives doth say that these captives, in law and justice, ought to be set at liberty. Christ’s intercession is really a presenting unto God the oblation made. Therefore, says the Apostle, Hebrews 9:24, that Christ is entered into heaven itself, to appear in the presence of God for us; and so, by appearing, He intercedeth, and His appearing in His own blood, whereby He obtained eternal redemption, Hebrews 9:12; and so His intercession must be for all for whom the oblation was made, and the eternal redemption was obtained.’
Many suppose that in preaching the Gospel it is necessary to tell every man that Christ died for him, and that if Christ did not actually atone for the sins of every individual, the Gospel cannot be preached at all. But this is very erroneous. The Gospel declares that Christ died for the guilty, and that the most guilty who believe it shall be saved. ‘It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,’ even the chief of sinners. The Gospel does not tell every individual to whom it is addressed, that Christ died for him, but that if he believes he shall be saved. This is a warrant to preach the Gospel unto all men; and it is only as he is a believer that it is known to any man that Christ died for him individually. To preach the Gospel then to every man, and call on every one to believe and be saved, is quite consistent, as it is a truth that whoever believes shall be saved. If the most guilty of the human race believe in Jesus, there is the most perfect certainty that he shall be saved. If any man is straitened in preaching the Gospel, and finds a difficulty in calling on all men to believe, except he can at the same time tell them that Christ died for every individual of the human race, he does not clearly understand what the Gospel is. It is the good news that Christ died for the most guilty that believe, not that He died for every individual, whether he believe or not. To the truth that every man shall be saved who believes, there is no exception. If there are any sins that will never be pardoned, they imply that the individuals guilty of them will never believe; for if they believe, they will be saved. Whatever, then, the sin against the Holy Ghost may be supposed to be, it implies final unbelief; and the best way to relieve those persons who may think they are guilty of this sin, is not to labor to make them understand what the sin against the Holy Ghost is, but to make them see that, if they now believe, they cannot have ever committed the unpardonable sin. To suppose that any believe who will not be saved, is to suppose a contradiction in the word of God.
The difficulty of those who feel themselves restrained in exhorting sinners to believe the Gospel, on the ground that the atonement of Christ was not made for all, is the same as that which is experienced by some who, believing the doctrine of election, suppose it inconsistent to exhort all indiscriminately to believe the Gospel, since it is certain that they who are not chosen to eternal life will never be saved. In this they err. The Gospel, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, is to be made known to all nations for the obedience of faith. It is certain, however, that they for whom Christ did not die, and who do not belong to the election of grace, will not believe. These are secret things which belong to God, to be revealed in their proper time. But the Gospel is the fan in Christ’s hand, who, by means of it, will thoroughly purge His adore, separating those who are His sheep from the rest of the world lying in the wicked one. He has therefore commanded it to be preached to all men; and by it those will be discovered for whom His atonement was made, and whom God hath chosen from the foundation of the world, and predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto Himself We are not, then, to inquire first, either for ourselves or others, for whom Christ died, and who are chosen to eternal life, before we determine to whom the Gospel is to be preached; but to preach it to all, with the assurance that whoever believes it shall receive the remission of sins. In believing it, we ascertain for ourselves that Christ bare our sins in His own body on the tree, and that God from the beginning hath chosen us to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.
The atonement of Christ is of infinite value; and the reason why all men are not saved by it, is not for want of its being of sufficient value, but because it was not made for all. In itself, it was sufficient to make atonement for the sins of all mankind, had it been so intended. His sacrifice could not have been sufficient for any, if it had not been sufficient for all.
An atonement of infinite value was necessary for every individual that shall be saved, and more could not be necessary for all the world. This intrinsic sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice was doubtless in view in the Divine appointment concerning it. God made provision of such a sacrifice as was not only sufficient effectually to take away the sins of all the elect, but also sufficient to be laid before all mankind, in the dispensation of the Gospel. In the Gospel it was to be declared to all men, that in their nature the Son of God had made an atonement of infinite value, and brought in everlasting righteousness, which shall be upon all that believe. This atonement, then, being all-sufficient in itself, is proclaimed to all who hear the Gospel. All are invited to rely upon it for pardon and acceptance, as freely and fully as if they knew that God designed it for them from all eternity; and all who thus rely upon it shall experience the blessing of its efficacy and infinite value. In the proclamation of the Gospel, no restriction is held forth respecting election or reprobation. No difference is announced between one sinner and another. Without any distinction the call is addressed, and a gracious welcome proclaimed, to all the children of Adam. ‘Unto you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men.’ And well might the Apostle say in his own name, and that of the believers whom he addresses in the passage before us, ‘We joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.’ We come now to the second division of this chapter, from verse 12 to 19.
Having spoken of justification by faith, and having called our attention to several points connected with it, the Apostle now speaks of it as it was as figuratively exhibited in the condemnation of the human race in Adam. He first directs attention to the one man by whom sin was brought into the world, and declares that death came by sin. This necessarily imports that death is the lot of all that sin, and of none but such as are sinners. If death entered because of sin, it could affect none who were not guilty. But the Apostle does not leave this to be inferred, although this inference is both necessary and obvious. He draws it himself. ‘So death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned; ‘thus plainly asserting that all are sinners upon whom death passes. Every step in this process is natural and obvious. We may trace the very train in the Apostle’s mind. We may see the reason of every subjoined expression. Having said that all are sinners who die, it immediately occurs to him that to some this would appear strange; he proceeds, therefore, to show how all have sinned. This he does by observing that sin was in the world before the law of Moses, and that it had existed from Adam until the law was given. But this, as he observes, could not have been the case, had not law existed; ‘for sin is not imputed where there is no law.’ What, then, is the evidence that sin existed before the law of Moses? The evidence is, that death reigned. And what is the evidence that sin existed in infants? The evidence is, that death reigned over them. If death came upon man by sin, it could have no dominion over any of the human race who were not sinners. Adam is called the figure of Him that was to come; and this must not be confined to one or two particulars, but must extend to everything in which Christ’s seed are one with Him, as contrasted with everything in which Adam’s seed are one with him. If Christ’s seed are one with him in any characteristic point in which Adam’s seed are not one with him, then the ‘figure,’ or type, would fail. Having shown the similarity, the Apostle proceeds to show the dissimilarity, or the abounding of grace over what was lost in Adam. This he continues to the end of verse 19, summing up in the 18th and 19th verses what he had referred to in the 12th, from which he was led by the considerations above specified.
In proceeding to analyze what is taught in verses 12-19, Mr. Stuart professes to feel great difficulty. Considering the lamentable manner in which he has perverted and misrepresented the whole passage, this is not at all surprising. In his Synopsis, he says, ‘As the consequences of Adam’s sin were extended to all men, so the consequences of Christ’s obedience (viz., unto death) are extended to all; i.e., Jesus and Gentiles, all come on an equal footing into the kingdom of Christ,’ p. 196. And again he says, that verses 12-19 ‘are designed at once to confirm the statement made in ch. 3:23-30, and 4:10-19; i.e., to confirm the sentiment that Gentiles as well as Jews may rejoice in the reconciliation effected by Christ; while, at the same time, the whole representation serves very much to enhance the greatness of the blessings which Christ has procured for sinners by the contrast in which these blessings are placed,’ p. 198. There is here no reference at all to the distinction between Jews and Gentiles. The design is evidently to show the likeness between the way in which righteousness and life came, and the way in which condemnation and death came, the former by Christ, the latter by Adam. He adds, ‘I cannot perceive the particular design of introducing such a contrast in this place, unless it be to show the propriety and justice of extending the blessings of reconciliation to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews, and to set off to the best advantage the greatness of these blessings.’ But the extension of these blessings to the Gentiles, however important a truth, and however much dwelt on in other places, has nothing to do in this place, or with this contrast. The contrast here introduced is the same, whether the blessings are supposed to be confined to the Jews, or also extended to the Gentiles. The contrast is not between Jew and Gentile, but between Adam and Christ, between the way of condemnation and the way of justification. How does Mr. Stuart bring in the distinction between Jews and Gentiles? He might as well introduce it into the history of the creation. But the common view of the passage is quite in accordance with the preceding context. The difficulty he feels is a difficulty to reconcile it with his own unscriptural views of this part of the word of God.
The following observations of President Edwards on the connection of this passage, in reference to the Commentary of Dr. Taylor, are equally applicable to the difficulties experienced respecting it by Mr. Stuart: — ’No wonder, when the Apostle is treating so fully and largely of our restoration, righteousness, and life by Christ, that he is led by it to consider our fall, sin, death, and ruin by Adam; and to observe wherein these two opposite heads of mankind agree, and wherein they differ, in the manner of conveyance of opposite influences and communications from each. Thus, if this place be understood, as it is used to be understood by orthodox divines, the whole stands in a natural, easy, and clear connection with the preceding part of the chapter, and all the former part of the Epistle; and in a plain agreement with the express design of all that the Apostle had been saying; and also in connection with the words last before spoken, as introduced by the two immediately preceding verses where he is speaking of our justification, reconciliation, and salvation by Christ; which leads the Apostle directly to observe how, on the contrary, we have sin and death by Adam. Taking this discourse of the Apostle in its true and plain sense, there is no need of great extent of learning, or depth of criticism, to find out the connection; but if it be understood in Dr.
Taylor’s sense, the plain scope and connection are wholly lost, and there was truly need of a skill in criticism, and art of discerning, beyond, or at least different from, that of former divines, and a faculty of seeing something afar off, which other men’s sight could not reach, in order to find out the connection.’ — Orig. Sin, p. 312. It would be well if those who will not receive the kingdom of God as little children, would employ their ‘skill in criticism, and art of discerning,’ on any other book than the Bible.
Ver. 12. — Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.
The general object of the Apostle in this place it is not at all difficult to perceive. He had treated largely of the doctrine of justification by faith, evinced its necessity, shown its accordance with the Old Testament Scriptures, and unfolded some of the privileges of a justified state; and now he illustrates and displays the Gospel salvation, by contrasting it with the misery and ruin introduced by the fall, and manifesting, in the plan of mercy, a super abounding of grace over transgression, and thus, as has been already remarked, exhibits the foundation both of condemnation and of justification.
Reconciliation, as has been noticed, implies two things, — first, that the parties referred to had been in a state of alienation and hostility; and, secondly, that this hostility has ceased, and their discord been amicably terminated. Occasion is here given to the development and illustration of both these points, — first, the ground of the hostility and its effects, with which the Apostle commences in the verse before us; and next, the manner, with its consequences, in which this hostility has been terminated.
This last he unfolds in the 15th and following verses, to the end of the 18th verse, and then in the 19th sums up the whole discussion which properly follows from the declaration in the 11th verse of the reconciliation. Wherefore. — This introduces the conclusion which the Apostle draws in the 18th verse, but which is for a few moments interrupted by the explanatory parenthesis interposed from verse 13th to 17th inclusive. It connects with what goes before from the beginning of the 10th verse, especially with the one preceding, in which it is declared that through our Lord Jesus Christ believers have now received the reconciliation. It also connects with what follows, as an inference drawn from what is still to be mentioned, of which we have several examples in the apostolic writings.
Wherefore, or for this reason, namely, that as by one man sin entered, so by one Man came righteousness. As introduces a comparison or contrast, of which, however, only one branch is here stated, as the Apostle is immediately led off into the explanatory parenthesis already noticed, which terminates with the 17th verse. In the 18th verse he reverts to the comparison, not directly, however, but with reference to the intermediate verses and on account of the interruption, not only states it in substance, but repeats it in both its parts. By one man sin entered into the world. — Mr. Stuart interprets this as equivalent to sin commenced with one man. Sin did indeed commence with one man; but this is not the Apostle’s meaning. If ever sin commenced among the human race, it must have commenced by one. But the Apostle means to tell us not merely that sin commenced by one, but that it came upon all the world from one. This is the only point of view in which the sin of Adam causing death can be contrasted with the righteousness of Christ giving life. Death by sin: — If death came through sin, then all who die are sinners.
This proves, contrary to Mr. Stuart’s view, that infants are sinners in Adam. Death is the wages of sin. It is the dark badge of man’s alienation from God, the standing evidence that he is by nature separated from the Fountain of Life, and allied to corruption. If infants did not participate in the guilt of Adam’s sin, they would not experience death, disease, or misery, until they become themselves actual transgressors. ‘Who ever perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?’ Job 4:7.
And so, that is, consequently, or in this manner, and not, as Mr. Stuart interprets it, in like manner. — This shows the consequence of what is said in the former clauses, namely, that death comes upon all because all have sinned, being participators in the one man’s offense. Death passed, literally passed through; that is, passed through from father to son. All men — that is, all of the human race, and not all merely who actually sin.
As a matter of fact, we see that death does pass upon all without exception. For that — or inasmuch as. Augustine, Beza, and others, translate this ‘in whom,’ and this interpretation most conclusively supports the doctrine of imputed sin. But the ordinary rendering, as adopted by our translators, as well as by Calvin and others, seems on the whole to be preferable; nor does the doctrine in question require for its support any other than the common translation. The meaning is, that death passes on all men because all men are sinners. Mr. Stuart makes this to refer to those who are actually sinners. But there is no warrant for this.
Besides, all have not actually sinned. And this would not serve his purpose, because, at all events, it is here implied that death comes on men on account of sin. Since, then, infants die, it proves that they are sinners If the assertion be, that death passes on adults because they are sinners, it may be asked why death, which is ‘the wages of sin,’ passes upon children, on the supposition that they are not sinners? And further, where is the likeness, if the expression ‘and so’ be interpreted in like manner? Is there any likeness between sin entering the world through one offense, and a man dying by his own actual sin? Is there not rather the strongest contrast? Still less would this illustrate the way of justification through Christ, which is the Apostle’s object in this place. It is quite obvious that the Apostle designs to assert that all die because all are sinners. All have sinned. — That is, all have really sinned, though not in their own persons. This does not mean, as some explain it, that infants become involved in the consequences of Adam’s sin without his guilt. Adam stood as the head, the forefather and representative of all his posterity They were all created in him; and in the guilt of his sin, as well as its consequence, they became partakers. These truths, that sin, death, and condemnation come upon all by one man, are clearly expressed in the following verses, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19. Through the offense of one, many are dead. The judgment was by the one that sinned to condemnation. By one man’s offense death reigned by one. By the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation. By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners. Mr. Stuart labors to restrict the declaration in the first to an assertion of individual and actual transgression. If he could have succeeded, the doctrine of the sin of Adam being counted to us would have remained unshaken, because it no more depends only on this verse, than the doctrine of our Lord’s divinity solely upon those individual texts against which Socinians direct all the force of their unhallowed criticisMs. But the doctrine of imputed sin is evidently contained in the verse under consideration. Adam’s sin was as truly the sin of every one of his posterity, as if it had been personally committed by him. It is only in this way that all could be involved in its consequences. Besides, it is only in this light that it is illustrative of justification by Christ. Believers truly die with Christ, and pay the debt in Him by their union or oneness with Him.
It belongs not to us to inquire how these things can be. We receive them on the testimony of God. Secret things belong to the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and our children.
This verse and the following are obviously interposed in vindication of the assertion that ‘all have sinned.’ It might be argued by opponents of the Gospel, that if there was no law, and therefore no transgression, anterior to Moses, the Apostle’s declaration would not hold good in respect to that long period which elapsed before the promulgation of the written commandments at Mount Sinai. In reply, Paul reasons backward from death to sin, and from sin to law. Admitting, in the last clause of the verse, that sin could not be imputed without law, he proves that sin was in the world by the undeniable fact that there was death; and if this proves that there was sin, then it inevitably follows that there must have been law: and thus he evinces the fallacy of the assumption on which the objection is founded. Death, he had shown, was, in all, the consequence of sin. But before the Mosaic law, as well as afterward, death reigned in the world universally, and with supreme dominion. Until the Law. — That is, from the entrance of sin and death by Adam until the law of Moses. It is hardly needful to remark that the use of the word ‘until’ does not imply a cessation of sin on the introduction of the Mosaic economy. Was, — that is, really was, or truly existed, — not, according to Dr. Macknight, ‘was counted,’ as if Adam’s posterity had his first sin counted to them, though it was not really theirs. It was their sin as truly as it was that of Adam, otherwise the justice of God would never have required that they should suffer for it. But it is not our business to try to account for this on principles level to the capacity of man, but to receive it as little children, on the authority of God. But sin is not imputed. — Many are greatly in error in the interpretation of this expression, understanding it as if before the giving of the law sin existed, but was not imputed; but if sin exists, it must be reckoned sin. It means that sin does not exist where there is no law. The conclusion, therefore, is, that as sin is not reckoned where there is no law, and as sin was reckoned, or as it existed, before the law of Moses, therefore there was law before the law of Moses. The passage may be thus paraphrased: — ’For sin existed among men from Adam to Moses, as well as afterwards. Yet there is no sin where there is no law. There were, then, both sin and law before the giving of the law of Moses.’ The law before Moses is that which God had promulgated, besides the law written in the heart, which makes all men accountable.
Nevertheless, or but. — That is, though it is a truth that there is no sin where there is no law, and that where there is no law transgressed there is no death, yet we see that death reigned from Adam to Moses, as well as from Moses to the present time. The conclusion from this is self-evident, and therefore the Apostle leaves his readers to draw it, — namely, that the human race have always been under law, and have universally been transgressors. Even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression. — Some suppose that the persons referred to are those who did not, like Adam, break a revealed or a positive law. But this is objected to on the following grounds: — 1st , There is no strong or striking difference, and therefore no contrast, between the different methods of promulgating a law. Whether a law is made known by being written on the heart or on tables, is to the persons to whom it comes a matter with which they have no concern.
A contrast might as well be made between those who know a law by reading it themselves, and those who hear it read, or between those who hear it immediately from the lawgiver, and those who hear it through the medium of others. 2nd , The reason of introducing the persons referred to by the word even, implies that they are such persons as apparently ought to be excluded from the reign of sin and death. This cannot designate those who in any way know the law. But it evidently applies to infants. No one will cordially receive this except the man who, like a little child, submits to the testimony of God. Indeed, no man can understand the grounds of this imputation, so as to be able perfectly to justify it on principles applicable to human life. It must always stand, not on our ability to see its justice, but on our belief that God speaks true, and that it is just, as the Judge of all the earth in all things does justly, whether we are able to see it or not. 3rd , The word even supposes that the persons referred to are but a portion of those generally included in the declaration of the preceding clauses. These cannot be such as received not a positive law, for all, from Adam to Moses, are such; but it will apply to infants. Death reigned from Adam to Moses, over all the human race, even over infants, who did not actually sin, but sinned in Adam. 4th , Who is the image, figure, or type. — This appears to have been suggested from the immediately preceding clause, and to imply that the persons referred to were sinners, or transgressors of law, just as the saved are righteous — the former sinners in Adam, although they had not actually sinned as he did, just as the others are righteous in Christ, although not actually righteous like Him. Those who are saved fulfill the law just as the others break the law, namely, in their great head or representative. But, 5th , Even if the persons here referred to were those who did not break a positive or a revealed law, yet it will come to the same thing. If the reign of death proves the reign of sin in such persons, must not the reign of death over infants equally prove the reign of sin? If the death of adults before the time of Moses was a proof of their being sinners, then of necessity the death of infants must prove the same thing. If death does not prove sin in infants, it cannot prove sin in any. If infants may die though they are not sinners, then may adults die without being sinners.
In alluding to the second and third reasons given above, it is observed in the Presbyterian Review , ‘Such reasons as the two which we have copied above from Mr. Haldane, no advocate of the other explanation, so far as we have observed, has ever attempted to touch. They are clear and unembarrassed, and the last of them, especially, possesses all the power of a reductio ad absurdum. It places in a strange light the somewhat inelegant and feeble iteration, to say the least, which Turretine and Stuart would ascribe to the Apostle, — nevertheless sin reigned where there was no law, even over those who sinned without a law. The general import of verses 13 and 14 is given with great precision and beauty by Cornelius à Lapide. “You will object, that where there is no law, there can be no sin. As the men, however, in the interval between Adam and Moses died, it is obvious that they must necessarily have been sinners. And in case you may perchance insinuate that this is merely a proof of their actual sins, and not of original guilt, I appeal to children, who, although they had not offended against any (positive) Divine law, were also, during that period, subject to death. If infants, then, are included in the Apostle’s declaration, we may infer from it directly the imputation to them of Adam’s sin, as they have no actual transgression of their own which could render them obnoxious to the threatened punishment; and indeed, whether they are directly included or not, the simple fact that they die cannot be set aside, nor can the inference be evaded, that they are sinners by imputation.” We are not ignorant that Mr. Stuart, in one of his Excursus, demurs to this conclusion, considering “temporal evils and death as discipline, probation, sui generis ,” — p. 521. We started, we confess, to find so glaring a revival of the miserable sophistry of Taylor of Norwich, and felt disposed just to repeat the words “sui generis ,” and leave to his own power of refutation a sentiment which would have made even Heraclitus smile. But, seriously, if death is discipline, it is of the nature of chastisement; and is it the custom of a most tender parent to chastise a child that never offended him? Is it the practice of men who wish to be understood, to speak of mere discipline in such language as this, — “Cursed is the ground for thy sake;” — “the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death?” Is it quite consistent to deny, under every variety of form, and with all possible intensity of asseveration, the moral agency of infants, and then to represent them as the subjects of a discipline from which, on this hypothesis, they can derive no benefit, or to resolve death, in one place, into a kind of sui generas probation, and in another to admit that the facts of the evils of this life turning to a good account in respect to those who love God, “does not show that they are not evils in themselves, nor that they are not a part of the curse?” In fine, does not the fantasy that death is a sort of discipline, go to overturn the doctrine of the Savior’s sacrifice? If death is discipline generally, how can you show that it was anything else in the case of Christ? Yet unless in His case it was punitive, the salvation of sinners must cease for ever, — it is not true that by His stripes we can be healed.’ Figure of Him that was to come. — Efforts are made by some to involve in uncertainty and obscurity a very clear subject, making it a matter of difficulty. What are the aspects in which this likeness consists? Mr. Stuart instances a number of particulars, in which he makes the likeness on the part of Christ to extend to certain benefits, which His death has conferred on all mankind. But this is neither contained in this place, nor in any other passage of Scripture. This fanciful and most unscriptural commentator wishes to evade the conclusion that Adam’s sin condemned all his posterity, and attempts to establish that it only indirectly led to that result. But it is evident, from the connection, that Adam must here be represented as a figure of Christ in that transgression which is spoken of, and in its consequences. His transgression, and the ruin it brought on all mankind, as being one with him, was a figure of the obedience to the law, and the suffering of the penalty, and the recovery from its condemnation, by our being one with Christ as our covenant-head.
The resemblance, on account of which Adam is regarded as the type of Christ, consists in this, that Adam communicated to those whom he represented what belonged to him, and that Christ also communicated to those whom He represents what belonged to Him. There is, however, a great dissimilarity between what the one and the other communicates By his disobedience Adam has communicated sin and death, and by His obedience Christ has communicated righteousness and life; and as Adam was the author of the natural life of his posterity, so Christ is the author of the spiritual life which His people now possess, and which they shall enjoy at their resurrection, so that, in accordance with these analogies, He is called the last Adam. If, then, the actual obedience of Christ is thus imputed to all those of whom He is the head, and is counted to them for their justification as their own obedience; in the same way, the actual sin of Adam, who is the type of Christ, is imputed to all those of whom he is the head, and is counted for their condemnation, as their own sin. In writing to those at Corinth, who were ‘sanctified in Christ Jesus,’ the Apostle says, ‘The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.’
The information which the Scriptures give us of the sin of the first man, show that it was a complete subversion of nature, and the establishment of the kingdom of Satan in the world; they also show us that the purpose of sending Jesus Christ into the world was to destroy the empire of Satan, sin, and death. ‘We read, says Mr. Bell On the Covenants ,’ of two Adams, 1 Corinthians 15:45-49. As the one is called the first man, the other is called the second, even the Lord from heaven. Now, as there were innumerable multitudes of men between the first man and Him, it is plain that He is called the second man for some very peculiar reason. And what else can that be, but because He is the representative and father of all His spiritual seed, as the first man was of all his natural seed? The one is the head, the federal head of the earthly men, the other of the heavenly. Since the one is called the second man, not because He was the second in the order of creation, but because He was the second public head, it follows that the other is called the first man not because he was first created, or in opposition to his descendants, but because he was the first public head in opposition to Christ the second. Thus the two Adams are the heads of the two covenants. The one the representative of all who are under the covenant of works, communicating his image unto them; the other the representative of all who are under the covenant of grace, and communicating His image unto them. By the one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, and by the obedience of the other many shall be made righteous.’
Ver. 15. — But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead; much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
Not as the offense, so also is the free gift. — There is a likeness between the sin of Adam and the gift of righteousness by Christ. But, as in most instances with regard to types, the anti type surpasses the type; and while in some respects the type furnishes a likeness, in others it may be very dissimilar. The sin of Adam involved all his posterity in guilt and ruin, as they were all created in him as their head, and consequently in him are guilty by his disobedience. This was a shadow of the gift of righteousness by grace. All Christ’s seed were created in Him, Ephesians 2:10, and are righteous by His obedience. But while the one was a type of the other in this respect, there is a great dissimilarity both as to the degree of the evil and of the blessing. The evil brought death, but the blessing not only recovered from ruin, but abounded to unspeakable happiness. If through the offense of one many be dead, or died. — Here it is taken for granted that ‘the many’ who die, die through Adam’s offense. Infants, then, die through Adam’s offense, for they are a part of ‘the many.’ But we have before seen that death comes only by sin, — that is, none die who are not sinners, and there is no sin where there is no law, — consequently infants are sinners, and must be included in the law under which Adam sinned. If infants die by Adam’s offense, they must be guilty by Adam’s offense; for God does not visit with the punishment of sin where there is no sin. Grace of God, and gift by grace. — These differ, as the one is the spring and fountain of the other. The gift, namely, the gift of righteousness (ver. 17), is a gift which results purely from grace. Some explain this phrase as if by a figure one thing is made into two. But they are really two things. By one man, Jesus Christ. — The gift comes only by Jesus Christ. Without His atonement for sin, the gift could not have been made. Grace could not operate till justice was satisfied. Much more hath abounded unto many. — The greater abounding cannot possibly be with respect to the greater number of individuals benefited.
None are benefited by Christ but those who were ruined in Adam; and only a part of those who were ruined are benefited. In this respect, then, instead of an abounding, there is a shortcoming. The abounding is evidently in the gift extending, not only to the recovery of what Adam lost, but to blessings which Adam did not possess, and had no reason to expect. The redeemed are raised in the scale of being above all creatures, whereas they were created lower than the angels. Some are of opinion that the Apostle here rests the abounding of the gift on a supposition, which in the following verses he proves. Thus, as so much evil has come by Adam, it may well be supposed that much more good will come by Christ. But this is evidently mistaking the meaning altogether. The Apostle does not rest on supposition derived from the nature of the case; he asserts a fact.
He does not say that it may well be supposed that a greater good comes by Christ than the evil that came by Adam; but he says that the good that comes by Christ does more than repair the evil that came by Adam.
By one that sinned. — Many read by one sin; but the common reading is preferable. The meaning is, in the case of the one that sinned, namely, Adam, condemnation came by one offense; but the free gift of righteousness extends to many offenses, and to life eternal. This is another particular in which the gift exceeds the evil. It not only, as is stated in the last verse, confers more than Adam lost, but it pardons many sins; whereas condemnation came by one sin on the part of Adam. The gift by grace, then, not only procures to him who receives it the pardon of that one offense on account of which he fell under condemnation, but it brings to him the pardon of his many personal offenses, although these offenses deepen and aggravate the condemnation, and bear witness that he allows the deeds of his first father. Judgment, or sentence. — The original word here often itself signifies condemnation, or a condemning sentence; but as it here issues in condemnation, it must denote simply sentence, a judgment, without involving the nature of that sentence. Condemnation. — Here it is expressly asserted that condemnation has come by the one sin of the one man. If, then, all are condemned by that sin, all must be guilty by it, for the righteous Judge would not condemn the innocent. To say that any are condemned or punished for Adam’s sin, who are not guilty by it, is to accuse the righteous God of injustice. Can God impute to any man anything that is not true? If Adam’s sin is not ours as truly as it was Adam’s sin, could God impute it to us? Does God deal with men as sinners, while they are not truly such? If God deals with men as sinners on account of Adam’s sin, then it is self-evident that they are sinners on that account. The just God could not deal with men as sinners on any account which did not make them truly sinners. The assertion, however, that Adam’s sin is as truly ours as it was his, does not imply that it is his and ours in the same sense. It was his personally; it is ours because we were in him. Adam’s sin, then, is as truly ours as it was his sin, though not in the same way. By one. — Some make the substantive understood to be man.
But though this would be a truth, yet, from the nature of the sentence, it is evident that the substantive understood is not man, but sin; for it is opposed to the many offenses. It is, then, the one offense opposed to many offenses. Unto justification. — the free gift confers the pardon of the many offenses in such a way that the person becomes righteous; he is, of course, justified.
By one man’s offense — rather, by the offense of the one man. The margin has ‘by one offense,’ for which there is no foundation. Death reigned. — It is here said that death reigned by the offense of the one man; consequently every one over whom death reigns is involved in that one offense of that one man. The empire of death, then, extends over infants and all men, on account of the one man. Instead of dying for their actual sins, death is to all men the penalty of the first sin. Reigned. — Those who die are here supposed to be the subjects of death, and death is considered as their king. If infants were not guilty in Adam, they could not be under the dominion of death. If they are not worthy of condemnation till they sin actually, they would not die till they sin actually. Much more. — Here the abounding of the gift over the evil is specified. Those redeemed by the death of Christ are not merely recovered from the fall, but made to reign through Jesus Christ, to which they had no title in Adam’s communion.
The saved are described as receiving abundance of grace, or the superabundance, — that is, the grace that abounds over the loss. This applies to all the redeemed. They all receive the superabundance of grace; they all receive more than was lost. They are also said to receive the super abounding of the gift of righteousness. This refers to the superior righteousness possessed by the redeemed, which is better than that which in innocence was possessed by Adam; for theirs is the righteousness of Christ, the righteousness of Him who is God. To this the righteousness of Adam and of angels cannot be compared. Shall reign in life. — Believers are to be kings as well as priests. All this they are to be through the one Jesus Christ; for as they were one with Adam in his fall, so they are one with Christ in His victory and triumph. If He be a king, they also are kings; for they are one with Him as they were one with Adam. They shall not be re-established in the terrestrial paradise in which man was first placed subject to the danger of falling, but shall be conducted to honor, and glory, and immortality, in the heavenly world, before the throne of God, without the smallest danger of ever losing that blessing. They shall eat of the tree of life, which, says Christ, ‘I will give’ them, not on earth, but in the midst of the paradise of God. Speaking of His sheep, in the character of a Shepherd, Jesus Christ Himself says, ‘I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.’ ‘I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all, and none is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.’ ‘Your life is hid with Christ in God,’ Colossians 3:3. By all this we learn the excellence of that life in which believers shall reign, by whom it is conferred, its absolute security, and eternal duration.
Therefore, or wherefore, then. — There are two words in the original: the one word signifies wherefore, the other signifies then, or consequently. It states the result of what was said. By the offense of one, or by one offense. — Both of these are equally true, but the latter appears to be the design of the Apostle, as the word one wants the article. There is nothing in the original corresponding to the terms judgment and free gift, but they are rightly supplied by an ellipsis from verse 16. Condemnation. — Here it is expressly asserted that all men are condemned in the first offense. Infants, then, are included. If they are condemned, they cannot be innocent — they must be sinners; for condemnation would not have come upon them for a sin that is not theirs. The whole human race came under the condemnation of death in all its extent — spiritual, temporal, and eternal. Even so, — that is, in the same manner. By the righteousness of one, or rather, by one righteousness. Mr. Stuart prefers the former because of the antithesis, di ’ eJno>v dikaiw>atov , which, he says, ‘naturally cannot mean anything but the righteousness of one (not one righteousness). ’ But the phrase alluded to can very naturally and properly signify one righteousness, as the obedience of Christ is summed up in His act of obedience to death.
Righteousness here, Mr. Stuart renders obedience, holiness, righteousness.
But it is righteousness in its proper sense. By the one act of giving Himself for our sins, Christ brought in everlasting righteousness. The free gift came upon all men. — How did the free gift of the righteousness of God come upon all men, seeing all are not saved? Mr. Stuart explains it as signifying that righteousness is provided for all. But this is not the Apostle’s statement. The coming of the free gift upon all is contrasted with the coming of condemnation on all, and therefore it cannot mean that condemnation actually came upon all, while the free gift was only provided for all. Besides, it is added, unto justification of life. — This is the issue of the coming of the free gift. It ends in the justification of life. Upon all men. — The persons here referred to must be those, and those only, who are partakers of justification, and who shall be finally saved. What then? Are all men to be justified? No; but the ‘all men’ here said to be justified, are evidently the ‘all’ of every nation, tribe, and kindred, whether Jews or Gentiles, represented by Christ. All who have been one with Adam were involved in his condemnation, and all who are one with Christ shall be justified by His righteousness.
No violence is necessary in order to restrict the universality of the terms ‘all men’ as they appear in this verse. General expressions must ever be construed with reference to their connection, and the context sufficiently defines their meaning. There is here an obvious and specific reference to the two heads of the human race, the first and the second man; and the ‘all men,’ twice spoken of in this verse, are placed in contrast to each other, as denoting the two families into which the world is divided. The all men, then, must be limited to their respective heads. When this is understood, the meaning is alike clear and consistent, but without this all is dark and incongruous. If the ‘all men’ in the latter clause of the verse are made to apply to mankind without exception, then it follows that all men are justified, and all are made partakers of eternal life. But as this would contradict truth and Scripture, so the whole tenor of the Apostle’s argument proves that the interpretation already stated is the true one. On account of the offense of Adam, sentence of death was pronounced upon all whom he represented. On account of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, sentence of justification unto life was pronounced in favor of all whom He represented. ‘That the two multitudes,’ it is observed in the Presbyterian Review, ‘are co-extensive, that the point of the similitude is in some effect common to the whole human race, ’ Mr. Stuart infers, quite as a matter of course, from this 18th verse, “As by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men to justification of life.” And were we to confine our view to that verse, the inference might appear sufficiently probable. But we must attend to the scope of the whole section, and take care that we do not affix to one clause a signification which would make it a downright contradiction of another, of which the meaning is written as with a sunbeam. Now the sacred penman is throughout comparing Adam and Christ in their influence on two great bodies of human beings, and illustrating, by the comparison, the doctrine of justification. He states the likeness at first broadly, but lest his readers should be disposed to extend it too far, he accompanies it, in verses 15-17, with some explanations and restrictions. In these verses, therefore, the two contrasted multitudes must be the same as those mentioned in the general statement of verses 18 and 19, unless we wish to make the Apostle guilty of the deception of changing his terms upon us in the course of his argument, and while he is developing a similarity between A and B, interposing some limitations which have no reference to the connection of these terms, but which bear upon the relative positions of A and C. Now the multitude mentioned in the latter member of the contrast, which verses 15-17 express, is not the whole of mankind. It will not be pretended that all men obtain justification (ver. 16), or that all “shall reign in life through Jesus Christ” (ver. 17). In these verses the second member cannot be understood as comprising the entire human race; and as, confessedly, the phrase “all men” (see John 12:32; 2 Corinthians 3:2) may be used in a limited signification, there is no obvious reason why, in verse 18, it must be so used.
There is just one objection to this exegesis which it is worth while to notice. Mr. Stuart thus states it: — “If we say that sentence of eternal perdition, in its highest sense, comes upon all men by the offense of Adam, and this without any act on their part, or even any voluntary concurrence in their present state and condition of existence, then, in order to make grace superabound over all this, how can we avoid the conclusion that justification, in its highest sense, comes upon all men without their concurrence?” It is always a great convenience to a reviewer when an author refutes himself. This is the case in the present instance. “In regard to the superabounding of the grace of the Gospel,” says Mr. Stuart in the very same page, “it must be noted, in order to avoid mistake, that I do not construe it as appertaining to the member of the subjects, but to the number of offenses forgiven by it.” Now, on this principle, our view of the diversity of the two multitudes does not abolish the superabundance of grace. To the elect, not merely the penal consequences of Adam’s sin are remitted, but those of all their own innumerable transgressions, and thus grace still maintains its due pre-eminence. ‘This objection vanishing so easily by a wave of the same wand which conjured it up, we are enabled fully to conclude, that although the whole of mankind are comprehended in the first number of the comparison, only the elect are included in the second; that the notion of placing extent of influence — the number of persons to whom the condemning or saving energy reaches — among the points of resemblance, obtains no countenance from Paul; and that the opinion resting upon it, that sentence of condemnation can be passed upon none except for actual transgression, has no foundation.’ f33 Ver. 19. — For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. For. — This assigns a reason for what the Apostle has said in the preceding verses. By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners. — Here it is expressly asserted that the many (not many; it includes all who were in Adam, that is all the human race) were made sinners by Adam’s disobedience. Mr. Stuart attempts to evade this, by supposing that they are led into sin by the occasion of Adam’s sin. This is a great perversion.
Adam’s disobedience is said not merely to be the occasion of leading his posterity into sin, but to have made them sinners. Mr. Stuart rests much on the absurdity of supposing that one man is punished for another’s offense. But, Adam’s offense is the offense of all his posterity. It made them sinners. That sin must be theirs by which they were made sinners. If there is any self-evident truth, this is one of the clearest. We must, like little children, receive God’s testimony upon this as well as every other subject. We must not rest our acquiescence in God’s testimony upon our ability to fathom the depth of His unsearchable counsels. Mr. Stuart makes Adam’s sin merely what he calls the instrumental or occasional cause. But with no propriety can Adam’s sin be called the instrument by which his posterity sinned. This is altogether absurd. And an occasional cause is no cause. Every person knows the difference between a cause and an occasion. Besides, to suppose that Christ’s own obedience is the real cause of our justification, and that Adam’s sin is only the occasion, not properly the cause, of our condemnation, is to destroy the contrast between Adam and Christ, on which the Apostle here insists. If Christ’s obedience is the ground of our justification, Adam’s disobedience must, by the contrast, be the ground of our condemnation. So by the obedience of one shall the many be made righteous. — Only a part of mankind are included in that covenant of which Christ is the surety. In consequence of Adam being the covenant-head of all mankind, all are involved in his condemnation; but Christ is not the head of all mankind, but of the Church, and to all but the Church He will say, ‘I never knew you.’ So, — that is, in this way, not in like manner. — It is not in a manner that has merely some likeness, but it is in the very same manner.
For although there is a contrast in the things, the one being disobedience, and the other obedience, yet there is a perfect identity in the manner. This is important, as by the turn given to the word translated so , Mr. Stuart perverts the passage. The many shall be constituted righteous. The many here applies to all in Christ. It is argued that the phrase, ‘the many,’ must be equally extensive in its application in both cases. So it is as to the respective representatives. The many, with reference to Adam, includes all his race. The many, with respect to Christ, implies all His seed. Again, if it is said that Adam’s posterity became sinners merely by the example, influence, or occasion of his sin, it may with equal propriety be said that Christ’s posterity became righteous by the example or occasion of His righteousness. This makes the Gospel altogether void.
The passage before us is of the highest importance. It forms a striking conclusion to all that goes before, from the beginning of the 12th verse, and asserts, in plain terms, two grand truths, on which the Gospel in all its parts proceeds, though by many they are strenuously opposed, and by others only partially admitted. In the 12th verse, the Apostle had said that death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. In the 13th and 14th verses, he had shown that to this there is no exception; and had further declared that Adam was the figure of Christ who was to come. In the following verses, to the end of the 17th, he had asserted the opposite effects that follow from the sin of the one and the righteousness of the other. In the 18th verse, he had given a summary of what he had said in the preceding verses. Condemnation, he had there affirmed, had come by the offense of one, and justification by the righteousness of one. But as it would not be readily admitted that either a curse or a blessing should come on men on account of the sin or righteousness of another, he here explicitly affirms this truth, which was indeed included in his preceding statements, but being of so great importance, it was proper that it should be declared in the plainest terms. It is grounded on the constituted unity of all men with their covenant-heads. By the disobedience of Adam, those who were one with him in the first creation were made sinners. In the same way, by the obedience of Jesus Christ, they who are one with Him in the new creation are made righteous. This 19th verse contains the explicit declaration of these two facts, and the appellations ‘sinners’ and ‘righteous’ must be understood in the full extent of these terms. Here, then, these two doctrines of the imputation of sin and of righteousness, which is taught throughout the whole of the Scriptures, is exhibited in a manner so clear, that, without opposing the obvious meaning of the words, they cannot be contested. It is impossible to conceive how men could be made sinners by the disobedience of Adam, or righteous by the obedience of Jesus Christ, in any degree whatever, if the truth of the doctrine of the imputation of the sin of the former, and of the righteousness of the latter, be not admitted.
In order to remove every pretext for the supposition that the sin of Adam is not asserted in this 19th verse to be truly our sin, it is essential to observe that when it is here said that by one man’s disobedience many were made ‘sinners,’ there is no reference to the commission of sin, or to our proneness to it from our innate corruption. The reference is exclusively to its guilt. It was formerly shown, in the exposition of the third chapter, that it was in reference to the Divine tribunal, and respecting condemnation, that Paul had all along been considering sin both in regard to Jews and Gentiles, and that his assertion that they are under sin can only signify that they are guilty, since he there repeats in summary what he had before advanced. And he fully establishes this meaning when he afterwards says, in the 19th verse of that chapter, ‘that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.’ Now these remarks equally apply to every part of his discussion, from the beginning of the Epistle to the end of this fifth chapter. In the whole course of it, all he says of the commission of sin is solely with a view to establish the guilt of those of whom he speaks, on account of which they are under condemnation, in order that, in contrast, he might exhibit that righteousness by which men, being justified, are freed from guilt and condemnation. In the same manner, it is evident from all the preceding context that by the term sinners in the verse before us, Paul does not mean that through the disobedience of one many were rendered depraved and addicted to the commission of sin, but that they become guilty of sin. In the 15th and 17th verses, he says that through the offense of one many are ‘dead,’ and that death reigned; and in verse 16, that the judgment was by one to ‘condemnation;’ and this he repeats in the 18th verse, where he says that as by the offense of one or by one offense judgment came upon all men to ‘condemnation,’ so by the righteousness of one, or by one righteousness, the free gift came upon all men unto ‘justification’ of life.
He is speaking, then, all along of sin only in reference to condemnation, and of righteousness only in reference to justification. In the same way, in this 19th verse, where he repeats or sums up all that he had asserted in the preceding verses, when he says that by the disobedience of one many were made ‘sinners,’ the reference is exclusively to the guilt of sin, which occasions condemnation. When, on the other hand, he says that by the obedience of one many were made righteous, the reference is exclusively to justification. And as it is evident that the expression righteousness has here no reference to inherent righteousness or sanctification, so the term sinners has no reference to the pollution, indwelling, or actual commission of sin, or the transmission of a corrupt nature; otherwise the contrast would be destroyed, and, without any notification, a new idea would be introduced entirely at variance with the whole of the previous discussion from the beginning of the Epistle, and of that in the immediate connection of this verse with its preceding context. It is then in the guilt of Adam’s sin that the Apostle here asserts we partake; and therefore that sin must be truly our sin, otherwise its guilt could not attach to us.
But although men are here expressly declared to be sinners by the disobedience of Adam, just as they are righteous by the obedience of Christ, this is rejected by multitudes, and by every man in his natural state, to whom the things of God are foolishness. If such an one attends to it at all, it must undergo certain modifications, which, changing its aspect, makes it altogether void. On the other hand, that men are righteous in the way here declared, though not so repulsive to the natural prepossessions of the human mind, meets also with much opposition. But why should there be such reluctance to receive these truths, which by every means possible are attempted to be avoided? To him that submits to them nothing can be more consolatory. He is compelled to acknowledge that he sinned in Adam, and fell under condemnation; but at the same time he is called to rejoice in the heart-cheering declaration, that the righteousness of Christ is his righteousness, because he has been ‘created in Christ Jesus,’ Ephesians 2:10, with whom he is one, Galatians 3:28; and that, being thus righteous in Him, he shall reign with Him in life.
While, however, it is solely of the implication of Adam’s sin, and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, that the Apostle is treating, showing that by our oneness with these our respective covenant-heads the sin of the first and the righteousness of the last Adam are really ours, it is proper to remark that, though it is not touched upon in the verse before us, there is a further beautiful analogy between the effect of our union with the first man, who is of the earth earthy, and of our union with the second man, who is the Lord from heaven. We not only partake of the guilt of the personal sin of Adam, and consequently of condemnation, but also of a corrupt nature transmitted from him. In the same way we are partakers not only of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and consequently of justifications but also of sanctification, by a new nature derived from Him.
Mr. Stuart seems to understand that, according to the doctrine of imputation, sins are accounted to Adam’s race that are not their sins, or, in other words, that God accounts a thing to be fact which is not fact; just as he had before affirmed that faith is imputed as righteousness. But Adam’s sin is imputed to his posterity because it is their sin in reality, though we may not be able to see the way in which it is so. Indeed, we should not pretend to explain this? because it is to be believed on the foundation of the Divine testimony, and not on human speculation, or on our ability to account for it. 1. If God testifies that Adam’s first sin is also that of all his posterity, is He not to be credited? If there be no such Divine testimony, we do not plead for the doctrine. It is on the Divine testimony the doctrine must rest. 2. Mr. Stuart speaks of imputation in its strict sense, or in a rigid sense. This too much resembles an artifice designed to deceive the simple into the belief that he admits the doctrine, if not substantially, at least in some sense. This, however, is not the fact. He cannot admit imputation in any sense. He does not admit Adam’s sin to be our sin in the lowest degree. 3. If, in reality, he does admit imputation in the lowest degree, then it is not impossible in the highest. If it is essentially unjust, it cannot exist in the lowest degree. Why then does he speak in this uncandid manner? Does this language betoken a man writing under the full conviction that he is contending for the truth of God? He professes to determine this question by an appeal to the natural sentiments of men.
But if this tribunal is sufficient to decide this point, is it not equally of with respect to innumerable others, in which deists and heretics have made a like appeal? On this ground, may not a man say, I cannot admit the eternity of future punishment, for it is contrary to my natural sentiments; I cannot admit that a good Being is the Creator of the world, for He would not have permitted evil to enter it, had He been able to keep it out? He says, p. 233, ‘We never did, and never can, feel guilty of another’s act, which was done without any knowledge or concurrence of our own.’ But if God has testified that there is a sense in which that act is our own, shall we not be able to admit and feel it?
It altogether depends on the Divine testimony.
Now, such is the testimony of the verse before us in its obvious sense.
How this is, or in what sense this is the case, we may not be able to comprehend. This is no part of our business; this is no part of the Divine testimony. We are to believe God on His word, not from our capacity to understand the manner in which the thing testified is true. Mr. Stuart himself asserts, p. 235, that the sufferings of infants may conduce to their eternal good, yet he says, ‘in what way I pretend not to determine.’ And are we to determine in what way Adam’s sin is ours, before we admit the fact on the Divine testimony? He says, p. 233, ‘We may just as well say that we can appropriate to ourselves and make our own the righteousness of another, as his unrighteousness.’ Here he denies the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. If the Divine testimony assures us that by a Divine constitution we are made one with Christ, is not His righteousness ours? If it be declared that God ‘hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him,’ shall we not believe it? In opposition to all such infidel reasonings, it is becoming in the believer to say, I fully acknowledge, and I humbly confess, on the testimony of my God, that I am guilty of Adam’s sin; but by the same testimony, and by the same Divine constitution, I believe that I am a partaker of God’s righteousness — the righteousness of my God and Savior Jesus Christ — of the free gift of that righteousness, which not only removes the guilt and all the fatal consequences of that first sin, but of the many offenses which I have myself committed. Regarding the difficulties that in both these respects present themselves, I hear my Savior say, ‘What is that to thee? follow thou Me.’ In the meantime, it is sufficient for me to know that the Judge of all the earth will do right. What I know not now, I shall know hereafter.
The summary argument commonly used against the imputation of Adam’s sin, namely, that it is ‘contrary to reason,’ proceeds on a mere assumption — an assumption as unwarrantable as that of the Socinian, who denies the Trinity in unity because it is above his comprehension. Most persons are in the habit of considering many things which they cannot fathom, and which they cannot relish, as being contrary to reason. But this is not juSt. A thing may be very disagreeable, and far beyond the ken of human penetration, which is not contrary to reason. We are not entitled to pronounce anything contrary to reason which does not imply a contradiction. A contradiction cannot be true, but all other things may be true, and, on sufficient evidence, ought to be received as true. That Adam’s sin may, in a certain view, be our sin, and that Christ’s righteousness may, in a certain view, be our righteousness, no man is entitled to deny on the ground of self-evident truth. Whether it is true or not must depend on evidence. Now the testimony of God in the Scriptures leaves no doubt on the subject. Adam’s sin is our sin. Christ’s righteousness is the righteousness of all His people.
If it be contrary to reason to have the sin of Adam counted as our own, it is still worse to suppose that we suffer, as is generally admitted, for a sin which is not ours. If there is injustice in the one, there is much more injustice in the other. This surely is the language of reason, and, as such, has been insisted on by orthodox writers both of our own and of other countries. Of this I shall give the following examples: — ’If that sin of Adam,’ says Brown of Wamphray, in his Life of Justification Opened, p. 179, ‘If that sin of Adam be imputed in its curse and punishment, the sin itself must be imputed as to its guilt; else we must say that God curseth and punisheth the posterity that is no ways guilty, which to do suiteth not the justice of God, the righteous Governor of the world.’ ‘Certainly,’ says B. Pictet, in his Christian Theology, vol. 1: p. 368, ‘if the sin of Adam had not been imputed to his descendants, we could not give a reason why God has permitted that the corruption which was in Adam, the consequence of his first sin, should have passed to his posterity. That this reasoning may appear just, we must consider that the corruption which we bring from the womb of our mothers is a very great evil, for it is the source of all sins. To permit, then, that this corruption should pass from fathers to their children, is to inflict a punishment. But how is it that God should punish men, if they had not sinned, and if they were not guilty? Now it is certain that, when this corruption communicates itself from fathers to children, the children themselves have not sinned. It must then be the fact that the sin of Adam is imputed to them, and that God considers them as having part in the sin of their first father.’ ‘It cannot be explained, consistent with Divine justice,’ says Witsius in his Economy, vol. 1: p. 153, ‘how, without a crime, death should have passed upon Adam’s posterity. Prosper reasoned solidly and elegantly as follows: — “Unless, perhaps, it can be said that the punishment, and not the guilt, passed on the posterity of Adam; but to say this is in every respect false, for it is too impious to judge so of the justice of God, as if He would, contrary to His own law, condemn the innocent with the guilty.
The guilt, therefore, is evident where the punishment is so; and a partaking in punishment shows a partaking in guilt, — that human misery is not the appointment of the Creator, but the retribution of the Judge.”’If, therefore,’ continues Witsius, ‘through Adam all are obnoxious to punishment, all, too, must have sinned in Adam.’
A considerable part of the resistance to the imputation of Adam’s sin is owing to the ground on which the evidence of the fact is often rested. It is not simply placed on the authority of the testimony of God, but is attempted to be justified by human procedure. The difficulty that some persons feel on this subject, arises from the supposition that though the sin of the first man is charged upon his posterity, yet it is not theirs. But the Scriptures hold it forth as ours in as true a sense as it was Adam’s. We may be asked to explain how it can be ours, and here we may find ourselves at a loss for an answer. But we ought to consider that we are not obliged to give an answer on this point either to ourselves or others. We are to receive it on the Divine testimony, assured that what God declares must be true, however unable we may be to comprehend it. We ought not to perplex ourselves by endeavoring to ascertain the grounds of the Divine testimony on this subject. Our duty is to understand the import of what is testified, and to receive it on that authority — not to inquire into the justice of the constitution from which our guilt results. This is not revealed, and it is utterly beyond our province and beyond our depth. Did Abraham understand why he was commanded to offer up his son? No.
But he was strong in faith, and his faith in obeying in that instance is held forth in Scripture for our imitation. Like Abraham, let us give glory to God, by believing implicitly what we have no means of knowing to be true, but simply on the testimony of God.
The defenders of scriptural truth take wrong ground when they rest it on anything but the testimony of Scripture. It is highly dishonorable to God to refuse to submit to His decisions till we can demonstrate their justice.
Those who have endeavored to vindicate the Divine justice in accounting Adam’s sin to be ours, and to reconcile the mind of man to that procedure, have not only labored in vain, but actually injured the cause they meant to uphold. The connection according to which we suffer with our first father, is not such as is to be vindicated or illustrated by human transactions. The union of Adam and his posterity is a Divine constitution. The grounds of this constitution are not to be found in any of the justifiable transactions of men; and all attempts to make us submit by convincing us of its propriety, from what we are able to understand upon a comparison with the affairs of men, are only calculated to impose on credulity, and to produce unbelief. We receive it because God says it, not because we see it to be just. We know it to be just because it is part of the ways of the just God. But how it is just we may not be able to see. We receive it like little children who believe the testimony of their father, though they do not understand the grounds or reasons of the thing testified.
Nothing is more common than to vindicate the equity of our implication in the ruin of Adam’s fall, by alleging that had he stood, we should have been partakers in all his blessings. Had he stood, it is said, you would have reaped the benefit of his standing; is it not therefore just that you should also suffer the loss of his failure? Here the matter is rested, not on God’s testimony, but on our sense of justice in the affairs of men. To this it will be replied, that if the transaction is not entered into with our consent, there is no apparent equity in our being punished with the loss. Adam’s sin, then, we acknowledge to be ours, not because a similar thing would be just among men, but because God, the just God, testifies that it is so; and we know that the righteous God will do righteously. To submit in this way is rational; to submit on the ground of understanding the justice of the thing, is to pretend to understand what is incomprehensible, and to rest faith on a fallacy, namely, that the ground of the imputation of Adam’s sin is of the same nature with human transactions. The method of vindicating Divine truth here censured, has also the most unhappy tendency in encouraging Christians to think that they must always be able to give a reason for their believing God’s testimony, from their ability to comprehend the thing testified. It accustoms them to think that they should believe God, not simply on His testimony, but on seeing with their own eyes that the thing is true independently of His testimony. On the contrary, the Christian ought to be accustomed to submit to God’s testimony without question, and without reluctance, even in things the farthest beyond the reach of the human mind. ‘Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth,’ ought to be the motto of every Christian. Yet how few follow out to their full extent the plain statements of the word of God on these subjects; and while many utterly deny and abhor every representation of the imputation of sin and righteousness, others hide its genuine features by an attempt to enable men to understand the reasons of it, and to justify the Divine procedure. This is altogether improper. The ways of God are too deep for our feeble minds to fathom them, and it is impious as well as arrogant to make the attempt. Against nothing ought Christians to be more constantly and earnestly guarded, than the opinion that they ought to be able to comprehend and justify what they believe on the authority of God.
The true ground on which to vindicate it is the explicit testimony of God in the Scripture. This is so clear, that no man can set it aside, we need not say, without wresting the Scriptures, but, we may assert, without being conscious of violence of interpretation. Our defense of this doctrine, then, should ever be, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ This method of defense, which we are taught in this same Epistle, ch. 9:20, is not merely the only scriptural one, but it is the one that will have the greatest success. As long as a reason is alleged by the wisdom of man in support of the doctrine, so long, from the same source, an argument will be produced on the other side. But when the word of God is appealed to, and upon it all the stress of evidence rested, the Christian must submit. The writer knows from personal experience the effect of this method of teaching this doctrine. ‘You cannot comprehend,’ says Luther, ‘how a just God can condemn those who are born in sin, and cannot help themselves, but must, by a necessity of their natural constitution, continue in sin, and remain children of wrath. The answer is, God is incomprehensible throughout; and therefore His justice, as well as His other attributes, must be incomprehensible. It is on this very ground that St. Paul exclaims, “O the depth of the riches and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” Now His judgments would not be past finding out, if we could always perceive them to be JuSt. The imputation and consequences of Adam’s sin are well expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith, in which it is said, ‘These (our first parents) being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupt nature conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation.’ And again, ‘The covenant being made with Adam as a public person, not for himself only, but for his posterity, all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him and fell with him in the first transgression.... The sinfulness of that estate where into man fell consisteth in the guilt of Adam’s first sin.’
Ver. 20. — Moreover; the law entered, that the offense might abound; but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.
The Apostle had now arrived at the conclusion of the discussion, commencing at the 17th verse of the first chapter, in the course of which, after having briefly announced the remedy which God had provided for the salvation of man, he had proceeded to show the need there is for the application of this remedy by proving the sinful state of all, both Jews and Gentiles, whatever had been their various means of instruction. He had next fully exhibited that remedy for their deliverance, and also the manner in which it is applied. In the beginning of this fifth chapter he had unfolded the blessed effects that follow from its reception, in the experience of all believers, and had extolled the love of God in its appointment. Having next proved, from the universality of the reign of death, that the law and sin existed from the beginning, and so before the public promulgation of the law at Mount Sinai, he had taken occasion to point out the entrance both of sin and righteousness, and of the imputation first of the one and next of the other. And as it might now be asked, ‘Wherefore, then, serveth the law?’ Galatians 3:19, if man’s personal obedience to it enters in no respect into his justification, it therefore formed a proper conclusion to the whole to recur, as in the verse before us to that law at which, in passing, Paul had glanced in the 13th verse, and to show that it had been introduced in order that on the one hand the abounding of sin might be made manifest, and on the other the superabounding of grace, on both of which he had been insisting in proof of the reality and fatal effects of the former, and the necessity, the glory, and the blessedness of the latter. The law entered, ‘privily entered,’ says Dr. Macknight, referring to the law of nature, which, he says, privily entered after the fall of our first parents. But no new law entered after the fall. What is called the law of nature, is only the remains of the law written in creation on the heart of man. The law here is evidently the law of Moses, and the word in the original signifies that the law entered in addition to the law which Adam transgressed, and to the law written in the heart. This is the effect of para> in this place. That the offense might abound. — The word translated offense, here and in several of the verses above, literally signifies ‘fall,’ and is applied in these verses to the first sin of Adam. In verse 16, however, in the plural, it refers to sins in general, and in some other places is rendered trespasses. In that before us it may refer particularly, as in those preceding, to the first sin, which, as the root and cause of all other sins, has abounded in its baneful effects, and, like a noxious plant, shot up and spread in all directions; so that, as God had testified before the flood, ‘the wickedness of man is great on the earth,’ Genesis 6:5. This was fully discovered by the entrance of the law. The law then entered, not that sinners might be justified by it, for no law could give life to fallen man, Galatians 3:21. Sinners, in order to be saved, must be redeemed from the curse of the law, and created again in Christ Jesus. But it entered that the offense might abound, and that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God, ch. 3:19; that we might learn that the righteous God loveth righteousness, that His law is exceeding broad, that it is spiritual, extending to all the imaginations of the thoughts, that He will not abate one jot or tittle of this perfect standard, which is a transcript of His character. The law is a perfect standard, by which men are taught to measure themselves, that they may see their guilt and condemnation, and be led to look to Him who is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. Some translate this clause, which is rendered, that the offense might abound, ‘so as the offense eventually abounds.’ This is not the Apostle’s meaning. They say that the intention of the law was not to make sin abound, but to restrain sin, and make fewer sins. If this was the intention of giving the law, the Lawgiver has been disappointed, for sins have been multiplied a thousand fold by the entrance of the law. This their view of the matter admits; for they acknowledge that this was the event, though not the intention. But if this was the event, it must also have been the intention of the Lawgiver, though not of the law. God cannot be disappointed of His intentions. But it is self-evidently clear that the intention of the promulgation of the law of Moses could not be to lessen the number of sins, when almost the whole ceremonial part of it makes things to be sin which were not sin before the giving of the law, and which are not sinful in their own nature. Besides, sin is greatly increased as to the guilt of the breach of the moral law, by the promulgation of the law of Moses. While the law of God is holy, and just, and good, it was evidently God’s intention, in the giving of it, that offenses might abound. In this way the wickedness of the human heart was manifested. It showed men that they were sinners. Had not the law been repeated in its extent and purity at Sinai, such was the darkness in men’s minds, that they would not have thought themselves transgressors of its precepts, or obnoxious to its curse; and not seeing themselves sinners, they would not have seen the necessity of a surety. The ‘commandment is a lamp, and the law is light,’ Proverbs 6:23. It discovers the real state of human nature, and manifests not only the evil and aggravation, but also the vast accumulation and extent, of the wickedness of man. The entrance, then, of the law between the author of condemnation and the author of justification, in order that sin might abound, was of the highest importance. ‘By the law is the knowledge of sin.’ The law did not put sin into the heart, but it was an instrument to display the depravity already existing in the heart. But vain man will be wise, and he will compel the word of God to submit to his own views It may be justly said that such displays of the deep things of God as are made in His word, are intended to manifest the blindness of the human mind, and the deep depravity of human nature. Where sin abounded grace did much more abound. — This was another effect of the entrance of the law, that as, by the clear light it imparts, sin would abound in all its extent and enormity, so grace might be exhibited as abounding above sin. The grace of God, dispensed from His throne, not only pardons the most numerous and most heinous sins, but also confers eternal life upon him who has sinned. It restores him to communion with God, which by transgression be had forfeited, re-establishing it not only in a far higher degree, but in a manner so permanent as never again to be interrupted. ‘When sin,’ says Calvin, ‘had held men plunged under its power, grace came to their relief. For Paul teaches us that the more sin is known, the grandeur and magnificence of grace is the more evident; and is poured out in so copious a manner as not only to overcome, but even to overwhelm the overflowing deluge of iniquity.’
Ver. 21. — That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
As sin hath reigned unto death. — Death here, and throughout this chapter, as well as in many other places, signifies not temporal death merely, but the whole punishment of sin, of which temporal death is perhaps the smallest part. Eternal misery is included in it, but the word ‘death’ does not literally denote eternal misery. This is called the ‘second death,’ and this expression gives us the key to understand the full extent of the meaning of the word. The punishment of hell is the second death, according to Scripture explanation, Revelation 20:14, 21:8, and therefore it is no fancy to understand future eternal punishment as included in the term. But though the expression includes this, it is not proved from the literal meaning of the word death. As death is the greatest of all temporal evils, it was not only a part of the punishment of the first sin, but it was the symbol of the second death. It is another proof that death includes the whole punishment of sin, that, in Romans 6:23, death is called the wages of sin. If death be the wages of sin, then death must include everything that is the wages or punishment of sin. But the Scriptures point out future misery, as well as temporal death, as the wages of sin. This proof is incontrovertible. The Scriptures show that the punishment of sin is eternal misery; if so, death includes eternal misery.
While this lays no stress on the necessary literal meaning of the word death, it comes to the same conclusion. Another proof that death here signifies the whole punishment of sin, and consequently that it includes eternal misery, is, that the gift of God is said to be ‘eternal life.’ Now life literally is as limited as death. Yet life here signifies not merely existence in a state of consciousness, but of happiness. Life, indeed, even without the word eternal, is in Scripture taken to signify all the happiness of the future state of the blessed. What objection, then, can there be to a like extended signification of the term death? That it includes spiritual death is beyond a question, as the Scriptures expressly use this term in this sense, Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13. That they are all included in the threatening against the eating of the forbidden fruit, is most certain. It is no objection that it was not explained to Adam in this sense. If any part of Scripture explains it in this sense, it is sufficient. It may be said that it would be unjust to punish Adam in any extent that he did not understand as included in the threatening. He understood by it destruction, or at least we have no ground to say that he did not. Returning to the dust is not the explanation of the threatening, it being God’s appointment in connection with the promise of Christ. But it is perfectly sufficient that he knew the law that was given him. To make him guilty, there was no necessity for any threatening. Is not a child guilty when he breaks the command of a father, even though the command be unaccompanied with threatening?
With regard to Christ’s suffering for us, it was not necessary that He should suffer eternally. It answers all the ends of justice if He has suffered a perfect equivalent. That He has done so, we have the clear testimony of the Scriptures, and we have no need to show how He has done so by metaphysical explanations and calculations of our own. Even so might grace reign through righteousness. — Mr. Stuart having subverted, by his interpretations and reasonings, every idea of the imputation of sin, as he had formerly altogether set aside the imputation of righteousness, is only consistent in misrepresenting the meaning of this passage. As he has mistaken the import of the expression righteousness at the commencement of this discussion, so he also misunderstands it here.
His explanation is, that ‘grace might reign or have an influence widely extended, in the bestowment of justification or pardoning mercy.’ The passage informs us that grace reigns unto eternal life, which does indeed include the bestowment of justification. But it informs us of something more, and that of the last importance, which Mr. Stuart’s mistaking righteousness for justification leads him entirely to omit. Grace reigns\parTHROUGH RIGHTEOUSNESS, even the righteousness of God, which fulfills His law, and satisfies His justice, and displays His holiness; whereas, did grace bestow a justification in such a way as Mr. Stuart describes, it would do so at the expense of law and justice, and dishonor the whole Divine administration. Unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. — This is that life of which Jesus Christ, who is risen from the dead, is the author, as the death here Spoken of is that which He came to destroy. The source of our natural life is Adam, but he is dead, and in his communion we all die. But a new source of life is provided in the second Adam, that He may deliver from death all that are in His communion. ‘The first Adam was made a living soul,’ that he might communicate natural life to those who had not received it. ‘The last Adam was made a quickening spirit,’ that He might impart spiritual life to those who had lost it. The first communicated an earthly and perishable life, the second a life that is celestial and immortal.
Jesus Christ is that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us; and the Father hath given Him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to as many as He hath given Him. ‘My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life.’ The termination, then, of the reign of death over those whom He represents, and the establishment of the reign of grace through the everlasting righteousness which He has brought in, are all by Jesus Christ.
He hath abolished death. By Him came grace and truth; He brought life and immortality to light. He ‘is the true God, and eternal life.’ And ‘to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be the Lord both of the dead and the living.’ The similarity of the Apostle’s commencement in unfolding the doctrine of justification, and of his conclusion, is very striking. He begins, ch. 1:17, by declaring that the Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation, because therein is the righteousness of God revealed; and he here ends by affirming that grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
In this 21st verse the doctrine of the whole preceding context, of the salvation of believers, is summed up in a manner most beautiful and striking. Having exhibited in a strong light the righteousness of God, ch. 3:21, 22, the Apostle returns to it in this chapter; and, having contrasted Christ and Adam, he brings out his conclusion in this verse with a contrast of the reign of sin and grace. Sin had an absolute sway over all the descendants of Adam. There was nothing good among them, or in any of them. Sin existed and predominated in every human soul. Therefore it is said to reign. The absolute and universal influence of sin is figured by the empire of a monarch exercising authority in uncontrolled sovereignty.
Grace also reigns. There was nothing in men to merit salvation, or to recommend them in any measure to God. Grace therefore reigns in their salvation, which is wholly and entirely of free favor. Sin is said to reign unto, or in, death. This shows that death was, in every human being, the effect of his sin. The way in which death manifested its universal reign over the human race, was in causing their death. This most fully proves that infants are sinners. If sin ruled in causing death to its subjects, then all who died are the subjects of sin. Death to the human race is in every instance the effect of the dominion of sin. Sin reigns unto death. — But if sin has reigned, grace reigns. If the former has reigned in death, the latter reigns in life; yea, it reigns unto eternal life. How, then, does it reign unto life.
Is it by a gratuitous pardon? Doubtless it is. But it is not by forgiving the sinner in an arbitrary way, with respect to the punishment due to sin.
Forgiveness is indeed entirely gratuitous; but if it cost believers nothing, it has cost much to their Surety. Grace reigns through righteousness. — How beautifully is thus fulfilled the prophetic declaration of Psalm 85:10-13. Grace did not, could not, deliver the lawful captives without paying the ransom. It did not trample on justice, or evade its demands. It reigns by providing a Savior to suffer in the room of the guilty. By the death of Jesus Christ, full compensation was made to the law and justice of God.
The Apostle, in the end of this chapter, brings his argument to a close.
Every individual of the human race is proved to be guilty before God and on the ground of his own righteousness no man can be saved. The state of the Gentile world is exhibited in the most degrading view, while history and experience fully concur in the condemnation. Man is represented as vile, as degraded below the condition of the brutes; and the facts on which the charge is grounded were so notorious that they could not be denied.
Nor could the most uncultivated Pagans offer any apology for their conduct. Their sins were against nature, and their ignorance of God was in spite of the revelation of His character in the works of creation. They are condemned by the standard they themselves recognize, and their own mutual recriminations and defenses prove that they were fully aware of sin and responsibility.
But are not the Jews excepted from this black catalogue of crimes Are they not righteous through that holy, Just, and good law which they received from the God of Israel? By no means. By the testimony of that revelation which they received, all men are guilty, and this testimony directly implies those to whom the revelation was given. With this experience also coincides. The Apostle charges them as actually doing the same things which they condemned in the heathens. Both, then, are guilty; and, from their superior light, the Jews must be the most guilty.
Nor was it ever in contemplation of the law of Moses to give the Jews a righteousness by their own obedience. The law was designed rather to manifest their guilt. By the law there was to no individual a righteousness unto life; by the law was the ‘knowledge of sin.’ All men, then, without exception, were shut up unto condemnation.
But this law veiled the truth which the Apostle now unfolds and exhibits in the strongest light. He proclaims a righteousness so perfect, as to answer all the demands of law, both as to penalty and obedience — a righteousness so free, as to extend to the very chief of sinners. This righteousness is in Jesus Christ. He has borne the curse of the law, and perfectly obeyed all its precepts. All His obedience becomes ours by believing the testimony of the Father concerning His Son, and trusting in Him. The most guilty child of Adam, whether he be Jew or Gentile, becomes perfectly righteous the moment he believes in the work of Christ.
This glorious plan of salvation vindicates the law, exalts the character of God, and reconciles mercy with justice. In the Gospel grace appears; in the Gospel grace reigns; but it reigns not on the ruins of law and justice, but in the more glorious establishment of both; it reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. In the salvation of men by the Son of God, the law is not made void. It is magnified and made honorable.
In this salvation sin is not represented as harmless. It is here seen in a more awful light than in the future punishment of the wicked. The Gospel is the only manifestation of God in the full glory of His character as the just God, yet the Savior — punishing sin to the utmost extent of its demerit, at the same time that His mercy reaches to the most guilty of the children of men.
The doctrine contained in this chapter is so important, and often so ill understood, that it appears proper to subjoin the following valuable remarks from the Presbyterian Magazine, contained in the conclusion of the review which has again and again been quoted above. They are introduced by observing that Mr. Stuart’s denial of a federal theology bears a most impressive witness respecting the evil of surrendering any part of the truth of Scriptures. ‘The rejection of Adam’s covenant headship has led Mr. Stuart to an abandonment of the doctrine of Christ’s representative character. The indissoluble connection between these was, indeed, long ago remarked, and the progress of error, as exemplified in this author, verifies with surprising accuracy the anticipation of the doctors of the Theological Faculty of Leyden, in a testimony on the subject of original sin, borne by them on the 15th November 1645. “We have learned,” say they, “with great pain, that the doctrine which has been, by common consent, received as scriptural, respecting the imputation of Adam’s sin, is now disturbed; although, when it is denied, the original corruption of human nature cannot be just, and a transition is easy to a denial of the imputation of the second Adam’s righteousness.” ‘We need not enter into any lengthened refutation of the perilous and unsupported assertion that the federal “form of theology” is not essential “to the Christian doctrine of redemption.” The marvel is, how any man who had studied the Epistle to the Hebrews could evade the force of such declarations as that Christ is “the Mediator of the new covenant,” or escape the conviction that He represented the elect as their head in a federal arrangement. To such a relationship between Him and His people, likewise, the whole legal dispensation pointed. The impressive ceremony of the scape-goat represented, by the plainest symbols, a transfer — an imputation of guilt; and prophecy intimated it in the unambiguous announcement, that “the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” The Scripture is so pervaded by federal language and allusions that he who would remove from it the doctrine of Christ’s covenant headship, would need either to write it anew, or to expound it on some unheard-of principle. ‘But is a covenant relation necessary “to the Christian doctrine of depravity”? So at least it appears to us; and the reader who will consult the dissertation of Rivetus, from which the above opinion of the divines of Leyden has been extracted, will find that it has appeared so to almost all the fathers of the Reformation, and to a host of eminent reformed divines, a mere catalogue of whose names would occupy several of our pages. But we are very far from resting this sentiment on human authority; we appeal to the law and to the testimony of God. ‘First, then, that God treated with Adam not merely by way of commandment, but by way of covenant, we regard as manifest from the train of events as recorded in the commencement of Genesis. There were two contracting parties. There was something to be done by the one, which on the part of the other was to meet with a certain recompense; for the threatening of death, in case of eating the forbidden fruit, bears with it the counterpart assurance that, if the creature continued in obedience, his state of happiness would be indefinitely prolonged; the existence of a promise is implied in the words of the Apostle ( Galatians 3:12), “the man that doeth them shall live in them,” and similar expressions elsewhere; and the very thought that a menace was uttered, unmingled with any more cheering intimation, accuses the God of all grace of being more ready to punish than to crown. There was, in fine, on the part of Adam, an acceptance of the offered terms; for to suppose it otherwise is to embrace the contradiction that a creature could be holy, and yet his will at war with his Creator’s. It is of no consequence to object that the covenant is not fully developed; for the early part of the Mosaic narrative is remarkable for its rapidity; and neither is the covenant of grace evolved into any amplitude of detail in the record of its first announcement in paradise. ‘Secondly, that Adam in the covenant was the head of all his offspring, appears from a variety of considerations. For example, the train of events as recorded in Genesis, to which we may here renew our reference, intimates, not obscurely, that Adam was dealt with in all things as the representative of humanity. The blessing of increase was not designed for him alone; nor the donation of empire over the creatures; nor the institution of the sabbatic rest; nor the curse that was launched forth against the ground; nor the sentence which consigned him over to the grave. It is in vain to object that not one word is said of posterity in the recital of these promises, and injunctions, and threatenings, and maledictions; for experience proves their universal application, and proves it antecedently to all individual guilt, for the infant is affected by that curse wherewith the earth is stricken. And if any one is included in the sentence, he must first have been comprehended in the threatening; which lands us in the doctrine of the federal headship of Adam. Again, why, in <461501> Corinthians 15, is Christ called the second man — the second Adam? The only assignable reason in His covenant headship; for never could His resurrection have been viewed, not only as demonstrative of the possibility of the reviviscence of others, but as betokening and implying the final disruption, by all believers, of the bands of death, except on some principle, amounting to the admission of the fundamental truth that He was their great federal representative. ‘From this view, which rests on such clear grounds, of the constituted connection between our first progenitor and his offspring, the imputation of his guilt to them directly follows. If they were one with him in receiving the law, in possessing ability to observe it, and in coming under an obligation to obedience, they were one with him also in his breach of the condition of the covenant. He broke the first link of the golden chain which primarily united all mankind to their Maker, and the dependent parts of it necessarily partook of the separation. But imputation might be established by independent processes of reasoning; and thus, from two different directions, a flood of light might be poured upon the doctrines, if we had space to pursue the inquiry. ‘1. We might refer, for a strong presumptive proof, to the analogy and correspondence between the economy of condemnation and the economy of redemption — the ministration of death and the ministration of life. In the latter we find an imputed righteousness and an inherent holiness, the one constituting the matter of the believer’s justification, and the other preparing him for glory; and so, in the former, we might expect to find an imputed guilt and an inherent sinfulness, the one being the antecedent ground of the sentence of death, and the other carrying the criminal downwards in an augmented fitness for the society of the lost. Thus imputed guilt occupies, in the one part of the scheme, a place co-ordinate to that which imputed righteousness holds in the other; inborn depravity corresponds to the implanted principles of sanctification, and an exact harmony is maintained between the Divine dispensations. ‘2. We might prosecute, in the next place, an argument, at which we have already hinted, from the sufferings and mortality of sucklings.
Not only do “the cries of infants, who are only eloquent to grief, but dumb to all things else, discover the miseries that attend them,” and “the tears which are born with their eyes, signify they are come into a state of sorrow,” but a very large proportion of the human race is swept away into the grave at the very dawn of their being. Like Jonah’s gourd, they spring up and wither in a night. Now, on Mr. Stuart’s principle, that nothing but actual transgression deserves the name, we have here a punishment without a crime — the wages apart from the deed which earns them. But this cannot be under the government of Him who is righteous in all His ways. Assuredly infants would not die if they were not guilty — a sinless soul would not be lodged in a mortal habitation. It is no valid objection to this, that Christ’s body was mortal; for “He was made sin for us.” Death, then, follows sin like its shadow; and, like the shadow, demonstrates the real presence of the substance. It follows that infants are sinners; and since actual offense is impossible, they are sinners in the ancient transgression of their first father. ‘3. We might, in fine, argue backwards from the fact, acknowledged even by Mr. Stuart, that we “are born destitute of holiness.” This original destitution, in virtue of which we are “by nature children of wrath,” must proceed from God, either as a Creator, or as the Sovereign Lord, or as a Judge. But it does not come from Him as Creator simply, for in this respect we hold the same relation to Him as Adam did, who was formed in righteousness and true holiness; nor as Lord over all, for it were blasphemy to imagine that He would employ His supreme dominion in promoting the ruin of a rational creature. It is resolved, therefore, into a judicial infliction — an infliction on account of some sin committed before we had a being; and as this infliction has passed upon every man since our first progenitor, to his grand offense, which the Apostle throughout this passage represents as so pregnant with evil, it must of consequence be referred. Hence, as punishment infers guilt, the stain of his iniquity is ours — his guilt is ours by imputation. ‘Mr. Stuart admits that, “in consequence of Adam’s fall, and without any act or concurrence of their own,” all his posterity are subject to “sufferings in the present state; “that their nature is brought under a “moral degradation,” — “ an imperfect condition, in which it is certain that the sensual passions will get the victory and lead them to sin, and certain that they will never have any holiness without being born again,” — and in which “the second death will certainly come upon them, without the interposition of mercy through Christ.” This is stated, doubtless, in milder phrases than the other, — in the language of a man giving forth an opinion which he receives, not denouncing one which he rejects; but it possesses all the substantial features of the other scheme, and involves all its principles, with the exception of that principle, the principle of imputation, which, so far as man’s feeble intellect can penetrate, supplies the only key to the whole, and vindicates the Creator from the charge of cruelty. The question is simply, — shall we regard the deprivation of original righteousness as judicially connected with Adam’s first transgression, or as linked to it by some bond of arbitrary and mysterious severity? The reader expects, no doubt, to find all “the elements” of Mr. Stuart’s “moral nature spontaneously in array” against the latter of these suppositions. But no; it is his own opinion, — an opinion of which the native hideousness can only be veiled by the novel expedient of transforming into a peculiar species of discipline all the evils which originate in the fall. ‘But it is urged, again, that such an imputation of guilt is at variance with the general principles of the Divine administration, of which it is a fundamental law that “the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father,” Ezekiel 18:20. We had always understood that the fundamental laws of God’s moral government were embodied in the Decalogue. And there we read ( Exodus 20:5) that the Lord is a “jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children.” But is there indeed an inconsistency in the word of inspiration? Are contradictory principles announced as alike fundamental? No, truly. God’s general right to punish the offspring for their parent’s guilt was declared from Sinai; and the course of Providence, in such cases as that of Dathan and Abiram, as well as in the indiscriminate destruction wrought by the flood, which spared not a single infant because of its imagined innocency, has impressively repeated the intimation.
Ezekiel was only commissioned to declare, in a special instance, a forbearing to insist on this right. Besides, were the Prophet’s message taken as the promulgation of a fundamental statute, it would be impossible to escape from the imputation of contravening it, even although we were to prune and pare down our theological system till it was reduced to the most meager Pelagianism. By having the evil example of our parents set before us — to take no higher ground — we are, in consequence of Adam’s transgression, placed in less favorable circumstances than those in which be was situated; and in this way we bear the iniquity of our father. On Mr. Stuart’s system, this becomes more obvious still; so that, with his view of the announcement of Ezekiel, his own scheme is at irreconcilable variance.
The view of that announcement, which we have presented above removes this difficulty from his scheme; but it also removes it from ours. ‘But there is one consequence of Mr. Stuart’s views of original sin, which, at the risk of being blamed for prolixity, we cannot omit to notice. This opinion, as already stated, is, that no one can be sentenced to the extreme punishment of sin, except for actual transgression — that we are not born in a state of condemnation — that, in the highest and most awful sense of the words, we are not “by nature the children of wrath.” Now, from this it irresistibly follows that infants, not having sinned actually, and so (according to him) not being under the curse, do not need salvation. The whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. Mr. Stuart evidently feels this difficulty, and labors to escape from it. He urges that, since infants are born destitute of holiness, and since “without holiness no man shall see the Lord,” Christ has much to do for them by His Spirit, in removing the imperfection of their nature, and in imparting to them a positive taste for the sacred exercises and joys of heaven. On this ground, and to this extent, he thinks that the Lord Jesus may properly enough be called their Savior. But this falls far short of the scriptural representations of the great salvation of the Gospel. In that salvation, deliverance from wrath is a principal element. But, according to Mr. Stuart’s scheme, this has no place in the case of infants. They are not saved from wrath; they are not saved from sin; no positive evil is removed from them; they are only made partakers of certain good dispositions to which they were primarily strangers. Their first state is a pure negative; Christ bestows some positive gifts upon them, and so becomes their Savior. In short, He sanctifies them by His Spirit. But He does not procure their justification; they obtain it for themselves; although not holy, they are harmless and undefiled. And hence ipso facto they are accepted as righteous. They are directly, and without Emmanuel’s intervention, embraced in the provisions of that eternal law which annexes immortality to innocence; of redemption, therefore, properly so called, they have no necessity. This system involves some strange anomalies — enough to destroy the authority of any scheme of doctrine. Christ is in it called a Savior; but the first step in the mighty process is taken, and one important part of it is fully accomplished, not in consequence of His work, but because of the very condition of nature in those whom He came to save. These objects of His love are promoted and perfected, but not redeemed; and although in a certain sense He saved them, their lips must be sealed, when, among the ranks of the glorified, there reverberates the everlasting song, — “Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood.” ‘In dismissing the subject of original sin, we cannot permit it to escape without a passing remark, — Mr. Stuart’s repeated affirmation that the received doctrine on that topic originated with Augustine. As he gives no proof of this, we shall be excused for meeting his authority with that (certainly not inferior) of Gerard John Vossius, from whose history of Pelagianism we extract the following thesis, which he supports by appropriate quotations from the fathers. “The Church universal has always thus judged, that first sin is imputed to all,” etc. And again, “Augustine proves this dogma from the writings of the earlier fathers, from whom he produces testimonies so plain (and scarcely less remarkable are many which he has omitted), that it is altogether marvelous that there were any of old, or are any of this day, who themselves believe, and would persuade others, that this doctrine is an invention of Augustine.” ‘No truth revealed in the Divine word stirs up against itself more than the doctrine of original sin the enmity of the human heart; and none, accordingly, has met, in different ages, with more determined and persevering opposition; yet a right understanding of it is absolutely necessary to any satisfactory knowledge of the plan of mercy. In the Church’s earlier days, all the ingenuity of Pelagius was exerted in attempts to explain it away from the page of inspiration. Shortly after the Reformation, the Remonstrants and Socinians revived his heresy, the former veiling it under many cautious restrictions, and the latter far overstepping even the errors of their master; more recently still, Taylor of Norwich proposed a new and unheard-of system, rivaling Socinianism in audacity of interpretation; and, in our own days, Professor Stuart has assailed the faith of the Reformed Churches, and, as we firmly believe, of that scripture on which they are built, with a calmness, indeed, which honorably distinguishes him from the mass of its enemies, but we feel bound to say, with a want of logic, and a straining of criticism, which would do no dishonor to the most accomplished disciple of the school of Taylor. Our readers must have gathered ere now that we do not estimate Mr. Stuart’s scholarship so highly as it has generally been valued, and that we regard his theology as most unsound. We coincide entirely in Mr. Haldane’s impressions of the responsibility resting upon those who have recommended his Commentary.’