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do see in it, nothing but an excuse and apology for their sins. Since it is acknowledged, that we carry about with us a frail, not to call it a depraved, corrupted nature, surely, they say, we shall not be amenable to any severities, or extremities of judgment, for delinquencies, to which such a nature must ever be liable; or, which is indeed all the difference there is between one man and another, for greater degrees or less, for more or fewer of these delinquencies. The natural man takes courage from this consideration. He finds ease in it. It is an opiate to his fears. It lulls him into a forgetfulness of danger, and of the dreadful end, if the danger be real. Then the practical consequence is, that he begins to relax even of those endeavours to obey God which he has hitherto exerted. Imperfect and inconstant as these endeavours were at best, they become gradually more languid and more unfrequent, and more insincere than they were before. His sins increase upon him in the same proportion : he proceeds rapidly to the condition of a confirmed sinner, either secret or open, it makes no difference, as to his salvation. And this descent into the depths of moral vileness and depravity began in some measure, with perceiving and confessing the weakness of his nature ; and giving to this perception that most erroneous, that most fatal turn, the regarding it as an excuse for every thing; and as dispensing even with the self-denials, and with the exertions of self-government, which a man had formerly thought it necessary to exercise, and in some sort, though in no sufficient sort, had exercised.
Now, I ask, was this St. Paul's way of considering the subject ? Was this the turn which he gave to it? Altogether the contrary. It was impossible for any Christian of any age, to be more deeply impressed with the sense of the weakness of human nature than he was; or to express
it more strongly than he has done in the chapter before us.
But observe ;. feeling most sensibly, and painting most forcibly, the sad condition of his nature, he never alleges it as an excuse for sin ; he does not console himself with
such excuse. He does not make it a reason for setting himself at rest upon the subject. He finds no relief to his fears in any such consideration. It is not with him a ground for expecting salvation : on the contrary, he sees it to be a state not leading to salvation ; otherwise, why did he seek so earnestly to be delivered from it?
And how to be delivered ? that becomes the next question. In order to arrive at St. Paul's meaning in this matter, we must attend with some degree of care, not only to the text, but to the words which follow it. The 24th verse contains the question, “ Who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?" and then the 25th verse goes on, “ I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Now there is good reason to believe that this 25th verse does not appear in our copies as it ought to be read. It is most probable, that the passage
stood thus: the 24th - verse asks, 6 Who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?” Then the 25th verse answers, of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Instead of the words “ I thank God,” put the words “ The grace of God," and you will find the sense cleared up by the change very much.
66 The grace
say it is highly probable that this change exhibits what St. Paul really wrote. In English there is no resemblance either in sound or writing between the two sentences, “ I thank God," and “ The grace of God;" but in the language in which the epistle was written there is a very great resemblance. And, as I have said, there is reason to believe, that in the transcribing one has been confounded with the other. Perhaps the substantial meaning may be the same which ever way you read the passage; but what is implied only in one way, is clearly expressed
in the other way
The question, then, which St. Paul so earnestly and devoutly asks, is, “ Who shall deliver me from this body of death ?” from the state of soul which I feel, and which can only lead to final perdition? And the answer to the question is, “ The grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Can a more weighty question be asked? Can an answer be given which better deserves to be thoroughly considered ?
The question is, “Who shall deliver us?” The answer: “ The
of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The 66
of God” means the favour of God. At present, therefore, the answer stands in general terms. We are only informed, that we are rescued from this state of moral difficulty, of deep religious distress, by the favour of God, through Jesus Christ. It
mains to be gathered, from what follows, in what particularly this grace or favour consists. St. Paul, having asked the question, and given the answer in general terms, proceeds to enlarge upon the answer in these words: “ There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” There is now no condemnation ; but of whom, and to whom, is this spoken ? It is to them who first are in Christ Jesus; who secondly walk not after the flesh; who thirdly walk after the Spirit.
And whence arises this alteration and improvement in our condition and our hopes; this exemption or rather deliver