Matthew Henry (1662-1714)
Romans 4, 5 and 6 Commentary
Copyright: Public Domain
Romans 4 Chapter Overview
The great gospel doctrine of justification by faith without the works of the law was so very contrary to the notions the Jews had learnt from those that sat in Moses’ chair, that it would hardly go down with them; and therefore the apostle insists very largely upon it, and labours much in the confirmation and illustration of it. He had before proved it by reason and argument, now in this chapter he proves it by example, which in some places serves for confirmation as well as illustration. The example he pitches upon is that of Abraham, whom he chooses to mention because the Jews gloried much in their relation to Abraham, put it in the first rank of their external privileges that they were Abraham’s seed, and truly they had Abraham for their father. Therefore this instance was likely to be more taking and convincing to the Jews than any other. His argument stands thus: “All that are saved are justified in the same way as Abraham was; but Abraham was justified by faith, and not by works; therefore all that are saved are so justified;” for it would easily be acknowledged that Abraham was the father of the faithful. Now this is an argument, not only à pari – from an equal case, as they say, but à fortiori – from a stronger case. If Abraham, a man so famous for works, so eminent in holiness and obedience, was nevertheless justified by faith only, and not by those works, how much less can any other, especially any of those that spring from him, and come so far short of him in works, set up for a justification by their own works? And it proves likewise, ex abundanti – the more abundantly, as some observe, that we are not justified, no not by those good works which flow from faith, as the matter of our righteousness; for such were Abraham’s works, and are we better than he? The whole chapter is taken up with his discourse upon this instance, and there is this in it, which hath a particular reference to the close of the foregoing chapter, where he has asserted that, in the business of justification, Jews and Gentiles stand upon the same level. Now in this chapter, with a great deal of cogency of argument, I. He proves that Abraham was justified not by works, but by faith (Rom 4:1-8). II. He observes when and why he was so justified (Rom 4:9-17). III. He describes and commends that faith of his (Rom 4:17-22). IV. He applies all this to us (Rom 4:22-25). And, if he had now been in the school of Tyrannus, he could not have disputed more argumentatively.
Here the apostle proves that Abraham was justified not by works, but by faith. Those that of all men contended most vigorously for a share in righteousness by the privileges they enjoyed, and the works they performed, were the Jews, and therefore he appeals to the case of Abraham their father, and puts his own name to the relation, being a Hebrew of the Hebrews: Abraham our father. Now surely his prerogative must needs be as great as theirs who claim it as his seed according to the flesh. Now what has he found? All the world is seeking; but, while the most are wearying themselves for very vanity, none can be truly reckoned to have found, but those who are justified before God; and thus Abraham, like a wise merchant, seeking goodly pearls, found this one pearl of great price. What has he found, kata sarka – as pertaining to the flesh, that is, by circumcision and his external privileges and performances? These the apostle calls flesh, Phi 3:3. Now what did he get by these? Was he justified by them? Was it the merit of his works that recommended him to God’s acceptance? No, by no means, which he proves by several arguments.
I. If he had been justified by works, room would have been left for boasting, which must for ever be excluded. If so, he hath whereof to glory (Rom 4:2), which is not to be allowed. “But,” might the Jews say, “was not his name made great (Gen 12:2), and then might not he glory?” Yes, but not before God; he might deserve well of men, but he could never merit of God. Paul himself had whereof to glory before men, and we have him sometimes glorying in it, yet with humility; but nothing to glory in before God, 1Co 4:4; Phi 3:8, Phi 3:9. So Abraham. Observe, He takes it for granted that man must not pretend to glory in any thing before God; no, not Abraham, as great and as good a man as he was; and therefore he fetches an argument from it: it would be absurd for him that glorieth to glory in any but the Lord.
II. It is expressly said that Abraham’s faith was counted to him for righteousness. What saith the scripture? Rom 4:3. In all controversies in religion this must be our question, What saith the scripture? It is not what this great man, and the other good man, say, but What saith the scripture? Ask counsel at this Abel, and so end the matter, 2Sa 2:18. To the law, and to the testimony (Isa 8:20), thither is the last appeal. Now the scripture saith that Abraham believed, and this was counted to him for righteousness (Gen 15:6); therefore he had not whereof to glory before God, it being purely of free grace that it was so imputed, and having not in itself any of the formal nature of a righteousness, further than as God himself was graciously pleased so to count it to him. It is mentioned in Genesis, upon occasion of a very signal and remarkable act of faith concerning the promised seed, and is the more observable in that it followed upon a grievous conflict he had had with unbelief; his faith was now a victorious faith, newly returned from the battle. It is not the perfect faith that is required to justification (there may be acceptable faith where there are remainders of unbelief), but the prevailing faith, the faith that has the upper hand of unbelief.
III. If he had been justified by faith, the reward would have been of debt, and not of grace, which is not to be imagined. This is his argument (Rom 4:4, Rom 4:5): Abraham’s reward was God himself; so he had told him but just before (Gen 15:1), I am thy exceeding great reward. Now, if Abraham had merited this by the perfection of his obedience, it had not been an act of grace in God, but Abraham might have demanded it with as much confidence as ever any labourer in the vineyard demanded the penny he had earned. But this cannot be; it is impossible for man, much more guilty man, to make God a debtor to him, Rom 11:35. No, God will have free grace to have all the glory, grace for grace’s sake, Joh 1:16. And therefore to him that worketh not – that can pretend to no such merit, nor show any worth or value in his work, which may answer such a reward, but disclaiming any such pretension casts himself wholly upon the free grace of God in Christ, by a lively, active, obedient faith – to such a one faith is counted for righteousness, is accepted of God as the qualification required in all those that shall be pardoned and saved. Him that justifieth the ungodly, that is, him that was before ungodly. His former ungodliness was no bar to his justification upon his believing: ton asebē – that ungodly one, that is, Abraham, who, before his conversion, it should seem, was carried down the stream of the Chaldean idolatry, Jos 24:2. No room therefore is left for despair; though God clears not the impenitent guilty, yet through Christ he justifies the ungodly.
IV. He further illustrates this by a passage out of the Psalms, where David speaks of the remission of sins, the prime branch of justification, as constituting the happiness and blessedness of a man, pronouncing blessed, not the man who has no sin, or none which deserved death (for then, while man is so sinful, and God so righteous, where would be the blessed man?) but the man to whom the Lord imputeth not sin, who though he cannot plead, Not guilty, pleads the act of indemnity, and his plea is allowed. It is quoted from Psa 32:1, Psa 32:2, where observe, 1. The nature of forgiveness. It is the remission of a debt or a crime; it is the covering of sin, as a filthy thing, as the nakedness and shame of the soul. God is said to cast sin behind his back, to hide his face from it, which, and the like expressions, imply that the ground of our blessedness is not our innocency, or our not having sinned (a thing is, and is filthy, though covered; justification does not make the sin not to have been, or not to have been sin), but God’s not laying it to our charge, as it follows here: it is God’s not imputing sin (Rom 4:8), which makes it wholly a gracious act of God, not dealing with us in strict justice as we have deserved, not entering into judgment, not marking iniquities, all which being purely acts of grace, the acceptance and the reward cannot be expected as debts; and therefore Paul infers (Rom 4:6) that it is the imputing of righteousness without works. 2. The blessedness of it: Blessed are they. When it is said, Blessed are the undefiled in the way, blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked, etc., the design is to show the characters of those that are blessed; but when it is said, Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, the design is to show what that blessedness is, and what the ground and foundation of it. Pardoned people are the only blessed people. The sentiments of the world are, Those are happy that have a clear estate, and are out of debt to man; but the sentence of the word is, Those are happy that have their debts to God discharged. O how much therefore is it our interest to make it sure to ourselves that our sins are pardoned! For this is the foundation of all other benefits. So and so I will do for them; for I will be merciful, Heb 8:12.
St. Paul observes in this paragraph when and why Abraham was thus justified; for he has several things to remark upon that. It was before he was circumcised, and before the giving of the law; and there was a reason for both.
I. It was before he was circumcised, Rom 4:10. His faith was counted to him for righteousness while he was in uncircumcision. It was imputed, Gen 15:6, and he was not circumcised till ch. 17. Abraham is expressly said to be justified by faith fourteen years, some say twenty-five years, before he was circumcised. Now this the apostle takes notice of in answer to the question (Rom 4:9), Cometh this blessedness then on the circumcision only, or on the uncircumcision also? Abraham was pardoned and accepted in uncircumcision, a circumstance which, as it might silence the fears of the poor uncircumcised Gentiles, so it might lower the pride and conceitedness of the Jews, who gloried in their circumcision, as if they had the monopoly of all happiness. Here are two reasons why Abraham was justified by faith in uncircumcision: –
1. That circumcision might be a seal of the righteousness of faith, Rom 4:11. The tenour of the covenants must first be settled before the seal can be annexed. Sealing supposes a previous bargain, which is confirmed and ratified by that ceremony. After Abraham’s justification by faith had continued several years only a grant by parole, for the confirmation of Abraham’s faith God was pleased to appoint a sealing ordinance, and Abraham received it; though it was a bloody ordinance, yet he submitted to it, and even received it as a special favour, the sign of circumcision, etc. Now we may hence observe, (1.) The nature of sacraments in general: they are signs and seals – signs to represent and instruct, seals to ratify and confirm. They are signs of absolute grace and favour; they are seals of the conditional promises; nay, they are mutual seals: God does in the sacraments seal to us to be to us a God, and we do therein seal to him to be to him a people. (2.) The nature of circumcision in particular: it was the initiating sacrament of the Old Testament; and it is here said to be, [1.] A sign – a sign of that original corruption which we are all born with, and which is cut off by spiritual circumcision, – a commemorating sign of God’s covenant with Abraham, – a distinguishing sign between Jews and Gentiles, – a sign of admission into the visible church, – a sign prefiguring baptism, which comes in the room of circumcision, now under the gospel, when (the blood of Christ being shed) all bloody ordinances are abolished; it was an outward and sensible sign of an inward and spiritual grace signified thereby. [2.] A seal of the righteousness of the faith. In general, it was a seal of the covenant of grace, particularly of justification by faith – the covenant of grace, called the righteousness which is of faith (Rom 10:6), and it refers to an Old Testament promise, Deu 30:12. Now if infants were then capable of receiving a seal of the covenant of grace, which proves that they then were within the verge of that covenant, how they come to be now cast out of the covenant and incapable of the seal, and by what severe sentence they were thus rejected and incapacitated, those are concerned to make out that not only reject, but nullify and reproach, the baptism of the seed of believers.
2. That he might be the father of all those that believe. Not but that there were those that were justified by faith before Abraham; but of Abraham first it is particularly observed, and in him commenced a much clearer and fuller dispensation of the covenant of grace than any that had been before extant; and there he is called the father of all that believe, because he was so eminent a believer, and so eminently justified by faith, as Jabal was the father of shepherds and Jubal of musicians, Gen 4:20, Gen 4:21. The father of all those that believe; that is, a standing pattern of faith, as parents are examples to their children; and a standing precedent of justification by faith, as the liberties, privileges, honours, and estates, of the fathers descend to their children. Abraham was the father of believers, because to him particularly the magna charta was renewed. (1.) The father of believing Gentiles, though they be not circumcised. Zaccheus, a publican, if he believe, is reckoned a son of Abraham, Luk 19:9. Abraham being himself uncircumcised when he was justified by faith, uncircumcision can never be a bar. Thus were the doubts and fears of the poor Gentiles anticipated and no room left to question but that righteousness might be imputed to them also, Col 3:11; Gal 5:6. (2.) The father of believing Jews, not merely as circumcised, and of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh, but because believers, because they are not of the circumcision only (that is, are not only circumcised), but walk in the steps of that faith – have not only the sign, but the thing signified – not only are of Abraham’s family, but follow the example of Abraham’s faith. See here who are the genuine children and lawful successors of those that were the church’s fathers: not those that sit in their chairs, and bear their names, but those that tread in their steps; this is the line of succession, which holds, notwithstanding interruptions. It seems, then, those were most loud and forward to call Abraham father that had least title to the honours and privileges of his children. Thus those have most reason to call Christ Father, not that bear his name in being Christians in profession, but that tread in his steps.
II. It was before the giving of the law, Rom 4:13-16. The former observation is levelled against those that confined justification to the circumcision, this against those that expected it by the law; now the promise was made to Abraham long before the law. Compare Gal 3:17, Gal 3:18. Now observe,
1. What that promise was – that he should be the heir of the world, that is, of the land of Canaan, the choicest spot of ground in the world, – or the father of many nations of the world, who sprang from him, besides the Israelites, – or the heir of the comforts of the life which now is. The meek are said to inherit the earth, and the world is theirs. Though Abraham had so little of the world in possession, yet he was heir of it all. Or, rather, it points at Christ, the seed here mentioned; compare Gal 3:16, To thy seed, which is Christ. Now Christ is the heir of the world, the ends of the earth are his possession, and it is in him that Abraham was so. And it refers to that promise (Gen 12:3), In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
2. How it was made to him: Not through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. Not through the law, for that was not yet given: but it was upon that believing which was counted to him for righteousness; it was upon his trusting God, in his leaving his own country when God commanded him, Heb 11:8. Now, being by faith, it could not be by the law, which he proves by the opposition there is between them (Rom 4:14, Rom 4:15): If those who are of the law be heirs; that is, those, and those only, and they by virtue of the law (the Jews did, and still do, boast that they are the rightful heirs of the world, because to them the law was given), then faith is made void; for, if it were requisite to an interest in the promise that there should be a perfect performance of the whole law, then the promise can never take its effect, nor is it to any purpose for us to depend upon it, since the way to life by perfect obedience to the law, and spotless sinless innocency, is wholly blocked up, and the law in itself opens no other way. This he proves, Rom 4:15. The law worketh wrath – wrath in us to God; it irritates and provokes that carnal mind which is enmity to God, as the damming up of a stream makes it swell – wrath in God against us. It works this, that is, it discovers it, or our breach of the law works it. Now it is certain that we can never expect the inheritance by a law that worketh wrath. How the law works wrath he shows very concisely in the latter part of the verse: Where no law is there is no transgression, an acknowledged maxim, which implies, Where there is a law there is transgression and that transgression is provoking, and so the law worketh wrath.
3. Why the promise was made to him by faith; for three reasons, Rom 4:16. (1.) That it might be by grace, that grace might have the honour of it; by grace, and not by the law; by grace, and not of debt, nor of merit; that Grace, grace, might be cried to every stone, especially to the top-stone, in this building. Faith hath particular reference to grace granting, as grace hath reference to faith receiving. By grace, and therefore through faith, Eph 2:8. For God will have every crown thrown at the feet of grace, free grace, and every song in heaven sung to that tune, Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise. (2.) That the promise might be sure. The first covenant, being a covenant of works, was not sure: but, through man’s failure, the benefits designed by it were cut off; and therefore, the more effectually to ascertain and ensure the conveyance of the new covenant, there is another way found out, not by works (were it so, the promise would not be sure, because of the continual frailty and infirmity of the flesh), but by faith, which receives all from Christ, and acts in a continual dependence upon him, as the great trustee of our salvation, and in whose keeping it is safe. The covenant is therefore sure, because it is so well ordered in all things, 2Sa 23:5. (3.) That it might be sure to all the seed. If it had been by the law, it had been limited to the Jews, to whom pertained the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law (Rom 9:4); but therefore it was by faith that Gentiles as well as Jews might become interested in it, the spiritual as well as the natural seed of faithful Abraham. God would contrive the promise in such a way as might make it most extensive, to comprehend all true believers, that circumcision and uncircumcision might break no squares; and for this (Rom 4:17) he refers us to Gen 17:5, where the reason of the change of his name from Abram – a high father, to Abraham – the high father of a multitude, is thus rendered: For a father of many nations have I made thee; that is, all believers, both before and since the coming of Christ in the flesh, should take Abraham for their pattern, and call him father. The Jews say Abraham was the father of all proselytes to the Jewish religion. Behold, he is the father of all the world, which are gathered under the wings of the Divine Majesty. – Maimonides.
Romans 4:17-22 (continues on with v. 17)
Having observed when Abraham was justified by faith, and why, for the honour of Abraham and for example to us who call him father, the apostle here describes and commends the faith of Abraham, where observe,
I. Whom he believed: God who quickeneth. It is God himself that faith fastens upon: other foundation can no man lay. Now observe what in God Abraham’s faith had an eye t – o that, certainly, which would be most likely to confirm his faith concerning the things promised: – 1. God who quickeneth the dead. It was promised that he should be the father of many nations, when he and his wife were now as good as dead (Heb 11:11, Heb 11:12), and therefore he looks upon God as a God that could breathe life into dry bones. He that quickeneth the dead can do any thing, can give a child to Abraham when he is old, can bring the Gentiles, who are dead in trespasses and sins, to a divine and spiritual life, Eph 2:1. Compare Eph 1:19, Eph 1:20. 2. Who calleth things which are not as though they were; that is, creates all things by the word of his power, as in the beginning, Gen 1:3; 2Co 4:6. The justification and salvation of sinners, the espousing of the Gentiles that had not been a people, were a gracious calling of things which are not as though they were, giving being to things that were not. This expresses the sovereignty of God and his absolute power and dominion, a mighty stay to faith when all other props sink and totter. It is the holy wisdom and policy of faith to fasten particularly on that in God which is accommodated to the difficulties wherewith it is to wrestle, and will most effectually answer the objections. It is faith indeed to build upon the all-sufficiency of God for the accomplishment of that which is impossible to anything but that all-sufficiency. Thus Abraham became the father of many nations before him whom he believed, that is, in the eye and account of God; or like him whom he believed; as God was a common Father, so was Abraham. It is by faith in God that we become accepted of him, and conformable to him.
II. How he believed. He here greatly magnifies the strength of Abraham’s faith, in several expressions. 1. Against hope, he believed in hope, Rom 4:18. There was a hope against him, a natural hope. All the arguments of sense, and reason, and experience, which in such cases usually beget and support hope, were against him; no second causes smiled upon him, nor in the least favoured his hope. But, against all those inducements to the contrary, he believed; for he had a hope for him: He believed in hope, which arose, as his faith did, from the consideration of God’s all-sufficiency. That he might become the father of many nations. Therefore God, by his almighty grace, enabled him thus to believe against hope, that he might pass for a pattern of great and strong faith to all generations. It was fit that he who was to be the father of the faithful should have something more than ordinary in his faith – that in him faith should be set in its highest elevation, and so the endeavours of all succeeding believers be directed, raised, and quickened. Or this is mentioned as the matter of the promise that he believed; and he refers to Gen 15:5, So shall thy seed be, as the stars of heaven, so innumerable, so illustrious. This was that which he believed, when it was counted to him for righteousness, Rom 4:6. And it is observable that this particular instance of his faith was against hope, against the surmises and suggestions of his unbelief. He had just before been concluding hardly that he should go childless, that one born in his house was his heir (Rom 4:2, Rom 4:3); and this unbelief was a foil to his faith, and bespeaks it a believing against hope. 2. Being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body, Rom 4:19. Observe, His own body was now dead – become utterly unlikely to beget a child, though the new life and vigour that God gave him continued after Sarah was dead, witness his children by Keturah. When God intends some special blessing, some child of promise, for his people, he commonly puts a sentence of death upon the blessing itself, and upon all the ways that lead to it. Joseph must be enslaved and imprisoned before he be advanced. But Abraham did not consider this, su katenoēse – he did not dwell in his thoughts upon it. He said indeed, Shall a child be born to him that is a hundred years old? Gen 17:17. But that was the language of his admiration and his desire to be further satisfied, not of his doubting and distrust; his faith passed by that consideration, and thought of nothing but the faithfulness of the promise, with the contemplation whereof he was swallowed up, and this kept up his faith. Being not weak in faith, he considered not. It is mere weakness of faith that makes a man lie poring upon the difficulties and seeming impossibilities that lie in the way of a promise. Though it may seem to be the wisdom and policy of carnal reason, yet it is the weakness of faith, to look into the bottom of all the difficulties that arise against the promise. 3. He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief (Rom 4:20), and he therefore staggered not because he considered not the frowns and discouragements of second causes; su diekrithē – he disputed not; he did not hold any self-consultation about it, did not take time to consider whether he should close with it or no, did not hesitate nor stumble at it, but by a resolute and peremptory act of his soul, with a holy boldness, ventured all upon the promise. He took it not for a point that would admit of argument or debate, but presently determined it as a ruled case, did not at all hang in suspense about it: he staggered not through unbelief. Unbelief is at the bottom of all our staggerings at God’s promises. It is not the promise that fails, but our faith that fails when we stagger. 4. He was strong in faith, giving glory to God, enedunamōthē – he was strengthened in faith, his faith got ground by exercise – crescit eundo. Though weak faith shall not be rejected, the bruised reed not broken, the smoking flax not quenched, yet strong faith shall be commended and honoured. The strength of his faith appeared in the victory it won over his fears. And hereby he gave glory to God; for, as unbelief dishonours God by making him a liar (1Jo 5:10), so faith honours God by setting to its seal that he is true, Joh 3:33. Abraham’s faith gave God the glory of his wisdom, power, holiness, goodness, and especially of his faithfulness, resting upon the word that he had spoken. Among men we say, “He that trusts another, gives him credit, and honours him by taking his word;” thus Abraham gave glory to God by trusting him. We never hear our Lord Jesus commending any thing so much as great faith (Mat 8:10 and Mat 15:28): therefore God gives honour to faith, great faith, because faith, great faith, gives honour to God. 5. He was fully persuaded that what God had promised he was able to perform, plērophorētheis – was carried on with the greatest confidence and assurance; it is a metaphor taken from ships that come into the harbour with full sail. Abraham saw the storms of doubts, and fears, and temptations likely to rise against the promise, upon which many a one would have shrunk back, and lain by for fairer days, and waited a smiling gale of sense and reason. But Abraham, having taken God for his pilot, and the promise for his card and compass, resolves to weather his point, and like a bold adventurer sets up all his sails, breaks through all the difficulties, regards neither winds nor clouds, but trusts to the strength of his bottom and the wisdom and faithfulness of his pilot, and bravely makes to the harbour, and comes home an unspeakable gainer. Such was his full persuasion, and it was built on the omnipotence of God: He was able. Our waverings rise mainly from our distrust of the divine power; and therefore to fix us it is requisite we believe not only that he is faithful, but that he is able, that hath promised. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness, Rom 4:22. Because with such a confidence he ventured his all in the divine promise, God graciously accepted him, and not only answered, but out-did, his expectation. This way of glorifying God by a firm reliance on his bare promise was so very agreeable to God’s design, and so very conducive to his honour, that he graciously accepted it as a righteousness, and justified him, though there was not that in the thing itself which could merit such an acceptance. This shows why faith is chosen to be the prime condition of our justification, because it is a grace that of all others gives glory to God.
In the close of the chapter, he applies all to us; and, having abundantly proved that Abraham was justified by faith, he here concludes that his justification was to be the pattern or sampler of ours: It was not written for his sake alone. It was not intended only for an historical commendation of Abraham, or a relation of something peculiar to him (as some antipaedobaptists will needs understand that circumcision was a seal of the righteousness of the faith, Rom 4:11, only to Abraham himself, and no other); no, the scripture did not intend hereby to describe some singular way of justification that belonged to Abraham as his prerogative. The accounts we have of the Old Testament saints were not intended for histories only, barely to inform and divert us, but for precedents to direct us, for ensamples (1Co 10:11) for our learning, Rom 15:4. And this particularly concerning Abraham was written for us also, to assure us what that righteousness is which God requireth and accepteth to our salvation, – for us also, that are man and vile, that come so far short of Abraham in privileges and performances, us Gentiles as well as the Jews, for the blessing of Abraham comes upon the Gentiles through Christ, – for us on whom the ends of the world are come, as well as for the patriarchs; for the grace of God is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. His application of it is but short. Only we may observe,
I. Our common privilege; it shall be imputed to us, that is, righteousness shall. The gospel way of justification is by an imputed righteousness, mellei logizesthai – it shall be imputed; he uses a future verb, to signify the continuation of this mercy in the church, that as it is the same now so it will be while God has a church in the world, and there are any of the children of men to be justified; for there is a fountain opened that is inexhaustible.
II. Our common duty, the condition of this privilege, and that is believing. The proper object of this believing is a divine revelation. The revelation to Abraham was concerning a Christ to come; the revelation to us is concerning a Christ already come, which difference in the revelation does not alter the case. Abraham believed the power of God in raising up an Isaac from the dead womb of Sarah; we are to believe the same power exerted in a higher instance, the resurrection of Christ from the dead. The resurrection of Isaac was in a figure (Heb 11:19); the resurrection of Christ was real. Now we are to believe on him that raised up Christ; not only believe his power, that he could do it, but depend upon his grace in raising up Christ as our surety; so he explains it, Rom 4:25, where we have a brief account of the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection, which are the two main hinges on which the door of salvation turns. 1. He was delivered for our offences. God the Father delivered him, he delivered up himself as a sacrifice for sin. He died indeed as a malefactor, because he died for sin; but it was not his own sin, but the sins of the people. He died to make atonement for our sins, to expiate our guilt, to satisfy divine justice. 2. He was raised again for our justification, for the perfecting and completing of our justification. By the merit of his death he paid our debt, in his resurrection he took out our acquittance. When he was buried he lay a prisoner in execution for our debt, which as a surety he had undertaken to pay; on the third day an angel was sent to roll away the stone, and so to discharge the prisoner, which was the greatest assurance possible that divine justice was satisfied, the debt paid, or else he would never have released the prisoner: and therefore the apostle puts a special emphasis on Christ’s resurrection; it is Christ that died, yea, rather that has risen again, Rom 8:34. So that upon the whole matter it is very evident that we are not justified by the merit of our own works, but by a fiducial obediential dependence upon Jesus Christ and his righteousness, as the condition on our part of our right to impunity and salvation, which was the truth that Paul in this and the foregoing chapter had been fixing as the great spring and foundation of all our comfort.
The precious benefits and privileges which flow from justification are such as should quicken us all to give diligence to make it sure to ourselves that we are justified, and then to take the comfort it renders to us, and to do the duty it calls for from us. The fruits of this tree of life are exceedingly precious.
I. We have peace with God, Rom 5:1. It is sin that breeds the quarrel between us and God, creates not only a strangeness, but an enmity; the holy righteous God cannot in honour be at peace with a sinner while he continues under the guilt of sin. Justification takes away the guilt, and so makes way for peace. And such are the benignity and good-will of God to man that, immediately upon the removing of that obstacle, the peace is made. By faith we lay hold of God’s arm and of his strength, and so are at peace, Isa 27:4, Isa 27:5. There is more in this peace than barely a cessation of enmity, there is friendship and loving-kindness, for God is either the worst enemy or the best friend. Abraham, being justified by faith, was called the friend of God (Jam 2:23), which was his honour, but not his peculiar honour: Christ has called his disciples friends, Joh 15:13-15. And surely a man needs no more to make him happy than to have God his friend! But this is through our Lord Jesus Christ – through him as the great peace-maker, the Mediator between God and man, that blessed Day’s-man that has laid his hand upon us both. Adam, in innocency, had peace with God immediately; there needed no such mediator. But to guilty sinful man it is a very dreadful thing to think of God out of Christ; for he is our peace, Eph 2:14, not only the maker, but the matter and maintainer, of our peace, Col 1:20.
II. We have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, Rom 5:2. This is a further privilege, not only peace, but grace, that is, this favour. Observe, 1. The saints’ happy state. It is a state of grace, God’s loving-kindness to us and our conformity to God; he that hath God’s love and God’s likeness is in a state of grace. Now into this grace we have access prosagōgēn – an introduction, which implies that we were not born in this state; we are by nature children of wrath, and the carnal mind is enmity against God; but we are brought into it. We could not have got into it of ourselves, nor have conquered the difficulties in the way, but we have a manuduction, a leading by the hand, – are led into it as blind, or lame, or weak people are led, – are introduced as pardoned offenders, – are introduced by some favourite at court to kiss the king’s hand, as strangers, that are to have audience, are conducted. Prosagōgēn eschēkamen – We have had access. He speaks of those that have been already brought out of a state of nature into a state of grace. Paul, in his conversion, had this access; then he was made nigh. Barnabas introduced him to the apostles (Act 9:27), and there were others that led him by the hand to Damascus (Rom 5:8), but it was Christ that introduced and led him by the hand into this grace. By whom we have access by faith. By Christ as the author and principal agent, by faith as the means of this access. Not by Christ in consideration of any merit or desert of ours, but in consideration of our believing dependence upon him and resignation of ourselves to him. 2. Their happy standing in this state: wherein we stand. Not only wherein we are, but wherein we stand, a posture that denotes our discharge from guilt; we stand in the judgment (Psa 1:5), not cast, as convicted criminals, but our dignity and honour secured, not thrown to the ground, as abjects. The phrase denotes also our progress; while we stand, we are going. We must not lie down, as if we had already attained, but stand as those that are pressing forward, stand as servants attending on Christ our master. The phrase denotes, further, our perseverance: we stand firmly and safely, upheld by the power of God; stand as soldiers stand, that keep their ground, not borne down by the power of the enemy. It denotes not only our admission to, but our confirmation in, the favour of God. It is not in the court of heaven as in earthly courts, where high places are slippery places: but we stand in a humble confidence of this very thing that he who has begun the good work will perform it, Phi 1:6.
III. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Besides the happiness in hand, there is a happiness in hope, the glory of God, the glory which God will put upon the saints in heaven, glory which will consist in the vision and fruition of God. 1. Those, and those only, that have access by faith into the grace of God now may hope for the glory of God hereafter. There is no good hope of glory but what is founded in grace; grace is glory begun, the earnest and assurance of glory. He will give grace and glory, Psa 84:11. 2. Those who hope for the glory of God hereafter have enough to rejoice in now. It is the duty of those that hope for heaven to rejoice in that hope.
IV. We glory in tribulations also; not only notwithstanding our tribulations (these do not hinder our rejoicing in hope of the glory of God), but even in our tribulations, as they are working for us the weight of glory, 2Co 4:17. Observe, What a growing increasing happiness the happiness of the saints is: Not only so. One would think such peace, such grace, such glory, and such a joy in hope of it, were more than such poor undeserving creatures as we are could pretend to; and yet it is not only so: there are more instances of our happiness – we glory in tribulations also, especially tribulations for righteousness’ sake, which seemed the greatest objection against the saints’ happiness, whereas really their happiness did not only consist with, but take rise fRom. those tribulations. They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer, Act 5:41. This being the hardest point, he sets himself to show the grounds and reasons of it. How come we to glory in tribulations? Why, because tribulations, by a chain of causes, greatly befriend hope, which he shows in the method of its influence. 1. Tribulation worketh patience, not in and of itself, but the powerful grace of God working in and with the tribulation. It proves, and by proving improves, patience, as parts and gifts increase by exercise. It is not the efficient cause, but yields the occasion, as steel is hardened by the fire. See how God brings meat out of the eater, and sweetness out of the strong. That which worketh patience is matter of joy; for patience does us more good than tribulations can do us hurt. Tribulation in itself worketh impatience; but, as it is sanctified to the saints, it worketh patience. 2. Patience experience, Rom 5:4. It works an experience of God, and the songs he gives in the night; the patient sufferers have the greatest experience of the divine consolations, which abound as afflictions abound. It works an experience of ourselves. It is by tribulation that we make an experiment of our own sincerity, and therefore such tribulations are called trials. It works, dokimēn – an approbation, as he is approved that has passed the test. Thus Job’s tribulation wrought patience, and that patience produced an approbation, that still he holds fast his integrity, Job 2:3. 3. Experience hope. He who, being thus tried, comes forth as gold, will thereby be encouraged to hope. This experiment, or approbation, is not so much the ground, as the evidence, of our hope, and a special friend to it. Experience of God is a prop to our hope; he that hath delivered doth and will. Experience of ourselves helps to evidence our sincerity. 4. This hope maketh not ashamed; that is, it is a hope that will not deceive us. Nothing confounds more than disappointment. Everlasting shame and confusion will be caused by the perishing of the expectation of the wicked, but the hope of the righteous shall be gladness, Pro 10:28. See Psa 22:5; Psa 71:1. Or, It maketh not ashamed of our sufferings. Though we are counted as the offscouring of all things, and trodden under foot as the mire in the streets, yet, having hopes of glory, we are not ashamed of these sufferings. It is in a good cause, for a good Master, and in good hope; and therefore we are not ashamed. We will never think ourselves disparaged by sufferings that are likely to end so well. Because the love of God is shed abroad. This hope will not disappoint us, because it is sealed with the Holy Spirit as a Spirit of love. It is the gracious work of the blessed Spirit to shed abroad the love of God in the hearts of all the saints. The love of God, that is, the sense of God’s love to us, drawing out love in us to him again. Or, The great effects of his love: (1.) Special grace; and, (2.) The pleasant gust or sense of it. It is shed abroad, as sweet ointment, perfuming the soul, as rain watering it and making it fruitful. The ground of all our comfort and holiness, and perseverance in both, is laid in the shedding abroad of the love of God in our hearts; it is this which constrains us, 2Co 5:14. Thus are we drawn and held by the bonds of love. Sense of God’s love to us will make us not ashamed, either of our hope in him or our sufferings for him.
The apostle here describes the fountain and foundation of justification, laid in the death of the Lord Jesus. The streams are very sweet, but, if you run them up to the spring-head, you will find it to be Christ’s dying for us; it is in the precious stream of Christ’s blood that all these privileges come flowing to us: and therefore he enlarges upon this instance of the love of God which is shed abroad. Three things he takes notice of for the explication and illustration of this doctrine: – 1. The persons he died for, Rom 5:6-8. 2. The precious fruits of his death, Rom 5:9-11. 3. The parallel he runs between the communication of sin and death by the first Adam and of righteousness and life by the second Adam, Rom 5:12, to the end.
I. The character we were under when Christ died for us.
1. We were without strength (Rom 5:6), in a sad condition; and, which is worse, altogether unable to help ourselves out of that condition – lost, and no visible way open for our recovery – our condition deplorable, and in a manner desperate; and, therefore our salvation is here said to come in due time. God’s time to help and save is when those that are to be saved are without strength, that his own power and grace may be the more magnified, Deu 32:36. It is the manner of God to help at a dead lift,
2. He died for the ungodly; not only helpless creatures, and therefore likely to perish, but guilty sinful creatures, and therefore deserving to perish; not only mean and worthless, but vile and obnoxious, unworthy of such favour with the holy God. Being ungodly, they had need of one to die for them, to satisfy for guilt, and to bring in a righteousness. This he illustrates (Rom 5:7, Rom 5:8) as an unparalleled instance of love; herein God’s thoughts and ways were above ours. Compare Joh 15:13, Joh 15:14, Greater love has no man. (1.) One would hardly die for a righteous man, that is, an innocent man, one that is unjustly condemned; every body will pity such a one, but few will put such a value upon his life as either to hazard, or much less to deposit, their own in his stead. (2.) It may be, one might perhaps be persuaded to die for a good man, that is, a useful man, who is more than barely a righteous man. Many that are good themselves yet do but little good to others; but those that are useful commonly get themselves well beloved, and meet with some that in a case of necessity would venture to be their antipsuchoi – would engage life for life, would be their bail, body for body. Paul was, in this sense, a very good man, one that was very useful, and he met with some that for his life laid down their own necks, Rom 16:4. And yet observe how he qualifies this: it is but some that would do so, and it is a daring act if they do it, it must be some bold venturing soul; and, after all, it is but a peradventure. (3.) But Christ died for sinners (Rom 5:8), neither righteous nor good; not only such as were useless, but such as were guilty and obnoxious; not only such as there would be no loss of should they perish, but such whose destruction would greatly redound to the glory of God’s justice, being malefactors and criminals that ought to die. Some think he alludes to a common distinction the Jews had of their people into tsaddim – righteous, chesedim – merciful (compare Isa 57:1), and rashim – wicked. Now herein God commended his love, not only proved or evidenced his love (he might have done that at a cheaper rate), but magnified it and made it illustrious. This circumstance did greatly magnify and advance his love, not only put it past dispute, but rendered it the object of the greatest wonder and admiration: “Now my creatures shall see that I love them, I will give them such an instance of it as shall be without parallel.” Commendeth his love, as merchants commend their goods when they would put them off. This commending of his love was in order to the shedding abroad of his love in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. He evinces his love in the most winning, affecting, endearing way imaginable. While we were yet sinners, implying that we were not to be always sinners, there should be a change wrought; for he died to save us, not in our sins, but from our sins; but we were yet sinners when he died for us. (4.) Nay, which is more, we were enemies (Rom 5:10), not only malefactors, but traitors and rebels, in arms against the government; the worst kind of malefactors and of all malefactors the most obnoxious. The carnal mind is not only an enemy to God, but enmity itself, Rom 8:7; Col 1:21. This enmity is a mutual enmity, God loathing the sinner, and the sinner loathing God, Zec 11:8. And that for such as these Christ should die is such a mystery, such a paradox, such an unprecedented instance of love, that it may well be our business to eternity to adore and wonder at it. This is a commendation of love indeed. Justly might he who had thus loved us make it one of the laws of his kingdom that we should love our enemies.
II. The precious fruits of his death.
1. Justification and reconciliation are the first and primary fruit of the death of Christ: We are justified by his blood (Rom 5:9), reconciled by his death, Rom 5:10. Sin is pardoned, the sinner accepted as righteous, the quarrel taken up, the enmity slain, an end made of iniquity, and an everlasting righteousness brought in. This is done, that is, Christ has done all that was requisite on his part to be done in order hereunto, and, immediately upon our believing, we are actually put into a state of justification and reconciliation. Justified by his blood. Our justification is ascribed to the blood of Christ because without blood there is no remission Heb 9:22. The blood is the life, and that must go to make atonement. In all the propitiatory sacrifices, the sprinkling of the blood was of the essence of the sacrifice. It was the blood that made an atonement for the soul, Lev 17:11.
2. Hence results salvation from wrath: Saved from wrath (Rom 5:9), saved by his life, Rom 5:10 When that which hinders our salvation is taken away, the salvation must needs follow. Nay, the argument holds very strongly; if God justified and reconciled us when we were enemies, and put himself to so much charge to do it, much more will he save us when we are justified and reconciled. He that has done the greater, which is of enemies to make us friends, will certainly the less, which is when we are friends to use us friendly and to be kind to us. And therefore the apostle, once and again, speaks of it with a much more. He that hath digged so deep to lay the foundation will no doubt build upon that foundation. – We shall be saved from wrath, from hell and damnation. It is the wrath of God that is the fire of hell; the wrath to come, so it is called, 1Th 1:10. The final justification and absolution of believers at the great day, together with the fitting and preparing of them for it, are the salvation from wrath here spoken of; it is the perfecting of the work of grace. – Reconciled by his death, saved by his life. His life here spoken of is not to be understood of his life in the flesh, but his life in heaven, that life which ensued after his death. Compare Rom 14:9. He was dead, and is alive, Rev 1:18. We are reconciled by Christ humbled, we are saved by Christ exalted. The dying Jesus laid the foundation, in satisfying for sin, and slaying the enmity, and so making us salvable; thus is the partition-wall broken down, atonement made, and the attainder reversed; but it is the living Jesus that perfects the work: he lives to make intercession, Heb 7:25. It is Christ, in his exaltation, that by his word and Spirit effectually calls, and changes, and reconciles us to God, is our Advocate with the Father, and so completes and consummates our salvation. Compare Rom 4:25 and Rom 8:34. Christ dying was the testator, who bequeathed us the legacy; but Christ living is the executor, who pays it. Now the arguing is very strong. He that puts himself to the charge of purchasing our salvation will not decline the trouble of applying it.
3. All this produces, as a further privilege, our joy in God, Rom 5:11. God is now so far from being a terror to us that he is our joy, and our hope in the day of evil, Jer 17:17. We are reconciled and saved from wrath. Iniquity, blessed be God, shall not be our ruin. And not only so, there is more in it yet, a constant stream of favours; we not only go to heaven, but go to heaven triumphantly; not only get into the harbour, but come in with full sail: We joy in God, not only saved from his wrath, but solacing ourselves in his love, and this through Jesus Christ, who is the Alpha and the Omega, the foundation-stone and the top-stone of all our comforts and hopes – not only our salvation, but our strength and our song; and all this (which he repeats as a string he loved to be harping upon) by virtue of the atonement, for by him we Christians, we believers, have now, now in gospel times, or now in this life, received the atonement, which was typified by the sacrifices under thee law, and is an earnest of our happiness in heaven. True believers do by Jesus Christ receive the atonement. Receiving the atonement is our actual reconciliation to God in justification, grounded upon Christ’s satisfaction. To receive the atonement is, (1.) To give our consent to the atonement, approving of, and agreeing to, those methods which Infinite Wisdom has taken of saving a guilty world by the blood of a crucified Jesus, being willing and glad to be saved in a gospel way and upon gospel terms. (2.) To take the comfort of the atonement, which is the fountain and the foundation of our joy in God. Now we joy in God, now we do indeed receive the atonement, Kauchōmenoi – glorying in it. God hath received the atonement (Mat 3:17; Mat 17:5; Mat 28:2): if we but receive it, the work is done.
III. The parallel that the apostle runs between the communication of sin and death by the first Adam and of righteousness and life by the second Adam (Rom 5:12, to the end), which not only illustrates the truth he is discoursing of, but tends very much to the commending of the love of God and the comforting of the hearts of true believers, in showing a correspondence between our fall and our recovery, and not only a like, but a much greater power in the second Adam to make us happy, than there was in the first to make us miserable. Now, for the opening of this, observe,
1. A general truth laid down as the foundation of his discourse – that Adam was a type of Christ (Rom 5:14): Who is the figure of him that was to come. Christ is therefore called the last Adam, 1Co 15:45. Compare 1Co 15:22. In this Adam was a type of Christ, that in the covenant-transactions that were between God and him, and in the consequent events of those transactions, Adam was a public person. God dealt with Adam and Adam acted as such a one, as a common father and factor, root and representative, of and for all his posterity; so that what he did in that station, as agent for us, we may be said to have done in him, and what was done to him may be said to have been done to us in him. Thus Jesus Christ, the Mediator, acted as a public person, the head of all the elect, dealt with God for them, as their father, factor, root, and representative – died for them, rose for them, entered within the veil for them, did all for them. When Adam failed, we failed with him; when Christ performed, he performed for us. Thus was Adam tupos tou mellontos – the figure of him that was to come, to come to repair that breach which Adam had made.
2. A more particular explication of the parallel, in which observe,
(1.) How Adam, as a public person, communicated sin and death to all his posterity (Rom 5:12): By one man sin entered. We see the world under a deluge of sin and death, full of iniquities and full of calamities. Now, it is worth while to enquire what is the spring that feeds it, and you will find it to be the general corruption of nature; and at what gap it entered, and you will find it to have been Adam’s first sin. It was by one man, and he the first man (for if any had been before him they would have been free), that one man from whom, as from the root, we all spring. [1.] By him sin entered. When God pronounced all very good (Gen 1:31) there was no sin in the world; it was when Adam ate forbidden fruit that sin made its entry. Sin had before entered into the world of angels, when many of them revolted from their allegiance and left their first estate; but it never entered into the world of mankind till Adam sinned. Then it entered as an enemy, to kill and destroy, as a thief, to rob and despoil; and a dismal entry it was. Then entered the guilt of Adam’s sin imputed to posterity, and a general corruption and depravedness of nature. Eph’ hō – for that (so we read it), rather in whom, all have sinned. Sin entered into the world by Adam, for in him we all sinned. As, 1Co 15:22, in Adam all die; so here, in him all have sinned; for it is agreeable to the law of all nations that the acts of a public person be accounted theirs whom they represent; and what a whole body does every member of the same body may be said to do. Now Adam acted thus as a public person, by the sovereign ordination and appointment of God, and yet that founded upon a natural necessity; for God, as the author of nature, had made this the law of nature, that man should beget in his own likeness, and so the other creatures. In Adam therefore, as in a common receptacle, the whole nature of man was reposited, from him to flow down in a channel to his posterity; for all mankind are made of one blood (Act 17:26), so that according as this nature proves through his standing or falling, before he puts it out of his hands, accordingly it is propagated from him. Adam therefore sinning and falling, the nature became guilty and corrupt, and is so derived. Thus in him all have sinned. [2.] Death by sin, for death is the wages of sin. Sin, when it is finished, brings forth death. When sin came, of course death came with it. Death is here put for all that misery which is the due desert of sin, temporal, spiritual, eternal death. If Adam had not sinned, he had not died; the threatening was, In the day thou eatest thou shall surely die, Gen 2:17. [3.] So death passed, that is, a sentence of death was passed, as upon a criminal, diēlthen – passed through all men, as an infectious disease passes through a town, so that none escape it. It is the universal fate, without exception: death passes upon all. There are common calamities incident to human life which do abundantly prove this. Death reigned, Rom 5:14. He speaks of death as a mighty prince, and his monarchy the most absolute, universal, and lasting monarchy. None are exempted from its sceptre; it is a monarchy that will survive all other earthly rule, authority, and power, for it is the last enemy, 1Co 15:26. Those sons of Belial that will be subject to no other rule cannot avoid being subject to this. Now all this we may thank Adam for; from him sin and death descend. Well may we say, as that good man, observing the change that a fit of sickness had made in his countenance, O Adam! what hast thou done?
Further, to clear this, he shows that sin did not commence with the law of Moses, but was in the world until, or before, that law; therefore that law of Moses is not the only rule of life, for there was a rule, and that rule was transgressed, before the law was given. It likewise intimates that we cannot be justified by our obedience to the law of Moses, any more than we were condemned by and for our disobedience to it. Sin was in the world before the law; witness Cain’s murder, the apostasy of the old world, the wickedness of Sodom. His inference hence is, Therefore there was a law; for sin is not imputed where there is no law. Original sin is a want of conformity to, and actual sin is a transgression of, the law of God: therefore all were under some law. His proof of it is, Death reigned from Adam to Moses, Rom 5:14. It is certain that death could not have reigned if sin had not set up the throne for him. This proves that sin was in the world before the law, and original sin, for death reigned over those that had not sinned any actual sin, that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, never sinned in their own persons as Adam did – which is to be understood of infants, that were never guilty of actual sin, and yet died, because Adam’s sin was imputed to them. This reign of death seems especially to refer to those violent and extraordinary judgments which were long before Moses, as the deluge and the destruction of Sodom, which involved infants. It is a great proof of original sin that little children, who were never guilty of any actual transgression, are yet liable to very terrible diseases, casualties, and deaths, which could by no means be reconciled with the justice and righteousness of God if they were not chargeable with guilt.
(2.) How, in correspondence to this, Christ, as a public person, communicates righteousness and life to all true believers, who are his spiritual seed. And in this he shows not only wherein the resemblance holds, but, ex abundanti, wherein the communication of grace and love by Christ goes beyond the communication of guilt and wrath by Adam. Observe,
[1.] Wherein the resemblance holds. This is laid down most fully, Rom 5:18, Rom 5:19.
First, By the offence and disobedience of one many were made sinners, and judgment came upon all men to condemnation.
Here observe, 1. That Adam’s sin was disobedience, disobedience to a plain and express command: and it was a command of trial. The thing he did was therefore evil because it was forbidden, and not otherwise; but this opened the door to other sins, though itself seemingly small. 2. That the malignity and poison of sin are very strong and spreading, else the guilt of Adam’s sin would not have reached so far, nor have been so deep and long a stream. Who would think there should be so much evil in sin? 3. That by Adam’s sin many are made sinners: many, that is, all his posterity; said to be many, in opposition to the one that offended, Made sinners, katestathēsan. It denotes the making of us such by a judicial act: we were cast as sinners by due course of law. 4. That judgment is come to condemnation upon all those that by Adam’s disobedience were made sinners. Being convicted, we are condemned. All the race of mankind lie under a sentence, like an attainder upon a family. There is judgment given and recorded against us in the court of heaven; and, if the judgment be not reversed, we are likely to sink under it to eternity.
In like manner, by the righteousness and obedience of one (and that one is Jesus Christ, the second Adam), are many made righteous, and so the free gift comes upon all. It is observable how the apostle inculcates this truth, and repeats it again and again, as a truth of very great consequence. Here observe, 1. The nature of Christ’s righteousness, how it is brought in; it is by his obedience. The disobedience of the first Adam ruined us, the obedience of the second Adam saves us, – his obedience to the law of mediation, which was that he should fulfil all righteousness, and then make his soul an offering for sin. By his obedience to this law he wrought out a righteousness for us, satisfied God’s justice, and so made way for us into his favour. 2. The fruit of it. (1.) There is a free gift come upon all men, that is, it is made and offered promiscuously to all. The salvation wrought is a common salvation; the proposals are general, the tender free; whoever will may come, and take of these waters of life. This free gift is to all believers, upon their believing, unto justification of life. It is not only a justification that frees from death, but that entitles to life. (2.) Many shall be made righteous – many compared with one, or as many as belong to the election of grace, which, though but a few as they are scattered up and down in the world, yet will be a great many when they come all together. Katastathēsontai – they shall be constituted righteous, as by letters patent. Now the antithesis between these two, our ruin by Adam and our recovery by Christ, is obvious enough.
[2.] Wherein the communication of grace and love by Christ goes beyond the communication of guilt and wrath by Adam; and this he shows, Rom 5:15-17. It is designed for the magnifying of the riches of Christ’s love, and for the comfort and encouragement of believers, who, considering what a wound Adam’s sin has made, might begin to despair of a proportionable remedy. His expressions are a little intricate, but this he seems to intend: – First, If guilt and wrath be communicated, much more shall grace and love; for it is agreeable to the idea we have of the divine goodness to suppose that he should be more ready to save upon an imputed righteousness than to condemn upon an imputed guilt: Much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace. God’s goodness is, of all his attributes, in a special manner his glory, and it is that grace that is the root (his favour to us in Christ), and the gift is by grace. We know that God is rather inclined to show mercy; punishing is his strange work. Secondly, If there was so much power and efficacy, as it seems there was, in the sin of a man, who was of the earth, earthy, to condemn us, much more are there power and efficacy in the righteousness and grace of Christ, who is the Lord from heaven, to justify and save us. The one man that saves us is Jesus Christ. Surely Adam could not propagate so strong a poison but Jesus Christ could propagate as strong an antidote, and much stronger. 3. It is but the guilt of one single offence of Adam’s that is laid to our charge: The judgment was ex henos eis katakrima, by one, that is, by one offence, Rom 5:16, Rom 5:17. Margin. But from Jesus Christ we receive and derive an abundance of grace, and of the gift of righteousness. The stream of grace and righteousness is deeper and broader than the stream of guilt; for this righteousness does not only take away the guilt of that one offence, but of many other offences, even of all. God in Christ forgives all trespasses, Col 2:13. 4. By Adam’s sin death reigned; but by Christ’s righteousness there is not only a period put to the reign of death, but believers are preferred to reign of life, Rom 5:17. In and by the righteousness of Christ we have not only a charter of pardon, but a patent of honour, are not only freed from our chains, but, like Joseph, advanced to the second chariot, and made unto our God kings and priests – not only pardoned, but preferred. See this observed, Rev 1:5, Rev 1:6; Rev 5:9, Rev 5:10. We are by Christ and his righteousness entitled to, and instated in, more and greater privileges than we lost by the offence of Adam. The plaster is wider than the wound, and more healing than the wound is killing.
IV. In the last two verses the apostle seems to anticipate an objection which is expressed, Gal 3:19, Wherefore then serveth the law? Answer, 1. The law entered that the offence might abound. Not to make sin to abound the more in itself, otherwise than as sin takes occasion by the commandment, but to discover the abounding sinfulness of it. The glass discovers the spots, but does not cause them. When the commandment came into the world sin revived, as the letting of a clearer light into a room discovers the dust and filth which were there before, but were not seen. It was like the searching of a wound, which is necessary to to the cure. The offence, paraptōma – that offence, the sin of Adam, the extending of the guilt of it to us, and the effect of the corruption in us, are the abounding of that offence which appeared upon the entry of the law. 2. That grace might much more abound – that the terrors of the law might make gospel-comforts so much the sweeter. Sin abounded among the Jews; and, to those of them that were converted to the faith of Christ, did not grace much more abound in the remitting of so much guilt and the subduing of so much corruption? The greater the strength of the enemy, the greater the honour of the conqueror. This abounding of grace he illustrates, Rom 5:21. As the reign of a tyrant and oppressor is a foil to set off the succeeding reign of a just and gentle prince and to make it the more illustrious, so doth the reign of sin set off the reign of grace. Sin reigned unto death; it was a cruel bloody reign. But grace reigns to life, eternal life, and this through righteousness, righteousness imputed to us for justification, implanted in us for sanctification; and both by Jesus Christ our Lord, through the power and efficacy of Christ, the great prophet, priest, and king, of his church.
The apostle’s transition, which joins this discourse with the former, is observable: “What shall we say then? Rom 6:1. What use shall we make of this sweet and comfortable doctrine? Shall we do evil that good may come, as some say we do? Rom 3:8. Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Shall we hence take encouragement to sin with so much the more boldness, because the more sin we commit the more will the grace of God be magnified in our pardon? Is this a use to be made of it?” No, it is an abuse, and the apostle startles at the thought of it (Rom 6:2): “God forbid; far be it from us to think such a thought.” He entertains the objection as Christ did the devil’s blackest temptation (Mat 4:10): Get thee hence, Satan. Those opinions that give any countenance to sin, or open a door to practical immoralities, how specious and plausible soever they be rendered, by the pretension of advancing free grace, are to be rejected with the greatest abhorrence; for the truth as it is in Jesus is a truth according to godliness, Tit 1:1. The apostle is very full in pressing the necessity of holiness in this chapter, which may be reduced to two heads: – His exhortations to holiness, which show the nature of it; and his motives or arguments to enforce those exhortations, which show the necessity of it.
I. For the first, we may hence observe the nature of sanctification, what it is, and wherein it consists. In general it has two things in it, mortification and vivification – dying to sin and living to righteousness, elsewhere expressed by putting off the old man and putting on the new, ceasing to do evil and learning to do well.
1. Mortification, putting off the old man; several ways this is expressed. (1.) We must live no longer in sin (Rom 6:2), we must not be as we have been nor do as we have done. The time past of our life must suffice, 1Pe 4:3. Though there are none that live without sin, yet, blessed be God, there are those that do not live in sin, do not live in it as their element, do not make a trade of it: this is to be sanctified. (2.) The body of sin must be destroyed, Rom 6:6. The corruption that dwelleth in us is the body of sin, consisting of many parts and members, as a body. This is the root to which the axe must be laid. We must not only cease from the acts of sin (this may be done through the influence of outward restraints, or other inducements), but we must get the vicious habits and inclinations weakened and destroyed; not only cast away the idols of iniquity out of the heart. – That henceforth we should not serve sin. The actual transgression is certainly in a great measure prevented by the crucifying and killing of the original corruption. Destroy the body of sin, and then, though there should be Canaanites remaining in the land, yet the Israelites will not be slaves to them. It is the body of sin that sways the sceptre, wields the iron rod; destroy this, and the yoke is broken. The destruction of Eglon the tyrant is the deliverance of oppressed Israel from the Moabites. (3.) We must be dead indeed unto sin, Rom 6:11. As the death of the oppressor is a release, so much more is the death of the oppressed, Job 3:17, Job 3:18. Death brings a writ of ease to the weary. Thus must we be dead to sin, obey it, observe it, regard it, fulfil its will no more than he that is dead doth his quandam task-masters – be as indifference to the pleasures and delights of sin as a man that is dying is to his former diversions. He that is dead is separated from his former company, converse, business, enjoyments, employments, is not what he was, does not what he did, has not what he had. Death makes a mighty change; such a change doth sanctification make in the soul, it cuts off all correspondence with sin. (4.) Sin must not reign in our mortal bodies that we should obey it, Rom 6:12. Though sin may remain as an outlaw, though it may oppress as a tyrant, yet let it not reign as a king. Let it not make laws, nor preside in councils, nor command the militia; let it not be uppermost in the soul, so that we should obey it. Though we may be sometimes overtaken and overcome by it, yet let us never be obedient to it in the lusts thereof; let not sinful lusts be a law to you, to which you would yield a consenting obedience. In the lusts thereof – en tais epithumiais autou. It refers to the body, not to sin. Sin lies very much in the gratifying of the body, and humouring that. And there is a reason implied in the phrase your mortal body; because it is a mortal body, and hastening apace to the dust, therefore let not sin reign in it. It was sin that made our bodies mortal, and therefore do not yield obedience to such an enemy. (5.) We must not yield our members as instruments of unrighteousness, Rom 6:13. The members of the body are made use of by the corrupt nature as tools, by which the wills of the flesh are fulfilled; but we must not consent to that abuse. The members of the body are fearfully and wonderfully made; it is a pity they should be the devil’s tools of unrighteousness unto sin, instruments of the sinful actions, according to the sinful dispositions. Unrighteousness is unto sin; the sinful acts confirm and strengthen the sinful habits; one sin begets another; it is like the letting forth of water, therefore leave it before it be meddled with. The members of the body may perhaps, through the prevalency of temptation, be forced to be instruments of sin; but do not yield them to be so, do not consent to it. This is one branch of sanctification, the mortification of sin.
2. Vivification, or living to righteousness; and what is that? (1.) It is to walk in newness of life, Rom 6:4. Newness of life supposes newness of heart, for out of the heart are the issues of life, and there is not way to make the stream sweet but by making the spring so. Walking, in scripture, is put for the course and tenour of the conversation, which must be new. Walk by new rules, towards new ends, from new principles. Make a new choice of the way. Choose new paths to walk in, new leaders to walk after, new companions to walk with. Old things should pass away, and all things become new. The man is what he was not, does what he did not. (2.) It is to be alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord, Rom 6:11. To converse with God, to have a regard to him, a delight in him, a concern for him, the soul upon all occasions carried out towards him as towards an agreeable object, in which it takes a complacency: this is to be alive to God. The love of God reigning in the heart is the life of the soul towards God. Anima est ubi amat, non ubi animat – The soul is where it loves, rather than where it lives. It is to have the affections and desires alive towards God. Or, living (our live in the flesh) unto God, to his honour and glory as our end, by his word and will as our rule – in all our ways to acknowledge him, and to have our eyes ever towards him; this is to live unto God. – Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Christ is our spiritual life; there is no living to God but through him. He is the Mediator; there can be no comfortable receivings from God, nor acceptable regards to God, but in and through Jesus Christ; no intercourse between sinful souls and a holy God, but by the mediation of the Lord Jesus. Through Christ as the author and maintainer of this life; through Christ as the head from whom we receive vital influence; through Christ as the root by which we derive sap and nourishment, and so live. In living to God, Christ is all in all. (3.) It is to yield ourselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead, Rom 6:13. The very life and being of holiness lie in the dedication of ourselves to the Lord, giving our own selves to the Lord, 2Co 8:5. “Yield yourselves to him, not only as the conquered yields to the conqueror, because he can stand it out no longer; but as the wife yields herself to her husband, to whom her desire is, as the scholar yields himself to the teacher, the apprentice to his master, to be taught and ruled by him. Not yield your estates to him, but yield yourselves; nothing less than your whole selves;” parastēsate eautous – accommodate vos ipsos Deo – accommodate yourselves to God; so Tremellius, from the Syriac. “Not only submit to him, but comply with him; not only present yourselves to him once for all, but be always ready to serve him. Yield yourselves to him as wax to the seal, to take any impression, to be, and have, and do, what he pleases.” When Paul said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? (Act 9:6) he was then yielded to God. As those that are alive from the dead. To yield a dead carcase to a living God is not to please him, but to mock him: “Yield yourselves as those that are alive and good for something, a living sacrifice,” Rom 12:1. The surest evidence of our spiritual life is the dedication of ourselves to God. It becomes those that are alive from the dead (it may be understood of a death in law), that are justified and delivered from death, to give themselves to him that hath so redeemed them. (4.) It is to yield our members as instruments of righteousness to God. The members of our bodies, when withdrawn from the service of sin, are not to lie idle, but to be made use of in the service of God. When the strong man armed is dispossessed, let him whose right it is divide the spoils. Though the powers and faculties of the soul be the immediate subjects of holiness and righteousness, yet the members of the body are to be instruments; the body must be always ready to serve the soul in the service of God. Thus (Rom 6:19), “Yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. Let them be under the conduct and at the command of the righteous law of God, and that principle of inherent righteousness which the Spirit, as sanctifier, plants in the soul.” Righteousness unto holiness, which intimates growth, and progress, and ground obtained. As every sinful act confirms the sinful habit, and makes the nature more and more prone to sin (hence the members of a natural man are here said to be servants to iniquity unto iniquity – one sin makes the heart more disposed for another), so every gracious act confirms the gracious habit: serving righteousness is unto holiness; one duty fits us for another; and the more we do the more we may do for God. Or serving righteousness, eis hagiasmon – as an evidence of sanctification.
II. The motives or arguments here used to show the necessity of sanctification. There is such an antipathy in our hearts by nature to holiness that it is no easy matter to bring them to submit to it: it is the Spirit’s work, who persuades by such inducements as these set home upon the soul.
1. He argues from our sacramental conformity to Jesus Christ. Our baptism, with the design and intention of it, carried in it a great reason why we should die to sin, and live to righteousness. Thus we must improve our baptism as a bridle of restraint to keep us in from sin, as a spur of constraint to quicken us to duty. Observe this reasoning.
(1.) In general, we are dead to sin, that is, in profession and in obligation. Our baptism signifies our cutting off from the kingdom of sin. We profess to have no more to do with sin. We are dead to sin by a participation of virtue and power for the killing of it, and by our union with Christ and interest in him, in and by whom it is killed. All this is in vain if we persist in sin; we contradict a profession, violate an obligation, return to that to which we were dead, like walking ghosts, than which nothing is more unbecoming and absurd. For (Rom 6:7) he that is dead is freed from sin; that is, he that is dead to it is freed from the rule and dominion of it, as the servant that is dead is freed from his master, Job 3:19. Now shall we be such fools as to return to that slavery from which we are discharged? When we are delivered out of Egypt, shall we talk of going back to it again?
(2.) In particular, being baptized into Jesus Christ, we were baptized into his death, Rom 6:3. We were baptized eis Christon – unto Christ, as 1Co 10:2, eis Mōsēn – unto Moses. Baptism binds us to Christ, it binds us apprentice to Christ as our teacher, it is our allegiance to Christ as our sovereign. Baptism is externa ansa Christi – the external handle of Christ, by which Christ lays hold on men, and men offer themselves to Christ. Particularly, we were baptized into his death, into a participation of the privileges purchased by his death, and into an obligation both to comply with the design of his death, which was to redeem us from all iniquity, and to conform to the pattern of his death, that, as Christ died for sin, so we should die to sin. This was the profession and promise of our baptism, and we do not do well if we do not answer this profession, and make good this promise.
[1.] Our conformity to the death of Christ obliges us to die unto sin; thereby we know the fellowship of his sufferings, Phi 3:10. Thus we are here said to be planted together in the likeness of is death (Rom 6:5), tō homoiōmati, not only a conformity, but a conformation, as the engrafted stock is planted together into the likeness of the shoot, of the nature of which it doth participate. Planting is in order to life and fruitfulness: we are planted in the vineyard in a likeness to Christ, which likeness we should evidence in sanctification. Our creed concerning Jesus Christ is, among other things, that he was crucified, dead, and buried; now baptism is a sacramental conformity to him in each of these, as the apostle here takes notice. First, Our old man is crucified with him, Rom 6:6. The death of the cross was a slow death; the body, after it was nailed to the cross, gave many a throe and many a struggle: but it was a sure death, long in expiring, but expired at last; such is the mortification of sin in believers. It was a cursed death, Gal 3:13. Sin dies as a malefactor, devoted to destruction; it is an accursed thing. Though it be a slow death, yet this must needs hasten it that it is an old man that is crucified; not in the prime of its strength, but decaying: that which waxeth old is ready to vanish away, Heb 8:13. Crucified with him – sunestaurōthē, not in respect of time, but in respect of causality. The crucifying of Christ for us has an influence upon the crucifying of sin in us. Secondly, We are dead with Christ, Rom 6:8. Christ was obedient to death: when he died, we might be said to die with him, as our dying to sin is an act of conformity both to the design and to the example of Christ’s dying for sin. Baptism signifies and seals our union with Christ, our engrafting into Christ; so that we are dead with him, and engaged to have no more to do with sin than he had. Thirdly, We are buried with him by baptism, Rom 6:4. Our conformity is complete. We are in profession quite cut off from all commerce and communion with sin, as those that are buried are quite cut off from all the world; not only not of the living, but no more among the living, have nothing more to do with them. Thus must we be, as Christ was, separate from sin and sinners. We are buried, namely, in profession and obligation: we profess to be so, and we are bound to be so: it was our covenant and engagement in baptism; we are sealed to be the Lord’s, therefore to be cut off from sin. Why this burying in baptism should so much as allude to any custom of dipping under water in baptism, any more than our baptismal crucifixion and death should have any such references, I confess I cannot see. It is plain that it is not the sign, but the thing signified, in baptism, that the apostle here calls being buried with Christ, and the expression of burying alludes to Christ’s burial. As Christ was buried, that he might rise again to a new and more heavenly life, so we are in baptism buried, that is, cut off from the life of sin, that we may rise again to a new life of faith and love.
[2.] Our conformity to the resurrection of Christ obliges us to rise again to newness of life. This is the power of his resurrection which Paul was so desirous to know, Phi 3:10. Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, that is, by the power of the Father. The power of God is his glory; it is glorious power, Col 1:11. Now in baptism we are obliged to conform to that pattern, to be planted in the likeness of his resurrection (Rom 6:5), to live with him, Rom 6:8. See Col 2:12. Conversion is the first resurrection from the death of sin to the life of righteousness; and this resurrection is conformable to Christ’s resurrection. This conformity of the saints to the resurrection of Christ seems to be intimated in the rising of so many of the bodies of the saints, which, though mentioned before by anticipation, is supposed to have been concomitant with Christ’s resurrection, Mat 27:52. We have all risen with Christ. In two things we must conform to the resurrection of Christ: – First, He rose to die no more, Rom 6:9. We read of many others that were raised from the dead, but they rose to die again. But, when Christ rose, he rose to die no more; therefore he left his grave-clothes behind him, whereas Lazarus, who was to die again, brought them out with him, as one that should have occasion to use them again: but over Christ death has no more dominion; he was dead indeed, but he is alive, and so alive that he lives for evermore, Rev 1:18. Thus we must rise from the grave of sin never again to return to it, nor to have any more fellowship with the works of darkness, having quitted that grave, that land of darkness as darkness itself. Secondly, He rose to live unto God (Rom 6:10), to live a heavenly life, to receive that glory which was set before him. Others that were raised from the dead returned to the same life in every respect which they had before lived; but so did not Christ: he rose again to leave the world. Now I am no more in the world, Joh 13:1; Joh 17:11. He rose to live to God, that is, to intercede and rule, and all to the glory of the Father. Thus must we rise to live to God: this is what he calls newness of life (Rom 6:4), to live from other principles, by other rules, with other aims, than we have done. A life devoted to God is a new life; before, self was the chief and highest end, but now God. To live indeed is to live to God, with our eyes ever towards him, making him the centre of all our actions.
2. He argues from the precious promises and privileges of the new covenant, Rom 6:14. It might be objected that we cannot conquer and subdue sin, it is unavoidably too hard for us: “No,” says he, “you wrestle with an enemy that may be dealt with and subdued, if you will but keep your ground and stand to your arms; it is an enemy that is already foiled and baffled; there is strength laid up in the covenant of grace for your assistance, if you will but use it. Sin shall not have dominion.” God’s promises to us are more powerful and effectual for the mortifying of sin than our promises to God. Sin may struggle in a believer, and may create him a great deal of trouble, but it shall not have dominion; it may vex him, but shall not rule over him. For we are not under the law, but under grace, not under the law of sin and death, but under the law of the spirit of life, which is in Christ Jesus: we are actuated by other principles than we have been: new lords, new laws. Or, not under the covenant of works, which requires brick, and gives no straw, which condemns upon the least failure, which runs thus, “Do this, and live; do it not, and die;” but under the covenant of grace, which accepts sincerity as our gospel perfection, which requires nothing but what it promises strength to perform, which is herein well ordered, that every transgression in the covenant does not put us out of covenant, and especially that it does not leave our salvation in our own keeping, but lays it up in the hands of the Mediator, who undertakes for us that sin shall not have dominion over us, who hath himself condemned it, and will destroy it; so that, if we pursue the victory, we shall come off more than conquerors. Christ rules by the golden sceptre of grace, and he will not let sin have dominion over those that are willing subjects to that rule. This is a very comfortable word to all true believers. If we were under the law, we were undone, for the law curses every one that continues not in every thing; but we are under grace, grace which accepts the willing mind, which is not extreme to mark what we do amiss, which leaves room for repentance, which promises pardon upon repentance; and what can be to an ingenuous mind a stronger motive than this to have nothing to do with sin? Shall we sin against so much goodness, abuse such love? Some perhaps might suck poison out of this flower, and disingenuously use this as an encouragement to sin. See how the apostle starts at such a thought (Rom 6:15): Shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. What can be more black and ill-natured than from a friend’s extraordinary expressions of kindness and good-will to take occasion to affront and offend him? To spurn at such bowels, to spit in the face of such love, is that which, between man and man, all the world would cry out shame on.
3. He argues from the evidence that this will be of our state, making for us, or against us (Rom 6:16): To whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are. All the children of men are either the servants of God, or the servants of sin; these are the two families. Now, if we would know to which of these families we belong, we must enquire to which of these masters we yield obedience. Our obeying the laws of sin will be an evidence against us that we belong to that family on which death is entailed. As, on the contrary, our obeying the laws of Christ will evidence our relation to Christ’s family.
4. He argues from their former sinfulness, Rom 6:17-21, where we may observe,
(1.) What they had been and done formerly. We have need to be often reminded of our former state. Paul frequently remembers it concerning himself, and those to whom he writes. [1.] You were the servants of sin. Those that are now the servants of God would do well to remember the time when they were the servants of sin, to keep them humble, penitent, and watchful, and to quicken them in the service of God. It is a reproach to the service of sin that so many thousands have quitted the service, and shaken off the yoke; and never any that sincerely deserted it, and gave themselves to the service of God, have returned to the former drudgery. “God be thanked that you were so, that is, that though you were so, yet you have obeyed. You were so; God be thanked that we can speak of it as a thing past: you were so, but you are not now so. Nay, your having been so formerly tends much to the magnifying of divine mercy and grace in the happy change. God be thanked that the former sinfulness is such a foil and such a spur to your present holiness.” [2.] You have yielded your members servants to uncleanness, and to iniquity unto iniquity, Rom 6:19. It is the misery of a sinful state that the body is made a drudge to sin, than which there could not be a baser or a harder slavery, like that of the prodigal that was sent into the fields to feed swine. You have yielded. Sinners are voluntary in the service of sin. The devil could not force them into the service, if they did not yield themselves to it. This will justify God in the ruin of sinners, that they sold themselves to work wickedness: it was their own act and deed. To iniquity unto iniquity. Every sinful act strengthens and confirms the sinful habit: to iniquity as the work unto iniquity as the wages. Sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind; growing worse and worse, more and more hardened. This he speaks after the manner of men, that is, he fetches a similitude from that which is common among men, even the change of services and subjections. [3.] You were free from righteousness (Rom 6:20); not free by any liberty given, but by a liberty taken, which is licentiousness: “You were altogether void of that which is good, – void of any good principles, motions, or inclinations, – void of all subjection to the law and will of God, of all conformity to his image; and this you were highly pleased with, as a freedom and a liberty; but a freedom from righteousness is the worst kind of slavery.”
(2.) How the blessed change was made, and wherein it did consist.
[1.] You have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered to you, Rom 6:17. This describes conversion, what it is; it is our conformity to, and compliance with, the gospel which was delivered to us by Christ and his ministers. – Margin. Whereto you were delivered; eis hon paredothēte – into which you were delivered. And so observe, First, The rule of grace, that form of doctrine – tupon didachēs. The gospel is the great rule both of truth and holiness; it is the stamp, grace is the impression of that stamp; it is the form of healing words, 2Ti 1:13. Secondly, The nature of grace, as it is our conformity to that rule. 1. It is to obey from the heart. The gospel is a doctrine not only to be believed, but to be obeyed, and that from the heart, which denotes the sincerity and reality of that obedience; not in profession only, but in power – from the heart, the innermost part, the commanding part of us. 2. It is to be delivered into it, as into a mould, as the wax is cast into the impression of the seal, answering it line for line, stroke for stroke, and wholly representing the shape and figure of it. To be a Christian indeed is to be transformed into the likeness and similitude of the gospel, our souls answering to it, complying with it, conformed to it – understanding, will, affections, aims, principles, actions, all according to that form of doctrine.
[2.] Being made free from sin, you became servants of righteousness (Rom 6:18), servants to God, Rom 6:22. Conversion is, First, A freedom from the service of sin; it is the shaking off of that yoke, resolving to have no more to do with it. Secondly, A resignation of ourselves to the service of God and righteousness, to God as our master, to righteousness as our work. When we are made free from sin, it is not that we may live as we list, and be our own masters; no: when we are delivered out of Egypt, we are, as Israel, led to the holy mountain, to receive the law, and are there brought into the bond of the covenant. Observe, We cannot be made the servants of God till we are freed from the power and dominion of sin; we cannot serve two masters so directly opposite one to another as God and sin are. We must, with the prodigal, quit the drudgery of the citizen of the country, before we can come to our Father’s house.
(3.) What apprehensions they now had of their former work and way. He appeals to themselves (Rom 6:21), whether they had not found the service of sin, [1.] An unfruitful service: “What fruit had you then? Did you ever get any thing by it? Sit down, and cast up the account, reckon your gains, what fruit had you then?” Besides the future losses, which are infinitely great, the very present gains of sin are not worth mentioning. What fruit? Nothing that deserves the name of fruit. The present pleasure and profit of sin do not deserve to be called fruit; they are but chaff, ploughing iniquity, sowing vanity, and reaping the same. [2.] It is an unbecoming service; it is that of which we are now ashamed – ashamed of the folly, ashamed of the filth, of it. Shame came into the world with sin, and is still the certain product of it – either the shame of repentance, or, if not that, eternal shame and contempt. Who would wilfully do that which sooner or later he is sure to be ashamed of?
5. He argues from the end of all these things. it is the prerogative of rational creatures that they are endued with a power of prospect, are capable of looking forward, considering the latter end of things. To persuade us from sin to holiness here are blessing and cursing, good and evil, life and death, set before us; and we are put to our choice. (1.) The end of sin is death (Rom 6:21): The end of those things is death. Though the way may seem pleasant and inviting, yet the end is dismal: at the last it bites; it will be bitterness in the latter end. The wages of sin is death, Rom 6:23. Death is as due to a sinner when he hath sinned as wages are to a servant when he hath done his work. This is true of every sin. There is no sin in its own nature venial. Death is the wages of the least sin. Sin is here represented either as the work for which the wages are given, or as the master by whom the wages are given; all that are sin’s servants and do sin’s work must expect to be thus paid. (2.) If the fruit be unto holiness, if there be an active principle of true and growing grace, the end will be everlasting life – a very happy end! – Though the way be up-hill, though it be narrow, and thorny, and beset, yet everlasting life at the end of it is sure. So, Rom 6:23, The gift of God is eternal life. Heaven is life, consisting in the vision and fruition of God; and it is eternal life, no infirmities attending it, no death to put a period to it. This is the gift of God. The death is the wages of sin, it comes by desert; but the life is a gift, it comes by favour. Sinners merit hell, but saints do not merit heaven. There is no proportion between the glory of heaven and our obedience; we must thank God, and not ourselves, if ever we get to heaven. And this gift is through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is Christ that purchased it, prepared it, prepares us for it, preserves us to it; he is the Alpha and Omega, All in all in our salvation.