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Dissertation of the 7th Chapter of Romans: Chapter 7 - Romans 7:17

By Jacobus Arminius


      1. He no longer himself perpetrates this evil, but it is done by sin that dwelleth in him, a second Consectary deduced.

      2. From this verse are drawn two arguments for the contrary opinion, both of which are refuted--the first argument, and a reply to it.

      3. The second argument and a reply.

      4. An argument from this verse in favour of true opinion.

      5. On the word dwelling, or inhabiting, according to its signification, and the usage of Scripture, with quotations from Zanchius, Bucer, Peter Martyr, and Musculus.

      1. From the preceding verses is deduced another consectary, by which this man transfers to sin all the blame of this matter--not to excuse himself, that be far from him, for the law has been given and written on his heart, that "his thoughts may accuse or else excuse one another, but to point out his servile condition under the dominion of sin. In this consectary, therefore, nothing can be contained which does not agree with a man who is under the law. If it were otherwise, the consectary would contain more than was to be found in the premises, which, it has been demonstrated, agree extremely well with a man who is under the law.

      2. But let us see the words of the consectary: "Now then, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me," that is, sin that dwelleth in me, does this." From these words, the opposite party seem capable of eliciting two arguments in support of the opinion which affirms that the apostle is here treating about a regenerate man and one who is placed under grace. The First of these arguments is of this kind: -- "It cannot be said of unregenerate men when they sin, that they do not commit it themselves, but that it is committed by sin which dwells in them. But this is most appropriately said about the regenerate: Therefore, the man about whom the apostle here treats, is "not an unregenerate man, but one who is regenerate." Answer. The antecedent must be examined; for, when it is either granted or denied, the consequence is also granted or denied. (1.) It is evident, that it cannot simply be affirmed concerning any man, whatever his condition may be, that he does of himself commit the sin which he commits; for this is a contradiction in the adjunct; and the apostle declares, that this man "does evil." Therefore, if this can be said with truth, the expression must be understood relatively and in a certain respect. But this relation or respect ought to be founded either in the man himself who perpetrates the offense, or in the perpetration itself. (i.) If this respect be founded in the man himself, it must be thus generally explained and enunciated--"The sin which this man commits, he does as he is such a one; and he does not as he is such a one." (ii.) If the respect be founded in the perpetration and the effecting of the sin, then it must be taken from the varied relation of causes of the same kind to the effect. But in this passage, the apostle is treating on the efficient cause of sin, which is here allowed to be two-fold--The man, and sin dwelling in him, but so as this may be said to be effected by indwelling sin, and not by the man. Wherefore, this effect must be taken from the distribution of the efficient cause, by which it is distributed into that which is primary and principal, and that which is secondary and less principal. (2.) It can by no means be said by him who is inspired with a sincere love of truth, that this two-fold respect is applicable only to a man who is regenerate and placed under grace, but that it does not at all appertain to a man placed under the law or does not in the least agree with him. For as this respect or relation is two-fold in the regenerate, On account of the imperfection of regeneration in this life, and the remains of "the old man," according to which respect it may be said concerning a regenerate man, that "as he is regenerate he does this, and as he is not regenerate he does it not or does not do it perfectly;" so, likewise, in a man under the law, the respect is two-fold on account of the coming in of the law; for he is "carnal" and "the servant of sin," and is under the law, that is, "he consents to the law that it is good," which consent is neither of the flesh nor according to the flesh, that is, it is not from depraved nature. Wherefore, it may be said concerning a man under the law, that he commits sin, not as he is under the taw, nor as he consents to the law that it is good, but as he is carnal and the servant of sin. (3.) The second respect (according to which the effect, that has simply proceeded from two concurrent causes, is taken away from one of them and ascribed to the other) seems to hold the chief place in this passage, as it does also in this saying of the apostle, "I laboured more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." (1 Cor. xv. 10.) For it is well known to be a very general practice to ascribe the effect to the principal and primary of two concurrent causes, at the same time taking away the same effect from the secondary cause; especially if by some means, either beyond nature, or against the will and by the force of the superior cause, the secondary one has been drawn forth to efficiency. Thus, an ambassador who manages the cause of his prince, is not said himself to act, but his prince, who makes use of his services. Thus, much more appropriately, if a servant, who is oppressed by a tyrannical lord, does something against his own will at the command and through the compulsion of his lord, he will not himself be said to do this, but his lord who has the dominion over him. And it is most manifest, to every one who will look upon these words of the apostle with unjaundiced eyes, that they convey this meaning; as is apparent from the epithet which is attributed to sin, the perpetrator of this evil, and by which the dominion of sin is denoted, that is, "sin that dwelleth in me does it." (4.) It is no matter of wonder, that "he does it not, but sin does it;" for "when the law came, sin revived and he died." (Rom. vii. 9) Therefore, the cause of actions, is that which lives, and not that which is dead. It is apparent, then, that the first part of the antecedent in this argument is false, and on this account the second part is not reciprocal; therefore, the conclusion cannot be deduced from it by good consequence, which consequence concludes [that the apostle is here treating] about a regenerate man, to the exclusion of the unregenerate,

      3. The second argument is drawn from the adverbs of time, "now," and "no more," which are used in this verse; and from which a conclusion is thus drawn in favour of the same opinion: "These adverbs have respect to time antecedent; but the time antecedent is the time when the man was not regenerate. As though he had said, Formerly, when I was not yet regenerated, I committed sin; but now I no longer do this, because I am regenerated. Therefore, it is apparent that this present time, which is signified by the adverb "now," must be understood concerning the state of regeneration, since it cannot be said concerning an unregenerate man, that "though he formerly committed sin, he commits it no more." Answer.--I grant it to be a great truth, that these adverbs denote relation to time antecedent, and that in fact the passage is thus commodiously explained: Formerly indeed perpetrated evil, but now I no longer do this. But I deny that the time antecedent embraces the entire state before regenerations; for the state of unregeneracy, or that which is prior to regeneration, is distinguished by our author, the apostle himself, into another twofold state--before or without the law, and under the law, as it is expressed in the ninth verse of this very chapter. And the antecedent time, in reference to which it is said "now" and "no more," comprises the state without the law; but the present time [described by the two adverbs] comprises the state under the law. As if he had said, "Formerly, when I was without the law, I committed sin, but now, when I am under the law, I no longer commit it, but sin that dwelleth in me." This is in unison with what is said in the ninth verse: "For I was alive without the law once," or formerly; "but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died." For, while "he was alive without the law," he committed evil without any reluctance of mind or of will. Therefore, at that time, he did evil; but now, being placed under the law, he undoubtedly commits sin, but he does it against his conscience and not without resistance on the part of his will. Wherefore, the cause and culpability of sin must be ascribed, not so much to the man himself, as to the violent impulse of sin.

      4. Thus far we have perceived, that this verse contains nothing which can afford support to the opposite opinion. Let us further see whether an argument may not be elicited from it, for establishing the truth of the other opinion, which declares that it must be understood concerning an unregenerate man, and one who is placed under the law: The apostle says that "sin dwelleth in this man." But sin does not dwell in those who are regenerate. Therefore, the apostle is not, in this passage, treating about the regenerate or those who are placed under grace, but about the unregenerate and those who are under the law. One of the premises of this syllogism is in the text: the other must be demonstrated by us. I am aware indeed, that this seems wonderful to those who are accustomed to the distinction of sin, by which one kind is called ruling or governing, and another receives the appellation of sin existing within us, or of indwelling and inhabiting sin, and who suppose that the former of these epithets is peculiar to the unregenerate, and the latter to the regenerate. But if any one require a proof of this distinction, those who ought to give it will evince a degree of hesitation. But is not one kind of sin ruling or reigning, and another existing within and not reigning, and is not the former peculiar to the unregenerate, and the latter to the regenerate? Who can deny, when the Scriptures affirm, that there are in us the remains of sin and of the old man as long as we survive in this mortal life? But what man, conversant with the Scriptures, shall distinguish reigning from indwelling or inhabiting sin, and will account indwelling sin to be the same as the sin existing within? Indeed, indwelling sin is reigning sin, and reigning is indwelling, and therefore sin does not dwell in the regenerate, because it does not domineer or rule in them. I prove the first part of this, both from the very signification of the word to inhabit or dwell, and from the familiar usage of the Scriptures.

      5. Concerning the signification of the word, Zanchius observes, in his treatise On the Attributes of God, "God is not said to dwell in the wicked, but he dwells in the pious. For what is it to dwell in any place? It is not simply to be there, as people are at inns and places of entertainment during journeys; but it is to reign and have the dominion at his pleasure as if in his own residence." (Lib. 2, cap. 6, quest. 3.) On Ephes. iii. 17, the same Zanchius says, "In this proposition, Christ dwells in your heart by faith, the word to dwell is undoubtedly put metaphorically; the metaphor being taken, not from those persons who, as tenants or lodgers, and as strangers or travelers, tarry for a season in the house or inn belonging to another; but it is taken from masters of families, who, in their own proper dwelling houses live at liberty, work, govern the family, and exercise dominion." Bucer observes, on the very passage which is the subject of our meditation, "He says that this destructive force or power dwells in him, that is, it entirely occupies him and has the dominion, as is the manner of those who are at their own house, in their proper dwelling and domicile. The apostle Paul, and all Scripture, frequently employ this metaphor of inhabitation or residing; and by it they usually signify the dominion and the certain presence, almost perpetually, of that which is said to inhabit." And this is one of his subsequent remarks: "When, in this manner, sin resides in us, it completely and more powerfully besieges us and exercises dominion." Peter Martyr says, on Romans viii. 9, "The metaphor of habitation, or indwelling, is taken from this circumstance--that they who inhabit a house, not only occupy it, but also govern in it and order [all things in it] at their own option." The subjoined remark is from Musculus on this passage: "And that he may evidently express this tyranny and violence of sin, he does not say, Sin exists in me,' but Sin dwells in me.' For by the word to dwell or inhabit, he shows that the dominion of sin is complete in him; and that sin has, as it were, fixed his seat, or taken up his residence, in him. Evil reigns in no place with greater power than in the place where it has fixed its seat; that is what we see in the case of tyrants. Thus, in a contrary manner, God is said to have dwelt in the midst of the children of Israel; because among no other people did he declare his goodness with such strong evidence, as he did among them, according to this expression of the Psalmist--He hath not dealt so with any nation. (cxlvii, 20) In this sense, the word to inhabit or to dwell, is very often used in the Scriptures. When, therefore, the apostle wished to declare the power and tyranny of sin in him, he said that it dwelt in him, as in its proper domicile, and thus fully reigned." Calvin, in his Institutes, says (lib. iv, cap. 6, sec. 11,) that we are circumcised in Christ, with a circumcision not made by hands, having laid aside the body of sin which dwelt in our flesh; which he calls the circumcision of Christ. (2.) What I have said, in accordance with Bucer, about the usage of Scripture, is plain from the following passages: "My Father and I will come unto him, and make our abode with him." (John xiv. 23.) "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." (Rom. viii. 11.) "For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." (2 Cor. vi. 16.) "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." (Ephes. iii. 17.) "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grand-mother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and, I am persuaded, in thee also." (2 Thess. i. 5.) "That good thing which was committed unto thee, keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us." (i, 14.) "Do ye think that the Scripture saith in vain, The Spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? (James iv. 5.) "Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness?' (2 Pet. iii. 13.) "Thou has not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you where Satan dwelleth." (Rev. ii. 13.) According to this usage, the saints are said to be "a habitation of God through the Spirit." (Ephes. ii. 22.) It is manifest, therefore, from the signification of the word and its most frequent usage in the Holy Scriptures, that indwelling sin is exactly the same as reigning sin. But it is easy now, likewise, to demonstrate the second premise in the syllogism, (p. 53,) which is, "Sin does not dwell in those who are regenerate." For [according to the passages of Scripture quoted in the preceding paragraph] the Holy Spirit dwells in them. Christ, also, dwells in their hearts by faith; and they are said to be "a habitation of God through the Spirit;" therefore, sin does not dwell in them; because no man can be inhabited by both God and sin at the same time; and when Christ has "overcome the strong man armed," he binds him hand and foot and casts him out, and thus occupies his house and dwells in it. Sin does not dwell in those who are "dead to sin," and "in whom Christ liveth." But the regenerate "do not live in sin," but are "dead to it;"(Rom. vi. 2) and in them Christ dwelleth and liveth; (Gal. ii. 20) therefore, sin does not dwell in the regenerate. Let the two subjoined passages of Scripture be compared together: "Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me:" (Rom. vii. 17) "I live; yet no more I, but Christ liveth in me." (Gal. ii. 20.) We shall be able by this comparison most fully to demonstrate, that in this verse the apostle has not been speaking about himself, but has taken upon himself to personate the character of a man who lives to sin, and in whom sin lives, dwells and operates. Yet it does not follow from this, that no sin is in the regenerate; for it has already been shown, that to be in any place, and there to dwell, to have the dominion, and to reign, are two different things.

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See Also:
   Chapter 1 - The Thesis to be Proved
   Chapter 2 - The Connection Between the 6th & 7th Chapter
   Chapter 3 - Proposition of the Apostle
   Chapter 4 - Romans 7:14
   Chapter 5 - Romans 7:15
   Chapter 6 - Romans 7:16
   Chapter 7 - Romans 7:17
   Chapter 8 - Romans 7:18, 19
   Chapter 9 - Romans 7:20
   Chapter 10 - Romans 7:21
   Chapter 11 - Romans 7:22, 23
   Chapter 12 - The Ancient Fathers
   Chapter 13 - Romans 7:24
   Chapter 14 - Romans 7:25
   Chapter 15 - Under the Law
   Chapter 16 - The Grace of God
   Chapter 17 - The Connection Between the 7th & 8th Chapters
   Chapter 18 - The Opinion Corroborated by Testimonies
   Chapter 19 - Christian Fathers Approve of our Interpretation
   Chapter 20 - The Opinion of St. Augustine
   Chapter 21 - Writers from the Middle Ages Support our Opinion
   Chapter 22 - Favorable Testimonies of Recent Divines
   Chapter 23 - This Opinion Isn't Heretical
   Chapter 24 - Our Opinion is Opposed to the Pelagian Heresy
   Chapter 25 - Ancient Church Doctors Didn't Approve the Opposite Opinion
   Chapter 26 - The Opposite Opinion is Hurtful to Grace & Good Morals
   Chapter 27 - Common Interpretation Answered


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