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Dissertation of the 7th Chapter of Romans: Chapter 14 - Romans 7:25

By Jacobus Arminius


      1. Various readings of the first clause, from the ancient fathers.

      2. In the latter clause, this man is said "to serve the law of God with his mind, but with his flesh, the law of sin."

      3. "To serve God," and "to serve the law of God," are not the same thing.

      4. The various kinds of law mentioned in this chapter, with a diagram, and the explanation of it.

      5. From this verse nothing can be obtained in confirmation of the contrary opinion.

      1. St. Chrysostom reads the former part of this verse thus: "I thank," &c., which is also the reading of Theophylact. This is the reading of St. Ambrose: "The grace of God through Jesus Christ." St. Jerome, also, against Pelagius, adopts the same reading. St. Augustine renders the clause thus: "By the grace of God through Jesus Christ." (Discourse 5. On the Words of the Apostle. Tom. 10.) Epiphanius renders it, "The grace of God through Jesus Christ." (From Methodius against Origen, Heresy 64. Lib. 2, tom. 1.) But this clause contains a thanksgiving, in which St. Paul returns thanks to God that he, in his own person, has been delivered from this body of sin, about which he had been treating, and to which that man was liable whose character he was then personating. In this, thanksgiving is contained, by implication, an answer to the preceding interrogatory exclamation; that is, "The grace of God will deliver this man from the body of this death, from which he could not be delivered by the law." This is directly and openly explained by some copies of the Greek original, in which this verse is thus read: "The grace of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ," that is, "This grace will deliver me, or the man whose character I have been personating, from the body of this death"--a thing which it was the chief purpose of the apostle to prove in this investigation.

      2. In the latter part of the same verse, is something resembling a brief recapitulation of all that had been previously spoken, in which the state of the man about whom the apostle is here treating, is briefly defined and described in the following words: "So then, with the mind, I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh, the law of sin." In the correct explanation of these phrases, lies an important key for the clear exposition and dilucidation of the whole matter; these phrases must, therefore, be subjected to a diligent examination.

      3. Those persons who interpret this passage as relating to a regenerate man and to one placed under grace, are desirous to intimate, by these phrases, that St. Paul, so far as he was regenerate, "served God," but that so far as he was unregenerate, and still partly carnal, "he served sin." They also take "the mind" in the acceptation of the regenerated portion of man, and "the flesh" for that portion of him which is not yet regenerate; and they suppose that "to serve the law of God" is the same thing as "to serve God," and that "to serve the law of sin" is the same thing as "to serve sin." But neither of these suppositions can be proved by this text or by other passages of Scripture. (1.) For the apostle is not accustomed to bestow on man, as he is regenerate, the epithet of "the mind," but that of "the Spirit." And this he does for a very just reason; for "the mind" is the subject of regeneration, "the Holy Spirit" is the effector of it, from communion with whom a participation also with his name arises. Besides, "the mind" is attributed to the flesh:" Vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind." (Col. ii. 18.) The gentiles are said to have "walked in the vanity of their mind." (Ephes. ii. 17.) Idolaters are "given over to a reprobate mind;" (Rom. i. 28; ) and the apostle mentions "men of corrupt minds." (1 Thess. vi. 5; 2 Tim. iii. 8.) (2.) But that "to serve God" is not the same as "to serve the law of God," and "to serve sin" is not the same as "to serve the law of sin," is evident, First. From the difference of the words themselves. For it is very probable, that different phrases denote different meaning. If any one denies this, the proof of his position is incumbent on himself. Secondly. From the words of Christ, who denied the possibility of any man serving two masters, God and Mammon, God and sin. If any one say that "it is possible for this to be done in a different respect, that is, to serve God with the mind, and to serve sin with the flesh," I reply that, by such a petty distinction as this, the general affirmation of Christ is evaded, to the great detriment of piety and divine worship, and that a wide door will thus be opened for libertines and Pseudo-Nicodemites. But some one will say, "The apostle expressly affirms this, which I deny, and my denial will be supported by the phrases themselves, when correctly explained, as they will soon be; for this man serves sin, and not God. Thirdly. From the perpetual usage of the Scriptures, which are not accustomed to employ these restrictions when any man is said to serve God, or to serve sin. Wherefore, since they are employed in this passage, it is exceedingly probable that the same thing is not signified by these different phrases.

      4. But the subject itself, upon which the apostle here treats, when placed plainly before the eyes, may disclose to us the true meaning of these phrases; so that the man who will inspect it with honest eyes, and with eyes desirous to investigate and ascertain the truth alone, may have that with which to satisfy himself. The apostle, therefore, here makes mention of four laws. (1.) The law of God. (2.) The law of sin. (3.) The law of the mind. (4.) The law of the members. They are opposed to each other and agree together in the following manner: "The law of God," and "the law of sin," are directly opposed; as are likewise "the law of the mind," and "that of the members." "The law of God," and "the law of the mind," agree together; as do likewise "the law of sin," and "the law of the members. From this, it follows that "the law of God," and "the law of the members," are indirectly opposed; as are also "the law of sin," and "that of the mind." But it will be possible to render these things more intelligible by the subjoined diagram: "The law of God" and "the law of sin," obtain in this place the principal dignity. "The law of the mind" and "that of the members" are placed as hand-maids or assistants to them, rendering due service to their superiors; for "the mind delights in the law of God," and "the law of the members brings a man into captivity to the law of sin." (Rom. vii. 22,23.) These things being premised, I proceed to the explanation. The apostle here lays down two lords, who are completely contrary to each other, and directly opposed, God and sin--the former of these, the lawful lord; the latter, a tyrant, and, by violent means, usurping dominion over man, by the fault indeed of man himself, and by the just judgment of God. Both of them impose a law on man. God imposes his law, that man may obey him in those things which it prescribes; and sin Imposes its law, that man may obey it in "the lusts thereof," which it proposes by a certain law of its own. The former is called "the law of God;" the latter, "the law of sin." By the former, God endeavours to lead the man, who is placed under the law, to yield obedience to him; by the latter, sin strives and attempts, by every kind of violence, to compel the man to obey him. By his law, God prescribes those things which are "holy, and just, and good;" by its law, sin proposes those things which are useful, pleasant, and agreeable to the flesh. Now both of them, God and sin, have, in this man who is under the law, something which favours their several causes and purposes, and which assents to each of these laws. God has the mind, or "the law of the mind;" sin has the flesh, or the. law of the flesh, or "of the members." The mind, consenting to the law of God, that it "is holy, and just, and good;" the flesh, assenting to the law of sin, that it is useful, pleasant and agreeable; "the law of the mind," which is the knowledge of the divine law, and an assent to it; "the law of the members," which is an inclination and propension towards those things which are useful, pleasant, and agreeable to the flesh, that is, towards these mundane, earthly and visible objects. In the 23rd verse of this chapter, these two laws are said to be, antisrateuomenoi "waging war together," like soldier, who are in the field of battle, and drawn up in hostile array against each other, that the one army may overcome that which is opposed to it, and may gain the victory for its lord and general. "The law of the mind" fights for "the law of God," and "the law of the members" marches under the banner of "the law of sin;" the former, that, after having conquered the flesh and the law of the members, it may bring man into subjection to the law of God, with this design--that man may serve God; the latter, that, after having overcome the law of the mind, it may sentence man to bondage, and "bring him into captivity to the law of sin," with this design--that man may serve sin. The conflict between these two contending parties, is about man, whom God wishes to bring into subjection to himself; and sin eagerly indulges the same wish. The former of these prescribes his own law to him; the latter also prescribes its law; and both of them employ their own military forces, that they severally have in the man, each to obtain the victory for himself. From these explanations it will now appear what the phrases signify; "With the mind to serve the law of God," is, with a mind consenting to the law of God, to perform its military services to that law, for the purpose of bringing man into subjection to God; "With the flesh, to serve the law of sin," is with the flesh assenting to the desires of sin, to render its military services to the law of sin, in order to bring man into captivity to that law and to subject him to sin. The end, therefore, or the intention of the battle is, that man may be brought into subjection either to the law of God, or to the law of sin; that is, that he may walk either according to the flesh, or according to the mind. The act tending to this end, is the waging of war, which is indeed actual hostility, and an inimical encounter between the parties; but it is also the employment of persuasion towards man, without whose assent neither party can obtain this its end. The mind, adverse to the flesh, persuades the will of man to do that which is holy, and just, and good, and to reject what is merely delectable. The flesh, repugnant to the mind, persuades the same human will to set aside and disregard that which is holy, and just, and good, and to embrace that which is capable of affording present delight and usefulness. The effect produced by the mind on the will, is the volition of good and the hatred of evil; the effect which the flesh produces on the same will, is the volition of evil and the nolition of good. This is a change of the will, first to one party, and then to the other. But the issue or result declares which of the parties in this man has produced the stronger and more powerful effect. But this is the result of the conflict, [as it is described in the twenty-third verse,] the nonperformance of good, the nonomission of evil, a token of the impotence of the mind, which commanded good to be done, and forbade the commission of evil, which approved of the performance of good, but disapproved of the perpetration of evil; and it is the commission of what is evil, the omission of what is good, the captivity of man under the law of sin, plainly demonstrating that, in this man, the party of sin and of the flesh is the more powerful of the two, the law of the mind fruitlessly striving against it. The cause of this result is the weakness of the law, which has been debilitated by the flesh, (Rom. viii. 3,) and the force and pertinacious power of the flesh in this man, the effect of which is, that the man does not walk according to the law but according to the flesh, and does not march according to the law of the mind but according to that of the members. But if to this conflict be added a stronger force of the Spirit of Christ, who does not write the letter of the law on tables of stone, but impresses the love and fear of God on the fleshly tables of the heart--then are we permitted not only to hope for a different result, but it is also given us assuredly to obtain a successful issue. This is indicated by the apostle in Romans viii. 2: "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me tree from the law of sin and death." For it comes to pass, by means of the power of this Spirit, that the man, who had previously been "brought into captivity to the law of sin," is delivered from it, and "no longer walks after the flesh, but after the Spirit;" that is, in his life, he follows the motion, the influence, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which motion, influence and guidance tend indeed to the same end as that to which the law of God, and the law of the mind, endeavoured to lead the man, but with an energy not equal; as not being able to complete their attempt, on account of the hindrance of the law of sin and of the members. This is likewise the cause why this man is said to walk not according to the law of the mind, but according to the Spirit, [a phrase frequently employed by the apostle in Romans 8,] and "to be led of the Spirit, and not to be under the law," (Gal. v. 18.) Not indeed because the man who lives according to the Spirit, does not live according to the law of God; but because the Spirit of Christ, and not the law, is the cause why the man regulates his life according to the law of God. For the law knows how to command, but cannot afford any assistance--a doctrine which St. Augustine frequently inculcates.

      5. From these observations, it may now be evident, that even from this (25th) verse, nothing can be adduced in proof of the contrary opinion; but that the opinion which explains the passage as referring to a man under the law, is also established by this verse. For this man, as he is under the law, "with his mind serves the law of God;" but, as he is carnal, "with his flesh he serves the law of sin," and he serves it so as to bring himself into captivity to the law of sin--his mind and conscience vainly struggling against it. Nor is it of the least service for the establishment of the other opinion, that the apostle says, "I myself;" for he had previously used the word "I" in many instances in this chapter, even when he said, "Sin wrought in me all manner of concupiscence;" (verse 8) "for I lived," or I was alive, "without the law once; but, when the commandment came, I died;" (9) "I found the commandment to be unto death to me;" (10; ) "Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me," (11) and other passages. But the pronoun, autov [in our English version, translated "myself,"] which is an adjunct to the pronoun "I," indicates that this pronoun "I" must be referred to the person about whom he had been previously treating. For it is the demonstrative [pronoun] of the nearest antecedent; as though he had said, "I am he about whom I have already been discoursing." This is likewise evident, because he concludes from the preceding verses, that the man whose character he took on him self to personate, (the prudence of [him who was under the influence of] the Holy Spirit requiring such personation,) "with his mind serves the law of God, but with his flesh the law of sin." Let those things be taken into consideration which, in his epistle, the apostles writes concerning himself, and let them be compared with the particulars of the description here given; and it will then clearly appear, that the apostle, in this passage, was by no means treating about himself, such as he was at that time. III. RECAPITULATION

      1. What distinctly belongs to the man described in this chapter, both as he is under the law, and as he is carnal and the slave of sin.

      2. The inconsistent state of a man who is under the law.

      3. The manner in which God leads a sinner to penitence, faith in Christ, and the obedience of faith.

      4. This representation of it confirmed by St. Augustine and Musculus--How far this is the work of the regenerating Spirit.

      5. To this it is objected that a three-fold state of man is thus laid down--A reply to this objection.

      1. But now, if not disagreeable, let all these things be collected together, and in a compendious form be exhibited before the eyes, that they may at one glance be examined, and a judgment formed concerning them.

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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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