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Dissertation of the 7th Chapter of Romans: Chapter 15 - Under the Law

By Jacobus Arminius


      He allows not, or approves not of, that which he does; He wills indeed that which is good; He hates evil; He consents to the law of God that it is good; He has it [in him] to will that which is good; It is no longer himself that does evil; He truly delights in the law of God after the inward man; According to the law of his mind he wages war with the law of his members; This causes him to exclaim, Who shall deliver me With his mind, therefore, he serves the law of God; CARNAL AND THE SLAVE OF SIN. He does that which he allows not, or of which he disapproves. But he does not what is good. And yet he does that which is evil. Yet he does that which he would not. But he finds evil present with him, and he finds not [how] to perform what is good. But the evil is done by sin which dwelleth in him.. But he has another law in his members. But the law of his members wages war against the law of his mind, so as to bring the man into captivity to the law of sin. From this misery, and the body of this death? But with his flesh he serves the law of sin. The things which are thus opposed to each other must not be disjoined, while they are attributed to the man about whom the apostle here treats; but they ought both to be united together, and jointly attributed to him. For this is required by the analogy of the subject itself that is under the law and the dominion of sin--as he is under the law, the particulars enumerated in the first column belong to him--as he is under the dominion of sin, those in the second column are his attributes. But the mode by which the apostle joins these things with each other, and attributes them to this man in a conjoint form, is that of a disjunctive enunciation. This is indicated by the frequent use of the particle, de which is the post- positive of men itself, or what immediately follows it. The one without the other does not render a sentence complete; but men "indeed, truly," denotes that something will follow, and de "but, yet, then," that something has preceded, with which the former or the latter part of the sentence ought to be joined. This remark must be diligently observed in the consideration of Romans 7, as must likewise the following--that both parts are not of the same order and dignity, but that the latter clause [in which de is used as the connecting word] is the chief and principal one, for whose explanation, illustration and amplification, the former clause [in which men occurs] is employed; as a proposition, or the first part of a sentence, is for its rendition or concluding part. Those latter particulars, therefore, [which are here inserted in the second column,] belong to the more ample explanation and proof of the proper cause, on account of which a man who is under the law cannot resist sin, but sin has the dominion over him. But the former particulars [enumerated in the first column] belong or conduce to the excusing of the law, lest the blame of this crime could be justly ascribed to it. From all which things united together the conclusion may be drawn that the man about whom the apostle is treating, must, on account of the predominant flesh and of sin which dwells in his flesh, be still reckoned in the number of carnal persons. But, because he is under the law, and so under it that it has effected in him whatever is usually effected by the law in transferring and conducting man as a sinner to the grace of Christ, he must, [almost at any hour], speedily be taken out from the number of carnal persons, and placed in a state of grace; in which higher state, he will no longer be put to the necessity of fighting, under the auspices and guidance of the law, against the vigourous and lively "motions of sins;" but, by the power of grace and under the guidance and influence of the Holy Spirit, he will contend against his crucified and mortified inclinations, till he obtain over them, when they are nearly dead and buried, a complete victory.

      2. The man who will reflect upon this inconsistent state, if I may so denominate it, will easily perceive, that the things which the apostle has here written, must be referred to this state. For, diligently, and as if purposely, he exercises caution over himself not to employ the word "Spirit" in any passage in his description of this state; yet this word, the use of which he here so carefully avoids, is that which he employs in almost every verse of the next chapter, (Rom. 8) and which is so familiar to this apostle in all his epistles, as to seem to be perpetually before his eyes and his mind, especially when he is treating about the regenerate and their duty to God and their neighbour, and also when he treats upon the contest which the pious still have with the flesh and the remains of sin. The thoughtful consideration of this single matter is able and ought to cause doubts in the minds of those who interpret this portion of holy writ as applicable to regenerate persons and those who are placed under grace, if they only be animated with a sincere desire of ascertaining the truth, and love the truth for its own sake, even when it does not agree with their own preconceived opinions.

      3. I am also desirous that all men seriously consider how God leads us to faith, in his Son, and to the obedience of faith, and what means he uses to convert a sinner. We know that God employs his holy word to produce this effect; we know that this word consists of two essential and integral parts, the law and the gospel; we know, also, that the law must first be preached to a sinner, that he may understand and approve it, that he may explore and examine his life by it when it is known and approved, that, when such examination is completed, he may acknowledge himself to be a sinner, and by his demerits, deserving of damnation, that he may mourn and be sorrowful on account of sin, and may detest it, that he may understand himself to be in urgent need of a deliverer, and that he may be instigated and compelled to seek him. To a man who is thus prepared by the law, the grace of the gospel must be announced, which, being manifested to the mind by the Holy Spirit, and by the same Spirit sealed on the heart, produces faith within us, by which we are united to Christ; that, holding communion with him, we may obtain remission of sins in his name, and may draw from him the vivifying power of his Spirit. By this quickening power, the flesh is mortified with its affections and lusts, and we are regenerated to a new life, in which we not only will or resolve to bring forth the fruits of gratitude to God, but we are likewise capable to bring them forth, and actually do so by this same Spirit, "who worketh in us both to will and to do." Let any man now describe to me out of the Scriptures the proper effects which flow from the preaching of the law, in the minds of those whom God has decreed to convert to a better life; and I will instantly present to him a man, such as he who is described to us by the apostle, under his own person, in this chapter, (Rom. 7.) "But are these effects through the preaching of the law produced in this man, without the grace of Christ, and the operation of the Holy Spirit?" What man can have the audacity to affirm this, unless he be one of the prime defenders of Pelagian doctrine, He who, by the preaching of the law, (the Holy Spirit blessing such preaching, and co-operating with it,) is compelled to flee to the grace of Christ, is not instantly, or at once, under grace, or under the influence, guidance and government of the Spirit. For, "the law is our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ." (Gal. iii. 24.) "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." (Rom. x. 4.) "By the law is the knowledge of sin." (iii, 20.)

      4. St. Augustine, when treating upon the use of the law, says, in his Reply to the two epistles of the Pelagians to Boniface, "The law, as a schoolmaster, leads and conducts a man to this grace of God, by terrifying him concerning his transgressions of the law, that something may be conferred on him which it was not able to bestow." And in a subsequent passage, "We do not, therefore, make void the law through faith, but we establish the law,' which, by terrifying men, leads them to faith. Therefore, because the law worketh wrath,' that grace may bestow, on the man who is thus terrified and turned to fulfill the righteousness of the law, the mercy of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is the wisdom of God, and concerning whom it is written, He beareth in his tongue law and mercy. Law, by which he may terrify--Mercy, by which he may afford relief; law by a servant--mercy, by himself" &c., &c. (Lib. 4, cap. 5.) Let St. Augustine also be consulted, in his treatise on corruption and grace, in the first chapter of which he speaks thus appropriately to the matter under discussion: "The Lord himself has not only shown us from what evil we may turn aside, and what good we may perform, which the letter of the law alone is able to shew; but he also assists us, that we may turn aside from evil and may do good, which no one can do without the Spirit of grace. If this grace be wanting, the law is present for this purpose--to bring us in guilty and to kill us, on which account, the apostle says, The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. (2 Cor. iii. 6.) He, therefore, who lawfully uses the law, learns in it evil and good; and, not confiding in his own strength, he flees to grace, by the aid of which he ceases from evil and does good. But what man thus flees to grace, except when his steps are directed by the Lord, and he delighteth in his way? (Psalm xxxvii. 23.) And by this also, the act of desiring the assistance of grace is the beginning of grace." Consult also the fifth chapter of the same treatise, in which the following passage occurs: "You are not willing to have your faults pointed out. You are unwilling that they should be smitten, and that you should feel useful grief, which may induce you to seek a physician. You are not desirous to have yourself shown to yourself, that when you perceive your own [mental] deformity you may be very importunate for a reformation of yourself, and may supplicate God not to suffer you to remain in this foul and deformed condition." And in the sixth chapter, he says: "Therefore, let the damnable origin be reprehended, that a willingness for regeneration may arise out of the sorrow consequent on such reprehension; yet, if he who is thus chastised be a son of the promise, that, when the noise of the correction sounds outwardly and the strokes of the whip are heard, God may work inwardly in him also to will by his secret inspiration." Musculus says, in his Common Places, in the chapter On Laws, (fol. 124,) "The law causes me not only to understand, but likewise with anguish and remorse of conscience to feel and experience that sin is in me. The proper effect of the law is, that it convicts us of being inexcusably guilty of sin, subjects us to the curse, and condemns us, (Gal. 3,) and when we are deeply affected with the smart of sin and condemnation, it renders us, anxious and earnest in our desires for the grace of God. Hence, arises that of the apostle, which is the subject of his investigation in Romans 7, and at the close of which he exclaims, O wretched man that l am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

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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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