"But is this, therefore, the work of the regenerating Spirit?" With regard to the END, I confess that it is; but with regard to the EFFECT itself, I dare not make any assertion. For mortification and vivification, which, as integral parts, contain the whole of regeneration, are completed in us by our participation of the death and resurrection of Christ. (Rom. 6.) In Romans viii. 15, the apostle distinguishes between "the Spirit of bondage to fear," and "the Spirit of adoption." Many persons denominate the former of these, "a legal Spirit," and the latter "the Spirit of the gospel of Christ." I, therefore, make the service of the Spirit of bondage to precede that of the Spirit of adoption, though both of them tend to one design. Whence, it appears that this my explanation of the seventh chapter is not contrary to the true doctrine concerning the law and its use, and the necessity of the grace of Christ; but that the doctors of the church, who give a different interpretation of it, have not reflected on this matter when they entered on an explanation of the chapter. For, since they teach, from the Scriptures, the very same thing as I suppose the apostle here to make the subject of his investigation, we do not differ from each other in our opinion of doctrines, but only in this single circumstance--that they do not think this passage relates to that head of doctrine, which, I affirm, is professedly treated in it: Yet, in this opinion, I do not stand alone, but I have many others with me, as we shall afterwards perceive.
5. Some one may here object, "that by this, my explanation, a three-fold state of man is laid down, when the Scriptures acknowledge but a two-fold state; and that three kinds of men are introduced, when no more than two are known to the Scriptures--that is, the state of regeneration and that which precedes regeneration, believers and unbelievers, regenerate and unregenerate men," &c. To this I reply, (1.) that in my explanation three consistent states of men are not laid down, neither are there three distinct and perfectly opposite kinds of men; but that it teaches how much the law has the power of effecting in a man, and how the same individual is compelled by the law to flee to the grace of Christ. (2.) I say that the state of the man described in this chapter is not a consistent one, but is rather a grade or step from the one to the other--from a state of impiety and infidelity to a state of regeneration and grace--from the old state in Adam to the new state in Christ. According to this grade or step, the man is denominated by some persons renascent, [or in the article of being born again]. And, truly, the distance of the one of these states from the other is far too great, for a man to be able to pass from one to the other without some intermediate steps. (3.) I deny that there is any absurdity in laying down a three-fold state of man, regard being had to the different times; that is, a state before or without the law, one under the law, and another under grace. For the apostolical Scriptures make mention of such a three-fold state in the two chapters now under consideration, and in Romans 6 and 7, and Galatians 4 and 5. St. Augustine says, in his book, The Exposition of certain Propositions in the Epistle to the Romans, (Cap. 3) "Therefore we distinguish the four conditions of man, into that BEFORE the law, UNDER the law, under grace, and in peace. In the state before the law, we follow the lusts of the flesh; under the law, we are drawn along with them; under grace, we neither follow those lusts, nor are drawn by them; in peace, there is no lusting of the flesh. Before the law, therefore, we do not fight; under the law, we fight," &c., &c. Consult also Bucer, in his commentary on this passage. For he lays down a three-fold man, (1.) a profane man who does not yet believe in God, (2.) a holy man who loves God, but who is weak to prevail against sin, and (3.) lastly, a man furnished with a stronger portion of the Spirit of Christ, so that he is able, not only to repress and condemn the flesh, but likewise to live, in reality, the life of God, with pleasure, and with confirmed and perpetual diligence. Let, therefore, the whole of his commentary on this passage be perused, and it will appear that, with respect to the substance of the matter, the difference is very slight between his explanation of it, and that which I have now given. This I shall also clearly prove in the following chapter, by passages cited from the same commentary. But let us see whether the Scriptures themselves do not, in many places, propose three kinds of men, and give us a description of a three-fold state. In Rev. iii. 15,16, some persons are described, as being neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. Christ says that he came not to call to repentance "the righteous," that is, those who esteemed themselves as such, but "sinners," that is, those who owned themselves, or who, on his preaching, would own themselves to be of that description. (Matt. ix. 13.) Christ calls to himself those who are fatigued, weary, heavy-laden, and oppressed with the burden of their sins, (Matt. xi. 28,)but drives away from him those who are proud and puffed up with arrogance on account of their own righteousness. (Luke xviii. 9.) "Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin; but now ye say, We see; therefore, your sin remaineth." (John ix. 41.) In the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, is intimated to us a three-fold description of men--one kind in the Pharisee, two kinds in the Publican, one before his justification, the other after it. But who can enumerate all the similar instances, Indeed, such enumeration is unnecessary. It is rather a matter of surprise, that, as the books of our divines are filled with such distinctions, they did not occur to their minds when meditating on this passage, in which this matter [of the different conditions or states of man] is professedly treated. IV.