ROMANS, v, 20, 21.

IT it good to mark, how, at certain intervals in the course of the apostle's argument, there is often the recurrence of some particular term, by which there may not only be evinced some reigning principle, which it is good for the reader to seize upon, but by which he may obtain a more connected view of the whole demonstration. In some former verses the apostle insists on the mischief that was entailed upon our species, by the one offence of one individual - a mischief which fell even upon the heads of those who in their own persons violated no express commandment, as did Adam; and he now intimates to us the effect which an authoritative law, subsequently imposed upon mankind, had in turning the one offence into many offcnces, or in mak ing the offence to abound - so that the power which restores us, must not only be of force enough to counteract the guilt of Adam's transgression, but be of force to counteract the guilt of all those innumerable actual transgressions, which are committed by those who sin against the known enactments of a rightfully proclaimed authority.

It sounds harsh to say of God, that He brought in a law, for the direct purpose of adding to the quantity of sin in the world; and it would soften this harshness, could we make it out to be the meaning of the apostle, not that there was any such design on the part of God - but simply that such was the effect of the law having been introduced among men. Moreover, the law entered, not with the intention by the Lawgiver of causing sin to abound, but with the consequence certainly among its subjects that sin did more abound. The law entered, and so sin became more abundant. In the Gospels we often read of a particular thing having been done, that it might be fulfilled what was spoken by some old prophet. It looks strange for the Saviour, to have gone out of His way, on purpose to bring about an adjustment of this kind, between the prophet in the Old Testament and the historian in the New, and therefore some translate the phrase thus - such a thing was done, and so was fulfilled what had been said by one of the prophets. In like manner, and to save the conclusion that God is the wilful author of sin, we would so render the passage before us - as that the law was brought in, not with the previous view of making sin abound, but only with this as the subsequent effect - 'Moreover the law entered and thus sin did abound.'

But it, has also been alleged respecting the sense of this passage, that the law has made sin to abound, not by acting as a stimulant to sin, but merely as the revealer of sin - not that it has made sin more abundantly to exist, but that it has made it more abundantly manifest. It has served as a mirror to set forth the deformity of sin. Paul was covetous, before he obtained such an apprehension of God's law as to make him feel that it was sinful to be so; but when the law came, sin revived, not that the law made Paul covetous, but made him sensible that, in consequence of being so, he was indeed a sinner. I it is not the tendency, say some, to make a man sinful, but to show him to be sinful. It discovres the tinge of guiltiness where no such thing was seen or suspected before. The effect of the commandnent is not to create sin, but to convince of it; and to make it evident to the conscience, that it is exceedingly sinful.
And we have no doubt, that this is one great purpose which has been served by the entering in of the law. It has shed a much stronger light on that contrast or diversity, which obtains between the character of more plentiful demonstration of human guilt and God and the character of man. It has given a human ungodliness, it has brought home with greater cffrct upon the conscience that great initiatory lesson - the learning of which is of such importance in Christianity, that the law which furnishes this lesson has been called a schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ. And this is certainly a most valuable purpose that is accomplished by the law. The application of an even rule to any line or surface, may not create the inequalities; but it will make known the inequalities. And, in like manner, whether or not the law is any way the cause of those crooked deviations from the even rule of rectitude which so abound in the character of man, it certainly is the discoverer of those deviations; and makes known to those, who are acquainted with the exceeding length and breadth and constancy of its obligations, how much more iniquities abound in the world, than men of unenlightened conscience and no moral delicacy are at all sensible of.

At the same time, we do think that the law has done more than reveal sin to the conscience. It has positively added to the amount and the aggravation of sin upon the character. It has laid a heavier responsibility on those to whom it made known its enactments; and, on the principle of "to whom much is given of them shall much be required," has a deeper guilt been incurred by those transgressors who do sin in the face of clear and impressive remonstrances from a distinct law, than by those who do it ignorantly and in unbelief. "Father, forgive them," says the Saviour, " for they know not what they do." The man who lives under the light of a proclaimed commandment, has no benefit from such an intercession. They sin with their eyes open; and after having fought a pitched, and a determined, and perhaps a long sustained battle, with a conscience well informed. They may do the very same things and no more, than he who has nothing but the feeble guidance of nature to regulate his footsteps; and yet their sin may abound a hundred-fold, and that just because the law has entered with its precepts and its requisitions among them.

And beside all this, we do further think, that the law may cause sin actually to abound in the world - not merely by investing forbidden crimes with a deeper hue of sinfulness than they would otherwise have had, but by positively and substantially deepening the atrocity of these crimes, and adding to the frequency and the amount of them. This is perhaps an effect unknown, or not easily conceived by those, who possess no tenderness of conscience; and are not feelingly alive to the guilt which attaches, even to the slighter violations of principle and propriety. But give us a man, into whose heart there has entered such a sense of the law, as to feel the discomfort even of a mmnutest aberration - whose force, or whose delicacy of conscience, are such, that what would bring no compunction into the hearts of other men, is sure to overwhelm his with a conviction of guilt in its darkest imigery, and its most brooding and fearful anticipations - who figures himself to have fallen, and perhaps irrecoverably fallen; and that by a slip, which, giving no concern to the feelings of ordinary mortals, would still leave them in possession of all the complacency and all the conscious uprightness that they ever had, or that they ever care for - We say of such a man, that, if vithout help and comfort from the gospel, the law, in all the strictness he sees to be in it, is all he has to deal with - he is positively in greater danger from the lesser delinquency into which he has fallen, than the other is from his transgression of tenfold enormity. For to him so sensitive of guilt, it has been a more grievous surrender of principle; and to him so tender of character, has there been the infliction of a sorer and more mortifying wound ; and to him so conversant in the sanctions and obligations of righteousness, does it look a more desperate overthrow, that he ever came to have forgotten them; and to him so hackneyed in the ways of transgression, will one distinct instance of it, however venial it may have looked to others, look to him as a vile and virulent apostacy.

And thus, till the blood of Christ be felt in its cleansing and its peace-speaking power, may the man, front his very scrupulosity, be in hazard of abandoning himself, in utter regardlessness, to the habit of living forthwith without God, even as he now lives without hope in the world. The very exquisiteness of his moral sense, furnishes sin with more frequent opportunities for inflicting upon him the humiliation of a defeat; and, in the agony of that humiliation, may he the more readily be led to give up the contest in despondency; and thus, such is the sad fatality of our condition under the law, that, failing as we are sure to do of a perfect obedience to its requisitions, the more tremblingly alive we are to a sense of its obligations, the greater may be the advantage that sin has for plunging us into total and irretrievable discomfiture - thus turning the law into a provocative of sin, and, through the weakness of our flesh, causing that to abound against which it has passed its most solemn and severe denunciations.

And even after the gospel has come in with its hopes and its assistances - this is a fact in our moral nature which may be turned to most important account, in the great work of our sanctiflcation. There can be no doubt, that, as that work prospers and makes progress, the soul will become more delicately alive to the evil of sin ; and so more liable to the paralysing influences of humiliation and discouragement, when sin in however slight a degree has obtained some advantage over it. Nothing will save it from apostacy, unless, with the growing delicacy of its principles there be also a growing strength of performance - a growing watchfulness among the temptations which beset and may baffle it - a growing jealousy of itself, under the well-founded conviction, that without Christ it can do nothing - a growing habit of dependence upon him, that He, meeting its faith by a stream of influences and spiritual nourishment out of his fulness, may indeed enable it to do all things. It is when the delicacy of moral and sacred feeling outstrips the efficacy of these practical expedients, that a foundation is laid for distress inconceivable, and perhaps the backslidings of a final and irretrievable apostacy; and hence it is, that, instead of walking in presumptuous security, it is the part of every honest and aspiring Christian, who thinketh that he standeth, to take heed lest he fall; and never ought he, even to the last half-hour of his life, while it is his part to be ever on the alert in working out his salvation - never ought he to work it out in any other way than with fear and trembling.

While therefore we cannot evade the fact, that the promulgation of a law has added to the world's guilt, and so afforded place for this reflection against God, that by a thing of His doing, even the delivery of this law, sin has been aggravated in the character and increased in the amount of it - Yet how completely, we ask you to attend, is the imputed severity of this proceeding, in as far as you at least are concrned, done away, by the express affirmation of the verse before us - that where Sin abounded grace did much more abound. The antidote is an overmatch for the bane; and, virulent as the disease may be, there is a remedy provided, which, is not merely competent for its utter extirpation; but, by the applying of which, there is obtained all the security of friendship with God, and all the joy of moral and spiritual healthfulness. It is indeed a sore tyranny of evil; under which we lie oppressed. Sin is held forth as reigning - as seated on a throne - as fulfilling the will of a sovereign, in accomplishing the work of destruction for he reigneth unto death, and this is the final effect of his administration. What a wide and what a paramount authority then is he invested with - seeing that the individuals of each generation, and all the generations of the world, are the trophies of his power.

One would think that the bodies which we wear might be borne up, even as they are, into heaven ; and there have immortality stamped upon them, but no - Sin has got an ascendancy over them; and the certainty while, under this, of their sinning, brings along with it the necessity of their dying. There is no other way, it would appear, in which this foul leprosy can be detached from that material constitution, under which we be cumbered and heavy-laden; and so the law of sin and of death is irreversible. There may from another quarter a good and gracious principle descend upon us, by the operation of which, the sin tbat, dwellethi in these bodies is kept in check, and not suffered to have the dominion. But in the bodies themselves, there is nought but corruption. " In me, that is in my flesh, there dwelleth no good thing." Its natural tendencies are all away from God and from goodness. Sin may not reign over the whole man, if there has been the accession to him by grace of that influence, under which he is regenerated; but, in that ingredient of the old man which is denominated Flesh - in all that he is by nature, or in all that mere nature ever can make of him, there us unmixed sinfulness: And therefore it is, that, while the great object of contest on earth is to keep nature under subordination to the higher and the better principle that we receive by union with Christ Jesus, the repose of heaven will consist in our having got rid of this enemy by his utter dissolution - in our having been emancipated from that old framework, which so encompassed us about with evil desires and evil tendencies - in our being conclusively delivered of a system, on which Death had to lay his hand and resolve it into dust, ere the soul, translated into a glorious body, could, without impediment and without a struggle, expatiate in the full enlargement of its new and its holy nature.

Meanwhile Death reigns, and reigns universally. It has both a first and a second portion in all who obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ; and even with those who do obey, the body is all its own. So that in respect of that more visible and imnmediate sovereignty, which addresses itself to the eye of the senses, it revels in all the glories of an undivided monarchy. And if Death be the mandate of Sin - if he be the executioner of this despot's will; and, wherever he is seen to enter, it is upon an errand of subserviency to one in whose hands the power of death is - Then what a universal lordship has he got, that not one family on earth is to be found, but has to weep under the bondage of this sore oppressor; and not a man who breathes on the face of our world, however firm his step and proud his attitude, who will not fall in prostrate helplessness under a doom from which there is no escaping. What a voucher for the holiness of God, and for the malignity of that sin which He hateth, that, wherever it exists, Death and Destruction go along with it - that on those men over whom sin prevails, death both temporal and eternal is laid as a penalty; and that to those men with whom sin is present in their vile bodies though it has not the dominion, death comes to release them from the plague - to strip them of their bodies, as they would do of a garment spotted with infection, and cause them to undergo a cleansing process in their sepulchre: And it is indeed a striking testimony to the regal power and state of Sin, that he carries this sore fatality over the whole length and breadth of our species ; and, sitting enthroned over the destinies of man, makes universal spoil of our dying nature, and holds it forth as the trophy of his greatness.

The honour of a king is concerned in upholding the integrity of his dominions, and in the keeping up of an unbroken authority over them; and hence may we conclude, from the expression of sin reigning, that, if this imply regal power vested in a conscious and intelligent being, there is indeed a busy and an active interest at work against our species. And taking the Bible for our guide, there is such a being, who is said to have the power of death; and who is styled from the high ascendancy to which he has arisen, the god of this world ; and whom we recognise to be he whom we read of as the prince of the power of the air, and as the prince of the power of darkness; and who, seated as he is upon a throne, must feel that his glory is at stake on the perpetuity of that peculiar empire over which he is exalted: And hence the undoubted truth, that the might and the strenuousness and the ambitious desires of one most daring in enterprise, and most subtle in design, and in most formidable in power and in resources, arc all embarked on the object of our subjugation. The instrument of our overthrow is sin; and the result of it is, that second and everlasting death, the reign of which forms the domain of his rule and monarchy - and, from the very expression of sin reigning, may we infer that a thirst for power, and the dread or the shame of a fallen majesty, are all at work in the heart of one who is busy in the plying of his devices, and most assiduous in the prosecution of them for the purpose of destroying us.

This looks abundantly menacing towards our helpless and degenerate race; but by the side of the expression that sin reigneth unto death, let us point your regards to the counterpart expression of grace reigning unto eternal life. And this, as in the former case implies something more than a mere personification. It implies a living monarch - one who sits upon a rival throne - and who is intent upon an object, directly and diametrically the reverse of that of his antagonist. In other words, if there be a kingly ambition which is against us, there is a kingly ambition that is also upon our side. If it be the pride of one monarch to enslave our race, it is the dignity of another monarch to deliver us ; and the desire of mighty potentates is thus embarked on a contest, the issues of which are death or life to our species. We read of Jesus Christ as a King in Zion, and of his having come to destroy the works of the devil - even of him who has the power of death; and the glory of His character is surely linked with the success of His undertaking; and thus is our lower world the arena, as it were, of a contest, which involves in it, not merely, the future condition of those who live in it - but the renown of mighty combatammts, who, arrayed in hostility against each other, are striving for the renown of victory.

Now it is not for the purpose of regaling your imaginations that we thus speak, but for the purpose of assuring and strengthening your faith.We want you to see, how the majesty is as much concerned as the mercy of God, in the work of your Redemption. We want you to feel how manifold the guarantees of your deliverance are, if you will only flee for refuge to the hope set before you in the gospel. We want you to perceive how your safety and the honour of the great Mediator are nmost thoroughly at one. Do you think, that, warring as He does with the great adversary of human souls, He will ever permit him the triumph of a final victory over those, who, cheered forward by his own invitation, are now trusting to His grace, and looking onward to the accomplishment of His promises? He hath graven upon an open and indelible record these memorable words, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved. Can you figure it then, that, on the great day of the winding up of the gospel economy - Satan will have it in his power to revile either the truth or ability of the Saviour; or to fasten upon an individual who believed in the Son of God, and yet whom the Son of God hath not rescued from the grasp of this destroyer Jesus Christ hath embarked His own credit upon your salvation. Should any have faith in Him, and yet not be saved, He will not only fail in that which His heart is most assuredly set upon; but he will be foiled in his own enterprise, and that too by a most hateful and hated antagonist! The destruction of one who has faith, were the degradation of Him who is the author and the finisher of faith; and hence an argument for your security in believing - for the perfect repose of that acquiescence, wherewith you may he down among the promises of the gospel - for keeping firm and fast, that confidence in which you have begun - Seeing that grace has not only set out on a warfare against sin, - but that grace is seated on a throne, and the salvation of those who have been obedient to heaven's call is essential to the truth of Heaven's voice and the triumph of heaven's monarchy.

And a similar argument may be drawn from the clause of grace reigning through righteousness. It is this which forms the leading peculiarity of the evangehical dispensation. It is a dispensation of mercy no doubt, but not of simple amid unaccompanied mercy. It has more upon its aspect and character than the one expression of tenderness. Thieve was compassion in the movement which then took place from Heaven to Earth; but this does not complete the history of the movement. It was compassion towards sinners; and God's righteous abhorrence of sin, was mixed up with the forthgoings of His benevolent desire towards those who had been guilty of it. The boon of reconciliation descended upon the world; but it found its way through a peculiar medium, and that was a medium of righteousness - and, to meet on our part this manifestation of the Godhead, it is not enough that we regard it in the light of mercy and nothing else - it will not be accepted that we rely on the general kindness and good-will of the Deity; but it is altogether indispensable to our safety, that, while we rejoice in His grace, we should receive it as a grace which has come to us through righteousness by Jesus Christ our Lord.

So that the sinner on entering into peace with God, does reverence to the purity of God. And when he draws upon the compassion of the divine nature, he renders homage to the holiness of the divine nature. Did he hold singly upon His compassion - then the truth which stood committed to the fulfilment of its denunciations, and the justice I that had been offended by sin, would have been left without provision and without a safeguard. But the great Sacrifice has resolved all these difficulties; and you by depending, not on the general attribute of mercy, but on the redemption that is through the blood of Jesus Christ, can, consistently with all the honours of the Divinity, obtain the forgiveness of all your trespasses. Out of the way of this consecrated mediatorship, you will never meet the mercy of the Godhead - and in this way you will never miss it.

But such an economy is not only essential to the dignity of the Lawgiver. It serves to complete the security of the sinner. It makes known to him, how God can be just while the justifier of those who believe in Jesus. It enbles him to meet without dismay the whole aspect and character of God, in the full expression of all the attributes which belong to Him. It harmonises the sinner with the gentler perfections of that Being, with whom we have to do; and the sinner can now delight himself in the abundance of his peace - when he thinks that the very equity and unchangeableness of the Godhead are now upon his side. It does add to his confidence in the grace of the gospel, when he views it as seated on a throne; and thus, in all its manifestations, holding forth the sovereignty of the Supreme Being. But it adds still more to his confidence, when he views it as grace through righteousness; and thus holding forth the sacredness of the Supreme Being. If e then sees no obstruction in time way of its reaclting even unto him. The terrors of his guilty conscience give way, when he perceives that the very attributes, which, without an atonement, would have stood leagued in hostility against him - with an atonement, form the best guarantees of his hope and safety. God now is not only merciful to forgive - he is faithful and just to forgive. He will not draw upon the surety, and upon the debtor before Him will have a full reckoning with guilt; but he will not have more than a full reckoning by exacting both a penalty and a propitiation: And the man who trusts to the propitiation, may be very sure that the penalty will never reach him. The destroying angel, on finding him marked with the blood of Christ, will pass him by; and the agitated sinner who sought in vain for rest to the sole of his foot, so long as the great peace-offering stood unrevealed to his conscience, and the tidings of an accepted sacrifice fell upon his ear without conviction and without efficacy, may, on the moment of his believing in the word of the testimony, feel how firm the transition is which he maketh from death unto life- when, through him who died the just for the unjust, he now draws near unto God.

It finishes our exposition of this passage, when we point your eye to the great agent in the work of mediation. Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord. He by His death bore the punishment that you should have borne. He by His obedience won a righteousness, the reckoning and the reward of which are transferred unto you; and you, by giving credit to the good news, are deemed by God as lmaving accepted of all these benefits and will be dealt with accordingly. You cannot trust too simply to the Saviour. You cannot place too strong a reliance on His death as your discharge. You are making the very use of Him that was intended, and do Him that honour wherewith He is most pleased when you venture your all upon Him both for the now and for eternity. We do not bid you earn a place in heaven. We do not bid you work for your forgiveness. We bid you receive it. We bid you hope for it. And eternal life will be the sure result of your thus receiving and thus hoping. Could we get you truly to rely, we are not afraid of licentiousness. Many see a lurking antinomianism in the doctrine of faith. But where there is a true faith there is no antinomianism. It has its fruit unto holiness here, and then everlasting life hereafter. But do try, ere you embark on that course of new obedience which leadeth to the final abode of holy and happy creatures - do try to have peace in your conscience with God. Do dwell on the simple affirmation which you meet with in the New Testament, of a Saviour who welcomes all sinners, and of a blood which cleanseth from all sin. Do let the terrors and the suspicion of guilt take their departure from your labouring bosom; and then emptied of all that kept God at a distance from you, will there be room for those feelings and those principles which form the rudiments of the new creature in Jesus Christ our Lord. Love will cast out fear. Delight in God will take the place of dismay. The heart emancipated from bondage, will rise freely and gratefully to Him, in all the buoyancy of its new-felt enlargement. It will be found that the legal spirit, with its accompanying sensations of jealousy and disquietude and distrust, that this in fact is the mighty drag which keeps back the only obedience that is at all acceptable - the obedience of good will. And the faith which we now urge upon you in all its strength and in all its simplicity, is not more the harbinger of peace to a sinner's heart, than it is the sure and unfailing germ of his progressive holiness.
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