ROMAN vi, 1,2.

"What shall we say? Shall we continue in Sin, that faith may abound ? God forbid. how shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein"

We have ever been in the habit of regarding this chapter as the passage of greatest interest in the Bible - as that in which the greatest quantity of scriptural light is thrown on what to the eye of the general world is a depth and a mystery - even on that path of transition which leads from the imputed righteousness that is by faith, to the personal righteousness that is by new and spiritual obedience. We know not a single theme in the whole compass of Christianity, on which there rests to the natural discernment a cloud of thicker obscurity, than that which relates to the origin and growth of a believer's holiness - nor is it seen how, after an immunity so ample for sin has been provided by an atonement of which the power is infinite as tile Divinity Himself there remaineth any inducement to obedience so distinct and palpable and certain of operation, as that which is offered by the law of "Do this and live" - a law that we are given to understand is now superseded by the gospel terms of "Believe and ye shall be saved".

It is of importance to know surely what were the first suggestions which arose in the apostolical mind, when met by what appears to be a most plausible and pertinent objection taken to the doctrine of grace, as if it led to licentiousness; or to the doctrine of a free and full remission of sin, as if it encouraged the disciple to a secure and wanton perseverance in all its practices. In the apostle's reply to this, we might expect those ligaments to be made bare to our view, by which justification and sanctification are bound together in constant and inseparable alliance; and in virtue of which it is, that a sinner both feels himself secure from the penalty of sin, and keeps himself most strenuously and fearfully aloof from the performance of it.

We have already said that it was of use to mark the recurrence of similar phrases in the train of the apostle's reasoning, as it may serve to mark the connection of its distant parts, and titus to afford a more commanding view of his whole argument. We have no doubt that the question of this verse - Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? - was prompted by a recently written sentence in the preceding chapter, the very cadence of which seemed to be still alive in the apostle's memory - " Where sin abounded grace did much more abound." - It is well to trace the continuity of Scripture, broken and disjointed as it is by the artificial division that has been made of it into chapters and verses - to read the letter of an inspired writer, as you would read the letter of an ordinary acquaintance, not in sheets, but as an entire composition, through which there possibly runs the drift of one prevailing conception Which he aims to establish; and thus it is that we think to have profited, by the perusal of those editions of the Bible, which vary from the one that is current, by the simple device of omitting the verses, and casting it like any ordinary book into sections and paragraphs. But the possession of the Bible in such a form is by no means indispensable. In reading the bibles that you have, be aware of the concatenation that we now speak of; and let it not be frittered away on your minds, by those mechanical breaks through which, to a listless peruser of Holy Writ, the sense is often interrupted. In guarding against the disadvantage which has just been specified, you will be led to the habit of comparing scripture with scripture - a habit, which, if accompanied by that divine illumination without which even the Bible itself is made up of bare and barren literahities, will be altogether tantamount to that habit of the apostle, through which he became a proficient in the wisdom that the Holy Ghost teacheth - even the habit of comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

Ver. 2.
God forbid - Let us here bid you remark the prompt decisive and unhesitating reply of the apostle, to the question wherewith he introduces this chapter. Paul has by way of eminence been called the apostle of justification. By no other has the doctrine of pardon as held out in free dispensation on the one hand, and as received by simple trust upon the other, been more fully and zealously vindicated. Heaven, instead of coming to the sinner through the medium of wages and work, is made to come to him through the medium of a gift and an acceptance. One would think from his representation of the matter, that salvation was brought to the door of a sinner's bosom, nay even pressing against it for admittance; and that you have simply to open the door, and by an act of sufferance to allow its ingress, and thus to feed upon it and rejoice. God, the offended party, beseeches the transgressor to be reconciled; and it is when the transgressor pleases consent and compliance with this entreaty, that the act of reconcihiation is struck, and an agreement is entered upon. All this is implied in the preceding argument of the apostle, and in the terms of constant recurrence that he employs during the prosecution of it. The tenure upon which eternal life is given, and upon which it is held under the economy of the gospel - is made abundantly manifest by such phrases as 'grace', and 'free grace', and 'justification of faith and not of works', and the 'gift of righteousness' on the one hand, and the 'receiving of the atonement' on the other. And yet the apostle, warm from. the delivery of these intimations, and just discharged of the tidings of a sinner's impunity if he will, and within a single breath of having uttered that where there was abundance of guilt there was a superabundance of grace in store for it - when met by the question of What then? shall we do more of this sin, that we may draw more of this grace? is ready at the warning of a single moment, with a most clear and emphatic negative. And he gives his affirmation, before he gives his argument upon the subject. On his simple authority as a messenger from God, he enters his solemn caveat against the continuance of sin - -so that should you understand not his reasoning, you may at least be fully assured of the truth, that, lavish and liberal as the gospel is of its forgiveness for the past, it has no toleration either for the purposes or for the practices of sin in future.

Couple this verse with the one that we have recently alluded to; and you make out, from the simple change of tense, as you pass from the one to the other, two of the most important lessons of Christianity. By the first verse we are told that where sin abounded grace did much more abound. By the second we are resolved as to the question, 'Shall I continue in sin that grace may abound?' with the decisive and unqualified answer of, No, most assuredly. With the first of these verses we feel ourselves warranted, to offer the fullest indemnity to the worst and most worthless among you, for all the offences, however many and however aggravated, of your past history. We know not what the measure of your iniquity may have been. We are not privy to the scenes of profligacy and lawless abandonment, through which you may have passed. We are not in the secret of any of those foul atrocities, wherewith the perhaps now agonised memory of some hearer is charging him. We cannot take the dimensions of the crime and the carelessness and the ungodliness, of those years that have now rolled over you - But whatever these dimensions may be, we are entitled to proclaim an element of surpassing magnitude, that will pluck the sting out of this sore moral distemper, and most effectually neutralise it. Your sin has abounded, and if you feel aright your conscience will re-echo our affirmation; but the grace of God has much more abounded. Be assured every one who is now present, that there is no sin into which he has ever fallen, that is beyond the reach of the great gospel atonement - no guilt of so deep and inveterate a dye, that the blood of a crucified Saviour cannot wash away. It is thus that we would cheer and brighten the retrospect of every sinner's contemplations. It is thus that we would cast the offer and assurance of pardon over the whole extent of the life that has passed away; and, arresting you at this point of your personal history, at which we are pouring forth our present utterance in your hearing - I would say, "Come now and let us reason together; though your sins were as scarlet they shall become as wool, though they were as crimson they shall be made white as snow."

But the sinner, from the station that he at this moment occupies, has not merely to look back - he should also look forward, and hold up the light of the gospel, not merely to the region of memory which he has already travelled, but also to the region of anticipation on which he is entering. And let it never be forgotten by you, ye men who are now in earnestness and thoughtful enquiry, and for aught we know may be at the very turning point of your eternal salvation - forget not we say that the same gospel which sheds an oblivion over all the sinfulness of your past lives, enters upon a war of extermination against all your future sinfulness. You have not yet come under its economy at all, if you have not embarked on the struggle of all your powers and all your purposes with the power of iniquity over you - nor would we say of you on the one hand that grace has abounded unto the forgiveness of sin, unless we saw of you on the other an honest and determined habit of exertion against the continuance of sin. We may not be able to follow the apostle in his argument; but we may at least take up his affirmation. Whether or not we shall see the intermediate steps of that process, through which a sinner is conducted from the sense of his reconciliation with God to the strenuousness of a conflict that is unremitting against all iniquity - yet may we be very sure, from the averment before us, that such actually is the process; and that such, in the case of every real believer, is the personal and the practical result of it. And not more surely does the gospel cast a veil over the transgressions by which the retrospect of your history is deformed, than, in some way or other, it sends forth a sanative influence by which to restrain transgression throughout the remainder of your pilgrimage in the world.

Ver. 2.
Yet we should like to know the intervening steps by which a sinner is led onwards from his justification to his sanctification; and more especially when we find that curiosity in this matter, is warranted by the apostle himself leading the way, in a train of argumentation which he presents throughout the whole line of the chapter before us. To follow the apostle with a view thoroughly to understand his reasoning upon this subject, is not surely any attempt on our part to be wise above that which is written, but rather the altogether fair and legitimate attempt to be wise up to that which is written. And we repeat that we know of no track in the field of Christianity more hidden from the general eye, and yet of more big and eventful importance in the history of every believer, than that by which he is carried onward from the remission of his sin to the renewal of his soul - and so is made to exemplify the walk of one, who feels himself to be secure against the punishment of sin, and yet sets himself in the attitude of determined and unsparing warfare against its power.
It is altogether essential to our understanding the sense of the apostle's argument, that we find the import of the phrase 'dead unto sin;' and it so happens that it admits of a twofold interpretation, which might serve to bewilder us, did not each of them suggest an argument against our continuance in sin, that is in every way accordant with some of the plainest and most unambiguous passages in the New Testament.

The term ' dead,' in the phrase ' dead unto sin', may be understood forensically - in which case it is not meant that we are dead in fact, but dead in law; or it may be understood personally, in which case the being dead unto sin will mean that we are dead thereunto in our affections for it - that we are no longer alive to the power of its alluremnents; but that, in virtue of the appetites of our sensitive frame being mortified to the pleasures which are but for a season, we sin not as we wont, just because the incitements to sin have not the power they wont to seduce us unto the ways of disobedience.
It may be remarked ere we proceed farther, that many commentators understand this phrase according to the latter explanation - yet the former we think ought not to be overlooked, as it involves a principle most true and important in itself, and brings out an argument against our continuance in sin, which is in most striking harmony with one of the most explicit and mm~morable quotations that can be educed from the whole compass of the sacred volume.
To understand forensically the phrase that we are dead unto sin, is to understand that for sin we are dead in law. The doom of death was upon us on account of sin; and we were in the condition of inalefactors, on whom capital sentence had been pronounced, and who were now in that place of imprisonment from whence they were shortly to be led forth to execution. Conceive that the whole amount of the punishment for sin was the simple annihilation of the sinner - that, just as under a civil government a criminal is often put to death for the vindication of its authority and for the removal of a nuisance from society, so, let it be imagined, that, under the jurisprudence of heaven, an utter extinction of being was laid upon the sinner, both for the purpose of maintaining, in respect and authority, Heaven's law, and also for the purpose of removing a nuisance and a contamination from the great spiritual family. Let us further imagine, not merely that the sentence is pronounced, but that the sentence is executed; that the life of the transgressor is taken away; and that, by an act of extermination reaching to the soul as well as to the body, the whole light of consciousness is put out, and he is expunged altogether from the face of God's animated creation.

There could be no misunderstanding of the phrase if when, in speaking of this individual after all this had befallen him, you were to say that he was dead unto or dead for sin; and such an announcement regarding him were just as distinctly intelligible, as when you tell of one who has undergone the capital sentence of the law, that he was one who for his crimes had suffered execution.

It is conceivable after such a catastrophe, that God may have devised a way, by which, in consistency with His own character and with all the purposes of His government, He might remake and reanimate the creature who had undergone this infliction - might assemble the particles of his now dissipated materialism into the same body as before, and might infuse into it a spirit, on which he shall stamp the very same identical conscioueness as before, and thus introduce at once again within that universe of life where it wont to expatiate. The phrase 'we are dead unto sin,' might still adhere to him, though now alive from the dead. It had been still our rightful sentence, and we would still have been lying under it - had not some expedient been fallen upon, or some equivalent been rendered, in virtue of which it is that we have been recalled from the chambers of dark nonenity, and been made to break forth again upon a peopled scene of sense and intelligence and feeling. And in these circumstances, is it for us to continue in sin - we who for sin were consigned to annihilation, and have only by the kindness of a Saviour been rescued from it - is it for us to repeat that thing, of whose malignity we have had in our own persons such a dreadful experience Is it for us, on whom the blow of God's insulted and provoked authority has so tremendously fallen, and who under its force would still, but for a redeemers interference, have been profoundly asleep in the womb of nothingness - is it for us again to brave the displeasure of that God whose hatred of sin is as unchangeable as His sacredness is unchangeable? - Above all is it for us, who have had such recent demonstration of the antipathies that subsist between sin and holiness - is it for us, who experimentally know that under the government of the one there for the other can be no harbour and no toleration - is it for us, who have learned from our own history, that sin is not permitted so much as to breathe within the limits of God's beloved family, and that to keep it clear of a scandal so foul and so enormous He roots up every plant and specimen that is stained by it - is it for us who, have thus once been rooted up and once been swept away, but, by the stretching forth of a tnediatorial hand, have again been summoned to the being and the birthright we formerly had in the inheritance of children - is it for us to repeat that abomination which is as uncongenial to the whole tone and spirit of the Divinity now as ever; and will remain as offensive to His eye, and as utterly irreconcilable to His nature through all eternity.

Now the argument retains its entireness, though the Mediator should interfere with His equivalent, ere the penalty of death has been inflicted - though instead of drawing them out of the pit of destruction, He by ransom should deliver them from going down into that pit - though, instead of suffering them to die for their sins and then reviving them from their state of annihilation, He should himself die for them: and they, freed from the execution of the sentence, should be continued in that life of which they had incurred the forfeiture. Still they were dead in law. To die was their rightful doom, though this doom was borne by another, and so borne away from them. Had they actually died for sin, and by the services of a mediator been brought alive again - the argument would have been, How shall we who died for sin, now that we live, continue in that which is so incompatible with the divine government, that, wherever it exists, it behoves by death to be swept away And the argument is just as strong though the services of the Mediator are applied sooner, and are of effect to prevent the death instead of recovering it. Such is the malignity of sin, that, under its operation, we would have been blotted out from the living universe - such is the sacredness of God that sin cannot exist within the precincts of His loving- kindness; and so we, who lay under its condemnation, would, but for a Redeemer's services, have been deposed from our standing in creation. We were as good as dead, for the sentence had gone forth, and was coming in sure aim and fatality on our devoted persons, when Christ stepped between, and, suffering it to light upon Himself, carried it away. And shall we, who, because of sin, were then on the point of extermination from a scene for which sin had unfitted us - shall we continue in sin, after an escape had been thus made good for us! Shall we do that thing, the doing of which would have been our death, had it not been for a redeeming process whereby life was preserved to us; and is it at all conceivable, that this redemption would have been wrought, and that for the very purpose of upholding us in the very sin which made our redemption necessary!

To use the term dead in a forensic meaning, is not a gratuitous or unauthorised interpretation on our part. We have the example of Paul himself for it, in that memorable passage of first Corinthians, where he says, that "we thus judge, that as Christ died for all, then were all dead " - not personally dead - not dead in regard of affection for what was sinful; but dead in law - dead in respect of that sure condemnation, which, but for Christ, would have been fulfilled upon all - not executed but on the eve of execution: and whether the Saviour prevent the accomplishment of the sentence, or revive and restore them after it, the argument of the apostle is the same. Christ by dying, and that to preserve them from dying, did as much for them, as if He had brought them back again from the chambers of death - as if He had put life into them anew, after it was utterly extinguished - as if He had placed them once again within the limits of God's family; and given them a second standing on the platform of life, from which sin had before swept them off. It is making Christ the author of our life, which he is as effectually by preventing its extermination, as he would have been by infusing it anew into us after it was destroyed; and the practical lesson comes out as impressively in the one case as in the other - even that we should give up the life to Him who thus has kept or who thus has recalled it, or that we should live no longer to ourselves but to Him who died for us and who rose again.

We trust you may now perceive, how impressive the consideration is on which we are required to give up sin under the economy of the gospel. For sin we were all under sentence of death. Had the sentence taken effect, we would all have been outcasts from God's family. Sin is that scandal which must be rooted out, from that great spiritual household over which the Divinity rejoices - so that on its very first appearance, an edict of expulsion went forth; and men became exiles from the domain of Almighty favour, just because they were sinners. It is conceivable that the sentence might be arrested, or that it might be recalled; but it were strange indeed, if, after being doomed to exile because they had been sinners, they should cease to be exiles and be sinners still. Strange administration indeed for sin to be so hateful to God, as to lay all who had incurred it under death; and yet when readmitted into life, that sin should be permitted, and what was before the object of destroying vengeance should now become the object of an upheld and protected toleration. Every thing done and arranged by God bears upon it the impress of his character. And it was indeed fell demonstration of his antipathy to sin, wider the first arrangement of matters between Him and the species, that, when it entered our world, the doom of extermination from all favour and fellowship with God should instantly go forth against it. And now that the doom is taken off - think you it possible, that the unchangeable God has so given up His antipathy to sin, as that man, ruined and redeemed man, may now perseveringly indulge, under the new arrangement, in that which under the old arrangement destroyed him! Does not the God who loved righteousness and hated iniquity six thousand years ago, bear the same love to righteousness and the same hatred to iniquity still! And well may not the sinner say - if on my own person such a dreadful memorial of God's hatred to sin was on the eve of being inflicted, as that of everlasting destruction from His presence - if the awfulness of such a vindictive manifestation was about to be realised on me individually, when a great Mediator interposed; and, standing between me and God, bare in his own body the whole brunt of His coming vengeance - if when thus kept from the destruction which sin drew upon me, and so as good as if rescued from that abyss of destruction into which sin had thrown me, I now breathe the air of loving-kindness from Heaven, and can walk before God in peace and graciousness - Shall I then attempt the incompatible alliance of two principles so adverse, as that of an approving God and a persevering sinner; or again try the Spirit of that Being, who, in the whole process of my condemnation and my rescue has given such proof of most sensitive and unspotted holiness! There shall be nothing, says God, to hurt or to offend in all my holy mountain. It is in conformity to this, that death is inflicted upon the sinner; and this death is neither more nor less then his expulsion from the family of holiness. Through Jesus Christ, we come again unto mount Zion, which is the heavenly Jerusalem; and it is as fresh as ever in the verdure of a perpetual holiness. How shall we who were found unfit for residence in this place because of sin, continue in sin after our readinittance therein! How shall we, recovered from so awful a catastrophe, continue that which first involved us in it! or again take on that disease which has already evinced itself to be of such virulence, as to be a disease unto death.
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