Romans 7:14
We know that the Law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.
The Position of the Law Under the New TestamentC.H. Irwin Romans 7:1-17
The Character Described in the Seventh Chapter of RomansJ. Leifchild, D. D.Romans 7:7-25
The Moral History of the Inner Man Illustrated by This PassageD. Thomas, D. D.Romans 7:7-25
To Whom Does the Passage ReferProf. J. A. Beet.Romans 7:7-25
A Common ExperienceC. Hodge, D. D.Romans 7:14-25
Believers Carnal in Comparison with the Law Which is SpiritualJ. Stafford.Romans 7:14-25
Believers Consent unto the Law that it is GoodJ. Stafford.Romans 7:14-25
Carnality and SlaveryHomiletic MonthlyRomans 7:14-25
Indwelling SinC. Hodge, D. D.Romans 7:14-25
Legal Experience a DefeatW. W. Patton, D. D.Romans 7:14-25
Man's Natural Incapability of GoodJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 7:14-25
Principles and Conduct At VarianceDean Alford.Romans 7:14-25
Sensitiveness Increases with Soul DevelopmentRomans 7:14-25
Sin Dwells Even Where it Does not ReignJ. Stafford., W. Howels.Romans 7:14-25
Sold to SinT. De Witt Talmage.Romans 7:14-25
Sold Under Sin!T.F. Lockyer Romans 7:14-25
The Bad in the GoodRomans 7:14-25
The Christian's ConflictT. Chalmers, D. D.Romans 7:14-25
The Condition of the Awakened SinnerJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 7:14-25
The Harmony of the Law and ConscienceJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 7:14-25
The Law, Man, and GraceJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 7:14-25
The Prevalence of Indwelling SinJ. Brown, D. D.Romans 7:14-25
The Principle of Progress Through AntagonismR.M. Edgar Romans 7:14-25
The Sinner Without ExcuseJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 7:14-25
The Spirituality of the Divine Law and the Sinfulness of ManEssex Congregational RemembrancerRomans 7:14-25
Thraldom of SinCharles Lamb.Romans 7:14-25

Such is the deplorable result of the action of God's Law on man: sin is made to stand out blackly, in all its hideous evil; nay, it seems even stimulated to increased malignity of working. How so? Because of the intense opposition between the holy Law and an unholy nature: "For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin." But man's nature is not without its witness for the Divine; the spiritual is captive, but not destroyed; it is capable of apprehending and desiring, though not of really purposing and performing the good: and therefore, not merely is there a conflict between the spiritual Law and man's carnal nature, as described above, but between the spiritual nature of man himself, when quickened by the spiritual Law, and that carnal nature to which it is enslaved. These verses depict this opposition, and we have therefore - the desire for the good; the subjection to the evil; the hopeless conflict.

I. THE DESIRE FOR THE GOOD. Repeatedly, through this whole passage, the apostle speaks of those who are touched by the quickening action of the Law as desiring, and half purposing, the good. Thus, "I consent unto the Law that it is good;" "To will is present with me;" "I delight in the Law of God after the inward man;" "With the mind I serve the Law of God." And is not this verified by our experience? Our very nature constrains us to approve, to admire, the good. We have the witness in ourselves. The spirit made after God's image recognizes God. The light of conscience struggles upwards to its kindred light. Nay, more than this. If we do not stubbornly resist, the fair image of goodness commands, not merely our approval, but our desires. The will, bond-slave as it is, covets freedom. The subjected spirit craves to be once again in harmony with the spiritual Law. Is not this verified likewise by the history of mankind? In the ancient world, amid all the corruptions of heathendom, there were those who approved and desired the good. It shone before them in its fascinating beauty, and their eyes were fixed upon its fairness, and their souls were drawn in longing towards it. So is it still. Does not the Christ attract the gaze, the admiration even, of sinful men? And is there not stirred in many a sinful heart the longing to be at one with Christ? Yes; the spiritual Law attracts the approbation and desire of the spiritual in man. The Ego, the Self, the I, desires the good.

II. THE SUBJECTION TO THE EVIL. But is the desire accomplished? Alas! to desire the good is only to realize more intensely the utter subjection to evil. Man's spirit is enslaved to the flesh, and, through the flesh, to sin: "sold under sin." This thought also runs through the passage. And so abject is the enslavement, that the Ego is but the impotent instrument in the hands of sin. "It is no more I that do it, but sin which dwelleth in me," is the thrice-uttered plaint of the captive man. And thus the very motions of the will are made in blind submission: "that which I do I know not." Yea, even when the will would make some show of resistance, it is all in vain. For the rigid law which governs the whole nature, made to seem the more rigid in its defiance of that other holy Law of God, is - "to me who would do good, evil is present;" yes, present always, as an absolute, a mocking lord. Has not the world's history verified these things? Listen to its confessions: Video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor; Nitimur in vetitum semper, cupimusque negata ("I see the better things, and approve them; I follow the worse;" "We strive ever after what is forbidden, and desire the things denied to us"): so spake the heathen, in the ancient world. And is not this our experience still? We are "in the flesh," and in our flesh "dwelleth no good thing." Such is our natural state.

III. THE HOPELESS CONFLICT. And, this being so, is not our condition one of wretchedness, of despair? Perpetual war between the law of the mind and the law of the members; between the spirit and the flesh. But hopeless war; sin, through the flesh, triumphant always, mockingly triumphant. Yes, we may look, we may writhe in our efforts to escape; but we are bound - bound hand and foot. And so our own very body, intended to be the obedient instrument of the governing spirit, has become, by the supremacy of sin, a brute lord, and is a "body of death." Death unto death; darkness ever darker: is not the conflict hopeless? may we not well cry, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?" Yes, hopeless in itself; no victory in us. But, thanks be to God, there is a mightier One, even Jesus; and he is our Helper, "mighty to save"! - T.F.L.

(Prof. Godet.)

1. The law is spiritual.

2. Human nature is carnal.


1. In the contradiction of practice and conviction; this proves that the law is good, but sin works in us (vers. 15, 17).

2. In the inefficacy of our resolutions; this shows that sin is more powerful than our good purposes (vers. 18-20).

3. In the failure of our good desires; this indicates that our delight in what is good is overpowered by the love of evil.

III. WHAT SHOULD BE ITS EFFECT? It should inspire —

1. An earnest aspiration for deliverance.

2. Gratitude for the salvation of the gospel.

3. A firm resolution to embrace it.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

He feels himself —

1. At variance with God's law (ver. 14).

2. At variance with himself (vers. 15-17).

3. Utterly helpless (vers. 18, 19).

4. The slave of sin (vers. 20-23).

5. Miserable and without hope, excepting in Christ (vers. 24, 25).

(J. Lyth, D. D.)

The interpretation of this passage has been embarrassed by the unnecessary assumption that it must describe either a regenerate or an unregenerate man. The alternative question as we should state it is, Is this set forth as a distinctively evangelical experience, or as one of a legal type, in whomsoever it may be found? If this is the real point, then both classes of interpreters may be partly right and partly wrong, for the passage may describe the experience which is but too common in Christians, and be purposely set forth as defective in the evangelical element, as abnormal to a proper Christian state, and as exemplifying the operation of law rather than of gospel in the work of sanctification. And this is our idea of it. The arguments on both sides are inconclusive. Those who makes out the case of a converted man point to the use of "I" and "me," and of the verbs in the present tense, as though Paul told of his present state. They further point to such expressions as to sin as "what I hate" and "the evil which I would not"; also to such language respecting holiness as, "what I would," "I delight in the law of God, after the inward man," and "I myself serve the law of God." But, on the contrary, those who insist on making out an unconverted man, have their equally strong expressions, which seem only appropriate to one yet unregenerate; such as, "I am carnal, sold under sin," "sin that dwelleth in me," "how to perform that which is good I find not," "the law of sin which is in my members," "oh, wretched man that I am!" etc. Thus they in a measure balance and neutralise each other. But the two classes of expressions taken together show a state of mind which may have much which is truly Christian, while yet the experience as a whole is sorrowfully legal and weak. The gospel offers something more victorious and blissful.

I. THE DRIFT AND NECESSITIES OF THE APOSTLE'S ARGUMENT REQUIRE THIS VIEW. In order to prove the need of the gospel salvation, and its efficacy, he demonstrates in the early chapters the universality of sin and ruin, and the impossibility of justification by the law. Then he brings forward Christ's atoning sacrifice, and the offer of a free pardon to the penitent believer, and defends the scheme from the charge of doing away with the need of holiness. And this: occupies him nearly to the middle of this seventh chapter, when there remains the important question, Whether the law, though a failure as to justification, may not suffice as a sanctifying influence? Is Christ as necessary for sanctification as for justification? If that be not discussed, and settled against the law, then Paul's argument is plainly incomplete: not only so, but if the experience here given be his own at the time, and the normal experience of saints, he seems to concede a failure in the gospel.

II. THE PASSAGE TAKEN AS A WHOLES APART FROM SINGLE EXPRESSIONS NECESSITATES THE SAME VIEW. After all that can be urged from words and phrases indicative of a regard for holiness and a dislike of sin, the all-significant fact remains, that there is nothing but utter, habitual defeat! Not a note of victory is anywhere heard. The only word of cheer is in a parenthetical clause: "I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord"; which he throws in by way of anticipation of the deliverance which he depicts in the next chapter, as the result of another and far higher experience. This unrelieved aspect of defeat shows that Paul writes here of legal failure and not of gospel success.

III. THIS VIEW IS CORROBORATED BY THE PURPOSELY CONTRASTED EXPERIENCE WHICH IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWS. The eighth chapter tells only of victory. It cannot possibly mean the same generic experience as the preceding one of lamentation and defeat. Both cannot be truly evangelical, though both may be found in converted men. It must be Paul's intent to call men out of the first into the second, as the genuine gospel state into which he himself had entered. For, mark, he not only uses the same impersonation, but the expressions in the eighth chapter are specifically chosen to represent the contradiction of the state in the seventh chapter. Thus in the seventh: "I am carnal," and "in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing"; but in the eighth: "Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit," and "To be carnally-minded is death, but to be spiritually-minded is life and peace." In the seventh: "I see another law...bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members"; "who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" but in the eighth: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." In the seventh: "Oh, wretched man that I am!" but in the eighth: "There is now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus." This contrast of language hardly allows one to think otherwise than that Paul sets forth the legal experience in the seventh chapter, and the evangelical in the eighth.

IV. THERE IS A FURTHER CORROBORATION IN THE MORE INSPIRING AND HOPEFUL VIEW WHICH IT PRESENTS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. The idea that the highest type of attainment is described in the seventh chapter, is greatly discouraging to the more earnest believers, while it acts as an opiate to the consciences of the worldly-minded. The Church sadly needs lifting, first out of worldliness, and secondly out of legality. Christians must learn that sanctification, as well as justification, is by faith; that spiritual victory is not by natural law, but by grace.

(W. W. Patton, D. D.)

For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
Essex Congregational Remembrancer.
I. THE CHARACTER OF THE DIVINE LAW. There can be no doubt that the moral law is meant; for the ceremonial could not be denominated spiritual, being composed of external rites, not in themselves holy, although adapted to promote holiness, and especially to typify a holier dispensation. But the moral law is entirely spiritual. It directs to what is essentially right and pure, and requires perfect purity in man. The substance of it is given in Matthew 22:37.

1. The requirements of this law are such as necessarily imply a spiritual obedience. Not only are they the requirements of an infinitely holy Being, who is a Spirit, but the very root and spring of the obedience itself is a spiritual exercise. It is, in its nature, distinguished from all the practices of paganism, from all human enactments, and even from the ritual injunctions of the Mosaic law. There might be a strict and regular obedience to the letter of such laws, without a right state of feeling towards the authority which enjoined them. But to the moral law of God there can be no real obedience except so far as it is the obedience of love. There is no possibility of substituting appearances for realities, profession for action, or actions themselves for affection and principle. The law therefore reaches their most thoughts.

2. The spirituality of the law is also shown by the extensiveness of its demands. It requires obedience to be not only pure in its nature, but perfect in its amount. Love to God must not be contaminated by a single sinful thought. It is a law for the whole heart, and requires all that man possessed when God created him in His own image. It allows of no change — it admits of no deficiency — it makes no allowances — it bends to no circumstances. Nor should it be forgotten that this applies to the duties of the second table, as well as those of the first. As the one requires perfect love to God, producing spotless obedience to Him, so the other requires perfect love to man, producing spotless conduct towards our neighbour. Nor are its demands satisfied by external compliances. The world may be content with politeness, but the law of God enjoins inward righteousness and benevolence, such as is fit to be looked upon by the eye of Omniscience, and worthy to be approved by Him who formed the nature of man to be the image of His own.

II. THE IMPRESSION PRODUCED ON THE MIND WHICH HATH A RIGHT APPREHENSION OF THE LAW. "I am carnal, sold under sin." The word carnal is sometimes used to denote an entire alienation from God. But here, as in some other passages, it is used in reference to the imperfect state of Christians. In comparison with the spirituality of the law, the holiest of men are carnal The apostle felt conscious of his own imperfection, just in proportion as he discerned the holiness of the law. And when lie describes himself as "sold under sin," it intimates how deep his conviction was. Notwithstanding the freedom which, since his conversion, he had obtained from his former prejudices and sins, he still found some fetters remaining. "He had not yet attained, neither was he already perfect." On this we remark —

1. That a right knowledge of the law must convince every one of the utter impossibility of obtaining salvation by it. You then perceive how you have failed, and therefore how impossible it is to stand on the ground of self-righteousness. Measured by the standard of right, it is altogether defective and defiled. It is an error to suppose that although the case is bad, yet it may be mended by doing now the best you can. There is little probability of your doing the best you can; but if you did, still the case is not essentially altered. You are still a sinful creature, and therefore the law still condemns you.

2. That the confession of the apostle was made long after his conversion. It is therefore an indication that the holiest of men are not wholly set free from the sin of our nature. Paul, with all his holy attainment and fervent zeal, needed a thorn in the flesh, lest he should be exalted above measure.

3. There should be an earnest desire and aim to obtain greater freedom from carnality and sin. In the twenty-second and following verses Paul did not content himself with making confession; he sought deliverance; he consented to the law that it was good; and such was his delight in it, that he sought conformity to it more and more. Nor can there be any genuine piety towards God where there is not a hatred of sin, and a prevailing concern to be delivered from its influence, as well as its curse.Conclusion: Infer from this —

1. How needful is it to "Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world."

2. Learn to value the means of grace, and seek improvement in the use of them.

3. Cherish a spirit of dependence on the Holy Spirit, who rendereth His own means effectual.

4. Maintain a spirit of watchfulness, in order to be steadfast and faithful unto death.

(Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

Men are, usually, strangers to themselves; but the law discovers to us our sin and misery. He who knows that the law is spiritual sees himself to be carnal.

I. ALL TRUE BELIEVERS ARE MADE ACQUAINTED WITH THE SPIRITUALITY OF THE LAW. By comparing these words with 1 Corinthians 2:14 we learn that the apostle, being spiritual, was led to see that spirituality in the law of which men are ignorant in their unregenerate state.

1. The law, i.e., the moral law, is spiritual. The apostle had already declared it to be holy, and just, and good; and now he adds, "The law is spiritual." The general reasons given for this are the law is spiritual, as it proceeds from God, who is a pure Spirit; as it directs men to that worship of God which is spiritual; as it can never be answered by any man who hath not the Spirit; as it is a spiritual guide, not only of our words and actions, but also reaching the inward man; and as it requires that we perform the things which are spiritual in a spiritual manner. All these things may be included; but spiritual is to be understood as set in opposition to carnal. The law requires a righteousness in which there is nothing but what savours of the Spirit. Now if this be a true representation, who would not confess with our apostle, "Lord, I am carnal; when I think of Thy law I am ashamed of myself, and repent in dust and ashes "(Job 15:14-16).

2. All true believers are made acquainted with the spirituality of the law. "We know that the law is spiritual." This expression well agrees with ver. 1. Others, who make their boast of it, and of their conformity to it, know not what they say. They only know it who love it. They can never know it, or love it, unless it be first written in their hearts. And this light bringeth heat with it. The right knowledge of God in the soul begets in it love to Him. A supernatural sanctified knowledge of God is the law of God written in the heart. And this will be attended with obedience; and this obedience, though it be not absolutely perfect as to any one of the commands, yet it will have respect to them all, and from this respect to the law will flow evangelical grief and sorrow whenever we break it or come short of it.

II. THE BEST OF SAINTS, COMPARING THEIR HEARTS AND LIVES WITH THE SPIRITUALITY OF THE LAW, WILL FIND GREAT REASON TO COMPLAIN OF THEIR REMAINING CARNALITY. We cannot suppose that the apostle had so much cause to complain as we have; but he might see and feel more than we do, because he was more spiritual. Complaints of the remaining power of sin, so far from being evidences that we are strangers to the grace of Christ, will prove that He hath begun to convince us of sin and to make it hateful to us. Abraham, when viewing the purity of the Divine nature, confesseth himself but dust and ashes, and utterly unworthy to hold converse with God, Jacob confesseth himself not worthy of the least mercy. Job abhors himself, and repents in dust and ashes. Isaiah cries out, "Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts." Conclusion:

1. It is not likely that any who are made acquainted with the spirituality of the law should pretend to sinless perfection.

2. If believers themselves are carnal, then they cannot be justified by their best obedience.

(J. Stafford.)


1. Source.

2. Nature.

3. Requirements.

4. Application.

5. Means.

6. Effects.


1. Carnal in its —





2. Sold under sin.





(J. Lyth, D. D.)

Homiletic Monthly.
A fundamental lack: pungent convictions of sin. Tendency to apologise for it as a disease, misfortunes heredity, etc. Theo. Parker defines sin "a fall forward." No sense of its enormity and deformity is to be found. Compare chaps, 1 and 2, in which it is held up before us as monstrous and hideous. Here Paul makes two statements: as to —

I. CARNALITY. There is in the very nature sin and guilt, like grain in wood, temper in metal. There is a drift, always downward, never upward; a relish for sin; a fatal facility toward transgression. It is this carnal mind that constitutes the essence of enmity to God (chap. Romans 8.). This carnality betrays itself in native and habitual resistance —

1. To law. Even when recognised as holy, just, and good. The very existence of a command incites to rebellion (cf. Romans 7:7).

2. To light (cf. John 3:19, 20). Men are like bugs under a stone: turn up the stone and they run to their holes.

3. To love. Even the tender persuasions of grace are resisted by the sinner.

II. CAPTIVITY. "Sold under sin." There is a voluntary surrender to the power of evil.

1. Dominion of evil thoughts, opening the mind to the entrance of images of lust, and cherishing imaginations and corrupt desires.

2. Sway of vicious habits. Even when the bondage is felt to be heavy the sinner will rivet his own chains (cf. Proverbs 23:35).

3. Control of Satan. For the sake of a brief pleasure found in sin men will submit to slavery under the implacable foe of God and man.

(Homiletic Monthly.)

Sold under sin.
I have seen a print after Correggio, in which three female figures are ministering to a man who sits foot bound at the root of a tree. Sensuality is soothing him. Evil Habit is nailing him to a branch, and Repentance at the same instant of time is applying a snake to his side. When I saw this I admired the wonderful skill of the painter. But when I went away I wept, because I thought of my own condition. Of that there is no hope that it should ever change. The waters have gone over me. But out of the black depths, could I be heard, I would cry out to all those who have set a foot in the perilous flood. Could the youth, to whom the flavour of his first wine is delicious as the opening scenes of life or the entering upon some newly-discovered paradise, look into my desolation, and be made to understand what a dreary thing it is when a man shall feel himself going down a precipice with open eyes and a passive will — to see his destruction and have no power to stop it, and yet to feel it all in a way emanating from himself!

(Charles Lamb.)

One of these victims said to a Christian man, "Sir, if I were told that I couldn't get a drink until tomorrow night unless I had all my fingers cut off, I would say, 'Bring the hatchet and cut them off now.'" I have a dear friend in Philadelphia whose nephew came to him one day, and when he was exhorted about his evil habit said, "Uncle, I can't give it up: If there stood a cannon, and it was loaded, and a glass of wine were set on the mouth of that cannon, and I knew that you would fire it off just as I came up and took the glass, I would start, for I must have it." Oh, it is a sad thing for a man to wake up in this life and feel that he is a captive! He says, I could have got rid of this once, but I can't now. I might have lived an honourable life and died a Christian death; but there is no hope for me now; there is no escape for me. Dead, but not buried. I am a walking corpse. I am an apparition of what I once was. I am a caged immortal beating against the wires of my cage in this direction; beating against the cage until there is blood on the wires and blood upon my soul, yet not able to get out.

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

For that which I do I allow not.
Every Christian can adopt the language of this verse. Pride, coldness, slothfulness, and other feelings which he disapproves and hates, are, day by day, reasserting their power over him. He struggles against their influence, groans beneath their bondage, longs to be filled with meekness, humility, and all other fruits of the love of God, but finds he can neither of himself, nor by the aid of the law, effect his freedom from what he hates, or the full performance of what he desires and approves. Every evening witnesses his penitent confession of his degrading bondage, his sense of utter helplessness, and his longing desire for aid from above. He is a slave looking and longing for liberty.

(C. Hodge, D. D.)

Once a man appeared in Athens who gave out that he could read character correctly at sight. Some of the disciples of Socrates brought their master forward, and bade the physiognomist try his power upon him. "One of the worst types of humanity in the city," he declared; "a natural thief, a constitutional liar, a sad glutton." At this moment the friends of Socrates interrupted with rebuke and denial. But Socrates stopped them to say that the man was too certainly and sadly right, that it was the struggle of his life to master just these defects of character. "I am more afraid of my own heart than of the Pope and all his cardinals," said Martin Luther. "For that which I do, I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I," exclaimed St. Paul.

It is one thing to give assent to good principles, it is quite another to put them in practice. A bright little Kansas boy was sent home from school for bad behaviour. A kind neighbour said to him, "Willie, I am sorry to hear such an account of you. I thought you had better principles." "Oh," he answered, "it wasn't the principles; my principles are all right, it was my conduct they sent me home for." For what I would, that do I not. —This θέλω is not the full determination of the will, the standing with the bow drawn and the arrow aimed; but rather the wish, the inclination of the will — the taking up the bow and pointing at the mark, but without power to draw it.

(Dean Alford.)

If then I do that which I would not
1. The Christian is not yet a just man made perfect, but a just man fighting his way to perfection. The text is taken up with this war — the conflict which arises from the flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.

2. It is a puzzle to many that a man should do what is wrong while he wills what is right; and grieve because of the one, and press on towards the other. But this is not singular. The artist does not the things that he would, and does the things that he would not. There is a lofty standard to which he is constantly aspiring, and even approximating; yet along the whole of this path there is a humbling comparison of what has been attained with what is yet in the distance. And thus disappointment and self-reproval are mixed up with ambition — nay, with progress.

3. Now what is true of art is true of religion. There is a model of unattained perfection in the holy law of God. But just in proportion to the delight which believers take in the contemplation of its excellence, are the despondency and the shame wherewith they regard their own mean imitations of it. Yet out of the believer's will pitching so high, and his work lagging so miserably after it, there comes that very activity which guides and guarantees his progress towards Zion.

4. Paul once was blameless in the righteousness of the law, so far as he understood of its requirements. But on his becoming a Christian he got a spiritual insight of it, and then began the warfare of the text — for then it was that his conscience outran his conduct. He formerly walked on what he felt to be an even platform of righteousness; but now the plat. form was as if lifted above him. Then all he did was as he would; but what he now did was as he would not. His present view of the law did not make him shorter of it; but it made him feel shorter.

5. Figure, then, a man to be under such aspirings, but often brought down by the weight of a constitutional bias; and there are a thousand ways in which he is exposed to the doing of that which he would not. Should he wander in prayer — should crosses cast him down from his confidence in God — should any temptation woo him from purity, patience, and charity — then on that high walk of principle upon which he is labouring to uphold himself, will he have to mourn that he doeth the things which he would not; and ever as he proceeds, will he still find that there are conquests and achievements of greater difficulty in reserve for him. And so it follows that he who is highest in acquirement is sure to be deepest in lowly and contrite tenderness.

6. In the case of an unconverted man the flesh is weak and the spirit is not willing; and so there is no conflict. With a Christian, the flesh is weak too, but the spirit is willing; and under its influence his desires will outstrip his doings; and thus will he not only leave undone much of what he would, but even do many things that he would not. But the will must be there. The man who uses the degeneracy of his nature as a plea for sinful indulgence is going to the grave with a lie in his right hand. That the will be on the side of virtue is indispensable to Christian uprightness. Wanting this, you want the primary and essential element of regeneration.

7. God knows how to distinguish the Christian, amid all his imperfections, from another who, not visibly dissimilar, is nevertheless destitute of heartfelt desirousness after the doing of His will. Let me suppose two vehicles, both upon a rugged road, where at last each was brought to a dead stand. They are alike in the one palpable circumstance of making no progress; and, were this the only ground for forming a judgment, it might be concluded that the drivers were alike remiss, or the animals alike indolent. And yet, on a narrower comparison, it may be observed, from the loose traces of the one, that all exertion had been given up; while with the other there was the full tension of a resolute and sustained energy. And so of the Christian course. It is not altogether by the sensible motion, or the place of advancement, that the genuineness of the Christian character is to be estimated. Man may not see all the springs and traces of this moral mechanism, but God sees them; and He knows whether all is slack and careless within you, or whether there be the full stretch of a single and honest determination on the side of obedience.

8. In ver. 17 there is a peculiarity that is worth adverting to. St. Paul throughout utters the consciousness of two opposite principles which rivalled for dominion over his now compound because regenerated nature; and he sometimes identifies himself with the first and sometimes with the second. In speaking of the movements of the flesh, he sometimes says that it is I who put forth these movements. "I do that which I hate," etc., etc. Yet notice how he shifts the application of the "I" from the corrupt to the spiritual ingredient of his nature. It is I who would do that which is good, etc. And, to fetch an example from another part of his writings, it is truly remarkable that, while here he says of that which is evil in him, "It is no more I," etc., there he says of that which is good in him, "Nevertheless not me, but the grace of God that is in me." We bring together these affirmations to make more manifest that state of composition in which every Christian is. In virtue of the original ingredient of this composition, he does well to be humbled under a sense of his own innate and inherent worthlessness. And yet, in virtue of the second or posterior ingredient, the higher faculties of his moral system are now all on the side of new obedience.

9. And the apostle, at the end of this chapter, lays before us the distinction between the two parts of the Christian nature when he says, that with the mind I myself serve the law of God, and with the flesh the law of sin. But ever remember that it is the part of the former to keep the latter under the power of its presiding authority. Were there no counteracting force, I would serve it; but, with that force in operation, sin may have a dwelling place, but it shall not have the dominion. When the matter is taken up as a matter of humiliation, then it cannot be too strongly insisted upon that it is I who am the sinner; but when it is taken up as a topic of aspiring earnestness, it cannot be too strongly urged on every Christian to feel that his mind is with the law of God; and though the tendencies of his flesh be with the law of sin, yet, sustained by aid from the sanctuary, does he both will and is enabled to strive against these tendencies and to overcome them.

10. It is under such a feeling of what he was in himself on the one hand, and such an earnestness to be released from the miseries of this his natural condition upon the other, that Paul cries out, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!" And mark how instantaneous the transition is from the cry of distress to the gratitude of his felt and immediate deliverance — "I thank God through Jesus Christ my Lord." This we hold to be the exercise of every true Christian in the world. Evil is present with him, but grace is in readiness to subdue it; and while he blames none but himself for all that is corrupt, he thanks none but God in Christ for all that is good in him.

(T. Chalmers, D. D.)

I consent unto the law that it is good.

1. There are few but generally have the evidences hinted at in my text — an hatred to sin, a love to holiness. Whenever a godly man sins, he always does the evil which he allows not; but when wicked men do evil, they do it with both hands earnestly. The wicked, too, love evil, but the Christian ever consents to the law that it is good.

2. Now this consent is the effect of likeness or similarity. A man must be changed into the very image of the law before he will consent to it that it is good. The soul must renounce all obedience to the old law of sin, and give up itself wholly to receive the impression of the law of God; and then, having the law written upon his heart, he will inwardly consent to it and outwardly obey it.

3. The image thus impressed abideth; and where that is, there must be ground of evidence that such an one belongs to God. For as in the old creation you are constrained to confess there must be some first cause; so, wherever we find the new creature, we ought to conclude that this is the work of God,

II. THESE EVIDENCES ARE NOT ALWAYS PLAIN AND LEGIBLE. Weakness of grace, strength of corruption, assaults of temptation, have a sad tendency to obscure the evidences even of the best of saints. So it was with Job (Job 23:8-11).


IV. IF A MAN, UNDER ALL HIS WEAKNESS AND COMPLAINTS, CAN FIND IN HIS HEART LOVE TO THE LAW OF GOD, HE MAY — NAY, HE OUGHT TO — LOOK UPON IT AS AN INDISPUTABLE EVIDENCE OF HIS BEING REGENERATE. This is the grand point the apostle would arrive at; with this conclusion he seems to rest satisfied.

(J. Stafford.)

The greater the soul's development, the greater its sensitiveness. This explains the spiritual throes of saintly men — why Fenelon and Edwards write hard things against themselves, while Diderot and Hume put on the robes of self-complacency. The higher the development, the more vulnerable. Matter in an inorganic state is untroubled; but as soon as it begins to take living, pulsating form, and becomes replete with nerve power, it begins to be vulnerable, and has to fight its way through antagonists. The corn yet unsprouted mocks the frost; but when the tiny blade appears above the soil, the frost preys upon its tenderness, and the weeds plot against it. A cold-blooded animal runs into few dangers in coming into the world. A warm-blooded animal meets more; man, most of all. And when, in man, we pass from the lowest to the highest part of his being, we find his sensitiveness and vulnerability increasing at every step. The mind feels pain quicker than the body; the conscience and the heart are tenderer to the touch of stings than the reason. And so it is we naturally look for and find the greater sensitiveness in the souls that have been most quickened, and that are largest in their development. The keenness, then, of your sense of sin, shows not that you are a greater sinner than other men, but that your spirituality is more quickly and painfully convulsed by the intrusive poison. The pain you feel bears the clearer witness to your heavenly life.

Conscience —





(J. Lyth, D. D.)




(J. Lyth, D. D.)

Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SUBJECT. Redemption is deliverance from sin. Hence the theory of redemption and its practical application — i.e., both our theology and our religion are determined by our views of sin.

1. As to theory.(1) If there is no sin there is no redemption.(2) If sin consists merely in action, and can be avoided, then redemption is a small matter.(3) But if sin is a universal and incurable corruption of our nature, then redemption is the work of God.

2. As to practice. The religious experience of every man is determined by his view of sin. It is his sense of guilt which leads him to look to God for help, and the kind of help he seeks depends upon what he thinks of sin.

II. THE NATURE OF INDWELLING SIN. The Scriptures teach —

1. The entire and universal corruption of our nature.

2. That this corruption manifests itself in all forms of actual sin, as a tree is known by its fruits.

3. That regeneration consists in the creation of a new principle, a germ of spiritual life, and not in the absolute destruction of this corruption.

4. That consequently in the renewed there are two conflicting principles — sin and grace, the law of sin and the law of the mind.

5. That this remaining corruption, as modified and strengthened by our actual sins, is what is meant by indwelling sin.


1. Scripture, which everywhere teaches not only that the renewed fall into actual sins, but that they are burdened by indwelling corruption.

2. Personal experience. Conscience upbraids us not only for actual sins, but for the immanent state of our hearts in the sight of God.

3. The recorded experience of the Church in all ages.


1. It is of greater turpitude than individual acts. Pride is worse than acts of haughtiness or arrogance.

2. It is the fruitful source of actual sins.

3. It is beyond the reach of the will, and can only be subdued by the grace of God.

V. WHAT HOPE HAVE WE IN RELATION TO IT? The new principle is generally victorious, constantly increases in strength, and constitutes the character. It has on its side God, His Word, His Spirit, reason, and conscience. The final victory of the new principle is certain. We are not engaged in a doubtful or hopeless conflict.


1. The Word. Sacraments and prayer. By the assiduous use of these, the principle of evil is weakened and that of grace is strengthened,

2. Acts of faith in Christ, who dwells in our heart by faith.

3. Mortification — refusing to gratify evil propensities and keeping under the body.

(C. Hodge, D. D.)

These words must not be understood as an attempt to escape from the responsibilities of occasional violations of Divine law in opposition to a habitual will to yield obedience, by transferring them to something that was in Paul but not of him. They are rather a strong and enigmatic statement of the conclusion to which his premises fairly led him — that these exceptional transgressions were not the true exponents of his character; that, notwithstanding these, he "in his mind" was "a servant of the law of God" (ver. 26). When the apostle, speaking of his labours, says, "Not I, but the grace of God that was with me" (1 Corinthians 15:10), he does not mean that he did not perform them, but that he performed them under the influence of the grace of God. When he says, "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me" (Galatians 2:20), he means merely that to Christ he was indebted for the origin and maintenance of his new and better life. And here he means not to deny that he did those things, but to assert that he did them under an influence that was no longer the dominant one in his mind. Suppose a good man — say Cranmer — from the terror of a violent death should make a temporary denial of the faith, would not everyone understand what was meant by "It was not Thomas Cranmer, but his fear, that dictated the recantation"?

(J. Brown, D. D.)

I. WHEN EVIL IS DONE BY ANY MAN AGAINST HIS MIND, WILL, OR FREE CONSENT, IT MAY, IN SOME SENSE, BE SAID NOT TO BE HIS SIN. This is an inference deduced from the two preceding verses — viz., that since he did not approve, but hated sin, he might justly conclude, "It is no longer I, my whole self, much less is it my better self, as renewed by the power of Divine grace." But before a man can take comfort from this consideration, he must be able to see that there is no consent, either express and formal, or interpretative and virtual. By express consent we intend a man's yielding up himself to any lust, as Cain expressly consented to the murder of his brother, and Judas to betray his Lord and Master. But a virtual consent is, when we yield to that from which such a sin will probably follow: thus a man that is violently intoxicated, if he kill anyone, etc., he may virtually be said to will whatever wickedness he may commit, though for the present he knoweth not what he doth. On the other hand, where sin is hateful, the believer may, and ought to, form his estimate, not from the corrupt, but from the better part of himself.


1. The nature of the principles engaged in this conflict. The conflict may be known, whether it be natural or spiritual, from the quality of the principles which are engaged in it. If only the understanding or knowledge be set against sin, or if conscience be the only opposing principle, this, as it may be found in an unregenerate man, is very different from the conflict which was found in our apostle, and in all true believers.

2. The nature of the motives by which it is carried on. These motives are many and various, suited to the principles of the persons engaged in the conflict — such as the fear of man, the loss of worldly interest, character, or reputation, the loss of bodily health, etc. — and the greatest principle may be that of self-love, or the love of human applause, all which considerations when alone, and when they are the sole grounds or motives in men's opposition to sin — these and such like motives, as they spring from pride, flattery, and self-love, in opposition to the love of God, are no better than a prostitution of spiritual things to carnal purposes, and therefore they are far from affording any good evidence that such a heart is right with God.

3. The different desires, aims, and ends proposed in the conflict. The highest and best that can be proposed by a rational creature is the glory of God; but no such end was ever proposed by an unregenerate man; no, not in any one action — not in his best frames or highest attainments; and yet without this men do but serve themselves and not God.

4. The manner of sinning, both as to temper and behaviour. When believers sin —(1) It is not with their full and free consent, at any time, or upon any occasion. Once they did as fully and freely consent to it as any other sinners in the world (Ephesians 2:2), but now it is not so.(2) Yet sin does not reign in them, as it once did, or as it now does in others.(3) They do it not habitually and customarily, as they once did, and as others still do.(4) They do it not, as Satan does, out of malice and hatred against God.(5) They do not abide or continue in it and under it, as others do, or as they themselves once did.(6) They sin not without the loss of their peace and comfort as others do, or as they themselves once did.(7) It is generally out of weakness, and not out of wickedness; it is for want of strength to conquer, or it is through infirmity.

III. THAT THE BEST OF SAINTS ARE NOT ONLY LIABLE TO SIN, BUT THEY HAVE ALSO SIN DWELLING WITHIN THEM. It is evident that we must understand original sin or corruption in the immediate actings of it in the heart of a believer. If it be inquired, "Why does our apostle call the corruption of human nature the sin that dwelleth in us?" we answer — because —

1. It hath taken possession of us, and its abode is in us as its house.

2. Of its permanency or its fixed and stated abode in us. It dwelleth in us, not merely as a stranger or a guest.

3. It is a latent evil, and herein lies much of its security.

(J. Stafford.)

I. ENDEAVOUR TO EXPLAIN THE TEXT. The apostle did not mean to offer any apology for sin; he did not mean to tell us that it did not emanate from himself. No; he was conscious it did, and this humiliating truth was eminently blest to him, as it has been, and ever will be, to all the family of heaven.

1. He was justified completely from sin. This is the glory of the Christian religion: Every other religion binds man hand and foot, soul and body; but there is this glorious provision in the covenant of the Eternal Three: in the work of the Son, and in the fulfilment of the covenant offices of God the Holy Ghost, the sinner is justified by faith in Christ, and the condemnation is transferred from the sinner to sin.

2. Sin was dethroned in the apostle's affections. "For," says he, "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." Sin is such a monster that no one can confine it but the Almighty. He is destined to die, and that too in a three-fold manner.

(1)By famine (Romans 13:14).

(2)By poison. Mercy is the food of the soul and the poison of sin (Psalm 130:3, 4).

(3)By suicide.


1. We learn sin in its origin and evil, necessarily connected with what we experience, with what God has been pleased to reveal to us.

2. The glory of Jesus Christ as a Mediator between God and man.

3. Self-knowledge. And this lies at the root of all religion. It is the foundation of everything that is excellent.

4. Wisdom and circumspection. We read of some who are "taken captive by the devil at his will"; and, indeed, their own will is fully identified with his will; and this is the reason he takes them captive so easily.

5. Sympathy. Sinners not changed by the grace of God hate each other, not their sins. Awful consideration! they love sin but hate sinners; they hate too the consequences of sin, when obliged to feel them; but sin itself they lure. Not so when man has been changed into the image of the living God — he is taught to love and pity the sinner, while he abhors his sin.

6. His absolute dependence on a covenant God for everything, and to prize that dependence.

7. Gratitude in the midst of the deepest calamities.

8. Sin is suffered to dwell within us, to prepare the saint for heaven. The daily conflict within gradually lessens his attachment to the things of time and sense.

(W. Howels.)

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