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Romans vi. 14—vii. 6

AT the point we have now reached, the Apostle's thought pauses for a moment, to resume.9494It will be observed that we place the paragraph after ver. 13, not, as many editions of the Epistle do, after ver. 14. It seems to us clear that ver. 14 has a closer connexion with the following than with the previous context. It looks back, not precisely to ver. 13, but to the general recent argument, that it may then look definitely forward, over new ground. He has brought us to self-surrender. We have seen the sacred obligations of our divine and wonderful liberty. We have had the miserable question, "Shall we cling to sin?" answered by an explanation of the rightness and the bliss of giving over our accepted persons, in the fullest liberty of will, to God, in Christ. Now he pauses, to illustrate and enforce. And two human relations present themselves for the purpose; the one to shew the absoluteness of the surrender, the other its living results. The first is Slavery, the second is Wedlock.

For sin shall not have dominion over you; sin shall not put in its claim upon you, the claim which the Lord has met in your Justification; for you are 171 not brought9595Ὑπὸ νόμον, ὑπὸ χάριν: the accusative case gives the preposition properly the meaning of motion underwards. But this must not be pressed too far. under law, but under grace. The whole previous argument explains this sentence. He refers to our acceptance. He goes back to the justification of the guilty, "without the deeds of law," by the act of free grace; and briefly restates it thus, that he may take up afresh the position that this glorious liberation means not licence but divine order. Sin shall be no more your tyrant-creditor, holding up the broken law in evidence that it has right to lead you off to a pestilential prison, and to death. Your dying Saviour has met your creditor in full for you, and in Him you have entire discharge in that eternal court where the terrible plea once stood against you. Your dealings as debtors are now not with the enemy who cried for your death, but with the Friend who has bought you out of his power.

What then? are we to sin, because we are not brought under law, but under grace? Shall our life be a life of licence, because we are thus wonderfully free? The question assuredly is one which, like that of ver. 1, and like those suggested in iii. 8, 31, had often been asked of St Paul, by the bitter opponent, or by the false follower. And again it illustrates and defines, by the direction of its error, the line of truth from which it flew off. It helps to do what we remarked above,9696p. 157. to assure us that when St Paul taught "Justification by faith, without deeds of law," he meant what he said, without reserve; he taught that great side of truth wholly, and without a compromise. He called the sinner, "just as he was, and waiting not to rid his soul of one dark blot," to receive at once, and without fee, the acceptance of God 172 for Another's blessed sake. Bitter must have been the moral pain of seeing, from the first, this holy freedom distorted into an unhallowed leave to sin.9797Luther's Esto peccator, et pecca fortiter, has been often quoted as if that great saint meant to argue licence from Justification by faith. "God forbid." The words occur in a counsel to Melanchthon, whose anxious conscience doubted whether it were not a sin to communicate in one Kind, even where the true Rite in both Kinds could not be had. It was Luther's glowing paradox, to drive a manifestly morbid and weakening scrupulousness from his friend's mind. See Julius Hare's Vindication of Luther, pp. 178, etc. But he will not meet it by an impatient compromise, or untimely confusion. It shall be answered by a fresh collocation; the liberty shall be seen in its relation to the Liberator; and behold, the perfect freedom is a perfect service, willing but absolute, a slavery joyfully accepted, with open eyes and open heart, and then lived out as the most real of obligations by a being who has entirely seen that he is not his own.

Away with the thought. Do you not know that the party to whom you present, surrender, yourselves bondservants, slaves, so as to obey him,—bondservants you are, not the less for the freewill of the surrender, of the party whom you obey; no longer merely contractors with him, who may bargain, or retire, but his bondservants out and out; whether of sin, to death, or of obedience, to righteousness? (As if their assent (ὑπακοὴ) to Christ, their Amen to His terms of peace, acceptance, righteousness, were personified; they were now the bondsmen of this their own act and deed, which had put them, as it were, into Christ's hands for all things.) Now (δὲ) thanks be to our (τῷ) God, that you were bondmen of sin, in legal claim, and under moral sway; yes, every one of you was this, whatever forms the bondage took upon its surface; but you 173 obeyed from the heart the mould of teaching to which you were handed over.9898So undoubtedly the Greek must be rendered. They had been sin's slaves. Verbally, not really, he "thanks God" for that fact of the past. Really, not verbally, he "thanks God" for the pastness of the fact, and for the bright contrast to it in the regenerated present. They had now been "handed over," by their Lord's transaction about them, to another ownership, and they had accepted the transfer, "from the heart." It was done by Another for them, but they had said their humble, thankful fiat as He did it. And what was the new ownership thus accepted? We shall find soon (ver. 22), as we might expect, that it is the mastery of God. But the bold, vivid introductory imagery has already called it (ver. 16) the slavery of "Obedience." Just below (vers. 19, 20) it is the slavery of "Righteousness," that is, if we read the word aright in its whole context, of "the Righteousness of God," His acceptance of the sinner as His own in Christ. And here, in a phrase most unlikely of all, whose personification strikes life into the most abstract aspects of the message of the grace of God, the believer is one who has been transferred to the possession of "a mould of Teaching." The apostolic Doctrine, the mighty Message, the living Creed of life, the Teaching of the acceptance of the guilty for the sake of Him who was their Sacrifice, and is now their Peace and Life—this truth has, as it were, grasped them as its vassals, to form them, to mould them, for its issues. It is indeed their "tenet." It holds them; a thought far different from what is too often meant when we say of a doctrine that "we hold it." Justification by their Lord's merit, union with their 174 Lord's life; this was a doctrine, reasoned, ordered, verified. But it was a doctrine warm and tenacious with the love of the Father and of the Son. And it had laid hold of them with a mastery which swayed thought, affection, and will; ruling their whole view of self and of God. Now (δὲ), liberated from your (τῆς) sin, you were enslaved to the Righteousness of God.9999See above, p. 173. Here is the point of the argument. It is a point of steel, for all is fact; but the steel is steeped in love, and carries life and joy into the heart it penetrates. They are not for one moment their own. Their acceptance has magnificently emancipated them from their tyrant-enemy. But it has absolutely bound them to their Friend and King. Their glad consent to be accepted has carried with it a consent to belong. And if that consent was at the moment rather implied than explicit, virtual rather than articulately conscious, they have now only to understand their blessed slavery better to give the more joyful thanksgivings to Him who has thus claimed them altogether as His own.

The Apostle's aim in this whole passage is to awaken them, with the strong, tender touch of his holy reasoning, to articulate their position to themselves. They have trusted Christ, and are in Him. Then, they have entrusted themselves altogether to Him. Then, they have, in effect, surrendered. They have consented to be His property. They are the bondservants, they are the slaves,100100We do not forget that many Christians feel a strong repugnance to the use of this word, steeped as it is in associations of degradation and wrong. For ourselves, we would yield to this feeling so far as habitually to prefer the word of milder sound, "bondservant." But surely in this passage the Apostle on purpose so accentuates the thought of our bondservice that its fullest and sternest designation is in place. And, if in any degree we gather the thought of other hearts from our own, there are times and connexions in which the fulness of the joy of service demands that designation in order to its adequate realization. of His Truth, that is, of Him robed and 175 revealed in His Truth, and shining through it on them in the glory at once of His grace and of His claim. Nothing less than such an obligation is the fact for them. Let them feel, let them weigh, and then let them embrace, the chain which after all will only prove their pledge of rest and freedom.

What St Paul thus did for our elder brethren at Rome, let him do for us of this later time. For us, who read this page, all the facts are true in Christ to-day. To-day let us define and affirm their issues to ourselves, and recollect our holy bondage, and realize it, and live it out with joy.

Now he follows up the thought. Conscious of the superficial repulsiveness of the metaphor—quite as repulsive in itself to the Pharisee as to the Englishman—he as it were apologizes for it; not the less carefully, in his noble considerateness, because so many of his first readers were actually slaves. He does not lightly go for his picture of our Master's hold of us to the market of Corinth, or of Rome, where men and women were sold and bought to belong as absolutely to their buyers as cattle, or as furniture. Yet he does go there, to shake slow perceptions into consciousness, and bring the will face to face with the claim of God. So he proceeds: I speak humanly, I use the terms of this utterly not-divine bond of man to man, to illustrate man's glorious bond to God, because of the weakness of your flesh, because your yet imperfect state enfeebles your spiritual perception, and demands a 176 harsh paradox to direct and fix it. For—here is what he means by "humanly"—just as you surrendered your limbs,101101Μέλη: what "the body" is in such passages as xii. 1 that "the limbs" are in detail. your functions and faculties in human life, slaves to your (τῇ) impurity and to your (τῇ) lawlessness, unto that (τὴν) lawlessness, so that the bad principle did indeed come out in bad practice, so now, with as little reserve of liberty, surrender your limbs slaves to righteousness, to God's Righteousness, to your justifying God, unto sanctification—so that the surrender shall come out in your Master's sovereign separation of His purchased property from sin.

He has appealed to the moral reason of the regenerate soul. Now he speaks straight to the will. You are, with infinite rightfulness, the bondmen of your God. You see your deed of purchase; it is the other side of your warrant of emancipation. Take it, and write your own unworthy names with joy upon it, consenting and assenting to your Owner's perfect rights. And then live out your life, keeping the autograph of your own surrender before your eyes. Live, suffer, conquer, labour, serve, as men who have themselves walked to their Master's door, and presented the ear to the awl which pins it to the doorway, each in his turn saying, "I will not go out free."102102Exod. xxi. 5, 6; Deut. xv. 16, 17.

To such an act of the soul the Apostle calls these saints, whether they had done the like before or no. They were to sum up the perpetual fact, then and there, into a definite and critical act (παραστήσατε, aorist) of thankful will. And he calls us to do the same to-day. By the grace of God, it shall be done. With eyes open, 177 and fixed upon the face of the Master who claims us, and with hands placed helpless and willing within His hands, we will, we do, present ourselves bondservants to Him; for discipline, for servitude, for all His will.

For when you were slaves of your (τῆς) sin, you were freemen as to righteousness, God's Righteousness (τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ). It had nothing to do with you, whether to give you peace or to receive your tribute of love and loyalty in reply. Practically, Christ was not your Atonement, and so not your Master; you stood, in a dismal independence, outside His claims. To you, your lips were your own; your time was your own; your will was your own. You belonged to self; that is to say, you were the slaves of your sin. Will you go back? Will the word "freedom" (he plays with it, as it were, to prove them) make you wish yourselves back where you were before you had endorsed by faith your purchase by the blood of Christ? Nay, for what was that "freedom," seen in its results, its results upon yourselves? What fruit, therefore, (the "therefore" of the logic of facts,) used you to have then, in those old days, from things over which you are ashamed now? Ashamed indeed; for the end, the issue, as the fruit is the tree's "end," the end of those things is—death; perdition of all true life, here and hereafter too. But now, in the blessed actual state of your case, as by faith you have entered into Christ, into His work and into His life, now liberated from sin and enslaved to God, you have your fruit, you possess indeed, at last, the true issues of being for which you were made, all contributing to sanctification, to that separation to God's will in practice which is the development of your separation to that will in critical fact, when you met your Redeemer in self-renouncing 178 faith. Yes, this fruit you have indeed; and as its end, as that for which it is produced, to which it always and for ever tends, you have life eternal. For the pay of sin, sin's military stipend (ὀψώνια), punctually given to the being which has joined its war against the will of God, is death; but the free gift of God is life eternal, in Jesus Christ our Lord.

"Is life worth living?" Yes, infinitely well worth, for the living man who has surrendered to "the Lord that bought him." Outside that ennobling captivity, that invigorating while most genuine bondservice, the life of man is at best complicated and tired with a bewildered quest, and gives results at best abortive, matched with the ideal purposes of such a being. We "present ourselves to God," for His ends, as implements, vassals, willing bondmen; and lo, our own end is attained. Our life has settled, after its long friction, into gear. Our root, after hopeless explorations in the dust, has struck at last the stratum where the immortal water makes all things live, and grow, and put forth fruit for heaven. The heart, once dissipated between itself and the world, is now "united" to the will, to the love, of God; and understands itself, and the world, as never before; and is able to deny self and to serve others in a new and surprising freedom. The man, made willing to be nothing but the tool and bondman of God, "has his fruit" at last; bears the true product of his now re-created being, pleasant to the Master's eye, and fostered by His air and sun. And this "fruit" issues, as acts issue in habit, in the glad experience of a life really sanctified, really separated in ever deeper inward reality, to a holy will. And the "end" of the whole glad possession, is "life eternal."


Those great words here signify, surely, the coming bliss of the sons of the resurrection, when at last in their whole perfected being they will "live" all through, with a joy and energy as inexhaustible as its Fountain, and unencumbered at last and for ever by the conditions of our mortality. To that vast future, vast in its scope yet all concentrated round the fact that "we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is," the Apostle here looks onward. He will say more of it, and more largely, later, in the eighth chapter. But as with other themes so with this he preludes with a few glorious chords the great strain soon to come. He takes the Lord's slave by the hand, amidst his present tasks and burthens, (dear tasks and burthens, because the Master's, but still full of the conditions of earth,) and he points upward—not to a coming manumission in glory; the man would be dismayed to foresee that; he wants to "serve for ever";—but to a scene of service in which the last remainders of hindrance to its action will be gone, and a perfected being will for ever, perfectly, be not its own, and so will perfectly live in God. And this, so he says to his fellow-servant, to you and to me, is "the gift of God"; a grant as free, as generous, as ever King gave vassal here below. And it is to be enjoyed as such, by a being which, living wholly for Him, will freely and purely exult to live wholly on Him, in the heavenly places.

Yet surely the bearing of the sentences is not wholly upon heaven. Life eternal, so to be developed hereafter that Scripture speaks of it often as if it began hereafter, really begins here, and develops here, and is already "more abundant" (John x. 10) here. It is, as to its secret and also its experience, to know and to enjoy God, to be possessed by Him, and used for all His will. In 180 this respect it is "the end," the issue and the goal, now and perpetually, of the surrender of the soul. The Master meets that attitude with more and yet more of Himself, known, enjoyed, possessed, possessing. And so He gives, evermore gives, out of His sovereign bounty, life eternal to the bondservant who has embraced the fact that he is nothing, and has nothing, outside his Master. Not at the outset of the regenerate life only, and not only when it issues into the heavenly ocean, but all along the course, the life eternal is still "the free gift of God." Let us now, to-day, to-morrow, and always, open the lips of surrendering and obedient faith, and drink it in, abundantly, and yet more abundantly. And let us use it for the Giver.

We are already, here on earth, at its very springs; so the Apostle reminds us. For it is "in Jesus Christ our Lord"; and we, believing, are in Him, "saved in His life." It is in Him; nay, it is He. "I am the Life"; "He that hath the Son, hath the life." Abiding in Christ, we live "because He liveth." It is not to be "attained"; it is given, it is our own. In Christ, it is given, in its divine fulness, as to covenant provision, here, now, from the first, to every Christian. In Christ, it is supplied, as to its fulness and fitness for each arising need, as the Christian asks, receives, and uses for his Lord.

So from, or rather in, our holy bondservice the Apostle has brought us to our inexhaustible life, and its resources for willing holiness. But he has more to say in explaining the beloved theme. He turns from slave to wife, from surrender to bridal, from the purchase to the vow, from the results of a holy bondage to the offspring of a heavenly union. Hear him as he proceeds:


Or do you not know, brethren, (for I am talking (λαλῶ) to those acquainted with law, whether Mosaic or Gentile,) that the law has claim on the man, the party (ἄνθρωπος) in any given case, for his whole lifetime? For the woman with a husband (ἀνὴρ) is to her living husband bound by law, stands all along bound (δέδεται) to him. His life, under normal conditions, is his adequate claim. Prove him living, and you prove her his. But if the husband should have died, she stands ipso facto cancelled103103We render the bold phrase literally. (κατήργηται) from the husband's law, the marriage law as he could bring it to bear against her. So, therefore, while the husband lives, she will earn adulteress for her name, if she weds another (ἑτέρῳ, "a second") husband. But if the husband should have died, she is free from the law in question, so as to be no adulteress, if wedded to another, a second, husband. Accordingly, my brethren, you too, as a mystic bride, collectively and individually,104104See 1 Cor. vi. 17. were done to death as to the Law, so slain that its capital claim upon you is met and done, by means of the Body of the Christ (τοῦ Χριστοῦ), by "the doing to death" of His sacred Body for you, on His atoning Cross, to satisfy for you the aggrieved Law; in order to your wedding Another, a second Party (ἑτέρῳ), Him who rose from the dead; that we might bear fruit for God; "we," Paul and his converts, in one happy fellowship, which he delights thus to remember and indicate by the way.

The parable is stated and explained with a clearness which leaves us at first the more surprised that in the application the illustration should be reversed. In 182 the illustration, the husband dies, the woman lives, and weds again. In the application, the Law does not die, but we, its unfaithful bride, are "done to death to it," and then, strange sequel, are wedded to the Risen Christ. We are taken by Him to be "one spirit" with Him (1 Cor. vi. 17). We are made one in all His interests and wealth, and fruitful of a progeny of holy deeds in this vital union. Shall we call all this a simile confused? Not if we recognize the deliberate and explicit carefulness of the whole passage. St Paul, we may be sure, was quite as quick as we are to see the inverted imagery. But he is dealing with a subject which would be distorted by a mechanical correspondence in the treatment. The Law cannot die, for it is the preceptive will of God. Its claim is, in its own awful forum domesticum, like the injured Roman husband, to sentence its own unfaithful wife to death. And so it does; so it has done. But behold, its Maker and Master steps upon the scene. He surrounds the guilty one with Himself, takes her whole burthen on Himself, and meets and exhausts her doom. He dies. He lives again, after death, because of death; and the Law acclaims His resurrection as infinitely just. He rises, clasping in His arms her for whom He died, and who thus died in Him, and now rises in Him. Out of His sovereign love, while the Law attests the sure contract, and rejoices as "the Bridegroom's Friend," He claims her—herself, yet in Him another—for His blessed Bride.

All is love, as if we walked through the lily-gardens of the holy Song, and heard the call of the turtle in the vernal woods, and saw the King and His Beloved rest and rejoice in one another. All is law, as if we were admitted to watch some process of Roman 183 matrimonial contract, stern and grave, in which every right is scrupulously considered, and every claim elaborately secured, without a smile, without an embrace, before the magisterial chair. The Church, the soul, is married to her Lord, who has died for her, and in whom now she lives. The transaction is infinitely happy. And it is absolutely right. All the old terrifying claims are amply and for ever met. And now the mighty, tender claims which take their place instantly and of course begin to bind the Bride. The Law has "given her away"—not to herself, but to the Risen Lord.

For this, let us remember, is the point and bearing of the passage. It puts before us, with its imagery at once so grave and so benignant, not only the mystic Bridal, but the Bridal as it is concerned with holiness. The Apostle's object is altogether this. From one side and from another he reminds us that we belong. He has shewn us our redeemed selves in their blessed bondservice; "free from sin, enslaved to God." He now shews us to ourselves in our divine wedlock; "married to Another," "bound to the law of" the heavenly Husband; clasped to His heart, but also to His rights, without which the very joy of marriage would be only sin. From either parable the inference is direct, powerful, and, when we have once seen the face of the Master and of the Husband, unutterably magnetic on the will. You are set free, into a liberty as supreme and as happy as possible. You are appropriated, into a possession, and into a union, more close and absolute than language can set forth. You are wedded to One who "has and holds from this time forward." And the sacred bond is to be prolific of results. A life of willing and loving obedience, in the 184 power of the risen Bridegroom's life, is to have as it were for its progeny the fair circle of active graces, "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, self-control."

Alas, in the time of the old abolished wedlock there was result, there was progeny. But that was the fruit not of the union but of its violation. For when we were in the flesh, in our unregenerate days, when our rebel self,105105No word, for practical purposes, answers better than "self" (as popularly used in Christian parlance) to the idea represented by St Paul's use of the word σὰρξ in moral connexions. the antithesis of "the Spirit," ruled and denoted us, (a state, he implies, in which we all were once, whatever our outward differences were,) the passions, the strong but reasonless impulses, of our sins, which passions were by means of the Law, occasioned by the fact of its just but unloved claim, fretting the self-life into action, worked actively in our limbs, in our bodily life in its varied faculties and senses, so as to bear fruit for death. We wandered, restive, from our bridegroom, the Law, to Sin, our paramour. And behold, a manifold result of evil deeds and habits, born as it were into bondage in the house of Death. But now, now as the wonderful case stands in the grace of God, we are (it is the aorist, but our English fairly represents it) abrogated from the Law, divorced from our first injured Partner, nay, slain (in our crucified Head) in satisfaction of its righteous claim, as having died (ἀποθανόντες106106So read, not ἀποθανόντος. The textual evidence supports ἀποθανόντες, and the evidence of the context is all for it. He has elaborately avoided, in applying his illustration, the thought that the Law can die. We die, in Christ, in judicial satisfaction of its most righteous claim. It lives with us, it guides us, with the authority of God. But it is now our monitor, not our avenger of blood.) with regard to that in which 185 we were held captive, even the Law and its violated bond, so that we do bondservice in the Spirit's newness, and not in the Letter's oldness.

Thus he comes back, through the imagery of wedlock, to that other parable of slavery which has become so precious to his heart. "So that we do bondservice," "so that we live a slave-life"; ὤστε δουλεύειν ἡμᾶς. It is as if he must break in on the heavenly Marriage itself with that brand and bond, not to disturb the joy of the Bridegroom and the Bride, but to clasp to the Bride's heart the vital fact that she is not her own; that fact so blissful, but so powerful also and so practical that it is worth anything to bring it home.

It is to be no dragging and dishonouring bondage, in which the poor toiler looks wistfully out for the sinking sun and the extended shadows. It is to be "not in the Letter's oldness"; no longer on the old principle of the dread and unrelieved "Thou shalt," cut with a pen of legal iron upon the stones of Sinai; bearing no provision of enabling power, but all possible provision of doom for the disloyal. It is to be "in the Spirit's newness"; on the new, wonderful principle, new in its full manifestation and application in Christ, of the Holy Ghost's empowering presence.107107Such passages as this and its companion, 2 Cor. iii. 4-8, have no reference, however remote, to the "letter and spirit" of Holy Scripture. They contrast Sinai and Pentecost. In that light and strength the new relations are discovered, accepted, and fulfilled. Joined by the Spirit to the Lord Christ, so as to have full benefit of His justifying merit; filled by the Spirit with the Lord Christ, so as to derive freely and always the blessed virtues of His life; the willing bondservant finds in his 186 absolute obligations an inward liberty ever "new," fresh as the dawn, pregnant as the spring. And the worshipping Bride finds in the holy call to "keep her only unto Him" who has died for her life, nothing but a perpetual surprise of love and gladness, "new every morning," as the Spirit shews her the heart and the riches of her Lord.

Thus closes, in effect, the Apostle's reasoned exposition of the self-surrender of the justified. Happy the man who can respond to it all with the Amen of a life which, reposing on the Righteousness of God, answers ever to His Will with the loyal gladness found in "the newness of the Spirit." It is "perfect freedom" to understand, in experience, the bondage and the bridal of the saints.

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