(article from: The Works of Reverend James Arminius : Volume 2)


A Native of Oudewater, in Holland




That expression of the apostle Paul, by which he designates the doctrine of the gospel as “the truth which is according to godliness,” (Titus 1:1) is very remarkable and worthy of perpetual consideration. From this sentiment, with the leave of all good men, we may collect that this “truth” neither consists in naked theory and inane speculation, nor in those things which, belonging to mere abstract knowledge, only play about the brain of man, and which never extend to the reformation of their will and affections. But it consists in those things which imbue the mind with a sincere fear of God, and with a true love of solid piety, and which render men ’”zealous of good works.” Another passage, not less famous and remarkable, in the same epistle and by the same apostle, tends greatly to confirm and illustrate this view of the matter; it is thus expressed:

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.” (Titus 2:11, 19.)

Whosoever they be, therefore, that profess themselves the heralds of this divine “truth,” they ought to give additional diligence that, casting aside all curious and thorny questions, and those idle subtilities which derive their origin from human vanity, they commend to their hearers this one and only “godliness,” and that they seriously instruct them in faith, hope and charity. And, in return, those of their auditors who are enamored with this “truth,” are bound strenuously to conform themselves to this course of conduct — to pass by and to slight all other things which may come across their path, and constantly to aim at this “godliness” alone, and keep their eyes intent upon it. For both clergy and laity may receive this as a principle, that they are yet rude and complete strangers in true theology, unless they have learned so to theologize, that theology may bear the torch before them to that piety and holiness which they sedulously and earnestly pursue.

If this admonition ever was necessary, it is undoubtedly the more necessary at this time; because we see impiety overflowing in every direction, like a sea raging and agitated by whirlwinds. Yet, amidst all this storm, such are the stupor and insensibility of men, that not a few who remain exactly the same persons as they formerly were, and who, indeed, have not changed the least particle of the manner of their impure life, still imagine themselves to be in the class of prime Christians, and promise themselves the favor of the supreme God, the possessing of heaven and of life eternal, and of the company of Christ and of the blessed angels, with such great and presumptuous confidence, and with such security of mind, that they consider themselves to be atrociously injured by those who, judging them to be deceived in this their self-persuasion, desire them in any wise to entertain doubts about it. In a condition of affairs thus deplorable, no endeavor appears to be more laudable, than to institute a diligent inquiry into the causes of such a pernicious evil, and, by employing a saving remedy, to arouse erring souls from this diabolical lethargy, and induce them to alter their lives, under the felicitous auspices of the gospel and the Spirit of Christ, to devote their energies to a solid amendment of manners, and thus, at length, from the divine word, to promise themselves, when answering this description, grace with God and eternal glory.

The causes of this evil are various, and most of them consist in certain erroneous and false conceptions which, being impressed on their minds, some men carry about with them, being either their own inventions, or furnished to them from some other quarter; yet, either in general or in particular, either directly or indirectly, such erroneous conceptions lay a stumbling-block and an impediment before the true and serious study of piety and the pursuit of virtue. We will not, in this place, introduce any mention of the impious conceptions of some men who do not believe either that there is a life eternal, or that, if it really exists, it is of such great and sublime excellence as it is described to be in the Holy Scriptures — who either despair of the mercy of God towards repentant sinners, or who consider it to be impossible to enter on that way of piety and new obedience which has been prescribed by the prince of our salvation. We say nothing about these persons, because they not only relax the asseverations and the promises of God, which are the true foundations of the Christian religion, but they likewise entirely overturn them, and thus, with one effort, they pluck up, by the roots, all piety, and all desire and love of it, from the hearts of men.

We now begin to make some observations on those hypotheses, whether secret or avowed, which are injurious to piety, and which obtain among Christians themselves, whether they be publicly defended or otherwise. Among them, the first which comes under enumeration, is the dogma of unconditional predestination, with those which depend on it by a necessary connection; and, in particular, the so highly extolled perseverance of the saints, in a confidence in which such things are uttered by some persons as we dread to recite, for they are utterly unworthy of entering into the ear of Christians. It is no small impediment which these dogmas place in the way of piety. When, after a diligent and often-repeated perusal of the Holy Scriptures, after long meditations and ardent prayers to God, with fasting, our father, of blessed memory, thought that he had made a sure discovery of the baneful tendency of these dogmas, and had reflected upon them within his own breast, and that, however strenuously they might be urged by certain divines, and generally instilled into the minds of students by scholastic exercises, yet neither the ancient church nor the modern, after a previous lawful examination of them, ever received them or allowed them to pass into matters that had obtained mature adjudication. When he perceived these things, he began by degrees, to propose his difficulties about them, and his objections against them, for the purpose of shewing that they were not so firmly founded in the Scriptures as they are generally supposed to be; and, in process of time, being still more strongly confirmed in the knowledge of the truth, especially after the conference which he had with Doctor Francis Junius, and in which he had seen the weakness of his replies, he began to attack those dogmas with greater boldness; yet on no occasion was he forgetful of the modesty which so eminently became him. But, of the arguments with which he attacked those dogmas, this [on the seventh chapter of St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans] in which we have now engaged, was not the last — that is, such was the nature of these doctrines that they were calculated to relax the study of piety, and thus to extinguish it. In that labor he also occasionally employed subtilities. and such reasons as are not at once obvious to the multitude; but they were subtle distinctions, necessary for overturning dogmas which, in his judgment, were very baneful. And, undoubtedly, as love is not conquered except by another love, so that subtlety, which is the inventor and establisher of falsehood, can scarcely be conquered and overturned without the subtlety which is the assertor of the truth and the convictor of falsehood. Therefore, the subtilities which he employed on that occasion, [his conference with Junius,] were useful and necessary — not insignificant, trifling, and invented for pleasure, ostentation or display. But with regard to other things, it is known to all those who were on terms of familiarity with him — especially during the last years of his life, when he was much engaged in the schools, in which it is an established custom principally to pursue subtilities — what a rigid enemy he was of all subtilities and of lofty language; and even those whom he had among his students that differed on some other points from him, could testify, if they would conscientiously relate the truth, that he referred all things to use and to the practice of a Christian life; and thus that piety and the fear of the divine Majesty uniformly breathed in his lectures, in his disputations, (both public and private,) in his sermons, discourses and writings. But it is not necessary for us, in this place, to rehearse the method by which he proved the genius of unconditional predestination and its annexed dogmas to be adverse to godliness; because his writings on this subject are partly extant, and the remainder, under the divine auspices, will soon be published. It is better that prudent readers should listen to him uttering his own words, than to us who are but stammerers about him. The water is sweeter which we taste at the fountain, than that which we drink at a distance from the spring.

Various are the other hypotheses which operate as hindrances to piety, and the whole of which we are not able now to mention; but we will briefly discuss a Jew of those which occur, that we may not produce weariness in you, most noble sir, by our prolixity.

A capital error which first offers itself, and which closely adheres to the inmost core and fibers of nearly all mankind, is that by which they silently imagine in their own minds that illimitable mercy exists in God; and from this they opine that they will not be rejected, though they have indulged themselves a little too much in vicious pursuits, but that, on the contrary, they will continue to be dear to God and beloved. This error is in reality joined with notorious incredulity, and, in a great measure destroys the Christian religion, which is founded on the blood of Christ. For, in this way, is removed all necessity for a pious life, and a manifest contradiction is given to the declaration of the apostle, in which he affirms that “without holiness no man shall see God.” (Hebrews 12:14) Alas for the insanity of men, who have the audacity to bless themselves when they are cursed by God!

This is succeeded by the false hypothesis of others, who, revolving in their minds the designs, the morals, and the life of mortals, and reflecting on the multitude, among men of all orders, of those who are wandering in error, conclude that the mercy of God will not permit eternally to perish so many and such infinite myriads of rational creatures, formed after the divine image. The consequence is, that, instead of performing their duty according to the tenor of Christianity, by opposing the torrent of impiety, they, on the contrary, suffer themselves to be carried away by the impulse of such views, and associate with the multitudes of those who are devious in error. They seem to forget that the many walk in the broad way, whose end, according to the truth of God, will be “destruction from the presence of the Lord.” A multitude will preserve no man from perdition. Unhappy and most miserable solace, to have many companions in enduring everlasting punishment!

Let the force of this deception, likewise, be considered, that vices are dignified with the names of virtues, and, on the other hand, virtues receive the defiling appellation of vices. The effect of this is, that men, who are of themselves, prone to vicious indulgences, pursue them with the greater avidity when they are concealed under the mask of virtues, and, on the contrary, are terrified at virtues, in the attainment of which any difficulty is involved, as though they were clothed in the monstrous garb of the most horrid vices. Thus, among mankind, drunkenness obtains the name of hilarity; and filthy talking, that of cheerful freedom; while sobriety in food and drink, and simplicity in dress, are opprobiously styled hypocrisy. This is really to “call good evil, and evil good,” and to seek an occasion, by which a man may cease from the practice of virtue, and devote himself to vicious courses, not only without any reluctance of conscience, but likewise at the impulse and instigation of his [seared] conscience. Into this enumeration, must come that shameful and false reasoning by which unwise men infer, from those passages in Scripture in which we are said to be justified by faith without works, that it is not, therefore, necessary to attend to good works, they being of such a nature that without them we may be justified, and, therefore, saved. They never advert to the fact that, in other passages, it is recorded — True faith, that is, the faith by which we are justified, must be efficacious through charity; and that faith, without works, is dead, and resembles a lifeless carcass.

This vain idea also, in no trifling degree, consoles the men who try to flatter themselves in those vices to which they have a constitutional propensity — that they are not given up to all vices, they have not run into every excess of wickedness, but, though addicted to certain vices peculiar to themselves, they feel an abhorrence for all others. As men are most ingenious in the invention of excuses for themselves, in support of this incorrect view are generally cited these common phrases: “No man lives without sin;” “Every man is captivated by that which he finds to be pleasing to himself.” Such men, therefore, consider themselves to be true Christians, and that, on this account, it will be eternally well with them, when, as they foolishly persuade themselves, they abstain from most evils, and, as for the rest, they cherish only some one vice, a single Herodias alone. A most absurd invention! since no one is, no one can be, addicted to all vices at once; because some among them are diametrically opposed to others, and are mutual expellers. If this conceit be allowed, no mortal man either will or can be impious. The subjoined passage in the epistle of St. James ought to recur to the remembrance of these persons:

“Whosoever shall offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (2:10.)

We are also commanded to “lay aside,” not some one, but “all malice, guile, and hypocrisy,” (1 Peter 2:1, )that we may thus the more fully devote ourselves to God.

Others suppose that, if in some degree their affections be partly drawn out towards God and goodness, they have adequately discharged their duty, though in some other part of their affections they are devoted to the service of the prince of this world and of sin. These men assuredly have forgotten, that God must be adored and loved with the whole affections of the heart — that the Lord God of Heaven, and the prince of this world, are opposing masters, and, therefore, that it is impossible to render service to both of them at once, as our Savior has most expressly declared.

Not very dissimilar from this is that invention by which some persons divide their time into portions, and when they have marked off one part for God and Christ, and another part for the flesh and the affections, they imagine that they have most excellently performed their duty. But these men, whosoever they be, never reflect that our whole lives, and all the time of which they are composed, must be consecrated to God, and that we must persevere in the ways of piety and obedience to the close of life; and for this brief obedience of a time which is short at the longest, God has, of grace, covenanted to bestow on the obedient, that great reward of life eternal. Undoubtedly, if at any time a man falls, he cannot return into favor with God until he has not only deplored that fall by a sincere repentance, and is again converted in his heart to God, with this determinations — that he will devote the remaining days of his life to God.

Those men must not be forgotten who are in this heresy — that all those things which are not joined with blasphemy to God, and with notorious injury and violence to one’s neighbor, and which, with regard to other things, bear the semblance of charity and benevolence, are not to be reckoned among the multitude of sins. According to their doctrine, they are at liberty to indulge their natural relish for earthly things, to serve their belly, to take especial care of themselves, to gratify their sensual and drunken propensities, to live the short and merry life which Epicurus recommends, and to do whatsoever a heart which is inclined to pleasure shall command; provided they abstain from anger, hatred, the desire of revenge, bitterness and malice, and the other passions which are armed for force and injury. If we follow these masters, we shall assuredly discover a far more easy and expeditious way to heaven, than that which has been taught us by the divine ambassador of the great God, whose sole business it was to point out the way to heaven.

Occasion is also afforded to unjust conceptions respecting the extreme of piety, by the mode in which some theological subjects are treated, and by some ecclesiastical phrases which are either not sufficiently conformable to the Scriptures, or which are not correctly understood. We must briefly, and without much regard to order, animadvert on a few of these, for the sake of example. When our good works are invested with the relation of gratitude towards God, it is a well ascertained fact, that men collect from this that they are now the heirs and proprietors of life eternal, and are in a state of grace and everlasting salvation, before they ever begin to perform good works. This delusion makes them think it expedient also to follow the hypothesis that the performance of good works is not absolutely necessary. In this case, it must be maintained from the Scriptures, that a true conversion and the performance of good works form a prerequisite condition before justification, according to this passage from St. John,

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

This is consonant with that celebrated passage in Isaiah, in which the Lord promises to the Jews the cleansing and the destruction of all their sins, even those which were of the most aggravated kind, after they turned themselves to him, and corrected their ways. (Isaiah 1:15–20.) When the sacraments are considered only in the light of sealing to us the promises and the grace of God, but not as binding us to the performance of our duty and admonishing us of it, the discussion of them is not only defective, but it may also, through such defect, be accounted injurious to the work of personal piety. “Believers and the regenerate are still prone and inclined to every evil;” and “the most holy among them have only the small beginnings of the obedience which is required.” These are phrases which describe, in a manner far too low and weak, the efficacy of the new creation, and they are, therefore, κατα τον ρητον in reality exceedingly dangerous. For the former of these phrases seems entirely to remove all distinction between the regenerate and the, while the latter seems to place such minutiae of obedience in the regenerate, as will induce a man, who has been accustomed to bless himself if he perceives even the slightest thought or motion about the performance of obedience, immediately to conclude himself to be a partaker of true regeneration.

When the continued imperfection of the regenerate, and the impossibility of keeping the law in this life, are urged unseasonably and beyond measure, without the addition of what may be done by holy men through faith and the Spirit of Christ, the thought is apt to suggest itself to the mind even of the most pious of their hearers, that they can do nothing which is at all good. Through this erroneous view, it happens that sometimes far less is attributed to the regenerate than the unregenerate are themselves able to perform. The ancient church did not reckon the question about the impossibility of performing the law among those which are capital: This is apparent from St. Augustine himself, who expresses a wish that Pelagius would acknowledge it possible to be performed by the grace of Christ, and declares that peace would then be concluded. The apostles of Christ were themselves occupied in endeavoring to convince men, when placed out of the influence of grace, of their incapability to perform obedience. But about the imperfection and impotency of the regenerate, you will scarcely find them employing a single expression. On the contrary, they attribute to believers the crucifying of the flesh and the affections, the mortification of the works of the flesh, a resurrection to a new life, and walking according to the Spirit; and they are not afraid openly to protest, that by faith they overcome the world. The acknowledgment of their imperfection was but a small matter, because that was a thing previous to Christianity. But the glory of Christians lies in this — that they know the power of the resurrection of Christ, and, being led by the Spirit of God, they live according to the purest light of the gospel. The distribution of theology into God, and the acts of God, introduces to us a speculative religion, and is not sufficiently well calculated to urge men to the performance of their duty. To this may be added that too subtle disquisition, which is an invention unsanctioned by Scripture, about the relations of those acts which are performed by us.

As unsuitable for the promotion of piety, seems likewise that deduction or dispensation of our religion, by which all things are directed to the assurance of special mercy as the principal part of our duty, and to the consolation which is elicited from it against the despair that is opposed to it, but in which all things are not directed to the necessary performance of obedience in opposition to security. It derives its origin from the idea that greater fear ought to be entertained respecting despair than respecting security, when the contrary to this is the truth. For in the whole history of the Old and New Testament, which comprises a period of so many thousand years, only a single instance occurs of a person in despair, and that was Judas Iscariot, the perfidious betrayer of his Savior — the case of Cain being entirely out of the question; while, on the contrary, as the world was formerly, so is it now, very full of persons in a state of security, and negligent of the duty divinely imposed on them; yet these men, in the mean time, sweetly bless their souls, and promise themselves grace and peace from God in full measure.

To proceed further: To these and all other delusions of a similar nature, we ought to oppose a soul truly pious, and most firmly rooted in the faith of God and Christ, exercising much solicitous caution about this — not to be called off from the serious and solid study of piety, and not to yield ourselves up to sins or to take delight in them, either through the deceptive force of any conceits, such as have now been enumerated or any others, or by the incautious use of any phrases and the sinister distortion of particular subjects; but, on the contrary, denying all ungodliness, let us sedulously and constantly walk in the paths of virtue; and let us always bear in mind the very serious admonition which the apostle Paul propounds to the Ephesians; having dehorted them from indulging in impurity and other crimes, he says: “Let no man deceive you with vain words” or reasons; “for, because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” (Verse 6) It is worthy of observation, how significantly the hypothesis and arguments on which men depend when they bless themselves in their vices, are designated as “vain speeches;” For “vain” they truly are; that is, false and deceitful are those reasons with which men are deceived while they are in bondage to their lusts, and persuade themselves that they are in a state of grace and salvation, when, on the contrary, they are in a state of wrath and eternal perdition; than which, no other more capital imposture or deception can be produced.

But, beside those things of which we have made previous mention, and which place obstructions to the progress of piety, another also occurs, which particularly belongs to the subject on which we are now treating; that is, the depraved and perverted interpretation of certain passages of Scripture, by which, in general, either all attention to good works is superseded, or in particular some part of it is weakened. This kind of hindrance ought undoubtedly to be reckoned among those which are the greatest; for thus either evil itself seems to be established by divine authority, or a more remiss pursuit of good, which, of the two, is without exception the greater evil. Wherefore, as all those persons deserve praise who endeavor to overturn every kind of hypothesis that is injurious to piety, so those among them are worthy of the highest commendation who try to give a correct interpretation, and such as is agreeable to “the form of sound words,” of those passages which are, through common abuse, generally so explained as, by such exposition, either directly or indirectly to countenance a disorderly course of life — to free them from such a depraved interpretation, and to act as torch-bearers, in a thing so useful and necessary to Christian people and chiefly to the pastors of the church. Many are those passages which are usually distorted to the injury of godliness; and from which we shall in this place select only the three following.

(1.) In the Proverbs of Solomon it is said, “A just man falleth seven times.” This sentence is in the mouth of every one, with this gloss superadded, “in a day,” which is an interpolation to be found in the Latin Vulgate. This passage ought to be understood of falling into misfortune; yet it is most perversely interpreted to signify a fall into sin, and thus contributes to nourish vices.

(2.) In the prophecy of Isaiah, when the Jewish church, after having been defiled by manifold idolatries, by her defection from God, and by other innumerable crimes, was severely punished for all these her foul transgressions; in a tone of lamentation, complaining of the heaviness of her punishment, and at the same time making humble confession of her sins, she acknowledges, amongst other things, that “her righteousnesses are as the cloth of a menstruous woman,” designating by this phrase the best of those works which she had performed during her public defection. This passage, by a pernicious contortion, is commonly corrupted; for it is very constantly quoted, as if the sense to be inferred from it was, that each of the excellent works of the most eminent Christians, and therefore that the most ardent prayers poured forth in the name of Christ, deeds of charity performed from a heart truly and inwardly moved with mercy, and the flowing of the blood of martyrs even unto death for the sake of Christ — that all these are as the cloth of a menstruous woman, filthy, detestable and horrid things, and thus mere abominations in the sight of God. And as this name is, in the Scriptures, bestowed only on flagitous crimes and the greatest transgressions, it further follows [from this mode of reasoning] that the best and most excellent works differ in no respect from the most dreadful wickedness. When a man has once thoroughly imbibed this conceit, will he not east away all care and regard for piety? Will he not consider it of no great consequence whether he leads a bad or a good life? And will he not, in the mean time, indulge in the persuasion, that he can, notwithstanding all this, be a true disciple of Christ Jesus? The reason, undoubtedly, seems to be evident, since, according to this hypothesis, the best works are equally filthy with the worst crimes in the sight of God.

(3.) In this number of abused passages is included the seventh chapter of the epistle of Paul to the Romans, from the fourteenth verse to the end of the chapter; that is, if the apostle be understood, in that chapter, to be speaking about a man who is regenerated. For then it will follow that a renewed man is still “carnal, and sold under sin,” that is, the slave of sin; that “he wills to do good, but does it not; but the evil which he wills not, that he does;” nay, that he is conquered, and “brought into captivity to the law of sin,” that is, under the power and efficacy of sin. From this view it is further deduced, that, if any one be regenerate, it is sufficient for him “to will that which is good,” though with a will that is incomplete, and that is not followed by action; and “not to will that which is evil,” though he actually perpetrates it. If this view of that chapter be correct, then all attention to piety, the whole of new obedience, and thus the entire new creation, will be reduced to such narrow limits as to consist not in effects, but only in affections or feelings. Every man, at first sight, perceives how languid, cold and remiss such a belief will render all of us, both in our abstaining from evil, and in the performance of that which is good. Those, indeed, who defend this opinion, have their subterfuges and palliatives; but they are of such a kind, that the comment is generally repugnant to the text on which it is founded. With respect to the exercise of piety, it is dangerous for men to have this conceit previously impressed on their minds: “This chapter must be understood about regenerate persons;” for they who hold it as a foundation, in other things wander wherever they are led by their feelings, and never recollect the glosses proposed by their teachers. This effect was observed by St. Augustine, and being afraid of giving offense, in the more early period of his Christian career, he interpreted the passage as applicable to a man under the law, but in his latter days he applied it to a man under grace; but he held this opinion in a much milder form than it is now maintained, and almost without any injury to godliness. For “the good” which the apostle says “he willed but did not,” St. Augustine interprets into “a refraining from concupiscence;” and “the evil” which the apostle declares “he willed not and yet did,” he interprets as “an indulgence in concupiscence;” — though this novel interpretation involves a wonderful mixture of the preceptive and prohibitive parts of the law. Modern interpreters [among the Calvinists] understand it as relating to actual good and evil — a most notable distinction! But as our venerated father labored with all diligence in removing the other hindrances of piety, so did he principally expend much toil and unwearied study in searching out the true meaning of such passages of Scripture as were imperfectly understood, particularly if they placed a stumbling-block in the way of those who were studious of piety. If, in that species of labor, he ever had eminent success, it must undoubtedly be confessed that it was in his attempts on this seventh chapter of the epistle to the Romans; for he wrote a commentary on it of great length, which, with the greatest accuracy, he prepared and finished, and which we now publish.

When he returned from Geneva to his native country, he understood this very chapter as it is now commonly explained; having been instructed in that view of it by his teachers, whose authority was so great among the students, that not one of the latter durst even inquire about any thing which they uttered. But when, in the exercise of his ministry in the church of Amsterdam, he had afterwards taken epistle to the Romans as the subject of a series of discourses from the pulpit, and when he had come to the explication of the seventh chapter, concerning the received interpretation of which he had then begun to conceive scruples in his mind, because it seemed both to undervalue the grace of regeneration and to diminish all zeal and attention to piety; he diligently considered the chapter from the beginning to the conclusion with a good conscience, as it was proper that he should do, and as the nature of his public function required; he collated it with those passages which preceded it and followed; he revolved all of them, in their several particulars, as in the presence of God; he read all the various commentators upon it which he could procure, whether among the ancients, those of the middle ages, or among the moderns; and, at length, after having frequently invoked the name and aid of Almighty God, and having derived his chief human assistance from the commentaries of Bucer and Musculus on that part of Holy Writ, he discovered that the received interpretation could not bear the scrutiny of truth, but that the passage was to be entirely understood in reference to a man living under the law, in whom the law has discharged its office, and who, therefore, feeling true contrition in his soul on account of sins, and being convinced of the incapability of the law to save him, inquires after a deliverer, and is not, in fact, a regenerated man, but stands in the nearest grade to regeneration. This explanation of the chapter he publicly delivered from the pulpit; because he thought that such a course was allowable by the liberty of prophesying, which ought always to have a place in the church of Christ. Though this diligence in elucidating the Scriptures, and the candor which he displayed, deserved singular praise and commendation, especially from all persons of the ecclesiastical order, yet, by some zealots, in whom such a conduct was the least becoming, it was received in a manner which shewed that the author ranked no higher with them than as one who, instead of receiving a reward, ought to be charged with mischief and insanity. Such is the result of employing a sedulous care in the investigation of the Scriptures, and of cultivating the liberty of prophesying; and it is esteemed a preferable service, to render the servants of Christ the slaves of certain men who lived only a short time before ourselves, and almost to canonize their interpretation of the Scriptures as the only rule and guide for us in our interpretation.

When our father perceived these things, he began to write this commentary, which at length he brought to a conclusion. If God had granted him longer life, he would have corrected his production with greater accuracy, as he had already begun to do; but as he was prevented by death, and thus rendered incapable of giving it a final polish, and yet as, in the judgment of many great men, it is a work that is worthy to see the light, we have now ventured to publish it. Here then, Firstly, the author proposes his own sentiments, and proves them by deductions from the entire chapter, as well as from the connection in which it stands with the preceding and following chapters. Secondly. He shows that this interpretation has never been condemned, but has always had the greatest number of supporters. Thirdly. He defends it from the black charge of Pelagianism, and demonstrates that it is directly opposed to that error. Fourthly. He contends that the interpretation now generally received is quite new, and was never embraced by any of the ancients, but rejected by many of them. Lastly. And that it is injurious to grace and hurtful to good morals. He then enters into a comparison of the opinion of St. Augustine, and of that which is now generally received with his own interpretation; and concludes the work with a friendly address to his fellow-ministers.

It was our wish, most noble Bardesius, to dedicate and address this work to your mightiness; for this desire, we had several reasons. From the first entrance on his ministry, a sacred friendship subsisted between our revered father and that nobleman of honored memory, your excellent father — a friendship which continued till our venerable parent came down to the grave, full of years and loaded with honors. You, as the lawful inheritor of your father’s possessions, have also succeeded in his place as the heir of his friendships; and this is the reason why the closest intimacy was formed between you and our good father, immediately after your return from your travels, which you had undertaken for the purpose of prosecuting your studies and visiting foreign nations. You were accustomed to place a high estimate on his endowments, and frequently consulted him on questions of theology, and very often acted upon his advice — as he did, also, upon yours. But after he had reflected in his mind, that he was not the slave of men, but the servant of Jesus Christ, and that he was under an oath [to the observance of] his words alone, when, on this account, he had begun freely to inquire into the sentiments invented by men, and into their truth and necessity, and, after comparing them with the Scriptures, had also occasionally proposed, with great modesty, his doubts concerning them, and His animadversions on them — when for this reason, many of those who were formerly his acquaintances and intimate friends, became alienated from him as from one who had removed the ancient land-marks out of their places; and when some of them, by degrees, both in public and private, began either to take an occasion or to make one, to circulate sinister reports concerning him, while others, with sufficient plainness, openly renounced all friendship with him; and when the whole chorus of ecclesiastical zealots had excited each other to rise up against him; yet, amidst all these things, you took no offense, but, having weighed the matter in the just balance of your judgment, you persisted to cherish a constant love for him. When he was debilitated by a slow and constant malady, as soon as the mildness of the weather and the intervals in his disorder would permit his removal, you invited him to your house in a manner the most friendly, and, on his arrival, you received him as the angel of the Lord; and a friendship, thus pure and refined, you cultivated with him, until he departed out of this life, and ascended to Christ, his Lord and Master. Besides, after his decease, by your conduct to our afflicted family, you shewed yourself such a one as it became that man to be who was not a pretended friend to the survivors of his departed friend — affording, by words and deeds, such substantial proofs of your kindness and beneficence towards his sorrowing widow and distressed orphans, as far exceed the feebleness of our expressions. Therefore, unless we wished not only to be the most ungrateful of mortals, but likewise to be generally depicted as such, it was exceedingly proper in us, while the posthumous writings of our revered parent are occasionally issuing from the press, to inscribe some portion of them to your very honorable and most friendly name, and by this method, as by a public document, to testify at once before the whole world our gratitude to you as well as our vast obligations.

To these considerations, we may add that our father had determined within himself, if God had granted him life and leisure, to write a system of the whole Christian religion, not drawing it out of the stagnant lakes of Egypt, but out of the pure fountains of Israel, and to inscribe it to your mightiness. As he was unable to execute his purpose, partly through the multiplicity of his engagements, and partly through the lingering nature of his disorder, you have here, in the place of the other world, the present commentary; for in no other way than this, can the design of our father now be fulfilled. We hope the subject itself, which is treated in this commentary, will not be disagreeable to you; for it is one which is excellently accordant with your genius and disposition. It is a fact which is well known to all those who are acquainted with you and which you do not wish to be regarded as a secret, but which you openly profess, as often as occasion demands, that you take no delight in those thorny disputations and discussions which contribute nothing to the practice of the Christian life; but that you place the chief part of religion in the pursuit of real and solid piety. As our honored father also shows in this work that his wishes and purposes were in this respect similar to yours, we have thought that nothing could be more appropriate than to dedicate to a man of extensive learning, who is likewise deeply attached to the interests of religion, a work which is highly conducive to the promotion of piety.

Accept, therefore, with a cheerful heart and a serene countenance, this small gift, which we and our dear mother are desirous to commit to posterity, that it may perpetually remain as an endless monument of that sacred friendship which subsisted between you and James Arminius, our venerated parent, and, at the same time, of our own great obligations to you. To you, who have been under the influence of mercy towards our afflicted family, may the Lord God in return shew mercy; and may he enrich you and your very honorable family with every kind of heavenly blessings, to the glory of his name and to the salvation of all of us! Amen.

So pray those who are most attached to your mightiness,

The Nine Orphan Children of James Arminius, of Oudewater.
, 13th August, 1612.



This admirable treatise was prepared about the close of the year 1599, while the author was a pastor at Amsterdam.


1. What is the subject of inquiry concerning the meaning of this chapter?

2. The manner in which this question is made a subject of dispute; formerly, a latitude of sentiment respecting it, was permitted.

3. Those who explain this passage as relating to a man under the law, are rashly charged with having some affinity With the Pelagian heresy.

4. Distribution of the subjects to be discussed in this Commentary.

1. The subject of inquiry concerning the meaning of the seventh chapter of the epistle to the Romans, and particularly of the latter part of it, which is treated upon from the beginning of the fourteenth or fifteenth verse to the end of the chapter, is this: “Does the apostle there treat of himself, such as he then was?” Or, which is almost the same question, “Under his own person, does he treat about a man living in the possession of the grace of Christ, or does he there personate a man placed under the law?” This question is also usually proposed in other words, thus: “Does the apostle there treat about a man who is still unregenerate, or about one who is already regenerated through the Spirit of Christ?” The latter question differs a little in its meaning from the former,

(1.) because the word “unregenerate” has a more extensive signification, embracing even those who are under the law, and at whose state the apostle has also briefly glanced in the ninth verse of this chapter, and

(2.) because the same word, with some persons, denotes not only the mere absence of regeneration, but likewise of all those things which are necessarily previous to regeneration; and these previous things are so far from being excluded by the words, “under the law,” that, on the contrary, a great part of them is necessarily comprehended in the ample compass of that state which these words describe. This ought not to be passed over without some animadversion; because this notion about the word “unregenerate” which many persons have previously formed, is no small cause why they think they must reject the opinion, which declares that this passage of Scripture relates to an unregenerate man, that is, to one not only devoid of regeneration, but likewise of all those things which usually precede regeneration; and why they suppose that they ought to approve of the one contrary to this, without any further attentive consideration of the words and of the things signified.

2. But this question has now become a subject of dispute, not as one of those about which the writers who treat on Catholic doctrine may be allowed to maintain different sentiments, but as if it was one of such importance and weight to the truth of faith, that, without great detriment to truth and manifest heresy, no determination can be made concerning it except in one way, which is the affirmation that the apostle is there treating about a man who lives under grace and is regenerate. This judgment about the question seems new to me, and is one which was never heard in the church before these our times.

In those better days, liberty was granted to the divines of the church to maintain an opinion on the one part of this question or on the other, provided they did not produce an explanation of their meaning that was at variance with the articles and doctrines of faith. The thing itself will shew that it is possible to do so in this matter, and such was the persuasion which was entertained on the subject by those who granted this liberty of sentiment, because no man ever supposed that any opinion was to be tolerated in the church which could not admit of an explanation that was agreeable to the doctrines and articles of belief.

3. Those who explain this passage in reference to a man living under the law, are charged with holding a doctrine which has some affinity to the two-fold heresy of Pelagius, and are said to ascribe to man, without the grace of Christ, some true and saving good, and, taking away the contest between the flesh and the spirit which is carried on in the regenerate, are said to maintain a perfection of righteousness in the present life. But I ingenuously confess that I detest, from my heart, the consequences which are here deduced; in the mean time, I do not perceive how they can flow from such an opinion. If any one will deign to prove this, I will instantly abjure an opinion thus conducting to heresy; knowing that nothing can be true, from which a falsehood may, by good consequence, be concluded. But if this cannot be demonstrated, and if I can make it evident that neither these heresies, nor any other, are derived from this opinion when it is properly explained, then, under these circumstances, it seems that I may require, in my own right, that no molestation shall be offered to me, or to any one else, on account of this opinion. If I shall confirm this opinion by arguments which are not only probable, but likewise incapable of refutation, or which at least have a greater semblance of probability than those by which the contrary opinion is supported, then let me be allowed to request that, by at least an equal right, this sentiment may obtain a place with the other in the church. If, lastly, I shall prove that the other opinion as it is in these days explained by most divines, cannot, without the greatest difficulty, be reconciled to many of the plainest passages of Scripture, that it is in no small degree injurious to the grace of the indwelling Spirit, that it has a hurtful effect on good morals, and that it was never approved by any of the ancient fathers of the church, but, on the contrary, disapproved by some of them, and even to St. Augustine himself; then may I be permitted by a most deserved right to admonish the defenders of that other sentiment, that they reflect frequently and seriously, whether they be wishful to excite the wrath of God against themselves by an unjust condemnation of this better opinion and of those who are its defenders.

4. Having premised these things, let us now enter on the matter itself, which shall be treated by us after being distributed in the following parts:

(1.) I will show that, in this passage, the apostle does not speak about himself, nor about a man living under grace, but that he has transferred to himself the person of a man placed under the law.

(2.) I will make it evident that this opinion has never been condemned in the church as heretical, but that it has always had some defenders among the divines of the church.

(3.) I will show that no heresy, neither that of Pelagius, nor any other, can be derived from this opinion, but that it is most evidently opposed to Pelagianism, and that in a most distinguished manner and designedly, it refutes the grand falsehood of Pelagius.

Confining myself within the bounds of necessary defense, I might, after having explained these three heads, conclude this treatise, unless it might seem to some one advisable and useful to confute by equal arguments the contrary opinion, especially as it is explained in these days. This I will attempt in other two chapters, subjoined to the preceding three, which will then be analogous and appear as parallels to the last two.

(4.) Therefore, I will prove that the meaning which some of our modern divines attribute to the apostle in this was not approved by any of the ancient fathers of the church, not even by St. Augustine himself, but that it was repudiated and confuted by him and some others.

5. And, lastly, I will demonstrate, that this opinion, as explained in these days by many persons, is not only injurious to grace, but likewise adverse to good morals.

God grant that I may meditate and write nothing but what is agreeable to his sacred truth. If, however, any thing of a contrary kind should escape from me, which is a fault of easy occurrence to one who “knows but in part, and prophesies in part;” I wish that neither to be [considered as] spoken nor written. I make this previous protestation against any such thing; and will, in reality, declare those things which possess greater truth and certainty, when any one has taught them to me.



1. A description of the terms contained in the Thesis.

2. The reason why the description of the apostle is here omitted.

3. What is meant by “being under the law.

4. What it is to be “under grace.”

5. What is meant by “a regenerate man?”

6. Who is “an unregenerate?”

The apostle, in this passage, is treating neither about himself, such as he then was, nor about a man living under grace; but he has transferred to himself the person of a man placed under the law.

Or as some other persons express it — the apostle, in this passage, is not treating about a man who is already regenerate through the Spirit of Christ, but has assumed the person of a man who is not yet regenerate.

1. To the proof of the thesis, must be premised and prefixed definitions or descriptions of the subjects which it comprises. The subjects are — the apostle himself, a man placed under grace, a man placed under the law, a man regenerate by the Spirit of Christ, and a man not yet regenerate.

2. I have set the apostle apart from those who are regenerate and placed under grace, not because I would take him away from the number of regenerate persons, among whom he holds a conspicuous station, but because some people have thought proper to deduce, from the description of the apostolical perfection, arguments by which they prove, that the apostle could not, in this passage, be speaking concerning himself, as he then was; because those things which he here ascribes to himself are at variance with some things that, in other passages, he writes about himself, and because they are a disgrace to his eminent state of grace, and to his progress in faith and newness of life. But since it is certain, that the apostle has not, in this chapter, treated of himself personally, as distinguished from all other men of whatsoever condition or order they may be, but that he, under his own person, described a certain kind and order of men, whether they be those who are under the law and not yet regenerate, or those who are regenerate and placed under grace, omitting the description of the apostle, we will first see what is meant by being under grace and under the law, and what by being regenerate, and not yet regenerate or unregenerate; yet we will do this in such a man — that, in the subsequent establishment of our own opinion, we may produce arguments drawn from the description given by the apostle.

3. The expression, therefore, to be under the law, does not signify merely that the man is liable to perform it, or that he is bound to obey the commands of the law; in which sense all men generally, both those who are said in the ninth verse of this chapter to be “without law,” are reckoned to be under the law by right of creation, and those also who are under grace, are considered to be under the law by the further fight of redemption and sanctification, and yet in such a manner as not to be under its rigor, because they are under the law to Christ, who makes his people free from the rigor of the law. But because the office of the law concerning sinners is two-fold — the one, to conclude sinners under the guilt of that punishment which is denounced by the law against transgressors, and to condemn them by its sentence — the other, first to instruct sinners and to give them assurance about its equity, justice and holiness, and afterwards to accuse them of sin, to urge them to obedience, to convince them of their own weakness, to terrify them by a dread of punishment, to compel them to seek deliverance, and, generally, to lead, govern and actuate sinners according to its efficacy. Therefore, with regard to the first office of the law, all sinners universally are said to be under it, even those who are without law and have sinned without it; “for they shall also perish without law (Romans 2:12) yet they are not to be condemned without a just sentence of the law. In relation to the second office of the law, they are said to be under its dominion, government, lordship and (pedagogy) tutelage, who are ruled and actuated by the efficacy and guidance of the law, in whom it exerts its power, and exercises these its operations, whether some of them or all, whether more or less, in which respect there may be, and really are, different degrees and orders of those persons who are said, in this second view, to be under the law. But in this passage, we define a man under the law to be “one who is under its entire efficacy and all its operations;” the design of the apostle requiring this, as we shall afterwards perceive.

4. This phrase “to be under grace,” answers in opposition to the other of being “under the law,” since the effect of this grace is two-fold. The first is, to absolve a sinful man from the guilt of sin and from condemnation; the second is, to endow man with the Spirit of adoption and of regeneration, and by that Spirit to vivify or quicken, to lead, actuate and govern him. Hence, not only are they said to be “under grace” who are free from guilt and condemnation, but likewise they who are governed and actuated by the guidance of grace and of the Holy Spirit. But since we are in this place discussing, not properly the condemnation of sin, but the tyranny and dominion which it violently exercises over those who are its subjects, by compelling them with its own force to yield it complete obedience, and to which are opposed in vain the efficacy and power of the law; and since we are now treating, not about the remission of sins, but about that grace which inhibits or restrains the force of this tyrant and lord, and which leads men to yield it due obedience; therefore we must restrict the expressions, “to be under the law,” and “to be under grace,” to the latter signification — that he is “under the law” who is governed and actuated by the guidance of the law, and that he is “under grace” who is governed and actuated by the guidance of grace. This will be rendered evident from the fourteenth verse of the sixth chapter, when accurately compared with the preceding and following verses of the same chapter, and from the seventeenth and eighteenth verses of the fifth chapter of the epistle to the Galatians, when they are properly applied to this matter. Yet if any one be desirous of extending these passages to the two-fold signification of each of the expressions, he has my free permission for such extension; for it cannot prove the least hindrance in the inquiry and discovery of the truth of the matter which is the subject of our present discussion.

5. Let us now see about the regenerate and the unregenerate man. That we may define him with strictness, as it is proper to do in oppositions and distinctions, we say that a regenerate man is one who is so called, not from the commenced act or operation of the Holy Spirit, though this is regeneration, but from the same act or operation when it is perfected with respect to its essential parts, though not with respect to its quantity and degree; he is not one

“who was once enlightened, and has tasted of the heavenly gift, and was made partaker of the Holy Ghost, and who has tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come;” (Hebrews 6:4, 5)

because the explanation given by most of our divines to this passage, applies only to unregenerate persons. Neither is he one who

“has escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and who has known the way of righteousness;” (2 Peter 2:20, 21)

or they explain this passage also as applicable solely to the unregenerate. Nor is it a man who

“heareth the law, and has the work of the law written in his heart, whose thoughts mutually accuse or else excuse themselves, who rests in the law, makes his boast of God, knows his will, and approves the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law.” (Romans 2:13–18.)

Neither is he one who

“has prophesied in the name of the Lord, and in his name cast out devils;” (Matthew 7:22)

and who

“has all faith, so that he could remove mountains.” (1 Corinthians 13:2)

Nor is he one who acknowledges himself to be a sinner, mourns on account of sin, and is affected with godly sorrow, and who is fatigued and “heavy laden” under the burden of his sins; (Matthew 11:28) for such persons as these Christ came to call, and this call precedes justification and sanctification, that is, regeneration. (Romans 8:30.) Neither is it he who “knows himself to be wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked;” for this is the man whom Christ “counsels to buy” of him the things necessary for himself. (Revelation 3:17, 18.) This interpretation is not invalidated by the fact that the church of Laodicea is said not to know herself; for the “counsel” or advice bestowed will never persuade her to buy those things of Christ, unless she have previously known herself to be such a one as is there described. Nor is he one who knows that a man cannot be justified by the works of the law, and who, from this very circumstance, is compelled to flee to Christ, that in him he may obtain justification. (Galatians 2:16) Nor is he a man, who, acknowledging himself as being unworthy even to lift up his eyes to heaven, and who, smiting on his breast, has exclaimed, God be merciful to me a sinner!

This has been well observed by Beza in his Refutation of the calumnies of Tilman Heshusius, where he makes a beautiful distinction between “the things which precede regeneration” and “regeneration itself” and thus expresses himself: “It is one thing to inquire by what methods God prepares for repentance or newness of life, and it is another to treat on repentance itself. Let, therefore, the acknowledgment of sin and godly sorrow be the beginning of repentance, but so far as God begins in this way to prepare us for newness of life, in which respect it was the practice of Calvin deservedly to call this fear initial. Besides, in the description of penitence we are not so accustomed as some people are, to call these dreadful qualms of conscience the mortification of the flesh or of the old man; though we know that the word of God is compared to a sword, which, in some manner, slays us, that we may offer ourselves for a sacrifice to God; and St. Paul somewhere calls afflictions the death of Christ which we carry about with us in the body. For it is very evident that, by the mortification or death of the flesh and of the old man, or of our members, St. Paul means something far different: He means not that efficacy of the Spirit of Christ which may terrify us, but that which may sanctify us, by destroying in us that corrupt nature which brought forth fruit unto death. Besides, we also differ from some persons on this point, not with respect to the thing itself, but in the method or form of teaching it, that they wish faith to be the second part of penitence, but we say that μετανοια [a change of mind for the better,] by which term we understand, according to Scripture usage, renovation of life or newness of living, is the effect of faith,” etc. (Opuscula, tom. I, fol. 328.) Such are the sentiments of Beza; but how exactly they agree with those things which I have advanced, will be rendered very apparent to any man who will compare the one with the other.

Consonant with these is that which John Calvin says about initial fear, in the following words: “They have probably been deceived by this — that some persons are tamed by the qualms or terrors of conscience, or are prepared by them for obedience, before they have been imbued with the knowledge of grace, nay, before they have tasted it. And this is that initial fear which some persons reckon among the virtues, because they discern that it approaches nearly to a true and just obedience. But this is not the place for discussing the various ways by which Christ draws us to himself, or prepares us for the pursuit of piety,” etc.

But a regenerate man is one who comprises within himself all the particulars which I shall here enumerate:

“has put off the old man with his deeds, and has put on the new man, who is renewed in knowledge, which agrees with the image of him who created him.” (Colossians 3:9, 10.)

has received from God

“the Spirit of wisdom and revelation through the knowledge of Him, the eyes of his understanding being illuminated” or opened. (Ephesians 1:18.)

He has put off,

“concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and he is renewed in the spirit of his mind, and has put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22–24)


“with open face, beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, is changed into the same image from glory to glory, even us by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

He is

“dead to sin; his old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth he should not serve sin; he is freed from sin, and is alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord?” (Romans 6:2, 6, 7, 11)

“he is crucified with Christ; nevertheless he lives, yet not he; but Christ liveth in him; and the life which he now lives in the flesh, he lives by the faith of the Son of God.” (Galatians 2:20.)

Being one of Christ’s followers,

“he has crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts, and now lives in the Spirit.” (v. 24, 25)

“By our Lord Jesus Christ, the world is crucified unto him, and he unto the world.” (6:14)

“In Christ Jesus the Lord, he is also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.” (Colossians 2:11.)

“In him, God worketh both to will and to do.” (Philippians 2:13.)

“He is not in the flesh, but in the Spirit; the Spirit of Christ dwelleth in him; through the Spirit, he mortifies the deeds of the body; he is led by the Spirit of God, and does not walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:4, 9, 13, 14)

Uniting in a brief manner, all the parts and fruits of generation into one summary — A regenerate man is he who has a mind freed from the darkness and vanity of the world, and illuminated with the true and saving knowledge of Christ, and with faith, who has affections that are mortified, and delivered from the dominion and slavery of sin, that are inflamed with such new desires as agree with the divine nature, and as are prepared and fitted for newness of living, who has a will reduced to order, and conformed to the will of God, who has powers and faculties able, through the assistance of the Holy Spirit, to contend against sin, the world and Satan, and to gain the victory over them, and to bring forth fruit unto God, such as is meet for repentance — who also actually fights against sin, and, having obtained the victory over it, no longer does those things which are pleasing to the flesh and to unlawful desires, but does those which are grateful to God; that is, he actually desists from evil and does good — not indeed perfectly, but according to the measure of faith and of the gift of Christ, according to the small degree of regeneration, which, begun in the present life, must be gradually improved or increased, till at length it is perfected after this short life is ended — not with respect to essential parts, but with respect to quantity, as we have already declared — not always without interruption, (for he sometimes stumbles, falls, wanders astray, commits sin, grieves the Holy Spirit, ac.,) but generally, and for the most part, he does good.

6. But an unregenerate man is, not only he who is entirely blind, ignorant of the will of God, knowingly and willingly contaminating himself by sins without any remorse of conscience, affected with no sense of the wrath of God, terrified with no compunctions visits of conscience, not oppressed with the burden of sin, and inflamed with no desire of deliverance — but it is also he who knows the will of God but does it not, who is acquainted with the way of righteousness, but departs from it — who has the law of God written in his heart, and has thoughts mutually accusing and excusing each other — who receives the word of the gospel with gladness, and for a season rejoices in its light — who comes to baptism, but either does not receive the word itself in a good heart, or, at least, does not bring forth fruit — who is affected with a painful sense of sin, is oppressed with its burden, and who sorrows after a godly sort — who knows that righteousness cannot be acquired by the law, and who is, therefore, compelled to flee to Christ.

For all these particulars, in what manner soever they be taken, do not belong to the essence and the essential parts of regeneration, penitence, or repentance, which are mortification and vivification and quickening; but they are only things preceding, and may have some place among the beginnings, and, if such be the pleasure of any one, they may be reckoned the causes of penitence and regeneration, as Calvin has learnedly and nervously explained them in his Christian Institutes. (Lib. 3, cap. 3.) Besides, even true and living faith in Christ precedes regeneration strictly taken, and consisting of the mortification or death of the old man, and the vivification of the new man, as Calvin has, in the same passage of his Institutes, openly declared, and in a manner which agrees with the Scriptures and the nature of faith. For Christ becomes ours by faith, and we are engrafted into Christ, are made members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones, and, being thus planted with him, we coalesce or are united together, that we may draw from him the vivifying power of the Holy Spirit, by which power the old man is mortified and we rise again into a new life. All these things cohere together with each other in a certain order, and must thus also be considered, if any one be desirous of knowing them not confusedly but distinctly, and of explaining them well to others. But we are not, in this place, treating about all the unregenerate in general, but only about those in whom the law has exerted all its efficacy, and who are, on this account, reciprocally said to be under the law.


1. The design of the Apostle in the sixth chapter.

2. A short disposition of this argument.

3. Four enunciations of it.

4. This distribution is treated in order [in the seventh chapter].

5. The two former enunciations are contained in conjunction.

6. What therefore is proved by them.

7. The third and fourth enunciations are proposed in the fifth and sixth verses.

8. In the third enunciation lies the principal part of the controversy; its deduction consists of the proposition of the enunciation and of its method of being treated.

9. The proposition of the enunciation.

10. The investigation of the proposition, consisting of a larger explanation, and the rendering of the cause.

11. A larger explanation of the seventh chapter, from the seventh verse to the fourteenth.

12. The rendering of the cause, from the 14th verse to the end of the seventh chapter.

13. The fourteenth verse contains the rendering of a two-fold reason.

14. The proof of this is contained in the fifteenth verse.

15. And a more ample explanation of it.

16. From which two consectaries are deduced — the first in the sixteenth verse, and the second in the seventeenth.

17. From this, the apostle returns to the rendering of the cause, in the eighteenth verse, and to the proof of it.

18. Its more ample explanation follows in the nineteenth verse, from which is deduced the second consectary in the twentieth verse.

19. The conclusion of the thing intended, in the twenty-first verse, and the proof of it is given in the twenty-second and twenty-third verses.

20. A votive exclamation for the deliverance of a man who is under the law, occurs in the twenty-fourth verse.

21. An answer or a thanksgiving reference to that exclamation, is given in the former part of the twenty-fifth verse, and the conclusion of the whole investigation, in which the state of a man who is under the law is briefly defined in the latter part of the twenty-fifth verse.

22. A brief recapitulation of the second part.

1. Having, from necessity of the thing and of order, thus premised these things, let us now proceed to treat on the question and the thesis itself. But it will be useful, briefly to place before our eyes the sum of the whole chapter, its disposition and distribution; that, after having considered the design of the apostle, and those things which conduce to that design, and which have been brought forward by the apostle as subservient to his purpose, his mind and intention, may the more plainly be made known to us. That this may the more appropriately be done, the matter must be traced a little further backward.

In the 12th and 13th verses, as well as in the preceding verses of the sixth chapter of the epistle to the Romans, the apostle had exhorted all the believers at Rome to contend strenuously against sin, and not to suffer sin to domineer or rule over them, or to exercise authority in their mortal body; but to devote themselves to God, and to yield their members as the instruments of righteousness unto God; and he demonstrated and confirmed the equity of his exhortation by many arguments, especially by those which are deduced from the communion of believers with Christ. But, in order to animate them the more powerfully to this spiritual contest — the persuasion to enter on which was to be wrought not only by a demonstration of its equity, but also by a promise of its felicitous and successful issue — in the 14th verse of the same chapter, he proposed to them the certain hope of victory, declaring “sin shall not have dominion over you.” For nothing can so strongly incite men to engage manfully and with spirit in this warfare, as that certain confidence of obtaining the victory which the apostle promises in these words. But he grounds his promise, in the 14th verse, on a reason drawn from it, and on the power and ability of that [grace] under the guidance and auspices of which they were about to contend against sin, or from that state in which they were then placed it, and through Christ, when he says, “For ye are not under the law but under grace,” thus extolling the powers of grace at the expense of the contrary weakness of the law, as though he had said, “I employ these continual exhortations to induce you strenuously to engage in the conflict against sin; and I do this, not only because I consider it most equitable that you should enter into that warfare, while I have regard to your communion with Christ, but also because I arrive at an assured hope, while I view your present condition, that you will at length enjoy the victory over sin, through that under whose auspices you fight; and it can by no means come to pass, that sin shall have dominion over you, as it formerly had; for you are under grace, under the government and guidance of the Spirit of Christ, and no longer under the law. if you were still in that state in which you were before faith in Christ, that is, if you were yet under the law, I might indulge in despair about declaring a victory for you, as placed under the dominion of sin. Such a victory over the power of sin contending within you, you would not be able to obtain by the strength or power of the law, which knows how to command, but affords no aid for the performance of the things commanded, how great soever might be the exertions which you made to gain the battle under the auspices of the law.” But this reasoning, in the first place, possessed validity to prove the necessity of the grace which was offered and to be obtained in Christ alone, in opposition to those who were the patrons of the cause of the law against the gospel, and who urged that covenant, the law of works, against the covenant of grace and the law of faith. This reasoning also contributed greatly to the design which the apostle proposed to himself in the principal part of this epistle. His design was to teach that, not the law, but “the gospel is the power of God to salvation to every one that believeth,” both because by the law, and by the works of the law, no man can be justified from the sins which he has committed, and because, by the power and aid of the same law no one can oppose himself to the power of sin to shake off its yoke, and, alter having been freed from its yoke, to serve God, since he immediately falls in the conflict. But in Christ Jesus, as he is offered to us through the gospel, and apprehended by faith we can obtain both these blessings — the forgiveness of sins through faith in his blood, and the power of the Spirit of Christ, by which, being delivered from the dominion of sin, we may, through the same Spirit, be able to resist sin, to gain the victory over it, and to serve God “in newness of life.”

These things in the sixth chapter may be perceived at one glance when placed before the eyes in the following order:


Dehortatory. — “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin.”

Hortatory. — “But yield your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”


“For sin shall not have dominion over you.”

Hence, an enthymeme, whose Antecedent is — “Sin shall not have dominion over you.”

Its consequent — “Therefore, neither yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but yield yourselves unto God,” etc.


“For ye are under grace; therefore, sin shall not have dominion over you.”


For ye are not under the law.”


“If, indeed, you were yet under the law, as you formerly were, sin would have the dominion over you as it once had; and, having followed its commands and impulses, you would not be able to do any other than yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin.

“But as you are now no longer under the law, but under grace, sin shall not in any wise have the dominion over you, but by the power of grace you shall easily resist sin, and yield your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”

From the 14th verse, the apostle perseveres in the same exhortation throughout the remainder of the sixth chapter, with a slight intermission of this argument, yet having previously refuted the objection which might be deduced from it; being about to resume the same argument, and to treat it more at large, in the whole of the seventh chapter, and in the former part of the eighth, since, as we have already perceived, the prosecution of this argument contributes very materially to his design.

2. But the apostle treats this subject in the order and method which was demanded by reason itself, and by the necessity of its discussion. For he had said, “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”

3. In these words, are contained the four following enunciations:

(1.) Christians are not under the law.

(2.) Christians are under grace.

(3.) Sin shall have dominion over those who are under the law.

(4.) Sin shall not have dominion over those who are under grace.

Of these four enunciations, the second and the fourth are necessary and sufficient to persuade in favor of this exhortation; but the first and the third are adduced, both for the sake of illustration, and because they were required by the principal design of the entire epistle. The former of these [pairs of conjoint enunciations] is well known to all who understand the nature of a separated axiom and the mutual relation which exists between its parts; but the latter of them will he rendered very apparent by the deduction of the epistle itself, and on a diligent inspection of its conformation.

4. The apostle, therefore, thought that these four axioms ought to be treated by him in order, and indeed always with the mention of the conclusion which he was desirous to infer from them as from premises; and in which the sum of the exhortation consisted.

5. But the apostle treats those two former enunciations conjointly, such a course being required by their nature. For he gives one thing to those from which he takes another away, and this very properly; because there exists one and the same cause why the one should be attributed and the other taken away, why they are under grace and not under the law. This cause is expressed in the fourth verse of the seventh chapter, in the following words:

“Ye, also, are become dead to the law in the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another.”

6. But in the first four verses, the apostle proves that Christians or believers are not under the law, but under grace; which proof may be comprised in this syllogism:

They who are dead to the law, and this in the body of Christ, that they may be married to another, even to Christ, are no longer under the law, but are now under grace;

But Christians are dead to the law, that they should he married to another, even to Christ;

Therefore, Christians are no longer under the law, but under grace.

The first part of the proposition — “They who are dead to the law, are no longer under the law,” is expressed in the first verse of the seventh chapter in these words: “The law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth.” The latter part of it, “They who are made Christ’s are under grace, — is included in the fourth verse, from which it may be deduced. But a confirmation of the first part of the proposition is added, in the first verse, from the testimony of the consciences of those who are expert in the knowledge of the law; and the same part of the proposition is illustrated, in the second and third verses, by a simile, that of marriage, in which the woman is no longer liable to the law of her husband than “so long as he liveth;” but when he is dead, she is free from the law of her husband, so that she may be allowed to transfer herself to another man without committing the crime of adultery. The application of this comparison is evident, the difference only being observed, that the apostle has declared, by a change in the mode of speaking, that Christians are become dead to the law, and not that the law is become dead to them. This change of speech is attributed by some persons to the prudence of the apostle, who wished to avoid the use of a phrase which he previously knew would be offensive to the Jews. By others it is transferred to the nature of the thing, in which they say that sin, and not the law, sustained the part or person of the husband, because in the sixth verse sin is said to be dead; but this makes nothing to our present purpose.

The assumption, in the fourth verse, is in these words: “we also are become dead to the law in the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to Christ.” This assumption is illustrated, First, by the efficient cause of that mortification or death, which is the crucifixion and the resurrection of the body of Christ, and the communion of believers with Christ in that crucifixion and in the rising again of His body. Secondly. This assumption is illustrated by the final cause of deliverance, which contains the scope or design of the apostolical exhortation, that is, “to bring forth fruit unto God.” But he perseveres in the same end in the two subsequent verses, the sixth and seventh, by treating it through a comparison of things similar, as he had also done in the nineteenth verse of the sixth chapter. The parallel is, that we serve God, and since we are not now in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of Spirit, and are delivered from the law, that thing being dead in which we were held, it is equitable that we bring forth fruit unto God; because when we were in the flesh, the motion of sins, existing through the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.

The conclusion is not openly inferred, but is understood, which is a mode of frequent occurrence, because the proposition, or question to be treated, does not differ from the conclusion in the matter, but only in the mode of position.

7. But though these two verses, the fifth and sixth, have such a relation to those things which preceded as has been already explained, yet they are likewise to be referred to those which follow. For the third and fourth enunciations are proposed in these two verses — the third in the fifth verse, and the fourth in the sixth. For, this expression, “The motions of sins, which are by the law, are vigorous, or operate in the members of men who are yet in the flesh,” (verse fifth,) is tantamount in meaning to these words: “Sin has the dominion over those who are under the law.” These words likewise, “But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held, ωσε so that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter,” (verse sixth,) agree well with the following: “Sin shall not have the dominion over those who are under grace.” This will be rendered evident if any one translates the particle ωσε as an ancient interpreter has done, by the words “so that,” and understands it not of the end or intention, but of the issue or event, as the almost perpetual use of that particle requires. For the sense is this: “When we were yet in the oldness of the letter and under the law, then we were held under sin; and when we are now delivered from the law and placed in newness of spirit, we are able to serve God in righteousness and true holiness,” agreeably to this state of our newness of living.

8. But let us now more closely inspect how this third enunciation is treated, since in it is laid the principal part of the controversy. The exposition of the whole matter consists of the proposing of the enunciation, and of its investigation, the latter of which is partly an explanation, and partly an application of the cause. Both of these are briefly joined to the proposition, as it is laid down in the fifth verse of this chapter; wherefore they are more copious, and better accommodated to the more prolix investigation, than as they are proposed from the fourteenth verse of the sixth chapter.

9. For that proposition is, “sin,” or, as it is more energetically expressed, “The motions of sins have the dominion over those who are under the law.” This attribute is likewise more nervously expressed by this method of speech, by which the motions of sins are said to have existence by the law itself.

Two effects of this dominion, therefore, are added to the proposition for the sake of explication. One is, its vigor, and its working in the members; the other is, its bringing forth fruits unto death. The cause why, in men under the law, “the motions of sins work in their members to bring forth fruit unto death,” is rendered in these words, “when we were in the flesh.” For the reference to the time preceding is taken from the carnal state, which state comprises the cause why, in times past, “the motions of sins did work in our members.” As if the apostle had said, “It is not wonderful that the motions of sins have had the dominion over us, and have worked in our members to bring forth fruit unto death; for we are in the flesh; and the law itself is so far from being able to hinder this dominion and to restrain the vigorous growth of sin, that these motions are by the law far more fervid and vehement, not through the fault of the law, but through the wickedness and obstinacy of sin that holds the dominion and abuses its power.”

10. This proposition, therefore, is more largely explained, from the seventh verse to the fourteenth; and its cause is fully treated from the fourteenth verse inclusive, to the end of the chapter. The explanation is occupied about this two-fold effect — the working of sin, and its fructification by which it brings forth fruit unto death. The rendering of the cause is continually intent upon what is said in the fifth verse, “When we were in the flesh.” But on both these points, we must carefully guard against bringing the law under the suspicion of blame, as though it were of itself the cause of depraved desires in us, and of death; when it is only the occasion, upon which sin violently seizes, and uses it to produce these effects in men who live under the law. In the explanation, both these effects are removed from the law, and they are attributed to sin as to their proper cause; yet this is done in such a way, that it is at the same time added, that sin abuses the law to produce these effects.

11. The former of these effects is removed from the law, in the seventh verse, by these words: “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid.” That is, as if he had said, “Can it, therefore, be attributed to the law that it is itself, or the cause of depraved desires in us, because it is called in the fifth verse, the motions of sin which are by the law?” The apostle replies, that it is very wrong to entertain even the bare thought of such a thing concerning the law. He subjoins a proof of this removal of the first effect, from the contrary effect which the law has; for the law is the index of sin, or that which points it out; therefore, it is neither sin nor the cause of sin. He then illustrates this proof by a special example: “For I should not have known concupiscence, unless the law had said, Thou shaft not desire or covet.”

But the same effect is, in the eighth verse, attributed to sin, in these words: “But sin wrought in me all manner of concupiscence,” yet so that it abuses the law as an occasion to produce this effect. This is intimated in the words which immediately follow:. “Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me,” etc. The latter effect [the fructification of sin] is proved in the next verse, in these words: “For, without the law, sin was dead; but, on the approach of the law, sin revived,” which is illustrated by its opposite privatives, “For I was alive when sin was dead; but when sin revived then I died;” but, as this was done by the law, it is evident that sin abused the law to produce this effect. But the apostle here joins the second effect to the first, (because they cohere together by nature, and the former is the cause of the latter,) and thus in the tenth and eleventh verses, ascribes death to sin, which abuses the law, yet so as to excuse the law also from the effect of death, as it is expressed in the tenth verse, “the commandment which was unto life;” the cause of death being transferred to sin, in the expression, “for sin, taking occasion by the commandment,” etc. But he follows up his exculpation of the law, in the twelfth verse, by a description of the nature of the law, that it “is holy, and just, and good,” and, therefore, by no means the cause of death — an insinuation against the law which he indignantly repels in the former part of the thirteenth verse, by saying, “God forbid that that which is good, should be made death unto me.” But in the latter part of this verse, he ascribes the same effect to sin, with the addition of a two-fold end, both of them inclining to the disparagement of sin itself, in these words: “That sin might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin, by the commandment, might become exceedingly sinful.” As though he had said — “Sin, by this abuse of the law to seduce and kill us, has produced the effect, that. in return, its own depravity and perverseness be made manifest by the law. This perverse depravity consists in sin working death by the law which is good, and in being made exceedingly sinful by the commandment which is just and holy, and that it might only become as it were a sinner above measure by its own wickedness, but also might be declared to be such by the indication of the law, which it has so shamefully abused to produce these effects.” But it is apparent from the whole of this explanation, that the apostle has so attempered his style as to draw a conclusion of the necessity of the grace of Christ, from the efficacy of sin, and from the weakness of the law. This will be still more perspicuous, if we briefly comprise this explanation of the apostle in the following form: “Sin has the dominion over those who are under the law, by working in them all manner of concupiscence through the law itself, and also by killing them through it, yet so that the law is free from all blame in both cases, since, it is holy and good, the index of sin, and was given for life. But sin is so powerful in men who are still under the law, that it abuses the law to produce those effects in a man who is under subjection to it; by which abuse of the law, sin, on the other hand, takes away the reward from the law, that its own perverse and noxious disposition and tendency may be manifested by the indication of the law. From these circumstances a man who is under the law is compelled to flee to grace, that he may by its beneficent aid be delivered from the tyranny of such a wicked and injurious master.”

12. The rendering of the cause follows from the fourteenth verse to the end of the chapter; in which, as we have already observed, the utmost care is evinced not to impose any ignominy on the law, or to ascribe any blame to it; and the entire mischief is attributed to the power of sin, and to the weakness of that man who is under the law. But the cause is briefly given in the fourteenth verse, in these words: “For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin.” But in order that this rendering of the cause may be accurately understood, we must again consider that proposition, the cause of which the apostle determines in this place to explain, and which is this: “Sin has dominion over those who are under the law;” or, “The motions of sins, which are by the law, work in men who are under the law.”

13. That the cause of this may be fully and perfectly rendered, it must be shown why the law cannot weaken the force and tyranny of sin in those who are under the law, and why sin holds those who are under the law bound and obnoxious to itself as by some right of its own. Therefore, this rendering of the cause consists of two parts: The first is contained in these words: “For truly the law is spiritual; but I am carnal.” That the particle “indeed” or “truly” must be added, is proved both by its relative δε, “but,” as well as by the very subject. The second is contained in these words: “For I am sold under sin;” that is, I am under the dominion of sin, as one who is constituted a purchased servant by the right of sale, and like one who becomes the bond-slave of sin. As though the apostle had said, “That the law is incapable of hindering the strength and operation of sin in men who are under the law, arises from this, that men under the law are carnal; in whom therefore the law, though it is spiritual, does not possess so much power as to enable it to restrain the strong inclination of the flesh to things which are evil and contrary to the law. And since sin, by a certain right of its own, exercises dominion over those men who are under the law, therefore it comes to pass that they have been made bond-slaves to sin, and are bound and “fettered like a purchased menial.”

14. The apostle immediately subjoins a proof, in the fifteenth verse, not so much of the fact that a man under the law is carnal, as that he is the slave of sin. But the proof is taken from the peculiar adjunct or effect of a purchased servant, in these words: “For that which I do I allow not.” For a servant does not do that which seems good to himself, but that which his master is pleased to prescribe to him; because thus is the word “I allow” used in this passage, for “I approve.” But if any one thinks that it is here used in its proper signification, the argument will be the same, and equal its validity; “for,” as Christ has told us, “the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth;” (John 15:15; ) neither is his Lord bound, nor is he accustomed, to make known to his servant all his will, except so far as it seems proper to himself to employ the services of his menial through the knowledge of that will.

15. But the first signification of the word is better accommodated to this passage, and seems to be required by those things which follow; for a more ample explanation of this argument is produced in the following words: “For what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I;” which is an evident token of a will that is subjugated, and subject to the will of another; that is, to the will of sin. Therefore he is the servant and the slave of sin.

16. The apostle now deduces two consectaries from this, by the first of which he excuses the law, and by the second, he throws on sin all the blame respecting this matter, as he had also done in a previous part of the chapter. The first consectary is, “if, then, I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.” (16.) That is, “if I unwillingly do that which sin prescribes to me, now, indeed, I consent unto the law that it is good, as being that against which sin is committed. I assent to the law that commands, though, while placed under the dominion of sin, I am unable to perform what it prescribes.” The second consectary is, “Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” (17.) That is, “therefore, because I reluctantly do what I do, not at my own option but at that of another, that Is, of my master, who is sin; it follows from this, that it is not I who do it, but sin which dwells in me, has the dominion over me, and impels me to do it.”

17. Having treated upon these subjects in the manner now stated, the apostle returns to the same rendering of the cause and the proof of it. The eighteenth verse contains the rendering of the cause, in these words: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing:” Wherefore it is not surprising that the law, though it be spiritual, is not able to break the power of sin in a man who is under the law; for that which is good does not dwell, that is, has not the dominion, in a carnal man who is under the law. The proof of this is subjoined in the same verse: “For to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” Or, “I do not find how I can perform any thing good.”

18. The more ample explanation of it is given in the nineteenth verse, “For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil that I would not, that I do;” which is an evident token that no good thing dwelleth in my flesh. For if any good thing dwelt in my flesh, I should then be actually capable of performing that to which my mind and will are inclined. He then deduces once more the second consectary, in the twentieth verse: “Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.”

19. But from all these arguments, in the twenty-first verse he concludes the thing intended: “I find then a law, [which is imposed in this way,] that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.” That is, In reality, therefore, I find from the circumstance of “to will being present with me,” but of not being capable of performing what is good, that evil or sin is present with me, and not only has it a place in me but it likewise prevails. This conclusion does not differ in meaning from the rendering of the cause which is comprised in the fourteenth verse, in this expression: “But I am carnal, sold under sin.” But in the two subsequent verses, the twenty-second and twenty-third, the apostle proves the conclusion which immediately preceded; and, in proving it, he more clearly explains whence and how it happens, that a man who is under the law cannot have dominion over sin, and that, whether willing or unwilling, such a person is compelled to fulfill the lusts of sin; and he says, “for I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”

20. At the close, from a consideration of the miserable state of those men who are under the law, a votive exclamation is raised for their deliverance from this tyranny and servitude of sin, in the following terms: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver (or snatch) me from the body of this death?” That is, not from this mortal body, but from the dominion of sin, which he here calls the body of death, as he calls it also in other passages the body of sin.

21. To this exclamation he subjoins a reply — “the grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, will deliver thee” — or a thanksgiving, in which the apostle intimates, in his own person, whence deliverance must be sought and expected. In the last place, a conclusion is annexed to the whole investigation, in the latter part of the twenty-fifth verse, in which is briefly defined the entire condition of a man under the law, that had been previously and at great length described; “so then, with the mind, I myself, serve the law of God, but with the flesh, the law of sin.” And in this manner is concluded the seventh chapter.

22. But in order that these arguments, after having been reduced to a small compass, may be perceived at a single glance, let us briefly recapitulate this second part likewise, in the following manner:

“We have already declared, that sin has dominion over those men who are under the law: But the cause of this is, that, though the law itself is spiritual, and though the men who are under it consent unto it that it is good, and though they will what is good and delight in the law of God after the inward man; yet these very men who are under the law are carnal, sold under sin, have no good thing dwelling in their flesh, but have sin dwelling in them, and evil is present with them; they have likewise a law in their members which not only wars against the law of their mind, but which also renders them captives to the law of sin which is in their members. Of this matter it is a certain and evident token, that the good which such men would, they do not; but the evil which they hate, that they do; and that when they will to do good, they do not obtain the ability. Hence it is undoubtedly evident, that they are not themselves the masters of their own acts, but sin which dwelleth in them; to which is also chiefly to be ascribed the culpability of the evil which is committed by these men who are like the reluctant perpetrators of it. But on this account, these persons, from the shewing of the law, having become acquainted with their misery, are compelled to cry out, and to implore the grace of Jesus Christ.”


1. A closer investigation of this question and a demonstration taken from the text itself, that the apostle is here treating about a man paced under the law, and not under grace.

2. The manner in which Carnal and spiritual are opposed to each other in the scriptures.

3. An objection taken from 1 Corinthians 3:1, 2; and a reply to it.

4. The meaning of the phrase, sold under sin. The views of Calvin and Beza on this verse.

1. Having, in the preceding manner, considered the disposition and economy of the whole chapter, let us now somewhat more strictly investigate the question proposed by us, which is this: “Are those things which are recorded, from the fourteenth verse to the end of the seventh chapter, to be understood concerning a man who is under the law, or concerning one who is under grace?”

First of all, let some attention be bestowed on the connection of the fourteenth verse with those which preceded it; for the rational particle γαρ “for,” indicates its connection with the preceding. This connection shows, that the same subject is discussed in this verse, as in those before it; and the pronoun εγω I, must be understood as relating to the same man, as had been signified in the previous verses by the same pronoun. But the investigation in the former part of the chapter was respecting a man who is under the law, and the pronoun “I” had previously denoted the man who was under the law: Therefore, in this fourteenth verse also, in which a, cause is given of that which had been before explained, a man under the law is still the subject. If it be otherwise, the whole of it is nothing less than loose reasoning; nor, in this case, have we ever been able to perceive even any probable connection, according to which these consequences that follow can be in coherence with the matters preceding, and which has been adduced by those who suppose that, in the first thirteen verses of this seventh chapter, the discourse refers to a man under the law, but that in the fourteenth verse and those which follow, the subject of the discourse is a man under grace. If any one denies this, let him attempt to make out the connection [between the two portions of the chapter which have just been specified]. Some of those who have entertained that opinion, perceiving the difficulty of such an undertaking, interpret this fourteenth verse as well as those which preceded it, as relating to a man under the law, but the fifteenth and following verses as applicable to a man under grace. This, also, we shall hereafter perceive.

Secondly. In the same fourteenth verse, that man about whom the apostle treats under his own person, is said to be carnal; but a man who is regenerate and placed under grace is not carnal, but spiritual. Therefore, it is a matter of the greatest certainty, that the subject of the apostle in this verse is not a man placed under grace. But a man who is under the law is carnal; therefore, it is plain that the subject of discourse in this verse is a man under the law. I prove that a regenerate man, one who is placed under grace, is neither carnal, nor so designated in the Scriptures. In Romans 8:9, it is said “but ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.” And in the verse preceding, it is said, “so then they that are in the flesh cannot please God:” But a regenerate man, one who is placed under grace, pleases God. In Romans 8:5, it is said “They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh,” but [as it is expressed in the same verse] a man under grace “minds the things of the Spirit.” In Galatians 5:24, it is said, “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts;” and they that “have crucified the flesh” are not carnal. But men who are regenerate and placed under grace “are Christ’s and have crucified the flesh.” Therefore, such men as answer this description are not carnal. In Romans 8:14, it is said, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Therefore, they are “led by the Spirit of God;” but such persons are spiritual.

2. But it is here objected, “the same man may, in a different respect, be called carnal and spiritual — ’spiritual,’ so far as he is regenerate through the Spirit — ’carnal’ so far as he is unregenerate; for, as long as man is in this mortal body, he is not fully regenerate. From this arises a two-fold signification of the work ’carnal’: one denotes a man purely carnal, in whom sin has the dominion; the other denotes a man partly carnal and partly spiritual.”

Answer: I grant, according to the Scriptures, that man is not fully and perfectly regenerate so long as he is in the present life. But this admission must be correctly apprehended, that is, that such perfection be understood as relating not to the essence and essential parts of regeneration itself, but to the degree and measure of the quantity. For the business of regeneration is not carried on in such a manner, that a man is regenerate or renewed with regard to some of his faculties, but remains with regard to others of them altogether in the oldness of depraved nature. But this second birth is ordered in the same manner as our first nativity, by which we are born human beings — that is, partaking entirely of human nature, but not in the perfection of adult manhood. Thus also, does the power of regeneration pervade all the faculties of man, none of them excepted; but it does not pervade them perfectly at the first moment; for it is carried on gradually, and by daily advances, until it is expanded or drawn out to a full and mature age in Christ Hence, the whole man is said to be regenerated, according to all his faculties, mind, affections and will; and he is, therefore, with regard to these, his regenerated faculties, a spiritual person.

But as in the Scripture, a spiritual man and a carnal man are opposed to each other in their entire definitions, [for the former of them is one who walks according to the Spirit, and the latter is he that walks after the flesh, and as the one is mentioned for the opposite of the other,) in this respect indeed, the same man cannot be said to be at once both spiritual and carnal. And thus I reject, according to the Scriptures, this distinction of carnal persons, by which some of them are called carnal, in whom sin has dominion on the predominant part, and by which others receive the appellation of carnal men, in whom the flesh contends against the Spirit on the part which is less powerful; for the rejection of this distinction, I have the permission of Scripture, which is not accustomed to reckon the latter of these two classes in the number of carnal persons. This is expressed in a very significant manner by Leo, on the resurrection of our Lord, in the following words: “Though we are saved by hope, and still bear about with us corruption and mortal flesh, yet we are correctly said not to be in the flesh if carnal affections have not dominion over us, and we deservedly lay aside and discard the name of that thing whose will we no longer follow.”’

But were this, their distinction, allowed, still, that is not yet proved which they attempt, unless it be demonstrated that this man is called carnal, not in the first of these respects or senses, but in the second — not because sin has the dominion in him, but because the flesh contends against the Spirit, which is a result that can never be deduced from the text itself: For It is evident that, in the man whom the apostle here calls carnal, sin has the dominion, and the party of the flesh is more powerful in him than that of the Spirit. Because “sin dwelleth in him, he does the evil that he would not, and he does not the good which he would; to perform what is good, finds not; but sin, which dwelleth in him, perpetrates that which is evil; he is brought into captivity to the law of sin, or he is a captive under the law of sin.” All these are certain and manifest tokens of sin, which has the dominion. Nor is it any valid objection, that the man is compelled, though unwilling and reluctant, to obey sin; for the dominion of sin is two fold — either with the consent of him who sins, or against his conscience, and his consent arising from his conscience. For whether a servant obeys his Lord willingly or unwillingly, he is still the servant of him to whom he yields obedience. This is such a certain truth, that no one is able to come from the servitude of sin to liberty, except through this way — the way of this hatred of servitude, and of this desire of obtaining deliverance.

3. But some one will say,

“Even those who are under grace are called carnal in” 1 Corinthians 3:1, 2.

I reply, The question does not relate to the word itself; but to its true meaning and the thing signified by it. We must try, therefore, whether this word has the same signification in this passage as it has in the seventh chapter of the epistle to the Romans. But they [at Corinth] are called carnal with respect to knowledge, and in reference to feeling or inclination. In this sense, being unskillful and inexperienced in the doctrine of piety, and the knowledge of the gospel, they are called carnal in opposition to those who are spiritual, who know how to “judge all things,” (1 Corinthians 2:15, ) and who are also called “who are perfect,” in (1 Corinthians 2:6, ) and, in this sense, “babes in Christ,” and those who have need to be fed with milk are called carnal. But with respect to feeling or inclination, those men are called carnal in whom human and carnal affections have the dominion and prevail, and who are said, in other passages, to be in the flesh, and to walk according to the flesh, in opposition to those who are spiritual, who, “through the Spirit, have mortified the deeds of the flesh and have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts.” But the apostle seems here to bestow this appellation on the Corinthians, or on some of them, with this two-fold reference; for he says that, with respect to knowledge, they are “babes in Christ,” that is, unskillful and inexperienced in the doctrine of piety, who had to be “fed with milk, and who were not able to bear solid food.” But with respect to affections, he says that they “are carnal, and walk as men,” on account of the contentions and divisions which prevailed among them, from which it was evident that, in them, the flesh had the predominance over the Spirit. But in whatever sense or manner the word is used in this passage, it brings no advantage to the cause of those who declare that the apostle calls himself a carnal man in Romans 7:14. For if the same word is not used in 1 Corinthians 3:1, in a sense similar to that which it bears in Romans 7:14, then it is adduced in an unlearned and useless manner in elucidation of this question; for equivocation is the fruitful parent of error. If the word is to be received in the same sense in both passages, then I am at liberty firmly to conclude from this, in favor of my opinion, that the apostle cannot be called carnal in Romans 7, for under that appellation he severely reprehends the Corinthians because he “was not able to speak unto them as unto spiritual persons,” since they were such as were still carnal; which he would have done without any just cause, if he were himself also comprehended under that title when understood in the same signification.

4. Thirdly. The same man about whom the apostle is here treating, is also said, in this, the fourteenth verse, to be sold under sin, or, (which is the same thing,) the slave of sin, and become its servant by purchase, which title can, in no sense whatsoever, be adapted to men placed under grace — a misappropriation of epithet, against which the Scriptures openly reclaim in many passages:

“If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36.)

“For he that is dead” is justified, that is, he “is freed from sin” (Romans 6:7.) “But God be thanked that ye were the servants of sin; being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness,” or those who are completely subject to it. (Romans 6:17, 18.) But that the two things here specified [the service of sin, and that of righteousness] are so opposed to each other, as not to be able to meet together at once in the same individual, is evident from the twentieth verse of the same chapter: “For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.” But that the same remark applies to a man who is under the law, is apparent from a comparison of 2 Corinthians 3:17, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” with Galatians 5:18, “But if ye be led of Spirit, ye are not under the law;” therefore, they who are of the Spirit are free. But such persons are not under the law; therefore, those who are under the law are not free, but are the servants of sin. For, whether any one unwillingly, and compelled by the force of sin, obeys it, or whether it willingly — whether anyone becomes the slave of sin by the deed of his first parents, or whether, in addition to this, “he has sold himself to work evil in the sight of the Lord,” as it is related concerning Ahab in 1 Kings 21:20. In each of these cases is the man truly and deservedly called the servant of sin.

“For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage.” (2 Peter 2:19.)


“whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” (John 8:34.)

“Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:16.)

For the different mode of servitude does not exempt or discharge [the subject of it] from servitude, but is conclusive that he is under it.

Should any one reply, concerning the man mentioned in Romans 7:14, “that he is not simply called the servant of sin, but that he is so denominated with this restriction — that he is the servant of sin with respect to the flesh, and not with respect to the mind, as is apparent from the last verse of the same chapter, which is an explanation of this verse,” I rejoin that this man is simply called the servant of sin, but of the description of those who unwillingly and with a reluctant conscience serve sin. But with respect to the manner in which the last verse of the chapter is to be understood, we shall perceive what it is when we arrive at that part.

But the greater part of the divines of our profession acknowledge that this fourteenth verse must be understood as relating to an unregenerate man, to one who is not placed under grace. Thus Calvin observes on verse, “The apostle now begins to bring the law and the nature of man a little more closely into hostile contact with each other.” And on the subsequent verse he says, “He now descends to the more particular example of a man already regenerate.” Thus also, Beza, against Castellio, in the refutation of the first argument to the thirteenth and fourteenth calumny, (fol. 413,) says, “St. Paul exclaims that he is not sufficient even to think that which is good; and in another passage, considering himself not within the boundaries of grace, he says, But I am carnal, sold under sin.”


1. He does not approve of that which he does, neither does he do that which he would, but he does that which he hates.

2. The nature of the contest carried on in man.

3. The opinion of St. Augustine and Peter Martyr, respecting the conflict in men who are not born again.

1. The fifteenth verse contains a proof of the affirmation in the preceding verse, which is, that the man about whom the apostle is treating, is “sold under sin” or is the bond-slave of sin.

For the argument is taken from the office and proper effect of a purchased servant, and of one who has no legal control over himself, but who is subjected to the power of another. For it is the property of a servant, not to execute his own will, but that of his lord, whether he does this willingly and with full consent, or he does it with the judgment of his own mind exclaiming against it, and with his will resisting it. This is expressed in no unskillful manner by St. Augustine, in his Retractions (lib. I, cap. 1:) “he who by the flesh that lusteth against the Spirit, does those things which he would not, lusteth indeed unwillingly; and in this he does not that which he would; but if he be overcome [by the flesh lusting against the Spirit] he willingly consents to his lusts — and in this he does nothing but what he has willed, that is, devoid of righteousness and the servant of sin.” This is confirmed by Zanchius, on the works of Redemption: (lib. I, cap. 3: ) “Undoubtedly Peter, therefore, denied Christ because he would, though he did not that with a full will, but reluctantly.” But the proof [which the apostle adduces in the fifteenth verse] is accommodated to the condition of the man about whom he is treating, that is, of a man who is under the law, and who is the servant of sin just so far as to serve it not with full consent, but with a conscience crying out against it. For these are the words of the apostle: “For that which I do, I allow not,” that is, I do not approve of it. This sentiment, he explains and proves more at large in the words which immediately follow in the same verse: “For what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that I do,” from which we frame this syllogism.

He who approves not of that which he does, nor does that which he would, is the slave of another, that is, of sin;

But the man about whom the apostle is treating, approves not of that which he does, nor does what he would, but he does that which he hates;

Therefore, the man who is in this place the subject of discussion, is the slave of another, that is, of sin; and therefore the same man is unregenerate, and not placed under grace.

2. But perhaps you will say, “In this passage is described a contest in the man about whom the apostle is treating, which contest cannot take place in a man who is unregenerate.”

Answer. In this passage, the contest between this man and sin is not described; but the dominion of sin, and the servitude of the man himself under sin, are demonstrated from the proper effect of a servant by purchase, which effect, in reality, is not produced by this man without much reluctance of conscience and great mental struggles, which precede the very production of the act; but this deed is not committed except by a mind which is conquered and overcome by the force of sin. Then I deny the preceding affirmation that, in an unregenerate man, of what description soever he may be, there is discovered no contest of the mind or conscience with the inclinations and desires of the flesh and of sin. Nay, I further assert and affirm, that, in a man who is under the law, there is necessarily a conflict between the mind and conscience on the one part, that prescribe those things which are just and honest, and the inclinations or motions of sin, on the other, which impel the man to things that are unlawful and forbidden. For the Scriptures describe to us a two-fold conflict against sin — the First, that of the flesh, and of the mind or the conscience-the Second, that of the flesh, or sin, and of the Spirit.

The former of these obtains in all those who have a knowledge of what is righteous and iniquitous, of what is just and unjust, “in whose hearts is written the work of the law, and whose thoughts, in the mean while, either accuse or excuse one another,” as it is recorded in Romans 2:15, “who hold the truth in unrighteousness,” (1:18) whose consciences are not yet seared as with a hot iron, who are not yet “past all feeling,” (Ephesians 4:19, ) and who know the will of their Lord, but do it not. (Luke 12:47)

3. This view of the matter is confirmed to us by St. Augustine, in his book “The Exposition of certain propositions in the Epistle to the Romans,”(cap. 3) in which he says, “Before the law, that is, in the state or degree before the law, we do not fight; because we not only lust and sin, but sins have also our approval. Under the law we fight, but are overcome; for we confess that those things which we do, are evil; and, by making such confession, we intimate that we would not do them. But, because we have not yet any grace we are conquered. In this condition it is shown to us, in what situation we be; and while we are desirous of rising up, and still fall down, we are the more grievously afflicted,” etc. This is likewise acknowledged by Peter Martyr, who observes, on Romans 5:8, “We do not deny that there is occasionally some contest of this kind in unregenerate men; not because their minds are not carnal and inclined to vicious pursuits, but because in them are still engraven the laws of nature, and because in them shines some illumination of the Spirit of God, though it be not such as can justify them, or can produce a saving change.”

The latter contest, that between the flesh and the Spirit, obtains in the regenerate alone. For in that heart in which the Spirit of God neither is nor dwells, there can be no contest — though some persons are said to “resist the Holy Spirit,” and, to “sin against the Holy Ghost,” which expressions have another meaning.

The difference between these two contests is very manifest from the diversity of the issue or consequence of each: For, in the first, the flesh overcomes; but, in the latter, the Spirit usually gains the victory and becomes the conqueror. This may be seen by a comparison of this passage with Galatians 5:16, 17 — a comparison which we will afterwards undertake.

But from the proper effects of the law itself, it may be most certainly demonstrated that a contest against sin is carried on within a man who is so under the law as that it has discharged all its office towards him, and has exerted all its powers in him. For it is the effect of the law to convict a man, already convicted of sin, of the righteousness of God, to incite him to obedience, to convince him of his own weakness, to inflame him with a desire to be delivered, and to compel him to seek for deliverance. It is well known, however, that these effects cannot be completed without a contest against indwelling sin. But we have already said that about such a man as this the apostle treats in this passage — one who is in this manner under the law.

If any man will yet obstinately maintain, that all unregenerate persons in general perpetrate that to the commission of which, sin and the flesh persuade, with full consent and without any reluctance, let him not view it as a grievance if I demand proof for his assertion, since it is made against express testimonies of Scripture, and since many examples may be adduced in proof of the contrary, such as that of Balsam, who, against his own conscience, obeyed the king of Moab — that of Saul, who, against his own conscience, persecuted David — that of the Pharisees, who, through obstinate malice, resisted the Holy Spirit, etc. But even that very common distinction, which sins are distinguished into those of ignorance, infirmity and malice, is likewise by this method destroyed, if all unregenerate persons commit sin with full assent and without any struggle or reluctance. I am desirous also, on this occasion, to bring to the recollection of the adverse party, the steps or degrees by which God is accustomed to convert his children to himself from wickedness of life, and which, if they will diligently and without prejudice consider, they will perceive that the contest between the mind and the flesh, which is excited by the law, must of necessity be placed among the beginnings and the precursors of regeneration.


1. He consents to the law that it is good; a consectary deduced.

2. An objection answered.

3. A second objection.

1. From what has preceded, a consectary or consequence is deduced for the excuse of the law, in the following words: “If then, I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.” In this verse nothing is said, which may not, in the best possible manner and without any controversy, agree with one who is under the law. For unless a man under the law yields his assent to it that it is good, he is not at all under the law: For this is the first effect of the law in those whom it will subject to itself — to convince them of its equity and justice; and when this is done, such consent necessarily arises. It is also apparent from the first and second chapters of the epistle to the Romans, and from the tenth chapter, in which “a zeal of God touching the law” is attributed to the Jews, that this consent is not peculiar to a regenerate man, nor is it the proper effect of the regenerating Spirit.

2. If any one say, “The subject in this passage is that assent by which a man assents to the whole law of God, and which cannot be in those who do not understand the whole law, but none among the unregenerate understands the entire law of God,”

I reply, first, it can never be affirmed with truth, that “none among the unregenerate understands the entire law” while the following passages exclaim against such an assertion:

“That servant who knew his Lord’s will and did not according to it, shall be beaten with many stripes.” (Luke 12:47)

“Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing;” (1 Corinthians 13:2 )

“Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth;” (1 Corinthians 8:1)

“For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” (2 Peter 2:21.)

Secondly. Neither can this affirmation be truly made in every case: “No man assents to the entire law unless he understands the whole of it;” for he assents to the whole law who knows it to be from God and to be good, though he may not particularly understand all things which are prescribed and forbidden in the law. And where, among the regenerate, is that man to be found who dares to claim for himself such a knowledge of the whole law?

Thirdly. That which is appropriately subservient to this purpose, is, a denial that this passage has any reference to that consent by which a man assents to all the precepts Of the law as being specially understood; for neither do the words themselves indicate any such thing, nor does the analogy of the connection permit it. Because it is concluded from the circumstance of his doing what he would not, that he “consents unto the law that it is good “which conclusion cannot be deduced from this deed if it be said, that this expression relates to the consent which arises from a special acquaintance with and an understanding of all the precepts of the law. For that which this man here says that he does, is a particular deed; it is, therefore, prohibited by some special precept of the law, the knowledge and approval of which is the cause why he who does that deed does it with reluctance. Hence, as from a consequent, it is concluded from this deed thus performed, (that Is committed with a mind crying out and striving against it,) that he who commits the deed in this manner, consents to the law that it is good.

3. But some one will perhaps rejoin and say, “This passage does not relate to the consent of general estimation, which may be possessed, and is so, in reality, by many of the unregenerate. But it has reference to the consent of particular approbation, which is the peculiar act of the regenerating Spirit.” Such an objector ought to know that those things which are confidently uttered without any attempt at proof, may, with equal freedom, be rejected without offering the smallest reason. The thing itself, however, evinces the contrary; for, to consent to the law that it is good, is not to approve in particular a deed which has been prescribed by the law; for this consent of particular approbation cannot consist with the perpetration of a deed which is particularly disapproved. But the commission of such an act agrees well with the consent about which the apostle here treats.


1. He no longer himself perpetrates this evil, but it is done by sin that dwelleth in him, a second Consectary deduced.

2. From this verse are drawn two arguments for the contrary opinion, both of which are refuted — the first argument, and a reply to it.

3. The second argument and a reply.

4. An argument from this verse in favor of true opinion.

5. On the word dwelling, or inhabiting, according to its signification, and the usage of Scripture, with quotations from Zanchius, Bucer, Peter Martyr, and Musculus.

1. From the preceding verses is deduced another consectary, by which this man transfers to sin all the blame of this matter — not to excuse himself, that be far from him, for the law has been given and written on his heart, that “his thoughts may accuse or else excuse one another, but to point out his servile condition under the dominion of sin. In this consectary, therefore, nothing can be contained which does not agree with a man who is under the law. If it were otherwise, the consectary would contain more than was to be found in the premises, which, it has been demonstrated, agree extremely well with a man who is under the law.

2. But let us see the words of the consectary: “Now then, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me,” that is, sin that dwelleth in me, does this.” From these words, the opposite party seem capable of eliciting two arguments in support of the opinion which affirms that the apostle is here treating about a regenerate man and one who is placed under grace.

The First of these arguments is of this kind: —

“It cannot be said of unregenerate men when they sin, that they do not commit it themselves, but that it is committed by sin which dwells in them.

But this is most appropriately said about the regenerate:

Therefore, the man about whom the apostle here treats, is “not an unregenerate man, but one who is regenerate.”

Answer. The antecedent must be examined; for, when it is either granted or denied, the consequence is also granted or denied.

(1.) It is evident, that it cannot simply be affirmed concerning any man, whatever his condition may be, that h

James Arminius, vol. 2, The Works of Reverend James Arminius : Volume 2, electronic ed., Logos Library System; Works of James Arminius (Albany, OR: AGES Software, 1999).

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