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every part of the word of God-indeed, with the very
But who can harmonize the discrepancies between Rom. 7: 14—25, and Rom. 8:1–17, if they are both delineations of the results of faith in Christ? According to the one, on this hypothesis, the believer is "carnal, sold under sin," (v. 14;) doing only what he knows to be wrong, (v. 15, 19;) making resolutions only to break them, (v. 18;) conscious that he is utterly void of all true virtue, (v. 18;) perpetually “brought into captivity to the law of sin which is in his members,” (v. 23;) calling out in his wretchedness for a deliverer from the body of his spiritual death, (v. 24;) destitute of “ life and peace; insubordinate to the law of God; waging a conflict which invariably turns against him; under perpetual condemnation; the unrelieved thrall of a master as relentless as death; the tormented victim of remorseful and consuming convictions; standing on the borders of utter despair. According to the other, “he is not in the flesh, but in the Spirit," (v. 9.,) that is, he is not carnal, but spiritual; he has been made free from the law of sin and death," (v. 2;) he "walks not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” (v. 4;) he “minds the things of the Spirit,” and therefore possesses " life and peace,” (vs. 5, 6;) he is “ led by the spirit of God," that is, controlled by him, (v. 14;) instead of "the spirit of bondage,” he has received the spirit of adoption, whereby he no longer cries, “Oh, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me,” but “Abba, Father," (v. 15; he is exempt from all condemnation, the Spirit it
self bearing witness with his spirit that he is a child of God, (vs. 1, 16;) he is exercising faith in that mighty atonement which was designed to effect " that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in
,” 66 which the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh”-in short, he is in all things the perfect contrast of what the passage in the 7th chapter represents him to be. Let sophistry strive as it will to “ make the worse appear the better reason,” it can never bridge over this infinite gulf of contrariety. As well attempt to make darkness and light dwell together in unity.
Let us now see how Chalmers tries to achieve this impossisibility. He enters upon his arduous endeavor by illustrating “ the exceeding difference which exists between the whole tone and temper of our mind at one time and at another.” He illustrates it by the effect which the perusal of a fascinating and pathetic novel produces, exciting emotions and passions quite the reverse of those which are evolved in the ordinary routine and relations of every day life-by the effect of music, under which the heart is actually attuned to the very cordiality which the music has inspired; and while the notes still vibrate on the ear, the play of high and honorable feelings is upheld in the bosom—till the last echoes have died away from the remembrance, and the man again lapses into the same cold and creeping and selfish creature that he ever was.” With a rhetorical tact which finds no rival in his logic, he adduces the case of Saul, under the influence of the harp of David, in exemplification of the transformations of tone and temper which may alternate each other in the human mind.
Now, let it be remembered that we believe real Christians may relapse from faith into belief, and consequently from the cordial love and service of gospel liberty, into the heartless resolutions, strugglings, and convictions of legality—that, when thus relapsed, they are precisely in the same moral condition with convicted sinners who are striving to effect their own moral renovation and worthiness of the favor of God, by legal endeavors independently of faith. We would not cease to call them christians when thus relapsed, and in this sense admit that Rom. 7: 14—25 may portray the experience of christians, that is, of christians backslidden from faith. What we deny is that it describes the experience or exercises of actual believers. Of course, then, Chalmers stands entirely on our ground, if he maintains, what his illustrations would seem to imply, that christians may, and perhaps ordi
narily do, sometimes occupy the moral position described in this passage. But, he does not adhere to this representation, but inconsistently urges the position, that this passage is the history of their habitual state. This he most distinctly assumes and inculcates in the illustration he draws from the artist who seeks to realize an ideal excellence, and yet perpetually fails to accomplish it, as well as in his general strain of reasoning on the subject.
We can do little more at present than test the propriety of his illustrations. In the first place, then, nothing can be more fallacious than the analogy which he supposes to exist between the tone and temper produced in the mind by the charms of romance and music, and the life and liberty of those who embrace the gospel by faith. The effects of romance and music are purely phenomena of the sensibility-mere emotions involving no change whatever in the state of the will, and therefore utterly void of the least tinge of virtue. A devil might experience them and be a devil still
. The harp of David effected no moral transformation in the heart of Saul. But the pure virtue which constitutes the life and liberty of such as are in the actual exercise of faith, is a phenomenon of the will—a voluntary state which necessarily evolves itself in correspondent executive actions, whereever, and as long as it has an existence. It is different in kind from all the emotions which the potency of fiction or harmony ever elicited. There is therefore absolutely no analo gy between them. If spiritual life and liberty exist at all, they must exist according to their intrinsic nature. Where legality begins, they die; where they take origin, it expires. Rom. 7:14–25, therefore can never represent them.
These illustrations therefore confound things which radically differ, mislead minds unaccustomed to close analysis, blur over distinctions as fundamental as true godliness, and, with all their rhetorical beauties, are but the foil to the most deleterious error—that of holding piety to consist in the action of the sensibility. Neither virtue nor vice consists in this. They are made of quite other material. The heart of Saul, even when he
66 was all ear,
Under the ribs of Death,"
sion of their active malevolence, and held as it were “stupidly good," by the “touches of sweet harmony" flowing from "flutes and soft recorders!”
Chalmers inquires whether we could apply any one of the affirmations—“what I would, that I do not to will is present with me”-“I would do good”—“in the law I delight after the inward man”-“with my mind I serve it—to such a man as Ahab? This question proposes a false issue.' No one contends that the passage in question represents the experience of an unconvicted sinner. It is the portraiture of one engaged in legal efforts to achieve his own holiness. We have no information that Ahab was engaged in any such endeavor. If he were, while that was true of him, we know of no language which could better set forth his moral condition. Taken in their connection, nothing could more fitly represent the approval which reason and conscience, in every such case, yield to the legislation of Heaven, and the fruitless, because heartless resolves which the mind is constrained to form under their urgencies to moral rectitude.
He says again, “It looks, I have no doubt, an apparent puzzle to the understandings of many, that a man should do what is wrong while he wills what is right; and, more espepecially, that he all the while should be honestly grieving because of the one, and as honestly aspiring and pressing forwards, nay, making real practical advances, in the direction of the other.” And truly it is a puzzle! He attempts to unravel it by adducing the case of an artist striving to realize his ideal of excellence, and yet continually failing to accomplish his object, and consequently grieving at his deficiency of execution. An abortive attempt! We flatly deny the assumed analogy between artistic efforts to realize an ideal, and the exercise of saintly virtue. The difference between them is a difference in kind. Nor are the feelings which the artist experiences in view of his failure in executing his conceptions in the least allied to those which follow moral delinquency. The painful emotions of the failing artist are not the compunctions and remorse of guilt.
“The space between the ideal of man's soul
Where anchor ne'er was cast !"
tion, on the instruments, whether tools or words, by which it
But we must desist from farther prosecution of this already too extended review. Had we time and space,
there ny other points on which we should like to dwell. We may at a future time, think it important to take them up.
We have spoken our mind freely, as is our wont. Others may
deal with our views as we have with those of Chalmers. But give us the credit, as we most cordially give it to him, of uprightness of heart and a fervent regard for the interests of the kingdom of God on earth.