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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 5 - Verse 19
Verse 19. For, etc. This verse is not a mere repetition of the former, but it is an explanation. By the former statements it might perhaps be inferred that men were condemned without any guilt or blame of theirs. The apostle in this verse guards against this, and affirms that they are in fact sinners. He affirms that those who are sinners are condemned, and that the sufferings brought in, on account of the sin of Adam, are introduced because many were made sinners. Calvin says, "Lest any one should arrogate to him self innocence, [the apostle] adds, that each one is condemned because he is a sinner."
By one man's disobedience. By means of the sin of Adam. This affirms simply the fact that such a result followed from the sin of Adam. The word by (dia) is used in the Scriptures as it is in all books and in all languages. It may denote the efficient cause; the instrumental cause; the principal cause; the meritorious cause; or the chief occasion by which a thing occurred. (See Schleusner.) It does not express one mode, and one only, in which a thing is done; but that one thing is the result of another. When we say that a young man is ruined in his character by another, we do not express the mode, but the fact. When we say that thousands have been made infidels by the writings of Paine and Voltaire, we make no affirmation about the mode, but about the fact. In each of those, and in all other cases, we should deem it most inconclusive reasoning to attempt to determine the mode by the preposition by; and still more absurd if it were argued from the use of that preposition that the sins of the seducer were imputed to the young man; or the opinions of Paine and Voltaire imputed to infidels.
Many. Greek, The many, Ro 5:15.
It usually means to constitute, set, or appoint. In the New Testament it has two leading significations.
(2.) it means to become, to be in fact, etc. Jas 3:6, "So is the tongue among our members," etc. That is, it becomes such. Jas 4:4, "The friendship of the world is enmity with God;" it becomes such; it is in fact thus, and is thus to be regarded. The word is in no instance used to express the idea of imputing that to one which belongs to another. It here either means that this was by a constitution of Divine appointment that they in fact became sinners, or simply declares that they were so in fact. There is not the slightest intimation that it was by imputation. The whole scope of the argument is, moreover, against this; for the object of the apostle is not to show that they were charged with the sin of another, but that they were in fact sinners themselves. If it means that they were condemned for his act, without any concurrence of their own will, then the correspondent part will be true, that all are constituted righteous in the same way; and thus the doctrine of universal salvation will be inevitable. But as none are constituted righteous who do not voluntarily avail themselves of the provisions of mercy, so it follows that those who are condemned, are not condemned for the sin of another without their own concurrence, nor unless they personally deserve it.
Sinners. Transgressors; those who deserve to be punished. It does not mean those who are condemned for the sin of another; but those who are violators of the law of God. All who are condemned are sinners. They are not innocent persons condemned for the crime of another. Men may be involved in the consequences of the sins of others without being to blame. The consequences of the crimes of a murderer, a drunkard, a pirate, may pass over from them, and affect thousands, and whelm them in ruin. But this does not prove that they are blameworthy. In the Divine administration none are regarded as guilty who are not guilty; none are condemned who do not deserve to be condemned. All who sink to hell are sinners.
By the obedience of one. Of Christ. This stands opposed to the disobedience of Adam, and evidently includes the entire work of the Redeemer which has a bearing on the salvation of men. Php 2:8, "He—became obedient unto death."
Shall many. Greek, The many; corresponding to the term in the former part of the verse, and evidently commensurate with it; for there is no reason for limiting it to a part in this member, any more than there is in the former.
Be made. The same Greek word as before—be appointed, or become. The apostle has explained the mode in which this is done, Ro 1:17; Ro 3:24-26; 4:1-5. That explanation is to limit the meaning here. No more are considered righteous than become so in that way. And as all do not become righteous thus, the passage cannot be adduced to prove the doctrine of universal salvation.
The following remarks may express the doctrines which are established by this much-contested and difficult passage.
(1.) Adam was created holy; capable of obeying law; yet free to fail.
(2.) A law was given him, adapted to his condition—simple, plain, easy to be obeyed, and fitted to give human nature a trial in circumstances as favourable as possible.
(3.) Its violation exposed him to the threatened penalty as he had understood it, and to all the collateral woes which it might carry in its train—involving, as subsequent developments showed, the loss of God's favour; his displeasure evinced in man's toil, and sweat, and sickness, and death; in hereditary depravity, and the curse, and the pains of hell for ever.
(4.) Adam was the head of the race; he was the fountain of being; and human nature was so far-tried in him, that it may be said he was on trial not for himself alone, but for his posterity, inasmuch as his fall would involve them in ruin. Many have chosen to call this a covenant, and to speak of him as a federal head; and if the above account is the idea involved in these terms, the explanation is not exceptionable. As the word covenant, however, is not applied in the transaction in the Bible, and as it is liable to be misunderstood, others prefer to speak of it as a law given to Adam, and as a divine constitution under which he was placed.
(5.) His posterity are, in consequence of his sin, subjected to the same train of ills as if they had been personally the transgressors. Not that they are regarded as personally ill-deserving, or criminal for his sin. God reckons things as they are, and not falsely, (see See Barnes "Ro 4:3, and his imputations are all according to truth. He regarded Adam as standing at the head of the race; and regards and treats all his posterity as coming into the world subject to pain, and death, and depravity, as a consequence of his sin. See Note, at introduction to Romans chapter 6. This is the Scripture idea of imputation; and this is what has been commonly meant when it has been said that "the GUILT of his first sin"—not the sin itself—" is imputed to his posterity."
(6.) There is something antecedent to the moral action of his posterity, and growing out of the relation which they sustain to him, which makes it certain that they will sin as soon as they begin to act as moral agents. What this is, we may not be able to say; but we may be certain that it is not physical depravity, or any created essence of the soul, or anything which prevents the first act of sin from being voluntary. This hereditary tendency to sin has been usually called "original sin;" and this the apostle evidently teaches.
(7.) As an infant comes into the world with a certainty that he will sin as soon as he becomes a moral agent here, there is the same certainty that, if he were removed to eternity, he would sin there also, unless he were changed. There is, therefore, need of the blood of the atonement and of the agency of the Holy Ghost, that an infant may be saved.
(8.) The facts, here stated accord with all the analogy in the moral government of God. The drunkard secures as a result commonly, that his family will be reduced to beggary, want, and woe. A pirate, or a traitor, will whelm not himself only, but his family in ruin. Such is the great law or constitution on which society is now organized; and we are not to be surprised that the same principle occurred in the primary organization of human affairs.
(9.) As this is the fact everywhere, the analogy disarms all objections which have been made against the scriptural statements of the effects of the sin of Adam. If just now, it was just, then. If it exists now, it existed then.
(10.) The doctrine should be left, therefore, simply as it is in the Scriptures. It is there the simple statement of a fact, without any attempt at explanation. That fact accords with all that we see and feel. It is a great principle in the constitution of things, that the conduct of one man may pass over in its effects on others, and have an influence on their happiness. The simple fact in regard to Adam is, that he sinned; and that such is the organization of the great society of which he was the head and father, that his sin has secured as a certain result that all the race will be sinners also. How this is, the Bible has not explained. It is a part of a great system of things. That it is unjust no man can prove, for none can show that any sinner suffers more than he deserves. That it is wise is apparent, for it is attended with numberless blessings. It is connected with all the advantages that grow out of the social organization. The race might have been composed of independent individuals, where the conduct of an individual, good or evil, might have affected no one but himself. But then society would have been impossible. All the benefits of organization into families, and communities, and nations, would have been unknown. Man would have lived alone; wept alone; rejoiced alone; died alone. There would have been no sympathy; no compassion; no mutual aid. God has therefore grouped the race into separate communities. He has organized society. He has constituted families, tribes, clans, nations; and though on the general principle the conduct of one may whelm another in misery, yet the union, the grouping, the constitution, is the source of most of the blessings which man enjoys in this life, and may be of numberless mercies in regard to that which is to come. If it was the organization on which the race might be plunged into sin, it is also the organization on which it may be raised to life eternal. If, on the one hand, it may be abused to produce misery, it may, on the other, be improved to the advancement of peace, sympathy, friendship, prosperity, salvation. At all events, such is the organization in common life and in religion, and it becomes man not to murmur, but to act on it, and to endeavour, by the tender mercy of God, to turn it to his welfare here and hereafter. As by this organization, through Adam, he has been plunged into sin, so by the same organization, he shall, through "the second Adam," rise to life, and ascend to the skies.
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