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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 7 - Verse 15

Verse 15. For that which I do. That is, the evil which I do, the sin of which I am conscious, and which troubles me.

I allow not. I do not approve; I do not wish it; the prevailing bent of my inclinations and purposes is against it. Greek, "I know not." See the margin. The word know, however, is sometimes used in the sense of approving. Re 2:24, "Which have not known [approved] the depths of Satan." Comp. Ps 101:4, "I will not know a wicked person." Jer 1:5.

For what I would. That which I approve, and which is my prevailing and established desire. What I would wish always to do.

But what I hate. What I disapprove of; what is contrary to my judgment; my prevailing inclination; my established principles of conduct.

That do I. Under the influence of sinful propensities, and carnal inclinations and desires. This represents the strong native propensity to sin; and even the power of corrupt propensity under the restraining influence of the gospel. On this remarkable and important passage we may observe,

(1.) that the prevailing propensity—the habitual fixed inclination of the mind of the Christian—is to do right. The evil course is hated; the right course is loved. This is the characteristic of a pious mind. It distinguishes a holy man from a sinner.

(2.) The evil which is done is disapproved; is a source of grief; and the habitual desire of the mind is to avoid it, and be pure. This also distinguishes the Christian from the sinner.

(3.) There is no need of being embarrassed here with any metaphysical difficulties or inquiries how this can be; for \-

(a) it is in fact the experience of all Christians. The

habitual, fixed inclination and desire of their minds is

to serve God. They have a fixed abhorrence of sin; and yet

they are conscious of imperfection, and error, and sin,

that is the source of uneasiness and trouble. The strength

of natural passion may in an unguarded moment overcome them.

The power of long habits of previous thoughts may annoy them.

A man who was an infidel before his conversion, and whose

mind was filled with scepticism, and cavils, and blasphemy,

will find the effect of his former habits of thinking

lingering in his mind, and annoying his peace for years.

These thoughts will start up with the rapidity of the

lightning. Thus it is with every vice and every opinion.

It is one of the effects of habit. "The very passage of

an impure thought through the mind leaves pollution behind it;"

and where sin has been long indulged, it leaves its withering,

desolating effect on the soul long after conversion, and

produces that state of conflict with which every Christian

is familiar.


(b) An effect somewhat similar is felt by all men. All

are conscious of doing that, under the excitement of passion

and prejudice, which their conscience and better judgment

disapprove. A conflict thus exists, which is attended with

as much metaphysical difficulty as the struggle in the

Christian's mind referred to here.


(c) The same thing was observed and described in the

writings of the heathen. Thus Xenophon, (Cyrop. vi. 1,)

Araspes, the Persian, says in order to excuse his

treasonable designs, "Certainly I must have two souls; for

plainly it is not one and the same which is both evil and

good; and at the same time wishes to do a thing and not to

do it. Plainly, then, there are two souls; and when the good

one prevails, then it does good; and when the evil one

predominates, then it does evil." So also Epictetus

(Enchirid. ii. 26) says, "He that sins does not do what

he would; but what he would not, that he does." With this

passage it would almost seem that Paul was familiar, and

had his eye on it when he wrote. So also the well known

passage from Ovid, Meta. vii. 9:


Aliudque Cupido,

Mens aliud suadet. Video meliora, proboque,

Deteriora sequor.


"Desire prompts to one thing, but the mind persuades to

another. I see the good, and approve it, and yet pursue

the wrong."—See other passages of similar import quoted in

Grotius and Tholuck.

{1} "allow not" "know not"

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