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Romans 6:19

19. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.

19. Humanum dico propter infirmitatem carnis vestræ, quemadmodum exhibuistis membra vestra serva immunditiæ et iniquitati in iniquitatem, sic et nunc exhibite membra vestra serva justitiæ in sanctificationem.

19. I speak what is human, etc. He says that he speaks after the manner of men, not as to the substance but as to the manner. So Christ says, in John 3:12, that he announced earthly things, while yet he spoke of heavenly mysteries, though not so magnificently as the dignity of the things required, because he accommodated himself to the capacities of a people ignorant and simple. And thus the Apostle says, by way of preface, that he might more fully show how gross and wicked is the calumny, when it is imagined, that the freedom obtained by Christ gives liberty to sin. He reminds the faithful at the same time, that nothing is more unreasonable, nay, base and disgraceful, than that the spiritual grace of Christ should have less influence over them than earthly freedom; as though he had said, “I might, by comparing sin and righteousness, show how much more ardently ye ought to be led to render obedience to the latter, than to serve the former; but from regard to your infirmity I omit this comparison: nevertheless, though I treat you with great indulgence, I may yet surely make this just demand — that you should not at least obey righteousness more coldly or negligently than you served sin.” It is a sort of reticence or silence, a withholding of something when we wish more to be understood than what we express. He does yet exhort them to render obedience to righteousness with so much more diligence, as that which they served is more worthy than sin, though he seems not to require this in so many words. 198198     The phrase is taken differently: Ανθρώπινον λέγω “I speak what is human,” that is, what is proportionable to man’s strength, says Chrysostom — what is done and known in common life, as in Galatians 3:15, or, what is moderate, says Hammond — what is level to man’s understanding, says Vatablus The first proposed by Hammond is the meaning most suitable here; for the Apostle had previously used reasons and arguments, and sacred similitudes; but he comes now to what is known in common life among men, the connection between masters and servants, and he did this in condescension to their weakness, which he calls the weakness of the flesh, that is, the weakness of which flesh, the depravity of nature, was the cause; it was weakness arising from the flesh. — Ed.

As ye have presented, etc.; that is, “As ye were formerly ready with all your faculties to serve sin, it is hence sufficiently evident how wretchedly enslaved and bound did your depravity hold you to itself: now then ye ought to be equally prompt and ready to execute the commands of God; let not your activity in doing good be now less than it was formerly in doing evil.” He does not indeed observe the same order in the antithesis, by adapting different parts to each other, as he does in 1 Thessalonians 4:7, where he sets uncleanness in opposition to holiness; but the meaning is still evident.

He mentions first two kinds — uncleanness and iniquity; the former of which is opposed to chastity and holiness, the other refers to injuries hurtful to our neighbour. But he repeats iniquity twice, and in a different sense: by the first he means plunders, frauds, perjuries, and every kind of wrong; by the second, the universal corruption of life, as though he had said, “Ye have prostituted your members so as to perpetrate all wicked works, and thus the kingdom of iniquity became strong in you” 199199     The different clauses of this verse have been a knotty point to all commentators. Probably the Apostle did not intend to keep up a regular course of antithesis, the subject not admitting of this; because the progress of evil and the progress of its remedy may be different, and it seems to be so in the present case. Sin is innate and inward, and its character, as here represented, is vileness and iniquity, and it breaks out into acts of iniquity: he does not repeat the other character, vileness; but when he comes to the contrast he mentions holiness, and does not add what is antithetic to iniquity. This is a striking instance of the elliptical style of the Apostle. It is not neglect or carelessness, but no doubt an intentional omission; it being the character of his mode of writing, which he had in common with the ancient Prophets.
   Then comes the word “righteousness,” which I am disposed to think is that which all along has been spoken of, the righteousness of faith; this is not innate, not inward, but which comes from without, and is apprehended by faith, by which sins are forgiven, and God’s favor obtained; and they who become the servants of this are to cultivate holiness both inward and outward; they ought to present all their members, that is, all their faculties, to the service of this master, so that they may become holy in all manner of conversation.

   But if this idea of righteousness be disapproved of, we may still account for the apparent irregularity in the construction of the passage. It is an instance of an inverted order, many examples of which are found even in this Epistle. He begins with “uncleanness,” he ends with “holiness,” and then the intervening words which are in contrast correspond, “iniquity” and “righteousness.” Here is also an inversion in the meaning; “uncleanness” is the principle, and “holiness” is the action; while “iniquity” is the action, and “righteousness” is the principle. If this view is right, we have here a singular instance of the inverted parallelism, both as to words and meaning. — Ed.
By righteousness I understand the law or the rule of a holy life, the design of which is sanctification, as the case is when the faithful devote themselves to serve God in purity.


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