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Romans 7:18-20

18. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

18. Novi enim quod non habitat 226226     Non habitat bonum — οὐκ οἰκει ἀγαθόν. — Ed. in me (hoc est, in came mea) bonum: siquidem velle adest mihi, sed ut perficiam bonum non reperio.

19. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

19. Non enim quod volo facio bonum; sed quod nolo malum, id ago.

20. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

20. Si vero quod nolo ego id facio, non jam ego operor illud, sed quod habitat in me peccatum.

18. For I know, etc. He says that no good by nature dwelt in him. Then in me, means the same as though he had said, “So far as it regards myself.” In the first part he indeed arraigns himself as being wholly depraved, for he confesses that no good dwelt in him; and then he subjoins a modification, lest he should slight the grace of God which also dwelt in him, but was no part of his flesh. And here again he confirms the fact, that he did not speak of men in general, but of the faithful, who are divided into two parts — the relics of the flesh, and grace. For why was the modification made, except some part was exempt from depravity, and therefore not flesh? Under the term flesh, he ever includes all that human nature is, everything in man, except the sanctification of the Spirit. In the same manner, by the term spirit, which is commonly opposed to the flesh, he means that part of the soul which the Spirit of God has so re-formed, and purified from corruption, that God’s image shines forth in it. Then both terms, flesh as well as spirit, belong to the soul; but the latter to that part which is renewed, and the former to that which still retains its natural character. 227227     The Apostle here is his own interpreter; he explains who the I is that does what the other I disapproved, and who the I is that hates what the other I does. He tells us here that it is not the same I, though announced at first as though it were the same. The one I, he informs us here, was his flesh, his innate sin or Corruption, and the other I, he tells us in Romans 7:22, was “the inner man,” his new nature. The “inner man,” as Calvin will tell us presently, is not the soul as distinguished from the body, but the renewed man as distinguished from the flesh. It is the same as the “new man” as distinguished from “the old man.” See Ephesians 4:22, 24; Romans 6:6; 2 Corinthians 5:17. But “the inward man,” and “the outward man,” in 2 Corinthians 4:16, are the soul and the body; and “the inner man,” in Ephesians 3:16, the same expression as in Romans 7:22, means the soul, as it is evident from the context. The same is meant by “the hidden man of the heart,” in 1 Peter 3:4. — Ed.

To will is present, etc. He does not mean that he had nothing but an ineffectual desire, but his meaning is, that the work really done did not correspond to his will; for the flesh hindered him from doing perfectly what he did. So also understand what follows, The evil I desire not, that I do: for the flesh not only impedes the faithful, so that they can not run swiftly, but it sets also before them many obstacles at which they stumble. Hence they do not, because they accomplish not, what they would, with the alacrity that is meet. This, to will, then, which he mentions, is the readiness of faith, when the Holy Spirit so prepares the godly that they are ready and strive to render obedience to God; but as their ability is not equal to what they wish, Paul says, that he found not what he desired, even the accomplishment of the good he aimed at.

19. The same view is to be taken of the expression which next follows, — that he did not the good which he desired, but, on the contrary, the evil which he desired not: for the faithful, however rightly they may be influenced, are yet so conscious of their own infirmity, that they can deem no work proceeding from them as blameless. For as Paul does not here treat of some of the faults of the godly, but delineates in general the whole course of their life, we conclude that their best works are always stained with some blots of sin, so that no reward can be hoped, unless God pardons them.

He at last repeats the sentiment, — that, as far as he was endued with celestial light, he was a true witness and subscriber to the righteousness of the law. It hence follows, that had the pure integrity of our nature remained, the law would not have brought death on us, and that it is not adverse to the man who is endued with a sound and right mind and abhors sin. But to restore health is the work of our heavenly Physician.


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