14. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:
14. Si enim ii qui sunt ex Lege hæredes sunt, exinanita est fides et abolita est promissio:
15. Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.
15. Nam Lex iram efficit; siquidem ubi non est Lex, neque etiam transgressio.
The Apostle assumes it as a thing indubitable, that the promises would by no means be effectual except they were received with full assurance of mind. But what would be the case if the salvation of men was based on the keeping of the law? consciences would have no certainty, but would be harassed with perpetual inquietude, and at length sink in despair; and the promise itself, the fulfillment of which depended on what is impossible, would also vanish away without producing any fruit. Away then with those who teach the common people to seek salvation for themselves by works, seeing that Paul declares expressly, that the promise is abolished if we depend on works. But it is especially necessary that this should be known, -- that when there is a reliance on works, faith is reduced to nothing. And hence we also learn what faith is, and what sort of righteousness ought that of works to be, in which men may safely trust.
The Apostle teaches us, that faith perishes, except the soul rests on the goodness of God. Faith then is not a naked knowledge either of God or of his truth; nor is it a simple persuasion that God is, that his word is the truth; but a sure knowledge of God's mercy, which is received from the gospel, and brings peace of conscience with regard to God, and rest to the mind. The sum of the matter then is this, -- that if salvation depends on the keeping of the law, the soul can entertain no confidence respecting it, yea, that all the promises offered to us by God will become void: we must thus become wretched and lost, if we are sent back to works to find out the cause or the certainty of salvation.
But the Apostle speaks not of the mere transgression of what is right, from which no man is exempt; but he calls that a transgression, when man, having been taught what pleases and displeases God, knowingly and willfully passes over the boundaries fixed by God's word; or, in other words, transgression here is not a mere act of sin, but a willful determination to violate what is right. 1 The particle,
1 It is better to take this sentence, "Where there is no law, there is no transgression," according to its obvious meaning; as it comports better with the former clause. The reasoning seems to be this, -- "The promise is by faith, and not by the law; for the law brings wrath or condemnation: but where there is no law, there is no transgression to occasion wrath." The same idea is essentially conveyed in verse Romans 4:16, where it is said, that the promise is sure, because it is through faith and by grace. Had it been by the law, there would have been transgression and wrath, and hence the loss of the promise.
This verse is connected with the Romans 4:l3 rather than with the 14th. It contains another reason, besides what Romans 4:14 gives, in confirmation of what is said in Romans 4:13. Hence Macknight renders