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20But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

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20. But the law intervened, etc. This subject depends on what he had said before — that there was sin before the law was published. This being the case, then follows immediately this question — For what purpose was the law given? It was therefore necessary to solve this difficulty; but as a longer digression was not suitable, he deferred the subject and handled it in another place: and now by the way he only says, that the law entered, 178178     “Intercessisse legem — that the law came between,” i.e., Adam and Christ; παρεισὢλθεν from παρὰ, with, besides, or between, and εἰσέρχομαι, to enter. It occurs elsewhere only in Galatians 2:4, where it is rendered, “came in privily,” as required by the context. But it cannot be so rendered here. Schleusner says, that it simply means to enter, and that it is so used by Philo. It is thus rendered by the Syriac and Arabic versions. Erasmus has “obiter subiit, vel, irrepsit — came, or, crept in by the by;” Hammond has the same; but Beza attaches the idea of besides to παρὰ, — præterea introiit — entered in besides,” i.e., in addition to the disease under which all men labored, having been contaminated by that of the first sin. “Intervenit — intervened,” is the rendering of Grotius; that is, the law intervened between the beginning of sin and the beginning of new righteousness. “The law,” says Hodge, “was superinduced on a plan already laid. It was not designed for the accomplishment of man’s salvation, that is, either for his justification or sanctification, but for the accomplishment of a very subordinate part in the great scheme of mercy.” — Ed. that sin might abound; for he describes not here the whole office and use of the law, but only touches on one part, which served his present purpose. He indeed teaches us, that it was needful that men’s ruin should be more fully discovered to them, in order that a passage might be opened for the favor of God. They were indeed shipwrecked before the law was given; as however they seemed to themselves to swim, while in their destruction, they were thrust down into the deep, that their deliverance might appear more evident, when they thence emerge beyond all human expectation. Nor was it unreasonable, that the law should be partly introduced for this end — that it might again condemn men already condemned; for nothing is more reasonable than that men should, through all means be brought, nay, forced, by being proved guilty, to know their own evils.

That offense might abound, etc. It is well known how some, following Augustine, usually explain this passage, — that lust is irritated the more, while it is checked by the restraints of the law; for it is man’s nature to strive for what is forbidden. But I understand no other increase to be intended here than that of knowledge and of obstinacy; for sin is set by the law before the eyes of man, that he may be continually forced to see that condemnation is prepared for him. Thus sin disturbs the conscience, which, when cast behind them, men forget. And farther, he who before only passed over the bounds of justice, becomes now, when the law is introduced, a despiser of God’s authority, since the will of God is made known to him, which he now wantonly tramples under feet. It hence follows, that sin is increased by the law, since now the authority of the lawgiver is despised and his majesty degraded. 179179     Chrysostom regarded ἵνα here as denoting not the final cause, but the event, and thought the meaning to be, that the law entered, so that the effect or event was, that sin increased. Its rendering would then be, so that: and this seems to be the meaning given to it by Calvin. The law did not create sin, but made it known, and by discovering it, increased its guilt when persisted in, and by discovering it showed the necessity of a Savior.

Grace has superabounded. After sin has held men sunk in ruin, grace then comes to their help: for he teaches us, that the abundance of grace becomes for this reason more illustrious. — that while sin is overflowing, it pours itself forth so exuberantly, that it not only overcomes the flood of sin, but wholly absorbs it. 180180     The superabounding has a reference to the increasing of sin by means of the law. Grace not only abounded so as to be sufficient to remedy the first sin and the sins which followed it; but it abounded still more, so as to be an adequate provision for sin when increased by the law, through the perverseness of human nature. — Ed. And we may hence learn, that our condemnation is not set before us in the law, that we may abide in it; but that having fully known our misery, we may be led to Christ, who is sent to be a physician to the sick, a deliverer to the captives, a comforter to the afflicted, a defender to the oppressed. (Isaiah 61:1.)