Brother Beebe: Will you give your views on Romans vi. 1, 16? By so doing you will oblige me.
Yours as ever,
Ramapo, N. Y., Feb. 17, 1859.
Reply: The first verse proposed for consideration reads thus, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?”
The apostle had been dwelling on the reign of sin and death, and the redemption of the church of God from the dominion of both by the reign of grace through righteousness by Jesus Christ our Lord. The entrance of sin into the world by Adam as the embodiment and representative of all his posterity, long before the law or the Sinia covenant was given to Israel, even as early as the transgression of Adam, and the law is a detecter of sin; moreover, the law entered that the offense might abound. That is, as we understand it, that sin might appear as it really is, exceedingly sinful. The law did not make us sinful, but showed that we were so, making our sins to abound, or exposing them to view in their true magnitude, and so far as the church of God is concerned, the manifestation by the application of the law of the total depravity and just condemnation of those whom Christ came to redeem, shows the more vividly the superabounding of the grace of God. Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. Sin, enthroned in our carnal nature, reigned unto death, but now, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, the principality of sin is spoiled; the strength of sin, which is the law, can no longer sustain the empire of sin, for being dead to the law by the body of Christ, they are no more under the law, but under grace, or under law to Christ. Grace now appears in regal majesty, erects her throne in the heart, and sways her sceptre with greater might, reigns, governs and controls unto the opposite issue: life - eternal life. Sin’s reign was unto death, but grace extends her reign unto eternal life, and never can possibly fall short of that result. As certainly as it is that sin is the sting of death, so certainly the gift, or grace of God, is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. None can fail of eternal life who are subjects of reigning grace, nor can any fail of the wages of sin who are subjects of its reigning power.
This being the prominent doctrine of the inspired apostles and of the primitive disciples of Christ, their workmongrel opposers slanderously reported that they held and avowed as their doctrine that they would sin, that grace might abound. But it was a false charge, and as slanderously said of the primitive saints as it is now reiterated against the old order of disciples, and upon the same ground. But the apostle pronounces it a slanderous report, and he says of those who propagate it that their damnation is just.
Again, the enemies of God and truth have always contended that the doctrine of sovereign, eternal, reigning and saving grace is exceedingly dangerous, leading to licentiousness, for they have no knowledge of that faith which works by love and purifies the heart. Their religion depends on fear, animal excitement, terror, fire and brimstone, &c. But the operative principles of love, as an incentive to holy aspirations, is only found under the reign of grace, hence all will-worshipers are ignorant of it.
Paul could and did confidently appeal to the subjects of grace in the language of our text, “What shall we say then?” We know what our calumniators, and all Arminians say on the subject, but, “What shall we say?” Can a subject of grace be found in heaven or in earth who will say, Let us sin that grace may abound? The very thought to them is abhorrent and repulsive; God forbid, is their language, for how shall we that are dead to sin, slain to its love, dead to its dominion, and emancipated from its reign, how shall we live any longer therein? Baptized into the death of Jesus Christ, being buried with him by baptism into death, crucified with him, dead to sin by his body, we are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God, and with him we are risen to newness of life; Christ now liveth in us, and the life which we now live in the flesh, we live by the faith of the Son of God, who hath loved us and given himself for us. The body, or that which is born of the flesh, is dead because of sin, circumcised, or cut off, so that we are no longer known in the flesh, or after the flesh, but the Spirit; that which is born of the Spirit, is life, because of righteousness. It is the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him,” that is, with Christ who was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification. “God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with him, and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Now, therefore, our element is no longer sin, but holiness. “For he that is dead is freed from sin.” Now, if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over him.” If we were crucified with him, baptized into his death, buried with him by baptism into death, and the body of sin destroyed; if with him God has raised us up together to a newness of life, then may we reckon ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. And then the admonition of the subject applies to us. “Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” The old mortal body is still of the earth earthy. Sin is still there striving to maintain a dominion over our members. But being legally released from his cruel dominion, we have a right to renounce his yoke, and refuse obedience to his wicked mandates. Sin will strive to reign over our members and to control them by stirring up our passions and lusts, and to press our members into its service. But here is the true ground of our confidence, that sin shall not have dominion over us, for we are not under the law, but under grace. “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”
We are frequently told by the votaries of free-will and human agency in salvation, that if they could be assured that they are not under the law, or exposed to its penal wrath, they would not only sin, but give a loose rein to all their lusts, and take their fill of sin, thus proving that they still love sin as well as ever. They are not yet full, they want more, and are only restrained by a selfish fear of hell. Our case is quite different, if we are under the reign of grace; we have had our fill of sin long ago, we loathe it now, we hate it, we detest it, and love holiness, for it is now our element.
We come now to the sixteenth verse of the chapter on which brother Springsteen desired us to comment, in connection with the first.
“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”
This the saints ought to know, and to thoroughly understand. Here are two opposite dominions, the one, sin; the other, righteousness; and if we are under the dominion of the first of these, we shall obey it in its lusts, yielding our members instruments of unrighteousness unto sin. But if freed from the dominion of sin, and brought under the reign of grace, we shall obey the governing principles of grace, the law of grace, which teaches us, “That denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.” This law of grace is not written on tables of stone, but written on the tables of our hearts, according to the provisions of the new covenant, or covenant of grace. “I will put my law in their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people,” &c. While a discrimination is here made between the slaves of sin, and the subjects of reigning grace, we are taught to regard a love of holiness, a spirit of obedience to God, and a relish for the word of truth, the doctrine and ordinances of Christ, as a reliable evidence that we have passed from death unto life, from the dominion of sin, to the reigning power of grace, and in the fullness of our hearts, in the assurance of this evidence, we join the apostle in thanksgiving to God that our service under the dominion of reigning sin, is among the things which were, that being now made free from sin, we become servants of righteousness.
The question may arise, Why, if I am thus made free from the reigning power of sin, am I so prone to wander, so full of vain and wicked thoughts? Why do I the things which I ought not, and leave undone the things which I ought to do? The answer of this inquiry will be found in the words of our Redeemer, in connection with those of Paul: “That which is born of the Spirit, is Spirit, and that which is born of the flesh, is flesh. And the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for in our flesh there dwelleth no good thing.” All our disobedience and rebellion against the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, arises from the flesh, which is and always has been at war with grace. It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. With my mind I serve the law of God, but with my flesh the law of sin.
Here is the ground of the christian warfare; two opposing laws, two opposite principles dwell in us while we sojourn in the militant state. The flesh, or earthly, depraved nature will never harmonize with the aspirations of the new man after holiness. The flesh is still a servant of sin, but the new man is the servant of righteousness, and each zealous for its respective master. While the sin that dwelleth in us disputes and opposes every step of the reign of grace, so that we cannot do the things which we would, grace, on the other hand, or the immortal Spirit of life, which is denominated the new man, cannot sin, because he is born of God, and his seed remaineth, and making war, uncompromising and determined, shall crucify the old man with his affections and lusts, and shall assuredly triumph over all opposition with, “Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The apostle continues to dwell on this subject throughout this and the succeeding chapter, and shows that the saints are debtors not unto the flesh, to live after the flesh; if governed by the flesh, or if we walk after the flesh, we shall die. Death hath passed on the flesh, and the flesh is dead because of sin; sin has defiled it, reigns in it, and his reign is unto death. The carnal or fleshly mind is enmity against God, and to be carnally minded is death. “But as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” “Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
Much more might be written on this subject, the importance of which is demonstrated in the experience of all the saints, but we trust that what we have written will afford brother Springsteen some idea of what are our views on the subject.
Middletown, N. Y.
May 1, 1859.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 217 - 222