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Commentary On Romans by Jean Calvin

Romans 7:13

13. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

13. Quod ergo bonum est, mihi in mortem cessit? Absit: imo peccatum, ut appareat peccatum, per bonum operatur mihi mortem: ut fiat super modum peccans peccatum Per mandatum.

13. Has then what is good, etc. He had hitherto defended the law from calumnies, but in such a manner, that it still remained doubtful whether it was the cause of death; nay, the minds of men were on this point perplexed, -- how could it be that nothing but death was gained from so singular a gift of God. To this objection then he now gives an answer; and he denies, that death proceeds from the law, though death through its means is brought on us by sin. And though this answer seems to militate in appearance against what he had said before -- that he had found the commandment, which was given for life, to be unto death, there is yet no contrariety. He had indeed said before, that it is through our wickedness that the law is turned to our destruction, and that contrary to its own character; but here he denies, that it is in such a sense the cause of death, that death is to be imputed to it. In 2 Corinthians 3 he treats more fully of the law. He there calls it the ministration of death; but he so calls it according to what is commonly done in a dispute, and represents, not the real character of the law, but the false opinion of his opponents.

But sin, etc. With no intention to offend others, I must state it as my opinion, that this passage ought to be read as I have rendered it, and the meaning is this, -- |Sin is in a manner regarded as just before it is discovered by the law; but when it is by the law made known, then it really obtains its own name of sin; and hence it appears the more wicked, and, so to speak, the more sinful, because it turns the goodness of the law, by perverting it, to our destruction; for that must be very pestiferous, which makes what is in its own nature salutary to be hurtful to us.| The import of the whole is -- that it was necessary for the atrocity of sin to be discovered by the law; for except sin had burst forth into outrageous, or, as they say, into enormous excess, it would not have been acknowledged as sin; and the more outrageous does its enormity appear, when it converts life into death; and thus every excuse is taken away from it.

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