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3. Nothing is more to be desired by a Christian, than that he may retain the Divine favour; nothing is more to be dreaded than that he should provoke the wrath of God.
4. God is not so much provoked to vengeance by sin itself, as by the obstinacy of the unbelieving and impenitent sinner.
5. However the children of unbelief flatter themselves, they cannot avoid the Divine wrath; for wrath now cometh upon them, and in coming it will come, and not tarry.
6. Not only will the Divine wrath be poured forth upon the wicked, but upon the children of God themselves, if, quenching the grace of the Spirit, they indulge the lusts of the flesh. Therefore, the study of mortification is incumbent upon all who dread the wrath of God as they ought.
Vers. 7. In the which ye also walked some time, when ye
lived in them.
The Apostle is still occupied in confirming the foregoing dissuasive ; and he shews the Colossians by a new argument that they must abstain from fornication, and so from all impurity of life. Now this argument is drawn from the removal of the cause to the removal of the effect; and the argument of the Apostle is thus applied : Sin is but the living and reigning cause of a wicked and lustful life: but sin is not living in you, but mortified : the cause, therefore, having ceased, the effect ceases. The Major is supposed: the Minor is shewn, in this verse, by a contrast of their former state. There had been a time, indeed, when ye lived in those sins, namely, before your conversion; but now it is passed, and ye do not live in them, but ye are dead to sin by baptism. It is usual among authors, wlien they say concerning any one, That he has lived, to intimate, He is dead, or he no longer lives : So the Apostle, in saying when ye lived in them, ye then walked in sins, would intimate, Ye now live no longer in them; therefore, ye ought not to walk any longer in them. Thus ye have the force of the argument. Now let us consider the words.
In the which.] Erasmus renders it, among whom, and refers it to the children of disobedience: but Beza better, in which, viz. the aforesaid vices, for which the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience.
Ye also walked.] They are said to walk in sins, who constantly commit sin, who resist not concupiscence, but obey it with pleasure; Ephes. ii. 2, 3. Therefore, as men are accustomed to walk here and there in transacting their daily business ; so are those occupied in sins as in their ordinary vocation, and as though they had nothing else to do.
When ye lived in them.] i. e. When the cause of those sins, viz. the old Adam, or inbred corruption, lived and reigned in you; which corruption is now weakened and mortified. To walk and to live, then, whether the expressions are referred to the flesh or to the spirit, differ in the same manner as power and operation among philosophers : For life precedes, and operations suitable to life follow; as in Gal. v. 25, If we live in the Spirit, let us walk in the Spirit : so they who live in sin, walk in sin.
The sense of the words being now explained, two things which belong to the matter, are to be weighed : 1. The former state of the Colossians living in sin ; which is expressed. 2. The new state of the same persons now dead to sin; which is implied by the contrast.
From the consideration of their former state, these instructions arise.
l. Nothing is more unhappy than unrenewed men. For to walk in sin with pleasure, is to hasten towards hell with pleasure : The wages of sin is death, Rom. vi. 23.
2. The fruits of a man in a corrupt state, are not works preparatory to grace, or, deserving life eternal, of congruity, as the Schoolmen say; but they are preparatory to hell, and meritorious of eternal death, from condignity: for he walks in most gross and grievous sins, not in the paths of God's commands.
3. They who appear to walk in virtue, dazzle the eyes of men by outward and pretended shew only ; whilst they really walk in sins, in which they live: for their deeds correspond to the powers whence they derive their origin.
4. The Papists, therefore, err, who ascribe to these works of carnal and unbelieving men, not only the praise of true virtue, but the efficacy of qualifying for the reception of grace; Durandus, lib. 4. dist. 15. qu, 3. Prosper speaks otherwise; No true virtues dwell in the minds of the ungodly: and Lactantius, lib. 6. cap. 9, There is no doubt but every ungodly man knows not God: and that all his virtues which he thinks that he has or holds, are found in that way of death which is full of darkness.
Now as to that new state of the converted and regenerate, among whom the Gospel intimates that the Colossians were now placed, these things are to be observed,
1. It is not unuseful for the renewed themselves, to call to mind their former state under sin : the Apostle mentions that they formerly walked and lived in sin, who were now dead to sin; not for the sake of upbraiding, but of encouraging them.
2. Christians that are now believers, ought not to take it amiss, when ministers bring before their eyes what they were under a state of sin in unbelief: for this is the Apostle's custom in almost all his Epistles. Ye have yielded your members servants to iniquity unto iniquity, &c. Rom. vi. 19. Neither thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, &c. shall inherit the kingdom of God: And such were some of you : but ye are washed, &c. 1 Cor. vi. 10, 11. But most manifestly, Ephes. ii. 11-13, Remember that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, having no hope. But now in Christ Jesus, &c. Tertullian, De Pudicit. hath well observed to this point: I am not ashamed of the error from which I am now free; because I feel that I am become better. No one need be ashamed to improve.
3. The regenerate receive a twofold advantage from a notice of this kind. 1. They are thereby excited to gratitude: for they must needs acknowledge that they are changed not by the power of free-will, but by the efficacious operation of the Holy Spirit. Hence the prophet; Turn thou us, O Lord, and we shall be turned. And Jerem. xiii. 23, If the Ethiopian can change his skin, or the leopard his spots ; then may ye also do good, who are accustomed to do evil. Hence, then, as I have said, the regenerate are excited to thankfulness to God. God be thanked that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Rom. vi. 17. And Paul speaking of himself says, 1 Tim. i. 12, 13, I thank my Lord, who hath enabled me, who was before a blasphemer and persecutor, &c. Why does he, a true penitent and believer, thank God? Because not only is the mercy of God necessary when we repent; but also that we may repent.
2. They are excited to newness of life; for a new life requires new habits. Since, then, from the comparison and contrast, they find that they are now other persons than what they were heretofore, they understand at the same time, that of necessity it behoves them to live in another manner. For the Christian Religion not only calls men to believe new doctrines, but to perform new works. Whence says Cyprian, De Zelo, To put on the name of Christ, and not to walk by the way of Christ, what else is it but to prevaricate with this Divine name? This is constantly inculcated upon the regenerate ; as in Rom. xiii. 12, The night is far spent ; the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light : and Ephes. v. 8, Ye were sometime darkness ; but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.
4. Here we have the difference between the regenerate and the unregenerate : The regenerate may fall into sin, but they do not habitually walk, neither can they live, in sin: for those walk in sin, who freely, constantly, and with full consent sin : he falls into sin, who rarely, through fear, and with wrestling is drawn aside into any crime or devouring sin, as Tertullian calls it. Therefore, they are
much deceived in their opinion, who think that they are faithful and regenerate, when that cannot be said concerning them which is here said of the Colossians, In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them; but, Ye still walk in them, and live in them.
And thus much of the two reasons whereby he confirms his dissuasive from the sins enumerated in the fifth verse.
Vers. 8, 9, 10, 11.
But now ye also put off all these ; anger, wrath, malice,
blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old
man with his deeds ; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in know
ledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor un
circumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free ; but Christ is all and in all.
After a dissuasion from carual vices in which special pleasure is sought, the Apostle dissuades also from spiritual ones, in which the injury of one's neighbour is attempted. In this last part of his dissuasions the Apostle does three things, which he includes in these four verses. 1. He lays down and enumerates the vices to be abandoned; which are those either of the heart; as unger, wrath, malice ; or those of the mouth; as evil speaking, filthy communication, lying. 2. He subjoins a reason why vices of this kind should be abandoned by the Colossians, and that a twofold one: namely, because they had put off the old man, and put on the new. 3. He amplifies and strengthens these reasons in verse 11 by setting aside those false causes with which some men conceived that we are either benefitted or injured before God; these he rejects as things of