Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. A PRIVILEGE. Christ confers freedom (see John 8:36).
1. Religious freedom.
(1) From servile terrors of superstition;
(2) from priestly tyranny;
(3) from mechanical ritual;
(4) from external constraints in moral and religious life; and
(5) from the rule of the flesh over the spirit.
2. Intellectual freedom. Unbelievers sometimes arrogate to themselves the proud title of free-thinkers; yet it would seem too often that the only freedom they allow is freedom for expressing ideas with which they sympathize. The bigotry of Roman Catholic intolerance seems likely to be equalled by the bigotry that many leading opponents of Christianity show towards those who decline to abandon their faith. It is Christ who breaks the fetters of the mind. The Christian dares to think. The grounds of this liberty are
(1) loyalty to truth, and faith in its ultimate triumph;
(2) light and power to attain truth.
3. Political freedom. This is the outgrowth of Christianity
(1) through the spread of the spirit of universal brotherhood, and
(2) through the cultivation of conscience which makes the gift of liberty safe.
II. A DANGER. Christian freedom is in danger.
1. It is attacked from without. It has to face the assaults of the ambitious. There are always those who desire to exercise undue influence over others. There is danger in officialism. The official appointed as a servant of the general body usurps the place of the master. The fable of the horse who invited a man to ride him is thus often exemplified.
2. It is undermined from within. The force of habit wears grooves that become deep ruts out of which we cannot stir. The dead hand lies heavy upon us. Creeds which were the expression of free thought contending in open controversy in one age become the bonds and fetters of a later age. Ritual, which palpitated with living emotion when it first joined itself naturally as the body to clothe the soul of worship, becomes fossilized, and yet it is cherished and venerated though it hangs about men's necks as a dead weight. The very atmosphere of liberty is too bracing for some of us. It will not allow us to sleep. Therefore love of indolence is opposed to it.
III. A DUTY. We are called to take a stand against all encroachments on our Christian freedom. Here is a call to Christian manliness. The freedom is given by Christ; but we are exhorted to maintain it. He fought to win it; we must fight to hold it. This is not a mere question of choice - a matter only of our own inclination or interest; it is a solemn duty. We must stand firm for liberty on several accounts.
1. That we may not be degraded to servitude. It is a man's duty not to become a slave because slavery produces moral deterioration.
2. That we may have scope for the unhampered service of God and man.
3. That we may hand down to generations following the heritage of liberty. Once lost it cannot be easily recovered. We owe to our descendants the duty of maintaining intact the entail of a grand possession which we received from our forefathers, and which was secured to them at great cost. - W.F.A.
I. PAUL HERE IMPLIES THE MORAL MAGNIFICENCE OF SALVATION BY GRACE, (Vers. 4, 5.) For when we consider how this plan of salvation turns our minds away from self to God in Christ, giving all the glory to the Saviour and taking all the blame to self, we see that it is morally magnificent. Self-confidence is destroyed, and confidence in Christ becomes all in all. The whole sphere of activity is illumined by devotedness to him who has lived and died for our redemption. Gratitude thus is the foundation of morality, and all idea of merit is put out of sight. The more the gospel is studied as a moral system, the more marvellous and magnificent will it appear. This will further exhibit itself if we consider what the working principle of the gospel is. It is, as Paul here shows, "faith working through love" (ver. 6, Revised Version). And faith is the mightiest factor in the world's progress. Suppose that faith were supplanted by suspicion, and men, instead of trusting one another, lived lives of mutual suspicion, the world's progress would come speedily to an end. The gospel, then, takes this mighty principle of faith and, turning it towards Christ, it secures love as its practical outcome. Love to God and consequent love to men becomes the law of our lives. All that is lovely is thus evoked, and the system proves its moral magnificence and practical power.
II. IT IS THE CHARACTERISTIC OF LEGALISM TO DEPRECIATE THE CROSS. (Ver. 11.) In a scheme of free grace the cross of Jesus Christ is central and all-important. How could selfish hearts be emancipated from their selfishness, had not the Holy Spirit the cross of Christ to move them? The cross is the self-sacrifice of incarnate love, and the grandest appeal of all history for self-sacrifice in return. It is, moreover, a fact and not a ceremony; a fact which bears no repetition, and which stands in its moral grandeur alone. But legalism conies in to depreciate if possible its moral value, The insinuation is thrown out that circumcision is essential to the efficacy of the cross. The cross is made out to be a mere adjunct to the Jewish ceremonial. Its offence ceases. It is no such instrument of self-sacrifice as it was intended to be. The brave apostle who preaches "Christ crucified" as the only hope of salvation is persecuted for doing so, and the whole legal band arrays itself against him. It is thus that the legal spirit depreciates and dishonours the Crucified One.
III. ALL THIS IMPLIES IN THE LEGAL SPIRIT A FALL FROM GRACE. (Ver. 4.) This is the key of the present passage. The soul, which so depreciates the cross as to go away and to try to save itself by ceremonies, has fallen from a moral grandeur into deepest selfishness. Christ profits in nothing the soul who is bent on saving himself. The righteousness of Christ, which is unto all and upon all them that believe, cannot consist with the self-seeking and self-confidence which self-righteousness implies. We must choose our saviour and adhere to him. If our saviour is to be ceremony, which is only another way of saying that our saviour is ourselves, then we may as well renounce all hope of salvation by Christ. We sever ourselves from Christ when we seek to be justified by the Law (Revised Version). We have descended in the scale of motive; we have taken up the selfish plan; we have "fallen away from grace."
IV. PAUL ANTICIPATES THAT HIS EXPOSURE OF LEGALISM WILL CURE THE GALATIANS OF IT. (Ver. 10.) He believes that legalism will be destroyed and rooted up by laying bare its real meaning. The leaven will not be allowed to spread. It is most important in the same way to be meditating constantly upon the magnificence of the gospel system as a moral system. Thus shall we prize it more and more, and never think of surrendering it for any rival and selfish system. - R.M.E.
I. PAUL SOLEMNLY PUTS BEFORE THE GALATIANS THE TRUE STATE OF THE CASE. "Behold, I Paul say unto you, that, if ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing." Commencing with an arresting word, he introduces his own name with all the solemnity of oath-taking, witness-bearing. "Behold, I Paul say unto you." What the weight of his testimony is directed against, is their submitting to circumcision. This was what the Judaizing teachers were aiming at, and, seeing that they were making false representations, he declares to the Galatians, as if their destinies were at stake, the real state of the case. For them, Gentiles, and at the instigation of the Judaizers, to submit to circumcision would be excluding themselves from all advantage by Christ. It was either circumcision or Christ with them. There was no middle ground for them to take up. There was no submitting to circumcision and clinging to Christ at the same time. If they submitted to circumcision, they must make up their minds to forego all that they had hoped for from Christ.
1. How he makes it out that circumcision excluded them from Christ.
(1) Circumcision implies an obligation to do the whole Law. "Yea, I testify again to every man that receiveth circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole Law." Again does he clear his conscience by emitting his solemn testimony. This testimony was more particularly directed to every man among them that, under the influence of the Judaizers, had any thought of submitting to circumcision. The apostle, as it were, takes him aside, and earnestly and affectionately warns him. Let him consider what he is doing. He is bringing himself under obligation to do the whole Law, and that personally, with this risk attached, that, if he fails to do the whole Law, he comes under its curse.
(2) Doing the whole Law excludes from Christ and grace. "Ye are severed flora Christ, ye who would be justified by the Law; ye are fallen away from grace." The apostle takes the doing of the whole Law to be equivalent to the working out of the whole of their justification. That was necessarily to the entire exclusion of Christ. There was nothing left for him to do. His work was made of none effect. They were severed from Christ and all the benefit of his work. They were thus fallen away from grace. Formerly they stood upon the merits of Christ, they had their Surety to answer for them; now they had themselves, immediately and fully, to answer to God for their Law-keeping.
2. The case of Christians stated.
(1) The expectancy of faith. "For we through the Spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness." The thought in its simplicity is that we hope for righteousness. This can only be the righteousness on the ground of which we are justified. There is a difficulty in this being presented as future, when it can be immediately and fully enjoyed. Some attempt to get over the difficulty by supposing the meaning to be the hope that belongs to righteousness, i.e. the hope of eternal life. But that is attaching a not very obvious meaning to the language. If we think of justifying righteousness as future, the reference can only be to the vindication of its sufficiency on the day of judgment, and further to the establishing of our personal interest in it on that day. The latter reference especially seems borne oat by the associated language. We are represented as in the attitude of expectancy. We wait for the hope, i.e. now the realization of the hope of righteousness. This expectancy being based, so far as God is concerned, in the work of the Spirit on our hearts, and so far as we are concerned, in the exercise of faith, is based in reality. But being based at the same time in that which is not completed, it partakes of imperfection. We are not so sure as those Judaists were who rested on the fact of their being circumcised. We are not so absolutely sure as we shall be when judgment has been pronounced in our favour. We are confident that the righteousness of Christ will be shown to be all-sufficient as the ground of justification. And we hope, more or less confidently, according to the operation of the Spirit in our hearts and the working of faith, that it will be shown that we are possessors of that righteousness.
(2) The energy of faith. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith working through love." The apostle here does not take so high ground with regard to circumcision. He had forbidden the Galatians to submit to circumcision, on the ground that it would exclude them from Christ. Here he puts circumcision on a level with uncircumcision, as availing nothing within the Christian sphere. Neither is what avails baptism, which has taken the place of circumcision. The outward form is a matter of indifference, unless as it is connected with the inward reality. What must ever be demanded is, as the representation is here-faith, and not a dead faith, but, according to the conception of Paul as well as according to the conception of James, a faith that is operative. And the energy of faith goes out in love. There is, as we are taught here, a blessed harmony between these two graces. If we believe that not only God is, but that he is inexhaustible Goodness, we must be drawn out in love towards him. And if we believe that the Son of God condescended to become man and devoted himself for us, we must be impelled out beyond ourselves towards the good of others.
II. CERTAIN BEARINGS OF THE CASE ON THE GALATIANS.
1. They were hindered in a good career. "Ye were running well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?"
(1) Points in a good career.
(a) That it be directed to a right end. This is brought out in connection with their obeying the truth. Their career in heathenism was vitiated by their being involved in error. The true idea of life had not been revealed to them. But when they obeyed the truth they took Christ to be their end and undertook to shape their career according to the rules of Christ. And that is necessary to the commencement of a good career.
(b) That it be commenced early. If the Galatians did not commence in early life, yet they commenced as sore as an opportunity in providence was presented to them, and so far they can be cited as an example of commencing early. It would have been a great advantage to them to have been taught and moulded as Christians in youth. There would not have been their heathen education to unlearn and undo. The laws of association and habit would have been working all along in their favour. And there would have been more time in which to advance to excellence and usefulness.
(c) That it be pursued with enthusiasm. In the Galatians the warm Celtic temperament was warmed under the influences of the cross. It was this especially that called forth the admiration of the apostle. They did run well; among his converts none had displayed greater enthusiasm in the Christian race.
(d) That it be pursued with steadiness. It was with regard to this that there was danger to the Galatians. Would they continue in their ardent attachment to the gospel? Would time cool their ardour, or would it be transferred to some other doctrine? Especially would they continue steadfast in the face of hindrances that made trial of them? It was that which was now being tested.
(2) Hindrances. There are rocks and weeds which are put as hindrances in the way of the farmer cultivating the soil. There are difficulties to be overcome in connection with every worldly calling. We need not wonder, therefore, at there being difficulties in connection with the Christian calling. It is only by conquering difficulty after difficulty that we gain the heights of excellence. The greatest difficulties are those which arise from ourselves, from our own weak and treacherous hearts. But we are referred more here to hindrances which arise from others. "Ye were running well; who did hinder you?" In the word which is used there is an allusion to breaking up roads, by destroying bridges, raising barriers. There is suggested, by opposition, a representation of what our duty is to our fellow-men. We arc to act as pioneers, clearing the way before others by levelling high places, filling up hollows, throwing bridges across rivers. We are to act towards them so that they shall have not only no temptation to fall, but every help to well-doing. And when there are those who throw obstacles across our path we are not to feel annoyed, as though we had only to deal with them. But we are to feel that God is making trial of us through them. And therefore we are not to succumb, but to persevere in the face of obstacles. Thus out cf the eater shall come forth meat; out of our hindrances shall come forth the manly virtues.
2. It was not God who was seeking to persuade them to be circumcised. "This persuasion came not of him that calleth you." Persuasion may mean either the state of being persuaded or the act of persuading. The latter seems more in keeping with the context. The course to which the Judaizers would have persuaded the Galatians would have been, in its consequences, disobedience to the truth. They would not attempt, we may suppose, to get them to set aside the cross. Their policy was rather to get them to add circumcision to the cross. This persuasion came not of him that called them. It was not in accordance, either with the idea that was in the Divine mind in calling them, or with the idea that was in their own minds in choosing the calling, which was in both cases making Christ everything in the road to everlasting happiness. It did not come from above, from the God who saved them and called them to everlasting glory, but it came from beneath - from the enemy of mankind.
3. He was afraid of the spread of error among them. "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." On the one hand, the Judaists, in order to gain their point, would be inclined to minimize its importance. On the other hand, the Galatians might think the Judaistic teaching had made very little way among them. The apostle puts them on their guard by telling them that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. This saying also occurs in 1 Corinthians 5:6. The reference there is to a case of gross immorality in the Corinthian Church. By tolerating such immorality, there would be danger of the whole Corinthian Church being lowered in its moral tone and practice. So by the introduction of a little Judaistic leaven, such as the toleration of the circumcision of a single Gentile convert, there would be danger of the Christian communities of Galatia becoming Judaistic, i.e. communities upon which the blessing of God would not rest, from which the Spirit of God would depart. And so a little leaven of carelessness in the household, in companionship, leavens the whole lump.
4. He had confidence in them that they would remain unchanged. "I have confidence to you-ward in the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded." He had confidence that they would not change from a Christian to a Judaistic way of thinking. His confidence was not founded on reports received regarding them. For these, as we have seen, threw him into a state of perplexity. But he had confidence to them-ward in the Lord. He had confidence in the use of appointed means. He had confidence in the rower of prayer. He had prayed to God on their behalf, that they might be none otherwise minded. He had confidence in bringing proper representations before their minds, as he had endeavoured to do. He had confidence especially in the great Head of the Church making use of the means in the interests of the Galatian Churches and of the whole Church.
5. The troubler would bear his judgment. "But he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be." One is separated here, not as ringleader, but for the sake of individualization. He is represented as a troubler. He acts over the part of Satan who, seeing the happiness of Eden, envied our first parents its possession. So he, spying the peace and prosperity of the Galatian communities, cannot let them alone; he must introduce his Judaistic leaven. But this troubler, whosoever he be (thus searched out and held up before them), shall bear his judgment. God, indeed, makes use of him in making trial of them. And they shall be judged for the manner in which they have dealt with his representations - testing them or not testing them. But let him know that he shall have the sentence, and the burdensome sentence, of a troubler passed and carried out upon him.
6. It was evident that he was no preacher of circumcision. "But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? then hath the stumbling-block of the cross been done away." We are not under any danger of attaching a materialistic meaning to the cross. Whilst the wood to which were nailed Christ's hands and feet has now long ago mouldered away, and has no existence unless in the imagination of the superstitious, the spiritual associations of it remain. It is the greatest tact that was ever accomplished on earth or ever brought to the knowledge of earth's inhabitants, and which will not decay in time or in eternity - that the adorable Son of God, coming down to our human condition, once became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. It is this which is set forth in Scripture as the Divine and only instrument of salvation. It was this which Paul made the great burden of his preaching. Whatever remedies or methods were proposed or advocated by others, "We," says he, who was himself a wonderful trophy of the cross - "we preach Christ crucified." But it was said in Galatia for a purpose that he preached circumcision, i.e. in addition to the cross. He could easily have given an explanation of the circumstance on which this charge was founded, viz. his having circumcised Timothy; but taking the representation as it was - that he was actually a preacher of circumcision - he puts a question and draws a conclusion.
(1) He puts a question. The very pertinent question he puts is - Why was he persecuted? Was it not the fact that it was the Judaizers who led to his being a prisoner for the gospel in Rome? Did that not show that they knew very well that there was a real and deep antagonism between their preaching and his?
(2) He draws a conclusion. If this course, falsely attributed to him, were followed, to add circumcision to the cross to please the Judaists, and some ether point to please some other party; if all parties were thus to be suited, then it strikes the apostle that this result would follow, the offence of the cross would cease, and that seems to him a meat undesirable result, entirely to be deprecated. If the cross gives such satisfaction all round, and does not offend, as well, he thinks, stamp it a failure and proclaim abroad its utter inefficiency as a means of conversion. Wherein lies the offence, the scandalizing property, of the cross? It does not lie in its offending any true feeling or principle of our nature. In Christianity there is nothing that is wantonly harsh or rude. Its language is, "Giving none offence." "Woe unto him by whom the offence cometh!" But the offence of the cross lies in its running counter to the inclinations of the unrenewed heart. It can be seen, then, how it could not be true, but must be a proved lie, if it did not offend; it would be giving in to the natural heart, which it is the purpose of God not to flatter, but to subdue.
(a) The cross is an offence because it does not merely please the imagination. Men are fond of ritualism in religion. Now, the cross is singularly simple and unadorned. In this respect it stands markedly in contrast with what preceded it. This is not pleasing to many. They would put ornaments upon the cross to take away its offensive simplicity. But that is a wrong tendency. The most beautiful rites and gorgeous shows, instead of drawing to the cross, as the meaning sometimes is, are more likely to usurp its place. The worshipper, instead of having his heart reached, is likely to have only his imagination pleased. Let the cross be left to its own simple power, though the imagination should be offended. It can do without ornaments on it in our day as well as it did in Paul's day.
(b) The cross is an offence because it is humbling to pride of reason. It was to the Greeks foolishness, and so it is apt to be to intellectual people still - to the Greeks of the present day, to literary men, to the reading portion of the community. That is at least what all such have to surmount. The cross seems foolishness to them. They would like a difficult problem on which to exercise their intellects. Now, in one sense, the cross is above reason, inasmuch as reason could never have found it out. But in another sense it is below human reason; it is a revelation, a doctrine all found out for man, and a doctrine which is level to the meanest understanding. The result of the philosophic craving was, at a very early period of the Church, the rise of Gnosticism. It was very much a blending of the Greek philosophy with Christianity. It was the religion of mind, those embracing it professing to have a deeper insight into Christian facts than the common people, who took them in their obvious sense. And since the disappearance of Gnosticism, there has been, again and again, and is at present in some quarters, an effort to consider the literary and reading class so as to give the cross a philosophic cast, with the view of attracting them. Now, there are some ways of speaking to intellectual people better than others, and nothing is to be hoped for from irrational or dry discourse, yet, if the cross is turned into a philosophy, it may attract some, but it is not likely to benefit them. Let the cross be presented as level to the lowest intellect; let it be presented as a simple, divinely revealed fact, speaking to the heart more than to the intellect; let there be no fear to offend pride of intellect, which must be humbled before the soul can be saved.
(c) The cross is an offence because it is humbling to self-righteousness. It is a strange infatuation of the natural heart that, with no righteousness to lay claim to, it is yet so natural to it to flatter itself with having a righteousness. The cross, going upon the supposition that we have no righteousness of our own, and that all the praise of our salvation is due to God, is an offence. In the Roman Catholic system there is a place given to works alongside of the merits of Christ, which is very pleasing to the feeling of self-righteousness. We are all apt to construct a theory of salvation in which there is a place left for self. Now, the cross must never be presented to please self-righteous people; that would be a fatal compromise. Let the cross be proclaimed as the impossibility of our own righteousness, as the grace of God in a righteousness freely provided for us. That is a doctrine which must offend, but it is the only doctrine that can satisfy the conscience.
(d) The cross is an offence because of its large demands. It demands that we forsake cherished sins. And that cuts into natural liking, that is painful like a crucifying, and therefore an offence. But the cross must be presented as giving no quarter to sin, as the most tremendous proof that sin is not to be permitted, as showing how sin is utterly abhorred and condemned of God. And to be acknowledging the cross, while tolerating sin in ourselves, is crucifying the Son of God afresh and putting him to an open shame. It demands self-sacrifice. The cross-life is characteristically a life of self-sacrifice. Christ was sacrificing all along, and when he came to the cross he sacrificed his all - sacrificed his life in the most awful circumstances. And those who would take up the cross must be prepared to follow Christ in his course of self-denial. And there, again, is where the offence of the cross arises. Its requirements are too high. But as the cross of Christ can never be blotted out, so its requirements can never be lowered. It is the standard up to which our life must be brought if we are to attain to our perfection. There is one blessed way in which the offence of the cross ceases, and that is, when we have been humbled by it as sinners, and have been led to own its power. Then we admire it for the light it throws on the Divine perfections, and for the power there is in it over human hearts. And we say, "Far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ."
7. He wishes the Galatians deliverance from the unsettling teachers. "I would that they which unsettle you would even cut themselves off." In the case of the offender against morality in the Corinthian Church, the apostle issued a decree that he should be cut off by the Church. That could not be done in this case, because these teachers were not under the jurisdiction of the Galatian Churches. They came to teach them as they were free to do; and all that the Galatians could do was to refuse them a hearing. That this was the apostle's mind may be gathered from the wish he expresses that they would cut themselves off. As they could not be cut off by the Church, let them cut themselves off. As they were only unsettling the Galatian order, let them leave Galatian soil. But he does no more than wish. It was certainly by itself desirable; but it might be the purpose of God that these unsettling teachers should be left there to make trial of the Galatians, and, it might be, thereby to purify and to strengthen them. - R.F.
I. WHAT IT IS. The hope of righteousness appears to be the hope of realizing righteousness, the hope of becoming righteous. In St. Paul's language a hope is not our subjective anticipation, but the thing for which we hope. Such a possession we as Christians anticipate.
1. Righteousness is a great treasure. It is a worthy object of desire. It is better than any rewards it may entail. To hunger and thirst after righteousness is to feel the deepest and purest appetite for the best of all spiritual possessions.
2. Righteousness is not yet enjoyed. It is a hope. Even the Christian who has the faith that admits to it has not yet the full heritage. The longer we live the higher does the magnificent ideal tower above us until it is seen reaching up to heaven. Some righteousness we enter into with the first effort of faith, but the foretaste is only enough to make us yearn for more;
3. We may confidently hope for righteousness. It is a hope, not a mere surmise, that urges us forward. We are encouraged by the promises of the gospel. It is a grand inspiring thought that every Christian has the prospect of ultimate victory over all sin and ultimate attainment of pure and spotless goodness.
II. HOW WE ARE TO REGARD IT. We are to wait for it.
1. We must exercise patience. Sudden perfect holiness is impossible. The idea that it has been attained is one of the most awful delusions that have ever ensnared the minds of good men. Physically, of course, it is possible for us never to sin, and to be perfectly holy, as physically there is nothing to prevent us from drawing a mathematically straight line; but in experience the one is no more realized than the other, and morally both are equally impossible. The law of life is progress by gradual development.
2. Nevertheless, we must earnestly anticipate the future righteousness, We must wait for it as those who wait for the morning, i.e. we must watch. To be indifferent about it is not to wait for it. Indifference will disinherit us from the hope.
III. WITH WHAT GRACE WE CAN THUS REGARD IT.
1. Through the Spirit. Here as often elsewhere we cannot be certain whether the apostle is referring to the Spirit of God or to our spirit. The two work together. Human spirituality is the fruit of the inspiration of the Divine Spirit. It is in this spiritual state of mind that we hate sin and long for righteousness, and have glimpses of the future that cheer us with the prospect of the great hope. Our desires and anticipations are always fashioned and coloured by the state of our hearts. Waiting for the hope of righteousness is a habit of soul only possible to those who are spiritually minded.
2. By faith. Here we come to the key and secret of the whole experience. Faith
(1) makes us heirs of righteousness;
(2) is the present assurance of things hoped for, and therefore of.this great hope; and
(3) leads us into that spiritual atmosphere where waiting tot the hope of righteousness becomes natural to us. - W.F.A.
I. FAITH IS AN ACTIVE POWER. It works. Christ tells us that it can move mountains. Through lack of faith the disciples had not strength to cure a lunatic boy (Matthew 17:19, 20). This faith of St. Paul is very different from the "dead" faith which St. James scouted with so much scorn. It is not a cold intellectual conviction of the truth of certain propositions called collectively a creed. Nor is it a mere passive reliance upon the efficacy of the "finished work of Christ," or upon the grace of God which is to do everything for us while we slumber in indifference, or upon Christ himself solely as a Saviour. it is active trust rousing all the energies of our soul to loyal service.
II. FAITH SHOWS ITS ENERGY IS LOVE. We do not read of love working through faith as some would prefer to regard the mutual operation of the two graces. We are familiar with the idea of love as a motive, and we can well understand how faith might give it a ground and channel of definite action. But the converse is here. Faith begins to operate in its own energy and discovers a field of enterprise in love.
1. Faith inspires love, as love also in turn inspires faith. We believe in and trust the goodness of Christ, and so we are moved to love him. If we did not believe in his love we should never return it.
2. Faith having once roused love exercises itself in promoting the objects of love. We trust in the unseen God, we also love him; then we try to please him, to enjoy his favour, and to live in his presence - objects of love; but objects we should never seek if we were not supported and urged on by our belief in and trust to what is beyond our sight and experience.
III. FAITH WORKING THROUGH LOVE IS THE ONE ESSENTIAL CONDITION OF SUCCESS IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. Circumcision is of no use. Uncircumcision and the liberty that boasts of it by themselves are useless. Mere barren liberty is nothing. Freedom is conferred that in it we may have a field and range for noble enterprises. Mere rites, baptism, etc., mere observance of religious services, will not advance us in the spiritual life, neither will resistance to the bondage of such things. The negative side of Protestantism is no gospel if we rest only in that. Spiritual, active life is the great thing. Faith alone would not suffice, because our supreme duties are love of God and love of man, and faith is only valuable as it leads up to these. But love alone would not suffice, for without faith, even if it came into being, it would languish and perish in despair. "Faith working through love "- this is the motto for the healthy Christian life. He who relinquishes this will turn not only to a lower method, but to a worthless and fatal one. Nothing else will avail, and nothing more is needed for growth up to the attainment of the most perfect saintliness and the most fruitful service. - W.F.A.
I. PAST ATTAINMENTS DO NOT DISPENSE WITH THE NECESSITY OF PRESENT PROGRESS. "Ye did run well." So far, so good. That was a matter el thankfulness. But it would count for nothing sgainst the unworthiness of a slackened pace. Old laurels wither. Every day has its new duties. We must not waste to-day in congratulating ourselves on the success of yesterday. The tide is against us; to rest on the oars is to be swept back. No nation can prosper on its past history if the spirit of heroism has forsaken its citizens. As Christians, we never reach the goal till we have crossed the river of death. Till then we must be ever "pressing on and bearing up," or we shall assuredly make shipwreck even after earnestly running over the longest, steepest, roughest course.
II. PAST ATTAINMENTS CONDEMN US FOR NEGLECTING PRESENT PROGRESS. We are judged by our own past selves. Our history is witness against us. The past proves that we could run well. It shows that we admitted the obligation to do so. Those who have never known Christ may plead ignorance. But they who have tasted of his grace and experienced the blessings of it and used it for some work in the Christian life, are without excuse if they turn aside at last.
III. PAST ATTAINMENTS MAKE THE NEGLECT OF PRESENT PROGRESS PECULIARLY SAD. It is melancholy to see a life rendered abortive from the first, but it is much more mournful to witness the failure of a life that began in promise and made good way towards success. All the hopes and toils and sacrifices of the past are wasted. How painful to be so near the goal and yet to give up the race; to sink within sight of the haven! Such a broken life, like a day opening in a cheerful dawn and passing through a bright noon to a dark and stormy night, is of all lives most deplorable. "Ye did run well; who did binder you" - what pathos there is in these words! Christ weft over Jerusalem sadder tears than the ruin of Sodom could call forth.
IV. WE MUST BEWARE OF THE DANGER OF NEGLECTING PRESENT PROGRESS AFTER SUCCEEDING WITH PAST ATTAINMENTS. "Who did hinder you?" There must have been new hindrances and possibly surprises and unexpected checks.
1. We must not rest satisfied with the establishment of good habits. Habits may be broken.
2. We must be prepared for new difficulties. The way that is now so smooth may become suddenly rough and stony.
"We know the anxious strife, the eternal laws,
I. THE PRINCIPLE. Evil is like leaven.
1. It has a life of its own. Leaven is the yeast-plant. We must not neglect evil with contempt as an inert dead thing. A low and horrible kind of life infests the remains of death. The lower in the order of life the organism is the more persistent will its vitality be. Yeast may be preserved dry for months and yet retain its power of fermentation. The most degraded forms of evil are the most difficult to destroy.
2. Evil, like leaven, spreads rapidly, Leaven is the chosen emblem of evil, just on account of its extraordinary rate of growth. While the Church slumbers her enemy is sleepless. If we are not actively resisting evil it will be constantly encroaching upon the domain of goodness. It is folly to neglect a small evil. A child may stamp out a flame which, neglected, would burn a city. Scotch the young vipers while they are yet in the nest, or the brood will crawl far and wide beyond our reach.
3. Evil, like leaven, assimilates what it touches. The best men are injured by contact with it. All the powers and faculties of the individual, all the resources and institutions of the community, are brought under its fatal spell and turned to its vile uses. 4 Evil, like leaven, is associated with corruption. Fermentation is the first stage of decomposition. The leaven of evil is the leaven of moral rottenness and death.
II. APPLICATIONS OF THE PRINCIPLE.
1. Doctrinal. A small error unchecked grows into a great perversion of truth. A lie once admitted spreads deceit and confusion in all directions.
2. Ecclesiastical. The Jewish custom advocated by a few of the Galatian Christians seemed to some, perhaps, an insignificant matter. But if it had been permitted to spread, undoubtedly it would have broken up the whole Church.
3. Moral. (See 1 Corinthians 5:6.) The taint of immorality spreads like a noxious contagion,
(1) in the nation - for the whole country's sake we must not allow "the residuum" to sink into corruption;
(2) in the Church - hence the necessity of reviving Church discipline;
(3) in the individual - small faults breed great sins. Beware of "the little foxes that spoil the grapes." - W.F.A.
I. THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN LICENCE AND LIBERTY. (Ver. 13.) The grace which has freed us from the legal spirit has not endowed us with a liberty to live licentiously. The liberty it gives is totally distinct from licence. Licence is liberty to please ourselves, to humour the flesh, to regard liberty as an end and not a means. But God in his gospel gives no such liberty. His liberty is a means and not an end; it is liberty to live as he pleases, liberty to love him and love men, liberty to serve one another by love. We must guard ourselves, then, from the confusion of mistaking licence for liberty.
II. LOVE IS THE REAL LIBERTY. (Ver. 13.) As a matter of experience we never feel free until we have learned to love. When our hearts are going out to God in Christ, when we have at his cross learned the lesson of philanthropy, when we have felt our obligation to God above and to man below, then we are free as air and rejoice in freedom. Then we refuse licence as only freedom's counterfeit, for we have learned a more excellent way. We cannot imagine a loveless spirit to be free. He may achieve an outlawry, but he is not, cannot be, free.
III. LOVE IS THE REAL FULFILMENT OF THE LAW. (Ver. 14.) The legalists in their little system of self-righteousness spent their strength upon the mint, the anise, and the cummin; while the weightier matters of the Law - righteousness, judgment, and faith - were neglected. Ceremonies and not morality became their concern. The tithing of pot-herbs would entitle them to Paradise. In contrast to all this, Paul shows that Christian love, which is another name for liberty, fulfils the demands of Law. The meaning of the commandments published from Sinai was love. Their essence is love to God and love to our neighbour, as well as to our "better self." Hence the gospel throws no slight on Law, but really secures its observance, The whole system turns on love as the duty and the privilege of existence. While the Law is, therefore, rejected as a way of life, it is accepted as a rule. Saved through the merits and grace of Christ, we betake ourselves to Law-keeping con amore. We recognize in God the supreme object of grateful love; we recognize in our neighbour the object of our love for God's sake and for his own sake; and we honour the Law of God as "holy and just and good." The whole difference between the legal spirit and the gospel spirit is that in the one case Law is kept in hope of establishing a claim; in the other it is kept in token of our gratitude. The motive in the one case, being selfish, destroys the high standard of Law. It fancies it can be kept with considerable completeness, whereas it is kept by the best with constant and manifold shortcoming. The motive in the other case, being disinterested, secures such attachment to the Law, because it has been translated into love, that it is kept with increasing ardour and success. Slaves will never honour Law so much as freemen.
IV. LOVE IS THE TRUE ANTIDOTE TO STRIFE AND DIVISION. (Ver. 15.) The ritualistic or legal spirit into which the Galatians had temporally fallen manifested itself in strife and bickerings. This is, in fact, its natural outcome. For if men arc straining every nerve to save themselves by punctilious observance of ceremonies, they will come of necessity into collision. It is an emulation of a selfish character. It cannot be conducted with mutual consideration. As a matter of fact, organizations pervaded by the legal spirit are but the battle-ground of conflicting parties. But love comes to set all right again. Its genial breath makes summer in society and takes wintry isolation and self-seeking all away. Mutual consideration secures harmony and social progress. Instead of religious people becoming then the butt of the world's scorn by reason of their strife and divisions, they become the world's wonder by reason of their unity and peace. It is, love, therefore, we are bound to cultivate. Then shall concord and all its myriad blessings come into the Church of God and the world be subdued before it. - R.M.E.
I. USE OF CHRISTIAN FREEDOM. "For ye, brethren, were called for freedom." Paul, having wished the Judaizing teachers off Galatian soil, justifies the strength of his wish. They would have led the Galatians into bondage, but God had called them for freedom. He makes a distinction between the possession of freedom and the use of freedom. He had been under the necessity of making prominent their possession of freedom in contending against the Judaists; he would, however, remind them, as brethren, that there was responsibility connected with t heir use of freedom. It is thus that he slides into the more practical part of the Epistle.
1. Dangers of freedom. "Only use not your freedom for an occasion to the flesh." By the flesh, which here becomes a leading word with the apostle, we are not to understand our corporeal nature. Nor are we to understand by it depraved tendency in connection with our corporeal nature. But we are to understand by it depraved tendency as a whole, extending to our higher nature as well as to our lower nature. It is true that in this depraved tendency our lower nature has the preponderance. And that is the reason why the whole goes by the name of flesh. But the constant element in depravity is not sense, but it is self as opposed to God and to the good of others. The admonition of the apostle, then, is, not that we abstain from all bodily gratification, as though sin were seated in the body, nor simply that we abstain from all fleshly sin, but that we abstain from all selfish gratification. The Galatians had been called for freedom, i.e. for ultimate and complete freedom; they were not, with their first experiences of freed-m, or with their strong realization of it as against Judaistic error, to imagine that they were free to indulge the flesh. That is what, as free, we must be on our guard against, if we would not fall back into bondage, if we would come to the goal of our freedom in Christ. Let us not turn our liberty into licentiousness.
2. The binding of freedom.
(1) Love binds the free. "But through love be servants one to another." As it is self in the flesh that leads to abuse el freedom, so it is love that determines the right use of freedom. Love is going out beyond self. It is that which binds us in service to another. The Galatians were free from Jewish bonds only to put on the bonds of Christian love. So it is true that we are free from the bonds of guilt only to bind ourselves in service one to another. Thus to balance our freedom - there is the bondage of love.
(2) The whole Law is fulfilled in love to our neighbour. "For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." The one word here is the summary of the second table of the Law. The quotation is from Leveticus 19:18. It appears, from "neighbour" there following upon "children of thy people," that the neighbour of the Jew was his fellow-Jew. Christ has taught us to regard as our neighbour every one who is in need, temporal or spiritual. When we are commanded to love our neighbour as ourselves, it is implied that it is a right thing to love ourselves. There is a true self-love. We are to love ourselves intensely. It does not appear that we can be too much in earnest about our own well-being. We are to love ourselves rationally. We are not to seek only a section of our interest, but we are to seek our true interest as a whole. In these respects our love to our neighbour is to resemble our love to ourselves. We are to love our neighbour in the same intense manner. His good is as much to God as is our own good. And in all ways in which we can advance his good we are to be as much in earnest about it as though we were advancing our own. We are to love our neighbour in the same rational manner. We may love intensely and yet be guided by reason. We are not to seek only part of our neighbour's good. To give as much time and attention to our neighbour's business as to our own would not ordinarily be for his good, nor would it be fair to one in comparison with another. Circumstances may arise in which duty may point to sacrifice for another, even to the extent of life. Let us, then, love our neighbour as we love ourselves, both intensely and rationally. The teaching of the apostle is that he who has observed the second table of the Law (as summarized) has fulfilled the whole Law. Surprise has been expressed why there should be no reference to the first table of the Law. But the reason is obvious. He who has only gone the length of the first table has not fulfilled the whole Law. Our love to God must be carried to completion, in our loving our neighbour as ourselves. According to the thought of the Apostle John, we only properly love our Father-God, whom we do not see, when we love our brother-man whom we see.
(3) There is disaster at the opposite pole from love. "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another." The language is taken from wild beasts. The fact of the Galatians being thus warned may be explained partly by their excitable Celtic temperament. They are warned of what they might expect the consequences to be. None would come off victors, but they would be consumed one of another. In such biting and devouring there is a large consumption of time. There is distraction from useful work. There is sometimes the consumption of means in litigation. There may be the consumption of life in brawls. There is always the consumption of good feeling, and, along with that, there is the consumption of the richer elements of the spiritual life.
II. THE FLESH AND THE SPIRIT.
1. The Christian rule is walking by the Spirit. "But I say, Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh." The apostle calls attention to a point to which he advances in the subject he has in hand. This is laying down the Christian rule as between the flesh and the Spirit. In the flesh, or our depraved nature, there is lust or desire for sinful gratification in some form or another. How are we to be delivered from this, so that it shall not be fulfilled? The way is positively to follow the leading of the Spirit. The idea is not that we are to follow the tendencies of our renewed nature. That is missing the personal aspect of the leading. The Spirit, indeed, renews the nature, and excites within it holy desires which seek for gratification. But the Spirit gives personal guiding, especially in and by the reason and conscience in connection with the Word. And as a Guide he is all-sufficient. He is an internal Guide. He throws all the light that we need upon the character of desires and actions, upon the path of duty. And he affords timeous guidance. For whenever we are disposed to turn from the straight path to the right hand or to the left, it is then that we hear his voice behind us, saying," This is the way, walk ye in it."
2. The Christian rule is founded on a contrariety between the flesh and the Spirit. "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would." The lust excited within the flesh is against the desire excited by the Spirit; the desire excited by the Spirit is against the lust excited within the flesh. This conflict of desires is necessary. For the flesh and the Spirit are contraries. They represent depraved self and God. They are as far apart as light and darkness. What is true of the one, then, cannot be true of the other. What the one moves toward in desire, the other necessarily moves against. Of this conflict of desires we are conscious in our own experience. When the Spirit impels to good, the flesh opposes; when the flesh impels to evil, the Spirit opposes. Thus in two ways we cannot do the things that we would. And we have in this conflict of desires, as free beings, to determine whether the Spirit or the flesh shall have the dominion of our hearts.
3. The Christian rule excludes regulation by the Law. "But if ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the Law." The Spirit is an nil-sufficient Guide. His regulation renders unnecessary all other regulation. He regulates within, and that is better than outward regulation. He regulates in connection with all circumstances that arise, and that is better than having the rule to apply for ourselves. He is a timeous monitor, warning when the danger arises, and that is better than being dependent on memory.
4. There is contrast in the manifestations of the flesh and the Spirit.
(1) The works of the flesh. We are to understand manifestations of depravity, and concrete manifestations as distinguished from abstract qualities. Even when the abstract word is used, it is in the plural, with the effect of giving it a concrete character; not the feeling of wrath, but separate exhibitions of wrath; not the feeling of jealousy, but acts or workings of jealousy.
(a) What they are. "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these." Before enumerating them the apostle describes them as manifest, i.e. easily distinguishable or glaring. It may be pointed to as a proof of depravity that vocabularies have more words descriptive of forms of sin than words descriptive of forms of holiness. Under the fruit of the Spirit he gives a list of nine. But under the works of the flesh his list extends to fifteen, properly sixteen. And the word translated "which" implies that he did not profess to give an exhaustive list - it would have been easy for him to have added other instances. This comparison is confirmed by the relative number of words for sins and graces employed in Scripture. (α) Sins of uncleanness. "Fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness." The second is the generic word; the first describes a special form; the third describes a special aggravation, namely, open disregard of propriety. There is a sad prevalence of these sins still; it can only be said that they have been made more to hide their head. (β) Illicit intercourse with the unseen world. "Idolatry, sorcery." What is illicit in idolatry is the use of images to represent the unseen powers. What is illicit in sorcery (literally, "pharmacy" ) is the use of drugs, potions, and other things, with the idea that they can influence the unseen powers to produce love or hatred, prosperity or adversity. It can be said that this class of sins has almost disappeared with the diffusion of Christianity. (γ) Breaches of charity. "Enmities." This is the generic word; including not only the graver, but all breaches of charity. "Strife, jealousies." In strife the variance may be slight; in acts of jealousy there is more deep-seated variance. "Wraths, factions." The former describes outbursts of anger. The latter describes deliberate and concerted compassings of selfish ends, especially by means of intrigue. "Caballings" some translate it, "cabal" being made up of the initials of an English ministry in the reign of Charles II., who were credited with sacrificing principle to place. "Divisions, heresies." The former may only be of a temporary nature. Heresies, by which we are to understand not heretical opinions, but rather their embodiments in heretical sects, are divisions of a decisive nature. There is conveyed the idea of complete separation from the Church of Christ. Hence what is said of the heretic that he is condemned of himself, i.e. in cutting himself off he has carried out the extreme sentence on himself. "Envyings, murders." The latter is omitted in the Revised translation, against the manuscripts, and against the form of classification followed by the apostle under this head. The former is want of love to our neighbour in his property; the latter is want of love in that which is most precious to him. (δ) Sins of intemperance. "Drunkenness, revellings." The first is the generic word; the second brings in a special association, viz. joviality. The special point of view is to be noticed here. There are some who lay the blame of intemperance on the manufacture of drink, on facilities for its sale, on the customs of society. And it does bear a relation to these things. But the apostle goes to the root of the matter, in tracing it to the depravity of the human heart. Drunkenness and revellings are works of the flesh, manifestations of alienation from God. The advantage of this point of view is that it points to what can be the only effective remedy, viz. a change of heart through the operation of the Spirit. "And such like." He could have mentioned others. We may suppose that those are named which it was important for the Galatians to note. We can see that some of them would be connected with their temperament, which was neither melancholic nor phlegmatic, and also with their surroundings. We are not all inclined to sin in the same form or forms. That has a dependence on idiosyncrasies and surroundings. But we have all the same depraved heart for which to be humbled before God, and against which to pray.
(b) What they entail. "Of the which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they which practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." He is very emphatic in his warning of the Galatians. He had forewarned them when with them. Again he forewarns them. He acted on the principles enunciated in Ezekiel: "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore, hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life: the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity, but thou hast delivered thy soul." What the apostle, in the spirit of these words, says, is that they which are in the habit of doing such things shall certainly be punished. Their very characters unfit them for the kingdom of God. Moreover, they are rebels against the government of God; and as such they must be dealt with. Their punishment is represented as exclusion from the inheritance which otherwise they would have gained.
(2) The fruit of the Spirit. We are to understand the result of the workings of the Spirit. Fruit is applied here not to concrete manifestations or works, but to abstract qualities from which works proceed. It is not said that the fruit of the Spirit is manifest. Qualities are not so conspicuous as works, and especially spiritual qualities. The apostle refers us to qualities in the spiritual, not because he regards works as unimportant, but because qualities must so much be taken into account in estimating their works, Fruit paints to organic unity. The works of the flesh are confused and conflicting. One lust contends with another for the mastery. But the fruit of the Spirit is like well-formed fruit. All is consistent. And one grace by its growth does not take from another grace, but contributes to the richness and beauty of the whole.
(a) What it is. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love." This stands at the head of the list as comprehending or carrying with it all the rest. This is a characteristic result of the Spirit's working. The apostle beseeches by the love of the Spirit. And we are told of the love of God, i.e. apparently the love which constitutes the very essence of God, being shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Ghost given unto us. Therefore we need not be surprised at the apostle connecting the Spirit, first, with the imbuing, dyeing deep of our nature with love. "Joy, peace." These two go together, not as good dispositions, but as feelings which always accompany good dispositions. With the former we associate movements, thrills; with the latter we associate repose. God is infinite Love, and therefore he is infinite Joy and Peace. And our being, through the Spirit, pulsating with his, now he sends a thrill of joy through us, and now he introduces his own calm. Oh what a joy in what God is! What a height of ecstasy does it admit of! And what a calm too in what God is! It takes away all the feverishness of sins and quiets us to the very depths of our being. And ever, as love animates us as it animates God, does the thrill pass through us, and the calm come into us, expelling doubt and fear and all restlessness of spirit. "Long-suffering, kindness, goodness." These three go together. The first is bearing with others for their good. It is that which marks the outgoing of the Divine love toward us as sinners. And therefore it is fitting that it should be reflected in us. Love (not only in God, but in all beings) , suffereth long," and, it is added, "is kind." The word translated "kindness" seems to point to delight in men as our fellow-beings. God delights in us as beings whom he has made. He feels kindly disposed toward us, as a father does toward his children. And so are we to delight in others for what they are, especially as having come from God, wearing a noble nature. And we are to feel kindly disposed toward them, wishing especially that, as they have a noble nature, they may not fail of having a noble character. The word translated "goodness" seems to point to a disposition to benefit others, extending to all forms in which they can be benefited. The highest form of goodness is when we are impelled to help others to live well. "Faithfulness, meekness, temperance." The first is having such a love for our neighbour that we would not injure him by breaking our promise to him. God is a Rock, while infinite tenderness, and there should be something of the rock in us, that dependence may be placed on us in the various relations of life. Meekness is required when wrong has been inflicted on us. It especially points to us having the command of our feelings under wrong. Temperance is self-command. It has come to have a special reference to our having the command of our appetites. When temperance is born of worldly prudence or of self-reliance it is not what it should be. It is only real and beautiful and everlasting when it is produced by the Spirit, when it is the outcome of a changed heart.
(b) What it does not entail. "Against such there is no Law." The apostle might have extended his list. He would have us think not of these only, but of all such, and think this regarding all such, that against them there is no Law. If these things are in us, then the Law can never be adverse to us. We shall be removed beyond the condemnation of all Law. That is his way of saying that we shall be blessed. We shall be blessed in the very possession of these dispositions and feelings. We shall be blessed in our enjoying the smile of God.
5. Christians are being delivered from the flesh. "And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof." At a past period, in idea, they crucified the flesh. That idea is now being carried out into fact. There is a deadening, a slow and painful crucifying going on in the flesh. Its passions are being depleted of their heat; its lusts are being depleted of their force. The conflict is still going on; but the Spirit is gaining triumphs over the flesh, and there is promise of the Spirit gaining a complete triumph, of the flesh with all its inclinations to sin being annihilated.
6. The Christian rule re-enforced. "If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk." If the life of the Galatians had depended on the Law, then their first and imperative duty would have been to have submitted to circumcision; and their duty after that would have been to have subjected themselves to the whole discipline of the Mosaic ordinances. But, as they were in the better position of depending entirely for their life on the Spirit, it was their duty to take the rule of their life simply from him.
7. The Christian rule is applied to vain-glory. "Let us not be vainglorious, provoking one another, envying one another." Vain-glory is glorying in what we do not have, or in what we have in a way that is not real or according to a false standard. The spirit of the practice is sufficiently brought out in the language hero. There is a provoking, literally a calling forth, to the field of contest. As the result of the trial, some are filled with a sense of their importance as superior in strength or in agility, in birth or in wealth, in culture or in honour. And others are filled with envy of those who are thus superior. ]Jut as we are not to glory in fancied possessions, so we are not to glory in possessions as though we had bestowed them on ourselves, or with an exaggerated idea of their importance. That would be glorying in what had not foundation in reality. "But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." Let us glory in what God is, and let us glory also in what God has bestowed upon us. Let us glory especially in having a covenant standing before God, and in covenant grace which has passed into our characters. That is having a foundation of reality for our glorying. - R.F.
I. THE DANGER. St. Paul was no antinomian. No Hebrew prophet ever insisted more strenuously on the necessity of righteousness than did the champion of justification by faith. With him freedom from the bondage of Law is not release from the obligations of duty. If tedious ceremonial observances are discarded, eternal principles of morality are only exalted into the higher supremacy. If we are not required to shape our conduct according to rigid rules, we are thrown back on principles of wider bearing and more absolute necessity. But there was danger that this should not be fully recognized. New-fledged liberty is tempted to take strange flights. This is an inevitable peril accompanying an undoubted boon. For fear of it many have dreaded to grant the liberty. But such policy is shortsighted and cowardly. The danger is itself the condemnation of the old bondage. The worst indictment against slavery is that it makes men servile. Unwise parents, who impose needlessly irksome home restraints, are preparing for their children a terrible peril when the coveted liberty is at length necessarily attained. The compressed spring is sure to open with violent energy.
II. THE CAUTION. How shall the danger be avoided? St. Paul points out the means.
1. Admonition. Let men see clearly the two sides of life. While some dwell exclusively on Law, others confine themselves too much to the mere fact of liberty. Much gospel preaching is dangerous from its one-sidedness. In preaching "liberty to the captives," let us not forget to preach also that" the kingdom of heaven is at hand;" in offering the blessings conferred by Christ as the Saviour, let us not neglect to set forth claims made by him as the King.
2. Instruction. Liberty requires light. The captive may be led in darkness; the freeman must see where to turn his footsteps. Ignorance may be the mother of the devotion of spiritual slaves, but knowledge is necessary for the devotion of free men.
3. High principle. It is only the spiritually minded who are fit for spiritual liberty. We are only able safely to use our release from the servitude of Law when we willingly put on the yoke of service one towards another. The unselfish man is the one man who can use without abusing the privilege of the free man. He who has Christian charity joined to his Christian liberty will fulfil the essential principles of the Law while exulting in deliverance from its crushing constraints. - W.F.A.
I. SIN LEADS MAN TO FALL OUT WITH HIMSELF. (Ver. 17.) As Ullmann has beautifully said, "Man forms a unity, which is, however, only the foundation of that higher unity which is to be brought about in him, as a being made in the Divine image, by means of communion with God. Now, sin does not merely obstruct this unity, but sets up in its place that which is its direct opposite. He who has fallen away from God by sin, does, as a necessary consequence, fall out both with himself and with all mankind. True unity in man is possible only when that which is Godlike in him - that is, the mind - acquiesces in the Divine order of life, and governs the whole being in conformity therewith. But when he has once severed himself from the true centre of his being, that is, from God, then also does that element of his being, his mind, which is akin to God, and which was intended to be the connecting and all-deciding centre of his personal life, lose its central and dominant position; he ceases to be lord of himself and of his own nature; the various powers which make up his complex nature begin to carry on, each for itself, an independent existence; the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit wages a fruitless war with the flesh (ver. 17); sinful desire becomes dominant, and while the man seems to be in the enjoyment of all imaginable liberty, he has lost the only true liberty and has become a slave to himself; for ' whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin' (John 8:34; Romans 6:16-23). He is the dependent of self; and being thus the slave of self, he is also the slave of pleasure, and of all those objects which it requires for its satisfaction." Man becomes thus a distracted manifold, instead of a God-centred unity.
II. THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST ANTAGONIZES THE DISTRACTING TENDENCIES AND REDUCES MAN TO A UNITY AGAIN. The way in which we are united in heart and being is by having Jesus Christ pressed resistlessly upon our attention. Faith realizes in Christ not only a perfect personal Ideal, but also a Saviour on whom man may evermore depend. "The Christ of Christendom is not simply a Master to be loved and revered; he is a Saviour to be leaned upon. His followers are to have that profound sense of their own weakness and sinfulness which renders them sensitive to the purifying and reforming influences that radiate from the personality of Jesus. Without this, their love for the ideal would lead to no practical results; it would be merely an aesthetic sentiment, expending itself in a vague and fruitless admiration. But combine the two and you have the most effective reforming influence that the world has ever known." Christ is not only the unifying element in Church life, but in the individual life as well. He fuses all the distracted faculties into a glorious unity, and makes man his own master instead of his own slave. Hence, to quote the writer last referred to, "Christianity alone among all religions maintains a constant antagonism to the special tendency which controls the nature of its followers."
III. BUT POSITIVE FRUIT IS PRODUCED BY THE ANTAGONIZING SPIRIT AS A GLORIOUS SET-OFF TO THE WORKS OF THE FLESH WHICH HE DESTROYS. (Vers. 19-24.) Religion is not to be regarded as a negative thing, contenting itself with antagonisms, but has positive and most important fruits. It is not a system of severe repressions, but a system full of stimulus towards a better and fuller life. It does not merely forbid "fornication, uncleanness," etc., under the penalty of exclusion from the kingdom of God, but it produces "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control. What a catalogue of virtues! What a contrast to the works of the flesh! Thus is man restored to something like his true and better self. The gospel of Christ is not a weary round of prohibitions, but is a glorious system of positive attainment, in a Divine life, which is loving, joyful, peaceful, and humane to its deepest depths.
IV. AGAINST SUCH SPIRITUALLY MINDED ONES THERE CAN BE NO LAW OF CONDEMNATION. (Vers. 18-23.) Law, when translated into love, becomes light. God's commandments are not grievous to the loving soul. In the keeping of them there is a great reward. Hence the Law presses heavily and hardly upon no loving spirit. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans 8:1). It is to such a blissful experience we arc asked to come. - R.M.E.
I. THE TRUE CHRISTIAN WILL AIM AT NOT FULFILLING THE LUST OF THE FLESH. It is the fashion of the age to decry asceticism. St. Paul was not an advocate of the monkish ideal according to which there was a virtue in restraining desires and activities which are harmless in themselves. But this revulsion of our own day with its "fleshly school" of poets goes much further in the opposite direction and honours as "natural," what St. Paul would repress as "carnal." It ignores two most important facts.
1. We have a higher and a lower nature. A man is as much an animal as a dog is. But he is also something more. In his right state the spiritual controls the animal in him. To be truly natural is not to reverse this relative position. To permit the lower self to dominate the upper self is to allow a most unnatural rebellion against right order to take place within us. As it is natural for a man to walk with his head erect, and as he is in an unnatural posture when he has fallen with his head downwards, so, as Bishop Butler has taught us, it is truly natural for conscience to be supreme, and it is going against nature to let the lower powers have unbridled liberty.
2. Our lower nature is unduly powerful. It has been indulged. It has broken through its proper restraints. It has grown too strong, while the higher spiritual nature has been starved and checked and weakened. As fallen creatures, we have lost the right balance of our powers. Our present nature is a corrupt nature. To reverence the unrestrained exercise of all our nature, as it now is, is to treat corruption and confusion with the honour that belongs only to order and perfection. The evil of the unrestrained sway of the lower nature is seen in its fruits Poetry hides them, but conscientious truthfulness declares them, and a more hideous collection of horrors cannot be imagined (vers. 19-21). Such fruits are certain proofs that the root is evil. Hence the aim of all fight-minded men must be to check the "lust of the flesh."
II. THE SECRET OF SUCCESS IN' THIS AIM IS WALKING BY THE SPIRIT. It cannot be accomplished by mere resistance and repression. This is why the method of Law failed. No laws will make a nation moral. Positive influences only can counteract the furious passions of the lower nature. We must walk by the Spirit.
1. Spiritual things must be the chief concerns of our lives. We must draw off our thoughts from the lower things by engaging them with the higher. Our own spiritual nature will thus grow stronger to resist the impulses of" the flesh."
2. Gods Holy Spirit must be sought as the guide and strength of our highest activities. Our spirituality can only flourish as the outcome of the indwelling Spirit of God. A real, direct influence will thus strengthen our better selves against the evil powers within.
3. Spirituality growing out of the indwelling of Gods Spirit must become a habit of daily life. It is not enough that we have brief moments of devout elevation above earthly things, if, when we return to the world, our hearts and minds are as much occupied with the lower interests of life as if we knew no others. We must "pray without ceasing." The tone and temper of our mind in the world must be above the world.
4. This condition is realized through union with Christ. The Spirit we need is "the Spirit of Christ." When we are Christ's we crucify "the flesh with the passions and lusts thereof," and learn to walk by the Spirit. - W.F.A.
I. EVERY MAN HAS TWO SELVES - A HIGHER SELF AND A LOWER SELF.
1. A bad man has his better self. When temptation is away, in calm thoughtful moments, or when he is stricken by mortal illness or bowed with a great sorrow, or perhaps when the beauty of a sunset or the strains of sweet music call up memories of childhood, the true self will rise in the heart of a wicked man with pain and unutterable regrets.
2. A good man has his lower self. The human saint is far removed from the heavenly angel. The body and its appetites are with him; the soul has its meaner powers, its earthly passions, its self-regarding interests. There are times when the spiritual life is dull and feeble; then some sudden temptation, or even without that the depressing atmosphere of the world, will reveal to a man his worse side.
II. THE TWO SELVES ARE IN CONFLICT. They are not content to lie at peace each in its own domain. Both are ambitious to rule the whole man. While the flesh brooks any restraint, the Spirit strives to bring the body into subjection. Thus it comes to pass that life is a warfare and the Christian a soldier. The battle of life is not mainly a fighting against adverse circumstances and external concrete evils of the world. "A man's foes are they of his own household," nay, of his own heart. The great conflict is internal. It is civil war - rebellion and the effort to quell it; of all wars the most fierce.
III. THE CONFLICT BETWEEN THE TWO SELVES IS SUCH THAT EACH IS HELD IN CHECK BY THE OTHER. "Ye cannot do the things that ye would." There is a dead-lock. Each army holds itself safe in its own entrenchments. Neither can turn the enemy's position. Not that there is perfect balance of power. In most of us one or other force gives a temporary advantage. In many the lower self has the upper hand; in many, let us thank God, the better self maintains the supremacy. But neither has the victory that will enable it to drive the other off the field. Bad men, now and again, see yawning before them deep, black pits of wickedness, from the brink of which they start back in horror, arrested by the invisible hand of conscience. No man is wholly bad, or he would cease to be a man - he would be a devil. On the other hand, it is clear to all of us that no good man is wholly good.
IV. IN THE STRENGTH OF THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST THE BETTER SELF OF THE CHRISTIAN WILL ULTIMATELY OBTAIN COMPLETE VICTORY. The stress and strain of the war is but for a time. In the end all enemies shall be subdued. Meanwhile the secret of success is with those who "walk by the Spirit." So great a hope should lighten "the burden of the mystery."
"The heavy and the weary weight
I. THE GRACES OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE GROW OUT OF THE INDWELLING OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD. Neither of the two rival theories of Greek philosophers - that virtue comes by practice and that it is taught by instruction - would commend itself to St. Paul. Nor would he agree with Plato that it arises in the intuitive recollection of innate ideas, nor with Aristotle that it is the result of habits. Neither would he permit the modern separation of religion from morals. Morals need the inspiration of religion. Religion when truly alive must control conduct. The first great essential is for our spirit to be possessed by the Spirit of Christ through faith in him. Then Christian graces will appear as fruits of the Spirit. We must begin within. We cannot produce fruits by manipulating the outside of a dead stump. Life is the one essential, and from life within grows fruit without. Only internal spiritual life can produce external Christian graces.
II. NEVERTHELESS, THE CHRISTIAN GRACES NEED TO BE DIRECTLY CULTIVATED. Although the tree produces the fruit from its own life, the branches must be pruned and trained and the fruit sheltered from cold and protected from vermin and wild birds. It is not enough to think only of the inmost sources of a holy life. We must watch the course of it and guide it aright throughout. Christian ethic is an important branch of religious instruction, and is not to be ignored as unimportant because it is only serviceable in subordination to the cultivation of the inner spiritual life.
III. THE CHRISTIAN GRACES HAVE SPECIAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THEIR OWN. Such a list as is here given by St. Paul has a character of its own. Some of its constituent parts might be found in a heathen moralist; perhaps all of them; for there is a common conscience in all mankind. But the selection as a whole and the form and character of it are foreign to the atmosphere of paganism. The one significant fact about it is that it is a portrait of Christ. Christianity is putting on Christ. He is our great Exemplar. Our true life is walking in his footsteps. In particular note:
1. Attention is directed to internal principles rather than to external rules of conduct. St. Paul cared little for casuistry.
2. Emphasis is laid on the gentler graces. Pagan ethics treat chiefly of masculine virtues. Christian ethics add what are commonly called the feminine. Yet there is nothing unmanly in the gentleness of true nobility of character thus revealed.
3. Charity and its fruits receive the principal place in the list.
IV. THE PARTICULAR GRACES IN THE LIST GIVEN BY ST. PAUL ARE WORTHY OF SEPARATE CONSIDERATION,
1. Three graces of general disposition:
(1) love, the root of all joy;
(2) the special joy of self-sacrificing love; and
(3) peace, attained later, but more constant when attained.
2. Three graces in our conduct with others:
(1) passive long-suffering;
(2) kindness, which wishes well to others; and
(3) beneficence, which does it.
3. three more general graces:
(1) fidelity, not made necessary by general kindness;
(2) meekness when opposed by the evil in other men;
(3) self-control in keeping under the evil in ourselves. "Against such." says St. Paul, with a touch of humor, "There is no law." - W.F.A.