Galatians 5:22, 23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,