Galatians 4:4
But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,
Sermons
Majority Through the GospelR.M. Edgar Galatians 4:1-7
Majority and MinorityR. Finlayson Galatians 4:1-11
Christ Obedient to the LawDean Alford.Galatians 4:4-5
Christ Redeemed UsGalatians 4:4-5
Christ, the Saviour of MenJ. M. Gibson, D. D.Galatians 4:4-5
Christmas Day and What it TeachesDean Stanley.Galatians 4:4-5
Christ's Advent in the Fulness of TimeH. Melvill, B. D.Galatians 4:4-5
Christ's Birth of a Woman Consecrates Family LifeCanon Liddon.Galatians 4:4-5
Christ's Human Birth a Wonderful ThingCanon Liddon.Galatians 4:4-5
Christ's Mission for the Adoption of Sons in the Fulness of TimeRobert Hall.Galatians 4:4-5
God's Gift to the WorldJ. Burns, D. D.Galatians 4:4-5
God's Redeeming LoveDr. Guthrie.Galatians 4:4-5
Jesus Paid the DebtGalatians 4:4-5
Man in the Light of the IncarnationH. Batchelor.Galatians 4:4-5
Nature of the Deliverance Resulting from the IncarnationCanon Liddon.Galatians 4:4-5
Of Christ, the Only Redeemer of God's ElectT. Boston, D. D.Galatians 4:4-5
Of the Fulness of Time, in Which Christ AppearedS. Clarke, D. D.Galatians 4:4-5
Preparation for the AdventCanon Liddon.Galatians 4:4-5
Preparation of the Jewish People for ChristCanon Liddon.Galatians 4:4-5
RedemptionC. Wadsworth.Galatians 4:4-5
RedemptionBishop Andrewes.Galatians 4:4-5
Redemption and AdoptionJ. Donne.Galatians 4:4-5
Redemption and AdoptionGalatians 4:4-5
Shall We Say that Great Events Arise from Antecedents or Without ThemB. Jowett, M. A.Galatians 4:4-5
The AdventG. Sexton, LL. D.Galatians 4:4-5
The Advent in RedemptionW.F. Adeney Galatians 4:4, 5
The Advent in RedemptionW. J. Adeney, M. A.Galatians 4:4-5
The Advent of the RedeemerHomiletic MagazineGalatians 4:4-5
The Advent of the RedeemerJ. Waite.Galatians 4:4-5
The Atonement: Scripture Doctrine and Current TheoriesBishop Andrewes, D. D.Galatians 4:4-5
The Character of the MessiahS. Clarke, D. D.Galatians 4:4-5
The Divine Plan in Human AffairsCanon Liddon.Galatians 4:4-5
The First Advent of MessiahD. Rees.Galatians 4:4-5
The Fulness of the TimeBp. Andrewes.Galatians 4:4-5
The Fulness of the TimeJ. Macgregor, D. D.Galatians 4:4-5
The Fulness of the TimeGiles Hester.Galatians 4:4-5
The Fulness of TimeR. Winterbotham, M. A.Galatians 4:4-5
The Fulness of TimeGalatians 4:4-5
The Fulness of TimeG. Hester.Galatians 4:4-5
The Immaculate ConceptionCanon Liddon.Galatians 4:4-5
The Incarnate Person of ChristThomas Jones.Galatians 4:4-5
The Incarnation of Jesus ChristR. Philip.Galatians 4:4-5
The Preparation of the World for the GospelE. J. Hamilton, D. D.Galatians 4:4-5
The Three Births of ChristDoune.Galatians 4:4-5
The Work of the MessiahF. Wayland, D. D.Galatians 4:4-5
The World's MajorityA. F. Muir, M. A.Galatians 4:4-5
Timeliness of the AdventBishop Lightfoot.Galatians 4:4-5
Woman Exalted by Christ's BirthCanon Liddon.Galatians 4:4-5
We naturally ask the question which forms the title to Anselm's famous book, 'Cur Deus Homo?' Why could not God effect his gracious purposes without the incarnation of his Son? The verses before us throw light on this question. Ver. 4 indicates the two leading points of the humiliation of our Lord - the personal and the moral. Ver. 5 shows the object of these respectively. "The Son of God was born a man, that in him all men might become sons of God; he was born subject to Law, that those subject to Law might be rescued from bondage" (Lightfoot).

I. CHRIST BECAME A SON OF MAN THAT WE MIGHT BECOME SONS OF GOD. "He was born of a woman" "that we might receive the adoption of sons." His humanity was real; he had a natural body and soul, and he entered the world by birth. His humanity was a humbling of himself (see Philippians 2:7, 8). It was the emptying himself of primeaval glory; the subjecting himself to earthly limitations of knowledge, power, etc., even down to the unconscious helplessness of infancy; the endurance of the toil, the weariness, the distress of a hard life, ending in that horror and mystery which we call "death." Consider how this incarnation of Christ leads to our adoption.

1. It is the secret of his influence over us. Attraction is in proportion to nearness. To influence a man you must descend to his level. There the power of sympathy is most felt. So Christ stooped to us that he might lift us (see Hebrews 4:15).

2. It is the source of his power to conquer our great foes, sin and death (see Hebrews 2:14). Sin and death chain us down from the glory of the Divine life. To conquer these Christ faced them.

3. It is the ground of his atonement with God. God could not welcome us while all right and justice opposed. Christ, as the representative Man and for his brethren as both Priest and Sacrifice, opened the way back to God (see Hebrews 2:17). Hence the great privilege - Divine sonship. He became as we are that we might become as he is; he joined himself to us that we, united with him, might rise to his glorious life.

II. CHRIST WAS MADE SUBJECT TO LAW THAT HE MIGHT FREE US FROM THE BONDAGE OF LAW.

1. He was born subject

(1) to the Levitical Law - as a Jew;

(2) to the social law - subject to his parents, etc. (Luke 2:51);

(3) to the civil law (Matthew 17:24-27);

(4) to the moral law -

not only to that pure morality which God and all holy beings follow, but to the definite precepts of morality which accompany the limitations of human life.

2. He was also subject to the penalties of the Law though himself sinless:

(1) to the shame and trouble of the world generally which he shared in entering it;

(2) to death, the distinctive doom of sin.

3. How does this lead to our liberation?

(1) By facing the death-doom of the Law Christ conquered this for us.

(2) By obedience to the Law he triumphed over the Law. The largest liberty is in obedience. The Law is made for evil-doers; it is powerless against the good. Christ makes his people righteous (Romans 8:3), and so frees them from Law.

(3) By rising from obedience to the letter of the Law, to the higher obedience of the Spirit, he leads us also to that freer service of love which is the emancipation from Law. - W.F.A.







But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son.
The question has often been asked, Why did not Christ come sooner? Why were patriarchs, kings, and prophets, left to experience the sickness of heart arising from hope long deferred? It was necessary that the world should be left to itself, in order that its own strivings being proved insufficient to the finding out God, there might be a standing demonstration of the need of a revelation. And this experiment demanded long ages for its development. Men must be tried under varieties of circumstance: whilst the traditions of a righteous ancestry were fresh in their keeping — when those traditions had been lost or corrupted, and natural religion had a clear stage to itself — when they had sunk into barbarism, and when through strenuous exertions they had wrought themselves up to a high pitch of civilization. It is, in a measure, a mistake which has been assumed as a truth in our foregoing reasoning — that mankind, with the exception of the Jews,. were abandoned by God, during those dark ages which preceded Christ's coming On the contrary, if you rest not satisfied with a superficial glance, you will perceive that God was working upon the world with a distinct reference to preparing it for the gospel. Besides, if you examine the period of our Lord's appearance on earth, you will not think it too much to say, that the season was made on purpose (so to speak) for the circumstances. The period was a most remarkable one — such as could only have been brought round by the revolutions and convulsions of many centuries. The Roman power had spread itself over all the nations of the then known world; and thus all those petty states, whose jostling and opposing interests might have withstood the propagation of Christianity, were swallowed up in one great empire. At the same time, the seat of that empire lay so distant from Judea, the cradle of our faith, that no opposition could thence suddenly arise to the infant religion. Christianity was sure to obtain a good footing before jealousy could be entertained, and, therefore, persecution appointed, by those who occupied the remote throne of the Caesars. Add to this, that in conformity with His character of the Prince of Peace, no breath of war ruffled the vast surface of the Roman empire, when the Saviour condescended to be born of a woman. The turbid waves of factious or ambitious policy had for a while settled into quiet, and the temple of Janus closed its doors that the Church of Jesus might throw open its gates. So that there was nothing to oppose the progress of the messengers of the gospel; the world stood free for their labours; they might pass from land to land; they might cross seas, and rivers, and mountains. It was, moreover, "the fulness of time," because many prophecies met in it, and received their accomplishment. The great marvel of the prophecies which bear upon the work and person of Jesus is, that they were delivered by a succession of men, rising up with long intervals between, and each becoming more minute in his predictions, as he stood more nearly on the threshold of the Advent. The day of Christ's birth lying a long way off from that of man's apostasy, might be made a kind of focus, into which should be gathered the prophetic rays of successive generations. You must readily perceive, that this collecting into one point the pencils of light emanating from successive ages, would mark out the birth-time of Messiah with a vividness and an accuracy which could not have been produced by a lesser combination.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

Two principles should be borne in mind by those who would discover the Divine purposes in history,

1. The first is that God has the supreme control of events — that He "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will."

2. The other principle is that the operations of Providence should be studied in connection with any other disclosures which we may have of the laws and plans of the Divine workings. This rule is necessary if we would distinguish between those evils in our world which have been permitted and overruled for beneficent and holy ends, and those events which have been brought about either because in themselves excellent or for the accomplishment of good results. Let us spread before us the map of the world's affairs as they stood in the days of our Lord's appearance among men, and let us see the mighty hand of God in the disposition of them all, First, if we regard that age in its secular aspect, we find two great preparations for the successful diffusion of the gospel. The one of these was a general union and tranquility of the world, under Roman law; and the other a wide-spread civilization, accompanied by a well-nigh universal language, resulting chiefly from Grecian influence That of the one, if we may so speak, was negative, and was chiefly occupied in removing obstructions, so that a free course might be given to the Word of God. That of the other was positive, and furnished great facilities for the presentation and dissemination of the truth. It fact it would have mattered but little that the nations were kept in quietness under the compelling power of Roman law, had not the spirit of Grecian civilization, pervading the organization of Rome, exerted everywhere a beneficial influence. Let us now turn from the secular to the spiritual aspect of the ancient world if we would discover yet more convincing evidence of the workings of Divine wisdom. Here, again, the attentive reader of history can perceive two great preparations for the introduction of the gospel. The one of these was a deep consciousness of moral debasement and of religious darkness pervading the Gentile nations; and the other was a very general diffusion of the knowledge of the Jewish faith throughout the Roman Empire, accompanied by a recognition of its truth and excellence. The condition of the heathen world at the time of our Saviour's advent was truly deplorable. That dreadful description which Paul gives in the first part of his Epistle to the Romans is fully verified by the accounts of contemporary historians. The heathen were not without a knowledge of God, a sense of moral obligation and a perception of the distinction between right and wrong. In the discussions of their philosophers we find not only some of the most eloquent praises of virtue that ever were written, but also the clearest directions regarding the various duties of life. The taw of God was plainly written on their hearts. In proof of this we may cite the remarkable fact that the treatise of Cicero, "Concerning Morals," was long used as a text-book in seminaries of the Christian Church. Indeed, this treatise must ever give delight to those who can appreciate the wisdom and purity of its instructions. But it was the wretchedness and the condemnation of the heathen world that they knew their duty and they did it not. Their philosophy was utterly powerless to resist the influences which destroyed them; and their religion was worse than powerless. None save the lowest class of the people retained any faith in the polytheistic creeds; a general feeling a want regarding both the knowledge and the efficacy of religion pervaded the nations of the world. But there was yet another method in which a Divine Providence was preparing the nations for our Saviour's advent. This was, the diffusion of the principles of the Jewish faith throughout every part of the Roman Empire. All classes in society had some followers of Moses; even kings and queens did not blush to own themselves believers in the God of Israel. Then also multitudes of thinking men who made no profession of Judaism were familiarized with the conceptions of the ever-living Jehovah and of His promised Christ. In this way the ancient form of religion went before Christianity, heralding its approach and predisposing men for its clearer and more powerful revelations. There was then an external fitness for the successful impartation of the truth. Under the security and tranquility of Rome's imperial sway the gospel was committed to the language of educated and thoughtful humanity, and was borne on the life-currents of Grecian civilization to the various populations of the earth. There was, also, a deeper and spiritual preparation. Bitter experience had proved the worthlessness of the ancient superstitions, and had shown that extremity of wickedness and misery to which our race is tending, and from which there can be no deliverance save through the power of a Heaven. sent faith. And, finally, the Jewish religion, containing in its bosom the essential truths of salvation, by its gradual diffusion, gave men a prophetic foretaste of Christianity, and a readiness to receive further; Divine instructions. From this whole subject we may derive two important lessons. First, let us learn to adore and love and trust that Almighty Being who rules, with purposes of mercy, over the children of men. That is an exalted conception of God which is presented to us in the Christian doctrine of providence. No evil genius presides over human destinies; nor a blind, unconscious fate; nor a stern God of justice who has forgotten to be gracious. It is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, from the beginning of the world till the present day, has been controlling the affairs of our globe to advance His compassionate designs. What a confidence have Christians here! In the midst of the revolutions, and disasters, and evils of earth, the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. Let us, also, be taught by this subject, the inestimable importance of the religion of Jesus Christ. When the Roman procurator of Judea carelessly questioned the Galilean who stood before him, accused by the malicious Jews, he little thought that the very empire, in which he himself was but an insignificant officer, was brought into existence and built up into power to advance the mission of that despised and persecuted Nazarene. And when the light-minded Athenians mocked the unpretending preacher of the Cross, they were far from conjecturing that the chief object for which the language and the civilization of Greece had been developing for centuries, was to diffuse the gospel which Paul proclaimed throughout all the habitable globe. Yet, in the mind of the Supreme Being, this was a worthy end of a providential control of human affairs during a period of thousands of years. See how differently God and man view the same things! But if Christianity has received such care from Almighty God, how important should this religion be in the eyes of those for whose welfare it is intended!

(E. J. Hamilton, D. D.)

1. Christ's obedience to the law was not a matter of course, following upon His Incarnation. He might have lived and died, had it been consistent with His high purpose, in sinless purity — without expressly undertaking, as He did, openly to fulfil the law.

2. It was not only an integral, but also a necessary part, of His work of redemption. He came, as regarded this matter, not to stand beneath the law, but to stand above it; and this He could only do by fulfilling it, and carrying out its higher and more spiritual meaning, and causing God's truth and purity and holiness to shine through the outward veil of its commandments and ordinances. Moreover, He was the end of the law. It all pointed to Him. Its types and ceremonies all found their fulfilment in His person and work. All sacrifice was consummated by His suffering. And not less striking is the way in which the fact of Christ having been made under the law, unites and clears and justifies all God's dealings with man. God gave a law which was valid through whole generations of men; a law with various sanctions and ordinances and prohibitions. That law is done away. The Church of God seems to stand on other foundations; to have changed the ground of her obedience, and the warrant of her hope. But this is not so. Not a jot nor a tittle of that law has fallen away, or become void. All has been fulfilled.

(Dean Alford.)

The pivots on which the crises of history revolve are seemingly very minute.

I. THE INCARNATION IMPLIES THE GREATNESS OF HUMAN NATURE. It is a fact, that God has been manifest in the flesh, in the person of His Son. God has expressed His attributes in many things. Men do the like in their works. In the Incarnation God did not embody mere qualities and perfections, but Himself. How closely must the nature of man be related to the nature of God; for God Himself became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth! It was through the points of similarity between the nature of God and the nature of man, involved in the Divine Fatherhood, that the Incarnation of Deity in humanity became possible. We revolt at the heathen idea, that a Divine being can be enshrined in an idol of wood or stone, because there are no godlike faculties through which the radiance of a Divine presence can stream forth on the kindred faculties of the worshippers who are to be illumined by the manifestation. If man be the offspring of God, the Incarnation becomes rational and credible. Of the grandeur of our nature, as set forth in this early announcement, the coming of the Son of God in the flesh is the demonstration.

II. THE INCARNATION INDICATES THE HIGH DESTINY OF MAN. Christ Jesus was the sample of that moral perfection to which humanity may be raised by the power and grace of God. The nature of a thing discloses more or less distinctly its primary intention. In all departments of creation we argue from the adaptations of an organ to the uses for which it was designed. The eye is for light and for the objects of beauty and deformity which light unveils. The ear is for sounds — melodies, harmonies, and discords. Reason and conscience are faculties related to truth and duty. It is but an application of the same process to infer from the powers of man the purpose of his Maker.

1. Our souls were evidently intended for fellowship with God. That we have faculties resembling the Divine attributes, is an intimation of this purport of our being.

2. Men were plainly framed to work with God as well as to commune with Him. We have benevolent activities resembling the beneficent energies of the Almighty. From our humble level we can pity and succour. We were formed for God-like thoughts, God-like motives, and God-like deeds.

3. Human beings were distinctly marked out for dominion and glory.

III. THE INCARNATION BRINGS OUT IN DEEPEST HUES AND DARKEST SHADES THE SINFULNESS OF OUR RACE. But of this be sure, that the greatness of man's sin is inseparable from the greatness of man's nature.

IV. THE INCARNATION SHOULD INSPIRE MANKIND WITH BRIGHTEST HOPE. If our state had been without the prospect of deliverance, the Son of God would not have become flesh. He would not have appeared in our nature to mock our despair. The Incarnation is Divine testimony to our recoverability.

V. THE INCARNATION SEEMS TO SUGGEST, THAT THE MORAL AND REGAL PERFECTION OF OUR HUMANITY IS UNATTAINABLE UNLESS GOD DWELL IN US. Life and beauty, stem and leaf, bloom and fruit, lie hidden in the seed. While there is nothing but the seed, the wonderful vegetable fabric, with its verdure, fragrance, and loveliness, is merely latent. So all the spiritual capabilities of our nature continue undeveloped while the soul subsists in vital and moral isolation from God. The Divine ideal of humanity cannot be fulfilled by humanity alone. There must be a Divine vivification of the dormant energies. The re-creating Spirit must brood over the chaos.

VI. THE INCARNATION DEMONSTRATES THAT YOUR SOULS ARE VERY DEAR TO GOD. How vast is God's interest in us! He has sent His own Son to us in the nature of one of our race, one of our very selves. If a monarch waives the pomp of majesty, lays aside the burden of empire, and crosses the threshold of some humble cottage, to minister to a sufferer among the lowly poor, how obvious and how touching is his concern for his obscure and afflicted subject!

(H. Batchelor.)

Our Lord's appearance on the scene of human history corresponds with the general law so far as this — that He comes when a course of preparation, conducted through previous ages, was at last complete. But then He was not the creation, as we say, of His own or of any preceding age. What is true of all other great men, who are no more than great men, is not true of Him. They receive from their age as much as they give it; they embody and reflect its spirit. They catch the ideas which are in circulation — which are, as we speak, "in the air" — and they express them more vividly than do others, whether by speech or by action. The age contributes much to make them, and the age is pleased with them because it sees itself reflected in them, and their power with it is often in an inverse ratio to that of their real originality. With our Lord it is utterly otherwise. He really owed nothing to the time or the country which welcomed His Advent. He had no contact with the great world of Greek thought, or of Roman politics and administration. He borrowed just so much rabbinical language and sayings as to make Himself intelligible to His own generation; but no rabbi, of whatever school, could have said, or could have omitted to say, what He did. The preceding ages only prepared His way before Him in the circumstances, in the convictions, in the moral experiences of men; and thus a preceding period marked in the counsels of God had to be run out. At last its final hour had struck. That hour was the fulness of time: it was the moment of the Advent. There was a threefold work of preparation for the Son of God, carried forward in what was then called the civilized world; and each portion of this preparation demanded the lapse of a certain period.

I. The world had to be prepared, in a certain sense, POLITICALLY for Christ's work.

1. A common language. This was partly provided by the conquests of Alexander. He spread the Greek language throughout Western Asia, throughout Egypt; and when Greece itself was conquered, the educated Romans learnt the language of their vanquished provincials. And thus, when our Lord came, the Greek language, in which the New Testament is written, was the common tongue of the civilized world, ready to St. Paul's hand for the missionary work of Christianity.

2. A common social system, laws, and government. During the half-century which preceded the birth of Christ, the Roman Empire was finally consolidated into a great political whole, so that Palestine and Spain — so that North Africa and Southern Germany — were administered by a single government. Christianity, indeed, did not need this, for it passed beyond the frontiers of the empire in the lifetime of the apostles; and the earliest translation of the New Testament — that into Syrian, in the first half of the second century — showed that it could dispense with Greek. But this preparation was, nevertheless, an important clement in the process by which preceding ages led up to the fulness of time.

II. Then there was a preparation in the CONVICTIONS OF MANKIND. The heathen nations were not without some religion — a religion which contained within various degrees certain elements of truth, however mingled with, or overlaid by, extraordinary error. Had it not been for the element of truth which is to be found in all forms of heathenism, heathenism could not have lasted as it did. Had there not been much true religious feeling in the ancient world, although it was lavished often upon unworthy and miserable objects, the great characters with whom we meet in history could not have existed. But the ancient religions tended from the first to bury God, of whose existence the visible world assured them, in that visible world which witnessed to Him. Those powers of nature which are, as we know, but His modes of working — which are but the robe with which he covers Himself — become more and more, when man is without a revelation, objects of devout veneration. The principle is the same in the fetishism which finds a god in some single natural object, and in the pantheism which, like that of India, looks forward to the absorption of the individual soul into the universal life of nature. The Greeks never knew, at their best time, of a literally Almighty God; still less did they know anything of a God of love; but it was necessary that their incapacity to retain in their knowledge the little they did know about Him should be proved to them by experience. Certainly, their great men, such as Plato, tried to spiritualize, in a certain sense, the popular ideas about God, but the old religion would not bear his criticism. It went to pieces when it was discussed; and philosophy, which he wished to take its place, having no facts, that is, no religious facts, to appeal to, but consisting only of views, could never become a real religion, and so take its place. The consequence was the simultaneous growth of gross superstition and of blank unbelief — a growth which continued down to the very time of the Incarnation. Never before was the existence of any Supreme Being so widely denied in civilized human society, as in the age of the first Caesars. Never were there so many magicians, incantations, charms, rites of the most debased and most debasing kind, as in that age. The most gifted of races had done its best with heathenism, anal the result was that all the highest and purest minds loathed the present, and looked forward to the future. It was the fulness of the time. The epoch of religious experiments had been closed in an epoch of despair which was only not altogether hopeless.

III. There was also a preparation in the MORAL EXPERIENCE OF MANKIND. There was, at times, much of what we call moral earnestness in the ancient world; but men were content, as a rule, with being good citizens, which is by no means necessarily the same thing as being good men. In the eyes of , for instance, all obligations were discharged if a man obeyed the laws of Athens. , St. said, approached Christianity more nearly than any other; and yet Plato tolerated popular vices of the gravest description, and he drew a picture of a model State in which there was to be a community of wives. And the moral teachers whom St. Paul afterwards found at Athens were and . They divided the ancient world between them, practically. The Stoic morality has often been compared with Christianity; it differed from it vitally. Every single virtue was dictated by pride, just as every Epicurean virtue was inspired by the wish to economize the sources of pleasure. "Nowadays," says a pagan writer, Quinctilian, "the greatest vices are concealed under the name of philosophy." And the morality of the masses of men whom the philosophers could not and did not dare to influence, was just what might be expected. The dreadful picture of the pagan world which St. Paul draws (Romans 1.), is not a darker picture than that of pagan writers — of moralists like Seneca, of satirists like Juvenal, of historians like Tacitus; and yet enough survived of moral truth in the human conscience to condemn average pagan practices. Man still had, however obscurely, some parts of the law of God written deep in his heart. Men saw and approved (they said it themselves) the better course, and they followed the worse; and the natural law was thus to them only a revelation of sin and of weakness. It led them to yearn for a deliverer, although their aspirations were indefinite enough. Still this widespread corruption, this longing for better things, marked the close of the epoch of moral experiments; it announced that the fulness of the time had come.

(Canon Liddon.)

1. Politically the Jews were expecting change. They retained the feelings while they had lost the privileges of a free people. Their aspirations looked to a better future, though they mistook its character. The sceptre had departed from Judah. Shiloh, they believed, would immediately come.

2. Their purely religious convictions pointed in the same direction. Prophecy had in the course of ages completed its picture of a coming deliverer. Beginning with the indefinite promise of a deliverance, it had gradually narrowed the fulfilment, first to a particular race, then to a particular nation, then to a particular tribe, and a particular family. And the birth, the work, the humiliations, the death, the triumph, of the deliverer had been described during the interval the nation had been particularly active in arranging, comparing, discussing the great treasures which it had received from the past; and there was consequently what the New Testament calls an "expectation of Israel," for which all good men in that age were waiting.

3. Above all, the Jews had a moral preparation to go through, too — the law, which they had not kept either in letter or spirit, and which was therefore to them nothing less than a constant revelation of their own weakness and sin. It showed them what in their natural strength they could not do; it showed them, like a lantern carried into a dark chamber of horrors which had never been lighted up before, what they had done. Thus the law was a confidential servant (which is the true meaning of pedagogue; not schoolmaster), to whom God had entrusted the education of Israel, to bring him to Christ. And this process of bringing him had just reached its completion; the fulness of the time had come.

(Canon Liddon.)

This remarkable expression, "the fulness of the time," is with a slight variation elsewhere used by St. Paul. He calls the gospel, when writing to the Ephesians, "the dispensation of the fulness of times"; and it is easy to see that in both cases he really means by "fulness" that which fulfils or finishes; he means the arrival of a given hour or moment which completes an epoch — the hour which thus makes its appointed measure and brings it to a close. It was in a like sense that our Lord and His apostles used the word "hour," as marking a particular point in His life, determined in the counsels of God (John 2:4; John 4:21; John 5:25; John 7:6; John 13:1; Matthew 26:45) All such language is only understood when we bear in mind that that succession of events which, looking at it from a human point of view, we call "time," is distributed upon a plan eternally present to the Divine mind, and that particular persons or particular characters are assigned, by this eternal plan, their predestinated place in the succession. "To everything," says the wise man, "there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven." All the lesser incidents of our separate lives are really arranged in a preconcerted order. There is a fulness of time at which, and not before, we can understand particular truths or can undertake particular duties, because for these truths or these duties all that has preceded has been a preparation. "My time," we may say in this sense, too, "is in Thy hand." And this is peculiarly true of that last awful moment which awaits us all, and for which all that precedes it is one varied preparation — the moment of death. And in like manner it is true, generally, of those whom the world recognizes as its great men, that each appears in the fulness of time; each has his predestined hour, which he may not anticipate. He is in some sense the ripe product of the ages of thought, and feeling, and labour, which have elapsed before he comes: and that he should come when he does is just as much willed by the providence of God, as that he should be born at all. So it is with writers, with artists, with statesmen, even with discoverers and inventors. When such men as these are said to be before their age, it is only meant that the age has not yet taken its own true measure, and that they surprise it by a discovery. They really appear, one and all of them, in the fulness of time.

(Canon Liddon.)

"The fulness of the time" means that moment which filled up the measure of the appointed time, which completed the number of the allotted days; it does not refer to the feelings of men, but to the predestination of God. Scripture tells us that the world was being educated for the coming of Christ, so as to be able to receive Him and to profit by His work. As the heir of some great house is during his childhood treated as a servant, and kept under tutors and governors, so were we under the elements of the world; if heathens, we were under the vague teaching of natural religion; .if Jews, under the formal instruction of Mosaic ordinances. History tells us how all things were ripe for the Redeemer's coming just when He did come. God had prepared the civilized world for the reception of Christianity thus: —

I. By means of the Roman Empire He had reduced all the world under one government, so that there was free intercourse between all parts of the known world, and there was no political obstacle to the spread of the faith from one nation to another.

II. By means of the Greek language, the most perfect instrument of thought ever known, He had made the earth to be (in a very great degree) of one tongue, and thus He had prepared the way for the apostles and evangelists of Christ.

III. By means of the chosen people of the Jews — having still their religious centre at Jerusalem, yet scattered throughout the world — He had provided a nursery for the tender plant of the gospel, where it should be sheltered and fostered under the protection of an elder but kindred religion, until it was strong enough to be planted out in the world.

IV. By reason of the general confluence and mutual competition of all kinds of heathen idolatries, He had caused heathenism to lose all its old repute and power over souls.

(R. Winterbotham, M. A.)

It was the fulness of time.

I. IN REFERENCE TO THE GIVER. The moment had arrived which God had ordained from the beginning, and foretold by His prophets, for Messiah's coming.

II. IN REFERENCE TO THE RECIPIENT. The gospel was withheld until the world had arrived at mature age; law had worked out its educational purpose and now was susperseded. This educational work had been twofold:

1. Negative. It was the purpose of all law, but especially of the Mosaic law, to deepen the conviction of sin and thus to show the inability of all existing systems to bring men near to God.

2. Positive. The comparison of the child implies more than a negative effect. A moral and spiritual expansion, which rendered the world more capable of apprehending the gospel than it would have been at an earlier age, must be assumed, corresponding to the growth of the individual; since otherwise the metaphor would be robbed of more than half its meaning. The primary reference in all this is plainly to the Mosaic law; but the whole context shows that the Gentile converts of Galatia are also included, and that they, too, are regarded as having undergone an elementary discipline, up to a certain point analogous to that of the Jews.

(Bishop Lightfoot.)

In the fulness of time, or out of due season; by sudden crises, or with long purpose and preparation? It is impossible for us to view the great changes of the world under any of these aspects exclusively. The spread of the Roman empire, the fall of the Jewish nation, the decline of the heathen religions, the long series of prophecy and teaching, are the natural links which connect the gospel with the actual state of mankind; the causes, humanly speaking, of its spread, and the soil in which it grew. But there was something else mysterious and inexplicable beyond and above all these causes, of which no account can be given, which came into existence at a particular time, because God chose that it should come into existence at that time. This is what the apostle calls "the fulness of time."

(B. Jowett, M. A.)

"Is it not strange," asked a thoughtful boy one day of his tutor, "is it not strange that St. Paul should tell us that our Saviour was born of a woman? Everybody that I know is born of a woman, and it is hard to see why such a matter should be mentioned at all as if it were remarkable."... There is, it is true, nothing remarkable in this circumstance, if we take human life simply as we find it. For us men to be born of a woman is not merely a rule, it is a rule to which there is no known exception. Since the first parent of our race, no human being has appeared upon this earth who has not owed the debt of existence to the pain and travail of a human mother. The rule holds equally with the wisest, with the strongest, with the saintliest. Millions there have been among the sons of men, who have been also by Divine grace made to become sons of God; millions who have been born again, and thus have seen the kingdom of God; but of these each one was also first born of a human mother. So that we are driven to ask why a circumstance which might have been taken quietly for granted should be invested by the apostle with such prominence in the case of our Saviour Jesus Christ. But observe, the question is whether in His case it could have been taken for granted? If St. Paul mentions it thus emphatically, it is because he, at least, will not at once presume that this is the case. If, indeed, the Christ whom St. Paul loved and served was only a Son of God by grace, while by nature He was only and purely a man, then to have written down that he was "born of a woman" would have been an unmeaning truism. But if, in naming Him, St. Paul is thinking of Being whose nature is such as to make His appearance at all to the eye of sense, and in this visible sphere of things, in a very high degree extraordinary, then to say that He was "born of a woman" is to make an assertion of startling significance. Now, that St. Paul is thinking of such a Being is clear, for when he says, "God sent forth His Son," he used the same word as when, just after, he says, "God sent forth the Spirit of His Son." It is a word which implies, not simply the action of God's providence, placing a created being on the scene of life; it is a word which implies a sending forth from the inmost life, from the depths of Deity itself, of One who shared the essential nature of the Sender.

(Canon Liddon.)

The position of women in the ancient world was, as a rule, one of deep degradation. There are some great and saintly women in ancient Israel — Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Huldah. There are women who are socially or politically great in paganism, without being at all saintly — Semiramis, Aspasia, Sappho, and the wives and mothers of the Caesars. But, as a rule, in antiquity woman was degraded; women were at the mercy, and the caprice, and the passions of men. They lived as they live to-day in the Mohammedan East, at least generally, a life in which the luxuries of a petty seclusion scarcely disguise the hard reality of their fate. And yet women were then, as now, the larger part of the human family; and one object, we may dare to say, of the Divine Incarnation, was to put woman's life on a new footing, within the precincts of the Kingdom of Redemption; and this was done when the Redeemer Himself God's Own Eternal Son, owning no earthly father, yet deigned to be "born of a woman." The highest honours ever attained by or bestowed upon the noblest or the saintliest members of the stronger sex, surely pale into insignificance when contrasted with this altogether unique prerogative of Mary. She herself, in the great hymn of the Incarnation, is already conscious of this. Let us think of the best man or woman we have ever known in life, and ask ourselves if it would be possible for him or her to say, without presumption, without absurdity, "Behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed." But Mary — she utters these words, and from age to age Christendom verifies them. To have been the mother of the Divine Redeemer is a privilege unshared and incommunicable, and it sheds a glory upon all Christian women to the very end of time. It is this fact which has silently created that rare and beautiful feeling which in the Middle Ages took the form of chivalry, but which is wider and more lasting than to be identified with any one period of the Church's life; that feeling which, without the aid of legislation, without reducing itself to a theory or a philosophy, insensibly corrected the wrongs of centuries, and secured for woman that tender respect and deference which is the true safeguard of her commanding influence, and which alone secures it. The best guarantee of woman's liberty and influence is to be found in the fact that the Eternal Son deigned to be "born of a woman."

(Canon Liddon.)

These words not merely affirm, they also deny. Their silence is as exclusive, as their positive import is significant. "Born of a woman." Nothing, then, is said of another earthly parent. No human father is named as the instrument of the Divine providence. The apostle is thinking, we may say with confidence, on our Lord's birth of a virgin mother. It is true that in St. Paul's writings there is no definite and unmistakable reference to the Immaculate Conception; but we must remember(1) that there is no one occasion in St. Paul's writings on which such a reference would seem necessary; and(2) that St. Luke's Gospel, written under St. Paul's direction and illustrating his teaching, gives the fullest account of the circumstances of our Lord's Conception and Birth which we have in the New Testament. The word "woman," then, is in this passage emphatic. It pointedly implies that our Lord had only one earthly parent. Observe the import of this. It was a prime necessity that the Redeemer of mankind should be sinless. If He was to help our race out of its condition of moral degradation, He must have no part in the evil which it was His work to put away (Hebrews 7:26). But, then, human sin was not merely actual, hut original; not merely a result of each man's separate life and responsibility, but a consequence of the withdrawal of God's first gift of righteousness after Adam's transgression. It was, in fact, a twist of the hereditary human will; it was a taint upon the native affections and intelligence of the race; it was a subtle ingredient of the common character; it was an entail from the obligations of which the generations could not of themselves hope to escape. Men have constantly resented, as they resent to-day, the very idea of such an inheritance of evil; but they act, I observe, at least in social and in public matters, upon the presumption that it is true. Man is ever upon his guard against his brother man, as if he were a disguised or a possible enemy. Society protects itself by laws against human nature, by laws which would be a superfluous and insulting libel upon it if human nature were not by instinct and originally sinful. And thus for the apparition of a Sinless Being, truly sharing in our common nature, yet absolutely free from its inheritance of evil, some striking irregularity in the transmission of natural life — some flaw, if we might say so, conspicuous and intentional — was plainly suitable, in order to mark the entrance upon the scene of human life of One who shared the inheritance of flesh and blood, without sharing the tradition of sin. This was the meaning of the Lord's Birth of a virgin mother. It was because He "became sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him," that He was in this emphatic and exclusive sense "born of a woman."

(Canon Liddon.)

The life of the family is indeed older than Christianity; it is grounded on facts and instincts of human nature. It is perhaps, in the last analysis, the product of the action of man's reason and man's conscience upon his rudimentary physical instincts. But the nature and sacredness of family life has been recognized with very different degrees of clearness in different ages and countries of the world. It has had to contend with selfish passions always threatening to break it up, and, in particular, with the widespread and degrading institution of polygamy. Those who have best understood the true well-being of our race have done their best at all times to insist upon and to uphold family life as the safeguard of pure human life, as the firmest foundation of social order. Now, when our Lord condescended to be "born of a woman," He became a member of a human family, and He bestowed upon family life the greatest consecration it has ever received since the beginning of human history, He had, indeed, no earthly father; but He was subject to His foster-father, St. Joseph, as well as to His own mother, Mary. He was subject, while yet He blessed them. In every age Christians have loved to dwell upon the picture of that incomparable home, first at Bethlehem and then at Nazareth, that home in which for a while Mary presided, and for which Joseph toiled, and in which Jesus was nursed and trained. No homestead, we may be sure, ever rivalled the moral beauties of that which was set up on this earth when the Son of God was "born of a woman." From that day to this, He has been the inspiring, regulating, combining influence in all Christian households. In the Christian faith we trace His moral authority, in .the Christian mother His tenderness and love, in the Christian child His lowly obedience.

(Canon Liddon.)

I. HERE IS THE CHARACTER OF THE PERSON SENT INTO THE WORLD. "God sent forth His Son." The phrase is of the same import, with those other expressions we meet with in Scripture (John 3:16; Hebrews 1:1). The meaning is: God having of old established several forms of religion among men, by divers ways of revelation, by discovering Himself to the patriarchs, by the delivering of the law to Moses; He did at last in mercy and compassion to mankind vouchsafe to afford them one more clear and perfect revelation of His will, by the preaching of a person of far greater excellence and authority than any before; even by His own Son. The person here declared to be sent into the world, was in a peculiar manner the Son of God. The text also implies that He was with God, in the bosom of the Father, before He was sent into the world.

II. HERE IS A DESCRIPTION OF THIS DIVINE PERSON'S CONDITION, AND HIS MANNER OF CONVERSATION IN THE WORLD — "He was made of a woman, made under the law." He was made of a woman, i.e., He became truly and really a man; not taking upon Him only the similitude of our nature, but being really and truly such; subjected to all the infirmities of human nature, and tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15; see also Hebrews 2:17).

III. HERE IS THE END AND DESIGN OF HIS COMING THUS INTO THE WORLD; set forth in the last part of the words — "To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." The same phrase the apostle again makes use of in the Epistle to the Romans (Romans 8:15). God deals not with us as a master with his servants, but as a father with his sons, requiring of us not any hard and burdensome service, but only a rational and sincere obedience. Our Lord came "to redeem them that were under the law;" i.e., to abrogate the burden. some ceremonies of the Jewish institutions; "That we might receive the adoption of sons"; i.e., that He might establish with men a new covenant, which should be most easy to observe, and most sufficient to justify those that should observe it. Most easy to observe, is this covenant of the gospel; because its precepts are not positive and carnal ordinances, but the great duties of the moral and eternal law of God. Christ has suffered for us, that we might receive the adoption of sons; but if we continue not to live virtuously as becomes the children of God, it will nothing profit us to have received this adoption. "They only who are led by the Spirit of God, are the sons of God" (Romans 8:14).

(S. Clarke, D. D.)

1. We may consider it with respect to God's fore-determination; and then it was therefore the fulness of time, because determined and foretold by the prophets. According to that ancient prediction of Jacob (Genesis 49:10), the Messiah was to appear before the total dissolution of the Jewish Government. Again; the prophecy of Malachi (Malachi 3:1), determines the coming of our Saviour to be before the destruction of the second temple. And that no less remarkable prediction of Haggai (Haggai 2:6, 7, and 9). 'Tis evident therefore that the incarnation of Christ was in the fulness of time; that is, exactly at the time foretold and fore-determined by the prophets. And indeed these prophecies were so plain, that about the time of our Lord's appearance, the Jews, and from them the Romans, and all the eastern parts of the world, were in great expectation of some extraordinary person to arise, who should be governor of the world. But —

2. Though it be evident that our Saviour came into the world in the fulness of time, viz., at the time foretold by the prophets; yet the question may still return, Why was that time determined rather than any other, and accordingly foretold by the prophets; for, without doubt, it was in itself absolutely the fittest and the properest season. Now two reasons there seem to have been more especially, of our Saviour's appearing at that time: the first is, because the insufficiency of the Jewish dispensation, as well as of natural religion, was then, after a long trial, become sufficiently apparent: apparent; not to God, who knows all things at once, and makes accordingly provision for all things from the beginning; but to men, to whom the counsel of God is opened by degrees. The second reason, why we may suppose our Savior appeared just at the time He did, was because the world was at that time by many extraordinary circumstances, peculiarly prepared for his reception. Now, about the time of our Saviour's birth, it is observable that there was a concurrence of many things in the world, to promote and further the propagation of such a religion. The Romans had then conquered almost all the known parts of the world; they had spread and settled their language among all the nations of their conquests, and had made the communication easy from one part to another. They had, moreover, improved moral philosophy to its greatest height. Further; the great improvement and increase of learning in the world about this time (according to that prophecy of Daniel, "Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased") gave occasion to the Jewish books to be dispersed through the world: and particularly the translating of the Bible some few ages before the birth of Christ into one of the then most known and universal languages upon earth, which had before been confined in a peculiar language to the Jews only, was a singular preparative to the reception of that great Prophet and Saviour of mankind, whose coming was in that book so plainly and so often foretold. Indeed this seems to have been the first step of God's discovering Himself further than by the light of nature to other nations as well as to the Jews, and of His giving the heathen also the knowledge of His revealed laws, and remarkably instrumental it afterwards appeared to be, in the propagating the Christian religion through the Gentile world.

(S. Clarke, D. D.)

Four thousand years elapsed between the giving of the promise and its fulfilment. It is natural to ask — why?

I. CONSIDER THE WISDOM AND PROPRIETY OF DELAYING THE FULFILMENT OF THE PROMISE UNTIL WHAT PAUL HERE CALLS "THE FULNESS OF THE TIME." St. Paul asserts that at any earlier period it would have been as unwise to have sent His Son into the world, as to make any young man master of his own property till he came of age.

1. At no period before "the fulness of time" would the Incarnation of Christ have been so proper, all things considered. Redemption was equally needed at all times, but taking into account Christ's doctrines, life, miracles, etc., it would have been untimely earlier. During the antediluvian age, there was no man living who could have written such an account of it as to interest future generations, and at the same time benefit those of his own time. From the Flood to the time of Moses the world's population was comparatively small and uncivilized. From the time of Moses to the prophets, the Jews required fuller instruction and discipline to fit them for Christ's teaching. During the four monarchies war was so rife that the religion of Christ would not have gained public attention; or, if it had, men would afterwards have asserted that Christianity was the invention of some political tyrant of that age.

2. In the Augustan age, when Christ did come, the world was prepared thoroughly to examine His claims, was able to appreciate His doctrines by comparison and contrast, and was in such a state as to afford facilities for the extension and propagation of Christianity.

II. CONSIDER THE MANNER OF HIS INCARNATION.

1. Christ came as a child. Fit emblem of the mission of mercy which brought Him.

2. He was born in a lowly station. No fear, then, but that the poorest and humblest are welcome to Him and to all His benefits.

3. Obedient to the law, and under its curse.

III. CONSIDER THE GREAT DESIGN OF HIS INCARNATION.

1. To redeem from the curse, not the obligation, of the law. You cannot obey the law too much, but you must look for justification to Christ alone.

2. To confer on all men the adoption of sons. We must believe this before we can feel it.

(R. Philip.)

Homiletic Magazine.
The purpose of Christ's earthly manifestation cannot have been to effect any change in God's disposition towards us, to make Him placable or propitious, for it was the fruit and issue of His love. (1 John 4:10; John 3:16).

I. THE TIMELINESS OF THE ADVENT. Every event in the unfolding of the Divine plan has its proper place. Evidence of this is not wanting in regard to the advent.

1. The proof of the world's need was complete. Philosophy and religion had been tried, and failed. Nothing remained but disappointment and despair.

2. The Jewish nation was prepared. Prophecy fulfilled. People expectant. The old system worn out.

3. The circumstances of the age were favourable. Peace. Civilization. One language.

II. THE SUBJECTION TO HUMAN CONDITIONS WHICH CHRIST'S ADVENT INVOLVED.

1. His true humanity.

(1)Identity of nature with all men.

(2)Antecedent mystery of another and higher nature.

(3)Progressive development.

(4)Completeness of sympathy.

2. His legal obedience. He submits to the yoke under which all are bound.

(Homiletic Magazine.)

A little above Niagara Falls there is a cluster of islets. The most considerable of these is called Goat Island, and between Goat Island and the shore there is a stream of some breadth, and of exceeding swiftness, crossed by a little wooden bridge. One day a man was painting that bridge, and while thus engaged he happened to miss his footing and slip into the rapids, and was carried down with terrible swiftness. Though he struggled hard to make for the shore, his struggles were all in vain; the current was far too strong for him. Down, down he went, and it seemed as if in a few moments he would take the fearful leap into the unbottomed abyss. But just as it appeared that all hope was gone, he was intercepted by a little islet of rock not very far from the edge of the precipice — you would scarcely have noticed it if you were looking casually on the stream, it was so small; it attracted attention only by the ripples the water made about it. That little islet happened to lie right in his way; it intercepted his progress, and gave him foothold and handhold for a time. There he clung, and cried out for assistance. By and by a crowd gathered on the shore, and they began to devise all sorts of means to save him. They tried one thing after another, and plan after plan failed, until at last one brave man got the idea of having a rope put round his waist; and, getting into the river at just about the place where the man entered the water, so managed to angle across the stream, and yet be carried down it, that he reached the little islet of rock, and grasped the man there with all the strength he had left. And now, firmly clasped in each other's embrace they set out back again on their perilous journey, and safely reached the shore. By this time a great crowd had gathered, and you may imagine the ringing cheer which went up from that large company when the two men came safely back. Take this story as an illustration of man's helpless condition in this world until Christ left the eternal shore to come and rescue him. If man was to be saved these six conditions must be fulfilled; and they were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

I. Some one from the shore must undertake to save him.

II. The Helper must leave the shore and come to him so that he can grasp Him. Not enough to see in the distance One who has pity; must be actual contact.

III. In order to reach him the Deliverer must come within the sweep of the law. No other way of reaching him, but through the current.

IV. The Rescuer must bear the drowning man's share of the curse of the law if He would save him. Powerless to bear the strain himself.

V. The Rescuer must have strength enough to get safely back.

VI. The Saviour and the saved must be firmly bound together. Otherwise the; strain will fall on both, and the latter will inevitably be drowned. Hence the need of faith, which is the grasp of the soul.

(J. M. Gibson, D. D.)

A doctrinal explanation of the birth and life of Christ. That event marked —

1. The world's coming of age. All pre-Christian history anticipative and preparatory.

2. The character of the new relationship opened up to men.

(1)Liberty.

(2)Divine sonship.

3. The means whereby the spiritual maturity of men is brought about.

(1)It involved self-sacrifice on the part of God.

(2)The proper human nature of man is assumed by Christ.

(3)The obligations of the law are voluntarily discharged.

(A. F. Muir, M. A.)

Trench thinks it a very remarkable fact that God's prophecies concerning the advent of His Son seem to have spread athwart the habitable globe, and in the shape of traditional echoes to have been dispersed all over the world. The poet Virgil says in one of his poems that He would soon be born into the world who would, he expected, bring in the golden age. Suetonius, an ancient historian, states that a certain and settled persuasion prevailed in the East that the cities of Judea would bring forth, about this time, a person who should obtain universal empire. And Tacitus states that it was contained in the ancient books of the Jewish priests that the East should prevail, These were scattered lights that went out from Judea, their reuniting centre, and gave the heathen an anticipation and a persuasion that some great and illustrious Deliverer was about to be born into the world.

An epitome of the scheme of redemption — an outline of the gospel plan — an abbreviating system of Christian divinity.

I. THE IMPORTANT EVENT STATED.

1. The illustrious Person spoken of.

2. This illustrious Person was divinely commissioned.

3. The nature which He assumed.

4. The obligations to Which He was liable.(1) He was subject to the ceremonial law. He was circumcised, and presented in the temple; He worshipped in the synagogues, went up to the feasts, etc.(2) He was under the moral law. He lived it; and in all He spake, and did, and thought, He honoured it. He kept it, in all its extent, perfectly. He also taught it, spiritualized and vindicated it.(3) He was under both the ceremonial and moral law in His mediatorial capacity. He was both the Victim for sin and the High Priest of our profession.

5. The peculiar period of His manifestation.(1) The time referred to by the prophets.(2) After the world had been sufficiently informed as to the event, in various ways and forms, from the first promise to the last prophecy given.(3) When all means for man's restoration had proved totally inadequate.(4) When the world was in a state of profound peace.(5) When there was a general expectation of Him, especially among the Jews.(6) At that particular time, fixed upon as the best, by the infinite wisdom of God.

II. THE GRAND ENDS CONTEMPLATED IN THESE EVENTS.

1. That we might obtain redemption.

2. That we might receive adoption.

3. That believers might thus enjoy redemption and the adoption of sons.Learn:

1. The way in which redemption has been effected.

2. The invaluable blessings it presents before us.

3. The importance of a saving, personal interest in them.

4. Exhort the guilty and perishing to believe and have life.

(J. Burns, D. D.)

I. THE TIME OF HIS COMING. He came "when the fulness of the time was come." And what time was that?

1. It was the time appointed of the Father — the time fixed for His coming in the mind and counsel of God. Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world, and even from all eternity. Nothing happens to Him by chance,

2. It was the time foretold by the prophets — those holy men of God who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

3. It was a time peculiarly suitable for His coming, and is, therefore, called the fulness of the time. It was a time when events seemed to have gradually ripened for this glorious consummation. It was a time, lastly, when His forerunner appeared to prepare His way before Him, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, and thus making ready a people prepared for the Lord. Such was the time of the Redeemer's advent.

II. CONSIDER THE MANNER OF HIS COMING. "When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law." There are here three particulars for our consideration.

1. God sent forth His Son. This expression evidently implies that the Son of God existed before He was sent forth. And does not the Scripture everywhere corroborate the truth thus implied? But where did He exist before His Divine mission? He existed with God in heaven. He was in the bosom of the Father. "I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me." Consequently, we are not to suppose, when God is here said to have sent Him forth, that it implies any inferiority of nature on the part of the Son; for "such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such, too, is the Holy Ghost."

2. The Son of God was made of a woman; and He was so made in accordance with the prophecies respecting Him.

3. He was made under the law. As a Divine person, a partaker with the Father in the Godhead, He was not subject to any law; nor as a perfectly holy man was he bound to submit to the ceremonial law, which in everything implied the sinfulness of man. Yet, for us men, and for our salvation, He humbled Himself to be made under the law. He was born of a Jewess, and was circumcised the eighth day, and thus was placed under the law as a covenant of works; that, as the surety of His people, He might in every way answer its full demands.

III. CONSIDER THE OBJECT OF HIS COMING. This was to "redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." By the law, we may here understand both the ceremonial and the moral law. And what is the adoption here spoken of? It is a blessing of which by nature we are utterly destitute; for by nature we are without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. But when does God thus adopt us? It is when we truly repent us of our past sins, and embrace by faith the method of salvation revealed in the gospel. And what are the privileges to which as adopted children we become entitled? They are numerous and important, too numerous indeed, to be here all specified.

1. The spirit of adoption, which enables us to approach God with filial confidence, and to open our whole heart before Him.

2. Heirship.

(D. Rees.)

I. THE FULNESS OF TIME.

1. Time hath a fulness, because it has a capacity (Ephesians 4:13).

2. That fulness comes by degrees. As with life so with time.

3. There is a time when time cometh to its fulness (John 7:8. cf. 12:23). In the day at the meridian; in man at full age.

4. When that "when" is. When God sends it. That which fills time is some memorable thing of God's pouring into it. Moses and the prophets filled it to a certain degree; Christ filled it to the brim. Well might it be called the fulness, for

(1)Christ was the fulness of God (Colossians 2:9; John 3:34; John 1:14-16).

(2)In Him the promises were fulfilled.

(3)The heir, the world had come to his full age, and so was ripe to receive Him its inheritance.

II. THE FILLING OF TIME.

1. From the fulness of His compassion God "sent."

2. From the fulness of His love He "sent His Son."

3. In the fulness of humility He sent Him.

(1)"Made of a woman," to make full union with our nature.

(2)"Made under the law" to make the union yet more perfectly full with our sinful condition by undertaking, at circumcision, to fulfil all the righteousness of its law (Galatians 5:8), and at His passion fulfilling all our obligations to the law (Colossians 2:14).

III. THE FULNESS OF THE BENEFIT TO US.

1. Redemption. Consider

(1)The price paid;

(2)The captives;

(3)The liberation.

2. Adoption.

(1)Prisoners translated into children;

(2)Slaves of sin into joint heirs with God's Son.

IV. THE FULNESS OF DUTY BY US. Christmas should be —

1. A time of fulness of joy; but not that only; also a time of —

2. Thankfulness to God.

3. Piety.

4. Beneficence.

(Bp. Andrewes.)

I. CHRIST CAME IN THE FULNESS OF TIME.

1. What is this?

(1)The time appointed by the Father.

(2)Fore. told by the prophets.

2. How doth it appear?

(1)From Genesis 49:10.

(2)Daniel 9:25.

(3)Haggai 2:9; Malachi 3:1.

II. CHRIST WAS SENT, THEREFORE HE HAD A BEING BEFORE. This appears from

(1)John 6:33, 51;

(2)John 1:15; John 8:58.

(3)John 1:2; Hebrews 1:2; Colossians 1:15, 16.

III. CHRIST WAS GOD'S SON.

1. He was God (Romans 9:5; 1 John 5:20).

2. This Godhead He received of the Father (John 5:26).

3. This communication was properly a generation.

IV. CHRIST WAS MADE OF A WOMAN.

1. He received His human body substantially from a woman.

2. Made, i.e., without the help of man (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23, 24; Luke 1:34, 35).Uses.

1. Information.

(1)See the infinite love of God to man.

(2)The dignity of man above all other creatures.

2. Exhortation. Be thankful for this inestimable mercy.

(1)How miserable you would be without it. Your sins unpardoned; your God unreconciled; your soul condemned.

(2)How happy by it: your person justified; your God reconciled; your souls saved. Sing with the angels (Luke 2:14).

(Bp. Beveridge.)

I. There was A THREEFOLD WORK OF PREPARATION, each portion of which demanded the lapse of a certain period.

1. The Gentile world had to he prepared.(1) Politically. A common language and social system with laws and Government were required and provided in the Greek language and the Roman Empire:(2) In religious conviction. The old religions went to pieces, and an age of vice, superstition, and unbelief supervened. The epoch of religious experiments closed in an epoch of despair.(3) In moral experience. Men saw and approved the better course and followed the worse. Consciousness of sin and weakness led them to yearn for a deliverer.

2. The Jewish world —(1) Politically was expecting change, and that Shiloh would appear.(2) Their religious convictions pointed to Him.(3) Their law was a moral preparation, "a schoolmaster to lead them to Christ."

II. WHEN THE TIME WAS FULL CHRIST CAME.

1. If we had seen Jesus in His earthly life what impression would He have produced on our unprejudiced souls?(1) We should have observed in Him a totally different relation to truth from that of every other man.

(a)There was no struggle between His will and God's law.

(b)He never sinned.

2. His nature was at harmony with itself. No one excellence is out of proportion. Contemplation and action; the desire for the public and the individual good; all that was most manly and most womanly; the Jewish, Greek, Roman types, all harmonized. The first Adam contained the whole race of his descendents; so Christ became the Head of a new race.

3. As we looked steadily we should have seen that He was God's Son, made of a woman.

III. FROM WHAT DID CHRIST COME TO DELIVER US.

1. From false views of the world and life.

2. From base and desponding views of human nature.

3. From bondage.

(Canon Liddon.)

I. WHEN ROME HAD REACHED THE ZENITH of her power and influence.

II. WHEN CIVILIZATION HAD ATTAINED HER UTMOST DEVELOPMENT.

1. Politically the world was one as it had never been before and has never been since.

2. Intellectually. Except, perhaps, the golden age of Greece, without a parallel. Cicero, Lucretius, Caesar, Pliny, Juvenal. Philosophy now in her prime.

3. Materially: every source open from which pleasure could be derived.

4. Artistically.

III. WHEN MEN HAD FATHOMED THE LOWEST DEPTHS OF DEGRADATION. The fulness of time was marked by —

1. Disgusting licentiousness.

2. Inhuman cruelty.

3. Widespread practice of suicide.

4. Blank atheism.

5. Utter despair.

(J. Macgregor, D. D.)

I. A PERIOD IN WHICH WERE MANIFEST THE BONDAGE, DEGRADATION, AND MISERY OF MAN, AND THE CORRUPTION, DECAY, AND DEATH OF NATIONS.

1. After the Flood a new term of probation was granted; but Babel became the monument of man's pride and self-will.

2. After the call of Abraham God's administration took a two-fold form:

(a)to prepare salvation for the nations;

(b)To prepare the nations for salvation.(1) To the Jews the law was given as a pedagogue to conduct them to Christ; but they lost sight of the end in the means.(2) To the Greeks were given exquisite intellectual faculties;.but these great gifts were prostituted to the basest uses.(3) To the Romans was given. the faculty for law and empire; but they became slaves of lust. The world's extremity was God's opportunity.

II. A PERIOD OF SPECIAL, SUPERNATURAL, AND DIVINE INTERVENTION AS MANIFESTED IN THE PERSON AND WORK OF CHRIST, AND THE SPIRITUAL FREEDOM AND MORAL ELEVATION OF MEN.

1. The person of Christ.

(1)His Divinity — "sent forth His Son."

(2)His humanity — "born of a woman."

(3)His nationality — "under the law."

2. The work of Christ — "to redeem, etc."

3. The kindred and representatives of Christ — "sons," whose distinctive marks are:

(1)Freedom.

(2)Spirituality.

(3)Permanancy.

(4)Hopefulness.

(Giles Hester.)

I. THE GENERAL EXPECTATION OF THE PEOPLE WHEN CHRIST CAME, as witnessed by Josephus, Suetonious, and Tacitus

II. THE STATE OF THE WORLD AT THE PERIOD.

1. The Jews.

(1)Their inordinate zeal for ceremonial.

(2)Their moral depravity.

2. The Roman empire.

(1)Its power and wealth.

(2)Its effeminacy and corruption.

3. Its hopelessness. Polytheism and philosophy had failed, and had given place to atheism and sorcery.

III. THE RESULTS THAT FLOWED FROM THE ADVENT.

1. The abolition of Judaism.

2. The extirpation of every preexisting religion and philosophy.

3. The ultimate triumph of Christianity in its effects

(1)On the individual whom it regenerated;

(2)on the race which it unified into a brotherhood;

(3)on the family which it purified and elevated

(4)on woman to whom it gave power and a sphere;

(5)on children whom it snatched from the murderer;

(6)on legislation which it humanized;

(7)on labour which it ennobled;

(8)on education whose sphere it widened;

(9)or, slavery and war whose horrors it mitigated and whose extinction it requires.

(G. Sexton, LL. D.)

I. Its TIMELINESS — "In due time" (Romans 5:6).

1. The proof of the world's need was complete.

2. God's preparation as regards the Jews had fulfilled its course.

3. The circumstances of the age were favourable.

II. CHRIST'S SUBJECTION TO HUMAN CONDITIONS WHICH IT INVOLVED.

1. His true humanity (Hebrews 2:17).

2. His legal obedience.

(J. Waite.)

I. CHRIST BECAME THE SON OF MAN THAT WE MIGHT BECOME SONS OF GOD. Christ's incarnation is —

1. The secret of His influence over us. Attraction is in proportion to nearness. Christ stooped that He might lift (Hebrews 4:15).

2. The source of His power to conquer our foes (Hebrews if. 14).

3. The ground of His atonement unto God (Hebrews 2:17).

II. CHRIST WAS MADE SUBJECT TO LAW THAT HE MIGHT FREE US FROM BONDAGE OF LAW.

1. He was born subject —

(1)To Levitical law as a Jew.

(2)To the social law — subject to His parents (Luke 2:51).

(3)To the civil law (Matthew 17:24-27).

(4)To the moral law.

2. He was subject to the penalties of the law, although Himself sinless.

(1)To the shame and trouble of the world generally.

(2)To death, the distinctive doom of sin.

3. This leads to our liberation.

(1)By facing the death-doom of this law Christ conquers this for us.

(2)By obedience to the law He triumphed over the law.

(3)By rising from obedience to the letter of the law, and the higher obedience of the spirit He leads us also to that freer service of love which is emancipation from law.

(W. J. Adeney, M. A.)

I. THE MISSION OF CHRIST, AND THE MANNER OF HIS MANIFESTATION.

1. The dignity of His person — God's Son.

2. The manner Of His manifestation.(1) Born of a woman; conceived by the Holy Ghost, Frequently noticed in Old and New Testaments (Genesis 3:18; Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; 1 Timothy 2:14, 15).(2) Made under the law; plainly implying that He was put into a situation different from that which was originally His (cf. Philippians 2:7, 8). The necessary condition of every creature is that of submission to the law of God. Christ was born of a woman that He might be made subject to that law.He was made under —

1. The ceremonial law.

2. The moral law.

3. The mediatorial law; and fulfilled all perfectly.

II. THE DESIGN OF HIS MISSION.

1. He came to accomplish that which could not be accomplished by other means or an inferior agency.

2. He came not merely to exemplify a rule of life but to satisfy its violation; not to explain the law but to bear its curse.

3. The character in which He appeared was that of a Substitute and Daysman.

4. In this character He magnified the law and procured justification for us.

5. And further, secured to us the adoption of sons.

III. THE FITNESS OF THE SEASON which God in His infinite wisdom appointed for the purpose. It was a period —

1. Foretold in prophecy, Jacob, Haggai, Daniel.

2. Of general expectation.

3. Of profoundest peace.

4. Of advanced learning and scepticism; so a time most favourable to detect imposture and to test the merits of true religion.

5. Of toleration.In conclusion:

1. The advent was the most important event in the history of the world.

2. You are all interested in it. Those who neglect it will be eternally deprived of its provisions.

(Robert Hall.)

I. WHEREIN CONSISTED THE PREPARATION OF THE FULNESS OF TIME FOR A NEW TURN IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD? There was a general sickness in the world's condition.

1. War had left its sores and scars behind.

2. Popular religion was worn out and dying.

3. The faith of Moses and Isaiah had degenerated into a discussion of dress and posture, and into a fierce fanaticism. It was the darkest period before the dawn. Men were dreaming —

(1)That a prophet would come to solve the riddle of life.

(2)That a king would appear who would establish universal monarchy.

(3)That the Golden Age would be restored.

II. WHEREIN CONSISTED THE PECULIARITY OF THE COMING OF CHRIST WHICH MADE IT THE GERM OF WHAT THERE WAS TO BE IN THE AGES FOLLOWING?

1. The evils of the world, however glittering, found their level in Christ's presence.

2. Christ revealed to man a new image of the Divine nature and a new idea of human destiny, and made both realizable.

3. All that was good in the world took courage, and was revived and assimilated and strengthened by Christ; what was true in thought, beautiful in art, just in law, were incorporated, and the organic unity of the world gave a framework into which the gospel could fit and spread without hindrance and violence.

III. WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS AND WHAT OUGHT TO BE THE EFFECTS OF CHRISTIANITY ON ITS NINETEENTH-CENTURY BIRTHDAYS?

1. As regards our manners and customs.(1) We have left behind gladiatorial games; have we learned that mercy which the humane spirit of jesus should teach us?(2) We have left behind the luxury and selfishness of Rome; but is not our extravagance in dress and living contrary to the simplicity, the plain living, and high thinking of Jesus?(3) We have left behind the foul sins of ancient heathenism; but is our conversation and our literature free from a frivolity and coarseness alien to Him who blessed the pure in heart?(4) We have left behind divisions between Pharisee and Sadducee, Greek and Barbarian; but have we not so multiplied sects and churches as to break the unity which should be in Christ?

2. As regards our outlook. Just as the advances of Roman civilization were preparations for the gospel, so the advances of modern science, etc. so far from being contrary to the gospel are means of its wider spread.

3. As regards us individually. When the fulness of time is come in joy or sorrow the one redeeming thought is that Christ has redeemed us that we might receive, etc.

(Dean Stanley.)

The phrase marks a great crisis in the history of the world. The ages flow on until they reach a certain defined boundary line, and then a new order of things is established. An apprentice is bound for a term of years; at the expiration of that period the fulness of time has come, and he obtains his freedom from service. An heir arrives at his majority and enters into the possession of freedom when he has filled with service the term fixed by his father or by the law. Boys and girls at school count the weeks which intervene between the period appointed for breaking-up, and long for the fulness of time to come that they may obtain their liberty and hasten home to see their fathers and mothers. So in the history of the world. The old order came to an end. The sand in the hour-glass ran out. It was time to put the old lesson books, the old habits, the old employments, away.

(G. Hester.)

He possessed our human nature in all its completeness — body, soul, and spirit. United to this perfect humanity was the infinite Divine nature with all its glorious perfections. The human nature is the temple, the Divine nature is the glory which dwelleth in the temple. The human nature is the cloud, the Divine nature is the sun shining through that cloud, giving light and life to the souls of men. When He spoke, His human words conveyed Divine wisdom. When He worked His miracles, His human hands were vehicles of Divine power. When He loved, His human heart was .surcharged with an infinite, changeless, and everlasting love.

(Thomas Jones.)

His eternal birth in heaven is inexpressible, where He was born without a mother; His birth on earth is inexpressible, where He was born without a father; His third birth in thy soul is most inexpressible, without father or mother. He had a heavenly birth, by which He was the Eternal Son of God, and without that He had not been a Person able to redeem thee. He had a human birth, by which He was the Son of Mary, and without that He had not been sensible of thine infirmities and necessities. But He hath a spiritual birth in thy soul, without which both His Divine and human birth are utterly unprofitable to thee, and thou art no better off than if there had never been a Son of God in heaven or a son of Mary on earth.

(Doune.)

God's law is spoken of as a fetter or chain, binding a condemned spirit unto sure and speedy punishment. And Christ Jesus is set forth as a gracious Saviour, coming with both price and power to ransom and deliver. These two parts of the figure should be considered in order. First — Here is the Divine law as a bondage or imprisonment. A principle, or power, hemming the sinful soul in and ensuring its destruction. Law — that substantial and sublime thing. Law, a cloud, presently to vanish! Ah me! it is anything else! The very word "law" means something fixed, established, immutable. And as everywhere seen in the Divine government, the thing "law" is the most permanent and immutable of all things. We observe this in regard even of the lowest physical laws of the universe, Take the law of germination — the transmission of vegetable life through the earthly flora — that Divine ordinance at creation: "That grass and herb and tree should yield seed after their kind, whose seed is in itself after its kind;" and observe with what immutable power it reigns over its broad domain. All the physical changes since creation have not abated jot or tittle of its meaning. The oak and the cedar are now in form, in development, yea, in the colour and fibre of spray and leaf, precisely the oak and the cedar of the primal Eden woodlands. And the odours we breathe in spring-time are from the same flowers that made fair and fragrant the garden when the first man walked with his Maker. And upon our thousand hills the cattle feed upon the self-same grasses that fattened the living creatures to which Adam gave names. Around every seed, as it came from the creative hand, was bound as an iron fetter that thing we call "law." All the men of the world, with all their power and skill of chemistry and magic, cannot produce a rose from a lily seed, nor a pomegranate from a fig-tree. Nor is this natural law without a mighty and merciful meaning. On its steadfastness rests the hope of creation. And from this principle in the natural, how plain the a fortiori argument for the supremacy and vindication of those laws which make up God's moral administration. A sin committed and not punished would be, in that regard, just what the imponderous rain-drop or the growth of tares from seed-corn would be in a natural world — a demonstration of the mutable and unrighteous character, both of the universal laws and their Omnipotent Lawgiver. One evil act or word, or thought, permitted unpunished; and then all such iniquities would have Divine license and sanction. Sin, the great destroyer, would spread as a deadly pestilence throughout all worlds. Yes, my hearers, law is no insignificant thing, to be broken with impunity: it is an immutable, adamantine, omnipotent ordinance, set to guard all great and universal interests — lifting itself as an impassable barrier between the domains of sin and holiness, disloyalty and love. And therefore, so long as Jehovah reigns, is never to be relaxed in one tittle of its righteous requirements, or defrauded of its full and triumphant vindication. All things made by God, from the atom in the air to the glorious archangel, were placed, at the first, and will remain to the end, inexorably "under law." And therefore the apostle, in the strong metaphor of the text, represents the condition of an ungodly man, as one around whom this immutable and everlasting law is bound as an iron fetter, and built as an adamantine prison-house, from which he cannot escape, unless by some Divine and Omnipotent deliverance. Under law! under law ! Verily language hath no more startling image than this! And this brings us to consider the other part of this apostolic figure, wherein unto the soul thus hopelessly imprisoned, Christ Jesus is represented as a deliverer, coming both with price and power to work out salvation — "to redeem! — to redeem them that were under the law." And the figure illustrates strikingly the meaning of redemption. It is something more than deliverance. Our Saviour is not represented as coming in arbitrary omnipotence to open the prison-door and preach liberty to the captive. For this were an abrogation of law, and not its vindication. But He comes to redeem men. The word is "redemption" — i.e., a buying back — not a wresting by power, but a release by purchase. It is not the advent of an armed champion to lift up his challenge at the prison-door, and to carry the stronghold by assault; but the advent of a Mediator, to satisfy every claim, and fulfil every condition of the law which is violated, extenuating nothing of the captive's guilt — disputing none of the law's demands — prepared to meet those demands in every jot and tittle; so that if it were possible to distinguish between the Divine attributes, it would be rather the justice of God than His mercy, which loosens the fetter and unbars the dungeon. "Redemption!" "Redemption!" This is the word! Such a vindication of the law in the face of the universe as strengthens the universal faith in its steadfastness! Mediation! Substitution! This is the mighty truth! Not a breaking of the law, but a fulfilling it in behalf of us! Making manifest its tremendous power even in the very act of deliverance — as in a beneficent rescue from some great natural law. Take the law of gravitation. Imagine a child, abroad on a holiday in some Alpine valley, joyously watching summer-birds, or gathering wild flowers; when suddenly, far above, some elemental agency loosens the avalanche, and downward, in awful momentum, it rushes toward the imperilled child! Now, suppose that infant could stand up in the path of that destroyer, and, putting forth its feeble hand, stop it, and roll it backward! Then, though the fond mother would exult in the deliverance, yet all human faith would be shaken in the steadfastness of the great law, and this world, and all worlds, be flung back into chaos. But instead of this, suppose at the first sound of that descending destruction, the father, thoughtful of his child, had sprung to the rescue — bounding from rock to rock, reckless of precipices and chasms — reaching the imperilled not a moment too soon, snatching it from the very jaws of death; and springing backward, bleeding, breathless, into the shelter of some adamantine cavern, had come forth when the mighty terror had gone by, bearing the beloved and saved one — then the cry of gladness filling all that stormy air, would be no more in praise of human love than of the might and majesty of that glorious thing — law! And thus is it in salvation. The claim of God's holy law is in no sense set aside or weakened! Christ Jesus, for us, bears all its penalty — fulfils all its requirements. And the universe beholds the amazing fact of substitution, assured that the righteousness of God is absolute and immutable, and exults that, even in the deliverance of the sinner, the law is magnified in the punishment of sin. These, then, are the two truths which the text's metaphor illustrates: The law an imprisonment! Christ Jesus a Redeemer. Yet each should receive at our hands its just personal application.

1. If we are impenitent and unpardoned men, let us at least consider seriously our true estate of dark and unsheltered condemnation. "You are under the law!" and as the most necessary and certain of all things, that law must be vindicated. If you will not accept of redemption as offered in Christ, yours is no part in salvation. Law — law. What a fearful thing it is in its aspects towards transgression! Even human law, weak, uncertain, mutable, imperfect — yet how its violator recoils, if it hem him in to destruction! See yonder! through the dark night hurries a trembling fugitive! That man's hands are stained with blood. In silence and solitude, with no human eye to see, he struck the fatal blow, and now on swift foot turns from the face of the dead man! But, alas for him, the avenger of blood is on his track! Law! Law! that inexorable power of retribution — with an eye that gathers evidence from a footprint in earth, or a stain in water, or a whisper in air — is following his footsteps, and will find him and lay a mighty hand on him, and bind him in iron fetters which no power can break, and consign him to dungeons whence no skill can deliver. And if human law is terrible. what think ye of Divine law? God's natural laws are fearful! You see a fair child gathering flowers on the brink of a precipice; singing its glad songs and weaving its dewy garlands, it approaches the dizzy verge! Far out, in a cleft of a rock, grows a tempting violet; the child sees it, longs for it — reaches for it — reaches too far! See, its little feet slip! and you shudder, recoil, cry out with terror! Why? Is not God merciful? Are not God's providences gracious? Yes, indeed; but even God's merciful providences are according to immutable ordinances. That child is under law. The law, that holds the universe together, and is as inexorable as its Maker, hems it in, and presses on it, and will dash it to destruction. And do you think God's moral laws are narrower in their play, or weaker in their pressure? O, ungodly man! be alarmed for yourself! You are pursuing your chosen courses under law — "under law!" You are gathering flowers of sin upon precipices, and below are unfathomed depths of indignation and anguish; and the moral law that binds into one rejoicing universe all sinless ranks of life, is over you, and around you, and pressing you down to destruction, and at the next footstep your feet may slide, and there be none to deliver! Oh, the overwhelming thought! Beings passing to immortality under law — "under law."

2. Meantime, unto the believing and penitent soul the text is full of consolation. We were under the law, but Christ hath redeemed us! Redeemed! Redeemed! Oh, what a word it is! Saved! Saved! How the very thought thrills us! A child saved from a burning house! From foundation to roof swept the red surges, hemming him in unto destruction! But right through the encircling fire rushed a strong deliverer, reckless of danger, to restore it in joyous life to the mother's loving heart! Saved! Saved! A man overboard, in a night of storm, lifting one despairing cry upon the rushing wind, and sinking, in despairing anguish, in the devouring sea! But, behold! a life-boat lowered, manned, darting like a sea-bird through the blinding spray, and strong arms outstretched to snatch the victim from the very jaws of death! Saved! saved! saved! Oh, what a word it is! And yet thus, O children of God, are you saved from the unfathomed ocean and the unquenchable fire! Saved, saved for ever! Oh, what gratitude becomes us! What consecration! What deep, adoring love!

(C. Wadsworth.).

1. The season in which this freedom or redemption was brought about: "When the fulness of the time was come," says the apostle.

2. We have the means of this deliverance, namely, Christ's incarnation and manifestation in the flesh; "God sent forth His own Son, made of a woman."

3. We have the condition in which Christ came; "made under the law." Being made flesh, He subjected himself both to the precepts and to the curse of the law.

4. The freedom and deliverance itself: "God sent forth His Son," thus qualified, "to redeem them that were under the law"; that is, to free all the elect from the curse and punishment that was due to them for the transgression of it (Galatians 3:13). And hereby also was procured to believers the adoption of sons: by which we are to understand, not only the benefit of adoption itself, which was the privilege of believers under the Old Testament as well as now under the New, but also and chiefly a clearer manifestation of that privilege, and a more free use and fruition of it. They have now a more full and plentiful measure of the Spirit. than believers had under the Old Testament dispensation.

I. THE ONLY REDEEMER OF GOD'S ELECT IS THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.

1. Consider the titles and names of our Redeemer.(1) Lord — absolute and Universal sovereign over all creatures. The government belongs to Him originally as God, and derivatively as God-Man, Mediator.(2) Jesus. No salvation but through Him.(3) Christ. Anointed to His office by the Father. Three sorts of persons were commonly anointed among the Jews — kings, priests, prophets. As oil strengthened and suppled the joints, and made them agile and fit for exercise, so it denoted a designation and fitness in a person for the function to which he was appointed.(a) It implies the Father's fitting and furnishing Him with all things necessary, that He might be a complete Redeemer to His people.(b) It implies the Father's giving Him a commission to redeem poor sinners from hell and wrath. He was invested with a fulness of authority and power for this very end. And therefore in Scripture He is said to be sealed, as having His commission under the great seal of Heaven.

2. Consider His office and work in general. He is called the Mediator, which properly signifies a midsman, that travels betwixt two persons who are at variance to reconcile them. Now, Christ is Mediator,(1) In respect of His person, being a middle person betwixt God and man, participating of both natures.(2) In respect of His office; being a middle person dealing betwixt God and man, in the offices of a Prophet, Priest, and King.

II. Our next business is to illustrate this grand truth, THAT JESUS CHRIST BEING THE ETERNAL SON OF GOD, BECAME MAN.

1. Christ is the eternal Son of God. As to the nature of this generation our Lord Himself in some measure explains it to us, so far as we are capable of apprehending the great mystery, when He tells us (John 5:26), "As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself."

2. The Son of God became man. It was not the Father, nor the Holy Ghost, that was incarnate, but the Son (John 1:14 "The Word was made flesh "). He was "God manifested in the flesh" (1 Timothy 3:16).

3. Why did it behove Christ, in order to be our Redeemer, to be God and man? He could not be our Redeemer, if He had not been both.(1) He behoved to be God, (a) That He might be able to bear the weight of the infinite wrath of God due to the elect's sins, and come out from under that heavy load (Acts 2:24).(2) That His temporary sufferings might be of infinite value, and afford full satisfaction to the law and justice of God (Hebrews 9:14). In these respects none other but one who was God could redeem us.(2) He behoved to be man,

(a)That He might be capable to suffer death (Hebrews 2:14).

(b)That the same nature which sinned might suffer (Ezekiel 18:4). "The soul that sinneth, it shall die."(3) That He might be a merciful High Priest (Hebrews 2:16, 17), and that we might have comfort and boldness of access to the throne of grace, having an High Priest of our own nature as our Intercessor there.

III. I come now to prove, THAT CHRIST IS GOD AND MAN, IN TWO DISTINCT NATURES, AND ONE PERSON. Christ is God and man by a personal union of two natures. The two natures in Christ remain distinct: the Godhead was not changed into the manhood, nor the manhood into the Godhead; for the Scripture speaks of these as distinct (Romans 1:3; 1 Peter 3:18 Hebrews 9:14), and of two wills in Christ, a human and a Divine (Luke 22:42). These natures remain still with their distinct properties, that as the Divine nature is not made finite, so neither is the human nature adorned with the Divine attributes. It is not omnipotent (2 Corinthians 13:4), nor omnipresent (John 11:15); nor omniscient (Mark 13:22, etc.) Yet are they not divided: nor is Christ two persons, but one; even as our soul and body, though distinct things, make but one person. This is clear from the text, which shows that the Son of God was made of a woman; which seeing it cannot be understood of His Divine nature, but of the human, it is plain that both natures make but one person. And elsewhere He is described as one person consisting of two natures (Romans 1:3 and Romans 9:5). And it was necessary that the natures should be distinct; because otherwise, either the Divinity would have advanced His humanity above the capacity of suffering, or His humanity depressed His Divinity below the capacity of meriting. And it was necessary that He should be one person; because otherwise His blood had not been the blood of God (Acts 20:28), nor of the Son of God (1 John 1:7), and so not of infinite value. Wherefore Christ took on Him the human nature, but not a human person. Concluding inferences:

1. The redemption of the soul is precious. Saving sinners was a greater work than making the world.

2. See here the wonderful love and grace of God, in sending His own Son to be the Redeemer of sinful men.

3. See the matchless love of the Son of God to poor sinners.

4. All who live and die out of Christ must perish. No other Mediator.

5. How highly is our nature exalted and dignified in the person of the Lord Jesus.

6. It is impious and absurd to ascribe any part of man's redemption to any other. It is dishonourable to Christ, and dangerous for men, to join anything of their own to His righteousness, in point of justification before God. The blessed Redeemer will never endure it. It reflects upon His Mediatory undertaking. If He be the only Redeemer of God's elect, then certainly there can be no other. If He hath finished that work, then there is no need of our additions. And if that work be not finished by Him, how can it be finished by men? It is simply impossible for any creature to finish that which Christ Himself could not. But men would fain be sharing with Him in this honour, which He will never endure. He is the only Saviour of sinners: and He will never divide the glory of it with us.

(T. Boston, D. D.)

1. The text asserts that "God sent forth His Son." Who is intended to be designated by the term Son, I need scarcely pause to inform you. It is that Divine Being who is elsewhere called "the Word," "who was in the beginning with God, who was God," "by whom all things were made, and without whom not any thing was made that was made."

2. God sent forth His Son, "made of a woman." The term "made of a woman" intends, as I suppose, to assert that the Son appeared on earth a human being; that He took upon Himself a human, in opposition to an angelic or any other nature. If this be true, then the Messiah possessed a perfect human constitution, endowed with all the powers and faculties belonging to such a constitution, just like any one of us. He possessed an understanding, a taste, a conscience, a will, appetites, passions, senses, just like our own, save only that they were not defiled with the stain of sin. "Wherefore He is not ashamed to call us brethren."

3. "God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law." What is the meaning of this last phrase — "made under the law"? The law spoken of here must be either the ceremonial or the moral law. The word "law" is used twice in the sentence which forms the text. In both cases it must have the same signification. It is said, in the latter clause, Christ came to redeem those who were under the law. The word here cannot mean the ceremonial law, since this exposition would restrict the blessings flowing from the atonement of Christ to the Jews, who were the only people under this law; and would also make the salvation of the gospel nothing more than a deliverance from ceremonial observances. When we say, therefore, that Christ was made under the law, we mean the moral law, that under which the human race was created, which they are bound to obey, and by which they will all be judged in the day of final account. What, then, does the apostle mean, when he declares that Christ was under the moral law? You observe that Christ was made under the law "to redeem those that are under the law." It is evident that the expression in these two places has the same signification. We cannot, then, escape the conclusion that Christ was made under the law in the same sense that we are under the law. He placed Himself under the same moral constitution as that under which the race of man was placed; or, in other words, the same as that under which Adam was originally placed in the garden of Eden. When, however, I assert this, it is proper to remark that the Messiah voluntarily placed Himself under this constitution. He was, in His Divine nature, infinitely removed from the moral law proper for human nature. The Creator cannot, from His nature, be subject to the law of the creature. He, of His own incomprehensible benevolence, placed Himself under the law which He had appointed for the creature in order to work out our redemption. After, however, the Son of God had placed Himself under the law of human nature, He became subject to it, in the same manner as that nature; that is, specially as Adam was subject to it, when he commenced his probation. He was exposed to all the consequences of disobedience, and entitled to all the rewards of obedience, just as we suppose our first parent to have been before his fall. This, however, includes several particulars, which may properly be stated somewhat more explicitly. On this part of our subject I would remark, first, He took upon himself a nature liable to sin. Were it otherwise, it would not have been a human nature, and He would neither have been under the law, nor would He have been of the seed of Abraham. Secondly. It follows, that if the Messiah had sinned, the consequences to Himself would have been the same as to any one of us. Nay, more: the plan of redemption, on which the wisdom of Omniscience had been exhausted, would have proved abortive. On this conflict, then, we may well suppose that the destinies of the universe were suspended. By the obedience of the Messiah was it to be determined whether sin or holiness should be henceforth in the ascendant.

II. Let us now survey this transaction from another point of view, and endeavour to form a conception of the life of Christ under the conditions which we have endeavoured thus imperfectly to explain.

1. Every one of us may possibly know from experience how oppressive is the weight of solemn and important responsibility. There are critical moments in the life of almost every man, when the whole colour of his destiny has been determined by a single decision. He who remembers these eras in his history needs not to be reminded of the fear and trembling with which he approached them. In the case of the Messiah, however, not temporal but eternal interests were suspended upon His decisions. It was not merely the result of His actions upon His own happiness or misery, but their result upon the happiness or misery of innumerable millions, that pressed with overwhelming anxiety upon His holy soul. It was not merely the happiness or misery of created beings, be they ever so numerous, or how largely soever susceptible of pleasure or pain; it was the honour of that holy law which, in the presence of the universe, He had undertaken to magnify, which was perilled upon the condition of His sinless obedience. And yet more: these stupendous consequences were not suspended upon a single hour, or day, or year of the Messiah's life, but upon every action, every word, every thought, every motive, throughout his whole probationary existence. Every moral bias, during His continuance under the law, was put forth under the pressure of this infinite responsibility. Again: when men are placed in circumstances of peculiar trial, they are of necessity intimately associated together. The chief actor in a momentous enterprise unites with himself others who sympathize in his motives, comprehend his plans, carry forward his designs, and who would cheerfully sacrifice their lives in behalf of the cause in which all are equally engaged. How much this tends to alleviate anxiety, and soften the pressure of otherwise intolerable care, I surely need not remind you. None of these ameliorating circumstances, however, relieved the anxieties of Jesus of Nazareth. Of all the beings who have dwelt upon our earth, none was ever so emphatically a lone man as the Messiah.

(F. Wayland, D. D.)

What is it that the Incarnation should deliver us from?

1. It delivers us from false views of the world and of life. It divides all history into two portions for the Christian — that which precedes and that which follows it. It divides the human race into two portions — that which is within the kingdom of the Incarnate Son, and that which is without it. It divides the interests of life, of thought, of work, for a downright, genuine Christian into two portions — that which bears upon and advances God's work of love in the Incarnation of His Son, and that which does not do so. When a man has once learnt really what it means — this stupendous event, the Incarnation of the Eternal Son, up to which all history leads, down from which all true human interests worthy of the name will ultimately be found to radiate — then life, work, the world, death, the future, all wear another aspect.

2. It delivers us from base and desponding views of this our human nature. Often enough we are weighed down to the very dust by a sense of weakness, of defilement, of distance from the source of sanctity and peace; and yet what must be the worth, the capacities, of these poor human powers, when retouched, when regenerated by God — this nature upon which the Eternal Son has put such high honour that He has robed Himself in it that it might become to us a channel of sanctification and grace.

3. And the Incarnation delivers us from bondage. In every Christian in whom the life of Christ really exists — in whose heart it beats, however intermittently — there is a knowledge that by union with Christ he is free. He knows he is not a slave, but a son. He knows that this filial freedom is a possession of which nothing without him can deprive him, although he may forfeit it himself — a possession of which every prayer, every act of sacrifice, every true conquest of self, enhances the value.

(Canon Liddon.)

I. REDEMPTION makes us servants, but it is but servants; adoption makes us, who are thus made servants by redemption, sons.

II. ADOPTION.

1. He that adopted another must be a man who had no children of his own. We were children of wrath, not God's children.

2. He must be a man who had had children, or naturally might have had; for a man under years or naturally disabled could not adopt. This was God's case, for by our creation we were His sons, till we died, and lost all right and means of regaining our privilege but by the way of adoption in Jesus.

3. No man might adopt an elder man than himself. God is from the beginning.

4. No man might adopt a man of better quality than himself, and here we are so far from comparing, that we cannot comprehend God's greatness and goodness.

5. No man might be adopted into any other degree of kindred, but into the name and right of a son: he could not be an adopted brother, cousin, or nephew, and this is especially our dignity. We have the spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

(J. Donne.)

is a second buying, a buying back of a thing alienated or sold. A kind of alienation had formerly been, whereby we had made away ourselves, for a sale I cannot call it, it was for such a trifle; our nature alienated in Adam for the forbidden fruit — our persons likewise; daily we ourselves alien for some trifling pleasure or profit, and when we have thus passed ourselves away, by this "selling of ourselves under sin," the law seizeth on us, and under it we are "locked up" as it were in a dungeon (Galatians 3:23), "tied fast with the cords of our sins" (Proverbs 5:22); the sentence passed on us, and we waiting but for execution. Christ got us rid from this estate. He did it, not by way of entreaty) step in and beg our pardon; that would not serve. Sold we were, and bought we must be; and it cost Him dear to pay the price. He put Himself in the place of the condemned malefactors, and died Himself to set us free. But He leaves us not here as prisoners enlarged. He brings us to the same estate as Himself, and makes us sons of God and joint heirs.

(Bishop Andrewes.)

Kennett says: "There was no custom more prevalent at Rome than adoption. The adopted person was to hold the place of a son, and to enjoy all its privileges. When a man had a mind to adopt another into his family it formed a public process in law. There was also a private ceremony, which consisted in buying the person to be adopted."

An ancient historian tells us that, at the siege of Babylon, Darius condemned to the cross three thousand captives. Another relates how, when Alexander inflicted long-threatened vengeance on Tyre, he crucified two thousand prisoners, and that crosses stood on her bloody shores thicker than ship masts in her crowded harbour. And when the Roman let fly his eagles against Jerusalem, Titus, measuring out to the Jews the measure they had meted to Jesus, gave them crosses enough, "good measure, pressed down and shaken together, and running ever." A spectator of the scenes, the dreadful tragic scenes, amid which Judah's sun set in blood for ever, tells that wood was wanting for crosses, and crosses were wanting for bodies. Yet had Babylon's, Tyre's, Jerusalem's, all these crosses been raised to save you, and on each cross of that forest, not a man, but a dying angel hung, had all heaven been crucified, here is greater love, a greater spectacle. God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

(Dr. Guthrie.)

"I, Alexander." This was what the late Emperor of Russia wrote in answer to the question, "Who is to pay all these?" One of His Majesty's aides-de-camp, who owed a great deal more than he could pay, had drawn up a list of his debts, and having in despair dashed off the above question at the foot of the paper, had fallen asleep in his chair. The Emperor, happening to pass through the room, and seeing the document, generously took up a pen and wrote, "I, Alexander," and left the room without disturbing the sleeper. When the latter awoke he found himself all at once freely released from his obligations. Unconverted reader, this is the way God freely releases you. There is no condemnation to those who accept pardon in the name of Jesus Christ, who, by His death on the cross, paid the debt we owed to justice, and now we are released debtors.

A gentleman was once passing through the auction mart of a Southern Slave State, when he noticed the tears of a little girl who was just going to be put up for sale. The other slaves of the same group did not seem to care about it, while each knock of the hammer made her shake. The kind man stopped to inquire why she alone wept. He was told that the others were used to such things, and might be glad of a change from hard, harsh homes, but that she had been brought up with much care by a good owner, and she was terrified to think who might buy her. The stranger asked her price. It was a great sum, but he paid it down. The tears fell fast on the signed parchment which her deliverer brought to prove to her her freedom. She only looked at him with fear. She had been born a slave and knew not what freedom meant. When the gentleman was gone, it began to dawn upon her what her freedom was. With the first breath she said, "I will follow him! I will follow him! I will serve him all my days," and when reasoned with against it, she only cried, "He redeemed me! He redeemed me! He redeemed me!" And so let it be with you. Serve Jesus as sinners bought back with blood, and when men notice the way you serve Him — the joy that is in your looks — the love that is in your tone, the freedom of your service, have one answer to give them: "HE REDEEMED ME!"

Most of the leading topics to be attended to, in a survey of the great doctrine of the atonement, are more or less fully stated or indicated in the text. They are these: First, the connection between the Person and the work of Christ, or between His proper Divinity and His vicarious atonement. Second, the necessity of an atonement or satisfaction, in order to the forgiveness of sin. Third, the reality and the true nature of an atonement or satisfaction as effected by the sufferings and death of Christ. And, fourth, the extent of the atonement. The first of these topics is brought before us by the ascription of the whole scheme of the salvation of fallen men to God, who sent His Son to accomplish this great object, and by the description given of Him who was sent, as being at once God's own Son and also made of a woman, having thus the Divine and human nature united. The reality of an atonement, and its true nature, and immediate object and effect, are brought out in the statement that God's Son "was made under the law," and was "sent to redeem those who were under the law;" while the last clause, viz., "that we might receive the adoption of sons," bears, though not very formally or explicitly, upon the subject of the extent of the atonement.

(Bishop Andrewes, D. D.)

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