Galatians 5:7

I. PAST ATTAINMENTS DO NOT DISPENSE WITH THE NECESSITY OF PRESENT PROGRESS. "Ye did run well." So far, so good. That was a matter el thankfulness. But it would count for nothing sgainst the unworthiness of a slackened pace. Old laurels wither. Every day has its new duties. We must not waste to-day in congratulating ourselves on the success of yesterday. The tide is against us; to rest on the oars is to be swept back. No nation can prosper on its past history if the spirit of heroism has forsaken its citizens. As Christians, we never reach the goal till we have crossed the river of death. Till then we must be ever "pressing on and bearing up," or we shall assuredly make shipwreck even after earnestly running over the longest, steepest, roughest course.

II. PAST ATTAINMENTS CONDEMN US FOR NEGLECTING PRESENT PROGRESS. We are judged by our own past selves. Our history is witness against us. The past proves that we could run well. It shows that we admitted the obligation to do so. Those who have never known Christ may plead ignorance. But they who have tasted of his grace and experienced the blessings of it and used it for some work in the Christian life, are without excuse if they turn aside at last.

III. PAST ATTAINMENTS MAKE THE NEGLECT OF PRESENT PROGRESS PECULIARLY SAD. It is melancholy to see a life rendered abortive from the first, but it is much more mournful to witness the failure of a life that began in promise and made good way towards success. All the hopes and toils and sacrifices of the past are wasted. How painful to be so near the goal and yet to give up the race; to sink within sight of the haven! Such a broken life, like a day opening in a cheerful dawn and passing through a bright noon to a dark and stormy night, is of all lives most deplorable. "Ye did run well; who did binder you" - what pathos there is in these words! Christ weft over Jerusalem sadder tears than the ruin of Sodom could call forth.

IV. WE MUST BEWARE OF THE DANGER OF NEGLECTING PRESENT PROGRESS AFTER SUCCEEDING WITH PAST ATTAINMENTS. "Who did hinder you?" There must have been new hindrances and possibly surprises and unexpected checks.

1. We must not rest satisfied with the establishment of good habits. Habits may be broken.

2. We must be prepared for new difficulties. The way that is now so smooth may become suddenly rough and stony.

"We know the anxious strife, the eternal laws,
To which the triumph of all good is given -
High sacrifice, and labour without pause,
Even to the death; else wherefore should the eye
Of man converse with immortality?"
But let us not forget that if some may hinder us there is One more mighty than all to help us. - W.F.A.







Ye did run well; who did hinder you, that ye should not obey the truth.
I. CHRISTIAN PEOPLE MUST BE RUNNERS IN THE RACE OF GOD, which teaches us —

1. That we must make haste without delay to keep God's commandments (Psalm 119:32, 60).

2. That we must increase in all good duties.

3. That we must look neither right nor left, but forward (Philippians 3:1; Luke 9:62).

4. That we must allow no man to hinder our course.

II. CHRISTIAN PEOPLE MUST NOT ONLY RUN, BUT RUN WELL.

1. The two feet by which we run are faith and a good conscience.

2. Some men are lame in one or other of their feet, and are therefore hindered.

III. CHRISTIAN PEOPLE MUST RUN FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE END, AND FINISH THEIR COURSE SO AS TO OBTAIN LIFE EVERLASTING (1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 4:7; 1 Corinthians 9:24). For which cause they must

1. Cherish a fervent desire of eternal life.

2. Maintain a daily purpose of not sinning.

(W. Perkins.)

I. THE TRUTH DEMANDS UNHINDERED OBEDIENCE.

II. HINDRANCES TO OBEDIENCE TO THE TRUTH ARE ALWAYS TO BE EXPECTED. The Galatians were too hot to last. Hindrances raise from —

1. The discovery that Christianity is a daily, practical, quiet conformity to the will of Christ, arising out of steady love to Him.

2. The use of extraordinary means to revive the pleasure of spiritual sensation or sentimentality.

3. Revived zeal for the mere external performances of religion.

4. Worldly longings and sinful habits.

5. Listening to others sneering at religion.

III. THE MOST DISASTROUS CONSEQUENCES FOLLOW UPON GIVING WAY TO SPIRITUAL HINDRANCES.

1. We lose our hold on saving truth.

2. Hindrances lead to the ruin of the soul.

IV. INCESSANT WATCHFULNESS IS NECESSARY AGAINST SUCH HINDRANCES. They may come —

1. Suddenly.

2. Insidiously.

3. Therefore be always on guard.

(Hadji.)

He only is advancing in life whose heart is getting softer, whose blood is getting warmer and brain quicker, and whose spirit is entering into living peace.

(Ruskin.)

Atlanta, according to fable, was an athletic yet charming maiden, who challenged all her suitors to run with her in the race. She offered to become the wife of the conqueror, but attached death as a penalty to failure. Many competed with her, and lost their lives. At last Hippomenes, the judge, Overcome by her charms, offered himself for the contest. Unseen, he took three golden apples, and they sprang forth from the goal, and skimmed along the sand. Hippomenes felt himself failing, and threw down one of the golden apples to detain the virgin. She, amazed, stopped to pick it up, while he shot ahead. She soon overtook him, when he threw another apple, which she stopped to get. Again she shot by him. One apple remained, which he threw to one side; and she, selfconfident or undecided, turned aside for it; and he reached the goal, and won the prize. The golden apples defeated her, as they have many others, in the race of life.

At a prayer-meeting on March 9th Mr. J. M. Scroggie said: — "At the close of an evangelistic meeting in Inverness I saw a young lady at the church door looking very sad. I spoke to her, and she told me she was a backslider. She said she was converted ten years before, and for many years enjoyed fellowship with Christ; but she began novel-reading. For awhile she read novels and the Bible side by side, but in the end the novels had the best of it, and she laid aside the Bible. She had then no desire for private prayer, and grew cold in her Christian life. She moved from the part where she was then living, and went and sat under the preaching of Dr. Black, whose earnest words showed to her that she must either give up the novels or her hope of salvation. She added, 'For some weeks I have been wretched: I pointed out to her suitable portions of God's Word, and soon the light began to dawn upon her darkened soul. She went home, fell upon her knees, and after lengthened prayer, between two anti three o'clock in the morning, she was able to thank God for restoration and joy and peace in Christ."

In the heathery turf you will often find a plant chiefly remarkable for its peculiar roots; from the main stem down to the minutest fibre, you will find them all abruptly terminate, as if shorn or bitten off, and the quaint superstition of the country people alleges, that once on a time it was a plant of singular potency for healing all sorts of maladies, and therefore the great enemy of man in his malignity bit off the roots, in which its virtues resided. The plant with this odd history is a very good emblem of many well-meaning but little-effecting people. They might be defined as radicibus praemorsis, or rather inceptis succisis. The efficacy of every good work lies in its completion, and all their good works terminate abruptly, and are left off unfinished. The devil frustrates their efficacy by cutting off their ends; their unprofitable history is made up of plans and projects, schemes of usefulness that were never gone about, and magnificent undertakings that were never carried forward; societies that were set ageing, then left to shift for themselves, and forlorn beings who for a time were taken up and instructed, and just when they were beginning to show symptoms of improvement were cast on the world again.

(James Hamilton, D. D.)

When visiting a gentleman in England, I observed a fine canary. Admiring his beauty, the gentleman replied, "Yes, he is beautiful, but he has lost; his voice. He used to be a fine singer, but I was in the habit of hanging his cage out of the window, the sparrows came around him with their incessant chirping, gradually he ceased to sing and learned their twitter, and now all that he can do is to twitter, twitter." Oh! how truly does this represent the case of many Christians; they used to delight to sing the songs of Zion, but they came into close association with those whose notes never rise so high, until at last, like the canary, they can do nothing but twitter, twitter.

(D. L. Moody.)

This disease is one which, like that fatal malady which leaves the cheek beautiful and the eye brilliant whilst it rapidly undermines the strength, may allow external appearances to continue specious and flattering, though the work of death is fast going on within.

I. SIGNS OF SPIRITUAL DECLINE.

1. Remissness in spiritual exercises.

(1)Prayer.

(2)Bible reading.

(3)Church-going.

2. Want of interest in the conversion of others.

3. Worldliness.

4. Laxness in creed.

II. THE DANGERS OF THIS STATE.

1. Difficult to restore decayed affection. If the fire be once out, almost impossible to rekindle the embers.

2. The longer any one goes on in this state, the less likely he is to retrace his steps.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

It is the insidiousness of the disease which makes it so difficult to cope with, and so likely to be fatal. The resemblance is continually forced upon us, between what our medical men call consumption, and what our theologians call spiritual declension. You know very well that the presence of consumption is often scarcely suspected, till the patient is indeed past recovery. The worm has been eating out the Core of life, and yet its ravages have been overlooked, for the victim has hardly seemed to languish, and if the hectic flush may have occasionally excited a parent's fears, they have been quickly allayed by the assurance that no pain was felt, and by the smile that seemed prophetic of life And even when no doubt could exist in the minds of others as to the presence and progress of the malady, it is, we might almost say, one symptom of the complaint, that it flatters the patient, so that often he may be expecting recovery even on the day of his death. Now this disease, so insidious, so flattering, so fatal, is the exact picture of spiritual decline. There is, indeed, one point of difference; but that only makes the moral malady the more formidable of the two. It may be hard to make the consumptive patient see his danger, but that disease is apparent enough to others; friends and neighbours, however unsuspicious at the first, become well aware of the painful truth, as disease is more and more confirmed. But where there is spiritual decline, it may be unsuspected to the last. Ministers and kinsmen may perceive no difference in the man; equally regular in the public duties of religion, equally large in his charities, equally honourable in his dealings, equally pure in his morals. The fatal symptoms may be all internal; and because they are not such as to draw observation, there may be no warning given by ethers; and the sick man, not examining himself, and not finding that his religious friends suppose his health to be on the decline, will be all the more likely to be persuaded of his safety, and to learn his disease, alas! only from his death. See to it, then, whether or not there be amongst you this spiritual cankerworm. You may find out by the symptoms already indicated, whether or not you are in any measure ceasing to "run well." But you must be honest and bold with yourselves. The case is not one for trifling. You are not to shrink from proving yourselves diseased. Go down into your hearts; try the pulse there; use the thermometer there. Stay not upon the surface, where a thousand things may preserve the appearance of animation, and induce what may pass for the glow of life and health; but descend into yourselves, search into yourselves, and be content with no evidence but that of an increasing love of God and an increasing hatred of sin.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

Christian life fitly compared to a race: soon over, and followed by a prize to the winner: a hard struggle while it lasts. But how often does one who began by running well relax his efforts and fall back! What are the causes of this — the obstacles that come in the way of Christian endeavour?

I. CORRUPT HEART. This remains even in the best. It inclines us to sin; and unless we resist the inclination, sin gets the mastery over us, and we are slaves. One bad habit, thus contracted, is enough to ruin the soul. Our only safety lies in the help of God, He "will give His Holy Spirit to them that ask Him."

II. BAD EXAMPLE. We are greatly influenced by -what we see in others. Sometimes an influence is exerted purposely to corrupt us. At school. At home. Be careful in the choice of companions. Be stedfast in doing the right, even if alone.

III. WANT OF GOOD GUIDANCE IN YOUTH. An un-favourable start is a terrible obstacle. But God will bestow His blessing on those "who love and fear Him, wherever their lot has cast them.

(R. D. B. Rawnsley, M. A.)

1. A Christian life is like a course or race from earth to heaven by the way of holiness and all commanded duties, especially the exercise of faith and love; therefore we ought to carry, ourselves as those who run in a race.

2. It is very ordinary for new converts to be carried on with a greater measure of affection and zeal, and to make swifter progress than others, or they themselves afterwards, when they are of older standing; the newness of the thing, the first edge which is upon their affections, not yet blunted by change of cases and multiplicity of duties, and God's restraining for a time the violent assault of multiplied furious temptations until they be a little confirmed and engaged in His way, together with His affording a more plentiful measure of His sensible presence at first than afterwards, all contribute to this.

3. As those who once made good progress in the ways of God may afterwards sit up, their after-carriage proving no ways answerable to their promising beginnings; so, when it thus happens, it is matter of sad regret to beholders, and of deserved reproof to the persons themselves.

4. No satisfactory reason can be given for which any, who has once entered the way of truth and holiness, should alter his course, halt in it, or make defection from it, and thereby cause the ways of God to be evil spoken of (2 Peter 2:2).

5. When people fall remiss and lazy in giving obedience to known truth, they are upon the very brink and precipice of defection into contrary error, and of apostasy from the very profession of truth.

6. The serious consideration of a man's former forwardness in the ways of God, and how little reason can be given for his present backsliding and remissness, is a strong incitement to do the first works, and by future diligence to regain "what he has lost by his former negligence.

(James Fergusson.)

What are the conditions which alone could frustrate the progress upon a river of a strong man and an expert rower, placed in a good and swift boat, and furnished with oars? Such an one might either not use the oars at all, or use only one of them; the result in each case would be practically much the same. In both cases the boat would drift with the stream; the only difference would be that, when one oar was vigorously applied, the boat, in addition to drifting, would move round and round in a circle, and might perhaps for a while mock the rower by the semblance of progress. In spiritual things there are those who are utterly careless and godless — dead alike to the claims of religion and to its hopes. These are they who, launched upon the stream of life, quietly drift down it, giving no thought to the life which is to come after, and seeking only to gather the few perishable flowers which grow upon the brink. And, among persons of more serious mind, there are those who are willing indeed that Christ should do all for them, but have never surrendered themselves to Him to be and do all that He requires. And there are those, on the other hand, who have surrendered the will to Christ, and are making efforts to obey Him; but because they perceive not this simple truth, that they cannot sanctify themselves, that sanctification from first to last, like justification, must be wrought for us by Him, — are constantly met by failures and disappointments, which a simple trust in Him to do all for them can alone remedy. Both these last are they who are rowing with one oar, moving indeed, but moving in a circle, and coming round always to the same point from which they started — deluding themselves for a while by the very fact of their motion with the idea that they are progressing, and often bitterly complaining, as soon as they are undeceived, that they are making no way. And, finally, there are those who are equally well contented to give all to Christ which they have to give (that is, their will), and to take all from Him which He has to give — sanctification and wisdom, as well as righteousness — who in one and the same act of faith have renounced both self-will and self-distrust. These are they who are rowing with two oars, and so realizing a true progress towards that haven where they would be. Show me a man who is both giving to Christ all he has to give, i.e., his will, and at the same time taking from Christ all Christ has to give, which is a perfect salvation from Sin's guilt, power, and consequences; and I will show you a man who is growing in grace, and advancing daily in meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light. And if we find ourselves not thus growing and advancing, and yet are certainly well-disposed persons of some seriousness of mind, it is, no doubt, that we are endeavouring to push the boat forward with only one of the oars, to reach that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord, with trust in Christ alone, or with self-surrender alone. Apply the other oar simultaneously, and the bark shall at once begin to cleave the water, as an arrow cleaves the air, straight forward.

(Dean Goulburn.)

The leopard does not run after his prey like other beasts, but pursues it by leaping; and if at three or four jumps he cannot seize it, for very indignation he gives over the chase. They are some who, if they cannot leap into heaven by a few good works, will even let it alone; as if it were to be ascended by leaping, not by climbing. But they are most unwise, who, having got up many rounds of Jacob's ladder, and finding difficulties in some of the uppermost — whether a-wrestling with assaults and troubles, or looking down upon their old allurements — even fairly descend with Demas, and allow others to take heaven.

(T. Adams.)

Many are soon engaged in holy duties, easily persuaded to take up a profession of religion — and as easily persuaded to lay it down: like the new moon which shines a little in the first part of the night, but is down before half the night be gone; lightsome professors in their youth, whose old age is wrapped up in thick darkness of sin and wickedness.

(W. Gurnall.)What congregation cannot show some who have outlived their profession? Not unlike the silkworm which, they say, after all her spinning, works herself out of her bottom, and becomes a common fly. As the disciples said of the literal temple, "See what manner of stones are here," so we once said of the spiritual temple; but now, not one stone upon another.

(W. Gurnall.)

Backsliding is the act of turning from the path of duty. It may be considered as —

1. Partial, when applied to true believers, who do not backslide with the whole bent of their will.

2. Voluntary, when applied to those who, after professing to know the truth, wilfully turn from it and live in the practice of sin.

3. Final, when the mind is given up to judicial hardness. Partial backsliding must be distinguished from hypocrisy, as the former may exist when there are gracious intentions on the whole; but the latter is a studied profession of appearing to be what we are not.

(C. Buck.)

Among the evidences of backsliding are these —

1. Indifference to prayer and self-examination.

2. Trifling or unprofitable conversation.

3. Neglect of public ordinances.

4. Shunning the people of God.

5. Associating with the world.

6. Neglect of the Bible.

7. Gross immorality.

(C. Buck.)

We warn you against little concessions, little acquiescences, little indulgences, little conformities. Each may only destroy the millionth part of the velocity; but this destruction of a millionth has only to be perpetually repeated, and the planet's march is arrested, and its lustre is quenched. If vital religion be driven out of the soul, it will be as the Canaanites were to be driven before the Israelites, "by little and little."

(H. Melvill, B. D.)At Preston, at Malines, at many such places, the lines go gently asunder; so fine is the angle, that at first the paths are almost parallel, and it seems of small moment which you select. But a little farther one turns a corner, or dives into a tunnel; and, now that the speed is full, the angle opens up, and, at the rate of a mile a minute, the divided convoy flies asunder; one passenger is on the way to Italy, another to the swamps of Holland; one will step out in London, the other in the Irish Channel. It is not enough that you look for the better country; you must keep the way; and a small deviation may send you entirely wrong.

(J. Hamilton, D. D.)

Nay, sometimes those motions in natural men under the gospel may be more quick, and warm, and violent for a time than the natural motion of this habit; as the motion of a stone out of a sling is quicker than that of life, but faints by degrees, because it is from a source impressed, not implanted and inherent in the nature. They are just like water heated by the fire, which has a fit of warmth, and may heat other things; but though you should heat it a thousand times, the quality not being natural, will vanish, and the water return to its former coldness. But the new heart being in the new creature causes him to walk in the statutes of God, not by fits and starts, but with an uniform and harmonious motion.

(S. Charnock.)

(1) Worldliness: — Mrs. Hannah More once took Dr. Sprague to her window to show him what she called her Moral Prospect. Not far from her house was a little clump of trees and bushes, covering a few yards of ground. At some considerable distance was a little forest covering some acres. If one would place this small cluster between him and the larger, the latter was quite hidden from view. "So," said Mrs. More, "the things of time being near, seem great, and so hide from our view the things of eternity."

(Rev. Dr. Plumer.)(2) Evil company: — Saphronius, a wise teacher, would not suffer even his grown-up sons and daughters to associate with those whose character was not pure and upright. "Dear father," said the gentle Eulalia to him one day, when he forbade her, in company with her brother, to visit the volatile Lucinda, — "dear father, you must think us very childish if you imagine that we should be exposed to danger by it." The father took in silence a dead coal from the hearth, and reached it to his daughter. "It will not burn you, my child; take it." Eulalia did so, and behold! her beautiful white hand was soiled and blackened, and, as it chanced, her white dress also. "We cannot be too careful in handling coals," said Eulaiia, in vexation. "Yes, truly," said the father. "You see, my child, the coals, even if they do not burn, blacken; so it is with the company of the vicious."

(From the German.)(3) Neglect of prayer: — When a pump is frequently used, but little pains are necessary to obtain water; it flows out at the first stroke, because the water is high. But if the pump has not been used for a long time the water gets low, and, when it is wanted, you must pump a great while, and the stream only comes after great efforts. And so it is with prayer: if we are instant in it and faithful in it, every little circumstance awakens the disposition to pray, and desires and words are always ready. But if we neglect prayer, it is difficult for us to pray, for the water in the well gets low.

(Felix Neff.)(4) Unsubdued sins: — "The horse that draws its halter with it," says the proverb, "is only half escaped; " so long as any remnant of a sinful habit remains in us, we make but an idle boast of our liberty; we may be caught, and by that which we drag with us. True and seasonable is the remark of Adams of Puritan times — "He who will not be a mortified saint on earth shall never be a glorified saint in heaven."

(C. Nell.)(5) Unworthy trifles: — A lost pound of candy delayed a train crowded with passengers for a considerable time on June 24th, at New London, U.S. Just as the special train was about to start, a well-dressed young man went to- the guard and asked him if he would delay his train a few minutes while he went for a valuable package he had mislaid. He replied, "I will," and kindly waited. The young man sped on his mission and returned without finding his package. The guard then gave the signal to start. Thinking there might have been Government bonds or priceless jewels in the missing package, he asked the young man what was in it, that he might aid him in recovering it. At first the young man declined to answer, but he finally replied, "A pound of French candy." The guard's chagrin at having lost time and hindered over fifty passengers for so trifling a cause may be imagined.

Never censure indiscriminately; admit and praise that which is good, that you may the more effectually rebuke the evil. Paul did not hesitate to praise the Galatians, and say, "Ye did run well." It is a source of much pleasure to see saints running well. To do this they must run in the right road, straight forward, perseveringly, at the top of their pace, with their eye on Christ, etc. It is a great grief when such are hindered or put off the road. The way is the truth, and the running is obedience; men are hindered when they cease to obey the truth. It may be helpful to try and find out who has hindered us in our race.

1. WE SHALL USE THE TEXT IN REFERENCE TO HINDERED BELIEVERS.

I. You are evidently hindered.

(1)You are not so loving and zealous as you were.

(2)You are quitting the old faith for new notions.

(3)You are losing your first joy and peace.

(4)You are not now leaving the world and self behind.

(5)You are not now abiding all the day with your Lord.

2. Who has hindered you?

(1)Did I do it? Pray, then, for your minister.

(2)Did your fellow-members do it? You ought to have been proof against them; they could not have intended it. Pray for them.

(3)Did the world do it? Why so much in it?

(4)Did the devil do it? Resist him.

(5)Did you not do it yourself? This is highly probable.

(a)Did you not overload yourself with worldly care?

(b)did you not indulge carnal ease?

(c)Did you not by pride become self-satisfied?

(d)Did you not neglect prayer, Bible reading, the public means of grace, the Lord's Table, etc.? Mend your ways, and do not hinder your own soul.

(e)Did not false teachers do it, as in the case of the Galatians? If so, quit them at once, and listen only to the gospel of Christ.

3. You must look to it, and mend your pace.

(1)Your loss has been already great. You might by this time have been far on upon the road.

(2)Your natural tendency will be to slacken still more.

(3)Your danger is great of being overtaken by error and sin.

(4)Your death would come of ceasing to obey the truth.

(5)Your wisdom is to cry for help, that you may run aright.

II. WE SHALL USE THE TEXT IN REFERENCE TO DELAYING SINNERS.

1. You have sometimes been set a-running.

(1)God has blessed His Word to your arousing.

(2)God has not yet given you up; this is evident.

(3)God's way of salvation still lies open before you;

2. What has hindered you?

(1)Self-righteousness and trust in yourself?

(2)Carelessness, procrastination, and neglect?

(3)Love of self-indulgence, or the secret practice of pleasurable sins?

(4)Frivolous, sceptical, or wicked companions?

(5)Unbelief and mistrust of God's mercy?

3. The worst evils will come of being hindered.

(1)Those who will not obey truth will become the dupes of lies.

(2)Truth not obeyed is disobeyed, and so sin is multiplied.

(3)Truth disregarded becomes an accuser, and its witness secures our condemnation.Conclusion:

1. God have mercy on hinderers. We must rebuke them.

2. God have mercy on the hindered. We would arouse them.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Christian.
Cecil says that some adopt the Indian maxim, that it is better to walk than to run, and better to stand than to walk, and better to sit than to stand, and better to lie than to sit. Such is not the teaching of the gospel. It is a good thing to be walking in the ways of God, but it is better to be running — making real and visible progress, day by day advancing in experience and attainments. David likens the sun to a strong man rejoicing to run a race; not dreading it and shrinking back from it, but delighting in the opportunity of putting forth all his powers. Who so runs, runs well.

(The Christian.)

The Christian race is by no means easy. We are so let and hindered in running "the race that is set before us," because of —

1. Our sinful nature still remaining in the holiest saints.

2. Some easily-besetting sin (Hebrews 12:1).

3. The entanglements of the world, like heavy and close-fitting garments, impeding the racer's speed.

4. Our weakness and infirmity, soon tired and exhausted, when the race is long or the road is rough.

(G. S. Bowes.)

P.
It is possible that fellow-professors may hinder. We are often obliged to accommodate our pace to that of our fellow-travellers. If they are laggards we are very likely to be so too. We are apt to sleep as do others. We are stimulated or depressed, urged on or held back, by those with whom we are associated in Christian fellowship. There is still greater reason to fear that in many cases worldly friends and companions are the hinderers. Indeed, they can be nothing else. None can help us in the race but those who are themselves running it; all others must hinder. Let a Christian form an intimate friendship with an ungodly person, and from that moment all progress is stayed; he must go back; for when his companion is going in the opposite direction, how can he walk with him except by turning his back upon the path which he has formerly trodden?

(P.)

"Sailing from Cuba, we thought we had gained sixty miles one day in our course; but at the next observation we found we had lost more than thirty. It was an under-current. The ship had been going forward by the wind, but going back by the current." So a man's course in religion may often seem to be right and pro. gressive, but the under-current of his besetting sins is driving him the very contrary way to what he thinks.

(Cheever.)

I propose to discuss some of those causes which prevent growth and development of religious life. I shall not stop to illustrate the evil influences of overt and known wickedness. I shall select, therefore, only some less apparent, but nevertheless influential causes which produce barrenness in Christian life. Let me say, preliminarily, that there are a great many persons who seem to need no special religious teachings, for one of two opposite reasons. There is one class who are so evenly adjusted in their faculties, so well balanced in mind constitutionally, and who from birth are so Christianly educated, and who are so genially affected by parents, friends, and social connections, and who have all the appointments of society so fitted round about them, that when they become Christians their life seems to be a tranquil and almost unresisting progress. Then there is another large class to whom I do not speak particularly, namely, those persons who have — I know not how, and they know not how — made a profession of religion; — I know not why, and they know not why; — but still they have done it, and are in the Church; and that is about the whole of it. Other people have their difficulties about prayer; they have none, for they do not pray. Other people have their difficulties about the sacred Scriptures; they do not read the Scriptures enough to be troubled by them. The Bible seldom troubles people who do not meddle with it. Other people have their temptations; they have none that they recognize as such. They have temptations, but they yield so easily to them that they are not disturbed by them. Those who have no religious conscience, and whose life is one of quiet compliance with circumstances as they are — it is not particularly to such that I speak to-day. The third class — which is the great middle class — consists of persons who are professedly Christian people, but who have great and almost unceasing religious difficulties.

I. The want of general technical religious culture is one obvious cause of confusion and distress. Men may enjoy little for the very same reason that some farmers reap little — because they sow little and till little. This is the natural poverty which comes from the want of religious thrift. The tendency of our age and nation is particularly to external activity, not to internal meditations. This excessive activity carries us away, and exhausts our susceptibility. How can it be-but that Christians should be weak, when there is so much to stimulate, and so little to feed them?

II. But, secondly, the endeavours which men are continually making to live a religious life while using only a part of their natures, will explain a great many difficulties which Christians experience. It is to be assumed that man is a symmetrical being in his Divinely created nature; that every part of that nature was needed, or God would not have given it, and that no man can become what God meant, who does not develop every part of himself according to the spirit of Christianity. To take every faculty or power God has given you, and bring it under Divine influences, and make it act right — that is being a Christian; and all partialisms, by just so much as they are partialisms, are, therefore, misunderstandings or misappropriations of Christian truth. Let us specify a few. First, our religion must always aim at a good and healthy condition of the body. Health is a Christian grace. It is the mother of almost all the Christian graces; so much so that in respect of multitudes, although it is not difficult for them to exercise Christian graces when they are perfectly healthy, it is almost impossible for them to do it when they are not healthy. What they supposed to be an infernal temptation was the protest of nature in themselves. Our appetites and passions are all of them to be controlled, used, sanctified — not killed. So all our social affections must be used, Christianized, and made to be a part of our Christian life. They are not to be regarded as alternatives, but as parts of true Christian experience. It is sometimes said that we are to distinguish between the natural affections and the gracious ones. I do not know of any gracious affections that are not natural ones. Natural affections, rightly directed, become, by that very rectitude, gracious. Your store, your office, your shop, your family, your neighbourhood, the street — these are not so many things that you must resist for the sake of grace. On the contrary, you must deal with them as the means of grace.

III. Thirdly, men are left in an ungrowing and barren state from an ignorance of the various influences or instruments by which religious feeling may be cultivated. Let me mention a few of those things which observation and experience have taught me to be instrumental in promoting religious feeling. I have mentioned already, and shall mention again only for the sake of completeness, secret religious exercise, as one of the things that promote Christian feeling. I will mention, next, sympathy with other minds. I have never seen a tree whose leaves sung, unless, somehow, the wind was caused to play among them; but the leaves of any tree will sing when the wind does play through them. And there are a great many hearts that do not sing because nothing moves them to sing. Then there are some persons who seem so constituted that their religious feelings almost never flow so readily as when they act for other people. They are persons of great constitutional benevolence. They make benevolence their conscience. When they go forth into life, benevolence is their guiding principle. Such persons oftentimes say, "I never can have deep religious feelings by ordinary means; but when such a man was in trouble, and told me of the wants of his family — his wife and children — and I took my hat and went home with him, and mingled my tears with theirs, it did seem as if I was not a hand-breadth from heaven. I never had such a sense of the goodness of God as I had then." Probably you were never so near like God as you were then. No wonder you felt near Him. You are not far from Him when you get so near Him as to give your time and energies for the good of His needy creatures. There are many persons who are very little affected by social sympathy, or music, or art, or any of the other influences to which I have referred, but who would be amazingly lifted up if they could have certain doubts which they have concerning their religious safety purged away. Oh, how many different ways there are by which God comes into the soul! The great God, so prolific of thought, so endless in diversity of function, has a million ways by which to express Himself. He, in His power, works on the soul, not through one thing alone — not alone through steeple, nor meetinghouse, nor lecture-room, nor closet, though often and much through these; but through all things — through the heavenly bodies, and animals, and insects, and worms, and clouds, and mountains, and oceans, and rivers, and the productions of the earth; and not by these only, but by everything that affects man's comfort and happiness in this life — by store and anvil, and plane and saw, and hospital and poor-house, and music and forms of beauty, and sweet feelings and trials, and sufferings and victories over temptation, and light and darkness, and joy and sorrow, and ten thousand unnameable subtle influences that touch the human soul; by all these God reveals His greatness and goodness to us, that He may win us to Himself, and make us heirs of immortality; and, blessed be His name, not to us alone who are here, but to every one, everywhere!

(H. W. Beecher.)

To obey the truth is to feel and act agreeably to it. It implies such a state of the heart, and such a comformation of conduct, as comports with the nature of the things revealed and believed. As, for example, the truth relates in part to the character of God, which it represents to be infinitely excellent and amiable. To obey that truth is to admire and love the Divine character, for those are the feelings appropriate to it. Is it the greatness of God that is the object of contemplation? The duty is veneration. Is it His sovereignty? The duty is submission. Is it His law? The duty is compliance with all its requisitions. Does the truth relate to the subject of sin? Then the duty is repentance. Does it relate to the Saviour? The duty is faith and trust in Him. We may learn hence the high importance, yea, necessity of apprehending and believing the truth. It cannot otherwise be obeyed. Obedience to truth not known or not credited is impossible. We may learn also the insignificance and worthlessness of mere faith and knowledge. To believe there is a God and not love Him; to have a knowledge of Christ, without trust in Him, or of sin without repenting of it, what is that worth? The obedience of the truth is religion. There can be no better definition of it, unless it be one which we find in Scriptures, viz., this "faith that worketh by love." There is no other religion worth anything, or availing aught,but that which answers to this description. The obedience of error is not religion, nor is the belief of truth religion. Sincerity is not religion, nor is orthodoxy, but the obedience of the truth. To obey the truth is not anything that can be done at once, or that requires to be done only at stated periods. Religion is not a job, which, being done, there is an end of it; not a mere arrears to be paid up, or a mere score to be wiped off. The truth must be perseveringly obeyed. There is such a thing (would there were not) as declension in religion. The Galatians declined. Paul heard of it, and wrote to them on the subject. How melancholy it is that men should turn away from God, that they should grow worse, as they get nearer the grave and the judgment! If we see no indications of declension in you, yet He who sees not as man sees may. In some of you, however, even we do see them. There is a visible diminution of interest in the things of religion. And I ask you, professor of religion, what it was that hindered you. What first drew you away; how did this declension commence; and where did it commence, and how did it first manifest itself? What sin did you fall into, what duty omit, what was it that you suffered yourself to become inordinately attached to? And you who neither profess nor possess religion, I ask you what hindered you from becoming a penitent disciple of Christ at that time to which I have alluded. Although the hindrance in every case is not precisely the same, yet there is a passage of Scripture which is applicable to every case. "A deceived heart hath turned him aside." Whenever one either totally or partially departs from the living God, it is because of an evil heart of unbelief that is in him. And there is another passage which applies perhaps to every case of defection. "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world." That phrase, the "world," is a very comprehensive one. It includes everything which may be preferred to God. It includes persons and things. It comprehends profit, pleasure, and honour; your business, your profession, your family. One loves the world in this aspect of it, another in that. In what shape or phase of it, it drew away and destroyed Demas, I do not know. By what one of its many chains it binds you, I cannot tell; perhaps by one of such delicate materials, and so finely drawn, that it is scarcely, if at all, perceptible.

(W. Nevins, D. D.)

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