John Calvin (1509-1564) – Epistle of James

James
By
John Calvin (1509-1564)
Copyright – Public Domain

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JAMES

THE ARGUMENT

It appears from the writings of Jerome and Eusebius, that this Epistle was not formerly received by many Churches without opposition. There are also at this day some who do not think it entitled to authority. I, however, am inclined to receive it without controversy, because I see no just cause for rejecting it. For what seems in the second chapter to be inconsistent with the doctrine of free justification, we shall easily explain in its own place. Though he seems more sparing in proclaiming the grace of Christ than it behooved an Apostle to be, it is not surely required of all to handle the same arguments. The writings of Solomon differ much from those of David; while the former was intent on forming the outward man and teaching the precepts of civil life, the latter spoke continually of the spiritual worship of God, peace of conscience, God’s mercy and gratuitous promise of salvation. But this diversity should not make us to approve of one, and to condemn the other. Besides, among the evangelists themselves there is so much difference in setting forth the power of Christ, that the other three, compared with John, have hardly sparks of that full brightness which appears so conspicuous in him, and yet we commend them all alike.

It is enough to make men to receive this Epistle, that it contains nothing unworthy of an Apostle of Christ. It is indeed full of instruction on various subjects, the benefit of which extends to every part of the Christian life; for there are here remarkable passages on patience, prayer to God, the excellency and fruit of heavenly truth, humility, holy duties, the restraining of the tongue, the cultivation of peace, the repressing of lusts, the contempt of the world, and the like things, which we shall separately discuss in their own places.

But as to the author, there is somewhat more reason for doubting. It is indeed certain that he was not the Son of Zebedee, for Herod killed him shortly after our Lord’s resurrection. The ancients are nearly unanimous in thinking that he was one of the disciples named Oblias and a relative of Christ, who was set over the Church at Jerusalem; and they supposed him to have been the person whom Paul mentioned with Peter and John, who he says were deemed pillars, (Gal 2:9.) But that one of the disciples was mentioned as one of the three pillars, and thus exalted above the other Apostles, does not seem to me probable. I am therefore rather inclined to the conjecture, that he of whom Paul speaks was the son of Alpheus. I do not yet deny that another was the ruler of the Church at Jerusalem, and one indeed from the college of the disciples; for the Apostles were not tied to any particular place. But whether of the two was the writer of this Epistle, it is not for me to say. That Oblias was actually a man of great authority among the Jews, appears even from this, that as he had been cruelly put to death by the faction of an ungodly chief-priest, Josephus hesitated not to impute the destruction of the city in part to his death.

James 1:1

1 To the twelve tribes. When the ten tribes were banished, the Assyrian king placed them in different parts. Afterwards, as it usually happens in the revolutions of kingdoms (such as then took place,) it is very probable that they moved here and there in all directions. And the Jews had been scattered almost unto all quarters of the world. He then wrote and exhorted all those whom he could not personally address, because they had been scattered far and wide. But that he speaks not of the grace of Christ and of faith in him, the reason seems to be this, because he addressed those who had already been rightly taught by others; so that they had need, not so much of doctrine, as of the goads of exhortations. (98)

(98) The salutation is peculiar; but in the same form with the letter sent to Antioch by the Apostles, (of whom James was one,) and the church at Jerusalem, Act 15:23. It is therefore apostolic, although adopted from a form commonly used by the heathen writers. See Act 23:26. John in Joh 2:10 and Joh 2:11 uses the verb χαίρειν in a similar sense; and it means properly to rejoice. It being an infinitive, the verb λέγω, to say or to bid, is put before it by John, and is evidently understood here. Hence the salutation may thus be rendered, —

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, bids, (or sends, or wishes) joy to the twelve tribes who are in their dispersion.”

There had been an eastern and a western dispersion, the first at the Assyrian and Babylonian captivity, and the second during the predominancy of the Grecian power, which commenced with Alexander the Great. As this epistle was written in Greek, it was no doubt intended more especially for those of the latter dispersion. But the benefit of the eastern dispersion was soon consulted, as the very first version of the New Testament was made into this language, that is, the Syriac; and this was done at the beginning of the second century.

James 1:2

2 All joy. The first exhortation is, to bear trials with a cheerful mind. And it was especially necessary at that time to comfort the Jews, almost overwhelmed as they were with troubles. For the very name of the nation was so infamous, that they were hated and despised by all people wherever they went; and their condition as Christians rendered them still more miserable, because they held their own nation as their most inveterate enemies. At the same time, this consolation was not so suited to one time, but that it is always useful to believers, whose life is a constant warfare on earth.

But that we may know more fully what he means, we must doubtless take temptations or trials as including all adverse things; and they are so called, because they are the tests of our obedience to God. He bids the faithful, while exercised with these, to rejoice; and that not only when they fall into one temptation, but into many, not only of one kind, but of various kinds. And doubtless, since they serve to mortify our flesh, as the vices of the flesh continually shoot up in us, so they must necessarily be often repeated. Besides, as we labor under diseases, so it is no wonder that different remedies are applied to remove them.

The Lord then afflicts us in various ways, because ambition, avarice, envy, gluttony, intemperance, excessive love of the world, and the innumerable lusts in which we abound, cannot be cured by the same medicine.

When he bids us to count it all joy, it is the same as though he had said, that temptations ought to be so deemed as gain, as to be regarded as occasions of joy. He means, in short, that there is nothing in afflictions which ought to disturb our joy. And thus, he not only commands us to bear adversities calmly, and with an even mind, but shews us that this is a reason why the faithful should rejoice when pressed down by them.

It is, indeed, certain, that all the senses of our nature are so formed, that every trial produces in us grief and sorrow; and no one of us can so far divest himself of his nature as not to grieve and be sorrowful whenever he feels any evil. But this does not prevent the children of God to rise, by the guidance of the Spirit, above the sorrow of the flesh. Hence it is, that in the midst of trouble they cease not to rejoice.

James 1:3

3 Knowing this, that the trying. We now see why he called adversities trials or temptations, even because they serve to try our faith. And there is here a reason given to confirm the last sentence. For it might, on the other hand, be objected, “How comes it, that we judge that sweet which to the sense is bitter?” He then shews by the effect that we ought to rejoice in afflictions, because they produce fruit that ought to be highly valued, even patience. If God then provides for our salvation, he affords us an occasion of rejoicing. Peter uses a similar argument at the beginning of his first Epistle, “That the trial of your faith, more precious than gold, may be,” etc. [1Pe 1:7.] We certainly dread diseases, and want, and exile, and prison, and reproach, and death, because we regard them as evils; but when we understand that they are turned through God’s kindness unto helps and aids to our salvation, it is ingratitude to murmur, and not willingly to submit to be thus paternally dealt with.

Paul says, in Rom 5:3, that we are to glory in tribulations; and James says here, that we are to rejoice. “We glory,” says Paul, “in tribulations, knowing that tribulation worketh patience.” What immediately follows seems contrary to the words of James; for he mentions probation in the third place, as the effect of patience, which is here put first as though it were the cause. But the solution is obvious; the word there has an active, but here a passive meaning. Probation or trial is said by James to produce patience; for were not God to try us, but leave us free from trouble, there would be no patience, which is no other thing than fortitude of mind in bearing evils. But Paul means, that while by enduring we conquer evils, we experience how much God’s help avails in necessities; for then the truth of God is as it were in reality manifested to us. Hence it comes that we dare to entertain more hope as to futurity; for the truth of God, known by experience, is more fully believed by us. Hence Paul teaches that by such a probation, that is, by such an experience of divine grace, hope is produced, not that hope then only begins, but that it increases and is confirmed. But both mean, that tribulation is the means by which patience is produced.

Moreover, the minds of men are not so formed by nature, that affliction of itself produces patience in them. But Paul and Peter regard not so much the nature of men as the providence of God through which it comes, that the faithful learn patience from troubles; for the ungodly are thereby more and more provoked to madness, as the example of Pharaoh proves. (99)

(99) The word used by James is δοχίμιον, trial, the act of testing, and by Paul δοχιμὴ, the result of testing, experience. James speaks of probation, and Paul of the experience gained thereby.

James 1:4

4 But let patience have her perfect work. As boldness and courage often appear in us and soon fail, he therefore requires perseverance. “Real patience,” he says, “is that which endures to the end.” For work here means the effort not only to overcome in one contest, but to persevere through life. His perfection may also be referred to the sincerity of the soul, that men ought willingly and not feignedly to submit to God; but as the word work is added, I prefer to explain it of constancy. For there are many, as we have said, who shew at first an heroic greatness, and shortly after grow weary and faint. He therefore bids those who would be perfect and entire, (100) to persevere to the end. But what he means by these two words, he afterwards explains of those who fail not, or become not wearied: for they, who being overcome as to patience, be broken down, must, by degrees, be necessarily weakened, and at length wholly fail.

(100) “Perfect, τέλειοι,” fully grown, mature; “entire, ὁλόχληζοι, ” complete, no part wanting. The first refers to the maturity of grace; and the second to its completeness, no grace being wanting. They were to be like men full grown, and not maimed or mutilated, but having all their members complete.

James 1:5

5 If any of you lack wisdom. As our reason, and all our feelings are averse to the thought that we can be happy in the midst of evils, he bids us to ask of the Lord to give us wisdom. For wisdom here, I confine to the subject of the passage, as though he had said, “If this doctrine is higher than what your minds can reach to, ask of the Lord to illuminate you by his Spirit; for as this consolation alone is sufficient to mitigate all the bitterness of evils, that what is grievous to the flesh is salutary to us; so we must necessarily be overcome with impatience, except we be sustained by this kind of comfort.” Since we see that the Lord does not so require from us what is above our strength, but that he is ready to help us, provided we ask, let us, therefore, learn, whenever he commands anything, to ask from him the power to perform it.

Though in this place to be wise is to submit to God in the endurance of evils, under a due conviction that he so orders all things as to promote our salvation; yet the sentence may be generally applied to every branch of right knowledge.

But why does he say If any one, as though all of them did not want wisdom. To this I answer, that all are by nature without it; but that some are gifted with the spirit of wisdom, while others are without it. As, then, all had not made such progress as to rejoice in affliction, but few there were to whom this had been given, James, therefore, referred to such cases; and he reminded those who were not as yet fully convinced that by the cross their salvation was promoted by the Lord, that they were to ask to be endued with wisdom. And yet there is no doubt, but that necessity reminds us all to ask the same thing; for he who has made the greatest progress, is yet far off from the goal. But to ask an increase of wisdom is another thing than to ask for it at first.

When he bids us to ask of the Lord, he intimates, that he alone can heal our diseases and relieve our wants.

That giveth to all men liberally. By all, he means those who ask; for they who seek no remedy for their wants, deserve to pine away in them. However, this universal declaration, by which every one of us is invited to ask, without exception, is very important; hence no man ought to deprive himself of so great a privilege.

To the same purpose is the promise which immediately follows; for as by this command he shews what is the duty of every one, so he affirms that they would not do in vain what he commands; according to what is said by Christ,

“Knock, and it shall be opened.” (Mat 7:7; Luk 11:9.)

The word liberally, or freely, denotes promptitude in giving. So Paul, in Rom 12:8, requires simplicity in deacons. And in 2Co 8:0 and 2Co 9:0, when speaking of charity or love, he repeats the same word several times. The meaning, then, is, that God is so inclined and ready to give, that he rejects none, or haughtily puts them off, being not like the niggardly and grasping, who either sparingly, as with a closed hand, give but little, or give only a part of what they were about to give, or long debate with themselves whether to give or not. (101)

And upbraideth not. This is added, lest any one should fear to come too often to God. Those who are the most liberal among men, when any one asks often to be helped, mention their formal acts of kindness, and thus excuse themselves for the future. Hence, a mortal man, however open-handed he may be, we are ashamed to weary by asking too often. But James reminds us, that there is nothing like this in God; for he is ready ever to add new blessings to former ones, without any end or limitation.

(101) The literal meaning of ἁπλῶς is simply without any mixture; the noun, ἁπλότης, is used in the sense of sincerity, which has no mixture of hypocrisy or fraud, (2Co 1:12.) and in the sense of liberality, or disposition free from what is sordid or parsimonious, having no mixture of niggardliness, (2Co 8:2.) This latter is evidently the meaning here, so that “liberally,” according to our version, is the best word.

James 1:6

6 But let him ask in faith. He shews here, first the right way of praying; for as we cannot pray without the word, as it were, leading the way, so we must believe before we pray; for we testify by prayer, that we hope to obtain from God the grace which he has promised. Thus every one who has no faith in the promises, prays dissemblingly. Hence, also, we learn what is true faith; for James, after having bidden us to ask in faith, adds this explanation, nothing wavering, or, doubting nothing. Then faith is that which relies on God’s promises, and makes us sure of obtaining what we ask. It hence follows, that it is connected with confidence and certainty as to God’s love towards us. The verb διακρίνεσθαι, which he uses, means properly to inquire into both sides of a question, after the manner of pleaders. He would have us then to be so convinced of what God has once promised, as not to admit a doubt whether he shall be heard or not.

He that wavereth, or doubteth. By this similitude he strikingly expresses how God punishes the unbelief of those who doubt his promises; for, by their own restlessness, they torment themselves inwardly; for there is never any calmness for our souls, except they recumb on the truth of God. He, at length, concludes, that such are unworthy to receive anything from God.

This is a remarkable passage, fitted to disprove that impious dogma which is counted as an oracle under the whole Papacy, that is, that we ought to pray doubtingly, and with uncertainty as to our success. This principle, then, we hold, that our prayers are not heard by the Lord, except when we have a confidence that we shall obtain. It cannot indeed be otherwise, but that through the infirmity of our flesh we must be tossed by various temptations, which are like engines employed to shake our confidence; so that no one is found who does not vacillate and tremble according to the feeling of his flesh; but temptations of this kind are at length to be overcome by faith. The case is the same as with a tree, which has struck firm roots; it shakes, indeed, through the blowing of the wind, but is not rooted up; on the contrary, it remains firm in its own place.

James 1:8

8 A double-minded man, or, a man of a double mind. This sentence may be read by itself, as he speaks generally of hypocrites. It seems, however, to me to be rather the conclusion of the preceding doctrine; and thus there is an implied contrast between the simplicity or liberality of God, mentioned before, and the double-mindedness of man; for as God gives to us with a stretched out hand, so it behooves us in our turn to open the bosom of our heart. He then says that the unbelieving, who have tortuous recesses, are unstable; because they are never firm or fixed, but at one time they swell with the confidence of the flesh, at another they sink into the depth of despair. (102)

(102) “The double-minded,” or the man with two souls, δίψυχος, means here no doubt the man who hesitates between faith and unbelief, because faith is the subject of the passage. When again used, in Jas 4:8, it means a hesitation between God and the world.

James 1:9

9 Let the brother of low degree. As Paul, exhorting servants submissively to bear their lot, sets before them this consolation, that they were the free-men of God, having been set free by his grace from the most miserable bondage of Satan, and reminds them, though free, yet to remember that they were the servants of God; so here James in the same manner bids the lowly to glory in this, that they had been adopted by the Lord as his children; and the rich, because they had been brought down into the same condition, the world’s vanity having been made evident to them. Thus the first thing he would have to do is to be content with their humble and low state; and he forbids the rich to be proud. Since it is incomparably the greatest dignity to be introduced into the company of angels, nay, to be made the associates of Christ, he who estimates this favor of God aright, will regard all other things as worthless. Then neither poverty, nor contempt, nor nakedness, nor famine nor thirst, will make his mind so anxious, but that he will sustain himself with this consolation. “Since the Lord has conferred on me the principal thing, it behooves me patiently to bear the loss of other things, which are inferior.”

Behold, how a lowly brother ought to glory in his elevation or exaltation; for if he be accepted of God, he has sufficient consolation in his adoption alone, so as not to grieve unduly for a less prosperous state of life.

James 1:10

10 But the rich, in that he is made low, or, in his lowness. He has mentioned the particular for the general; for this admonition pertains to all those who excel in honor; or in dignity, or in any other external thing. He bids them to glory in their lowness or littleness, in order to repress the haughtiness of those who are usually inflated with prosperity. But he calls it lowness, because the manifested kingdom of God ought to lead us to despise the world, as we know that all the things we previously greatly admired, are either nothing or very little things. For Christ, who is not a teacher except of babes, checks by his doctrine all the haughtiness of the flesh. Lest, then, the vain joy of the world should captivate the rich, they ought to habituate themselves to glory in the casting down of their carnal excellency. (103)

As the flower of the grass. Were any one to say that James alludes to the words of Isaiah, I would not much object; but I cannot allow that he quotes the testimony of the Prophet, who speaks not only of the things of this life and the fading character of the world, but of the whole man, both body and soul; [Isa 40:6;] but here what is spoken of is the pomp of wealth or of riches. And the meaning is, that glorying in riches is foolish and preposterous, because they pass away in a moment. The philosophers teach the same thing; but the song is sung to the deaf, until the ears are opened by the Lord to hear the truth concerning the eternity of the celestial kingdom. Hence he mentions brother; intimating that there is no place for this truth, until we are admitted into the order of God’s children.

(103) The opinion of Macknight and some others, that the reference is to the lowness to which the rich were reduced by persecution, does not comport with the passage, for the Apostle afterwards speaks of the shortness of man’s life and its uncertainty, and not of the fading nature of riches, which would have been most suitable, had he in view to comfort the rich at the loss of property. The Christian state was “lowness” according to the estimation of the world.

James 1:11

Though the received reading is ἐν ταῖς πορείαις, yet I agree with Erasmus, and read the last word, πορίαις, without the diphthong “in his riches,” or, with his riches; and the latter I prefer. (104)

(104) The received text is regarded as the best reading; the other is found in very few copies.

James 1:12

12 Blessed is the man. After having applied consolation, he moderated the sorrow of those who were severely handled in this world, and again humbled the arrogance of the great. He now draws this conclusion, that they are happy who magnanimously endure troubles and other trials, so as to rise above them. The word temptation may indeed be otherwise understood, even for the stings of lusts which annoy the soul within; but which is here commended, as I think, is fortitude of mind in enduring adversities. It is, however, a paradox, that they are not happy to whom all things come according to their wishes, but such as are not overcome with evils.

For when he is tried. He gives a reason for the preceding sentence; for the crown follows the contest. If, then, it be our chief happiness to be crowned in the kingdom of God, it follows, that the contests with which the Lord tries us, are aids and helps to our happiness. Thus the argument is from the end or the effect: hence we conclude, that the faithful are harassed by so many evils for this purpose, that their piety and obedience may be made manifest, and that they may be thus at length prepared to receive the crown of life.

But they reason absurdly who hence infer that we by fighting merit the crown; for since God has gratuitously appointed it for us, our fighting only renders us fit to receive it.

He adds, that it is promised to those who love God. By speaking thus, he means not that the love of man is the cause of obtaining the crown, (for God anticipates us by his gratuitous love;) but he only intimates that the elect who love him are alone approved by God. He then reminds us that the conquerors of all temptations are those who love God, and that we fail not in courage when we are tried, for no other cause than because the love of the world prevails in us.

James 1:13

13 Let no man, when he is tempted. Here, no doubt, he speaks of another kind of temptation. It is abundantly evident that the external temptations, hitherto mentioned, are sent to us by God. In this way God tempted Abraham, (Gen 22:1,) and daily tempts us, that is, he tries us as to what are we by laying before us an occasion by which our hearts are made known. But to draw out what is hid in our hearts is a far different thing from inwardly alluring our hearts by wicked lusts.

He then treats here of inward temptations which are nothing else than the inordinate desires which entice to sin. He justly denies that God is the author of these, because they flow from the corruption of our nature.

This warning is very necessary, for nothing is more common among men than to transfer to another the blame of the evils they commit; and they then especially seem to free themselves, when they ascribe it to God himself. This kind of evasion we constantly imitate, delivered down to us as it is from the first man. For this reason James calls us to confess our own guilt, and not to implicate God, as though he compelled us to sin.

But the whole doctrine of scripture seems to be inconsistent with this passage; for it teaches us that men are blinded by God, are given up to a reprobate mind, and delivered over to filthy and shameful lusts. To this I answer, that probably James was induced to deny that we are tempted by God by this reason, because the ungodly, in order to form an excuse, armed themselves with testimonies of Scripture. But there are two things to be noticed here: when Scripture ascribes blindness or hardness of heart to God, it does not assign to him the beginning of this blindness, nor does it make him the author of sin, so as to ascribe to him the blame: and on these two things only does James dwell.

Scripture asserts that the reprobate are delivered up to depraved lusts; but is it because the Lord depraves or corrupts their hearts? By no means; for their hearts are subjected to depraved lusts, because they are already corrupt and vicious. But since God blinds or hardens, is he not the author or minister of evil? Nay, but in this manner he punishes sins, and renders a just reward to the ungodly, who have refused to be ruled by his Spirit. (Rom 1:26.) It hence follows that the origin of sin is not in God, and no blame can be imputed to him as though he took pleasure in evils. (Gen 6:6.)

The meaning is, that man in vain evades, who attempts to cast the blame of his vices on God, because every evil proceeds from no other fountain than from the wicked lust of man. And the fact really is, that we are not otherwise led astray, except that every one has his own inclination as his leader and impeller. But that God tempts no one, he proves by this, because he is not tempted with evils (105) For it is the devil who allures us to sin, and for this reason, because he wholly burns with the mad lust of sinning. But God does not desire what is evil: he is not, therefore, the author of doing evil in us.

(105) Literally, “untemptable by evils,” that is, not capable of being tempted or seduced by evils, by things wicked and sinful. He is so pure, that he is not influenced by any evil propensities, that he is not subject to any evil suggestions. It hence follows that he tempts or seduces no man to what is sinful. Being himself unassailable by evils, he cannot seduce others to what is evil. As God cannot be tempted to do what is sinful, he cannot possibly tempt others to sin. The words may thus be rendered, —

13. “Let no one, when seduced, say, ‘By God I am seduced;’ for God is not capable of being seduced by evils, and he himself seduceth no one.”

James 1:14

14 When he is drawn away by his own lust. As the inclination and excitement to sin are inward, in vain does the sinner seek an cause from an external impulse. At the same time these two effects of lust ought to be noticed — that it ensnares us by its allurements, and that it does us away; each of which is sufficient to render us guilty. (106)

(106) The words are very striking, — “But every one is tempted (or, seduced) when, by his own lust, he is drawn away, (that is, from what is good,) and is caught by a bait (or, ensnared.)”

He is in the first drawn off from the line of duty, and then he is caught by something that is pleasing and plausible, but like the bait, it has in it a deadly hook.

James 1:15

15 Then when lust hath conceived. He first calls that lust which is not any kind of evil affection or desire, but that which is the fountain of all evil affections; by which, as he shews, are conceived vicious broods, which at length break forth into sins. It seems, however, improper, and not according to the usage of Scripture, to restrict the word sin to outward works, as though indeed lust itself were not a sin, and as though corrupt desires, remaining closed up within and suppressed, were not so many sins. But as the use of a word is various, there is nothing unreasonable if it be taken here, as in many other places, for actual sin.

And the Papists ignorantly lay hold on this passage, and seek to prove from it that vicious, yea, filthy, wicked, and the most abominable lusts are not sins, provided there is no assent; for James does not shew when sin begins to be born, so as to be sin, and so accounted by God, but when it breaks forth. For he proceeds gradually and shews that the consummation of sin is eternal death, and that sin arises from depraved desires, and that these depraved desires or affections have their root in lust. It hence follows that men gather fruit in eternal perdition, and fruit which they have procured for themselves.

By perfected sin, therefore, I understand, not any one act of sin perpetrated, but the completed course of sinning. For though death is merited by every sin whatever, yet it is said to be the reward of an ungodly and wicked life. Hence is the dotage of those confuted who conclude from these words, that sin is not mortal until it breaks forth, as they say, into an external act. Nor is this what James treats of; but his object was only this, to teach that there is in us the root of our own destruction.

James 1:16

16 Do not err. This is an argument from what is opposite; for as God is the author of all good, it is absurd to suppose him to be the author of evil. To do good is what properly belongs to him, and according to his nature; and from him all good things come to us. Then, whatever evil he does, is not agreeable to his nature. But as it sometimes happens, that he who quits himself well through life, yet in some things fails, he meets this doubt by denying that God is mutable like men. But if God is in all things and always like himself, it hence follows that well-doing is his perpetual work.

James 1:17

This reasoning is far different from that of Plato, who maintained that no calamities are sent on men by God, because he is good; for though it is just that the crimes of men should be punished by God, yet it is not right, with regard to him, to regard among evils that punishment which he justly inflicts. Plato, indeed, was ignorant; but James, leaving to God his right and office of punishing, only removes blame from him. This passage teaches us, that we ought to be so affected by God’s innumerable blessings, which we daily receive from his hand, as to think of nothing but of his glory; and that we should abhor whatever comes to our mind, or is suggested by others, which is not compatible with his praise.

God is called the Father of lights, as possessing all excellency and the highest dignity. And when he immediately adds, that there is in him no shadow of turning, he continues the metaphor; so that we may not measure the brightness of God by the irradiation of the sun which appears to us. (107)

(107) This verse must be taken in connection with what as gone before. When he mentions “every good gift,” it is in opposition to the evil of which he says God is not the author. See Mat 7:11. And “every perfect free-gift,” as δώρημα means, has a reference to the correction of the evil which arises from man himself. And he calls free-gift perfect, because it has no mixture of evil, what he throughout denies that God is the author of. Then the latter part of the verse bears a correspondence with the first. He calls God “the Father of Lights.” Light in the language of scripture means especially two things, the light of truth, divine knowledge and holiness. God is the father, the parent, the origin, the source of these lights. Hence from him descends every good, useful, necessary gift, to deliver men from evil, from ignorance and delusion, and every perfect free-gift to free men from their evil lusts, and to render them holy and happy. And to shew that God is ever the same, he adds, “with whom there is no variableness or the shadow (or shade, of the slightest appearance) of a change;” that is, who never varies in his dealings with men, and shews no symptom of any change, being the author and giver of all good, and the author of no evil, that is, of no sin.

James 1:18

18 Of his own will. He now brings forward a special proof of the goodness of God which he had mentioned, even that he has regenerated us unto eternal life. This invaluable benefit every one of the faithful feels in himself. Then the goodness of God, when known by experience, ought to remove from them all a contrary opinion respecting him.

When he says that God of his own will, or spontaneously, hath begotten us, he intimates that he was induced by no other reason, as the will and counsel of God are often set in opposition to the merits of men. What great thing, indeed, would it have been to say that God was not constrained to do this? But he impresses something more, that God according to his own goodwill hath begotten us, and has been thus a cause to himself. It hence follows that it is natural to God to do good.

But this passage teaches us, that as our election before the foundation of the world was gratuitous, so we are illuminated by the grace of God alone as to the knowledge of the truth, so that our calling corresponds with our election. The Scripture shews that we have been gratuitously adopted by God before we were born. But James expresses here something more, that we obtain the right of adoption, because God does also call us gratuitously. (Eph 1:4.) Farther, we hence learn, that it is the peculiar office of God spiritually to regenerate us; for that the same thing is sometimes ascribed to the ministers of the gospel, means no other thing than this, that God acts through them; and it happens indeed through them, but he nevertheless alone doeth the work.

The word begotten means that we become new men, so that we put off our former nature when we are effectually called by God. He adds how God begets us, even by the word of truth, so that we may know that we cannot enter the kingdom of God by any other door.

That we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. The word τινὰ, “some,” has the meaning of likeness, as though he had said, that we are in a manner firstfruits. But this ought not to be restricted to a few of the faithful; but it belongs to all in common. For as man excels among all creatures, so the Lord elects some from the whole mass and separates them as a holy offering, to himself. (108) It is no common nobility into which God extols his own children. Then justly are they said to be excellent as firstfruits, when God’s image is renewed in them.

(108) The firstfruits being a part and a pledge of the coming harvest, to retain the metaphor, we must regard “creatures” here as including all the saved in future ages. Hence their opinion is to be preferred, who regard the first converts, who were Jews, as the firstfruits.

James 1:19

19 Let every man. Were this a general sentence, the inference would be farfetched; but as he immediately adds a sentence respecting the word of truth suitable to the last verse, I doubt not but that he accommodates this exhortation peculiarly to the subject in hand. Having then set before us the goodness of God, he shews how it becomes us to be prepared to receive the blessing which he exhibits towards us. And this doctrine is very useful, for spiritual generation is not a work of one moment. Since some remnants of the old man ever abide in us, we must necessarily be through life renewed, until the flesh be abolished; for either our perverseness, or arrogance, or sloth, is a great impediment to God in perfecting in us his work. Hence, when James would have us to be swift to hear, he commends promptitude, as though he had said, “When God so freely and kindly presents himself to you, you also ought to render yourselves teachable, lest your slowness should cause him to desist from speaking.”

But inasmuch as we do not calmly hear God speaking to us, when we seem to ourselves to be very wise, but by our haste interrupt him when addressing us, the Apostle requires us to be silent, to be slow to speak. And, doubtless, no one can be a true disciple of God, except he hears him in silence. He does not, however, require the silence of the Pythagorean school, so that it should not be right to inquire whenever we desire to learn what is necessary to be known; but he would only have us to correct and restrain our forwardness, that we may not, as it commonly happens, unseasonably interrupt God, and that as long as he opens his sacred mouth, we may open to him our hearts and our ears, and not prevent him to speak.

Slow to wrath. Wrath also, I think, is condemned with regard to the hearing which God demands to be given to him, as though making a tumult it disturbed and impeded him, for God cannot be heard except when the mind is calm and sedate. Hence, he adds, that as long as wrath bears rule there is no place for the righteousness of God. In short, except the heat of contention be banished, we shall never observe towards God that calm silence of which he has just spoken.

James 1:21

21 Wherefore lay apart. He concludes by saying how the word of life is to be received. And first, indeed, he intimates that it cannot be rightly received except it be implanted, or strike roots in us. For the expression, to receive the implanted word, ought to be thus explained, “to receive it, that it may be really implanted.” For he alludes to seed often sown on and ground, and not received into the moist bosom of the earth; or to plants, which being cast on the ground, or laid on dead wood, soon wither. He then requires that it should be a living implanting, by which the word becomes as it were united with our heart.

He at the same time shews the way and manner of this reception, even with meekness. By this word he means humility and the readiness of a mind disposed to learn, such as Isaiah describes when he says,

“On whom does my Spirit rest, except on the humble and meek?” (Isa 57:15.)

Hence it is, that so far profit in the school of God, because hardly one in a hundred renounces the stubbornness of his own spirit, and gently submits to God; but almost all are conceited and refractory. But if we desire to be the living plantation of God, we must subdue our proud hearts and be humble, and labor to become like lambs, so as to suffer ourselves to be ruled and guided by our Shepherd.

But as men are never thus tamed, so as to have a calm and meek heart, except they are purged from depraved affections, so he bids us to lay aside uncleanness and redundancy of wickedness. And as James borrowed a comparison from agriculture, it was necessary for him to observe this order, to begin by rooting up noxious weeds. And since he addressed all, we may hence conclude that these are the innate evils of our nature, and that they cleave to us all; yea, since he addresses the faithful, he shews that we are never wholly cleansed from them in this life, but that they are continually sprouting up, and therefore he requires that care should be constantly taken to eradicate them. As the word of God is especially a holy thing; to be fitted to receive it, we must put off the filthy things by which we have been polluted.

Under the word κακία, he comprehends hypocrisy and obstinacy as well as unlawful desires or lusts. Not satisfied with specifying the seat of wickedness as being in the soul of man, he teaches us that so abounding is the wickedness that dwells there, that it overflows, or that it rises up as it were into a heap; and doubtless, whosoever will well examine himself will find that there is within him an immense chaos of evils. (109)

Which is able to save. It is a high eulogy on heavenly truth, that we obtain through it a sure salvation; and this is added, that we may learn to seek and love and magnify the word as a treasure that is incomparable. It is then a sharp goad to chastise our idleness, when he says that the word which we are wont to hear so negligently, is the means of our salvation, though for this purpose the power of saving is not ascribed to the word, as if salvation is conveyed by the external sound of the word, or as if the office of saving is taken away from God and transferred elsewhere; for James speaks of the word which by faith penetrates into the hearts of men, and only intimates that God, the author of salvation, conveys it by his Gospel.

(109) What renders this passage unsatisfactory is the meaning given to περισσεία, rendered by some “superfluity,” and by others “redundancy.” The verb περισσεύω means not only to abound, but also to be a residue, to remain, to be a remnant. See Mat 14:20; Luk 9:17. And its derivative περίσσευμα is used in the sense of a remnant or a remainder, Mar 8:8; and this very word is used in the Sept., for יתר which means a residue, a remnant, or what remains, Eze 6:8. Let it have this meaning here, and the sense will not only be clear, but very striking. James was addressing those who were Christians; and he exhorted them to throw away every uncleanness and remnant of wickedness, or evil, as the word κακία more properly means. See Act 8:22; 1Pe 2:16

Every uncleanness,” or filthiness, means every kind of uncleanness arising from lustful and carnal indulgences; and the “remnant of wickedness,” in thought and in deed, most suitably follows.

James 1:22

22 Be ye doers of the word. The doer here is not the same as in Rom 2:13, who satisfied the law of God and fulfilled it in every part, but the doer is he who from the heart embraces God’s word and testifies by his life that he really believes, according to the saying of Christ,

“Blessed are they who hear God’s word and keep it,” (Luk 11:28;)

for he shews by the fruits what that implanting is, before mentioned. We must further observe, that faith with all its works is included by James, yea, faith especially, as it is the chief work which God requires from us. The import of the whole is, that we ought to labor that the word of the Lord should strike root in us, so that it may afterwards fructify. (110)

(110) Calvin takes no notice of the last sentence, “deceiving yourselves.” The participle means deceiving by false reasoning.; it may be rendered with Doddridge, “sophistically deceiving yourselves.”

James 1:23

23 He is like to a man. Heavenly doctrine is indeed a mirror in which God presents himself to our view; but so that we may be transformed unto his image, as Paul says in 2Co 3:18. But here he speaks of the external glance of the eye, not of the vivid and efficacious meditation which penetrates into the heart. It is a striking comparison, by which he briefly intimates, that a doctrine merely heard and not received inwardly into the heart avails nothing, because it soon vanishes away.

James 1:25

25 The perfect law of liberty. After having spoken of empty speculation, he comes now to that penetrating intuition which transforms us to the image of God. And as he had to do with the Jews, he takes the word law, familiarly known to them, as including the whole truth of God.

But why he calls it a perfect law, and a law of liberty, interpreters have not been able to understand; for they have not perceived that there is here a contrast, which may be gathered from other passages of Scripture. As long as the law is preached by the external voice of man, and not inscribed by the finger and Spirit of God on the heart, it is but a dead letter, and as it were a lifeless thing. It is, then, no wonder that the law is deemed imperfect, and that it is the law of bondage; for as Paul teaches in Gal 4:24, separated from Christ, it generates to condemn and as the same shews to us in Rom 8:13, it can do nothing but fill us with diffidence and fear. But the Spirit of regeneration, who inscribes it on our inward parts, brings also the grace of adoption. It is, then, the same as though James had said, “The teaching of the law, let it no longer lead you to bondage, but, on the contrary, bring you to liberty; let it no longer be only a schoolmaster, but bring you to perfection: it ought to be received by you with sincere affection, so that you may lead a godly and a holy life.”

Moreover, since it is a blessing of the Old Testament that the law of God should reform us, as it appears from Jer 31:33, and other passages, it follows that it cannot be obtained until we come to Christ. And, doubtless, he alone is the end and perfection of the law; and James adds liberty, as an inseparable associate, because the Spirit of Christ never regenerates but that he becomes also a witness and an earnest of our divine adoption, so as to free our hearts from fear and trembling.

And continueth. This is firmly to persevere in the knowledge of God; and when he adds, this man shall be blessed in his deed, or work, he means that blessedness is to be found in doing, not in cold hearing. (111)

(111) It may be rendered thus, — “The same shall be blessed in (or by) the doing of it,” that is, the work. The very doing of the law of liberty, of what the gospel prescribes, makes a man blessed or happy.

James 1:26

26 Seem to be religious. He now reproves even in those who boasted that they were doers of the law, a vice under which hypocrites commonly labor, that is, the wantonness of the tongue in detraction. He has before touched on the duty of restraining the tongue, but for a different end; for he then bade silence before God, that we might be more fitted to learn. He speaks now of another thing, that the faithful should not employ their tongue in evil speaking.

It was indeed needful that this vice should be condemned, when the subject was the keeping of the law; for they who have put off the grosser vices, are especially subject to this disease. He who is neither an adulterer, nor a thief, nor a drunkard, but, on the contrary, seems brilliant with some outward shew of sanctity will set himself off by defaming others, and this under the pretense of zeal, but really through the lust of slandering.

The object here, then, was to distinguish between the true worshippers of God and hypocrites, who are so swollen with Pharisaic pride, that they seek praise from the defects of others. If any one, he says, seems to be religious, that is, who has a show of sanctity, and the meantime flatters himself by speaking evil of others, it is hence evident that he does not truly serve God. For by saying that his religion is vain, he not only intimates that other virtues are marred by the stain of evil-speaking, but that the conclusion is, that the zeal for religion which appears is not sincere.

But deceiveth his own heart. I do not approve of the version of Erasmus — “But suffers his heart to err;” for he points out the fountain of that arrogance to which hypocrites are addicted, through which, being blinded by an immoderate love of themselves, they believe themselves to be far better than they really are; and hence, no doubt, is the disease of slandering, because the wallet, as Aesop says in his Apologue, hanging behind, is not seen. Rightly, then, has James, wishing to remove the effect, that is, the lust of evil-speaking, added the cause, even that hypocrites flatter themselves immoderately. For they would be ready to forgive were they in their turn to acknowledge themselves to be in need of forgiveness. Hence the flatteries by which they deceive themselves as to their own vices, make them such supercilious censors of others.

James 1:27

27 Pure religion. As he passes by those things which are of the greatest moment in religion, he does not define generally what religion is, but reminds us that religion without the things he mentions is nothing; as when one given to wine and gluttony boasts that he is temperate, and another should object, and say that the temperate man is he who does not indulge in excess as to wine or eating; his object is not to express the whole of what temperance is, but to refer only to one thing, suitable to the subject in hand. For they are in vain religious of whom he speaks, as they are for the most part trifling pretenders.

James then teaches us that religion is not to be estimated by the pomp of ceremonies; but that there are important duties to which the servants of God ought to attend.

To visit in necessity is to extend a helping hand to alleviate such as are in distress. And as there are many others whom the Lord bids us to succor, in mentioning widows and orphans, he states a part for the whole. There is then no doubt but that under one particular thing he recommends to us every act of love, as though he had said, “Let him who would be deemed religious, prove himself to be such by self denial and by mercy and benevolence towards his neighbors.”

And he says, before God, to intimate that it appears in deed otherwise to men, who are led astray by external masks, but that we ought to seek what pleases him. By God and Father, we are to understand God who is a father.

James 2:1

This reproof seems at first sight to be hard and unreasonable; for it is one of the duties of courtesy, not to be neglected, to honor those who are elevated in the world. Further, if respect of persons be vicious, servants are to be freed from all subjection; for freedom and servitude are deemed by Paul as conditions of life. The same must be thought of magistrates. But the solution of these questions is not difficult, if what James writes is not separated. For he does not simply disapprove of honor being paid to the rich, but that this should not be done in a way so as to despise or reproach the poor; and this will appear more clearly, when he proceeds to speak of the rule of love.

Let us therefore remember that the respect of persons here condemned is that by which the rich is so extolled, wrong is done to the poor, which also he shews clearly by the context and surely ambitions is that honor, and full of vanity, which is shewn to the rich to the contempt of the poor. Nor is there a doubt but that ambition reigns and vanity also, when the masks of this world are alone in high esteem. We must remember this truth, that he is to be counted among the heirs of God’s kingdom, who disregards the reprobate and honors those who fear God. (Psa 15:4.)

Here then is the contrary vice condemned, that is, when from respect alone to riches, anyone honors the wicked, and as it has been said, dishonors the good. If then thou shouldest read thus, “He sins who respects the rich,” the sentence would be absurd; but if as follows, “He sins who honors the rich alone and despises the poor, and treats him with contempt,” it would be a pious and true doctrine.

1 Have not the faith, etc. , with respect of persons. He means that the respect of persons is inconsistent with the faith of Christ, so that they cannot be united together, and rightly so; for we are by faith united into one body, in which Christ holds the primacy. When therefore the pomps of the world become preeminent so as to cover over what Christ is, it is evident that faith hath but little vigor.

In rendering τὢς δόξης, “on account of esteem,” (ex opinione ,) I have followed Erasmus; though the old interpreter cannot be blamed, who has rendered it “glory,” for the word means both; and it may be fitly applied to Christ, and that according to the drift of the passage. For so great is the brightness of Christ, that it easily extinguishes all the glories of the world, if indeed it irradiates our eyes. It hence follows, that Christ is little esteemed by us, when the admiration of worldly glory lays hold on us. But the other exposition is also very suitable, for when the esteem or value of riches or of honors dazzles our eyes, the truth is suppressed, which ought alone to prevail. To sit becomingly means to sit honorably.

James 2:4

4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves? or, are ye not condemned in yourselves. This may be read affirmatively as well as interrogatively, but the sense would be the same, for he amplifies the fault by this, that they took delight and indulged themselves in so great a wickedness. If it be read interrogatively, the meaning is, “Does not your own conscience hold you convicted, so that you need no other judge?” If the affirmative be preferred, it is the same as though he had said, “This evil also happens, that ye think not that ye sin, nor know that your thoughts are so wicked as they are.” (112)

(112) It is commonly admitted to be an interrogatory sentence: “And do ye not make a difference among (or, in) yourselves, and become judges, having evil thoughts?” literally, “judges of evil thoughts,” it being, as they say, the genitive case of possession. Or the words may be rendered, “and become judges of evil (or, false) reasonings?” or as Beza renders the sentence, “and become judges, reasoning falsely,” concluding that the rich man was good and the poor man bad.

It is said by Beza and others, that διακρίνομαι never means to be judged or condemned, but to distinguish, to discriminate, to make a difference, and also to contend and to doubt. The difference made here was the respect of persons that was shewn, and they made this difference in themselves, in their own minds, through the perverse or false thoughts or reasonings which they entertained. But it appears that these preferences were shewn, not to the members of the Church, but to such strangers as might happen to come to their assemblies.

James 2:5

5 Hearken, my beloved brethren. He proves now by a two-fold argument, that they acted preposterously, when for the sake of the rich they despised the poor: The first is, that it is unbecoming and disgraceful to cast down those whom God exalts, and to treat reproachfully those whom he honors. As God honors the poor, then every one who repudiates them, reverses the order of God. The other argument is taken from common experience; for since the rich are for the most part vexatious to the good and innocent, it is very unreasonable to render such a reward for the wrongs they do, so that they should be more approved by us than the poor, who aid us more than they wrong us. We shall now see how he proceeds with these two points.

Hath not God chosen the poor of this world? Not indeed alone, but he wished to begin with them, that he might beat down the pride of the rich. This is also what Paul says, that God hath chosen, not many noble, not many mighty in the world, but those who are weak, that he might make ashamed such as are strong (1Co 1:25.) In short, though God pours forth his grace on the rich in common with the poor, yet his will is to prefer these to those, that the mighty might learn not to flatter themselves, and that the ignoble and the obscure might ascribe in what they are to the mercy of God, and that both might be trained up to meekness and humility.

The rich in faith are not those who abound in the greatness of faith, but such as God has enriched with the various gifts of his Spirit, which we receive by faith. For, doubtless, since the Lord deals bountifully with all, every one becomes partaker of his gifts according to the measure of his own faith. If, then, we are empty or needy, that proves the deficiency of our faith; for if we only enlarge the bosom of faith, God is always ready to fill it.

He says, that a kingdom is promised to those who love God: not that the promise depends on love; but he reminds us that we are called by God unto the hope of eternal life, on this condition and to this end, that we may love him. Then the end, and not the beginning, is here pointed out.

James 2:6

6 Do not the rich. He seems to instigate them to vengeance by bringing forward the unjust rule of the rich, in order that they who were unjustly treated, might render like for like: and yet we are everywhere bid to do good to those who injure us. But the object of James was another; for he only wished to shew that they were without reason or judgment who through ambition honored their executioners, and in the meantime injured their own friends, at least those from whom they never suffered any wrong. For hence appeared more fully their vanity, that they were induced by no acts of kindness: they only admired the rich, because they were rich; nay, they servilely flattered those whom they found, to their own loss, to be unjust and cruel.

There are, indeed, some of the rich who are just, and meek, and hate all unrighteousness; but few of such men are to be found. James, then, mentions what for the most part usually happens, and what daily experience proves true. For as men commonly exercise their power in doing what is wrong, it hence happens, that the more power any one has, the worse he is, and the more unjust towards his neighbors. The more careful then ought the rich to be, lest they should contract any of the contagion which everywhere prevails among those of their own rank.

James 2:7

7 Worthy, or good name. I doubt not but that he refers here to the name of God and of Christ. And he says, by, or, on, the which ye are called; not in prayer, as Scripture is wont sometimes to speak, but by profession; as the name of a father, in Gen 48:16, is said to be called on his offspring, and in Isa 4:1, the name of a husband is called on the wife. It is, then, the same as though he had said, “The good name in which ye glory, or which ye deem it an honor to be called by; but if they proudly calumniate the glory of God, how unworthy are they of being honored by Christians!”

James 2:8

Now follows a plainer declaration; for he expressly points out the cause of the last reproof, for they were officiously attentive to the rich, not from love, but on the contrary, from a vain desire of attaining their favor: And it is in anticipation, by which he obviated an excuse on the other side; for they might have objected and said, that he ought not to be blamed, who humbly submiteth himself to the unworthy. James, indeed, concedes that this is true, but he shews that it was falsely pretended by them, because they shewed this submission of homage, not from love to their neighbors, but from respect of persons.

In the first clause, then, he acknowledges as right and praiseworthy, as the duties of love which we perform towards our neighbors. In the second, he denies that the ambitious respect of persons ought to be deemed as of this kind, for it widely differs from what the law prescribes. And the hinge of this answer turns on the words “neighbor” and “respect of persons,” as though he had said, “If you pretend that there is a sort of love in what you do, this may be easily disproved; for God bids us to love our neighbors, and not to shew respect of persons.” Besides, this word “neighbor” includes all mankind: he, then, who says, that a very few, according to his own fancy, ought to be honored, and others passed by, does not keep the law of God, but yields to the depraved desires of his own heart. God expressly commends to us strangers and enemies, and all, even the most contemptible. To this doctrine the respect of persons is wholly contrary. Hence, rightly does James assert, that respect of persons is inconsistent with love.

8 If ye fulfill the royal law. The law here I take simply as the rule of life; and to fulfill, or perform it, is to keep it with real integrity of heart, and as they say, roundly, (rotunde ;) and he sets such a keeping in opposition to a partial observance of it. It is said, indeed, to be a royal law, as it is the royal way, or road; that is, plain, straight, and level, which, by implication, is set in opposition to sinuous by-paths and windings.

Allusion however is made, as I think, to servile obedience which they rendered to the rich, when they might, by serving in sincerity their neighbors, be not only free men, but live as kings.

James 2:9

When, in the second place, he says, that those who had respect of persons were convinced, or reproved by the law, the law is taken according to its proper meaning. For since we are bidden by God’s command to embrace all mortals, every one who, with a few exceptions, rejects all the rest, breaks the bond of God, and inverts also his order, and is, therefore, rightly called a transgressor of the law.

James 2:10

10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law. What alone he means is, that God will not be honored with exceptions, nor will he allow us to cut off from his law what is less pleasing to us. At the first view, this sentence seems hard to some, as though the apostle countenanced the paradox of the Stoics, which makes all sins equal, and as though he asserted that he who offends in one thing ought to be punished equally with him whose whole life has been sinful and wicked. But it is evident from the context that no such thing entered into his mind.

For we must always observe the reason anything is said. He denies that our neighbors are loved when a part only of them is through ambition chosen, and the rest neglected. This he proves, because it is no obedience to God, when it is not rendered equally according to his command. Then as the rule of God is plain and complete or perfect, so we ought to regard completeness; so that none of us should presumptuously separate what he has joined together. Let there be, therefore, a uniformity, if we desire rightly to obey God. As, for instance, were a judge to punish ten thefts, and leave one man unpunished, he would betray the obliquity of his mind, for he would thus shew himself indignant against men rather than against crimes; because what he condemns in one he absolves in another.

We now, then, understand the design of James, that is, that if we cut off from God’s law what is less agreeable to us, though in other parts we may be obedient, yet we be come guilty of all, because in one particular thing we violate the whole law. And though he accommodates what is said to the subject in hand, it is yet taken from a general principle, — that God has prescribed to us a rule of life, which it is not lawful for us to mutilate. For it is not said of a part of the law, “This is the way, walk ye in it;” nor does the law promise a reward except to universal obedience.

Foolish, then, are the schoolmen, who deem partial righteousness, as they call it, to be meritorious; for this passage and many others, clearly shew that there is no righteousness except in a perfect obedience to the law.

James 2:11

11 For he that said, or he who hath said. This is a proof of the former verse; because the Lawgiver is to be considered rather than each particular precept apart. The righteousness of God, as an indivisible body, is contained in the law. Whosoever, then, transgresses one article of the Law, destroys, as far as he can, the righteousness of God. Besides, as in one part, so in every part, God’s will is to try our obedience. Hence a transgressor of the law is every one who offends as to any one of its commandments according to this saying,

“Cursed is he who fulfills not all things.” (Deu 27:26.)

We further see, that the transgressor of the law, and the guilty of all, mean the same according to James.

James 2:12

12 So speak ye. Some give this explanation, that as they flattered themselves too much, they are summoned to the right tribunal; for men absolve themselves according to their own notions, because they withdraw themselves from the judgment of the divine law. He then reminds them that all deeds and words are there to be accounted for, because God will judge the world according to his law. As, however, such a declaration might have smitten them with immoderate terror, to correct or mitigate what they might have thought severe, he adds, the law of liberty. For we know what Paul says,

“Whosoever are under the law are under a curse.” (Gal 3:10.)

Hence the judgment of the law in itself is condemnation to eternal death; but he means by the word liberty, that we are freed from the rigor of the law.

This meaning is not altogether unsuitable, though if one examines more minutely what immediately follows, he will see that James meant another thing; the sense is as though he had said, “Except ye wish to undergo the rigor of the law, ye must be less rigid towards your neighbors; for the law of liberty is the same as the mercy of God, which delivers us from the curse of the law” And so this verse ought to be read with what follows, where he speaks of the duty of bearing with infirmities. And doubtless the whole passage thus reads well: “Since none of us can stand before God, except we be delivered and freed from the strict rigor of the law, we ought so to act, that we may not through too much severity exclude the indulgence or mercy of God, of which we all have need to the last.”

James 2:13

13 For he shall have judgment. This is an application of the last verse to the subject in hand, which confirms altogether the second explanation which I have mentioned: for he shews, that since we stand through God’s mercy alone, we ought to shew that to those whom the Lord himself commends to us. It is, indeed, a singular commendation of kindness and benevolence, that God promises that he will be merciful to us, if we be so to our brethren: not that our mercy, how ever great it may be, shewn towards men, merits the mercy of God; but that God would have those whom he has adopted, as he is to them a kind and an indulgent Father, to bear and exhibit his image on the earth, according to the saying of Christ,

“Be ye merciful, as your heavenly Father is merciful.” (Mat 5:7.)

We must notice, on the other hand, that he could denounce nothing on them more severe or more dreadful than the judgment of God. It hence follows, that all they are miserable and lost who flee not to the asylum of pardon.

And mercy rejoiceth. As though he had said, “God’s mercy alone is that which delivers us from the dread and terror of judgment.” he takes rejoicing or glorying in the sense of being victorious or triumphant; for the judgment of condemnation is suspended over the whole world, and nothing but mercy can bring relief.

Hard and forced is the explanation of those who regard mercy as put here for the person, for men cannot properly be said to rejoice or glory against the judgment of God; but mercy itself in a manner triumphs, and alone reigns when the severity of judgment gives way; though I do not deny but that hence arises confidence in rejoicing, that is, when the faithful know that the wrath of God in a manner yields to mercy, so that being relieved by the latter, they are not overwhelmed by the former.

James 2:14

14 What doth it profit. He proceeds to commend mercy. And as he had threatened that God would be a severe Judge to us, and at the same time very dreadful, except we be kind and merciful towards our neighbors, and as on the other hand hypocrites objected and said, that faith is sufficient to us, in which the salvation of men consists, he now condemns this vain boasting. The sum, then, of what is said is, that faith without love avails nothing, and that it is therefore wholly dead.

But here a question arises, Can faith be separated from love? It is indeed true that the exposition of this passage has produced that common distinction of the Sophists, between unformed and formed faith; but of such a thing James knew nothing, for it appears from the first words, that he speaks of false profession of faith: for he does not begin thus, “If any one has faith;” but, “If any says that he has faith;” by which he certainly intimates that hypocrites boast of the empty name of faith, which really does not belong to them.

That he calls it then faith, is a concession, as the Rhetoricians say; for when we discuss a point, it does no harm, nay, it is sometimes expedient, to concede to an adversary what he demands, for as soon as the thing itself is known, what is conceded may be easily taken away from him. James then, as he was satisfied that it was a false pretext by which hypocrites covered themselves, was not disposed to raise a dispute about a word or an expression. Let us, however, remember that he does not speak according to the impression of his own mind when he mentions faith, but that on the contrary he disputes against those who made a false pretense as to faith, of which they were wholly destitute.

Can faith save him? This is the same as though he had said, that we do not attain salvation by a frigid and bare knowledge of God, which all confess to be most true; for salvation comes to us by faith for this reason, because it joins us to God. And this comes not in any other way than by being united to the body of Christ, so that, living through his Spirit, we are also governed by him. There is no such thing as this in the dead image of faith. There is then no wonder that James denies that salvation is connected with it. (113)

(113) When he says “Can faith save him?” his meaning is “Can the faith which he says he has save him?” that is, faith which is dead and produces no works; for that is the faith clearly intended here, as it appears from what follows. To make the meaning more evident, Macknight renders the sentence thus, — “Can this faith save him?” that is, the faith that has not works.

James 2:15

15 If a brother, or, For if a brother. He takes an example from what was connected with his subject; for he had been exhorting them to exercise the duties of love. If any one, on the contrary, boasted that he was satisfied with faith without works, he compares this shadowy faith to the saying of one who bids a famished man to be filled without supplying him with the food of which he is destitute. As, then, he who sends away a poor man with words, and offers him no help, treats him with mockery, so they who devise for themselves faith without works, and without any of the duties of religion, trifle with God. (114)

(114) This is adduced as an illustration: as the saying of a man to the naked, “Be ye clothed,” when he does nothing, effects no good, is wholly useless, so is that faith that produces no works; it being as it were dead, it cannot save.

James 2:17

17 Is dead, being alone. He says that faith is dead, being by itself, that is, when destitute of good works. We hence conclude that it is indeed no faith, for when dead, it does not properly retain the name. The Sophists plead this expression and say, that some sort of faith is found by itself; but this frivolous caviling is easily refuted; for it is sufficiently evident that the Apostle reasons from what is impossible, as Paul calls an angel anathema, if he attempted to subvert the gospel. (Gal 1:8.)

James 2:18

18 Yea, a man may say. Erasmus introduces here two persons as speakers; one of whom boasts of faith without works, and the other of works without faith; and he thinks that both are at length confuted by the Apostle. But this view seems to me too forced. He thinks it strange, that this should be said by James, Thou hast faith, who acknowledges no faith without works. But in this he is much mistaken, that he does not acknowledge an irony in these words. Then ἀλλὰ I take for “nay rather;” and τὶς for “any one;” for the design of James was to expose the foolish boasting of those who imagined that they had faith when by their life they shewed that they were unbelievers; for he intimates that it would be easy for all the godly who led a holy life to strip hypocrites of that boasting with which they were inflated. (115)

Shew me. Though the more received reading is, “by works,” yet the old Latin is more suitable, and the reading is also found in some Greek copies. I therefore hesitated not to adopt it. Then he bids to shew faith without works, and thus reasons from what is impossible, to prove what does not exist. So he speaks ironically. But if any one prefers the other reading, it comes to the same thing, “Shew me by works thy faith;” for since it is not an idle thing, it must necessarily be proved by works. The meaning then is, “Unless thy faith brings forth fruits, I deny that thou hast any faith.” (116)

But it may be asked, whether the outward uprightness of life is a sure evidence of faith? For James says, “I will shew thee my faith by my works. ” To this I reply, that the unbelieving sometimes excel in specious virtues, and lead an honorable life free from every crime; and hence works apparently excellent may exist apart from faith. Nor indeed does James maintain that every one who seems good possesses faith. This only he means, that faith, without the evidence of good works, is vainly pretended, because fruit ever comes from the living root of a good tree.

(115) I would render the verse thus:

“But one may say, Thou hast faith, I also have works; shew me thy faith that is without works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”

It is the same as though he had said, “Thou hast faith only, I have also works in addition to my faith; now, prove to me that you have true faith without having works connected with it, (which was impossible, hence he is called a ‘vain man,’ or empty-headed, in Jas 2:20,) and I will prove my faith by its fruits, even good works.

(116) Griesbach and others regard χωρὶς as the true reading, countenanced by most MSS., and found in the Syr. and Vulg.

This verse is a key to the meaning of James: faith is to be proved by works; then faith properly justifies and saves, and works prove its genuineness. When he says that a man is justified by works, the meaning according to this verse is, that a man is proved by his works to be justified, his faith thereby being shewn to be a living and not a dead faith. We may well be surprised, as Doddridge was, that any, taking a view of this whole passage, should ever think that there is any contrariety in what is here said to be the teaching of Paul. The doctrine of Paul, that man is justified by faith and not by works, that is, by a living faith, which works by love, is perfectly consistent with what James says, that is, that a man is not justified by a dead faith but by that faith which proves its living power by producing good works, or by rendering obedience to God. The sum of what James says is, that a dead faith cannot save, but a living faith, and that a living faith is a working faith — a doctrine taught by Paul as well as by James.

James 2:19

19Thou believest that there is one God. From this one sentence it appears evident that the whole dispute is not about faith, but of the common knowledge of God, which can no more connect man with God, than the sight of the sun carry him up to heaven; but it is certain that by faith we come nigh to God. Besides, it would be ridiculous were any one to say, that the devils have faith; and James prefers them in this respect to hypocrites. The devil trembles, he says, at the mention of God’s name, because when he acknowledges his own judge he is filled with the fear of him. He then who despises an acknowledged God is much worse.

Thou doest well, is put down for the purpose of extenuating, as though he had said, “It is, forsooth! a great thing to sink down below the devils.” (117)

(117) The design of alluding to the faith of devils seems to have been this, to shew that though a good man may believe and tremble, yet if he does not obey God and do good works, he has no true evidence of faith. Obedient faith is that which saves, and not merely that which makes us tremble. The connection with the preceding verse seems to be as follows, —

In the former verse the boaster of mere faith is challenged to prove that his faith is right and therefore saving; the challenger would prove by his works. Then, in this verse, a test is applied — the very first article of faith is mentioned: “Be it that you believe this, yet this faith will not save you: the devils have this faith, and instead of being saved they tremble.

James 2:20

20 But wilt thou know. We must understand the state of the question, for the dispute here is not respecting the cause of justification, but only what avails a profession of faith without works, and what opinion we are to form of it. Absurdly then do they act who strive to prove by this passage that man is justified by works, because James meant no such thing, for the proofs which he subjoins refer to this declaration, that no faith, or only a dead faith, is without works. No one will ever understand what is said, nor judge wisely of words, except he who keeps in view the design of the writer.

James 2:21

21 Was not Abraham. The Sophists lay hold on the word justified, and then they cry out as being victorious, that justification is partly by works. But we ought to seek out a right interpretation according to the general drift of the whole passage. We have already said that James does not speak here of the cause of justification, or of the manner how men obtain righteousness, and this is plain to every one; but that his object was only to shew that good works are always connected with faith; and, therefore, since he declares that Abraham was justified by works, he is speaking of the proof he gave of his justification.

When, therefore, the Sophists set up James against Paul, they go astray through the ambiguous meaning of a term. When Paul says that we are justified by faith, he means no other thing than that by faith we are counted righteous before God. But James has quite another thing in view, even to shew that he who professes that he has faith, must prove the reality of his faith by his works. Doubtless James did not mean to teach us here the ground on which our hope of salvation ought to rest; and it is this alone that Paul dwells upon. (118)

That we may not then fall into that false reasoning which has deceived the Sophists, we must take notice of the two fold meaning, of the word justified. Paul means by it the gratuitous imputation of righteousness before the tribunal of God; and James, the manifestation of righteousness by the conduct, and that before men, as we may gather from the preceding words, “Shew to me thy faith,” etc. In this sense we fully allow that man is justified by works, as when any one says that a man is enriched by the purchase of a large and valuable chest, because his riches, before hid, shut up in a chest, were thus made known.

(118) It is justly observed by Scott, that there is the same difficulty in reconciling James with himself as with Paul. And this difficulty at once vanishes, when we take a view of the whole passage, and not confine ourselves to single expressions.

James 2:22

22 By works was faith made perfect (119) By this he again shews, that the question here is not respecting the cause of our salvation, but whether works necessarily accompany faith; for in this sense it is said to have been perfected by works, because it was not idle. It is said to have been perfected by works, not because it received thence its own perfection, but because it was thus proved to be true. For the futile distinction which the Sophists draw from these words, between formed and unformed faith, needs no labored refutation; for the faith of Abram was formed and therefore perfected before he sacrificed his son. And this work was not as it were the finishing, or last work. Formerly things afterwards followed by which Abraham proved the increase of his faith. Hence this was not the perfection of his faith, nor did it then for the first time put on its form. James then understood no other thing, than that the integrity of his faith then appeared, because it brought forth that remarkable fruit of obedience.

(119) The previous sentence is hardly intelligible in our version or in Calvin’s. “Seest thou how faith wrought (co-operated, by C.) with his works?” The verb is συνεργέω, which means properly to work together, to co-operate; and it means also, as the effect of co-operating, to aid, to help. “Seest thou how faith aided him in his works?” Schleusner gives this paraphrase, “Thou sees that Abraham was aided by his faith to do his remarkable works.” Beza’s version is, “Thou seest that faith was the assistant (administer) of his works.” Some give the idea of combining to co-operating, “Thou seest that faith co-operated with his works,” that is, in justification. It has been said, that if this combination had been intended, it ought to have been said that works co-operated with his faith, as faith, according to the testimony of scripture and the nature of things, is the primary and the principal thing, and as there can be no good works without faith. But the first explanation is the most consonant with the words and with the drift of the passage.

James 2:23

23 And the Scripture was fulfilled. They who seek to prove from this passage of James that the works of Abraham were imputed for righteousness, must necessarily confess that Scripture is perverted by him; for however they may turn and twist, they can never make the effect to be its own cause. The passage is quoted from Moses. (Gen 15:6.) The imputation of righteousness which Moses mentions, preceded more than thirty years the work by which they would have Abraham to have been justified. Since faith was imputed to Abraham fifteen years before the birth of Isaac, this could not surely have been done through the work of sacrificing him. I consider that all those are bound fast by an indissoluble knot, who imagine that righteousness was imputed to Abraham before God, because he sacrificed his son Isaac, who was not yet born when the Holy Spirit declared that Abraham was justified. It hence necessarily follows that something posterior is pointed out here.

Why then does James say that it was fulfilled? Even because he intended to shew what sort of faith that was which justified Abraham; that is, that it was not idle or evanescent, but rendered him obedient to God, as also we find in Heb 11:8. The conclusion, which is immediately added, as it depends on this, has no other meaning. Man is not justified by faith alone, that is, by a bare and empty knowledge of God; he is justified by works, that is, his righteousness is known and proved by its fruits.

James 2:25

25 Likewise also was not Rahab. It seems strange that he connected together those who were so unlike. Why did he not rather choose some one from so large a number of illustrious fathers, and join him to Abraham? Why did he prefer a harlot to all others? he designedly put together two persons so different in their character, in order more clearly to shew, that no one, whatever may have been his or her condition, nation, or class in society, has ever been counted righteous without good works. He had named the patriarch, by far the most eminent of all; he now includes under the person of a harlot, all those who, being aliens, were joined to the Church. Whosoever, then, seeks to be counted righteous, though he may even be among the lowest, must yet shew that he is such by good works.

James, according to his manner of speaking, declares that Rahab was justified by works; and the Sophists hence conclude that we obtain righteousness by the merits of works. But we deny that the dispute here is concerning the mode of obtaining righteousness. We, indeed, allow that good works are required for righteousness; we only take away from them the power of conferring righteousness, because they cannot stand before the tribunal of God. (120)

(120) The last verse is left unnoticed, — Jas 2:26 “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works (or, having no works) is dead.”

The meaning is not, that works are to faith what the spirit is to the body, for that would make works to be the life of faith, the reverse of the fact; but the meaning is, that faith having no works is like a dead carcass without life.

James 3:1

1 Be not many masters. The common and almost universal interpretation of this passage is, that the Apostle discourages the desire for the office of teaching, and for this reason, because it is dangerous, and exposes one to a heavier judgment, in case he transgresses: and they think that he said, Be not many masters, because there ought to have been some. But I take masters not to be those who performed a public duty in the Church, but such as took upon them the right of passing judgment upon others: for such reprovers sought to be accounted as masters of morals. And it has a mode of speaking usual among the Greeks as well as Latins, that they were called masters who superciliously animadverted on others.

And that he forbade them to be many, it was done for this reason, because many everywhere did thrust in themselves; for it is, as it were, an innate disease in mankind to seek reputation by blaming others. And, in this respect, a twofold vice prevails — though few excel in wisdom, yet all intrude indiscriminately into the office of masters; and then few are influenced by a right feeling, for hypocrisy and ambition stimulate them, and not a care for the salvation of their brethren. For it is to be observed, that James does not discourage those brotherly admonitions, which the Spirit so often and so much recommends to us, but that immoderate desire to condemn, which proceeds from ambition and pride, when any one exalts himself against his neighbor, slanders, carps, bites, and malignantly seeks for what he may turn to a sinister purpose: for this is usually done when impertinent censors of this kind insolently boast themselves in the work of exposing the vices of others.

From this outrage and annoyance James recalls us; and he adds a reason, because they who are thus severe towards others shall undergo a heavier judgment: for he imposes a hard law on himself, who tries the words and deeds of others according to the rule of extreme rigor; nor does he deserve pardon, who will pardon none. This truth ought to be carefully observed, that they who are too rigid towards their brethren, provoke against themselves the severity of God.

James 3:2

2 For in many things we offend all. This may be taken as having been said by way of concession, as though he had said, “Be it that thou findest what is blamable in thy brethren, for no one is free from sins; but dost thou think that thou art perfect who usest a slanderous and virulent tongue?” But James seems to me to exhort us by this argument to meekness, since we are ourselves also surrounded with many infirmities; for he acts unjustly who denies to others the pardon he needs himself. So also Paul says, when he bids the fallen to be reproved kindly, and in the spirit of meekness; for he immediately adds,

“considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (Gal 6:1.)

For there is nothing which serves more to moderate extreme rigor than the knowledge of our own infirmity.

If any man offend not in word. After having said that there is no one who does not sin in many things, he now shews that the disease of evil-speaking is more odious than other sins; for by saying that he who offends not with his tongue is perfect, he intimates that the restraining of the tongue is a great virtue, and one of the chief virtues. Hence they act most perversely who curiously examine every fault, even the least, and yet so grossly indulge themselves.

He then indirectly touches here on the hypocrisy of censors, because in examining themselves they omitted the chief thing, and that was of great moment even their evil-speaking; for they who reproved others pretended a zeal for perfect holiness, but they ought to have begun with the tongue, if they wished to be perfect. As they made no account of bridling the tongue, but, on the contrary, did bite and tear others, they exhibited only a fictitious sanctity. It is hence evident that they were the most reprehensible of all, because they neglected a primary virtue. This connection renders the meaning of the Apostle plain to us.

James 3:3

3 We put bits in the horses’ mouths. By these two comparisons he proves that a great part of true perfection is in the tongue, and that it exercises dominion, as he has just said, over the whole life. He compares the tongue, first, to a bridle, and then to a helm of a ship. Though a horse be a ferocious animal, yet he is turned about at the will of its rider, because he is bridled; no less can the tongue serve to govern man. So also with regard to the helm of a ship, which guides a large vessel and surmounts the impetuosity of winds. Though the tongue be a small member, yet it avails much in regulating the life of man.

James 3:5

And boasteth great things. The verb μεγαλαυχεῖν means to boast one’s self, or to vaunt. But James in this passage did not intend to reprove ostentation so much as to show that the tongue is the doer of great things; for in this last clause he applies the previous comparisons to his subject; and vain boasting is not suitable to the bridle and the helm. He then means that the tongue is endued with great power.

I have rendered what Erasmus has translated the impetuosity, the inclination, of the pilot or guide; for ὁρμὴ means desire. I indeed allow that among the Greeks it designates those lusts which are not subservient to reason. But here James simply speaks of the will of the pilot.

James 3:6

He now explains the evils which proceed from the neglect of restraining the tongue, in order that we may know that the tongue may do much good or much evil, — that if it be modest and well regulated, it becomes a bridle to the whole life, but that if it be petulant and violent, like a fire it destroys all things.

He represents it as a small or little fire, to intimate that this smallness of the tongue will not be a hindrance that its power should not extend far and wide to do harm.

6 By adding that it is a world of iniquity, it is the same as though he had called it the sea or the abyss. And he suitably connects the smallness of the tongue with the vastness of the world; according to this meaning, A slender portion of flesh contains in it the whole world of iniquity.

So is the tongue. He explains what he meant by the term world, even because the contagion of the tongue spreads through every part of life; or rather he shews what he understood by the metaphor fire, even that the tongue pollutes the whole man. He however immediately returns to the fire, and says, that the whole course of nature is set on fire by the tongue. And he compares human life to a course or a wheel: and γένεσις, as before, he takes for nature, (Jas 1:23.)

The meaning is, that when other vices are corrected by age or by the succession of time, or when at least then do not possess the whole man, the vice of the tongue spreads and prevails over every part of life; except one prefers to take setting on fire as signifying a violent impulse, for we call that fervid which is accompanied with violence. And thus Horace speaks of wheels, for he calls chariots in battle fervid, on account of their rapidity. The meaning then would be, that the tongue is like untamed horses; for as these draw violently the chariots, so the tongue hurries a man headlong by its own wantonness. (121)

When he says that it is set on fire by hell, it is the same as though he had said, that the outrageousness of the tongue is the flame of the infernal fire. (122) For as heathen poets imagined that the wicked are tormented by the torches of the Furies; so it is true, that Satan by the fans of temptations kindles the fire of all evils in the world: but James means, that fire, sent by Satan, is most easily caught by the tongue, so that it immediately burns; in short, that it is a material fitted for receiving or fostering and increasing the fire of hell.

(121) “The course of nature,” or the compass of nature, that is, all that is included in nature, means evidently the same with “the whole body” in the preceding clause. There is no sense, compatible with the passage, in what some have suggested, “the whole course of life;” for what idea is conveyed, when we say that the tongue inflames or sets in a flame the whole course of life? But there is an intelligible meaning, when it is said, that the tongue sets in a flame the whole machinery of our nature, every faculty that belongs to man.

(122) “A bad tongue is the organ of the devil.” — Estius.

James 3:7

7 For every kind of beasts. This is a confirmation of the last clause; for that Satan by the tongue rules most effectively he proves by this — that it can by no means be brought to due order; and he amplifies this by comparisons. For he says that there is no animal so savage or fierce, which is not tamed by the skill of man, — that fishes, which in a manner inhabit another world, — that birds, which are so quick and roving — and that serpents, which are so inimical to mankind, are sometimes tamed. Since then the tongue cannot be restrained, there must be some secret fire of hell hidden in it.

What he says of wild beasts, of serpents, and of other animals, is not to be understood of them all; it is enough that the skill of man should subdue and tame some of the most ferocious of them, and also that serpents are sometimes tamed. He refers to present and to past time: the present regards power and capacity, and the past, usage or experience. He hence justly concludes that the tongue is full of deadly poison.

Though all these things most suitably refer in the first place to the subject of this passage — that they claim an unreasonable command over others, who labor under a worse vice; yet a universal doctrine may be understood as taught here, — that if we desire to form our life aright, we must especially strive to restrain the tongue, for no part of man does more harm.

James 3:9

9 Therewith, or, by it, bless we God. It is a clear instance of its deadly poison, that it can thus through a monstrous levity transform itself; for when it pretends to bless God, it immediately curses him in his own image, even by cursing men. For since God ought to be blessed in all his works, he ought to be so especially as to men, in whom his image and glory peculiarly shine forth. It is then a hypocrisy not to be borne, when man employs the same tongue in blessing God and in cursing men. There can be then no calling on God, and his praises must necessarily cease, when evil-speaking prevails; for it is impious profanation of God’s name, which the tongue is virulent towards our brethren and pretends to praise him. That he may therefore rightly praise God, the view of evil speaking as to our neighbor must especially be corrected.

James 3:10

This particular truth ought also to be borne in mind, that severe censors discover their own virulence, which they suddenly vomit forth against their brethren whatever curses they can imagine, after having in sweet strains offered praises to God. Were any one to object and say, that the image of God in human nature has been blotted out by the sin of Adam; we must, indeed, confess that it has been miserably deformed, but in such a way that some of its lineaments still appear. Righteousness and rectitude, and the freedom of choosing what is good, have been lost; but many excellent endowments, by which we excel the brutes, still remain. He, then, who truly worships and honors God, will be afraid to speak slanderously of man.

James 3:11

11 Doth a fountain. He adduces these comparisons in order to shew that a cursing tongue is something monstrous, contrary to all nature, and subverts the order everywhere established by God. For God hath so arranged things which are contrary, that inanimate things ought to deter us from a chaotic mixture, sure as is found in a double tongue. (123)

(123) There is a different reading at the end of the Jas 3:12, adopted by Griesbach, though rejected by Mill and others: οὕτως οὔτε ἁλυχὸν γλυχὺ ποιὢσαι ὕδωρ, “So neither can salt water produce sweet.” This reading is favored by the Syr. and Vulg., though the words are somewhat different.

James 3:13

13 Who is a wise man. As the lust of slandering arises mostly from pride, and as the false conceit of wisdom for the most part generates pride, he therefore speaks here of wisdom. It is usual with hypocrites to exalt and shew off themselves by criminating all others, as the case was formerly with many of the philosophers, who sought glory for themselves by a bitter abuse of all other orders. Such haughtiness as slanderous men swell with and are blinded by, James checked, by denying that the conceit of wisdom, with which men flatter themselves, has in it anything divine; but, on the contrary, he declares that it proceeds from the devil.

Then the meaning is, that supercilious censors, who largely indulge themselves, and at the same time spare none, seem to themselves to be very wise, but are greatly mistaken; for the Lord teaches his people far otherwise, even to be meek, and to be courteous to others. They, then, are alone wise in the sight of God, who connect this meekness with an honest conversation; for they who are severe and inexorable, though they may excel others in many virtues, do not yet follow the right way of wisdom. (124)

(124) “Who is wise and intelligent among you?” let him by a good conduct shew his works in meekness of wisdom.”

The arrangement here is according to what is common in scripture: Wisdom the effect first, then knowledge the cause or what precedes it. In what follows the order is reversed; knowledge distinguishes between good and bad works, and the good ought to be exhibited with that meekness which wisdom dictates.

James 3:14

14 But if ye have bitter envying. He points out the fruits which proceed from that extreme austerity which is contrary to meekness; for immoderate rigor necessarily begets mischievous emulations, which presently break forth into contentions. It is, indeed, an improper mode of speaking, to place contentions in the heart; but this affects not the meaning; for the object was to shew that the evil disposition of the heart is the fountain of these evils.

He has called envying, or emulation, bitter; for it prevails not, except when minds are so infected with the poison of malignity, that they turn all things into bitterness. (125)

That we may then really glory that we are the children of God, he bids us to act calmly and meekly towards our brethren; otherwise he declares that we are lying in assuming the Christian name. But it is not without reason that he has added the associate of envying, even strife, or contention, for contests and quarrels ever arise from malignity and envy.

(125) A similar order as to the words is found here as in the former verse: bitter envying is occasioned by strife of contention. There may be envying without contention, but it is contention that commonly makes it bitter.

James 3:15

15 This wisdom descendeth not. As hypocrites with difficulty give way, he sharply checked their haughtiness, denying that to be true wisdom with which they were inflated, while they were extremely morose in searching out the vices of others. Conceding to them, however, the term wisdom, he shews by the words he applies to it its true character, and says that it is earthly, sensual, devilish, or demoniac, while true wisdom must be heavenly, spiritual, divine; which three things are directly contrary to the three preceding ones. For James takes it as granted, that we are not wise, except when we are illuminated by God from above through his Spirit. However, then, the mind of man may enlarge itself, all its acuteness will be vanity; and not only so, but being at length entangled in the wiles of Satan, it will become wholly delirious. (126)

Sensual, or animal, is in opposition to what is spiritual, as in 1Co 2:14, where Paul says that the sensual or animal man receives not the things of God. And the pride of man could not have been more effectually cast down, than when thus is condemned whatever wisdom he has from himself, without the Spirit of God; nay, when from himself a transition is made to the devil. For it is the same as though he had said, that men, following their own sense, or minds, or feelings, soon became a prey to the delusions of Satan.

(126) Scott considers that this wisdom was called “earthly,” because it sought earthly distinctions, and was of earthly origin, — “sensual,” or rather “natural,” as the word is rendered in 1Co 2:14, because it was the result of such principles as natural men are actuated by, such as envy and ambition, — “and devilish,” because it came first from the devil, and constituted the image of his pride, ambition, malignity, and falsehood.

The word “sensual” has led some to suppose that the reference is to sensuality, the gratification of carnal lusts: but there is nothing in the passage that favors this view. The only things mentioned are envy and a contentious spirit, things which belong to natural man.

James 3:16

16 For where envying is. It is an argument from what is contrary; for envying, by which hypocrites are influenced, produces effects contrary to wisdom. For wisdom requires a state of mind that is calm and composed, but envying disturbs it, so that in itself it becomes in a manner tumultuous, and boils up immoderately against others.

Some render ἀκαταστασία inconstancy, and sometimes it means this, but as it signifies also sedition and tumult, perturbation seems the most suitable to this passage. For James meant to express something more than levity, even that the malignant and the slanderer does everything confusedly and rashly, as though he were beside himself; and hence he adds, every evil work

James 3:17

17 But the wisdom which is from above. He now mentions the effects of celestial wisdom which are wholly contrary to the former effects. He says first that it is pure; by which term he excludes hypocrisy and ambition. (127) He, in the second place, calls it peaceable, to intimate that it is not contentious. In the third place, he calls itkind or humane, that we may know that it is far away from that immoderate austerity which tolerates nothing in our brethren. He also calls it gentle or tractable; by which he means that it widely differs from pride and malignity. In the last place, he says that it is full of mercy, etc., while hypocrisy is inhuman and inexorable. By good fruits he generally refers to all those duties which benevolent men perform towards their brethren; as though he had said, it is full of benevolence. It hence follows, that they lie who glory in their cruel austerity.

But though he had sufficiently condemned hypocrisy, when he said that wisdom is pure or sincere; he makes it more clear by repeating the same thing at the end. We are hence reminded, that for no other reason are we beyond measure morose or austere, but this, because we too much spare ourselves, and connive at our own vices.

But what he says, without discerning (sine dijudicatione ,) seems strange; for the Spirit of God does not take away the difference between good and evil; nor does he render us so senseless as to be so void of judgment as to praise vice, and regard it as virtue. To this I reply, that James here, by discerning or distinguishing refers to that overanxious and overscrupulous inquiry, such as is commonly carried on by hypocrites, who too minutely examine the sayings and doings of their brethren, and put on them the worst construction. (128)

(127) “Pure,” ἁγνή, is to be understood according to what the context contains. It means what is free from taint or pollution: the kind of taint must be learnt from the passage. The wisdom from above is contrasted with the wisdom from below: the latter has envy and contention; the former is “pure,” being free from envy, and is “peaceable.”

(128) The word ἀδιύκριτος is found only here, and has been variously rendered, because the verb from which it comes has various meanings, — to discern, to make a difference, to judge, to examine, to contend or litigate, and to doubt. It is rendered by the Vulg., as “not judging” — uncensorious; by Beza, “without contending” — incontroversial; by Erasmus, “making no difference” — impartial; and by Hammond, “not doubting,” i.e., as to the faith. “Uncensorious,” or, “impartial;” seems the most suitable rendering; not given to rashness in judging of others, or not shewing respect of persons, previously condemned in Jas 2:1. Then follows “undissembling,” not saying one thing and meaning another.

There seems to be a complete contrast between the two kinds of wisdom. The wisdom from above is not envious, but pure; is not contentious, but peaceable; does not create confusion, but is patient and conciliatory; and instead of producing “every evil work,” it is full of mercy or benevolence, and of the fruits of benevolence, being not censorious or partial in judgment, and not dissembling, or acting dishonestly. By this comparison, we see what were some of the things included in “every evil work;” they were the reverse of mercy or benevolence, and its fruits, even censoriousness or partiality, and dissimilation. And yet those who exhibited all those evil things thought that they had wisdom! and even gloried in it!

James 3:18

18 And the fruit of righteousness. This admits of two meanings, — that fruit is sown by the peaceable, which afterwards they gather, — or, that they themselves, though they meekly tolerate many things in their neighbors, do not yet cease to sow righteousness. It is, however, an anticipation of an objection; for they who are carried away to evil speaking by the lust of slandering, have always this excuse, “What! can we then remove evil by our courteousness?” Hence James says, that those who are wise according to God’s will, are so kind, meek, and merciful, as yet not to cover vices nor favor them; but on the contrary in such a way as to strive to correct them, and yet in a peaceable manner, that is, in moderation, so that union is preserved. And thus he testifies that what he had hitherto said tends in no degree to do away with calm reproofs; but that those who wish to be physicians to heal vices ought not to be executioners.

He therefore adds, by those who make peace; which ought to be thus explained: they who study peace, are nevertheless careful to sow righteousness; nor are they slothful or negligent in promoting and encouraging good works; but they moderate their zeal with the condiment of peace, while hypocrites throw all things into confusion by a blind and furious violence.

James 4:1

1 From whence come wars. As he had spoken of peace, and had reminded them that vices are to be exterminated in such a way as to preserve peace, he now comes to their contentions, by which they created confusion among themselves; and he shews that these arose from their invidious desires and lusts, rather than from a zeal for what was just and right; for if every one observed moderation, they would not have disturbed and annoyed one another. They had their hot conflicts, because their lusts were allowed to prevail unchecked.

It hence appears, that greater peace would have been among them, had every one abstained from doing wrong to others; but the vices which prevailed among them were so many attendants armed to excite contentions. He calls our faculties members. He takes lusts as designating all illicit and lustful desires or propensities which cannot be satisfied without doing injury to others.

James 4:2

2 Ye lust, or covet, and have not. He seems to intimate that the soul of man is insatiable, when he indulges wicked lusts; and truly it is so; for he who suffers his sinful propensities to rule uncontrolled, will know no end to his lust. Were even the world given to him, he would wish other worlds to be created for him. It thus happens, that men seek torments which exceed the cruelty of all executioners. For that saying of Horace is true:

The tyrants of Sicily found no torment greater than envy. (129)

Some copies have φονεύετε, “ye kill;” but I doubt not but that we ought to read, φθονεῖτε, “ye envy,” as I have rendered it; for the verb, to kill, does in no way suit the context. (130) Ye fight: he does not mean those wars and fightings, which men engage in with drawn swords, but the violent contentions which prevailed among them. They derived no benefit from contentions of this kind, for he affirms that they received the punishment of their own wickedness. God, indeed, whom they owned not as the author of blessings, justly disappointed them. For when they contended in ways so unlawful, they sought to be enriched through the favor of Satan rather than through the favor of God. One by fraud, another by violence, one by calumnies, and all by some evil or wicked arts, strove for happiness. They then sought to be happy, but not through God. It was therefore no wonder that they were frustrated in their efforts, since no success can be expected except through the blessings of God alone.

(129) Invidia Siculi non invenere tyranni Majus tormentum. — EPIST. Lib. I. 2:58.

(130) There is no MS. nor version in favor of φθονεῖτε. When it is said, “ye kill,” the meaning is, that they did so as to the hatred or envy they entertained, for hatred is the root of murder, and arises often from envy. What has evidently led Calvin and others to conjecture a mistake here, has been the difficulty arising from the order of the words, “Ye kill and ye envy;” but this order is wholly consonant with the style of Scripture, where often the greater evil or good is mentioned first, and then that which precedes or leads to it. It is the same here as though the copulative, and, were rendered causatively, “ye kill because ye envy.” Envy is murder in the sight of God.

The language of the whole passage is highly metaphorical. He calls their contentions “wars and fightings;” for the whole tenor of the passage is opposed to the supposition that he refers to actual wars. He adopts a military term as to inward lusts or ambitious desires, that they “carried on war” in their members; the expedition for their contests was prepared within, mustered in their hearts. Then the character of this war is more plainly defined, “Ye covet,” not, ye lust; “ye kill,” or commit murder, for “ye envy;” when ye cannot attain your objects, “ye wage war and fight,” that is, ye wrangle and quarrel. Avarice and ambition were the two prevailing evils, but especially avarice; and avarice too for the purpose of gratifying the lusts and propensities of their sinful nature, as it appears from the third verse.

James 4:3

3 Ye seek and receive not. He goes farther: though they sought, yet they were deservedly denied; because they wished to make God the minister of their own lusts. For they set no bounds to their wishes, as he had commanded; but gave unbridled license to themselves, so as to ask those things of which man, conscious of what is right, ought especially to be ashamed. Pliny somewhere ridicules this impudence, that men so wickedly abuse the ears of God. The less tolerable is such a thing in Christians, who have had the rule of prayer given them by their heavenly Master.

And doubtless there appears to be in us no reverence for God, no fear of him, in short, no regard for him, when we dare to ask of him what even our own conscience does not approve. James meant briefly this, — that our desires ought to be bridled: and the way of bridling them is to subject them to the will of God. And he also teaches us, that what we in moderation wish, we ought to seek from God himself; which if it be done, we shall be preserved from wicked contentions, from fraud and violence, and from doing any injury to others.

James 4:4

4 Ye adulterers. I connect this verse with the foregoing verses: for he calls them adulterers, as I think, metaphorically; for they corrupted themselves with the vanities of this world, and alienated themselves from God; as though he had said, that they had become degenerated, or were become bastards. We know how frequent, in Holy Scripture, is that marriage mentioned which God forms with us. He would have us, then, to be like a chaste virgin, as Paul says, (2Co 11:2.) This chastity is violated and corrupted by all impure affections towards the world. James, then, does not without reason compare the love of the world to adultery.

They, then, who take his words literally, do not sufficiently observe the context: for he goes on still to speak against the lusts of men, which lead away those entangled with the world from God, as it follows, —

The friendship of the world. He calls it the friendship of the world when men surrender themselves to the corruptions of the world, and become slaves to them. For such and so great is the disagreement between the world and God, that as much as any one inclines to the world, so much he alienates himself from God. Hence the Scripture bids us often to renounce the world, if we wish to serve God.

James 4:5

5 Do ye think. He seems to adduce from Scripture the next following sentence. Hence interpreters toil much, because none such, at least none exactly alike, is found in Scripture. But nothing hinders the reference to be made to what has been already said, that is, that the friendship of the world is adverse to God. Moreover; it has been rightly said, that this is a truth which occurs everywhere in Scripture. And that he has omitted the pronoun, which would have rendered the sentence clearer, is not to be wondered at, for, as it is evident, he is everywhere very concise.

The Spirit, or, Does the Spirit? Some think that the soul of man is meant, and therefore read the sentence affirmatively, and according to this meaning, — that the spirit of man, as it is malignant, is so infected with envy, that it has ever a mixture of it. They, however, think better who regard the Spirit of God as intended; for it is he that is given to dwell in us. (131) I then take the Spirit as that of God, and read the sentence as a question; for it was his object to prove, that because they envied they were not ruled by the Spirit of God; because he teaches the faithful otherwise; and this he confirms in the next verse, by adding that he giveth more grace

For it is an argument arising from what is contrary. Envy is a proof or sign of malignity; but the Spirit of God proves himself to be bountiful by the affluence of his blessings. There is then nothing more repugnant to his nature than envy. In short, James denies that the Spirit of God rules where depraved lusts prevail, which excite to mutual contention; because it is peculiarly the office of the Spirit to enrich men more and more continually with new gifts.

I will not stop to refute other explanations. Some give this meaning that the Spirit lusteth against envy; which is too harsh and forced. Then they say that God gives more grace to conquer and subdue lust. But the meaning I have given is more suitable and simple, — that he restores us by his bounty from the power of malignant emulation. The continuative particle δὲ is to be taken adversatively, for ἀλλὰ or ἀλλά γε; so have I rendered it quin , but.

(131) There are wagon-loads of interpretations, says Erasmus, on this passage. The one given by Calvin, and adopted by Whitby, Doddridge, Scholefield, and others, is the most satisfactory, and what alone enables us to see a meaning in the words, “more grace,” in the following verse. The Spirit dwells in God’s people, and he dwells there to give more or increasing grace, according to the tenor of what is said in Isa 57:15, where God is said to “dwell with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit,” and for this purpose, “to revive the spirit of the humble,” etc.

5, 6 “Do ye think that the scripture speaketh thus in vain? Doth the Spirit who dwells in us lust to envy? nay, but he giveth more (or increasing) grace: he therefore saith, God sets himself in array against the insolent, but gives grace to the humble.”

The humble are those who are made so by grace; but God promises to give them more grace, to perfect that which had begun.

James 4:7

7 Submit yourselves. The submission which he recommends is that of humility; for he does not exhort us generally to obey God, but requires submission; for the Spirit of God rests on the humble and the meek. (Isa 57:15.) On this account he uses the illative particle. For as he had declared that God’s Spirit is bountiful in increasing his gifts, he hence concludes that we ought to lay aside envy, and to submit to God.

Many copies have introduced here the following sentence: “Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” But in others it is not found. Erasmus suspects that it was first a note in the margin, and afterwards crept into the text. It may have been so, though it is not unsuitable to the passage. For what some think, that it is strange that what is found only in Peter, should be quoted as Scripture, may be easily disposed of. But I rather conjecture that this sentence which accords with the common doctrine of Scripture, had become then a sort of proverbial saying common among the Jews. And, indeed, it is no more than what is found in Psa 18:27,

“The humble O Lord, thou wilt save; and the eyes of the proud wilt thou cast down:” and similar sentences are found in many other passages. (132)

Resist the devil. He shews what that contention is which we ought to engage in, as Paul says, that our contest is not with flesh and blood, but he stimulates us to a spiritual fight. Then, after having taught us meekness towards men, and submission towards God, he brings before us Satan as our enemy, whom it behooves us to fight against.

However, the promise which he adds, respecting the fleeing of Satan, seems to be refuted by daily experience; for it is certain, that the more strenuously any one resists, the more fiercely he is urged. For Satan, in a manner, acts playfully, when he is not in earnest repelled; but against those who really resist him, he employs all the strength he possesses. And further, he is never wearied with fighting; but when conquered in one battle, he immediately engages in another. To this I reply, that fleeing is to be taken here for putting to flight, or routing. And, doubtless, though he repeats his attacks continually, he yet always departs vanquished.

(132) The passage is found in all MSS. and versions: there is, therefore, no ground to think it an interpolation. And it is taken literally from Pro 3:34, according to the Sept.; though the first clause differs from the Hebrew in words, yet it is substantially the same. To “scorn the scorners,” and to “resist (or, to stand in array against) the proud” or insolent, mean the same thing.

James 4:8

8 Draw nigh to God. He again reminds us that the aid of God will not be wanting to us, provided we give place to him. For when he bids us to draw nigh to God, that we may know him to be near to us, he intimates that we are destitute of his grace, because we withdraw from him. But as God stands on our side, there is no reason to fear succumbing. But if any one concludes from this passage, that the first part of the work belongs to us, and that afterwards the grace of God follows, the Apostle meant no such thing; for though we ought to do this, yet it does [not] immediately follow that we can. And the Spirit of God, in exhorting us to our duty, derogates nothing from himself, or from his own power; but the very thing he bids us to do, he himself fulfills in us.

In short, James meant no other thing in this passage, than that God is never wanting to us, except when we alienate ourselves from him. He is like one who brings the hungry to a table and the thirsty to a fountain. There is this difference, that our steps must be guided and sustained by the Lord, for our feet fail us. But what some cavil at, and say, that God’s grace is secondary to our preparation, and as it were the waiting-maid, is only frivolous; for we know that it is no new thing that he adds now to former graces and thus enriches more and more those to whom he has already given much.

Cleanse your hands. He here addresses all those who were alienated from God and he does not refer to two sorts of men, but he calls the same sinners and double-minded Nor does he understand every kind of sinners, but the wicked and those of a corrupt life. It is said in Joh 9:3,

“God does not hear sinners;”

in the same sense a woman is called a sinner by Luke. (Luk 7:39.) It is said by the same and the other evangelists, “He drinketh and eateth with sinners.” He, therefore, does not smite all indiscriminately to that sort of repentance mentioned here, but those who are wicked and corrupt in heart, and whose life is base and flagitious or at least wicked; it is from these he requires a purity of heart and outward cleanliness.

We hence learn what is the true character of repentance. It is not only an outward amendment of life, but its beginning is the cleansing of the heart. It is also necessary on the other hand that the fruits of inward repentance should appear in the brightness of our works. (133)

(133) In the seventh verse he seems still to continue military terms, “Set yourselves, therefore, in array under God: stand up against the devil, and he will flee from you.” It is especially to be observed, that the first thing is to be under the banner and protection of God, and then we can successfully stand up against the devil: apart from God, we have no power to resist him.

The order in the following verse, the eighth, is worthy of notice, as an example of what is very common in Scripture. The main thing is first stated, to draw nigh to God: and then the things which are previously necessary, to cleanse their hands and to purify their hearts — an allusion probably to the practice among the priests of the law, of washing themselves before they engaged in the service of the temple. They were to wash their hands as though they had been stained with blood, as the crime of murder had been imputed to them in Jas 4:2 : and they were to purify their hearts from the covetings and ambitious desires which they had entertained. Except those things were done they could not draw nigh to God. And further, to draw nigh to God was necessary before they could set themselves in array under his authority, so that there is a connection between this verse and the former: the ultimate object, stated first, was submission to God, and to be under his protection; and all that follows was necessary for that purpose. The regular order would be, Purify your hearts, cleanse your hands, draw nigh to God, and be subject to him. But this mode of statement, by going backward instead of forward, is to be met with in all parts of Scripture. See on this subject the Preface to the third volume of Calvin’s Commentaries on Jeremiah.

James 4:9

9 Be afflicted and mourn. Christ denounces mourning on those who laugh, as a curse, (Luk 6:25;) and James, in what shortly follows, alluding to the same words, threatens the rich with mourning. But here he speaks of that salutary mourning or sorrow which leads us to repentance. He addresses those who, being inebriated in their minds, did not perceive God’s judgment. Thus it happened that they flattered themselves in their vices. That he might shake off from them this deadly torpor, he admonishes them to learn to mourn, that being touched with sorrow of conscience they might cease to flatter themselves and to exult on the verge of destruction. Then laughter is to be taken as signifying the flattering with which the ungodly deceive themselves, while they are infatuated by the sweetness of their sins and forget the judgment of God.

James 4:10

10 Humble yourselves, or, be ye humbled. The conclusion of what is gone before is, that the grace of God then be ready to raise us up when he sees that our proud spirits are laid aside. We emulate and envy, because we desire to be eminent. This is a way wholly unreasonable, for it is God’s peculiar work to raise up the lowly, and especially those who willingly humble themselves. Whosoever, then, seeks a firm elevation, let him be cast down under a sense of his own infirmity, and think humbly of himself. Augustine well observes somewhere, As a tree must strike deep roots downwards, that it may grow upwards, so every one who has not his soul fixed deep in humility, exalts himself to his own ruin.

James 4:11

11 Speak not evil, or, defame not. We see how much labor James takes in correcting the lust for slandering. For hypocrisy is always presumptuous, and we are by nature hypocrites, fondly exalting ourselves by calumniating others. There is also another disease innate in human nature, that every one would have all others to live according to his own will or fancy. This presumption James suitably condemns in this passage, that is, because we dare to impose on our brethren our rule of life. He then takes detraction as including all the calumnies and suspicious works which flow from a malignant and perverted judgment. The evil of slandering takes a wide range; but here he properly refers to that kind of slandering which I have mentioned, that is, when we superciliously determine respecting the deeds and sayings of others, as though our own morosity were the law, when we confidently condemn whatever does not please us.

That such presumption is here reproved is evident from the reason that is immediately added, He that speaketh evil of, or defames his brother, speaketh evil of, or defames the law. He intimates, that so much is taken away from the law as one claims of authority over his brethren. Detraction, then, against the law is opposed to that reverence with which it behooves us to regard it.

Paul handles nearly the same argument in Rom 14:0, though on a different occasion. For when superstition in the choice of meats possessed some, what they thought unlawful for themselves, they condemned also in others. He then reminded them, that there is but one Lord, according to whose will all must stand or fall, and at whose tribunal we must all appear. Hence he concludes that he who judges his brethren according to his own view of things, assumes to himself what peculiarly belongs to God. But James reproves here those who under the pretense of sanctity condemned their brethren, and therefore set up their own morosity in the place of the divine law. He, however, employs the same reason with Paul, that is, that we act presumptuously when we assume authority over our brethren, while the law of God subordinates us all to itself without exception. Let us then learn that we are not to judge but according to God’s law.

Thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. This sentence ought to be thus explained: “When thou claimest for thyself a power to censure above the law of God thou exemptest thyself from the duty of obeying the law.” He then who rashly judges his brother; shakes off the yoke of God, for he submits not to the common rule of life. It is then an argument from what is contrary; because the keeping of the law is wholly different from this arrogance, when men ascribe to their conceit the power and authority of the law. It hence follows, that we then only keep the law, when we wholly depend on its teaching alone and do not otherwise distinguish between good and evil; for all the deeds and words of men ought to be regulated by it.

Were any one to object and say, that still the saints will be the judges of the world, (1Co 6:2,) the answer is obvious, that this honor does not belong to them according to their own right, but inasmuch as they are the members of Christ; and that they now judge according to the law, so that they are not to be deemed judges because they only obediently assent to God as their own judge and the judge of all. With regard to God he is not to be deemed the doer of the law, because his righteousness is prior to the law; for the law has flown from the eternal and infinite righteousness of God as a river from its fountain.

James 4:12

12 There is one lawgiver (134) Now he connects the power of saying and destroying with the office of a lawgiver, he intimates that the whole majesty of God is forcibly assumed by those who claim for themselves the right of making a law; and this is what is done by those who impose as a law on others their own nod or will. And let us remember that the subject here is not civil government, in which the edicts and laws of magistrates have place, but the spiritual government of the soul, in which the word of God alone ought to bear rule. There is then one God, who has consciences subjected by right to his own laws, as he alone has in his own hand the power to save and to destroy.

It hence appears what is to be thought of human precepts, which cast the snare of necessity on consciences. Some indeed would have us to shew modesty, when we call the Pope antichrist, who exercises tyranny over the souls of men, making himself a lawgiver equal to God. But we learn from this passage something far more, even that they are the members of Antichrist, who willingly submit to be thus ensnared, and that they thus renounce Christ, when they connect themselves with a man that is not only a mortal, but who also extols himself against him. It is, I say, a prevaricating obedience, rendered to the devil, when we allow any other than God himself to be a lawgiver to rule our souls.

Who art thou. Some think that they are admonished here to become reprovers of their own vices, in order that they might begin to examine themselves, and that by finding out that they were not purer than others, they might cease to be so severe. I think that their own condition is simply suggested to men, so that they may think how much they are below that dignity which they assumed, as Paul also says, “Who art thou who judgest another?” (Rom 14:4.)

(134) Griesbach adds καὶ κριτη ́ς, “and judge,” a reading favored by many MSS. and the versions; and doubtless it makes the passage more complete, especially as what follows belongs to the judge rather than to the lawgiver, that is, to save or to destroy.

James 4:13

13 Go to now. He condemns here another kind of presumption, that many, who ought to have depended on God’s providence, confidently settled what they were to do, and arranged their plans for a long time, as though they had many years at their own disposal, while they were not sure, no not even of one moment. Solomon also sharply ridicules this kind of foolish boasting, when he says that

“men settle their ways in their heart, and the Lord in the mean time rules the tongue.” (Pro 16:1.)

And it is a very insane thing to undertake to execute what we cannot pronounce with our tongue. James does not reprove the form of speaking, but rather the arrogance of mind, that men should forget their own weakness, and speak thus presumptuously; for even the godly, who think humbly of themselves, and acknowledge that their steps are guided by the will of God, may yet sometimes say, without any qualifying clause, that they will do this or that. It is indeed right and proper, when we promise anything as to future time, to accustom ourselves to such words as these, “If it shall please the Lord,” “If the Lord will permit.” But no scruple ought to be entertained, as though it were a sin to omit them; for we read everywhere in the Scriptures that the holy servants of God spoke unconditionally of future things, when yet they had it as a principle fixed in their minds, that they could do nothing without the permission of God. Then as to the practice of saying, “If the Lord will or permit,” it ought to be carefully attended to by all the godly.

But James roused the stupidity of those who disregarded God’s providence, and claimed for themselves a whole year, though they had not a single moment in their own power; the gain which was afar off they promised to themselves, though they had no possession of that which was before their feet.

James 4:14

14 For what is your life? He might have checked this foolish license in determining things to come by many other reasons; for we see how the Lord daily frustrates those presumptuous men who promise what great things they will do. But he was satisfied with this one argument, who has promised to thee a life for tomorrow? Canst thou, a dying man, do what thou so confidently resolvest to do? For he who remembers the shortness of his life, will have his audacity easily checked so as not to extend too far his resolves. Nay, for no other reason do ungodly men indulge themselves so much, but because they forget that they are men. By the similitude of vapor, he strikingly shews that the purposes which are founded only on the present life, are altogether evanescent.

James 4:15

15 If the Lord will. A twofold condition is laid down, “If we shall live so long,” and, “If the Lord will;” because many things may intervene to upset what we may have determined; for we are blind as to all future events. (135) By will he means not that which is expressed in the law, but God’s counsel by which he governs all things.

(135) The words may be rendered thus, “If the Lord will, we shall both live and do this or that.” So that living and doing are both dependent on God’s will.

James 4:16

16 But now ye rejoice, or, glory. We may learn from these words that James condemned something more than a passing speech.Ye rejoice, or, glory, he says, in your empty boastings. Though they robbed God of his government, they yet flattered themselves; not that they openly set themselves up as superior to God, though they were especially inflated with confidence in themselves, but that their minds were inebriated with vanity so as to disregard God. And as warnings of this kind are usually received with contempt by ungodly men — nay, this answer is immediately given, “known to ourselves is what is offered to us, so that there is no need of such a warning;” — he alleges against them this knowledge in which they gloried, and declares that they sinned the more grievously, because they did not sin through ignorance, but through contempt.

James 5:1

1 Go to now. They are mistaken, as I think, who consider that James here exhorts the rich to repentance. It seems to me to be a simple denunciation of God’s judgment, by which he meant to terrify them without giving them any hope of pardon; for all that he says tends only to despair. He, therefore, does not address them in order to invite them to repentance; but, on the contrary, he has a regard to the faithful, that they, hearing of the miserable and of the rich, might not envy their fortune, and also that knowing that God would be the avenger of the wrongs they suffered, they might with a calm and resigned mind bear them. (136)

But he does not speak of the rich indiscriminately, but of those who, being immersed in pleasures and inflated with pride, thought of nothing but of the world, and who, like inexhaustible gulfs, devoured everything; for they, by their tyranny, oppressed others, as it appears from the whole passage.

Weep and howl, or, Lament, howling. Repentance has indeed its weeping, but being mixed with consolation, it does not proceed to howling. Then James intimates that the heaviness of God’s vengeance will be so horrible and severe on the rich, that they will be constrained to break forth into howling, as though he had said briefly to them, “Woe to you!” But it is a prophetic mode of speaking: the ungodly have the punishment which awaits them set before them, and they are represented as already enduring it. As, then, they were now flattering themselves, and promising to themselves that the prosperity in which they thought themselves happy would be perpetual, he declared that the most grievous miseries were nigh at hand.

(136) Many commentators, such as Grotius, Doddridge, Macknight, and Scott, consider that the Apostle refers at the beginning of this chapter, not to professing Christians, but to unbelieving Jews. There is nothing said that can lead to such an opinion: and if the two preceding chapters were addressed (as admitted by all) to those whoprofessed the faith, there is no reason why this should not have been addressed to them; the sins here condemned are not worse than those previously condemned. Indeed, we find by the Epistles of Peter, and by that of Jude, that there were men professing religion at that time, who were not a whit better (if not worse) than many who profess religion in our age.

Besides, it was not unusual, in addresses to Christians, to address unbelievers. Indeed, Paul expressly says, “What have I to do to judge them that are without?”

That there were rich men professing the gospel at that time, is evident from Jas 1:10.

James 5:2

2 Your riches. The meaning may be twofold: — that he ridicules their foolish confidence, because the riches in which they placed their happiness, were wholly fading, yea, that they could be reduced to nothing by one blast from God — or that he condemns as their insatiable avarice, because they heaped together wealth only for this, that they might perish without any benefit. This latter meaning is the most suitable. It is, indeed, true that those rich men are insane who glory in things so fading as garments, gold, silver, and such things, since it is nothing else than to make their glory subject to rust and moths; and well known is that saying “What is ill got is soon lost;” because the curse of God consumes it all, for it is not right that the ungodly or their heirs should enjoy riches which they have snatched, as it were, by violence from the hand of God.

But as James enumerates the vices of which the rich brought on themselves the calamity which he mentions, the context requires, as I think, that we should say, that what he condemns here is the extreme rapacity of the rich, in retaining everything they could lay hold on, that it might rot uselessly in their chests. For thus it was, that what God had created for the use of men, they destroyed, as though they were the enemies of mankind. (137)

But it must be observed, that the vices which he mentions here do not belong to all the rich; for some of them indulge themselves in luxury, some spend much in show and display, and some pinch themselves, and live miserably in their own filth. Let us, then, know that he here reproves some vices in some, and some vices in others. However, all those are generally condemned who unjustly accumulate riches, or who foolishly abuse them. But what James now says, is not only suitable to the rich of extreme tenacity, (such as Euclio of Plautus,) but to those also who delight in pomp and luxury, and yet prefer to heap up riches rather than to employ them for necessary purposes. For such is the malignity of some, that they grudge to others the common sun and air.

(137) Reference is made here to three sorts of riches, — stores of corn, which rotted, — garments, which were moth-eaten, — and precious metals, money, and jewels, etc., which rusted.

James 5:3

3 A witness against you. He confirms the explanation I have already given. For God has not appointed gold for rust, nor garments for moths; but, on the contrary, be has designed them as aids and helps to human life. Therefore, even spending without benefit is a witness of inhumanity. The rusting of gold and silver will be, as it were, the occasion of inflaming the wrath of God, so that it will, like fire, consume them.

Ye have heaped treasure together: These words may also admit of two explanations: — that the rich, as they would always live, are never satisfied, but weary themselves in heaping together what may be sufficient to the end of the world, — or, that they heap together the wrath and curse of God for the last day; and this second view I embrace. (138)

(138) By “last days” are commonly meant the days of the gospel. The day of judgment is often called by John, in his Gospel, “the last day;” and the same seems to be called here “the last days.” The reference made by some, to the destruction of Jerusalem, has nothing in the passage to favor it. To “heap treasure,” or to lay up a store, has an evident reference to the day of judgment, as Paul makes use of the same expression in Rom 2:5, only he adds “wrath” to it, which is also added here by the Vulg. The whole verse is conminatory, and in this sentence the rich are reminded of the issue, the final issue of their conduct. The character of the store is to be learnt from the preceding part of the verse. In treasuring dishonest wealth, they were treasuring wrath for themselves.

James 5:4

4 Behold, the hire. He now condemns cruelty, the invariable companion of avarice. But he refers only to one kind, which, above all others, ought justly to be deemed odious. For if a humane and a just man, as Solomon says in Pro 12:10, regards the life of his beast, it is a monstrous barbarity, when man feels no pity towards the man whose sweat he has employed for his own benefit. Hence the Lord has strictly forbidden, in the law, the hire of the laborer to sleep with us (Deu 24:15). Besides, James does not refer to laborers in common, but, for the sake of amplifying, he mentions husbandmen and reapers. For what can be more base than that they, who supply us with bread by their labor should be pined through want? And yet this monstrous thing is common; for there are many of such a tyrannical disposition, that they think that the rest of mankind live only for their benefit alone.

But he says that this hire crieth, for whatever men retain either by fraud or by violence, of what belongs to another; it calls for vengeance as it were by a loud voice. We ought to notice what he adds, that the cries of the poor come to the ears of God, so that we may know that the wrong done to them shall not be unpunished. They, therefore, who are oppressed by the unjust ought resignedly to sustain their evils, because they will have God as their defender. And they who have the power of doing wrong ought to abstain from injustice, lest they provoke God against them, who is the protector and patron of the poor. And for this reason also he calls God the Lord of Sabaoth, or of hosts, intimating thereby his power and his might, by which he renders his judgment more dreadful.

James 5:5

5 In pleasure. He comes now to another vice, even luxury and sinful gratifications; for they who abound in wealth seldom keep within the bounds of moderation, but abuse their abundance by extreme indulgences. There are, indeed, some rich men, as I have said, who pine themselves in the midst of their abundance. For it was not without reason that the poets have imagined Tantalus to be hungry near a table well furnished. There have ever been Tantalians in the world. But James, as it has been said, does not speak of all rich men. It is enough that we see this vice commonly prevailing among the rich, that they are given too much to luxuries, to pomps and superfluities.

And though the Lord allows them to live freely on what they have, yet profusion ought to be avoided and frugality practiced. For it was not in vain that the Lord by his prophets severely reproved those who slept on beds of ivory, who used precious ointments, who delighted themselves at their feasts with the sound of the harp, who were like fat cows in rich pastures. For all these things have been said for this end, that we may know that moderation ought to be observed, and that extravagance is displeasing to God.

Ye have nourished your hearts. He means that they indulged themselves, not only as far as to satisfy nature, but as far as their cupidity led them. He adds a similitude, as in a day of slaughter, because they were wont in their solemn sacrifices to eat more freely than according to their daily habits. He then says, that the rich feasted themselves every day of their life, because they immersed themselves in perpetual indulgences.

James 5:6

6 Ye have condemned. Here follows another kind of inhumanity, that the rich by their power oppressed and destroyed the poor and weak. He says by a metaphor that the just were condemned and killed; for when they did not kill them by their own hand, or condemn them as judges, they yet employed the authority which they had to do wrong, they corrupted judgments, and contrived various arts to destroy the innocent, that is, really to condemn and kill them. (139)

By adding that the just did not resist them, he intimates that the audacity of the rich was greater; because those whom they oppressed were without any protection. He, however, reminds them that the more ready and prompt would be the vengeance of God, when the poor have no protection from men. But though the just did not resist, because he ought to have patiently endured wrongs, I yet think that their weakness is at the same time referred to, that is he did not resist, because he was unprotected and without any help from men.

(139) Many have thought that what is referred to here is the condemnation of our Savior by the Jewish nation, especially as he is called ὁ δίκαιος, “the just one.” This is true, but the Christian is also called too, in 1Pe 4:18. James very frequently individualizes the faithful, using the singular for the plural number. The whole context proves that he speaks here of the poor faithful who suffered injustice from the rich, professing the same faith. Besides, the death of Christ is not ascribed to the rich, but to the elders and chief priests.

The two first verbs, being aorists, may be rendered in the present tense, especially as the last verb is in that tense. For in the very next verse, the 7th, the aorist is so used. We may then give this version, —

6 “Ye condemn, ye kill the righteous; he sets himself not in array against you.”

Probably the aorist is used, as it expresses what was done habitually, or a continued act, like the future tense often in Hebrew. The preceding verse, the 5th, where all the verbs are aorists, would be better rendered in the same way, “Ye live in pleasure,” etc.

James 5:7

7 Be patient therefore. From this inference it is evident that what has hitherto been said against the rich, pertains to the consolation of those who seemed for a time to be exposed to their wrongs with impunity. For after having mentioned the causes of those calamities which were hanging over the rich, and having stated this among others, that they proudly and cruelly ruled over the poor, he immediately adds, that we who are unjustly oppressed, have this reason to be patient, because God would become the judge. For this is what he means when he says, unto the coming of the Lord, that is, that the confusion of things which is now seen in the world will not be perpetual, because the Lord at his coming will reduce things to order, and that therefore our minds ought to entertain good hope; for it is not without reason that the restoration of all things is promised to us at that day. And though the day of the Lord is everywhere called in the Scriptures a manifestation of his judgment and grace, when he succors his people and chastises the ungodly, yet I prefer to regard the expression here as referring to our final deliverance.

Behold, the husbandman. Paul briefly refers to the same similitude in 2Ti 2:6, when he says that the husbandman ought to labor before he gathers the fruit; but James more fully expresses the idea, for he mentions the daily patience of the husbandman, who, after having committed the seed to the earth, confidently, or at least patiently, waits until the time of harvest comes; nor does he fret because the earth does not immediately yield a ripe fruit. He hence concludes, that we ought not to be immoderately anxious, if we must now labor and sow, until the harvest as it were comes, even the day of the Lord.

The precious fruit. He calls it precious, because it is the nourishment of life and the means of sustaining it. And James intimates, that since the husbandman suffers his life, so precious to him, to lie long deposited in the bosom of the earth, and calmly suspends his desire to gather the fruit, we ought not to be too hasty and fretful, but resignedly to wait for the day of our redemption. It is not necessary to specify particularly the other parts of the comparison.

The early and the latter rains. By the two words, early and latter, two seasons are pointed out; the first follows soon after sowing; and the other when the corn is ripening. So the prophets spoke, when they intended to set forth the time for rain, (Deu 28:12; Joe 2:23; Hos 6:3.) And he has mentioned both times, in order more fully to shew that husbandmen are not disheartened by the slow progress of time, but bear with the delay.

James 5:8

8 Stablish your hearts. Lest any should object and say, that the time of deliverance was too long delayed, he obviates this objection and says, that the Lord was at hand, or (which is the same thing) that his coming was drawing nigh. In the meantime, he bids us to correct the softness of the heart, which weakens us, so as not to persevere in hope. And doubtless the time appears long, because we are too tender and delicate. We ought, then, to gather strength that we may become hardened and this cannot be better attained than by hope, and as it were by a realizing view of the near approach of our Lord.

James 5:9

9 Grudge not, or, groan not. As the complaints of many were heard, that they were more severely treated than others, this passage is so explained by some, as though James bade each to be contented with his own lot, not to envy others, nor grudge if the condition of others was more tolerable. But I take another view; for after having spoken of the unhappiness of those who distress good and quiet men by their tyranny, he now exhorts the faithful to be just towards one another and ready to pass by offenses. That this is the real meaning may be gathered from the reason that is added: Be not querulous one against another; lest ye be condemned. We may, indeed, groan, when any evil torments us; but he means an accusing groan, when one expostulates with the Lord against another. And he declares that thus they would all be condemned, because there is no one who does not offend his brethren, and afford them an occasion of groaning. Now, if everyone complained, they would all have accused one another; for no one was so innocent, that he did not do some harm to others.

God will be the common judge of all. What, then, will be the case, but that every one who seeks to bring judgment on others, must allow the same against himself; and thus all will be given up to the same ruin. Let no one, then, ask for vengeance on others, except he wishes to bring it on his own head. And lest they should be hasty in making complaints of this kind, he declares that the judge was at the door. For as our propensity is to profane the name of God, in the slightest offenses we appeal to his judgment. Nothing is a fitter bridle to check our rashness, than to consider that our imprecations vanish not into air, because God’s judgment is at hand.

James 5:10

10 Take, my brethren, the prophets. The comfort which he brings is not that which is according to the common proverb, that the miserable hope for like companions in evils. That they set before them associates, in whose number it was desirable to be classed; and to have the same condition with them, was no misery. For as we must necessarily feel extreme grief, when any evil happens to us which the children of God have never experienced, so it is a singular consolation when we know that we suffer nothing different from them; nay, when we know that we have to sustain the same yoke with them.

When Job heard from his friends,

“Turn to the saints, can you find any like to thee?” (Job 5:1,)

it was the voice of Satan, because he wished to drive him to despair. When, on the other hand, the Spirit by the mouth of James designs to raise us up to a good hope, he shews to us all the fore-going saints, who as it were stretch out their hand to us, and by their example encourage us to undergo and to conquer afflictions.

The life of men is indeed indiscriminately subject to troubles and adversities; but James did not bring forward any kind of men for examples, for it would have availed nothing to perish with the multitude; but he chose the prophets, a fellowship with whom is blessed. Nothing so breaks us down and disheartens us as the feeling of misery; it is therefore a real consolation to know that those things commonly deemed evils are aids and helps to our salvation. This is, indeed, what is far from being understood by the flesh; yet the faithful ought to be convinced of this, that they are happy when by various troubles they are proved by the Lord. To convince us of this, James reminds us to consider the end or design of the afflictions endured by the prophets; for as our own evils we are without judgment, being influenced by grief, sorrow, or some other immoderate feelings, as we see nothing under a foggy sky and in the midst of storms, and being tossed here and there as it were by a tempest, it is therefore necessary for us to cast our eyes to another quarter, where the sky is in a manner serene and bright. When the afflictions of the saints are related to us, there is no one who will allow that they were miserable, but, on the contrary, that they were happy.

Then James has done well for us; for he has laid before our eyes a pattern, that we may learn to look at it whenever we are tempted to impatience or to despair: and he takes this principle as granted, that the prophets were blessed in their afflictions, for they courageously sustained them. Since it was so, he concludes that the same judgment ought to be formed of us when afflicted.

And he says, the prophets who have spoken in the name of the Lord; by which he intimates that they were accepted and approved by God. If, then, it had been useful for them to have been free from miseries, doubtless God would have kept them free. But it was otherwise. It hence follows that afflictions are salutary to the faithful. He, therefore, bids them to be taken as an example of suffering affliction. But patience also must be added, which is a real evidence of our obedience. Hence he has joined them both together.

James 5:11

11 The patience of Job. Having spoken generally of the prophets, he now refers to an example remarkable above others; for no one, as far as we can learn from histories, has ever been overwhelmed with troubles so hard and so various as Job; and yet he emerged from so deep a gulf. Whosoever, then, will imitate his patience, will no doubt find God’s hand, which at length delivered him, to be the same. We see for what end his history has been written. God suffered not his servant Job to sink, because he patiently endured his afflictions. Then he will disappoint the patience of no one.

If, however, it be asked, Why does the Apostle so much commend the patience of Job, as he had displayed many signs of impatience, being carried away by a hasty spirit? To this I reply, that though he sometimes failed through the infirmity of the flesh, or murmured within himself, yet he ever surrendered himself to God, and was ever willing to be restrained and ruled by him. Though, then, his patience was somewhat deficient, it is yet deservedly commended.

The end of the Lord. By these words he intimates that afflictions ought ever to be estimated by their end. For at first God seems to be far away, and Satan in the meantime revels in the confusion; the flesh suggests to us that we are forsaken of God and lost. We ought, then, to extend our view farther, for near and around us there appears no light. Moreover, he has called it the end of the Lord, because it is his work to give a prosperous issue to adversities. If we do our duty in bearing evils obediently, he will by no means be wanting in performing his part. Hope directs us only to the end; God will then shew himself very merciful, how ever rigid and severe he may seem to be while afflicting us. (140)

(140) “The end of the Lord” seems a singular expression; but τέλος, properly the end, means also the issue, the upshot, the termination, the conclusion. It is genitive of the efficient cause, “the end (or issue) given by the Lord.” See Job 42:12. According to Griesbach there are three MSS which have ἒλεος, “mercy;” which would be very suitable, — “and ye have seen the mercy of the Lord, that the Lord is very full of pity, and compassionate.” But the authority is not sufficient.

James 5:12

12 But above all things. It has been a common vice almost in all ages, to swear lightly and inconsiderately. For so bad is our nature that we do not consider what an atrocious crime it is to profane the name of God. For though the Lord strictly commands us to reverence his name, yet men devise various subterfuges, and think that they can swear with impunity. They imagine, then, that there is no evil, provided they do not openly mention the name of God; and this is an old gloss. So the Jews, when they swore by heaven or earth, thought that they did not profane God’s name, because they did not mention it. But while men seek to be ingenious in dissembling with God, they delude themselves with the most frivolous evasions.

It was a vain excuse of this kind that Christ condemned in Mat 5:34. James, now subscribing to the decree of his master, commands us to abstain from these indirect forms of swearing: for whosoever swears in vain and on frivolous occasions, profanes God’s name, whatever form he may give to his words. Then the meaning is, that it is not more lawful to swear by heaven or by the earth, than openly by the name of God. The reason is mentioned by Christ — because the glory of God is everywhere inscribed, and everywhere shines forth. Nay, men take the words, heaven and earth, in their oaths, in no other sense and for no other purpose, than if they named God himself; for by thus speaking they only designate the Worker by his works.

But he says, above all things; because the profanation of God’s name is not a slight offense. The Anabaptists, building on this passage, condemn all oaths, but they only shew their ignorance. For James does not speak of oaths in general, nor does Christ in the passage to which I have referred; but both condemn that evasion which had been devised, when men took the liberty to swear without expressing the name of God, which was a liberty repugnant to the prohibition of the law.

And this is what the words clearly mean, Neither by heaven, neither by the earth. For, if the question had been as to oaths in themselves, to what purpose were these forms mentioned? It then appears evident that both by Christ and by James the puerile astuteness of those is reproved who taught that they could swear with impunity, provided they adopted some circuitous expressions. That we may, then, understand the meaning of James, we must understand first the precept of the law, “Thou shalt not take the name of God in vain. ” It hence appears clear, that there is a right and lawful use of God’s name. Now, James condemns those who did not indeed dare in a direct way to profane God’s name, but endeavored to evade the profanation which the law condemns, by circumlocutions.

But let your yea be yea. He brings the best remedy to correct the vice which he condemns, that is, that they were habitually to keep themselves to truth and faithfulness in all their sayings. For whence is the wicked habit of swearing, except that such is the falsehood of men, that their words alone are not believed? For, if they observed faithfulness, as they ought, in their words, there would have been no necessity of so many superfluous oaths. As, then, the perfidy or levity of men is the fountain from which the vice of swearing flows, in order to take away the vice, James teaches us that the fountain ought to be removed; for the right way of healing is to begin with the cause of illness.

Some copies have, “Let your word (or speech) be, yea, yea; no, no.” The true reading however, is what I have given, and is commonly received; and what he means I have already explained, that is, that we ought to tell the truth, and to be faithful in our words. To the same purpose is what Paul says in 2Co 1:18, that he was not in his preaching yea and nay, but pursued the same course from the beginning.

Lest ye fall into condemnation. There is a different reading, owing to the affinity of the words ὑπὸ κρίσιν and ὑπόκρισιν (141) If you read, “into judgment” or condemnation, the sense will clearly be, that to take God’s name in vain will not be unpunished. But it is not unsuitable to say, “into hypocrisy;” because when simplicity, as it has been already said, prevails among us, the occasion for superfluous oaths is cut off. If, then, fidelity appears in all we say, the dissimulation, which leads us to swear rashly, will be removed.

(141) For εἰς ὑπόκρισιν there are several MSS., but for ὑπὸ κρίσιν there are not only several MSS., but the earliest versions, Syr. and Vulg.; so Griesbach takes the latter as the true reading.

James 5:13

13 Is any among you afflicted? he means that there is no time in which God does not invite us to himself. For afflictions ought to stimulate us to pray; prosperity supplies us with an occasion to praise God. But such is the perverseness of men, that they cannot rejoice without forgetting God, and that when afflicted they are disheartened and driven to despair. We ought, then, to keep within due bounds, so that the joy, which usually makes us to forget God, may induce us to set forth the goodness of God, and that our sorrow may teach us to pray. For he has set the singing of psalms in opposition to profane and unbridled joy; and thus they express their joy who are led, as they ought to be, by prosperity to God.

James 5:14

14 Is any sick among you. As the gift of healing as yet continued, he directs the sick to have recourse to that remedy. It is, indeed, certain that they were not all healed; but the Lord granted this favor as often and as far as he knew it would be expedient; nor is it probable that the oil was indiscriminately applied, but only when there was some hope of restoration. For, together with the power there was given also discretion to the ministers, lest they should by abuse profane the symbol. The design of James was no other than to commend the grace of God which the faithful might then enjoy, lest the benefit of it should be lost through contempt or neglect.

For this purpose he ordered the presbyters to be sent for, but the use of the anointing must have been confined to the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Papists boast mightily of this passage, when they seek to pass off their extreme unction. But how different their corruption is from the ancient ordinance mentioned by James I will not at present undertake to shew. Let readers learn this from my Institutes. I will only say this, that this passage is wickedly and ignorantly perverted; when extreme unction is established by it, and is called a sacrament, to be perpetually observed in the Church. I indeed allow that it was used as a sacrament by the disciples of Christ, (for I cannot agree with those who think that it was medicine;) but as the reality of this sign continued only for a time in the Church, the symbol also must have been only for a time. And it is quite evident, that nothing is more absurd than to call that a sacrament which is void and does not really present to us that which it signifies. That the gift of healing was temporary, all are constrained to allow, and events clearly prove: then the sign of it ought not to be deemed perpetual. It hence follows, that they who at this day set anointing among the sacraments, are not the true followers, but the apes of the Apostles, except they restore the effect produced by it, which God has taken away from the world for more than fourteen hundred years. So we have no dispute, whether anointing was once a sacrament; but whether it has been given to be so perpetually. This latter we deny, because it is evident that the thing signified has long ago ceased.

The presbyters, or elders, of the church. I include here generally all those who presided over the Church; for pastors were not alone called presbyters or elders, but also those who were chosen from the people to be as it were censors to protect discipline. For every Church had, as it were, its own senate, chosen from men of weight and of proved integrity. But as it was customary to choose especially those who were endued with gifts more than ordinary, he ordered them to send for the elders, as being those in whom the power and grace of the Holy Spirit more particularly appeared.

Let them pray over him. This custom of praying over one was intended to shew, that they stood as it were before God; for when we come as it were to the very scene itself, we utter prayers with more feeling; and not only Elisha and Paul, but Christ himself, roused the ardor of prayer and commended the grace of God by thus praying over persons. (2Kg 4:32; Act 20:10; Joh 11:41.)

James 5:15

15 But it must be observed, that he connects a promise with the prayer, lest it should be made without faith. For he who doubts, as one who does not rightly call on God, is unworthy to obtain anything, as we have seen in Jas 1:5. Whosoever then really seeks to be heard, must be fully persuaded that he does not pray in vain.

As James brings before us this special gift, to which the external rite was but an addition, we hence learn, that the oil could not have been rightly used without faith. But since it appears that the Papists have no certainty as to their anointing, as it is manifest that they have not the gift, it is evident that their anointing is spurious.

And if he have committed sins. This is not added only for the sake of amplifying, as though he had said, that God would give something more to the sick than health of body; but because diseases were very often inflicted on account of sins; and by speaking of their remission he intimates that the cause of the evil would be removed. And we indeed see that David, when afflicted with disease and seeking relief, was wholly engaged in seeking the pardon of his sins. Why did he do this, except that while he acknowledged the effect of his faults in his punishment, he deemed that there was no other remedy, but that the Lord should cease to impute to him his sins?

The prophets are full of this doctrine, that men are relieved from their evils when they are loosed from the guilt of their iniquities. Let us then know that it is the only fit remedy for our diseases and other calamities, when we carefully examine ourselves, being solicitous to be reconciled to God, and to obtain the pardon of our sins.

James 5:16

16 Confess your faults one to another. In some copies the illative particle is given, nor is it unsuitable; for though when not expressed, it must be understood. He had said, that sins were remitted to the sick over whom the elders prayed: he now reminds them how useful it is to discover our sins to our brethren, even that we may obtain the pardon of them by their intercession. (142)

This passage, I know, is explained by many as referring to the reconciling of offenses; for they who wish to return to favor must necessarily know first their own faults and confess them. For hence it comes, that hatreds take root, yea, and increase and become irreconcilable, because every one perniciously defends his own cause. Many therefore think that James points out here the way of brotherly reconciliation, that is, by mutual acknowledgment of sins. But as it has been said, his object was different; for he connects mutual prayer with mutual confession; by which he intimates that confession avails for this end, that we may be helped as to God by the prayers of our brethren; for they who know our necessities, are stimulated to pray that they may assist us; but they to whom our diseases are unknown are more tardy to bring us help.

Wonderful, indeed, is the folly or the insincerity of the Papists, who strive to build their whispering confession on this passage. For it would be easy to infer from the words of James, that the priests alone ought to confess. For since a mutual, or to speak more plainly, a reciprocal confession is demanded here, no others are bidden to confess their own sins, but those who in their turn are fit to hear the confession of others; but this the priests claim for themselves alone. Then confession is required of them alone. But since their puerilities do not deserve a refutation, let the true and genuine explanation already given be deemed sufficient by us.

For the words clearly mean, that confession is required for no other end, but that those who know our evils may be more solicitous to bring us help.

Availeth much. That no one may think that this is done without fruit, that is, when others pray for us, he expressly mentions the benefit and the effect of prayer. But he names expressly the prayer of a righteous or just man; because God does not hear the ungodly; nor is access to God open, except through a good conscience: not that our prayers are founded on our own worthiness, but because the heart must be cleansed by faith before we can present ourselves before God. Then James testifies that the righteous or the faithful pray for us beneficially and not without fruit.

But what does he mean by adding effectual or efficacious? For this seems superfluous; for if the prayer avails much, it is doubtless effectual. The ancient interpreter has rendered it “assiduous;” but this is too forced. For James uses the Greek participle, ἐνεργούμεναι, which means “working.” And the sentence may be thus explained, “It avails much, because it is effectual.” (143) As it is an argument drawn from this principle, that God will not allow the prayers of the faithful to be void or useless, he does not therefore unjustly conclude that it avails much. But I would rather confine it to the present case: for our prayers may properly be said to be ἐνεργούμεναι, working, when some necessity meets us which excites in us earnest prayer. We pray daily for the whole Church, that God may pardon its sins; but then only is our prayer really in earnest, when we go forth to succor those who are in trouble. But such efficacy cannot be in the prayers of our brethren, except they know that we are in difficulties. Hence the reason given is not general, but must be specially referred to the former sentence.

(142) The illative οὖν, though found in some MSS., is not introduced into the text by Griesbach, there being no sufficient evidence in its favor. Nor does there appear a sufficient reason for the connection mentioned by Calvin. The two cases seem to be different. The elders of the church were in the previous instance to be called in, who were to pray and anoint the sick, and it is said that the prayer of faith (i.e. of miraculous faith) would save the sick, and that his sins would be forgiven him. This was clearly a case of miraculous healing. But what is spoken of in this verse seems to be quite different. Prayer is alone mentioned, not by the elders, but by a righteous man, not saving as in the former case, but availing much. It seems probable then that the sins of the sick miraculously healed were more especially against God; and that the sins which they were to confess to one another were against the brethren, also visited with judgment and the remedy for them was mutual confession, and mutual prayer; but the success in this case was not as sure or as certain as in the former, only we are told that an earnest prayer avails much. Then, to encourage this earnest or fervent prayer, the case of Elias is adduced; but it had nothing to do with miraculous healing.

(143) This can hardly be admitted. The word expresses what sort of prayer is that which avails much. Besides, to avail much, and to be effectual, are two distinct things. The word as a verb and as a participle had commonly an active sense. Schleusner gives only one instance in which it has a passive meaning, 2Co 1:6; to which may be added 2Co 4:12. If taken passively, it may be rendered, “inwrought,” that is, by the Spirit, according to Macknight. But it has been most commonly taken actively, and in the sense of the verbal adjective ἐνεργὴς, energetic, powerful, ardent, fervent.

James 5:17

17 Elias was a man. There are innumerable instances in Scripture of what he meant to prove; but he chose one that is remarkable above all others; for it was a great thing that God should make heaven in a manner subject to the prayers of Elias, so as to obey his wishes. Elias kept heaven shut by his prayers for three years and a half; he again opened it, so that it poured down abundance of rain. Hence appeared the wonderful power of prayer. Well known is this remarkable history, and is found in 1Kg 17:0 and 1Kg 18:0. And though it is not there expressly said, that Elias prayed for drought, it may yet be easily gathered, and that the rain also was given to his prayers.

But we must notice the application of the example. James does not say that drought ought to be sought from the Lord, because Elias obtained it; for we may by inconsiderate zeal presumptuously and foolishly imitate the Prophet. We must then observe the rule of prayer, so that it may be by faith. He, therefore, thus accommodates this example, — that if Elias was heard, so also we shall be heard when we rightly pray. For as the command to pray is common, and as the promise is common, it follows that the effect also will be common.

Lest any one should object and say, that we are far distant from the dignity of Elias, he places him in our own rank, by saying, that he was a mortal man and subject to the same passions with ourselves. For we profit less by the examples of saints, because we imagine them to have been half gods or heroes, who had peculiar intercourse with God; so that because they were heard, we receive no confidence. In order to shake off this heathen and profane superstition, James reminds us that the saints ought to be considered as having the infirmity of the flesh; so that we may learn to ascribe what they obtained from the Lord, not to their merits, but to the efficacy of prayer.

It hence appears how childish the Papists are, who teach men to flee to the protection of saints, because they had been heard by the Lord. For thus they reason, “Because he obtained what he asked as long as he lived in the world, he will be now after death our best patron.” This sort of subtle refinement was altogether unknown to the Holy Spirit. For James on the contrary argues, that as their prayers availed so much, so we ought in like manner to pray at this day according to their example, and that we shall not do so in vain.

James 5:20

20 Let him know. I doubt whether this ought rather to have been written, γιςώσκετε, “know ye.” Both ways the meaning however is the same. For James recommends to us the correction of our brethren from the effect produced that we may more assiduously attend to this duty. Nothing is better or more desirable than to deliver a soul from eternal death; and this is what he does who restores an erring brother to the right way: therefore a work so excellent ought by no means to be neglected. To give food to the hungry, and drink to the thirsty, we see how much Christ values such acts; but the salvation of the soul is esteemed by him much more precious than the life of the body. We must therefore take heed lest souls perish through our sloth, whose salvation God puts in a manner in our hands. Not that we can bestow salvation on them; but that God by our ministry delivers and saves those who seem otherwise to be nigh destruction.

Some copies have his soul, which makes no change in the sense. I, however, prefer the other reading, for it has more force in it.

And shall hide a multitude of sins. He makes an allusion to a saying of Solomon, rather than a quotation. (Pro 10:12.) Solomon says that love covers sins, as hatred proclaims them. For they who hate burn with the desire of mutual slander; but they who love are disposed to exercise mutual forbearance. Love, then, buries sins as to men. James teaches here something higher, that is, that sins are blotted out before God; as though he had said, Solomon has declared this as the fruit of love, that it covers sins; but there is no better or more excellent way of covering them than when they are wholly abolished before God. And this is done when the sinner is brought by our admonition to the right way: we ought then especially and more carefully to attend to this duty.

END OF THE EPISTLE OF JAMES.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) – The Second Epistle of St Peter and St Jude Preached and Explained

The Second Epistle of St Peter and St Jude Preached and Explained

By

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Copyright: Public Domain

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THE SECOND EPISTLE

GENERAL OF ST. PETER.

PREFACE.

St. Peter wrote this Epistle because he saw how the true, pure doctrine of faith had become falsified, darkened and suppressed. And he has wished to meet a two-fold error, springing from a wrong understanding of the doctrine of faith, and guard against it in both directions; namely, that we should not ascribe to works the power of making us righteous and acceptable before God, though these works belong to faith; and, on the other hand, that no one should think that there may be faith without good works. For if any one preaches concerning faith, that it justifies us without any addition of works, the people say, “One need do no works,” as we see it in our daily experience; and, on the other hand, when they fall on works and exalt them, faith must be prostrated, so that the middle way is one to be retained with difficulty, where there are not preachers of the right kind.

Now, we have ever taught this doctrine, that to faith we are to ascribe all things, one as well as another; that it alone makes us just and holy in the sight of God. Moreover, that if faith is present, out of it good works must and should proceed, since it is even impossible that we should pass this our life quite indolent, and do no works. Thus St. Peter in this Epistle would also teach us, and thus meet those who perhaps out of the former Epistle might have received the wrong apprehension that it sufficed for faith, though we should at the same time do no work. And against this the first chapter especially aims, wherein he teaches that believers should try themselves by good works, and become assured of their faith.

The second chapter is against those who exalt works merely, and depreciate faith. Therefore he admonishes them against the false teachers who should come, who, through the teachings of men, should destroy faith entirely. For he clearly saw what a cruel trial there would yet be in the world, as had even then already begun; as St. Paul says, II Thes. ii, “The mystery of iniquity already works.”

Thus is this Epistle written as a warning for us, that we prove our faith by our good works, and yet that we trust not to our works.

CHAPTER I.

V. 1. Simon Peter, a servant and Apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have attained like faith with us, in the righteousness which our God gives, and our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Such is the subscription and the superscription of this Epistle, that we may know who writes it, and to whom he writes it, even to those who have heard the word of God and abide in the faith. But what sort of a faith is this? In the righteousness (says he) which God gives. Thus he grants justification to faith alone,—as St. Paul, also, in Rom. i. In the Gospel is that righteousness revealed which avails with God, which comes from faith; as it stands written: “The just shall live by faith.” Thus St. Peter would admonish them that they should be armed, and not let the doctrine of faith be torn away, which they have now apprehended and thoroughly known.

And to this end he adjoins, in the righteousness which God gives, that he may separate from it all human righteousness. For by faith alone are we righteous before God; wherefore faith is called a righteousness of God, for with the world it is of no account; yea, it is even condemned.

V. 2. Grace and peace he multiplied among you, through the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ our Lord. This is the greeting usually prefixed to the Epistles; and it amounts to this: I wish you, in place of my service for you, to increase in grace and peace, and grow ever richer and richer in the grace which comes from the knowledge of God and the Lord Christ,—that is, which none can have but he who has the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ.

The Apostles, and the prophets also, in the Scripture, are ever setting forth the knowledge of God. As Isaiah. xi: “They shall not injure or destroy in my whole mountain, for the land is filled with the knowledge of God, as the land is covered with the water.” That is, so overflowingly shall the knowledge of God break forth, as when a mass of water gushes up and rushes forth and swallows up a whole land.

Thence shall such peace then follow, that no one shall wrong another, or make him suffer.

But this is not to know God, that you should believe as the Turks, Jews, and devils believe, that God has created all things, or even that Christ was born of a virgin, suffered, died, and rose again; but this is the true knowledge, whereby you hold and know that God is thy God and Christ is thy Christ, which the devil and the false Christians could not believe. So that this knowledge is nothing else but a true Christian faith; for if you thus know God and Christ, you will then confide in them with your whole heart, and trust them in good and ill, in life and death. Such trust evil consciences cannot possess. For they know no more of God, except that He is a God of St. Peter and all the saints in heaven. But as their own God they know Him not, but hold Him as their task-master and angry judge. To have God, is to have all grace, all mercy, and all that man can well receive; to have Christ, is to have the Saviour and Mediator, who has brought us to say that God is ours, and has obtained all grace for us with Him. This also must be implied, that Christ is yours and you are His, then have you a true knowledge. A woman that lives unmarried can well say that a man is a husband, but this can she not say, that he is her husband. So may we all well say, this is a God, but this we cannot say all of us, that He is our God, for we cannot all trust upon Him nor comfort ourselves as His. To this knowledge belongs also that which the Scripture calls faciem et vultum domini, the face of the Lord, whereof the prophets speak much; who ever sees not the face of the Lord knows Him not, but sees only His back,—that is, an angry and ungracious God.

And here you perceive, that St. Peter does not set himself particularly to write of faith, since he had already done that sufficiently in the First Epistle, but would admonish believers that they should prove their faith by good works; for he would not have a faith without good works, nor works without faith, but faith first and good works on and from faith. Therefore, he says, now, also:

V. 3. According as His divine power (whatever serves for life and godliness) is abundantly given us. This is the first point, where Peter essays to describe what sort of blessings we have received through faith from God, even that to us (since we have known God by faith) there is given every kind of divine power. But what sort of power is it? It is such power as serves us toward life and godliness; that is, when we believe, then we attain this much, that God gives us the fullness of His power, which is so with and in us, that what we speak ^and work, it is not we that do it, but God Himself does it. He is strong, powerful, and almighty in us, though we even suffer and die, and are weak in the eyes of the world. So that there is no power nor ability in us if we have not this power of God.

But this power of God which is in us, St. Peter would not have so explained, as that we might make heaven and earth, and should work such miracles as God does; for how would we be advantaged by it? But we have the power of God within us so far as it is useful and necessary to us. Therefore, the Apostle adjoins, and says, whatever serves for life and godliness; that is, we have such power of God that by it we are eminently favored with grace to do good and to live forever.

Through the knowledge of Him who hath called us. Such power of God, and such rich grace, come from no other source but from this knowledge of God; for if you count Him for a God, He will deal also with you in all things as a God. So Paul also says, I Cor i, “Ye are in all points enriched in every kind of word and knowledge, even as the preaching of Christ is made powerful in you, so that ye have henceforth no want.” This is now the greatest thing of all, the noblest and most needful that God can give us,—so that we are not to receive all that is in heaven and on earth; for what would it help you, though you were able to go through fire and water, and do all kinds of wonderful works, and had not this? Many people who perform such miracles shall be condemned. But this is wonderful above all things else, that God gives us such power, that thereby all our sins are forgiven and blotted out, death, the devil and hell, subdued and vanquished; so that we have an unharassed conscience and a happy heart, and fear for nothing.

Through His glory and virtue. How does that call come, whereby we are called of God? Thus: God has permitted the holy Gospel to go forth into the world and be made known, though no man had ever before striven for it, or sought or prayed for it, of Him. But ere man had ever thought of it, He has offered, bestowed, and beyond all measure richly shed forth such grace, so that He alone has the glory and the praise; and we ascribe to Him alone the virtue and the power, for it is not our work, but His only. Wherefore, since the calling is not of us, we should not exalt ourselves as though we had done it, but render to Him praise and thanksgiving, because He has given us the Gospel, and thereby granted us power and might against the devil, death, and all evil.

V. 4. Whereby are given unto us exceeding precious and great promises. St. Peter adjoins this, that he may explain the nature and method of faith. If we know Him as God, then do we have through faith that eternal life and divine power wherewith we subdue death and the devil. Though we see and grasp it not, yet is it promised to us. We really have it all, though it does not yet appear, but at the last day we shall see it present before us. Here it begins in faith; though we have it not in its fullness, we have yet the assurance that we live here in the power of God, and shall afterward be saved forever.

Whoever has this faith has the promise; whoever does not believe possesses it not, and must be lost forever. How great and precious a thing this is, Peter explains further, and says:

So that ye by the same might become partakers of the divine nature, while ye flee from the corrupting lusts of the world. This we have, he says, through the power of faith, that we should be partakers and have association or communion with the divine nature. This is such a passage that the like of it does not stand in the New or Old Testament, although it is a small matter with the unbelieving that we should have communion with the divine nature itself. But what is the divine nature? It is eternal truth, righteousness, wisdom; eternal life, peace, joy, happiness, and whatever good one can name. Whoever then becomes partaker of the divine nature, attains all this,—that he is to live forever, and have eternal peace, delight and joy, and is to be perfectly pure, just, and triumphant over the devil, sin and death. Therefore St. Peter would say this much: As little as any one can take away from God, that He should not be eternal life and eternal truth, just as little shall any one take it away from you. Whatever one does to you he must do to Him, for whoever would crush a Christian must crush God.

All this, that word, the divine nature, implies, and he also used it to this end, that he might include it all; and it is truly a great thing where it is believed. But, as I said above, this is merely instruction, in which he does not lay down a ground of faith, but sets forth what great, rich blessings we receive through faith; wherefore he says, that ye shall have all if ye so live as to prove your faith, whereby ye flee worldly lusts. So he speaks, now, further:

V. 5. Give then all your diligence, and add to your faith, virtue. Here St. Peter takes up the admonition, that they should prove their faith by good works. Since such great blessing is bestowed upon you through faith (he would say), that ye really have all that God is, do this besides: be diligent, and not sluggish; add to your faith, virtue; that is, let your faith break out before the world, so as to be zealous, busy, powerful, and active, and to do many works; let it not remain idle and unfruitful. Ye have a good inheritance and a good field, but see to it that ye do not let thistles and weeds grow upon it.

And to virtue, discrimination. Discrimination or knowledge is, in the first place, that one should manifest an outward conduct, and the virtue of faith, in accordance with reason. For we should so far bridle and check the body, that we may be sober, vigorous, and fitted for good works; not that we should torture and mortify ourselves as some famous saints have done. For though God is likewise opposed to the sins that remain in the flesh, yet does He not require that for this reason you should destroy the body. Its viciousness and caprice you should guard against, but yet you are not to ruin or injure it, but give it its food and refreshment that it may remain sound and in living vigor.

In the second place, discrimination means that one should lead a life carefully exact, and act with discretion in regard to outward things, as food and things of that sort,—that one should not act in these things unreasonably, and that he should give his neighbor no provocation.

V. 6. And to discrimination, temperance. Temperance is not only in eating and drinking, but it is regularity in the whole life and conduct, words, works, manners; that we should not live too expensively, and should avoid excess in ornament and clothing; that none come out too proudly, and make too lofty a show. But in regard to this St. Peter will not fix any rule, measure, or limit, as the Orders have prescribed for themselves, who have wished to do all by rule, and have framed statutes which must be exactly observed. It is a thing not to be tolerated in Christendom, that men should require by laws that there be a common rule on temperance; for people are unlike one to another; one is of a strong, another is of a weaker nature; and no one in all things is at all times situated as another. Therefore every one should see to himself how he is situated, and what he can bear.

And to temperance, patience. Thus would St. Peter say: though ye lead a temperate and discreet life, ye are not to think that ye shall live without conflict and persecution. For if ye believe, and lead a fair Christian life, the world will not let it alone; it must persecute and hate you, in which you must show patience, which is a fruit of faith.

And to patience, godliness. That is, that we in all our outward life, whatever we do or suffer, should so conduct ourselves that we may serve God therein, not seeking our own honor and gain, but that God alone may be glorified thereby; and that we should so demean ourselves that men may take knowledge that we do all for God’s sake.

V. 7. And to godliness, brotherly love. In this St. Peter obliges us all to extend a helping hand one to another, like brethren, so that one should protect another, and none hate nor despise nor injure another. This is also an evident proof of faith, whereby we show that we have the godliness of which he has spoken.

And to brotherly love (charity), common love. Common love extends to both friend and enemy, even to those who do not show themselves friendly and brotherly towards us. Thus St. Peter has here comprehended in few words whatever pertains to the Christian life, and whatever are the works and fruits of faith, discretion, temperance, patience, a God-fearing life, brotherly love, and kindness to every one.

V. 8. For if such dwell richly in you, it will not permit you to be idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is, if ye do such works, then are ye on the right path, then do ye have a real faith, and the knowledge of Christ becomes active and fruitful in you. Therefore see to it that ye be not such as beat the air. Restrain your body, and act toward your neighbor even in such a manner as ye know that Christ has done toward you.

V. 9. But to whomsoever such is wanting, he is blind, gropes with the hand, and has forgotten the purifying of his former sins. Whoever has not such a preparation of the fruits of faith, gropes like a blind man here and there, rests in such a life that he knows not what his state is, has not real faith, and has of the knowledge of Christ nothing more than that he can say he has heard it. Therefore he goes along and gropes like a blind man on the way, in an unconscious life, and has forgotten that he was baptized and his sins were forgiven him, and is unthankful, and is an idle, negligent man, who suffers nothing to go to his heart, and neither feels nor tastes such great grace and blessing.

This is the admonition which St. Peter gives to us who believe, to urge and enforce those works by which we shall evidence that the true faith is in us. And, besides, this ever remains true, that faith alone justifies; where this then is present, there works must follow.—What follows further, now, is meant to strengthen us.

V. 10. Wherefore, dear brethren, give so much the more diligence to make your calling and election sure. The election and eternal foreknowledge of God is indeed in itself sure enough, so that man does not need to make that sure. The calling is also effectual and sure. For whoever hears the Gospel, and believes thereon, and is baptized, he is called and saved. Since we then are also thereunto called, we should apply so much diligence (says Peter), that our calling and election may be assured with us also, and not only with God. This is now such a mode of scriptural expression as St. Paul uses, Eph ii, “Ye were strangers to the covenant of promise, so that ye had no hope and were without God in the world.” For although there is no man, neither bad nor good, over whom God does not reign, since all creatures are His, yet Paul says he has no God who does not know, love, and trust Him, although he had his being in God Himself. So here, also; although the calling and election are effectual enough in themselves, yet with you it is not yet effectual and assured, since you are not yet certain that it includes you. Therefore St. Peter would have us make such calling and election sure, by good works.

Thus you see what this Apostle attributes to the fruits of faith. Although they are due to our neighbor, that he may be benefited by them, still the fruit is not to be wanting, that faith may thereby become stronger, and do more and more of good works. Besides, this is quite another kind of power from that of the body, for that grows weary and wastes away if it is used and urged somewhat too far: but as to this spiritual power, the more it is used and urged, the stronger it becomes; and it suffers injury if it is not exercised. For this reason did God introduce Christianity at the first in such a manner as He did, driven and tried by the wrestling of faith, in shame, death, and bloodshed, that it might become truly strong and mighty, and that the more it was oppressed the more it might rise above it. This is St. Peter’s meaning in this place, that we should not let faith rust and lie still, since it is so ordained that it is ever made more and more strong by trial and exercise, until it is assured of its calling and election, and cannot fail.

And here is also a bound set as to how we should proceed with reference to election. There are many light-minded persons who have not felt much of the power of faith, who fall in this matter, stumbling upon it; and they trouble themselves at first with it, and by reason would satisfy themselves whether they are elected, so that they may be assured whereon they stand. But desist from this, at once; it is a thing that cannot be apprehended (grasped). But if you will be assured, you must reach it by the way which St. Peter here strikes out for you. If you choose another for yourself, you have failed already, and your own experience must teach you so. If faith is properly exercised and tried, then are you at last assured of the fact that you cannot fail, as now further follows:

For if ye do these things ye shall never fall. That is, ye are to stand fast, not stumble nor sin, but go onward thoroughly upright and active, and all shall go well with you. But if you would set it right by your reasonings, the devil will soon throw you into despair and hatred of God.

V. 11. And so shall an entrance he ministered into you abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This is the way by which we enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, no one should propose, by such dreams and reasonings concerning faith as he has invented in his heart, to enter therein. There must be a living, active, tried faith. God help us! How have our deceivers written, taught and spoken against this text, yet whoever has even the least measure and only a spark of faith, shall be saved when he comes to die.

If you would pry into this matter, and in this way attain such faith quickly and suddenly, you will then have waited too long: Yet you are to understand well, that they who are strong have enough to do, although we are not to despair even of such as are weak, for it may indeed well happen that they shall endure, though it will be sorely and hardly, and will cost much striving; but whoever carefully sees to it in his life, that faith is invigorated and made strong by good works, he shall have an abundant entrance, and with calm spirit and confidence go into that life to come, so that he shall die comfortably, and despise this life, and even triumphantly go on, and with gladness hasten to that. But those, who would come in otherwise, shall not enter thus with joy; the door shall not stand open to them so wide; they shall, moreover, not have such an abundant entrance, but it shall be, narrow and a hard one, so that they tremble, and would rather their life-day should be in weakness, than that they should die.

V. 12. Wherefore I will not he negligent to remind you always of such things, although ye know them, and are established in this present truth. That is the same that we also have often said, although God has now let such a great light go forth through the revelation of the Gospel, so that we know what true Christian life and doctrine is, and see how all Scripture insists upon it, yet this (light) we are not to neglect but use daily, not for doctrine, but for the sake of remembrance. For there is a twofold office in the Christian church, as St. Paul says, Rom xii: “If any one teaches, let him wait on teaching; if any one admonishes, let him wait on admonition.” To teach, is when any one lays down the ground of faith, and sets it forth to those who have no knowledge of it. But to admonish, or as Peter here says, to remind, is to preach to those who know and have heard the matter already, so that they are seized hold of and awakened, in order that they should not be heedless, but go onward and prosper. We are all beladen with the old sluggard load, with our flesh and blood, that chooses for ever the byroad, and keeps us ever subject to its load, so that the soul easily falls asleep. Therefore we are ever to urge and shake it, as a master urges his servants, lest they become sluggish, although they know very well what they should do; for while we must pursue this course for our temporal support, far more must we do it in this case in spiritual matters.

y. 13. For I count it proper, so long as I am in this tabernacle, to awaken and remind you. Here St. Peter calls his body a tabernacle wherein the soul dwells; and it is a phrase like that where in the first Epistle he speaks of the body as a vessel or an instrument. So St. Paul also speaks, II Cor v: “We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were broken down, that we have a house built by God, a house not made with hands, eternal in heaven, and for the same we long earnestly, for our dwelling which is from heaven. For as long as we are in this tabernacle we earnestly long,” &c. Also, “but yet we are consoled and know that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord, but we have far greater desire to be out of the body and to be at home with the Lord.” There the Apostle Paul speaks also of the body as a house, and makes two homes, and two sojournings. So Peter speaks here of the body as a tabernacle wherein the soul rests, and he makes it mean enough; he will not call it a house, but a hut or pent-house, such as shepherds have. Great is the treasure, but small is the house in which it lies and dwells.

V. 14. For I know that I must soon lay off my tabernacle, even as the Lord Christ hath showed me. But I will take care that ye by all means, after my departure, may keep such things in your remembrance. Here Peter testifies of himself that he has become assured of eternal life, and to him God had shown beforehand when he should die; but this took place for our and our faith’s sake, for there must have been some such persons as knew assuredly that they were elected, who should lay down and settle faith, that we might know that they preached not the doctrine of men, but the word of God. But ere they have come to such an assurance, God has thoroughly proved them first, and purified them. Thus Peter now says, I will not only remind you with the living voice, but set such things also in writing, and charge you, through others, that ye ever hold them in remembrance, through my life and after my death, and not let them go. There see how great anxiety the Apostle had for souls; yet, alas! it has helped nothing.

y. 16-18. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we have made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have been witnesses of His majesty when He received from God the Father honor and praise, by a voice which came to Him from the excellent glory, this is my well-beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; and this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him on the holy mount. There St. Peter touches upon the history written in the Gospel, Matt xvii., how Jesus took to Himself three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, and led them aside up a high mountain, and was glorified before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His clothing was white as the light, and there appeared to Him Moses and Elias, who spoke with Him, while a light cloud overshadowed them, and a voice out of the cloud said. This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him. When the disciples heard that, they fell on their faces, and were very much afraid. But Jesus went to them, roused them up, and said, stand up, be not afraid; then they lifted up their eyes, and saw no one but Jesus only, and when they went down from the mountain He charged them that they should tell no one of this sight till He arose from the dead.

So St. Peter would now say, that which I preach to you of Christ and of His coming, this Gospel that we preach, we have not devised or yet imagined, nor taken it from cunning fabulists who know how to speak brilliantly of all things (such as at that very time the Greeks were), for it is mere fable, and fancy, and idle babbling that they cunningly give forth, and wherein they would be wise,—such we have not listened to, nor have we followed them; that is, we preach not what is from the hands of men, but are sure that it is of God, and have become so through our eyes and ears;—that is to say. When we were with Christ upon the mountain, and saw and heard His glory; for His glory was this, that His face shone like the sun, and His clothing was as white as snow; besides, we heard a voice from the highest Majesty, “This is my beloved Son; hear ye Him.”

So confident should every preacher be, and not be in doubt thereon, that he has God’s word, that he could even die for it, since it is worth our life. Now there is no man so holy that he must needs die for the doctrine which he has taught of himself; wherefore it is inferred here that the Apostles have had assurance from God that their Gospel was God’s word. And here it is also shown that the Gospel is nothing else than the preaching of Christ. Therefore we should hear no other preaching, for the Father will have no other. “That is my dear Son,” He says; “hear Him.” He is your Teacher—as though He had said, “When ye hear Him, then ye have heard me.” Wherefore Peter now says, we have preached Christ and made Him known to you, that He is Lord, and rules over all things, and all power is His; and that whosoever believes on Him has likewise such power. Such things we have not ourselves devised, but have seen and heard them through God’s revelation, by which He has charged us that we should hear Christ.

But why does Paul separate from one another the power and the coming of Christ? The power consists, as we have heard above, in that He is mighty over all things; that all must lie at His feet; and this shall continue as long as the world stands. While we are flesh and blood, and live upon the earth, so long shall Christ’s kingdom flourish, even to the last day. Then shall come another period, when He shall give up the kingdom to God the Father, whereof St. Paul speaks, I Cor. XV: “Christ the first fruits; afterwards those that belong to Christ, who are His at His coming.” Afterward is the end, when He shall answer for the kingdom to God and the Father.” Also: “But when all shall be subject to Him, then shall the Son also be subject to Him who subdued all for Him.”

How? Is then the kingdom not God the Father’s now? Is not all subject to Him? Answer:—St. Paul explains himself in the same place, and says: “So that God may be all in all;” that is, whatsoever any one shall need or should have, that God will be; as St. Peter has told us above, that we should be partakers of the Divine nature. Wherefore we shall also have all that God has, and all that is needful for us we shall have in Him,—wisdom, righteousness, strength and life,—a truth which we now believe, hearing it merely, and having it in the word of God. But then shall the word cease, when our souls shall be enlarged and see and feel it all as a present thing. This is what St. Paul means, and St. Peter also: that the power of Christ’s kingdom now proceeds; now He gives the word, and thereby, through His humanity, reigns over the devil, sin, death, and all things. But at the last day this shall be made clear. Therefore, although God ever rules, still it is not yet manifest to us. He clearly beholds us, but we behold Him not. Therefore must Christ surrender up to Him the kingdom, so that we also shall see it, while we then shall be Christ’s brethren and God’s children. Thus Christ received from God honor and glory (St. Peter here says) when the Father made all things subject to Him, and made Him Lord, and glorified Him by this voice, in which He says, “This is my well-beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

By this St. Peter would confirm his doctrine and preaching, that it might be known whence it came. But this experience was no more than that he had heard this, and was able to preach of it. But the Holy Spirit must also come and strengthen him, that he may believe in it, and preach and confess it cheerfully. The former thing belongs only to the office of the preacher, not to the soul; but this belongs to the Spirit.

V. 19. We have also a sure word of Prophecy, and ye do well in that ye give heed to it as to a light that shines in a dark place, till the day break arid the morning star rise in your hearts.

There St. Peter grasps right hold upon the matter, and would say this much: all that I preach is to subserve this end, that your conscience may be assured, and your heart may stand firm on this, and not let itself be torn therefrom, and that thus both I and you may be certain that we have God’s word. For it is an important matter as respects the Gospel that we should receive and hold it clean and pure, without addition and false doctrine. Therefore Peter begins henceforth to write against human doctrines.

But why does he say we have a sure word of prophecy? Answer: I hold, indeed, that we shall have no more prophets, such as the Jews had in former times in the Old Testament. But a prophet eminently should he be who preaches of Jesus Christ. Therefore, although many prophets in the Old Testament have foretold concerning things to come, yet they came and were sent by God, for this reason especially, that they should foretell Christ. Those, then, who believe on Christ are all prophets, for they have the true head-article that the prophets should have, although they have not the gift of making known things to come; for as we, through the faith of our Master, are Christ’s brethren, are kings and priests, so are we prophets also, all of us through Christ. For we can all say what belongs to salvation and God’s honor and a Christian life, besides of future things, so much as this is necessarily known to us, viz., that the Last Day shall come, and that we shall rise from the dead; besides, we understand the whole substance of Scripture. Whereof Paul also says, I Cor. xiv: “Ye can all prophecy, one after another.”

This now, is, what Peter says: we have such a word of prophecy as is sure in itself; see to it only that it be sure to you; and ye do well in paying heed to it:—as though he should say: It will be a thing of necessity to you to hold firmly by it; for it is in regard to the Gospel as though one were imprisoned in the house, in the midst of the night, when it was stock dark. Then it were a matter of necessity that one should kindle a light, till the day came when he could see. Eminently such is the Gospel in the midst of the night and darkness, for all human reason is mere error and blindness, while the world is even nothing else but a kingdom of darkness. In this darkness has God now kindled a light, even the Gospel, whereby we may see and walk, while we are on the earth, till the morning dawn comes and the day breaks.

Thus this text is also strongly against all human doctrine; for since the word of God is the light in a dark and gloomy place, it follows that all besides is darkness. For if there were another light besides the word, St. Peter would not have spoken as he has. Therefore look not to this, how gifted those men are with reason who teach any other doctrine, however grandly they put it forth; if you cannot trace God’s word in it, then be in no doubt as to its being mere darkness. And let it not disturb you at all that they say they have the Holy Spirit. How can they have God’s Spirit if they do not have His word? Wherefore they do nothing else but call darkness light and make the light darkness, as Isaiah says, chap. v.

This is God’s word—even the Gospel—that we are ransomed by Christ from death, sin and hell: whoever hears that, he has this light and has kindled this lamp in his heart, even that by which we may see the one that enlightens us, and teaches us whatever we should know. But where this is not, there we rush on, and by matters and works of our own device would find out the way to heaven. Whereof, by your light, you can judge and see that it is darkness. Wherefore since they have not the light, neither would receive it, they must remain in darkness and blindness. For the light teaches us all that which we ought to know and what is necessary to salvation—a thing which the world by wisdom and reason knows not. And this light we must still have and depend upon, even to the last day. Then shall we have no more need of the word, just as we put out the lamp when the day breaks.

V. 20, 21. And this ye should know first of all, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation; for prophecy came not aforetime by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Here Paul falls upon the matter of false doctrine: since ye know this, he says, that we have the word of God, abide thereon, and suffer yourselves not to be drawn from it by others that teach falsely, though they come and give forth that they have the Holy Spirit. For this ye should know first of all (the second matter he would speak of afterward), that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation; by this be directed, and do not think that ye shall explain the Scripture by your own reason and wisdom.

In this the private interpretation of Scripture by all the fathers is thrown down and rejected, and it is forbidden to build on such interpretation. Though Jerome, or Augustine, or any one of the fathers have explained it of himself, yet would not we have it from him. Peter has forbidden you to explain it of yourself at all. The Holy Spirit will explain it Himself, or it shall remain unexplained. If now any one of the holy fathers can prove that he has his explanation from the Scriptures, which give assurance that it should be so explained, then it is right; where this is not the case, I for one shall not believe him . Thus Peter lays hold on the boldest and best teachers; wherefore we should rest assured that none is to be believed who sets the Scripture forth where he of himself opens and explains it. For there can be no true sense obtained by private interpretation. Here have all the teachers and fathers who have explained the Scripture stumbled, so far as they are- extant to us. As when they refer the passage of Christ, Matt xvi: Thou art Peter and on this rock will I build my church, to the Pope. That is a human, self-invented explanation; therefore, no one is to believe them, for they cannot prove out of the Scripture that Peter is ever spoken of as Pope. But this we can prove, that the rock is Christ and faith, as Paul says. This explanation is the right one; for of this we are sure, it has not been invented by men, but drawn from God’s word. Now what is found written and foretold in the prophets, says Peter, that men have not searched out nor invented; but holy and pious men have spoken it from the Holy Spirit.

Thus this is the first chapter, wherein St. Peter has first of all taught us what those really good works are whereby we must give proof of our faith. In the second place, that no man in Christendom should preach anything but God’s word alone. The reason why it should be so is no other, as we have said, except that men should preach that word which shall remain forever, whereby souls may be Avon, and eternal life. Now there follows a just admonition, which Christ and Paul and all the Apostles have also given, that each should look out for himself and guard against false teachers.

It is especially necessary for us to observe it carefully, so that we shall not suffer that right and authority which all Christians have, to be torn from us, to judge and decide on all doctrines; and shall not let it come to this, that we first wait till the Councils determine what we are to believe, and then follow that. This we are now to look at.

CHAPTER II.

V. 1. But there were false teachers also among the people^ as also among you there shall he false teachers. This is what St. Peter would say: All prophecy must proceed from the Holy Spirit, even to the end of the world, just as it has gone forth from the beginning of the world, so that nothing shall be preached but what is God’s word. Yet it has ever so happened, that close upon the true prophets and word of God, there have been false teachers, and so also it shall continue. Therefore, since ye have God’s word, ye should take heed to yourselves that ye do not have false teachers besides. This is a sufficient admonition, and it cannot fail where the true word of God is preached; that close upon it false teachers also should rise up. The reason is this,—not every one lays hold on the word, and believes thereon, although it is preached to all. They who believe thereon, follow it, and hold it fast; but the greater part, they who do not believe, receive a false sense therefrom, whence they become false teachers. This matter we have not seriously considered, nor have we attended to this warning; but we have gone astray, and whatever has been preached that we have done. Thereon we have stumbled and fallen, and been led away by delusion, as though the Pope, with his priests and monks, could not err. Thus those that should have been on their guard against such things, have been the first that have urged them upon us. So that we are not free from blame, though we have a wrong belief, and follow after false teachers: it shall be of no help to us, that we have not known, since we were warned beforehand. Besides, God has bidden us that we should each determine what this or that one preaches, and give account thereof; if we do not, then are we lost; wherefore it concerns every one’s own soul’s salvation to know what God’s word is, and what false doctrines are.

Such warnings against false teachers are, besides, very frequent, here and there, throughout the Scripture. St. Paul, Acts XX., gives just such an admonition in his preaching, when he blesses those of Ephesus and gives them his farewell; and he speaks in this manner: “I know that after my departure there shall come in among you grieyous wolves, who shall not spare the flock; yea, there shall even of your own selves arise men who shall teach corrupt doctrine, who shall draw disciples after them.” Christ proclaims it also in Matt. XX.: “If anyone shall say to you (he says), lo! here is Christ, or lo! there, then are ye not to believe it; for there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and great signs and wonders shall they do, that shall lead into error, if it were possible, even the elect.” And again, Paul, I Tim iv: “The Spirit speaks expressly that in the last times some shall depart from the faith, and cleave to erring spirits and doctrines of the devil by which they speak lies in hypocrisy.” As forcefully as such admonition has gone forth, so careful should we have been; yet it has been of no avail. The admonition has been kept silent, and thus we have still wandered, and suffered ourselves to be led astray.

Now let us see who those false teachers may be, of whom Peter here speaks. I think that God has ordained by special counsel that our teachers should have been called doctors, that it might be seen whom Peter means. For he as much as uses the word here; false doctors,—that is, false teachers, he says,—not false prophets or false apostles. In this he fairly hits the high schools, where such a class of men is made, and whence all the preachers have come forth into the world: so that there is not even a city under the Popedom, which does not have such teachers made in the high schools. For all the world thinks that they are the fountain, the streams of which are to teach the people. This is a desperate error, since no more cruel thing has ever come upon the earth than has come forth from the high schools. Therefore Peter says, that such vain, false teachers are to be; but what shall they do? This follows further:

Who shall privily introduce damnable heresies. He calls them damnable heresies (sects), or states and orders, because whosoever is persuaded into them is already lost. These shall they secretly bring in, he says, not that they shall preach that the Gospel and the Holy Scriptures are false, for that would have worked quite against them,—but these names, God, Christ, faith, church, baptism, sacrament, they shall still hold, and suffer to continue. But under these names they bring forward and set up something of another sort. For there is a great difference, whether I say this man preaches against this doctrine or in accordance with it. When I preach thus, that Christ is the Son of God and truly man, and whoever believes on Him shall be saved,—that is right preaching and the true Gospel. But if one preaches that Christ is not the Son of God, nor truly man, moreover that faith does not save, it is said in plain contradiction to it. Whence St. Peter speaks not (for this is what our high schools, priests and monks do not attempt), except of those associate doctrines which they introduce through the true doctrine. As when they speak after this manner,—it is true that Christ was God, and is man; that He died for our sins, and no one can be saved who does not believe upon Him. But that belongs only to the common estate (of Christians); but we will set up a more complete one, in which men shall vow chastity, poverty, and obedience, as well as fast, endow institutions, &c. Whoever does this shall go full tide up to heaven. Where now men preach and hear such things as that there is nothing better and more saving than virginity and obedience, and that the monk and the priest are in a higher and more perfect estate than mankind in general, there is nothing said against the pure Christian doctrine directly, nor are faith and baptism denied, nor that Christ is the Saviour. But yet there is such doctrine brought in with them, leading men away from the right path, that they build upon their own life and works, and hold nothing more in regard to Christ, but just these words: we believe that Christ is the Son of God, and man; that He died and rose again; that He is the Saviour of the world, &c. But they repose no faith in Him, for if they did that, they would not rest an hour upon their life.

Thus they have also preached and said among the people: “Ye are Christians already, but that is not enough; ye must also do such and such works, build churches and cloisters, found masses and vigils,” &c.

The great multitude has tumbled into this notion, and thought it was right. Hereby Christendom is divided and separated into as many sects, almost, as there are states and people.

But this is what men should have preached and taught: Ye are Christians indeed, and, just as well as those a hundred miles away, ye have all of you one Christ, one baptism, one faith, one spirit, one word, one God; so that no work that man can do helps to make a Christian. Thus, were men included in a common faith, there would be no difference before God, but one would be as another. This unity have they rent asunder, in that they say, ” You are a Christian, but you must do works in order that you may be saved;” and thus they lead us away from faith to works. Therefore St. Peter says, if we will explain it right, nothing but this: there shall come high schools, doctors, priests and monks, and all classes of men, who shall bring in ruinous sects and orders, and shall lead the world astray by false doctrines. Such are those whom he means here, for they all hold to the notion that their state and Order saves them, and they cause men to build and trust thereon; for where men do not hold to this view, they carefully keep clear of entering them.

And shall deny the Lord who bought them. “Oh,” say they, “we do not deny the Lord at all!” But if any one says, “Since you are ransomed by Christ, and His blood blots out your sin, what will you blot out by your mode of life?” Then they say, “Ah! faith does not do it alone, works must also aid towards it.” Thus they confess the Lord Christ indeed with their mouth, but with their hearts they quite deny him. See how admirably St. Peter expresses it. They deny the Master, he says, who has bought them: they should be under Him as under a master whose own they were. But now, though they believe indeed that He is their master and has purchased the whole world by His blood, yet they do not believe that they are bought, and that He is their master; and they say “He has indeed bought and ransomed them, but then this is not enough,—we must first by our works expiate the sin and make satisfaction for it.” But we say, if you yourself take away and blot out your sin, what has Christ then done? You certainly cannot make two Christs who take away sin. He should and must be the only one that puts away sin. If that be true, then I cannot understand how I am myself to cancel my own sin. If I do it, I can neither say nor believe that He takes it away. And it is the same thing with denying Christ; for although they hold Christ to be their master, they deny that He has bought them. They believe, indeed, that He sits above in heaven and is Lord; but that which is His peculiar office, to take away sin, this they take from Him, and ascribe it to their own works. Thus they leave to Him nothing more than the name and title; but His work. His power, and His office, they will have themselves. So that Christ has truly said, “Many shall come in my name, and say, I am Christ, and shall seduce many.” For they are this preeminently, not who say, “I am called Christ,” but “I am He;” for they seize to themselves the office that belongs to Christ, thrust Him from His throne, and seat themselves thereon. This we see before our eyes, insomuch that no one can deny it. Therefore St. Peter calls them damnable or ruinous heresies, for they run all of them straight to hell, so that I suppose that among a thousand, hardly one is saved. For whoever shall be saved therein must say this much: “My obedience, my chastity, &c., do not save me; my works do not take away any sin from me.” But how many there are who have these views, and remain in such a damnable state!

And shall bring upon themselves quick damnation. That is, their condemnation shall quickly overtake them; although it is plain that God forbears long, yet He will come soon enough. But it is not a thing that respects the body, that we should be able to see it with our eyes, but just as the fifty-fourth Psalm says, “They shall not live out half their day;” that is, death shall seize upon them ere they themselves suspect, so that they shall say, like Hezekiah, Is. xxxviii., “I have said in the midst of my life, I must go down into the grave;” as though they should say, “O Lord God, is death already here?” For those men who do not live by .faith, who are never more and more weary of life, the longer they live the longer they would live, and the holier they seem the more terrible will death be to them, especially to those who have scrupulous consciences and cruelly urge and vex themselves by works, for it is not possible to vanquish death by human powers. Where faith is wanting, the conscience must tremble and despair. Where faith is strong, death comes too slow; while, on the other hand, he comes to the unbelieving always too soon, for there is no end to the thirst and love of life.

This is what Peter means here: these people who set up such sects, and so deny Christ, must come to die with the greatest unwillingness, trembling and desponding; for they can have no other thought but this, “Who knows whether God will be gracious to me and will forgive my sins?” and they remain forever in such doubt, “who knows it,—who knows it?” and their conscience is never at peace. The longer they thus continue, the more terrible is death to them; for death cannot first be subdued, till sin and an evil conscience have been taken away. So will their condemnation come upon them hastily, so that they must abide in eternal death.

V. 2. And many shall follow their destruction. It may be seen before our eyes, that it has come to pass just as St. Peter first declared. There has been not a father or mother who has not wished to have a priest, monk, or nun, from among their children. Thus one fool has made another; for when people have seen the misfortune and misery that arc found in the marriage state, and have not known that it is a safe estate, they have wished to do the best for their children, to help them to a happy life and freedom from wretchedness. So that St. Peter has foretold here nothing else but just that the world should become full of priests, monks, and nuns. Thus youth, and the best that are in the world, have run with the multitude to the devil. St. Peter says it, alas! only too truly, that many should follow them to this destruction.

By whom the way of truth shall he blasphemed. This, too, is a thing that may be seen before our eyes. To blaspheme is to libel, damn, and curse; as when one condemns the Christian estate as error and heresy. If one now should preach and say that their course is against the Gospel, because they lead men away from faith to works, then they go about and cry, “Thou art cursed, thou leadest the world astray.” And they blaspheme even yet more, in perverting what Christ has said, and saying no! to it. As when they, out of that which Christ has bidden, make nothing but a story, so that they forbid what Christ would have left free, and make that sin which He makes none, besides condemning and burning whoever preaches against it. The way of truth is a well-ordered life and walk, in which there is no fraud nor hypocrisy, such as that faith is in which all Christians walk. This they cannot bear; they blaspheme and condemn it, so as to praise and sustain their Order and sect.

V. 3. And through avarice with feigned words shall they make merchandise of you. This is specially the way of all false teachers, that they preach from avarice, that they may fill their belly, just as we see that not one of them has held a mass or vigil gratis. So, too, there is never a cloister or monastery built, whereto there must not fall a full measure of tribute. So, too, there is not a cloister in the world that serves the world for God’s sake. It is all of it done merely for gold. But if any one really preaches faith, that does not bring in much gold; for then, all pilgrimages, indulgences, cloisters, and monasteries, to which more than half the wealth of the world has been devoted and given, must cease; whereof none has any use but the priests and monks only.

But how do they act to get the gold into their own hands? With feigned words, says Peter, shall they make merchandise of you. For they have selected the word by which they make money of the people, for this very purpose, as when they say, ” If you give the dear Virgin, or this or that saint so many hundred florins, you do a most excellent good work, and merit so much indulgence and forgiving of sin, and ransom as many souls from purgatory.

This and the like are just carefully feigned words, to the end that they may shave us of our gold; for in all this there is really no desert, nor grace, nor blotting out of sin. Still they explain the noble words of Scripture all of them in such a way, that they may traffic with them for gold. So, also, there has come of the holy, gracious Sacrament, nothing else but a traffic, for they do nothing with it but smear the people’s mouth, and scrape their gold from them. Observe, then, whether St. Peter has not drawn and painted our clergy to the life.

Whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not and their damnation slumbereth not. They shall not drive this on at length, nor carry it out, (he would say); for when they urge it most strongly, their sentence and condemnation shall fall upon them. Even now it goes forth; they shall not escape it,—as St. Paul also says, II Tim. iii: ” Their folly shall be revealed to all, so that they shall be put to shame;” God grant that they may be converted and come out from their dangerous state, when they hear and understand it, for though there are some who have not been seduced into this state, yet is it in itself nothing but a mere pernicious sect.

Thus St. Peter has attempted to describe the shameful, godless life that should succeed to the genuine doctrines of the Gospel, which the Apostles preached. Now he goes further, and sets before us three terrible examples—of the angels, of the whole world, and of Sodom, how God condemned them,—and speaks thus:

V. 4. For if God spared not the angels that sinned but has thrust them down to hell in chains of darkness, and given them over to be reserved for judgment. By these words St. Peter terrifies those who live so gay and secure as we see those do who cleave to that which the Pope has enacted, in that they are so confident and shameless that they would tread every one under foot. Therefore he would say this much: Is it not great presumption on their part that they go on so eagerly, and would bring every thing to pass by their own head, as though God should yield to them, and spare them, who yet spared not the angels? As though he had said, these examples should justly terrify even the saints, when they see such a severe sentence in that God has not spared those high spirits and noble beings who are far more learned and wise than we, but has thrust them into chains of darkness;—such is the severe sentence and condemnation whereto He has ordained them, in which they are held bound and imprisoned, so that they cannot flee away out of the hands of God, since they have been cast into outer darkness, as Christ says in the Gospel.

And here St. Peter shows that the devils have not yet their final punishment, but still go about in a hardened, desperate state, and look every moment for their judgment, just as a man that is condemned to death is perfectly desperate, hardened, and more and more wicked. But their punishment has not yet overtaken them, but they are now only bound and reserved for it. This is the first example.—Now follows the second:

V. 5. And spared not the old world, but saved Noah, the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, and brought the flood upon the world of the ungodly. This is, moreover, a fearful example, such indeed that there is not a more bitter one in the Scripture. One might almost despair in view of it, who was even strong in faith. For when such language and such a sentence go to a man’s heart, and he thinks of it, that so he too ought to die, he must tremble and despond, if he is not well prepared, since among so many in the whole world, no one but these eight only were saved. But how have they deserved it, that God by such a severe sentence should have drowned all, one with another, in one mass, husband and wife, master and servant, young and old, beast and bird? Because they led such a wicked life. Noah was a pious man and a preacher of righteousness, and had already lived five hundred years, before the flood, when God commanded him to build an ark,—on which he wrought a hundred years thereafter; and he led throughout a uniformly godly life. Whence you may judge what a cross he had to bear, and in what care and anxiety the pious man stood, when he must needs show, by words and works, that he was a Christian. For it cannot be allowed that faith should conceal itself, and not break out before men by words and well-doing. So this man, alone, perhaps, long before God bade him build the ark, exercised the preacher’s office, and spread the word of God not in one place, but, beyond doubt, through many lands. So that he must thus have suffered much and great persecution even, inasmuch as he is specially (as Peter says) sustained and kept by God, or he would soon have been overwhelmed and slain; for he must thus needs bear upon himself much envy and hate, and make even many high, wise and holy people his enemies. Had the matter not been helped, then the world would have despised the word of God, and been ever growing more wicked. When they had now driven on their wickedness to great length, God said, “My Spirit shall not always strive with men, since they are flesh; yet will I give them the term of an hundred and twenty years.” Besides, “I will destroy from the earth the men whom I have created, from man even to the reptile, (I will destroy them).” These words he preached and enforced daily, and began to build the ark as had been commanded him; and he labors on it a hundred years. But the people laughed at him, and were only so much the more obstinate and foolish. But what the sin was for which God destroyed the world, the text of Gen. vi. tells us, that the children of God,—that is, those who came of holy parents, and were instructed and brought up in the faith and in the knowledge of God, sought after the daughters of men, since they were fair, and took for their wives whom they would. Thereafter they came from this to be powerful tyrants, who did everything that they chose after their own caprice; wherefore God punished the world and destroyed it by the flood.

And reduced the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes, overthrowing and condemning them. This is the third example drawn from the destruction of those five cities, Gen. xix. Whereof also the prophet Ezekiel speaks, in chap, xvi., addressing the city of Jerusalem: “this was the sin of Sodom thy sister,—pride, fullness of bread, luxury and idleness, and that to the poor they did not reach out the hand, and have lifted themselves up, and have wrought such shameful cruelty before me that I have even destroyed them.” For Sodom was a land, like the garden of the Lord, as Moses says, and a rich mine of costly oil and wine and all things, so that every one would think, here dwells God. For this they were secure, and led such a shameful life as Moses has written of. Such sin breaks out only where there is an assurance that they have enough to eat and drink and to spare, and idleness is joined therewith; just as we still see, the richer cities are the more shamefully do men live in them; but where there is hunger and cumber there the sins are so much the fewer. Therefore God permits, in regard to those that are His, that their education should be severe, that they may remain pure.

These are the three fearful examples whereby St. Peter threatens those that are godless. And as he insists upon it so, we must hold that this is its import. And it is spoken especially of the spiritual order—pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, monks and nuns, and all who hang upon them. These are, as it were, angels in the Apostles’ stead, appointed to this very end, that they should preach and make known God’s word; for an angel is a messenger, or one sent, who discharges his message by word of mouth, for which reason preachers are called in Scripture angels,—that is, messengers of God. Such angels should our clergy be. But as these angels of old fell off from God, and set themselves above God, and wished to be their own masters, so these do also, and have nothing but just the name of messengers, as those have the name alone of angels. So these also, as they have gone off from God, shall be held in chains of darkness and reserved to condemnation; as he has said above, that their sentence does not linger, nor their damnation slumber, although punishment has not as yet overtaken them.

Beside, they are like that former world, who, although they heard the prophets and the word of God, yet blasphemed and reviled them; and as Moses writes, took to themselves wives according to their pleasure, whomsoever they would, and became great and powerful tyrants. Observe, then, whether all that which Moses wrote of those is not now taking place. These are the great scamps that live in revelry, oppress the world by their tyranny, and no one must ask of them why they play the fool. Whomsoever they will they take for wife or daughter, in spite of any one’s complaining; for if any one finds fault with it they are themselves judges, and there is no one who can win their cause of them. Therefore whatever they can devise to bring into their hands by oppression or fines, that also they execute. And if any one should seize upon it, they then say, “it is the spiritual possession of the churches; it is exempt, and no one must lay hands on it.” And as to those who preach God’s word, they punish them to the taking away their life, and declare God’s sentence on those that laugh at them; they will not hear the word, and they persecute the very preachers of righteousness, and, remaining great and mighty lords, would retain their title, so that they may be called spiritual, like those that are God’s children, yet rule with full power in all obstinacy; but they must at last be subdued and destroyed. But the others who preach God’s word shall be kept and sustained.

Thirdly: as the land where the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were was a mine of fat, and all had enough of what the earth could bear, thereby the people became indolent, glutted themselves ‘with food and drink, and to none of the poor did they reach out the hand. Such is the case also with our Spiritual Estate, who possess generally the best land, the best castles and cities, and the greatest rents and tribute, while they have enough also to eat and drink. Besides, there is not a more indolent class of people on earth, that lives without anything of care or labor, and is fed by the sweat of the poor. But what indolence brings along we may see before our eyes. The Pope forbids them to take a married wife, so that if they then keep their concubines and have children they must give gold to the bishop for every child, whereby they will smooth the thing over and cancel the sin. I will not here speak of other secret sins which one dare not lightly stir up.

Finally, you here see that St. Peter accounts of the Spiritual Estate no otherwise than as of Sodom and Gomorrah, for they are all su.ch people as no one can be benefited by who. lend none a helping hand, but seize to themselves all they can, under the pretense, which they put forth, that what is given to them is given to God, and they let no one be helped though he suffer want. Wherefore just as those were overthrown and turned to ashes, so shall these also be destroyed at the last day.

V. 7. And rescued righteous Lot who was troubled greatly by the libertine course of the wicked. Was it not a great aggravation that they not only rushed publicly and shamelessly into whoredom and adultery, but into such sins as may not be mentioned.—insomuch that they did not even spare the angels who came to Lot, and they rushed on thus in their course, both young and old, in all the corners of the city! Against this, righteous Lot had daily preached and warned them, but all in vain, except that he is vexed by them, since he must stand still yet cannot smooth over the evil, just as is the case with us now, for there is no more hope to reform or help this grieyous course of life that the world leads.

V. 8. For while that righteous man dwelt among them, since he must see and hear it all, they vexed his righteous soul from day to day, by their ungodly deeds. Here Peter describes the cross which this holy man must have borne, while he preached to the people and brought up his daughters in faith; and so it is accounted toward him by God. Now St. Peter decides how the godless shall be kept for punishment at the last day.

V. 9, 10. The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, but to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished, but especially those that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness. This is certainly deep passion and earnestness in the Apostle. If God spared not (says he) the young new world, how much more severely and fearfully will he now punish those to whom the Gospel has been revealed and preached, and before which no such great light has arisen; as Christ also declares. Matt, xi., “Woe to thee, Capernaum, who art exalted even to heaven! thou shalt be thrust down to hell; for if the deeds that have been done in thee had been done in Sodom, it had been standing at this day; for I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom in that day than for you.” But such threatening is in vain. The godless do not turn themselves for it.

To live in the lust of uncleanness is to live just like an unreasoning beast—according to mere sense and every kind of lust. So everything is ordered by the Pope, ordered as it has pleased him, and all must subserve their willfulness and tyranny; and they have warped and explained all just as it has pleased them, and thereupon said, “the holy See at Rome cannot err,” while there is not one who has preached anything of faith or love; but they have taught nothing except what they have themselves imagined.

V. 10, 11. And those who despise governments, presumptuous, self-conceited, tremble not to revile dignities, whereas the angels, who are greater in power and might, bring not a railing accusation against them before the Lord. He calls kings, princes and lords, and all civil magistracy, governments; and not the Pope and bishops, for these are not to be lords at all; since Christ, in the New Testament, is represented only as a servant—so that one Christian is to serve another, and hold him in honor. Wherefore this is St. Peter’s meaning: that they should be subject and obedient to civil magistracy; as the sword is introduced by God’s ordinance, stand thou in fear. Yet they do the very reverse of this. They have excepted themselves, and say they are not subject to the civil magistracy; yea, they have not only excepted themselves, but have even subjected those to themselves, and trampled on them with their feet, and permit themselves shamelessly to be called lords, even by kings and princes, just as the Pope writes of himself that he is a lord of heaven and earth, and has in his hand both the civil and spiritual sword, and that every one must fall at his feet.

Besides, St. Peter says that they do not tremble to blaspheme dignities; for it has become to the Pope a small and slight thing to put kings and princes under ban, to curse them, and depose them, and moreover excite mischief among them, and stir them up one against another. And as to those who have opposed themselves, these he has quickly overthrown and trodden on, not because they have done anything against faith or love, but only because they have not been willing to be subject to the Romish See, or kiss the Pope’s foot, because, forsooth, his power was as much greater than that of secular princes as the sun is than the moon, or as the heaven is high above the earth; so they lyingly blasphemed, while yet they are bound to be subject and obedient to them, and should bless them and pray for them, as Christ our Lord subjected Himself to Pilate, and gave to the Emperor the penny tribute. They ought, therefore, to tremble at reviling against dignities; yet are they unaffrighted and presumptuous in regard to it, and they revile with all zeal and recklessness, while yet if even the strongest angels cannot endure judgment against themselves from the Lord, and besides are struck dumb from cursing and reviling the very One from whom they cannot escape, how then will these wretched people endure it?

V. 12, 13. But these are like unreasoning brutes, that are born, in accordance with their nature, to be taken and destroyed; they speak evil of that which they do not know, and in their own ruin shall they perish and receive therefrom the reward of their unrighteousness. Unreasonable brutes, Peter calls them, as though they had within them not a spark of anything that smacked of spirit, performed no spiritual duty that they should do, but lived like the fool, and became effeminate through a carnal life. But in that he says they are naturally born to be taken and destroyed, it may be understood in a two-fold manner: first, as of those that take and destroy, such as the wolf, lion, bear, the sparrow-haw-k and eagle,—so these grasp to themselves, and tear away from others all they can, goods and honor. Secondly, of those that shall be taken, crushed and destroyed at the judgment of the last day.

They count temporal enjoyment as the fullness of pleasure. See how indignant St. Peter is! I must not chide the young gentlemen so grieyously. They think if they only live well, and have good times, then they have enough of all things, and are right well off; this one can easily trace in their spiritual claim, when they say that whoever touches them as to their property or their belly, is of the devil They themselves cannot deny this, that their whole system is framed to this end, that they may have lazy and idle times, and all that can suffice them. They will lade themselves with no trouble or labor, but every one must make and devote enough for them. They must go to the choir and pray. God has commanded all men that they should eat their bread by the sweat of their brow, and He has imposed trial and anxiety upon all. Meanwhile, these young masters would slip their heads out of this noose, and busy themselves with kisses. But this is the greatest blindness, that they are so dumb, and therefore hold that such a shameful life is right and lovely.

Spots are they and blemishes. They know not but that they adorn Christianity, as the sun and moon do heaven, and are the noblest and most precious jewels, like gold and precious stones; yet St. Peter calls them spots of shame and blemishes. The true Christian life develops from faith, serves every one in love, bears the holy cross, which is the true badge, ornament, jewel and honor of the Christian Church;—but these have, in place of the cross, lust and luxury; instead of love to their neighbor, they seek their own interest, snatch all to themselves, and let nothing go from themselves to another for his advantage. Thus they know of faith just nothing at all. For they are nothing but the spots and stains which Christianity must have as its shame and derision. That is chiding enough, certainly, for our spiritual lords.

They lead an effeminate life through your charity, feast richly on your goods. What was given at first out of Christian love, to procure a common fund for widows and worthy persons, and also for the poor, so that no one among the Christians need suffer want or beg,—property of this kind is now all devoted to monasteries and cloisters, from which our ecclesiastics fill their bellies, living upon it most luxuriously, and revelling in it; and to this end they say it belongs to them, and no one shall restrain them for it. The Holy Spirit will not permit that the servants of the church should lead an effeminate life from other people’s labor; but to the laboring class, and to man, woman and child generally, was it properly devoted of old.

V. 14. They have eyes full of adultery. Such must always follow when the body is crammed with food and drink, and loiters indolent, as was said above. Wherefore does St. Peter say,—not, they are adulterers,—but, they have eyes full of adultery? It is as much as though he should say, They think ever on nothing but fornication, and can never restrain their roguery, nor be satisfied and quiet. This is the cause of their continual gluttony and revel, so far as they can push it, and thus they are suffered to live at large and unpunished, just as they like,—as follows:

Their sin is not to he interfered with. The Pope has forbidden any prince or secular magistrate to punish ecclesiastics, and where they maintain their own authority he puts them under bann. But this matter is committed to the bishops; yet, since they are knaves themselves, they look through their fingers. Thus they have excepted themselves from subjection to civil government and the sword, so that no one shall dare to restrain them in their caprice, and they all live according to their own lusts, like those of old before the deluge.

They allure to themselves light-minded souls. With such great show as they exhibit in their knavish life, as going through with mass, begging, singing, &c., do they allure and draw light-minded and unstable souls, who are without faith, to imagine that everything is spiritual; and all is shaped to this end, that men may think that in that estate every one shall have enough, and good times besides, and, moreover, that he shall reach heaven; and yet it is all done only to this end, that they may fill their bellies and their dirt-bag.

They have a heart penetrated with covetousness. This vice is so gross and open among the ecclesiastics, that even the common people have complained of it. Yet he says not, they are covetous, but, they have a heart penetrated with covetousness, and especially exercised therein. This may be seen in the fact that they have invented so many swindling and cunning stories that it is impossible to count them, by which they bring all the world’s wealth to themselves.

All that this class practices and pursues is simple, pure covetousness, and must all be worth money enough. They show it also most plainly of all, as they are equipped and prepared on all sides to call on men for their gold; so that St. Peter was certainly not a liar.

They are children of cursing. That is, in the Hebrew, as much as to say, they are cursed children, subject to the curse of God, so that before God they have no favor or salvation, and only become more wicked from day to day, and continually, also, greater blasphemers of God; so that they surely lade themselves full enough with the wrath and terrible judgment of God. That is surely spoken severely and fearfully enough; while it is high time that whoever can flee and run, should flee and run forth from this cursed state. Should we bear such a title, that is certainly pitiful; but if the High Majesty also arraigns, curses, and condemns,—who will endure it?

V. 15. They have forsaken the right way, and gone in error. They should have taught the right way,—how we must cleave to Christ, and come to God by faith, and through love to our neighbor; and thereafter bear the holy cross, and endure whatever meets us therefor. But they preach no more than this, “go hither and thither,—be monk and priest,—found churches, masses, &., &c.;” and they lead away the people from faith to their own works, which yet are such as are of no use to their neighbor.

V. 15, 16. And have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Bosor, who loved the reward of unrighteousness, but had a rebuke for his transgression, the dumb beast of burden speaking with man’s voice and reproving the folly of the prophet. Here he brings in an illustration from the fourth book of Moses, xxii.—xxiv. When the children of Israel had journeyed out of Egypt and had come into the land of the Moabites, king Balak sent to a prophet in Syria, by the name of Balaam, and besought him that he would come and curse the Jewish people, that they might become weak and that he might slay them. Then God appeared to Balaam, and forbade him to curse the people; therefore the prophet declines to comply with Balak. Thereupon the king sent to him once more, and promised to give him large wealth. Then God permits him to go to him, yet he shall say nothing but what He shall direct him to say.

Upon this, he rose up and mounted upon an ass. The angel of God came and walked in the way, and stood before him with a drawn sword. The ass saw it, and turned aside out of the way, at which the prophet struck her, that she should go in the way. Then the angel went to a narrow place where the ass could not turn aside, and when she presses herself against the wall and bruises the prophet’s foot, she is forced to fall under him upon her knee, while he is angered so as in his rage to strike the ass with his staff. Then God opens the mouth of the beast to speak with the voice of a man, and she said, “What have I done to you that you should strike me so?” And he said, “Ah! if I had now a sword in my hand, I would slay you.” Then the ass answered and said, “Am I yet the ass upon which thou hast ridden continually even to this day, and have I done it for no more than this?” Then were the eyes of the prophet opened, so that he saw the angel with the drawn sword, at which he was affrighted and would have turned back; but the angel of the Lord bade him go on, but thereupon forbade him to speak anything else than what He should say to him.

When now the prophet was come to the king, he takes him up to a height from which he could see the whole people of Israel. Then the prophet bade him erect seven altars, and on each offer a sacrifice; and then went aside and asked the Lord what he should say. And God gave him his word in his mouth. And he rose up to bless and glorify the people of Israel with fair words; and this he did three times, one after another. Then was the king filled with wrath, and said, “Did I not call thee that thou shouldst curse mine enemies? and yet thou hast blest them now these three times. I had thought that I should have honored thee, but the Lord hath turned thee away from honor.” Balaam answered and said, “Yet I told thee at first, that though thou shouldst give me thine house full of silver and gold, still I could speak nothing else but what God should say to me.”

Yet did the prophet afterward give the king counsel how he should manage with the people, although he might not curse them and overcome them by power,—so that they sinned against God. Then the king sets up an idol, by name Baal-Peor, and causes that the Moabite women, daughters of lords and princes, should ensnare the people to themselves to sacrifice to their gods; and when they had brought them to themselves, they made supplication to the idol with meats and drinks, and committed sin with the women. Then was God angry, and commanded the chief of the people to be hung upon the gallows, and permitted four and twenty thousand men to be overcome in one day. Such was this prophet Balaam’s advice, for the sake of gold.

Of this St. Peter here speaks, and would say that our ecclesiastics are specially Balaam’s children and scholars; for just as he gave evil counsel to set up an idol so that the children of Israel should be brought to sin and provoke God that they should be slain, so have our bishops also set up an idol, in God’s name,—to wit, their human doctrine of their own works; and they let faith go, and they lure to themselves Christian souls whom they injure, and thereby provoke God to anger, so that he has punished the world with blindness and stupidity. For all this we may thank our spiritual masters.

Thus Peter compares especially these false teachers to the prophet Balaam, since they even, like Balaam, purely for the sake of gold, set up such idolatry and ruin souls.

Besides, he mentions his right name, for Bileaam or Balaam is he called in Hebrew, a swallower or swiller, like one who gapes his throat open, and swallows and deyours all. This shameful name must he bear, because he has brought so many people into sin, insomuch that they are destroyed and overcome.

Such Balaamites are our bishops and ecclesiastics, who are the throat of the devil, by which he draws so many souls to himself, and swallows them down. But the surname of this prophet is, the son of Bosor,—that is to say, flesh,—or, as Moses says, son of Beor, that is, of a fool. A fool is his father. So are these, also, blind, dull and foolish people, who must yet needs rule; such a people as the flesh bears, for the spirit makes men of another stamp. So God has given these in the Scripture their own name, and therein they are so painted to the life, that we may know in what account they are to be held.

Now the dumb beast of burden, the ass, signifies the people that lets itself be bridled and ridden, and goes as it is led, like the ass, who was forced and beaten cruelly when he went out of the way into the ditch, and must neither give place before the angel in the way so long as it could help, nor turn aside, and so must fall down. For in the same way have these seducers also urged on the people, until these last have become sensible that it is a thing not to be endured, and that they deal unfairly with them, and have wished to turn them aside from the way. But the harshness has been so gross whereby they have troubled the people, that at length God has opened our lips and given words into our mouths, so that even the children speak of it; whereby their folly is made plain, so that they must be ashamed. In this way we ought to meet them when they go about, and give out that it belongs not to the laity to read the Scripture, and therefore say, we must hear what the Councils determine. For then you may answer, Has not God spoken even by an ass? Be content with our knowing that ye, in times past, preached the word of God; but now ye have become fools, and are possessed by avarice, what wonder is it that now the common people have been roused and impelled by God to speak the truth, though it has been so burdened and oppressed like a dumb beast of burden. This is their likeness, taken from the prophet Balaam. Now St. Peter says further of these false teachers:

V. 17. They are wells without water, and clouds driven about by the whirlwind. In like manner Solomon presents us a comparison, in Prov. xxv., and says, “As when a great cloud and strong wind go forth, and yet no rain follows, so is a man who makes high boastings of himself, and does not make good his words.” So Peter says here, also, they are wells without water, and clouds driven about by the whirlwind; that is, they make great show, and have nothing beside. They are like the dry, false and exhausted wells, although they have the fame and title of being true wells. For Scripture calls those who teach, wells, as the ones from whom should flow that wholesome doctrine by which souls are to be quickened. To this office are they anointed and set apart. But what do they do? Nothing, as a general thing; for they have nothing else but just the bare name, just as they are called shepherds, and yet are wolves.

Besides, they are the clouds which the wind drives about—not like the thick, black and lowering clouds which are wont to give us rain, but like those fleecy ones which move about and fly in the air, and are very light, which the wind drives wherever it will, after which no rain can follow. So our teachers also sweep about and move high in Christendom, like the clouds in heaven, but let themselves be driven about wherever the devil chooses, to whom they are ready to yield in all kinds of lusts. But yet they preach not a word of God, like true teachers and preachers, who are called clouds in Scripture (as Is. v.),—as also by all that gives forth water, preachers are typified in Scripture.

For whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. They live now at their ease, and things go with them just as they themselves would have them. But there shall come an eternal darkness upon them, although they do not believe nor apprehend it.

V. 18. For they speak in swelling words, which have noteing back of them. If you ask how they may be called wells without water, and clouds without rain, while they yet preach throughout the whole world, St. Peter answers: they rain and preach, alas I altogether too much; but they are only vain, swollen and puffed-up words, by which they blow the poor people’s ears full, so that men think it is something fine; and yet it is nothing but show. Just as the monks, with high, bold words, set forth their obedience, poverty and chastity, so that men think they are a holy people, while yet it is nothing but mere trickery, and certainly no faith nor love can be found among it. Like this, also, is their pretense that the estate of bishops is a more perfect estate, while these yet do nothing else but ride about pompously on their fine horses, and now and then consecrate churches and altars, and baptise bells. Such puffed-up and swollen words are the whole spiritual law of the Pope, throughout.

And they allure through guile, to the lust of the flesh, those who had well-nigh escaped, and now they walk in error. This is what these wells and teachers do, so that they who were almost escaped must fall into the snare of wickedness, and for the first time be truly captured. A child that has been baptised, rescued from all sins, snatched from the devil and set out from Adam into Christ, when he conies to reason is soon entangled and led away into error. Men should be taught of faith, and love, and the holy cross, while our clergy go their own way, throw up their work whereby these persons fall back again into error, even though they had escaped it. But how does this come to pass? Thus: in that by guile they allure the people to the lust of the flesh. Their strongest persuasion is in their saying that priests, monks and nuns should not be married, and should bind themselves to maintain chastity, by which they do no more than allure to unchastity, forasmuch as the wretched people must perish in their wicked lusts, and there is nothing to help them.

But here you clearly see that Peter speaks of none other than teachers who bear rule in Christendom, where men are baptised and believers,—for among the Turks and heathen, no one has so escaped; it is only among Christians, where they have the chance to lead souls astray, and bring them into the snare of the devil.

V. 19. And they promise them freedom, while they themselves are the servants of corruption for of whom any one is overcome, his servant has he become. They set up Orders by which a man is to be saved,—as Thomas, the monk preacher, has shamelessly written, that when a man shall enter into one of these Orders, be it as vile as it may, it is as though he had but just come forth from his baptism; and then they promise him freedom and forgiving of sins by works of his own. Such blasphemy must we hear, while they set their human fancies and ludicrous conceits, destitute of faith, on a level with faith and baptism which God has established, and which are peculiarly his work. Who is to endure this and still keep silent? Such stories have the monks gotten up, and they cram them into the young; and such teachers as these men have set up for saints. But the other saints, truly such, they have burnt to ashes.

V. 20. For if they have escaped the pollution of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christy but shall he again entangled and overcome in the same their last end is worse for them than the first. There Peter shows why they are the servant of corruption. To confess Christ is to know what he is, even our Saviour, who forgives us our sins from pure grace. By this confession we escape the vice and come out from the pollution of the world. But though they should already have been delivered from sin in baptism, they shall afterwards be plunged therein, for that they have again gone from faith to their own works. For where there is no faith, the Spirit is absent; but where the Spirit is absent, there is nothing but flesh, so that there can be nothing at all that is pure. So has it come to pass hitherto in regard to Christianity. Rome first heard the pure Gospel, but afterward went back and fell away to human doctrines, until even upon herself all abominations have come up; so that her last end has become worse than her first, in that she is now far more hopeless in her heathenism than she ever was before she heard the word of God.

V. 21. For it had been far better for them that they had never known the way of righteousness than that they should know it, and turn themselves away from the holy command that has been given them. For it has happened to them according to the proverb The dog turns to his own vomit again, and the sow after her washing wallows in the mire. This proverb St. Peter has taken out of the book of Prov. xxvi., where Solomon says, “A man who repeats his folly is like the dog who turns again to his vomit.” By baptism they have thrown off unbelief, and have been washed from their polluted life, and have entered upon a pure life of faith and love, while they fall off from it again to unbelief and their own works, and defile themselves again in the dirt. So that we are not to make this proverb bear on works; for little is accomplished by one’s saying and directing at confession, “Thou shalt henceforth be chaste, meek, and patient,” &c. But if you will be pious, pray God that he will give you a real faith, and see to it that you forsake your unbelief. When you shall then have attained faith, good works shall afterwards take care of themselves, so that you will live purely and chastely, even though you should secure yourself by no other means; and though, again, you might awhile conceal the mischief in your heart, yet at last it comes out.

This is the second chapter of this Epistle, wherein Peter speaks specially of our teachers, how shamefully we have been treated by them. We have indeed had warning enough, but we have not minded it, so that the fault is ours that we have not laid hold on the Gospel, and that we have by our lives deserved such anger of God. We hear it generally, all of us, with gladness, when some one assaults and upbraids the Pope along with his priests and monks; but yet, no one will draw advantage to himself from it. It is not such a trifling matter of sport that one must laugh at it, but of such seriousness that the heart should fear and tremble on account of it. Therefore should we lay hold upon it with seriousness, and pray that God would turn away from us his anger and such plagues. For this calamity has not come upon us unforeseen, but it is sent upon us by God as a punishment,—as Paul says, II Thes. ii: “Since they have not received the love of the truth, that they might be saved, therefore shall God send upon them strong delusion so that they shall believe a lie,” &c., &c. For had the punishment gone but so far that the false teachers only were lost, it would have been yet a little thing against the fact that they have had the rule, and carried all the world with them to hell. Therefore, in regard to the evil, we are to take no counsel except to apprehend the matter in Godly fear and humility, confess our guilt, and pray God to turn away the punishment from us. By prayer must one contend against the false teachers, although the devil do not let him win.—Now follows, next:

CHAPTER III.

V. 1, 2. This is the second Epistle which I write to you beloved in which I stir up your pure minds to remembrance that ye may think upon the word which was said to you before by the holy prophets and upon our command who are Apostles of the Lord and Saviour. Here St. Peter comes to us again, and warns us in this chapter to be prepared, and look every moment for the last day. And so he says in the first of it, that he has written this Epistle, not in order to lay down a ground of faith, which he had done before, but to awaken remind, arrest, and urge them not to forget the same, and to abide in the clear view and understanding which they have of a true Christian life. For it is the preacher’s office, as we have said often, not only to teach, but also continually to admonish and restrain. For since our flesh and blood ever clings to us, God’s word must be stronger in us, that we may not give room to the flesh, but strive against it, and gain the upper hand of it.

V. 3, 4. And know, first of all, that in the last days there shall come scoffers who walk after their own lusts and say, Where is the promise of his coming for since the fathers fell asleep, all things remain as from the beginning of creation. Yet are men swayed hither and thither by a book concerning Antichrist, wherein it is written that the people before the last day shall fall into such error that they shall say, there is no God, and shall scoff at all that is preached of Christ and the last day. That is true, whencesoever it has been taken. But we are not so to understand it as that the whole world shall say and hold such things, but the greater part. For that time is even now at hand, and shall prevail yet more when the Gospel shall come down among the people, when the proud ones shall lift themselves up, and the secrets of many hearts break forth, which are now hidden and unknown. There have even already been many who have altogether rejected the idea of the coming of the last day.

Of such scoffers St. Peter here warns us, and tells us of them beforehand, that they must come, and rush into this hazard and live as they list. At Rome and in Italy this word is now at length fulfilled, and they who come thence, bring such errors also forth with them; for just as they have a long time perplexed themselves therein, so, also, must they perplex the people by the same means. And even though the last day were now before the door, such people must come abroad. So shall be fulfilled that which Christ says, Mat. xxiv: “Just as it was in the time of Noah, so shall it also be at the coming of the Son of Man; for as they were in the days before the deluge, they ate, they drank, they married and were given in marriage, even to the. day when Noah entered into the ark, and they knew it not till the flood came and swallowed them all; so, also, shall the coming of the Son of Man be.” Also, “The Son of Man shall come at an hour when ye think not.” Also, Luke xxi: “This day shall come as a snare, upon all that dwell upon the earth.” And once more, Luke xvii: “As the lightning lightens over us from heaven, and shines upon all that is under the heaven, so shall the Son of Man be in His day,” that is, so quick and unforeseen and sudden shall He break in upon it, while the world shall be living above all, for itself first, and shall throw God’s word to the winds.

Therefore this shall be a sign of the last day that it is near, when the people shall live as they list, according to all their lusts, and such talk goes about among them as this: “Where is the promise of his coming? the world has stood so long and continued to abide, is it now for the first time to be otherwise?” Thus Peter warns us that we should not be surprised, and that we have a sure sign that the day will soon come.—It follows, further:

V. 5, 6. But this in their obstinacy they will not know, that the heavens of old, besides the earth standing out of the water and in the water, were (made) by God’s word, yet through the same, was the world in its time destroyed by the flood. Such people they are, he says, as show not so much diligence as to read the Scripture, but obstinately refuse to think and be aware that so also it was of old, when Noah built the ark; the world which stood and was made through the water and in the water, was destroyed by water, and the people were yet so safe and secure that they thought, surely there is no danger,—yet they were all alike destroyed by water. As though he should say,—if God has for once destroyed the world by water, and shown by an example that he can sink it, how much more will he do it now that he has promised to do it.

But here St. Peter speaks somewhat particularly of the creation. The heaven and the earth stood fast aforetime; they were made of water and stood in the water, by the word of God. Heaven and earth have a beginning; they have not been forever; the heaven was made from the water, and there was water above and beneath,-but the earth is made and stands in the water, as Moses writes, whom St. Peter here quotes. All is sustained by God’s word, as it also was made by the same, for it is not their nature so to stand. Therefore if God did not sustain it, it must all soon fall down and sink into the water. For God spoke a word of power when he said, “let the waters under the heavens gather themselves into a separate place, that the dry land may be seen;” that is, let the water put itself aside and give room for the earth to come forth, whereon man might dwell,—yet naturally the waters should spread themselves over the earth. Therefore this is, at the present day, one of the greatest miracles that God works.

Now St. Peter would say this: so obstinate and stupid are these scoffers, that they will not do honor to the Holy Spirit, though they read how God holds up the earth in the water, whence they should be convinced that all stands in the hands of God. Therefore, since God at that time drowned the earth, so he will deal with us even yet again. For that example should certainly convince us that, as in that very case he has not lied, so again he will not lie.

V. 7. But the heaven which yet is, and the earth, are by his word sustained that they be reserved for fire in the day of Judgment and condemnation of ungodly men. At that time, when God destroyed the world by a flood, the water pressed down from above, up from beneath and from all sides, so that nothing could be seen but water only: because the earth, as its nature was, must be swallowed up in the water. But now he has promised, and given the rainbow for a sign in heaven, that he will no more destroy the world by water. Therefore he will destroy it and let it perish by fire, so that here it shall be fire only, as there it was water only. Of which St. Paul, II Thes. i, says: “When now the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, together with the angels of his power, and with flaming fire,” etc. So I Cor. iii: “Every one’s work shall be revealed; the day of the Lord shall make it clear, which shall be revealed with fire.” So when the last day breaks and bursts in on the world, it will in a moment be fire only; what is in heaven and in earth shall be turned to dust and ashes, and all things must be changed by fire, as that change took place by water. This shall be a sign that God will not lie so long as He has left that for a sign.

V. 8. But of this one thing beloved be ye not ignorant; that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise as some men count slackness, but he is long-suffering toward you, and wills not that any one should perish, but that all should come to repentance; but the Day of the Lord shall come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, but the elements shall he melted with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall he burned up. With these words St. Peter meets those of whom he has just spoken, who say: ” The Apostles have said much about the Last Day coming quickly,—and yet so long a time is past, and still all continues as heretofore.” And he has quoted this passage from Moses, in the Ixxxix. Ps., where he says: “A thousand years are in thine eyes as yesterday, when it is past.” This is the scope of it.

There are two ways of viewing things,—one for God, the other for the world. So also this present life and that to come, are twofold. This life cannot be that, since none can reach that but by death,—that is, by ceasing from this life. This life is just to eat, drink, sleep, endure, bring up children, etc., in which all moves on successively, hours, day, year, one after another: if you wish now to apprehend that life, you must banish out of your mind the course of this present life; you must not think that you can so apprehend it, where it will all be one day, one hour, one moment.

Since then in God’s sight there is no reckoning of time, a thousand years must be before him, as it were, a day. Therefore the first man, Adam, is just as near to him as he who shall be last born before the last day. For God sees not time lengthwise but obliquely, just as when you look at right-angles to a long tree which lies before you, you can fix in your view both place and parts at once,—a thing you cannot do if you only look at it lengthwise. We can, by our reason, look at time only according to its duration; we must begin to count from Adam, one year after another, even to the last day. But before God it is all in one heap; what is long with us is short with him,—and again, here there is neither measure nor number. So when man dies, the body is buried and wastes away, lies in the earth and knows nothing; but when the first man rises up at the last day, he will think he has lain there scarcely an hour, while he will look about himself and become assured that so many people were born of him and have come after him, of whom he had no knowledge at all.

This, then, is St. Peter’s meaning: the Lord does not delay his promise as some scoffers let themselves imagine, but is long-suffering; therefore should ye be prepared for the last day,—for it will come soon enough to every one after his death, in that he will say, “lo! I have but just now died!” But it comes upon the world all too soon: when the people shall say, ” there is peace, no danger threatens,” it shall break forth and come upon them, as St. Paul says, I. Thess. v. And with so great a noise shall the day tear its way and burst forth like a great storm, that in a moment must all be wasted.

V. 11, 12. Since then all this must pass away how careful should ye he in all holy conduct and a Godly life that ye wait for and hasten to the coming of the day of the Lord. Since ye know this, that all must pass away, both heaven and earth,—think how ye shall be prepared to meet this day, by a holy and godly life and conversation. For Peter describes this day as one that is to come even now, so that men should be prepared for it, to hope for it with joy, and even hasten to run to meet it, as that which sets us free from death, sin and hell.

V. 12, 13. In which the heavens shall pass away by fire and the elements shall he melted with fervent heat; but we look for a new heaven and a new earth, according to his promise in which dwelleth righteousness. God has promised by the prophets, here and there, that he would create a new heaven and a new earth,—as in Is. Ixv., “Behold, I will create a new heaven and a new earth, wherein ye shall be happy, and shout and leap for joy.” So in XXX. “The appearance of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the splendor of the sun shall be seven times as bright, as though seven days were joined one into another;” and Christ says. Matt, xiii., “The righteous shall shine like the sun, in their Father’s kingdom.” How that is to pass away we cannot know, except that the promise is, that such a heaven and earth are to be, wherein no sin, but righteousness only, and the children of God shall dwell; as also St. Paul says, Rom. viii., there shall be pure love, pure joy, and nothing but God’s kingdom.”

Here some may disquiet themselves as to whether the saints shall have their station in heaven or on earth. The text seems to imply that man shall dwell upon the earth,—yet so that all heaven and earth shall be a paradise wherein God dwells, for God dwells not alone in heaven, but in all places, wherefore the elect shall be also even where He is.

V. 14. Therefore, my beloved since ye look for such things be diligent, that ye may he found of him without spot, and blameless, in peace. Since ye have escaped, he says, such misery, and come to so great joy, ye should suffer yourselves to be persuaded to despise willingly all that is upon the earth, and suffer cheerfully whatever duty requires. Therefore should ye be diligent, that ye may live a peaceful and blameless life.

V. 15. And the long-suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ account for your salvation. In that He so spares, and delays, and does not come to speedy judgment, take account of this as designed for your benefit. He had good reason to be angry and to punish, yet out of His grace He does it not.

V. 15, 16. As also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom that has been given unto him has written, as he also in all his letters speaks thereof, in which are some things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they also do other Scriptures, to their own destruction. There St. Peter bears testimony for the Apostle Paul in respect to his doctrine, which shows plainly enough that this Epistle was written long after St. Paul’s Epistles. And this is one of the passages which might be adduced to maintain that this Epistle is not St. Peter’s, as also there was one before this in this chapter—namely, where he says, “the Lord wills not that any should be lost, but that every one should give himself to repentance.” For it falls some little below the Apostolic spirit; still it is credible that it is none the less the Apostle’s, for since herein, he is writing not of faith but of love, he lets himself down somewhat, as the manner of love is, inasmuch as it humbles itself toward its neighbor, just as faith rises above itself.

But he has yet seen that many unstable spirits wrested and perverted St. Paul in his words and doctrines, inasmuch as some things in his Epistles are hard to be understood,—as when he speaks in this way, “that no one is justified by works, but by faith alone;” so, too, “the law is given to make sin more gross;” so, too, “where sin abounded, there grace much more abounds,” and more passages of the same sort. For when men hear such, then they say, if that is true, we will go on indolently, and do no good work, and so be righteous, as men even now say, that we forbid good works; for if one so perverts St. Paul’s own words, what wonder is it that they should, in like manner, pervert ours?

V. 17, 18. But ye, my beloved, since ye know this beforehand, beware for yourselves that ye be not led away by the error of the wicked likewise, and fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom be praise, now and forever. Amen. Since ye know, he says, all that has been said above, and see that many false teachers must come, who lead the world astray, and such scoffers as pervert the Scripture and will not understand

it, take care of yourselves; guard against them with diligence, that ye fall not from the faith by doctrines of error; and grow, so as to become stronger from day to day by the steadfast practice and preaching of the word of God. Here observe how great care the Apostle shows for those who have come to believe, which urged him even to write these two Epistles, wherein is richly comprehended what a Christian should know, besides also that which is yet to come. May God give his grace, that we also may seize hold upon and retain it. Amen.

THE EPISTLE

OF

SAINT JUDE.

V. 1, 2. Jude a servant of Jesus Christ, but a brother of James, to those that are called to be holy in God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, mercy unto you and peace and love be multiplied. This Epistle is ascribed to the holy Apostle, St. Jude, brother of the two Apostles, James the Less and Simon, by the sister of the mother of Christ, who is called Mary (wife) of James or Cleopas, as we read in Mark vi. But this Epistle cannot be looked upon as being that of one who was truly an Apostle, for the author speaks in it of the Apostles, as being much their junior. It has even nothing peculiar about it, except that it refers to the second Epistle of St. Peter, from which it has taken nearly all its words, and is scarcely anything else than an Epistle against our clergy, bishops, priests and monks.*

* It is well known that at an early period the book of Jude was reckoned among the antilegomena. This was mainly in consequence of its references to the Apocryphal books of Enoch and of the Ascension of Christ. Yet De Wette, than whom none would be more disposed to sift it thoroughly, says, no important objection to the genuineness of the Epistle can be made good; neither the use of the Apocryphal book of Enoch, nor the resemblance of v. 24 to Rom. xvi. 25, nor a style of writing which betrays a certain familiarity with the Greek tongue. The Epistle is less open to suspicion, as the author does not distinctly claim to be an Apostle, nor can a pretext for forgery be discovered.” Again, he says: – they who regard the Son of Alpheus and the brother of the Lord as one and the same person, are quite consistent in regarding our Jude likewise as an Apostle.” To this view De Wette himself does not accede, and thus agrees substantially with Luther.

V. 3. Beloved, since I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, I am necessitated to write to you, and admonish you, that ye should contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. That is as much as to say,—I am necessitated to write to you, so that I may remind and admonish you how ye should go forward and persevere in the faith which has already, before this, been once preached to you; or as though he should say, It is necessary that I should admonish you that ye be on your guard and remain in the right way; but as to why this is needed, he gives the reason, and says:

V. 4. For there are some men who have secretly come in, who were ordained of old to this condemnation. For this cause will I remind you that ye should abide in the faith which ye have heard, because there is even now a wavering, and already there have come preachers, who set up other doctrines besides faith, by which people are led away gently and unsuspectingly from the true way. So St. Peter also said, in his Epistle, ” there shall be false teachers among you, who shall secretly bring in destructive heresies, &c.” These, he says, ” are long ago appointed to such a sentence of condemnation.” This we now well understand, since we know that no one is righteous and justified by works of his own, but only through faith in Christ, insomuch that he must rely on the work of Christ as his chief good. Then where there is faith, whatever is done as works is all done for the good of our neighbor, and thus we guard ourselves against all works which are not performed with the intent that they shall be of service to our neighbor, as is now the estate of priests and monks. Therefore wherever any one now secretly introduces anything else than this doctrine of faith, in regard to such orders and works, he leads the people astray, so that they shall be condemned along with him.

Who are godless, and turn the grace of God into wantonness. That Gospel which is given us concerning the grace of God, and which sets Christ before us, as he is offered to and bestowed upon us, with all that he has, that we may be freed from sin, death and all evil, such grace and blessing offered to us by the Gospel, they use merely to indulge their wantonness,—that is, they call themselves Christians, indeed, and praise the Gospel, but they bring in such an order, as therein to work their own caprice, in eating and drinking and wanton life, while they make their boast and say we are not in a secular but a spiritual estate, and under such names and pretense they have grasped all enjoyment, honor and pleasure. This, already, says Jude, begins. For we read that it had already begun a thousand years ago; that the bishops then wished to be Lords and to be more highly exalted than common Christians, as we also see in St. Jerome’s Epistles.

And they deny God, that he alone is Lord, and our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what St. Peter said also in his Epistle; but this they deny (as we have heard). It is not done by their mouth, for with this they confess that God is one Lord, but they deny that Christ is Lord in fact, and by their works; they hold, not Him, but themselves as their Lord,—for while they preach that fasts, pilgrimages, church ordinances, chastity, obedience, poverty, etc., are the way to salvation, they lead the people astray to their own works, and yet are silent about Christ; and it is just as much as if they said, Christ is of no avail to you. His works noway help you, but you must by your own works merit salvation. Thus they deny the Lord who has bought us with his blood, as Peter says.

V. 5, 6, 7. I will therefore remind you that ye once knew this, that the Lord, when he saved the people out of Egypt, afterward destroyed those that believed not. Also, the angels, who kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he has reserved to the judgment of the great day, in everlasting chains, under darkness. As also Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities lying about them, which in like manner as these, rioted in fornication, and went after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, and bear the pain of eternal fire. Here he adduces, also, three examples, as St. Peter does in his Epistle; but the first which he presents is to this effect: that God permitted the children of Israel whom he had brought out of Egypt by many wonderful works, when they did not believe, to be overthrown and defeated, so that of them all not more than two survived, when there were numbered, of all that went forth from twenty years of age and above, more than six hundred thousand men. This example he sets forth as a warning and a terror; as though he should say, those who are now called Christians, and under this name turn the grace of God into wantonness, are to beware to themselves that it do not come to pass with them as it came to pass with those. And true enough, these are the times when the Popedom is exalted and the Gospel kept secret through the whole world; when, too, there comes continually one plague after another, by which God has punished the unbelieving and thrown them into the throat of the Devil.

V. 8. Like them also are these dreamers, who defile the flesh. These teachers he calls dreamers; for just as when a man lies in a dream he deals with images, and thinks he has something real, but when he wakes up it is nothing at all,—but he sees then that it was a dream, and counts it of no importance,—so, too, what these say is nothing else than a mere dream; for when once their eyes shall be opened, they shall see that it is nothing at all. As when they go about pretending that their tonsure and cowl, obedience, poverty and chastity are well-pleasing to God, they have this before their eyes; yet, in God’s sight it is nothing but a mere dream. So he has given them a truly fitting name, inasmuch as they deal with dreams, by which they cheat themselves and the world.

But especially do the Apostles ascribe to the clerical order the vice of leading an unchaste life; and God long ago foretold that they should have no wives. Now it is scarcely possible that God should work as many miracles as there are persons in the order, so that it cannot be that they are chaste. So, likewise, has the prophet Daniel spoken, chap, xi., of the Pope’s rule: ”He shall not regard women (in marriage).” This is the external characteristic, as the inward is that they are dreamers.

Who despise governments and speak evil of dignities. Their third characteristic is, that they will not be subject to civil authority. Yet we have been taught, while we live on earth, that we are all under obligation; that we are to be subject and obedient to the sovereignty; for the Christian faith does not do away with civil rule,—therefore no one can except himself from it, because the Pope’s decree concerning the Church’s freedom is a mere devil’s law.

V. 9. But Michael the archangel, when he contended with the devil, and disputed about the body of Moses, durst not let drop against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. This is one of the reasons why this Epistle was formerly rejected, because here an example is adduced which is not found in Scripture, to the effect that the angel Michael and the devil contended with one another about the body of Moses. But this should have been found there, since so much is written about Moses in the last of Deuteronomy, of God’s burial of him, and yet no one knew his grave. Besides, Scripture testifies in regard to him, that no other prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, &c. But it has been said, in reference to the same text also, that his body was left concealed, so that the Jews might not regard it with idolatrous veneration, and for this reason the angel Michael must needs oppose the devil, who wished that the body should be discovered, that the Jews might pray to it; and although Michael was an archangel (says Jude), yet was he not so bold as to curse even the devil,—and yet these scoffers trample underfoot the authority that has been ordained of God; they curse in seven, eight and nine ways, though they are men merely; while this archangel dared not curse the worst devil that was ever condemned, but said no more than, the Lord restrain and punish thee.

V. 10. But these scoff at what they know nothing of, for what they know naturally as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves. Such scoffers are they, that they can do nothing else but anathematize and curse, and give over to the devil for his own not only kings and dignities, but God also and the saints, as may be seen in the bull, Cæna Domini. They know not that our salvation stands on the foundation of faith and love; they cannot endure that their works should be rejected and condemned, and that it should be preached that Christ alone must help us by His works. Therefore they curse and scoff at all Christian doctrine which they are ignorant of. But what they know, through natural perception,—as the founding of masses and the like,—will bring in gold and treasures; to this they devote themselves with energy, and thereby corrupt themselves and every one else.

Woe unto them, for they have gone in the way of Cain. Cain struck his brother dead, simply because he was more pious than himself. For his brother’s offering was acceptable before God, but his own was not. So now the way of Cain is, to rely on one’s own works, and scoff at those works which are good and true, and circumvent and slay those who go in the right way, just as these very ones also are doing.

And have hurried for reward into the error of Balaam. They should be fixed inwardly in the hope of Divine grace; yet they go forth and put their trust in various outward works, of this kind and that, and they do them only for the sake of gold, that they may fill their bellies, like the prophet Balaam, as we have heard in Peter’s Epistle.

And perished in the rebellion of Korah. Of the rebellion of Korah, and how he was destroyed, with his house, we have an account in the fourth book of Moses, ch xvi. Moses was summoned and called for this purpose, that he should lead the people out of Egypt; and his brother Aaron likewise was appointed of God as High Priest. Now Korah was also of the same tribe, and their friendship should have been enduring, and something more than common; yet he attaches to himself two hundred and fifty men of the foremost and most distinguished among the people, and excites such a commotion and tumult, that Moses and Aaron are forced to flee. And Moses fell upon his face, and prayed that God might not accept their sacrifice; and he bade the congregation of the people draw back from them, and said to them: “Hereby shall ye surely know if the Lord hath sent me; if these men die and disappear as all men disappear, then the Lord hath not sent me; but if the Lord shall do some new thing, so that the earth shall open her mouth and swallow them up, and they go down alive into hell, then shall ye know that these men have reviled the Lord.” When he had spoken these words, the earth quaked and opened, and swallowed up Korah, together with the other leaders of the rebellion, with all that they had, so that they went down alive into hell; and the fire consumed the other two hundred and fifty men who had joined themselves to him.

This example Jude sets forth for these scoffers who blame us for making a commotion, while we preach against them, for they are the real ones who make all the trouble. For Christ is our Aaron and chief-priest, whom we should allow to rule alone; but this the Pope and bishops have been unwilling to endure. They have set themselves up, and have wished to have the power to rule along with the authority, and so have arrayed themselves against Christ; but God has punished them, in that the earth has swallowed them up and covered them, since they are absorbed and swallowed up in an earthly life and pleasure, and are nothing but pure worldliness.

V. 12, 13. These live on your charities and are vileness itself, while they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear; clouds they are without water, driven about by the wind; barren, fruitless trees, twice dead and plucked up by the roots; wild waves of the sea, which foam out their own shame; wandering stars, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. Of this we have heard enough in St. Peter’s Epistle. All the world have brought up their children to be ecclesiastics, and to have an easy life of it, and not to support themselves by their own hands and labor; nor must they even preach, but only live without care in their luxury, and keep up good spirits by feeding on the wealth that poor people earn by their sweat. So men think they must be the best part, and the jewel, as it were, of Christendom, while they are merely shame-spots and an abomination, and live well, as we say, on the wealth that belongs to them as priests. They are without care or fear; they think the devil may not overthrow them; they feed not the sheep, but are themselves the wolves that deyour the sheep; they are clouds that hang over us in the air, sit up high in the churches, as those that should preach, and yet they do not preach at all, but let themselves be driven by the devil this way and the other.

So, too, he says, they are leafless, fruitless trees, like the trees of autumn; they have neither fruit nor leaf; they stand there only like other trees; let themselves be looked upon as Christian bishops, but there is with them neither word nor work, but all is dead to the root. Moreover, they are like wild waves of the sea; that is, as the wind tosses and throws up waves and billows upon the water, so these, too, go just as the devil leads them. And they foam out their own shame; like a heated pot, they are so full of pollution that they run over, and cannot retain command of themselves, but all must out. They are wandering stars, planets as they are called, that go backward, and not in a steady, straight course, so that they make no true progress; their life and doctrine is mere error, in which they lead themselves astray, and all that follow after them. Therefore for them is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.

Thus Jude has appraised and painted our spiritual masters, who, under the name of Christ and Christianity, introduce all sorts of profligacy, and snatch to themselves all the wealth of the world, and authoritatively subject all men to themselves.

There follows now, further:

V. 14. Enoch, also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of such, and said. Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints, to execute judgment upon all. This language of Enoch is nowhere to be found in Scripture. For this reason some of the Fathers did not receive this Epistle, although there is not a sufficient reason for rejecting a book on this account. For St. Paul, also, in II Tim. iii., makes mention of two that opposed Moses, Jannes and Jambres, names that are not even to be found in the Scriptures. But be this as it will, we let it pass. Still this is true, that God, from the beginning of the world, has left it to some to make His word known (the word that promises His favor and salvation to believers, but threatens the unbelieving with judgment and condemnation), even till Christ’s coming down from heaven, when it is openly preached to the whole world. But before the birth of Christ God took to Himself for this purpose only a single line, from Adam to Abraham, and thence to David, down to Mary the mother of Christ, who possessed His word. Thus the Gospel has always been preached in the world, but never so generally as now in these last times.

Thus, also, this father, Enoch, insisted on that word of God which he received from his father, Adam, and which he had of the Holy Spirit. For the Scripture says also of him, Gen. v., that he led a godly life, and therefore he was taken of God, so that he was seen no more. Hence, also, has been derived the notion that He will come again before the last day; but it is not to be supposed that men would understand it of a spiritual advent, as that his preaching was based upon the last day, as this passage is, wherein that day is spoken of with as much assurance as though it were in full view. The Lord is corning already, he says, with many thousand saints; that is, with such a multitude as cannot be numbered. For this can only be said of the last day, on which He will come with all His saints, to execute judgment. For before this, He has not come with many thousand saints, but alone, into the world; and this, not to judge, but to bestow grace.

V. 15. And to punish all the ungodly among them for all their godless life wherein they have been ungodly. This passage Jude does not inappropriately quote, inasmuch as he is speaking of false teachers, who are to come before the last day; and the conclusion is thence to be drawn, that the Lord by his coming will overthrow the Pope and his government; since there is no other help for it; for as long as the world stands, there will be no (voluntary) ending or reformation of it. The passage, moreover, cannot be understood of any others, but of our clergy, who have shamefully led all the world astray. Their system cannot be worse, and even though it were worse, it must yet hold on to the name of Christ, and under the same introduce all kinds of mischiefs. Thus he refers this passage to the last judgment, and names those who shall suffer judgment. Whence we infer what our young clerical gentlemen shall expect at the last day, be the time long or short.

And for all the hard speeches which Godless sinners have uttered against Him. There he at once strikes upon their life and preaching, and would say this much:— They speak fiercely and harshly against the Lord who is to come; they are shameless and proud; they deride and revile him, as St. Peter has said. He speaks not of their sinful, shameful life, but of their godless state. But the godless is he who lives without faith, although he leads a passable life outwardly. Outwardly wicked works are indeed the fruits of unbelief, but we speak more particularly of that as a godless state, where the heart is full of unbelief. These very godless ones the Lord will punish, he says, because their preaching is shameless and presumptuous, for they stick ever to their own willfulness; do not permit themselves to be swayed at all, and are as hard as an anvil, to condemn and revile continually. Thus has Enoch struck in this passage at the very estate which before the last day should be in the world, as we now see it before our eyes. Jude says, further:

V. 16. There are murmurers and complainers who walk after their own lusts, and their mouth speaketh swelling words. When men will not let their own circumstances be fair and favorable, then there is nothing but murmuring and complaining. So when one does not give a Bishop the title he claims, then they cry out against disobedience. Besides, they are such a class of people as we cannot guard against, for they give out that they have a right over soul and body; they have grasped in their own hands both the civil and spiritual sword, so that they cannot be controlled, since no one must preach against them; they have got rid of all tax, tribute, and rent, so that no one dares to touch their wealth, besides, none dares preach a word without first asking them about it. And even though one should attack them with Scripture, yet they say that none but they only must be suffered to explain Scripture. Thus they live in all respects as they will, according to their lusts. For they cannot explain that to us, as they would be glad to, since we have subjected ourselves both to the Gospel and to the civil sword, but they would be free and uncontrolled of both. And, moreover, their whole law and claim is nothing but the fullness of mere high, proud, puffed-up words, which have nothing to back them.

And they hold themselves up for respect, for advantage sake. This is their way of judging all, according to the person; in all the Pope’s laws, through and through, you do not once find that a bishop is to humble himself below a priest, or aim at anything, as the fruit of a Christian walk,—but all is merely of this sort: the curate is to be subject to the priest, the priest subject to the bishop, the bishop to the archbishop, but he to the patriarch, the patriarch to the Pope, and after this, how each is to wear the robe, the tonsure and the cowl, possess so many churches and benefices.

Thus they have reduced it all to an outward matter, and such is the child’s play and fool’s work, they are driving at; and they have accounted it gross sin, if any one does not hold to such views. So that Jude says well, that they put a mask upon everything, and have this only before their eyes. Thus no one knows anything of faith, of love, nor of the Cross; whence the people generally are content to eat and play the fool, and devote all their property in the manner they do, as if to the true service of God; it is thus that they hold themselves up to respect for advantage sake.

V. 17. But, my beloved, remember ye the words that were said before by the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, when they said to you that in the last times there should come scoffers who should walk after their own lusts, in a godless state. This passage shows also clearly, that this epistle is not by St. Jude the Apostle, for he does not count nor reckon himself among the other Apostles, but speaks of them as of those who preached long before him; so that it is reasonable to suppose that another pious man wrote the epistle, one who had read St. Peter’s epistles and had drawn this from that source. Who these scoffers are, we have said above: they walk, moreover, after their own lusts,—not merely their fleshly lusts, but those of that godless life which they lead, and they shape all as it pleases them; they care neither for worldly authority, nor the word of God; they are neither under external nor internal government, whether divine or human; they float about between heaven and earth in their lust, just as the devil leads them.

V. 19. These are they who make sects, sensual, who have not the Spirit. There he has touched on what Peter speaks of, their secretly bringing in of pestilent sects, for these are they that have separated themselves; they divide the unity that is in faith, will not let the ordinary estate of a Christian answer,—namely, that wherein one serves another,—but they set up other estates, and pretend to serve God by these. Besides they are sensual or brutish men, who have no more understanding and spirit than an ox or an ass; they walk according to their natural reason and fleshly mind. They have no God’s-word by which they judge themselves, or by which they can live.

V. 20, 21. But, ye beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith, through the Holy Spirit, and pray, and keep yourselves in the love of God. There he defines, in few words, that in which a thoroughly Christian life consists. Faith is laid for the foundation on which we are to build; but to build is to grow from day to day in the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, and this takes place through the working of the Holy Spirit. When we are thus built up, we shall do no work to merit anything or to be saved by it, but all to the service of our neighbor. Thus we are to watch, that we abide in love, and not fall from it, like these fools who set up particular works and a peculiar life, and so draw people away from love.

And look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. That is the hope, toward which the Holy Cross moves. Therefore should our life be so shaped as to be nothing else than a steady longing and waiting for that life to come; yet so that that waiting be grounded on the mercy of Christ, so that we shall call upon Him with such an understanding as that he is to help us from this to that life out of pure mercy, and not for any work or merit of ours.

V. 22, 23. And of these take pity and distinguish them; but as to those, save them and draw them out of the fire. That is not well expressed in Dutch, but Jude would say this much: on some take pity, some save; that is, let your life be so shaped that it shall allow you to have compassion on these who are wretched, blind and dumb; have no joy or pleasure over them, but let them go, keep from them and have nothing to do with them. But as to those others, whom ye can draw forth, save them by fear,—deal kindly and gently with them, as God has dealt with you; treat them not harshly or rudely, but feel toward them as toward those that lie in the fire, whom you are to draw forth and rescue with all care, consideration and diligence; if they will not suffer themselves to be drawn out, we should let them go and weep over them,—but not like the Pope and his inquisitors, burn and destroy them by fire.

And hate the garment spotted by the flesh. We have indeed received the Holy Spirit by faith, and have been made clean; but as long as we live here, the old garment of our flesh and blood clings to us still and will not relax its hold. This is the spotted garment that we should lay off and draw away from as long as we live.

V. 24, 25. Nov: unto Him that is able to keep you from stumbling, and present you faultless before the presence of His glory with joy; to God who alone is wise, our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, now and forever. Amen. This is the close of this Epistle. Thus the Apostles do when they have written, taught, admonished and prophesied; thus they pray, express their wishes, and give thanks. Thus we have seen in the Epistles both what is true Christian and false unChristian doctrine, as well as life.

Printed at Wittenberg by Hans Lufft, 1524.

John Calvin (1509-1564) – The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians (P1/2)

The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians
By
John Calvin (1509-1564)
Copyright – Public Domain

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THE ARGUMENT

OF

THE EPISTLE OF PAUL TO THE GALATIANS.

What part of Asia was inhabited by the Galatians, and what were the boundaries of their country, is well known; but whence they originally came (4) is not agreed among historians. It is universally admitted that they were Gauls, and, on that account, were denominated Gallo-Grecians. But from what part of Gaul they came it is more difficult to determine.

Strabo thought that the Tectosages came from Gallia Narbonensis, and that the remainder were Celtae; (5) and this opinion has been generally adopted. But, as Pliny enumerates the Ambiani (6) among the Tectosagi, and as it is universally agreed that they were allied to the Tolistobogi, who dwelt on the banks of the Rhine, I think it more probable that, they were Belgians, whose territory extended from a very distant part of the course of the Rhine to the English Channel. The Tolistobogi inhabited that part which receives from its present inhabitants the names of Cleves and Brabant.

The mistake originated, I think, in this way. A band of Tectosagi, who had made all irruption into Gallia Narbonensis, retained their own name, and gave it to the country which they had conquered. This is intimated by Ausonius, (7) who says, “As far as the Teutosagi, whose original name was Belgians; (8) for he calls them Belgians, and says that they were first called Teutosagi, and afterwards Tectosagi. Caesar, (9) indeed, places the Tectosagi in the Hercynian (10) forest; but I consider this to have been in consequence of their emigration, which indeed appears from that very passage.

But more than enough has now been said as to the origin of the nation, so far as relates to the present passage. Pliny informs us that the Galatians, who inhabited that part of Asia to which they gave their name, were divided into three chief nations, Tectosagi, Tolistobogi, and Trocmi, and accordingly occupied three chief cities. So great was the power which they at one time swayed over their unwarlike neighbors, that they received tribute from a great part of Lesser Asia. Losing at length their ancient valor, and giving themselves up to pleasure and luxury, they were vanquished in war and subdued, with little difficulty, by Cneius Manlius, a Roman consul.

At the time of the Apostle Paul they were under the dominion of the Romans. He had purely and faithfully instructed them in the Gospel; but false apostles had entered, during his absence, and had corrupted the true seed by false and erroneous doctrines. They taught that the observation of ceremonies was still necessary. This might appear to be a trivial matter; but Paul very properly contends as for a fundamental article of the Christian faith. It is no small evil to quench the light of the Gospel, to lay a snare for consciences, and to remove the distinction between the Old and New Testaments. He perceived that these errors were also connected with a wicked and dangerous opinion as to the manner in which justification is obtained. This is the reason why he fights with so much earnestness and vehemence; and, having learned from him the important and serious nature of the controversy, it is our duty to read with greater attention.

One who forms his views of the subject from the Commentaries of Origen and Jerome, will be astonished that Paul should take so deep an interest in external rites; but whoever goes to the fountain will acknowledge that there was abundant reason for all this sharpness of reproof. The Galatians had allowed themselves to be drawn aside from the right course by excessive credulity, or rather by lightness and folly. He therefore censures them more severely; for I do not agree with those who attribute the harshness of his language to their slowness of apprehension. The Ephesians and Colossians had been subjected to the same temptations. If they had lent as ready an ear to the tale of the impostors, do we imagine that Paul would have treated them with greater gentleness? This boldness of rebuke was not suggested by the disposition of the people, but extorted by the baseness of their conduct.

Having ascertained what was the design of writing the Epistle, let us attend to the order in which it is treated. In the first and second Chapters (Gal 1:0 and Gal 2:0) he maintains the authority of his Apostleship, except that, towards the close of the second chapter, he touches incidentally on his main point, the question of Man’s Justification, which, however, is avowedly and directly argued in the third Chapter, Gal 3:0. Although he appears in those two Chapters to have many objects in view, yet his sole object is to prove that He is equal to the highest apostles, and that there is no reason why he should not be considered to hold an equally honorable rank with any of them.

But it is of importance to know why he labors so hard in establishing his own claim to respect. Provided that Christ reigns, and that the purity of doctrine remains uncontaminated, what matters it whether he is higher or lower than Peter, or whether they are all on a footing of equality? If all must “decrease,” that Christ alone may “increase,” (Joh 3:30,) it is idle to dispute about human ranks. Besides, it may be asked, why does he draw a comparison between himself and other apostles? What dispute had he with Peter, and James, and John? What good purpose did it serve to bring into collision those who were united in sentiment, and in the closest friendship?

I reply, the false apostles, who had deceived the Galatians, endeavored to obtain favor by pretending that they had received a commission from the Apostles. Their chief influence arose from insinuating the belief that they represented the Apostles, and delivered their message. To Paul, on the other hand, they refused the name and authority of an Apostle. They objected that he had not been chosen by our Lord as one of the Twelve; that he had never been acknowledged as such by the college of the Apostles; that he did not receive his doctrine from Christ, or even from the Apostles themselves. All this tended not only to lower Paul’s authority, but to rank him with the ordinary members of the Church, and therefore to place him far below those persons who made these insinuations.

If this had been merely a personal matter, it would have given no uneasiness to Paul to be reckoned an ordinary disciple. But when he saw that his doctrine was beginning to lose its weight and authority, he was not entitled to be silent. It became his duty to make a bold resistance. When Satan does not venture openly to attack doctrine, his next stratagem is to diminish its influence by indirect attacks. Let us remember, then, that in the person of Paul the truth of the Gospel was assailed; for, if he had allowed himself to be stripped of the honor of apostleship, it followed that he had hitherto claimed what he had no title to enjoy; and this false boasting would have made him liable to suspicion in other matters. The estimation in which his doctrine was held depended on the question, whether it came, as some had begun to think, from an ordinary disciple, or from an apostle of Christ.

He was overwhelmed, on the other hand, by the lustre of great names. Those who referred, in a boastful manner, to Peter, and James, and John, pretended to apostolical authority. If Paul had not manfully resisted this boasting, he would have given way to falsehood, and would have allowed the truth of God (11) to suffer again in his own person. He therefore contends earnestly for both points: that he was appointed by the Lord to be an apostle, and that he was in no respect inferior to the rest, but enjoyed the same title, and was equal to them in authority and rank. He might, indeed, have denied that those men were either sent, or hold any commission from Peter and his associates. But he takes far higher ground, that he does not yield to the Apostles themselves; and if he had declined doing so, he would have been supposed to have distrusted his cause.

Jerusalem was, at that time, the Mother of all the Churches; for the Gospel had spread from it over the whole world, and it might be said to be the principal seat of the kingdom of Christ. Any one who came from it into other churches was received with due respect. But many were foolishly elated with the thought that they had enjoyed the friendship of the Apostles, or at least had been taught in their school; and therefore nothing pleased them but what they had seen at Jerusalem. Every custom that had not been practiced there was not only disliked, but unsparingly condemned by them. This peevish manner becomes highly pernicious, when the custom of a single church is attempted to be enforced as a universal law. We are sometimes so devoted to an instructor or a place, that, without exercising any judgment of our own, we make the opinion of one man the standard for all men, and the customs of one place the standard for every other place. Such attachment is ridiculous, if there be not always in it a mixture of ambition; or rather we should say, excessive peevishness is always ambitious.

To return to those false apostles, if they had only attempted, through wicked contention, to establish everywhere the use of those ceremonies, which they had seen observed at Jerusalem, that would have been no slight offense; for, when a custom is forthwith converted into a law, injustice is perpetrated. But a more serious evil was involved in the wicked and dangerous doctrine, which held consciences to be bound to them by religious considerations, which made justification to depend on the observation of them. Such were the reasons why Paul defended his Apostleship with so much earnestness, and why he contrasted himself with the rest of the Apostles.

He pursues this subject to the end of the second Chapter, Gal 2:0, when he proceeds to argue the doctrine, that we are justified in the sight of God by Free Grace, and not by the Works of the Law. His argument is this: If Ceremonies have not the power of bestowing Justification, the observation of them is therefore unnecessary. We must remark, however, that he does not confine himself entirely to Ceremonies, but argues generally about Works, otherwise the whole discussion would be trifling.

If any person thinks that we are thus straining the matter too far, let him attend to the two following reasons. First, the question could not be settled without assuming the general principle, that we are justified by the free grace of God; and this principle sets aside not only ceremonies, but every other kind of works. Secondly, Paul did not attach so much importance to Ceremonies as to the wicked doctrine of obtaining Salvation by Works. Let it be observed, therefore, that Paul had good reasons for recurring to first principles. It was necessary to go to the fountain, and to warn his readers that the controversy related, not to some insignificant trifle, but to the most important of all matters — the method of obtaining salvation.

It is a mistake, therefore, to suppose that the Apostle confined himself wholly to the special question about Ceremonies, a subject which did not admit of being settled by itself. A similar instance occurs in history. (Act 15:2.) Strife and contention had arisen out of the question, whether or not Ceremonies were necessary to be observed. In the course of the discussion, the Apostles dwell largely on the intolerable yoke of the Law, and on the Forgiveness of Sins through Free Grace. What was the object of this? It appears to be a foolish departure from the point in hand; but the contrary is the fact, for a particular error cannot be satisfactorily refuted without assuming a universal principle. As, for instance, if I am called to dispute about, forbidding the use of flesh, I shall not speak merely about the different kinds of food, but shall arm myself with the general doctrine: What authority have the Traditions of men for binding the conscience? I shall quote the declaration, that

“There is one Lawgiver, who has power to save and to destroy.” (Jas 4:12.)

In short, Paul here argues negatively from general to particular propositions, which is the ordinary and most natural method of reasoning. By what evidences and arguments he proves this principle, that we are justified by the grace of God alone, we shall see when we come to the passage. He pursues this topic till the end of the third Chapter, Gal 3:0.

In the commencement of the fourth Chapter, Gal 4:0, he inquires into the proper use of Ceremonies, and the reason why they were appointed; shewing, at the same time, that they are now abolished. It became necessary to meet this silly objection, which might occur to some minds. What, then, was the purpose of Ceremonies? Were they useless? Were the Fathers idly employed in observing them? He illustrates briefly two statements, that in their own time they were not superfluous, and that they have now been abolished by the coming of Christ, because He is the truth and end of them; and therefore he shews that we must abide by Him. Glancing briefly at the difference between our condition and that of the Fathers, he infers that the doctrine of the false apostles is wicked and dangerous, because it darkens the clearness of the gospel by ancient shadows. The Apostle’s doctrine is now intermingled with some affecting exhortations. Towards the close of the Chapter his argument is enlivened by a beautiful allegory.

In the fifth Chapter, Gal 5:0, he exhorts them to hold fast the Liberty which has been obtained by the blood of Christ, that they may not surrender their consciences to be ensnared by the opinions of men. But he reminds them, at the same time, in what manner Liberty may be lawfully used. (12) He then takes occasion to point out the proper employments of Christians, that they may not uselessly spend their time in Ceremonies, and neglect matters of real importance.

(4)Mais quant a leur origine, et le lieu dont ils sont premiere merit partis, les anciens autheurs ne se trouvent d’accord.” “But as to their lineage, and the place from which they originally came, ancient authors are not agreed.”

(5)Strabo geographe pense que ceux d’entre eux qui avoyent le nom de Tectosagois estoyent venus du pays de Provence, et les antres de la Gaule Celtique.” “Strabo, the geographer, thinks that those of them who bore the name of Tectosages had come from Provence, and the remainder from Celtic Gaul.”

(6)Ceux d’Amiens.” “Those of Amiens.”

(7)Ausone poete Bordelois, qui a escrit en Latin.” “Ausonius, the poet, a native of Bourdeaux, who wrote in Latin.”

(8)Usque in Teutosagos primaevo nomine Belgas.”

(9) Bell. Gall. 50 6 100 24.

(10) A forest in Germany, which Caesar describes to be nine days’ journey in breadth, and, at least, sixty days’ journey in length. How much more he was unable to say, as he had never found any person who had traveled farther, or could tell where the forest terminated. He regrets the necessity of employing these vague terms, having placed little reliance on the skill or accuracy of his informers. It is mentioned, he adds, by Eratosthenes and other Greek writers, under the name of Orcynia. — Ed.

(11)La verite de Dieu.”

(12)En quoy consiste ceste liberte, et quel en est le vray et droit usage“ “In what that liberty consists, and what is the true and lawful use of it.”

Galatians Chapter One

Galatians 1:1

1.Paul, an apostle. In the salutations with which he commenced his Epistles, Paul was accustomed to claim the title of “an Apostle.” His object in doing so, as we have remarked on former occasions, was to employ the authority of his station, for the purpose of enforcing his doctrine. This authority depends not on the judgment or opinion of men, but exclusively on the calling of God; and therefore he demands a hearing on the ground of his being “an Apostle.” Let us always bear this in mind, that in the church we ought to listen to God alone, and to Jesus Christ, whom he has appointed to be our teacher. Whoever assumes a right to instruct us, must speak in the name of God or of Christ.

But as the calling of Paul was more vehemently disputed among the Galatians, he asserts it more strongly in his address to that church, than in his other Epistles; for he does not simply affirm that he was called by God, but states expressly that it was not either from men or by men. This statement, be it observed, applies not to the office which he held in common with other pastors, but to the apostleship. The authors of the calumnies which he has in his eye did not venture to deprive him altogether of the honor of the Christian ministry. They merely refused to allow him the name and rank of an apostle.

We are now speaking of the apostleship in the strictest sense; for the word is employed in two different ways. Sometimes, it denotes preachers of the Gospel, to whatever class they might belong; but here it bears a distinct reference to the highest rank in the church; so that Paul is equal to Peter and to the other twelve.

The first clause, that he was called not from men, he had in common with all the true ministers of Christ. As no man ought to “take this honor unto himself,” (Heb 5:4,) so it is not in the power of men to bestow it on whomsoever they choose. It belongs to God alone to govern his church; and therefore the calling cannot be lawful, unless it proceed from Him. So far as the church is concerned, a man who has been led to the ministry, not by a good conscience, but by ungodly motives, may happen to be regularly called. But Paul is here speaking of a call ascertained in so perfect, a manner, that nothing farther can be desired.

It will, perhaps, be objected — Do not the false apostles frequently indulge in the same kind of boasting? I admit they do, and in a more haughty and disdainful style than the servants of the Lord venture to employ; but they want that actual call from Heaven to which Paul was entitled to lay claim.

The second clause, that he was called not by man, belonged in a peculiar manner to the apostles; for in an ordinary pastor, this would have implied nothing wrong. Paul himself, when travelling through various cities in company with Barnabas, “ordained elders in every church,” by the votes of the people, (Act 14:23;) and he enjoins Titus and Timothy to proceed in the same work. (1Ti 5:17 Tit 1:5.) Such is the ordinary method of electing pastors; for we are not entitled to wait until God shall reveal from heaven the names of the persons whom he has chosen.

But if human agency was not improper, if it was even commendable, why does Paul disclaim it in reference to himself? I have already mentioned that something more was necessary to be proved than that Paul was a pastor, or that he belonged to the number of the ministers of the Gospel; for the point in dispute was the apostleship. It was necessary that the apostles should be elected, not in the same manner as other pastors, but by the direct agency of the Lord himself. Thus, Christ himself (Mat 10:1) called the Twelve; and when a successor was to be appointed in the room of Judas, the church does not venture to choose one by votes, but has recourse to lot. (Act 1:26.) We are certain that the lot was not employed in electing pastors. Why was it resorted to in the election of Matthias? To mark the express agency of God for it was proper that the apostles should be distinguished from other ministers. And thus Paul, in order to shew that he does not belong to the ordinary rank of ministers, contends that his calling proceeded immediately from God. (13)

But how does Paul affirm that he was not called by men, while Luke records that Paul and Barnabas were called by the church at Antioch? Some have replied, that he had previously discharged the duties of an apostle, and that, consequently, his apostleship was not founded on his appointment by that church. But here, again, it may be objected, that this was his first designation to be the apostle of the Gentiles, to which class the Galatians belonged. The more correct, and obvious reply is, that he did not intend here to set aside entirely the calling of that church, but merely to shew that his apostleship rests on a higher title. This is true; for even those who laid their hands on Paul at Antioch did so, not of their own accord, but in obedience to express revelation.

“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” (Act 13:2.)

Since, therefore, he was called by Divine revelation, and was also appointed and declared by the Holy Spirit to be the apostle of the Gentiles, it follows, that he was not brought forward by men, although the customary rite of ordination was afterwards added. (14)

It will, perhaps, be thought that an indirect contrast between Paul and the false apostles is here intended. I have no objection to that view; for they were in the habit of glorying in the name of men. His meaning will therefore stand thus: “Whoever may be the persons by whom others boast that they have been sent, I shall be superior to them; for I hold my commission from God and Christ.”

By Jesus Christ and God the Father He asserts that God the Father and Christ had bestowed on him his apostleship. Christ is first named, because it is his prerogative to send, and because we are his ambassadors. But to make the statement more complete, the Father is also mentioned; as if he had said, “If there be any one whom the name of Christ is not sufficient to inspire with reverence, let him know that I have also received my office from God the Father.”

Who raised him from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is the commencement of his reign, and is therefore closely connected with the present subject. It was a reproach brought by them against Paul that he had held no communication with Christ, while he was on the earth. He argues, on the other hand, that, as Christ was glorified by his resurrection, so he has actually exercised his authority in the government of his church. The calling of Paul is therefore more illustrious than it would have been, if Christ, while still a mortal, had ordained him to the office. And this circumstance deserves attention; for Paul intimates that the attempt to set aside his authority, involved a malignant opposition to the astonishing power of God, which was displayed in the resurrection of Christ; because the same heavenly Father, who raised Christ from the dead, commanded Paul to make known that exertion of his power.

(13)C’est a dire, sans aucun moyen des hommes.” “That is, without any agency of men.”

(14)Quoy que depuis on ait observe la ceremonie accoustumee en l’ordination des ministeres.” “Although the ceremony usually performed at the ordination of ministers was afterwards added.”

Galatians 1:2

2.And all the brethren who are with me. — He appears to have usually written in the name of many persons, judging that, if those to whom he wrote should attach less weight to a solitary individual, they might listen to a greater number, and would not despise a whole congregation. His general practice is, to insert the salutations from brethren at the conclusion, instead of introducing them at the commencement as joint authors of the epistle: at least, he never mentions more than two names, and those very well known. But here he includes all the brethren; and thus adopts, though not without good reason, an opposite method. The concurrence of so many godly persons must have had some degree of influence in softening the minds of the Galatians, and preparing them to receive instruction.

To the churches of Galatia. It was an extensive country, and therefore contained many churches scattered through it. But is it not wonderful that the term “Church”, which always implies unity of faith, should have been applied to the Galatians, who had almost entirely revolted from Christ? I reply, so long as they professed Christianity, worshipped one God, observed the sacraments, and enjoyed some kind of Gospel ministry, they retained the external marks of a church. We do not always find in churches such a measure of purity as might be desired. The purest have their blemishes; and some are marked, not by a few spots, but by general deformity. Though the doctrines and practices of any society may not, in all respects, meet our wishes, we must not instantly pronounce its defects to be a sufficient reason for withholding from it the appellation of a Church. Paul manifests here a gentleness of disposition utterly at variance with such a course. Yet our acknowledgment of societies to be churches of Christ must be accompanied by an explicit condemnation of everything in them that is improper or defective; for we must not imagine, that, wherever there is some kind of church, everything in it that ought to be desired in a church is perfect.

I make this observation, because the Papists, seizing on the single word Church, think that whatever they choose to force upon us is sanctioned; though the condition and aspect of the Church of Rome are widely different from what existed in Galatia. If Paul were alive at the present day, he would perceive the miserable and dreadfully shattered remains of a church; but he would perceive no building. In short, the word Church is often applied by a figure of speech in which a part is taken for the whole, to any portion of the church, even though it may not fully answer to the name.

Galatians 1:3

3.Grace be to you and peace. This form of salutation, which occurred in the other epistles, has received an explanation, to which I still adhere. Paul wishes for the Galatians a state of friendship with God, and, along with it, all good things; for the favor of God is the source from which we derive every kind of prosperity. He presents both petitions to Christ, as well as to the Father; because without Christ neither grace, nor any real prosperity, can be obtained.

Galatians 1:4

4.Who gave himself for our sins. He begins with commending the grace of Christ, in order to recall and fix on Him the attention of the Galatians; for, if they had justly appreciated this benefit of redemption, they would never have fallen into opposite views of religion. He who knows Christ in a proper manner beholds him earnestly, embraces him with the warmest affection, is absorbed in the contemplation of him, and desires no other object. The best remedy for purifying our minds from any kind of errors or superstitions, is to keep in remembrance our relation to Christ, and the benefits which he has conferred upon us.

These words, who gave himself for our sins, were intended to convey to the Galatians a doctrine of vast importance; that no other satisfactions can lawfully be brought into comparison with that sacrifice of himself which Christ offered to the Father; that in Christ, therefore, and in him alone, atonement for sin, and perfect righteousness, must be sought; and that the manner in which we are redeemed by him ought to excite our highest admiration. What Paul here ascribes to Christ is, with equal propriety, ascribed in other parts of Scripture to God the Father; for, on the one hand, the Father, by an eternal purpose, decreed this atonement, and gave this proof of his love to us, that he “spared not his only-begotten Son, (Rom 8:32,) but delivered him up for us all;” and Christ, on the other hand, offered himself a sacrifice in order to reconcile us to God. Hence it follows, that his death is the satisfaction for sins. (15)

That he might deliver us. He likewise declares the design of our redemption to be, that Christ, by his death, might purchase us to be his own property. This takes place when we are separated from the world; for so long as we are of the world, we do not belong to Christ. The word αιών, (age,) is here put for the corruption which is in the world; in the same manner as in the first Epistle of John, (1Jo 5:19) where it is said that “the whole world lieth in the wicked one,” and in his Gospel, (Joh 17:15,) where the Savior says,

“I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil;”

for there it signifies the present life.

What then is meant by the word “World” in this passage? Men separated from the kingdom of God and the grace of Christ. So long as a man lives to himself, he is altogether condemned. The World is, therefore, contrasted with regeneration, as nature with grace, or the flesh with the spirit. Those who are born of the world have nothing but sin and wickedness, not by creation, but by corruption. (16) Christ, therefore, died for our sins, in order to redeem or separate us from the world.

From the present wicked age. By adding the epithet “wicked”, he intended to shew that he is speaking of the corruption or depravity which proceeds from sin, and not of God’s creatures, or of the bodily life. And yet by this single word, as by a thunderbolt, he lays low all human pride; for he declares, that, apart from that renewal of the nature which is bestowed by the grace of Christ, there is nothing in us but unmixed wickedness. We are of the world; and, till Christ take us out of it, the world reigns in us, and we live to the world. Whatever delight men may take in their fancied excellence, they are worthless and depraved; not indeed in their own opinion, but in the judgment of our Lord, which is here pronounced by the mouth of Paul, and which ought to satisfy our minds.

According to the will. He points out the original fountain of grace, namely, the purpose of God;

“for God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son.” (Joh 3:16.)

But it deserves notice, that Paul is accustomed to represent the decree of God as setting aside all compensation or merit on the part of men, and so Will denotes here what is commonly called “good pleasure.” (17) The meaning is, that Christ suffered for us, not because we were worthy, or because anything done by us moved him to the act, but because such was the purpose of God. Of God and our Father is of the same import as if he had said, “Of God who is our Father.” (18)

(15)Pour nos pechez.” “For our sins.”

(16)Non pas que cela viene de la creation, mais de leur corruption.” “Not that this comes from creation, but from their corruption.”

(17) Οὐκ εἶπε κατ ᾿ ἐπιταγὴν τοῦ Πατρὸς ἀλλὰ κατὰ τὸ θέλημα, τουτέστι τὴν εὐδοκίαν “He did not say, according to the command, but according to the will, that is, according to the good pleasure, of the Father.” — Theophylact.

(18) “An English reader would readily suppose that ‘God and our Father’ are two different persons. The original text suggests no such idea. The meaning is, ‘our God and Father’. — The particle καὶ (and) is here hermeneutic. As Crellius says, it is equivalent to ‘that is’ or ‘who is;’ or rather, it does not connect different persons, but different descriptions of the same person: 1Co 2:2; Eph 1:3; Eph 4:6; 1Th 1:3; 1Th 3:11; 1Pe 1:2 ̔Ημῶν belongs equally to both nouns, Θεοῦ and ΠατρόςBrown.

Galatians 1:5

5.To whom be glory. By this sudden exclamation of thanksgiving, he intends to awaken powerfully in his readers the contemplation of that invaluable gift which they had received from God, and in this manner to prepare their minds more fully for receiving instruction. It must at the same time be viewed as a general exhortation. Every instance in which the mercy of God occurs to our remembrance, ought to be embraced by us as an occasion of ascribing glory to God.

Galatians 1:6

6.I wonder. He commences by administering a rebuke, though a somewhat milder one than they deserved; but his greatest severity of language is directed, as we shall see, against the false apostles. He charges them with turning aside, not only from his gospel, but from Christ; for it was impossible for them to retain their attachment to Christ, without acknowledging that he has graciously delivered us from the bondage of the law. But such a belief cannot be reconciled with those notions respecting the obligation of ceremonial observance which the false apostles inculcated. They were removed from Christ; not that they entirely rejected Christianity, but that the corruption of their doctrines was such as to leave them nothing more than an imaginary Christ.

Thus, in our own times, the Papists, choosing to have a divided and mangled Christ, have none, and are therefore “removed from Christ.” They are full of superstitions, which are directly at variance with the nature of Christ. Let it be carefully observed, that we are removed from Christ, when we fall into those views which are inconsistent with his mediatorial office; for light can have no fellowship with darkness.

On the same principle, he calls it another gospel, that is, a gospel different from the true one. And yet the false apostles professed that they preached the gospel of Christ; but, mingling with it their own inventions, (19) by which its principal efficacy was destroyed, they held a false, corrupt, and spurious gospel. By using the present tense, (“ye are removed”) he appears to say that they were only in the act of failing. As if he had said, “I do not yet say that ye have been removed; for then it would be more difficult to return to the right path. But now, at the critical moment, do not advance a single step, but instantly retreat.”

From Christ, who called you by grace. Others read it, “from him who called you by the grace of Christ,” understanding it to refer to the Father; but the reading which we have followed is more simple. When he says that they were called by Christ through grace, this tends to heighten the criminality of their ingratitude. To revolt from the Son of God under any circumstances, is unworthy and disgraceful; but to revolt from him, after being invited to partake salvation by grace, is more eminently base. His goodness to us renders our ingratitude to him more dreadfully heinous.

So soon. When it is considered how soon they had discovered a want of steadfastness, their guilt is still further heightened. A proper season, indeed, for departing from Christ cannot be imagined. But the fact, that no sooner had Paul left them than the Galatians were led away from the truth, inferred still deeper blame. As the consideration of the grace by which they had been called was adduced to aggravate their ingratitude, so the circumstance of the time when they were removed is now adduced to aggravate their levity.

(19)Leurs songes et inventions.” “Their dreams and inventions.”

Galatians 1:7

7.Which is not another thing (20) Some explain it thus, “though there is not another gospel;” as if it were a sort of correction of the Apostle’s language, to guard against the supposition that there were more gospels than one. So far as the explanation of the words is concerned, I take a more simple view of them; for he speaks contemptuously of the doctrine of the false apostles, as being nothing else than a mass of confusion and destruction. As if he had said, “What do those persons allege? On what grounds do they attack the doctrine which I have delivered? They merely trouble you, and subvert the gospel. They do nothing more.” But it amounts to the same meaning; for this, too, I acknowledge, is a correction of the language he had used about another gospel. He declares that it is not a gospel, but a mere disturbance. All I intended to say was, that, in my opinion, the word another means another thing. It resembles strongly the expression in common use, “this amounts to nothing, but that you wish to deceive.”

And wish to pervert. He charges them with the additional crime of doing an injury to Christ, by endeavoring to subvert his gospel. Subversion is an enormous crime. It is worse than corruption. And with good reason does he fasten on them this charge. When the glow of justification is ascribed to another, and a snare is laid for the consciences of men, the Savior no longer occupies his place, and the doctrine of the gospel is utterly ruined.

The gospel of Christ. To know what are the leading points of the gospel, is a matter of unceasing importance. When these are attacked, the gospel is destroyed. When he adds the words, of Christ, this may be explained in two ways; either that it has come from Christ as its author, or that it purely exhibits Christ. The apostle’s reason for employing that expression unquestionably was to describe the true and genuine gospel, which alone is worthy of the name.

(20)ὃ οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλο. Some have questioned the genuineness of ἄλλο,— conjecturing that some one first introduced ἀλλὰ into the margin as an interpretation of εἰ μή, and then some other person changed it into ἄλλο, per incuriam , and introduced it into the text. This is ingenious, but, like all conjectural criticism on the New Testament, is of no value.” — Brown

Galatians 1:8

8.But though we. As he proceeds in defending the authority of his doctrine, his confidence swells. First of all, he declares that the doctrine which he had preached is the only gospel, and that the attempt to set it aside is highly criminal. But then he was aware, the false apostles might object: “We will not yield to you in our desire to maintain the gospel, or in those feelings of respect for it which we are accustomed to cherish.” Just as, at the present day, the Papists describe in the strongest terms the sacredness with which they regard the gospel, and kiss the very name with the deepest reverence, and yet, when brought to the trial, are found to persecute fiercely the pure and simple doctrine of the gospel. Accordingly, Paul does not rest satisfied with this general declaration, but proceeds to define what the gospel is, and what it contains, and declares boldly that his doctrine is the true gospel; so as to resist all further inquiry.

Of what avail was it to profess respect for the gospel, and not to know what it meant? With Papists, who hold themselves bound to render implicit faith, that might be perfectly sufficient; but with Christians, where there is no knowledge, there is no faith. That the Galatians, who were otherwise disposed to obey the gospel, might not wander hither and thither, and “find no rest for the sole of their foot,” (Gen 8:9,) Paul enjoins them to stand steadfastly by his doctrine. He demands such unhesitating belief of his preaching, that he pronounces a curse on all who dared to contradict it.

And here it is not a little remarkable, that he begins with himself; for thus he anticipates a slander with which his enemies would have loaded him. “You wish to have everything which comes from you received without hesitation, because it is your own.” To show that there is no foundation for such a statement, he instantly surrenders the right of advancing anything against his own doctrine. He claims no superiority, in this respect, over other men, but justly demands from all, equally with himself, subjection to the word of God.

Or an angel from heaven. In order to destroy more completely the pretensions of the false apostles, he rises so high as to speak of angels; and, on the supposition that they taught a different doctrine, he does not satisfy himself with saying that they were not entitled to be heard, but declares that they ought to be held accursed. Some may think, that it was absurd to engage in a controversy with angels about his doctrine; but a just view of the whole matter will enable any one to perceive, that this part of the apostle’s proceedings was proper and necessary. It is impossible, no doubt, for angels from heaven to teach anything else than the certain truth of God. But when the credit due to doctrines which God had revealed concerning the salvation of men was the subject of controversy, he did not reckon it enough to disclaim the judgment of men, without declining, at the same time, the authority of angels.

And thus, when he pronounces a curse on angels who should teach any other doctrine (21) though his argument is derived from an impossibility, it is not superfluous. This exaggerated language must, have contributed greatly to strengthen the confidence in Paul’s preaching. His opponents, by employing the lofty titles of men, attempted to press hard on him and on his doctrine. He meets them by the bold assertion, that even angels are unable to shake his authority. This is no disparagement to angels. To promote the glory of God by every possible means was the design of their creation. He who endeavors, in a pious manner, to accomplish this object, by an apparently disrespectful mention of their name, detracts nothing from their high rank. This language not only exhibits, in an impressive manner, the majesty of the word of God, but yields, also, a powerful confirmation to our faith while, in reliance on that word, we feel ourselves at liberty to treat even angels with defiance and scorn. When he says, “let him be accursed,” the meaning must be, “let him be held by you as accursed.” In expounding 1Co 12:3, we had occasion to speak of the wordἀνάθεμα. (22). Here it denotes cursing, and answers to the Hebrew word, הרם (hherem.)

(21)Quand il denonce les anges pour excommuniez et pour abominables, s’ils enseignent autre chose.” “When he denounces the angels as excommunicated and detestable persons, if they teach anything else.”

(22)᾿Ανάθεμα. This word, which we render accursed, doth not signify ‘accursed or condemned of God to the punishments of another world.’ This the Apostle would not wish to the worst of men. The meaning is, ‘Let him be as a person excommunicated, or wholly cut off from the synagogue, or church, with whom it is unlawful to have any commerce or correspondence whatever.’ And so it is not properly a wish of the apostle, but a direction to the Galatians how to behave, Let him be ἀνάθεμα. ‘Hold him, and treat him as an excommunicated and accursed person.’” — Chandler.

Galatians 1:9

9.As we said before. Leaving out, in this instance, the mention of himself and of angels, he repeats the former assertion, that it is unlawful for any man to teach anything contrary to what they had learned. (23) Observe the expression — ye have received; for he uniformly insists, that they must not regard the gospel as something unknown, existing in the air, or in their own imaginations. He exhorts them to entertain a firm and serious conviction, that the doctrine which they had received and embraced is the true gospel of Christ. Nothing can be more inconsistent with the nature of faith than a feeble, wavering assent. What, then, must be the consequence, if ignorance of the nature and character of the gospel shall lead to hesitation? Accordingly he enjoins them to regard as devils those who shall dare to bring forward a gospel different from his, — meaning by another gospel, one to which the inventions of other men are added; (24) for the doctrine of the false apostles was not entirely contrary, or even different, from that of Paul, but corrupted by false additions.

To what poor subterfuges do the Papists resort, in order to escape from the Apostle’s declaration! First, they tell us, that we have not in our possession the whole of Paul’s preaching, and cannot know what it contained, unless the Galatians who heard it shall be raised from the dead, in order to appear as witnesses. Next, they assert, that it is not every kind of addition which is forbidden, but that other gospels only are condemned. What Paul’s doctrine was, so far as it concerns us to know, may be learned with sufficient clearness from his writings. Of this gospel, it is plain, the whole of Popery is a dreadful perversion. And from the nature of the case, we remark in conclusion, it is manifest that any spurious doctrine whatever is at variance with Paul’s preaching; so that these cavils will avail them nothing.

(23)D’enseigner autre doctrine que cello qu’il avoit enseignee aux Galatiens.” “To teach any other doctrine than that which he had taught to the Galatians.”

(24)Quand on y mesle des inventions humaines, et des choses qui ne sont point de mesme.” “When it is mixed up with human inventions, and with things that are contrary to it.”

Galatians 1:10

Having extolled so confidently his own preaching, he now shows that this was no idle or empty boast. He supports his assertion by two arguments. The first is, that he was not prompted by ambition, or flattery, or any similar passion, to accommodate himself to the views of men. The second and far stronger argument is, that he was not the author of the gospel, but delivered faithfully what he had received from God.

10. For do I now persuade according to men or according to God? The ambiguity of the Greek construction in this passage, has given rise to a variety of expositions. Some render it, Do I now persuade men or God? (25) Others interpret the words “God” and “men,” as meaning divine and human concerns. This sense would agree very well with the context, if it were not too wide a departure from the words. The view which I have preferred is more natural; for nothing is more common with the Greeks than to leave the preposition κατὰ, according to, to be understood.

Paul is speaking, not about the subject of his preaching, but about the purpose of his own mind, which could not refer so properly to men as to God. The disposition of the speaker, it must be owned, may have some influence on his doctrine. As corruption of doctrine springs from ambition, avarice, or any other sinful passion, so the truth is maintained in its purity by an upright conscience. And so he contends that his doctrine is sound, because it is not modified so as to gratify men.

Or, do I seek to please men? This second clause differs not much, and yet it differs somewhat from the former; for the desire of obtaining favor is one motive for speaking “according to men.” When there reigns in our hearts such ambition, that we desire to regulate our discourse so as to obtain the favor of men, our instructions cannot be sincere. Paul therefore declares, that he is in no degree chargeable with this vice; and, the more boldly to repel the calumnious insinuation, he employs the interrogative form of speech; for interrogations carry the greater weight, when our opponents are allowed an opportunity of replying, if they have anything to say. This expresses the great boldness which Paul derived from the testimony of a good conscience; for he knew that he had discharged his duty in such a manner as not to be liable to any reproach of that kind. (Act 23:1; 2Co 1:12.)

If I yet pleased men This is a remarkable sentiment; that ambitious persons, that is, those who hunt after the applause of men, cannot serve Christ. He declares for himself, that he had freely renounced the estimation of men, in order to devote himself entirely to the service of Christ; and, in this respect, he contrasts his present position with that which he occupied at a former period of life. He had been regarded with the highest esteem, had received from every quarter loud applause; and, therefore, if he had chosen to please men, he would not have found it necessary to change his condition. But we may draw from it the general doctrine which I have stated, that those who resolve to serve Christ faithfully, must have boldness to despise the favor of men.

The word men is here employed in a limited sense; for the ministers of Christ ought not to labor for the express purpose of displeasing men. But there are various classes of men. Those to whom Christ “is precious,” (1Pe 2:7,) are men whom we should endeavor to please in Christ; while they who choose that the true doctrine shall give place to their own passions, are men to whom we must give no countenance. And godly, upright pastors, will always find it necessary to contend with the offenses of those who choose that, on all points, their own wishes shall be gratified; for the Church will always contain hypocrites and wicked men, by whom their own lusts will be preferred to the word of God. And even good men, either through ignorance, or through weak prejudice, are sometimes tempted by the devil to be displeased with the faithful warnings of their pastor. Our duty, therefore, is not to take alarm at any kind of offenses, provided, at the same time, that we do not excite in weak minds a prejudice against Christ himself.

Many interpret this passage in a different manner, as implying an admission to the following effect: “If I pleased men, then I should not be the servant of Christ. I own it, but who shall bring such a charge against me? Who does not see that I do not court the favor of men?” But I prefer the former view, that Paul is relating how large an amount of the estimation of men he had relinquished, in order to devote himself to the service of Christ.

(25)Πείθω. This word, which we render persuade, frequently signifies ‘to obtain by treaty,’ or, ‘to endeavor the friendship and good will of any person.’ Thus in Mat 28:14, the chief-priests tell the soldiers, whom they corrupted, to give a false report: ‘If this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you, that is, prevail with him to be favorable to you, and save you from punishment.’ Thus, Act 12:20, πείσαντες Βλάστον, we render, ‘having made Blastus their friend.’ Vid. Pind. Ol. 3:28. And in the Apocryphal book of Maccabees, (2Ma 4:45,) when Menelaus found himself convicted of his crimes, he promised Ptolemy a large sum of money, πεῖσαι τὸν βασιλέα, ‘to pacify the king,’ to prevent his displeasure, and secure his favor. And thus, in the place before us, ‘to persuade God,’ is to endeavor to secure his approbation; which, the Apostle assures the Galatians, was his great and only view, as well as his great support, under the censure and displeasure of men, for preaching the pure and uncorrupted doctrines of the gospel.” — Chandler.

Galatians 1:11

11.Now I make known to you. This is the most powerful argument, the main hinge on which the question turns, that he has not received the gospel from men, but that it has been revealed to him by God. As this might be denied, he offers a proof, drawn from a narrative of facts. To give his declaration the greater weight, he sets out with stating that the matter is not doubtful, (26) but one which he is prepared to prove; and thus introduces himself in a manner well adapted to a serious subject. He affirms that it is not according to man; that it savours of nothing human, or, that it was not of human contrivance; and in proof of this he afterwards adds, that he had not been instructed by any earthly teacher. (27)

(26)Qu’il ne parle point d’une chose incertaine ou incognue.” “That he does not speak about a thing uncertain or unknown.”

(27) “The idiom by which there is a transposition of ὅτι is frequent, and may here, Schott thinks, have been made use of, in order to place a highly important topic in the most prominent point of view” — Bloomfield.

Galatians 1:12

12.For I neither received it from man. What then? shall the authority of the word be diminished, because one who has been instructed by the instrumentality of men shall afterwards become a teacher? We must take into account, all along, the weapons with which the false apostles attacked him, alleging that his gospel was defective and spurious; that he had obtained it from an inferior and incompetent teacher; and that his imperfect education led him to make unguarded statements. They boasted, on the other hand, that they had been instructed by the highest apostles, with whose views they were most intimately acquainted. It was therefore necessary that Paul should state his doctrine in opposition to the whole world, and should rest it on this ground, that he had acquired it not in the school of any man, but by revelation from God. In no other way could he have set aside the reproaches of the false apostles.

The objection, that Ananias (Act 9:10) was his teacher, may be easily answered. His divine instruction, communicated to him by immediate inspiration, did not render it improper that a man should be employed in teaching him, were it only to give weight to his public ministry. In like manner, we have already shown, that he had a direct call from God by revelation, and that he was ordained by the votes and the solemn approbation of men. These statements are not inconsistent with each other.

Galatians 1:13

13.For ye have heard of my conversation. The whole of this narrative was added as a part of his argument. He relates that, during his whole life, he had such an abhorrence of the gospel, that he was a mortal enemy of it, and a destroyer of the name of Christianity. Hence we infer that his conversion was divine. And indeed he calls them as witnesses of a matter not at all doubtful, so as to place beyond controversy what he is about to say.

His equals were those of his own age; for a comparison with older persons would have been unsuitable. When he speaks of the traditions of the fathers, he means, not those additions by which the law of God had been corrupted, but the law of God itself, in which he had been educated from his childhood, and which he had received through the hands of his parents and ancestors. Having been strongly attached to the customs of his fathers, it would have been no easy matter to tear him from them, had not the Lord drawn him by a miracle.

Galatians 1:15

15.But after that it pleased God. This is the second part of the narrative, and relates to his miraculous conversion. He tells us, first, that he had been called by the grace of God to preach Christ among the Gentiles; and, next, that as soon as he had been called, without consulting the apostles, he unhesitatingly proceeded to the performance of the work, which, he felt assured, had been enjoined upon him by the appointment of God. In the construction of the words, Erasmus differs from the Vulgate. He connects them in the following manner: “When it pleased God that I should preach Christ among the Gentiles, who called me for this purpose that he might reveal him by me. ” But I prefer the old translation; for Christ had been revealed to Paul before he received a command to preach. Admitting that Erasmus were right in translating ἐν ἐμοὶ, by me, still the clause, that I might preach, is added for the purpose of describing the kind of revelation.

Paul’s reasoning does not, at first sight, appear so strong; for although, when he had been converted to Christianity, he instantly, and without consulting the apostles, entered into the office of preaching the gospel, it does not thence follow that he had been appointed to that office by the revelation of Christ. But the arguments which he employs are various, and, when they are all collected, will be found sufficiently strong to establish his conclusion. He argues, first, that he had been called by the grace of God; next, that his apostleship had been acknowledged by the other apostles; and the other arguments follow. Let the reader, therefore, remember to read the whole narrative together, and to draw the inference, not from single parts, but from the whole.

Who had separated me. This separation was the purpose of God, by which Paul was appointed to the apostolic office, before he knew that he was born. The calling followed afterwards at the proper time, when the Lord made known his will concerning him, and commanded him to proceed to the work. God had, no doubt, decreed, before the foundation of the world, what he would do with regard to every one of us, and had assigned to every one, by his secret counsel, his respective place. But the sacred writers frequently introduce those three steps: the eternal predestination of God, the destination from the womb, and the calling, which is the effect and accomplishment of both.

The word of the Lord which came to Jeremiah, though expressed a little differently from this passage, has entirely the same meaning.

“Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth from the womb I sanctified thee; a prophet to the nations have I made thee.” (Jer 1:5.)

Before they even existed, Jeremiah had been set apart to the office of a prophet, and Paul to that of an apostle; but he is said to separate us from the womb, because the design of our being sent into the world is, that he may accomplish, in us, what he has decreed. The calling is delayed till its proper time, when God has prepared us for the office which he commands us to undertake.

Paul’s words may therefore be read thus: “When it pleased God to reveal his Son, by me, who called me, as he had formerly separated me.” He intended to assert, that his calling depends on the secret election of God; and that he was ordained an apostle, not because by his own industry he had fitted himself for undertaking so high an office, or because God had accounted him worthy of having it bestowed upon him, but because, before he was born, he had been set apart by the secret purpose of God.

Thus, in his usual manner, he traces his calling to the good pleasure of God. This deserves our careful attention; for it shows us that we owe it to the goodness of God, not only that we have been elected and adopted to everlasting life, but that he deigns to make use of our services, who would otherwise have been altogether useless, and that he assigns to us a lawful calling, in which we may be employed. What had Paul, before he was born, to entitle him to so high an honor? In like manner we ought to believe, that it is entirely the gift of God, and not obtained by our own industry, that we have been called to govern the Church.

The subtle distinctions into which some commentators have entered in explaining the word separated, are altogether foreign to the subject. God is said to separate us, not because he bestows any peculiar disposition of mind which distinguishes us from others, but because he appoints us by his own purpose (28). Although the apostle had most explicitly attributed his calling to the free grace of God, when he pronounced that voluntary separation from the womb to be the origin of it, yet he repeats the direct statement, both that, by his commendation of Divine grace, he may take away all grounds of boasting, and that he may testify his own gratitude to God. On this subject he is wont freely to expatiate, even when he has no controversy with the false apostles.

(28)Quand par son conseil il nous destine a quelque chose.” “When he appoints us to any thing by his purpose.”

Galatians 1:16

16.To reveal his Son to me. If we read it, “to reveal by me, ” it will express the design of the apostleship, which is to make Christ known. And how was this to be accomplished? By preaching him among the Gentiles, which the false apostles treated as a crime. But I consider the Greek phrase ἐν εμοὶ (29) to be a Hebrew idiom for to me; for the Hebrew particle ב (beth) is frequently redundant, as all who know that language are well aware. The meaning will therefore be, that Christ was revealed to Paul, not that he might alone enjoy, and silently retain in his own bosom the knowledge of Christ, but that he might preach among the Gentiles the Savior whom he had known.

Immediately I conferred not. To confer with flesh and blood, is to consult with flesh and blood. So far as the meaning of these words is concerned, his intention was absolutely to have nothing to do with any human counsels. The general expression, as will presently appear from the context, includes all men, and all the prudence or wisdom which they may possess. (30) He even makes a direct reference to the apostles, for the express purpose of exhibiting, in a stronger light, the immediate calling of God. Relying on the authority of God alone, and asking nothing more, he proceeded to discharge the duty of preaching the gospel.

(29)᾿Εν ἐμοὶ, that is, ‘to me;’ but yet it appears to denote something more.” — Beza. “The ancient commentators, and, of the moderns, Winer, Schott, and Scott, seem right in regarding this as a strong expression for ‘in my mind and heart.’” — Bloomfield.

(30) “The expression, ‘flesh and blood,’ is used to denote men. Thus when Peter confessed to our Lord, ‘Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God,’ Jesus answered, ‘Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee.’ (Mat 16:17.) That is, no man hath made this discovery; and thus it hath the same meaning in the place before us. But as the apostle speaks of his countrymen and equals in age, in the verses before, I apprehend he particularly means them, and that he intends to assure the Galatians, that, notwithstanding his former zeal for the law and the traditions of the Jews, yet that, after his extraordinary conversion, he had no longer any dependence on them, nor sought the least direction from the wisest among them.” — Chandler.

Galatians 1:17

17.Neither did I return to Jerusalem. What he had just written is now explained, and more fully stated. As if he had said, “I did not ask the authority of any man,” not even of the apostles themselves. It is a mistake to suppose, that, because the apostles are now separately mentioned, they are not included in the words, flesh and blood. Nothing new or different is here added, but merely a clearer explanation of what had been already said. And no disrespect to the apostles is implied in that expression. For the purpose of shewing that he did not owe his commission to man, the false boasting of unprincipled men laid him under the necessity of contrasting. the authority of the apostles themselves with the authority of God. When a creature is brought into comparison with God, however contemptuous or humiliating may be the language employed, he has no reason to complain.

But I went into Arabia. In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke has omitted these three years. In like manner, there are other passages of the history which he does not touch; and hence the slander of those who seek to build on this a charge of inconsistency in the narratives is ridiculous. Let godly readers consider the severe temptation with which Paul was called to struggle at the very commencement of his course. He who but yesterday, for the sake of doing him honor, had been sent to Damascus with a magnificent retinue, is now compelled to wander as an exile in a foreign land: but he does not lose his courage.

Galatians 1:18

18.Then after three years. It was not till three years after he had begun to discharge the apostolic office, that he went up to Jerusalem. Thus, he did not, at the outset, receive the calling of men. But lest it should be supposed that he had separate interests from theirs, and was desirous to avoid their society, he tells us that he went up for the express purposeto see (31) Peter. (32) Although he had not waited for their sanction before undertaking the office, yet it was not against their will, but with their full consent and approbation, that he held the rank of an apostle. He is desirous to shew that at no period was he at variance with the apostles, and that even now he is in full harmony with all their views. By mentioning the short time that he remained there, he shews that he had come, not with a view to learn, but solely for mutual intercourse.

(31)̔ιστορεῖν signifies either ‘to ascertain any thing by inquiry, or any person by personal examination;’ but sometimes, as here, to visit for the purpose of becoming acquainted with any one by personal communication.’ So Josephus, Bell. 6:1-8, ὃν (scil. Julianum), ἱστόρησα, ‘whom when I came to know and be with.’ See Act 9:26.” — Bloomfield.

(32) “The distinguished guest of a distinguished host.” — Grotius.

Galatians 1:19

19.But I saw no other of the apostles. This is added to make it evident that he had but one object in his journey, and attended to nothing else.

Except James. Who this James was, deserves inquiry. Almost all the ancients are agreed that he was one of the disciples, whose surname was “Oblias” and “The Just,” and that he presided over the church at Jerusalem. (33) Yet others think that he was the son of Joseph by another wife, and others (which is more probable) that he was the cousin of Christ by the mother’s side: (34) but as he is here mentioned among the apostles, I do not hold that opinion. Nor is there any force in the defense offered by Jerome, that the word Apostle is sometimes applied to others besides the twelve; for the subject under consideration is the highest rank of apostleship, and we shall presently see that he was considered one of the chief pillars. (Gal 2:9.) It appears to me, therefore, far more probable, that the person of whom he is speaking is the son of Alpheus. (35)

The rest of the apostles, there is reason to believe, were scattered through various countries; for they did not idly remain in one place. Luke relates that Paul was brought by Barnabas to the apostles. (Act 9:27.) This must be understood to relate, not to the twelve, but to these two apostles, who alone were at that time residing in Jerusalem.

(33)Qui estoit pasteur en l’eglise de Jerusalem.” “Who was pastor in the church at Jerusalem.”

(34)Qu’il estoit cousin-germain de Jesus Christ, fils de la soeur de sa mere.” “That he was cousin-german of Jesus Christ, his mother’s sister’s son.”

(35) This is fully consistent with the opinion commonly held, that Alpheus or Cleopas was the husband of the sister of Mary, the mother of our Lord, and consequently that James, the son of Alpheus, was our Lord’s cousin-german. — Ed.

Galatians 1:20

20.Now the things which I write to you. This affirmation extends to the whole narrative. The vast earnestness of Paul on this subject is evinced by his resorting to an oath, which cannot lawfully be employed but on great and weighty occasions. Nor is it wonderful that he insists with so much earnestness on this point; for we have already seen to what expedients the impostors had recourse in order to take from him the name and credit of an apostle. Now the modes of swearing used by good men deserve our attention; for we learn from them that an oath must be viewed simply as an appeal to the judgment-seat of God for the integrity and truth of our words and actions; and such a transaction ought to be guided by religion and the fear of God.

Galatians 1:22

22.And was unknown by face. This appears to be added for the sake of shewing more strongly the wickedness and malignity of his slanderers. If the churches of Judea who had only heard respecting him, were led to give glory to God for the astonishing change which he had wrought in Paul, how disgraceful was it that those who had beheld the fruits of his amazing labors should not have acted a similar part! If the mere report was enough for the former, why did not the facts before their eyes satisfy the latter?

Galatians 1:23

23.Which once he destroyed. This does not mean that faith (36) may actually be destroyed, but that he lessened its influence on the minds of weak men. Besides, it is the will, rather than the deed, that is here expressed.

(36) ”The word πίστις denotes not only the act of believing, but that which is believed.” — Beza.

Galatians 1:24

24.And they glorified God in me (37) This was an evident proof that his ministry was approved by all the churches of Judea, and approved in such a manner, that they broke out into admiration and praise of the wonderful power of God. Thus he indirectly reproves their malice, by showing that their venom and slanders could have no other effect than to hide the glory of God, which, as the apostles admitted and openly acknowledged, shone brightly in the apostleship of Paul.

This reminds us of the light in which the saints of the Lord ought to be regarded by us. When we behold men adorned with the gifts of God, such is our depravity, or ingratitude, or proneness to superstition, that we worship them as gods, unmindful of Him by whom those gifts were bestowed. These words remind us, on the contrary, to lift up our eyes to the Great Author, and to ascribe to Him what is his own, while they at the same time inform us that an occasion of offering praise to God was furnished by the change produced on Paul, from being an enemy to becoming a minister of Christ.

(37) “He does not say, They praised or glorified me, but, They glorified God. He says, They glorified God in me; for all that belongs to me was from the grace of God.” — OEcumenius.

Galatians Chapter Two

Galatians 2:1

1.Fourteen years after. This cannot with certainty be affirmed to be the same journey mentioned by Luke. (Act 15:2.) The connection of the history leads us rather to an opposite conclusion. We find that Paul performed four journeys to Jerusalem. Of the first we have already spoken. The second took place when, in company with Barnabas, he brought the charitable contributions of the Greek and Asiatic Churches. (Act 15:25.) My belief that this second journey is referred to in the present passage rests on various grounds. On any other supposition, the statements of Paul and Luke cannot be reconciled. Besides, there is ground for conjecturing that the rebuke was administered to Peter at Antioch while Paul was residing there. Now, this happened before he was sent to Jerusalem by the Churches to settle the dispute which had arisen about ceremonial observances. (Act 15:2.) It is not reasonable to suppose that Peter would have used such dissimulation, if that controversy had been settled and the decree of the Apostles published. But Paul writes that he came to Jerusalem, and afterwards adds that he had rebuked Peter for an act of dissimulation, an act which Peter certainly would not have committed except in matters that were doubtful. (38)

Besides, he would scarcely have alluded, at any time, to that journey (39) undertaken with the consent of all the believers, without mentioning the occasion of it, and the memorable decision which was passed. It is not even certain at what time the Epistle was written, only that the Greeks conjecture that it was sent from Rome, and the Latins from Ephesus. For my own part, I think that it was written, not only before Paul had seen Rome, but before that consultation had been held, and the decision of the Apostles given about ceremonial observances. While his opponents were falsely pleading the name of the apostles, and earnestly striving to ruin the reputation of Paul, what carelessness would it have angered in him to pass by the decree universally circulated among them, which struck at those very persons! (40) Undoubtedly, this one word would have shut their mouth: “You bring against me the authority of the apostles, but who does not know their decision? and therefore I hold you convicted of unblushing falsehood. In their name, you oblige the Gentiles to keep the law, but I appeal to their own writing, which sets the consciences of men at liberty.”

We may likewise observe, that, in the commencement of the Epistle, he reproved the Galatians for having so soon revolted from the gospel which had been delivered to them. But we may readily conclude, that, after they had been brought to believe the gospel, some time must have elapsed before that dispute about the ceremonial law arose. I consider, therefore, that the fourteen years are to be reckoned, not from one journey to another, but from Paul’s conversion. The space of time between the two journeys was eleven years.

(38)Sinon les choses estant douteuses et non resolues encore.” “Except in matters that were doubtful and not yet settled.”

(39)Ce voyage-la qui est escrit au quinzieme chapitre “ “That journey which is recorded in the fifteenth chapter” (of the Acts of the Apostles.)

(40)De la quelle il eust au assez pour les vaincre du tout.” “Which would have been sufficient for gaining a complete victory over them.”

Galatians 2:2

2.And I went up according to revelation. (41) He now proceeds to prove his apostleship and his doctrine, not only by works, but also by a Divine revelation. Since God directed that journey, which had for its object the confirmation of his doctrine, the doctrine was confirmed, not by the concurrence of men only, but likewise by the authority of God. This ought to have been more than enough to overcome the obstinacy of those who blamed Paul by holding up the names of the apostles. For although, up to this time, there had been some room for debate, the communication of the mind of God put an end to all discussion.

I communicated to them. The word communicated claims our first attention; for the apostles do not describe to him what he ought to teach, but, after listening to his own account of his doctrine, express their concurrence and approbation. But, as his opponents might allege that, by cunning dissimulation on many points, he had gained the favor of the apostles, he expressly states that he “communicated to them that doctrine which he preacheth among the Gentiles;” which removes all suspicion of hypocrisy or imposture. We shall see what followed; for the apostles did not take it amiss that he had not waited to obtain their sanction. On the contrary, without dispute or expostulation, they approved of his labors; and did so by the direction of the same Spirit, under whose guidance Paul had performed his journey to Jerusalem. Thus, he was not made an apostle by them, but acknowledged to be an apostle. But this point will be treated more fully afterwards.

Lest by any means. What then? Shall the word of God fall, when it is unsupported by the testimony of men? Though the whole world were unbelieving, yet the word of God remains firm and unshaken: and they who preach the gospel by the command of God are not uselessly employed, even when no fruit is produced by their labors. This is not Paul’s meaning; but, as the consciences of men, so long as they doubt and hesitate, derive no benefit from the ministry of the word, so a preacher is said, so far as men is concerned, to run in vain, when his labors are ineffectual, and unaccompanied by proper edification.

It was, therefore, a formidable weapon for shaking weak consciences, when the doctrine which Paul preached was falsely declared by impostors to be at variance with the doctrine of the apostles. Multitudes in this manner fell away. The certainty of faith, indeed, does not depend on the agreement of human opinions; but, on the contrary, it is our duty to rest in the naked truth of God, so that neither men nor all the angels together, could shake our faith. Yet ignorant persons, who have imperfectly understood, and never have cordially embraced, sound doctrine, feel the temptation to be almost irresistible, while teachers of acknowledged eminence are found to entertain opposite views. Nay, strong believers are sometimes powerfully affected by this stratagem of Satan, when he holds out to their view the “strife and divisions” (1Co 3:3) of those who ought to have been

“perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1Co 1:10.)

It is hard to tell how many were driven from the gospel, how many had their faith shaken, by the mournful controversy about the bodily presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, because, on a question of the highest moment, very distinguished men were observed to take opposite sides.

On the other hand, the agreement of all who teach in the Church is a powerful aid for the confirmation of faith. Since, therefore, Satan was laboring so insidiously to hinder the progress of the gospel, Paul resolved to meet him. When he had succeeded in demonstrating that he held the same views with all the apostles, every hinderance was removed. Weak disciples were no longer perplexed by the inquiry, whom they ought to follow. His meaning may be thus summed up: “That my former labors might not be thrown away and rendered useless, I have set at rest the question which disturbed many minds, whether I or Peter deserved your confidence; for in all that I had ever taught we were perfectly at one.” If many teachers in our own day were as heartily desirous as Paul was to edify the Church, they would take more pains to be agreed among themselves.

(41)Et y montai par revelation.” “And I went up thither by revelation.”

Galatians 2:3

3.But neither Titus. This is an additional argument to prove that the Apostles held the same views with himself; for he had brought to them an uncircumcised man, whom they did not hesitate to acknowledge as a brother. The reason is assigned why he was not circumcised; for circumcision, being a matter of indifference, might be neglected or practiced as edification required. Our invariable rule of action is, that, if “all things are lawful for us,” (1Co 10:23) we ought to inquire what is expedient. He circumcises Timothy, (Act 16:3,) in order to take away a ground of offense from weak minds; for he was at that time dealing with weak minds, which it was his duty to treat with tenderness. And he would gladly have done the same thing with Titus, for he was unwearied in his endeavors to “support (Act 20:35) the weak;” but the case was different. For some false brethren were watching for an opportunity of slandering his doctrine, and would immediately have spread the report: “See how the valiant champion of liberty, when he comes into the presence of the apostles, lays aside the bold and fierce aspect which he is wont to assume among the ignorant!” Now, as it is our duty to “bear the infirmities of the weak,” (Rom 15:1,) so concealed foes, who purposely watch for our liberty, must, be vigorously resisted. The duties of love to our neighbor ought never to be injurious to faith; and therefore, in matters of indifference, the love of our neighbour will be our best guide, provided that faith shall always receive our first regard.

Galatians 2:4

4.And that because of false brethren. This may mean either that false brethren made it the subject of wicked accusation, and endeavored to compel him; or that Paul purposely did not circumcise him, because he saw that they would immediately make it an occasion of slander. They had insinuated themselves into Paul’s company with the hope of gaining one of two objects. Either he would treat with open scorn the ceremonial law, and then they would rouse the indignation of the Jews against him; or he would refrain entirely from the exercise of his liberty, and in that case they would exult over him among the Gentiles as one who, overwhelmed with shame, had retracted his doctrine.

I prefer the second interpretation, that Paul, having discovered the snares laid for him, determined not to circumcise Titus. When he says that he was not “compelled,” the reader is led to understand that circumcision is not condemned as a bad thing in itself, but that the obligation to observe it was the subject of dispute. As if he had said, “I would have been prepared to circumcise Titus if higher matters had not been involved.” Their intention was to lay down a law; and to such compulsion he would not yield.

Galatians 2:5

5. To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour. This steadiness was the seal of Paul’s doctrine. For when false brethren, who wished nothing more than a ground of accusation against him, exerted themselves to the utmost, and he stood firm, there could no longer be any room for doubt. It cannot now be insinuated that he deceived the apostles. He asserts that he did not for a moment give place to them by subjection, that is, by such a mode of yielding as would have implied that his liberty had been crushed. In every other respect, he was prepared, to the very close of his life, to exercise mildness and forbearance toward all men.

That the truth of the gospel. There was no danger that Paul would be deprived of his liberty even by yielding to them; but the example would have done harm to others, and therefore he prudently inquired what was expedient. This shows us how far offenses must be avoided, and points us to edification as the object which ought to be kept in view in all matters of indifference. The amount, is this: “We are the servants of the brethren, but still keeping in view that we all serve the Lord, and that the liberty of our conscience shall remain unimpaired.” When false brethren wished to bring the saints in to bondage, it was their duty not to yield to them.

The truth of the gospel denotes its genuine purity, or, which means the same thing, its pure and entire doctrine. For the false apostles did not altogether set aside the gospel, but mixed up with it their own notions, so as to give it a false and disguised aspect, which it always has when we make the smallest departure “from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2Co 11:3.)

With what effrontery then will the Papists boast that they possess the gospel, which is not only corrupted by many inventions, but more than adulterated by many wicked doctrines? Let us remember that it is not enough to retain the name of the gospel, and some kind of summary of its doctrines, if its solid purity do not remain untouched. Where are the men who, by pretended moderation, endeavor to bring about a reconciliation between us and the Papists? as if the doctrine of religion, like a matter affecting money or property, could be compromised. With what abhorrence would such a transaction have been regarded by Paul, who affirms that it is not the true gospel, if it is not pure!

Galatians 2:6

6.Of those who seemed to be somewhat. (42) Paul is not yet satisfied, without making the Galatians understand that he had learned nothing from Peter and the apostles. Hence Porphyry and Julian (43) accuse the holy man of pride, because he claims so much for himself that he cannot endure to learn anything from others; because he boasts of having become a teacher without any instruction or assistance; and because he labors so hard not to appear in an inferior character. But any one who will consider how necessary that boasting was, will acknowledge that it was holy boasting, and worthy of the highest praise; for, if he had yielded this point to his opponents, that he had profited under the apostles, he would have furnished them with two charges against him. They would immediately have said, “And so you made some progress; you corrected your past errors, and did not repeat your former rashness.” Thus, in the first place, the whole doctrine which he had hitherto taught would have fallen under suspicion; and, secondly, he would ever afterwards have possessed less authority, because he would have been reckoned but an ordinary disciple. We find, therefore, that it was not on his own account, but by the necessity under which he lay to establish the doctrine, that he was led to this holy boasting. The controversy has no reference to individuals, and therefore cannot be a struggle of ambition; but Paul’s determination was that no man, however eminent, should throw into the shade his apostleship, on which the authority of his doctrine depended. If this be not enough to silence those dogs, their barking is sufficiently answered.

Whatsoever they were. These words must be read as a separate clause; for the parenthesis was intended to assure his opponents that he did not concern himself with the opinions of men. This passage has been variously interpreted. Ambrose thinks that it is a passing reference to the folly of attempting to lower Paul by holding up the apostles; and represents him as saying; “As if I were not equally at liberty to object that they were poor, illiterate men, while I, from my early years, enjoyed a liberal education under the care of Gamaliel. But I pass over all this, because I know that there is no respect of persons with God.” Chrysostom and Jerome take a harsher view of the words, as an indirect threatening of the most distinguished apostles. “Whatsoever they may be, if they swerve from duty, they shall not escape the judgment of God; neither the dignity of their office, nor the estimation of men, shall protect them.” But another interpretation appears to me more simple, and more agreeable to Paul’s design. He admits that they were first in the order of time, but contends that this did not prevent him from being their equal in rank. He does not say that it is of no consequence to him what they are at present; but he is speaking of a period now past, when they were already apostles, and when he was opposed to the faith of Christ. In short, he does not choose that what is past shall decide the matter; and refuses to admit the proverb, that he who comes first has the best right.

No man’s person. Besides the interpretations which I have mentioned, a third is not unworthy of notice, — that in the government of the world distinctions of rank are admitted, but in the spiritual kingdom of Christ they can have no place. There is plausibility in the statement, but it is in reference to worldly government, that it is said,

“Ye shall not respect persons in judgment,.” (Deu 1:17.)

But I do not enter into that argument, for it does not affect this passage. Paul simply means, that the honorable rank which the apostles had attained did not prevent him from being called by God, and raised, all at once, from the lowest condition to be their equal. The difference between them, though great, is of no value in the sight of God, who does not accept persons, and whose calling is not influenced by any prejudices. But this view may likewise appear liable to objection; for, granting it to be true, and a truth which must be carefully maintained, that in our intercourse with God there is no respect of persons, how does this apply to Peter and his fellow-apostles, who were venerable, not merely for their rank, but for true holiness and spiritual gifts?

The word person is contrasted with the fear of God and a good conscience; and this is its ordinary acceptation in Scripture. (Act 10:34 1Pe 1:17.) But piety, zeal, holiness, and other similar graces, were the principal grounds of the esteem and respect in which the apostles were held; while Paul speaks contemptuously of them, as if they had possessed nothing but the outward forms.

I reply: Paul is not discussing the real worth of the apostles, but the idle boasting of his adversaries. In order to support their own unfounded pretensions, they talked in lofty terms of Peter, and James, and John, and took advantage of the veneration with which they were regarded by the Church, for accomplishing their earnest desire of degrading Paul. His object is not to inquire what the apostles are, or what opinion must be formed respecting them when controversy is laid aside, but to tear off the disguises which the false apostles wore. As in a subsequent part of the Epistle he treats of circumcision, not in its real character, but in the false and impious notion attached to it by those impostors, so he now declares that the apostles were in the sight of God disguises, by which those persons attempted to shine in the world; and this is evident from the words. Why did they prefer them to Paul? because they were his predecessors in office. This was a mere disguise. In any other point of view, they would have been highly esteemed, and the gifts of God manifested in them would have been warmly admired by one so singularly modest as the apostle Paul, who elsewhere acknowledges that he was “the least of the apostles,” and unworthy to occupy so exalted a station.

“I am the least of the apostles, and not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.” (1Co 15:9.)

They communicated nothing to me. It might also be rendered, “they communicated nothing with me;” for it is the same word which he formerly used twice. (44) But the meaning is the same. When the apostles had heard Paul’s gospel, they did not on the other side bring forward their own, (as is commonly done when something better and more perfect is desired,) but were satisfied with his explanation, and simply and unhesitatingly embraced his doctrine, so that not even on the most doubtful point did a single word of debate pass between them. Nor are we to suppose that Paul, presuming on his superiority, took the lead in the discussion, and dictated to his brethren. On the contrary, his faith, about which unfavourable rumors had been spread, was fully explained by him, and sanctioned by their approbation.

(42)Τῶν δοκούντων εἶναί τι, the men ‘who appeared to be somewhat,’ that is, persons of highest character and estimation. For though this word signifies to ‘appear,’ or ‘seem,’ yet it is not always used in a diminutive or disparaging sense, but to denote what they really are, and what others think them to be. Thus, τῶν ᾿Ελλήνων δοκοῦντεςδιαφέρειν (AElian) are persons esteemed as the principal men of Greece; and Aristotle is said σόφος ἄνηρ καὶ ὦν καὶ εἶναι δοκῶν, both to be, and to be esteemed as a wise man.’ “Chandler.

(43) Porphyry, (Πορφύριος.) a Greek philosopher, (whose original name was Malchus,) and Julian, the Roman emperor, (commonly called “the apostate,”) were able and virulent opponents of Christianity. Their writings drew forth powerful defences, by which all their arguments were triumphantly confuted. — Ed.

(44)ἀνεθέμην αὐτοῖς ”, Gal 2:2

Galatians 2:7

7.But, on the contrary. They immediately gave him the right hand of fellowship. (Gal 2:9.) Consequently they gave their testimony to his doctrine, and without any exception; for they produced nothing on the other side, as is commonly done on debated points, but acknowledged that he held the same gospel in common with them, and was therefore entitled to the honors and rank of an associate. Now, one condition of this fellowship was, that they distributed the provinces among themselves. They were therefore equal, and there was no subjection on the part of Paul. To “give the right hands of fellowship” means here, to have a partnership settled by mutual agreement.

When they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed to me. He asserts that he was not indebted to the apostles for the favor of being made an apostle by their consent and approbation, but that, in conceding to him the apostleship, they only refused to take away what God had given. He constantly urges that he was made an apostle by the gift and appointment of God, but adds here that he was acknowledged as such by the apostles themselves. Hence it followed, that those unprincipled men were attempting, what the apostles durst not have attempted, to oppose the election of God.

And here he begins to claim what belonged to himself in preference to others, the apostleship of the uncircumcision. For Paul and Barnabas differed from the rest in this respect, that they had been appointed to be apostles of the Gentiles. (Act 13:2.) That had been done by a Divine revelation, which the apostles not only did not oppose, but determined to ratify, because not to obey it, would have been impious. This shows us in what manner they arranged their respective duties, in compliance with a Divine revelation, namely, that Paul and Barnabas should be the apostles of the Gentiles, and that the others should be the apostles of the Jews.

But this appears to be at variance with the command of Christ, which enjoins that the twelve shall

“go unto all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mar 16:15.)

I reply, that command was not intended to apply specifically to each individual, but describes in general terms the design of the apostolic office, which was, that salvation must be proclaimed to all nations by the doctrine of the gospel. For the apostles evidently did not travel over the whole world; nay, it is probable that not one of the twelve ever passed into Europe. What they allege about Peter may, for aught I know, be fabulous, and is, at all events, quite uncertain.

All of them, it will be objected, had still a commission both to Gentiles and to Jews. I own they had, as occasion offered. Each apostle, I grant, was entrusted with the publication of the gospel both among Gentiles and Jews; for the distribution was not of such a nature as to assign them fixed boundaries, like those of kingdoms, principalities, and provinces, which could not lawfully be passed. We see that Paul, wherever he went, uniformly offered his labors and services, in the first instance, to the Jews. As he had a right, while living among the Gentiles, to offer himself as an apostle and teacher to the Jews; so the others were at liberty, wherever they had it in their power, to bring Gentiles to Christ; and we find Peter exercising this privilege with regard to Cornelius and others. (Act 10:1.) But as there were other apostles in that district, which was almost wholly inhabited by Jews, Paul traveled through Asia, Greece, and other distant parts, and on this occasion was specially ordained to be an apostle to the Gentiles. Nay, when the Lord first commanded him to be set apart, he directed him to leave Antioch and Syria, and perform voyages to distant countries for the sake of the Gentiles. On ordinary occasions, therefore, he was the apostle of the Gentiles, and on extraordinary occasions, he was the apostle of the Jews. The other apostles, again, took the Jews for their own department, but with the understanding that, when an opportunity occurred, they would be at liberty to direct their ministrations to the Gentiles; this last, however, being in their case an extraordinary service.

But if Peter’s apostleship had a peculiar reference to the Jews, let the Romanists see on what ground they derive from him their succession to the primacy. If the Pope of Rome claims the primacy because he is Peter’s successor, he ought to exercise it over the Jews. Paul is here declared to be the chief apostle of the Gentiles, yet they affirm that he was not bishop of Rome; and, therefore, if the Pope would establish any claim to his primacy, let him gather churches from among the Jews. He who by a decree of the Holy Spirit, and by the consent of the whole apostolic college, has been solemnly declared to be one of the apostles, cannot but be acknowledged by us in that character. Those who would transfer that right to Peter set aside all ordination, both human and divine. It is unnecessary to explain here the well-known metaphor in the words circumcision and uncircumcision, as applied to Jews and Gentiles.

Galatians 2:8

8.He that wrought effectually. That the province which had been assigned to him was truly his own, is proved by the exertion of divine power during his ministry. Now, this manifestation of divine energy, as we have frequently seen, is the seal by which his doctrine was attested, and his office as a teacher sanctioned. Whether Paul refers God’s effectual working to the success of his preaching, or to the graces of the Holy Spirit which were then bestowed on believers, is doubtful. I do not understand it as denoting the mere success, but the spiritual power and efficacy, (45) which he has elsewhere mentioned. (1Co 2:4.) The amount of the whole is, that it was no idle bargain which the apostles had made among themselves, but a decision which God had sealed.

(45)La vertu et efficace spiriluelle.”

Galatians 2:9

9.And when they perceived the grace. They who treated with contempt the grace of God, by which the most eminent apostles had been led to admire and reverence Paul, are charged with hateful and proud disdain. If they should allege that they were ignorant of that which the apostles knew from the beginning, the hypocritical pretense was not to be endured. This admonishes us to yield to the grace of God, wherever it is perceived, unless we choose to contend with the Holy Spirit, whose will it is that his gifts shall not remain unemployed. The grace which the apostles perceived to have been given to Paul and Barnabas, induced them to sanction their ministry by receiving them as their associates.

James and Cephas. I have already stated, that James was the son of Alpheus. He could not be “the brother of John” who had been lately put to death by Herod, (Act 12:2,) and to suppose that one of the disciples had been placed above the apostles would be absurd. That he held the highest rank among the apostles, is made evident by Luke, who ascribes to him the summing up and decision of the cause in the council, (Act 15:13,) and afterwards mentions his having assembled “all the elders” of the church of Jerusalem. (Act 21:18.) When he says, that they seemed to be pillars, he does not speak contemptuously, but quotes the general opinion, arguing from it, that what was done by such men ought not to be lightly set aside. In a question relating to diversity of rank, it is surprising that James should be mentioned before Peter; but the reason perhaps is, that he presided over the church at Jerusalem. As to the word pillar, we know that, from the nature of things, those who excel in ability, prudence, or other gifts, possess greater authority. And even in the Church of God, he who enjoys a larger measure of grace ought, on that account, to receive the higher honor. It argues ingratitude, nay impiety, not to worship the Spirit of God wherever he appears in his gifts; and as a people cannot want a pastor, so the assemblies of pastors require a moderator. But in all cases let the rule be followed,

“He that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (Mat 23:11.)

Galatians 2:10

10.That we should remember the poor. It is evident that the brethren who were in Judea labored under extreme poverty: otherwise they would not have burdened other churches. That might arise both from the various calamities which befell the whole nation, and from the cruel rage of their own countrymen, by which they were every day stript of their possessions. It was proper that they should receive assistance from the Gentiles, who owed to them the inestimable benefit of the gospel. Paul says, that he was forward to do, that he faithfully performed, what the apostles had requested from him, and thus he takes away from his adversaries a pretext which they were desirous to seize.

Galatians 2:11

11.When Peter was come. Whoever will carefully examine all the circumstances, will, I trust, agree with me in thinking, that this happened before the apostles had decided that the Gentiles should receive no annoyance about ceremonial observances. (Act 15:28.) For Peter would have entertained no dread of offending James, or those sent by him, after that decision had been passed: but such was the dissimulation of Peter, that, in opposing it, Paul was driven to assert “the truth of the gospel.” At first he said, that the certainty of his gospel does not in any degree depend on Peter and the apostles, so as to stand or fall by their judgment. Secondly, he said, that it had been approved by all without any exception or contradiction, and particularly by those who were universally admitted to hold the highest place. Now, as I have said, he goes further, and asserts that he had blamed Peter for leaning to the other side; and he proceeds to explain the cause of the dispute. It was no ordinary proof of the strength of his doctrine, that he not only obtained their cordial approbation, but firmly maintained it in a debate with Peter, and came off victorious. What reason could there now be for hesitating to receive it as certain and undoubted truth?

At the same time, this is a reply to another calumny, that Paul was but an ordinary disciple, far below the rank of an apostle: for the reproof which he administered was an evidence that the parties were on an equal footing. The highest, I acknowledge, are sometimes properly reproved by the lowest, for this liberty on the part of inferiors towards their superiors is permitted by God; and so it does not follow, that he who reproves another must be his equal. But the nature of the reproof deserves notice. Paul did not simply reprove Peter, as a Christian might reprove a Christian, but he did it officially, as the phrase is; that is, in the exercise of the apostolic character which he sustained.

This is another thunderbolt which strikes the Papacy of Rome. It exposes the impudent pretensions of the Roman Antichrist, who boasts that he is not bound to assign a reason, and sets at defiance the judgment of the whole Church. Without rashness, without undue boldness, but in the exercise of the power granted him by God, this single individual chastises Peter, in the presence of the whole Church; and Peter submissively bows to the chastisement. Nay, the whole debate on those two points was nothing less than a manifest overthrow of that tyrannical primacy, which the Romanists foolishly enough allege to be founded on divine right. If they wish to have God appearing on their side, a new Bible must be manufactured; if they do not wish to have him for an open enemy, those two chapters of the Holy Scriptures must be expunged.

Because he was worthy of blame. The Greek participle, κατεγνωσμένος, signifies Blamed, so that the words run, “because he was blamed;” but I have no doubt whatever, that the word was intended to express, “one who deserves just blame.” Chrysostom makes the meaning to be, that others had previously indulged in complaint and accusation; but this is really trifling. It was customary with the Greeks to give to their participles the signification of nouns, which, every person must see, is applicable to this passage. This will enable us to perceive the absurdity of the interpretation given by Jerome and Chrysostom, who represent the whole transaction as a feigned debate, which the apostles had previously arranged to take place in presence of the people. They are not even supported by the phrase, “I withstood him to the face , κατὰ πρόσωπον, which means that “to the face,” or “being present,” Peter was chastised and struck dumb. The observation of Chrysostom, that, for the sake of avoiding scandal, they would have talked in private if they had any difference, is frivolous. The less important must be disregarded in comparison of the most dangerous of all scandals, that the Church would be rent, that Christian liberty was in danger, that the doctrine of the grace of Christ was overthrown; and therefore this public offense must be publicly corrected.

The chief argument on which Jerome rests is excessively trifling. “Why should Paul,” says he, “condemn in another what he takes praise for in himself? for he boasts that ‘to the Jews he became as a Jew.’” (1Co 9:20.) I reply, that what Peter did is totally different. Paul accommodated himself to the Jews no farther than was consistent with the doctrine of liberty; and therefore he refused to circumcise Titus, that the truth of the gospel might remain unimpaired. But Peter Judaized in such a manner as to “compel the Gentiles” to suffer bondage, and at the same time to create a prejudice against Paul’s doctrine. He did not, therefore, observe the proper limit; for he was more desirous to please than to edify, and more solicitous to inquire what would gratify the Jews than what would be expedient for the whole body. Augustine is therefore right in asserting, that this was no previously arranged plan, but that Paul, out of Christian zeal, opposed the sinful and unseasonable dissimulation of Peter, because he saw that it would be injurious to the Church.

Galatians 2:12

12.For before that certain persons came. The state of the case is here laid down. For the sake of the Jews, Peter had withdrawn himself from the Gentiles, in order to drive them from the communion of the Church, unless they would relinquish the liberty of the Gospel, and submit to the yoke of the Law. If Paul had been silent here, his whole doctrine fell; all the edification obtained by his ministry was ruined. It was therefore necessary that he should rise manfully, and fight with courage. This shews us how cautiously we ought to guard against giving way to the opinions of men, lest an immoderate desire to please, or an undue dread of giving offense, should turn us aside from the right path. If this might happen to Peter, how much more easily may it happen to us, if we are not duly careful!

Galatians 2:14

14.But when I saw that they walked not uprightly. Some apply these words to the Gentiles, who, perplexed by Peter’s example, were beginning to give way; but it is more natural to understand them as referring to Peter and Barnabas, and their followers. The proper road to the truth of the gospel was, to unite the Gentiles with the Jews in such a manner that the true doctrine should not be injured. But to bind the consciences of godly men by an obligation to keep the law, and to bury in silence the doctrine of liberty, was to purchase unity at an exorbitant price.

The truth of the gospel is here used, by Paul, in the same sense as before, and is contrasted with those disguises by which Peter and others concealed its beauty. In such a case, the struggle which Paul had to maintain must unquestionably have been serious. They were perfectly agreed about doctrine; (46) but since, laying doctrine out of view, Peter yielded too submissively to the Jews, he is accused of halting. There are some who apologize for Peter on another ground, because, being the apostle of the circumcision, he was bound to take a particular concern in the salvation of the Jews; while they at the same time admit that Paul did right in pleading the cause of the Gentiles. But it is foolish to defend what the Holy Spirit by the mouth of Paul has condemned. This was no affair of men, but involved the purity of the gospel, which was in danger of being contaminated by Jewish leaven.

Before them all. This example instructs us, that those who have sinned publicly must be publicly chastised, so far as concerns the Church. The intention is, that their sin may not, by remaining unpunished, form a dangerous example; and Paul elsewhere (1Ti 5:20) lays down this rule expressly, to be observed in the case of elders,

“Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear;”

because the station which they hold renders their example more pernicious. It was particularly advantageous, that the good cause, in which all had an interest, should be openly defended in presence of the people, that Paul might have a better opportunity of shewing that he did not shrink from the broad light of day.

If thou, being a Jew. Paul’s address to Peter consists of two parts. In the first, he expostulates with him for his injustice toward the Gentiles, in compelling them to keep the law, from the obligations of which he wished himself to be exempted. For, not to mention that every man is bound to keep the law which he lays down for others, his conduct was greatly aggravated by compelling the Gentiles to observe Jewish ceremonies, while he, being a Jew, left himself at liberty. The law was given to Jews, not to Gentiles; so that he argues from the less to the greater.

Next, it is argued, that, in a harsh and violent manner, he compelled the Gentiles, by withdrawing from their communion, unless they chose to submit to the yoke of the law; and thus imposed on them an unjust condition. And, indeed, the whole force of the reproof lies in this word, which neither Chrysostom nor Jerome has remarked. The use of ceremonies was free for the purposes of edification, provided that believers were not deprived of their liberty, or laid under any restraint from which the gospel sets them free.

(46) “From this portion of sacred history, we are not at liberty to conclude that either of those two apostles had fallen into error in faith; or that they differed from each other about doctrine. Unquestionably, so far as relates to doctrine, Peter was of the same opinion with Paul on this subject, that it was lawful for a Jew to live on terms of friendship with believing Gentiles. — The whole of this controversy related, not to the doctrine of Christian liberty, but to the exercise of it at different times and places; and on this point the rules of prudence were better understood by Paul than by Peter.” — Witsius.

Galatians 2:15

15.We who are Jews by nature. Some, I am aware, think that this is stated in the form of an objection, (ἀνθυποφορὰ,) anticipating what might be urged on the other side, that the Jews possessed higher privileges; not that they would boast of exemption from the law, (for it would have been highly absurd, that they to whom the Law was given should make this their boast,) but that there was a propriety in retaining some points of distinction between them and the Gentiles. I do not entirely reject, and yet, as will afterwards appear, I do not altogether adopt this view. Some, again, consider that it is Paul himself who uses this argument, “If you were to lay upon the Jews the burden of the law, it would be more reasonable, because it is theirs by inheritance.” But neither do I approve of this view.

He is now proceeding to the second part of his speech, which commences with an anticipation. The Gentiles differed from them in this respect, that they were “unholy and profane,” (1Ti 1:9;) while the Jews, being holy, so far as God had chosen them for his people, might contend for this superiority. skillfully anticipating the objection, Paul turns it to the opposite conclusion. Since the Jews themselves, with all their advantages, were forced to betake themselves to the faith of Christ, how much more necessary was it that the Gentiles should look for salvation through faith? Paul’s meaning therefore is: “We, who appear to excel others, — we, who, by means of the covenant, have always enjoyed the privilege of being nigh to God, (Deu 4:7,) have found no method of obtaining salvation, but by believing in Christ: why, then, should we prescribe another method to the Gentiles? For, if the law were necessary or advantageous for salvation to those who observed its enactments, it must have been most of all advantageous to us to whom it was given; but if we relinquished it, and betook ourselves to Christ, much less ought compliance with it to be urged upon the Gentiles.”

The word sinner, signifies here, as in many other places, a “profane person,” (Heb 12:16,) or one who is lost and alienated from God. Such were the Gentiles, who had no intercourse with God; while the Jews were, by adoption, the children of God, and therefore set apart to holiness. By nature, does not mean that they were naturally free from the corruption of the human race; for David, who was a descendant of Abraham, acknowledges,

“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me,” (Psa 51:5,)

but the corruption of nature, to which they were liable, had been met by the remedy of sanctifying grace. Now, as the promise made the blessing hereditary, so this benefit is called natural; just as, in the Epistle to the Romans, he says, that they were sprung from a “holy root.” (Rom 11:16.)

When he says, we are Jews by nature, his meaning is, “We are born holy: not certainly by our own merit, but because God hath chosen us to be his people.” Well, then, we who were by nature Jews, what have we done? “We have believed in Jesus Christ.” What was the design of our believing? “That we might be justified by the faith of Christ.” For what reason? Because we “know that a man is not justified by the works of the law.” From the nature and effect of faith, he reasons that the Jews are in no degree justified by the law. For, as they who

“go about to establish their own righteousness have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God,” (Rom 10:3,)

so, on the contrary, they who believe in Christ, confess that they are sinners, and renounce justification by works. This involves the main question, or rather, in this single proposition nearly the whole controversy is embodied. It is the more necessary to bestow some care on the examination of this passage.

The first thing to be noticed is, that we must seek justification by the faith of Christ, because we cannot be justified by works. Now, the question is, what is meant by the works of the law ? The Papists, misled by Origen and Jerome, are of opinion, and lay it down as certain, that the dispute relates to shadows; and accordingly assert, that by “the works of the law” are meant ceremonies. As if Paul were not reasoning about the free justification which is bestowed on us by Christ. For they see no absurdity in maintaining that “no man is justified by the works of the law,” and yet that, by the merit of works, we are accounted righteous in the sight of God. In short, they hold that no mention is here made of the works of the moral law. But the context clearly proves that the moral law is also comprehended in these words; for almost everything which Paul afterwards advances belongs more properly to the moral than to the ceremonial law; and he is continually employed in contrasting the righteousness of the law with the free acceptance which God is pleased to bestow.

It is objected by our opponents, that the term “works” must have been employed without any addition, if Paul had not intended to limit it to a particular class. But I reply, there is the best of all reasons for this mode of expression; for, though a man were to excel all the angels in holiness, no reward is due to works, but on the footing of a Divine promise. Perfect obedience to the law is righteousness, and has a promise of eternal life annexed to it; but it derives this character from God, who declares that “they who have fulfilled them shall live.” (Lev 18:5.) On this point we shall afterwards treat more fully in its own place. (47) Besides, the controversy with the Jews was about the law. Paul, therefore, chose rather to bring the matter to an issue, by meeting them at once on their own ground, than to adopt a more circuitous route, which might wear the aspect of evading the subject, or distrusting his cause. Accordingly he resolves to have a close debate about the law.

Their second objection is, that the whole question raised was about ceremonies, which we readily allow. Why then, say they, would the apostle pass suddenly from a particular department to the whole subject? This was the sole cause of the mistake into which Origen and Jerome were betrayed; for they did not think it natural that, while the false apostles were contending about ceremonies alone, Paul should take in a larger field. But they did not consider that the very reason for disputing so keenly was, that the doctrine led to more serious consequences than at first view appeared. It would not have given so much uneasiness to Paul that ceremonies should be observed, as that the confident hope and the glory of salvation should be made to rest on works; just as, in the dispute about forbidding flesh on certain days, we do not look so much to the importance of the prohibition itself, as to the snare which is laid for the consciences of men. Paul, therefore, does not wander from the subject, when he enters into a controversy about the whole law, although the arguments of the false apostles were confined wholly to ceremonies. Their object in pressing ceremonies was, that men might seek salvation by obedience to the law, which, they falsely maintained, was meritorious; and accordingly, Paul meets them, not with the moral law, but with the grace of Christ alone. And yet this extended discussion does not occupy the whole of the Epistle; he comes at length to the specific question of ceremonies: but as the most serious difficulty was, whether justification is to be obtained by works or by faith, it was proper that this should be first settled. As the Papists of the present day are uneasy when we extort from them the acknowledgment that men are justified by faith alone, they reluctantly admit that “the works of the law” include those of a moral nature. Many of them, however, by quoting Jerome’s gloss, imagine that they have made a good defense; but the context will show that the words relate also to the moral law. (48)

(47) See p. 90.

(48) “The Papists will readily acknowledge that we are justified by faith; but they add that it is in part. Now this gloss spoils all; for they are convinced that we cannot be righteous before God, unless it be accomplished by our Lord Jesus Christ, and unless we rely on that salvation which he has procured for us. The Papists see this very well; and therefore, with a careless air, they will say, We are justified by faith. But by faith alone? No. On this point they give battle, and this is the chief article on which we differ from them.” — Calvin’s Sermons.

Galatians 2:16

16.But by the faith of Jesus Christ. He does not merely state that ceremonies, or works of any kind, are insufficient without the assistance of faith, but meets their denial by a statement admitting of no exception, as if he had said, “Not by works, but by the Gift of Christ alone.” In any other point of view, the sentiment would have been trivial and foreign to the purpose; for the false apostles did not reject Christ nor faith, but demanded that ceremonies should be joined with them. If Paul had admitted this claim, they would have been perfectly at one, and he would have been under no necessity to agitate the church by this unpleasant debate. Let it therefore remain settled, that the proposition is so framed as to admit of no exception, “that we are justified in no other way than by faith,” or, “that we are not justified but by faith,” or, which amounts to the same thing, “that we are justified by faith alone.”

Hence it appears with what silly trifling the Papists of our day dispute with us about the word, as if it had been a word of our contrivance. But Paul was unacquainted with the theology of the Papists, who declare that a man is justified by faith, and yet make a part of justification to consist in works. Of such half-justification Paul knew nothing. For, when he instructs us that we are justified by faith, because we cannot be justified by works, he takes for granted what is true, that we cannot be justified through the righteousness of Christ, unless we are poor and destitute of a righteousness of our own. (49) Consequently, either nothing or all must be ascribed to faith or to works. As to the word justification, and the manner in which faith is the cause of it, we shall afterwards see.

By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. He had already appealed to the consciences of Peter and others, and now confirms it more fully by affirming that such is the actual truth, that by the works of the law no mortal will obtain justification. This is the foundation of a freely bestowed righteousness, when we are stripped of a righteousness of our own. Besides, when he asserts that no mortal is justified by the righteousness of the law, the assertion amounts to this, that from such a mode of justification all mortals are excluded, and that none can possibly reach it.

(49) Sinon en nous recognoissant despourveus et du tout desnuez de justice propre a nons.” “Unless by acknowledging that we are poor and utterly destitute of any righteousness of our own.”

Galatians 2:17

17.If, while we seek to be justified. He now returns to the Galatians. We must take care not to connect this verse with the preceding one, as if it were a part of the speech addressed to Peter: for what had Peter to do with this argument? It certainly has very little, if anything, to do with the speech; but let every one form his own opinion.

Chrysostom, and some other commentators, make the whole passage to be an affirmation, and interpret it thus: “If, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we are not yet perfectly righteous, but still unholy, and if, consequently, Christ is not sufficient for our righteousness, it follows that Christ is the minister of the doctrine which leaves men in sin:” supposing that, by this absurd proposition, Paul insinuates a charge of blasphemy against those who attribute a part of justification to the law. But as the expression of indignant abhorrence immediately follows, which Paul is never accustomed to employ but in answer to questions, I am rather inclined to think that the statement is made for the purpose of setting aside an absurd conclusion which his doctrine appeared to warrant. He puts a question, in his usual manner, into the mouth of his antagonists. “If, in consequence of the righteousness of faith, we, who are Jews and were ‘sanctified from the womb,’ (Jer 1:5 Gal 1:15,) are reckoned guilty and polluted, shall we say that Christ makes sin to be powerful in his own people, and that he is therefore the author of sin?”

This suspicion arose from his having said that Jews, by believing in Christ, renounce the righteousness of the law; for, while they are still at a distance from Christ, Jews, separated from the ordinary pollution of the Gentiles, appear to be in some respects exempted from the appellation of sinners. The grace of Christ places them on a level with the Gentiles; and the remedy, which is common to both, shews that both had labored under the same disease. This is the force of the particle also, — we ourselves also, — meaning not any description of men, but the Jews, who stood highest.

Far from it. He properly rejects that inference. Christ, who discovers the sin which lay concealed, is not therefore the minister of sin; as if, by depriving us of righteousness, he opened the gate to sin, or strengthened its dominion. (50) The Jews were mistaken in claiming any holiness for themselves apart from Christ, while they had none. Hence arose the complaint: “Did Christ come to take from us the righteousness of the law, to change saints into polluted men, to subject us to sin and guilt?” Paul denies it, and repels the blasphemy with abhorrence. Christ did not bring sin, but unveiled it; he did not take away righteousness, but stripped the Jews of a false disguise.

(50) Εἰ παράβασις τιῦτο νεν́ομισται ὅτι τὸν νόμον καταλιπόντες ἐν Χριστῷ ζητοῦμεν δικαιωθὢναι, ἡ αἰτία εἰς αὐτὸν Χριστὸν χωρήσει. “If this be reckoned an offence, that we have forsaken the law, and seek to be justified through Christ, the blame will fall on Christ himself.” — Theodoret.

Galatians 2:18

18.For if I build again. The reply consists of two parts. This is the first part, and informs us that the supposition now made is at variance with his whole doctrine, since he had preached the faith of Christ in such a manner as to connect with it the ruin and destruction of sin. For, as we are taught by John, that Christ came not to build up the kingdom of sin, but “that he might destroy the works of the devil,” (1Jo 3:8,) so Paul declares, that, in preaching the gospel, he had restoreth true righteousness, in order that sin might be destroyed. It was, therefore, in the highest degree improbable, that the same person who destroyed sin should renew its power; and, by stating the absurdity, he repels the calumny.

Galatians 2:19

19.For I through the law. Now follows the direct reply, that we must not ascribe to Christ that work which properly belongs to the law. It was not necessary that Christ should destroy the righteousness of the law, for the law itself slays its disciples. As if he had said, “You deceive wretched men by the false notion, that they must live by the law; and, under that pretext, you keep them in the law. And yet you bring it as a charge against the Gospel, that it annihilates the righteousness which we have by the law. But it is the law which forces us to die to itself; for it threatens our destruction, leaves us nothing but despair, and thus drives us away from trusting to the law.”

This passage will be better understood by comparing it with Rom 7:0. There Paul describes beautifully, that no man lives to the law, but he to whom the law is dead, that is, has lost all power and efficacy; for, as soon as the law begins to live in us, it inflicts a fatal wound by which we die, and at the same time breathes life into the man who is already dead to sin. Those who live to the law, therefore, have never felt the power of the law, or properly understood what the law means; for the law, when truly perceived, makes us die to itself, and it is from this source, and not from Christ, that sin proceeds.

To die to the law, may either mean that we renounce it, and are delivered from its dominion, so that we have no confidence in it, and, on the other hand, that it does not hold us captives under the yoke of slavery; or it may mean, that, as it allures us all to destruction, we find in it no life. The latter view appears to be preferable. It is not to Christ, he tells us, that it is owing that the law is more hurtful than beneficial; but the law carries within itself the curse which slays us. Hence it follows, that the death which is brought on by the law is truly deadly. With this is contrasted another kind of death, in the life-giving fellowship of the cross of Christ. He says, that he is crucified together with Christ, that he might live unto God. The ordinary punctuation of this passage obscures the true meaning. It is this: “I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live to God.” But the context will read more smoothly thus: “I through the law am dead to the law;” then, in a separate sentence, “That I might live to God, I am crucified with Christ.”

That I might live to God. He shews that the kind of death, on which the false apostles seized as a ground of quarrel, is a proper object of desire; for he declares that we are dead to the law, not by any means that we may live to sin, but that we may live to God. To live to God, sometimes means to regulate our life according to his will, so as to study nothing else in our whole life but to gain his approbation; but here it means to live, if we may be allowed the expression, the life of God. In this way the various points of the contrast are preserved; for in whatever sense we are said to die to sin, in the same sense do we live to God. In short, Paul informs us that this death is not mortal, but is the cause of a better life; because God snatches us from the shipwreck of the law, and by his grace raises us up to another life. I say nothing of other interpretations; but this appears to be the apostle’s real meaning.

Galatians 2:20

20.I am crucified with Christ. This explains the manner in which we, who are dead to the law, live to God. Ingrafted into the death of Christ, we derive from it a secret energy, as the twig does from the root. Again, the handwriting of the law,

“which was contrary to us, Christ has nailed to his cross.” (Col 2:14.)

Being then crucified with him, we are freed from all the curse and guilt of the law. He who endeavors to set aside that deliverance makes void the cross of Christ. But let us remember, that we are delivered from the yoke of the law, only by becoming one with Christ, as the twig draws its sap from the root, only by growing into one nature.

Nevertheless I live. To the feelings of man, the word Death is always unpleasant. Having said that we are “crucified with Christ,” he therefore adds, “that this makes us alive.”

Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. This explains what he meant by “living to God.” He does not live by his own life, but is animated by the secret power of Christ; so that Christ may be said to live and grow in him; for, as the soul enlivens the body, so Christ imparts life to his members. It is a remarkable sentiment, that believers live out of themselves, that is, they live in Christ; which can only be accomplished by holding real and actual communication with him. Christ lives in us in two ways. The one life consists in governing us by his Spirit, and directing all our actions; the other, in making us partakers of his righteousness; so that, while we can do nothing of ourselves, we are accepted in the sight of God. The first relates to regeneration, the second to justification by free grace. This passage may be understood in the latter sense; but if it is thought better to apply it to both, I will cheerfully adopt that view.

And the life which I now live in the flesh. There is hardly a sentence here which has not been torn by a variety of interpretations. Some understand by the word flesh, the depravity of sinful nature; but Paul means by it simply the bodily life, and it is to this that the objection applies. “You live a bodily life; but while this corruptible body performs its functions, — while it is supported by eating and drinking, this is not the heavenly life of Christ. It is therefore an unreasonable paradox to assert, that, while you are openly living after the ordinary manner of men, your life is not your own.”

Paul replies, that it consists in faith; which intimates that it is a secret hidden from the senses of man. The life, therefore, which we attain by faith is not visible to the bodily eye, but is inwardly perceived in the conscience by the power of the Spirit; so that the bodily life does not prevent us from enjoying, by faith, a heavenly life.

“He hath made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:6.)

Again,

“You are fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God.” (Eph 2:19.)

And again,

“Our conversation is in heaven.” (Phi 3:20.)

Paul’s writings are full of similar assertions, that, while we live in the world, we at the same time live in heaven; not only because our Head is there, but because, in virtue of union, we enjoy a life in common with him. (Joh 14:23.)

Who loved me. This is added to express the power of faith; for it would immediately occur to any one, — whence does faith derive such power as to convey into our souls the life of Christ? He accordingly informs us, that the love of Christ, and his death, are the objects on which faith rests; for it is in this manner that the effect of faith must be judged. How comes it that we live by the faith of Christ? Because “he loved us, and gave himself for us.” The love of Christ led him to unite himself to us, and he completed the union by his death. By giving himself for us, he suffered in our own person; as, on the other hand, faith makes us partakers of every thing which it finds in Christ. The mention of love is in accordance with the saying of the apostle John,

“Not that we loved God, but he anticipated us by his love.” (1Jo 4:10)

For if any merit of ours had moved him to redeem us, this reason would have been stated; but now Paul ascribes the whole to love: it is therefore of free grace. Let us observe the order: “He loved us, and gave himself for us.” As if he had said, “He had no other reason for dying, but because he loved us,” and that “when we were enemies,” (Rom 5:10,) as he argues in another Epistle.

He gave himself. No words can properly express what this means; for who can find language to declare the excellency of the Son of God? Yet he it is who gave himself as a price for our redemption. Atonement, cleansing, satisfaction, and all the benefits which we derive from the death of Christ, are here represented. (51) The words for me, are very emphatic. It will not be enough for any man to contemplate Christ as having died for the salvation of the world, unless he has experienced the consequences of this death, and is enabled to claim it as his own. (52)

(51) Χριστός ἐστι πάντα ἐν ὑμῖν καὶ κρατῶν καὶ δεσπόζων· Καὶ τὸ μὲν ἡμέτερον θέλημα νεκρόν ἐστι. Τὸ δὲ ἐκείνου ζὣ καὶ κυθερνᾷ τὴν ζωὴν ἡμῶν. “It is Christ who does and rules and governs all in you; and our will is dead, but his will lives and directs our life.” — Theophylact.

(52)Car cene seroit point assez de considerer que Christ est mort pour le salut du monde, si avec cela un chaeun n’applique particulierement a sa personne l’efficace et jouissance de ceste grace.” “For it would not be enough to consider that Christ died for the salvation of the world, unless each individual specially apply to his own person the efficacy and enjoyment of that grace.”

Galatians 2:21

21.I do not reject. There is great emphasis in this expression; for how dreadful is the ingratitude manifested in despising the grace of God, so invaluable in itself, and obtained at such a price! Yet this heinous offense is charged against the false apostles, who were not satisfied with having Christ alone, but introduced some other aids towards obtaining salvation. For, if we do not renounce all other hopes, and embrace Christ alone, we reject the grace of God. And what resource is left to the man, who “puts from him” the grace of God, “and judges himself unworthy of everlasting life?” (Act 13:46.)

Christ is dead in vain (53) There would then have been no value in the death of Christ; or, Christ would have died without any reward; for the reward of his death is, that he has reconciled us to the Father by making an atonement for our sins. Hence it follows, that we are justified by his grace, and, therefore, not by works. The Papists explain this in reference to the ceremonial law; but who does not see that it applies to the whole law? If we could produce a righteousness of our own, then Christ has suffered in vain; for the intention of his sufferings was to procure it for us, and what need was there that a work which we could accomplish for ourselves should be obtained from another? If the death of Christ be our redemption, then we were captives; if it be satisfaction, we were debtors; if it be atonement, we were guilty; if it be cleansing, we were unclean. On the contrary, he who ascribes to works his sanctification, pardon, atonement, righteousness, or deliverance, makes void the death of Christ.

This argument, we shall perhaps be told, is of no weight against those who propose to unite the grace of Christ with works; which, it is universally admitted, was done by the false apostles. The two doctrines, it is alleged, stand together, that righteousness is by the law, and that we are redeemed by the death of Christ. True; supposing it were granted that a part of our righteousness is obtained by works, and a part comes from grace. But such theology, it may easily be proved, was unknown to Paul. His argument with his opponents is either conclusive or inconclusive. If any blasphemer shall dare to accuse him of bad reasoning, a powerful defense is at hand; for that justification in the sight of God of which he treats, is not what men may imagine to be sufficient, but what is absolutely perfect.

But we are not now called to plead in behalf of Paul against blasphemers, who venture to speak in reproachful language of the Holy Spirit himself. Our present business is with the Papists. They ridicule us, when we argue with Paul that, if righteousness come by works, Christ is dead in vain. They imagine it to be a beautiful reply, with which their sophists furnish them, that Christ merited for us the first grace, that is, the opportunity of meriting; and that the merit of his death concurs with the satisfactions of works for the daily pardon of sins. Let them ridicule Paul, whose language we quote. They must refute him before they can refute us. We know that he had to deal with men, who did not entirely reject the grace of Christ, but ascribed the half of salvation to works. In opposition to them he argues, that “if righteousness is by the law, then Christ is dead in vain;” and by so doing, he certainly does not allow to works one drop of righteousness. Between those men and the Papists there is no difference; and therefore, in refuting them, we are at liberty to employ Paul’s argument.

(53)Δωρεὰν ἀπέθανε does not mean ‘in vain,’ ‘uselessly,’ ‘ineffectually,’ but ‘without just cause;’ for if righteousness be by the law, there was no reason why he should die.” — Tittmann.

Εἰ γὰρ ἀπέθανεν ὁ Χριστός εὔδηλον ὅτι διὰ τὸ μὴ ἰσχύειν τὸν νόμον ἡμᾶς δικαιοῦν· εἰ δ ᾿ ὁ νόμος δικαιοῖ περιττὸς ὁ τοῦ Χριστοῦ θάνατος. “For if Christ died, it is very evident that it was because the law was unable to justify us; and if the law justifies us, the death of Christ was superfluous.” — Chrysostom.

John Calvin (1509-1564) – The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians (P2/2)

The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians
By
John Calvin (1509-1564)
Copyright – Public Domain

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Galatians Chapter Three

Galatians 3:1

1.O foolish Galatians. An expostulation is here interwoven — I should rather say, inserted — amidst his doctrinal statements. Some will wonder that he did not delay it to the close of the Epistle, but the very serious nature of the errors which he has brought forward unquestionably roused him to a burst of passion. When we hear that the Son of God, with all his benefits, is rejected, that his death is esteemed as nothing, what pious mind would not break out into indignation? He therefore declares that those who allowed themselves to be involved in so heinous a crime must have been ἀνόητοι, that is, “disordered in mind.” He accuses them not only of having suffered themselves to be deceived, but of having been carried away by some sort of magical enchantment, (54) which is a still more serious charge. He insinuates that their fall partook more of madness than of folly.

Some think that Paul refers to the temper of the nation, that, being sprung from barbarians, it was more difficult to train them; but I rather think that he refers to the subject itself. It looks like something supernatural, that, after enjoying the gospel in such clearness, they should be affected by the delusions of Satan. He does not merely say that they were “bewitched” and “disordered in mind,” because they did not obey the truth; but because, after having received instruction so clear, so full, so tender, and so powerful, they immediately fell away. Erasmus has chosen to interpret the words, “that ye should not believe the truth.” I am not quite prepared to set aside that rendering, but would prefer the word obey, because Paul does not charge them with having, from the outset, rejected the gospel, but with not having persevered in obedience.

Before whose eyes. This is intended, as I have already hinted, to express an aggravation; for, the better opportunities they had of knowing Christ, the more heinous was the criminality of forsaking him. Such, he tells them, was the clearness of his doctrine, that it was not naked doctrine, but the express, living image of Christ. (55) They had known Christ in such a manner, that they might be almost said to have seen him.

Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth. Augustine’s interpretation of the word προεγράφη, (“hath been set forth,”) is harsh, and inconsistent with Paul’s design. He makes it to signify that Christ was to be thrust out from possession. Others propose a different phrase, (proscriptus,) which, if used in the sense of “openly proclaimed,” would not be inapplicable. The Greeks, accordingly, borrow from this verb the word προγράμματα, to denote boards on which property intended to be sold was published, so as to be exposed to the view of all. But the participle, painted, is less ambiguous, and, in my own opinion, is exceedingly appropriate. To shew how energetic his preaching was, Paul first compares it to a picture, which exhibited to them, in a lively manner, the image of Christ.

But, not satisfied with this comparison, he adds, Christ hath been crucified among you, intimating that the actual sight of Christ’s death could not have affected them more powerfully than his own preaching. The view given by some, that the Galatians had “crucified to themselves (Heb 6:6) the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame;” that they had withdrawn from the purity of the gospel; or, at least, had lent their ear, and given their confidence, to impostors who crucified him, — appears to me overstrained. The meaning therefore is, that Paul’s doctrine had instructed them concerning Christ in such a manner as if he had been exhibited to them in a picture, nay, “crucified among them.” Such a representation could not have been made by any eloquence, or by “enticing words of man’s wisdom,” (1Co 2:4,) had it not been accompanied by that power of the Spirit, of which Paul has treated largely in both the Epistles to the Corinthians.

Let those who would discharge aright the ministry of the gospel learn, not merely to speak and declaim, but to penetrate into the consciences of men, to make them see Christ crucified, and feel the shedding of his blood. (56) When the Church has painters such as these, she no longer needs the dead images of wood and stone, she no longer requires pictures; both of which, unquestionably, were first admitted to Christian temples when the pastors had become dumb and been converted into mere idols, or when they uttered a few words from the pulpit in such a cold and careless manner, that the power and efficacy of the ministry were utterly extinguished.

(54)Βασκαίνειν, ‘to enchant, to fascinate, to delude by magical charms,’ — -rather an uncommon word, ἃπαξ λεγόμενον in the New Testament. It may amuse to notice the etumon of the word. Some grammarians have strangely thought it derived from φάεσι καίνειν, ‘to kill with the eyes.’ Its true etymology obviously is, βάω, βάσκω, βασκάω βασκαίνω. βάσκω (equivalent to φάσκω,), ‘to say, to speak,’ comes, in the form βασκαίνω, to signify κακολογεῖν, ‘to calumniate,’ then ‘to deceive,’ then ‘to deceive by magical arts.’” — Brown.

(55) Καὶ μὴν οὐκ ἐν τὣΓαλατῶν χώρᾳ ἀλλ ᾿ ἐν ̔ιεροσολύμοις ἐσταυρώθν. Πῶς οὖν φησιν, ἐν ὑμῖν; Τὢς πίστεως δεικνὺς τὴν ἰσχυν καὶ τὰ πόρ᾿ῥωθεν δυναμένης ὁρᾷν. Καὶ οὐκ εἶπεν, ἐσταυρώθη ἀλλὰ προεγράθη ἐσταυρωμένος δηλῶν ὅτι τοῖς τὢς πίστεως ὀφθαλμοῖς ἀκριβέστερον ἐθεώρησαν τῶν παρόντων ἐνίων καὶ τὰ γινόμενα θεωμένων “Yet it was not in the country of the Galatians, but in Jerusalem, that he was crucified. How, then, does he say, ‘Among you?’ To demonstrate the power of faith, which is able to see even distant objects, And he does not say, ‘Was crucified,’ but ‘Was painted crucified,’ shewing that by the eyes of faith they beheld more distinctly than some who were present and saw the transactions.” — Chrysostom.

(56) “Display the sufferings of Christ like one who was an eye-witness of those sufferings, and hold up the blood, the precious blood of atonement, as issuing warm from the cross.” — Robert Hall.

Galatians 3:2

2.This one I wish to learn from you. He now proceeds to support his cause by additional arguments. The first is drawn from their experience, for he reminds them in what manner the gospel was introduced among themselves. When they heard the gospel, they received the Spirit. It was not to the law, therefore, but to faith, that they owed the reception of this benefit. This same argument is employed by Peter in the defense which he makes to his brethren for having baptized uncircumcised persons. (Act 10:47.) Paul and Barnabas followed the same course in the debate which they maintained at Jerusalem on this subject. (Act 15:2.) There was therefore manifest ingratitude in not submitting to the doctrine, by means of which they had received the Holy Spirit. The opportunity which he gives them to reply is expressive not of doubt, but of greater confidence: for their convictions, founded on their own experience, forced them to acknowledge that it was true.

Faith is here put, by a figure of speech, for the gospel, which is elsewhere called “the law of faith,” (Rom 3:27,) because it exhibits to us the free grace of God in Christ, without any merit of works. The Spirit means here, I think, the grace of regeneration, which is common to all believers; though I have no objection to understand it as referring to the peculiar gifts by which the Lord, at that period, honored the preaching of the gospel. (57)

It may be objected, that the Spirit was not, in this respect, given to all. But, it was enough for Paul’s purpose, that the Galatians knew that the power of the Holy Spirit in his Church had accompanied Paul’s doctrine, and that believers were variously endowed with the gifts of the Spirit for general edification. It may likewise be objected, that those gifts were not infallible signs of adoption, and so do not apply to the present question. I reply, that it was enough that the Lord had confirmed the doctrine of Paul by the visible gifts of his Spirit. A still simpler view of the case is, that they had been distinguished by the ordinary privilege of adoption, before those impostors had brought forward their additions. “In whom,” says he to the Ephesians,

“ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” (Eph 1:13.)

(57) “Did ye receive that Spirit which was the fullest evidence of your being justified, accepted, and received as the children and people of God, by conformity to the law of Moses, or by embracing the doctrine of the gospel? If by embracing the doctrine of the gospel, then you became justified by embracing that doctrine, and consequently need not conform to the law of Moses, in order to obtain justification.” — Chandler.

Galatians 3:3

3.Are ye so foolish? Commentators are not agreed as to what he means by the Spirit and by the flesh. He alludes, in my opinion, to what he had said about the Spirit. As if he had said, “As the doctrine of the gospel brought to you the Holy Spirit, the commencement of your course was spiritual; but now ye have fallen into a worse condition, and may be said to have fallen from the Spirit into the flesh.” The flesh denotes either outward and fading flyings, such as ceremonies are, particularly when they are separated from Christ; or it denotes dead and fading doctrine. There was a strange inconsistency between their splendid commencement and their future progress.

Galatians 3:4

4.Have ye suffered so many things? This is another argument. Having suffered so many things in behalf of the gospel, would they now, in an instant, lose it all? Nay, he puts it in the way of reproach, if they were willing to lose the advantage of so many illustrious struggles which they had made for the faith. If the true faith had not been delivered to them by Paul, it was rash to suffer anything in defense of a bad cause; but they had experienced the presence of God amidst their persecutions. Accordingly, he charges the false apostles with ill-will in depriving the Galatians of such valuable ornaments. But to mitigate the severity of this complaint, he adds, if it be yet in vain; thus inspiring their minds with the expectation of something better, and rousing them to the exercise of repentance. For the intention of all chastisement is, not to drive men to despair, but to lead them to a better course.

Galatians 3:5

5.He therefore that ministereth. He is not now speaking of the grace of regeneration, but of the other gifts of the Spirit; for a subject different from the preceding one is manifestly introduced. He warns them that all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, in which they excelled, are the fruits of the gospel, of that gospel which had been preached among them by his own lips. Their new teachers deprived them of those gifts when they left the gospel, and fled to another kind of doctrine. In proportion to the value which they attached to those gifts, to which the apostle here adds miracles, they ought the more carefully and resolutely to adhere to the gospel.

Galatians 3:6

Having appealed to facts and experience, he now gives quotations from Scripture. And first, he brings forward the example of Abraham. Arguments drawn from examples are not always so conclusive, but this is one of the most powerful, because neither in the subject nor in the person is there any ground of exception. There is no variety of roads to righteousness, and so Abraham is called “the father of all them that believe,” (Rom 4:11,) because he is a pattern adapted to all; nay, in his person has been laid down to us the universal rule for obtaining righteousness.

6. Even as Abraham. We must here supply some such phrase as but rather; for, having put a question, he resolved instantly to cut off every ground of hesitation. At least the phrase “even as, ” (καθὼς,) refers only to the verse immediately preceding, to the “ministration of the Spirit and of miracles by the hearing of faith;” as if he had said, that, in the grace bestowed on them, a similarity might be found to the case of Abraham.

Believed God. By this quotation he proves both here, and in the 4th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, that men are justified by faith, because the faith of Abraham was accounted to him, for righteousness. (Rom 4:3.) We must here inquire briefly, first, what Paul intends by faith; secondly, what is righteousness; and thirdly, why faith is represented to be a cause of justification. Faith does not mean any kind of conviction which men may have of the truth of God; for though Cain had a hundred times exercised faith in God when denouncing punishment against him, this had nothing to do with obtaining righteousness. Abraham was justified by believing, because, when he received from God a promise of fatherly kindness, he embraced it as certain. Faith therefore has a relation and respect to such a divine promise as may enable men to place their trust and confidence in God.

As to the word righteousness, we must attend to the phraseology of Moses. When he says, that

“he believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness,” (Gen 15:6,)

he intimates that that person is righteous who is reckoned as such in the sight of God. Now, since men have not righteousness dwelling within themselves, they obtain this by imputation; because God holds their faith as accounted for righteousness. We are therefore said to be “justified by faith,” (Rom 3:28,) not because faith infuses into us a habit or quality, but because we are accepted by God.

But why does faith receive such honor as to be entitled a cause of our justification? First, we must observe, that it is merely an instrumental cause; for, strictly speaking, our righteousness is nothing else than God’s free acceptance of us, on which our salvation is founded. But as the Lord testifies his love and grace in the gospel, by offering to us that righteousness of which I have spoken, so we receive it by faith. And thus, when we ascribe to faith a man’s justification, we are not treating of the principal cause, but merely pointing out the way in which men arrive at true righteousness. For this righteousness is not a quality which exists in men, but is the mere gift of God, and is enjoyed by faith only; and not even as a reward justly due to faith, but because we receive by faith what God freely gives. All such expressions as the following are of similar import: We are “justified freely by his grace.” (Rom 3:24.) Christ is our righteousness. The mercy of God is the cause of our righteousness. By the death and resurrection of Christ, righteousness has been procured for us. Righteousness is bestowed on us through the gospel. We obtain righteousness by faith.

Hence appears the ridiculousness of the blunder of attempting to reconcile the two propositions, that we are justified by faith, and that we are justified at the same time by works; for he who is “just by faith” (Hab 2:4 Heb 10:38) is poor and destitute of personal righteousness, and relies on the grace of God alone. And this is the reason why Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans, concludes that Abraham, having obtained righteousness by faith, had no right to glory before God. (Rom 4:2.) For it is not said that faith was imputed to him for a part of righteousness, but simply for righteousness; so that his faith was truly his righteousness. Besides, faith looks at nothing but the mercy of God, and a dead and risen Christ. All merit of works is thus excluded from being the cause of justification, when the whole is ascribed to faith. For faith, — so far as it embraces the undeserved goodness of God, Christ with all his benefits, the testimony of our adoption which is contained in the gospel, — is universally contrasted with the law, with the merit of works, and with human excellence. The notion of the sophists, that it is contrasted with ceremonies alone, will presently be disproved, with little difficulty, from the context. Let us therefore remember, that those who are righteous by faith, are righteous out of themselves, that is, in Christ.

Hence, too, we obtain a refutation of the idle cavilling of certain persons who evade Paul’s reasoning. Moses they tell us, gives the name of righteousness to goodness; and so means nothing more than that Abraham was reckoned a good man, because he believed God. Giddy minds of this description, raised up in our time by Satan, endeavor, by indirect slanders, to undermine the certainty of Scripture. Paul knew that Moses was not there giving lessons to boys in grammar, but was speaking of a decision which God had pronounced, and very properly viewed the word righteousness in a theological sense. For it is not in that sense in which goodness is mentioned with approbation among men, that we are accounted righteous in the sight of God, but only where we render perfect obedience to the law. Righteousness is contrasted with the transgression of the law, even in its smallest point; and because we have it not from ourselves, it is freely given to us by God.

But here the Jews object that Paul has completely tortured the words of Moses to suit his own purpose; for Moses does not here treat of Christ, or of eternal life, but only mentions an earthly inheritance. The Papists are not very different from the Jews; for, though they do not venture to inveigh against Paul, they entirely evade his meaning. Paul, we reply, takes for granted, what Christians hold to be a first principle, that whatever promises the Lord made to Abraham were appendages of that first promise,

“I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” (Gen 15:1.)

When Abraham received the promise,

“In multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore” (Gen 22:17,)

he did not limit his view to that word, but included it in the grace of adoption as a part of the whole, and, in the same manner, every other promise was viewed by him as a testimony of God’s fatherly kindness, which tended to strengthen his hope of salvation. Unbelievers differ from the children of God in this respect, that, while they enjoy in common with them the bounties of Providence, they devour them like cattle, and look no higher. The children of God, on the other hand, knowing that all their blessings have been sanctified by the promises, acknowledge God in them as their Father. They are often directed, in this way, to the hope of eternal life; for they begin with the faith of their adoption, which is the foundation of the whole. Abraham was not justified merely because he believed that God would “multiply his seed,” (Gen 22:17,) but because he embraced the grace of God, trusting to the promised Mediator, in whom, as Paul elsewhere declares, “all the promises of God are yea and amen.” (2Co 1:20.)

Galatians 3:7

7.Know ye therefore, or, ye know; for both readings are equally agreeable to the Greek termination γινώσκετε. But it matters little which is preferred, for the meaning is the same, only that the old translation, (know ye,) which I have followed, is more energetic. (58) He says that those “are of faith,” who have relinquished all confidence in works, and rely on the promise of God alone. It is on the authority of Paul himself that we give this interpretation; for in the Epistle to the Romans he thus writes:

“To him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” (Rom 4:4.)

To be of faith, therefore, is to rest their righteousness and hope of salvation on the mercy of God. That such are the children of God he concludes from the preceding statement; for if Abraham was justified by faith those who wish to be his children must likewise abide firmly by faith. He has omitted one remark, which will be readily supplied, that there is no place in the church for any man who is not a son of Abraham.

(58) “The scope of the passage shews that γινώσκετε is not the Indicative, but the Imperative. Paul does not presuppose that the Galatians acknowledge this principle; he is exerting himself to convince them of it.” — Brown.

Galatians 3:8

8.The scripture foreseeing. What he had said in a general manner is now applied expressly to the Gentiles; for the calling of the Gentiles was a new and extraordinary occurrence. Doubts existed as to the manner in which they should be called. Some thought that they were required “to be circumcised and to keep the law,” (Act 15:24,) and that otherwise they were shut out from having a share in the covenant. But Paul shews, on the other hand, that by faith they arrive at the blessing, and by faith they must be “in grafted” (Rom 11:17,) into the family of Abraham. How does he prove this? Because it is said, In thee shall all nations be blessed. These words unquestionably recall that all must be blessed in the same manner as Abraham; for he is the model, nay, the rule, to be universally observed. Now, he obtained the blessing by faith, and in the same manner must it be obtained by all.

Galatians 3:9

9.Faithful Abraham. This expression is very emphatic. They are blessed, not with Abraham as circumcised, nor as entitled to boast of the works of the law, nor as a Hebrew, nor as relying on his own excellence, but with Abraham, who by faith alone obtained the blessing; for no personal quality is here taken into the account, but faith alone. The word Blessing is variously employed in Scripture: but here it signifies Adoption into the inheritance of eternal life.

Galatians 3:10

10.For as many as are of the works of the law. The argument is drawn from the contradictory nature of the two schemes; for the same fountain does not yield both hot and cold. The law holds all living men under its curse; and from the law, therefore, it is in vain to expect a blessing. They are declared to be of the works of the law who place their trust for salvation in those works; for such modes of expression must always be interpreted by the state of the question. Now, we know that the controversy here relates to righteousness. All who wish to be justified by the works of the law are declared to be liable to the curse. But how does he prove this? The sentence of the law is, that all who have transgressed any part of the law are cursed. Let us now see if there be any living man who fulfils the law. But no such person, it is evident, has been, or ever can be found. All to a man are here condemned. The minor and the conclusion are wanting, for the entire syllogism would run thus: “Whoever has come short in any part of the law is cursed; all are held chargeable with this guilt; therefore all are cursed.” This argument of Paul would not stand, if we had sufficient strength to fulfill the law; for there would then be a fatal objection to the minor proposition. Either Paul reasons badly, or it is impossible for men to fulfill the law.

An antagonist might now object: “I admit that all transgressors are accursed; what then? Men will be found who keep the law; for they are free to choose good or evil.” But Paul places here beyond controversy, what the Papists at this day hold to be a detestable doctrine, that men are destitute of strength to keep the law. And so he concludes boldly that all are cursed, because all have been commanded to keep the law perfectly; which implies that in the present corruption of our nature the power of keeping it perfectly is wanting. Hence we conclude that the curse which the law pronounces, though, in the phrase of logicians, it is accidental, is here perpetual and inseparable from its nature. The blessing which it offers to us is excluded by our depravity, so that the curse alone remains.

Galatians 3:11

11.But that no man, is justified by the law. He again argues from a comparison of contradictory schemes. “If we are justified by faith, it is not by the law: but we are justified by faith therefore it is not by the law.” The minor is proved by a passage from Habakkuk, which is also quoted in the Epistle to the Romans. (Hab 2:4; Rom 1:17.) The major is proved by the difference in the methods of justification. The law justifies him who fulfils all its precepts, while faith justifies those who are destitute of the merit of works, and who rely on Christ alone. To be justified by our own merit, and to be justified by the grace of another, are two schemes which cannot be reconciled: one of them must be overturned by the other. Such is the amount of the argument: let us now attend to the separate clauses.

The just shall live by faith. As we had occasion to expound this passage where it occurs in the Epistle to the Romans, it will be unnecessary to repeat the exposition of it here. The prophet evidently describes a proud confidence in the flesh as contrasted with true faith. He declares, that “the just shall live;” by which he means, not that they are supported for a short period, and liable to be overwhelmed by an approaching storm; but that they shall continue to live, and that, even amidst the most imminent danger, their life shall be preserved. There is therefore no weight in the scornful reproaches of our adversaries, who allege that the prophet there employs the word Faith in a wider acceptation than Paul does in this passage. By Faith he evidently means the exercise of a calm, steady conscience, relying on God alone; so that Paul’s quotation is properly applied.

Galatians 3:12

12.And the law is not of faith. The law evidently is not contrary to faith; otherwise God would be unlike himself; but we must return to a principle already noticed, that Paul’s language is modified by the present aspect of the case. The contradiction between the law and faith lies in the matter of justification. You will more easily unite fire and water, than reconcile these two statements, that men are justified by faith, and that they are justified by the law. “The law is not of faith;” that is, it has a method of justifying a man which is wholly at variance with faith.

But the man who shall do these things. The difference lies in this, that man, when he fulfils the law, is reckoned righteous by a legal righteousness, which he proves by a quotation from Moses. (Lev 18:5.) Now, what is the righteousness of faith? He defines it in the Epistle to the Romans,

“If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Rom 10:9.)

And yet it does not follow from this, that faith is inactive, or that it sets believers free from good works. For the present question is not, whether believers ought to keep the law as far as they can, (which is beyond all doubt,) but whether they can obtain righteousness by works, which is impossible. But since God promises life to the doers of the law, why does Paul affirm that they are not righteous? The reply to this objection is easy. There are none righteous by the works of the law, because there are none who do those works. We admit that the doers of the law, if there were any such, are righteous; but since that is a conditional agreement, all are excluded from life, because no man performs that righteousness which he ought. We must bear in memory what I have already stated, that to do the law is not to obey it in part, but to fulfill everything which belongs to righteousness; and all are at the greatest distance from such perfection.

Galatians 3:13

13.Christ hath redeemed us. The apostle had made all who are under the law subject to the curse; from which arose this great difficulty, that the Jews could not free themselves from the curse of the law. Having stated this difficulty, he meets it, by shewing that Christ hath made us free, which still farther aids his purpose. If we are saved, because we have been freed from the curse of the law, then righteousness is not by the law. He next points out the manner in which we are made free.

It is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree. Now, Christ hung upon the cross, therefore he fell under that curse. But it is certain that he did not suffer that punishment on his own account. It follows, therefore, either that he was crucified in vain, or that our curse was laid upon him, in order that we might be delivered from it. Now, he does not say that Christ was cursed, but, which is still more, that he was a curse, — intimating, that the curse “of all men (59) was laid upon him” (Isa 53:6.) If any man think this language harsh, let him be ashamed of the cross of Christ, in the confession of which we glory. It was not unknown to God what death his own Son would die, when he pronounced the law, “He that is hanged is accursed of God.” (Deu 21:23.)

But how does it happen, it will be asked, that a beloved Son is cursed by his Father? We reply, there are two things which must be considered, not only in the person of Christ, but even in his human nature. The one is, that he was the unspotted Lamb of God, full of blessing and of grace; the other is, that he placed himself in our room, and thus became a sinner, and subject to the curse, not in himself indeed, but in us, yet in such a manner, that it became necessary for him to occupy our place. He could not cease to be the object of his Father’s love, and yet he endured his wrath. For how could he reconcile the Father to us, if he had incurred his hatred and displeasure? We conclude, that he “did always those things that pleased” (Joh 8:29) his Father. Again, how would he have freed us from the wrath of God, if he had not transferred it from us to himself? Thus, “he was wounded for our transgressions,” (Isa 53:5,) and had to deal with God as an angry judge. This is the foolishness of the cross, (1Co 1:18,) and the admiration of angels, (1Pe 1:12,) which not only exceeds, but swallows up, all the wisdom of the world.

(59)La malediction de tous hommes.”

Galatians 3:14

14.That the blessing of Abraham. Having said that “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law” he now applies that statement more closely to his purpose. The promised blessing of Abraham is founded on this, and flows from it to the Gentiles. If the Jews must be delivered from the law, in order to become the heirs of Abraham, what shall hinder the Gentiles from obtaining the same benefit? And if that blessing is found in Christ alone, it is faith in Christ which alone brings it into our possession.

The promise of the Spirit appears to me to mean, agreeably to a Hebrew idiom, a spiritual promise. Although that promise relates to the New Testament, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,” (Joe 2:28,) yet, in this passage, Paul refers to another subject. The spirit is here contrasted with all outward things, not with ceremonies merely, but with lineal descent, so as to leave no room for diversity of rank. From the nature of the promise, he proves that Jews differ nothing from Gentiles; because, if it is spiritual, it is received by faith alone.

Galatians 3:15

15.I speak after the manner of men. By this expression he intended to put them to the blush. It is highly disgraceful and base that the testimony of God should have less weight with us than that of a mortal man. In demanding that the sacred covenant of God shall receive not less deference than is commonly yielded to ordinary human transactions, he does not place God on a level with men. The immense distance between God and men is still left for their consideration.

Though it be but a man’s covenant. This is an argument from the less to the greater. Human contracts are admitted on all hands to be binding: how much more what God has established? The Greek word διαθήκη, here used, signifies more frequently, what the Latin versions here render it, (testamentum,) atestament; but sometimes too, a covenant, though in this latter sense the plural number is more generally employed. It is of little importance to the present passage, whether you explain it covenant or testament. The case is different with the Epistle to the Hebrews, where the apostle unquestionably alludes to testaments, (Heb 9:16;) but here I prefer to take it simply for the covenant which God made. The analogy from which the apostle argues, would not apply so strictly to a testament as to a covenant. The apostle appears to reason from human bargains to that solemn covenant into which God entered with Abraham. If human bargains be so firm that they can receive no addition, how much more must this covenant remain inviolable?

Galatians 3:16

16.Now to Abraham, and his seed. Before pursuing his argument, he introduces an observation about the substance of the covenant, that it rests on Christ alone. But if Christ be the foundation of the bargain, it follows that it is of free grace; and this too is the meaning of the word promise. As the law has respect to men and to their works, so the promise has respect to the grace of God and to faith.

He saith not, And to seeds. To prove that in this place God speaks of Christ, he calls attention to the singular number as denoting some particular seed. I have often been astonished that Christians, when they saw this passage so perversely tortured by the Jews, did not make a more determined resistance; for all pass it slightly as if it were an indisputed territory. And yet there is much plausibility in their objection. Since the word seed is a collective noun, Paul appears to reason inconclusively, when he contends that a single individual is denoted by this word, under which all the descendants of Abraham are comprehended in a passage already quoted, “In multiplying I will multiply thy seed, זרע (zerang,) or זרעך (zargnacha,) as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore.” (Gen 22:17.) Having, as they imagine, detected the fallacy of the argument, they treat us with haughty triumph.

I am the more surprised that our own writers should have been silent on this head, as we have abundant means of repelling their slander. Among Abraham’s own sons a division began, for one of the sons was cut off from the family. “In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” (Gen 21:12.) Consequently Ishmael is not included in the reckoning. Let us come a step lower. Do the Jews allow that the posterity of Esau are the blessed seed? nay, it will be maintained that their father, though the first-born, was struck off. And how many nations have sprung from the stock of Abraham who have no share in this “calling?” The twelve patriarchs, at length, formed twelve heads, not because they were descended from the line of Abraham, but because they had been appointed by a particular election of God. Since the ten tribes were carried away, (Hos 9:17,) how many thousands have so degenerated that they no longer hold a name among the seed of Abraham? Lastly, a trial was made of the tribe of Judah, that the real succession to the blessing might be transmitted among a small people. And this had been predicted by Isaiah,

“Though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return.” (Isa 10:22.)

Hitherto I have said nothing which the Jews themselves do not acknowledge. Let them answer me then; how comes it that the thirteen tribes sprung from the twelve patriarchs were the seed of Abraham, in preference to Ishmaelites and Edomites? Why do they exclusively glory in that name, and set aside the others as a spurious seed? They will, no doubt, boast that they have obtained it by their own merit; but Scripture, on the contrary, asserts that all depends on the calling of God; for we must constantly return to the privilege conveyed in these words, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” (Gen 21:12.) The uninterrupted succession to this privilege must have been in force until Christ; for, in the person of David, the Lord afterwards brought back by recovery, as we might say, the promise which had been made to Abraham. In proving, therefore, that this prediction applies to a single individual, Paul does not make his argument rest on the use of the singular number. He merely shews that the word seed must denote one who was not only descended from Abraham according to the flesh, but had been likewise appointed for this purpose by the calling of God. If the Jews deny this, they will only make themselves ridiculous by their obstinacy.

But as Paul likewise argues from these words, that a covenant had been made in Christ, or to Christ, let us inquire into the force of that expression,

“In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” (Gen 22:18.)

The Jews taunt the apostle with making a comparison, as if the seed of Abraham were to be quoted as an example in all disastrous omens and prayers; while, on the contrary, to curse in Sodom or Israel is to employ the name of Sodom or Israel in forms of cursing. This, I own, is sometimes the case, but not always; for to bless one’s self in God has quite a different meaning, as the Jews themselves admit. Since, therefore, the phrase is ambiguous, denoting sometimes a cause and sometimes a comparison, wherever, it occurs, it must be explained by the context. We have ascertained, then, that we are all cursed by nature, and that the blessing of Abraham has been promised to all nations. Do all indiscriminately reach it? Certainly not, but those only who are “gathered” (Isa 66:8) to the Messiah; for when, under His government and direction, they are collected into one body, they then become one people. Whoever then, laying disputing aside, shall inquire into the truth, will readily acknowledge that the words here signify not a mere comparison but a cause; and hence it follows that Paul had good ground for saying, that the covenant was made in Christ, or in reference to Christ.

Galatians 3:17

17.The law which was four hundred and thirty years after. If we listen to Origen and Jerome and all the Papists, there will be little difficulty in refuting this argument. Paul reasons thus: “A promise was given to Abraham four hundred and thirty years before the publication of the law; therefore the law which came after could not disannul the promise; and hence he concludes that ceremonies are not necessary.” But it may be objected, the sacraments were given in order to preserve the faith, and why should Paul separate them from the promise? He does so separate them, and proceeds to argue on the matter. The ceremonies themselves are not so much considered by him as something higher, — the effect of justification which was attributed to them by false apostles, and the obligation on the conscience. From ceremonies, accordingly, he takes occasion to discuss the whole subject of faith and works. If the point in dispute had no connection with obtaining righteousness, with the merit of works, or with ensnaring the conscience, ceremonies would be quite consistent with the promise.

What, then, is meant by this disannulling of the promise, against which the apostle contends? The impostors denied that salvation is freely promised to men, and received by faith, and, as we shall presently see, urged the necessity of works in order to merit salvation. I return to Paul’s own language. “The law,” he says, “is later than the promise, and therefore does not revoke it; for a covenant once sanctioned must remain perpetually binding.” I again repeat, if you do not understand that the promise is free, there will be no force in the statement; for the law and the promise are not at variance but on this single point, that the law justifies a man by the merit of works, and the promise bestows righteousness freely. This is made abundantly clear when he calls it a covenant founded on Christ.

But here we shall have the Papists to oppose us, for they will find a ready method of evading this argument. “We do not require,” they will say, “that the old ceremonies shall be any longer binding; let them be laid out of the question; nevertheless a man is justified by the moral law. For this law, which is as old as the creation of man, went before God’s covenant with Abraham; so that Paul’s reasoning is either frivolous, or it holds against ceremonies alone.” I answer, Paul took into account what was certainly true, that, except by a covenant with God, no reward is due to works. Admitting, then, that the law justifies, yet before the law men could not merit salvation by works, because there was no covenant. All that I am now affirming is granted by the scholastic theologians: for they maintain that works are meritorious of salvation, not by their intrinsic worth, but by the acceptance of God, (to use their own phrase,) and on the ground of a covenant. Consequently, where no divine covenant, no declaration of acceptance is found, — no works will be available for justification: so that Paul’s argument is perfectly conclusive. He tells us that God made two covenants with men; one through Abraham, and another through Moses. The former, being founded on Christ, was free; and therefore the law, which came after, could not enable men to obtain salvation otherwise than by grace, for then, “it would make the promise of none effect.” That this is the meaning appears clearly from what immediately follows.

Galatians 3:18

18.If the inheritance be of the law. His opponents might still reply, that nothing was farther from their intention than to weaken or disannul God’s covenant. To deprive them of every kind of subterfuge, he comes forward with the assertion, that salvation by the law, and salvation by the promise of God, are wholly inconsistent with each other. Who will dare to explain this as applying to ceremonies alone, while Paul comprehends under it whatever interferes with a free promise? Beyond all doubt, he excludes works of every description. “For,” says he to the Romans,

“if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect.” (Rom 4:14.)

Why so? Because salvation would be suspended on the condition of satisfying the law; and so he immediately concludes:

“Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace, in order that the promise might be sure to all the seed.” (Rom 4:16.)

Let us carefully remember the reason why, in comparing the promise with the law, the establishment of the one overturns the other. The reason is, that the promise has respect to faith, and the law to works. Faith receives what is freely given, but to works a reward is paid. And he immediately adds, God gave it to Abraham, not by requiring some sort of compensation on his part, but by free promise; for if you view it as conditional, the word gave, (κεχάρισται,) would be utterly inapplicable.

Galatians 3:19

When we are told that the law has no influence in obtaining justification, various suggestions immediately arise, that it must be either useless, or opposed to God’s covenant, or something of that sort. Nay, it might occur, why should we not say of the law, what Jeremiah says of the New Testament, (Jer 31:31,) that it was given at a later period, in order to supply the weakness of the former doctrine? Objections of this kind must be answered, if Paul wished to satisfy the Galatians. First, then, he inquires, — what is the use of the law? Having come after the promise, it appears to have been intended to supply its defects; and there was room at least for doubting, whether the promise would have been effectual, if it had not been aided by the law. Let it be observed, that Paul does not speak of the moral law only, but of everything connected with the office held by Moses. That office, which was peculiar to Moses, consisted in laying down a rule of life and ceremonies to be observed in the worship of God, and in afterwards adding promises and threatenings. Many promises, no doubt, relating to the free mercy of God and to Christ, are to be found in his writings; and these promises belong to faith. But this must be viewed as accidental, and altogether foreign to the inquiry, so far as a comparison is made between the law and the doctrine of grace. Let it be remembered, that the amount of the question is this: When a promise had been made, why did Moses afterwards add that new condition, “If a man do, he shall live in them;” and, “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them?” (Lev 18:5; Deu 27:26.) Was it to produce something better and more perfect?

19. Because of transgressions. The law has manifold uses, but Paul confines himself to that which bears on his present subject. He did not propose to inquire in how many ways the law is of advantage to men. It is necessary to put readers on their guard on this point; for very many, I find, have fallen into the mistake of acknowledging no other advantage belonging to the law, but what is expressed in this passage. Paul himself elsewhere speaks of the precepts of the law as profitable for doctrine and exhortations. (2Ti 3:16.) The definition here given of the use of the law is not complete, and those who refuse to make any other acknowledgment in favor of the law do wrong. Now, what is the import of the phrase, because of transgressions ? It agrees with the saying of philosophers, that “The law was made for restraining evil-doers,” and with the old proverb, “From bad manners have sprung good laws.” But Paul’s meaning is more extensive than the words may seem to convey. He means that the law was published in order to make known transgressions, and in this way to compel men to acknowledge their guilt. As men naturally are too ready to excuse themselves, so, until they are roused by the law, their consciences are asleep.

“Until the law,” says Paul, “sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed where there is no law.” (Rom 5:13.)

The law came and roused the sleepers, for this is the true preparation for Christ. “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom 3:20.) Why?

“That Sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” (Rom 7:13.)

Thus, “the law was added because of transgressions,” in order to reveal their true character, or, as he tells the Romans, that it might make them to abound. (Rom 5:20.)

This passage has tortured the ingenuity of Origen, but to no purpose. If God summon consciences to his tribunal, that those qualities in their transgression, which would otherwise give them pleasure, may humble them by a conviction of guilt, — if he shake off the listlessness which overwhelmed all dread of his judgment-seat, — if he drag to light; sin, which lurked like a thief in the den of hypocrisy, — what is there in all this that can be reckoned absurd? But it may be objected: “As the law is the rule of a devout and holy life, why is it said to be added ‘because of transgressions,’ rather than ‘because of obedience?’” I answer, however much it may point out true righteousness, yet, owing to the corruption of our nature, its instruction tends only to increase transgressions, until the Spirit of regeneration come, who writes it on the heart; and that Spirit is not given by the law, but is received by faith. This saying of Paul, let the reader remember, is not of a philosophical or political character, but expresses a purpose of the law, with which the world had been always unacquainted.

Till the seed should come. If it has respect to seed, it must be to that on which the blessing has been pronounced, and therefore it does not interfere with the promise. The word till, (ἄχρις οὗ,) signifies so long as the seed is expected: and hence it follows, that it must have been intended to occupy not the highest, but a subordinate rank. It was given in order to rouse men to the expectation of Christ. But was it necessary that it should last only until the coming of Christ? For if so, it follows that it is now abolished. The whole of that administration, I reply, was temporal, and was given for the purpose of preserving among the ancient people an attachment to the faith of Christ. And yet I do not admit that, by the coming of Christ, the whole law was abolished. The apostle did not intend this, but merely that the mode of administration, which for a time had been introduced, must receive its accomplishment in Christ, who is the fulfillment of the promise. (60) But on this subject we shall have occasion to speak more fully afterwards.

Ordained by angels. The circumstance, that it was delivered through angels, tends to the commendation of the law. This is declared by Stephen (Act 7:53) also, who says, that they had “received the law, (εἰς διαταγὰς ἀγγέλων,) into the dispositions of angels.” The interpretation given by some, that Moses and Aaron, and the priests, are the angels here meant, is more ingenious than solid. Nor is it wonderful that angels, by whom God bestows on us some of the smallest of his blessings, should have been intrusted also with this office of attending as witnesses at the promulgation of the law.

In the hand of a Mediator Hand usually signifies ministration; but as angels were ministers in giving the law, I consider “the hand of the Mediator” to denote the highest rank of service. The Mediator was at the head of the embassy, and angels were united with him as his companions. Some apply this expression to Moses, as marking a comparison between Moses and Christ; but I agree rather with the ancient expositors, who apply it to Christ himself. (61) This view, it will be found, agrees better with the context, though I differ from the ancients likewise as to the meaning of the word. Mediator does not, as they imagine, signify here one who makes reconciliation, which it does in these words,

“There is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1Ti 2:5,)

— but an ambassador employed in promulgating a law.

We are thus to understand, that, since the beginning of the world, God has held no intercourse with men, but through the agency of his eternal Wisdom or Son. Hence Peter says, that the holy prophets spake by the “Spirit of Christ,” (1Pe 1:11,) and Paul makes him the leader of the people in the wilderness. (1Co 10:4.) And certainly the Angel who appeared to Moses, (Exo 3:2,) can be no other person; for he claims to himself the peculiar and essential name of God, which is never applied to creatures. As he is the Mediator of reconciliation, by whom we are accepted of God, — the Mediator of intercession, who opens up for us a way to “call on the Father,” (1Pe 1:17,) — so he has always been the Mediator of all doctrine, because by him God has always revealed himself to men. And this he intended to state expressly, for the purpose of informing the Galatians, that he who is the foundation of the covenant of grace, held also the highest rank in the giving of the law.

(60)Qui est le parfait accomplissement de la promesse.” “Who is the perfect accomplishment of the promise.”

(61) “Though some learned men have been of opinion that the mediator here mentioned is the Son of God, yet I think no reasonable doubt can be entertained as to its denoting Moses. Strictly speaking, Aaron, or rather the priesthood, was the mediator of the old covenant. It answers to the Great High-Priest, (ἀρχιερεύς,) Mediator, (μεσίτης,) and Surety, (ἔγγυος,) of the new covenant. But the reference seems here to the giving of the law: that was by Moses. ‘The law was given by Moses.’ (Joh 1:17.) God speaks to Moses, and Moses speaks to the people; and this arrangement was entered into by the express request of the people themselves. Moses himself says, ‘I stood between the Lord and you at that time. (Deu 5:5.) Philo calls Moses μεσίτης.” — Brown.

Galatians 3:20

20.Now, a mediator is not a mediator of one. Some are disposed to philosophize on this expression, and would make Paul’s meaning to be, that the twofold nature of Christ is not one in essence. But that Paul is here speaking of the contracting parties, no man of sound judgment entertains a doubt. And so they commonly expound it, that there is no room for a Mediator, unless when one of the parties has a matter to transact with the other. But why that statement should have been introduced they leave undetermined, though the passage manifestly deserves the most careful attention. There may, perhaps, be an Anticipation (πρόληψις) of some wicked thought that might arise about a change of the divine purpose. Some one might say, “As men, when they change their mind about their covenants, are wont to retract them, so has it happened with the covenants of God.” If you take this to be the meaning, then, in the former clause, Paul would acknowledge that men, who occupy one side of this contract, are unsteady and changeable, while God nevertheless remains the same, is consistent with himself, and partakes not of the unsteadiness of men.

But when I take a closer view of the whole subject, I rather think that it marks a difference between Jews and Gentiles. Christ is not the Mediator of one, because, in respect of outward character, there is a diversity of condition among those with whom, through his mediation, God enters into covenant. But Paul asserts that we have no right to judge in this manner of the covenant of God, as if it contradicted itself, or varied according to the diversities of men. The words are now clear. As Christ formerly reconciled God to the Jews in making a covenant, so now he is the Mediator of the Gentiles. The Jews differ widely from the Gentiles; for circumcision and ceremonies have erected “the middle wall of partition between them.” (Eph 2:14.) They were “nigh” to God, (Eph 2:13,) while the Gentiles were “afar off;” but still God is consistent with himself. This becomes evident, when Christ brings those who formerly differed among themselves to one God, and makes them unite in one body. God is one, because he always continues to be like himself, and, with unvarying regularity, holds fixed and unalterable the purpose which he has once made. (62)

(62) “This is confessedly one of the most obscure passages in the New Testament, and, perhaps, above all others, ‘vexatus ab interpretibus,’ (tortured by interpreters,) if it be true, as Winer affirms, that there are no less than 250 modes of explanation, most of which are stated and reviewed by Koppe, Berger, Keil, Bonitz, Weigand, and Scheft.” — (Bloomfield.) Schott remarks, that the bare fact of upwards of 250 interpretations makes it impossible to deny that some obscurity attaches to the Apostle’s language in this passage, arising chiefly from mere brevity of style, but judiciously adds, that, had there not been many commentators more eager to bring forward anything that has the appearance of novelty, than to investigate the ordinary meaning of the terms, the scope of the passage, and the doctrinal statements and reasonings contained in the writings of the Apostle Paul, the interpretations would never have swelled to so large an amount. — Ed.

Galatians 3:21

21.Is the law then against the promises of God? The certainty and steadiness of the divine purpose being admitted, we are bound equally to conclude that its results are not contrary to each other. Still there was a difficulty to be resolved, arising from the apparent contradiction between the Law and the covenant of grace. This is, perhaps, an exclamation. Dreading no farther contradiction, now that the point is settled, Paul concludes, that the former arguments have placed it beyond a doubt, and exclaims: “Who will now dare to imagine a disagreement between the law and the promises?” And yet this does not prevent Paul from proceeding to remove the difficulties that might still arise.

Before answering the question, he expresses, in his usual manner, a high disdain of such folly; thus intimating the strong abhorrence with which pious men must regard whatever brings reproach on the Divine character. But another instance of high address, which claims our notice, is found in this turn of expression. He charges his adversaries with the offense of making God contradict himself. For from him the Law and the promises have evidently proceeded: whoever then alleges any contradiction between them blasphemes against God: but they do contradict each other, if the Law justifies. Thus does Paul most dexterously retort upon his adversaries the charge which they falsely and calumniously brought against him.

For if there had been a law given. The reply is (what is called) indirect, and does not plainly assert an agreement between the law and the promises, but contains all that is necessary to remove the contradiction. At first sight, you would say that this sentence departs from the context, and has nothing to do with the solution of the question; but this is not the case. The law would be opposed to the promises, if it had the power of justifying; for there would be two opposite methods of justifying a man, two separate roads towards the attainment of righteousness. But Paul refuses to the law such a power; so that the contradiction is removed. I would admit, says he, that righteousness is obtained by the law, if salvation were found in it. But what?

Galatians 3:22

22.The Scripture hath concluded. By the word Scripture is chiefly intended the law itself. It “hath concluded all under sin,” and therefore, instead of giving, it takes away righteousness from all. The reasoning is most powerful. “You seek righteousness in the law: but the law itself, with the whole of Scripture, leaves nothing to men but condemnation; for all men, with their works, are pronounced to be unrighteous: who then shall live by the law?” He alludes to these words,

“He who shall do these things, shall live in them.” (Lev 18:5.)

Shut out by it, says he, from life through guilt, in vain should we seek salvation by the law. — The word translated all (τὰ πάντα) signifies all things, and conveys more than if he had said all men; for it embraces not only men, but every thing which they possess or can accomplish.

That the promise by faith. There is no remedy but to throw away the righteousness of works, and betake ourselves to the faith of Christ. The result is certain. If works come into judgment, we are all condemned; therefore we obtain, by the faith of Christ, a free righteousness. This sentence is full of the highest consolation. It tells us that, wherever we hear ourselves condemned in Scripture, there is help provided for us in Christ, if we betake ourselves to him. We are lost, though God were silent: why then does he so often pronounce that we are lost? It is that we may not perish by everlasting destruction, but, struck and confounded by such a dreadful sentence, may by faith seek Christ, through whom we “pass from death into life.” (1Jo 3:14.) By a figure of speech, (μετωνυμία,) in which the thing containing is put for the thing contained, the promise denotes that which is promised.

Galatians 3:23

23.Before faith came. The question proposed is now more fully defined. He explains at great length the use of the law, and the reason why it was temporal; for otherwise it would have appeared to be always unreasonable that a law should be delivered to the Jews, from which the Gentiles were excluded. If there be but one church consisting of Jews and Gentiles, why is there a diversity in its government? Whence is this new liberty derived, and on what authority does it rest, since the fathers were under subjection to the law? He therefore informs us, that the distinction is such as not to interrupt the union and harmony of the church.

We must again remind the reader that Paul does not treat exclusively of ceremonies, or of the moral law, but embraces the whole economy by which the Lord governed his people under the Old Testament. It became a subject of dispute whether the form of government instituted by Moses had any influence in obtaining righteousness. Paul compares this law first to a prison, and next to a schoolmaster. Such was the nature of the law, as both comparisons plainly show, that it could not have been in force beyond a certain time.

Faith denotes the full revelation of those things which, during the darkness of the shadows of the law, were dimly seen; for he does not intend to say that the fathers, who lived under the law, did not possess faith. The faith of Abraham has already come under our notice, and other instances are quoted by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. (Heb 11:0.) The doctrine of faith, in short, is attested by Moses and all the prophets: but, as faith was not then clearly manifested, so the time of faith is an appellation here given, not in an absolute, but in a comparative sense, to the time of the New Testament. That this was his meaning is evident from what he immediately adds, that they were shut up under the faith which should afterwards be revealed; for this implies that those who were under the custody of the law were partakers of the same faith. The law did not restrain them from faith; but, that they might not wander from the fold of faith, it kept possession of themselves. There is an elegant allusion, too, to what he had formerly said, that “the scripture hath concluded all under sin.” They were besieged on every hand by the curse, but this siege was counteracted by an imprisonment which protected them from the curse; so that the imprisonment by the law is here proved to have been highly generous in its character.

Faith was not yet revealed, not because the fathers wanted light, but because they had less light than we have. The ceremonies might be said to shadow out an absent Christ, but to us he is represented as actually present, and thus while they had the mirror, we have the substance. Whatever might be the amount of darkness under the law, the fathers were not ignorant of the road in which they ought to walk. Though the dawn is not equal to the splendor of noon, yet, as it is sufficient to direct a journey, travelers do not wait till the sun is fully risen. Their portion of light resembled the dawn, which was enough to preserve them from all error, and guide them to everlasting blessedness.

Galatians 3:24

24.Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster This is the second comparison, which still more clearly expresses Paul’s design. A schoolmaster is not appointed for the whole life, but only for childhood, as the etymology of the Greek word παιδαγωγός implies. (63) Besides, in training a child, the object is to prepare him, by the instructions of childhood, for maturer years. The comparison applies in both respects to the law, for its authority was limited to a particular age, and its whole object was to prepare its scholars in such a manner, that, when its elementary instructions were closed, they might make progress worthy of manhood. And so he adds, that it was our schoolmaster (εἰς Χριστὸν) unto Christ. The grammarian, when he has trained a boy, delivers him into the hands of another, who conducts him through the higher branches of a finished education. In like manner, the law was the grammar of theology, which, after carrying its scholars a short way, handed them over to faith to be completed. Thus, Paul compares the Jews to children, and us to advanced youth.

But a question arises, what was the instruction or education of this schoolmaster? First, the law, by displaying the justice of God, convinced them that in themselves they were unrighteous; for in the commandments of God, as in a mirror, they might see how far they were distant from true righteousness. They were thus reminded that righteousness must be sought in some other quarter. The promises of the law served the same purpose, and might lead to such reflections as these: “If you cannot obtain life by works but by fulfilling the law, some new and different method must be sought. Your weakness will never allow you to ascend so high; nay, though you desire and strive ever so much, you will fall far short of the object.” The threatenings, on the other hand, pressed and entreated them to seek refuge from the wrath and curse of God, and gave them no rest till they were constrained to seek the grace of Christ.

Such too, was the tendency of all the ceremonies; for what end did sacrifices and washings serve but to keep the mind continually fixed on pollution and condemnation? When a man’s uncleanness is placed before his eyes, when the unoffending animal is held forth as the image of his own death, how can he indulge in sleep? How can he but be roused to the earnest cry for deliverance? Beyond all doubt, ceremonies accomplished their object, not merely by alarming and humbling the conscience, but by exciting them to the faith of the coming Redeemer. In the imposing services of the Mosaic ritual, every thing that was presented to the eye bore an impress of Christ. The law, in short, was nothing else than an immense variety of exercises, in which the worshippers were led by the hand to Christ.

That we might be justified by faith. He has already said that the law is not perfect, when he compared it to the training of childhood; but it would make men perfect if it bestowed upon them righteousness. What remains but that faith shall take its place? And so it does, when we, who are destitute of a righteousness of our own, are clothed by it with the righteousness of Christ. Thus is the saying accomplished, “he hath filled the hungry with good things.” (Luk 1:53.)

(63) “As the law was before compared to a jailer, so it is here likened to a παιδαγωγός, by which term is not to be understood a schoolmaster, (for that would have been διδάσκαλος,) but the paedagous or person (usually a freedman or slave) who conducted children to and from school, attended them out of school hours, formed their manners, superintended their moral conduct, and in various respects prepared them for the διδάσκαλος.” — Bloomfield. Our author’s observations on παιδαγωγός, in another passage, have brought out the full meaning of this word, and the classical authorities for the use of it, in the translator’s notes. — Calvin on the Corinthians, vol. 1, p. 169. — Ed

Galatians 3:25

25.But after that faith is come. This phrase has been already considered. It denotes the brighter revelation of grace after that “the vail of the temple was rent in twain,” (Mat 27:51,) which, we know, was effected by the manifestation of Christ. He affirms that, under the reign of Christ, there is no longer any childhood which needs to be placed under a schoolmaster, and that, consequently, the law has resigned its office, — which is another application of the comparison. There were two things which he had undertaken to prove, — that the law is a preparation for Christ, and that it is temporal. But here the question is again put, Is the law so abolished that we have nothing to do with it? I answer, the law, so far as it is a rule of life, a bridle to keep us in the fear of the Lord, a spur to correct the sluggishness of our flesh, — so far, in short, as it is

“profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that believers may be instructed in every good work,” (2Ti 3:16,)

— is as much in force as ever, and remains untouched.

In what respect, then, is it abolished? Paul, we have said, looks at the law as possessing certain qualities, and those qualities we shall enumerate. It annexes to works a reward and a punishment; that is, it promises life to those who keep it, and curses all transgressors. Meanwhile, it requires from man the highest perfection and most exact obedience. It makes no abatement, gives no pardon, but calls to a severe reckoning the smallest offenses. It does not openly exhibit Christ and his grace, but points him out at a distance, and only when hidden by the covering of ceremonies. All such qualities of the law, Paul tells us, are abolished; so that the office of Moses is now at an end, so far as it differs in outward aspect from a covenant of grace.

Galatians 3:26

26.For ye are all the children of God. It would be unjust, and in the highest degree unreasonable, that the law should hold believers in perpetual slavery. This is proved by the additional argument, that they are the children of God. It would not be enough to say that we are no longer children, unless it were added that we are freemen; for in slaves age makes no alteration. The fact of their being the children of God proves their freedom. How? By faith in Christ Jesus; for

“as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (Joh 1:12.)

Since, then, by faith we have obtained adoption, by faith likewise we have obtained our freedom.

Galatians 3:27

27.As many of you as have been baptized. The greater and loftier the privilege is of being the children of God, the farther is it removed from our senses, and the more difficult to obtain belief. He therefore explains, in a few words, what is implied in our being united, or rather, made one with the Son of God; so as to remove all doubt, that what belongs to him is communicated to us. He employs the metaphor of a garment, when he says that the Galatians have put on Christ; but he means that they are so closely united to him, that, in the presence of God, they bear the name and character of Christ, and are viewed in him rather than in themselves. This metaphor or similitude, taken from garments, occurs frequently, and has been treated by us in other places.

But the argument, that, because they have been baptized, they have put on Christ, appears weak; for how far is baptism from being efficacious in all? Is it reasonable that the grace of the Holy Spirit should be so closely linked to an external symbol? Does not the uniform doctrine of Scripture, as well as experience, appear to confute this statement? I answer, it is customary with Paul to treat of the sacraments in two points of view. When he is dealing with hypocrites, in whom the mere symbol awakens pride, he then proclaims loudly the emptiness and worthlessness of the outward symbol, and denounces, in strong terms, their foolish confidence. In such cases he contemplates not the ordinance of God, but the corruption of wicked men. When, on the other hand, he addresses believers, who make a proper use of the symbols, he then views them in connection with the truth — which they represent. In this case, he makes no boast of any false splendor as belonging to the sacraments, but calls our attention to the actual fact represented by the outward ceremony. Thus, agreeably to the Divine appointment, the truth comes to be associated with the symbols.

But perhaps some person will ask, Is it then possible that, through the fault of men, a sacrament shall cease to bear a figurative meaning? The reply is easy. Though wicked men may derive no advantage from the sacraments, they still retain undiminished their nature and force. The sacraments present, both to good and to bad men, the grace of God. No falsehood attaches to the promises which they exhibit of the grace of the Holy Spirit. Believers receive what is offered; and if wicked men, by rejecting it, render the offer unprofitable to themselves, their conduct cannot destroy the faithfulness of God, or the true meaning of the sacrament. (64) With strict propriety, then, does Paul, in addressing believers, say, that when they were baptized, they “put on Christ;” just as, in the Epistle to the Romans, he says,

“that we have been planted together into his death, so as to be also partakers of his resurrection.” (Rom 6:5.)

In this way, the symbol and the Divine operation are kept distinct, and yet the meaning of the sacraments is manifest; so that they cannot be regarded as empty and trivial exhibitions; and we are reminded with what base ingratitude they are chargeable, who, by abusing the precious ordinances of God, not only render them unprofitable to themselves, but turn them to their own destruction!

(64) “If any person receives nothing more than this bodily washing, which is perceived by the eyes of flesh, he has not put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” — Jerome.

Galatians 3:28

28.There is neither Jew nor Greek. The meaning is, that there is no distinction of persons here, and therefore it is of no consequence to what nation or condition any one may belong: nor is circumcision any more regarded than sex or civil rank. And why? Because Christ makes them all one. Whatever may have been their former differences, Christ alone is able to unite them all. Ye are one: the distinction is now removed. The apostle’s object is to shew that the grace of adoption, and the hope of salvation, do not depend on the law, but are contained in Christ alone, who therefore is all. Greek is here put, as usual, for Gentile, and one department for the whole class.

Galatians 3:29

29.Then are ye Abraham’s seed. This is not intended to convey the idea, that to be a child of Abraham is better than to be a member of Christ, — but to repress the pride of the Jews, who gloried in their privilege, as if they alone were the people of God. They reckoned no distinction higher than to belong to the race of Abraham; and this very distinction he makes to be common to all who believe in Christ. The conclusion rests on this argument, that Christ is the blessed seed, in whom, as we have said, all the children of Abraham are united. He proves this by the universal offer of the inheritance to them all, from which it follows, that the promise includes them among the children. It deserves notice, that, wherever faith is mentioned, it is always his relation to the promise.

Galatians Chapter Four

Galatians 4:1

1.Now I say. Whoever made the division into chapters has improperly separated this paragraph from the preceding, as it is nothing else than the concluding section, (ἐπεξεργασία,) in which Paul explains and illustrates the difference that exists between us and the ancient people. He does so by introducing a third comparison, drawn from the relation which a person under age bears to his tutor. The young man, though he is free, though he is lord of all his father’s family, still resembles a slave; for he is under the government of tutors. (65) But the period of guardianship lasts only “until the time appointed by the father” after which he enjoys his freedom. In this respect the fathers under the Old Testament, being the sons of God, were free; but they were not in possession of freedom, while the law held the place of their tutor, and kept them under its yoke. That slavery of the law lasted as long as it pleased God, who put an end to it at the coming of Christ. Lawyers enumerate various methods by which the tutelage or guardianship is brought to a close; but of all these methods, the only one adapted to this comparison is that which Paul has selected, “the appointment of the father.”

Let us now examine the separate clauses. Some apply the comparison in a different manner to the case of any man whatever, whereas Paul is speaking of two nations. What they say, I acknowledge, is true; but it has nothing to do with the present passage. The elect, though they are the children of God from the womb, yet, until by faith they come to the possession of freedom, remain like slaves under the law; but, from the time that they have known Christ, they no longer require this kind of tutelage. Granting all this, I deny that Paul here treats of individuals, or draws a distinction between the time of unbelief and the calling by faith. The matters in dispute were these. Since the church of God is one, how comes it that our condition is different from that of the Israelites? Since we are free by faith, how comes it that they, who had faith in common with us, were not partakers with us of the same freedom? Since we are all equally the children of God, how comes it that we at this day are exempt from a yoke which they were forced to bear? On these points the controversy turned, and not on the manner in which the law reigns over each of us before we are freed by faith from its slavery. Let this point be first of all settled, that Paul here compares the Israelitish church, which existed under the Old Testament, with the Christian church, that thus we may perceive in what points we agree and in what we differ. This comparison furnishes most abundant and most profitable instruction.

First, we learn from it that our hope at the present day, and that of the fathers under the Old Testament, have been directed to the same inheritance; for they were partakers of the same adoption. According to the dreams of some fanatics, and of Servetus among others, the fathers were divinely elected for the sole purpose of prefiguring to us a people of God. Paul, on the other hand, contends that they were elected in order to be together with us the children of God, and particularly attests that to them, not less than to us, belonged the spiritual blessing promised to Abraham.

Secondly, we learn that, notwithstanding their outward slavery, their consciences were still free. The obligation to keep the law did not hinder Moses and Daniel, all the pious kings, priests, and prophets, and the whole company of believers, from being free in spirit. They bore the yoke of the law upon their shoulders, but with a free spirit they worshipped God. More particularly, having been instructed concerning the free pardon of sin, their consciences were delivered from the tyranny of sin and death. Hence we ought to conclude that they held the same doctrine, were joined with us in the true unity of faith, placed reliance on the one Mediator, called on God as their Father, and were led by the same Spirit. All this leads to the conclusion, that the difference between us and the ancient fathers lies in accidents, not in substance. In all the leading characters of the Testament or Covenant we agree: the ceremonies and form of government, in which we differ, are mere additions. Besides, that period was the infancy of the church; but now that Christ is come, the church has arrived at the estate of manhood.

The meaning of Paul’s words is clear, but has he not some appearance of contradicting himself? In the Epistle to the Ephesians he exhorts us to make daily progress

“till we come to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:13.)

In the first Epistle to the Corinthians he says, (1Co 3:2,)

“I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able;”

and shortly after this he compares the Galatians to children. (Gal 4:19) In those passages, I reply, the apostle speaks of particular men, and of their faith as individuals; but here he speaks generally of two bodies without regard to persons. This reply will assist us in resolving a much greater difficulty. When we look at the matchless faith of Abraham, and the vast intelligence of the holy prophets, with what effrontery shall we dare to talk of such men as our inferiors? Were not they rather the heroes, and we the children? To say nothing of ourselves, who among the Galatians would have been found equal to any of those men?

But here, as I have already said, the apostle describes not particular persons, but the universal condition of both nations. Some men were endowed with extraordinary gifts; but they were few, and the whole body did not share with them. Besides, though they had been numerous, we must inquire not what they inwardly were, but what was that kind or government under which God had placed them; and that was manifestly a school, παιδαγωγία, a system of instruction for children. And what are we now? God has broken those chains, governs his church in a more indulgent manner, and lays not upon us such severe restraint. At the same time, we may remark in passing, that whatever amount of knowledge they might attain partook of the nature of the period; for a dark cloud continually rested on the revelation which they enjoyed. And hence that saying of our Savior,

“Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” (Luk 10:23.)

We now understand in what respect we are preferred to those who were greatly our superiors; for the statements are not applied to persons, but relate entirely to the economy of the Divine administration.

This passage will prove a most powerful battery for destroying the pageantry of ceremonies, which constitutes the entire splendor of the Papal system. For what else is it that dazzles the eyes of simple people, so as to lead them to regard the dominion of the Pope, if not with admiration, at least with some degree of reverence, but the magnificent army of ceremonies, rites, gesticulations, and equipage of every description, contrived for the express purpose of amazing the ignorant? From this passage it appears that they are false disguises, by which the true beauty of the church is impaired. I do not now speak of greater and more frightful corruptions, such as, that they hold them out for divine worship, imagine them to possess the power of meriting salvation, and enforce with more rigid severity the observation of those trifles than the whole law of God. I only advert to the specious pretext under which our modern contrivers apologize for such a multitude of abominations. What though they object that the ignorance of the multitude prevails to a greater extent than it formerly did among the Israelites, and that many assistances are therefore required? They will never be able in this way to prove that the people must be placed under the discipline or a school similar to what existed among the people of Israel; for I shall always meet them with the declaration, that the appointment of God is totally different.

If they plead expediency, I ask, are they better judges of what is expedient than God himself? Let us entertain the firm conviction that the highest advantage, as well as the highest propriety, will be found in whatever God has determined. In aiding the ignorant, we must employ not those methods which the fancy of men may have been pleased to contrive, but those which had been fixed by God himself, who unquestionably has left out nothing that was fitted to assist their weakness. Let this shield suffice for repelling any objections: “God has judged otherwise, and his purpose supplies to us the place of all arguments; unless it be supposed that men are capable of devising better aids than those which God had provided, and which he afterwards threw aside as useless.” Let it be carefully observed, Paul does not merely say that the yoke which had been laid upon the Jews is removed from us, but expressly lays down a distinction in the government which God has commanded to be observed. I acknowledge that we are now at liberty as to all outward matters, but only on the condition that the church shall not be burdened with a multitude of ceremonies, nor Christianity confounded with Judaism. The reason of this we shall afterwards consider in the proper place.

(65)Επίτροπος signifies both a child’s guardian to take care of his person and estate, and his instructor and tutor, ἐπίτροπος καὶ τοῦ παιδὸς καὶ τῶν χρημάτων, ‘the guardian both of the child and of his property.’ (AElian, v. H. 1. 3. c. 26.) Here it properly signifies the latter, his preceptor or tutor. The next word, οἰκόνομος, which we render governor, here denotes his guardian, who is to take care of his person and estate; and to each of these the heirs to large inheritances are generally subject, even as servants are subject to their proper masters.” — Chandler.

Galatians 4:3

3.Under the elements of the world. Elements may either mean, literally, outward and bodily things, or, metaphorically, rudiments. I prefer the latter interpretation. But why does he say that those things which had a spiritual signification were of the world ? We did not, he says, enjoy the truth in a simple form, but involved in earthly figures; and consequently, what was outward must have been “of the world,” though there was concealed under it a heavenly mystery.

Galatians 4:4

4.When the fullness of the time was come. He proceeds with the comparison which he had adduced, and applies to his purpose the expression which has already occurred, “the time appointed by the Father,” — but still shewing that the time which had been ordained by the providence of God was proper and seasonable. That season is the most fit, and that mode of acting is the most proper, which the providence of God directs. At what time it was expedient that the Son of God should be revealed to the world, it belonged to God alone to judge and determine. This consideration ought to restrain all curiosity. Let no man presume to be dissatisfied with the secret purpose of God, and raise a dispute why Christ did not appear sooner. If the reader desires more full information on this subject, he may consult what I have written on the conclusion of the Epistle to the Romans.

God sent forth his Son. These few words contain much instruction. The Son, who was sent, must have existed before he was sent; and this proves his eternal Godhead. Christ therefore is the Son of God, sent from heaven. Yet this same person was made of a woman, because he assumed our nature, which shews that he has two natures. Some copies read natum instead of filium; but the latter reading is more generally followed, and, in my opinion, is preferable. But the language was also expressly intended to distinguish Christ from other men, as having been formed of the substance of his mother, and not by ordinary generation. In any other sense, it would have been trifling, and foreign to the subject. The word woman is here put generally for the female sex.

Subjected under the law. The literal rendering is, Made under the law; but in my version I have preferred another word, which expresses more plainly the fact that he was placed in subjection to the law. Christ the Son of God, who might have claimed to be exempt from every kind of subjection, became subject to the law. Why? He did so in our room, that he might obtain freedom for us. A man who was free, by constituting himself a surety, redeems a slave: by putting on himself the chains, he takes them off from the other. So Christ chose to become liable to keep the law, that exemption from it might be obtained for us; otherwise it would have been to no purpose that he should come under the yoke of the law, for it certainly was not on his own account that he did so.

To redeem them that were under the law (66) We must here observe, the exemption from the law which Christ has procured for us does not imply that we no longer owe any obedience to the doctrine of the law, and may do whatever we please; for the law is the everlasting rule of a good and holy life. But Paul speaks of the law with all its appendages. From subjection to that law we are redeemed, because it is no longer what it once was. “The vail being rent,” (Mat 27:51,) freedom is openly proclaimed, and this is what he immediately adds.

(66) “So far was he from subjecting to the yoke of the law those to whom the law had not been given, that he came in order to emancipate even the Jews themselves.” — Wetstein.

Galatians 4:5

5.That we might receive the adoption. The fathers, under the Old Testament, were certain of their adoption, but did not so fully as yet enjoy their privilege. Adoption, like the phrase, “the redemption of our body,” (Rom 8:23,) is here put for actual possession. As, at the last day, we receive the fruit of our redemption, so now we receive the fruit of adoption, of which the holy fathers did not partake before the coming of Christ; and therefore those who now burden the church with an excess of ceremonies, defraud her of the just right of adoption.

Galatians 4:6

6.And because ye are sons. The adoption which he had mentioned, is proved to belong to the Galatians by the following argument. This adoption must have preceded the testimony of adoption given by the Holy Spirit; but the effect is the sign of the cause. In venturing, he says, to call God your Father, you have the advice and direction of the Spirit of Christ; therefore it is certain that you are the sons of God. This agrees with what is elsewhere taught by him, that the Spirit is the earnest and pledge of our adoption, and gives to us a well-founded belief that God regards us with a father’s love.

“Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” (2Co 1:22.)

“Now he that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.” (2Co 5:5.)

But it will be objected, do not wicked men, too, carry their rashness so far as to proclaim that God is their Father? Do they not frequently, with greater confidence than others, utter their false boasts? I reply, Paul’s language does not relate to idle boasting, or to the proud opinion of himself which any man may entertain, but to the testimony of a pious conscience which accompanies the new birth. This argument can have no weight but in the case of believers, for ungodly men have no experience of this certainty; as our Lord himself declares.

“The Spirit of truth,” says he, “whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him.” (Joh 14:17.)

This is implied in Paul’s words, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts. It is not what the persons themselves, in the foolish judgment of the flesh, may venture to believe, but what God declares in their hearts by his Spirit. The Spirit of his Son is a title more strictly adapted to the present occasion than any other that could have been employed. We are the sons of God, because we have received the same Spirit as his only Son.

Let it be observed, that Paul ascribes this universally to all Christians; for where this pledge of the Divine love towards us is wanting, there is assuredly no faith. Hence it is evident what sort of Christianity belongs to Popery, since any man who says, that he has the Spirit of God, is charged by them with impious presumption. Neither the Spirit of God, nor certainty, belongs to their notion of faith. This single tenet held by them is a remarkable proof that, in all the schools of the Papists, the devil, the father of unbelief, reigns. I acknowledge, indeed, that the scholastic divines, when they enjoin upon the consciences of men the agitation of perpetual doubt, are in perfect agreement with what the natural feelings of mankind would dictate. It is the more necessary to fix in our minds this doctrine of Paul, that no man is a Christian who has not learned, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, to call God his Father.

Crying. This participle, I think, is used in order to express greater boldness. Hesitation does not allow us to speak freely, but keeps the mouth nearly shut, while the half-broken words can hardly escape from a stammering tongue. “Crying,” on the other hand, expresses firmness and unwavering confidence.

“For we have not received again the spirit of bondage to fear, but of freedom to full confidence.” (Rom 8:15.)

Abba, Father. The meaning of these words, I have no doubt, is, that calling upon God is common to all languages. It is a fact which bears directly on the present subject, that the name Father is given to God both by the Hebrews and by the Greeks; as had been predicted by Isaiah,

“Every tongue shall make confession to my name.” (Isa 45:23.)

The whole of this subject is handled by the apostle at greater length in his Epistle to the Romans. I judge it unnecessary to repeat here observations which I have already made in the exposition of that Epistle, and which the reader may consult. Since, therefore, Gentiles are reckoned among the sons of God, it is evident that adoption comes not by the merit of the law, but by the grace of faith.

Galatians 4:7

7.Wherefore thou art no more a servant. In the Christian Church slavery no longer exists, but the condition of the children is free. In what respect the fathers under the law were slaves, we have already inquired; for their freedom was not yet revealed, but was hidden under the coverings and yoke of the law. Our attention is again directed to the distinction between the Old and New Testaments. The ancients were also sons of God, and heirs through Christ, but we hold the same character in a different manner; for we have Christ present with us, and in that manner enjoy his blessings.

Galatians 4:8

8.But when ye as yet knew not God. This is not intended as an additional argument; and indeed he had already proved his point so fully, that no doubt remained, and the rebuke which was now to be administered could not be evaded. His object is to make their fall appear more criminal, by comparing it with past events. It is not wonderful, he says, that formerly ye did service to them which by nature are no gods; for, wherever ignorance of God exists, there must be dreadful blindness. You were then wandering in darkness, but how disgraceful is it that in the midst of light you should fall into such gross errors! The main inference is, that the Galatians were less excusable for corrupting the gospel than they had formerly been for idolatry. But here it ought to be observed, that, till we have been enlightened in the true knowledge of one God, we always serve idols, whatever pretext we may throw over the false religion. The lawful worship of God, therefore, must be preceded by just views of his character. By nature, that is, in reality, they are no gods. Every object of worship which men contrive is a creature of their own imagination. In the opinion of men idols may be gods, but in reality they are nothing.

Galatians 4:9

9.But now, (67) after that ye have known God. No language can express the base ingratitude of departing from God, when he has once been known. What is it but to forsake, of our own accord, the light, the life, the fountain of all benefits, — “to forsake,” as Jeremiah complains,

“the fountain of living waters, and hew out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water!” (Jer 2:13.)

Still farther to heighten the blame, he corrects his language, and says, or rather have been, known by God; for the greater the grace of God is towards us, our guilt in despising it must be the heavier. Paul reminds the Galatians whence they had derived the knowledge of God. He affirms that they did not obtain it by their own exertions, by the acuteness or industry of their own minds, but because, when they were at the farthest possible remove from thinking of him, God visited them in his mercy. What is said of the Galatians may be extended to all; for in all are fulfilled the words of Isaiah,

“I am sought by them that asked not for me: I am found by them that sought me not.” (Isa 65:1.)

The origin of our calling is the free election of God, which predestinates us to life before we are born. On this depends our calling, our faith, our whole salvation.

How turn ye again ? They could not turn again to ceremonies which they had never practiced. The expression is figurative, and merely denotes, that to fall again into wicked superstition, as if they had never received the truth of God, was the height of folly. When he calls the ceremonies beggarly elements, he views them as out of Christ, and, what is more, as opposed to Christ. To the fathers they were not only profitable exercises and aids to piety, but efficacious means of grace. But then their whole value lay in Christ, and in the appointment of God. The false apostles, on the other hand, neglecting the promises, endeavored to oppose the ceremonies to Christ, as if Christ alone were not sufficient. That they should be regarded by Paul as worthless trifles, cannot excite surprise; but of this I have already spoken. The word bondage conveys a reproof for submitting to be slaves. (68)

(67) Μᾶλλον δὲ “The Greek writers make use of these two particles for the purpose of correcting what they have already said, and, as if it had not been enough, of adding something more. Thus, Rom 8:34, and in Polybius. Χρήσιμον εἴη μᾶλλον δ ᾿ αηναγκαῖον. “It would be useful, it would even be necessary.” Καὶ γὰρ ἄτοπον μᾶλλον δ ᾿ ὡς εἰπεῖν ἀδύνατον, αδυνατον. “It would be absurd; it would even be impossible.” — Raphelius.

(68)Par ce mot de Servir, il reprend la necessity, a laquelle ils s’astraignoyent d’observer les ceremonies.” “By the word ‘bondage,’ he reproves them for the necessity to which they had reduced themselves to observe ceremonies.”

Galatians 4:10

10.Ye observe days. He adduces as an instance one description of “elements,” the observance of days. No condemnation is here given to the observance of dates in the arrangements of civil society. The order of nature out of which this arises, is fixed and constant. How are months and years computed, but by the revolution of the sun and moon? What distinguishes summer from winter, or spring from harvest, but the appointment of God, — an appointment which was promised to continue to the end of the world? (Gen 8:22.) The civil observation of days contributes not only to agriculture and to matters of politics, and ordinary life, but is even extended to the government of the church. Of what nature, then, was the observation which Paul reproves? It was that which would bind the conscience, by religious considerations, as if it were necessary to the worship of God, and which, as he expresses it in the Epistle to the Romans, would make a distinction between one day and another. (Rom 14:5.)

When certain days are represented as holy in themselves, when one day is distinguished from another on religious grounds, when holy days are reckoned a part of divine worship, then days are improperly observed. The Jewish Sabbath, new moons, and other festivals, were earnestly pressed by the false apostles, because they had been appointed by the law. When we, in the present age, intake a distinction of days, we do not represent them as necessary, and thus lay a snare for the conscience; we do not reckon one day to be more holy than another; we do not make days to be the same thing with religion and the worship of God; but merely attend to the preservation of order and harmony. The observance of days among us is a free service, and void of all superstition.

Galatians 4:11

11.Lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain. The expression is harsh, and must have filled the Galatians with alarm; for what hope was left to them, if Paul’s labor had been in vain? Some have expressed astonishment that Paul should be so powerfully affected by the observance of days, as almost to designate it a subversion of the whole gospel. But if we carefully weigh the whole, we shall see that there was just reason; and that the false apostles not only attempted to lay the yoke of Jewish bondage on the neck of the church, but filled their minds with wicked superstitions. To bring back Christianity to Judaism, was in itself no light evil; but far more serious mischief was done, when, in opposition to the grace of Christ, they set up holidays as meritorious performances, and pretended that this mode of worship would propitiate the divine favor. When such doctrines were received, the worship of God was corrupted, the grace of Christ made void, and the freedom of conscience oppressed.

Do we wonder that Paul should be afraid that he had labored in vain, that the gospel would henceforth be of no service? And since that very description of impiety is now supported by Popery, what sort of Christ or what sort of gospel does it retain? So far as respects the binding of consciences, they enforce the observance of days with not less severity than was done by Moses. They consider holidays, not less than the false apostles did, to be a part of the worship of God, and even connect with them the diabolical notion of merit. The Papists must therefore be held equally censurable with the false apostles; and with this addition in aggravation, that, while the former proposed to keep those days which had been appointed by the law of God, the latter enjoin days, rashly stamped with their own seal, to be observed as most holy.

Galatians 4:12

12.Be as I am. Having till now spoken roughly, he begins to adopt a milder strain. The former harshness had been more than justified by the heinousness of the offense; but as he wished to do good, he resolves to adopt a style of conciliation. It is the part of a wise pastor to consider, not what those who have wandered may justly deserve, but what may be the likeliest method of bringing them back to the right path. He must “be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine.” (2Ti 4:2.) Following the method which he had recommended to Timothy, he leaves off chiding, and begins to use entreaties. I beseech you, he says, and calls them brethren, to assure them that no bitterness had mingled with his reproofs.

The words, be as I am, refer to the affection of the mind. As he endeavors to accommodate himself to them, so he wishes that they would do the like by him in return. For I am as ye are. “As I have no other object in view than to promote your benefit, so it is proper that you should be prevailed on to adopt moderate views, and to lend a willing, obedient ear to my instructions.” And here again pastors are reminded of their duty to come down, as far as they can, to the people, and to study the various dispositions of those with whom they have to deal, if they wish to obtain compliance with their message. The proverb still holds: “to be loved, you must be lovely.”

Ye have not injured me at all. This is intended to remove the suspicion which might have rendered his former reproofs more disagreeable. If we think that a person is speaking under a sense of injury, or revenging a private quarrel, we turn away our minds from him entirely, and are sure to torture whatever he says into an unfavourable interpretation. Paul therefore meets the rising prejudice by saying, “So far as respects myself, I have no cause to complain of you. It is not on my own account, nor from any hostility to you, that I feel warmly; and therefore, if I use strong language, it must arise from some other cause than hatred or anger.”

Galatians 4:13

13.Ye know that, through infirmity of the flesh. He recalls to their recollection the friendly and respectful manner in which they had received him, and he does so for two reasons. First, to let them know that he loved them, and thus to gain a ready ear to all that he says; and secondly, to encourage them, that, as they had begun well, they would go on in the same course. This mention of past occurrences, then, while it is an expression of his kind regards, is intended likewise as an exhortation to act in the same manner as they had done at an earlier period.

By infirmity of the flesh he means here, as in other places, what had a tendency to make him appear mean and despised. Flesh denotes his outward appearance, which the word infirmity describes to have been contemptible. Such was Paul when he came among them, without show, without pretense, without worldly honors or rank, without everything that could gain him respect or estimation in the eyes of men. Yet all this did not prevent the Galatians from giving him the most honorable reception. The narrative contributes powerfully to his argument, for what was there in Paul to awaken their esteem or veneration, but the power of the Holy Spirit alone? Under what pretext, then, will they now begin to despise that power? Next, they are charged with inconsistency, since no subsequent occurrence in the life of Paul could entitle them to esteem him less than before. But this he leaves to be considered by the Galatians, contenting himself with indirectly suggesting it as a subject of consideration.

Galatians 4:14

14.My temptation. That is, “Though ye perceived me to be, in a worldly point of view, a contemptible person, yet ye did not reject me.” He calls it a temptation or trial, because it was a thing not unknown or hidden, and he did not himself attempt to conceal it, as is usually done by ambitious men, who are ashamed of anything about them that may lower them in public estimation. It frequently happens that unworthy persons receive applause, before their true character has been discovered, and shortly afterwards are dismissed with shame and disgrace. But widely different was the case of Paul, who had used no disguise to impose on the Galatians, but had frankly told them what he was.

As an angel of God. In this light every true minister of Christ ought to be regarded. As God employs the services of angels for communicating to us his favors, so godly teachers are divinely raised up to administer to us the most excellent of all blessings, the doctrine of eternal salvation. Not without good reason are they, by whose hands God dispenses to us such a treasure, compared to angels: for they too are the messengers of God, by whose mouth God speaks to us. And this argument is used by Malachi.

“The priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. ” (Mal 2:7.)

But the apostle rises still higher, and adds, even as Christ Jesus; for the Lord himself commands that his ministers shall be viewed in the same light as himself.

“He that heareth you heareth me, and he that despiseth you despiseth me.” (Luk 10:16.)

Nor is this wonderful; for it is in his name that they discharge their embassy, and thus they hold the rank of him in whose room they act. Such is the highly commendatory language which reveals to us at once the majesty of the gospel, and the honorable character of its ministry. If it be the command of Christ that his ministers shall be thus honored, it is certain that contempt of them proceeds from the instigation of the devil; and indeed they never can be despised so long as the word of God is esteemed. In vain do the Papists attempt to hold out this pretext for their own arrogant pretensions. As they are plainly the enemies of Christ, how absurd is it that they should assume the garb, and take to themselves the character, of Christ’s servants! If they wish to obtain the honors of angels, let them perform the duty of angels: if they wish that we should listen to them as to Christ, let them convey to us faithfully his pure word.

Galatians 4:15

15.Where is there your blessedness? Paul had made them happy, and he intimates that the pious affection with which they formerly regarded him was an expression of their happiness. But now, by allowing themselves to be deprived of the services of him to whom they ought to have attributed whatever knowledge they possessed of Christ, they gave evidence that they were unhappy. This hint was intended to produce keen reflection. “What? Shall all this be lost? Will you forfeit all the advantage of having once heard Christ speaking by my lips? Shall the foundation in the faith which you received from me be to no purpose? Shall your falling away now destroy the glory of your obedience in the presence of God?” In short, by despising the pure doctrine which they had embraced, they throw away, of their own accord, the blessedness which they had obtained, and draw down upon themselves the destruction in which their unhappy career must terminate.

For I bear you record. It is not enough that pastors be respected, if they are not also loved; for both are necessary to make the doctrine they preach be fully relished; and both, the apostle declares, had existed among the Galatians. He had already spoken of their respect for him, and he now speaks of their love. To be willing to pluck out their own eyes, if it had been necessary, was an evidence of very extraordinary love, stronger than the willingness to part with life.

Galatians 4:16

16.Am I therefore become your enemy? He now returns to speak about himself. It was entirely their own fault, he says, that they had changed their minds. Though it is a common remark, that truth begets hatred, yet, except through the malice and wickedness of those who cannot endure to hear it, truth is never hateful. While he vindicates himself from any blame in the unhappy difference between them, he indirectly censures their ingratitude. Yet still his advice is friendly, not to reject, on rash or light grounds, the apostleship of one whom they had formerly considered to be worthy of their warmest love. What can be more unbecoming than that the hatred of truth should change enemies into friends? His aim then is, not so much to upbraid, as to move them to repentance.

Galatians 4:17

17.They are jealous of you. He comes at length to the false apostles, and does more by silence to make them odious, than if he had given their names; for we usually abstain from naming those whose very names produce in us dislike and aversion. He mentions the immoderate ambition of those men, and warns the Galatians not to be led astray by their appearance of zeal. The comparison is borrowed from honorable love, as contrasted with those professions of regard which arise from unhallowed desires. Jealousy, on the part of the false apostles, ought not to impose upon them; for it proceeded not from right zeal, but from an improper desire of obtaining reputation, — a desire most unlike that holy jealousy of which Paul speaks to the Corinthians.

“For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy; for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2Co 11:2.)

To expose still more fully their base arts, he corrects his language. Yea, they would exclude you (69) They not only endeavor to gain your affections, but, as they cannot obtain possession of you by any other means, they endeavor to kindle strife between us. When you have been thrown as it were destitute, they expect that you will yield yourselves up to them; for they perceive that, so long as there shall be maintained between us a religious harmony, they can have no influence. This stratagem is frequently resorted to by all the ministers of Satan. By producing in the people a dislike of their pastor, they hope afterwards to draw them to themselves; and, having disposed of the rival, to obtain quiet possession. A careful and judicious examination of their conduct will discover that in this way they always begin.

(69) ́̓Εστι γὰρ καὶ ζὢλος ἀγαθὸς ὅταν τις οὕτω ζηλοῖ ὥστε μιμήσασθαι τὴν ἀρετήν· ἔστι καὶ ζὢλος προνηρὸς ὤστε ἐκβάλλειν τὢς ἀρετὢς τὸν κατορθοῦντα· ὅ δὴ καὶ αὐτοὶ νῦν ἐπιχειροῦσι, τὢς μὲν τελείας γνώσεως ἐκβάλλειν θέλοντες, εἰς δὲ τὴν ἠκρωτηριασμένην ὑμᾶς δὲ τοὺς νῦν ὑψηλοτέρους αὐτῶν ὄντας, ἐν τάξει καταστήσωσι μαθητῶν· τοῦτο γὰρ ἐδήλωσεν εἰτὼν ἵνα αὐτοὺς ζηλοῦτε

“There is a good zeal, when one emulates in such a manner as to imitate virtue; and there is a bad zeal, which ‘drives away’ from virtue one who is acting right. And this is what they are now attempting to do, when they wish to ‘drive away’ from perfect knowledge, and to lead them to that which is mutilated and spurious, for no other reason than that they may occupy the ranks of teachers, and that you, who are higher than themselves, may be placed by them in the rank of scholars; for this is what he meant by saying, ‘that ye may emulate them.’” — Chrysostom.

Galatians 4:18

18.But it is good to be the object of jealousy. It is hard to say whether this refers to himself or to the Galatians. Good ministers are exhorted to cherish holy jealousy in watching over the churches,

“that they may present them as a chaste virgin to Christ.” (2Co 11:2.)

If it refers to Paul, the meaning will be: “I confess that I also am jealous of you, but with a totally different design: and I do so as much when I am absent as when I am present, because I do not seek my own advantage.” But I am rather inclined to view it as referring to the Galatians, though in this case it will admit of more than one interpretation. It may mean: “They indeed attempt to withdraw your affections from me, that, when you are thrown destitute, you may go over to them; but do you, who loved me while I was present, continue to cherish the same regard for me when I am absent.” But a more correct explanation is suggested by the opposite senses which the word ζηλοῦσθαι bears. As, in the former verse, he had used the word jealous in a bad sense, denoting an improper way of accomplishing an object, so here he uses it in a good sense, denoting a zealous imitation of the good qualities of another. By condemning improper jealousy, he now exhorts the Galatians to engage in a different sort of competition, and that, too, while he was absent.

Galatians 4:19

19.My little children. The word children is still softer and more affectionate than brethren; and the diminutive, little children, is an expression, not of contempt, but of endearment, though, at the same time, it suggests the tender years of those who ought now to have arrived at full age. (Heb 5:12.) The style is abrupt, which is usually the case with highly pathetic passages. Strong feeling, from the difficulty of finding adequate expression, breaks off our words when half uttered, while the powerful emotion chokes the utterance.

Of whom I travail in birth again. This phrase is added, to convey still more fully his vehement affection, which endured, on their account, the throes and pangs of a mother. It denotes likewise his anxiety; for

“a woman, when she is in travail, hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.” (Joh 16:21.)

The Galatians had already been conceived and brought forth; but, after their revolt, they must now be begotten a second time.

Until Christ be formed in you. By these words he soothes their anger; for he does not set aside the former birth, but says that they must be again nourished in the womb, as if they had not yet been fully formed. That Christ should be formed in us is the same thing with our being formed in Christ; for we are born so as to become new creatures in him; and he, on the other hand, is born in us, so that we live his life. Since the true image of Christ, through the superstitions introduced by the false apostles, had been defaced, Paul labors to restore that image in all its perfection and brightness. This is done by the ministers of the gospel, when they give

“milk to babes, and strong meat to them that are of full age,” (Heb 5:13,)

and, in short, ought to be their employment during the whole course of their preaching. But Paul here compares himself to a woman in labor, because the Galatians were not yet completely born.

This is a remarkable passage for illustrating the efficacy of the Christian ministry. True, we are “born of God,” (1Jo 3:9;) but, because he employs a minister and preaching as his instruments for that purpose, he is pleased to ascribe to them that work which Himself performs, through the power of his Spirit, in co-operation with the labors of man. Let us always attend to this distinction, that, when a minister is contrasted with God, he is nothing, and can do nothing, and is utterly useless; but, because the Holy Spirit works efficaciously by means of him, he comes to be regarded and praised as an agent. Still, it is not what he can do in himself, or apart from God, but what God does by him, that is there described. If ministers wish to do anything, let them labor to form Christ, not to form themselves, in their hearers. The writer is now so oppressed with grief, that he almost faints from exhaustion without completing his sentence.

Galatians 4:20

20.I would wish to be present with you now. This is a most serious expostulation, the complaint of a father so perplexed by the misconduct of his sons, that he looks around him for advice, and knows not to what hand to turn. (70) He wishes to have an opportunity of personally addressing them, because we thus obtain a better idea of what is adapted to present circumstances; because, according as the hearer is affected, according as he is submissive or obstinate, we are enabled to regulate our discourse. But something more than this was meant by the desire to change the voice (71) He was prepared most cheerfully to assume a variety of forms, and even, if the case required it, to frame a new language. This is a course which pastors ought most carefully to follow. They must not be entirely guided by their own inclinations, or by the bent of their own genius, but must accommodate themselves, as far as the case will allow, to the capacity of the people, — with this reservation, however, that they are to proceed no farther than conscience shall dictate, (72) and that no departure from integrity shall be made, in order to gain the favor of the people.

(70) ἀποροῦμαι ἐν ὑμῖν. “By these words the apostle undoubtedly expresses more than that he was ‘in doubt about’ the Galatians, and was at a loss what he should say about them; for in the preceding verse he had given utterance to the vehement emotion of his mind. With very nearly the same kind of emphasis does this word occur in the Septuagint, at Gen 32:7, where it is said, ‘And Jacob was greatly afraid, and was in deep anxiety.’ The concluding words are translated καὶ ἠπορεῖτο ” — Keuchenius.

(71) “To speak sometimes gently, and sometimes harshly, as the case might demand.” — Luther. Φωνή signifies not only a voice, but the thing that is spoken, (AElian, V. H., p. 347,) whether it be by word of mouth, or by letter. And therefore, when the apostle says that he ‘desired to change his voice,’ he means, that he should be glad to be present and converse with them personally, instead of writing to them at a distance; because then he could be more fully informed of their true state, and better able to know how to order his discourse to them.” — Chandler.

(72)Seulement qu’ils regardent de ne faire chose contre l’honneur de Dieu et leur conscience.” “Only let them beware of doing anything against the honour of God and their own conscience.”

Galatians 4:21

21.Tell me. Having given exhortations adapted to touch the feelings, he follows up his former doctrine by an illustration of great beauty. Viewed simply as an argument, it would not be very powerful; but, as a confirmation added to a most satisfactory chain of reasoning, it is not unworthy of attention.

To be under the law, signifies here, to come under the yoke of the law, on the condition that God will act toward you according to the covenant of the law, and that you, in return, bind yourself to keep the law. In any other sense than this, all believers are under the law; but the apostle treats, as we have already said, of the law with its appendages.

Galatians 4:22

22.For it is written. No man who has a choice given him will be so mad as to despise freedom, and prefer slavery. But here the apostle teaches us, that they who are under the law are slaves. Unhappy men! who willingly choose this condition, when God desires to make them free. He gives a representation of this in the two sons of Abraham, one of whom, the son of a slave, held by his mother’s condition; (73) while the other, the son of a free woman, obtained the inheritance. He afterwards applies the whole history to his purpose, and illustrates it in an elegant manner.

In the first place, as the other party armed themselves with the authority of the law, the apostle quotes the law on the other side. The law was the name usually given to the Five Books of Moses. Again, as the history which he quotes appeared to have no bearing on the question, he gives to it an allegorical interpretation. But as the apostle declares that these things are allegorized, (ἀλληγορούμενα,) Origen, and many others along with him, have seized the occasion of torturing Scripture, in every possible manner, away from the true sense. They concluded that the literal sense is too mean and poor, and that, under the outer bark of the letter, there lurk deeper mysteries, which cannot be extracted but by beating out allegories. And this they had no difficulty in accomplishing; for speculations which appear to be ingenious have always been preferred, and always will be preferred, by the world to solid doctrine.

With such approbation the licentious system gradually attained such a height, that he who handled Scripture for his own amusement not only was suffered to pass unpunished, but even obtained the highest applause. For many centuries no man was considered to be ingenious, who had not the skill and daring necessary for changing into a variety of curious shapes the sacred word of God. This was undoubtedly a contrivance of Satan to undermine the authority of Scripture, and to take away from the reading of it the true advantage. God visited this profanation by a just judgment, when he suffered the pure meaning of the Scripture to be buried under false interpretations.

Scripture, they say, is fertile, and thus produces a variety of meanings. (74) I acknowledge that Scripture is a most rich and inexhaustible fountain of all wisdom; but I deny that its fertility consists in the various meanings which any man, at his pleasure, may assign. Let us know, then, that the true meaning of Scripture is the natural and obvious meaning; and let us embrace and abide by it resolutely. Let us not only neglect as doubtful, but boldly set aside as deadly corruptions, those pretended expositions, which lead us away from the natural meaning.

But what reply shall we make to Paul’s assertion, that these things are allegorical ? Paul certainly does not mean that Moses wrote the history for the purpose of being turned into an allegory, but points out in what way the history may be made to answer the present subject. This is done by observing a figurative representation of the Church there delineated. And a mystical interpretation of this sort (ἀναγωγή) was not inconsistent with the true and literal meaning, when a comparison was drawn between the Church and the family of Abraham. As the house of Abraham was then a true Church, so it is beyond all doubt that the principal and most memorable events which happened in it are so many types to us. As in circumcision, in sacrifices, in the whole Levitical priesthood, there was an allegory, as there is an allegory at the present day in our sacraments, — so was there likewise in the house of Abraham; but this does not involve a departure from the literal meaning. In a word, Paul adduces the history, as containing a figurative representation of the two covenants in the two wives of Abraham, and of the two nations in his two sons. And Chrysostom, indeed, acknowledges that the word allegory points out the present application to be (κατάχρησις) (75) different from the natural meaning; which is perfectly true.

(73)La servile condition de sa mere.” “His mother’s condition as a slave.”

(74)Et pour ceste cause elle engendre plusieurs sens et de diverses sortes.” “And therefore it produces many meanings, and of various kinds.”

(75) “A cataehresis borrows the name of one thing to express another; which thing, though it has a name of its own, yet, under a borrowed name, surprises us with novelty, or infuses into our discourses a bold and daring energy. The Sacred Scriptures will furnish us with many instances of this trope. Lev 26:30, — ‘And I will cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols;’ that is, upon the ruins of your idols, which shall be as much destroyed as the body is when it is slain, and become a dead carcase. So Deu 32:14; Psa 80:5; Hos 14:2. But the boldest catachresis, perhaps, in all the Holy Scriptures, is in 1Co 1:25., Because the foolishness of God,’ says the apostle, ‘is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men;’ that is, what men are apt to account foolishness in God surpasses their wisdom, and what they may be ready to misconstrue as weakness in God, excels all their power. Gibbons’s Rhetoric.

Galatians 4:23

23.But he who was of the bond woman. Both were sons of Abraham according to the flesh; but in Isaac there was this peculiarity, that he had the promise of grace. In Ishmael there was nothing besides nature; in Isaac there was the election of God, signified in part by the manner of his birth, which was not in the ordinary course, but miraculous. Yet there is an indirect reference to the calling of the Gentiles, and the rejection of the Jews: for the latter boast of their ancestry, while the former, without any human interference, are become the spiritual offspring of Abraham.

Galatians 4:24

24.These are the two covenants. I have thought it better to adopt this translation, in order not to lose sight of the beauty of the comparison; for Paul compares the two διαθὢκαι, to two mothers, and to employ testamentum, (a testament,) which is a neuter noun, for denoting a mother, would be harsh. The word pactio (a covenant) appears to be, on that account, more appropriate; and indeed the desire of obtaining perspicuity, as well as elegance, has led me to make this choice. (76)

The comparison is now formally introduced. As in the house of Abraham there were two mothers, so are there also in the Church of God. Doctrine is the mother of whom we are born, and is twofold, Legal and Evangelical. The legal mother, whom Hagar resembles, gendereth to bondage. Sarah again, represents the second, which gendereth to freedom; though Paul begins higher, and makes our first mother Sinai, and our second, Jerusalem. The two covenants, then, are the mothers, of whom children unlike one another are born; for the legal covenant makes slaves, and the evangelical covenant makes freemen.

But all this may, at first sight, appear absurd; for there are none of God’s children who are not born to freedom, and therefore the comparison does not apply. I answer, what Paul says is true in two respects; for the law formerly brought forth its disciples, (among whom were included the holy prophets, and other believers,) to slavery, though not to permanent slavery, but because God placed them for a time under the law as “a schoolmaster.” (77) (Gal 3:25.) Under the vail of ceremonies, and of the whole economy by which they were governed, their freedom was concealed: to the outward eye nothing but slavery appeared. “Ye have not,” says Paul to the Romans, “received the spirit of bondage again to fear.” (Rom 8:15.) Those holy fathers, though inwardly they were free in the sight of God, yet in outward appearance differed nothing from slaves, and thus resembled their mother’s condition. But the doctrine of the gospel bestows upon its children perfect freedom as soon as they are born, and brings them up in a liberal manner.

Paul does not, I acknowledge, speak of that kind of children, as the context will show. By the children of Sinai, it will afterwards be explained, are meant hypocrites, who are at length expelled from the Church of God, and deprived of the inheritance. What, then, is the gendering to bondage, which forms the subject of the present dispute? It denotes those who make a wicked abuse of the law, by finding in it nothing but what tends to slavery. Not so the pious fathers, who lived under the Old Testament; for their slavish birth by the law did not hinder them from having Jerusalem for their mother in spirit. But those who adhere to the bare law, and do not acknowledge it to be “a schoolmaster to bring them to Christ,” (Gal 3:24,) but rather make it a hinderance to prevent their coming to him, are the Ishmaelites born to slavery.

It will again be objected, why does the apostle say that such persons are born of God’s covenant, and are considered to belong to the Church? I answer, strictly speaking, they are not God’s children, but are degenerate and spurious, and are disclaimed by God, whom they falsely call their Father. They receive this name in the Church, not because they are members of it in reality, but because for a time they presume to occupy that place, and impose on men by the disguise which they wear. The apostle here views the Church, as it appears in this world: but on this subject we shall afterwards speak.

(76) To a Latin scholar the author’s meaning is obvious enough. But it may be proper to apprize the English reader, that pactio (a covenant) is a feminine noun, and, on that account, is pronounced to be more natural and graceful, in a metaphorical description of a mother, than testamentum , (a testament,) which, being a neuter noun, sounds harshly in this connection. In that point of view, the preference is little else than a matter of taste; but, on far higher grounds, “covenant” is a more faithful translation than “testament;” and a careful investigation of the meaning of διαθήκη would contribute greatly to elucidate many passages of Scripture. — Ed.

(77)C’est a dire, les conduisoit comme petits enfans.” “That is, treated them like little children.”

Galatians 4:25

25.For Agar is mount Sinai (78) I shall not waste time in refuting the expositions of other writers; for Jerome’s conjecture, that Mount Sinai had two names, is trifling; and the disquisitions of Chrysostom about the agreement of the names are equally unworthy of notice. Sinai is called Hagar, (79) because it is a type or figure, as the Passover was Christ. The situation of the mountain is mentioned by way of contempt. It lies in Arabia, beyond the limits of the holy land, by which the eternal inheritance was prefigured. The wonder is, that in so familiar a matter they erred so egregiously.

And answers, on the other hand. The Vulgate translates it, is joined (conjunctus est) to Jerusalem; and Erasmus makes it, borders on (confinis) Jerusalem; but I have adopted the phrase, on the other hand, (ex adverso,) in order to avoid obscurity. For the apostle certainly does not refer to nearness, or relative position, but to resemblance, as respects the present comparison. The word, σύστοιχα, which is translated corresponding to, denotes those things which are so arranged as to have a mutual relation to each other, and a similar word, συατοιχία, when applied to trees and other objects, conveys the idea of their following in regular order. Mount Sinai is said (συστοιχεῖν) to correspond to that which is now Jerusalem, in the same sense as Aristotle says that Rhetoric is (ἀντίστροφος) the counterpart to Logic, by a metaphor borrowed from lyric compositions, which were usually arranged in two parts, so adapted as to be sung in harmony. In short, the word, συστοιχεῖ, corresponds, means nothing more than that it belongs to the same class.

But why does Paul compare the present Jerusalem with Mount Sinai? Though I was once of a different opinion, yet I agree with Chrysostom and Ambrose, who explain it as referring to the earthly Jerusalem, and who interpret the words, which now is , τὣ νῦν ̔ιερουσαλὴμ, as marking the slavish doctrine and worship into which it had degenerated. It ought to have been a lively image of the new Jerusalem, and a representation of its character. But such as it now is, it is rather related to Mount Sinai. Though the two places may be widely distant from each other, they are perfectly alike in all their most important features. This is a heavy reproach against the Jews, whose real mother was not Sarah but the spurious Jerusalem, twin sister of Hagar; who were therefore slaves born of a slave, though they haughtily boasted that they were the sons of Abraham.

(78)Car Agar est la montagne de Sina en Arabie, et est correspondante a Ierusalem; ou, Sina est une montagne en Arabie, correspondante a Ierusalem.” “For Agar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem; or, Sinai is a mountain in Arabia, which corresponds to Jerusalem.”

(79) “Several critics have thought it so extraordinary, that they have attempted to alter it from mere conjecture, as may be seen in Bowyer’s ‘Critical Conjectures.’ But no man, who knew that the Arabic word ‘Hagar’ meant a rock, could think of making an alteration in this passage; for it is obvious that τὸ ̀̔Αγαρ, in the neuter gender, cannot signify the woman Hagar; and Paul has not been guilty of a grammatical error, since the passage must be translated, ‘The word Hagar denotes Mount Sinai in Arabia.’“ — Michaelis.

“That this was an appellation of Sinai among the people of the surrounding country, we have the testimony of Chrysostom and the ancient commentators, which is also confirmed by the accounts of modern travellers. And it might well have it, since הגר (hagar) in Arabia signifies a rock, or rocky mountain; and as Sinai is remarkably such, it might be κατ ᾿ ἐξοχὴν, called τὸ ̀̔Αγαρ.” — Bloomfield.

Galatians 4:26

26.But Jerusalem, which is above. The Jerusalem which he calls above, or heavenly, is not contained in heaven; nor are we to seek for it out of this world; for the Church is spread over the whole world, and is a “stranger and pilgrim on the earth.” (Heb 11:13.) Why then is it said to be from heaven? Because it originates in heavenly grace; for the sons of God are

“born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man,” (Joh 1:13,)

but by the power of the Holy Spirit. The heavenly Jerusalem, which derives its origin from heaven, and dwells above by faith, is the mother of believers. To the Church, under God, we owe it that we are

“born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible,” (1Pe 1:23,)

and from her we obtain the milk and the food by which we are afterwards nourished.

Such are the reasons why the Church is called the mother of believers. And certainly he who refuses to be a son of the Church in vain desires to have God as his Father; for it is only through the instrumentality of the Church that we are “born of God,” (1Jo 3:9,) and brought up through the various stages of childhood and youth, till we arrive at manhood. This designation, “the mother of us all,” reflects the highest credit and the highest honor on the Church. But the Papists are fools and twice children, who expect to give us uneasiness by producing these words; for their mother is an adulteress, who brings forth to death the children of the devil; and how foolish is the demand, that the children of God should surrender themselves to her to be cruelly slain! Might not the synagogue of Jerusalem at that time have assumed such haughty pretensions, with far higher plausibility than Rome at the present day? and yet we see how Paul strips her of every honorable distinction, and consigns her to the lot of Hagar.

Galatians 4:27

27.For it is written. The apostle proves, by a quotation from Isaiah, that the lawful sons of the Church are born according to the promise. The passage is in Isa 54:0 where the prophet speaks of the kingdom of Christ and the calling of the Gentiles, and promises to the barren wife and the widow a numerous offspring; for it is on this ground that he exhorts the Church to “sing” and “rejoice.” The design of the apostle, let it be carefully remarked, is to deprive the Jews of all claim to that spiritual Jerusalem to which the prophecy relates. Isaiah proclaims, that her children shall be gathered out of all the nations of the earth, and not by any preparation of hers, but by the free grace and blessing of God.

He next concludes that we become the sons of God by promise, after the example (κατὰ ᾿Ισαὰκ) of Isaac, and that in no other way do we obtain this honor. To readers little skilled or practiced in the examination of Scripture, this reasoning may appear inconclusive; because they do not hold the most undoubted of all principles, that all the promises, being founded on the Messiah, are of free grace. It was because the apostle took this for granted, that he so fearlessly contrasted the promise with the law.

Galatians 4:29

29.As then, he that was born after the flesh. He denounces the cruelty of the false apostles, who wantonly insulted pious persons that placed all their confidence in Christ. There was abundant need that the uneasiness of the oppressed should be soothed by consolation, and that the cruelty of their oppressors should be severely checked. It is not wonderful, he says, that the children of the law, at the present day, do what Ishmael their father at first did, who, trusting to his being the first-born, persecuted Isaac the true heir. With the same proud disdain do his posterity now, on account of outward ceremonies, circumcision, and the various services of the law, molest and vaunt over the lawful sons of God. The Spirit is again contrasted with the flesh, that is, the calling of God with human appearance. (1Sa 16:7.) So the disguise is admitted to be possessed by the followers of the Law and of works, but the reality is claimed for those who rely on the calling of God alone, and depend upon his grace.

Persecuted. But persecution is nowhere mentioned, only Moses says that Ishmael was מצהק, (metzahek,) mocking, (Gen 21:9;) and by this participle he intimates that Ishmael ridiculed his brother Isaac. The explanation offered by some Jews, that this was a simple smile, is entirely inadmissible; for what cruelty would it have argued, that a harmless smile should have been so fearfully revenged? There cannot then be a doubt that he maliciously endeavored to provoke the child Isaac by reproachful language.

But how widely distant is this from persecution? (80) And yet it is not idly or unguardedly that Paul enlarges on this point. No persecution ought to distress us so much as to see our calling attempted to be undermined by the reproaches of wicked men. Neither blows, nor scourging, nor nails, nor thorns, occasioned to our Lord such intense suffering as that blasphemy:

“He trusted in God; what availeth it to him? for he is deprived of all assistance.” (Mat 27:43.)

There is more venom in this than in all persecutions; for how much more alarming is it that the grace of Divine adoption shall be made void, than that this frail life shall be taken from us? Ishmael did not persecute his brother with the sword; but, what is worse, he treated him with haughty disdain by trampling under foot the promise of God. All persecutions arise from this source, that wicked men despise and hate in the elect the grace of God; a memorable instance of which we have in the history of Cain and Abel. (Gen 4:8.)

This reminds us, that not only ought we to be filled with horror at outward persecutions, when the enemies of religion slay us with fire and sword; when they banish, imprison, torture, or scourge; but when they attempt, by their blasphemies, to make void our confidence, which rests on the promises of God; when they ridicule our salvation, when they wantonly laugh to scorn the whole gospel. Nothing ought to wound our minds so deeply as contempt of God, and reproaches cast upon His grace: nor is there any kind of persecution more deadly than when the salvation of the soul is assailed. We who have escaped from the tyranny of the Pope, are not called to encounter the swords of wicked men. But how blind must we be, if we are not affected by that spiritual persecution, in which they strive, by every method, to extinguish that doctrine, from which we draw the breath of life! — when they attack our faith by their blasphemies, and shake not a few of the less informed! For my own part, I am far more grieved by the fury of the Epicureans than of the Papists. They do not attack us by open violence; but, in proportion as the name of God is more dear to me than my own life, the diabolical conspiracy which I see in operation to extinguish all fear and worship of God, to root out the remembrance of Christ, or to abandon it to the jeers of the ungodly, cannot but rack my mind with greater anxiety, than if a whole country were burning in one conflagration:

(80) “The history tells us, that he laughed at, derided, and mocked him to scorn, which is real persecution; probably through pride, and the conceit of being Abraham’s eldest son and heir.” — Chandler. “Διώκω will here denote injurious treatment of every kind, both in deeds and words. And although the Mosaic history records only one instance of insulting treatment, — namely, on Ishmael mocking Sarah, when she weaned Isaac, (Gen 21:9,) yet when we consider the disappointment which both Hagar and Ishmael must have felt on the birth of Isaac, it was not unnatural for them to feel ill-will, and show it on every occasion, to the real heir of the promise. And many such are recorded, from tradition, in the Rabbinical writers.” — Bloomfield.

Galatians 4:30

30.But what saith the Scripture ? There was some consolation in knowing that we do but share the lot of our father Isaac; but it is a still greater consolation, when he adds, that hypocrites, with all their boasting, can gain nothing more than to be cast out of the spiritual family of Abraham; and that, to whatever extent they may harass us for a time, the inheritance will certainly be ours. Let believers cheer themselves with this consolation, that the tyranny of the Ishmaelites will not last for ever. They appear to have reached the highest pre-eminence, and, proud of their birthright, look down upon us with contempt; but they will one day be declared to be the descendants of Hagar, the sons of a slave, and unworthy of the inheritance.

Let us be instructed by this beautiful passage,

“not to fret ourselves because of evil-doers, neither be envious against the workers of iniquity,” (Psa 37:1,)

when they hold a temporary habitation and rank in the Church, but patiently to look for the end which awaits them. There are many pretended Christians, or strangers, who hold a place in the Church, but who afterwards give evidence of their departure from the faith, as he who, proud of his birthright, at first reigned, was cast out like a foreigner with the posterity of Ishmael. Some censorious persons smile at Paul’s simplicity, in comparing a woman’s passion, arising out of a trifling quarrel, to a judgment of God. But they overlook the decree of God, which took effect in such a manner, as to make it manifest that the whole transaction was directed by a heavenly providence. That Abraham should have been commanded to humor his wife (Gen 21:12) entirely in the matter, is no doubt extraordinary, but proves that God employed the services of Sarah for confirming his own promise. In a word, the casting out of Ishmael was nothing else than the consequence and the accomplishment of that promise, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called,” (Gen 21:12,) — not in Ishmael. Although, therefore, it was the revenging of a woman’s quarrel, yet God did not the less make known his sentence by her mouth as a type of the Church.

Galatians 4:31

31.So then, brethren. He now exhorts the Galatians to prefer the condition of the children of Sarah to that of the children of Hagar; and having reminded them that, by the grace of Christ, they were born to freedom, he desires them to continue in the same condition. If we shall call the Papists, Ishmaelites and Hagarites, and boast that we are the lawful children, they will smile at us; but if the two subjects in dispute be fairly compared, the most ignorant person will be at no loss to decide.

Galatians Chapter Five

Galatians 5:1

1.Stand fast therefore. After having told them that they are the children of the free woman, he now reminds them that they ought not lightly to despise a freedom so precious. And certainly it is an invaluable blessing, in defense of which it is our duty to fight, even to death; since not only the highest temporal considerations, but our eternal interests also, animate us to the contest. (81) Many persons, having never viewed the subject in this light, charge us with excessive zeal, when they see us so warmly and earnestly contending for freedom of faith as to outward matters, in opposition to the tyranny of the Pope. Under this cloak, our adversaries raise a prejudice against us among ignorant people, as if the whole object of our pursuit were licentiousness, which is the relaxation of all discipline. But wise and skillful persons are aware that this is one of the most important doctrines connected with salvation. This is not a question whether you shall eat this or that food, — whether you shall observe or neglect a particular day, (which is the foolish notion entertained by many, and the slander uttered by some,) but what is your positive duty before God, what is necessary to salvation, and what cannot be omitted without sin. In short, the controversy relates to the liberty of conscience, when placed before the tribunal of God.

The liberty of which Paul speaks is exemption from the ceremonies of the law, the observance of which was demanded by the false apostles as necessary. But let the reader, at the same time, remember, that such liberty is only a part of that which Christ has procured for us: for how small a matter would it be, if he had only freed us from ceremonies? This is but a stream, which must be traced to a higher source. It is because

“Christ was made a curse, that he might redeem us from the curse of the law,” (Gal 3:13;)

because he has revolted the power of the law” so far as it held us liable to the judgment of God under the penalty of eternal death; because, in a word, he has rescued us from the tyranny of sin, Satan, and death. Thus, under one department is included the whole class; but on this subject we shall speak more fully on the Epistle to the Colossians.

This liberty was procured for us by Christ on the cross: the fruit and possession of it are bestowed upon us through the Gospel. Well does Paul, then, warn the Galatians, not to be entangled again with the yoke of bondage, — that is, not to allow a snare to be laid for their consciences. For if men lay upon our shoulders an unjust burden, it may be borne; but if they endeavor to bring our consciences into bondage, we must resist valiantly, even to death. If men be permitted to bind our consciences, we shall be deprived of an invaluable blessing, and an insult will be, at the same time, offered to Christ, the Author of our freedom. But what is the force of the word again, in the exhortation, “and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage?” for the Galatians had never lived under the law. It simply means that they were not to be entangled, as if they had not been redeemed by the grace of Christ. Although the law was given to Jews, not to Gentiles, yet, apart from Christ, neither the one nor the other enjoys any freedom, but absolute bondage.

(81)Car il n’est pas yci seulement question du monde et des eommoditez de ceste vie, mais aussi des choses sainctes et qui eoncernent le service de Dieu.” “For the present subject comprehends not merely the world and the benefits of this life, but also holy things, and those which relate to the worship of God.”

Galatians 5:2

2.Behold, I Paul. He could not have pronounced a severer threatening than that it would exclude them entirely from the grace of Christ. But what is the meaning of this, that Christ will profit nothing to all who are circumcised? Did Christ profit nothing to Abraham? Nay, it was in order that Christ might profit him that he received circumcision. If we say that it was in force till the coming of Christ, what reply shall we make to the case of Timothy? We must observe, that Paul’s reasoning is directed not so properly against the outward rite or ceremony, as against the wicked doctrine of the false apostles, who pretended that it was a necessary part of the worship of God, and at the same time made it a ground of confidence as a meritorious work. These diabolical contrivances made Christ to profit nothing; not that the false apostles denied Christ, or wished him to be entirely set aside, but that they made such a division between his grace and the works of the law as to leave not more than the half of salvation due to Christ. The apostle contends that Christ cannot be divided in this way, and that he “profiteth nothing,” unless he is wholly embraced.

And what else do our modern Papists but thrust upon us, in place of circumcision, trifles of their own invention? The tendency of their whole doctrine is to blend the grace of Christ with the merit of works, which is impossible. Whoever wishes to have the half of Christ, loses the whole. And yet the Papists think themselves exceedingly acute when they tell us that they ascribe nothing to works, except through the influence of the grace of Christ, as if this were a different error from what was charged on the Galatians. They did not believe that they had departed from Christ, or relinquished his grace; and yet they lost Christ entirely, when that important part of evangelical doctrine was corrupted.

The expression Behold, I Paul, is very emphatic; for he places himself before them, and gives his name, to remove all appearance of hesitation. And though his authority had begun to be less regarded among the Galatians, he asserts that it is sufficient to put down every adversary.

Galatians 5:3

3.For I testify again. What he now advances is proved by the contradiction involved in the opposite statement. He who is a debtor to do the whole law (82) will never escape death, but will always continue to be held as guilty; for no man will ever be found who satisfies the law. (83) Such being the obligation, the man must unavoidably be condemned, and Christ can render him no service. We see then the contradictory nature of the two propositions, that we are partakers of the grace of Christ, and yet that we are bound to fulfill the whole law. But will it not then follow, that none of the fathers were saved? Will it not also follow that Timothy was ruined, since Paul caused him to be circumcised? (Act 16:3.) Wo to us then, till we have been emancipated from the law, for subjection is inseparable from circumcision!

It ought to be observed that Paul is accustomed to view circumcision in two different aspects, as every person who has best, owed a moderate degree of attention on his writings will easily perceive. In the Epistle to the Romans, (Rom 4:11,) he calls it “a seal of the righteousness of faith;” and there, under circumcision, he includes Christ and the free promise of salvation. But here he contrasts it with Christ, and faith, and the gospel, and grace, — viewing it simply as a legal covenant, founded on the merit of works.

The consequence is, as we have already said, that he does not always speak about circumcision in the same way; but the reason of the difference must be taken into account. When he views circumcision in its own nature, he properly makes it to be a symbol of grace, because such was the appointment of God. But when he is dealing with the false apostles, who abused circumcision by making it an instrument for destroying the Gospel, he does not there consider the purpose for which it was appointed by the Lord, but attacks the corruption which has proceeded from men.

A very striking example occurs in this passage. When Abraham had received a promise concerning Christ, and justification by free grace, and eternal salvation, circumcision was added, in order to confirm the promise; and thus it became, by the appointment of God, a sacrament, which was subservient to faith. Next come the false apostles, who pretend that it is a meritorious work, and recommend the observance of the law, making a profession of obedience to it to be signified by circumcision as an initiatory rite. Paul makes no reference here to the appointment of God, but attacks the unscriptural views of the false apostles.

It will be objected, that the abuses, whatever they may be, which wicked men commit, do not at all impair the sacred ordinances of God. I reply, the Divine appointment of circumcision was only for a time. After the coming of Christ, it ceased to be a Divine institution, because baptism had suceeeded in its room. Why, then, was Timothy circumcised? Not certainly on his own account, but for the sake of weak brethren, to whom that point was yielded. To show more fully the agreement between the doctrine of the Papists and that which Paul opposes, it must be observed, that the sacraments, when we partake of them in a sincere manner, are not the works of men, but of God. In baptism or the Lord’s supper, we do nothing but present ourselves to God, in order to receive his grace. Baptism, viewed in regard to us, is a passive work: we bring nothing to it but faith; and all that belongs to it is laid up in Christ. But what are the views of the Papists? They contrive the opus operatum, (84) by which men merit the grace of God; and what is this, but to extinguish utterly the truth of the sacrament? Baptism and the Lord’s supper are retained by us, because it was the will of Christ that the use of them should be perpetual; but those wicked and foolish notions are rejected by us with the strong abhorrence which they deserve.

(82) “If Judaism is the road to salvation, the whole of Judaism must be observed. You must not cull and throw away whatever part of it you think fit.” — Grotius.

(83)Car il ne s’en trouvera jamais un seul, qui satisfait entierement a la Loy.” “For never will there be found a single individual who entirely satisfies the law.”

(84) ‘Thus the Council of Trent has decreed: “If any man shall say that the sacraments of the new law do not contain the grace which they signify, or do not confer grace upon those who do not oppose an obstacle to it, as if external signs of grace or righteousness received by faith, let him be accursed.” — Sessio 7. De Sacramentis in genere , Canon vi. Again, “If any man shall say, that grace is not confered by the sacraments of the new law themselves, ex opere operato , but that faith alone in the divine promise is sufficient to obtain grace, let him be accursed. — Sessio vii. De Sacramentis in genere , Canon viii. The translator subjoins a few observations, by the late Rev. Dr. Dick, on a phrase which appears to defy translation. “This barbarous phrase opus operatum , which is utterly unintelligible without an explanation, signifies the external celebration of the sacraments. It has been defined by Popish writers to be the performance of the external work without any internal motion; and sacraments have been said to confer grace ex opere operato , because, besides the exhibition and application of the sign, no good motion is necessary in the receiver. All that is required is, that no obstacle shall be opposed to the reception of grace, and the only obstacle is mortal sin.” — Lectares on Theology, volume 4.

Galatians 5:4

4.Christ has become of no effect unto you. “If ye seek any part of righteousness in the works of the law, Christ has no concern with you, and ye are fallen from grace. ” They were not so grossly mistaken as to believe that by the observance of the law alone they were justified, but attempted to mix Christ with the law. In any other point of view, Paul’s threatenings would have utterly failed to produce alarm. “What are you doing? You deprive yourselves of every advantage from Christ, and treat his grace as if it were of no value whatever.” We see then that the smallest part of justification cannot be attributed to the law without renouncing Christ and his grace.

Galatians 5:5

5.For we through the Spirit. He now anticipates an objection that, might readily occur. “Will circumcision then be of no use?” In Jesus Christ, he replies, it availeth nothing. Righteousness, therefore, depends on faith, and is obtained, through the Spirit, without ceremonies. To wait for the hope of righteousness, is to place our confidence in this or that object, or, to decide from what quarter righteousness is to be expected; though the words probably contain the exhortation, “Let us continue steadfastly in the hope of righteousness which we obtain by faith.” When he says that we obtain righteousness by faith, this applies equally to us and to our fathers. All of them, as Scripture testifies, (Heb 11:5,) “pleased God;” but their faith was concealed by the veil of ceremonies, and therefore he distinguishes us from them by the word Spirit, which is contrasted with outward shadows. His meaning therefore is, that all that is now necessary for obtaining righteousness is a simple faith, which declines the aid of splendid ceremonies, and is satisfied with the spiritual worship of God.

Galatians 5:6

6.For in Jesus Christ. The reason why believers now wait for the hope of righteousness through the Spirit is, that in Christ, that is, in the kingdom of Christ, or in the Christian church, circumcision with its appendages is abolished; for, by a figure of speech in which a part is taken for the whole, the word Circumcision is put for ceremonies. While he declares that they no longer possess any influence, he does not admit that they were always useless; for he does not maintain that they were repealed till after the revelation of Christ. This enables us to answer another question, Why does he here speak so contemptuously of circumcision, as if it had been of no advantage? The rank which circumcision once held as a sacrament is not now considered. The question is not what was its value before it had been abolished. But under the kingdom of Christ, he pronounces it to be on a level with uncircumcision, because the coming of Christ has put an end to legal ceremonies.

But faith, which worketh by love. The contrast here introduced, between ceremonies and the exercise of love, was intended to prevent the Jews from thinking too highly of themselves, and imagining that they were entitled to some superiority; for towards the close of the Epistle, instead of this clause, he uses the words, a new creature. (Gal 6:15.) As if he had said, Ceremonies are no longer enjoined by Divine authority; and, if we abound in the exercise of love, all is well. Meanwhile, this does not set aside our sacraments, which are aids to faith but is merely a short announcement of what he had formerly taught as to the spiritual worship of God.

There would be no difficulty in this passage, were it not for the dishonest manner in which it has been tortured by the Papists to uphold the righteousness of works. When they attempt to refute our doctrine, that we are justified by faith alone, they take this line of argument. If the faith which justifies us be that “which worketh by love,” then faith alone does not justify. I answer, they do not comprehend their own silly talk; still less do they comprehend our statements. It is not our doctrine that the faith which justifies is alone; we maintain that it is invariably accompanied by good works; only we contend that faith alone is sufficient for justification. The Papists themselves are accustomed to tear faith after a murderous fashion, sometimes presenting it out of all shape and unaccompanied by love, and at other times, in its true character. We, again, refuse to admit that, in any case, faith can be separated from the Spirit of regeneration; but when the question comes to be in what manner we are justified, we then set aside all works.

With respect to the present passage, Paul enters into no dispute whether love cooperates with faith in justification; but, in order to avoid the appearance of representing Christians as idle and as resembling blocks of wood, he points out what are the true exercises of believers. When you are engaged in discussing the question of justification, beware of allowing any mention to be made of love or of works, but resolutely adhere to the exclusive particle. Paul does not here treat of justification, or assign any part of the praise of it to love. Had he done so, the same argument would prove that circumcision and ceremonies, at a former period, had some share in justifying a sinner. As in Christ Jesus he commends faith accompanied by love, so before the coming of Christ ceremonies were required. But this has nothing to do with obtaining righteousness, as the Papists themselves allow; and neither must it be supposed that love possesses any such influence.

Galatians 5:7

7.Ye did run well. The censure which the apostle administers for their present departure from the truth is mingled with approbation of their former course, for the express purpose that, by being brought to a sense of shame, they may return more speedily to the right path. The astonishment conveyed in the question, who hindered you? was intended to produce a blush. I have chosen to translate the Greek word πείθσθαι, obey, rather than believe, because, having once embraced the purity of the gospel, they had been led away from a course of obedience.

Galatians 5:8

8.This persuasion cometh not. Having formerly combated them by arguments, he at length pronounces, with a voice of authority, that their persuasion came not from God. Such an admonition would not be entitled to much regard, were it not supported by the authority of the speaker. But Paul, to whom the Galatians had been indebted for the announcement of their Divine calling, was well entitled to address them in this confident language. This is the reason why he does not directly say, from God, but expresses it by a circumlocution, him that hath called you (85) As if he had said, “God is never inconsistent with himself, and he it is who by my preaching called you to salvation. This new persuasion then has come from some other quarter; and if you wish to have it thought that your calling is from God, beware of lending an ear to those who thrust upon you their new inventions.” Though the Greek participle καλοῦντος, I acknowledge, is in the present tense, I have preferred translating, who hath called you, in order to remove the ambiguity.

(85) “The apostle’s statement seems to be, ‘This persuasion to which you have yielded is not from Christ. It comes from a very different quarter. The men who have employed it are not moved by his spirit. They have no divine authority; and you ought not to yield to them, no, not for an hour.’“ — Brown.

Galatians 5:9

9.A little leaven. This refers, I think, to doctrine, not to men. It guards them against the mischievous consequences which arise from corruption of doctrine, and warns them not to consider it, as is commonly done, to be a matter attended by little or no danger. Satan’s stratagem is, that he does not attempt an avowed destruction of the whole gospel, but he taints its purity by introducing false and corrupt opinions. Many persons are thus led to overlook the seriousness of the injury done, and therefore make a less determined resistance. The apostle proclaims aloud that, after the truth of God has been corrupted, we are no longer safe. He employs the metaphor of leaven, which, however small in quantity, communicates its sourness to the whole mass. We must exercise the utmost caution lest we allow any counterfeit to be substituted for the pure doctrine of the gospel.

Galatians 5:10

10.I have confidence in you. All his fierceness is again directed against the false apostles. To them the evil is traced, and on them the punishment is threatened. Good hopes are expressed regarding the Galatians, that they will quickly and readily return to a sincere belief. It gives us courage to learn that good hopes are entertained about us; for we reckon it shameful to disappoint those whose feelings towards us are kind and friendly. But to bring back the Galatians to the pure doctrine of faith, from which they had turned aside, was the work of God. The apostle says that he has confidence in them, ἐν Κυρίῳ, through the Lord, by which he reminds them that repentance is a heavenly gift, and that they must ask it from God.

He that troubleth you (86) The sentiment which he had just delivered is confirmed by thus indirectly imputing the greater part of the blame to those impostors by whom the Galatians had been deceived. From the punishment denounced against them, the Galatians are very nearly exempted. Let all who introduce confusion into churches, who break the unity of faith, who destroy their harmony, lend an ear to this; and if they have any right feeling, let them tremble at this word. God declares, by the mouth of Paul, that none “through whom such offenses come” (Luk 17:1) will pass unpunished. The phrase, whosoever he be, is emphatic; for the high sounding language of the false apostles had terrified the ignorant multitude. It became necessary for Paul to defend his doctrine with corresponding warmth and energy, and not to spare any one who dared to raise his voice against it, however eminent or however distinguished.

(86) “However, he ‘that troubleth you,’ or rather, ‘perplexes and unsettles you;’ as if this was all he could do, — not teach them. So Galen, cited by Wetstein; ταράττοντες μόνον τοὺς μανθάνοντας, διδάσκοντες δὲ οὐδέν, ‘only troubling the scholars, and teaching them nothing.’ The use of the singular will not prove that there was no more than one false teacher; since it may be used collectively. Yet the apostle seems to glance at one, the principal of them; and by ὅστις ἄν ᾖ, ‘whosoever he be,’ we may infer that he was a person of some consequence.” — Bloomfield.

Galatians 5:11

11.And I, brethren. This argument, is drawn from the final cause. “It would be completely in my power,” he says, “to avoid the displeasure of men, and every kind of danger and persecution, were I only to mix ceremonies with Christ. The earnestness with which I oppose them is not on my own account, nor for my own advantage.” But does it therefore follow that his doctrine is true? I answer, proper feelings and pure conscience, when manifested by a teacher, have no small share in obtaining confidence. Besides, it cannot be believed that any man would be so mad as to take measures, of his own accord, for bringing distress upon himself. Lastly, he throws upon his adversaries the suspicion, that, in preaching circumcision, they were more disposed to consult their own ease than to be faithful in the service of Christ. In short, Paul was at the farthest remove from ambition, covetousness, or regard to personal interest, since he despised favor and applause, and exposed himself to the persecutions and fury of the multitude rather than swerve a hair’s-breadth from the purity of the gospel.

Then is the offense of the cross ceased. Willingly does Paul, in speaking of the gospel, call it the cross, or the preaching of the cross, when he wishes to bring its poor, simple style, into contrast with the “great swelling words” (Jud 1:16) of human wisdom or righteousness. For the Jews, puffed up with an ill-founded confidence in their righteousness, and the Greeks, with a foolish belief of their wisdom, despised the meanness of the gospel. When therefore he says that now, If the preaching of circumcision be admitted, the offense of the cross will no longer exist, he means that the gospel will meet with no annoyance from the Jews, but will be taught with their entire concurrence. And why? Because they will no longer take offense at a pretended and spurious gospel, gathered out of Moses and out of Christ, but will look with greater indulgence on that mixture which will leave them in possession of their former superiority.

Galatians 5:12

12.Would that they were even cut off. His indignation proceeds still farther, and he prays for destruction on those impostors by whom the Galatians had been deceived. The word, “cut off,” appears to be employed in allusion to the circumcision which they pressed. “They tear the church for the sake of circumcision: I wish they were entirely cut off.” Chrysostom favors this opinion. But how can such an imprecation be reconciled with the mildness of an apostle, who ought to wish that all should be saved, and that not a single person should perish? So far as men are concerned, I admit the force of this argument; for it is the will of God that we should seek the salvation of all men without exception, as Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world. But devout minds are sometimes carried beyond the consideration of men, and led to fix their eye on the glory of God, and the kingdom of Christ. The glory of God, which is in itself more excellent than the salvation of men, ought to receive from us a higher degree of esteem and regard. Believers earnestly desirous that the glory of God should be promoted, forget men, and forget the world, and would rather choose that the whole world should perish, than that the smallest portion of the glory of God should be withdrawn.

Let us remember, however, that such a prayer as this proceeds from leaving men wholly out of view, and fixing our attention on God alone. Paul cannot be accused of cruelty, as if he were opposed to the law of love. Besides, if a single man or a few persons be brought into comparison, how immensely must the church preponderate! It is a cruel kind of mercy which prefers a single man to the whole church. “On one side, I see the flock of God in danger; on the other, I see a wolf “seeking,” like Satan, “whom he may devour.” (1Pe 5:8.) Ought not my care of the church to swallow up all my thoughts, and lead me to desire that its salvation should be purchased by the destruction of the wolf? And yet I would not wish that a single individual should perish in this way; but my love of the church and my anxiety about her interests carry me away into a sort of ecstasy, so that I can think of nothing else.” With such zeal as this, every true pastor of the church will burn. The Greek word translated “who trouble you,” signifies to remove from a certain rank or station. By using the word καὶ, even, he expresses more strongly his desire that the impostors should not merely be degraded, but entirely separated and cut off. (87)

(87) “But I am so far from inculcating on you the necessity of circumcision, I would even wish that all those, without exception, who endeavour thus to subvert your faith, were wholly cut off from the communion of the Christian church. — I wish that, instead of having hearkened to these seducing teachers, they had been cut off by you, excluded from the church, and disowned as brethren.’ (See 1Co 5:7.) And where he here expresses his wish, that the troublers of the Galatians were cut off, it is only putting them in mind what would have been both their prudence and their duty to have done; not to have hearkened to them, but to have disowned, and refused society with them as Christians. This being the plain and natural sense of the apostle’s words, they cannot be charged with any ill-natured or unfriendly wish.” — Chandler.

Galatians 5:13

13.Ye have been called to liberty. He now proceeds to show in what way liberty must be used. In the course of expounding the First Epistle to the Corinthians, we have pointed out that liberty is one thing, and that the use of it is another thing. Liberty lies in the conscience, and looks to God; the use of it lies in outward matters, and deals not with God only, but with men. Having exhorted the Galatians to suffer no diminution of their liberty, he now enjoins them to be moderate in the use of it, and lays down as a rule for the lawful use, that it shall not be turned into pretext or occasion for licentiousness. Liberty is not granted to the flesh, which ought rather to be held captive under the yoke, but is a spiritual benefit, which none but pious minds are capable of enjoying.

But by love. The method here explained of restraining liberty from breaking out into wide and licentious abuse is, to have it regulated by love. Let us always remember that the present question is not, in what manner we are free before God, but in what manner we may use our liberty in our intercourse with men. A good conscience submits to no slavery; but to practice outward slavery, or to abstain from the use of liberty, is attended by no danger. In a word, if “by love we serve one another,” we shall always have regard to edification, so that we shall not grow wanton, but use the grace of God for his honor and the salvation of our neighbors.

Galatians 5:14

14.For all the law. There is a contrast in this verse, though not plainly stated, yet evidently to be understood, between Paul’s exhortation and the doctrine of the false apostles. While they insisted on ceremonies alone, Paul takes a passing glance of the actual duties and exercises of Christians. The present commendation of love is intended to inform the Galatians, that love forms the chief part of Christian perfection. But we must inquire in to the reason why all the precepts of the law are included under love. The law consists of two tables, the first of which instructs us concerning the worship of God and the duties of piety, and the second instructs us concerning the love of our neighbor; for it is ridiculous to make a part the same with the whole. Some avoid this difficulty by reminding us that the first table contains nothing more than to love God with our whole heart. But Paul makes express mention of love to our neighbor, and therefore a more satisfactory solution must be sought.

Piety to God, I acknowledge, ranks higher than love of the brethren; and therefore the observance of the first table is more valuable in the sight of God than the observance of the second. But as God himself is invisible, so piety is a thing hidden from the eyes of men; and, though the manifestation of it was the purpose for which ceremonies were appointed, they are not certain proofs of its existence. It frequently happens, that none are more zealous and regular in observing ceremonies than hypocrites. God therefore chooses to make trial of our love to himself by that love of our brother, which he enjoins us to cultivate. This is the reason why, not here only, but in the Epistle to the Romans, (Rom 8:8,) love is called “the fulfilling of the law;” not that it excels, but that it proves the worship of God to be real. God, I have said, is invisible; but he represents himself to us in the brethren, and in their persons demands what is due to himself. Love to men springs only from the fear and love of God; and therefore we need not wonder if, by a figure of speech, in which a part is taken for the whole, the effect include under it the cause of which it is the sign. But it would be wrong in any person to attempt to separate our love of God from our love of men.

Thou shalt love thy neighbor. He who loves will render to every man his right, will do injury or harm to no man, will do good, as far as lies in his power, to all; for what else is included in the whole of the second table? This, too, is the argument employed by Paul in his Epistle to the Romans (Rom 13:10.) The word, neighbor, includes all men living; for we are linked together by a common nature, as Isaiah reminds us, “that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh” (Isa 58:7.) The image of God ought to be particularly regarded as a sacred bond of union; but, for that very reason, no distinction is here made between friend and foe, nor can the wickedness of men set aside the right of nature.

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself ”. The love which men naturally cherish toward themselves ought to regulate our love of our neighbor. All the doctors of the Sorbonne (88) are in the habit of arguing that, as the rule is superior to what it directs, the love of ourselves must always hold the first rank. This is not to interpret, but to subvert our Lord’s words. They are asses, and have not even a spark of the love of their neighhour; for if the love of ourselves were the rule, it would follow that it is proper and holy, and is the object of the divine approbation. But we shall never love our neighbors with sincerity, according to our Lord’s intention, till we have corrected the love of ourselves. The two affections are opposite and contradictory; for the love of ourselves leads us to neglect and despise others, — produces cruelty, covetousness, violence, deceit, and all kindred vices, — drives us to impatience, and arms us with the desire of revenge. Our Lord therefore enjoins that it be changed into the love of our neighbor.

(88) The College of the Sorbonne, in Paris, takes its name from Robert de Serbonne, who founded it in the middle of the thirteenth century. Its reputation for theological learning, philosophy, classical literature, and all that formerly constituted a liberal education, was deservedly high. In the Doctors of the Sorbonne the Reformation found powerful adversaries. The very name of this university, to which the greatest scholars in Europe were accustomed to pay deference, would be regarded by the multitude with blind veneration. If such men as Calvin, Beza, Melanchthon, and Luther, were prepared by talents and acquirements of the first order to brave the terrors of that name, they must have frequently lamented its influence on many of their hearers. Yet our author meets undaunted this formidable array, and enters the field with the full assurance of victory. Despising, as we naturally do, the weak superstitions and absurd tenets held by the Church of Rome, we are apt to underrate our obligations to the early champions of the Reformed faith, who encountered, with success, those veteran warriors, and ‘contended earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.’ (Jud 1:3.)” — Ed.

Galatians 5:15

15.But if ye bite and devour one another. From the nature of the subject, as well as from the language employed, we may conjecture that the Galatians had disputes among themselves; for they differed about doctrine. The apostle now demonstrates, from the result, how destructive such proceedings in the church must ultimately prove to be. False doctrine was probably a judgment from heaven upon their ambition, pride, and other offenses. This may be concluded from what frequently happens in the divine dispensations, as well as from an express declaration by the hand of Moses.

“Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul.” (Deu 13:3.)

By biting and devouring (89) he means, I think, slanders, accusations, reproaches, and every other kind of offensive language, as well as acts of injustice arising either from fraud or violence. And what is the end of them? To be consumed, while the tendency of brotherly love is to produce mutual protection and kindness. I wish we could always remember, when the devil tempts us to disputes, that the disagreement of members within the church can lead to nothing else than the ruin and consumption of the whole body. How distressing, how mad is it, that we, who are members of the same body, should be leagued together, of our own accord, for mutual destruction!

(89) Ταῖς λέξεσι δὲ ἐμφαντικῶς ἐχρήσατο· Οὐ γὰρ εἶπε δάκνετε, μόνον ὅπερ ἐστὶ φυμονμένου ἀλλὰ καὶ κατεσθίετε ὅπερ ἔστιν ἐμμένοντος τὣ πονηρίᾳ· ὁ μὲν γὰρ δάκνων ὀργὢς ἐπλήρωσε πάθος ὁ δὲ κατεσθίων θηριωδίας ἐσχάτης παρέσχεν ἀπόδειξιν·. “These words are used by him emphatically; for he did not merely say ‘Bite,’ which denotes an angry person, but likewise, ‘Devour,’ which denotes one who persists in wickedness. He who ‘bites’ has exhausted his angry passion, but he who ‘devours’ has given a demonstration of extreme cruelty.” — Chrysostom.

Galatians 5:16

16.This I say then. Now follows the remedy. The ruin of the church is no light evil, and whatever threatens it must be opposed with the most determined resistance. But how is this to be accomplished? By not permitting the flesh to rule in us, and by yielding ourselves to the direction of the Spirit of God. The Galatians are indirectly told, that they are carnal, destitute of the Spirit of God, and that the life which they lead is unworthy of Christians; for whence did their violent conduct towards each other proceed, but from their being guided by the lust of the flesh? This, he tells them, is an evidence that they do not walk according to the Spirit.

Ye shall not fulfill. We ought to mark the word fulfill; by which he means, that, though the sons of God, so long as they groan under the burden of the flesh, are liable to commit sin, they are not its subjects or slaves, but make habitual opposition to its power. The spiritual man may be frequently assaulted by the lusts of the flesh, but fulfill them, — he does not permit them to reign over him. — On this subject, it will be proper to consult Rom 8:0

Galatians 5:17

17.For the flesh lusteth. The spiritual life maintained without a struggle. We are here informed of the nature of the difficulty, which arises from our natural inclinations being opposed to the Spirit. The word flesh, as we had occasion to observe, in expounding the Epistle to the Romans, denotes the nature of man; for the limited application of it, which the sophists make to the lower senses, as they are called, is refuted by various passages; and the contrast between the two words puts an end to all doubt. The Spirit denotes the renewed nature, or the grace of regeneration; and what else does the flesh mean, but “the old man?” (Rom 6:6 Eph 4:22 Col 3:9.) Disobedience and rebellion against the Spirit of God pervade the whole nature of man. If we would obey the Spirit, we must labor, and fight, and apply our utmost energy; and we must begin with self-denial. The compliment paid by our Lord to the natural inclinations of men, amounts to this, — that there is no greater agreement between them and righteousness, than between fire and water. Where, then, shall we find a drop of goodness in man’s free will? unless we pronounce that to be good which is contrary to the Spirit of God;

“because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Rom 8:7.)

All the thoughts of the flesh are acts of enmity against God.

So that ye cannot do the things that ye would. This refers, unquestionably, to the regenerate. Carnal men have no battle with depraved lusts, no proper desire to attain to the righteousness of God. Paul is addressing believers. The things that ye would must mean, not our natural inclinations, but the holy affections which God bestows upon us by his grace. Paul therefore declares, that believers, so long as they are in this life, whatever may be the earnestness of their endeavors, do not obtain such a measure of success as to serve God in a perfect manner. The highest result does not correspond to their wishes and desires. I must again refer the reader, for a more extended view of my sentiments on this subject, to the Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans, (See Calvin on Rom 7:15.)

Galatians 5:18

18.But if ye be led by the Spirit. In the way of the Lord believers are apt to stumble. But let them not be discouraged, because they are unable to satisfy the demands of the law. Let them listen to the consolatory declaration of the apostle, which is also found in other parts of his writings, (Rom 6:14,) ye are not under the law. Hence it follows, that the performance of their duties is not rejected on account of their present defects, but is accepted in the sight of God, as if it had been in every respect perfect and complete. Paul is still pursuing the controversy about freedom. The Spirit is elsewhere (Rom 8:15) denominated by him, “the Spirit of adoption;” and when the Spirit makes men free, he emancipates them from the yoke of the law. As if he had said, “Is it your desire instantly to terminate the controversies in which you are now engaged? Walk according to the Spirit. You will then be free from the dominion of the law, which will act only in the capacity of a kind adviser, and will no longer lay a restraint upon your consciences.” Besides, when the condemnation of the law is removed, freedom from ceremonies follows as a necessary consequence; for ceremonies mark the condition of a slave.

Galatians 5:19

19.Now the works of the flesh are manifest. To obey the spirit and to oppose the flesh, are two great objects which have been set before Christians, and for the attainment of which they have been urged to make the most strenuous exertions. In accordance with these views, he now draws a picture both of the flesh and of the spirit. If men knew themselves, they would not need this inspired declaration, for they are nothing but flesh; but such is the hypocrisy belonging to our natural state, we never perceive our depravity till the tree has been fully made known by its fruits. (Mat 7:16; Luk 6:44.)

The apostle therefore now points out to us those sins against which we must fight, in order that we may not live according to the flesh. He does not indeed enumerate them all, and so he himself states at the conclusion of the list; but from those brought forward, the character of the remainder may be easily ascertained. Adultery and fornication are placed first, and next follows uncleanness, which extends to every species of unchastity. Lasciviousness appears to be a subsidiary term, for the Greek word ασέλγεια, which is thus translated, is applied to those who lead wanton and dissolute lives. These four denote sins forbidden by the seventh commandment. The next mentioned is idolatry, which is here employed as a general term for services grossly superstitious and openly practiced.

Seven classes which immediately follow, are closely allied, and another two are afterwards added. Anger and hatred differ chiefly in this, that anger is short, and hatred is lasting. Emulations and envyings are the occasions of hatred; and the following distinction between them is stated by Aristotle, in his second book on Rhetoric: — He who emulates is grieved that another should excel him, not because the virtue or worth of that person, in itself considered, gives him uneasiness, but because he would wish to be superior. The envious man has no desire to excel, but is grieved at the excellence of other men. None, therefore, he tells us, but low and mean persons indulge in envy, while emulation dwells in lofty and heroic minds. Paul declares both to be diseases of the flesh. From anger and hatred arise variance, strife, seditions; and he even traces the consequences so far as to mention murders and witchcraft (90) By revellings, (91) he means a dissolute life, and every kind of intemperance in the gratification of the palate. It deserves notice, that heresies are enumerated among the works of the flesh; for it shows clearly that the word flesh is not confined, as the sophists imagine, to sensuality. What produces heresies but ambition, which deals not with the lower senses, but with the highest faculties of the mind? He says that these works are manifest, so that no man may think that he will gain anything by evading the question; (92) for what avails it to deny that the flesh reigns in us, if the fruit betrays the quality of the tree?

(90) “The original word φαρμακεία sometimes denotes ‘poisonings,’ which were frequently practised among the heathens. Sometimes it signifies incantations or magic arts, or witchcraft, by which impostors and cheats endeavoured to impose on ignorant and credulous people, and which were carried on by poisonous intoxicating draughts and ointments, by which they did great mischief to the bodies of men. As it is here immediately placed after idolatry, I should imagine that the apostle intended those cursed arts of incantations and charms, those various methods of imposture and cheats, which were made use of by the heathen priests, to promote the idolatrous reverence and worship of their false gods. (See Rev 18:23.)” — Chandler.

(91) By κῶμοι are denoted those nocturnal revellings usually attendant on an evening of debauchery, consisting of licentious singing, dancing, and parading the streets with drunken riotings.” — Bloomfield.

(92)En volant nier, et usant de tergiversation.” “By wishing to deny it, and by shuffling.”

Galatians 5:21

21.Of which I tell you before. By this awful threatening he intended not only to alarm the Galatians, but likewise to glance indirectly at the false apostles, who had laid aside the far more valuable instruction, and spent their time in disputing about ceremonies. He instructs us, by his example, to press those exhortations and threatenings, agreeably to the words of the prophet,

“Cry aloud, spare not; proclaim to my people their sins.” (Isa 58:1)

What can be conceived more dreadful than that men should walk after the flesh, and shut themselves out from the kingdom of God? Who will dare to treat lightly the “abominable things which God hates?” (Jer 44:4.)

But in this way, we shall be told, all are cut off from the hope of salvation; for who is there that is not chargeable with some of those sins? I reply, Paul does not threaten that all who have sinned, but that all who remain impenitent, shall be excluded from the kingdom of God. The saints themselves often fall into grievous sins, but they return to the path of righteousness, “that which they do they allow not,” (Rom 7:15,) and therefore they are not included in this catalogue. All threatenings of the judgments of God call us to repentance. They are accompanied by a promise that those who repent will obtain forgiveness; but if we continue obstinate, they remain as a testimony from heaven against us.

They who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. The word κληρονομεῖν signifies to possess by hereditary right; for by no right but that of adoption, as we have seen in other passages, do we obtain eternal life.

Galatians 5:22

22.But the fruit (93) of the Spirit. In the former part of the description he condemned the whole nature of man as producing nothing but evil and worthless fruits. He now informs us that all virtues, all proper and well regulated affections, proceed from the Spirit, that is, from the grace of God, and the renewed nature which we derive from Christ. As if he had said, “Nothing but what is evil comes from man; nothing good comes but from the Holy Spirit.” There have often appeared in unrenewed men remarkable instances of gentleness, integrity, temperance, and generosity; but it is certain that all were but specious disguises. Curius and Fabrieius were distinguished for courage, Cato for temperance, Scipio for kindness and generosity, Fabius for patience; but it was only in the sight of men, and as members of civil society, that they were so distinguished. In the sight of God nothing is pure but what proceeds from the fountain of all purity.

Joy does not here, I think, denote that “joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom 14:17,) of which he speaks elsewhere, but that cheerful behavior towards our fellow-men which is the opposite of moroseness. Faith means truth, and is contrasted with cunning, deceit, and falsehood, as peace is with quarrels and contentions. Long-suffering is gentleness of mind, which disposes us to take everything in good part, and not to be easily offended. The other terms require no explanation, for the dispositions of the mind must be learned from the outward conduct.

But if spiritual men are known by their works, what judgment, it will be asked, shall we form of wicked men and idolaters, who exhibited an illustrious resemblance of all the virtues? for it is evident from their works that they were spiritual. I reply, as all the works of the flesh do not appear openly in a carnal man, but his carnaltry is discovered by one or another vice, so a single virtue will not entitle us to conclude that a man is spiritual. Sometimes it will be made evident, by other vices, that sin reigns in him; and this observation may be easily applied to all the cases which I have enumerated.

(93) “In the service of sin the toil is so great that, in comparison thereof, the benefit is as nothing; in the service of God the benefit is so great that, in comparison thereof, the labour is as nothing. Where the flesh rules all, the ‘work’ exceeds the ‘fruit;’ and therefore, without even mentioning the ‘work,’ it is called the ‘fruit’ of the Spirit. (See Eph 5:9.)” — Bishop Sanderson.

Galatians 5:23

23.Against such there is no law. Some understand these words as meaning simply that the law is not directed against good works, “from evil manners have sprung good laws.” But Paul’s real meaning is deeper and less obvious; namely, that, where the Spirit reigns, the law has no longer any dominion. By moulding our hearts to his own righteousness, the Lord delivers us from the severity of the law, so that our intercourse with himself is not regulated by its covenant, nor our consciences bound by its sentence of condemnation. Yet the law continues to teach and exhort, and thus performs its own office; but our subjection to it is withdrawn by the Spirit of adoption. He thus ridicules the false apostles, who, while they enforced subjection to the law, were not less eager to release themselves from its yoke. The only way, he tells us, in which this is accomplished, is, when the Spirit of God obtains dominion, from which we are led to conclude that they had no proper regard to spiritual righteousness.

Galatians 5:24

24.And they that are Christ’s. He adds this, in order to show that all Christians have renounced the flesh, and therefore enjoy freedom. While he makes this statement, the apostle reminds the Galatians what true Christianity is, so far as relates to the life, and thus guards them against a false profession of Christianity. The word crucified is employed to point out that the mortification of the flesh is the effect of the cross of Christ. This work does not belong to man. By the grace of Christ

“we have been planted together in the likeness of his death” (Rom 6:5,)

that we no longer might live unto ourselves. If we are buried with Christ, by true self-denial, and by the destruction of the old man, we shall then enjoy the privilege of the sons of God. The flesh is not yet indeed entirely destroyed; but it has no right to exercise dominion, and ought to yield to the Spirit. The flesh and its lusts are a figure of speech of exactly the same import with the tree and its fruits. The flesh itself is the depravity of corrupt nature, from which all evil actions proceed. (Mat 15:19; Mar 7:21.) Hence it follows, that the members of Christ have cause to complain, if they are still held to be in bondage to the law, from which all who have been regenerated by his Spirit are set free.

Galatians 5:25

25.If we live in the Spirit. According to his usual custom, the apostle draws from the doctrine a practical exhortation. The death of the flesh is the life of the Spirit. If the Spirit of God lives in us, let him govern our actions. There will always be many persons daring enough to make a false boast of living in the Spirit, but the apostle challenges them to a proof of the fact. As the soul does not remain idle in the body, but gives motion and rigour to every member and part, so the Spirit of God cannot dwell in us without manifesting himself by the outward effects. By the life is here meant the inward power, and by the walk the outward actions. The metaphorical use of the word walk, which frequently occurs, describes works as evidences of the spiritual life.

Galatians 5:26

26.Let us not be desirous of vain-glory, The special exhortations which were addressed to the Galatians were not more necessary for them than they are adapted to our own time. Of many evils existing in society at large, and particularly in the church, ambition is the mother. Paul therefore directs us to guard against it, for the vain-glory (κενοδοξία) of which he speaks is nothing else than ambition, (filimia,) or the desire of honor, by which every one desires to excel all others. The heathen philosophers do not condemn every desire of glory; but among Christians, whoever is desirous of glory departs from true glory, and therefore is justly charged with idle and foolish ambition. It is not lawful for us to glow but in God alone. Every other kind of glorying is pure vanity. Mutual provocations and envyings are the daughters of ambition. He who aspires to the highest rank must of necessity envy all others, and disrespectful, biting, stinging language is the unavoidable consequence.

John Calvin (1509-1564) – Habakkuk

Habakkuk
By
John Calvin (1509-1564)
Copyright – Public Domain

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Habakkuk 1:1

The greater part of interpreters refer this burden to the Chaldeans and the monarchy of Babylon; but of this view I do not approve, and a good reason compels me to dissent from their opinion: for as the Prophet addresses the Jews, and without any addition calls his prophecy a burden, there is no doubt but that he refers to them. Besides, their view seems wholly inconsistent, because the Prophet dreads the future devastation of the land, and complains to God for allowing His chosen and elect people to be so cruelly treated. What others think is more correct—that this burden belonged to the Jews.

What the Prophet understood by the word משא, mesha, has been elsewhere stated. Habakkuk then reproves here his own nation, and shows that they had in vain disdainfully resisted all God’s prophets, for they would at length find that their threatening would be accomplished. The burden, then, which the Prophet Habakkuk saw, was this—That God, after having exercised long forbearance towards the Jews, would at length be the punisher of their many sins. It now follows—

Habakkuk 1:2

As I have already reminded you, interpreters think that the Prophet speaks here of future things, as though he had in his view the calamity which he afterwards mentions; but this is too strained a meaning; I therefore doubt not but that the Prophet expostulates here with God for so patiently indulging a reprobate people. For though the Prophets felt a real concern for the safety of the people, there is yet no doubt but that they burned with zeal for the glory of God; and when they saw that they had to contend with refractory men, they were then inflamed with a holy displeasure, and undertook the cause of God; and they implored His aid to bring a remedy when the state of things had become desperate. I therefore consider that the Prophet here solicits God to visit these many sins in which the people had hardened themselves. And hence we conclude that he had previously exercised his office of a teacher; for it would have been otherwise improper for him to begin his work with such a complaint and expostulation. He had then by experience found that the people were extremely perverse. When he saw that there was no hope of amendment, and that the state of things was becoming daily worse, burning with zeal for God, he gave full vent to his feelings. Before, then, he threatens the people with the future vengeance of God, he withdraws himself, as it were, from intercourse with men, and in private addresses God himself.

We must bear this first in mind, that the Prophet relates here the secret colloquy he had with God: but it ought not to be ascribed to an unfeeling disposition, that in these words he wished to hasten God’s vengeance against his own kindred; for it behaved the Prophet not only to be solicitous for the salvation of the people, but also to feel a concern for the glory of God, yea, to burn with a holy zeal. As, then, he had in vain labored for a length of time, I doubt not but that, being as it were far removed from the presence of all witnesses, he here asks God, how long he purposed thus to bear with the wickedness of the people. We now apprehend the design of the Prophet and the import of his words.

But he says first, How long, Jehovah, shall I cry, and thou hearest not? How long shall I cry to thee for violence, that is, on account of violence, and thou savest not? We hence learn, that the Prophet had often prayed God to correct the people for their wickedness, or to contrive some means to prevent so much licentiousness in sinning. It is indeed probable that the Prophet had prayed as long as there was any hope; but when he saw that things were past recovery, he then prayed more earnestly that God would undertake the office of a judge, and chastise the people. For though the Prophet really condoled with those who perished, and was touched, as I have said, with a serious concern for their public safety, he yet preferred the glory of God: when, therefore, he saw that boldness in sin increased through impunity, and that the Jews in a manlier mocked God when they found that they could sin without being punished, he could not endure such unbridled wantonness. Besides, the Prophet may have spoken thus, not only as expressing his own feeling, but what he felt in common with all the godly; as though he had undertaken here a public duty, and utters a complaint common to all the faithful: for it is probable that all the godly, in so disordered a state of things, mourned alike. How long, then, shall I cry? How long, he says, shall I cry on account of violence? that is, When all things are in disorder, when there is now no regard for equity and justice, but men abandon themselves, as it were with loose reins, unto all kinds of wickedness, how long, Lord, wilt thou take no notice? But in these words the Prophet not only egresses his own feelings, but makes this kind of preface, that the Jews might better understand that the time of vengeance was come; for they were become not only altogether intolerable to God, but also to his servants. God indeed had suspended his judgement, though he had been often solicited to execute it by his Prophet. It hence appears, that their wickedness had made such advances that it would be no wonder if they were now severely chastised by the Lord; for they had by their sins not only provoked him against them, but also all the godly and the faithful.

Habakkuk 1:3

He afterwards adds, How long wilt thou show me iniquity, and make me to see trouble? Here the Prophet briefly relates the cause of his indignation,—that he could not, without great grief, yea, without anguish of mind, behold such evils prevailing among God’s chosen people; for they who apply this to the Chaldeans, do so strainedly, and without any necessity, and they have not observed the reason which I have stated—that the Prophet does not here teach the Jews, but prepares them for a coming judgement, as they could not but see that they were justly condemned, since they were proved guilty by the cry and complaints made by all the godly.

Now this passage teaches us, that all who really serve and love God, ought, according to the Prophet’s example, to burn with holy indignation whenever they see wickedness reigning without restraint among men, and especially in the Church of God. There is indeed nothing which ought to cause us more grief than to see men raging with profane contempt for God, and no regard had for his law and for divine truth, and all order trodden under foot. When therefore such a confusion appears to us, we must feel roused, if we have in us any spark of religion. If it be objected, that the Prophet exceeded moderation, the obvious answer is this,—that though he freely pours forth his feelings, there was nothing wrong in this before God, at least nothing wrong is imputed to him: for wherefore do we pray, but that each of us may unburden his cares, his griefs, and anxieties, by pouring them into the bosom of God? Since, then, God allows us to deal so familiarly with him, nothing wrong ought to be ascribed to our prayers when we thus freely pour forth our feelings, provided the bridle of obedience keeps us always within due limits, as was the case with the Prophet; for it is certain that he was retained under the influence of real kindness. Jeremiah did indeed pray with unrestrained fervor (Jer 15:10): but his case was different from that of our Prophet; for he proceeds not here to an excess, as Jeremiah did when he cursed the day of his birth, and when he expostulated with God for being made a man of contention. But our Prophet undertakes here the defense of justice; for he could not endure the law of God to be made a sport, and men to allow themselves every liberty in sinning.

We now, then, see that the Prophet can be justly excused, though he expostulates here with God, for God does not condemn this freedom in our prayers; but, on the contrary, the end of praying is, that every one of us pour forth, as it is said in the Psalms, his heart before God. As, then, we communicate our cares and sorrows to God, it is no wonder that the Prophet, according to the manner of men, says, Why dost thou show me iniquity, and make me to see trouble? Trouble is to be taken here in an active sense, and the verb תבימ, tabith, has a transitive meaning. (8) Some render it, Why dost thou look on trouble? as though the Prophet indignantly bore the connivance of God. But the context necessarily requires that this verb should be taken in a transitive sense. “Why dost thou show me iniquity?” and then, “and makest me to look on violence?” He says afterwards, in the third place, in my sight is violence. But I have said, that the word trouble is to be taken actively; for the prophet means not that he was worn out with weariness, but that wicked men were troublesome to the good and the innocent, as it is usually the case when a freedom in sinning prevails.

And why, he says, are violence and plunder in my sight? and there is he who excites, etc.? The verb נשא, nusha means not here to undertake, as some render it; but, on the contrary, to raise. Others render it, “Who supports,” but this is frigid. Therefore the translation which I have stated is the most suitable—And why is there one who excites strife and contention?

But the Prophet here accuses them only of sins against the second table of the law: he speaks not of the superstitions of people, and of the corrupted worship of God; but he briefly says, that they had no regard for what was just and right: for the stronger any one was, the more he distressed the helpless and the innocent. It was then for this reason that he mentioned iniquity, trouble, plunder, violence, contention, strife. In short, the Prophet here deplores, that there was now no equity and no brotherly kindness among the people, but that robberies, rapines, and tyrannical violence prevailed everywhere. It follows—

(8) Rather, a causative meaning; for so does Calvin take it; and Junius and Tremelius, Piscator, Grotius, and Newcome, agree with him: but Drusius, Marckius, Henderson, and others, consider it simply in the sense of seeing or beholding, and say with truth, that there is no other instance in which it has, though it be often found, as here, in Hiphil, a causative sense. The context, as Calvin says, seems certainly to favor this meaning; and we might suppose that Habakkuk used it in a sense different from others, were it not that he uses it at least twice in this very chapter, verses 5 and 13, simply in the sense of seeing or beholding.

In these two verses there is no need of continuing the interrogatory form throughout, nor is this justified by the original. A strictly literal rendering, such as the following, would be the most appropriate:

2.How long, Jehovah, have I cried, and thou hearest not? I cry aloud to thee, “oppression,” and thou savest not:

3.Why showest thou to me iniquity? Yea, wickedness is what thou seest; Even wasting and oppression are before me; Then there is strife, and contention arises.

Some think that there is to be understood a preposition before [חמם], which I render “oppression,” in the second line; but there is no need of it. The word means outrage, wrong forcibly done, violent injustice. [עמל], wickedness, in the second line of the third verse, in its primary sense, is labor, toil; it means also what produces toil, mischief, wickedness. Henderson renders it misery; but it is not so suitable; for it must be something that corresponds with iniquity in the previous line. Wickedness is the word adopted by Newcome. [ריב], strife, is a verbal contention or quarrel; and [מדוז] contention, is a judicial contest, or a trial by law. Then in the next verse we see how unjustly this trial was conducted.—Ed.

Habakkuk 1:4

The Prophet confirms here what I have already said, and brings an excuse for his zeal; he proves that he was not without reason led to so great a warmth; for he saw that the law of God was trodden as it were under foot; he saw men so hardened in every kind of sin, that all religion and the fear of God had nearly been extinguished. Hence I have already said, that the Prophet was not here impelled by a carnal passion, as it often happens to us, when we defend ourselves from wrongs done to us; for when any one of us is injured, he immediately becomes incensed, while, at the same time, we suffer God’s law to be a sport, His whole truth to be despised, and everything that is just to be violated. We are only tender on what concerns us individually, and in the meantime we easily forgive when God is wronged, and His truth despised. But the Prophet shows here that he was not made indignant through a private feeling, but because he could not bear the profanation of God’s worship and the violation of His holy law.

He therefore says, that the law was dissolved or weakened, as though he said that God’s law had no longer any authority or regard. Let us hence learn to rouse up ourselves, for we are very frigid, when the ungodly openly despise and even mock God. As, then, we are too unconcerned in this respect, let us learn, by the Prophet’s example, to stimulate ourselves. For even Paul also shows, in an indirect way, that there is just reason for indignation—‘Be ye angry,’ he says, ‘and sin not,’ (Eph 4:26); that is, every one ought to regard his own sins, so as to become an enemy to himself; and he ought also to feel indignant whenever he sees God offended.

This rule the Prophet now follows, Weakened, he says, is the law (9) We know that when a sinful custom prevails, there is but little authority in what is taught: nor are human laws only despised when men’s audacity breaks through all restraints, but even the very law of God is esteemed as nothing; for they think that everything erroneously done, by the consent of all, is lawful. We now then see that the Prophet felt great anguish of mind, like holy Lot (Gen 19:1.), when he saw every regard for God almost extinct in the land, and especially among the chosen people, whom God had above all others consecrated to himself.

He then adds, judgement goes not forth perpetually. Absurdly do many regard this as having been said in the person of foolish men, who think that there is no such thing as divine providence, when things in the world are in a disordered state: but the Prophet simply says, that all justice was suppressed. We have nearly the very same complaint in Isa 59:4. He then says, that judgement did not go forth perpetually, because the ungodly thought that no account was to be given by them. When, therefore, any one dared to say a word against them, they immediately boiled with rage, and like wild beasts fiercely attacked him. All then were silent, and nearly made dumb, when the ungodly thus prevailed and gathered boldness from the daily practice of licentiousness. Hence, ‘Go forth perpetually does not judgement;’ that is, “O Lord, things are now past hope, and there appears to be no end to our evils, except thou comest soon and applies a remedy beyond what our flesh can conceive.” For the wicked, he says, surround the righteous; that is, when there was any one who continued to retain some regard for religion and justice, immediately the wicked rose up against him on every side and surrounded him before and behind; so it happened, that no one dared to oppose the torrent, though frauds, rapines, outrages, cruelty, and even murders everywhere prevailed; if any righteous men still remained, they dared not come forth into the public, for the wicked beset them on all sides.

He afterwards adds, Therefore perverted judgement goes forth. The Prophet now rises higher, that even the rulers themselves increased the rage for evils, and as it were supplied fuel to their wickedness, as they confounded all distinction between right and wrong: for the Prophet speaks not here of private wrongs which any one might have done, but he speaks of the very rulers, as though he said, “There might have been one remedy, the judges might have checked so great an audacity; but they themselves stretch out their hands to the wicked and help them.” Hence the tribunals, which ought to have been sacred, were become as it were dens of thieves. The word משפט, meshiphith is taken properly in a good sense: Is not judgement then a desirable thing? Yes, but the Prophet says, that it was perverted. It was then by way of concession that judgement is mentioned; for he afterwards adds a word to it, by which he shows that the administration of the laws was evil and injurious: for when any one oppressed had recourse to the assistance of the laws, he was plundered. In short, the Prophet means, that all things in private and in public were corrupt among the people. It now follows—

(9) Calvin omits to notice “therefore,” [על-כז], at the beginning of the verse. Henderson says, that the connection is with the second verse: but this can hardly be the case; and certainly what this verse contains is no reason for what is stated in the previous verse. [לכז], a similar proposition with this, when followed by [כי], as the case is here, refers sometimes to what follows and not to what precedes. See Psa 16:10. The meaning of the verse will be elicited, as I can conceive, by the following version:—

On this account the law fails,
And judgment goeth not forth to victory,

Because wickedness surrounds the righteous;
Yea, on this account perverted judgment goeth forth.

The expression, [לא לנצח], is rendered “never” in our version, and by Newcome; but it never means this: “not for ever, or not always,” it is rendered in other places. See Psa 9:19. But [נצח] means as a noun, superiority, excellency, strength, victory; and this, according to Parkhurst, is what it means here. It seems better to render [רשע], wickedness, than wicked. It means injustice, the perversion of right, and by this the just man was surrounded or completely beset, so that he had no chance of having justice done to him.—Ed.

Habakkuk 1:5

The Prophet turns his discourse to the Jews, after having related the private colloquy, in which he expostulated with God for having so patiently borne with the obstinate wickedness of the nation. Being now as it were furnished with God’s command, (as the case really was,) he performs the office of a herald, and proclaims an approaching destruction. He indeed adopts a preface, which ought to have awakened drowsy and careless minds. He says—look, see, be astonished, be astonished; these repetitions do not a little increase the alarm; he twice bids them to see, and he twice exhorts them to be astonished, or to wonder. He then briefly proclaims the judgement of God, which he afterwards more fully describes. We now, then, perceive the object of the Prophet, and the manner in which he proceeds with his subject.

And he bids those among the nations to behold, as though he had said, that they were unworthy to be taught in the school of God; he therefore appointed other masters for them, even the Chaldeans, as we shall presently see. He might have said—look to God; but as the Prophet had so long spent his labor in vail and without profit while teaching them, he sets over them the Chaldeans as teachers. Behold, he says, ye teachers among the Gentiles. There is here indeed an implied contrast, as thought he said—“God has hitherto often recalled you to himself, and has offered himself to you, but ye have refused to look to him; now then, as he is wearied with exercising patience so long, he appoints for you other teachers; learn now from the Gentiles what ye leave hitherto refused to learn from the holy mouth of God himself”.

The Greek translators no doubt read בגורים, for their version is—“Behold, ye despisers.” (10) But in Hebrew there is no ambiguity as to the word.

He afterwards adds—And wonder ye, wonder (11) By these words the prophets express how dreadful God’s judgement would be, which would astonish the Jews themselves. Had they not been extremely refractory they might have quietly received instruction, for God would have addressed them by his prophets, as though they had been his own children. They might thus, with composed minds, have listened to God speaking to them; but the time was now come when they were to be filled with astonishment. We hence see that the Prophet meant this in a few words—that there would be a new mode of teaching, which would overwhelm the unwilling with astonishment, because they would not endure to be ruled in a gentle manner, when the Lord required nothing from them but to render themselves teachable.

After having said that God’s judgement would be dreadful, he adds that it was nigh at hand—a work, he says, will he work in your days, etc. They had already been often warned of that vengeance, but as they had for a long time disregarded it, they did ever remain sunk in their own self-delusions, like men who are wont to protract time and hunt on every side for some excuse for indulging themselves. So then when the people became hardened against all threatening, they thought that God would ever bear with them; hence the Prophet expressly declares, that the execution of that which they regarded as a fable was near at hand—He will work, he says, this work in your days

He then subjoins—ye will not believe when it shall be told you; that is, God will execute such a punishment as will be incredible and exceed all belief. The Prophet no doubt alludes to the want of faith in the people, and indirectly reproves them, as though he said—“Ye have hitherto denied faith to God’s word, but ye shall at length find that he has told the truth; and this ye shall find to your astonishment; for as his word has been counted by you incredible, so also incredible shall be his judgement.” In short, the Prophet intimates this—that though the Prophets had been derided by the Jews, and despised as inventors of fables, yet nothing had been said by them which would not be fully accomplished. This reward then was to be paid to all the unbelieving; for God would in the most dreadful manner avenge their impiety, so that they should themselves be astonished and become an astonishment to others. We now perceive what the Prophet meant by saying that the Jews would not believe the work of God when told them, that is, the vengeance which he will presently describe.

This passage is quoted by Paul, and is applied to the punishment then awaiting the Jews; for Paul, after having offered Christ to them, and seeing that many of them regarded the preaching of Gospel with scorn, added these words—“see,” he said, “and be astonished, for God will work a work in your days which ye shall not believe.” Paul at the same time made a suitable application of the Prophet’s words; for as God had once threatened his people by his Prophet Habakkuk, so he was still like himself; and since had so severely vindicated the contempt of his law as to his ancient people, he could not surely bear with the impiety of that people whom he found to have acted so malignantly and so ungratefully, yea so wantonly and perversely, as to reject his grace; for this was the last remedy for the Jews. No wonder then that Paul set before them this vengeance, when the Jews of his time persisted through their unbelief to reject Christ. Now follows the explanation –

(10) This may perhaps be considered one of the very few instances in which the Septuagint seems to have retained the true reading without the countenance of a single MS.; for the word “despisers” is more suitable to the context. The very same word is found in the 13th verse of this chapter. The omission is very trifling, only of the letter [ד], and Paul in quoting this passage, in Act 13:41, retains this word, while in the other clauses he departs from the Septuagint, and comes nearer to the Hebrew text. Pocock thought that [בגוים] is a noun from the Arabic [בגא], which means to be unjust or injurious; and thus the Hebrew is made the same with the Septuagint, and St. Paul, καταφρονηται, despisers—the insolent; but the former supposition seems the more probable—that the letter [ד] has been omitted. Dathius renders the word “perfidi —perfidious,” and Newcome “transgressors.”—Ed.

(11) This is the proper rendering, and not as in our version. It is not the usual mode in Hebrew to enhance the meaning by connecting two verbs together; but the two other verbs here are in the imperative mood, only the first is in Niphal and the other in Kal. Parkhurst very properly renders them, and be ye astonished, wonder, etc. The repetition, says Drusius, is for the sake of emphasis.—Ed.

Habakkuk 1:6

This verse is added by the Prophet as an explanation; for it was not enough to speak generally of God’s work, without reminding them that their destruction by the Chaldeans was nigh at hand. He does not indeed in this verse explain what would be the character of that judgement which he had mentioned in the last verse Hab 1:5; but he will do this in what follows. Now the Prophets differ from Moses in this respect, for they show, as it were by the finger, what he threatened generally, and they declare the special judgements of God; as it is indeed evident from the demonstrative adverb, “Behold.” How necessary this was, we may gather from the perverseness of that people; for how distinctly soever the Prophets showed to them God’s judgements, so that they saw them with their eyes, yet so great was their insensibility, that they despised denunciations so apparent. What, then, would have been done, if the Prophets had only said in general, ‘God will not spare you!’ This, then, is the reason why the Prophet, having spoken of God’s terrible vengeance, now declares in express terms, that the Chaldeans were already armed by Him to execute His judgement. The rest we leave for tomorrow.

Habakkuk 1:7

By saying that the Chaldeans would be terrible and dreadful, he praises not their virtues; but, as I have already reminded you, he shows that they would be prepared to do his service by executing his vengeance: and he so regulated his judgement, that he used their cruelty for a good purpose. Thus we see that the worst of men are in God’s hand, as Satan is, who is their head; and yet that God is not implicated in their wickedness, as some insane men maintain; for they say—That if God governs the world by his providence, he becomes thus the author of sin, and men’s sins are to be ascribed to him. But Scripture teaches us far otherwise,—that the wicked are led here and there by the hidden power of God, and that yet the fault is in them, when they do anything in a deceitful and cruel manner, and that God ever remains just, whatever use he may make of instruments, yea, the very worst.

But when the Prophet adds, that its judgement would be from the nation itself, he means that the Chaldeans would act according to their own will. When any one indeed obeys laws, and willingly submits to them, he will freely allow either judges or umpires in case of a dispute; but he who will have all things done according to his own purpose repudiates all judges. The Prophet therefore means, that the Chaldeans would be their own judges, so that the Jews or others would complain in vain for any wrongs done to them. “They shall be,” he says, “their own judges, and shall execute judgement, for they will not accept any arbitrators.” The word judgement, taken in a good sense, is put here for law (jus); as though he said, “Whatever the Chaldeans will claim for themselves, theirs shall it be; for no one will dare to interfere, and they will not submit to the will of others; but their power shall be for law, and their sword for a tribunal.” We now understand the Prophet’s meaning; and we must ever bear in mind what I have already said,—That God had no participation in these vices; but it was necessary that the stubbornness of an irreclaimable people should be thus corrected, or at least broken down. The Lord in the meantime could use such instruments in such a way as to preserve some moderation in his judgements. It follows—

Habakkuk 1:8

The design of these figurative expressions is the same. The Prophet had spoken of the cruelty of those enemies whom the Jews despised: he now adds, that they would be so active as to surpass in velocity both leopards and eagles, or to be at least equal to them. He then says first, that their horses would be swifter then leopards. The Jews might have eluded his threatenings, or at least have cherished their insensibility by a vain confidence, as we see how this vice prevails in the world; for they might have thought thus within themselves, “The Chaldeans are far away, and the danger of which the Prophet speaks cannot be so near at hand.” Hence he declares that their horses would be swifter than leopards.

He then adds, that they would be fiercer than the evening wolves. The wolf is a rapacious animal; and when he ranges about all the day in vain seeking what he may devour, then in the evening hunger kindles his rage. There is, therefore, nothing more dreadful than hungry wolves. But, as I have said, except they find some prey about the evening, they become the more furious. We shall meet with the same simile in Zep 3:1. We now see the drift of the Prophet’s words.

He adds that their horsemen would be numerous (14) He now sets forth their power, lest the Jews should have recourse to vain hopes, because they might obtain some help either from the Egyptians or other neighbors. The Prophet shows that all such hopes would be wholly vain; for had they gathered auxiliaries from all quarters, still the Chaldeans would exceed them in power and number.

He afterwards says, that their horsemen would come from a distance. Though they should have a long journey, yet weariness would not hinder and delay them in coming from a remote part. The toil of travelling would not weaken them, until they reached Judea. How so? Because it will fly, he says, (he speaks throughout of the nation itself,) as an eagle hastening to devour. This metaphor is also most suitable to the present purpose; for it signifies, that wherever the Chaldeans saw a prey, they would instantly come, as an eagle to any carcass it may observe. Let the distance be what it may, as soon as it sees a prey, it takes a precipitate flight, and is soon present to devour; for the rapidity of eagles, as it is well known, is astonishing.

We now see that what we learn from the Prophet’s words is substantially this,—that God’s judgement ought to have been feared, because he purposed to employ the Chaldeans as his servants, whose cruel disposition and inhumanity would be dreadful: he also shows that the Chaldeans would be far superior in power and number; and in third place he makes it known, that they would possess an astonishing rapidity, and that though length of journey might be deemed a hindrance, they would yet be like eagles, which come like an arrow from heaven to earth, whenever a prey is observed by them. And eagles are not only rapid in their flight, but they possess also sharpness of sight; for we know that the eyes of eagles are remarkably keen and strong: and it is said that they cast away their young, if they find that they cannot look steadily at the sun; for they regard them as spurious. The Prophet then intimates that the Chaldeans would from a distance observe their prey: as the eagles, who are endued with incredible quickness of sight, see from mid air every carcass lying on the ground; so also would the Chaldeans quickly discover a prey, and come upon it in an instant. Let us proceed.

(14) Multiples, various: but this is not the meaning of the verb [פשה]; it signifies to range at large, or to spread far and wide. The whole verse may be thus rendered,—

And swifter than leopards shall be its horses,
And more eager than the wolves of the evening;
Spread far and wide shall its horsemen;
Yea, its horsemen from far shall come,
And fly as an eagle hastening to devour.

The horsemen are represented as sweeping the whole country, spreading themselves in all directions; and when espying a prey at a distance, they are said to fly to it like an eagle. The idea of being “numerous” or “abundant,” as Junius and Tremelius render the verb, is derived from the Rabbins, and is not sanctioned by examples in Scripture. The rendering of the Septuagint is ἐξιππασονται, shall ride forth, and of Jerome, diffundentur , shall spread themselves. There is no occasion to borrow a meaning from Arabic, as Henderson does, and to render it “spread proudly along.” Newcome follows our common version.—Ed.

Habakkuk 1:9

By saying that they would come to the prey, he means that they would have no trouble or labor, for they would be victorious before they had any contest, or had any war with their enemies. The meaning then is, that the Chaldeans would not come to spend much time in warfare, as when there is a strong power to resist; but that they would only come for the booty, for the Jews would be frightened, and instantly submit themselves. And by these words the Prophet intimates, that there would be neither strength nor courage in a people so refractory: for God thus debilitates the hearts of those who fiercely resist his word. Whenever, then, men become strong against God, he so melts their hearts, that they cannot resist their fellow-mortals; and thus he mocks their confidence, or rather their madness. Lest then the Jews should still harbor any hope from the chance of war, the Prophet says that the Chaldeans would only come for the prey, for all would become subject to them.

He afterwards adds, that the meeting of their faces would be like the oriental wind. The word גמה, gime, means what is opposite; and its derivative signifies meeting or opposition (occursus.) We indeed know that the east wind was very injurious to the land of Judea, that it dried up vegetation, yea, that it consumed as it were the whole produce of the earth. The violence of that wind was also very great. Hence whenever the Prophets wished to express a violent impetuosity, they added this comparison of the east wind. It was therefore the same as though the Prophet had said that the Jews would now in vain flatter themselves; for as soon as they perceived the blowing of the east wind, they would flee away, knowing that they would be wholly unable to stand against it. (15)

Hence follows what is added by the Prophets, He shall gather the captivity like the sand; that is, the king of Babylon shall without any trouble subdue all the people, and collect captives innumerable as the sand; for by the sand of the sea is meant an immense number of men. In short, the Prophet shows that the Jews were already conquered; because their striving and their contest had been with God, whom they had so often and so obstinately provoked; and also, because God had chosen for himself such servants as excelled in quickness, and power, and cruelty. This is the sum of the whole. He afterwards adds—

(15) This clause has been variously interpreted. The Targum, Vulgate, and Symmachus, countenance the view given here. There is no help from the Septuagint, as no sense is given. The word [מגמח], only found here, is rendered by Symmachus , προσοψις, sight, aspect. Targum explains it by a word which signifies “front.” Henderson and Lee regard this as its meaning. Others, as Newcome and Drusius render it, supping up, or absorption, and derive it from [גמא], to drink up, to absorb; and they regard the idea to be, that the very presence of the Chaldeans would absorb every thing like a scorching wind. But “the supping up of their faces shall be as the east wind,” which is Newcome’s version, is an odd phrase. The last word has [ה] affixed to it, which is never the case when it means the east wind. It is by all admitted, that “towards the east” is its proper construction. Hence the most probable rendering of this passage is, “The aspect of their faces shall be towards the east;” and with this corresponds what follows, that they should “gather captives as the sand;” that is, that they might carry them away to the place where they turned their faces.

The version of Henderson, which is essentially that of Symmachus, is the following,—

The aspect of their faces is like the east wind.

He owns the difficulty as to the last word, and views it here as in an irregular form. Dathius gives this paraphrase,—

It will have its face direct towards the east.

He says that the word [קדום], by itself never means the pestilential wind from the east; but that when it means this, it has another word attached to it.—Ed.

Habakkuk 1:10

The Prophet concludes the subject which he has been hitherto pursuing. He says that the Chaldeans would not come to engage in a doubtful war, but only to triumph over conquered nations. We indeed know that the Jews, though not excelling either in number or in riches, were yet so proud, that they looked down, as it were, with contempt on other nations, and we also know, that they vainly trusted in vain helps; for as they were in confederacy with the Egyptians, they thought themselves to be beyond the reach of danger. Hence the Prophet says, that kings and princes would be only a sport to the Chaldeans, and their fortresses would be only a derision to them. How so? For they will gather dust, he says; that is, will make a mound of the dust of the earth, and will thus penetrate into all fortified cities.

In short the Prophet intended to cut off every hope from the Jews, that they might humble themselves before God; or he intended to take away every excuse if they repented not, as it indeed happened; for we know that they did not repent notwithstanding these warnings, until vengeance at length fully overtook them. He then adds—

Habakkuk 1:11

The Prophet now begins to give some comfort to the faithful, lest they should succumb under so grievous evils. He has hitherto directed his discourse to that irreclaimable people, but he now turns to the remnant; for there were always among them some of the faithful, though few, whom God never neglected; yea, for their sake often he sent his prophets; for though the multitude derived no benefit, yet the faithful understood that God did not threaten in vain, and were thus retained in his fear. This was the reason why the prophets were wont, after having spoken generally, to come down to the faithful, and as it were to comfort them apart and privately. And this difference ought to be noticed, as we have said elsewhere; for when the prophets denounce God’s wrath, the discourse then is directed indiscriminately to the whole body of the people; but when they add promises, it is then as though they called the faithful to a private conference, and spake in their ear what had been committed to them by the Lord. The truth might have been useful to all, had they returned to a right mind; but as almost the whole people had hardened themselves in their vices, and as Satan had rendered stupid the minds and hearts of nearly all, it behaved the Prophet to have a special regard to the chosen of God. We now then apprehend his design.

And he says—now he will change his spirit. He bids the faithful to entertain hope, because the Chaldeans, after having poured forth all their fury, will be punished by the Lord for their arrogance, for it will be intolerable. This may indeed seem frigid to ungodly men; for what wonder is it that the Chaldeans, after having obtained so many victories, should grow haughty and exult in their success, as is commonly the case? But as this is a fixed principle with us, that men’s pride becomes intolerable to God when they extremely exult and preserve no moderation—this is a very powerful argument—that is, that whosoever thus raises his horns shall suddenly be laid prostrate by the Lord. And Scripture also ever sets this before us, that God beats down supercilious pride, and does this that we may know that destruction is nigh all the ungodly, when they thus grow violently mad, and know not that they are mortals. It was then for this reason that the Prophet mentions what he says here; it was that the faithful might hope for some end to the violence of their enemies, for God would check their pride when they should transgress. But he says—then He will change his spirit; not that there was before any humility in the Chaldeans, but that success inebriated them, yea, and deprived them of all reason. And it is a common thing that a person who has fortune as it were in his hand, forgets himself, and thinks himself no longer a mortal. Great kings do indeed confess that they are men; but we see how madness lays hold on them; for, as I have said, being deluded by prosperity, they deem themselves to be nothing less than gods.

The Prophet refers here to the king of Babylon and all his people. He will change, he says, his spirit; that is, success will take away from him whatever reason and moderation he had. Now since the proud betray themselves and their disposition when fortune smiles on them, let us learn to form our judgement of men according to this experiment. If we would judge rightly of any man we must see how he bears good and bad fortune; for it may be that he who has borne adversity with a patient, calm and resigned mind, will disappoint us in prosperity, and will so elate himself as to be wholly another man. The Prophet then does not without reason speak of a change of spirit; for though the Chaldeans were before proud, they were not so extremely haughty as when their pride passed all bounds, after their many victories. He will change then his spirit; not that the Chaldeans were another kind of people, but that the Lord thus discovered their madness which was before hid.

He then adds—he will pass over. The Prophet intended to express that when the Lord suffered the Chaldeans to rule far and wide, a way was thus opened for his judgements, which is far different from the judgement of the flesh. For the more power men acquire the more boldness they assume; and it seemed to tend to the establishing of their power that they knew how to use their success. But the Lord, as I have said, was secretly preparing a way to destroy them, when they thus became proud and passed all bounds; hence the Prophet does not simply condemn the haughtiness and pride of the Chaldeans, but shows that a way is already open, as it were, for God’s judgement, that he might destroy them, inasmuch as they would render themselves intolerable.

He afterwards adds—and shall act impiously. The verb אשם, ashem I refer to the end of the verse—where he ascribes his power to his own god. And the Prophet adds this explanation, in order that the Jews might know what kind of sin would be the sin of the king of Babylon. He then charges him with sacrilege, because he would think that he had become the conqueror of Judea through the kindness of his idol, so that he would make nothing of the power and glory of the true God. Since then the Babylonian would transfer God’s glory to his own idol, his own ruin would be thus made ripe; for the Lord would undertake his own cause, and execute vengeance on such a sacrilege; for he speaks here no doubt of the Babylonian, and according to his view, when he says—

This his strength is that of his god; but were any inclined to explain this of the true God, as some do, he would make a harsh and a forced construction; for the Babylonians did not worship the true God, but were devoted, as it is well known, to their own superstitions. The Prophet then no doubt makes known here to the faithful the pride with which the Babylonians would become elated, and thus provoke God’s wrath against themselves; and also the sacrilegious boasting in which they would indulge, ascribing the victories given them to their own idols, which could not be done without daring reproach to the true God. (16) It now follows—

(16) The foregoing verse is one on which no satisfactory explanation has been given. The one adopted here has been materially followed by Vatablus, Druius, and Dathius, except as to the last clause. As to the first part of the verse Henderson gives the best sense, for it corresponds with “changing” to [חלף] and “courage” to [רוח], (see Jos 2:11;) and of “passing onward” to [עבר], and not of “passing over,” i.e. bounds or moderation, which it seems not to have, when used, as here, intransitively. The passing here is evidently what is referred to in verse 6, as the renewing of courage would arise, from the success mentioned in verse 10.

The best exposition of the last clause is what Grotius has suggested, and has been followed by Marckius and Dathius —that the Chaldeans made their own strength their God; (see verse 16;) the rendering then would be this,—

Then will it renew courage, And pass through,
and become guilty;
This is strength being its god,
or literally, This is strength for its god.

There is an inconsistency in our version, and also in Calvin, as to this passage, from verse 6 to the end of this verse. The number is changed. The “bitter nation,” mentioned in verse 6, is meant throughout; and we ought to adopt the plural number throughout, as Newcome does, or, according to Henderson, the singular. There is no change of person, as some suppose, at the beginning of verse 10; for [הוא], there, and [הוא] in verse 6 is the same—the “bitter nation.”—Ed.

Habakkuk 1:12

The Prophet now exulting, according to what all the faithful feel, shows the effect of what he has just mentioned; for as ungodly men wantonly rise up against God, and, while Satan renders them insane, throw out swelling words of vanity, as though they could by speaking confound earth and heaven; so also the faithful derive a holy confidence from God’s word, and set themselves against them, and overcome their ferocity by the magnanimity and firmness of their own minds, so that they can intrepidly boast that they are happy and blessed even in the greatest miseries.

This then is what the prophet means when he adds—Art not thou our God? The question is much more emphatical than if he had simply declared that the true God was worshipped in Judea, and would therefore be the protector of that nation; for when the Prophet puts a question, he means, according to what is commonly understood in Hebrew, that the thing admits of no doubt. “What! art not thou our God?” We hence see that there is a contrast between the wicked and impious boastings in which the profane indulge, and the holy confidence which the faithful have, who exult in their God. But that the discourse is addressed to God rather than to the ungodly is not done without reason, for it would have been useless to contend with the wicked. This is indeed sometimes necessary, for when the reprobate openly reproach God we cannot restrain ourselves; nor is it right that we refrain from testifying that we regard all their slanders as of no account; but we cannot so courageously oppose their audacity as when we have the matter first settled between us and God, and be able to say with the Prophets—“Thou art our God.” Whosoever then would boldly contend with the ungodly must first have to do with God, and confirm and ratify as it were that compact which God has proposed to us, even that we are his people, and that he in his turn will be always our God. As then God thus covenants with us, our faith must be really made firm, and then let us go forth and contend against all the ungodly. This is the order which the Prophet observes here, and what is to be observed by us—Art not thou our God?

He also adds—long since, מקדם, mekodam, by which word the Prophet invites the attention of the faithful to the covenant which God had made, not yesterday nor the day before that, with his people, but many ages before, even 400 years before he redeemed their fathers from Egypt. Since then the favor of God to the Jews had been confirmed for so long a time, it is not without reason that the Prophet says here—Thou art our God from the beginning; that is, “the religion which we embrace has been delivered to us by thy hands, and we know that thou art its author; for our faith recumbs not on the opinion of men, but is sustained by thy word. Since, then, we have found so often and in so many ways, and for so many years, that thou art our God, there is now no room for doubt.” (17)

He then subjoins—we shall not die. What the Jews say of this place, that it had been corrected by the scribes, seems not to me probable; for the reason they give is very frivolous. They suppose that it was written lo tamut, Thou diest not, and that the letter nun had been introduced, “we shall not die,” because the expression offended those scribes, as though the Prophet compared God to men, and ascribed to him a precarious immortality; but they would have been very foolish critics. I therefore think that the word was written by the Prophet as we now read it, Thou art our God, we shall not die. Some explain this as a prayer—“let us not die;” and the future is often taken in this sense in Hebrew; but this exposition is not suitable to the present passage; for the Prophet, as I have already said, rises up here as a conqueror, and disperses as mists all those foolish boastings of which he had been speaking, as though he said—“we shall not die, for we are under the protection of God.”

I have already explained why he turns his discourse to God: but this is yet the conclusion of the argument,—that as God had adopted that people, and received them into favor, and testified that he would be their defender, the Prophet confidently draws this inference,—that this people cannot perish, for they are preserved by God. No power of the world, nor any of its defences, can indeed afford us this security; for whatever forces may all mortals bring either to protect or help us, they shall all perish together with us. Hence, the protection of God alone is that which can deliver us from the danger of death. We now perceive why the Prophet joins together these two things, “Thou art our God,” and “We shall not die;” nor can indeed the one be separated from the other; for when we are under the protection of God, we must necessarily continue safe and safe for ever; not that we shall be free from evils, but that the Lord will deliver us from thousand deaths, and ever preserve our life in safety. When only he affords us a taste of eternal salvation, some spark of life will ever continue in our hearts, until he shows to us, when at length redeemed, as I have already said, from thousand deaths, the perfection of that blessed life, which is now promised to us, but as yet is looked for, and therefore hid under the custody of hope.

(17) Most commentators agree with our version in connecting “from the beginning,” or “from eternity,” with Jehovah, and not as Calvin seems to do, with “God.” His view is evidently the most consonant with the design of the passage, and countenanced by the Septuagint, for Jehovah is rendered κυριε, in the vocative case. To assert the eternity of God seems not to be necessary here; but to say that he had been from old times the God of Israel is what is suitable to the context. The Prophet in saying “my God,” identifies himself with the people; for he says afterwards, “we shall not die.” Viewed in this light the former part of the verse may be thus rendered,—

Art not thou from of old, O Jehovah,
my God! My holy one, we shall not die.

The reason for which he calls him “holy” will appear from what the next verse contains. The Prophet seems to sustain himself by two considerations—that Jehovah was the God of Israel, and that he was a holy God. When he says “we shall not die,” he means, no doubt, as Marckius observes, that the people as a nation would not be destroyed, for he had prophesied of their subjugation and captivity by the Chaldeans. What he had in view was the Church of God, respecting which promises had been made.—Ed.

Habakkuk 1:13

The Prophet here expostulates with God, not as at the beginning of the chapter; for he does not here, with a holy and calm mind, undertake the defense of God’s glory, but complains of injuries, as men do when oppressed, who go to the judge and implore his protection. This complaint, then, is to be distinguished from the former one; for at the beginning of the chapter the Prophet did not plead his own cause or that of the people; but zeal for God’s glory roused him, so that he in a manner asked God to take vengeance on so great an obstinacy in wickedness; but he now comes down and expresses the feelings of men; for he speaks of the thoughts and sorrows of those who had suffered injuries under the tyranny of their enemies.

And he says, O God, thou art pure in eyes, thou lookest not on evil. Some render the verb טהור, theur in the imperative mood, clear the eyes; but they are mistaken; for the verse contains two parts, the one contrary to the other. The Prophet reasons from the nature of God, and then he states what is of an opposite character. Thou, God, he says, art pure in eyes; hence thou canst not look on evil; it is not consistent with thy nature to pass by the vices of men, for every iniquity is hateful to thee. Thus the Prophet sets before himself the nature of God. Then he adds, that experience is opposed to this; for the wicked, he says, exult; and while they miserably oppress the innocent, no one affords any help. How is this, except that God sleeps in heaven, and neglects the affairs of men? We now then understand the Prophet’s meaning in this verse. (20)

By saying that God is pure in eyes, he assumes what ought to be deemed certain and indubitable by all men of piety. But as God’s justice does not always appear, the Prophet has a struggle; and he shows that he in a manner vacillated, for he did not see in the state of things before him what yet his piety dictated to him, that is, that God was just and upright. It is indeed true, that the second part of the verse borders on blasphemy: for though the Prophet ever thought honourably and reverently of God, yet he murmurs here, and indirectly charges God with too much tardiness, as he connived at things, while he saw the just shamefully oppressed by the wicked. But we must notice the order which the Prophet keeps. For by saying that God is pure in eyes, he no doubt restrains himself. As there was danger lest this temptation should carry him too far, he meets it in time, and includes himself, in a manner, within this boundary—that we ought to retain a full conviction of God’s justice. The same order is observed by Jeremiah when he says, ‘I know, Lord, that thou art just, but how is it that the ungodly do thus pervert all equity? and thou either takest no notice, or dost not apply any remedy. I would therefore freely contend with thee.’ The Prophet does not immediately break out into such an expression as this, “O Lord, I will contend with thee in judgement:” but before he mentions his complaint, knowing that his feelings were strongly excited, he makes a kind of preface, and in a manner restrains himself, that he might check that extreme ardor which might have otherwise carried him beyond due bounds; “Thou art just, O Lord,” he says. In a similar manner does our prophet speak here, Thou art pure in eyes, so as not to behold evil; and thou canst not look on trouble

Since, he says, thou canst not look on trouble, we find that he confirms himself in that truth—that the justice of God cannot be separated from his very nature: and by saying, לא תוכל, la tucal, “thou canst not,” it is the same as though he had said, “Thou, O Lord, art just, because thou art God; and God, because thou art just.” For these two things cannot be separated, as both the eternity, and the very being of God, cannot stand without his justice. We hence see how strenuously the Prophet struggled against his own impetuosity, so that he might not too much indulge himself in the complaint, which immediately follows.

For he then asks, according to the common judgement of the flesh, Why dost thou look on, when the ungodly devours one more just than himself? The Prophet here does not divest God of his power, but speaks in doubt, and contends not so much with God as with himself. A profane man would have said, “There is no God, there is no providence,” or, “He cares not for the world, he takes his pleasure in heaven.” But the Prophet says, “Thou seest, Lord.” Hence he ascribes to God what peculiarly belongs to him—that he does not neglect the world which he has created. At the same time he here inclines two ways, and alternates; Why does thou look on, when the ungodly devours one more just than himself? He says not that the world revolves by chance, nor that God takes his delight and ease in heaven, as the Epicureans hold; but he confesses that the world is seen by God, and that he exercises care over the affairs of men: notwithstanding, as he could not see his way clear in a state of things so confused, he argues the point rather with himself than with God. We now see the import of this sentence. The Prophet, however, proceeds—

(20) Adjectives and participles in Hebrew commonly take a plural form, but not always, as evidently in the present case; for the word for “pure,” though singular, will admit of a better construction with “eyes” than in any other way; and so Grotius renders the clause, “Purer are thine eyes,” etc.; which is better than our version, followed by Newcome and Henderson. The whole passage will thus read better:—

Purer are thine eyes than to behold evil,
And to look on wickedness thou art not able:
Why
then lookest thou on the perfidious,
And art still when the wicked swallows up
One more righteous than himself?
And makest man to be like the fish of the sea,
Like the reptile which has no ruler?

“Evil” means here wrong, injustice; the corresponding clause is “the wicked” swallowing up or oppressing his better. The Jews were bad, but better than the Chaldeans. “Wickedness,” [עמל], is such a mischief as is done through treachery: hence in the next line, which, according to the style of the Prophets, corresponds with this, “the perfidious” are mentioned, improperly rendered “plunderers” by Henderson, and “transgressors” by Newcome. The Chaldeans had been the allies of the Jews.

With respect to the reptile or the crawling fish, such as keep to the bottom of the waters, why is it said to be without a ruler? Is it more insulated and less gregarious, so to speak, than other fish? If so, “without a ruler” has an obvious meaning.—Ed.

Habakkuk 1:14

He goes on, as it has been said, in his complaint; and by a comparison he shows that the judgement would be such as though God turned away from men, so as not to check the violence of the wicked, nor oppose his hand to their wantonness, in order to restrain them. Since, then, every one would oppress another as he exceeded him in power, and would with increased insolence rise up against the miserable and the poor, the Prophet compares man to the fish of the sea,—“What can this mean?” he says. “For men have been created after God’s image: why then does not some justice appear among them? When one devours another, and even one man oppresses almost the whole world, what can be the meaning of this? God seems to sport with human affairs. For if he regards men as his children, why does he not defend them by his power? But we see one man (for he speaks of the Assyrian king) so enraged and so cruel, as though the rest of the world were like fish or reptiles.” Thou makes men, he says, like reptiles or fishes; and then he adds, He draws up the whole by his hook, he collects them into his drag, he gathers them into his net, he exults (21)

We now see what the Prophet means—that God would, as it were, close his eyes, while the Assyrians wantonly laid waste the whole world: and when this tyranny should reach the holy land, what else could the faithful think but that they were forsaken by God? And there is nothing, as I have already said, more monstrous, than that iniquitous tyranny should thus prevail among men; for they have all, from the least to the greatest, been created after God’s image. God then ought to exercise peculiar care in preserving mankind; his paternal love and solicitude ought in this respect to appear evident: but when men are thus destroyed with impunity, and one oppresses almost all the rest, there seems indeed to be no divine providence. For how will it be that he will care for either birds, or oxen, or asses, or trees, or plants, when he will thus forsake men, and bring no aid in so confused a state? We now understand the drift of what the Prophet says.

But yet he does not, as I have already said, take away from God his power, nor does he here rail against fortune, as many cavillers do. Thou makest men, he says: he ascribes to God what cannot be taken from him,—that he governs the world. But as to God’s justice, he hesitates, and appeals to God. Though the Prophet seems here to rush headlong like insane men; yet if we consider all things, we shall see that he strenuously contended with his temptations, and even in these words some sparks at least of faith will shine forth, which are sufficient to show to us the great firmness of the Prophet. For this especially is worthy of being noticed,—that the Prophet turns himself to God. The Epicureans, when they glamour against God, for the most part, seek the ear of the multitude; and so they speak evil of God and withdraw themselves at a distance from him; for they do not think that he exercises any care over the world. But the Prophet continually addresses God. He knew then that God was the governor of all things. He also desires to be extricated from thoughts so thorny and perplexing; and from whom does he seek relief? From God himself. When the profane wantonly deride God, they indulge themselves, and seek nothing else but to become hardened in their own impious conjectures: but the Prophet comes to God himself, “How does this happen, O Lord?” As though he had said,

“Thou sees how I am distracted, and also held fast bound—distracted by many absurd thoughts, so that I am almost confounded, and held fast bound by great perplexities, from which I cannot extricate myself. Do thou, O Lord, unfold to me these knots, and concentrate my scattered thoughts, that I may understand what is true, and what I am to believe; and especially remove from me this doubt, lest it should shake my faith; O Lord, grant that I may at length know and fully understand how thou art just, and overrules, consistently with perfect equity, those things which seem to be so confused.”

It also happens sometimes that the ungodly, as it were, openly revile God, a satanic rage having taken possession on them. But the case was far different with the Prophet; for finding himself overwhelmed and his mind not able to sustain him under so heavy trials, he sought relief, and as we have said, applied to God himself.

By saying, He therefore rejoices and exults, he increases the indignity; for though the Lord may for a time permit the wicked to oppress the innocent, yet when he finds them glorying in their vices and triumphing, so great a wantonness ought the more to kindle his vengeance. That the Lord then should still withhold himself, seems indeed very strange. But the Prophet proceeds—

(21) The construction of this verse can only be understood by a reference to the preceeding verse; where two things are mentioned, the fish of the sea and the reptile: as it is customary with the Prophets, the first clause was rasied up by a hook, and the fish were enclosed in a net, or collected by a drag. The reptile, [רמש], is in the singular number, and used in a collective sense, and [כלה], every one, at the beginning of this verse, is in the same number. This entirely removes the difficulty which critics have felt, and made them to propose emendations. The verse then would read thus:—

Every one (i.e. every reptile) by a hook he raises up He draws them out (i.e. the fish) by his net, And collects them by his drag; He therefore rejoices, and exults.

To “gather then into the net” can hardly be sense; nor is “in the net” much better. The drawing out and the collecting were evidently by the net and the drag; the preposition, [ב], has very commonly this meaning, as ἐν in Greek.

The representation here is, that every means would be employed: men being compared to fishes, some are set forth as creeping along the bottom, and others as swimming at large at all depths; and then the fisherman, the Chaldean comes, and draws out the first by a fishing-hook, and the rest by a net and a drag; so that he takes them all.—Ed.

Habakkuk 1:16

The Prophet confirms the closing sentence of the last verse; for he explains what that joy was of which he had spoken, even the joy by which the wicked, as it were, designedly provoke God against themselves. It is indeed an abominable thing when the ungodly take delight in their vices; but it is still more atrocious when they deride God himself. Such, then, is the account now added by the Prophet, as though he had said, “Not only do the ungodly felicitate themselves while thou sparest them, or for a time bearest with them; but they now rise up against thee and deride all thy majesty, and openly blaspheme against heaven itself; for they sacrifice to their own net, and offer incense to their drag.” By this metaphor the Prophet intimates, that the wicked do not only become hardened when they succeed in their vices, but that they also ascribe to themselves the praise of justice; for they consider that to be rightly done which has been attended with success. They thus dethrone God, and put themselves in his place. We now then see the Prophet’s meaning.

But this passage discovers to us the secret impiety of all those who do not serve God sincerely and with an honest mind. There is indeed imprinted on the hearts of men a certain conviction respecting the existence of a God; for none are so barbarous as not to have some sense of religion: and thus all are rendered inexcusable, as they carry in their hearts a law which is sufficient to make them a thousand times guilty. But at the same time the ungodly, and those who are not illuminated by faith, bury this knowledge, for they are enveloped in themselves: and when some recollection of God creeps in, they are at first impressed, and ascribe some honor to him; but this is evanescent, for they soon suppress it as much as they can; yea they even strive to extinguish (though they cannot) this knowledge and whatever light they have from heaven. This is what the Prophet now graphically sets forth in the person of the Assyrian king. He had before said, “This power is that of his God.” He had complained that the Assyrians would give to their idols what was peculiar to God alone, and thus deprive him of his right: but he says now, that they would sacrifice to their own drag, and offer incense to their net. This is a very different thing: for how could they sacrifice to their idols, if they ascribed to their drag whatever victories they had gained? Now, by the words drag and net, the Prophet means their efforts, strength, forces, power, counsels, and policies as they call them, and whatever else there be which profane men arrogate to themselves. But what is it to sacrifice to their own net? The Assyrian did this, because he thought that he surpassed all others in craftiness, because he thought himself so courageous as not to hesitate to make war with all nations, regarding himself well prepared with forces and justified in his proceedings; and because he became successful and omitted nothing calculated to ensure victory. Thus the Assyrian, as I have said, regarded as nothing his idols; for he put himself in the place of all the gods. But if it be asked whence came his success, we must answer, that the Assyrian ought to have ascribed it all to the one true God: but he thought that he prospered through his own valour. If we refer to counsel, it is certain that God is he who governs the counsels and minds of men; but the Assyrian thought that he gained everything by his own skill. If, again, we speak of strength, whence was it? and of courage, whence was it, but from God? but the Assyrian appropriated all these things to himself. What regard, then, had he for God? We see how he now takes away all honor even from his own idols, and attributes everything to himself.

But this sin, as I have already said, belongs to all the ungodly; for where God’s Spirit does not reign, there is no humility, and men ever swell with inward pride, until God thoroughly cleanse them. It is then necessary that God should empty us by his special grace, that we may not be filled with this satanic pride, which is innate, and which cannot by any means be shaken off by us, until the Lord regenerates us by his Spirit. And this may be seen especially in all the kings of this world. They indeed confess that kings rule through God’s grace; and then when they gain any victory, supplications are made, vows are paid. But were any one to say to those conquerors, “God had mercy on you,” the answer would be, “What! was then my preparation nothing? did I not provide many things beforehand? did I not attain the friendship of many? did I not form confederacies? did I not foresee such and such disadvantages? did I not opportunely provide a remedy?” In a word, they sacrifice apparently to God, but afterwards they have a regard mainly to their drag and their net, and make nothing of God. Well would it be were these things not so evident. But since the Spirit of God sets before us a lively image of the fact, let us learn what true humility is, and that we then only have this, when we think that we are nothing, and can do nothing, and that it is God alone who not only supports and continues us in life, but also governs us by his Spirit, and that it is he who sustains our hearts, gives courage, and then blesses us, so as to render prosperous what we may undertake. Let us hence learn that God cannot be really glorified, except when men wholly empty themselves.

He then adds, because in (or by) them is his fat portion and his rich meat. Though some render בראה, berae, choice meat, and others, fat meat, I yet prefer the meaning of rich. (22) His meat then will be rich. The Prophet intimates here that men are so blinded by prosperity that they sacrifice to themselves, and hence the more deserving of reproof is their ingratitude; for the more liberally God deals with us the more reason, no doubt, there is why we ought to glorify him. But when men, well supplied and fully satisfied, thus swell with pride and sacrifice to themselves, is not their impiety in this manner more completely discovered? But the Prophet not only proves that the Assyrians abused God’s bounty, but he shows in their person what is the disposition of the whole world. For when men accumulate great wealth, and pile up a great heap from the property of others, they become more and more blinded. We hence see that we ought justly to fear the evil of prosperity, lest our fatness should so increase that we can see nothing; for the eyes are dimmed by excessive fatness. Let this then be ever remembered by us. The Prophet then concludes his discourse: but as one verse of the first chapter only remains, I shall briefly notice it.

(22) “His fat portion and rich meat” were the people whom he conquered. The words verbatim are these,—

For through them abundant his portion,
And his meat well-fed.

The comparison of the drag and net is continued; by which is signified military strength and power. See Isa 10:13.—Ed.

Habakkuk 1:17

This is an affirmative question, “Shall they therefore;” which, however, requires a negative answer. Then all interpreters are mistaken; for they think that the Prophet here complains, that he presently extends his net after having made a capture, but he rather means, “Is he ever to extend his net?” that is, “How long, O Lord, wilt thou permit the Assyrians to proceed to new plunders, so as to be like the hunter, who after having taken a boar or a stag, is more eager, and immediately renews his hunting; or like the fisherman, who having filled his little ship, with more avidity pursues his vocation? Wilt thou, Lord, he says, suffer the Assyrians to become more assiduous in their work of destruction?” And he shows how unworthy they were of God’s forbearance, for they slew the nations. “I speak not here,” he says, “either of fish or of any other animal, nor do I speak of this or that man, but I speak of many nations. As these slaughters are thus carried on through the whole world, how long, Lord, shall they be unpunished? for they will never cease.” We now see the purport of the Prophet’s complaint; but we shall find in the next lecture how he recovers himself.

Habakkuk 2:1

We have seen in the first chapter Hab 1:2 that the Prophet said in the name of all the faithful. It was indeed a hard struggle, when all things were in a perplexed state and no outlet appeared. The faithful might have thought that all things happened by chance, that there was no divine providence; and even the Prophet uttered complaints of this kind. He now begins to recover himself from his perplexities; and he ever speaks in the person of the godly, or of the whole Church. For what is done by some interpreters, who confine what is said to the prophetic office, I do not approve; and it may be easy from the contempt to learn, that the Prophet does not speak according to his private feeling, but that he represents the feelings of all the godly. So then we ought to collect this verse with the complaints, which we have before noticed; for the Prophet, finding himself sinking, and as it were overwhelmed in the deepest abyss, raises himself up above the judgement and reason of men, and comes nearer to God, that he might see from on high the things which take place on earth, and not judge according to the understanding of his own flesh, but by the light of the Holy Spirit. For the tower of which he speaks is patience arising from hope. If indeed we would struggle perseveringly to the last, and at length obtain the victory over all trials and conflicts, we must rise above the world.

Some understand by tower and citadel the Word of God: and this may in some measure be allowed, though not in every respect suitable. If we more fully weigh the reason for the metaphor, we shall be at no loss to know that the tower is the recess of the mind, where we withdraw ourselves from the world; for we find how disposed we are all to entertain distrust. When, therefore, we follow our own inclination, various temptations immediately lay hold on us; nor can we even for a moment exercise hope in God: and many things are also suggested to us, which take away and deprive us of all confidence: we become also involved in variety of thoughts, for when Satan finds men wandering in their imaginations and blending many things together, he so entangles them that they cannot by any means come nigh to God. If then we would cherish faith in our hearts, we must rise above all these difficulties and hindrances. And the Prophet by tower means this, that he extricated himself from the thoughts of the flesh; for there would have been no end nor termination to his doubts, had he tried to form a judgement according to his own understanding; I will stand, he says, on my tower, (24) I and I will set myself on the citadel. In short, the sentence carries this meaning—that the Prophet renounced the judgement of men, and broke through all those snares by which Satan entangles us and prevents us to rise above the earth.

He then adds, I will watch to see what he may say to me, that is, I will be there vigilant; for by watching he means vigilance and waiting, as though he had said, “Though no hope should soon appear, I shall not despond; nor shall I forsake my station; but I shall remain constantly in that tower, to which I wish now to ascend: I will watch then to see what he may say to me. ” The reference is evidently to God; for the opinion of those is not probable, who apply this “saying” to the ministers of Satan. For the Prophet says first, ‘I will see what he may say to me,’ and then he adds, ‘and what I shall answer.’ They who explain the words ‘what he may say,’ as referring to the wicked who might oppose him for the purpose of shaking his faith, overlook the words of the Prophet, for he speaks here in the singular number; and as there is no name expressed, the Prophet no doubt meant God. But were the words capable of admitting this explanation, yet the very drift of the argument shows, that the passage has the meaning which I have attached to it. For how could the faithful answer the calumnies by which their faith was assailed, when the profane opprobriously mocked and derided them—how could they satisfactorily disprove such blasphemies, did they not first attend to what God might say to them? For we cannot confute the devil and his ministers, except we be instructed by the word of God. We hence see that the Prophet observes the best order in what he states, when he says in the first place, ‘I will see what God may say to me;’ and in the second place, ‘I shall then be taught to answer to my chiding;’ (25) that is, “If the wicked deride my faith, I shall be able boldly to confute them; for the Lord will suggest to me such things as may enable me to give a full answer.” We now perceive the simple and real meaning of this verse. It remains for us to accommodate the doctrine to our own use.

It must be first observed, that there is no remedy, when such trials as those mentioned by the Prophet in the first chapter Hab 1:4 meet us, except we learn to raise up our minds above the world. For if we contend with Satan, according to our own view of things, he will a hundred times overwhelm us, and we can never be able to resist him. Let us therefore know, that here is shown to us the right way of fighting with him, when our minds are agitated with unbelief, when doubts respecting God’s providence creep in, when things are so confused in this world as to involve us in darkness, so that no light appears: we must bid adieu to our own reason; for all our thoughts are nothing worth, when we seek, according to our own reason, to form a judgement. Until then the faithful ascend to their tower and stand in their citadel, of which the Prophet here speaks, their temptations will drive them here and there, and sink them as it were in a bottomless gulf. But that we may more fully understand the meaning, we must know, that there is here an implied contrast between the tower and the citadel, which the Prophet mentions, and a station on earth. As long then as we judge according to our own perceptions, we walk on the earth; and while we do so, many clouds arise, and Satan scatters ashes in our eyes, and wholly darkens our judgement, and thus it happens, that we lie down altogether confounded. It is hence wholly necessary, as we have before said, that we should tread our reason under foot, and come nigh to God himself.

We have said, that the tower is the recess of the mind; but how can we ascend to it? even by following the word of the Lord. For we creep on the earth; nay, we find that our flesh ever draws us downward: except then the truth from above becomes to us as it were wings, or a ladder, or a vehicle, we cannot rise up one foot; but, on the contrary, we shall seek refuges on the earth rather than ascend into heaven. But let the word of God become our ladder, or our vehicle, or our wings, and, however difficult the ascent may be, we shall yet be able to fly upward, provided God’s word be allowed to have its own authority. We hence see how unsuitable is the view of those interpreters, who think that the tower and the citadel is the word of God; for it is by God’s word, as I have already said, that we are raised up to this citadel, that is, to the safeguard of hope; where we may remain safe and secure while looking down from this eminence on those things which disturb us and darken all our senses as long as we lie on the earth. This is one thing.

Then the repetition is not without its use; for the Prophet says, On my tower will I stand, on the citadel will I set myself. He does not repeat in other words the same thing, because it is obscure; but in order to remind the faithful, that though they are inclined to sloth, they must yet strive to extricate themselves. And we soon find how slothful we become, except each of us stirs up himself. For when any perplexity takes hold on our minds, we soon succumb to despair. This, then, is the reason why the Prophet, after having spoken of the tower, again mentions the citadel.

But when he says, I will watch to see, he refers to perseverance; for it is not enough to open our eyes once, and by one look to observe what happens to us; but it is necessary to continue our attention. This constant attention is, then, what the Prophet means by watching; for we are not so clear-sighted as immediately to comprehend what is useful to be known. And then, though we may once see what is necessary, yet a new temptation can obliterate that view. It thus happens, that all our observations become evanescent, except we continue to watch, that is, except we persevere in our attention, so that we may ever return to God, whenever the devil raises new storms, and whenever he darkens the heavens with clouds to prevent us to see God. We hence see how emphatical is what the Prophet says here, I will watch to see. The Prophet evidently compares the faithful to watchmen, who, though they hear nothing, yet do not sleep; and if they hear any noise once or twice, they do not immediately sound an alarm, but wait and attend. As, then, they who keep watch ought to remain quiet, that they may not disturb others, and that they may duly perform their office; so it behaves the faithful to be also tranquil and quiet, and wait patiently for God during times of perplexity and confusion.

Let us now inquire what is the purpose of this watching: I will watch to see, he says, what he may say to me. There seems to be an impropriety in the expression; for we do not properly see what is said. But the Prophet connects together here two metaphors. To speak strictly correct, he ought to have said, “I will continue attentive to hear what he may say;” but he says, I will watch to see what he may say. The metaphor is found correctly used in Psa 85:8,

“I will hear what God may say; for he will speak peace to his people.”

There also it is a metaphor, for the Prophet speaks not of natural hearing: “I will hear what God may speak,” what does that hearing mean? It means this, “I will quietly wait until God shows his favor, which is now hid; for he will speak peace to his people;” that is, the Lord will never forget his own Church. But the Prophet, as I have said, joins together here two metaphors; for to speak, or to say, means no other thing than that God testifies to our hearts, that though the reason for his purpose does not immediately appear to us, yet all things are wisely ruled, and that nothing is better than to submit to his will. But when he says, “I will see, and I will watch what he may say,” the metaphor seems incongruous, and yet there appears a reason for it; for the Prophet intended to remind us, that we ought to employ all our senses for this end,—to be wholly attentive to God’s word. For though one may be resolved to hear God, we yet find that many temptations immediately distract us. It is not then enough to become teachable, and to apply our ears to hear his voice, except also our eyes be connected with them, so that we may be altogether attentive.

We hence see the object of the Prophet; for he meant to express the greatest attention, as though he had said, that the faithful would ever wander in their thoughts, except they carefully concentrated both their eyes and their ears, and all their senses, on God, and continually restrained themselves, lest vagrant speculations or imaginations should lead them astray. And further, the Prophet teaches us, that we ought to have such reverence for God’s word as to deem it sufficient for us to hear his voice. Let this, then, be our understanding, to obey God speaking to us, and reverently to embrace his word, so that he may deliver us from all troubles, and also keep our minds in peace and tranquillity.

God’s speaking, then, is opposed to all the obstreperous clamours of Satan, which he never ceases to sound in our ears. For as soon as any temptation takes place, Satan suggests many things to us, and those of various kinds:—“What will you do? what advice will you take? see whether God is propitious to you from whom you expect help. How can you dare to trust that God will assist you? How can he extricate you? What will be the issue?” As Satan then disturbs us in various ways, the Prophet shows that the word of God alone is sufficient for us all, then, who indulge themselves in their own counsels, deserve to be forsaken by God, and to be left by him to be driven up and down, and here and there, by Satan; for the only unfailing security for the faithful is to acquiesce in God’s word.

But this appears still more clear from what is expressed at the close of the verse, when the Prophet adds, and what I may answer to the reproof given me; for he shows that he would be furnished with the best weapons to sustain and repel all assaults, provided he patiently attended to God speaking to him, and fully embraced his word: “Then,” he says, “I shall have what I may answer to all reproofs, when the Lord shall speak to me”. By “reproofs,” he means not only the blasphemies by which the wicked shake his faith, but also all those turbulent feelings by which Satan secretly labors to subvert his faith. For not only the ungodly deride us and mock at our simplicity, as though we presumptuously and foolishly trusted in God, and were thus over-credulous; but we also reprove ourselves inwardly, and disturb ourselves by various internal contentions; for whatever comes to our mind that is in opposition to God’s word, is properly a chiding or a reproof, as it is the same thing as if one accused himself, as though he had not found God to be faithful. We now, then see that the word “reproof” extends farther than to those outward blasphemies by which the unbelieving are wont to assail the children of God; for, as we have already said, though no one attempted to try our faith, yet every one is a tempter to himself; for the devil never ceases to agitate our minds. When, therefore, the Prophet says, what I may answer to reproof, he means, that he would be sufficiently fortified against all the assaults of Satan, both secret and external, when he heard what God might say to him.

We may also gather from the whole verse, that we can form no judgement of God’s providence, except by the light of celestial truth. It is hence no wonder that many fall away under trials, yea, almost the whole world; for few there are who ascend into the citadel of which the Prophet speaks, and who are willing to hear God speaking to them. Hence, presumption and arrogance blind the minds of men, so that they either speak evil of God who addresses them, or accuse fortune, or maintain that there is nothing certain: thus they murmur within themselves, and arrogate to themselves more than they ought, and never submit to God’s word. Let us proceed, –

(24) On my watch-tower, [משמרתי]; the word means commonly the office, or the act of watching, but here it means evidently the place; the verb “stand” and the corresponding word [מצור] fortress, or citadel, in the next line, prove clearly that this is its meaning here. The metaphor is taken from the practice of ascending a high tower, when any messenger was expected with news. That any locality is meant here is supported by nothing in the passage. The Prophet puts himself in an attitude of waiting for an answer from God to the complaints which he had made: and the metaphor of “tower and citadel” is most beautifully applied by Calvin, and in a very instructive and striking manner. I give this version—

On my watch-tower will I stand, And I will set myself on a citadel; That I may look out to see what he will say to me, And what I shall answer to the reproof given to me; Literally, to my reproof. —Ed.

(25) That is, to the chiding, rebuke, or reproof, given to me. Both Newcome and Henderson give a version of this line, which is nearly the same, but seems incongruous, though Grotius agrees with them. The version of the former is as follows:—

And what I should reply to my arguing with him. The latter renders the line thus: And what I shall reply in regard to my argument.

The phrase is, [על-תוכחתי] upon, (to, says Drusius) my reproof, or rebuke, or chiding. This is the current meaning of the word, see 2Kg 19:3; Pro 10:17; Isa 37:3. He calls it “my,” because given him, either by his enemies, as Calvin thinks, or by God, as some others suppose. The view of Piscator and Junius is, that it is the reproof or correction he administered to the people in chapter 1:2-12. He was waiting to know what he might have to give as a reply in defense of that reproof. “And what I may reply as to my reproof,” i.e., the reproof given by him. In this case, the preceding clause, “What he may or will say to me,” refers to his complaint respecting the Chaldeans. This is altogether consistent with the mode in which the Prophets usually write: reversing the order, they take up first the last subject, and then refer to the first. He then waited to know two things, how to solve his difficulties respecting the conduct of the Chaldeans, and how to reply to his own people for the severe rebuke he gave them. There is much in this view to recommend it.—Ed.

Habakkuk 2:2

The Prophet now shows by his own example that there is no fear but that God will give help in time, provided we bring our minds to a state of spiritual tranquillity, and constantly look up to him: for the event which the Prophet relates, proves that there is no danger that God will frustrate their hope and patience, who lift up their minds to heaven, and continue steadily in that attitude. Answer me, he says, did Jehovah, and said. There is no doubt but that the Prophet accommodates here his own example to the common instruction of the whole Church. Hence, by testifying that an answer was given him by God, he intimates that we ought to entertain a cheerful hope, that the Lord, when he finds us stationed in our watch-tower, will in due season convey to us the consolation which he sees we need.

But he afterwards comes to the discharge of his prophetic office; for he was bid to write the vision on tables, and to write it in large letters, that it might be read, and that any one, passing by quickly, might be able by one glance to see what was written: and by this second part he shows still more clearly that he treated of a common truth, which belonged to the whole body of the Church; for it was not for his own sake that he was bid to write, but for the edification of all.

Write, then, the vision, and make it plain; for באר, bar properly means, to declare plainly. (26) Unfold it then, he says, on tables, that he may run who reads it; that is, that the writing may not cause the readers to stop. Write it in large characters, that any one, in running by, may see what is written. Then he adds, for the vision shall be for an appointed time

This is a remarkable passage; for we are taught here that we are not to deal with God in too limited a manner, but room must be given for hope; for the Lord does not immediately execute what he declares by his mouth; but his purpose is to prove our patience, and the obedience of our faith. Hence he says, the vision, is for a time, and a fixed time: for מועד, muod means a time which has been determined by agreement. But as it is God who fore appoints the time, the constituted time, of which the Prophet speaks, depends on his will and power. The vision, then, shall be for a time. He reproves here that immoderate ardor which takes hold on us, when we are anxious that God should immediately accomplish what he promises. The Prophet then shows that God so speaks as to be at liberty to defer the execution of his promise until it seems good to him.

At the end, he says, it will speak (27) In a word, the Prophet intimates, that honor is to be given to God’s word, that we ought to be fully persuaded that God speaks what is true, and be so satisfied with his promises as though what is promised were really possessed by us. At the end, then, it will speak and it will not lie (28) Here the Prophet means, that fulfillment would take place, so that experience would at length prove, that God had not spoken in vain, nor for the sake of deceiving; but yet that there was need of patience; for, as it has been said, God intends not to indulge our fervid and importunate desires by an immediate fulfillment, but his design is to hold us in suspense. And this is the true sacrifice of praise, when we restrain ourselves, and remain firm in the persuasion that God cannot deceive nor lie, though he may seem for a time to trifle with us. It will not, then, lie

He afterwards adds, If it will delay, wait for it. He again expresses still more clearly the true character of faith, that it does not break forth immediately into complaints, when God connives at things, when he suffers us to be oppressed by the wicked, when he does not immediately succor us; in a word, when he does not without delay fulfill what he has promised in his word. If, then, it delays, wait for it. He again repeats the same thing, coming it will come; that is, however it may be, God, who is not only true, but truth itself, will accomplish his own promises. The fulfillment, then, of the promise will take place in due time.

But we must notice the contrariety, If it will delay, it will come, it will not delay. The two clauses seem to be contrary the one to the other. But delay, mentioned first, has a reference to our haste. It is a common proverb, “Even quickness is delay to desire.” We indeed make such haste in all our desires, that the Lord, when he delays one moment, seems to be too slow. Thus it may come easily to our mind to expostulate with him on the ground of slowness. God, then, is said on this account to delay in his promises; and his promises also as to their accomplishment may be said to be delayed. But if we have regard to the counsel of God, there is never any delay; for he knows all the points of time, and in slowness itself he always hastens, however this may be not comprehended by the flesh. We now, then, apprehend what the Prophet means. (29)

He is now bidden to write the vision, and to explain it on tables. Many confine this to the coming of Christ; but I rather think that the Prophet ascribes the name of vision to the doctrine or admonition, which he immediately subjoins. It is indeed true, that the faithful under the law could not have cherished hope in God without having their eyes and their minds directed to Christ: but it is one thing to take a passage in a restricted sense as applying to Christ himself, and another thing to set forth those promises which refer to the preservation of the Church. As far then as the promises of God in Christ are yea and amen, no vision could have been given to the Fathers, which could have raised their minds, and supported them in the hope of salvation, without Christ having been brought before them. But the Prophet here intimates generally, that a command was given to him to supply the hearts of the godly with this support, that they were, as we shall hereafter more clearly see, to wait for God. The vision, then, is nothing else than an admonition, which will be found in the next and the following verses.

He uses two words, to write and to explain; which some pervert rather than rightly distinguish: for as the Prophets were wont to write, and also to set forth the summaries or the heads of their discourses, they think that it was a command to Habakkuk to write, that he might leave on record to posterity what he had said; and then to publish what he taught as an edict, that it might be seen by the people passing by, not only for a day or for a few days. But I do not think that the Prophet speaks with so much refinement: I therefore consider that to write and to explain on tables mean the same thing. And what is added, that he may run who reads it, is to be understood as I have already explained it; for God intended to set forth this declaration as memorable and worthy of special notice. It was not usual with the Prophets to write in long and large characters; but the Prophet mentions here something peculiar, because the declaration was worthy of being especially observed. What is similar to this is said in Isa 8:1, ‘Write on a table with a man’s pen.’ By a man’s pen is to be understood common writing, such as is comprehended by the rudest and the most ignorant. To the same purpose is what God bids here his servant Habakkuk to do. Write, he says how? Not as Prophecies are wont to be written, for the Prophets set before the people the heads of their discourses; but write, he says, so that he who runs may read, and that though he may be inattentive, he may yet see what is written; for the table itself will plainly show what it contains.

We now see that the Prophet commends, by a peculiar eulogy, what he immediately subjoins. Hence this passage ought to awaken all our powers, as God himself testifies that he announces what is worthy of being remembered: for he speaks not of a common truth; but his purpose was to reveal something great and unusually excellent; as he bids it, as I have already said, to be written in large characters, so that those who run might read it.

And by saying that the vision is yet for a time, he shows, as I have briefly explained, what great reverence is due to heavenly truth. For to wish God to conform to our rule is extremely preposterous and unreasonable: and there is no place for faith, if we expect God to fulfill immediately what he promises. It is hence the trial of faith to acquiesce in God’s word, when its accomplishment does in no way appear. As then the Prophet teaches us, that the vision is yet for a time, he reminds us that we have no faith, except we are satisfied with God’s word alone, and suspend our desires until the seasonable time comes, that which God himself has appointed. The vision, then, yet shall be. But we are inclined to reduce, as it were, to nothing the power of God, except he accomplishes what he has said: “Yet, yet,” says the Prophet, “the vision shall be;” that is, “Though God does not stretch forth his hand, still let what he has spoken be sufficient for you: let then the vision itself be enough for you; let it be deemed worthy of credit, so that the word of God may on its own account be believed; and let it not be tried according to the common rule; for men charge God with falsehood, except he immediately yields to their desires. Let then the vision itself be counted sufficiently solid and firm, until the suitable time shall come.” And the word מועד, muod, ought to be noticed; for the Prophet does not speak simply of time, but, as I have already said, he points out a certain and a preordained time. When men make an agreement, they on both sides fix the day: but it would be the highest presumption in us to require that God should appoint the day according to our will. It belongs, then, to him to appoint the times, and so to govern all things, that we may approve of whatever he does.

He afterwards says, And it will speak at the end, and it will not lie. The same is the import of the expression, it will speak at the end; that is, men are very perverse, if they wish God to close his mouth, and if they wish to deny faith to his word, except he instantly fulfill what he speaks. It will then speak; that is, let this liberty of speaking be allowed to God. And there is always an implied contrast between the voice of God and its accomplishment; for we are to acquiesce in God’s word, though he may conceal his hand: though he may afford no proof of his power, yet the Prophet commands this honor to be given to his word. The vision, then, will speak at the end

He now expresses more clearly what he had before said of the preordained time; and thus he meets the objections which Satan is wont to suggest to us: “How long will that time be delayed? Thou indeed namest it as the preordained time; but when will that day come?” “The Lord,” he says, “will speak at the end;” that is, “Though the Lord protracts time, and though day after day we seem to live on vain promises, yet let God speak, that is, let him have this honor from you, and be ye persuaded that he is true, that he cannot disappoint you; and in the meantime wait for his power; wait, so that ye may yet remain quiet, resting on his word, and let all your thoughts be confined within this stronghold—that it is enough that God has spoken. The rest we shall defer until to-morrow.

(26) The word means, to open, or make open. It was to be written in open and plain letters, and on tables or tablets. These were either of wood or stone, made smooth. The Septuagint render the word πυξιον, a smooth plank of boxwood, and give the whole sentence thus: “Write the vision and openly (or plainly—σαφῶς,) on boxwood.” See Deu 27:8. So Junius takes the word as an adverb, perspicue , perspicuously.—Ed.

(27) It is not a common word that is used: [יפח], “it will breathe.” When transitively, it signifies, to breathe out or forth, and is rendered often in our version, to speak; see Pro 6:19. The idea here seems to be the restoration, as it were, of a suspended life. The vision was to be for a time like a body without any symptom of life: but “it will breathe,” he says, “at last,” or at the end; that is, it will live, and manifest life and vigor. This breathing, or this life, would be its accomplishment. Corresponding with this idea is ἀνατελι, “it will rise,” by the Septuagint.—Ed.

(28) [כזב], its primary meaning, is to fail, Isa 63:11; and to fail, in a moral sense, is to lie, and also to deceive; and the latter meaning is attached to it here by Drusius, Piscator, and Grotius, non fallet , it will not deceive, i.e., disappoint.—Ed.

(29) What is here said is very true; but the words are not the same in Hebrew. The first signifies delay, [יתמהמה] rendered “linger” in Gen 19:16. The other verb, [יאחר], means, to put off, to postpone: and the sense is, that the vision will not be after the appointed time. So the two lines may be thus rendered:

If it will delay, wait for it, For coming it will come, it will not be postponed;

or, be after, i.e., the appointed time.

Dr. Wheeler, quoted by Newcome, gives the right idea, by the following paraphrase:

It shall not be later than its season.

Both Jerome and Marckius have found a grammatical difficulty in this verse from a mistake as to the gender of [חזון], vision; and they had been evidently led astray by the Septuagint; in which the gender is changed, and the phrase, “wait for it,” is rendered, “wait for him,” ὑπομεινον αὐτον; and so as to what follows, “for he that cometh (ἐρχομενος) shall come.” But [חזון] is the masculine gender; it is elsewhere connected with verbs in that gender. See 1Sa 3:1; Eze 12:22. Indeed the whole tenor of the passage admits not of any other construction. It is probable that this mistake made Eusebius and Augustine to apply this verse to Christ, and some to Nebuchadnezzar, in a typical sense.—Ed.

Habakkuk 2:4

This verse stands connected with the last, for the Prophet means to show that nothing is better than to rely on God’s word, how much soever may various temptations assault our souls. We hence see that nothing new is said here, but that the former doctrine is confirmed—that our salvation is rendered safe and certain through God’s promise alone, and that therefore we ought not to seek any other haven, where we might securely sustain all the onsets of Satan and of the world. But he sets the two clauses the one opposed to the other: every man who would fortify himself would ever be subject to various changes, and never attain a quiet mind; then comes the other clause—that man cannot otherwise obtain rest than by faith.

But the former part is variously explained. Some interpreters think the word עפלה, ophle, to be a noun, and render it elevation, which is not unsuitable; and indeed I hesitate not to regard this as its real meaning, for the Hebrews call a citadel עופל, ouphel, rightly deriving it from עפל, ophle, to ascend. What some others maintain, that it signifies to strengthen, is not well founded. Some again give this explanation—that the unbelieving seek a stronghold for themselves, that they may fortify themselves; and this makes but little difference as to the thing itself. But interpreters vary, and differ as to the meaning of the sentence; for some substitute the predicate for the subject, and the subject for the predicate, and elicit this meaning from the Prophet’s words—”Every one whose mind is not at ease seeks a fortress, where he may safely rest and strengthens himself;” and others give this view—“He who is proud, or who thinks himself well fortified, shall ever be of an unquiet mind.” And this latter meaning is what I approve, only that I retain the import of the word עפלה, ophle, as though it was said—“where there is an elation of mind there is no tranquillity.”

Let us see first what their view is who give the other explanation. They say that the unbelieving, being obstinate and perverted in their minds, ever seek where they may be in safety, for they are full of suspicions, and having no regard to God they resort to the world for those remedies, by which they may escape evils and dangers. This is their view. But the Prophet, as I have already said, does here, on the contrary, denounce punishment on the unbelieving, as though he had said—“This reward, which they have deserved, shall be repaid to them—that they shall always torment themselves.” The contrast will thus be more obvious; and when we say that God punishes the unbelieving, when he suffers them to be driven here and there, and also harasses their minds with various tormenting thoughts, a more fruitful doctrine is elicited. When therefore the Prophet says that there is no calmness of mind possessed by those who deem themselves well fortified, he intimates that they are their own executioners, for they seek for themselves many troubles, many sorrows, many anxieties, and contrive and mingle together many designs and purposes; now they think of one thing, then they turn to another; for the Hebrews say that the soul is made right when we acquiesce in a thing and continue in a tranquil state of mind; but when confused thoughts distract us, then they say that our soul is not right in us. We now perceive the real meaning of the Prophet.

Behold, he says: by this demonstrative particle he intimates that what he teaches us may be clearly seen if we attend to daily events. The meaning then is, that a proof of this fact exists evidently in the common life of men—that he who fortifies himself, and is also elated with self confidence, never finds a tranquil haven, for some new suspicion or fear ever disturbs his mind. Hence it comes that the soul entangles itself in various cares and anxieties. This is the reward, as I have said, which is allotted by God’s just judgement to the unbelieving; for God, as he testifies by Isaiah, offers to us rest; and they who reject this invaluable benefit, freely offered to them by God, deserve that they should not only be tormented in one way, but be also harassed by endless agitations, and that they should also vex and torment themselves. It is indeed true that he who is fortified may also acquiesce in God’s word; but the word עפלה, ophle, refers to the state of the mind. Whosoever, then, swells with vain confidence, when he finds that he has many auxiliaries according to the flesh, shall ever be agitated, and will at length find that there is nowhere rest, except the mind recumbs on God’s grace alone. We now understand the import of this clause. (30)

It follows, but the just shall live by his faith. The Prophet, I have no doubt, does here place faith in opposition to all those defences by which men so blind themselves as to neglect God, and to seek no aid from him. As men therefore rely on what the earth affords, depending on their fallacious supports, the Prophet here ascribes life to faith. But faith, as it is well known, and as we shall presently show more at large, depends on God alone. That we may then live by faith, the Prophet intimates that we must willingly give up all those defences which are wont to disappoint us. He then who finds that he is deprived of all protections, will live by his faith, provided he seeks in God alone what he wants, and leaving the world, fixes his mind on heaven.

As אמוגת, amunat, is in Hebrew truth, so some regard it as meaning integrity; as though the Prophet had said, that the just man has more safety in his faithfulness and pure conscience, than there is to the children of this world in all those munitions in which they glory. But in this case they frigidly extenuate the Prophet’s declaration; for they understand not what that righteousness of faith is from which our salvation proceeds. It is indeed certain that the Prophet understands by the word אמוגת, amunat, that faith which strips us of all arrogance, and leads us naked and needy to God, that we may seek salvation from him alone, which would otherwise be far removed from us.

Now many confine the first part to Nebuchadnezzar, but this is not suitable. The Prophet indeed speaks to the end of the chapter of Babylon and its ruin; but here he makes a distinction between the children of God, who cast all their cares on him, and the unbelieving, who cannot go forth beyond the world, where they seek to be made secure, and gather hence their defences in which they confide. And this is especially worthy of being observed, for it helps us much to understand the meaning of the Prophet; if this part—“Behold the proud, his soul is not right in him,” be applied to Nebuchadnezzar, the other part will lose much of its import; but if we consider that the Prophet, as it were, in these two tablets, shows what it is to glory in our own powers or in earthly aids, then what it is to repose on God alone will appear much more clear, and this truth will with more force penetrate into our minds; for we know how much such comparisons illustrate a subject which would be otherwise obscure or less evident. For if the Prophet had only declared that our faith is the cause of life and salvation, it might indeed be understood; but as we are disposed to entertain worldly hopes, the former truth would not have been sufficient to correct this evil, and to free our minds from all vain confidence. But when he affirms that all the unbelieving are deceived, while they fortify or elate themselves, because God will ever confound them, and that though no one disturbs them outwardly, they will yet be their own tormentors, as they have nothing that is right, nothing that is certain; when therefore all this is said to us, it is as though God drew us forcibly to himself, while seeing us deluded by the allurements of Satan, and seeing us too inclined to be taken with deceptions, which would at length lead us to destruction.

We now, then, perceive why Habakkuk has put these two things in opposition the one to the other—that the defences of this world are not only evanescent, but also bring always with them many tormenting fears—and then, that the just lives by his faith. And hence also is found a confirmation of what I have already touched upon, that faith is not to be taken here for man’s integrity, but for that faith which sets man before God emptied of all good things, so that he seeks what he needs from his gratuitous goodness: for all the unbelieving try to fortify themselves; and thus they strengthen themselves, thinking that anything in which they trust is sufficient for them. But what does the just do? He brings nothing before God except faith: then he brings nothing of his own, because faith borrows, as it were, through favor, what is not in man’s possession. He, then, who lives by faith, has no life in himself; but because he wants it, he flies for it to God alone. The Prophet also puts the verb in the future tense, in order to show the perpetuity of this life: for the unbelieving glory in a shadowy life; but the Lord will at last discover their folly, and they themselves shall really know that they have been deceived. But as God never disappoints the hope of his people, the Prophet promises here a perpetual life to the faithful.

Let us now come to Paul, who has applied the Prophet’s testimony for the purpose of teaching us that salvation is not by works, but by the mercy of God alone, and therefore by faith. Paul seems to have misapplied the Prophet’s words, and to have used them beyond what they import; for the Prophet speaks here of the state of the present life, and he has not previously spoken of the celestial life, but exhorted, as we have seen, the faithful to patience, and at the same time testified that God would be their deliverer; and now he adds, the just shall live by faith, though he may be destitute of all help, and though he may be exposed to all the assaults of fortune, and of the wicked, and of the devil. What has this to do, some one may say, with the eternal salvation of the soul? It seems, then, that Paul has with too much refinement introduced this testimony into his discussion respecting gratuitous justification by faith. But this principle ought ever to be remembered—that whatever benefits the Lord confers on the faithful in this life, are intended to confirm them in the hope of the eternal inheritance; for however liberally God may deal with us, our condition would yet be indeed miserable, were our hope confined to this earthly life. As God then would raise up our minds to the hopes of eternal salvation whenever he aids us in this world, and declares himself to be our Father; hence, when the Prophet says that the faithful shall live, he certainly does not confine this life to so narrow limits, that God will only defend us for a day or two, or for a few years; but he proceeds much farther, and says, that we shall be made really and truly happy; for though this whole world may perish or be exposed to various changes, yet the faithful shall continue in permanent and real safety. Hence, when Habakkuk promises life in future to the faithful, he no doubt overleaps the boundaries of this world, and sets before the faithful a better life than that which they have here, which is accompanied with many sorrows, and proves itself by its shortness to be unworthy of being much desired.

We now perceive that Paul wisely and suitably accommodates to his subject the Prophet’s words—that the just lives by faith; for there is no salvation for the soul except through God’s mercy.

Quoting this place in Rom 1:17, he says that the righteousness of God is in the gospel revealed from faith to faith, and then adds,

“As it is written, The just shall live by faith.”

Paul very rightly connects these things together that righteousness is made known in the Gospel—and that it comes to us by faith only; for he there contends that men cannot obtain righteousness by the law, or by the works of the law; it follows that it is revealed in the Gospel alone: how does he prove this? By the testimony of the Prophet Habakkuk—

“If by faith the just lives, then he is just by faith; if he is just by faith, then he is not so by the works of the law.”

And Paul assumes this principle, to which I have before referred—that men are emptied of all works, when they produce their faith before God: for as long as man possesses anything of his own, he does not please God by faith alone, but also by his own worthiness.

If then faith alone obtains grace, the law must necessarily be relinquished, as the apostle also explains more clearly in the third chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians Gal 3:11 :

‘That righteousness,’ he says, ‘is not by the works of the law, is evident; for it is written, The just shall live by faith, and the law is not of faith.’

Paul assumes that these, even faith and law, are contrary, the one to the other; contrary as to the work of justifying. The law indeed agrees with the gospel; nay, it contains in itself the gospel. And Paul has solved this question in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, Rom 1:1 by saying, that the law cannot assist us to attain righteousness, but that it is offered to us in the gospel, and that it receives a testimony from the law and the Prophets. Though then there is a complete concord between the law and the gospel, as God, who is not inconsistent with himself, is the author of both; yet as to justification, the law accords not with the gospel, any more than light with darkness: for the law promises life to those who serve God; and the promise is conditional, dependent on the merits of works. The gospel also does indeed promise righteousness under condition; but it has no respect to the merits of works. What then? It is only this, that they who are condemned and lost are to embrace the favor offered to them in Christ.

We now then see how, by the testimony of our Prophet, Paul rightly confirms his own doctrine, that eternal salvation is to be attained by faith only; for we are destitute of all merits by works, and are constrained to stand naked and needy before God; and then the Lord justifies us freely.

But that this may be more evident, let us first consider why men must come altogether naked before God; for were there any worthiness in them, the Lord would by no means deprive them of such an honor. Why then does the Lord justify us freely, except that he may thereby appear just? He has indeed no need of this glory, as though he could not himself be glorified except by doing wrong to men. But we obtain righteousness by faith alone for this reason, because God finds nothing in us which he can approve, or what may avail to obtain righteousness. Since it is so, we then see that to be true which the Holy Spirit everywhere declares respecting the character of men. Men indeed glory in a foolish conceit as to their own righteousness: but all philosophic virtues, as they call them, which men think they possess through free-will, are mere fumes; nay, they are the delusions of the devil, by which he bewitches the minds of men, so that they come not to God, but, on the contrary, precipitate themselves into the lowest deep, where they seek to exalt themselves beyond measure. However this may be, let us be fully convinced, that in man there is not even a particle either of rectitude or of righteousness; and that whatever men may try to do of themselves, is an abomination before God. This is one thing.

Now after God has stretched forth his hand to his elect, it is still necessary that they should confess their own want and nakedness, as to justification; for though they have been regenerated by the Spirit of God, yet in many things they are deficient, and thus in innumerable ways they become exposed to eternal death in the sight of God; so that they have in themselves no righteousness. The Papists differ from us in the first place, imagining as they do, that there are certain preparations necessary; for that false notion about free-will cannot be eradicated from their hearts. As then they will have man to be endued with free- will, they always connect with it some power, as though they could obtain grace by their own doings. They indeed confess that man of himself can do nothing, except by the helping grace of God; but in the meantime they blend, as I have said, their own fictitious preparations. Others confess, that until God anticipates us by his grace, there is no power whatever in free-will; but afterwards they suppose that free-will concurs with God’s grace, as it would be by itself inefficient, except received by our consent. Thus they always reserve for men some worthiness; but a greater difference exists as to the second subject: for after we have been regenerated through God’s grace, the Papists imagine that we are justified by the merits of works. They confess, that until God anticipates us by his grace, we are condemned and cannot attain salvation except through the assisting grace of God; but as soon as God works in us, we are then, they say, able to attain righteousness by our own works.

But we object and say, that the faithful, after having been regenerated by the Spirit of God, do not fulfill the law: they allow this to be true, but say that they might if they would, for that God has commanded nothing which is above what men are capable of doing. And this also is a most pernicious error. They are at the same time forced to confess, that experience itself teaches us that no man is wholly free from sin: then some guilt always remains. But they say, that if we kept half the law, we could obtain righteousness by that half. Hence, if one by adultery offended God and thus becomes exposed to eternal death, and yet abstains from theft, he is just, they say, because he is no thief. He is an adulterer, it is true; but he is yet just in part, because he keeps a part of the law; and they call this partial righteousness. But God has not promised salvation to men, except they fully and really fulfill whatever he has commanded in his law. For it is not said, “He that fulfill a part of the law shall live;” but he who shall do these things shall live in them. Moses does not point out two or three commandments, but includes the whole law (Lev 18:5.) There is also a declaration made by James,

‘He who has forbidden to commit adultery, has also forbidden to steal: whosoever then transgresses the law in one particular, is a transgressor of the whole law’ (Jas 2:8):

he is then excluded from any hope of righteousness. We hence see that the papists are most grossly mistaken, who imagine, that men, when they keep the law only in part, are just.

Were there indeed any one found who strictly kept God’s law, he could not be counted just, except by virtue of a promise. And here also the Papists stumble, and are at the same time inconsistent with themselves; for they confess that merits do not obtain righteousness for men by their own intrinsic worth, but only by the covenant of the law. But as soon as they have said this, they immediately forget themselves, and say what is contrary, like men carried away by passion. Were then the Papists to join together these two things—that there is no righteousness except by covenant, and that there is a partial righteousness they would see that they are inconsistent: for where is this partial righteousness? If we are not righteous except according to the covenant of the law, then we are not righteous except through a full and perfect observance of the law. This is certain.

They go astray still more grievously as to the remission of sins; for as it is well known, they obtrude their own satisfactions, and thus seek to expiate the sins of men by their own merits, as though the sacrifice of Christ was not sufficient for that purpose. Hence it is that they will not allow that we are gratuitously justified by faith; for they cannot be brought to acknowledge a free remission of sins; and except the remission of sins be gratuitous, we must confess that righteousness is not by faith alone, but also by merits. But the whole Scripture proves that expiation is nowhere else to be sought, except through the sacrifice of Christ alone. This error, then, of the Papists is extremely gross and false. They further err in pleading for the merits of works; for they boast of their own inventions, the works of supererogation, or as they call them, satisfactions. And these meritorious works, under the Papacy, are gross errors and worthless superstitions, and yet they toil in them and lacerate themselves, nay, they almost wear out themselves. If they mutter many short prayers, if they run to altars and to various churches, if they buy masses, in a word, if they accumulate all these fictitious acts of worship, they think that they merit righteousness before God. Thus they forget their own saying, that righteousness is by covenant; for if it be by covenant, it is certain that God does not promise it to fictitious works, which men of themselves invent and contrive. It then follows, that what men bring to God, devised by themselves, cannot do anything towards the attainment of righteousness.

There is also another error which must be noticed, for in good works they perceive not those blemishes which justly displease God, so that our works might be deservedly condemned were they strictly examined and tried. The Papists rightly say, that we are not justified by the intrinsic worthiness of works, but afterwards they do not consider how imperfect our works are, for no work proceeds from mortal man which can fully answer to what God’s covenant requires. How so? For no work proceeds from the perfect love of God, and where the perfect love of God does not exist, there is corruption there. It hence follows, that all our works are polluted before God; for they flow not except from the impure fountain of the heart. Were any to object and say, that the hearts of men are cleansed by the regeneration of the Spirit, we allow this; but at the same time much filth always remains in our hearts, and it ought to be sufficient for us to know that nothing is pure and genuine before God except where the perfect love of him exists.

As, then, the Papists are blind to all these things, it is no wonder that they with so much hostility contend with us about righteousness, and can by no means allow that the righteousness of faith is gratuitous, for from the beginning this figment about free- will has been resorted to—“if men of themselves come to God, then they are not freely justified.” They, then, as I have said, imagine a partial righteousness, they suppose the deficiency to be made up by satisfactions, they have also, as they say, their devotions, that is, their own contrived modes of worship. Thus it comes, that they ever persuade themselves that the righteousness of man, at least in part, is made up by himself or by works. They indeed allow that we are justified by faith, but when it is added, by faith alone, then they begin to be furious; but they consider not that righteousness, if obtained by faith, cannot be by works, for Paul, as I have shown above, reasons from the contrary, when he says, that righteousness, if it be by the works of the law, is not by faith, for faith, as it has been said, strips man of everything, that he may seek of God what he needs. But the Papists, though they think that man has not enough for himself, do not yet acknowledge that he is so needy and miserable, that righteousness must be sought in God alone. But yet sufficiently clear is the doctrine of Paul, and if Paul had never spoken, reason itself is sufficient to convince us that men cannot be justified by faith until they cast away every confidence in their own works, for if righteousness be of faith, then it is of grace alone, and if by grace alone, then it cannot be by works. It is wholly puerile in the Papists to think, that it is partly by grace and partly by the merits of works; for as salvation cannot be divided, so righteousness cannot be divided, by which we attain salvation itself. As, then, faith acquires for us favor before God, and by this favor we are counted just, so all works must necessarily fall to the ground, when righteousness is ascribed to faith.

(30) Most authors agree in the main with Calvin in his exposition of this clause. The whole verse is quoted by Paul in Heb 10:39, nearly verbatim from the Scriptures; only he inverts the clauses, and leaves out the pronoun, “my,” connected with “faith.” But this clause, as quoted by him, is materially different from the Hebrew text, as it now exists, though the chief difference relates to the word [עפלה], rendered elation, or pride, by Calvin and many others. Two MSS. give another reading; one has [עולפה], and the other, [עלפה], which means to swoon, or to faint, or to fail.

This reading would essentially harmonize the passage, and the context evidently favors it, as well as the antithesis in the verse itself. As to the rest of the clause the meaning is same with the Septuagint version, as cited by Paul, though the words are different; and there are other examples in which the apostle did not alter that version, though varying in words, when the sense was preserved. To say that man’s soul is not right in him amounts to the same thing as to say that God is not pleased with him. There is indeed one MS. which has [נפשי], “my soul,” and not “his soul;” and then [ישרה] is often rendered ἀρεσκειν, to please, by the Septuagint. See Num 23:27; 2Ch 30:4. There would in this case be a complete identity of words as well as of meaning.

What especially countenances these readings is, that the alteration would agree better with the preceding verse. There is an exhortation to wait for the vision, i.e., its fulfillment. To refer to pride in this connection seems not suitable; but to mention fainting or failing through unbelief is quite appropriate; and then as a contrast to this state of mind, the latter clause is added. Adopting the main alteration, [עלפה] instead of [עפלה], (only a transposition of two letters,) I would render the verse thus—

Behold the fainting! not right is his soul within him; But the righteous, by his faith shall he live.

The word for “fainting” is in the feminine gender, either on account of the word “soul” in what follows, or [איש] is understood, the “man of fainting,” instances of which are adduced by Henderson on this verse, though he retains the word of the present text; as [אניתפלה], “I am prayer,” instead of “I am a man of prayer.”—Psa 109:4

Now not only the antithesis is here complete, but the order also in which it occurs corresponds with what is often the style of the Prophets; the first part of the first clause corresponds with the last part of the second, and the last of the former with the first of the latter; and not according to Dr. Henderson, who represents the clauses as regularly antithetic. See a similar instance in Hab 1:13, and also in the first verse of this chapter. The man who faints, and he who lives by faith, form the contrast; and the addition “by faith” in the latter clause implies the fainting to be through want of faith, or through unbelief. Then the soul that is not right stands in contrast with the righteous, or the just in the second line. Thus every thing in the verse itself, and in its connection with what precedes it, is in favor of what has been proposed. And Grotius and Newcome seemed disposed to adopt this reading.—Ed.

Habakkuk 2:5

The Prophet has taught us that a tranquil state of mind cannot be otherwise had than by recumbing on the grace of God alone; and that they who elate themselves, and fly in the air, and feed on the wind, procure for themselves many sorrows and inquietudes. But he now comes to the king of Babylon, and also to his kingdom; for in my judgement he speaks not only of the king, but includes also that tyrannical empire with its people, and represents them as a great company of robbers. He then says in short, that though the Babylonians, like drunken men, hurried here and there without any control, yet God’s vengeance, by which they were to be brought to nothing, was nigh at hand. What ever therefore the Prophet subjoins to the end of the chapter tends to confirm his doctrine, which we have already explained—that the just shall live by faith. We cannot indeed be fully convinced of this except we hold firmly this principle—that God cares for us, and that the whole world is governed by his providence; so that it cannot be but that he will at length check the wicked, and punish their sins, and deliver the innocent who call upon him. Unless this be our conviction, there can be no benefit derived from our faith; we might indeed be a hundred times deceived; for experience teaches us that the hopes of men, as long as they are fixed on the earth, are vain and delusive, as they are only mere imaginations. Except then God governs the world there is no salvation to the faithful; for God in that case would delude them with vain promises, and they would flatter themselves with an empty prospect, or hope for that which is not. Hence the Prophet shows how it is that the just shall live by faith; and that is because the Lord will defend all who call upon him, and that inasmuch as he is the just Judge of all the world, he will finally execute judgement on all the wicked, though for a time they act wantonly, and think that they shall escape punishment, because God does not execute upon them immediate vengeance. We now perceive the design of the Prophet.

As to the words, these two particles, אף כי, aph ki, when joined together, amplify the meaning; and some render them—”how much more;” others take them as a simple affirmative, and render them “truly.” I approve of a middle course, and render them “yea, truly;” (Etiam certe;) and they are so taken as I think, in Gen 3:1, Satan thus asked the woman—yea, truly! Est-ce pour vrai? for the question is that of one doubting, and yet it refers to what is certain,—“How comes it that God should interdict the eating of the fruit? yea, is it so truly? can it be so? So it is in this place, yea, truly, says the Prophet. That it is an amplification may be gathered from the context. He had said before that they who elevate themselves, or seem to themselves to be well fortified, are fearful in their minds, and driven backwards and forwards. He now advances another step—that when men are borne along by unrestrained wantonness, and promise themselves all things, as though there was no God, they surpass even the drunken, being hurried on by blind cupidity. When therefore men thus abandon themselves, can they escape the judgement of God? Far less bearable is such a madness than that simple arrogance of which he had spoken in the last verse. Thus then are the two verses connected together,—“Yea, truly, he who in his pride is like a drunken man, and restrains not himself, and who is even like to wild beasts or to the grave, devouring whatever meets them—he surely will not at length be endured by God.” Vengeance, then, is nigh to all the proud, who are cruelly furious, passing all bounds and without any fear.

But interpreters differ as to the import of the words which follow. Some render בוגד, bugad, to deceive, and it means so in some places; and they render the clause thus—“Wine deceives a proud man, and he will not dwell.” This is indeed true, but the meaning is strained; I therefore prefer to follow the commonly received interpretation—that the proud man transgresses as it were through wine. At the same time I do not agree with others as to the expression “transgressing as through wine.” Some give this version—“Man addicted to wine or to drunkenness transgresses;” and then they add—“a proud man will not inhabit;” but they pervert the sentence, and mangle the words of the Prophet; for his words are—By wine transgressing the proud man: he does not say that a man addicted to wine transgresses; but he compares the proud to drunken men, who, forgetting all reason and shame, abandon themselves unto all that is disgraceful; for the drunken distinguishes nothing, and becomes like a brute animal, so that he shuns nothing that is base and unbecoming. This is the reason why the Prophet compares proud men to the drunken, who transgress through wine, that is, who observe no moderation, but indulge themselves in excesses. We now then understand the real meaning of the Prophet, which many have not perceived. (31)

As to the word inhabiting I take it in a metaphorical sense, as signifying to rest or to continue in the same place. The drunken are borne along by a certain excitement; so they do not restrain themselves, for they have no power over their feet or their hands: but as wine excites them, so they ramble here and there like insane persons. As then such an unruly temper lays hold on and bewilders drunken men, so the Prophet very aptly says that the proud man never rests.

And the reason follows, (provided the meaning be approved,) because he enlarges as the grave his soul he is like to death. This is then the insatiableness which he had mentioned—that the proud cannot be satisfied, and therefore include heaven and earth and sea within the compass of their desires. Since then they thus run here and there, it is no wonder that the Prophet says that they do not rest. He enlarges then as the grave his soul; and then he adds—he heaps together, or congregates, or collects to himself all nations, and accumulates to himself all people; that is, the proud man keeps within no moderate limits; for though he were able to make one heap of all nations, he would yet think that not enough, like Alexander, who wept because he had not then enjoyed the empire of the whole world; and had he enjoyed it his tears would not have been dried; for he had heard that, according to the opinion of Democritus, there were many worlds. What did he mean? even this “Were I to obtain the empire of the world, I should still be poor; for if there are more worlds I should still wish to devour them all.” These proud men surpass every kind of drunkenness.

We now apprehend the meaning of the words; and though they contain a general truth, yet the Prophet no doubt applies them to the king of Babylon and to all the Chaldeans; for as it has been said, he includes the whole nation. He shows then here, that the Chaldeans were much worse and less excusable than those who with great fierceness elated themselves, for their rage carried them farther, as they wished to swallow up the whole world. But in order to express this more fully, he says that they were like drunken men; and he no doubt indirectly derides here the counsels of princes, who think themselves to be very wise, when either by deceit they oppress their neighbors, or by artful means seize for themselves on the lands of others, or by some contrivance, or even by force of arms, take possession of them. As princes take wonderful delight in their iniquities, so the Prophet says that they are like drunken men who transgress by wine, that is, who are completely overcome by excessive drinking; and at the same time he shows the cause of this drunkenness by mentioning the words גבר יהיר, “proud man.” As then they are proud, so all their crafts are like the freaks of drunkenness, that is, furious, as when a man is deprived of reason by wine. Having thus spoken of the Babylonians he immediately adds—

(31) Though the general meaning of the beginning of this verse is what most critics agree in, yet the construction is difficult. The only difference as to the meaning is, whether the proud man is said to be given to wine, or is compared to such an one, or to wine itself. Newcome takes the first, and gives this version—

Moreover, as a mighty man transgresseth through wine, He is proud, and remaineth not at rest.

Henderson, agreeing with Grotius and Mede, takes the latter sense, and renders the line as follows:—

Moreoever wine is treacherous; The haughty man stayeth not at home.

This is rather a paraphrase than a version; but this is the meaning of which the words are most capable. The two first participles need not be connected according to what Calvin proposes. Then the distich may be thus rendered—

And truly, as wine is treacherous, Sois the proud man, and he will not rest.

Then follows a delineation of his character—

Because he enlarges as the grave his desire, And he is like death and cannot be satisfied; For he gathers to himself all the nations, And collects to himself all the people.

As to wine being treacherous, see Pro 30:1. Wine is pleasant to the taste and inviting in its color, but degrading, when taken immoderately, in its effects; so a proud and arrogant man is at first glittering and plausible, and splendid in his appearance, but afterwards cruel and oppressive. This seems to be the most obvious similitude, as contained in the passage.

Parkhurst renders the two first lines as follows—

Yea, as when wine deceiveth a man, So he is proud, and is not at rest.

He interprets “proud,” as meaning “intoxicated with power and dominion,” and refers to Dan 4:30.—Ed.

Habakkuk 2:6

Now at length the Prophet denounces punishment on the Babylonian king and the Chaldeans; for the Lord would render them a sport to all. But some think that a punishment is also expressed in the preceding verse, such as awaits violent robbers, who devour the whole world. But I, on the contrary, think that the Prophet spoke before of proud cruelty, and simply showed what a destructive evil it is, being an insatiable cupidity; and now, as I have stated, he comes to its punishment; and he says first, that all the people who had been collected as it were into a heap, would take up a parable or a taunt, in order to scoff at the king of Babylon. When therefore the Chaldeans should possess the empire of almost the whole world, and subject to their power all their neighboring nations, all these would at length take up against them parables and taunts; and what would be said everywhere would be this—Woe to him who increases and enriches himself by things not his own. How long? that is, Is this to be perpetual? All then who thus increase themselves heap on themselves thick clay, by which they shall at last be overthrown.

With regard to the words, משל, meshil is a short saying or a pithy sentence, and worthy to be remembered, as we have noticed elsewhere. Some render it parable. As to the word מליצה, melitse, it probably signifies a scoff or a taunt, by which any one is reproved; for it comes from לוף, luts, which means to laugh at one or to deride him. It is indeed true, that the Hebrews call a rhetorician or an interpreter מליף, melits; and hence some render מליצה, melitse, interpretation; but it is not suitable to this passage; for the Prophet speaks here of taunts that would be cast against the king of Babylon. For as he had as with an open mouth swallowed up all, so also all would eagerly prick him with their goads, and disdainfully deride him. The word he afterwards adds חידות, chidut, is to be read, I have no doubt, in the genitive case. (32) I therefore do not approve of adding a copulative, as many do, and read thus—“a taunt and an enigma.” This word comes from the verb חוד, chud, which is to speak enigmatically; hence חידות, chidut, are enigmas, or metaphors, or obscure sentences; and we know that when we wish to touch a man to the quick, there is more sharpness when we use an obscure word, which contains a metaphor or ambiguity, or something of this kind. It is not therefore without reason that the Prophet calls taunts, enigmas, חידות, chidut, that is, obscure words, which bite or prick men sharply, as it were with goads. Hence in all scoffs a figurative language ought to be used; and except the expression be ambiguous or alliterative, or, in short, contain such metaphors as it is not necessary to recite here, there would be in it no beauty, no aptness. When therefore men wish to form biting taunts, they obscure what might be plainly said by some indirect metaphor; and this is the reason why the Prophet speaks here of a taunt that is enigmatical, for it is on that account more severe.

And he shall say. There is a change of number in this verb, but it does not obscure the sense. (33) The particle הוי may be rendered “woe”; or it may be an exclamation, as when one is attracted by some particular sight, caca or sus; and so it is taken often by the Hebrews, and the context seems to favor this meaning, for “woe” would be frigid. When the Prophets pronounce a curse on the wicked, it is no doubt a dreadful threat; but what is found here is a taunt, by which the whole world would deride those haughty tyrants who thought that they ought to have been worshipped as gods. He! they say, where is he who multiplies himself by what belongs to another? and then, How long is this to be? even such accumulate on themselves thick clay; that is, they sink themselves in deep caverns, and heap on themselves mountains, by which they become overwhelmed. We now understand the meaning of the Prophet’s words.

What seems here to be the singing of triumph before the victory is no matter of wonder; for our faith, as it is well known, depends not on the judgement of the flesh, nor regards what is openly evident; but it is a vision of hidden things, as it is called in Heb 11:1, and the substance of things not seen. As then the firmness of faith is the same, though what it apprehends is remote, and as faith ceases not to see things hidden,—for through the mirror of God’s word it ascends above heaven and earth, and penetrates into the spiritual kingdom of God,—as faith, then, possesses a view so distant, it is not to be wondered that the Prophet here boldly triumphs over the Babylonians, and now prescribes a derisive song for all nations, that the proud, who had previously with so much cruelty exalted themselves, might be scoffed at and derided.

But were any to ask, whether it be right to assail even the wicked with scoffs and railleries, the question is unsuitable here; for the Prophet does not here refer to what is lawful for the faithful to do, but speaks only of what is commonly done by men: and we know that it is almost natural to men, that when those whom they had feared and dared not to blame as long as they were in power, are overthrown, they break forth against them not only with many complaints and accusations, but also with wanton rudeness. As, then, it usually happens, that all triumph over fallen tyrants, and throw forth their taunts, and all seek in this way to bite, the Prophet describes this regular course of things. It is not, however, to be doubted, but that he composed this song according to the nature of the case, when he says, that they were men who multiplied their own by what belonged to others; that is, that they gathered the wealth of others. It is indeed true, that many things are commonly spread abroad, for which there is no reason nor justice; but as some principles of equity and justice remain in the hearts of men, the consent of all nations is as it were the voice of nature, or the testimony of that equity which is engraven on the hearts of men, and which they can never obliterate. Such is the reason for this saying; for Habakkuk, by introducing the people as the speakers, propounded, as it were, the common law of nature, in which all agree; and that is,—that whosoever enriches himself by another’s wealth, shall at length fall, and that when one accumulates great riches, these will become like a heap to cover and overwhelm him. And if any one of us will consult his own mind, he will find that this is engraven on his very nature.

How, then, does it happen, that many should yet labor to get for themselves the wealth of others, and strive for nothing else through their whole life, but to spoil others that they may enrich themselves? It hence appears that men’s minds are deprived of reason by sottishness, whenever they thus addict themselves to unjust gain, or when they give themselves loose reins to commit frauds, robberies, and plunders. And thus we perceive that the Prophet had not without reason represented all the proud and the cruel as drunken.

Then follow the words, עד-מתי, od-mati, how long? This also is the dictate of nature; that is, that an end will some time be to unjust plunders, though God may not immediately check plunderers and wicked men, who proceed and effect their purposes by force and slaughters, and frauds and evil-doings. In the mean time the Prophet also intimates, that tyrants and their cruelty cannot be endured without great weariness and sorrow; for indignity on account of evil deeds kindles within the breasts of all, so that they become wearied when they see that wicked men are not soon restrained. Hence almost the whole world sound forth these words, How long, how long? When any one disturbs the whole world by his ambition and avarice, or everywhere commits plunders, or oppresses miserable nations,—when he distresses the innocent, all cry out, How long? And this cry, proceeding as it does from the feeling of nature and the dictate of justice, is at length heard by the Lord. For how comes it that all, being touched with weariness, cry out, How long? except that they know that this confusion of order and justice is not to be endured? And this feeling, is it not implanted in us by the Lord? It is then the same as though God heard himself, when he hears the cries and greenings of those who cannot bear injustice.

But let us in the meantime see that no one of us should have to say the same thing to himself, which he brings forward against others. For when any avaricious man proceeds through right or wrong, as they say, when an ambitious man, by unfair means, advances himself, we instantly cry, How long? and when any tyrant violently oppresses helpless men, we always say, How long? Though every one says this as to others, yet no one as to himself. Let us therefore take heed that, when we reprove injustice in others, we come without delay to ourselves, and be impartial judges. Self love so blinds us, that we seek to absolve ourselves from that fault which we freely condemn in others. In general things men are always more correct in their judgement, that is, in matters in which they themselves are not concerned; but as soon as they come to themselves, they become blind, and all rectitude vanishes, and all judgement is gone. Let us then know, that this song is set forth here by the Prophet, drawn, as it were, from the common feeling of nature, in order that every one of us may put a restraint on himself when he discharges the office of a judge in condemning others, and that he may also condemn himself, and restrain his desires, when he finds them advancing beyond just bounds.

We must also observe what he subjoins,—that the avaricious accumulate on themselves thick clay. This at first may appear incredible; but the subject itself plainly shows what the Prophet teaches here, provided our minds are not so blinded as not to see plain things. Hardly indeed an avaricious man can be found who is not a burden to himself, and to whom his wealth is not a source of trouble. Every one who has accumulated much, when he comes to old age, is afraid to use what he has got, being ever solicitous lest he should lose any thing; and then, as he thinks nothing is sufficient, the more he possesses the more grasping he becomes, and frugality is the name given to that sordid, and, so to speak, that servile restraint within which the rich confine themselves. In short, when any one forms a judgement of all the avaricious of this world, and is himself free from all avarice, having a free and unblessed mind, he will easily apprehend what the Prophet says here,—that all the wealth of this world is nothing else but a heap of clay, as when any one puts himself of his own accord under a great heap which he had collected together.

Some refer this to the walls of Babylon, which were built of baked bricks, as it is well known; but this is too farfetched. Others think that the Prophet speaks of the last end of us all; for they who possess the greatest riches, being at last thrown into the grave, are covered with earth: but this also is not suitable here, any more than when they apply it to Nebuchadnezzar, that is, to that sottishness by which he had inebriated himself almost through his whole life; or when others apply it to Belshazzar, his grandson, because when he drank from the sacred vessels of the temple, he uttered slanders and blasphemies against God. These explanations are by no means suitable; for the Prophet does not here speak of the person of the king alone, but, as it has been said, he, on the contrary, summons to judgement the whole nation, which had given itself up to plunders and frauds and other evil deeds.

Then a general truth is to be drawn from this expression that all the avaricious, the more they heap together, the more they lade themselves, and, as it were, bury themselves under a great load. Whence is this? Because riches, acquired by frauds and plunders, are nothing else than a heavy and cumbrous lump of earth: for God returns on the heads of those who thus seek to enrich themselves, whatever they have plundered from others. Had they been contented with some moderate portion, they might have lived cheerfully and happily, as we see to be the case with all the godly; who though they possess but little, are yet cheerful, for they live in hope, and know that their supplies are in God’s hand, and expect everything from his blessing. Hence, then, their cheerfulness, because they have no anxious fears. But they who inebriate themselves with riches, find that they carry a useless burden, under which they lie down, as it were, sunk and buried.

(32) This can hardly be allowed; for in this case the final letter of the previous word must have been [ת] and not [ה]. It is a word evidently in apposition, designing the character of the proverb and the taunt, they being enigmas, conveyed in a highly figurative language. The whole verse may be thus rendered—

Shall not these, all of them, Raise against him a proverb and a taunt Enigmas for him; Yea, say will every one — “Woe to him who multiplies what is not his own! how long! “And to him who accumulates on himself thick clay!”

To render the last word [עבטיט], (or [עב טיט], apart, as given by ten MSS.,) “pledges,” as it is done by Newcome and Henderson, does not comport at all with the rest of the passage. The Septuagint favor the common explanation, and also the Vulgate, and most commentators.—Ed.

(33) It is rendered impersonally by Jerome et dicetur —and it shall be said.” Junius introduces a question, and supposed the just, who lives by faith to be referred to—“And shall not he, i.e., the just, say?” But Marckius considers that God is the speaker—“And he, i.e., God, shall say.” But the most obvious construction is, that each one of the nations previously mentioned is introduced as speaking—“Unusquisque illorum —every one of them,” is understood, says Piscator. —Ed.

Habakkuk 2:7

The Prophet proceeds with the subject which we have already begun to explain; for he introduces here the common taunts against the king of Babylon and the whole tyrannical empire, by which many nations had been cruelly oppressed. He therefore says that enemies, who should bite him, (34) would suddenly and unexpectedly rise up. Some expound this of worms, but not rightly: for God not only inflicted punishment on the king when dead, but he intended also that there should be on earth an evident and a memorable proof of his vengeance on the Babylonians, by which it might be made known to all that their cruelty could not be suffered to go unpunished.

The words, Shall not they rise suddenly, are emphatical, both as to the question and as to the word, פתע, peto, suddenly. We indeed know that interrogations are more common in Hebrew than in Greek and Latin, and that they are stronger and more forcible. Our Prophet then speaks of what was indubitable. He adds, suddenly; for the Babylonians, relying on their own power, did not think that any evil was nigh them; and if any one dared to rise up against them, this could not have been so sudden, but they could have in time resisted and driven far away every danger. They indeed ruled far and wide; and we know that the wicked often sleep when they find themselves fortified on all sides. But the Prophet declares here that evil was nigh them, which would suddenly overwhelm them. It now follows—

(34) This is rendered by Henderson, “that have lent thee on usury;” but incorrectly, as the corresponding clause is found in the following, and not, as he says, in the preceding line. The literal version is as follows,—

Shall not suddenly arise thy biters, And awake thy tormentors, And thou become for spoils to them?

Now, the two corresponding words are “biters” and “tormentors;” and the idea of lending on usury cannot be admitted; and the common meaning of the word [נשך], is to bite, and means lending on usury only in Hiphil. What the Septuagint gives is δακνοντες— biters.

Here is an instance of the peculiar manner of the Prophets, and also of the writers of the New Testament; the most obvious act is mentioned first “arise,” and then what is previous to it, “awake.” There is also a similar difference in “biters” and “tormentors,” or those who vex and harass: to torment or vex is not so great an evil as to bite, as it were, like a serpent; for such is the biting meant here.—Ed.

Habakkuk 2:8

The Prophet here expresses more clearly why the Babylonians were to be so severely dealt with by God. He shows that it would be a just reward that they should be plundered in their turn, who had previously given themselves up to plunder, violence, and cruelty. Since, then, they had exercised so much inhumanity towards all people, the Prophet intimates here that God could not be deemed as treating them cruelly, by inflicting on them so severe a punishment: he also confirms the former truth, and recalls the attention of the faithful to the judgement of God, as a main principle to be remembered; for when things in the world are in a state of confusion, we despond, and all hope vanishes, except this comes to our mind—that as God is the judge of the world it cannot be otherwise but that at length all the wicked must appear before his tribunal, and give there an account of all their deeds; and Scripture, also, is wont to set God before us as a judge, whenever the purpose is to allay our troubles. The Prophet now does the same thing: for he says, that robbers should soon come upon the Babylonians, who would plunder them; for God, the judge of the world, would not at last suffer so many plunders to be unpunished.

But it was everywhere known that the Babylonians had, beyond all bounds and moderation, given themselves up to plunder, so that they spared no nations. Hence he says, because thou hast plundered many nations; and on this he enlarges; because the Babylonians had not only done wrongs to a few men, or to one people, but had marched through many countries. As, then, they had taken to themselves so much liberty in doing evil, the Prophet draws this conclusion—that they could not escape the hand of God, but that they were at length to find by experience that there was a God in heaven, who would repay them for their wrongs.

He says also, Spoil thee shall the remnant of all people. This admits of two expositions; it may mean, that the people, who had been plundered by the Chaldeans, would take revenge on them: and he calls them a remnant, because they were not entire; but yet he intimates that they would be sufficient to take vengeance on the Babylonians. This view may be admitted, and yet we may suppose, that the Prophet takes in other nations, who had never been plundered; as though he had said—“Thou hast indeed spoiled many nations; but there are other nations in the world whom thy cruelty could not have reached. All the people then who remain in the world shall strive to outdo one another in attacking thee; and canst thou be strong enough to resist so great a power?” Either of these views may be admitted; that is, that in the wasted and plundered countries there would be still a remnant who would take vengeance,—or that the world contained other people who would willingly undertake this cause and execute vengeance on the Babylonians; for God would by his secret influence fulfill by their means his purpose of punishing them.

He then adds, on account of man’s blood; that is, because thou hast shed innocent blood, and because thou hast committed many plunders; for thou hast not only injured a few men, but thy daringness and cruelty have also extended to many nations. He indeed mentions the earth, and also the city. Some confine these words to the land of Judea and to Jerusalem, but not rightly; for the Prophet speaks here generally; and to the land, he joins cities and their inhabitants. (35)

But this verse contains a truth which applies to all times. Let us then learn, during the licentious success of tyrants, to raise up our minds to heaven’s tribunal, and to nourish our patience with this confidence, that the Lord, who is the judge of the world, will recompense these cruel and bloody robbers, and that the more licentious they are, the heavier judgement is nigh them; for the Lord will awaken and raise up as many to execute vengeance as there are men in the world, who by shedding blood will inflict punishment, though they may not intend to fulfill his purpose. God can indeed (as it has been often observed) execute his judgements in a wonderful and sudden manner. Let us hence also learn to restrain our evil desires; for none shall go unpunished who will allow themselves to injure their brethren; though they may seem to be unpunished for a time, yet God, who is ever the same, will at length return on their heads whatever they have devised against others, as we shall presently see again. He now adds—

(35) So Grotius, Drusius, and Henderson regard the passage: the land, and the city, are supposed to have been used poetically for lands and cities. The word rendered “violence,” [חמס], means an unjust or wrong act done by force, an outrage, a violent injustice: hence Grotius rightly renders it here, “direptionem —robbing, pillaging, or plundering.” While Newcome and others apply the passage to Judea and Jerusalem, the Septuagint version would lead us to suppose that Babylon was intended. The view taken here would be the most probable, were it not that the words are repeated at the end of verse 17; and there clearly they refer to the land of Judea and Jerusalem.—Ed.

Habakkuk 2:9

Habakkuk proceeds in exciting the king of Babylon by taunts; which were not scurrilous jests, but contained serious threatening; for, as it has been already said, the Prophet here introduces indeed the common people, but in that multitude we are to recognize the innumerable heralds of God’s vengeance: and hence he says, Woe to him who coveteth, etc.; or we may say, He! for it is a particle of exclamation, as it has been said: He! thou, he says, who covetest an evil covetousness to thy house, and settest on high thy nest: but what shall happen? The next verse declares the punishment.

The clause, Woe to him who covets an evil covetousness to his house, may be read by itself,—that this cupidity shall be injurious to his house; as though he had said, “Thou indeed wouldest provide for thy house by accumulating great riches; but thy house shall find this to be evil and ruinous. So the word רעה, roe, evil, might be referred to the house; but the verse is best connected by reading the whole together; that is, that the Babylonians not only provided for themselves, while they with avidity plundered and collected much wealth from all quarters; but that they wished also to make provisions for their sons and grandsons: and we also see, that avarice has this object in view; for they who are anxiously bent on the accumulation of riches do not only regard what is needful for themselves to pass through life, but also wish to leave their heirs rich. Since then the avaricious are desirous of enriching for ever their houses, the prophet, deriding this madness, says, Woe to him who covets an evil covetousness to his house; that is, who wishes not only to abound and be satiated himself, but also to supply his posterity with abundance.

He adds another vice, which is almost ever connected with the former—that he may set, he says, his nest on high; for the avaricious have a regard to this—to fortify themselves; for as an evil conscience is always fearful, many dangers come across their minds—“This may happen to me,” and then, “My wealth will procure for me the hatred and envy of many. If then some danger be at hand, I shall be able to redeem my life many times;” and he also adds, “Were I satisfied with a moderate portion, many would become my rivals; but when my treasures surpass what is common, then I shall be as it were beyond the reach of men; and when others envy one another, I shall escape.” So the avaricious think within themselves when they are ardently bent on accumulating riches, and form for themselves a great heap like a nest; for they think that they are raised above the world, and are exempt from the common lot of men, when surrounded by their riches.

We now then see what the Prophet means: Woe, he says, to him who wickedly and intemperately covets. And why does he so do? To enrich his posterity. And then he adds, to him who covets that he may set his nest on high; that is, that he may by wealth fortify himself, that he may be able to drive away every danger, and be thus exempt from every evil and trouble. And he adds, that he may deliver himself from the power of evil; he expresses now more clearly what I have said—that the rich are inebriated with false confidence, when they surpass all others; for they think not themselves to be mortals, but imagine that they have another life, as though they had a world of their own, free from all dangers. But while the avaricious thus elevate themselves by a proud confidence, the Prophet derides their madness. He then subjoins their punishment—

Habakkuk 2:10

The Prophet again confirms the truth, that those who count themselves happy, imagining that they are like God, busy themselves in vain; for God will turn to shame whatever they think to be their glory, derived from their riches. The avaricious indeed wish, as it appears from the last verse, to prepare splendor for their posterity, and they think to render illustrious their race by their wealth; for this is deemed to be nobility, that the richer any one is the more he excels, as he thinks, in dignity, and the more is he to be esteemed by all. Since, then, this is the object of almost all the avaricious, the Prophet here reminds them, that they are greatly deceived; for the Lord will not only frustrate their hopes, but will also convert their glory into shame. Hence he says, that they consult shame to their family.

He includes in the word consult, all the industry, diligence, skill, care, and labor displayed by the avaricious. We indeed see how very sagacious they are; for if they smell any gain at a distance, they draw it to themselves, night and day they form new designs, that they may circumvent this person and plunder that person, and accumulate into their heap whatever money they can find, and also that they may join fields to fields, build great palaces, and secure great revenues. This is the reason why the Prophet says, that they consult shame. What is the object of all their designs? for they are, as we have said, very sharp and keen-sighted, they are also industrious, and torment themselves day and night with continual labor; for what purpose are all these things? even for this, that their posterity may be eminent, that their nobility may be in the mouth of all, and spread far and wide. But the Prophet shows that they labor in vain for God will turn to shame whatever they in their great wisdom contrived for the honor of their families. The more provident then the avaricious are, the more foolish they are, for they consult nothing but disgrace to their posterity.

He adds, though thou cuttest off many people. This seems to have been expressed for the sake of anticipating an objection; for it might have seemed incredible that the Babylonians should form designs disgraceful to their posterity, when their fame was so eminent, and Babylon itself was like an idol, and the king was everywhere regarded with great reverence and also fear. Since then the Babylonians had made such advances, who could have thought it possible that what the Prophet declares here should take place? But, as I have already said, he meets these objections, and says, “Though the Babylonians shall conquer many enemies, and overthrow strong people, yet this will be of no advantage to them; nay, even that will turn out to their disgrace which they think will be to their glory.”

To the same purpose is what he adds, thou hast sinned against thy soul. Some give this version, “Thou hast sinned licentiously” or immoderately; others, “Thy soul has sinned,” but these pervert the Prophet’s meaning; for what he intended was nothing else but the evils which the avaricious and the cruel bring on themselves, and which will return on their own heads. When therefore the Babylonians contrived ruin for the whole world, the Prophet predicts that an end, very different from what they thought, would be to them: thou hast sinned, he says, against thine own soul; (36) that is, the evil which thou didst prepare to bring on others, shall be made by God to fall on thine own head.

And this kind of declaration ought to be carefully noticed; that is, that the ungodly, while they trouble all, and harass all, while they torment one, plunder another, oppress another, do always sin against their own souls; that is, they do not cause so much loss and sorrow to others as to themselves: for the Lord will make the evil they intend for others to return on themselves. He does not speak here of guilt, but of punishment, when he says, “Thou hast sinned against thy soul;” that is, thou shalt receive the reward due to all thy sins. We now then see what the Prophet means. It now follows—

(36) Literally, “sinning thy soul.” We have in Pro 8:36, [הטאי], “my sinner,” rendered no doubt correctly, “he that sinneth against me.” So here “sinning thy soul,” means “sinning against thy soul.” See the same words in Pro 20:2. In Num 16:38, the preposition [ב] is before “souls.” “Thy soul hath sinned,” as given by the Septuagint, and adopted by Newcome, does not convey the meaning; for to sin against our souls, is to injure ourselves so as to bring down judgment, as in the case mentioned in Num 16:38, while the other phrase conveys only the idea of doing what is wrong.—Ed.

Habakkuk 2:11

There is here introduced by the Prophet a new personification. He had before prepared a common song, which would be in the mouth of all. He now ascribes speech to stones and wood, of which buildings are formed. The stone, he says, shall cry from the wall, and the wood from the chamber; that is, there is no part of the building that will not cry out that it was built by plunder, by cruelty, and, in a word, by evil deeds. The Prophet not only ascribes speech to wood and stone, but he makes them also respond one to the other as in a chorus, as in lyrics there are voices which take up the song in turns. The stone, he says, shall cry from the wall, and the wood shall respond to it from the chamber; (37) as though he said, “There will be a striking harmony in every part of the building; for the wall will begin and will utter its song, ‘Behold I have been built by blood and by iniquity;’ and the wood will utter the same, and will cry, ‘Woe;’ but all in due order; there will be no confused noise, but as music has distinct sounds, so also the stones will respond to the wood and the wood to the stones, so that there may be, as they say, corresponding voices.”

(37) The word rendered here “Wood,” lignum , is [כפיס], and only found here. The Septuagint has κανθαρος, a beetle,—Sym. συνδεσμος, bond, tie, or joint,—Theod. ἔνδεσμος, bandage or jointing. The context shows that it must be something connected with wood-building. Parkhurst says, that it is a verb in Syriac, and means to connect, to fasten together, and he renders it a beam or a rafter, which would exactly suit this place. The word, [מעף], “from the wood,” evidently means the wood-building or wood-work. So that tabulatum , a story or a chamber in a building, as rendered by Calvin, is not amiss. Perhaps the best version would be,—

And the beam from the wood-work answers it.

Bochart says, that [כפיס], in Rabbinical writings, means a brick, and that it was usual, formerly, as it was in this country not long ago, to build with bricks and wood or timber together; and Henderson has adopted this meaning, but the other is more satisfactory.—Ed.

Habakkuk 2:12

The stone, then, from the wall shall cry, and the wood shall answer —what will it answer?—Woe to him who builds a city by blood, and who adorns his city by iniquity. By blood and by iniquity he understands the same thing; for though the avaricious do not kill innocent men, they yet suck their blood, and what else is this but to kill them by degrees, by a slow tormenting process? For it is easier at once to undergo death than to pine away in want, as it happens to helpless men when spoiled and deprived of all their property. Wherever there is wanton plundering, there is murder committed in the sight of God; for as it has been said, he who spares not the helpless, but drinks up their blood, doubtless sins no less than if he were to kill them.

But if this personification seems to any one strange, he must consider how incredible seemed to be what the Prophet here teaches, and how difficult it was to produce a conviction on the subject. We indeed confess that God is the judge of the world; nay, there is no one who does not anticipate his judgement by condemning avarice and cruelty; the very name of avarice is infamous and hated by all: the same may be said of cruelty. But yet when we see the avaricious in splendor and in esteem, we are astounded, and no one is able to foresee by faith what the Prophet here declares. Since, then our dullness is so great, or rather our sottishness, it is no wonder that the Prophet should here set before us the stones and the wood, as though he said, “When all prophecies and all warnings become frigid, and God himself obtains no credit, while openly declaring what he will do, and when his servants consume their labor in vain by warning and crying, let now the stones come forth, and be teachers to you who will not give ear to the voice of God himself, and let the wood also cry out in its turn.” This, then, is the reason why the Prophet introduces here mute things as the speakers, even to awaken our insensibility.

Habakkuk 2:13

Then he adds, Shall it not be, behold, from Jehovah of hosts? (38) Some give a wrong version, “Is not this,” as though הנה, ene, were put here instead of a pronoun demonstrative; but they extenuate and obscure the beauty of the expression; nay, they pervert the meaning of the Prophet: for when he says, הנה, ene, behold, he refers not to what he had said, nor specifies any particular thing, and yet he shows, as it were by the finger, the judgement of God, which he bids us to expect; as though he said, “Shall not God at length have his turn, when the avaricious and the cruel have obtained their triumphs in the world, and darkened the minds and thoughts of all, as though no account were to be given by them before the tribunal of God? Shall not God sometime show that it is his time to interpose?” When, therefore, he says, Shall it not be, behold, from Jehovah? it is an indefinite mode of speaking; he does not say, This or that shall be from the God of hosts; but, Shall it not be, behold, from Jehovah of hosts? that is, God seems now indeed to rest, and on this account men indulge themselves with greater boldness; but he will not always remain still, Shall not God then come forth, who seems now to be unconcerned? Something there will at length be from the God of hosts. And the demonstrative particle confirms the same thing: Behold, he says, as though he would show to the faithful as in a picture the tribunal of God, which cannot be seen by us now but by faith. He says, Behold, will not there be something from the God of hosts? that is, Will not God at length stretch forth his hand, to show that he is not unconcerned, but that he cares for the affairs of men? In a word, by this mode of speaking is pointed out to us the change, which we are to hope for, inasmuch as it cannot be soon realised.

Hence he concludes, The people, then, labor in the fire, and the people weary themselves in vain. To labor in the fire means the same thing as to take in hand an unprofitable work, the fruit of which is immediately consumed. Some say that people labor in the fire, because Babylon had been built by a great number of men, and at length perished by fire; but this explanation seems far-fetched. I take a simpler view—that people labor in the fire, like him who performs a work, and a fire is put under it and consumes it; or like him, who with great labor polishes his own work, and a fire is prepared, which destroys it while in the hands of the artificer. For it is certain that the Prophet repeats the same thing in another form, when he says, בדי-ריק, bedi-rik, with vanity, or for vanity. We now then apprehend his object.

We may here collect a useful doctrine—that not only the fruit of labor shall be lost by all who seek by wicked means to enrich themselves, but also that were the whole world favorable and subservient to them, the whole would yet be useless; as it happened to the king of Babylon, though he had many people ready to obey him. But the Prophet derides all those great preparations, for God had fire at hand to consume whatever they had so eagerly contrived who wished to spend all their labor to please one man. He at length adds—

(38) The construction of the first line of this verse, as given by Calvin, is stiff and unnatural. There is no doubt but that [הנה] is a pronoun in the plural number, and so it has been taken by the Septuagint, ταυτα, these things, and such is the rendering of the Syriac and Arabic versions. No improvement, perhaps, can be made on Newcome’s rendering of this verse,—

Are not these things from Jehovah God of hosts,
That people should labor for the fire,
And nations should weary themselves for a vain thing?

The intimation is, that all the buildings erected by blood and prepared by iniquity, were destined for the fire. “For the fire,” [בדי אש], literally is, for the supply of fire, as Parkhurst renders the phrase: then it is, for the supply of emptiness or vacuity, [ברי ריק].

The last two lines, with some variety, are found in Jer 51:58, and applied to Babylon. In Jeremiah, “for a vain thing,” is in the first line, and “for the fire” is in the second. Jeremiah puts the less evil first, and the greatest last; but Habakkuk’s usual manner is the reverse, which has been before noticed, and we find an instance in the preceding verse, where he mentions “blood” first, and in the next line, “iniquity.”

That the destination of Babylon for the fire is here meant, seems evident from the following verse. See Jer 51:25.—Ed.

Habakkuk 2:14

The Prophet briefly teaches us here, that so remarkable would be God’s judgement on the Babylonians that his name would thereby be celebrated through the whole world. But there is in this verse an implied contrast; for God appeared not in his own glory when the Jews were led away into exile; the temple being demolished and the whole city destroyed; and also when the whole easterly region was exposed to rapine and plunder. When therefore the Babylonians were, after the Assyrians, swallowing up all their neighbors, the glory of God did not then shine, nor was it conspicuous in the world. The Jews themselves had become mute; for their miseries had, as it were, stupefied them; their mouths were at least closed, so that they could not from the heart bless God, while he was so severely afflicting them. And then, in that manifold confusion of all things, the profane thought that all things here take place fortuitously, and that there is no divine providence. God then was at that time hid: hence the Prophet says, Filled shall be the earth with the knowledge of God; that is, God will again become known, when by stretching forth his hand he will execute vengeance on the Babylonians; then will the Jews, as well as other nations, acknowledge that the world is governed by God’s providence, as it had been once created by him.

We now understand the Prophet’s meaning, and why he says, that the earth would be filled with the knowledge of God’s glory; for the glory of God previously disappeared from the world, with regard to the perceptions of men; but it shone forth again, when God himself had erected his tribunal by overthrowing Babylon, and thereby proved that there is no power among men which he cannot control. We have the same sentence in Isa 11:9. (39) The Prophet there speaks indeed of the kingdom of Christ; for when Christ was openly made known to the world, the knowledge of God’s glory at the same time filled the earth; for God then appeared in his own living image. But yet our Prophet uses a proper language, when he says that the earth shall then be filled with the knowledge of God’s glory, when he should execute vengeance on the Babylonians. Hence incorrectly have some applied this to the preaching of the gospel, as though Habakkuk made a transition from the ruin of Babylon to the general judgement: this is a strained exposition. It is indeed a well-known mode of speaking, and often occurs in the Psalms, that the power, grace, and truth of God are made known through the world, when he delivers his people and restrains the ungodly. The same mode the Prophet now adopts; and he compares this fullness of knowledge to the waters of the sea, because the sea, as we know, is so deep, that there is no measuring of its waters. So Habakkuk intimates, that the glory of God would be so much known that it would not only fill the world, but in a manner overflow it: as the waters of the sea by their vast quantity cover the deep, so the glory of God would fill heaven and earth, so as to have no limits. If, at the same time, there be a wish to extend this sentence to the coming of Christ, I do not object: for we know that the grace of redemption flowed in a perpetual stream until Christ appeared in the world. But the Prophet, I have no doubt, sets forth here the greatness of God’s power in the destruction of Babylon. (40)

(39) The idea is nearly the same, though not the words. The verse in Isaiah is literally this—

For fill the earth shall the knowledge of Jehovah, Like the waters spreading over the sea.

The verb rendered “cover” here and in Isaiah is, [כסה], which means first to spread, and in the second place to cover, as the effect of spreading. It is followed here by [על], over, and by [ל], over, in Isaiah; and so spreading must be the idea included in the verb. The comparison in Isaiah is between knowledge and waters, and the earth and the sea. Hence the common version does not properly present the comparison. The verb [מלא], is used in a passive and active sense. See Gen 6:13, and Gen 1:22. This verse may be rendered in Welsh word for word, without changing the order in one instance:—

(lang. cy) Canys henwa y ddaear wybodaeth o Jehova, Vel y dyvroedd dros y more yn ymdaenu.

“The knowledge of Jeohovah,” [דעה את-יהוה], is not an instance of a genitive case by juxtaposition, which is common both in Hebrew and in Welsh; for [את] here must be a preposition, “from,” for it is sometimes used for [מאת]. It is a knowledge that was to come from Jehovah, and not a knowledge of Jehovah.—Ed.

(40) There is no reason to doubt but that this is the meaning of the sentence here: and it is a striking instance of the variety of meaning which belongs to similar expressions, when differently connected. The glory of God is manifested by judgments as well as by mercies. In Isaiah it is “the knowledge of or from Jehovah;” here the expression is, “the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah.” By “the knowledge of Jehovah” is to be understood the revelation made by the gospel. But by “the knowledge of his glory” is meant evidently the display of his power in destroying Babylon, as power is often signified by glory.—Ed.

Habakkuk 2:15

This passage, in which the Prophet condemns the king of Babylon for his usual practice of rendering drunk his friends, is frigidly interpreted by most expounders. It has been already often said how bold the Jews are in contriving what is fabulous; when nothing certain occurs to them, they divine this or that without any discrimination or shame. Hence they say, that Nebuchadnezzar was given to excess, and led all whom he could into a participation of the same vice. They also think that his associates were captive kings, as though he bid them for the sake of sport to be brought to his table, and by drinking to their health, forced them to intoxication, that he might laugh at them when they made themselves base and ridiculous. But all this is groundless; for there is no history that relates any such thing. It is, however, easy to see that another matter is here treated of by the Prophet; for he does not speak of the king only, but he refers to the whole empire. I therefore doubt not but that this whole discourse, in which the Babylonian king is condemned for making drunk his associates or friends, is metaphorical or allegorical. But before I proceed further on the subject, I shall say something as to the words; for the meaning of the Prophet will thereby be made more evident.

Woe, he says, to him who gives his friend drink; then he adds, מספח חמתך, mesephech chemetak, “who joinest and bottle.” חמה, cheme, is taken in Hebrew for a bottle; and we know, and it is sufficiently evident from Scripture, that the Jews used bottles of skin, as there are casks and larger vessels with us. Since, then, they put their wine into bottles, these were often taken for their cups, as it is in our language, when one says, Des flacons, des bouteilles. Hence some give this explanation—that the king of Babylon brought forth his flagons, that he might force to intoxication, by excessive drinking, those who could not and dared not to resist his will. But others render חמה, cheme, wrath, with a preposition understood: and in order that nothing may be understood, some render the participle, מספח, “displaying,” that is, “his fury.” But as חמה, cheme, means to be hot, we may, therefore, properly give this version, “Uniting thy heat;” that is, “It is not enough for thee to inebriate others, except thou implicates them with thyself.” We now perceive the meaning of this phrase. He adds, And thou also dost inebriate. We may hence learn that the Prophet had no other thing in view, but to show that the king of Babylon sought for himself many associates in his intemperance or excess: at the same time he takes, as I have said, excess in a metaphorical sense. I shall presently explain more fully what all this means; but now we only expound the words. And thou, he says, dost also inebriate: the particle אף, as it is well known, is laid down for the sake of amplifying. After having said, Thou unitest thy heat; that is, thou exhales thine intemperance, so that others also contract the same heat with thyself, he immediately adds, Thou inebriatest them. It follows, that their nakedness may be made open; that is, that they may disclose themselves with shame. The following verse I shall defer until we shall see more clearly what the Prophet had in view. (41)

As I have already said the Prophet charges the Babylonian king with having implicated neighboring kings in his own evil desires, and with having in a manner inebriated them. He indeed compares the insatiable avarice of that king to intemperance; for as it is the object of drunken men not to drink what may suffice them, but to glut themselves with wine, so also when avar