AW Pink (1886-1952): The Claims of God

The Claims of God
AW Pink (1886-1952)
Copyright: Public Domain

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Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed” (1Sa 12:24-25). These words were uttered by God’s servant to Israel at an important crisis in their national history. Dissatisfied with the divine theocracy, they wished to be like the heathen and have a human king to be their head and leader. The Lord suffered them to have their wish gratified, but pressed upon them the wickedness of it. Then, His servant faithfully presented to them the certain issues of two courses of conduct—if they feared and served the Lord, He would prosper them. If they rebelled against Him, His hand would smite them (1Sa 12:14-15; 24-25).

In our text, we find Samuel setting before Israel the requirements of God from them. They were to fear and serve Him. In it, he reminds them of the wondrous mercies which had been shown them, and the obligation which these imposed. He bids them consider the great things which God had done for them. In 1 Samuel 12:7, he called upon them to “stand still” while he reasoned with them before the Lord of His “benefits” (margin) unto them. God had brought them out of the house of bondage (1Sa 12:8). He had made them to dwell in the favoured land of Canaan. When they had departed from Him and He sorely chastened them, then, they cried unto Him, confessed their sin, and He graciously delivered them from their enemies (1Sa 12:9-11). What then ought to be their response? Fear and serve Him.

“Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning” (Rom 15:4). The temporal deliverances, which JEHOVAH wrought of old for Israel, shadowed forth the spiritual deliverances which Christ has secured for His people, and which the Holy Spirit applies to them experimentally. Their emancipation from Egypt figured our redemption from the bondage of sin, “Redeemed from…your vain conversation” or “manner of living” (1Pe 1:18). Christ died not only to save His people from Hell, but also to “deliver us from this present evil world” (Gal 1:4). Such inestimable blessings carry with them immense obligations. The claims of God upon His people are infinitely greater than those He has upon the wicked. And naught but divine grace can enable us to answer our obligations and meet His claims. What these are we shall now consider.

1. “Fear the Lord.” Of the unregenerate, it is said, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom 3:18). They have no respect for His authority, no concern for His glory, no love for His law. But concerning the righteous, we are told, “Surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before Him” (Ecc 8:12). And why? Because “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil” (Pro 8:13), and “By the fear of the LORD men depart from evil” (Pro 16:6). Thus, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Pro 9:10), for without it, man is a consummate fool, on a lower level than the beasts which perish, for “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib” (Isa 1:3), but the wicked own not the voice of their Maker.

To “fear the Lord” is for the heart to be deeply impressed by His awful majesty, His immeasurable power, His ineffable holiness. It is to stand in reverent awe of Him. If the seraphim veil their faces in His presence (Isa 6:2), how much more ought worms of the earth bow in the dust before Him! To fear the Lord is to tremble at the very thought of knowingly opposing Him. It is to have the utmost respect for every revelation of His imperial will. When the father of Isaac obeyed the divine command to lay his beloved son on the altar of sacrifice, the Lord said, “Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Gen 22:12). And this godly fear which is required from us (compare Act 9:31; 2Co 7:1; 1Pe 1:17) is not to be spasmodic and occasional, but as Proverbs 23:17 says, “Be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.” Then, what cause have we to cry daily, “Unite my heart to fear thy name” (Psa 86:11).

Observe well the opening word of our text, “Only fear the LORD.” If the fear of the Lord is truly upon our hearts, everything else will (so to speak) take care of itself. If the fear of the Lord be upon us, pride will be abased, self-will and self-seeking will be subdued, and the evil whisperings of Satan will have no power over us. If the fear of the Lord be upon us, we shall be delivered from the fear of man, as we shall be quite indifferent whether or not we please him. If the fear of the Lord be upon us, doubtings and questionings of our salvation will be at an end, “In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence; and his children shall have a place of refuge” (Pro 14:26). “The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant” (Psa 25:14).

2. “And serve him.” Yes, Him, not self, not sin, not our fellows. God is the only one who has any real claims upon us, for He is our Creator, our Owner, our Lord. Him, we are commanded, under pain of everlasting woe, to serve. Not simply believe in Him, pray to Him, but be in complete subjection to Him. His will is to be our law, His commands the regulator of our ways. “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Mat 4:10). We cannot “serve” two masters, as Christ affirmed, “For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other” (Mat 6:24). Note well that this call to “serve” the Lord comes after “fear” Him. We cannot truly serve Him unless His fear be upon us. Any so-called service which flows not from a reverent awe of God is only the restless energy of the flesh putting itself into action.

“Serve Him in truth.” What is meant by this? At least three things. First, the Lord is to be served in sincerity, not in pretence. A form of godliness, no matter how precise and punctilious, is of no avail in His sight if the power of it be lacking. Second, the Lord requires to be served in reality, not in mere lip profession. “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1Jo 3:18). Nothing is more vain than an empty formality. Third, in a scriptural way. “Thy word is truth” (Joh 17:17). To serve the Lord “in truth” is the opposite of following the fashions of the day, or the inclinations of our hearts. It is an obedient walk regulated by the divine precepts.

“With all your heart.” Ah, it is at the heart that God looks, and not merely at the outward appearance, as does man. His great requirement is, “My son, give me thine heart” (Pro 23:26). We do not find Him until we search for Him with all our heart (Jer 29:13). He bids us, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart” (Pro 3:5). He commands us to love Him with all the heart (Mat 22:37). So He demands that we shall “serve him with a perfect heart” (1Ch 28:9). Of Rehoboam, it is said, “And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD” (2Ch 12:14). To serve the Lord with all the heart means with undivided affections. It is the opposite of a “double heart” (1Ch 12:33). Of old, God complained against Israel, “Their heart is divided” (Hos 10:2). God requires the throne of our hearts that He may reign over us, that we may be out and out for Him, with no reserve, nothing kept back. “Whoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he can not be my disciple” (Luk 14:33).

3. “For consider how great things he hath done for you.” This is the motive. We are to fear and serve Him in truth with all our hearts, not that we may gain the reputation of being very spiritual people, not in order to escape the everlasting burnings, but because of what the Lord “has done” for us. Let the realization of that be the mainspring of action. Let the remembrance of that move you to fear and serve Him wholeheartedly. That is the only motive which God will accept. A daily life lived to please Him out of gratitude for what He has done for you. “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Rom 12:1). God’s claims upon us are founded upon what He has done for us. Our obligations are measured by the blessings which we have received from Him.

“Consider what great things He hath done for You.” You, an insignificant worm of the earth (Isa 41:14), a mere “grasshopper” (Isa 40:22). You, a vile sinner, with “no good” in you by nature (Rom 7:18). You, who merit nothing at His hands but untempered judgment. Yet, instead of casting you into Hell years ago, what has He done for you? Preserved your worthless life these many years, showered His daily blessings upon you, and supplied your every need. And, if truly saved, has delivered you from the wrath to come, given you a place in His family nearer to Himself than that which the holy angels will occupy, and made you an heir of everlasting glory. Oh, that our hearts may be so melted by the realization of His amazing grace, that the love of Christ shall “constrain” us to fear and serve Him in truth with all our hearts.

“For consider what great things He hath done for you.” Turn them over and over in your mind, dwell on them frequently. As the man of the world is constantly scheming how to make money, or how to have “a good time”—his whole heart being wrapped up in such things—so do you make it your chief business to be occupied with the wonders of God. “Set your affection on things above.” Many a person on the beach shivers and is miserable while he is only paddling in the waters. Not till he plunges right in does he really enjoy himself. So it is in connection with the things of God. So long as they have a subordinate and secondary place in our thoughts and lives, we do not really “delight” ourselves in the Lord. “Give thyself wholly to them” (1Ti 4:15) is a word which each Christian needs to lay to heart.

If you be a real Christian, what are the “great things” which the Lord has done for you? Set His heart upon you, loved you from all eternity (Jer 31:3), and written your name in the Lamb’s book of life (Luk 10:20). Spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up to the cross, to atone for your sins (Rom 8:32). Sent the Holy Spirit into your heart to regenerate and raise you up into newness of life (Gal 4:6). Given you an unfailing Lamp unto your feet and Light unto your path (Psa 119:105), to direct your steps through this dark world (2Pe 1:19). Granted you, even now, access to His throne of grace, that there you may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb 4:16). Blest you with His abiding Presence (as He did Daniel in the lions’ den), promising never to leave nor forsake you (Heb 13:5). Assured you that, in a soon-coming day, you shall be done with sin forever (Heb 9:28), be made like Christ (1Jo 3:2), and spend eternity with Him (1Th 4:17), beholding His glory.

Ah, my brethren and sisters, the things mentioned above are indeed “great.” Then, surely we ought to “consider” them day and night. We should consider them prayerfully, begging God to make them more real and precious to our hearts, that we may so “consider” them as to be transformed by them (2Co 3:18), that they may order all the details of our lives to His glory. The more they are so “considered,” the easier and the more blessed will it be to “fear and serve him in truth.” Then shall we find that all Wisdom’s ways are “pleasantness, and all her paths are peace” (Pro 3:17). For “His commandments are not grievous” (1Jo 5:3). They are so to the unregenerate, but not to those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

But what if we do not fear and serve the Lord in truth with all our hearts? That will prove that our profession is vain, that we are yet in our sins. “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1Jo 2:4). Make no mistake on this point, my reader. All around us are those who “profess that they know God, but in works they deny him,” and such are said to be “abominable” (Ti 1:16). And what shall be their end? This, “But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed” (1Sa 12:25). “If they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven” (Heb 12:25).

May the Lord deign to add His blessing and to Him shall be all the praise.

AW Pink (1886-1952): The Two Builders

The Two Builders
AW Pink (1886-1952)
Copyright: Public Domain

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“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (Mat 7:24-27).

Our present passage is intimately related to what was before us in Matthew 7:13-14. Ere considering its details, let me summarize what we took up last night, amplifying a little some of the principal points. All mankind are travellers, journeying to a future destiny. But the great majority conduct themselves as though they will live on and on, forever in this world. The “ways” in which they walk are many and varied, but all may be reduced to two—the narrow way, which “leadeth unto life,” and the broad road, which “leadeth to destruction.” The latter has everything to commend itself to the nature of fallen man. It exactly suits his depraved inclinations, all the desires of his soul lying in that direction. It is easy to enter, for it has a “wide gate.” There is no lack of company, for the vast majority both of the rich and the poor, the educated and the illiterate, are found therein. Thus, those who are on the broad road have the majority on their side, and with most people, that is a great matter. But the “end thereof are the ways of death” (Pro 14:12).

Now, the narrow way is exceedingly hard and disagreeable to the flesh. Great difficulty attends the entrance upon it, for to “enter” it, all idols must be given up without a single reserve, and that is terribly hard work to a corrupt heart. But self has to be “denied,” the “cross” taken up, and Christ “followed,” if heaven is to be reached. Such a task is likened to the “cutting off” of a right hand, and the “plucking out” of a right eye (Mat 5:29-30). Great difficulty attends our progress along the narrow way. There will be fierce opposition from the world, particularly from the religious world. Professing Christians will be all the time tempting you to compromise, and Satan will tell you that they are not strictly conforming their lives to the commands and precepts of Scripture, so why should you? So, too, there will be sore temptations from within—deceit in the heart, which loves to call the sweet “bitter,” light “darkness,” liberty “bondage and legality.” Moreover, you will have very little company. You will meet with scarcely any that encourage you to live as a “stranger and pilgrim” in this world, few who make it the one business of their lives to please God.

Not only does great difficulty attend the entrance upon and continuance in this narrow way, but especially does great difficulty attend our enduring to the end along this path and winning through to heaven. Many make a start. Some go on for quite a distance, but only a fractional minority persevere in practical godliness and actually overcome the flesh, the world, and the devil. Let me prove this to you from Scripture. Of old, God said, “O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away” (Hos 6:4). How accurately and how solemnly, do these words describe many whom we knew some years ago!

“But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth [lasteth] for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended” (Mat 13:20-21). This passage finds its fulfillment in the large number of those who “make a profession,” who claim to have “accepted Christ as their personal Saviour,” and whose beaming countenances and joyous words seem to show that they have been saved. But alas, all is not gold that glitters. The sequel is disappointing. They do not wear. When the time of testing arrives, they are “weighed in the balances and found wanting.

“From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (Joh 6:66). The words, “no more,” clearly show that these disciples had once “walked” outwardly with Christ. That is, they had taken their place among those who profess to be His followers. But now, they were offended, and so deserted His cause. Nor were they ever recovered from their backsliding. “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2Ti 4:10). Here was one who had, for a brief season, companied with the apostle Paul. But the self-denying discipline which this demanded was too much for him, and the allurements of the world proved too strong and attractive. What force do these Scriptures give to that pointed exhortation, “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Heb 4:11)!

Yes, my friends, this narrow way which leads to heaven is difficult, and those who tell you that the saving of the soul is an easy and simple matter are “false prophets” (Mat 7:15), deceivers (2Ti 3:13), blind leaders of the blind. The narrow way is difficult to enter, difficult to tread, difficult to follow unto the end. It is a “fight” (1Ti 6:12). That is why the question is asked, “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1Pe 4:18).That is why Christ declared, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Mat 19:24). This it is which supplies the key to Luke 14:26-33, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he hath sufficient to finish it?…Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able…So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”

Let me now refer you to other passages wherein this same narrow way which “leadeth unto life” is referred to under various names or titles. “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment” (Gen 18:19). “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way” (Exo 13:21). “They have turned aside quickly out of the way” (Exo 32:8). “That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD” (Jdg 2:22). “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way” (1Sa 12:23). “And he forsook the LORD God of his fathers, and walked not in the way of the LORD” (2Ki 21:22). “Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face” (Psa 5:8). “The meek will he teach his way” (Psa 25:9). “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD” (Psa 119:1). “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart” (Psa 119:32). “I have taught thee in the way of wisdom” (Pro 4:11). “I lead in the way of righteousness” (Pro 8:20). “He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction” (Pro 10:17). “And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it” (Isa 35:8). “Surely these are poor; they are foolish: for they know not the way of the LORD” (Jer 5:4). “Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk therein’” (Jer 6:16). “And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of…Which have forsaken the right way…For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (2Pe 2:2, 15, 21). All of these passages refer to the same narrow “way.”

Now, let us turn to Matthew 7:24-27 (carefully comparing Luke 6:47-49), which records Christ’s concluding words in His Sermon on the Mount. This passage suggests four questions. First, whom do the two “builders” represent? Second, what is the “house” here a figure of? Third, exactly what is denoted by the “foundation”? Fourth, what is pictured by the “rain, floods, and winds”?

I. The Two Builders

The two builders represent two classes of professing Christians, one of which are “wise,” the other “foolish.” Hence, they correspond with the “wise” and “foolish” virgins of Matthew 25. While in the case of the two groups of “virgins,” there was a real and vital difference between them, yet outwardly and in a superficial way, they had not a little in common. All went forth to “meet the Bridegroom,” all posed as “virgins,” all carried in their hands the “lamp” of profession. That wherein they differed was not apparent till the time of testing came. The foolish had “no oil” in their vessels—no supernatural work of the Spirit had been wrought in their hearts. So it is here. The two builders had three things in common.

First, each of them was alike impressed with the need of erecting a building. What, then, is signified by the “house” here? If we attend to all the details of the passage, there should be no difficulty in interpreting this figure aright. The “house” here denotes a shelter, a shelter from the approaching storm, or in other words, a refuge from the wrath to come. Thus, both of these men represent to us those who had been impressed of their need of a Saviour.

Second, each of them was alike resolved to set about the obtaining of that which they felt they needed. Neither of them procrastinated, nor neglected their welfare. In this respect, both of them were very different from the great crowds of sinners who read or listen to the preaching of God’s Word without any personal concern. Each of these men went to work, or made it their aim to get saved, for that is what the building of the house against the coming storm sets forth.

Third, each of them finished his house, and apparently was quite satisfied that a secure refuge had been obtained. This it is which is so very solemn and searching in our passage. There is a large class of people in Christendom today, who have been alarmed by thoughts of eternal punishment, and who suppose that they have fled to Christ for refuge, but who are sadly mistaken. “The Lord is far from the wicked” (Pro 15:29), and can only be approached as our hearts repudiate and turn with loathing away from all that is abhorrent to Him. But this is what the vast majority will not do. They continue to hug their idols and please the flesh until they land in hell. Here, all in common between the two builders ends. Let us now ponder some contrasts.

II. The Two Buildings

1. The second one built his “house” much more quickly than did the first. Perhaps you ask, “What ground have I for saying so?” The answer is very simple. The second man did no labourious digging, for he merely erected his house upon the sand. Thus, he clearly represents those sinners who get saved easily (without much trouble), or think they do—they will yet discover that that “salvation,” which they got so cheaply, is worth nothing! O my friends, those preachers who are telling people that all they have to do is consent to God’s verdict that they are lost sinners, and then accept Christ as their personal Saviour, are chloroforming thousands into hell. Yes, that is plain speaking, but our degenerate and apostate age calls for it.

2. Thus, the second man built his “house” with far less trouble than did the first, of whom it is said that he “digged deep” (Luk 6:48). I have no doubt that the one who erected his building on the sand considered his neighbor very foolish to toil and sweat as he did. Probably he prided himself on the ease with which his house went up. In like manner, there are many complacent persons in Christendom today who look down with disdain on those who are deeply distressed as to whether or no they have sinned beyond the possibility of divine forgiveness, and who find that to “forsake all” for Christ is the hardest thing in the world. Yes, there are those who despise the few who are giving diligence to make their “calling and election sure” (2Pe 1:10), being too dilatory to “prove their own selves” (2Co 13:5), and to take thorough pains to examine whether their repentance is genuine, and their faith that of “God’s elect” (Ti 1:1).

3. But though the second man got through his task much more quickly and easily than the other one, yet his “house” had no real and solid foundation to rest upon! The plough of the law had never done its work in his conscience. His heart had never been changed and renewed. He had a theoretical knowledge of the truth, but no deep, inward acquaintance with it, no experience of its transforming power.

4. Let us now look at the other builder, who digged deep and founded his house on the rock. Whom does he represent? The Lord Himself has here told us, “Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine [in the Sermon on the Mount], and doeth them” (Mat 7:24). It is the man who (by divine grace—diligently sought) conforms his whole inner and outer life to the teachings of Christ, whose whole character was formed and whose entire conduct is regulated by them. Such a one has a Scriptural ground upon which to base his hope, and none others have. The truly saved man is the converted one, who has undergone a complete round-about-face. Who is no longer “conformed to this world,” but who has been “transformed by the renewing of his mind” (Rom 12:2).

III. The Two Buildings Tested

Whether your profession be genuine or no, it will be tested. Whether it be wheat or chaff, the fan of the great Winnower will surely be brought into operation upon all that lies on His threshing floor. “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God [the sphere of Christian profession]; and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1Pe 4:17). This “judgment” or testing is twofold, as is the meaning of the storm which beat upon the “house”—in this life, and also in the Day to come. In our present passage, the testing is of a threefold character.

1. “The rain descended” (Mat 7:25) from heaven. Here, we have a figure of afflictions from God. The Lord sends trials and tribulations so as to test us out. He has various ways of proving people—disappointments, sorrows, thwarting our plans, sickness, financial losses, the death of loved ones. The response of the heart, the manner in which we act in times of adversity, reveals our true state. If unregenerate, we are unable to bear up under the afflictions of divine providence. If we have no genuine faith, our unbelieving heart will betray itself by acting as the worldling does—seeking to drown the sorrow in fleshly pleasures, or sinking in despair.

2. “The floods came,” (Mat 7:25) or as Luke 6:48 says, “The flood arose.” Thus, it is a thing of the earth which is here in view, namely, opposition from the world. These also soon test the professor, and show whether or no his claim to being a Christian is genuine. That opposition from the world assumes many forms. Sometimes, it is ridicule—and how often have the gibes and sneers of the godless tumbled down the “house” of those who made a fair show in the flesh! In other cases, it is reproach and slander, unfair boycotting, open persecution. Only those who have “digged deep,” and have a rock foundation, will bear up under them. Not that the ones exposed always drop their Christian profession entirely. Far from it! Often they retain the name, but, to escape the “reproach of Christ,” hide their light under a bushel.

3. “And the winds blew and beat upon that house” (Mat 7:25). Here it is the Prince of the power of the air who is at work. In other words, it is the power of Satan testing the one who claims to have been saved. He employs many tactics. Alluring baits, subtle temptations, as well as fierce attacks, are used by him. He beguiles with error, and only those who are established in the truth can withstand him. He attracts by the world, and only they whose “treasure” is in heaven scorn his guilded baubles. He suggests a compromise, the serving of two masters, and only those who have truly “received Christ Jesus the Lord” (Col 2:6) resist him.

4. “And it fell, and great was the fall thereof” (Mat 7:27). It was erected on the “sand,” which will bear no weight. The “sand” here stands not only for false doctrinal views (trusting in our own doings to earn heaven thereby), but also for a false basis of hope, a false ground of confidence. There is no other way of being saved from sin and self except by repenting and being converted. Nothing short of a complete surrender of the heart and life to Christ’s authority, speaking in His Word, will ensure any soul’s reaching heaven. If we are strangers to the transforming power of Christ’s teachings, we shall eternally perish.

Ere closing, let me anticipate and honestly meet a plain question. Then, does this passage teach salvation by works? Yes, and No! Yes, in the sense that none will enter heaven without good works to their account. Genuine Christians are a people whom God has “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Eph 2:10). When speaking of the resurrection, Christ declared, “And shall come forth, they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (Joh 5:29). But, No, in the sense that any of our works are the meritorious cause of salvation.

The worthiness and work of Christ alone entitles any sinner to the inheritance of the saints in light. Nevertheless, none can scripturally furnish evidence that they possess that title, save those who are “zealous of good works” (Ti 2:14). “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is DEAD” (Jam 2:20).

The above is an address delivered by the editor in Glenolden on September 29, 1931.

Matthew Henry (1662-1714): Commentary on Jude

Commentary on Jude


Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

Copyright Public Domain

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LNW Note: To get the most out of Commentaries that incorporate the Hebrew and Greek spellings, use an interlinear Bible.


An Exposition, with Practical Observations, of The General Epistle of Jude

This epistle is styled (as are some few others) general or Catholic, because it is not immediately directed to any particular person, family, or church, but to the whole society of Christians of that time, lately converted to the faith of Christ, whether from Judaism or paganism: and it is, and will be, of standing, lasting, and special use in and to the church as long as Christianity, that is, as time, shall last. The general scope of it is much the same with that of the second chapter of the second epistle of Peter, which having been already explained, the less will need to be said on this. It is designed to warn us against seducers and their seduction, to inspire us with a warm love to, and a hearty concern for, truth (evident and important truth), and that in the closest conjunction with holiness, of which charity, or sincere unbiased brotherly-love, is a most essential character and inseparable branch. The truth we are to hold fast, and endeavour that others may be acquainted with and not depart from. has two special characters: – It is the truth as it is in Jesus (Eph 4:21; and it is truth after (or which is according to) godliness, Tit 1:1. The gospel is the gospel of Christ. He has revealed it to us, and he is the main subject of it; and therefore we are indispensably bound to learn thence all we can of his person, natures, and offices: indifference as to this is inexcusable in any who call themselves Christians; and we know from what fountain we are wholly and solely to draw all necessary saving knowledge. Further, it is also a doctrine of godliness. Whatever doctrines favour the corrupt lusts of men cannot be of God, let the pleas and pretensions for them be what they will. Errors dangerous to the souls of men soon sprang up in the church. The servants slept and tares were sown. But such were the wisdom and kindness of Providence that they began sensibly to appear and show themselves, while some, at least, of the apostles were yet alive to confute them, and warn others against them. We are apt to think, If we had lived in their times, we should have been abundantly fenced against the attempts and artifices of seducers; but we have their testimony and their cautions, which is sufficient; and, if we will not believe their writings, neither should we have believed or regarded their sayings, if we had lived among them and conversed personally with them.


Jude 1

We have here, I. An account of the penman of this epistle, a character of the church, the blessings and privileges of that happy society (Jud 1:1, Jud 1:2). II. The occasion of writing this epistle (Jud 1:3). III. A character of evil and perverse men, who had already sprung up in that infant state of the church, and would be succeeded by others of the like evil spirit and temper in after-times (Jud 1:4). IV. A caution against hearkening to and following after such, from the severity of God towards the unbelieving murmuring Israelites at their coming out of Egypt, the angels that fell, the sin and punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah (Jud 1:5-7). V. To these the apostle likens the seducers against whom he was warning them, and describes them at large, (Jud 1:8-10, inclusive). VI. Then (as specially suitable to his argument) he cites an ancient prophecy of Enoch foretelling and describing the future judgment (Jud 1:14, Jud 1:15). VII. He enlarges on the seducers’ character, and guards against the offence which honest minds might be apt to take at the so early permission of such things, by showing that it was foretold long before that so it must be (Jud 1:16-19). VIII. Exhorts them to perseverance in the faith, fervency in prayer, watchfulness against falling from the love of God, and a lively hope of eternal life (Jud 1:20, Jud 1:21). IX. Directs them how to act towards the erroneous and scandalous (Jud 1:22, Jud 1:23). And, X. Closes with an admirable doxology in the last two verses.


Jude 1:1-2

Here we have the preface or introduction, in which,

I. We have an account of the penman of this epistle, Jude, or Judas, or Judah. He was name-sake to one of his ancestors, the patriarch – son of Jacob, the most eminent though not the first-born of his sons, out of whose loins (lineally, in a most direct succession) the Messiah came. This was a name of worth, eminency, and honour; yet 1. He had a wicked name-sake. There was one Judas (one of the twelve, surnamed Iscariot, from the place of his birth) who was a vile traitor, the betrayer of his and our Lord. The same names may be common to the best and worst persons. It may be instructive to be called after the names of eminently good men, but there can be no inference drawn thence as to what we shall prove, though we may even thence conclude what sort of persons our good parents or progenitors desired and hoped we should be. But, 2. Our Judas was quite another man. He was an apostle, so was Iscariot; but he was a sincere disciple and follower of Christ, so was not the other. He was a faithful servant of Jesus Christ, the other was his betrayer and murderer; therefore here the one is very carefully distinguished from the other. Dr. Manton’s note upon this is, that God takes great care of the good name of his sincere and useful servants. Why then should we be prodigal of our own or one another’s reputation and usefulness? Our apostle here calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ, esteeming that a most honourable title. It is more honourable to be a sincere and useful servant of Christ than to be an earthly king, how potent and prosperous soever. He might have claimed kindred to Christ according to the flesh, but he waives this, and rather glories in being his servant. Observe, (1.) It is really a greater honour to be a faithful servant of Jesus Christ than to be akin to him according to the flesh. Many of Christ’s natural kindred, as well as of his progenitors, perished; not from want of natural affection in him as man, but from infidelity and obstinacy in themselves, which should make the descendants and near relatives of persons most eminent for sincere and exemplary piety jealous over themselves with a godly jealousy. A son of Noah may be saved in the ark from a flood of temporal destruction, and yet be overwhelmed at last in a deluge of divine wrath, and suffer the vengeance of eternal fire. Christ himself tells us that he that heareth his word and doeth it (that is, he only) is as his brother, and sister, and mother, that is, more honourably and advantageously related to him than the nearest and dearest of his natural relatives, considered merely as such. See Mat 12:48-50. (2.) In that the apostle Jude styles himself a servant, though an apostle, a dignified officer in Christ’s kingdom, it is a great honour to the meanest sincere minister (and it holds proportionably as to every upright Christian) that he is the servant of Christ Jesus. The apostles were servants before they were apostles, and they were but servants still. Away then with all pretensions in the ministers of Christ to lordly dominion either over one another or over the flocks committed to their charge. Let us ever have that of our dear Redeemer in actual view, It shall not be so among you, Mat 20:25, Mat 20:26. – And brother of James, to wit, of him whom the ancients style the first bishop of Jerusalem, of whose character and martyrdom Josephus makes mention, ascribing the horrible destruction of that city and nation to this wicked cruelty, as one of its principal causes. Of this James our Jude was brother, whether in the strictest or a larger (though very usual) acceptation I determine not. He however reckons it an honour to him that he was the brother of such a one. We ought to honour those who are above us in age, gifts, graces, station; not to envy them, yet neither to flatter them, nor be led merely by their example, when we have reason to think they act wrong. Thus the apostle Paul withstood his fellow-apostle Peter to the face, notwithstanding the high esteem he had for him and the affectionate love he bore to him, when he saw that he was to be blamed, that is, really blameworthy, Gal 2:11, and following verses.

II. We are here informed to whom this epistle is directed; namely, to all those who are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called. I begin with the last – called, that is, called Christians, in the judgment of charity, further than which we cannot, nor in justice ought to go, in the judgments or opinions we form or receive of one another; for what appears not is not, nor ought to come into account in all our dealings with and censures of one another, whatever abatements the divine goodness may see fit to make for an honest though misguided zeal. The church pretends not (I am sure it ought not) to judge of secret or hidden things (things drawn into the light before time), lest our rash and preposterous zeal do more harm than good, or I am afraid ever will do. The tares and wheat (if Christ may be Judge) must grow together till the harvest (Mat 13:28-30); and then he himself will, by proper instruments, take timely care to separate them. We ought to think the best we can of every man till the contrary appear; not being forward to receive or propagate, much less invent, disadvantageous characters of our brethren. This is the least we can make of the apostle’s large and excellent description of charity (1Co 13:1-13), and this we ought to make conscience of acting up to, which till we do, the Christian churches will be (as, alas! they are at this day) filled with envying and strife, confusion and every evil work, Jas 3:16. Or, the apostle may speak of their being called to be Christians, by the preaching of the word, which they gladly received, and professed cordially to believe, and so were received into the society and fellowship of the church – Christ the head, and believers the members; real believers really, professed believers visibly. Note, Christians are the called, called out of the world, the evil spirit and temper of it, – above the world, to higher and better things, heaven, things unseen and eternal, – called from sin to Christ, from vanity to seriousness, from uncleanness to holiness; and this in pursuance of divine purpose and grace; for whom he did predestinate those he also called, Rom 8:30. Now those who are thus called, are, 1. Sanctified: Sanctified by God the Father. Sanctification is usually spoken of in scripture as the work of the Holy Spirit, yet here it is ascribed to God the Father, because the Spirit works it as the Spirit of the Father and the Son. Note, All who are effectually called are sanctified, made partakers of a divine nature (2Pe 1:4); for without holiness no man shall see the Lord, Heb 12:14. Observe, Our sanctification is not our own work. If any are sanctified, they are so by God the Father, not excluding Son or Spirit, for they are one, one God. Our corruption and pollution are of ourselves; but our sanctification and renovation are of God and his grace; and therefore if we perish in our iniquity we must bear the blame, but if we be sanctified and glorified all the honour and glory must be ascribed to God, and to him alone. I own it is hard to give a clear and distinct account of this, but we must not deny nor disregard necessary truth because we cannot fully reconcile the several parts of it to each other; for, on that supposition, we might deny that any one of us could stir an inch from the place we are at present in, though we see the contrary every day and hour. 2. The called and sanctified are preserved in Christ Jesus. As it is God who begins the work of grace in the souls of men, so it is he who carries it on, and perfects it. Where he begins he will perfect; though we are fickle, he is constant. He will not forsake the work of his own hands, Psa 138:8. Let us not therefore trust in ourselves, nor in our stock of grace already received, but in him, and in him alone, still endeavouring, by all proper and appointed means, to keep ourselves, as ever we would hope he should keep us. Note, (1.) Believers are preserved from the gates of hell, and to the glory of heaven. (2.) All who are preserved are preserved in Jesus Christ, in him as their citadel and stronghold, no longer than they abide in him, and solely by virtue of their union with him.

III. We have the apostolical benediction: Mercy to you, etc. From the mercy, peace, and love of God all our comfort flows, all our real enjoyment in this life, all our hope of a better. 1. The mercy of God is the spring and fountain of all the good we have or hope for; mercy not only to the miserable, but to the guilty. 2. Next to mercy is peace, which we have from the sense of having obtained mercy. We can have no true and lasting peace but what flows from our reconciliation with God by Jesus Christ. 3. As from mercy springs peace, so from peace springs love, his love to us, our love to him, and our brotherly love (forgotten, wretchedly neglected, grace!) to one another. These the apostle prays may be multiplied, that Christians may not be content with scraps and narrow scantlings of them; but that souls and societies may be full of them. Note, God is ready to supply us with all grace, and a fullness in each grace. If we are straitened, we are not straitened in him, but in ourselves.

Jude 1:3-7

We have here, I. The design of the apostle in writing this epistle to the lately converted Jews and Gentiles; namely, to establish them in the Christian faith, and a practice and conversation truly consonant and conformable thereunto, and in an open and bold profession thereof, especially in times of notorious opposition, whether by artful seduction or violent and inhuman persecution. But then we must see to it very carefully that it be really the Christian faith that we believe, profess, propagate, and contend for; not the discriminating badges of this or the other party, not any thing of later date than the inspired writings of the holy evangelists and apostles. Here observe, 1. The gospel salvation is a common salvation, that is, in a most sincere offer and tender of it to all mankind to whom the notice of it reaches: for so the commission runs (Mar 16:15, Mar 16:16), Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, etc. Surely God means as he speaks; he does not delude us with vain words, whatever men do; and therefore none are excluded from the benefit of these gracious offers and invitations, but those who obstinately, impenitently, finally exclude themselves. Whoever will may come and drink of the water of life freely, Rev 22:17. The application of it is made to all believers, and only to such; it is made to the weak as well as to the strong. Let none discourage themselves on the account of hidden decrees which they can know little of, and with which they have nothing to do. God’s decrees are dark, his covenants are plain. “All good Christians meet in Christ the common head, are actuated by one and the same Spirit, are guided by one rule, meet here at one throne of grace, and hope shortly to meet in one common inheritance,” a glorious one to be sure, but what or how glorious we cannot, nor at present need to know; but such it will be as vastly to exceed all our present hopes and expectations. 2. This common salvation is the subject-matter of the faith of all the saints. The doctrine of it is what they all most heartily consent to; they esteem it as a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, 1Ti 1:15. It is the faith once, or at once, once for all, delivered to the saints, to which nothing can be added, from which nothing may be detracted, in which nothing more nor less should be altered. Here let us abide; here we are safe; if we stir a step further, we are in danger of being either entangled or seduced. 3. The apostles and evangelists all wrote to us of this common salvation. This cannot be doubted by those who have carefully read their writings. It is strange that any should think they wrote chiefly to maintain particular schemes and opinions, especially such as they never did nor could think of. It is enough that they have fully declared to us, by inspiration of the Holy Ghost, all that is necessary for every one to believe and do, in order to obtain a personal interest in the common salvation. 4. Those who preach or write of the common salvation should give all diligence to do it well: they should not allow themselves to offer to God or his people that which costs them nothing, or next to nothing, little or no pains or thought, 2Sa 24:24. This were to treat God irreverently, and man unjustly. The apostle (though inspired) gave all diligence to write of the common salvation. What then will become of those who (though uninspired) give no diligence, or next to none, but say to the people (even in the name of God) quicquid in buccam venerit – whatever comes next, who, so that they use scripture-words, care not how they interpret or apply them? Those who speak of sacred things ought always to speak of them with the greatest reverence, care, and diligence. 5. Those who have received the doctrine of this common salvation must contend earnestly for it. Earnestly, not furiously. Those who strive for the Christian faith, or in the Christian course, must strive lawfully, or they lose their labour, and run great hazard of losing their crown, 2Ti 2:5. The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God, Jas 1:20. Lying for the truth is bad, and scolding for it is not much better. Observe, Those who have received the truth must contend for it. But how? As the apostles did; by suffering patiently and courageously for it, not by making others suffer if they will not presently embrace every notion that we are pleased (proved or unproved) to call faith, or fundamental. We must not suffer ourselves to be robbed of any essential article of Christian faith, by the cunning craftiness or specious plausible pretences of any who lie in wait to deceive, Eph 4:14. The apostle Paul tells us he preached the gospel (mind it was the gospel) with much contention (1Th 2:2), that is (as I understand it), with earnestness, with a hearty zeal, and a great concern for the success of what he preached. But, if we will understand contention in the common acceptation of the word, we must impartially consider with whom the apostle contended, and how, the enlarging on which would not be proper for this place.

II. The occasion the apostle had to write to this purport. As evil manners give rise to good laws, so dangerous errors often give just occasion to the proper defence of important truths. Here observe, 1. Ungodly men are the great enemies of the faith of Christ and the peace of the church. Those who deny or corrupt the one, and disturb the other, are here expressly styled ungodly men. We might have truth with peace (a most desirable thing) were there none (ministers or private Christians) in our particular churches and congregations but truly godly men – a blessing scarcely to be looked or hoped for on this side heaven. Ungodly men raise scruples, merely to advance and promote their own selfish, ambitious, and covetous ends. This has been the plague of the church in all past ages, and I am afraid no age is, or will be, wholly free from such men and such practices as long as time shall last. Observe, Nothing cuts us off from the church but that which cuts us off from Christ; namely, reigning infidelity and ungodliness. We must abhor the thought of branding particular parties or persons with this character, especially of doing it without the least proof, or, as it too often happens, the least shadow of it. Those are ungodly men who live without God in the world, who have no regard to God and conscience. Those are to be dreaded and consequently to be avoided, not only who are wicked by sins of commission, but also who are ungodly by sins of omission, who, for example, restrain prayer before God, who dare not reprove a rich man, when it is the duty of their place so to do, for fear of losing his favour and the advantage they promise themselves therefrom. who do the work of the Lord negligently, etc. 2. Those are the worst of ungodly men who turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, who take encouragement to sin more boldly because the grace of God has abounded, and still abounds, so wonderfully, who are hardened in their impieties by the extent and fullness of gospel grace, the design of which is to reduce men from sin, and bring them unto God. Thus therefore to wax wanton under so great grace, and turn it into an occasion of working all uncleanness with greediness, and hardening ourselves in such a course by that very grace which is the last and most forcible means to reclaim us from it, is to render ourselves the vilest, the worst, and most hopeless of sinners. 3. Those who turn the grace of God into lasciviousness do in effect deny the Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ; that is, they deny both natural and revealed religion. They strike at the foundation of natural religion, for they deny the only Lord God; and they overturn all the frame of revealed religion, for they deny the Lord Jesus Christ. Now his great design in establishing revealed religion in the world was to bring us unto God. To deny revealed religion is virtually to overturn natural religion, for they stand or fall together, and they mutually yield light and force to each other. Would to God our modern deists, who live in the midst of gospel light, would seriously consider this, and cautiously, diligently, and impartially examine what it is that hinders their receiving the gospel, while they profess themselves fully persuaded of all the principles and duties of natural religion! Never to tallies answered more exactly to each other than these do, so that it seems absurd to receive the one and reject the other. One would think it were the fairer way to receive both or reject both; though perhaps the more plausible method, especially in this age, is to act the part they do. 4. Those who turn the grace of God into lasciviousness are ordained unto condemnation. They sin against the last, the greatest, and most perfect remedy; and so are without excuse. Those who thus sin must needs die of their wounds, of their disease, are of old ordained to this condemnation, whatever that expression means. But what if our translators had thought fit to have rendered the words palai progegrammenoiof old fore-written of, as persons who would through their own sin and folly become the proper subjects of this condemnation, where had the harm been? Plain Christians had not been troubled with dark, doubtful, and perplexing thoughts about reprobation, which the strongest heads cannot enter far into, can indeed bear but little of, without much loss and damage. Is it not enough that early notice was given by inspired writers that such seducers and wicked men should arise in later times, and that every one, being fore-warned of, should be fore-armed against them? 5. We ought to contend earnestly for the faith, in opposition to those who would corrupt or deprave it, such as have crept in unawares: a wretched character, to be sure, but often very ill applied by weak and ignorant people, and even by those who themselves creep in unawares, who think their ipse dixit

should stand for a law to all their followers and admirers. Surely faithful humble ministers are helpers of their people’s joy, peace, and comfort; not lords of their faith! Whoever may attempt to corrupt the faith, we ought to contend earnestly against them. The more busy and crafty the instruments and agents of Satan are, to rob us of the truth, the more solicitous should we be to hold it fast, always provided we be very sure that we fasten no wrong or injurious characters on persons, parties, or sentiments.

III. The fair warning which the apostle, in Christ’s name, gives to those who, having professed his holy religion, do afterwards desert and prove false to it, Jud 1:5-7. We have here a recital of the former judgments of God upon sinners, with design to awaken and terrify those to whom warning is given in this epistle. Observe, The judgments of God are often denounced and executed in terrorem – for warning to others, rather than from immediate or particular displeasure against the offenders themselves; not that God is not displeased with them, but perhaps not more with them than with others who, at least for the present, escape. I will put you in remembrance. What we already know we still need to be put in remembrance of. Therefore there will always be need and use of a standing stated ministry in the Christian church, though all the doctrines of faith, the essentials, are so plainly revealed in express words, or by the most near, plain, and immediate consequence, that he who runs may read and understand them. There wants no infallible interpreter, really or conceitedly such, for any such end or purpose. Some people (weakly enough) suggest, “If the scriptures do so plainly contain all that is necessary to salvation, what need or use can there be of a standing ministry? Why may we not content ourselves with staying at home, and reading our Bibles?” The inspired apostle has here fully, though not wholly, answered this objection. Preaching is not designed to teach us something new in every sermon, somewhat that we knew nothing of before; but to put us in remembrance, to call to mind things forgotten, to affect our passions, and engage and fix our resolutions, that our lives may be answerable to our faith. Though you know these things, yet you still need to know them better. There are many things which we have known which yet we have unhappily forgotten. Is it of no use or service to be put afresh in remembrance of them?

Now what are these things which we Christians need to be put in remembrance of?

1. The destruction of the unbelieving Israelites in the wilderness, Jud 1:5. Paul puts the Corinthians in mind of this, 1 Cor. 10. The first ten verses of that chapter (as the scripture is always the best commentary upon itself) are the best explication of the fifth verse of this epistle of Jude. None therefore ought to presume upon their privileges, since many who were brought out of Egypt by a series of amazing miracles, yet perished in the wilderness by reason of their unbelief. Let us not therefore be high-minded, but fear, Rom 11:20. Let us fear lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it, Heb 4:1. They had miracles in abundance: they were their daily bread; yet even they perished in unbelief. We have greater (much greater) advantages than they had; let their error (their so fatal error) be our awful warning.

2. We are here put in remembrance of the fall of the angels, Jud 1:6. There were a great number of the angels who left their own habitation; that is, who were not pleased with the posts and stations the supreme Monarch of the universe had assigned and allotted to them, but thought (like discontented ministers in our age, I might say in every age) they deserved better; they would, with the title of ministers, be sovereigns, and in effect their Sovereign should be their minister – do all, and only, what they would have him; thus was pride the main and immediate cause or occasion of their fall. Thus they quitted their post, and rebelled against God, their Creator and sovereign Lord. But God did not spare them (high and great as they were); he would not truckle to them; he threw them off, as a wise and good prince will a selfish and deceitful minister; and the great, the all-wise God, could not be ignorant, as the wisest and best of earthly princes often are, what designs they were hatching. After all, what became of them? They thought to have dared and outfaced Omnipotence itself; but God was too hard for them, he cast them down to hell. Those who would not be servants to their Maker and his will in their first state were made captives to his justice, and are reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness. Here see what the condition of fallen angels is: they are in chains, bound under the divine power and justice, bound over to the judgment of the great day; they are under darkness, though once angels of light; so horribly in the dark are they that they continue to fight against God, as if there were yet some small hope at least left them of prevailing and overcoming in the conflict. Dire infatuation! Light and liberty concur, chains and darkness how well do they agree and suit each other! The devils, once angels in the best sense, are reserved, etc. Observe, There is, undoubtedly there is, a judgment to come; the fallen angels are reserved to the judgment of the great day; and shall fallen men escape it? Surely not. Let every reader consider this in due time. Their chains are called everlasting, because it is impossible they should ever break loose from them, or make an escape; they are held fast and sure under them. The decree, the justice, the wrath of God, are the very chains under which fallen angels are held so fast. Hear and fear, O sinful mortals of mankind!

3. The apostle here calls to our remembrance the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Jud 1:7. Even as, etc. It is in allusion to the destruction of Pentapolis, or the five cities, that the miseries of the damned are set forth by a lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; they were guilty of abominable wickedness, not to be named or thought of but with the utmost abhorrence and detestation; their ruin is a particular warning to all people to take heed of, and fly from. fleshly lusts that war against the soul, 1Pe 2:11. “These lusts consumed the Sodomites with fire from heaven, and they are now suffering the vengeance of eternal fire; therefore take heed, imitate not their sins, lest the same plagues overtake you as did them. God is the same holy, just, pure Being now as then; and can the beastly pleasures of a moment make amends for your suffering the vengeance of eternal fire? Stand in awe, therefore, and sin not,” Psa 4:4.

Jude 1:8-15

The apostle here exhibits a charge against deceivers who were now seducing the disciples of Christ from the profession and practice of his holy religion. He calls them filthy dreamers, forasmuch as delusion is a dream, and the beginning of, and inlet to, all manner of filthiness. Note, Sin is filthiness; it renders men odious and vile in the sight of the most holy God, and makes them (sooner or later, as penitent or as punished to extremity and without resource) vile in their own eyes, and in a while they become vile in the eyes of all about them. These filthy dreamers dream themselves into a fool’s paradise on earth, and into a real hell at last: let their character, course, and end, be our seasonable and sufficient warning; like sins will produce like punishments and miseries. Here,

I. The character of these deceivers is described.

1. They defile the flesh. The flesh or body is the immediate seat, and often the irritating occasion, of many horrid pollutions; yet these, though done in and against the body, do greatly defile and grievously maim and wound the soul. Fleshly lusts do war against the soul, 1Pe 2:11. and in 2Co 7:1 we read of filthiness of flesh and spirit, each of which, though of different kinds, defiles the whole man.

2. They despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities, are of a disturbed mind and a seditious spirit, forgetting that the powers that be are ordained of God, Rom 13:1. God requires us to speak evil of no man (Tit 3:2.); but it is a great aggravation of the sin of evil-speaking when what we say is pointed at magistrates, men whom God has set in authority over us, by blaspheming or speaking evil of whom we blaspheme God himself. Or if we understand it, as some do, with respect to religion, which ought to have the dominion in this lower world, such evil-speakers despise the dominion of conscience, make a jest of it, and would banish it out of the world; and as for the word of God, the rule of conscience, they despise it. The revelations of the divine will go for little with them; they are a rule of faith and manners, but not till they have explained them, and imposed their sense of them upon all about them. Or, as others account for the sense of this passage, the people of God, truly and specially so, are the dignities here spoken of or referred to, according to that of the psalmist, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm, Psa 105:15. They speak evil, etc. Religion and its serious professors have been always and every where evil spoken of. Though there is nothing in religion but what is very good, and deserves our highest regards, both as it is perfective of our natures and as it is subservient to our truest and highest interests; yet this sect, as its enemies are pleased to call it, is every where spoken against, Act 28:22.

On this occasion the apostle brings in Michael the archangel, etc., Jud 1:9. Interpreters are at a loss what is here meant by the body of Moses. Some think that the devil contended that Moses might have a public and honourable funeral, that the place where he was interred might be generally known, hoping thereby to draw the Jews, so naturally prone thereto, to a new and fresh instance of idolatry. Dr. Scott thinks that by the body of Moses we are to understand the Jewish church, whose destruction the devil strove and contended for, as the Christian church is called the body of Christ in the New Testament style. Others bring other interpretations, which I will not here trouble the reader with. Though this contest was mightily eager and earnest, and Michael was victorious in the issue, yet he would not bring a railing accusation against the devil himself; he knew a good cause needed no such weapons to be employed in its defence. It is said, he durst not bring, etc. Why durst he not? Not that he was afraid of the devil, but he believed God would be offended if, in such a dispute, he went that way to work; he thought it below him to engage in a trial of skill with the great enemy of God and man which of them should out-scold or out-rail the other: a memorandum to all disputants, never to bring railing accusations into their disputes. Truth needs no supports from falsehood or scurrility. Some say, Michael would not bring a railing accusation against the devil as knowing beforehand that he would be too hard for him at that weapon. Some think the apostle refers here to the remarkable passage we have, Num 20:7-14. Satan would have represented Moses under disadvantageous colours, which he, good man, had at that time, and upon that occasion, given but too much handle for. Now Michael, according to this account, stands up in defence of Moses, and, in the zeal of an upright and bold spirit, says to Satan, The Lord rebuke thee. He would not stand disputing with the devil, nor enter into a particular debate about the merits of that special cause. He knew Moses was his fellow-servant, a favourite of God, and he would not patiently suffer him to be insulted, no, not by the prince of devils; but in a just indignation cries out, The Lord rebuke thee: like that of our Lord himself (Mat 4:10), Get thee hence, Satan. Moses was a dignity, a magistrate, one beloved and preferred by the great God; and the archangel thought it insufferable that such a one should be so treated by a vile apostate spirit, of how high an order soever. So the lesson hence is that we ought to stand up in defence of those whom God owns, how severe soever Satan and his instruments may be in their censures of them and their conduct. Those who censure (in particular) upright magistrates, upon every slip in their behaviour, may expect to hear, The Lord rebuke thee; and divine rebukes are harder to be borne than careless sinners now think for.

3. They speak evil of the things which they know not, etc., Jud 1:10. Observe, Those who speak evil of religion and godliness speak evil of the things which they know not; for, if they had known them, they would have spoken well of them, for nothing but good and excellent can be truly said of religion, and it is sad that any thing different or opposite should ever be justly said of any of its professors. A religious life is the most safe, happy, comfortable, and honourable life that is. Observe, further, Men are most apt to speak evil of those persons and things that they know least of. How many had never suffered by slanderous tongues if they had been better known! On the other hand, retirement screens some even from just censure. But what they know naturally, etc. It is hard, if not impossible, to find any obstinate enemies to the Christian religion, who do not in their stated course live in open or secret contradiction to the very principles of natural religion: this many think hard and uncharitable; but I am afraid it will appear too true in the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God. The apostle likens such to brute beasts, though they often think and boast themselves, if not as the wisest, yet at least as the wittiest part of mankind. In those things they corrupt themselves; that is, in the plainest and most natural and necessary things, things that lie most open and obvious to natural reason and conscience; even in those things they corrupt, debase, and defile themselves: the fault, whatever it is, lies not in their understanding or apprehensions, but in their depraved wills and disordered appetites and affections; they could and might have acted better, but then they must have offered violence to those vile affections which they obstinately chose rather to gratify than to mortify.

4. In Jud 1:11 the apostle represents them as followers of Cain, and in Jud 1:12, Jud 1:13, as atheistical and profane people, who thought little, and perhaps believed not much, of God or a future world – as greedy and covetous, who, so they could but gain present worldly advantages, cared not what came next – rebels against God and man, who, like Core, ran into attempts in which they must assuredly perish, as he did. Of such the apostle further says, (1.) These are spots in your feasts of charity – the agapai or love-feasts, so much spoken of by the ancients. They happened, by whatever means or mischance, to be admitted among them, but were spots in them, defiled and defiling. Observe, It is a great reproach, though unjust and accidental, to religion, when those who profess it, and join in the most solemn institution of it, are in heart and life unsuitable and even contrary to it: These are spots. Yet how common in all Christian societies here on earth, the very best not excepted, are such blemishes! The more is the pity. The Lord remedy it in his due time and way, not in men’s blind and rigorous way of plucking up the wheat with the tares. But in the heaven we are waiting, hoping, and preparing for, there is none of this mad work, there are none of these disorderly doings. (2.) When they feast with you, they feed themselves without fear. Arrant gluttons, no doubt, there were; such as minded only the gratifying of their appetites with the daintiness and abundance of their fare; they had no regard to Solomon’s caution, Pro 23:2. Note, In common eating and drinking a holy fear is necessary, much more in feasting, though we may sometimes be more easily and insensibly overcome at a common meal than at a feast; for, in the case supposed, we are less upon our guard, and sometimes, at least to some persons, the plenty of a feast is its own antidote, as to others it may prove a dangerous snare. (3.) Clouds they are without water, which promise rain in time of drought, but perform nothing of what they promise. Such is the case of formal professors, who at first setting out promise much, like early-blossoming trees in a forward spring, but in conclusion bring forth little or no fruit. – Carried about of winds, light and empty, easily driven about this way or that, as the wind happens to set; such are empty, ungrounded professors, and easy prey to every seducer. It is amazing to hear many talk so confidently of so many things of which they know little or nothing, and yet have not the wisdom and humility to discern and be sensible how little they know. How happy would our world be if men either knew more or practically knew how little they know. (4.)

Trees whose fruit withereth, etc. Trees they are, for they are planted in the Lord’s vineyard, yet fruitless ones. Observe, Those whose fruit withereth may be justly said to be without fruit. As good never a whit as never the better. It is a sad thing when men seem to begin in the Spirit and end in the flesh, which is almost as common a case as it is an awful one. The text speaks of such as were twice dead. One would think to be once dead were enough; we none of us, till grace renew us to a higher degree than ordinary, love to think of dying once, though this is appointed for us all. What then is the meaning of this being twice dead? They had been once dead in their natural, fallen, lapsed state; but they seemed to recover, and, as a man in a swoon, to be brought to life again, when they took upon them the profession of the Christian religion. But now they are dead again by the evident proofs they have given of their hypocrisy: whatever they seemed, they had nothing truly vital in them. – Plucked up by the roots, as we commonly serve dead trees, from which we expect no more fruit. They are dead, dead, dead; why cumber they the ground? Away with them to the fire. (5.) Raging waves of the sea, boisterous, noisy, and clamorous; full of talk and turbulency, but with little (if any) sense or meaning: Foaming out their own shame, creating much uneasiness to men of better sense and calmer tempers, which yet will in the end turn to their own greater shame and just reproach. The psalmist’s prayer ought always to be that of every honest and good man, “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me (Psa 25:21), and, if it will not, let me be unpreserved.” If honesty signify little now, knavery will signify much less, and that in a very little while. Raging waves are a terror to sailing passengers; but, when they have got to port, the waves are forgotten as if no longer in being: their noise and terror are for ever ended. (6.) Wandering stars, planets that are erratic in their motions, keep not that steady regular course which the fixed ones do, but shift their stations, that one has sometimes much ado to know where to find them. This allusion carries in it a very lively emblem of false teachers, who are sometimes here and sometimes there, so that one knows not where nor how to fix them. In the main things, at least, one would think something should be fixed and steady; and this might be without infallibility, or any pretensions to it in us poor mortals. In religion and politics, the great subjects of present debate, surely there are certain stamina in which wise and good, honest and disinterested, men might agree, without throwing the populace into the utmost anguish and distress of mind, or blowing up their passions into rage and fury, without letting them know what they say or whereof they affirm.

II. The doom of this wicked people is declared: To whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. False teachers are to expect the worst of punishments in this and a future world: not every one who teaches by mistake any thing that is not exactly true (for who then, in any public assembly, durst open a Bible to teach others, unless he thought himself equal or superior to the angels of God in heaven?) but every one who prevaricates, dissembles, would lead others into by-paths and side-ways, that he may have opportunity to make a gain or prey of them, or (in the apostle’s phrase) to make merchandize of them, 2Pe 2:3. But enough of this. As for the blackness of darkness for ever, I shall only say that this terrible expression, with all the horror it imports, belongs to false teachers, truly, not slanderously so called, who corrupt the word of God, and betray the souls of men. If this will not make both ministers and people cautious, I know not what will.

Of the prophecy of Enoch, (Jud 1:14, Jud 1:15) we have no mention made in any other part or place of scripture; yet now it is scripture that there was such prophecy. One plain text of scripture is proof enough of any one point that we are required to believe, especially when relating to a matter of fact; but in matters of faith, necessary saving faith, God has not seen fit (blessed be his holy name he has not) to try us so far. There is no fundamental article of the Christian religion, truly so called, which is not inculcated over and over in the New Testament, by which we may know on what the Holy Ghost does, and consequently on what we ought, to lay the greatest stress. Some say that this prophecy of Enoch was preserved by tradition in the Jewish church; others that the apostle Jude was immediately inspired with the notice of it: be this as it may, it is certain that there was such a prophecy of ancient date, of long standing, and universally received in the Old Testament church; and it is a main point of our New Testament creed. Observe, 1. Christ’s coming to judgment was prophesied of as early as the middle of the patriarchal age, and was therefore even then a received and acknowledged truth. – The Lord cometh with his holy myriads, including both angels and the spirits of just men made perfect. What a glorious time will that be, when Christ shall come with ten thousand of these! And we are told for what great and awful ends and purposes he will come so accompanied and attended, namely, to execute judgment upon all. 2. It was spoken of then, so long ago, as a thing just at hand: “Behold, the Lord cometh; he is just a coming, he will be upon you before you are aware, and, unless you be very cautious and diligent, before you are provided to meet him comfortably.” He cometh, (1.) To execute judgment upon the wicked. (2.) To convince them. Observe, Christ will condemn none without precedent, trial, and conviction, such conviction as shall at least silence themselves. They shall have no excuse or apology to make that they either can or dare then stand by. Then every mouth shall be stopped, the Judge and his sentence shall be (by all the impartial) approved and applauded, and even the guilty condemned criminals shall be speechless, though at present they want not bold and specious pleas, which they vent with all assurance and confidence; and yet it is certain that the mock-trials of prisoners in the jail among themselves and the real trial at the bar before the proper judge soon appear to be very different things.

I cannot pass Jud 1:15 without taking notice how often, and how emphatically, the word ungodly is repeated in it, no fewer than four times: ungodly men, ungodly sinners, ungodly deeds, and, as to the manner, ungodly committed. Godly or ungodly signifies little with men now-a-days, unless it be to scoff at and deride even the very expressions; but it is not so in the language of the Holy Ghost. Note, Omissions, as well as commissions, must be accounted for in the day of judgment. Note, further, Hard speeches of one another, especially if ill-grounded, will most certainly come into account at the judgment of the great day. Let us all take care in time. “If thou,” says one of our good old puritans, “smite (a miscalled heretic, or) a schismatic, and God find a real saint bleeding, look thou to it, how thou wilt answer it.” It may be too late to say before the angel that it was an error, Ecc 5:6. I only here allude to that expression of the divinely inspired writer.

Jude 1:16-25

Here, I. The apostle enlarges further on the character of these evil men and seducers: they are murmurers, complainers, etc., Jud 1:16. Observe, A murmuring complaining temper, indulged and expressed, lays men under a very bad character; such are very weak at least, and for the most part very wicked. They murmur against God and his providence, against men and their conduct; they are angry at every thing that happens, and never pleased with their own state and condition in the world, as not thinking it good enough for them. Such walk after their own lusts; their will, their appetite, their fancy, are their only rule and law. Note, Those who please their sinful appetites are most prone to yield to their ungovernable passions.

II. He proceeds to caution and exhort those to whom he is writing, Jud 1:17-23. Here,

1. He calls them to remember how they have been forewarned: But, beloved, remember, etc., Jud 1:17. “Remember, take heed that you think it not strange (so as to stumble and be offended, and have your faith staggered by it) that such people as the seducers before described and warned against should arise (and that early) in the Christian church, seeing all this was foretold by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the accomplishment of it in the event is a confirmation of your faith, instead of being in the least an occasion of shaking and unsettling you therein.” Note, (1.) Those who would persuade must make it evident that they sincerely love those whom they would persuade. Bitter words and hard usage never did nor ever will convince, much less persuade any body. (2.) The words which inspired persons have spoken (or written), duly remembered and reflected on, are the best preservative against dangerous errors; this will always be so, till men have learnt to speak better than God himself. (3.) We ought not to be offended if errors and persecutions arise and prevail in the Christian church; this was foretold, and therefore we should not think worse of Christ’s person, doctrine, or cross, when we see it fulfilled. See 1Ti 4:1, and 2Ti 3:1, and 2Pe 3:3. We must not think it strange, but comfort ourselves with this, that in the midst of all this confusion Christ will maintain his church, and make good his promise, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, Mat 16:18. (4.) The more religion is ridiculed and persecuted the faster hold we should take and keep of it; being forewarned, we should show that we are fore-armed; under such trials we should stand firm, and not be soon shaken in mind, 2Th 2:2.

2. He guards them against seducers by a further description of their odious character: These are those who separate, etc., Jud 1:19. Observe, (1.) Sensualists are the worst separatists. They separate themselves from God, and Christ, and his church, to the devil, the world, and the flesh, by their ungodly courses and vicious practices; and this is a great deal worse than separation from any particular branch of the visible church on account of opinions or modes and circumstances of external government or worship, though many can patiently bear with the former, while they are plentifully and almost perpetually railing at the latter, as if no sin were damnable but what they are pleased to call schism. (2.) Sensual men have not the Spirit, that is, of God and Christ, the Spirit of holiness, which whoever has not, is none of Christ’s, does not belong to him, Rom 8:9. (3.) The worse others are the better should we endeavour and approve ourselves to be; the more busy Satan and his instruments are to pervert others, in judgment or practice, the more tenacious should we be of sound doctrine and a good conversation, holding fast the faithful word, as we have been (divinely) taught, holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience, Tit 1:9; 1Ti 3:9.

3. He exhorts them to persevering constancy in truth and holiness.

(1.) Building up yourselves in your most holy faith, Jud 1:20. Observe, The way to hold fast our profession is to hold on in it. Having laid our foundation well in a sound faith, and a sincere upright heart, we must build upon it, make further progress continually; and we should take care with what materials we carry on our building, namely, gold, silver, precious stones, not wood, hay, stubble, 1Co 3:12. Right principles and a regular conversation will stand the test even of the fiery trial; but, whatever we mix of baser alloy, though we be in the main sincere, we shall suffer loss by it, and though our persons be saved all that part of our work shall be consumed; and, if we ourselves escape, it will be with great danger and difficulty, as from a house on fire on every side.

(2.) Praying in the Holy Ghost. Observe, [1.] Prayer is the nurse of faith; the way to build up ourselves in our most holy faith is to continue instant in prayer, Rom 12:12. [2.] Our prayers are then most likely to prevail when we pray in the Holy Ghost, that is, under his guidance and influence, according to the rule of his word, with faith, fervency, and constant persevering importunity; this is praying in the Holy Ghost, whether it be done by or without a set prescribed form.

(3.) Keep yourselves in the love of God, Jud 1:21. [1.] “Keep up the grace of love to God in its lively vigorous actings and exercises in your souls.” [2.] “Take heed of throwing yourselves out of the love of God to you, or its delightful, cheering, strengthening manifestations; keep yourselves in the way of God, if you would continue in his love.”

(4.) Looking for the mercy, etc. [1.] Eternal life is to be looked for only through mercy; mercy is our only plea, not merit; or if merit, not our own, but another’s, who has merited for us what otherwise we could have laid no claim to, nor have entertained any well-grounded hope of. [2.] It is said, not only through the mercy of God as our Creator, but through the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ as Redeemer; all who come to heaven must come thither through our Lord Jesus Christ; for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved, but that of the Lord Jesus only, Act 4:12, compared with Act 4:10. [3.] A believing expectation of eternal life will arm us against the snares of sin (2Pe 3:14); a lively faith of the blessed hope will help us to mortify our cursed lusts.

4. He directs them how to behave towards erring brethren: And of some have compassion, etc., Jud 1:22, Jud 1:23. Observe, (1.) We ought to do all we can to rescue others out of the snares of the devil, that they may be saved from (or recovered, when entangled therein, out of) dangerous errors, or pernicious practices. We are not only (under God) our own keepers, but every man ought to be, as much as in him lies, his brother’s keeper; none but a wicked Cain will contradict this, Gen 4:9. We must watch over one another, must faithfully, yet prudently, reprove each other, and set a good example to all about us. (2.) This must be done with compassion, making a difference. How is that? We must distinguish between the weak and the willful. [1.] Of some we must have compassion, treat them with all tenderness, restore them in the spirit of meekness, not be needlessly harsh and severe in our censures of them and their actions, nor proud and haughty in our conduct towards them; not implacable, nor averse to reconciliation with them, or admitting them to the friendship they formerly had with us, when they give evident or even strongly hopeful tokens of a sincere repentance: if God has forgiven them, why should not we? We infinitely more need his forgiveness than they do, or can do, ours, though perhaps neither they nor we are justly or sufficiently sensible of this. [2.] Others save with fear, urging upon them the terrors of the Lord; “Endeavour to frighten them out of their sins; preach hell and damnation to them.” But what if prudence and caution in administering even the most just and severe reproofs be what are primarily and chiefly here intimated – (I do but offer it for consideration); as if he had said, “Fear lest you frustrate your own good intentions and honest designs by rash and imprudent management, that you do not harden, instead of reclaiming, even where greater degrees of severity are requisite than in the immediately foregoing instance.” We are often apt to over-do, when we are sure we mean honestly, and think we are right in the main; yet the very worst are not needlessly, nor rashly, nor to extremity, to be provoked, lest they be thereby further hardened through our default. – “Hating even the garment spotted with the flesh, that is, keeping yourselves at the utmost distance from what is or appears evil, and designing and endeavouring that others may do so too. Avoid all that leads to sin or that looks like sin,” 1Th 5:22.

III. The apostle concludes this epistle with a solemn ascription of glory to the great God, Jud 1:24, Jud 1:25. Note, 1. Whatever is the subject or argument we have been treating of, ascribing glory to God is fittest for us to conclude with. 2. God is able, and he is as willing as able, to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory; not as those who never have been faulty (for what has once been done can never be rendered undone, even by Omnipotence itself, for that implies a contradiction), but as those whose faults shall not be imputed, to their ruin, which, but for God’s mercy and a Saviour’s merits, they might most justly have been. – Before the presence of his glory. Observe, (1.) The glory of the Lord will shortly be present. We now look upon it as distant, and too many look upon it as uncertain, but it will come, and it will be manifest and apparent. Every eye shall see him, Rev 1:7. This is now the object of our faith, but hereafter (and surely it cannot now be long) it will be the object of our sense; whom we now believe in, him we shall shortly see, to our unspeakable joy and comfort or inexpressible terror and consternation. See

1Pe 1:8. (2.) All real sincere believers shall be presented, and the Lord Redeemer’s appearance and coming, by him their glorious head, to the Father, in order to his approbation, acceptance, and reward. They were given to him of the Father, and of all that were so given to him he has lost none, nor will lose any one, not an individual, a single soul, but will present them all perfectly holy and happy, when he shall surrender his mediatorial kingdom to his God and our God, his Father and our Father, Joh 6:39, with Joh 17:12, 1Co 15:24. (3.) When believers shall be presented faultless it will be with exceeding joy. Alas! now our faults fill us with fears, doubts, and sorrows. But be of good cheer; if we be sincere, we shall be, our dear Redeemer has undertaken for it, we shall be presented faultless; where there is no sin there will be no sorrow; where there is the perfection of holiness, there will be the perfection of joy. Surely, the God who can and will do this is worthy to have glory, majesty, dominion, and power, ascribed to him, both now and for ever! And to this we may well, with the apostle, affix our hearty Amen.

S. E. Pierce (1746-1829): Genesis 3:24

Commentary On Genesis 3:24
S. E. Pierce (1746-1829)
Copyright: Public Domain

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GENESIS iii.24

On the first revelation of Jesus Christ, with the solemn exhibition of him as the propitiation; and the record of the acts and transactions of the eternal three in the cherubic emblems, placed at the east of the garden of Eden.

“So he drove out the man: and he placed at the east end of the garden of Eden, cherubim’s, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”

In this most invaluable book, which is called the BIBLE, that is, the BOOK of BOOKS, on account of the transcendent excellency thereof, it hath pleased the Lord God to make a revelation of his essence, personalities, and perfections: and the first chapter of Moses writings give us a clear proof of the Eternal Three, and of their joint concern and concurrence in the creation of all things, visible and invisible.

Jehovah, whose essence is incomprehensible, self-existent, immutable, and eternal, was pleased, in all his persons and perfections, to go forth into creation acts, and make known his eternal power and godhead in commanding heaven and earth, with all their hosts, out of nothing, into being. “He spake, and it was done:” “he commanded, and they stood fast.”

“In the beginning God created the heaven and earth. And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, let there be light: and there was light.”

In these words we have the epitome of heaven and earth; with an account of their creation.

The essential Three, who exist by a necessity of nature in the self existing essence, who are coequally, co-essentially, and co-eternally one in the incomprehensible Godhead, the ever blessed Jehovah; whose life of independent blessedness consists in their mutual in- being, in-dwelling, communion, and enjoyment of each other in a participation of all the perfections of Godhead; to which nothing can be added, and from which nothing can be detracted; were pleased, for the manifestation of the glory of all the divine perfections of their one infinite nature, to create an innumerable quantity of atoms, and out of them to produce and form all things visible and invisible: the heavens, with all their hosts; the earth, with all that is therein; angels, and the souls of men; and this was performed in the space of six days! All which we understand by the revealed account which Moses gives us, by the inspiration of the Spirit of God, in the first and second chapters of Genesis. Thus, “through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Heb. xi.3.

The word GOD is plural, say the learned; and yet it is joined with a word singular. HE created; because God is one in essence, though there are distinct modes of existence in that infinite essence; for, “there are three that bear record in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” 1st Epistle of John v.7. The psalmist declares the concern the eternal Three had in the creation of all things; saying, “By the word of the Lord were the Heavens made: and all the hosts of them by the breath of his mouth.” Psalm xxxiii.6. The prophet proves the eternity of God, by his being before the world and time. “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world: even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God.” Psalm xc.2.

The essential Three in the one Jehovah, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, spake, and all things visible and invisible were produced: and the eternal Spirit gave motion to all; and thus Time began. The earth, thus created, lay covered over with water; and there was darkness between the face of the great deep, and the clouds or cataracts of Heaven: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of. the waters. As time began its round from the moment this motion was given, it is a full proof of the eternity of the Holy Spirit. He it was who gave motion to the Heavens, and thus set the universe a going; so that from thence time went on, and the works of God were brought into order and perfection. Thus the sixth day of the creation being come, the eternal Three, as a fruit of their divine consultation, made man, whose body was formed out of the dust of the ground; whose soul was breathed in at his nostrils by Jehovah the Spirit; as Elihu in the book of Job says, “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.” Job xxxiii.4. Thus the first man became a living soul; who was, as the head of all his posterity, to convey his life, form, and image unto them.

All the Trinity had a joint concern in the creation and formation of man: which fully appears from the words recorded in the twenty- sixth verse of the first chapter of this book; in which we read, “And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of he sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

Here is one in the Godhead, speaking to others in the same infinite nature, in the language of Us, and that by way of consultation: so that it may be most safely pronounced to be the voice of God the Father, to the Son and blessed Spirit, who were the creators of man. When the work of God was perfected in his creation, then He wears the great and glorious name of JEHOVAH ELOHIM, the LORD GOD. And man, being created in the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness, exalted as the head and representative of all his offspring, and a partner being provided for him, formed out of one of his ribs; a covenant took place between God and Adam, which had for its conditions a perfect conformity of heart and life to the moral law, which was a transcript of Jehovah’s will; on the observance of which Adam was to continue in the state of perfection in which he now was; but if he broke the holy law, the commandment thus delivered to him, he and all his descendants were to die the death due to sin.

When God surveyed his works on the sixth day of the creation, he pronounced them all to be very good. The Tree of Life in the midst of the garden of Eden was a symbol of immortality. The Tree of Knowledge of good and evil was to be the test of man’s obedience. Man was placed by the Lord God in this paradisiacal state, to dress and keep the garden. How long he continued in his purity may be thought a curious question. I am inclined to think that some time must have passed in this his pure creation state. I conclude he must have spent his first Sabbath, which immediately succeeded his creation, in viewing and contemplating the persons and perfections of Jehovah, as displayed in creation and providence; in praising the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of their goodness; and also for their eternal power and Godhead manifested in the visible creation. Whilst he remained in his state of creature perfection, the creatures were brought before him and presented to him, and he gave them names suited to their natures, which must have required time. He was also informed by revelation, of the creation of his bride out of one of his bones or ribs, which was taken out of him when he was in a deep sleep, which the Lord God caused to fall on him; for he could not know what then took place without it had been revealed unto him. He might also (as he, though created out of the garden, was put into it to dress and keep it) be led to understand the perpetual circulation and motion of the heavens, with the agents in nature, fire, light, and air; and their influence in and throughout every part of the visible system, by some particular means appointed for that purpose: and looking, and seeing the effects of the agents in nature, the outward and material Trinity, he might be led to contemplate the eternal Trinity, in their outward operations towards him and the whole creation.

He was, though unknown to himself, a type of Christ, God-Man: and his wife a figure of the church, the-bride, the Lamb’s wife. So that I am disposed to think and consider Adam as spending a Sabbath in the Garden of Eden, in contemplating the nature, personalities, and perfections of Jehovah, and his love to him in giving him being and well-being, and in providing and bestowing a help meet on him; and as the God-man, the great and eternal head of his body the Church, rejoiced before all time in the views and contemplations of his social. glory, the church of the elect of human race, given by the Father unto him to be his bride and spouse; so Adam, his outward and visible type, rejoiced in the woman, created on purpose for, and given to him, and who was united and married to him by the Lord God: all which was of special grace and free favour.

Whilst our first parents were in this state of creature purity and blessedness, I conceive that the ever-blessed Three might give an intimation to those bright intellectual beings, the angels, concerning their delight in man; and that it was conceived in the divine mind, and willed and decreed by an eternal purpose, to exalt human nature into personal union with the second person in the incomprehensible essence, and exalt him as God-Man, as the head of the whole election of Grace; which revelation of Jehovah’s will, not being agreeable to the angels who stood merely on their own creation footing, they immediately apostatized from God, and, under the influence of a chief, fell from God:-” They kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation.” Jude6. In consequence of which, they were cast out of Heaven; became devils, that is, adversaries; enemies to God and man; and are “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.” Jude6.

My reason for placing their fall as I have, is this it is clear there was no sin, and consequently no sinner, when the Lord God surveyed the work of creation, it being expressly said, “and God saw every thing that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” And the reason why I suggest what was the originality of their sin, and what their rebellion against the Lord consisted in: this I ground on Christ’s own words, in the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel, where he charges the Jews, who stumbled at what he declared, concerning his being the Son of God, co-equal and co-essential with the Father, in the essence existing; though also true and very man, with being guilty of the devil’s sin; he says to them, “ye are of your father the devil, and the lust of your father ye will do: he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh it of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth ye believe me not.” John viii.44, 45.

The devil and his angels being thus fallen, they set on man and drew him into sin. That man of renown, Archbishop Usher, thought that Adam fell on the Friday preceding the second Sabbath after his creation; and that it was on the very day on which he fell, that the Lord God, in succeeding ages, appointed the anniversary day of atonement among the Jews; this however gives us a blessed prospect of the perfect removal of all the guilt of original and actual transgression from the elect of God, by the substitution of the person and sacrifice of Christ in the law-place, room, and stead, of his people.

Whilst we dare not insist particularly on these things, yet we have the most clear and certain evidence of this; that man, being in honour, abode not The devil, who was the first sinner, and the arch-head of the apostacy from God, entered into a serpent, and beset the woman, who fell by hearkening to his suggestions, and then became the means of Adam’s eating the forbidden fruit; and thus he became a sinner. The effect of which PAUL tell us was this “By one man sin entered into the World, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men,’ for that (or, in whom) all have sinned.” Rom. v.12. Thus the first man fell from God, lost his original purity, holiness, righteousness, and creature-perfection, was expelled from that state of creature-blessedness in which the Lord God had placed him, and became a sinner, upwardly polluted and depraved in every faculty of his soul, and in every member of his body; and all of us are the living witnesses of it.

My design, from the words which I have read for my text, is to set before you the following particulars.

First, the Revelation made of Jesus Christ immediately upon the fall.

Secondly, the solemn exhibition of him, as the propitiation for sin.

Thirdly, the record of the acts and transactions of the eternal Three, in the cherubic emblems placed at the east of the Garden of Eden. And,

Lastly, the foundation laid in all this for faith and hope in God. It being hereby evidenced that where “Sin abounded, Grace did much more abound.”

So he drove out the man: and he placed at the east of the Garden of Eden, cherubim’s, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the Tree of Life.”

A learned man thus renders the words, and then gives the following comment on them:- “And he expelled the man, and inhabited from the East, at the Garden of Eden, the very cherubim, and the very flame, the edge of the sword turning itself (changing its threatening posture from mankind in general upon the single sacrifice) to keep (preserve) the Tree of Lives. The Deity there took up his dwelling, by the mediation of his emblems the cherubim, which were not intended to terrify or render Adam desperate; but to afford him continual consolation, and a prospect of supreme mercy. The flame, or wrath, was to fall on the substitute; the sword was to pierce him for our offences; and thus a new and living way was to be displayed for reconciliation, looking to the east where our hemisphere first shares the morning irradiation, the lively image of the Sun of righteousness.”

My first particular head of this discourse, is to set before you the first revelation of Jesus Christ, made immediately upon the fall. It is contained in these words, as we most commonly read them, “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head,” or, more precisely, “He (i. e. the seed of the woman) shall bruise thy head;” that is, the serpent and the devil, the principal agent in seducing the woman, and the man, by her means, into sin. Both instrument and agent are cursed, in consequence of what had been done: “And the Lord God said unto the serpent, because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field: upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it (or he) shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Genesis iii.14, 15. Here you have the curse pronounced on the devil and the serpent. Satan was the instrumental cause of introducing sin among the angels who revolted with him: he and they were immediately cast down to hell, and damned with an eternal damnation: and here, on his overcoming man, his damnation is doubled and sealed. He sinned out of pride and malice against God; Adam and Eve out of weakness and ignorance. “I, saith the Lord God, will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it, or he, shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Thus the Lord God confounds him, when he was thinking he had, the greatest cause for triumphing. These words are spoken threatening- wise to the devil in the serpent, and contain the infinite hatred and displeasure of God against sin, and against the devil for drawing mankind into it; and pronounce an eternal curse upon the old serpent, called the devil, for it. They proclaim eternal war between the seed of the serpent and the. seed of the woman; between the elect church of human race, and the non-elect, the children of the devil. An illustrious one is spoken of, who should finally prevail and triumph over Satan and all his principalities and powers, and destroy his works. The church in him should prevail also: “It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Which, as pronounced in the neater gender, may be expressive of the human nature of Christ, which was not a person, but a thing: it had no subsistence of itself; but was assumed into personal union with the only begotten Son of God. Also it may express, that this was to be the seed of the woman in a mysterious and ineffable manner; and likewise, that the church of Christ, the seed of the woman; should in her head, Christ Jesus, and through him her conqueror, be an over comer also of the devil, and, in due season set her triumphant feet upon his head. As these: words are read by some, “HE shall bruise thy Head, and thou shalt bruise his heel,” they express the MIGHTY ONE, on whom Jehovah the Father had LAID HIS HELP; Who, as the second Adam, was in human nature to be a match for all the powers of hell; and “through death to conquer death, and him that had the power of death; that is, the devil.” Heb. ii.14.

In these words then, we have the first revelation of Jesus Christ. On this revelation the whole Scriptures are founded; and the ordinances of God’s worship are in perfect agreement with it. This revelation gives a full intimation, that one in the Godhead would become incarnate, and tread upon the head of the serpent, and the devil who entered into him, and overcome all his wiles and cunning, and finally vanquish him; and that He would accomplish this glorious victory by suffering and death, which was expressed in the words; “He shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel,” that is, his human nature, which was exposed to the assaults of Satan, to temptations, sorrows, sufferings, and death. We have here all that is contained in the inspired volume for the substance of it. Here is Grace, Christ, the promise of Christ, and salvation in him and by him. If we consider the time when the promise was first made, to whom it was first spoken, and the ground and foundation laid in it for faith in the Lord God, we shall find grace most gloriously and divinely display ed. It was for time and circumstance the most singular; when all mankind were ruined and fallen from God, in their nature head. They could not be more completely apostatized from the Lord the fountain of all good; for Satan had poisoned their whole nature, soul and body, by breathing his hellish breath on the root from whence they were to originate, so that they were dead in trespasses and sins; and the awful proofs given of it in their tempers, lives, and walk, in their unregenerate state, are but the fatal effects thereof. Never had free grace an opportunity of shining forth like unto it: and the glory of it now shone bright in the view of elect angels, who, as they had cause to celebrate it, when it was made known to them that their election of God was their preservation from sin, when their fellow angels, who were not elected, fell; so they now saw in part the wisdom of God in a mystery, in his appointment of the God-man to be the head of them, and of the elect of mankind, who were to be redeemed by him out of the hands of all their enemies. It was an eternal triumph, and pronounced as such by the Lord God over Satan and all his principalities and powers, over sin, death, and damnation; so that the devil was never more confounded, except when the Almighty Jesus triumphed over him and his legions on the cross, saying, “IT IS FINISHED.” That it should be first spoken to the devil to confound him, and in the hearing of fallen man to comfort him, was grace most magnificently displayed. It shewed that Satan could be no match for the woman’s seed; and that he should neither prevail against him, nor any of his seed to their final destruction; and these words, “He shall bruise thy head,” laid a foundation for Adam and his wife to believe in God, that it should be according as he had spoken.

As the Tree of Knowledge, the fruit of which Adam and his wife had eaten, was a sign of curse and death if man transgressed God’s law, Jehovah saying, in the day thou eatest of it thou shalt die, or dying thou shalt die; so, ’tis probable, God, in the ceremonial law, pronounceth such as die or hang on a tree accursed, that is, as having a sign of a curse upon them: and our Lord Jesus was nailed to the tree, and “delivered us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.”

Thus, in this revelation of Christ, the whole Gospel was contained. His person, one in the essence existing, himself the self-existent Saviour, who was to become incarnate that he might destroy the works of the devil. He was to live for his people: this was intimated in his bruising Satan; for he could not suffer, had he not lived in our nature. He was to bruise the serpent’s head, which proclaimed his almighty power to conquer sin; seeing he was to bruise and overcome him who was the father of it, in whom it first began, even him who had brought up the cursed method of sinning against God. If the Son of God at this time appeared in human form, as a pledge and proof that his delights were with the sons of men, as some learned divines conceive, it must have struck Satan through and through with endless sorrow and confusion, and have been a vast encouragement to the faith of the fallen pair; and as the second person in the essence spoke, and said, “Let there be light, and there was light,” and as, according to the covenant settlements of the three in Jehovah, the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son, I conclude it very safe and truly scriptural to say, that the God-man, as such, appeared to Adam immediately after the fall, and spoke out, in the name of all the persons in God, this sentence on Satan, and gave forth this revelation concerning his future incarnation, passion, salvation, and conquests. I shall now add a few observations from Dr. Lightfoot; he says, “It was about high noon when Adam and his wife fell. In their lost and sinful state they lay till towards the cool of the day, or three o’clock in the afternoon. Then they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden; who, having summoned them before him, interrogated them, and heard their shameful excuse, immediately pronounces an eternal curse on the serpent and on Satan, who had by means of it been the destroyer of mankind, promises Christ as the Redeemer of the elect, and then curses the earth, that they might not set their affections on, or seek their happiness in things below: he doometh them to labour, misery, and mortality, that they might look for rest in Heaven.-Adam’s story is all wonder! Dust, so raised and animated with a living soul, so soon lost and so soon renewed! He knew what was contained in the revelation of Christ, and received it as God’s promise, that thus it would be. He proves, and gives evidence of his faith, by calling his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. He had, before her fall, named her according to her sex woman, Genesis ii.23. Now he gives her another name of distinction; then, she was called woman because she was taken out of man; now, Eve, because all living were to come out of her. Adam shewed wisdom in naming the beasts: here he shews that and more, viz. faith and sense of his better estate. She was rather the mother of death, having done that which brought death into the world; but he, sensible of a better life to come in by her, call her Eve, i.e. life, as the word signifies. Lay this to that in John i.4. “In him was life, speaking of Christ, and the life was the light of men.” Eve was the mother of all living; viz: of Christ, and all that live by him.

I proceed to consider, secondly, the solemn exhibition of him as the propitiation for sin.

To keep this most important revelation and promise of Christ in continual remembrance, required a representative priest and sacrifice, whereby the revelation and promise might be realized to the view and senses of believers in Jesus, in outward signs and memorials thereof. To inform Adam and all succeeding believers how the promise concerning Christ’s victory over Satan, and of salvation, should be accomplished, the sacrifice and death of Immanuel were shewn forth and recorded in Paradise by the death “of an animal, chosen out and commanded by the Lord to be offered in sacrifice to him and the first death that ever took place in our world was a memorial, figure, and type, of the death of Christ. In reference to it, Christ bears the title of “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Rev. xiii.8. A Lamb was appointed by the Lord to be a symbol of Christ. It was substituted in the room of sinners. It was to have sin laid on it; then it was to be consumed by fire. In which the substitution of Christ’s person in the room and stead of his people, the imputation of their sins to him, and his hearing them in his own body on the tree, and the acceptation of his offering by fire from heaven falling on the outward figure of it, were testified; and the removal and abolishing of all their sins out of the sight of God, by consuming and reducing the oblation to ashes by fire hence it was stilled a burnt offering, because it was wholly consumed. Now this began immediately upon the fall; was instituted by the Lord God; and was performed by Adam; who knew, by the light and teaching of the Holy Ghost, its end and design, He was a partaker of the benefit of it from what we read at the 21st verse of this chapter: “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” The skins must have been those of the sacrificial animals, which had been offered up at God’s command, as memorials of Christ, the Lamb of God: and though they are not mentioned, yet it follows from the title given to Christ, “THE LAMB SLAIN FROM THE FOUNDATION, OF THE WORLD;” and also from what it recorded in. the next chapter, concerning Abel’s offering to the Lord the firstlings of his flocks, that Jesus the Lamb of God was prefigured in the garden of Eden by a lamb, or lambs. He might well, therefore, be proclaimed by the Baptist to be “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” When it is said the Lord God made coats of skins, and clothed them, it is not relative to common clothing, This they had made for themselves; but it was typical of that righteousness provided by the Most High, and which was to be wrought out for them by the Lord Jesus, who is called THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

God’s clothing Adam and his wife with skins, is an evidence that they sacrificed; for, they had no need of slaying beasts for any other purpose. They were slain, says Dr, Lightfoot, for sacrifice, and their skins sewed for clothing. Thus body and soul were provided for; and, in these sacrifices they looked unto Christ, and saw him in a figure. The first death in the world was Christ dying in a figure. The prophet Zacharias, in his song, has these words, “As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began;” hinting that from the very beginning of the world, there were prophets of the Messiah: thus, Adam was a prophet of Christ, and prophesied of him in the name of Eve, which signifies life and Eve prophesied of him in the name of Cain, Genesis iv.1.  “She conceived and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord,” or I have gotten the man, the very Jehovah: and also in the name Seth, she “bare a son, and called his name Seth for God, saith she, hath appointed me another seed.” Thus Christ was set forth as the propitiation, in a most solemn exhibition of him in a sacrifice. His death was to be the accomplishment of the promise, and the way of reconciliation. Thus Father, Son, and Holy Ghost declared, that by the blood shedding of the immaculate Lamb, Satan would be conquered; sin taken away and entirely abolished; peace made; iniquity pardoned; the Holy Ghost bestowed; and access opened by the blood of Jesus, for the approach of sinners to God, as reconciled by the death of his Son.

I proceed, thirdly, to set before you the record of the acts and transactions of the Eternal Three, in the cherubic emblems placed at the east of the garden of Eden.

Adam was, in one day, under two vastly different covenants: the form of neither was plainly expressed, but clearly implied. The covenant of grace, and the covenant of works, were so far understood, as for him to feel that he had broken the one, and was, through sovereign love and mercy, brought under the other, which held out to him, first, a root of a seed, as he was; secondly, one who would bring in an infinite righteousness beyond what he knew in his state of purity; thirdly, one who would, by his obedience and death, destroy the works of the Devil for. his own seed. This was mercy, which must in a particular way, unknown to all beside, have. warmed. his heart and delighted his mind.

Christ, as altar, sacrifice, priest, and purifier, having been freely and fully set forth, and the fallen pair having been made partakers of him and his great salvation, which, though but revealed, was as effectual to their acceptance, justification, and pardon, as it is now it has been completely accomplished; the Lord, to prevent Adam from turning aside to the covenant of works, acted in the following way with him: “And the Lord God said, behold the man is become as one of us to know good and evil:” here is one in the incomprehensible essence, speaking in the language of Us, in an address to the other great ones, in the same undivided Godhead. “Behold, the man is become as one of us.” This he foolishly aimed at; but by his very attempt he became, what he was not before, a sinful man his body mortal, and the subject of death. This was spoken in the hearing of Adam. By it the Lord God points out Satan’s lying speech, “Ye shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil;” and would impress the mind of Adam, with a proper sense of his pride and folly, in believing the father of lies, that, under proper views of his sin, he might walk humbly with his reconciled God. And now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat and live for ever:” it is observed by the learned Ainsworth, that this speech is imperfect, and must be understood thus: “He (i.e. man) must be driven out, lest he put forth his hand that he may eat and live for ever.” The tree of life, and the eating of it, had, in Adam’s pure creation state been to him the symbol of eternal life, on his obedience; but it could not be continued to him, fallen’ by disobedience. The new covenant which man was now under, was not of works, but of faith in Christ, the woman’s seed. The Lord God, therefore, to drive man from all confidence in himself, and in any works of his own, and so from all abuse of this tree, that he might fully know that his “life was hid with Christ in God,” sent him forth from the garden of Eden to till the ground from whence he was taken; which was a merciful dispensation to find out employment for fallen man. “So he drove out the man:” expelled him out of the garden of Eden: “and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden, cherubim’s, and a flaming sword, which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” This cherubic representative or substitute of the Eternal Three, was the record of their acts and transactions in the everlasting council and covenant, on the behalf of the elect of mankind. The word cherubim signifies a similitude or resemblance: the similitude of the Great Ones. The cherubim’s placed by the Lord God at the east of the garden of Eden, were a divine institution: before them Adam worshipped. They are very properly stilled by some the primary cherub, and exhibited Jehovah ELOHIM acting according to their covenant offices; which they had agreed upon, before the world was, to exercise in the economy of mercy; but not to. denote any. priority or superiority in the eternal Three. Fire, the father of light, glory- irradiation, is not to give an idea of the beginning of production, but of the manner of existence; so, the holy air, or spirit, expresses distinction. The cherubim, with its apparatus of fire and sword, was at once a solemn record of the acts and transactions of the Eternal Trinity. The cherubim was to afford Adam Continual consolation. The agency of the material heavens points out those ideas, whereby God has been pleased to convey ideas of his own essence, and personalities in that essence; and of the respective offices and actions of the GREAT ONES. The emblems of the Eternal Three were retained in those secondary cherubim’s, copied by Moses and David, and set up in the Holy of Holies.

The design of this solemn exhibition at the east of the garden of Eden, was “to keep the very way to the. tree of lives.” The fire and sword were hieroglyphically shewn along with the cherubim expressive of the atonement. Fire, an emblem of the Father’s wrath, was to flame forth and fall on Christ: and he, the substitute, was to have the sword of vindictive justice sheathed in his sinless humanity. The prophets seem to have an eye to this symbolical representation, when one of them says, “Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself.” Psalm lxxx.17. And another of them, in the name of Jehovah the Father, says, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts.” Zech. xiii.7. Without revelation, Adam, before his fall, could have known nothing of the Essence existing, the creator of this system; or, of the analogy between material and immaterial objects. He could not have known the world to have been produced out of nothing, as he was no spectator of that action, unless God had convinced him of his own power and supremacy, and had instructed him, that it was his workmanship, and that he alone was to be obeyed: much less could he have known any thing of Christ, his propitiation for sin, and conquest and victory over Satan, sin, death, and hell, or the covenant of the HOLY ONES, but by immediate and divine revelation: so that the cherubim was an exhibition of redemption, and explanatory of it. The cherubim and flaming sword, or fire returning and circulating back into itself, were the supernatural exhibition, emblematical of the way and means of our salvation; and shewed forth the covenant of grace. The promise “I will put enmity between thee (the old serpent) and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it, or he, shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel,” was explained by these emblematical figures. Sacrifice was instituted to point out the way till what it typified was completed.. This fire and sword were first to bruise the heel of the seed, and then to be turned to the head of the serpent. This hath been done by the incarnation, obedience, sacrifice, sufferings, and death, of Christ; and: was completed by his swallowing up death in victory. The figures in the cherubic representation are not here named; but the secondary cherubim’s, which without doubt were the true copies of the primary ones, are mentioned four times in the Bible; and from the account given of them in Ezekiel i.10. and x.14. we are informed of their particular figure, which was the face of a bull, of a lion and man united, and of an eagle.

The three conditions of the one substance in the heavens; fire, light, and air, as the representatives of the Eternal Three, which they have chosen to represent themselves by, are, in the three faces of these three animals in one body, with the human figure united to that of the lion, (the emblem of light,. the emblem of the second person) very expressive and very proper to convey the knowledge of the Trinity in unity, and the great mystery of redemption. The tree of life or lives, was Christ. The flaming sword was to be turned from sinners belonging to the election of grace, and fall on Christ their surety: thus the way to the real tree of life or lives, was most freely laid open to their view.

I proceed, lastly, to view the foundation laid in all this for faith and hope in God-: it being hereby evidenced, that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.

The revelation of Christ in the word of promise; for such it was to the fallen pair, though it was delivered threatening-wise to the devil in the serpent; with the instituted sacrifice and cherubic figures, contained the whole Gospel in epitome: all that follows after is built upon it, and is nothing more or less than an explanation, and unfolding of what was contained in it. It is expressly declared by the Apostle Peter, speaking of Christ, that to him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Acts x.43. Adam and his wife were the first believers in Christ Jesus, the first prophets who spake of him; and they received their knowledge and faith concerning Christ, his incarnation, righteousness, and death, and that it was founded on the will, council, and covenant of the Eternal Three, by the immediate revelation and teaching of the Holy Ghost; who produced in their minds a supernatural birth, gave them an understanding to know what was set before them in he promise of a Saviour, and led them into an acquaintance with the way and manner in which he would atone for their sin, and bring in an everlasting righteousness: so that in this word of promise was an immutable foundation laid for faith and hope in God.. Christ was set forth as the object of it; his blood and death were most clearly expressed, and his righteousness revealed as the robe which alone could cover and make righteous in the sight of God; and the Three in Jehovah were represented as bearing wits ness to their own acts, and hieroglyphically spewing how the sword of divine justice, and the fire of infinite wrath should be stretched out, and fall on, and bd. executed on, the surety, the man of Jehovah’s right hand; that son of man whom he had made strong for himself: Psalm lxxx.17 and the revelation thus made of Christ most exactly suited the case. The devil had been too strong for the innocent pair. He deceived. the woman; and though Adam was not deceived, yet, by listening to his sensual part, he became a sinner. Thus the declaration concerning the woman’s seed, as the serpent bruiser, was Moses divinely adapted to their case; as this great and illustrious one would, by bruising his head, most effectually destroy his works, and make death and bell his footstool.

In the instituted sacrifices, and in the clothing which the Lord God had put upon them, they viewed Christ the Lamb of God, as the only sacrifice for sin; as Jehovah their righteousness; and, through the light and teaching of the Lord the Spirit, they understood how sin would be atoned for, removed from them, and put away for ever out of the sight, and, from before the Lord: and, as they worshipped before.-the Lord at the east of the garden of Eden, where the Loan GOD, JEHOVAH ELOHIM inhabited the cherubim, they had, in the instituted emblems, as clear-and expressive an evidence and prelude to what was really to be done upon the earth by one of the persons in the Deity, who would inhabit and dwell in the man Christ Jesus, and make atonement for sin, and open the gate of everlasting life to all his people, as could be given them. Thus they found health and cure, life, and everlasting consolation, imparted to their minds, and fully experienced that where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. Never did free grace more gloriously display itself! It was a triumph indeed! and these persons who had been the instruments of making way for the introduction of sin and death, were blessed with the knowledge that “grace would reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Thus the very era of grace began with an exhibition of the death of Christ in type and figure: and all that follows this, throughout the bible, is but an elucidation of what was taught Adam immediately upon his fall. It is the root, marrow, and substance of the whole Scriptures. The high priests, sacrifices, atonements, purifications, perfumes, and the cherubim of glory in the Holy of Holies, were but a drawing out of this revelation, sacrifice, and cherubic exhibition, to more public view. The Book of Psalms was written to give a perfect account and description of what the seed of the woman, the real David, the beloved of Jehovah, was to be, do, and suffer, to accomplish the salvation of his Church; and finally to bruise Satan under his and her feet.

May the Lord the Spirit give you light to see the truth of this; then those sermons which follow will cast lustre on the sacred page: or rather, will serve to point out to you, that there is no part of the Bible but is full of Christ, and that the revelation of him is founded on the covenant of the Eternal Three: so that the doctrine of the Trinity is the. foundation of the whole. Amen.

C.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892): The Immutability Of God

Commentary On The Immutability Of God
C.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)
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The Immutability of God

A Sermon

(No. 1)

Delivered on Sabbath Morning, January 7th, 1855

by the


At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark

“I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”—Malachi 3:6

It has been said by some one that “the proper study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with the solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God. We shall be obliged to feel—

“Great God, how infinite art thou,

What worthless worms are we!”

But while the subject humbles the mind it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe. He may be a naturalist, boasting of his ability to dissect a beetle, anatomize a fly, or arrange insects and animals in classes with well nigh unutterable names; he may be a geologist, able to discourse of the megatherium and the plesiosaurus, and all kinds of extinct animals; he may imagine that his science, whatever it is, ennobles and enlarges his mind. I dare say it does, but after all, the most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatary. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of grief and sorrow; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead. It is to that subject that I invite you this morning. We shall present you with one view of it,—that is the immutability of the glorious Jehovah. “I am,” says my text, “Jehovah,” (for so it should be translated) “I am Jehovah, I change not: therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”

There are three things this morning. First of all, an unchanging God; secondly, the persons who derive benefit from this glorious attribute, “the sons of Jacob;” and thirdly, the benefit they so derive, they “are not consumed.’ We address ourselves to these points.

I. First of all, we have set before us the doctrine of THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD. “I am God, I change not.” Here I shall attempt to expound, or rather to enlarge the thought, and then afterwards to bring a few arguments to prove its truth.

1. I shall offer some exposition of my text, by first saying, that God is Jehovah, and he changes not in his essence. We cannot tell you what Godhead is. We do not know what substance that is which we call God. It is an existence, it is a being; but what that is, we know not. However, whatever it is, we call it his essence, and that essence never changes. The substance of mortal things is ever changing. The mountains with their snow-white crowns, doff their old diadems in summer, in rivers trickling down their sides, while the storm cloud gives them another coronation; the ocean, with its mighty floods, loses its water when the sunbeams kiss the waves, and snatch them in mists to heaven; even the sun himself requires fresh fuel from the hand of the Infinite Almighty, to replenish his ever burning furnace. All creatures change. Man, especially as to his body, is always undergoing revolution. Very probably there is not a single particle in my body which was in it a few years ago. This frame has been worn away by activity, its atoms have been removed by friction, fresh particles of matter have in the mean time constantly accrued to my body, and so it has been replenished; but its substance is altered. The fabric of which this world is made is ever passing away; like a stream of water, drops are running away and others are following after, keeping the river still full, but always changing in its elements. But God is perpetually the same. He is not composed of any substance or material, but is spirit—pure, essential, and ethereal spirit—and therefore he is immutable. He remains everlastingly the same. There are no furrows on his eternal brow. No age hath palsied him; no years have marked him with the mementoes of their flight; he sees ages pass, but with him it is ever now. He is the great I AM—the Great Unchangeable. Mark you, his essence did not undergo a change when it became united with the manhood. When Christ in past years did gird himself with mortal clay, the essence of his divinity was not changed; flesh did not become God, nor did God become flesh by a real actual change of nature; the two were united in hypostatical union, but the Godhead was still the same. It was the same when he was a babe in the manager, as it was when he stretched the curtains of heaven; it was the same God that hung upon the cross, and whose blood flowed down in a purple river, the self-same God that holds the world upon his everlasting shoulders, and bears in his hands the keys of death and hell. He never has been changed in his essence, not even by his incarnation; he remains everlastingly, eternally, the one unchanging God, the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither the shadow of a change.

2. He changes not in his attributes. Whatever the attributes of God were of old, that they are now; and of each of them we may sing “As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.” Was he powerful? Was he the mighty God when he spake the world out of the womb of nonexistence? Was he the Omnipotent when he piled the mountains and scooped out the hollow places for the rolling deep? Yes, he was powerful then, and his arm is unpalsied now, he is the same giant in his might; the sap of his nourishment is undried, and the strength of his soul stands the same for ever. Was he wise when he constituted this mighty globe, when he laid the foundations of the universe? Had he wisdom when he planned the way of our salvation, and when from all eternity he marked out his awful plans? Yes, and he is wise now; he is not less skillful, he has not less knowledge; his eye which seeth all things is undimmed; his ear which heareth all the cries, sighs, sobs, and groans of his people, is not rendered heavy by the years which he hath heard their prayers. He is unchanged in his wisdom, he knows as much now as ever, neither more nor less; he has the same consummate skill, and the same infinite forecastings. He is unchanged, blessed be his name, in his justice. just and holy was he in the past; just and holy is he now. He is unchanged in his truth; he has promised, and he brings it to pass; he hath saith it, and it shall be done. He varies not in the goodness, and generosity, and benevolence of his nature. He is not become an Almighty tyrant, whereas he was once an Almighty Father; but his strong love stands like a granite rock, unmoved by the hurricanes of our iniquity. And blessed be his dear name, he is unchanged in his love. When he first wrote the covenant, how full his heart was with affection to his people. He knew that his Son must die to ratify the articles of that agreement. He knew right well that he must rend his best beloved from his bowels, and send him down to earth to bleed and die. He did not hesitate to sign that mighty covenant; nor did he shun its fulfillment. He loves as much now as he did then, and when suns shall cease to shine, and moons to show their feeble light, he still shall love on for ever and for ever. Take any one attribute of God, and I will write semper idem on it (always the same). Take any one thing you can say of God now, and it may be said not only in the dark past, but in the bright future it shall always remain the same: “I am Jehovah, I change not.”

3. Then again, God changes not in his plans. That man began to build, but was not able to finish, and therefore he changed his plan, as every wise man would do in such a case; he built upon a smaller foundation and commenced again. But has it ever been said that God began to build but was not able to finish? Nay. When he hath boundless stores at his command, and when his own right hand would create worlds as numerous as drops of morning dew, shall he ever stay because he has not power? and reverse, or alter, or disarrange his plan, because he cannot carry it out? “But,” say some, “perhaps God never had a plan.” Do you think God is more foolish than yourself then, sir? Do you go to work without a plan? “No,” say you, “I have always a scheme.” So has God. Every man has his plan, and God has a plan too. God is a master-mind; he arranged everything in his gigantic intellect long before he did it; and once having settled it, mark you, he never alters it. “This shall be done,” saith he, and the iron hand of destiny marks it down, and it is brought to pass. “This is my purpose,” and it stands, nor can earth or hell alter it. “This is my decree,” saith he, promulgate it angels; rend it down from the gate of heaven ye devils; but ye cannot alter the decree; it shall be done. God altereth not his plans; why should he? He is Almighty, and therefore can perform his pleasure. Why should he? He is the All-wise, and therefore cannot have planned wrongly. Why should he? He is the everlasting God, and therefore cannot die before his plan is accomplished. Why should he change? Ye worthless atoms of existence, ephemera of the day! Ye creeping insects upon this bayleaf of existence! ye may change your plans, but he shall never, never change his. Then has he told me that his plan is to save me? If so, I am safe.

“My name from the palms of his hands

Eternity will not erase;

Impress’d on his heart it remains,

In marks of indelible grace.”

4. Yet again, God is unchanging in his promises. Ah! we love to speak about the sweet promises of God; but if we could ever suppose that one of them could be changed, we would not talk anything more about them. If I thought that the notes of the bank of England could not be cashed next week, I should decline to take them; and if I thought that God’s promises would never be fulfilled—if I thought that God would see it right to alter some word in his promises—farewell Scriptures! I want immutable things: and I find that I have immutable promises when I turn to the Bible: for, “by two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie,” he hath signed, confirmed, and sealed every promise of his. The gospel is not “yea and nay,” it is not promising today, and denying tomorrow; but the gospel is “yea, yea,” to the glory of God. Believer! there was a delightful promise which you had yesterday; and this morning when you turned to the Bible the promise was not sweet. Do you know why? Do you think the promise had changed? Ah, no! You changed; that is where the matter lies. You had been eating some of the grapes of Sodom, and your mouth was thereby put out of taste, and you could not detect the sweetness. But there was the same honey there, depend upon it, the same preciousness. “Oh!” says one child of God, “I had built my house firmly once upon some stable promises; there came a wind, and I said, O Lord, I am cast down and I shall be lost.” Oh! the promises were not cast down; the foundations were not removed; it was your little “wood, hay, stubble” hut, that you had been building. It was that which fell down. You have been shaken on the rock, not the rock under you. But let me tell you what is the best way of living in the world. I have heard that a gentleman said to a Negro, “I can’t think how it is you are always so happy in the Lord and I am often downcast.” “Why Massa,” said he, “I throw myself flat down on the promise—there I lie; you stand on the promise—you have a little to do with it, and down you go when the wind comes, and then you cry, ‘Oh! I am down;’ whereas I go flat on the promise at once, and that is why I fear no fall.” Then let us always say, “Lord there is the promise; it is thy business to fulfill it.” Down I go on the promise flat! no standing up for me. That is where you should go—prostrate on the promise; and remember, every promise is a rock, an unchanging thing. Therefore, at his feet cast yourself, and rest there forever.

5. But now comes one jarring note to spoil the theme. To some of you God is unchanging in his threatenings. If every promise stands fast, and every oath of the covenant is fulfilled, hark thee, sinner!—mark the word—hear the death-knell of thy carnal hopes; see the funeral of thy fleshly trustings. Every threatening of God, as well as every promise shall be fulfilled. Talk of decrees! I will tell you of a decree: “He that believeth not shall be damned.” That is a decree, and a statute that can never change. Be as good as you please, be as moral as you can, be as honest as you will, walk as uprightly as you may,—there stands the unchangeable threatening: “He that believeth not shall be damned.” What sayest thou to that, moralist? Oh, thou wishest thou couldst alter it, and say, “He that does not live a holy life shall be damned.” That will be true; but it does not say so. It says, “He that believeth not.” Here is the stone of stumbling, and the rock of offence; but you cannot alter it. You must believe or be damned, saith the Bible; and mark, that threat of God is an unchangeable as God himself. And when a thousand years of hell’s torments shall have passed away, you shall look on high, and see written in burning letters of fire, “He that believeth not shall be damned.” “But, Lord, I am damned.” Nevertheless it says ”shall be“ still. And when a million ages have rolled away, and you are exhausted by your pains and agonies, you shall turn up your eye and still read “SHALL BE DAMNED,” unchanged, unaltered. And when you shall have thought that eternity must have spun out its last thread—that every particle of that which we call eternity, must have run out, you shall still see it written up there, “SHALL BE DAMNED.” O terrific thought! How dare I utter it? But I must. Ye must be warned, sirs, “lest ye also come into this place of torment.” Ye must be told rough things; for if God’s gospel is not a rough thing & the law is a rough thing; Mount Sinai is a rough thing. Woe unto the watchman that warns not the ungodly! God is unchanging in his threatenings. Beware, O sinner, for “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

6. We must just hint at one thought before we pass away and that is—God is unchanging in the objects of his love—not only in his love, but in the objects of it.

“If ever it should come to pass,

That sheep of Christ might fall away.

My fickle, feeble soul, alas,

Would fall a thousand times a day.”

If one dear saint of God had perished, so might all; if one of the covenant ones be lost, so may all be, and then there is no gospel promise true; but the Bible is a lie, and there is nothing in it worth my acceptance. I will be an infidel at once, when I can believe that a saint of God can ever fall finally. If God hath loved me once, then he will love me for ever.

“Did Jesus once upon me shine,

Then Jesus is for ever mine.”

The objects of everlasting love never change. Those whom God hath called, he will justify; whom he has justified, he will sanctify; and whom he sanctifies, he will glorify.

1. Thus having taken a great deal too much time, perhaps, in simply expanding the thought of an unchanging God, I will now try to prove that He is unchangeable. I am not much of an argumentative preacher, but one argument that I will mention is this: the very existence, and being of a God, seem to me to imply immutability. Let me think a moment. There is a God; this God rules and governs all things; this God fashioned the world: he upholds and maintains it. What kind of being must he be? It does strike me that you cannot think of a changeable God. I conceive that the thought is so repugnant to common sense, that if you for one moment think of a changing God, the words seem to clash, and you are obliged to say, “Then he must be a kind of man,” and get a Mormonite idea of God. I imagine it is impossible to conceive of a changing God; it is so to me. Others may be capable of such an idea, but I could not entertain it. I could no more think of a changing God, than I could of a round square, or any other absurdity. The thing seems so contrary, that I am obliged, when once I say God, to include the idea of an unchanging being.

2. Well, I think that one argument will be enough, but another good argument may be found in the fact of God’s perfection. I believe God to be a perfect being. Now, if he is a perfect being, he cannot change. Do you not see this? Suppose I am perfect today, if it were possible for me to change, should I be perfect tomorrow after the alteration? If I changed, I must either change from a good state to a better—and then if I could get better, I could not be perfect now—or else from a better state to a worse—and if I were worse, I should not be perfect then. If I am perfect, I cannot be altered without being imperfect. If I am perfect today, I must keep the same tomorrow if I am to be perfect then. So, if God is perfect, he must be the same; for change would imply imperfection now, or imperfection then.

3. Again, there is the fact of God’s infinity, which puts change out of the question. God is an infinite being. What do you mean by that? There is no man who can tell you what he means by an infinite being. But there cannot be two infinities. If one thing is infinite, there is no room for anything else; for infinite means all. It means not bounded, not finite, having no end. Well, there cannot be two infinities. If God is infinite today, and then should change and be infinite tomorrow, there would be two infinities. But that cannot be. Suppose he is infinite and then changes, he must become finite, and could not be God; either he is finite today and finite tomorrow, or infinite today and finite tomorrow, or finite today and infinite tomorrow—all of which suppositions are equally absurd. The fact of his being an infinite being at once quashes the thought of his being a changeable being. Infinity has written on its very brow the word “immutability.”

4. But then, dear friends, let us look at the past: and there we shall gather some proofs of God’s immutable nature. “Hath he spoken, and hath he not done it? Hath he sworn, and hath it not come to pass?” Can it not be said of Jehovah, “He hath done all his will, and he hath accomplished all his purpose?” Turn ye to Philistia; ask where she is. God said, “Howl Ashdod, and ye gates of Gaza, for ye shall fall;” and where are they? Where is Edom? Ask Petra and its ruined walls. Will they not echo back the truth that God hath said, “Edom shall be a prey, and shall be destroyed?” Where is Babel, and where Nineveh? Where Moab and where Ammon? Where are the nations God hath said he would destroy? Hath he not uprooted them and cast out the remembrance of them from the earth? And hath God cast off his people? Hath he once been unmindful of his promise? Hath he once broken his oath and covenant, or once departed from his plan? Ah! no. Point to one instance in history where God has changed! Ye cannot, sirs; for throughout all history there stands the fact that God has been immutable in his purposes. Methinks I hear some one say, “I can remember one passage in Scripture where God changed!” And so did I think once. The case I mean, is that of the death of Hezekiah. Isaiah came in and said, ‘Hezekiah, you must die, your disease is incurable, set your house in order.’ He turned his face to the wall and began to pray; and before Isaiah was in the outer court, he was told to go back and say, “Thou shalt live fifteen years more.” You may think that proves that God changes; but really I cannot see in it the slightest proof in the world. How do you know that God did not know that? Oh! but God did know it; he knew that Hezekiah would live. Then he did not change, for if he knew that, how could he change? That is what I want to know. But do you know one little thing?—that Hezekiah’s son Manasseh, was not born at that time, and that had Hezekiah died, there would have been no Manasseh, and no Josiah and no Christ, because Christ came from that very line. You will find that Manasseh was twelve years old when his father died; so that he must have been born three years after this. And do you not believe that God decreed the birth of Manasseh, and foreknew it? Certainly. Then he decreed that Isaiah should go and tell Hezekiah that his disease was incurable, and then say also in the same breath, “But I will cure it, and thou shalt live.” He said that to stir up Hezekiah to prayer. He spoke, in the first place as a man. “According to all human probability your disease is incurable, and you must die.” Then he waited till Hezekiah prayed; then came a little “but” at the end of the sentence. Isaiah had not finished the sentence. He said, “You must put your house in order for there is no human cure; but” (and then he walked out. Hezekiah prayed a little, and then he came in again, and said) ”But I will heal thee.” Where is there any contradiction there, except in the brain of those who fight against the Lord, and wish to make him a changeable being.

II. Now secondly, let me say a word on THE PERSONS TO WHOM THIS UNCHANGEABLE GOD IS A BENEFIT. “I am God, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” Now, who are “the sons of Jacob,” who can rejoice in an immutable God?

1. First, they are the sons of God’s election; for it is written, “Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated, the children being not yet born neither having done good nor evil.” It was written, “The elder shall serve the younger.” “The sons of Jacob”—

“Are the sons of God’s election,

Who through sovereign grace believe;

Be eternal destination

Grace and glory they receive.”

God’s elect are here meant by “the sons of Jacob,”—those whom he foreknew and foreordained to everlasting salvation.

2. By “the sons of Jacob” are meant, in the second place, persons who enjoy peculiar rights and titles. Jacob, you know, had no rights by birth; but he soon acquired them. He changed a mess of pottage with his brother Esau, and thus gained the birthright. I do not justify the means; but he did also obtain the blessing, and so acquired peculiar rights. By “the sons of Jacob” here, are meant persons who have peculiar rights and titles. Unto them that believe, he hath given the right and power to become sons of God. They have an interest in the blood of Christ; they have a right to “enter in through the gates into the city;” they have a title to eternal honors; they have a promise to everlasting glory; they have a right to call themselves sons of God. Oh! there are peculiar rights and privileges belonging to the “sons of Jacob.”

3. But, then next, these “sons of Jacob” were men of peculiar manifestations. Jacob had peculiar manifestations from his God, and thus he was highly honored. Once at night-time he lay down and slept; he had the hedges for his curtains, the sky for his canopy, a stone for his pillow, and the earth for his bed. Oh! then he had a peculiar manifestation. There was a ladder, and he saw the angels of God ascending and descending. He thus had a manifestation of Christ Jesus, as the ladder which reaches from earth to heaven, up and down which angels came to bring us mercies. Then what a manifestation there was at Mahanaim, when the angels of God met him; and again at Peniel, when he wrestled with God, and saw him face to face. Those were peculiar manifestations; and this passage refers to those who, like Jacob, have had peculiar manifestations.

Now then, how many of you have had personal manifestations? “Oh!” you say “that is enthusiasm; that is fanaticism.” Well, it is a blessed enthusiasm, too, for the sons of Jacob have had peculiar manifestations. They have talked with God as a man talketh with his friend; they have whispered in the ear of Jehovah; Christ hath been with them to sup with them, and they with Christ; and the Holy Spirit hath shone into their souls with such a mighty radiance, that they could not doubt about special manifestations. The “sons of Jacob” are the men, who enjoy these manifestations.

4. Then again, they are men of peculiar trials. Ah! poor Jacob! I should not choose Jacob’s lot if I had not the prospect of Jacob’s blessing; for a hard lot his was. He had to run away from his father’s house to Laban’s; and then that surly old Laban cheated him all the years he was there—cheated him of his wife, cheated him in his wages, cheated him in his flocks, and cheated him all through the story. By-and-bye he had to run away from Laban, who pursued him and overtook him. Next came Esau with four hundred men to cut him up root and branch. Then there was a season of prayer, and afterwards he wrestled, and had to go all his life with his thigh out of joint. But a little further on, Rachael, his dear beloved, died. Then his daughter Dinah is led astray, and the sons murder the Shechemites. Anon there is dear Joseph sold into Egypt, and a famine comes. Then Reuben goes up to his couch and pollutes it; Judah commits incest with his own daughter-in-law; and all his sons become a plague to him. At last Benjamin is taken away; and the old man, almost broken-hearted, cries, “Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away.” Never was man more tried than Jacob, all through the one sin of cheating his brother. All through his life God chastised him. But I believe there are many who can sympathize with dear old Jacob. They have had to pass through trials very much like his. Well, cross-bearers! God says, “I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” Poor tried souls! ye are not consumed because of the unchanging nature of your God. Now do not get fretting, and say, with the self-conceit of misery, “I am the man who hath seen affliction.” Why “the Man of Sorrows” was afflicted more than you; Jesus was indeed a mourner. You only see the skirts of the garments of affliction. You never have trials like his. You do not understand what troubles means; you have hardly sipped the cup of trouble; you have only had a drop or two, but Jesus drunk the dregs. Fear not saith God, “I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob,” men of peculiar trials, “are not consumed.”

5. Then one more thought about who are the “sons of Jacob,” for I should like you to find out whether you are “sons of Jacob,” yourselves. They are men of peculiar character; for though there were some things about Jacob’s character which we cannot commend, there are one or two things which God commends. There was Jacob’s faith, by which Jacob had his name written amongst the mighty worthies who obtained not the promises on earth, but shall obtain them in heaven. Are you men of faith, beloved? Do you know what it is to walk by faith, to live by faith, to get your temporary food by faith, to live on spiritual manna—all by faith? Is faith the rule of your life? if so, you are the “sons of Jacob.”

Then Jacob was a man of prayer—a man who wrestled, and groaned, and prayed. There is a man up yonder who never prayed this morning, before coming up to the house of God. Ah! you poor heathen, don’t you pray? No! he says, “I never thought of such a thing; for years I have not prayed.” Well, I hope you may before you die. Live and die without prayer, and you will pray long enough when you get to hell. There is a woman: she did not pray this morning; she was so busy sending her children to the Sunday School, she had no time to pray. No time to pray? Had you time to dress? There is a time for every purpose under heaven, and if you had purposed to pray, you would have prayed. Sons of God cannot live without prayer. They are wrestling Jacobs. They are men in whom the Holy Ghost so works, they they can no more live without prayer than I can live without breathing. They must pray. Sirs, mark you, if you are living without prayer, you are living without Christ; and dying like that, your portion will be in the lake which burneth with fire. God redeem you, God rescue you from such a lot! But you who are “the sons of Jacob,” take comfort, for God is immutable.

III. Thirdly, I can say only a word about the other point—THE BENEFIT WHICH THESE “SONS OF JACOB” RECEIVE FROM AN UNCHANGING GOD. “Therefore ye sons Jacob are not consumed.” “Consumed?” How? how can man be consumed? Why, there are two ways. We might have been consumed in hell. If God had been a changing God, the “sons of Jacob” here this morning, might have been consumed in hell; but for God’s unchanging love I should have been a faggot in the fire. But there is a way of being consumed in this world; there is such a things as being condemned before you die—“condemned already;” there is such a thing as being alive, and yet being absolutely dead. We might have been left to our own devices, and then where should we have been now? Revelling with the drunkard, blaspheming Almighty God. Oh? had he left you, dearly beloved, had he been a changing God, ye had been amongst the filthiest of the filthy, and the vilest of the vile. Cannot you remember in your life, seasons similar to those I have felt? I have gone right to the edge of sin; some strong temptation has taken hold of both my arms, so that I could not wrestle with it. I have been pushed alone, dragged as by an awful satanic power to the very edge of some horrid precipice. I have looked down, down, down, and seen my portion; I quivered on the brink of ruin. I have been horrified, as, with my hair upright, I have thought of the sin I was about to commit, the horrible pit into which I was about to fall. A strong arm hath saved me. I have started back and cried, O God! could I have gone so near sin, and yet come back again? Could I have walked right up to the furnace and not fallen down, like Nebuchadnezzar’s strong men, devoured by the very heat? Oh! is it possible I should be here this morning, when I think of the sins I have committed, and the crimes which have crossed my wicked imagination? Yes, I am here, unconsumed, because the Lord changes not. Oh! if he had changed, we should have been consumed in a dozen ways; if the Lord had changed, you and I should have been consumed by ourselves; for after all, Mr. Self is the worst enemy a Christian has. We should have proved suicides to our own souls; we should have mixed the cup of poison for our own spirits, if the Lord had not been an unchanging God, and dashed the cup out of our hands when we were about to drink it. Then we should have been consumed by God himself if he had not been a changeless God. We call God a Father; but there is not a father in this world who would not have killed all his children long ago, so provoked would he have been with them, if he had been half as much troubled as God has been with his family. He has the most troublesome family in the whole world—unbelieving, ungrateful, disobedient, forgetful, rebellious, wandering, murmuring, and stiffnecked. Well it is that he is longsuffering, or else he would have taken not only the rod, but the sword to some of us long ago. But there was nothing in us to love at first, so, there cannot be less now. John Newton used to tell a whimsical story, and laugh at it too, of a good woman who said, in order to prove the doctrine of Election, “Ah! sir, the Lord must have loved me before I was born, or else he would not have seen anything in me to love afterwards.” I am sure it is true in my case, and true in respect most of God’s people; for there is little to love in them after they are born, that if he had not loved them before then, he would have seen no reason to choose them after; but since he loved them without works, he loves them without works still; since their good works did not win his affection, bad works cannot sever that affection; since their righteousness did not bind his love to them, so their wickedness cannot snap the golden links. He loved them out of pure sovereign grace, and he will love them still. But we should have been consumed by the devil, and by our enemies—consumed by the world, consumed by our sins, by our trials, and in a hundred other ways, if God had ever changed.

Well, now, time fails us, and I can say but little. I have only just cursorily touched on the text. I now hand it to you. May the Lord help you “sons of Jacob” to take home this portion of meat; digest it well, and feed upon it. May the Holy Ghost sweetly apply the glorious things that are written! And may you have “a feast of fat things, of wines on the lees well refined!” Remember God is the same, whatever is removed. Your friends may be disaffected, your ministers may be taken away, every thing may change, but God does not. Your brethren may change and cast out your name as vile: but God will love you still. Let your station in life change, and your property be gone; let your whole life be shaken, and you become weak and sickly; let everything flee away—there is one place where change cannot put his finger; there is one name on which mutability can never be written; there is one heart which never can alter; that heart is God’s—that name Love.

“Trust him, he will ne’er deceive you.

Though you hardly of him deem;

He will never, never leave you,

Nor will let you quite leave him.”

AM Toplady (1740-1778): Free-Will and Merit Fairly Examined

A.M. Toplady (1740-1778)
Copyright: Public Domain

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The substance of a discourse

preached in the parish church of St. Anne, Blackfriars, London

on Wednesday, May 25th, 1774.

Truly, in vain is Salvation hoped for from the hills and from the multitude of mountains. Truly, in the Lord our God is the Salvation of Israel. – Jer 3:23.


Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory; for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake. Ps 115:1

Some expositors have supposed, that this Psalm was penned by the prophet Daniel; on occasion of the miraculous deliverance of Shadrac, Meshac, and Abednego, when they came out unhurt, from the burning fiery furnace, into which they had been thrown by the command of king Nebuchadnezzar.

And indeed there are not wanting passages in the Psalm itself, which seem to countenance this conjecture. As where we read at the 4th verse (speaking of the idols of the heathens, and perhaps with particular reference to that golden image which Nebuchadnezzar commanded to be worshipped), their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands: they have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not.

I dare say, that in such an auditory as this, a number of Arminians are present. I fear that all our public assemblies have too many of them. Perhaps, however, even these people, idolaters as they are, may be apt to blame, and indeed with justice, the absurdity of those who worship idols of silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. But let me ask, if it be so very absurd to worship the work of other men’s hands; what must it be to worship the works of our own hands? Perhaps you may say, “God forbid that I should do so.” Nevertheless, let me tell you, that trust, confidence, reliance, and dependence for salvation, are all acts, and very solemn ones too, of divine worship: and upon whatsoever you depend, whether in whole, or in part, for your acceptance with God, and for your justification in his sight; whatsoever you rely upon, and trust in, for the attainment of grace or glory; if it be any thing short of God in Christ, you are an idolater to all intents and purposes.

Very different is the idea, which scripture gives us, of the ever-blessed God, from that of those false gods worshipped by the heathens; and from that degrading representation of the true God, which Arminianism would palm upon mankind. Our God (says this Psalm, verse the 3d) is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he pleased. This is not the (u) Arminian idea of God: for our free-willers and our chance-mongers tell us, that God does not do whatsoever he pleases; that there are a great number of things, which God wishes to do, and tugs and strives to do, and yet cannot bring to pass: they tell us, as one ingeniously expresses it,

“That all mankind he fain would save, But longs for what he cannot have. Industrious thus to sound abroad, A disappointed, changing God.”

(u) I was lately introduced to the acquaintance of a very learned and sensible Arminian, whose political writings, and whose social virtues, entitle him to no small share of public and domestic esteem. This worthy gentleman has sagacity to perceive, and integrity to acknowledge the prodigious lengths to which the free-will scheme, if carried as far as it naturally leads, must inevitably push its votaries. He sees its consequences clearly; he swallows them without difficulty; and he avows them very honestly.

“God does all he possibly can” [these were the gentleman’s own words to me, in conversation] “God does all he possibly can, to hinder moral and natural evil; but he cannot prevail. Men will not permit God to have his wish.” – Then, said I, the Deity must certainly be a very unhappy Being. – “Not unhappy in the least,” replied the ready philosopher: “God knows, that in consequence of the free-will with which he has endued his rational creatures, he himself must be disappointed of his wishes, and defeated of his ends, and that there is no help for it, unless he had made us mere machines. He, therefore, submits to necessity; and does not make himself uneasy about it.”

See on what tremendous shoals, free-willers, when honest, run themselves aground! Is their god the Bible-God? Certainly not. Their god “submits” to difficulties which he “cannot help” himself out of, and endeavours to make himself “easy” under millions and millions of inextricable embarrassments, uncomfortable disappointments, and mortifying defeats. Whereas, concerning the God of the Bible, it is affirmed, that he hath done, and will always continue to do, whatsoever he pleaseth.

Observe, reader, the piety, and the consistency, of the free-will scheme. – This said scheme ascends on the ladder of blasphemy, to the mountain top of atheism; and then hurls itself from that precipice, into the gulf of blind, adamantine necessity, in order to prove mankind free agents!

My interview with the philosopher abovementioned (whom, by the way, I most heartily acquit of all intentional atheism, or even disrespect to the Supreme Being), was seasoned with so many curious and uncommon circumstances of free debate, that my respectable and invaluable friend, the Reverend Mr. Ryland, senior, of Northampton (who was present the whole time), acknowledged, after we had taken our leave of the worthy gentleman, that the said philosophic politician is a very honest, and consequently, a very unusual phenomenon.

How does this comport with that majestic description, Our God is in the heavens! He sits upon the throne, weighing out, and dispensing the fates of men; holding all events in his own hand; and guiding every link of every chain of second causes, from the beginning to the end of time. Our God is in heaven, possessed of all power; and (which is the natural consequence of that) he hath done whatsoever he pleased: or, as the apostle expresses it, (the words are different, but the sense is the same) he (Eph 1:11) worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.

Therefore it is, that we both labour and suffer reproach; even because we say (and the utmost we can say upon the subject, amounts to no more than this: to wit, that) our God is in heaven, and has done whatsoever pleased him. And do according to his own sovereign pleasure he will, to the end of the chapter; though all the Arminians upon earth were to endeavour to defeat the divine intention and to clog the wheels of divine government. He that sits in heaven (Ps 2:4), laughs them to scorn; and brings his own purposes to pass, sometimes, even through the means of those very incidents, which evil men endeavour to throw in his way, with a mad view to disappoint him of his purposes. All things, saith the Psalmist, serve thee (z): they have all a direct tendency, either effectively or permissively, to carry on his unalterable designs of providence and grace. Observe, effectively, or permissively. For we never say, nor mean to say, that God is the worker of evil: we only maintain, that for reasons unknown to us, but well known to God, he is the efficacious permitter (not the (a) agent, but the permitter) of whatsoever comes to pass. But when we talk of good, we then enlarge the term; and affirm, with the Psalmist, that all the help [i. e. all the good] that is done upon earth, God does it himself (Ps 74:13).

(z) Ps 119:91. Liturgy Version.

(a) To say, that the doctrine of predestination makes God the author and actuator of sin, is one of the most daring, (and at the same time) most irrational cavils, that ever dishonoured Arminianism itself. The state of the matter stands thus. – Since the fall of Adam and his sons (an event, the divine motives to the permission of which, we are not entitled to know), God need only leave men to themselves by withholding the restraints of grace and providence; and men’s corrupt free-agency will, of itself, carry them headlong into all evil.

I remember a saying of the great Monsieur Du Moulin, in his admirable book, entitled, Anatome Arminianismi. His observation is, that the wicked, no less than the elect, accomplish the wise and holy and just decrees of God: but, says he, with this difference; God’s own people, after they are converted, endeavour to do his will from a principle of love: whereas they who are left to the perverseness of their own hearts (which is all the reprobation we contend for), who care not for God, nor is God in all their thoughts; these persons resemble men rowing in a boat, who make toward the very place, on which they turn their backs (c). They turn their backs on the decree of God; and yet make to that very point, without knowing it.

(c) The same great reasoner observes, that “God over-rules even the follies of mankind, to the purposes of his own infinite wisdom; and makes use of wicked men themselves, to execute his own righteous views: just as a person may draw a strait line, or give a right blow, with a crooked stick.” –Illi ipsi, qui resistunt mandato Dei serviunt ejus Providentiae: et, remigum instar eo tendunt quo obvertunt terga. Deus, per insipientiam hominum perficit consilia suae sapientiae. Utitur hominibus injustis, ad excercendam suam justitiam. Non secus, ac si quis, obter tobaculo, rectum ictum infligat.

Molinaei Anat. Arm. cap. 3. p. 17. – Edit. Lndg. 1619.

One great contest between the religion of Arminius, and the religion of Jesus Christ, is, who shall stand entitled to the praise and glory of a sinner’s salvation? Conversion decides this point at once: for I think, that, without any imputation of uncharitableness, I may venture to say, that every truly awakened person, at least when he is under the shine of God’s countenance upon his soul, will fall down upon his knees, with this hymn of praise ascending from his heart, Not unto me, O Lord, not unto me, but to thy name, give the glory: I am saved, not for my righteousness, but for thy mercy and thy truth’s sake.

And this holds true even as to the blessings of the life that now is. It is God that sets up one, and puts down another (Ps 75:7). Victory, for instance, when contending princes wage war, is all of God. The race is not to the swift, as swift; nor the battle to the strong, as such (Ecc 9:11). It is the decree, the will, the power, the providence of God, which effectually, though sometimes invisibly, order and dispose of every event.

At the famous battle of Azincourt, in France, where, if I mistake not, 80,000 French were totally defeated by about 9,000 English, under the command of our immortal king Henry V.; after the great business of the day was over, and God had given that renowned prince the victory, he ordered the foregoing Psalm (that is, the 114th), and part of this Psalm from whence I have read you the passage now under consideration, to be sung in the field of battle; by way of acknowledging, that all success, and all blessings, of what kind soever, come down from the Father of lights. Some of our historians acquaint us, that, when the triumphant English came to those words which I have taken for my text, the whole victorious army fell down upon their knees, as one man, in the field of conquest; and shouted with one heart, and with one voice, Not unto Us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name, give the glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth’s sake.

And thus will it be, when God has accomplished the number of his elect, and completely gathered in the fulness of his redeemed kingdom. What, do you think, your song will be, when you come to heaven? Blessed be God, that he gave me free-will; and blessed be my own dear self, that I made a good use of it? O no, no. Such a song as that was never heard in heaven yet, nor ever will, while God is God and heaven is heaven. Look into the Book of Revelation, and there you will find the employ of the blessed, and the strains in which they sing. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God, by thy blood, out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation (Rev 4:10).There is discriminating grace for you! Thou hast redeemed us out of every kindred, &c. that is, from (Rev 14:4) among the rest of mankind. Is not this particular election, and limited redemption?

The church below may be liable to err – and if any visible church upon earth pretends to be infallible, the very pretension itself demonstrates that she is not so. But there is a church, which I will venture to pronounce infallible. And what church is that? The church of the glorified who shine as stars at God’s right hand. And, upon the infallible testimony of that infallible church; a testimony, recorded in the infallible pages of inspiration; I will venture to assert, that not one grain of Arminianism ever attended a saint into heaven. – If those of God’s people, who are in the bonds of that iniquity, are not explicitly converted from it, while they live and converse among men; yet do they leave it all behind them in Jordan (i. e. in the river of death) when they go through. They may be compared to Paul, when he went from Jerusalem to Damascus, and the grace of God struck him down: he fell, a free-willer; but he rose a free-gracer. So, however the rust of self-righteous pride (and a cursed rust it is: may God’s Spirit file it off from all our souls) however that rust may adhere to us at present; yet, when we come to stand before the throne, and before the Lamb, it will be all done away, and we shall sing in one full, everlasting chorus, with elect angels and elect men, Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us.

And why should not we sing that song now? Why should not we endeavour, under the influence of the spirit, to anticipate the language of the skies, and be as heavenly as we can, before we get to heaven? Why should we contemn that song, upon earth; which we hope for ever to sing, before the throne of God above? It is to me, really astonishing, that protestants, and church of England men, considered merely as rational creatures, and as people of common sense, who profess to be acquainted with the scriptures, and to acknowledge the power of God, should have any objection to singing this song, Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name, give glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth’s sake.

Still more wonderful and deplorable it is, that some, who even make profession of spiritual religion, and talk of an inward work of God upon their hearts, should so far lose sight of humility and of truth, as to dream, either that their own arm helped the Almighty to save them, or at least that their own arm was able to have hindered him from saving them. What can reflect deeper dishonour upon God, than such an idea? And what can have a directer tendency to engender and to nourish that pride of heart which deceiveth man?

It pleased God to deliver me from the Arminian snare, before I was quite eighteen. Antecedently to that period, there was not (with the lowest self-abasement I confess it) a more haughty and violent free-willer, within the compass of the four seas. One instance of my warm and bitter zeal, occurs just now to my memory. About a twelvemonth before the divine goodness gave me eyes to discern, and an heart to embrace the truth, I was haranguing one day in company (for I deemed myself able to cope with all the predestinarians in the world), on the universality of grace, and the powers of human free-agency. A good old gentleman (now with God) rose from his chair, and coming to mine, held me by one of my coat-buttons, while he mildly addressed me to this effect: My dear sir, there are some marks of spirituality in your conversation; though tinged with an unhappy mixture of pride and self-righteousness. You have been speaking largely in favour of free-will: but, from arguments, let us come to experience. Do let me ask you one question. How was it with you, when the Lord laid hold on you in effectual calling? Had you any hand in obtaining that grace? Nay, would you not have resisted and baffled it, if God’s Spirit had left you in the hand of your own counsel?

I felt the conclusiveness of these simple, but forcible interrogations, more strongly than I was then willing to acknowledge. But, blessed be God, I have since been enabled to acknowledge the freeness and omnipotence of his grace, times without number; and to sing (what I trust will be my everlasting song when time shall be no more), Not unto me, O Lord, not unto me, but unto thy name, give all the glory.

We never know so much of heaven in our own souls, nor stand so high upon the mount of communion with God, as when his Spirit, breathing on our hearts, makes us lie low at the footstool of sovereign grace, and inspires us with this cry, O God, be mine the comfort of salvation, but thine be the entire praise of it!

Let us briefly apply the rule and compass of God’s word, to the several parts, of which salvation is composed; and we shall soon perceive that the whole building is made up of grace, and of grace alone. Do you ask, in what sense I here take the word grace? I mean, by that important term, the voluntary, sovereign, and gratuitous bounty of God; quite unconditionated by, and quite irrespective of, all and every shadow of human worthiness, whether antecedaneous, concomitant, or subsequent, This is, precisely, the scriptural idea of grace: to wit, that it [i. e. salvation in all its branches] is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth; but of God, who showeth mercy (Rom 9:16). And thus it is, that grace reigneth, unto the eternal life of sinners, through the righteousness of Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 5:21).

1. In canvassing this momentous truth, let us begin where God himself began: namely, with election. To whom are we indebted, for that first of all spiritual blessings? Pride says, to me. Self-righteousness says, to me. Man’s unconverted will says, to me. But faith joins with God’s word in saying, Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name, be the whole glory of thy electing love ascribed: thou didst not choose us on supposition of our first choosing thee; but, through the victorious operation of thy mighty Spirit, we choose thee for our portion and our God, in consequence of thy having first and freely chosen us to be thy people.

Hear the testimony of that apostle, who received the finishings of his spiritual education in the third heavens. There is a remnant, says he, according to the election of grace. And, if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise, grace is no more grace. But if it [i. e. if election] be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise, work is no more work (Rom 11:5-6). Let us sift this reasoning; and we shall find it invincible.

There is “a remnant,” i. e. some of fallen mankind, who shall be everlastingly saved through Christ. This remnant is “according to election:” God’s own will and choice are the determinate rule, by which the saved remnant is measured and numbered. This election is an election of “grace,” or a free, sovereign, and unmerited act of God. The apostle would not leave out the word grace, lest people should imagine that God elected them on account of something he saw in them above others. – “Well, but” (may some say) “admitting election to be by grace, might not our foreseen good works have a little hand in the matter? might not God have some small regard to our future good behaviour?” No, answers the apostle: none at all. If election be by “grace,” i. e. of mere mercy, and sovereign love; then it is no more of “works,” whether directly or indirectly, in whole or in part; “otherwise, grace is no more grace:” Could anything human, though ever so little, be mixed with grace, as a motive with God for showing favour to Peter (for instance) above Judas; grace would all evaporate, and be annihilated, from that moment. For, as Austin observes, Gratia non est gratia, nisi sit omnino gratuita: Grace ceases to be grace, unless it be totally and absolutely irrespective of any thing and of every thing, whether good or bad, in the objects of it. So that, as the apostle adds, was it possible for election to be “of works,” then would it be “no more” an act of “grace;” but a payment, instead of a gift; “otherwise, work were no more work.” On one hand, “work” ceases to be considered as influential on election, if election is the daughter of “grace;” and, on the other hand, “grace” has nothing at all to do in election, if “works” have any concern in it. Grace and conditionality, are two incompatible opposites; the one totally destroys the other; and they can no more subsist together, than two particles of matter can occupy the same individual portion of space at the same point of time.

Which, therefore, of these contrary songs, do you sing? (for all the art and labour of mankind united, can never throw the two songs into one) Are you for burning incense to yourselves, saying, Our righteousness, and the might of our own arm, have gotten us this spiritual wealth? – Or, with the angels and saints in light, do you lay down your brightest honours at the footstool of God’s throne? with Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give glory, for thy loving mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.

Certainly, election is the act, not of man, but of God; founded merely upon the sovereign and gracious pleasure of his own will. It is not of works, lest any man should boast; but solely of him, who has said, I will be merciful to whom I will be merciful, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. God merits of us, not we of him; and it was his free-will, not ours, which drew the impassable line between the elect and the pretermitted.

2. God’s covenant love to us in Christ is another stream, flowing from the fountain of unmingled grace. And here, as in the preceding instance, every truly awakened person disclaims all title to praise; shoves it away from himself, with both hands; and not only with his hands, but with his heart also; while his lips acknowledge, Not unto us, O thou divine and co-eternal Three, not unto us, but to thy name, give glory!

How is it possible, that either God’s purposes, or that his covenant concerning us, can be, in any respect whatever, suspended on the will or the works of men; seeing, both his purposes and his covenant were framed, and fixed, and agreed upon, by the persons in the Trinity, not only before men existed, but before angels themselves were created, or time itself was born? All was vast eternity, when grace was federally given us in Christ ere the world began (2Ti 1:9): well therefore might the apostle, in the very text where he makes the above assertion, observe, that the holy calling, with which God effectually converts and sanctifies his people, in time, is bestowed upon us, not according to our works, but according to God’s own free purpose and eternal destination.

Repentance and faith, new obedience and perseverance, are not conditions of interest in the covenant of grace (for then would it be a covenant of works); but consequences, and tokens, of covenant interest. For, the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil; that the purpose of God, according to election (which is the standard of covenant-mercy) might remain (menh) unshaken, it was said unto her, the elder shall serve the younger; as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated (Rev 9:11-13). Now, whether you consider this passage as referring to the posterity of Jacob and Esau, or to Jacob and Esau themselves, or (which is evidently the apostle’s meaning) as referring to both; the argument will still come to the same point at last; namely, that the divine counsels and determinations, in whatever view you take them, are absolutely irrespective of works, because God’s immanent decrees and covenant-transactions took place, before the objects of them had done either good or evil. Of course, all the good that is wrought in men, comes from God, as the gracious effect, not as the cause, of his favour; and all the evil which God permits (such are his wisdom and his power) is subservient to promote, instead of interfering to obstruct, the accomplishment of his most holy will. I mention God’s permission of evil, only incidentally in this place; for, properly, it belongs to another argument. My present business is to show, that the good, and the graces, which God works (not permissively, but effectively) in the hearts of his covenant people, are the fruit, not the root, of the love he bears to them.

3. To whom are we indebted for the atonement of Christ, and for redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins? Here likewise, Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us! It was God who found a ransom (Job 33:24). It was God who provided his own justice with a lamb for a burnt-offering. It was God who accepted the atonement at our surety’s hand, instead of ours. It was God who freely imparts the blessings of that completely finished redemption, to the comfort, and everlasting restoration of all those who are enabled to trust and to glory in the cross of Christ. Against such persons, divine justice has nothing to allege: and on them it has no penalty to inflict. The sword of vengeance, having been already sheathed in the sinless human nature of Jehovah’s equal (Zec 13), becomes, to them that believe, a curtana, a sword of mercy, a sword without a point. Thanks to the reconciling mercy of God the Father, and to the bleeding grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! Human free-will and merit had nothing to do in the matter, from first to last.

4. As pardon exempts us from punishment, so justification (i. e. God’s acceptance of us as perfect fulfillers of the whole law) entitles us to the kingdom of heaven. The former is God’s paresiv (Rom 3:25), or passing by of our transgressions, so as not to take notice of them; and God’s afesiv (Mat 26:28), or letting us go finally unpunished. But justification (which is the inseparable concomitant of forgiveness) is not merely negative, but carries in it more of positivity, and exalts us to an higher state of felicity, than mere pardon (was it possible to be conferred without justification) would do. It is God’s dikaiwsiv, or pronouncing of us positively and actually just: not only innocent, but righteous also. St. Bernard, somewhere, preserves this obvious and just distinction. – His words, I remember, are, that God istam validus ad justificandum quam multus ad ignoscendum: “No less mighty to justify, than rich in mercy to forgive.”

Now the great inquiry is, whether God be indeed entitled to the whole praise of this unspeakable gift? Whether we should, as justified persons, sing to the praise and glory of ourselves; or to the praise and glory of God alone?

The Bible will determine this question, in a moment; and show us, that Father, Son, and Spirit, are the sole authors, and, consequently, should receive the entire glory of our justification.

It is God [the Father] who justifieth (Rom 8:33); i. e. who accepts us unto eternal life; and that freely, by his grace (Rom 3:24), through the redemption which is in Christ, and through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, without works (Rom 4:6): i. e. without being moved to it by any consideration of the good works, and without being restrained from it by any consideration of the evil works, wrought by the person or persons to whom Christ’s righteousness is imputed, and who are pronounced just in consequence of that imputed righteousness.

Justification is also the act of God the Son, in concurrence with his Father. St. Paul expressly declares, that he sought to be justified by Christ (Gal 2:17). The second person in the divinity joins, as such, in accepting of his people, through that transferred merit, which, as man, he wrought for this very end. Now, let me ask you, did you assist Christ in paying the price of your redemption, and in accomplishing a series of perfect obedience, for your justification? If you did, you are entitled to a proportionable part of the praise.

But, if Christ both obeyed and died, and rose again, without your assistance, it invincibly follows, that you have no manner of claim to the least particle of that praise, which results from the benefits acquired and secured by his obedience, death, and resurrection. The benefits themselves are all your own, if he give you faith to embrace them; but the honour, the glory, and the thanks, you cannot arrogate to yourself, without the utmost impiety and sacrilege.

God the Holy Ghost unites in justifying the redeemed of the Lord. We are declaratively and evidentially, justified by the Spirit of our God (1Co 6:11): whose condescending and endearing office it is, to reveal a broken Saviour in the broken heart of a self-emptied sinner, and to shed abroad the justifying love of God in the human soul (Rom 5:5). Herein the adorable Spirit neither needs, nor receives, any assistance from the sinners he visits. His gracious influence is sovereign, free, and independent. We can no more command, or prohibit, his agency, than we can command, or forbid, the shining of the sun.

The conclusion from the whole is; that not our goodness, but God’s mercy; not our obedience, but Christ’s righteousness; not our towardliness, but the holy Spirit’s beneficence; are to be thanked, for the whole of our justification.

And it is no easy lesson, to say from the heart, Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us! Self-righteousness cleaves to us, as naturally, and as closely, as our skins: nor can any power, but that of an Almighty hand, flay us of it. I remember an instance, full to the point; and which I give, on the authority of a clergyman, now living, and eminent above many, for his labours and usefulness. This worthy person assured me, a year or two since, that he once visited a criminal, who was under sentence of death, for a capital offence (I think for murder). My friend endeavoured to set before him the evil he had done; and to convince him, that he was lost and ruined, unless Christ saved him by his blood, righteousness and grace. “I am not much concerned about that,” answered the self-righteous malefactor; “I have not, to be sure, led so good a life as some have; but I am certain, that many have gone to Tyburn, who were much worse men than myself.” So you see, a murderer may go to the gallows, trusting in his own righteousness! And you and I should have gone to hell, trusting in our own righteousness, if Christ had not stopped us by the way.

I dare believe, that the above-mentioned criminal, had the subject been started, would also have valued himself upon his free agency. Free agency, it is true, he had; and he was left to the power of it, and ruined himself accordingly. Free-will has carried many a man to Tyburn, and (it is to be feared) from Tyburn to hell: but it never yet carried a single soul to holiness and heaven. Oh Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; free-will can do that for us; but in me, says God, is thy help (Hos 13:9). His free grace must be our refuge and our shelter from our own free-will; or it were good for the best of us that we had never been born (b).

(b) I have heard, or read, concerning that excellent dignitary of the church of England, Mr. John Bradford (who was also burned for adhering to her doctrines), that, one day, on seeing a malefactor pass to execution, he laid his hand to his breast, and lifted his eyes to heaven, saying, “Take away the grace of God, and there goes John Bradford.”

The great and good St. Austin, long before, offered a similar acknowledgment to God. Semper gratia tua et misericordia tua praevenit me: – praecidensetiam ante me laqueos peccatorum; tollens occasiones et causas. Quia, nisi tu hoc mihi fecisses, omnia peccata mundi fecissem. Quoniam scio, Domine, quod nullum peccatum est, quod unquam fecerat homo, quod non possit facere, alter homo, si Creator desit, a quo factus est homo. – Soliloqu. Cap. xv. sect. 5.

So likewise thought the author (whose name I forget) of that tender and beautiful line:

Aut sumus, aut fuimus, vel possumus esse, quod hic est.

In one word, all the glory of our pardon and justification belongs to the Trinity, and not to man. It is one of God’s crown-jewels, unalienable from himself; and which he will never resign to, nor share with, any other being. It is impossible, in the very nature of things, that he ever should: for, how can any of depraved mankind be justified by works (and without being so justified, we can come in for no part of the praise); how, I say, can any of us be justified by our own doings, seeing we are utterly unable even to think a good thought (c), until God himself breathes it into our hearts?

(c) 2Co 3:5. – In perfect harmony with this most important truth, our church thus addresses the Majesty of heaven: O God, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works, do proceed. And, again; Grant, that, by thy holy inspiration, we may think those things that be good. – O free-will, free-will! at how low a rate wast thou estimated by the reformers and the ancient bishops of the church of England!

Suffer me to observe one thing more, under this article: viz. that, if God’s Spirit has stript you of your own righteousness, he has not stript you in order to leave you naked, but will clothe you with change of raiment (Zec 3:4). He will give you a robe for your rags; the righteousness of God, for the rotten righteousness of man. Rotten indeed we shall find it, if we make it a pillar of confidence. I will say of it, as Dr. Young says of the world, “Lean not upon it;” lean not on thy own righteousness; if leaned upon, “it will pierce thee to the heart: at best a broken reed; but oft a spear. On its sharp point, peace bleeds and hope expires.”

Self-reliance is the very bond of unbelief. It is essential infidelity, and one of its most deadly branches. You are an infidel, if you trust in your own righteousness. You a Christian? You a churchman? No; you have, in the sight of God, neither part nor lot in the matter. You are spiritually dead, while you pretend to live. Until you are indued with faith in Christ’s righteousness, your body, (as a great man expresses it) is no better than “the living coffin of a dead soul.” A Christian is a believer (not in himself, but) in Christ. And what is the language of a believer? Lord, I am, in myself, a poor, ruined, undone sinner. Through the hand of thy good Spirit upon me, I throw myself at the foot of thy cross; and look to thee for blood to wash me, for righteousness to justify me, for grace to make me holy, for comfort to make me happy, and for strength to keep me in thy ways.

5. For holiness, the inward principle of good works; and for good works, themselves, the outward evidences of inward holiness; we are obliged to the alone grace and power of God most high. We do not make him a debtor to us, by loving and performing his commandments; but we become, additionally, debtors to him, for crowning his other gifts of grace, by vouchsafing to work in us that which is well-pleasing in his sight (Heb 13:21).

Say not, “Upon this plan, sanctification is kicked out of doors, and good works are turned adrift.” Nothing can be more palpable and flagrantly untrue. Newness of heart and of life is so essential to, and constitutes so vast a part of, the evangelical scheme of salvation, that, were it possible for holiness and its moral fruits to be really struck out of the account, the chain would at once dissolve, and the whole fabric become an house of sand.

The Arminians have of late made a huge cry about “Antinomians! Antinomians!” From the abundance of experience, the mouth is apt to speak. The modern (f) Arminians see so much real Antinomianism among themselves, and in their own tents, that Antinomianism is become the predominant idea, and the favourite watch-word, of the party. Because they have got the plague, they think everybody else has. Because the leprosy is in their walls, they imagine no house is without it. Thus,

All looks infected, that th’ infected spy; As all seems yellow, to the jaundiced eye.

It is cunning, I must confess, in these people, to raise a dust, for their own defence; and, like some pick-pockets when closely pursued, to aim at slipping the stolen watch or handkerchief into the pocket of an innocent bye-stander, that the real sharper may elude the rod of justice. But unhappily for themselves, the Arminians are not complete masters of this art. The dust they raise, forms too thin a cloud to conceal them: and their bungling attempt, to shift off the charge of Antinomianism upon others, rivets the charge but more firmly on themselves it’s true proprietors. The avowed effrontery with which they openly trample on a certain commandment that says, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour; may stand as a sample of the little regard they pay to the other nine. Pretty people these, to look for justification from the “merit” of their own works, and to value themselves on their “perfect love to God and man!

(f) Let it be observed, that I do not, here, and in the following strictures, speak of all Arminians, without exception: but of such Arminians who come within a certain denomination; and who are no less eminent for their boisterous brawling about works, than (as I can prove from too many instances which have fallen under my own notice) for their practical adoption of bad ones.

With regard to sanctification and obedience, truly so called; it can only flow, and cannot but flow, from a new heart: which new heart is of God’s own making, and of God’s own giving. I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh; a soft, repenting, believing heart; and I will cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them (Eze 36:26-27). Now, God accomplishes this promise, by the effectual working of his blessed Spirit: by the mystic fire of whose agency having melted our hearts into penitential faith, he then applies to them the seal of his own holiness; from which time, we begin to bear the image and superscription of God upon our tempers, words, and actions.

This is our “licentious” doctrine: namely, a doctrine which (under the influence of the Holy Ghost) conforms the soul, more and more, to God: carefully referring, at the same time, all the praise of this active and passive conformity, to God himself, whose gift it is; singing, with the saints of old, Thou, Lord, hast wrought all our [good] works in us (Isa 26:12); and, for all the works so wrought, – for the will to please thee, for the endeavour to please thee, for the ability to please thee, and for every act whereby we do please thee. – Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give glory.

And, indeed, was not this the truth of the case, i. e. if conversion and sanctification and good works were not God’s gifts, and of his operation; men would have not only somewhat, but much, even very much, to boast of: for they would be their own converters, sanctifiers, and saviours. Directly contrary to the plain letter of scripture, which asks, Who maketh thee to differ from others, and what hast thou, which thou didst not receive (1Co 4:7) from above? Nor less contrary to the scriptural direction, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord (1Co 1:31).

6. Once more. Whom are we to thank for perseverance in holiness and good works to the end? “Oh,” says an old Pharisee, perhaps, “the thanks are due to my own watchfulness, my own faithfulness, my own industry, and my own improvements.” Your supposed watchfulness answers a very bad purpose, if you make a merit of it. The enemy of souls cares not the turning of a straw, whether you perish by open licentiousness, or by a delusive confidence in your own imaginary righteousness. It is all one to him, whether you go to hell in a black coat, or a white one. Nay, the whitest you can weave, will be found black, and a meresan benito to equip you for the flames if God does not array you in the imputed righteousness of his blessed Son.

But, for the present, leaving Pharisees and legalists to the hands of him who alone is able, and has a right to save or to destroy; let me address myself to the true believer in Christ. You were called, it may be ten or twenty years ago, or longer, to the knowledge of God; and you still are found, dwelling under the droppings of the sanctuary, and walking in him you have received; following on, to know more of the Lord; sometimes faint, yet always wishing to pursue; tossed, but not lost; occasionally cast down, but not destroyed. How comes all this? How is it, that many flaming professors, who blazed out for a while, like luminaries of the first lustre, are quenched, extinguished, vanished; while your smoking flax, and feeble spark of grace, continue to survive, and sometimes afford both light and heat? While more than a few, who perhaps once seemed to be rooted as rocks, and stable as pillars in the house of God, are become as water that runneth apace; why are you standing, though in yourself, as weak, if not weaker than they? A child of God can soon answer this question. And he will answer it thus: Having obtained help of God, I continue to this day (Act 26:22). Not by my own might and power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts (Zec 4:6).

And he that kept you until this day, will keep you all your days. His Spirit, which he freely gives to his people, is a well of water, springing up, not for a year, nor for a life-time only; but into everlasting life (Joh 4:14). God’s faithfulness to you is the source of your faithfulness to him. Christ prays for you; and therefore he keeps you watching unto prayer. He preserves you from falling; or, when fallen, he restores your soul, and leads you forth again in the path of righteousness, for his name’s sake. He has decreed, and covenanted, and promised, and sworn, to give you a crown of life; and, in order to that, he has no less solemnly engaged and irrevocably bound himself, to make you faithful unto death.

“Well, then,” says an Arminian, “if these things are so, I am safe at all events. I may fold up my arms, and even lay me down to sleep.

Or, if I choose to rise and be active, I may live just as I list.” Satan was the coiner of this reasoning; and he offered it, as current and sterling, to the Messiah; but Christ rejected it as false money. – If thou be the son of God, said the enemy; if thou be indeed that Messiah whom God upholds, and his elect, in whom his soul delighteth, cast thyself headlong; it is impossible thou shouldst perish, do what thou wilt; no fall can hurt thee; and thy father has absolutely promised, that his angels shall keep thee in all thy ways; jump therefore, boldly, from the battlements, and fear no evil.

The devil’s argumentation was equally insolent and absurd, in every point of view. He reasoned, not like a serpent in his wits, but like a serpent whose head was bruised (Gen 3:15),and who had no more of understanding than of modesty. Christ silenced this battery of straw, with a single sentence: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God (Mat 4:6-7). So said the Messiah. And so say we. And this is answer enough, to a cavil, whose palpable irrationality would cut its own throat, without the help of any answer at all.

God’s children would be very glad, if they could “live as they list.” How so? Because it is the will, the desire, the wish, of a renewed soul (i. e. of the new man, or the believer’s regenerate part; for old Adam never was a saint yet, nor ever will be); it is, I say, the will and the wish of a renewed soul, to please God in all things, and never to sin, on any occasion, or in any degree. This is the state, to which our pantings aspire; and in which (would the imperfection of human nature admit of such happiness below) we list” to walk. For every truly regenerated person can sincerely join the apostle Paul, in saying, With my mind I myself serve the law of God (Rom 7:25), and wish I could keep it better.

God’s preservation is the good man’s perseverance. He will keep the feet of his saints (1Sam 2:9). Arminianism represents God’s Spirit, as if he acted like the guard of a stage-coach, who sees the passengers safe out of town for a few miles; and then, making his bow, turns back, and leaves them to pursue the rest of the journey by themselves. But divine grace does not thus deal by God’s travellers. It accompanies them to their journey’s end, and without end. So that the meanest pilgrim to Zion may shout, with David, in full certainty of faith, Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all my days, and I shall dwelt in the house of the Lord for ever (Ps 23).

Therefore, for preserving grace, Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give the glory, for thy loving mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.

7. After God has led his people through the wilderness of life, and brought them to the edge of that river which lies between them and the heavenly Canaan, will he intermit his care of them, in that article of deepest need? No, blessed be his name. On the contrary, he (always safely; and, generally, comfortably) escorts them over to the other side; to that good land which is very far off, to that goodly mountain, and Lebanon.

I know there are some flaming Arminians who tell us, that “a man may persevere until he comes to die, and yet perish in almost the very article of death:” and they illustrate this wretched, God-dishonouring, and soul-shocking doctrine, by the simile of “a ship’s foundering in the harbour’s, mouth.”

It is very true, that some wooden vessels have so perished. But it is no less true, that all God’s chosen vessels are infallibly safe from so perishing. For, through his goodness, every one of them is insured by him whom the winds and seas, both literal and metaphorical obey. And their insurance runs this: When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and when through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee (Isa 43:2). The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion, with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads (Isa 35:10): so far from foundering within sight of land.

Even an earthly parent is particularly careful and tender of a dying child: and, surely, when God’s children are in that situation, he will (speaking after the manner of men) be doubly gracious to his helpless offspring, who are his by election, by adoption, by covenant, by redemption, by regeneration, and by a thousand other indissoluble ties.

There are no marks of shipwrecks, no remnants of lost vessels, floating upon that sea, which flows between God’s Jerusalem below and the Jerusalem which is above. The excellent Dr. William Gouge (x) has an observation full to the present point. “If a man,” says he, “were cast into a river, we should look upon him as safe, while he was able to keep his head above water. The church, Christ’s mystic body, is cast into the sea of the world [and, afterwards, into the sea of death]; and Christ, their head, keeps himself aloft, even in heaven. Is there then any fear, or possibility, of drowning a member of this body? If any should be drowned, then either Christ himself must be drowned first, or else that member must be pulled from Christ: both which are impossible. By virtue, therefore, of this union, we see that on Christ’s safety, ours depends. If he is safe, so are we. If we perish, so must he.”

(x) Exposition of Eph 5.

Well, therefore, may dying believers sing, Not unto us, O Lord, but to thy name, give glory! Thy loving mercy carries us, when we cannot go: and, for thy truth’s sake, thou wilt save us to the utmost without the loss of one.

8. When the emancipated soul is actually arrived in glory, what song will he sing then? The purport of the text will still be the language of the skies: Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give the praise.

Whilst we are upon earth, we have need of that remarkable caution, which Moses gave the children of Israel (y): Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the Lord thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, for my righteousness, the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess this land. . . . . Understand, therefore, that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land, to possess it, for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiff-necked people. Now, if the earthly Canaan, which was only a transitory inheritance, was unattainable by human merit; if even worldly possessions are not given us for our own righteousness’ sake; who shall dare to say, that heaven itself is the purchase of our own righteousness! If our works cannot merit even the vanishing conveniences and supplies of time: how is it possible, that we should be able to merit the endless riches of eternity? We shall (Deu 9:4, (&c.)) need no cautions against self-righteousness, when we get safe to that better country. The language of our hearts, and of our voices will be; and angels will join the concert; and all the elect, both angels and men, will, for ever and ever, strike their harps to this key; Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name, give the glory, for thy loving mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.

(y) I have been informed, that, when the news of John Goodwin’s death was brought to his uncle, Dr. Thomas Goodwin, the latter cried out, “Then there is another good man gone to heaven.” – “Gone to heaven, Sir?” answered the person; “why, your nephew was an Arminian.” – The Doctor replied, “True: he was an Arminian on earth; but he is not an Arminian now.”

Whether John Goodwin went to heaven, or not (which is a question too high for sublunary decision), certain it is, as I have already observed, that not one inhabitant of the celestial city ever carried a single particle of Arminianism with him into the gates of that Jerusalem. Of every Arminian now living, whose name is in the book of life, it may be truly said, that, if grace do not go so far as to make him a Calvinist on earth, glory (i. e. grace made perfect) will certainly stamp him a Calvinist, in the kingdom of God, at farthest.

O, may a sense of that loving mercy and truth be warmly and transformingly experienced in our hearts! for indeed, my dear brethren, it is experience, or the felt power of God upon the soul, which makes the gospel a savour of life unto life. Notwithstanding God’s purpose is stedfast as his throne; notwithstanding the whole of Christ’s righteousness and redemption is finished and complete, as a divine and almighty agent could make it; notwithstanding I am convinced, that God will always be faithful, to every soul whom he has called out of darkness into his marvellous light; and notwithstanding none can pluck the people of Christ from his hands; still, I am no less satisfied, that it must be the feeling sense of all this, i. e. a perception wrought in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, that will give you and me the comfort of the Father’s gracious decrees, and of the Messiah’s finished work.

I know it is growing very fashionable, to talk against spiritual feelings. But I dare not join the cry. On the contrary, I adopt the apostle’s prayer, that our love to God, and the manifestations of his love to us, may abound yet more and more, in knowledge and in all feeling (a). And it is no enthusiastic wish in behalf of you and of myself, that we may be of the number of those “godly persons,” who, as our church justly expresses it, “feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and drawing up their minds to high and heavenly things.” Indeed, the great business of God’s Spirit is to draw up and to bring down.

To draw up our affections to Christ, and to bring down the unsearchable riches of grace into our hearts. The knowledge of which, and earnest desire for it, are all the feelings I plead for. And, for these feelings, I wish ever to plead. Satisfied as I am, that, without some experience and enjoyments of them, we cannot be happy, living or dying.

(a) Phi 1:9. – The word aisqhsiv (rendered judgment in our English translation) literally and properly signifies feeling, or sensible perception. The apostle wished his Philippians, not only to love God, but to know that they loved him, and that he loved them; and to know it feelingly.

Let me ask you, as it were, one by one; has the holy Spirit began to reveal these deep things of God in your soul? If so, give him the glory of it. And, as you prize communion with him; as you value the comforts of the Holy Ghost; endeavour to be found in God’s way, even the high-way of humble faith and obedient love: sitting at the feet of Christ, and desirous to imbibe those sweet, ravishing, sanctifying, communications of grace, which are at once an earnest of, and a preparation for, complete heaven when you come to die. God forbid, that we should ever think lightly of religious feelings! for, if we do not in some degree feel ourselves sinners, and feel that Christ is precious; I doubt, the Spirit of God has never been savingly at work upon our souls.

Nay, so far from being at a stand in this, our desires after the feeling of God’s presence within, ought to enlarge continually, the nearer we draw to the end of our earthly pilgrimage: and resemble the progressive expansion of a river, which, however narrow and straightened when it first begins to flow, never fails to widen and increase, in proportion as it approaches the ocean into which it falls.

God give us a gracious spring-tide of his Spirit, to replenish our thirsty channels, to swell our scanty stream, and to quicken our languid course! If this is not our cry, it is a sign, either that the work of grace is not yet begun in us; or that it is indeed at low water, and discoloured with those dregs, which tend to dishonour God, to eclipse the glory of the gospel, and to spread clouds and darkness upon our souls.

Some Christians are like decayed mile-stones; which stand, it is true, in the right road, and bear some traces of the proper impression: but so wretchedly mutilated and defaced, that they who go by, can hardly read or know what to make of them. May the blessed Spirit of God cause all our hearts, this morning, to undergo a fresh impression; and indulge us with a new edition of our evidences for heaven! O may showers of blessing descend upon you from above! May you see that Christ, and the grace of God in him, are all in all! Whilst you are upon earth, may you ever ascribe the whole glory to him! And sure I am, that, when you come to heaven, you will never ascribe it to any other.

Matthew Henry (1662-1714): Galatians Chapters 1-3

Commentary on Galatians Chapters 1-3


Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

Copyright Public Domain

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Book Summary

An Exposition, with Practical Observations, of The Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians

This epistle of Paul is directed not to the church or churches of a single city, as some others are, but of a country or province, for so Galatia was. It is very probable that these Galatians were first converted to the Christian faith by his ministry; or, if he was not the instrument of planting, yet at least he had been employed in watering these churches, as is evident from this epistle itself, and also from Act_18:23, where we find him going over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples. While he was with them, they had expressed the greatest esteem and affection both for his person and ministry; but he had not been long absent from them before some judaizing teachers got in among them, by whose arts and insinuations they were soon drawn into a meaner opinion both of the one and of the other. That which these false teachers chiefly aimed at was to draw them off from the truth as it is in Jesus, particularly in the great doctrine of justification, which they grossly perverted, by asserting the necessity of joining the observance of the law of Moses with faith in Christ in order to it: and, the better to accomplish this their design, they did all they could to lessen the character and reputation of the apostle, and to raise up their own on the ruins of his, representing him as one who, if he was to be owned as an apostle, yet was much inferior to others, and particularly who deserved not such a regard as Peter, James, and John, whose followers, it is likely, they pretended to be: and in both these attempts they had but too great success. This was the occasion of his writing this epistle, wherein he expresses his great concern that they had suffered themselves to be so soon turned aside from the faith of the gospel, vindicates his own character and authority as an apostle against the aspersions of his enemies, showing that his mission and doctrine were both divine, and that he was not, upon any account, behind the very chief of the apostles, 2Co_11:5. He then sets himself to assert and maintain the great gospel doctrine of justification by faith without the works of the law, and to obviate some difficulties that might be apt to arise in their minds concerning it: and, having established this important doctrine, he exhorts them to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free, cautions them against the abuse of this liberty, gives them several very needful counsels and directions and then concludes the epistle by giving them a just description of those false teachers by whom they had been ensnared, and, on the contrary, of his own temper and behaviour. In all this his great scope and design were to recover those who had been perverted, to settle those who might be wavering, and to confirm such among them as had kept their integrity.


In this chapter, after the preface or introduction (Gal_1:1-5), the apostle severely reproves these churches for their defection from the faith (Gal_1:6-9), and then proves his own apostleship, which his enemies had brought them to question, I. From his end and design in preaching the gospel (Gal_1:10). II. From his having received it by immediate revelation (Gal_1:11, Gal_1:12). For the proof of which he acquaints them, 1. What his former conversation was (Gal_1:13, Gal_1:14). 2. How he was converted, and called to the apostleship (Gal_1:15, Gal_1:16). 3. How he behaved himself afterwards (Gal_1:16 to the end).



In these verses we have the preface or introduction to the epistle, where observe,

I. The person or persons from whom this epistle is sent – from Paul an apostle, etc., and all the brethren that were with him. 1. The epistle is sent from Paul; he only was the penman of it. And, because there were some among the Galatians who endeavoured to lessen his character and authority, in the front of it he gives a general account both of his office and of the manner in which he was called to it, which afterwards, in this and the following chapter, he enlarges more upon. As to his office, he was an apostle. He is not afraid to style himself so, though his enemies would scarcely allow him this title: and, to let them see that he did not assume this character without just ground, he acquaints them how he was called to this dignity and office, and assures them that his commission to it was wholly divine, for he was an apostle, not of man, neither by man; he had not the common call of an ordinary minister, but an extraordinary call from heaven to this office. He neither received his qualification for it, nor his designation to it, by the mediation of men, but had both the one and the other directly from above; for he was an apostle by Jesus Christ, he had his instructions and commission immediately from him, and consequently from God the Father, who was one with him in respect of his divine nature, and who had appointed him, as Mediator, to be the apostle and high priest of our profession, and as such to authorize others to this office. He adds, Who raised him from the dead, both to acquaint us that herein God the Father gave a public testimony to Christ’s being his Son and the promised Messiah, and also that, as his call to the apostleship was immediately from Christ, so it was after his resurrection from the dead, and when he had entered upon his exalted state; so that he had reason to look upon himself, not only as standing upon a level with the other apostles, but as in some sort preferred above them; for, whereas they were called by him when on earth, he had his call from him when in heaven. Thus does the apostle, being constrained to it by his adversaries, magnify his office, which shows that though men should by no means be proud of any authority they are possessed of, yet at certain times and upon certain occasions it may become needful to assert it. But, 2. He joins all the brethren that were with him in the inscription of the epistle, and writes in their name as well as his own. By the brethren that were with him may be understood either the Christians in common of that place where he now was, or such as were employed as ministers of the gospel. These, notwithstanding his own superior character and attainments, he is ready to own as his brethren; and, though he alone wrote the epistle, yet he joins them with himself in the inscription of it. Herein, as he shows his own great modesty and humility, and how remote he was from an assuming temper, so he might do this to dispose these churches to a greater regard to what he wrote, since hereby it would appear that he had their concurrence with him in the doctrine which he had preached, and was now about to confirm, and that it was no other than what was both published and professed by others as well as himself.

II. To whom this epistle is sent – to the churches of Galatia. There were several churches at that time in this country, and it should seem that all of them were more or less corrupted through the arts of those seducers who had crept in among them; and therefore Paul, on whom came daily the care of all the churches, being deeply affected with their state, and concerned for their recovery to the faith and establishment in it, writes this epistle to them. He directs it to all of them, as being all more or less concerned in the matter of it; and he gives them the name of churches, though they had done enough to forfeit it, for corrupt churches are never allowed to be churches: no doubt there were some among them who still continued in the faith, and he was not without hope that others might be recovered to it.

III. The apostolical benediction, Gal_1:3. Herein the apostle, and the brethren who were with him, wish these churches grace and peace from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the usual blessing wherewith he blesses the churches in the name of the Lord – grace and peace. Grace includes God’s good-will towards us and his good work upon us; and peace implies in it all that inward comfort, or outward prosperity, which is really needful for us; and they come from God the Father as the fountain, through Jesus Christ as the channel of conveyance. Both these the apostle wishes for these Christians. But we may observe, First grace, and then peace, for there can be no true peace without grace. Having mentioned the Lord Jesus Christ, he cannot pass without enlarging upon his love; and therefore adds (Gal_1:4), Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver, etc. Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins, as a great sacrifice to make atonement for us; this the justice of God required, and to this he freely submitted for our sakes. One great end hereof was to deliver us from this present evil world; not only to redeem us from the wrath of God, and the curse of the law, but also to recover us from the corruption that is in the world through lust, and to rescue us from the vicious practices and customs of it, unto which we are naturally enslaved; and possibly also to set us free from the Mosaic constitution, for so aiōn houtos is used, 1Co_2:6, 1Co_2:8. From this we may note, 1. This present world is an evil world: it has become so by the sin of man, and it is so on account of the sin and sorrow with which it abounds and the many snares and temptations to which we are exposed as long as we continue in it. But, 2. Jesus Christ has died to deliver us from this present evil world, not presently to remove his people out of it, but to rescue them from the power of it, to keep them from the evil of it, and in due time to possess them of another and better world. This, the apostle informs us, he has done according to the will of God and our Father. In offering up himself a sacrifice for this end and purpose, he acted by the appointment of the Father, as well as with his own free consent; and therefore we have the greatest reason to depend upon the efficacy and acceptableness of what he has done and suffered for us; yea, hence we have encouragement to look upon God as our Father, for thus the apostle here represents him: as he is the Father of our Lord Jesus, so in and through him he is also the Father of all true believers, as our blessed Saviour himself acquaints us (Joh_20:17), when he tells his disciples that he was ascending to his Father and their Father.

The apostle, having thus taken notice of the great love wherewith Christ hath loved us, concludes this preface with a solemn ascription of praise and glory to him (Gal_1:5): To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Intimating that on this account he is justly entitled to our highest esteem and regard. Or this doxology may be considered as referring both to God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom he had just before been wishing grace and peace. They are both the proper objects of our worship and adoration, and all honour and glory are perpetually due to them, both on account of their own infinite excellences, and also on account of the blessings we receive from them.


Here the apostle comes to the body of the epistle; and he begins it with a more general reproof of these churches for their unsteadiness in the faith, which he afterwards, in some following parts of it, enlarges more upon. Here we may observe,

I. How much he was concerned at their defection: I marvel, etc. It filled him at once with the greatest surprise and sorrow. Their sin and folly were that they did not hold fast the doctrine of Christianity as it had been preached to them, but suffered themselves to be removed from the purity and simplicity of it. And there were several things by which their defection was greatly aggravated; as, 1. That they were removed from him that had called them; not only from the apostle, who had been the instrument of calling them into the fellowship of the gospel, but from God himself, by whose order and direction the gospel was preached to them, and they were invited to a participation of the privileges of it: so that herein they had been guilty of a great abuse of his kindness and mercy towards them. 2. That they had been called into the grace of Christ. As the gospel which had been preached to them was the most glorious discovery of divine grace and mercy in Christ Jesus; so thereby they had been called to partake of the greatest blessings and benefits, such as justification, and reconciliation with God here, and eternal life and happiness hereafter. These our Lord Jesus has purchased for us at the expense of his precious blood, and freely bestows upon all who sincerely accept of him: and therefore, in proportion to the greatness of the privilege they enjoyed, such were their sin and folly in deserting it and suffering themselves to be drawn off from the established way of obtaining these blessings. 3. That they were so soon removed. In a very little time they lost that relish and esteem of this grace of Christ which they seemed to have, and too easily fell in with those who taught justification by the works of the law, as many did, who had been bred up in the opinions and notions of the Pharisees, which they mingled with the doctrine of Christ, and so corrupted it; and this, as it was an instance of their weakness, so it was a further aggravation of their guilt. 4. That they were removed to another gospel, which yet was not another. Thus the apostle represents the doctrine of these judaizing teachers; he calls it another gospel, because it opened a different way of justification and salvation from that which was revealed in the gospel, namely, by works, and not by faith in Christ. And yet he adds, “Which is not another – you will find it to be no gospel at all – not really another gospel, but the perverting of the gospel of Christ, and the overturning of the foundations of that” – whereby he intimates that those who go about to establish any other way to heaven than what the gospel of Christ has revealed are guilty of a gross perversion of it, and in the issue will find themselves wretchedly mistaken. Thus the apostle endeavours to impress upon these Galatians a due sense of their guilt in forsaking the gospel way of justification; and yet at the same time he tempers his reproof with mildness and tenderness towards them, and represents them as rather drawn into it by the arts and industry of some that troubled them than as coming into it of their own accord, which, though it did not excuse them, yet was some extenuation of their fault. And hereby he teaches us that, in reproving others, as we should be faithful, so we should also be gentle, and endeavour to restore them in the spirit of meekness, Gal_6:1.

II. How confident he was that the gospel he had preached to them was the only true gospel. He was so fully persuaded of this that he pronounced an anathema upon those who pretended to preach any other gospel (Gal_1:8), and, to let them see that this did not proceed from any rashness or intemperate zeal in him, he repeated it, Gal_1:9. This will not justify our thundering out anathemas against those who differ from us in minor things. It is only against those who forge a new gospel, who overturn the foundation of the covenant of grace, by setting up the works of the law in the place of Christ’s righteousness, and corrupting Christianity with Judaism, that Paul denounces this. He puts the case: “Suppose we should preach any other gospel; nay, suppose an angel from heaven should:” not as if it were possible for an angel from heaven to be the messenger of a lie; but it is expressed so the more to strengthen what he was about to say. “If you have any other gospel preached to you by any other person, under our name, or under colour of having it from an angel himself, you must conclude that you are imposed upon: and whoever preaches another gospel lays himself under a curse, and is in danger of laying you under it too.”


What Paul had said more generally, in the preface of this epistle, he now proceeds more particularly to enlarge upon. There he had declared himself to be an apostle of Christ; and here he comes more directly to support his claim to that character and office. There were some in the churches of Galatia who were prevailed with to call this in question; for those who preached up the ceremonial law did all they could to lessen Paul’s reputation, who preached the pure gospel of Christ to the Gentiles: and therefore he here sets himself to prove the divinity both of his mission and doctrine, that thereby he might wipe off the aspersions which his enemies had cast upon him, and recover these Christians into a better opinion of the gospel he had preached to them. This he gives sufficient evidence of,

I. From the scope and design of his ministry, which was not to persuade men, but God, etc. The meaning of this may be either that in his preaching the gospel he did not act in obedience to men, but God, who had called him to this work and office; or that his aim therein was to bring persons to the obedience, not of men, but of God. As he professed to act by a commission from God; so that which he chiefly aimed at was to promote his glory, by recovering sinners into a state of subjection to him. And as this was the great end he was pursuing, so, agreeably hereunto, he did not seek to please men. He did not, in his doctrine, accommodate himself to the humours of persons, either to gain their affection or to avoid their resentment; but his great care was to approve himself to God. The judaizing teachers, by whom these churches were corrupted, had discovered a very different temper; they mixed works with faith, and the law with the gospel, only to please the Jews, whom they were willing to court and keep in with, that they might escape persecution. But Paul was a man of another spirit; he was not so solicitous to please them, nor to mitigate their rage against him, as to alter the doctrine of Christ either to gain their favour or to avoid their fury. And he gives this very good reason for it, that, if he yet pleased men, he would not be the servant of Christ. These he knew were utterly inconsistent, and that no man could serve two such masters; and therefore, though he would not needlessly displease any, yet he dared not allow himself to gratify men at the expense of his faithfulness to Christ. Thus, from the sincerity of his aims and intentions in the discharge of his office, he proves that he was truly an apostle of Christ. And from this his temper and behaviour we may note, 1. That the great end which ministers of the gospel should aim at is to bring men to God. 2. That those who are faithful will not seek to please men, but to approve themselves to God. 3. That they must not be solicitous to please men, if they would approve themselves faithful servants to Christ. But, if this argument should not be thought sufficient, he goes on to prove his apostleship,

II. From the manner wherein he received the gospel which he preached to them, concerning which he assures them (Gal_1:11, Gal_1:12) that he had it not by information from others, but by revelation from heaven. One thing peculiar in the character of an apostle was that he had been called to, and instructed for, this office immediately by Christ himself. And in this he here shows that he was by no means defective, whatever his enemies might suggest to the contrary. Ordinary ministers, as they receive their call to preach the gospel by the mediation of others, so it is by means of the instruction and assistance of others that they are brought to the knowledge of it. But Paul acquaints them that he had his knowledge of the gospel, as well as his authority to preach it, directly from the Lord Jesus: the gospel which he preached was not after man; he neither received it of man, nor was he taught it by man, but by immediate inspiration, or revelation from Christ himself. This he was concerned to make out, to prove himself an apostle: and to this purpose,

1. He tells them what his education was, and what, accordingly, his conversation in time past had been, Gal_1:13, Gal_1:14. Particularly, he acquaints them that he had been brought up in the Jewish religion, and that he had profited in it above many his equals of his own nation – that he had been exceedingly zealous of the traditions of the elders, such doctrines and customs as had been invented by their fathers, and conveyed down from one generation to another; yea, to such a degree that, in his zeal for them, he had beyond measure persecuted the church of God, and wasted it. He had not only been a rejecter of the Christian religion, notwithstanding the many evident proofs that were given of its divine origin; but he had been a persecutor of it too, and had applied himself with the utmost violence and rage to destroy the professors of it. This Paul often takes notice of, for the magnifying of that free and rich grace which had wrought so wonderful a change in him, whereby of so great a sinner he was made a sincere penitent, and from a persecutor had become an apostle. And it was very fit to mention it here; for it would hence appear that he was not led to Christianity, as many others are, purely by education, since he had been bred up in an enmity and opposition to it; and they might reasonably suppose that it must be something very extraordinary which had made so great a change in him, which had conquered the prejudices of his education, and brought him not only to profess, but to preach, that doctrine, which he had before so vehemently opposed.

2. In how wonderful a manner he was turned from the error of his ways, brought to the knowledge and faith of Christ, and appointed to the office of an apostle, Gal_1:15, Gal_1:16. This was not done in an ordinary way, nor by ordinary means, but in an extraordinary manner; for, (1.) God had separated him hereunto from his mother’s womb: the change that was wrought in him was in pursuance of a divine purpose concerning him, whereby he was appointed to be a Christian and an apostle, before he came into the world, or had done either good or evil. (2.) he was called by his grace. All who are savingly converted are called by the grace of God; their conversion is the effect of his good pleasure concerning them, and is effected by his power and grace in them. But there was something peculiar in the case of Paul, both in the suddenness and in the greatness of the change wrought in him, and also in the manner wherein it was effected, which was not by the mediation of others, as the instruments of it, but by Christ’s personal appearance to him, and immediate operation upon him, whereby it was rendered a more special and extraordinary instance of divine power and favour. (3.) He had Christ revealed in him. He was not only revealed to him, but in him. It will but little avail us to have Christ revealed to us if he is not also revealed in us; but this was not the case of Paul. It pleased God to reveal his Son in him, to bring him to the knowledge of Christ and his gospel by special and immediate revelation. And, (4.) It was with this design, that he should preach him among the heathen; not only that he should embrace him himself, but preach him to others; so that he was both a Christian and an apostle by revelation.

3. He acquaints them how he behaved himself hereupon, from Gal_1:16, to the end. Being thus called to his work and office, he conferred not with flesh and blood. This may be taken more generally, and so we may learn from it that, when God calls us by his grace, we must not consult flesh and blood. But the meaning of it here is that he did not consult men; he did not apply to any others for their advice and direction; neither did he go up to Jerusalem, to those that were apostles before him, as though he needed to be approved by them, or to receive any further instructions or authority from them: but, instead of that, he steered another course, and went into Arabia, either as a place of retirement proper for receiving further divine revelations, or in order to preach the gospel there among the Gentiles, being appointed to be the apostle of the Gentiles; and thence he returned again to Damascus, where he had first begun his ministry, and whence he had with difficulty escaped the rage of his enemies, Acts 9. It was not till three years after his conversion that he went up to Jerusalem, to see Peter; and when he did so he made but a very short stay with him, no more than fifteen days; nor, while he was there, did he go much into conversation; for others of the apostles he saw none, but James, the Lord’s brother. So that it could not well be pretended that he was indebted to any other either for his knowledge of the gospel or his authority to preach it; but it appeared that both his qualifications for, and his call to, the apostolic office were extraordinary and divine. This account being of importance, to establish his claim to this office, to remove the unjust censures of his adversaries, and to recover the Galatians from the impressions they had received to his prejudice, he confirms it by a solemn oath (Gal_1:20), declaring, as in the presence of God, that what he had said was strictly true, and that he had not in the least falsified in what he had related, which, though it will not justify us in solemn appeals to God upon every occasion, yet shows that, in matters of weight and moment, this may sometimes not only be lawful, but duty. After this he acquaints them that he came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia: having made this short visit to Peter, he returns to his work again. He had no communication at that time with the churches of Christ in Judea, they had not so much as seen his face; but, having heard that he who persecuted them in times past now preached the faith which he once destroyed, they glorified God because of him; thanksgivings were rendered by many unto God on that behalf; the very report of this mighty change in him, as it filled them with joy, so it excited them to give glory to God on the account of it.


The apostle, in this chapter, continues the relation of his past life and conduct, which he had begun in the former; and, by some further instances of what had passed between him and the other apostles, makes it appear that he was not beholden to them either for his knowledge of the gospel or his authority as an apostle, as his adversaries would insinuate; but, on the contrary, that he was owned and approved even by them, as having an equal commission with them to this office. I. He particularly informs them of another journey which he took to Jerusalem many years after the former, and how he behaved himself at that time (Gal_2:1-10). And, II. Gives them an account of another interview he had with the apostle Peter at Antioch, and how he was obliged to behave himself towards him there. From the subject-matter of that conversation, he proceeds to discourse on the great doctrine of justification by faith in Christ, without the works of the law, which it was the main design of this epistle to establish, and which he enlarges more upon in the two following chapters.



It should seem, by the account Paul gives of himself in this chapter, that, from the very first preaching and planting of Christianity, there was a difference of apprehension between those Christians who had first been Jews and those who had first been Gentiles. Many of those who had first been Jews retained a regard to the ceremonial law, and strove to keep up the reputation of that; but those who had first been Gentiles had no regard to the law of Moses, but took pure Christianity as perfective of natural religion, and resolved to adhere to that. Peter was the apostle to them; and the ceremonial law, though dead with Christ, yet not being as yet buried, he connived at the respect kept up for it. But Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles; and, though he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, yet he adhered to pure Christianity. Now in this chapter he tells us what passed between him and the other apostles, and particularly between him and Peter hereupon.

In these verses he informs us of another journey which he took to Jerusalem, and of what passed between him and the other apostles there, Gal_2:1-10. Here he acquaints us,

I. With some circumstances relating to this his journey thither. As particularly, 1. With the time of it: that it was not till fourteen years after the former (mentioned Gal_1:18), or, as others choose to understand it, from his conversion, or from the death of Christ. It was an instance of the great goodness of God that so useful a person was for so many years preserved in his work. And it was some evidence that he had no dependence upon the other apostles, but had an equal authority with them, that he had been so long absent from them, and was all the while employed in preaching and propagating pure Christianity, without being called into question by them for it, which it may be thought he would have been, had he been inferior to them, and his doctrine disapproved by them. 2. With his companions in it: he went up with Barnabas, and took with him Titus also. If the journey here spoken of was the same with that recorded Acts 15 (as many think), then we have a plain reason why Barnabas went along with him; for he was chosen by the Christians at Antioch to be his companion and associate in the affair he went about. But, as it does not appear that Titus was put into the same commission with him, so the chief reason of his taking him along with him seems to have been to let those at Jerusalem see that he was neither ashamed nor afraid to own the doctrine which he had constantly preached; for though Titus had now become not only a convert to the Christian faith, but a preacher of it too, yet he was by birth a Gentile and uncircumcised, and therefore, by making him his companion, it appeared that their doctrine and practice were of a piece, and that as he had preached the non-necessity of circumcision, and observing the law of Moses, so he was ready to own and converse with those who were uncircumcised. 3. With the reason of it, which was a divine revelation he had concerning it: he went up be revelation; not of his own head, much less as being summoned to appear there, but by special order and direction from Heaven. It was a privilege with which this apostle was often favoured to be under a special divine direction in his motions and undertakings; and, though this is what we have no reason to expect, yet it should teach us, in every thing of moment we go about, to endeavour, as far as we are capable, to see our way made plain before us, and to commit ourselves to the guidance of Providence.

II. He gives us an account of his behaviour while he was at Jerusalem, which was such as made it appear that he was not in the least inferior to the other apostles, but that both his authority and qualifications were every way equal to theirs. He particularly acquaints us,

1. That he there communicated the gospel to them, which he preached among the Gentiles, but privately, etc. Here we may observe both the faithfulness and prudence of our great apostle. (1.) His faithfulness in giving them a free and fair account of the doctrine which he had all along preached among the Gentiles, and was still resolved to preach – that of pure Christianity, free from all mixtures of Judaism. This he knew was a doctrine that would be ungrateful to many there, and yet he was not afraid to own it, but in a free and friendly manner lays it open before them and leaves them to judge whether or no it was not the true gospel of Christ. And yet, (2.) He uses prudence and caution herein, for fear of giving offence. He chooses rather to do it in a more private than in a public way, and to those that were of reputation, that is, to the apostles themselves, or to the chief among the Jewish Christians, rather than more openly and promiscuously to all, because, when he came to Jerusalem, there were multitudes that believed, and yet continued zealous for the law, Act_21:20. And the reason of this his caution was lest he should run, or had run, in vain, lest he should stir up opposition against himself and thereby either the success of his past labours should be lessened, or his future usefulness be obstructed; for nothing more hinders the progress of the gospel than differences of opinion about the doctrines of it, especially when they occasion quarrels and contentions among the professors of it, as they too usually do. It was enough to his purpose to have his doctrine owned by those who were of greatest authority, whether it was approved by others or not. And therefore, to avoid offence, he judges it safest to communicate it privately to them, and not in public to the whole church. This conduct of the apostle may teach all, and especially ministers, how much need they have of prudence, and how careful they should be to use it upon all occasions, as far as is consistent with their faithfulness.

2. That in his practice he firmly adhered to the doctrine which he had preached. Paul was a man of resolution, and would adhere to his principles; and therefore, though he had Titus with him, who was a Greek, yet he would not suffer him to be circumcised, because he would not betray the doctrine of Christ, as he had preached it to the Gentiles. It does not appear that the apostles at all insisted upon this; for, though they connived at the use of circumcision among the Jewish converts, yet they were not for imposing it upon the Gentiles. But there were others who did, whom the apostle here calls false brethren, and concerning whom he informs us that they were unawares brought in, that is, into the church, or into their company, and that they came only to spy out their liberty which they had in Christ Jesus, or to see whether Paul would stand up in defence of that freedom from the ceremonial law which he had taught as the doctrine of the gospel, and represented as the privilege of those who embraced the Christian religion. Their design herein was to bring them into bondage, which they would have effected could they have gained the point they aimed at; for, had they prevailed with Paul and the other apostles to have circumcised Titus, they would easily have imposed circumcision upon other Gentiles, and so have brought them under the bondage of the law of Moses. But Paul, seeing their design, would by no means yield to them; he would not give place by subjection, no, not for an hour, not in this one single instance; and the reason of it was that the truth of the gospel might continue with them – that the Gentile Christians, and particularly the Galatians, might have it preserved to them pure and entire, and not corrupted with the mixtures of Judaism, as it would have been had he yielded in this matter. Circumcision was at that time a thing indifferent, and what in some cases might be complied with without sin; and accordingly we find even Paul himself sometimes giving way to it, as in the case of Timothy, Act_16:3. But when it is insisted on as necessary, and his consenting to it, though only in a single instance, is likely to be improved as giving countenance to such an imposition, he has too great a concern for the purity and liberty of the gospel, to submit to it; he would not yield to those who were for the Mosaic rites and ceremonies, but would stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, which conduct of his may give us occasion to observe that what under some circumstances may lawfully be complied with, yet, when that cannot be done without betraying the truth, or giving up the liberty, of the gospel, it ought to be refused.

3. That, though he conversed with the other apostles, yet he did not receive any addition to his knowledge or authority from them, Gal_2:6. By those who seemed to be somewhat he means the other apostles, particularly James, Peter, and John, whom he afterwards mentions by name, Gal_2:9. And concerning these he grants that they were deservedly had in reputation by all, that they were looked upon (and justly too) as pillars of the church, who were set not only for its ornament, but for its support, and that on some accounts they might seem to have the advantage of him, in that they had seen Christ in the flesh, which he had not, and were apostles before him, yea, even while he continued a persecutor. But yet, whatever they were, it was no matter to him. This was no prejudice to his being equally an apostle with them; for God does not accept the persons of men on the account of any such outward advantages. As he had called them to this office, so he was at liberty to qualify others for it, and to employ them in it. And it was evident in this case that he had done so; for in conference they added nothing to him, they told him nothing but what he before knew by revelation, nor could they except against the doctrine which he communicated to them, whence it appeared that he was not at all inferior to them, but was as much called and qualified to be an apostle as they themselves were.

4. That the issue of this conversation was that the other apostles were fully convinced of his divine mission and authority, and accordingly acknowledged him as their fellow-apostle,

Gal_2:7-10. They were not only satisfied with his doctrine, but they saw a divine power attending him, both in preaching it and in working miracles for the confirmation of it: that he who wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in him towards the Gentiles. And hence they justly concluded that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed to Paul, as the gospel of the circumcision was to Peter. And therefore, perceiving the grace that was given to him (that he was designed to the honour and office of an apostle as well as themselves) they gave unto him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, a symbol whereby they acknowledged their equality with them, and agreed that these should go to the heathen, while they continued to preach to the circumcision, as judging it most agreeable to the mind of Christ, and most conducive to the interest of Christianity, so to divide their work. And thus this meeting ended in an entire harmony and agreement; they approved both Paul’s doctrine and conduct, they were fully satisfied in him, heartily embraced him as an apostle of Christ, and had nothing further to add, only that they would remember the poor, which of his own accord he was very forward to do. The Christians of Judea were at that time labouring under great wants and difficulties; and the apostles, out of their compassion to them and concern for them, recommend their case to Paul, that he should use his interest with the Gentile churches to procure a supply for them. This was a reasonable request; for, if the Gentiles were made partakers of their spiritual things, it was their duty to minister to them in carnal things, as Rom_15:27. And he very readily falls in with it, whereby he showed his charitable and catholic disposition, how ready he was to own the Jewish converts as brethren, though many of them could scarcely allow the like favour to the converted Gentiles, and that mere difference of opinion was no reason with him why he should not endeavour to relieve and help them. Herein he has given us an excellent pattern of Christian charity, and has taught us that we should by no means confine it to those who are just of the same sentiments with us, but be ready to extend it to all whom we have reason to look upon as the disciples of Christ.


I. From the account which Paul gives of what passed between him and the other apostles at Jerusalem, the Galatians might easily discern both the falseness of what his enemies had insinuated against him and their own folly and weakness in departing from that gospel which he had preached to them. But to give the greater weight to what he had already said, and more fully to fortify them against the insinuations of the judaizing teachers, he acquaints them with another interview which he had with the apostle Peter at Antioch, and what passed between them there, Gal_2:11-14. Antioch was one of the chief churches of the Gentile Christians, as Jerusalem was of those Christians who turned from Judaism to the faith of Christ. There is no colour of reason for the supposition that Peter was bishop of Antioch. If he had, surely Paul would not have withstood him in his own church, as we here find he did; but, on the contrary, it is here spoken of as an occasional visit which he made thither. In their other meeting, there had been good harmony and agreement. Peter and the other apostles had both acknowledged Paul’s commission and approved his doctrine, and they parted very good friends. But in this Paul finds himself obliged to oppose Peter, for he was to be blamed, a plain evidence that he was not inferior to him, and consequently of the weakness of the pope’s pretence to supremacy and infallibility, as the successor of Peter. Here we may observe,

1. Peter’s fault. When he came among the Gentile churches, he complied with them, and did eat with them, though they were not circumcised, agreeably to the instructions which were given in particular to him (Acts 10), when he was warned by the heavenly vision to call nothing common or unclean. But, when there came some Jewish Christians from Jerusalem, he grew more shy of the Gentiles, only to humour those of the circumcision and for fear of giving them offence, which doubtless was to the great grief and discouragement of the Gentile churches. Then he withdrew, and separated himself. His fault herein had a bad influence upon others, for the other Jews also dissembled with him; though before they might be better disposed, yet now, from his example, they took on them to scruple eating with the Gentiles, and pretended they could not in conscience do it, because they were not circumcised. And (would you think it?) Barnabas himself, one of the apostles of the Gentiles, and one who had been instrumental in planting and watering the churches of the Gentiles, was carried away with their dissimulation. Here note, (1.) The weakness and inconstancy of the best of men, when left to themselves, and how apt they are to falter in their duty to God, out of an undue regard to the pleasing of men. And, (2.) The great force of bad examples, especially the examples of great men and good men, such as are in reputation for wisdom and honour.

2. The rebuke which Paul gave him for his fault. Notwithstanding Peter’s character, yet, when he observes him thus behaving himself to the great prejudice both of the truth of the gospel and the peace of the church, he is not afraid to reprove him for it. Paul adhered resolutely to his principles, when others faltered in theirs; he was as good a Jew as any of them (for he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews), but he would magnify his office as the apostle of the Gentiles, and therefore would not see them discouraged and trampled upon. When he saw that they walked not uprightly, according to the truth of the gospel – that they did not live up to that principle which the gospel taught, and which they had professed to own and embrace, namely, that by the death of Christ the partition-wall between Jew and Gentile was taken down, and the observance of the law of Moses was no longer in force – when he observed this, as Peter’s offence was public, so he publicly reproved him for it: He said unto him before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? Herein one part of his conduct was a contradiction to the other; for if he, who was a Jew, could himself sometimes dispense with the use of the ceremonial law, and live after the manner of the Gentiles, this showed that he did not look upon the observance of it as still necessary, even for the Jews themselves; and therefore that he could not, consistently with his own practice, impose it upon the Gentile Christians. And yet Paul charges him with this, yea, represents him as compelling the Gentiles to live as did the Jews – not by open force and violence, but this was the tendency of what he did; for it was in effect to signify this, that the Gentiles must comply with the Jews, or else not be admitted into Christian communion.

II. Paul having thus established his character and office, and sufficiently shown that he was not inferior to any of the apostles, no, not to Peter himself, from the account of the reproof he gave him he takes occasion to speak of that great fundamental doctrine of the gospel – That justification is only by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law (though some think that all he says to the end of the chapter is what he said to Peter at Antioch), which doctrine condemned Peter for his symbolizing with the Jews. For, if it was the principle of his religion that the gospel is the instrument of our justification and not the law, then he did very ill in countenancing those who kept up the law, and were for mixing it with faith in the business of our justification. This was the doctrine which Paul had preached among the Galatians, to which he still adhered, and which it is his great business in this epistle to mention and confirm. Now concerning this Paul acquaints us,

1. With the practice of the Jewish Christians themselves: “We,” says he, “who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles (even we who have been born and bred in the Jewish religion, and not among the impure Gentiles), knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we ourselves have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law. And, if we have thought it necessary to seek justification by the faith of Christ, why then should we hamper ourselves with the law? What did we believe in Christ for? Was it not that we might be justified by the faith of Christ? And, if so, is it not folly to go back to the law, and to expect to be justified either by the merit of moral works or the influence of any ceremonial sacrifices or purifications? And if it would be wrong in us who are Jews by nature to return to the law, and expect justification by it, would it not be much more so to require this of the Gentiles, who were never subject to it, since by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified?” To give the greater weight to this he adds (Gal_2:17), “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ the minister of sin? If, while we seek justification by Christ alone, and teach others to do so, we ourselves are found giving countenance or indulgence to sin, or rather are accounted sinners of the Gentiles, and such as it is not fit to have communion with, unless we also observe the law of Moses, is Christ the minister of sin? Will it not follow that he is so, if he engage us to receive a doctrine that gives liberty to sin, or by which we are so far from being justified that we remain impure sinners, and unfit to be conversed with?” This, he intimates, would be the consequence, but he rejects it with abhorrence: “God forbid,” says he, “that we should entertain such a thought of Christ, or of his doctrine, that thereby he should direct us into a way of justification that is defective and ineffectual, and leave those who embrace it still unjustified, or that would give the least encouragement to sin and sinners.” This would be very dishonourable to Christ, and it would be very injurious to them also. “For,” says he (Gal_2:18), “if I build again the things which I destroyed – if I (or any other), who have taught that the observance of the Mosaic law is not necessary to justification, should now, by word or practice, teach or intimate that it is necessary – I make myself a transgressor; I own myself to be still an impure sinner, and to remain under the guilt of sin, notwithstanding my faith in Christ; or I shall be liable to be charged with deceit and prevarication, and acting inconsistently with myself.” Thus does the apostle argue for the great doctrine of justification by faith without the works of the law from the principles and practice of the Jewish Christians themselves, and from the consequences that would attend their departure from it, whence it appeared that Peter and the other Jews were much in the wrong in refusing to communicate with the Gentile Christians, and endeavouring to bring them under the bondage of the law.

2. He acquaints us what his own judgment and practice were. (1.) That he was dead to the law. Whatever account others might make of it, yet, for his part, he was dead to it. He knew that the moral law denounced a curse against all that continue not in all things written therein, to do them; and therefore he was dead to it, as to all hope of justification and salvation that way. And as for the ceremonial law, he also knew that it was now antiquated and superseded by the coming of Christ, and therefore, the substance having come, he had no longer any regard to the shadow. He was thus dead to the law, through the law itself; it discovered itself to be at an end. By considering the law itself, he saw that justification was not to be expected by the works of it (since none could perform a perfect obedience to it) and that there was now no further need of the sacrifices and purifications of it, since they were done away in Christ, and a period was put to them by his offering up himself a sacrifice for us; and therefore, the more he looked into it the more he saw that there was no occasion for keeping up that regard to it which the Jews pleaded for. But, though he was thus

dead to the law, yet he did not look upon himself as with law. He had renounced all hopes of justification by the works of it, and was unwilling any longer to continue under the bondage of it; but he was far from thinking himself discharged from his duty to God; on the contrary, he was dead to the law, that he might live unto God. The doctrine of the gospel, which he had embraced, instead of weakening the bond of duty upon him, did but the more strengthen and confirm it; and therefore, though he was dead to the law, yet it was only in order to his living a new and better life to God (as Rom_7:4, Rom_7:6), such a life as would be more agreeable and acceptable to God than his observance of the Mosaic law could now be, that is, a life of faith in Christ, and, under the influence thereof, of holiness and righteousness towards God. Agreeably hereunto he acquaints us, (2.) That, as he was dead to the law, so he was alive unto God through Jesus Christ (Gal_2:20): I am crucified with Christ, etc. And here in his own person he gives us an excellent description of the mysterious life of a believer. [1.] He is crucified, and yet he lives; the old man is crucified (Rom_6:6), but the new man is living; he is dead to the world, and dead to the law, and yet alive to God and Christ; sin is mortified, and grace quickened. [2.] He lives, and yet not he. This is strange: I live, and yet not I; he lives in the exercise of grace; he has the comforts and the triumphs of grace; and yet that grace is not from himself, but from another. Believers see themselves living in a state of dependence. [3.] He is crucified with Christ, and yet Christ lives in him; this results from his mystical union with Christ, by means of which he is interested in the death of Christ, so as by virtue of that to die unto sin; and yet interested in the life of Christ, so as by virtue of that to live unto God. [4.] He lives in the flesh, and yet lives by faith; to outward appearance he lives as other people do, his natural life is supported as others are; yet he has a higher and nobler principle that supports and actuates him, that of faith in Christ, and especially as eyeing the wonders of his love in giving himself for him. Hence it is that, though he lives in the flesh, yet he does not live after the flesh. Note, Those who have true faith live by that faith; and the great thing which faith fastens upon is Christ’s loving us and giving himself for us. The great evidence of Christ’s loving us is his giving himself for us; and this is that which we are chiefly concerned to mix faith with, in order to our living to him.

Lastly, The apostle concludes this discourse with acquainting us that by the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ, without the works of the law (which he asserted, and others opposed), he avoided two great difficulties, which the contrary opinion was loaded with: – 1. That he did not frustrate the grace of God, which the doctrine of the justification by the works of the law did; for, as he argues (Rom_11:6), If it be of works, it is no more of grace. 2. That he did not frustrate the death of Christ; whereas, if righteousness come by the law, then it must follow that Christ has died in vain; for, if we look for salvation by the law of Moses, then we render the death of Christ needless: for to what purpose should he be appointed to die, if we might have been saved without it?


The apostle in this chapter, I. Reproves the Galatians for their folly, in suffering themselves to be drawn away from the faith of the gospel, and endeavours, from several considerations, to impress them with a sense of it. II. He proves the doctrine which he had reproved them for departing from – that of justification by faith without the works of the law, 1. From the example of Abraham’s justification. 2. From the nature and tenour of the law. 3. From the express testimony of the Old Testament; and, 4. From the stability of the covenant of God with Abraham. Lest any should hereupon say, “Wherefore then serveth the law?” he answers, (1.) It was added because of transgressions. (2.) It was given to convince the world of the necessity of a Saviour. (3.) It was designed as a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ. And then he concludes the chapter by acquainting us with the privilege of Christians under the gospel state.


Galatians 3:1-5

The apostle is here dealing with those who, having embraced the faith of Christ, still continued to seek for justification by the works of the law; that is, who depended upon their own obedience to the moral precepts as their righteousness before God, and, wherein that was defective, had recourse to the legal sacrifices and purifications to make it up. These he first sharply reproves, and then endeavours, by the evidence of truth, to convince them. This is the right method, when we reprove any for a fault or an error, to convince them that it is an error, that it is a fault.

He reproves them, and the reproof is very close and warm: he calls them foolish Galatians, Gal_3:1. Though as Christians they were Wisdom’s children, yet as corrupt Christians they were foolish children. Yea, he asks, Who hath bewitched you? whereby he represents them as enchanted by the arts and snares of their seducing teachers, and so far deluded as to act very unlike themselves. That wherein their folly and infatuation appeared was that they did not obey the truth; that is, they did not adhere to the gospel way of justification, wherein they had been taught, and which they had professed to embrace. Note, It is not enough to know the truth, and to say we believe it, but we must obey it too; we must heartily submit to it, and stedfastly abide by it. Note, also, Those are spiritually bewitched who, when the truth as it is in Jesus is plainly set before them, will not thus obey it. Several things proved and aggravated the folly of these Christians.

1. Jesus Christ had been evidently set forth as crucified among them; that is, they had had the doctrine of the cross preached to them, and the sacrament of the Lord’s supper administered among them, in both which Christ crucified had been set before them. Now, it was the greatest madness that could be for those who had acquaintance with such sacred mysteries, and admittance to such great solemnities, not to obey the truth which was thus published to them, and signed and sealed in that ordinance. Note, The consideration of the honours and privileges we have been admitted to as Christians should shame us out of the folly of apostasy and backsliding.

2. He appeals to the experiences they had had of the working of the Spirit upon their souls (Gal_3:2); he puts them in mind that, upon their becoming Christians, they had received the Spirit, that many of them at least had been made partakers not only of the sanctifying influences, but of the miraculous gifts, of the Holy Spirit, which were eminent proofs of the truth of the Christian religion and the several doctrines of it, and especially of this, that justification is by Christ only, and not by the works of the law, which was one of the peculiar and fundamental principles of it. To convince them of the folly of their departing from this doctrine, he desires to know how they came by these gifts and graces: Was it by the works of the law, that is, the preaching of the necessity of these in order to justification? This they could not say, for that doctrine had not then been preached to them, nor had they, as Gentiles, any pretence to justification in that way. Or was it by the hearing of faith, that is, the preaching of the doctrine of faith in Christ as the only way of justification? This, if they would say the truth, they were obliged to own, and therefore must be very unreasonable if they should reject a doctrine of the good effects of which they had had such experience. Note, (1.) It is usually by the ministry of the gospel that the Spirit is communicated to persons. And, (2.) Those are very unwise who suffer themselves to be turned away from the ministry and doctrine which have been blessed to their spiritual advantage.

3. He calls upon them to consider their past and present conduct, and thence to judge whether they were not acting very weakly and unreasonably (Gal_3:3, Gal_3:4): he tells them that they had begun in the Spirit, but now were seeking to be made perfect by the flesh; they had embraced the doctrine of the gospel, by means of which they had received the Spirit, and wherein only the true way of justification is revealed. And thus they had begun well; but now they were turning to the law, and expected to be advanced to higher degrees of perfection by adding the observance of it to faith in Christ, in order to their justification, which could end in nothing but their shame and disappointment: for this, instead of being an improvement upon the gospel, was really a perversion of it; and, while they sought to be justified in this way, they were so far from being more perfect Christians that they were more in danger of becoming no Christians at all; hereby they were pulling down with one hand what they had built with the other, and undoing what they had hitherto done in Christianity. Yea, he further puts them in mind that they had not only embraced the Christian doctrine, but suffered for it too; and therefore their folly would be the more aggravated, if now they should desert it: for in this case all that they had suffered would be in vain – it would appear that they had been foolish in suffering for what they now deserted, and their sufferings would be altogether in vain, and of no advantage to them. Note, (1.) It is the folly of apostates that they lose the benefit of all they have done in religion, or suffered for it. And, (2.) It is very sad for any to live in an age of services and sufferings, of sabbaths, sermons, and sacraments, in vain; in this case former righteousness shall not be mentioned.

4. He puts them in mind that they had had ministers among them (and particularly himself) who came with a divine seal and commission; for they had ministered the Spirit to them, and wrought miracles among them: and he appeals to them whether they did it by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith, whether the doctrine that was preached by them, and confirmed by the miraculous gifts and operations of the Spirit, was that of justification by the works of the law or by the faith of Christ; they very well knew that it was not the former, but the latter; and therefore must needs be inexcusable in forsaking a doctrine which had been so signally owned and attested, and exchanging it for one that had received no such attestations.

Galatians 3:6-18

The apostle having reproved the Galatians for not obeying the truth, and endeavoured to impress them with a sense of their folly herein, in these verses he largely proves the doctrine which he had reproved them for rejecting, namely, that of justification by faith without the works of the law. This he does several ways.

I. From the example of Abraham’s justification. This argument the apostle uses, Rom. 4. Abraham believed God, and that was accounted to him for righteousness (Gal_3:6); that is, his faith fastened upon the word and promise of God, and upon his believing he was owned and accepted of God as a righteous man: as on this account he is represented as the father of the faithful, so the apostle would have us to know that those who are of faith are the children of Abraham (Gal_3:7), not according to the flesh, but according to the promise; and, consequently, that they are justified in the same way that he was. Abraham was justified by faith, and so are they. To confirm this, the apostle acquaints us that the promise made to Abraham (Gen_12:3), In thee shall all nations be blessed, had a reference hereunto, Gal_3:8. The scripture is said to foresee, because he that indited the scripture did foresee, that God would justify the heathen world in the way of faith; and therefore in Abraham, that is, in the seed of Abraham, which is Christ, not the Jews only, but the Gentiles also, should be blessed; not only blessed in the seed of Abraham, but blessed as Abraham was, being justified as he was. This the apostle calls preaching the gospel to Abraham; and thence infers (Gal_3:9) that those who are of faith, that is, true believers, of what nation soever they are, are blessed with faithful Abraham. They are blessed with Abraham the father of the faithful, by the promise made to him, and therefore by faith as he was. It was through faith in the promise of God that he was blessed, and it is only in the same way that others obtain this privilege.

II. He shows that we cannot be justified but by faith fastening on the gospel, because the law condemns us. If we put ourselves upon trial in that court, and stand to the sentence of it, we are certainly cast, and lost, and undone; for as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse, as many as depend upon the merit of their own works as their righteousness, as plead not guilty, and insist upon their own justification, the cause will certainly go against them; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them, Gal_3:10, and Deu_27:26. The condition of life, by the law, is perfect, personal, and perpetual, obedience; the language of it is, Do this and live; or, as Gal_3:12, The man that doeth them shall live in them: and for every failure herein the law denounces a curse. Unless our obedience be universal, continuing in all things that are written in the book of the law, and unless it be perpetual too (if in any instance at any time we fail and come short), we fall under the curse of the law. The curse is wrath revealed, and ruin threatened: it is a separation unto all evil, and this is in full force, power, and virtue, against all sinners, and therefore against all men; for all have sinned and become guilty before God: and if, as transgressors of the law, we are under the curse of it, it must be a vain thing to look for justification by it. But, though this is not to be expected from the law, yet the apostle afterwards acquaints us that there is a way open to our escaping this curse, and regaining the favour of God, namely, through faith in Christ, who (as he says, Gal_3:13) hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, etc. A strange method it was which Christ took to redeem us from the curse of the law; it was by his being himself made a curse for us. Being made sin for us, he was made a curse for us; not separated from God, but laid for the present under that infamous token of the divine displeasure upon which the law of Moses had put a particular brand, Deu_21:23. The design of this was that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ – that all who believed on Christ, whether Jews or Gentiles, might become heirs of Abraham’s blessing, and particularly of that great promise of the Spirit, which was peculiarly reserved for the times of the gospel. Hence it appeared that it was not by putting themselves under the law, but by faith in Christ, that they become the people of God and heirs of the promise. Here note, 1. The misery which as sinners we are sunk into – we are under the curse and condemnation of the law. 2. The love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ towards us – he has submitted to be made a curse for us, that he might redeem us from the curse of the law. 3. The happy prospect which we now have through him, not only of escaping the curse, but of inheriting the blessing. And, 4. That it is only through faith in him that we can hope to obtain this favour.

III. To prove that justification is by faith, and not by the works of the law, the apostle alleges the express testimony of the Old Testament, Gal_3:11. The place referred to is Hab_2:4, where it is said, The just shall live by faith; it is again quoted, Rom_1:17, and Heb_10:38. The design of it is to show that those only are just or righteous who do truly live, who are freed from death and wrath, and restored into a state of life in the favour of God; and that it is only through faith that persons become righteous, and as such obtain this life and happiness – that they are accepted of God, and enabled to live to him now, and are entitled to an eternal life in the enjoyment of him hereafter. Hence the apostle says, It is evident that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God. Whatever he may be in the account of others, yet he is not so in the sight of God; for the law is not of faith – that says nothing concerning faith in the business of justification, nor does it give life to those who believe; but the language of it is, The man that doeth them shall live in them, as Lev_18:5. It requires perfect obedience as the condition of life, and therefore now can by no means be the rule of our justification. This argument of the apostle’s may give us occasion to remark that justification by faith is no new doctrine, but what was established and taught in the church of God long before the times of the gospel. Yea, it is the only way wherein any sinners ever were, or can be, justified.

IV. To this purpose the apostle urges the stability of the covenant which God made with Abraham, which was not vacated nor disannulled by the giving of the law to Moses, Gal_3:15, etc. Faith had the precedence of the law, for Abraham was justified by faith. It was a promise that he built upon, and promises are the proper objects of faith. God entered into covenant with Abraham (Gal_3:8), and this covenant was firm and steady; even men’s covenants are so, and therefore much more his. When a deed is executed, or articles of agreement are sealed, both parties are bound, and it is too late then to settle things otherwise; and therefore it is not to be supposed that by the subsequent law the covenant of God should be vacated. The original word diathēkē signifies both a covenant and a testament. Now the promise made to Abraham was rather a testament than a covenant. When a testament has become of force by the death of the testator, it is not capable of being altered; and therefore, the promise that was given to Abraham being of the nature of a testament, it remains firm and unalterable. But, if it should be said that a grant or testament may be defeated for want of persons to claim the benefit of it (Gal_3:16), he shows that there is no danger of that in this case. Abraham is dead, and the prophets are dead, but the covenant is made with Abraham and his seed. And he gives us a very surprising exposition of this. We should have thought it had been meant only of the people of the Jews. “Nay,” says the apostle, “it is in the singular number, and points at a single person – that seed is Christ,” So that the covenant is still in force; for Christ abideth for ever in his person, and in his spiritual seed, who are his by faith. And if it be objected that the law which was given by Moses did disannul this covenant, because that insisted so much upon works, and there was so little in it of faith or of the promised Messiah, he answers that the subsequent law could not disannul the previous covenant or promise (Gal_3:18): If the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise; but, says he, God gave it to Abraham by promise, and therefore it would be inconsistent with his holiness, wisdom, and faithfulness, by any subsequent act to set aside the promise, and so alter the way of justification which he had thus established. If the inheritance was given to Abraham by promise, and thereby entailed upon his spiritual seed, we may be sure that God would not retract that promise; for he is not a man that he should repent.

Galatians 3:19-29

The apostle having just before been speaking of the promise made to Abraham, and representing that as the rule of our justification, and not the law, lest they should think he did too much derogate from the law, and render it altogether useless, he thence takes occasion to discourse of the design and tendency of it, and to acquaint us for what purposes it was given. It might be asked, “If that promise be sufficient for salvation, wherefore then serveth the law? Or, Why did God give the law by Moses?” To this he answers,

I. The law was added because of transgressions, Gal_3:19. It was not designed to disannul the promise, and to establish a different way of justification from that which was settled by the promise; but it was added to it, annexed on purpose to be subservient to it, and it was so because of transgressions. The Israelites, though they were chosen to be God’s peculiar people, were sinners as well as others, and therefore the law was given to convince them of their sin, and of their obnoxiousness to the divine displeasure on the account of it; for by the law is the knowledge of sin (Rom_3:20), and the law entered that sin might abound, Rom_5:20. And it was also intended to restrain them from the commission of sin, to put an awe upon their minds, and be a curb upon their lusts, that they should not run into that excess of riot to which they were naturally inclined; and yet at the same time it was designed to direct them to the true and only way whereby sin was to be expiated, and wherein they might obtain the pardon of it; namely, through the death and sacrifice of Christ, which was the special use for which the law of sacrifices and purifications was given.

The apostle adds that the law was given for this purpose till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; that is, either till Christ should come (the principle seed referred to in the promise, as he had before shown), or till the gospel dispensation should take place, when Jews and Gentiles, without distinction, should, upon believing, become the seed of Abraham. The law was added because of transgressions, till this fulness of time, or this complete dispensation, should come. But when the seed came, and a fuller discovery of divine grace in the promise was made, then the law, as given by Moses, was to cease; that covenant, being found faulty, was to give place to another, and a better, Heb_8:7, Heb_8:8. And though the law, considered as the law of nature, is always in force, and still continues to be of use to convince men of sin and to restrain them from it, yet we are now no longer under the bondage and terror of that legal covenant. The law then was not intended to discover another way of justification, different from that revealed by the promise, but only to lead men to see their need of the promise, by showing them the sinfulness of sin, and to point them to Christ, through whom alone they could be pardoned and justified.

As a further proof that the law was not designed to vacate the promise, the apostle adds, It was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. It was given to different persons, and in a different manner from the promise, and therefore for different purposes. The promise was made to Abraham, and all his spiritual seed, including believers of all nations, even of the Gentiles as well as the Jews; but the law was given to the Israelites as a peculiar people, and separated from the rest of the world. And, whereas the promise was given immediately by God himself, the law was given by the ministry of angels, and the hand of a mediator. Hence it appeared that the law could not be designed to set aside the promise; for (Gal_3:20), A mediator is not a mediator of one, of one party only; but God is one, but one party in the promise or covenant made with Abraham: and therefore it is not to be supposed that by a transaction which passed only between him and the nation of the Jews he should make void a promise which he had long before made to Abraham and all his spiritual seed, whether Jews or Gentiles. This would not have been consistent with his wisdom, nor with his truth and faithfulness. Moses was only a mediator between God and the spiritual seed of Abraham; and therefore the law that was given by him could not affect the promise made to them, much less be subversive of it.

II. The law was given to convince men of the necessity of a Saviour. The apostle asks (Gal_3:21), as what some might be willing to object, “Is the law then against the promises of God? Do they really clash and interfere with each other? Or do you not set the covenant with Abraham, and the law of Moses, at variance with one another?” To this he answers, God forbid; he was far from entertaining such a thought, nor could it be inferred from what he had said. The law is by no means inconsistent with the promise, but subservient to it, as the design of it is to discover men’s transgressions, and to show them the need they have of a better righteousness than that of the law. That consequence would much rather follow from their doctrine than from his; for, if there had been a law given that could have given life, verily righteousness would have been by the law, and in that case the promise would have been superseded and rendered useless. But that in our present state could not be, for the scripture hath concluded all under sin (Gal_3:22), or declared that all, both Jew and Gentile, are in a state of guilt, and therefore unable to attain to righteousness and justification by the works of the law. The law discovered their wounds, but could not afford them a remedy: it showed that they were guilty, because it appointed sacrifices and purifications, which were manifestly insufficient to take away sin: and therefore the great design of it was that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to those that believe, that being convinced of their guilt, and the insufficiency of the law to effect a righteousness for them, they might be persuaded to believe on Christ, and so obtain the benefit of the promise.

III. The law was designed for a schoolmaster, to bring men to Christ, Gal_3:24. In the foregoing verse, the apostle acquaints us with the state of the Jews under the Mosaic economy, that before faith came, or before Christ appeared and the doctrine of justification by faith in him was more fully discovered, they were kept under the law, obliged, under severe penalties, to a strict observance of the various precepts of it; and at that time they were shut up, held under the terror and discipline of it, as prisoners in a state of confinement: the design of this was that hereby they might be disposed more readily to embrace the faith which should afterwards be revealed, or be persuaded to accept Christ when he came into the world, and to fall in with that better dispensation he was to introduce, whereby they were to be freed from bondage and servitude, and brought into a state of greater light and liberty. Now, in that state, he tells them, the law was their schoolmaster, to bring them to Christ, that they might be justified by faith. As it declared the mind and will of God concerning them, and at the same time denounced a curse against them for every failure in their duty, so it was proper to convince them of their lost and undone condition in themselves, and to let them see the weakness and insufficiency of their own righteousness to recommend them to God. And as it obliged them to a variety of sacrifices, etc., which, though they could not of themselves take away sin, were typical of Christ, and of the great sacrifice which he was to offer up for the expiation of it, so it directed them (though in a more dark and obscure manner) to him as their only relief and refuge. And thus it was their schoolmaster, to instruct and govern them in their state of minority, or, as the word paidagōgos most properly signifies, their servant, to lead and conduct them to Christ (as children were wont to be led to school by those servants who had the care of them); that they might be more fully instructed by him as their schoolmaster, in the true way of justification and salvation, which is only by faith in him, and of which he was appointed to give the fullest and clearest discoveries. But lest it should be said, If the law was of this use and service under the Jewish, why may it not continue to be so under the Christian state too, the apostle adds (Gal_3:25) that after faith has come, and the gospel dispensation has taken place, under which Christ, and the way of pardon and life through faith in him, are set in the clearest light, we are no longer under a schoolmaster – we have no such need of the law to direct us to him as there was then. Thus the apostle acquaints us for what uses and purposes the law served; and, from what he says concerning this matter, we may observe,

1. The goodness of God to his people of old, in giving the law to them; for though, in comparison of the gospel state, it was a dispensation of darkness and terror, yet it furnished them with sufficient means and helps both to direct them in their duty to God and to encourage their hopes in him.

2. The great fault and folly of the Jews, in mistaking the design of the law, and abusing it to a very different purpose from that which God intended in the giving of it; for they expected to be justified by the works of it, whereas it was never designed to be the rule of their justification, but only a means of convincing them of their guilt and of their need of a Saviour, and of directing them to Christ, and faith in him, as the only way of obtaining this privilege. See Rom_9:31, Rom_9:32; Rom_10:3, Rom_10:4.

3. The great advantage of the gospel state above the legal, under which we not only enjoy a clearer discovery of divine grace and mercy than was afforded to the Jews of old, but are also freed from the state of bondage and terror under which they were held. We are not now treated as children in a state of minority, but as sons grown up to a full age, who are admitted to greater freedoms, and instated in larger privileges, than they were. This the apostle enlarges upon in the following verses. For, having shown for what intent the law was given, in the close of the chapter he acquaints us with our privilege by Christ, where he particularly declares,

(1.) That we are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, Gal_3:26. And here we may observe, [1.] The great and excellent privilege which real Christians enjoy under the gospel: They are the children of God; they are no longer accounted servants, but sons; they are not now kept at such a distance, and under such restraints, as the Jews were, but are allowed a nearer and freer access to God than was granted to them; yea, they are admitted into the number, and have a right to all the privileges, of his children. [2.] How they come to obtain this privilege, and that is by faith in Christ Jesus. Having accepted him as their Lord and Saviour, and relying on him alone for justification and salvation, they are hereupon admitted into this happy relation to God, and are entitled to the privileges of it; for (Joh_1:12) as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to those that believe on his name. And this faith in Christ, whereby they became the children of God, he reminds us (Gal_3:27), was what they professed in baptism; for he adds, As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Having in baptism professed their faith in him, they were thereby devoted to him, and had, as it were, put on his livery, and declared themselves to be his servants and disciples; and having thus become the members of Christ, they were through him owned and accounted as the children of God. Here note, First, Baptism is now the solemn rite of our admission into the Christian church, as circumcision was into that of the Jews. Our Lord Jesus appointed it to be so, in the commission he gave to his apostles (Mat_28:19), and accordingly it was their practice to baptize those whom they had discipled to the Christian faith; and perhaps the apostle might take notice of their baptism here, and of their becoming the children of God through faith in Christ, professed therein, to obviate a further objection, which the false teachers might be apt to urge in favour of circumcision. They might be ready to say, “Though it should be allowed that the law, as given at mount Sinai, was abrogated by the coming of Christ the promised seed, yet why should circumcision be set aside too, when that was given to Abraham together with the promise, and long before the giving of the law by Moses?” But this difficulty is sufficiently removed when the apostle says, Those who are baptized into Christ have put on Christ; for thence it appears that under the gospel baptism comes in the room of circumcision, and that those who by baptism are devoted to Christ, and do sincerely believe in him, are to all intents and purposes as much admitted into the privileges of the Christian state as the Jews were by circumcision into those of the legal (Php_3:3), and therefore there was no reason why the use of that should still be continued. Note, Secondly, In our baptism we put on Christ; therein we profess our discipleship to him, and are obliged to behave ourselves as his faithful servants. Being baptized into Christ, we are baptized into his death, that as he died and rose again, so, in conformity thereunto, we should die unto sin, and walk in newness of life (Rom_6:3, Rom_6:4); it would be of great advantage to us did we oftener remember this.

(2.) That this privilege of being the children of God, and of being by baptism devoted to Christ, is now enjoyed in common by all real Christians. The law indeed made a difference between Jew and Greek, giving the Jews on many accounts the pre-eminence: that also made a difference between bond and free, master and servant, and between male and female, the males being circumcised. But it is not so now; they all stand on the same level, and are all one in Christ Jesus; as the one is not accepted on the account of any national or personal advantages he may enjoy above the other, so neither is the other rejected for the want of them; but all who sincerely believe on Christ, of what nation, or sex, or condition, soever they be, are accepted of him, and become the children of God through faith in him.

(3.) That, being Christ’s, we are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Their judaizing teachers would have them believe that they must be circumcised and keep the law of Moses, or they could not be saved: “No,” says the apostle, “there is no need of that; for if you be Christ’s, if you sincerely believe on him, who is the promised seed, in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed, you therefore become the true seed of Abraham, the father of the faithful, and as such are heirs according to the promise, and consequently are entitled to the great blessings and privileges of it.” And therefore upon the whole, since it appeared that justification was not to be attained by the works of the law, but only by faith in Christ, and that the law of Moses was a temporary institution and was given for such purposes as were only subservient to and not subversive of the promise, and that now, under the gospel, Christians enjoy much greater and better privileges than the Jews did under that dispensation, it must needs follow that they were very unreasonable and unwise, in hearkening to those who at once endeavoured to deprive them of the truth and liberty of the gospel.