John Newton (1725-1807): On the Inward Witness to the Ground and Reality of Faith

On the Inward Witness to the Ground and Reality of Faith
By
John Newton (1725-1807)
Copyright: Public Domain

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LNW: Corrected several typographical errors from previous post.

Letter VIII

On the Inward Witness to the Ground and Reality of Faith

I readily offer you my thoughts on 1 John v. 10. “He that believeth on the Son of God, hath the witness in himself;” though, perhaps, you will think I am writing a sermon, rather than a letter. If we believe in the Son of God, whatever trials we may meet with in the present life, our best concerns are safe, and our happiness is sure. If we do not, whatever else we have, or seem to have, we are in a state of condemnation; and, living and dying so, must perish. Thousands, it is to be feared, persuade themselves that they are believers, though they cannot stand the test of Scripture. And there are many real believers, who, through the prevalence of remaining unbelief, and the temptations of Satan, form hard conclusions against themselves, though the Scripture speaks peace to them. But how does this correspond with the passage before us, which asserts universally, “He that believeth, hath the witness in himself?” for can a man have the witness in himself, and yet not know it? It may be answered, the evidence, in its own nature, is sufficient and infallible; but we are very apt, when we would form a judgment of ourselves, to superadd rules and marks of trial, which are not given us, (for that purpose,) in the Bible. That the word and Spirit of God do witness for his children, is a point in which many are agreed, who are far from being agreed as to the nature and manner of that witness. It is, therefore, very desirable, rightly to understand the evidence by which we are to judge whether we are believers or not.

The importance and truth of the Gospel-salvation is witnessed to in heaven, by “the Father, the Word, and the Spirit.” It is witnessed to on earth, by “the Spirit, the water, and the blood,” ver. 7, 8. The Spirit, in ver. 8. (I apprehend,) denotes a divine light in the understanding, communicated by the Spirit of God, enabling the soul to perceive and approve the truth. The water seems to intend the powerful influence of this knowledge and light in the work of sanctification. And the blood, the application of the blood of Jesus to the conscience, relieving it from guilt and fear, and imparting a “peace which passes all understanding.” And he that believeth hath this united testimony of the Spirit, the water, and the blood, not by hearsay only, but in himself. According to the measure of his faith, (for faith has various degrees,) he has a living proof that the witness is true, by the effects wrought in his own heart.

These things, which God has joined together, are too often attempted to be separated. Attempts of this kind have been a principal source and cause of most of the dangerous errors and mistakes which are to be found amongst professors of religion. Some say much concerning the Spirit; and lay claim to an inward light, whereby they think they know the things of God. Others lay great stress upon the water; maintaining a regular conversation, abstaining from the defilements of the world, and aiming at a mastery over their natural desires and tempers; but neither the one nor the other appear to be duly sensible of the value of the blood of atonement, as the sole ground of their acceptance, and the spring of their life and strength. Others, again, are all for the blood; can speak much of Jesus, and his blood and righteousness; though it does not appear that they are truly, spiritually enlightened, to perceive the beauty and harmony of Gospel-truths, or that they pay a due regard to that “holiness without which no man can see the Lord.” But Jesus came, not by water only, or by blood only, but by water and blood; and the Spirit bears witness to both, because the Spirit is truth. The water alone affords but a cold starched form of godliness, destitute of that enlivening power which is derived from a knowledge of the preciousness of Jesus, as the Lamb that was slain. And if any talk of the blood without the water, they do but turn the grace of God into licentiousness: so, likewise, to pretend to the Spirit, and at the same time to have low thoughts of Jesus, is a delusion and vanity; for the true Spirit testifies and takes of his glory, and presents it to the soul. But the real believer receives the united testimony, and has the witness in himself that he does so.

To have the witness in ourselves, is to have the truths that are declared in the Scripture revealed in our hearts. This brings an experimental conviction, which may be safely depended on, “that we have received the grace of God in truth.” A man born blind may believe that the sun is bright upon the testimony of another; but if he should obtain his sight, he would have the witness in himself. Believing springs from a sense and perception of the truths of the Gospel; and whoever hath this spiritual perception is a believer. He has the witness in himself. He has received the Spirit; his understanding is enlightened, whereby he sees things to be as they are described in the word of God, respecting his own state by sin, and the utter impossibility of his obtaining relief by any other means than those proposed in the Gospel. These things are hidden from us by nature. He has likewise received the blood. The knowledge of sin, and its demerits, if alone, would drive us to despair; but by the same light of the Spirit, Jesus is apprehended as a suitable and all-sufficient Saviour. All that is declared concerning his person, offices, love, sufferings, and obedience, is understood and approved. Here the wounded and weary soul finds healing and rest. Then the Apostle’s language is adopted, “Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” He has likewise received the water, considered as the emblem of sanctification. To a believer, all that the Scripture teaches concerning the nature, beauty, and necessity of holiness, as a living principle in the heart, carries conviction and evidence. A deliverance from the power, as well as from the guilt of sin, appears to be an important and essential part of salvation. He sets his original and his proper happiness, that nothing less than communion with God, and conformity to him, is worth his pursuit. And therefore he can say, “My soul thirsteth for thee; I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” In a word, his judgment and his choice are formed upon a new spiritual taste, derived from the written word, and correspondent with it, as the musical ear is adapted to relish harmony: so that what God has forbidden, appears hateful; what he has commanded, necessary; what he has promised, desirable; and what he has revealed, glorious. Whoever has these perceptions, has the witness in himself, that he has been taught of God, and believes in his Son.

If you think this explanation is agreeable to the Scripture, you will be satisfied that the witness spoken of in this passage, is very different from what some persons understand it to be. It is not an impulse, or strong persuasion, impressed upon us in a way of which we can give no account, that “we are the children of God,” and that our sins are freely forgiven; nor is the powerful application of a particular text of Scripture necessary to produce it: neither is it always connected with a very lively sensible comfort. These things in some persons and instances, may accompany the witness or testimony we are speaking of, but do not properly belong to it: and they may be, and often have been, counterfeited. But what I have described is inimitable and infallible; it is indubitably, as the magicians confessed of the miracles of Moses, the finger of God, as certainly the effect of his divine power as the creation of the world. It is true, many who have this witness, walk in darkness, and are harassed with many doubts and perplexities, concerning their state: but this is not because the witness is not sufficient to give them satisfaction, but because they do not account it so: being misled by the influence of self-will and a legal spirit, they overlook this evidence as too simple, and expect something extraordinary; at least they think they cannot be right, unless they are led in the same way in which the Lord has been pleased to lead others with whom they may have conversed. But the Lord, the Spirit, is sovereign and free in his operations; and though he gives to all who are the subjects of his grace, the same views of sin, of themselves, and of the Saviour; yet, with respect to the circumstantials of his work, there is, as in the features of our faces, such an amazing variety, that perhaps no two persons can be found whose experiences have been exactly alike: but as the Apostle says, That “he that believeth,” that is, whosoever believeth, (without exception,) “has this witness in himself;” it must consequently arise from what is common to them all, and not from what is peculiar to a few.

Before I conclude, I would make two or three observations. In the first place, I think it is plain, that the supposition of a real believer’s living in sin, or taking encouragement from the Gospel so to do, is destitute of the least foundation in truth, and can proceed only from an ignorance of the subject. Sin is the burden under which he groans; and he would account nothing short of a deliverance from it worthy the name of salvation. A principal part of his evidence that he is a believer, arises from that abhorrence of sin which he habitually feels. It is true, sin still dwelleth in him; but he loathes and resists it: upon this account he is in a state of continual warfare; if he was not so, he could not have the witness in himself, that he is born of God.

Again: From hence arises a solid evidence, that the Scripture is indeed the word of God, because it so exactly describes what is exemplified in the experience of all who are subjects of a work of grace. While we are in a natural state, it is to us as a sealed book: though we can read it, and perhaps assent to the facts, we can no more understand our own concernments in what we read, than if it was written in an unknown tongue. But when the mind is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, the Scripture addresses us as it were by name, explains every difficulty under which we laboured, and proposes an adequate and effectual remedy for the relief of all our wants and fears.

Lastly, It follows, that the hope of a believer is built upon a foundation that cannot be shaken, though it may and will be assaulted. It does not depend upon occasional and changeable frames, upon any that is precarious and questionable, but upon a correspondence and agreement with the written word. Nor does this agreement depend upon a train of laboured arguments and deductions, but is self-evident, as light is to the eye, to every person who has a real participation of the grace of God. It is equally suited to all capacities; by this the unlearned are enabled to know their election of God, and “to rejoice with a joy unspeakable and full of glory.” And the wisest, if destitute of this perception, though they may be masters of all the external evidences of Christianity, and able to combat the cavils of infidels, can see no real beauty in the truths of the Gospel, nor derive any solid comfort from them.

I have only sent you a few hasty hints: it would be easy to enlarge; but I sat down, not to write a book, but a letter. Nay this inward witness preside with power in our hearts, to animate our hopes, and to mortify our corruptions!

I am, &c.

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John Newton (1725-1807): I Was Once Bind, But Now I See

LETTER XXI: I Was Once Bind, But Now I See
By
John Newton (1725-1807)
Copyright: Public Domain

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Dear Sir,

THE question. What is the discriminating characteristic nature of a work of grace upon the soul? has been upon my mind; if I am able to give you satisfaction concerning it, I shall think my time well employed.

The reason why men in a natural state are utterly ignorant of spiritual truths is, that they are wholly destitute of a faculty suited to their perception. A remarkable instance we have in the absurd construction which Nicodemus put upon what our Lord had spoken to him concerning the new birth. And in the supernatural communication of this spiritual faculty, by the agency of the Holy Spirit, I apprehend the inimitable and abiding criterion, which is the subject of our inquiry, does primarily consist. Those passages of Scripture wherein the gospel-truth is compared to light, lead to a familiar illustration of my meaning. Men by nature are stark blind with respect to this light; by grace the eyes of the understanding are opened. Among a number of blind men, some may be more ingenious and of better capacity than others. They may be better qualified for such studies and employments which do not require eye-sight than many who can see, and may attain to considerable skill in them; but with respect to the true nature of light and colours, they are all exactly upon a level. A blind man, if ingenious and inquisitive, may learn to talk about the light, the sun, or the rainbow, in terms borrowed from those who have seen them; but it is impossible that he can have, (I mean a man born blind,) a just idea of either; and whatever hearsay-knowledge he may have acquired, he can hardly talk much upon these subjects without betraying his real ignorance. The case of one mentioned by Mr. Locke has been often quoted. He believed, that after much inquiry and reflection, he had at last found out what scarlet was; and being asked to explain himself, “I think,” says he, “scarlet is something like the sound of a trumpet.” This man had about the same knowledge of natural light as Nicodemus had of spiritual. Nor can all the learning or study in the world enable any person to form a suitable judgment of divine truth, till the eves of his mind are opened, and then he will perceive it at once.

Indeed, this comparison is well suited to show the entire difference between nature and grace, and to explain the ground of that enmity and scorn which fills the hearts of blinded sinners, against those who profess to have been enlightened by the Spirit of God. The reason why blind men are not affronted when we tell them they cannot see, seems to be, that they are borne down by the united testimony of all who are about them. Every one talks of seeing; and they find by experience, that those who say they can see can do many things which the blind cannot. Some such conviction as this many have, who live where the Gospel is preached, and is made the power of God to the salvation of others. The conversation and conduct of the people of God convinces them, that there is a difference, though they cannot tell wherein it consists. But if we could suppose it possible, that there was a whole nation of blind men, and one or two persons should go amongst them, and profess that they could see, while they could not offer them such a proof of their assertion as they were capable of receiving, nor even explain, to their satisfaction, what they meant by sight; what may we imagine would be the consequence? I think there is little doubt but these innovators would experience much the same treatment as the believers of Jesus often meet with from a blind world. The blind people would certainly hate and despise them for presuming to pretend to what they had not. They would try to dispute them out of their senses, and bring many arguments to prove, that there could be no such thing as either light or sight. They would say, as many say now, How is it, it” these things are so, that we should know nothing of them? Yea, I think it probable, they would rise against them as deceivers and enthusiasts, and disturbers of the public peace, and say, “Away with such fellows from the earth; it is not fit that they should live.” But if we should suppose further, that during the heat of the contest some of these blind men should have their eyes suddenly opened, the dispute as to them would be at an end in a minute; they would confess their former ignorance and obstinacy, confirm the testimony of those whom they had before despised, and of course share in the same treatment from their blind brethren, perhaps be treated still worse, as apostates from the opinion of the public.

If this illustration is justly applicable to our subject, it may lead us to several observations, or inferences, which have a tendency to confirm what we are elsewhere expressly taught by the word of God.

In the first place, it shows, that regeneration, or that great change without which a man cannot see the kingdom of God, is the effect of Almighty power. Neither education, endeavours, nor arguments, can open the eyes of the blind. It is God alone, who at first caused light to shine out of darkness, who can shine into our hearts, “to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” People may attain some natural ideas of spiritual truths by reading books, or hearing sermons, and may thereby become wise in their own conceits; they may learn to imitate the language of an experienced Christian; but they know not what they say, nor whereof they affirm, and are as distant from the true meaning of the terms, as a blind man, who pronounces the words blue or red, is from the ideas which those words raise in the mind of a person who can distinguish colours by his sight. And from hence we may infer the sovereignty, as well as the efficacy, of grace; since it is evident, not only that the objective light, the word of God, is not afforded universally to all men; but that those who enjoy the same outward means, have not all the same perceptions. There are many who stumble in the noon-day, not for want of light, but for want of eyes: and they who now see were once blind even as others, and had neither power nor will to enlighten their own minds. It is a mercy, however, when people are so far sensible of their own blindness, as to be willing to wait for the manifestation of the Lord’s power, in the ordinances of his own appointment. He came into the world, and he sends forth his Gospel, that those who see not may see; and when there is a desire raised in the heart for spiritual sight, it shall in his due time be answered.

From hence likewise we may observe the proper use and value of the preaching of the Gospel, which is the great instrument by which the Holy Spirit opens the blind eyes. Like the rod of Moses, it owes all its efficacy to the appointment and promise of God. Ministers cannot be too earnest in the discharge of their office; it behooves them to use all diligence to find out acceptable words, and to proclaim the whole counsel of God. Yet when they have done all, they have done nothing, unless their word is accompanied to the heart by the power and demonstration of the spirit. Without this blessing, an apostle might labour in vain; but it shall be in a measure afforded to all who preach the truth in love, in simplicity, and in an humble dependence upon him who alone can give success. This in a great measure puts all faithful ministers on a level, notwithstanding any seeming disparity in gifts and abilities. Those who have a lively and pathetic talent;, may engage the ear, and raise the natural passions of their hearers; but they cannot reach the heart. The blessing may be rather expected to attend the humble than the voluble speaker.

Further we may remark, that there is a difference in kind, between the highest attainments of nature, and the effects of grace in the lowest degree. Many are convinced, who are not truly enlightened; are afraid of the consequences of sin, though they never saw its evil have a seeming desire of salvation, which is not founded upon a truly spiritual discovery of their own wretchedness, and the excellency of Jesus. These may, for a season, hear the word with joy, and walk in the way of professors; but wc need not be surprised if they do not hold out, for they have no root. Though many such fall, the foundation of God still standeth sure. We may confidently affirm, upon the warrant of Scripture, that they who, having for a while escaped the pollutions of the world, are again habitually entangled in them, or who, having been distressed upon the account of sin, can find relief in a self-righteous course, and stop short of Christ, “who is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth;” we may affirm that these, whatever profession th^y may have made, were never capable of receiving the beauty and glory of the Gospel-salvation. On the other hand, though, where the eyes are divinely enlightened, the soul’s first views of itself and of the Gospel may be confused and indistinct, like him who saw men as it were trees walking; yet this light is like the dawn, which, though weak and faint at its first appearance, shineth more and more unto the perfect day. It is the work of God; and his work is perfect in kind, though progressive in the manner. He will not despise or forsake the day of small things. When he thus begins, he will make an end; and such persons, however feeble, poor, and worthless, in their own apprehensions, if they have obtained a glimpse of the Redeemer’s glory, as he is made unto us, of God, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, so that his name is precious, and the desire of their hearts is towards him, have good reason to hope and believe, as the wife of Manoah did in a similar case, that if the Lord had been pleased to kill them, he would not have showed them such things as these.

Once more: This spiritual sight and faculty is that which may be principally considered as inherent in a believer. He has no stock of grace, or comfort, or strength in himself. He needs continual supplies; and if the Lord withdraws from him, he is as weak and unskilful, after he has been long engaged in the Christian warfare, as he was when he first entered upon it. The eye is of little present use in the dark; for it cannot see without light. But the return of light is no advantage to a blind man. A believer may be much in the dark; but his spiritual sight remains. Though the exercise of grace may be low, he knows himself, he knows the Lord, he knows the way of access to a throne of grace. His frames and feelings may alter; but he has received such a knowledge of the person and offices, the power and grace of Jesus the Saviour, as cannot be taken from him; and he could withstand even an angel that should preach another gospel, because he has seen the Lord. The paper constrains me to break off. May the Lord increase his light in your heart, and in the heart of, &c.

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

Commentary on Galatians

By

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.

CHAPTER ONE SUMMARY

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).

CHAPTER ONE BY-VERSE DISCUSSION

GALATIANS 1:1-5

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.

GALATIANS 1:6-9

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.”

GALATIANS 1:10-24

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.

CHAPTER TWO SUMMARY

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.

CHAPTER TWO BY-VERSE DISCUSSION

GALATIANS 2:1-10

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.

GALATIANS 2:11-21

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?

CHAPTER THREE SUMMARY

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.

CHAPTER THREE BY-VERSE DISCUSSION

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.

Matthew Henry (1662-1714): Galatians Ch 4-6

Commentary on Galatians Chapters 4-6

By

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.

CHAPTER FOUR SUMMARY

The apostle, in this chapter, is still carrying on the same general design as in the former – to recover these Christians from the impressions made upon them by the judaizing teachers, and to represent their weakness and folly in suffering themselves to be drawn away from the gospel doctrine of justification, and to be deprived of their freedom from the bondage of the law of Moses. For this purpose he makes use of various considerations; such as, I. The great excellence of the gospel state above the legal (Gal 4:1-7). II. The happy change that was made in them at their conversion (Gal 4:8-11). III. The affection they had had for him and his ministry (Gal 4:12-16). IV. The character of the false teachers by whom they had been perverted (Gal 4:17, Gal 4:18). V. The very tender affection he had for them (Gal 4:19, Gal 4:20. VI. The history of Isaac and Ishmael, by a comparison taken from which he illustrates the difference between such as rested in Christ and such as trusted in the law. And in all these, as he uses great plainness and faithfulness with them, so he expresses the tenderest concern for them.

CHAPTER FOUR BY-VERSE DISCUSSION

Galatians 4:1-7

In this chapter the apostle deals plainly with those who hearkened to the judaizing teachers, who cried up the law of Moses in competition with the gospel of Christ, and endeavored to bring them under the bondage of it. To convince them of their folly, and to rectify their mistake herein, in these verses he prosecutes the comparison of a child under age, which he had touched upon in the foregoing chapter, and thence shows what great advantages we have now, under the gospel, above what they had under the law. And here.

I. He acquaints us with the state of the Old Testament church: it was like a child under age, and it was used accordingly, being kept in a state of darkness and bondage, in comparison of the greater light and liberty which we enjoy under the gospel. That was indeed a dispensation of grace, and yet it was comparatively a dispensation of darkness; for as the heir, in his minority, is under tutors and governors till the time appointed of his father, by whom he is educated and instructed in those things which at present he knows little of the meaning of, though afterwards they are likely to be of great use to him; so it was with the Old Testament church – the Mosaic economy, which they were under, was what they could not fully understand the meaning of; for, as the apostle says (2Co 3:13), They could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished. But to the church, when grown up to maturity, in gospel days, it becomes of great use. And as that was a dispensation of darkness, so of bondage too; for they were in bondage under the elements of the world, being tied to a great number of burdensome rites and observances, by which, as by a kind of first rudiments, they were taught and instructed, and whereby they were kept in a state of subjection, like a child under tutors and governors. The church then lay more under the character of a servant, being obliged to do every thing according to the command of God, without being fully acquainted with the reason of it; but the service under the gospel appears to be more reasonable than that was. The time appointed of the Father having come, when the church was to arrive at its full age, the darkness and bondage under which it before lay are removed, and we are under a dispensation of greater light and liberty.

II. He acquaints us with the much happier state of Christians under the gospel-dispensation, Gal 4:4-7. When the fulness of time had come, the time appointed of the Father, when he would put an end to the legal dispensation, and set up another and a better in the room of it, he sent forth his Son, etc. The person who was employed to introduce this new dispensation was no other than the Son of God himself, the only-begotten of the Father, who, as he had been prophesied of and promised from the foundation of the world, so in due time he was manifested for this purpose. He, in pursuance of the great design he had undertaken, submitted to be made of a woman – there is his incarnation; and to be made under the law – there is his subjection. He who was truly God for our sakes became man; and he who was Lord of all consented to come into a state of subjection and to take upon him the form of a servant; and one great end of all this was to redeem those that were under the law – to save us from that intolerable yoke and to appoint gospel ordinances more rational and easy. He had indeed something more and greater in his view, in coming into the world, than merely to deliver us from the bondage of the ceremonial law; for he came in our nature, and consented to suffer and die for us, that hereby he might redeem us from the wrath of God, and from the curse of the moral law, which, as sinners, we all lay under. But that was one end of it, and a mercy reserved to be bestowed at the time of his manifestation; then the more servile state of the church was to come to a period, and a better to succeed in the place of it; for he was sent to redeem us, that we might receive the adoption of sons – that we might no longer be accounted and treated as servants, but as sons grown up to maturity, who are allowed greater freedoms, and admitted to larger privileges, than while they were under tutors and governors. This the course of the apostle’s argument leads us to take notice of, as one thing intended by this expression, though no doubt it may also be understood as signifying that gracious adoption which the gospel so often speaks of as the privilege of those who believe in Christ. Israel was God’s son, his first-born, Rom 9:4. But now, under the gospel, particular believers receive the adoption; and, as an earnest and evidence of it, they have together therewith the Spirit of adoption, putting them upon the duty of prayer, and enabling them in prayer to eye God as a Father (Gal 4:6): Because you are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father. And hereupon (Gal 4:7) the apostle concludes this argument by adding, Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and, if a son, then an heir of God through Christ; that is, Now, under the gospel state, we are no longer under the servitude of the law, but, upon our believing in Christ, become the sons of God; we are thereupon accepted of him, and adopted by him; and, being the sons, we are also heirs of God, and are entitled to the heavenly inheritance (as he also reasons Rom 8:17), and therefore it must needs be the greatest weakness and folly to turn back to the law, and to seek justification by the works of it. From what the apostle says in these verses, we may observe,

1. The wonders of divine love and mercy towards us, particularly of God the Father, in sending his Son into the world to redeem and save us, – of the Son of God, in submitting so low, and suffering so much, for us, in pursuance of that design, – and of the Holy Spirit, in condescending to dwell in the hearts of believers for such gracious purposes.

2. The great and invaluable advantages which Christians enjoy under the gospel; for, (1.) We receive the adoption of sons. Whence note, It is the great privilege which believers have through Christ that they are adopted children of the God of heaven. We who by nature are children of wrath and disobedience have become by grace children of love. (2.) We receive the Spirit of adoption. Note, [1.] All who have the privilege of adoption have the Spirit of adoption – all who are received into the number partake of the nature of the children of God; for he will have all his children to resemble him. [2.] The Spirit of adoption is always the Spirit of prayer, and it is our duty in prayer to eye God as a Father. Christ has taught us in prayer to eye God as our Father in heaven. [3.] If we are his sons, then his heirs. It is not so among men, with whom the eldest son is heir; but all God’s children are heirs. Those who have the nature of sons shall have the inheritance of sons.

Galatians 4:8-11

In these verses the apostle puts them in mind of what they were before their conversion to the faith of Christ, and what a blessed change their conversion had made upon them; and thence endeavours to convince them of their great weakness in hearkening to those who would bring them under the bondage of the law of Moses.

I. He reminds them of their past state and behaviour, and what they were before the gospel was preached to them. Then they knew not God; they were grossly ignorant of the true God, and the way wherein he is to be worshipped: and at that time they were under the worst of slaveries, for they did service to those which by nature were no gods, they were employed in a great number of superstitious and idolatrous services to those who, though they were accounted gods, were yet really no gods, but mere creatures, and perhaps of their own making, and therefore were utterly unable to hear and help them. Note, 1. Those who are ignorant of the true God cannot but be inclined to false gods. Those who forsook the God who made the world, rather than be without gods, worshipped such as they themselves made. 2. Religious worship is due to none but to him who is by nature God; for, when the apostle blames the doing service to such as by nature were no gods, he plainly shows that he only who is by nature God is the proper object of our religious worship.

II. He calls upon them to consider the happy change that was made in them by the preaching of the gospel among them. Now they had known God (they were brought to the knowledge of the true God and of his Son Jesus Christ, whereby they were recovered out of the ignorance and bondage under which they before lay) or rather were known of God; this happy change in their state, whereby they were turned from idols to the living God, and through Christ had received the adoption of sons, was not owing to themselves, but to him; it was the effect of his free and rich grace towards them, and as such they ought to account it; and therefore hereby they were laid under the greater obligation to adhere to the liberty wherewith he had made them free. Note, All our acquaintance with God begins with him; we know him, because we are known of him.

III. Hence he infers the unreasonableness and madness of their suffering themselves to be brought again into a state of bondage. He speaks of it with surprise and deep concern of mind that such as they should do so: How turn you again, etc., says he, Gal 4:9. “How is it that you, who have been taught to worship God in the gospel way, should not be persuaded to comply with the ceremonial way of worship? that you, who have been acquainted with a dispensation of light, liberty, and love, as that of the gospel is, should now submit to a dispensation of darkness, and bondage, and terror, as that of the law is?” This they had the less reason for, since they had never been under the law of Moses, as the Jews had been; and therefore on this account they were more inexcusable than the Jews themselves, who might be supposed to have some fondness for that which had been of such long standing among them. Besides, what they suffered themselves to be brought into bondage to were but weak and beggarly elements, such things as had no power in them to cleanse the soul, nor to afford any solid satisfaction to the mind, and which were only designed for that state of pupillage under which the church had been, but which had now come to a period; and therefore their weakness and folly were the more aggravated, in submitting to them, and in symbolizing with the Jews in observing their various festivals, here signified by days, and months, and times, and years. Here note, 1. It is possible for those who have made great professions of religion to be afterwards drawn into very great defections from the purity and simplicity of it, for this was the case of these Christians. And, 2. The more mercy God has shown to any, in bringing them into an acquaintance with the gospel, and the liberties and privileges of it, the greater are their sin and folly in suffering themselves to be deprived of them; for this the apostle lays a special stress upon, that after they had known God, or rather were known of him, they desired to be in bondage under the weak and beggarly elements of the law.

IV. Hereupon he expresses his fears concerning them, lest he had bestowed on them labour in vain. He had been at a great deal of pains about them, in preaching the gospel to them, and endeavouring to confirm them in the faith and liberty of it; but now they were giving up these, and thereby rendering his labour among them fruitless and ineffectual, and with the thoughts of this he could not but be deeply affected. Note, 1. A great deal of the labour of faithful ministers is labour in vain; and, when it is so, it cannot but be a great grief to those who desire the salvation of souls. Note, 2. The labour of ministers is in vain upon those who begin in the Spirit and end in the flesh, who, though they seem to set out well, yet afterwards turn aside from the way of the gospel. Note, 3. Those will have a great deal to answer for upon whom the faithful ministers of Jesus Christ bestow labour in vain.

Galatians 4:12-16

That these Christians might be the more ashamed of their defection from the truth of the gospel which Paul had preached to them, he here reminds them of the great affection they formerly had for him and his ministry, and puts them upon considering how very unsuitable their present behaviour was to what they then professed. And here we may observe,

I. How affectionately he addresses himself to them. He styles them brethren, though he knew their hearts were in a great measure alienated from him. He desires that all resentments might be laid aside, and that they would bear the same temper of mind towards him which he did to them; he would have them to be as he was, for he was as they were, and moreover tells them that they had not injured him at all. He had no quarrel with them upon his own account. Though, in blaming their conduct, he had expressed himself with some warmth and concern of mind he assured them that it was not owing to any sense of personal injury or affront (as they might be ready to think), but proceeded wholly from a zeal for the truth and purity of the gospel, and their welfare and happiness. Thus he endeavours to mollify their spirits towards him, that so they might be the better disposed to receive the admonitions he was giving them. Hereby he teaches us that in reproving others we should take care to convince them that our reproofs do not proceed from any private pique or resentment, but from a sincere regard to the honour of God and religion and their truest welfare; for they are then likely to be most successful when they appear to be most disinterested.

II. How he magnifies their former affection to him, that hereby they might be the more ashamed of their present behaviour towards him. To this purpose, 1. He puts them in mind of the difficulty under which he laboured when he came first among them: I knew, says he, how, through infirmity of the flesh, I preached the gospel unto you at the first. What this infirmity of the flesh was, which in the following words he expresses by his temptation that was in his flesh (though, no doubt, it was well known to those Christians to whom he wrote), we can now have no certain knowledge of: some take it to have been the persecutions which he suffered for the gospel’s sake; others, to have been something in his person, or manner of speaking, which might render his ministry less grateful and acceptable, referring to 2Co 10:10, and to 2Co 12:7-10. But, whatever it was, it seems it made no impression on them to his disadvantage. For, 2. He takes notice that, notwithstanding this his infirmity (which might possibly lessen him in the esteem of some others), they did not despise nor reject him on the account of it, but, on the contrary, received him as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. They showed a great deal of respect to him, he was a welcome messenger to them, even as though an angel of God or Jesus Christ himself had preached to them; yea, so great was their esteem of him, that, if it would have been any advantage to him, they could have plucked out their own eyes, and have given them to him. Note, How uncertain the respects of people are, how apt they are to change their minds, and how easily they are drawn into contempt of those for whom they once had the greatest esteem and affection, so that they are ready to pluck out the eyes of those for whom they would before have plucked out their own! We should therefore labour to be accepted of God, for it is a small thing to be judged of man’s judgment, 1Co 4:3.

III. How earnestly he expostulates with them hereupon: Where is then, says he, the blessedness you spoke of? As if he had said, “Time was when you expressed the greatest joy and satisfaction in the glad tidings of the gospel, and were very forward in pouring out your blessings upon me as the publisher of them; whence is it that you are now so much altered, that you have so little relish of them or respect for me? You once thought yourselves happy in receiving the gospel; have you now any reason to think otherwise?” Note, Those who have left their first love would do well to consider, Where is now the blessedness they once spoke of? What has become of that pleasure they used to take in communion with God, and in the company of his servants? The more to impress upon them a just shame of their present conduct, he again asks (Gal 4:16), “Am I become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? How is it that I, who was heretofore your favourite, am now accounted your enemy? Can you pretend any other reason for it than that I have told you the truth, endeavoured to acquaint you with, and to confirm you in, the truth of the gospel? And, if not, how unreasonable must your disaffection be!” Note, 1. It is no uncommon thing for men to account those their enemies who are really their best friends; for so, undoubtedly, those are, whether ministers or others, who tell them the truth, and deal freely and faithfully with them in matters relating to their eternal salvation, as the apostle now did with these Christians. 2. Ministers may sometimes create enemies to themselves by the faithful discharge of their duty; for this was the case of Paul, he was accounted their enemy for telling them the truth. 3. Yet ministers must not forbear speaking the truth, for fear of offending others and drawing their displeasure upon them. 4. They may be easy in their own minds, when they are conscious to themselves that, if others have become their enemies, it is only for telling them the truth.

Galatians 4:17-18

The apostle is still carrying on the same design as in the foregoing verse, which was, to convince the Galatians of their sin and folly in departing from the truth of the gospel: having just before been expostulating with them about the change of their behaviour towards him who endeavoured to establish them in it, he here gives them the character of those false teachers who made it their business to draw them away from it, which if they would attend to, they might soon see how little reason they had to hearken to them: whatever opinion they might have of them, he tells them they were designing men, who were aiming to set up themselves, and who, under their specious pretences, were more consulting their own interest than theirs: “They zealously affect you,” says he; “they show a mighty respect for you, and pretend a great deal of affection to you, but not well; they do it not with any good design, they are not sincere and upright in it, for they would exclude you, that you might affect them. That which they are chiefly aiming at is to engage your affections to them; and, in order to this, they are doing all they can to draw off your affections from me and from the truth, that so they may engross you to themselves.” This, he assures them, was their design, and therefore they must needs be very unwise in hearkening to them. Note, 1. There may appear to be a great deal of zeal where yet there is but little truth and sincerity. 2. It is the usual way of seducers to insinuate themselves into people’s affections, and by that means to draw them into their opinions. 3. Whatever pretences such may make, they have usually more regard to their own interest than that of others, and will not stick at ruining the reputation of others, if by that means they can raise their own. On this occasion the apostle gives us that excellent rule which we have, Gal 4:18, It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing. What our translation renders in a good man, and so consider the apostle as pointing to himself; this sense, they think, is favoured both by the preceding context and also by the words immediately following, and not only when I am present with you, which may be as if he had said, “Time was when you were zealously affected towards me; you once took me for a good man, and have now no reason to think otherwise of me; surely then it would become you to show the same regard to me, now that I am absent from you, which you did when I was present with you.” But, if we adhere to our own translation, the apostle here furnishes us with a very good rule to direct and regulate us in the exercise of our zeal: there are two things which to this purpose he more especially recommends to us: – (1.) That it be exercised only upon that which is good; for zeal is then only good when it is in a good thing: those who are zealously affected to that which is evil will thereby only to do so much the more hurt. And, (2.) That herein it be constant and steady: it is good to be zealous always in a good thing; not for a time only, or now and then, like the heat of an ague-fit, but, like the natural heat of the body, constant. Happy would it be for the church of Christ if this rule were better observed among Christians!

Galatians 4:19-20

That the apostle might the better dispose these Christians to bear with him in the reproofs which he was obliged to give them, he here expresses his great affection to them, and the very tender concern he had for their welfare: he was not like them – one thing when among them and another when absent from them. Their disaffection to him had not removed his affection from them; but he still bore the same respect to them which he had formerly done, nor was he like their false teachers, who pretended a great deal of affection to them, when at the same time they were only consulting their own interest; but he had a sincere concern for their truest advantage; he sought not theirs, but them. They were too ready to account him their enemy, but he assures them that he was their friend; nay, not only so, but that he had the bowels of a parent towards them. He calls them his children, as he justly might, since he had been the instrument of their conversion to the Christian faith; yea, he styles them his little children, which, as it denotes a greater degree of tenderness and affection to them, so it may possibly have a respect to their present behaviour, whereby they showed themselves too much like little children, who are easily wrought upon by the arts and insinuations of others. He expresses his concern for them, and earnest desire of their welfare and soul-prosperity, by the pangs of a travailing woman: He travailed in birth for them: and the great thing which he was in so much pain about, and which he was so earnestly desirous of, was not so much that they might affect him as that Christ might be formed in them, that they might become Christians indeed, and be more confirmed and established in the faith of the gospel. From this we may note, 1. The very tender affection which faithful ministers bear towards those among whom they are employed; it is like that of the most affectionate parents to their little children. 2. That the chief thing they are longing and even travailing in birth for, on their account, is that Christ may be formed in them; not so much that they may gain their affections, much less that they may make a prey of them, but that they may be renewed in the spirit of their minds, wrought into the image of Christ, and more fully settled and confirmed in the Christian faith and life: and how unreasonably must those people act who suffer themselves to be prevailed upon to desert or dislike such ministers! 3. That Christ is not fully formed in men till they are brought off from trusting in their own righteousness, and made to rely only upon him and his righteousness.

As further evidence of the affection and concern which the apostle had for these Christians, he adds (Gal 4:20) that he desired to be then present with them – that he would be glad of an opportunity of being among them, and conversing with them, and that thereupon he might find occasion to change his voice towards them; for at present he stood in doubt of them. He knew not well what to think of them. He was not so fully acquainted with their state as to know how to accommodate himself to them. He was full of fears and jealousies concerning them, which was the reason of his writing to them in such a manner as he had done; but he would be glad to find that matters were better with them than he feared, and that he might have occasion to commend them, instead of thus reproving and chiding them. Note, Though ministers too often find it necessary to reprove those they have to do with, yet this is no grateful work to them; they had much rather there were no occasion for it, and are always glad when they can see reason to change their voice towards them.

Galatians 4:21-31

In these verses the apostle illustrates the difference between believers who rested in Christ only and those judaizers who trusted in the law, by a comparison taken from the story of Isaac and Ishmael. This he introduces in such a manner as was proper to strike and impress their minds, and to convince them of their great weakness in departing from the truth, and suffering themselves to be deprived of the liberty of the gospel: Tell me, says he, you that desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? He takes it for granted that they did hear the law, for among the Jews it was wont to be read in their public assemblies every sabbath day; and, since they were so very fond of being under it, he would have them duly to consider what is written therein (referring to what is recorded Gen. 16 and 21), for, if they would do this, they might soon see how little reason they had to trust in it. And here, 1. He sets before them the history itself (Gal 4:22, Gal 4:23): For it is written, Abraham had two sons, etc. Here he represents the different state and condition of these two sons of Abraham – that the one, Ishmael, was by a bond-maid, and the other, Isaac, by a free-woman; and that whereas the former was born after the flesh, or by the ordinary course of nature, the other was by promise, when in the course of nature there was no reason to expect that Sarah should have a son. 2. He acquaints them with the meaning and design of this history, or the use which he intended to make of it (Gal 4:24-27): These things, says he, are an allegory, wherein, besides the literal and historical sense of the words, the Spirit of God might design to signify something further to us, and that was, That these two, Agar and Sarah, are the two covenants, or were intended to typify and prefigure the two different dispensations of the covenant. The former, Agar, represented that which was given from mount Sinai, and which gendereth to bondage, which, though it was a dispensation of grace, yet, in comparison of the gospel state, was a dispensation of bondage, and became more so to the Jews, through their mistake of the design of it, and expecting to be justified by the works of it. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia (mount Sinai was then called Agar by the Arabians), and it answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children; that is, it justly represents the present state of the Jews, who, continuing in their infidelity and adhering to that covenant, are still in bondage with their children. But the other, Sarah, was intended to prefigure Jerusalem which is above, or the state of Christians under the new and better dispensation of the covenant, which is free both from the curse of the moral and the bondage of the ceremonial law, and is the mother of us all – a state into which all, both Jews and Gentiles, are admitted, upon their believing in Christ. And to this greater freedom and enlargement of the church under the gospel dispensation, which was typified by Sarah the mother of the promised seed, the apostle refers that of the prophet, Isa 54:1, where it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not; for the desolate hath many more children than she who hath a husband. 3. He applies the history thus explained to the present case (Gal 4:28); Now we, brethren, says he, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise. We Christians, who have accepted Christ, and rely upon him, and look for justification and salvation by him alone, as hereby we become the spiritual, though we are not the natural, seed of Abraham, so we are entitled to the promised inheritance and interested in the blessings of it. But lest these Christians should be stumbled at the opposition they might meet with from the Jews, who were so tenacious of their law as to be ready to persecute those who would not submit to it, he tells them that this was no more than what was pointed to in the type; for as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, they must expect it would be so now. But, for their comfort in this case, he desires them to consider what the scripture saith (Gen 21:10), Cast out the bond-woman and her son, for the son of the bond-woman shall not be heir with the son of the free-woman. Though the judaizers should persecute and hate them, yet the issue would be that Judaism would sink, and wither, and perish; but true Christianity should flourish and last for ever. And then, as a general inference from the whole of the sum of what he had said, he concludes (Gal 4:31), So then, brethren, we are not children of the bond-woman, but of the free.

CHAPTER FIVE SUMMARY

In this chapter the apostle comes to make application of his foregoing discourse. He begins it with a general caution, or exhortation (Gal 5:1), which he afterwards enforces by several considerations (Gal 5:2-12). He then presses them to serious practical godliness, which would be the best antidote against the snares of their false teachers; particularly, I. That they should not strive with one another (Gal 5:13-15). II. That they would strive against sin, where he shows, 1. That there is in every one a struggle between flesh and spirit (Gal 5:17). 2. That it is our duty and interest, in this struggle, to side with the better part (Gal 5:16, Gal 5:18). 3. He specifies the works of the flesh, which must be watched against and mortified, and the fruits of the Spirit, which must be brought forth and cherished, and shows of what importance it is that they be so (Gal 5:19-24). And then concludes the chapter with a caution against pride and envy.

CHAPTER FIVE BY-VERSE DISCUSSION

Galatians 5:1-12

In the former part of this chapter the apostle cautions the Galatians to take heed of the judaizing teachers, who endeavoured to bring them back under the bondage of the law. He had been arguing against them before, and had largely shown how contrary the principles and spirit of those teachers were to the spirit of the gospel; and now this is as it were the general inference or application of all that discourse. Since it appeared by what had been said that we can be justified only by faith in Jesus Christ, and not by the righteousness of the law, and that the law of Moses was no longer in force, nor Christians under any obligation to submit to it, therefore he would have them to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and not to be again entangled with the yoke of bondage. Here observe, 1. Under the gospel we are enfranchised, we are brought into a state of liberty, wherein we are freed from the yoke of the ceremonial law and from the curse of the moral law; so that we are no longer tied to the observance of the one, nor tied up to the rigour of the other, which curses every one that continues not in all things written therein to do them, Gal 3:10. 2. We owe this liberty to Jesus Christ. It is he who has made us free; by his merits he has satisfied the demands of the broken law, and by his authority as a king he has discharged us from the obligation of those carnal ordinances which were imposed on the Jews. And, 3. It is therefore our duty to stand fast in this liberty, constantly and faithfully to adhere to the gospel and to the liberty of it, and not to suffer ourselves, upon any consideration, to be again entangled in the yoke of bondage, nor persuaded to return back to the law of Moses. This is the general caution or exhortation, which in the following verses the apostle enforces by several reasons or arguments. As,

I. That their submitting to circumcision, and depending on the works of the law for righteousness, were an implicit contradiction of their faith as Christians and a forfeiture of all their advantages by Jesus Christ, Gal 5:2-4. And here we may observe, 1. With what solemnity the apostle asserts and declares this: Behold, I Paul say unto you (Gal 5:2), and he repeats it (Gal 5:3), I testify unto you; as it he had said, “I, who have proved myself an apostle of Christ, and to have received my authority and instructions from him, do declare, and am ready to pawn my credit and reputation upon it, that if you be circumcised Christ shall profit you nothing, etc.,” wherein he shows that what he was now saying was not only a matter of great importance, but what might be most assuredly depended on. He was so far from being a preacher of circumcision (as some might report him to be) that he looked upon it as a matter of the greatest consequence that they did not submit to it. 2. What it is which he so solemnly, and with so much assurance, declares; it is that, if they were circumcised, Christ would profit them nothing, etc. We are not to suppose that it is mere circumcision which the apostle is here speaking of, or that it was his design to say that none who are circumcised could have any benefit by Christ; for all the Old Testament saints had been circumcised, and he himself had consented to the circumcising of Timothy. But he is to be understood as speaking of circumcision in the sense in which the judaizing teachers imposed it, who taught that except they were circumcised, and kept the law of Moses, they could not be saved, Act 15:1. That this is his meaning appears from Gal 5:4, where he expresses the same thing by their being justified by the law, or seeking justification by the works of it. Now in this case, if they submitted to circumcision in this sense, he declares that Christ would profit them nothing, that they were debtors to do the whole law, that Christ had become of no effect to them, and that they were fallen from grace. From all these expressions it appears that thereby they renounced that way of justification which God had established; yea, that they laid themselves under an impossibility of being justified in his sight, for they became debtors to do the whole law, which required such an obedience as they were not capable of performing, and denounced a curse against those who failed in it, and therefore condemned, but could not justify them; and, consequently, that having thus revolted from Christ, and built their hopes upon the law, Christ would profit them nothing, nor be of any effect to them. Thus, as by being circumcised they renounced their Christianity, so they cut themselves off from all advantage by Christ; and therefore there was the greatest reason why they should stedfastly adhere to that doctrine which they had embraced, and not suffer themselves to be brought under this yoke of bondage. Note, (1.) Though Jesus Christ is able to save to the uttermost, yet there are multitudes whom he will profit nothing. (2.) All those who seek to be justified by the law do thereby render Christ of no effect to them. By building their hopes on the works of the law, they forfeit all their hopes from him; for he will not be the Saviour of any who will not own and rely upon him as their only Saviour.

II. To persuade them to stedfastness in the doctrine and liberty of the gospel, he sets before them his own example, and that of other Jews who had embraced the Christian religion, and acquaints them what their hopes were, namely, That through the Spirit they were waiting for the hope of righteousness by faith. Though they were Jews by nature, and had been bred up under the law, yet being, through the Spirit, brought to the knowledge of Christ, they had renounced all dependence on the works of the law, and looked for justification and salvation only by faith in him; and therefore it must needs be the greatest folly in those who had never been under the law to suffer themselves to be brought into subjection to it, and to found their hopes upon the works of it. Here we may observe, 1. What it is that Christians are waiting for: it is the hope of righteousness, by which we are chiefly to understand the happiness of the other world. This is called the hope of Christians, as it is the great object of their hope, which they are above every thing else desiring and pursuing; and the hope of righteousness, as their hopes of it are founded on righteousness, not their own, but that of our Lord Jesus: for, though a life of righteousness is the way that leads to this happiness, yet it is the righteousness of Christ alone which has procured it for us, and on account of which we can expect to be brought to the possession of it. 2. How they hope to obtain this happiness, namely, by faith, that is, in our Lord Jesus Christ, not by the works of the law, or any thing they can do to deserve it, but only by faith, receiving and relying upon him as the Lord our righteousness. It is in this way only that they expect either to be entitled to it here or possessed of it hereafter. And, 3. Whence it is that they are thus waiting for the hope of righteousness: it is through the Spirit. Herein they act under the direction and influence of the Holy Spirit; it is under his conduct, and by his assistance, that they are both persuaded and enabled to believe on Christ, and to look for the hope of righteousness through him. When the apostle thus represents the case of Christians, it is implied that if they expected to be justified and saved in any other way they were likely to meet with a disappointment, and therefore that they were greatly concerned to adhere to the doctrine of the gospel which they had embraced.

III. He argues from the nature and design of the Christian institution, which was to abolish the difference between Jew and Gentile, and to establish faith in Christ as the way of our acceptance with God. He tells them (Gal 5:6) that in Christ Jesus, or under the gospel dispensation, neither circumcision availeth any thing nor uncircumcision. Though, while the legal state lasted, there was a difference put between Jew and Greek, between those who were and those who were not circumcised, the former being admitted to those privileges of the church of God from which the other were excluded, yet it was otherwise in the gospel state: Christ, who is the end of the law, having come, now it was neither here nor there whether a man were circumcised or uncircumcised; he was neither the better for the one nor the worse for the other, nor would either the one or the other recommend him to God; and therefore as their judaizing teachers were very unreasonable in imposing circumcision upon them, and obliging them to observe the law of Moses, so they must needs be very unwise in submitting to them herein. But, though he assures them that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision would avail to their acceptance with God, yet he informs them what would do so, and that is faith, which worketh by love: such a faith in Christ as discovers itself to be true and genuine by a sincere love to God and our neighbour. If they had this, it mattered not whether they were circumcised or uncircumcised, but without it nothing else would stand them in any stead. Note, 1. No external privileges nor profession will avail to our acceptance with God, without a sincere faith in our Lord Jesus. 2. Faith, where it is true, is a working grace: it works by love, love to God and love to our brethren; and faith, thus working by love, is all in all in our Christianity.

IV. To recover them from their backslidings, and engage them to greater stedfastness for the future, he puts them in mind of their good beginnings, and calls upon them to consider whence it was that they were so much altered from what they had been, Gal 5:7.

1. He tells them that they did run well; at their first setting out in Christianity they had behaved themselves very commendably, they had readily embraced the Christian religion, and discovered a becoming zeal in the ways and work of it; as in their baptism they were devoted to God, and had declared themselves the disciples of Christ, so their behaviour was agreeable to their character and profession. Note, (1.) The life of a Christian is a race, wherein he must run, and hold on, if he would obtain the prize. (2.) It is not enough that we run in this race, by a profession of Christianity, but we must run well, by living up to that profession. Thus these Christians had done for awhile, but they had been obstructed in their progress, and were either turned out of the way or at least made to flag and falter in it. Therefore,

2. He asks them, and calls upon them to ask themselves, Who did hinder you? How came it to pass that they did not hold on in the way wherein they had begun to run so well? He very well knew who they were, and what it was that hindered them; but he would have them to put the question to themselves, and seriously consider whether they had any good reason to hearken to those who gave them this disturbance, and whether what they offered was sufficient to justify them in their present conduct. Note, (1.) Many who set out fair in religion, and run well for awhile – run within the bounds appointed for the race, and run with zeal and alacrity too-are yet by some means or other hindered in their progress, or turned out of the way. (2.) It concerns those who have run well, but now begin either to turn out of the way or to tire in it, to enquire what it is that hinders them. Young converts must expect that Satan will be laying stumbling blocks in their way, and doing all he can to divert them from the course they are in; but, whenever they find themselves in danger of being turned out of it, they would do well to consider who it is that hinders them. Whoever they were that hindered these Christians, the apostle tells them that by hearkening to them they were kept from obeying the truth, and were thereby in danger of losing the benefit of what they had done in religion. The gospel which he had preached to them, and which they had embraced and professed, he assures them was the truth; it was therein only that the true way of justification and salvation was fully discovered, and, in order to their enjoying the advantage of it, it was necessary that they should obey it, that they should firmly adhere to it, and continue to govern their lives and hopes according to the directions of it. If therefore they should suffer themselves to be drawn away from it they must needs be guilty of the greatest weakness and folly. Note, [1.] The truth is not only to be believed, but to be obeyed, to be received not only in the light of it, but in the love and power of it. [2.] Those do not rightly obey the truth, who do not stedfastly adhere to it. [3.] There is the same reason for our obeying the truth that there was for our embracing it: and therefore those act very unreasonably who, when they have begun to run well in the Christian race, suffer themselves to be hindered, so as not to persevere in it.

V. He argues for their stedfastness in the faith and liberty of the gospel from the ill rise of that persuasion whereby they were drawn away from it (Gal 5:8): This persuasion, says he, cometh not of him that calleth you. The opinion or persuasion of which the apostle here speaks was no doubt that of the necessity of their being circumcised, and keeping the law of Moses, or of their mixing the works of the law with faith in Christ in the business of justification. This was what the judaizing teachers endeavoured to impose upon them, and what they had too easily fallen into. To convince them of their folly herein, he tells them that this persuasion did not come of him that called them, that is, either of God, by whose authority the gospel had been preached to them and they had been called into the fellowship of it, or of the apostle himself, who had been employed as the instrument of calling them hereunto. It could not come from God, for it was contrary to that way of justification and salvation which he had established; nor could they have received it from Paul himself; for, whatever some might pretend, he had all along been an opposer and not a preacher of circumcision, and, if in any instance he had submitted to it for the sake of peace, yet he had never pressed the use of it upon Christians, much less imposed it upon them as necessary to salvation. Since then this persuasion did not come of him that had called them, he leaves them to judge whence it must arise, and sufficiently intimates that it could be owing to none but Satan and his instruments, who by this means were endeavouring to overthrow their faith and obstruct the progress of the gospel, and therefore that the Galatians had every reason to reject it, and to continue stedfast in the truth which they had before embraced. Note, 1. In order to our judging aright of the different persuasions in religion which there are among Christians, it concerns us to enquire whether they come of him that calleth us, whether or no they are founded upon the authority of Christ and his apostles. 2. If, upon enquiry, they appear to have no such foundation, how forward soever others may be to impose them upon us, we should by no means submit to them, but reject them.

VI. The danger there was of the spreading of this infection, and the ill influence it might have upon others, are a further argument which the apostle urges against their complying with their false teachers in what they would impose on them. It is possible that, to extenuate their fault, they might be ready to say that there were but few of those teachers among them who endeavoured to draw them into this persuasion and practice, or that they were only some smaller matters wherein they complied with them – that though they submitted to be circumcised, and to observe some few rites of the Jewish laws, yet they had by no means renounced their Christianity and gone over to Judaism. Or, suppose their complying thus far was as faulty as he could represent it, yet perhaps they might further say that there were but few among them who had done so, and therefore he needed not be so much concerned about it. Now, to obviate such pretences as these, and to convince them that there was more danger in it than they were aware of, he tells them (Gal 5:9) that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump – that the whole lump of Christianity may be tainted and corrupted by one such erroneous principle, or that the whole lump of the Christian society may be infected by one member of it, and therefore that they were greatly concerned not to yield in this single instance, or, if any had done so, to endeavour by all proper methods to purge out the infection from among them. Note, It is dangerous for Christian churches to encourage those among them who entertain, especially who set themselves to propagate, destructive errors. This was the case here. The doctrine which the false teachers were industrious to spread, and which some in these churches had been drawn into, was subversive of Christianity itself, as the apostle had before shown; and therefore, though the number either of the one or the other of these might be but small, yet, considering the fatal tendency of it and the corruption of human nature, whereby others were too much disposed to be infected with it, he would not have them on that account to be easy and unconcerned, but remember that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. If these were indulged the contagion might soon spread further and wider; and, if they suffered themselves to be imposed upon in this instance, it might soon issue in the utter ruin of the truth and liberty of the gospel.

VII. That he might conciliate the greater regard to what he had said, he expresses the hopes he had concerning them (Gal 5:10): I have confidence in you, says he, through the Lord, that you will be none otherwise minded. Though he had many fears and doubts about them (which was the occasion of his using so much plainness and freedom with them), yet he hoped that through the blessing of God upon what he had written they might be brought to be of the same mind with him, and to own and abide by that truth and that liberty of the gospel which he had preached to them, and was now endeavouring to confirm them in. Herein he teaches us that we ought to hope the best even of those concerning whom we have cause to fear the worst. That they might be the less offended at the reproofs he had given them for their unstedfastness in the faith, he lays the blame of it more upon others than themselves; for he adds, But he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be. He was sensible that there were some that troubled them, and would pervert the gospel of Christ (as Gal 1:7), and possibly he may point to some one particular man who was more busy and forward than others, and might be the chief instrument of the disorder that was among them; and to this he imputes their defection or inconstancy more than to any thing in themselves. This may give us occasion to observe that, in reproving sin and error, we should always distinguish between the leaders and the led, such as set themselves to draw others thereinto and such as are drawn aside by them. Thus the apostle softens and alleviates the fault of these Christians, even while he is reproving them, that he might the better persuade them to return to, and stand fast in, the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free: but as for him or those that troubled them, whoever he or they were, he declares they should bear their judgment, he did not doubt but God would deal with them according to their deserts, and out of his just indignation against them, as enemies of Christ and his church, he wishes that they were even cut off – not cut off from Christ and all hopes of salvation by him, but cut off by the censures of the church, which ought to witness against those teachers who thus corrupted the purity of the gospel. Those, whether ministers or others, who set themselves to overthrow the faith of the gospel, and disturb the peace of Christians, do thereby forfeit the privileges of Christian communion and deserve to be cut off from them.

VIII. To dissuade these Christians from hearkening to their judaizing teachers, and to recover them from the ill impressions they had made upon them, he represents them as men who had used very base and disingenuous methods to compass their designs, for they had misrepresented him, that they might the more easily gain their ends upon them. That which they were endeavouring was to bring them to submit to circumcision, and to mix Judaism with their Christianity; and, the better to accomplish this design, they had given out among them that Paul himself was a preacher of circumcision: for when he says (

Gal 5:11), And I brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, it plainly appears that they had reported him to have done so, and that they had made use of this as an argument to prevail with the Galatians to submit to it. It is probable that they grounded this report upon his having circumcised Timothy, Act 16:3. But, though for good reasons he had yielded to circumcision in that instance, yet that he was a preacher of it, and especially in that sense wherein they imposed it, he utterly denies. To prove the injustice of that charge upon him, he offers such arguments as, if they would allow themselves to consider, could not fail to convince them of it. 1. If he would have preached circumcision, he might have avoided persecution. If I yet preach circumcision, says he, why do I yet suffer persecution? It was evident, and they could not but be sensible of it, that he was hated and persecuted by the Jews; but what account could be given of this their behaviour towards him, if he had so far symbolized with them as to preach up circumcision, and the observance of the law of Moses, as necessary to salvation? This was the great point they were contending for; and, if he had fallen in with them herein, instead of being exposed to their rage he might have been received into their favour. When therefore he was suffering persecution from them, this was a plain evidence that he had not complied with them; yea, that he was so far from preaching the doctrine he was charged with, that, rather than do so, he was willing to expose himself to the greatest hazards. 2. If he had yielded to the Jews herein, then would the offence of the cross have ceased. They would not have taken so much offence against the doctrine of Christianity as they did, nor would he and others have been exposed to so much suffering on the account of it as they were. He informs us (1Co 1:23) that the preaching of the cross of Christ (or the doctrine of justification and salvation only by faith in Christ crucified) was to the Jews a stumbling-block. That which they were most offended at in Christianity was, that thereby circumcision, and the whole frame of the legal administration, were set aside, as no longer in force. This raised their greatest outcries against it, and stirred them up to oppose and persecute the professors of it. Now if Paul and others could have given into this opinion, that circumcision was still to be retained, and the observance of the law of Moses joined with faith in Christ as necessary to salvation, then their offence against it would have been in a great measure removed, and they might have avoided the sufferings they underwent for the sake of it. But though others, and particularly those who were so forward to asperse him as a preacher of this doctrine, could easily come into it, yet so could not he. He rather chose to hazard his ease and credit, yea his very life itself, than thus to corrupt the truth and give up the liberty of the gospel. Hence it was that the Jews continued to be so much offended against Christianity, and against him as the preacher of it. Thus the apostle clears himself from the unjust reproach which his enemies had cast upon him, and at the same time shows how little regard was due to those men who could treat him in such an injurious manner, and how much reason he had to wish that they were even cut off.

Galatians 5:13-26

In the latter part of this chapter the apostle comes to exhort these Christians to serious practical godliness, as the best antidote against the snares of the false teachers. Two things especially he presses upon them: –

I. That they should not strive with one another, but love one another. He tells them (Gal 5:13) that they had been called unto liberty, and he would have them to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free; but yet he would have them be very careful that they did not use this liberty as an occasion to the flesh – that they did not thence take occasion to indulge themselves in any corrupt affections and practices, and particularly such as might create distance and disaffection, and be the ground of quarrels and contentions among them: but, on the contrary, he would have them by love to serve one another, to maintain that mutual love and affection which, notwithstanding any minor differences there might be among them, would dispose them to all those offices of respect and kindness to each other which the Christian religion obliged them to. Note, 1. The liberty we enjoy as Christians is not a licentious liberty: though Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, yet he has not freed us from the obligation of it; the gospel is a doctrine according to godliness (1Ti 6:3), and is so far from giving the least countenance to sin that it lays us under the strongest obligations to avoid and subdue it. 2. Though we ought to stand fast in our Christian liberty, yet we should not insist upon it to the breach of Christian charity; we should not use it as an occasion of strife and contention with our fellow Christians, who may be differently minded from us, but should always maintain such a temper towards each other as may dispose us by love to serve one another. To this the apostle endeavours to persuade these Christians, and there are two considerations which he sets before them for this purpose: – (1.) That all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, Gal 5:14. Love is the sum of the whole law; as love to God comprises the duties of the first table, so love to our neighbour those of the second. The apostle takes notice of the latter here, because he is speaking of their behaviour towards one another; and, when he makes use of this as an argument to persuade them to mutual love, he intimates both that this would be a good evidence of their sincerity in religion and also the most likely means of rooting out those dissensions and divisions that were among them. It will appear that we are the disciples of Christ indeed when we have love one to another (Joh 13:35); and, where this temper is kept up, if it do not wholly extinguish those unhappy discords that are among Christians, yet at least it will so far accommodate them that the fatal consequences of them will be prevented. (2.) The sad and dangerous tendency of a contrary behaviour (Gal 5:15): But, says he, if instead of serving one another in love, and therein fulfilling the law of God, you bite and devour one another, take heed that you be not consumed one of another. If, instead of acting like men and Christians, they would behave themselves more like brute beasts, in tearing and rending one another, they could expect nothing as the consequence of it, but that they would be consumed one of another; and therefore they had the greatest reason not to indulge themselves in such quarrels and animosities. Note, Mutual strifes among brethren, if persisted in, are likely to prove a common ruin; those that devour one another are in a fair way to be consumed one of another. Christian churches cannot be ruined but by their own hands; but if Christians, who should be helps to one another and a joy one to another, be as brute beasts, biting and devouring each other, what can be expected but that the God of love should deny his grace to them, and the Spirit of love should depart from them, and that the evil spirit, who seeks the destruction of them all, should prevail?

II. That they should all strive against sin; and happy would it be for the church if Christians would let all their quarrels be swallowed up of this, even a quarrel against sin-if, instead of biting and devouring one another on account of their different opinions, they would all set themselves against sin in themselves and the places where they live. This is what we are chiefly concerned to fight against, and that which above every thing else we should make it our business to oppose and suppress. To excite Christians hereunto, and to assist them herein, the apostle shows,

1. That there is in every one a struggle between the flesh and the spirit (Gal 5:17): The flesh (the corrupt and carnal part of us) lusts (strives and struggles with strength and vigour) against the spirit: it opposes all the motions of the Spirit, and resists every thing that is spiritual. On the other hand, the spirit (the renewed part of us) strives against the flesh, and opposes the will and desire of it: and hence it comes to pass that we cannot do the things that we would. As the principle of grace in us will not suffer us to do all the evil which our corrupt nature would prompt us to, so neither can we do all the good that we would, by reason of the oppositions we meet with from that corrupt and carnal principle. Even as in a natural man there is something of this struggle (the convictions of his conscience and the corruption of his own heart strive with one another; his convictions would suppress his corruptions, and his corruptions silence his convictions), so in a renewed man, where there is something of a good principle, there is a struggle between the old nature and the new nature, the remainders of sin and the beginnings of grace; and this Christians must expect will be their exercise as long as they continue in this world.

2. That it is our duty and interest in this struggle to side with the better part, to side with our convictions against our corruptions and with our graces against our lusts. This the apostle represents as our duty, and directs us to the most effectual means of success in it. If it should be asked, What course must we take that the better interest may get the better? he gives us this one general rule, which, if duly observed, would be the most sovereign remedy against the prevalence of corruption; and that is to walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:16): This I say, then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. By the Spirit here may be meant either the Holy Spirit himself, who condescends to dwell in the hearts of those whom he has renewed and sanctified, to guide and assist them in the way of their duty, or that gracious principle which he implants in the souls of his people and which lusts against the flesh, as that corrupt principle which still remains in them does against it. Accordingly the duty here recommended to us is that we set ourselves to act under the guidance and influence of the blessed Spirit, and agreeably to the motions and tendency of the new nature in us; and, if this be our care in the ordinary course and tenour of our lives, we may depend upon it that, though we may not be freed from the stirrings and oppositions of our corrupt nature, we shall be kept from fulfilling it in the lusts thereof; so that though it remain in us, yet it shall not obtain a dominion over us. Note, The best antidote against the poison of sin is to walk in the Spirit, to be much in conversing with spiritual things, to mind the things of the soul, which is the spiritual part of man, more than those of the body, which is his carnal part, to commit ourselves to the guidance of the word, wherein the Holy Spirit makes known the will of God concerning us, and in the way of our duty to act in a dependence on his aids and influences. And, as this would be the best means of preserving them from fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, so it would be a good evidence that they were Christians indeed; for, says the apostle (Gal 5:18), If you be led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. As if he had said, “You must expect a struggle between flesh and spirit as long as you are in the world, that the flesh will be lusting against the spirit as well as the spirit against the flesh; but if, in the prevailing bent and tenour of your lives, you be led by the Spirit, – if you act under the guidance and government of the Holy Spirit and of that spiritual nature and disposition he has wrought in you, – if you make the word of God your rule and the grace of God your principle, – it will hence appear that you are not under the law, not under the condemning, though you are still under the commanding, power of it; for there is now no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; and as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God,Rom 8:1-14.

3. The apostle specifies the works of the flesh, which must be watched against and mortified, and the fruits of the Spirit, which must be cherished and brought forth (Gal 5:19, etc.); and by specifying particulars he further illustrates what he is here upon. (1.) He begins with the works of the flesh, which, as they are many, so they are manifest. It is past dispute that the things he here speaks of are the works of the flesh, or the product of corrupt and depraved nature; most of them are condemned by the light of nature itself, and all of them by the light of scripture. The particulars he specifies are of various sorts; some are sins against the seventh commandment, such as adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, by which are meant not only the gross acts of these sins, but all such thoughts, and words, and actions, as have a tendency towards the great transgression. Some are sins against the first and second commandments, as idolatry and witchcraft. Others are sins against our neighbour, and contrary to the royal law of brotherly love, such as

hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, which too often occasion seditions, heresies, envyings, and sometimes break out into murders, not only of the names and reputation, but even of the very lives, of our fellow-creatures. Others are sins against ourselves, such as drunkenness and revellings; and he concludes the catalogue with an et cetera, and gives fair warning to all to take care of them, as they hope to see the face of God with comfort. Of these and such like, says he, I tell you before, as I have also told you in times past, that those who do such things, how much soever they may flatter themselves with vain hopes, shall not inherit the kingdom of God. These are sins which will undoubtedly shut men out of heaven. The world of spirits can never be comfortable to those who plunge themselves in the filth of the flesh; nor will the righteous and holy God ever admit such into his favour and presence, unless they be first washed and sanctified, and justified in the name of our Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God, 1Co 6:11. (2.) He specifies the fruits of the Spirit, or the renewed nature, which as Christians we are concerned to bring forth, Gal 5:22, Gal 5:23. And here we may observe that as sin is called the work of the flesh, because the flesh, or corrupt nature, is the principle that moves and excites men to it, so grace is said to be the fruit of the Spirit, because it wholly proceeds from the Spirit, as the fruit does from the root: and whereas before the apostle had chiefly specified those works of the flesh which were not only hurtful to men themselves but tended to make them so to one another, so here he chiefly takes notice of those fruits of the Spirit which had a tendency to make Christians agreeable one to another, as well as easy to themselves; and this was very suitable to the caution or exhortation he had before given (Gal 5:13), that they should not use their liberty as an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. He particularly recommends to us, love, to God especially, and to one another for his sake, – joy, by which may be understood cheerfulness in conversation with our friends, or rather a constant delight in God, – peace, with God and conscience, or a peaceableness of temper and behaviour towards others, – long-suffering, patience to defer anger, and a contentedness to bear injuries, – gentleness, such a sweetness of temper, and especially towards our inferiors, as disposes us to be affable and courteous, and easy to be entreated when any have wronged us, – goodness (kindness, beneficence), which shows itself in a readiness to do good to all as we have opportunity, – faith, fidelity, justice, and honesty, in what we profess and promise to others, – meekness, wherewith to govern our passions and resentments, so as not to be easily provoked, and, when we are so, to be soon pacified, – and temperance, in meat and drink, and other enjoyments of life, so as not to be excessive and immoderate in the use of them. Concerning these things, or those in whom these fruits of the Spirit are found, the apostle says, There is no law against them, to condemn and punish them. Yea, hence it appears that they are not under the law, but under grace; for these fruits of the Spirit, in whomsoever they are found, plainly show that such are led by the Spirit, and consequently that they are not under the law, as Gal 5:18. And as, by specifying these works of the flesh and fruits of the Spirit, the apostle directs us both what we are to avoid and oppose and what we are to cherish and cultivate, so (Gal 5:24) he informs us that this is the sincere care and endeavour of all real Christians: And those that are Christ’s, says he (those who are Christians indeed, not only in show and profession, but in sincerity and truth), have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. As in their baptism they were obliged hereunto (for, being baptized into Christ, they were baptized into his death, Rom 6:3), so they are now sincerely employing themselves herein, and, in conformity to their Lord and head, are endeavouring to die unto sin, as he had died for it. They have not yet obtained a complete victory over it; they have still flesh as well as Spirit in them, and that has its affections and lusts, which continue to give them no little disturbance, but as it does not now reign in their mortal bodies, so as that they obey it in the lusts thereof (Rom 6:12), so they are seeking the utter ruin and destruction of it, and to put it to the same shameful and ignominious, though lingering death, which our Lord Jesus underwent for our sakes. Note, If we should approve ourselves to be Christ’s, such as are united to him and interested in him, we must make it our constant care and business to crucify the flesh with its corrupt affections and lusts. Christ will never own those as his who yield themselves the servants of sin. But though the apostle here only mentions the crucifying of the flesh with the affections and lusts, as the care and character of real Christians, yet, no doubt, it is also implied that, on the other hand, we should show forth those fruits of the Spirit which he had just before been specifying; this is no less our duty than that, nor is it less necessary to evidence our sincerity in religion. It is not enough that we cease to do evil, but we must learn to do well. Our Christianity obliges us not only to die unto sin, but to live unto righteousness; not only to oppose the works of the flesh, but to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit too. If therefore we would make it appear that we do indeed belong to Christ, this must be our sincere care and endeavour as well as the other; and that it was the design of the apostle to represent both the one and the other of these as our duty, and as necessary to support our character as Christians, may be gathered from what follows (Gal 5:25), where he adds, If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit; that is, “If we profess to have received the Spirit of Christ, or that we are renewed in the Spirit of Christ, or that we are renewed in the spirit of our minds, and endued with a principle of spiritual life, let us make it appear by the proper fruits of the Spirit in our lives.” He had before told us that the Spirit of Christ is a privilege bestowed on all the children of God, Gal 4:6. “Now,” says he, “if we profess to be of this number, and as such to have obtained this privilege, let us show it by a temper and behaviour agreeable hereunto; let us evidence our good principles by good practices.” Our conversation will always be answerable to the principle which we are under the guidance and government of: as those that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, so those that are after the Spirit do mind the things of the Spirit, Rom 8:5. If therefore we would have it appear that we are Christ’s, and that we are partakers of his Spirit, it must be by our walking not after the flesh, but after the spirit. We must set ourselves in good earnest both to mortify the deeds of the body, and to walk in newness of life.

4. The apostle concludes this chapter with a caution against pride and envy, Gal 5:26. He had before been exhorting these Christians by love to serve one another (Gal 5:13), and had put them in mind of what would be the consequence if, instead of that, they did bite and devour one another, Gal 5:15. Now, as a means of engaging them to the one and preserving them from the other of these, he here cautions them against being desirous of vain-glory, or giving way to an undue affectation of the esteem and applause of men, because this, if it were indulged, would certainly lead them to provoke one another and to envy one another. As far as this temper prevails among Christians, they will be ready to slight and despise those whom they look upon as inferior to them, and to be put out of humour if they are denied that respect which they think is their due from them, and they will also be apt to envy those by whom their reputation is in any danger of being lessened: and thus a foundation is laid for those quarrels and contentions which, as they are inconsistent with that love which Christians ought to maintain towards each other, so they are greatly prejudicial to the honour and interest of religion itself. This therefore the apostle would have us by all means to watch against. Note, (1.) The glory which comes from men is vain-glory, which, instead of being desirous of, we should be dead to. (2.) An undue regard to the approbation and applause of men is one great ground of the unhappy strifes and contentions that exist among Christians.

CHAPTER SIX SUMMARY

Galatians 6

This chapter chiefly consists of two parts. In the former the apostle gives us several plain and practical directions, which more especially tend to instruct Christians in their duty to one another, and to promote the communion of saints in love (Gal 6:1-10). In the latter he revives the main design of the epistle, which was to fortify the Galatians against the arts of their judaizing teachers, and confirm them in the truth and liberty of the gospel, for which purpose he, I. Gives them the true character of these teachers, and shows them from what motives, and with what views, they acted (Gal 6:11-14). And, II. On the other hand he acquaints them with his own temper and behaviour. From both these they might easily see how little reason they had to slight him, and to fall in with them. And then he concludes the epistle with a solemn benediction.

CHAPTER SIX BY-VERSE DISCUSSION

Galatians 6:1-10

The apostle having, in the foregoing chapter, exhorted Christians by love to serve one another (Gal 6:13), and also cautioned us (Gal 6:16) against a temper which, if indulged, would hinder us from showing the mutual love and serviceableness which he had recommended, in the beginning of this chapter he proceeds to give some further directions, which, if duly observed, would both promote the one and prevent the other of these, and render our behaviour both more agreeable to our Christian profession and more useful and comfortable to one another: particularly,

I. We are here taught to deal tenderly with those who are overtaken in a fault, Gal 6:1. He puts a common case: If a man be overtaken in a fault, that is, be brought to sin by the surprise of temptation. It is one thing to overtake a fault by contrivance and deliberation, and a full resolution in sin, and another thing to be overtaken in a fault. The latter is the case here supposed, and herein the apostle shows that great tenderness should be used. Those who are spiritual, by whom is meant, not only the ministers (as if none but they were to be called spiritual persons), but other Christians too, especially those of the higher form in Christianity; these must restore such a one with the spirit of meekness. Here observe, 1. The duty we are directed to – to restore such; we should labour, by faithful reproofs, and pertinent and seasonable councils, to bring them to repentance. The original word, katartizete, signifies to set in joint, as a dislocated bone; accordingly we should endeavour to set them in joint again, to bring them to themselves, by convincing them of their sin and error, persuading them to return to their duty, comforting them in a sense of pardoning mercy thereupon, and having thus recovered them, confirming our love to them. 2. The manner wherein this is to be done: With the spirit of meekness; not in wrath and passion, as those who triumph in a brother’s falls, but with meekness, as those who rather mourn for them. Many needful reproofs lose their efficacy by being given in wrath; but when they are managed with calmness and tenderness, and appear to proceed from sincere affection and concern for the welfare of those to whom they are given, they are likely to make a due impression. 3. A very good reason why this should be done with meekness: Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. We ought to deal very tenderly with those who are overtaken in sin, because we none of us know but it may some time or other be our own case. We also may be tempted, yea, and overcome by the temptation; and therefore, if we rightly consider ourselves, this will dispose us to do by others as we desire to be done by in such a case.

II. We are here directed to bear one another’s burdens, Gal 6:2. This may be considered either as referring to what goes before, and so may teach us to exercise forbearance and compassion towards one another, in the case of those weaknesses, and follies, and infirmities, which too often attend us – that, though we should not wholly connive at them, yet we should not be severe against one another on account of them; or as a more general precept, and so it directs us to sympathize with one another under the various trials and troubles that we may meet with, and to be ready to afford each other the comfort and counsel, the help and assistance, which our circumstances may require. To excite us hereunto, the apostle adds, by way of motive, that so we shall fulfil the law of Christ. This is to act agreeably to the law of his precept, which is the law of love, and obliges us to a mutual forbearance and forgiveness, to sympathy with and compassion towards each other; and it would also be agreeable to his pattern and example, which have the force of a law to us. He bears with us under our weaknesses and follies, he is touched with a fellow-feeling of our infirmities; and therefore there is good reason why we should maintain the same temper towards one another. Note, Though as Christians we are freed from the law of Moses, yet we are under the law of Christ; and therefore, instead of laying unnecessary burdens upon others (as those who urged the observance of Moses’s law did), it much more becomes us to fulfil the law of Christ by bearing one another’s burdens. The apostle being aware how great a hindrance pride would be to the mutual condescension and sympathy which he had been recommending, and that a conceit of ourselves would dispose us to censure and contemn our brethren, instead of bearing with their infirmities and endeavouring to restore them when overtaken with a fault, he therefore (Gal 6:3) takes care to caution us against this; he supposes it as a very possible thing (and it would be well if it were not too common) for a man to think himself to be something – to entertain a fond opinion of his own sufficiency, to look upon himself as wiser and better than other men, and as fit to dictate and prescribe to them – when in truth he is nothing, has nothing of substance or solidity in him, or that can be a ground of the confidence and superiority which he assumes. To dissuade us from giving way to this temper he tells us that such a one does but deceive himself; while he imposes upon others, by pretending to what he has not, he puts the greatest cheat upon himself, and sooner or later will find the sad effects of it. This will never gain him that esteem, either with God or good men, which he is ready to expect; he is neither the freer from mistakes nor will he be the more secure against temptations for the good opinion he has of his own sufficiency, but rather the more liable to fall into them, and to be overcome by them; for he that thinks he stands has need to take heed lest he fall. Instead therefore of indulging such a vain-glorious humour, which is both destructive of the love and kindness we owe to our fellow-christians and also injurious to ourselves, it would much better become us to accept the apostle’s exhortation (Php 2:3), Do nothing through strife nor vain-glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Note, Self-conceit is but self-deceit: as it is inconsistent with that charity we owe to others (for charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 1Co 13:4), so it is a cheat upon ourselves; and there is not a more dangerous cheat in the world than self-deceit. As a means of preventing this evil,

III. We are advised every one to prove his own work, Gal 6:4. By our own work is chiefly meant our own actions or behaviour. These the apostle directs us to prove, that is seriously and impartially to examine them by the rule of God’s word, to see whether or no they are agreeable to it, and therefore such as God and conscience do approve. This he represents as the duty of every man; instead of being forward to judge and censure others, it would much more become us to search and try our own ways; our business lies more at home than abroad, with ourselves than with other men, for what have we to do to judge another man’s servant? From the connection of this exhortation with what goes before it appears that if Christians did duly employ themselves in this work they might easily discover those defects and failings in themselves which would soon convince them how little reason they have either to be conceited of themselves or severe in their censures of others; and so it gives us occasion to observe that the best way to keep us from being proud of ourselves is to prove our ownselves: the better we are acquainted with our own hearts and ways, the less liable shall we be to despise and the more disposed to compassionate and help others under their infirmities and afflictions. That we may be persuaded to this necessary and profitable duty of proving our own work, the apostle urges two considerations very proper for this purpose: –

1. This is the way to have rejoicing in ourselves alone. If we set ourselves in good earnest to prove our own work, and, upon the trial, can approve ourselves to God, as to our sincerity and uprightness towards him, then may we expect to have comfort and peace in our own souls, having the testimony of our own consciences for us (as 2Co 1:12), and this, he intimates, would be a much better ground of joy and satisfaction than to be able to rejoice in another, either in the good opinion which others may have of us or in having gained over others to our opinion, which the false teachers were wont to glory in (as we see Gal 6:13), or by comparing ourselves with others, as, it should seem, some did, who were ready to think well of themselves, because they were not so bad as some others. Too many are apt to value themselves upon such accounts as these; but the joy that results thence is nothing to that which arises from an impartial trial of ourselves by the rule of God’s word, and our being able thereupon to approve ourselves to him. Note, (1.) Though we have nothing in ourselves to boast of, yet we may have the matter of rejoicing in ourselves: our works can merit nothing at the hand of God; but, if our consciences can witness for us that they are such as he for Christ’s sake approves and accepts, we may upon good ground rejoice therein. (2.) The true way to have rejoicing in ourselves is to be much in proving our own works, in examining ourselves by the unerring rule of God’s word, and not by the false measures of what others are, or may think of us. (3.) It is much more desirable to have matter of glorying in ourselves than in another. If we have the testimony of our consciences that we are accepted of God, we need not much concern ourselves about what others think or say of us; and without this the good opinion of others will stand us in little stead.

2. The other argument which the apostle uses to press upon us this duty of proving our own work is that every man shall bear his own burden (Gal 6:5), the meaning of which is that at the great day every one shall be reckoned with according as his behaviour here has been. He supposes that there is a day coming when we must all give an account of ourselves to God; and he declares that then the judgment will proceed, and the sentence pass, not according to the sentiments of the world concerning us, or any ungrounded opinion we may have had of ourselves, or upon our having been better or worse than others, but according as our state and behaviour have really been in the sight of God. And, if there be such an awful time to be expected, when he will render to every one according to his works, surely there is the greatest reason why we should prove our own works now: if we must certainly be called to an account hereafter, surely we ought to be often calling ourselves to an account here, to see whether or no we are such as God will own and approve then: and, as this is our duty, so if it were more our practice we should entertain more becoming thoughts both of ourselves and our fellow Christians, and instead of bearing hard upon one another, on account of any mistakes or failings we may be guilty of, we should be more ready to fulfil that law of Christ by which we must be judged in bearing one another’s burdens.

IV. Christians are here exhorted to be free and liberal in maintaining their ministers (Gal 6:6): Let him that is taught in the word communicate to him that teacheth, in all good things. Here we may observe, 1. The apostle speaks of it as a thing known and acknowledged, that, as there are some to be taught, so there are others who are appointed to teach them. The office of the ministry is a divine institution, which does not lie open in common to all, but is confined to those only whom God has qualified for it and called to it: even reason itself directs us to put a difference between the teachers and the taught (for, if all were teachers, there would be none to be taught), and the scriptures sufficiently declare that it is the will of God we should do so. 2. It is the word of God wherein ministers are to teach and instruct others; that which they are to preach is the word, 2Ti 4:2. That which they are to declare is the counsel of God, Act 20:27. They are not lords of our faith, but helpers of our joy, 2Co 1:24. It is the word of God which is the only rule of faith and life; this they are concerned to study, and to open, and improve, for the edification of others, but they are no further to be regarded than as they speak according to this rule. 3. It is the duty of those who are taught in the word to support those who are appointed to teach them; for they are to communicate to them in all good things, freely and cheerfully to contribute, of the good things with which God has blessed them, what is needful for their comfortable subsistence. Ministers are to give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine (1Ti 4:13); they are not to entangle themselves with the affairs of this life (2Ti 2:4), and therefore it is but fit and equitable that, while they are sowing to others spiritual things, they should reap their carnal things. And this is the appointment of God himself; for as, under the law, those who ministered about holy things lived of the things of the temple, so hath the Lord ordained that those who preach the gospel should live of the gospel, 1Co 9:11, 1Co 9:13, 1Co 9:14.

V. Here is a caution to take heed of mocking God, or of deceiving ourselves, by imagining that he can be imposed upon by mere pretensions or professions (Gal 6:7): Be not deceived, God is not mocked. This may be considered as referring to the foregoing exhortation, and so the design of it is to convince those of their sin and folly who endeavoured by any plausible pretences to excuse themselves from doing their duty in supporting their ministers: or it may be taken in a more general view, as respecting the whole business of religion, and so as designed to take men off from entertaining any vain hopes of enjoying its rewards while they live in the neglect of its duties. The apostle here supposes that many are apt to excuse themselves from the work of religion, and especially the more self-denying and chargeable parts of it, though at the same time they may make a show and profession of it; but he assures them that this their way is their folly, for, though hereby they may possibly impose upon others, yet they do but deceive themselves if they think to impose upon God, who is perfectly acquainted with their hearts as well as actions, and, as he cannot be deceived, so he will not be mocked; and therefore, to prevent this, he directs us to lay down as a rule to ourselves, That whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap; or that according as we behave ourselves now, so will our account be in the great day. Our present time is seed-time: in the other world there will be a great harvest; and, as the husbandman reaps in the harvest according as he sows in the seedness, so we shall reap then as we sow now. And he further informs us (Gal 6:8) that, as there are two sorts of seedness, sowing to the flesh and sowing to the Spirit, so accordingly will the reckoning be hereafter: If we sow to the flesh, we shall of the flesh reap corruption. If we sow the wind, we shall reap the whirlwind. Those who live a carnal sensual life, who instead of employing themselves to the honour of God and the good of others, spend all their thoughts, and care, and time, about the flesh, must expect no other fruit of such a course than corruption – a mean and short-lived satisfaction at present, and ruin and misery at the end of it. But, on the other hand, those who sow to the Spirit, who under the guidance and influence of the Spirit do live a holy and spiritual life, a life of devotedness to God and of usefulness and serviceableness to others, may depend upon it that of the Spirit they shall reap life everlasting – they shall have the truest comfort in their present course, and an eternal life and happiness at the end of it. Note, Those who go about to mock God do but deceive themselves. Hypocrisy in religion is the greatest folly as well as wickedness, since the God we have to do with can easily see through all our disguises, and will certainly deal with us hereafter, not according to our professions, but our practices.

VI. Here is a further caution given us, not to be weary in well doing, Gal 6:9. As we should not excuse ourselves from any part of our duty, so neither should we grow weary in it. There is in all of us too great a proneness to this; we are very apt to flag and tire in duty, yea to fall off from it, particularly that part of it to which the apostle has here a special regard, that of doing good to others. This therefore he would have us carefully to watch and guard against; and he gives this very good reason for it, because in due season we shall reap, if we faint not, where he assures us that there is a recompence of reward in reserve for all who sincerely employ themselves in well doing; that this reward will certainly be bestowed on us in the proper season – if not in this world, yet undoubtedly in the next; but then that it is upon supposition that we faint not in the way of our duty; if we grow weary of it, and withdraw from it, we shall not only miss of this reward, but lose the comfort and advantage of what we have already done; but, if we hold on and hold out in well-doing, though our reward may be delayed, yet it will surely come, and will be so great as to make us an abundant recompence for all our pains and constancy. Note, Perseverance in well-doing is our wisdom and interest, as well as our duty, for to this only is the reward promised.

VII. Here is an exhortation to all Christians to do good in their places (Gal 6:10): As we have therefore an opportunity, etc. It is not enough that we be good to others, if we would approve ourselves to be Christians indeed. The duty here recommended to us is the same that is spoken of in the foregoing verses; and, as there the apostle exhorts us to sincerity and perseverance in it, so here he directs us both as to the objects and rule of it. 1. The objects of this duty are more generally all men. We are not to confine our charity and beneficence within too narrow bounds, as the Jews and judaizing Christians were apt to do, but should be ready to extend it to all who partake of the same common nature with us, as far as we are capable and they stand in need of us. But yet, in the exercise of it, we are to have a special regard to the household of faith, or to those who profess the same common faith, and are members of the same body of Christ, with us: though others are not to be excluded, yet these are to be preferred. The charity of Christians should be extensive charity: but yet therein a particular respect is to be had to good people. God does good to all, but in an especial manner he is good to his own servants; and we must in doing good be followers of God as dear children. 2. The rule which we are to observe in doing good to others is as we have opportunity, which implies, (1.) That we should be sure to do it while we have opportunity, or while our life lasts, which is the only season wherein we are capable of doing good to his own servants; and we must in doing good be followers of God as dear children. 2. The rule which we are to observe in doing good to others is as we have opportunity, which implies, (1.) That we should be sure to do it while we have opportunity, or while our life lasts, which is the only season wherein we are capable of doing good to others. If therefore we would behave ourselves aright in this matter, we must not, as too many do, neglect it in our life-time, and defer it till we come to die, under a pretence of doing something of this nature then: for, as we cannot be sure that we shall then have an opportunity for it, so neither, if we should, have we any ground to expect that what we do will be so acceptable to God, much less that we can atone for our past neglects by leaving something behind us for the good of others, when we can no longer keep it ourselves. But we should take care to do good in our life-time, yea, to make this the business of our lives. And, (2.) That we be ready to improve every opportunity for it: we should not content ourselves in having done some good already; but, whenever fresh occasions offer themselves, as far as our capacity reaches we should be ready to embrace them too, for we are directed to give a portion to seven and also to eight, Ecc 11:2. Note, [1.] As God has made it our duty to do good to others, so he takes care in his providence to furnish us with opportunities for it.

The poor we have always with us, Mat 26:11. [2.] Whenever God gives us an opportunity of being useful to others, he expects we should improve it, according to our capacity and ability. [3.] We have need of godly wisdom and discretion to direct us in the exercise of our charity or beneficence, and particularly in the choice of the proper objects of it; for, though none who stand in need of us are to be wholly overlooked, yet there is a difference to be made between some and others.

Galatians 6:11-18

The apostle, having at large established the doctrine of the gospel, and endeavoured to persuade these Christians to a behaviour agreeable to it, seems as if he intended here to have put an end to the epistle, especially when he had acquainted them that, as a particular mark of his respect for them, he had written this large letter with his own hand, and had not made use of another as his amanuensis, and only subscribed his name to it, as he was wont to do in his other epistles: but such is his affection to them such his concern to recover them from the bad impressions made upon them by their false teachers, that he cannot break off till he has once again given them the true character of those teachers, and an account of his own contrary temper and behaviour, that by comparing these together they might the more easily see how little reason they had to depart from the doctrine he had taught them and to comply with theirs.

I. He gives them the true character of those teachers who were industrious to seduce them, in several particulars. As, 1. They were men who desired to make a fair show in the flesh, Gal 6:12. They were very zealous for the externals of religion, forward to observe, and to oblige others to observe, the rites of the ceremonial law, though at the same time they had little or no regard to real piety; for, as the apostle says of them in the following verse, neither do they themselves keep the law. Proud, vain, and carnal hearts desire nothing more than to make a fair show in the flesh, and they can easily be content with so much religion as will help them to keep up such a fair show; but frequently those have least of the substance of religion who are most solicitous to make a show of it. 2. They were men who were afraid of suffering, for they constrained the Gentile Christians to be circumcised, only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. It was not so much out of a regard to the law as to themselves; they were willing to sleep in a whole skin, and to save their worldly cargo, and cared not though they made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience. That which they chiefly aimed at was to please the Jews, and to keep up their reputation among them, and so to prevent the trouble that Paul, and other faithful professors of the doctrine of Christ, lay open to. And, 3. Another part of their character was that they were men of a party spirit, and who had no further zeal for the law than as it subserved their carnal and selfish designs; for they desired to have these Christians circumcised, that they might glory in their flesh (Gal 6:13), that they might say they had gained them over to their side, and made proselytes of them, of which they carried the mark in their flesh. And thus, while they pretended to promote religion, they were the greatest enemies of it; for nothing has been more destructive to the interest of religion than men-siding and party-making.

II. He acquaints us, on the other hand, with his own temper and behaviour, or makes profession of his own faith, hope, and joy; particularly,

1. That his principle glory was in the cross of Christ: God forbid, says he, that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, Gal 6:14. By the cross of Christ is here meant his sufferings and death on the cross, or the doctrine of salvation by a crucified Redeemer. This was what the Jews stumbled at and the Greeks accounted foolishness; and the judaizing teachers themselves, though they had embraced Christianity, yet were so far ashamed of it that in compliance with the Jews, and to avoid persecution from them, they were for mixing the observance of the law of Moses with faith in Christ, as necessary to salvation. But Paul had a very different opinion of it; he was so far from being offended at the cross of Christ, or ashamed of it, or afraid to own it, that he gloried in it; yea, he desired to glory in nothing else, and rejected the thought of setting up anything in competition with it, as the object of his esteem, with the utmost abhorrence; God forbid, etc. This was the ground of all his hope as a Christian: this was the doctrine which, as an apostle, he was resolved to preach; and, whatever trials his firm adherence to it might bring upon him, he was ready, not only to submit to them, but to rejoice in them. Note, The cross of Christ is a good Christian’s chief glory, and there is the greatest reason why we should glory in it, for to it we owe all our joys and hopes.

2. That he was dead to the world. By Christ, or by the cross of Christ, the world was crucified to him, and he to the world; he had experienced the power and virtue of it in weaning him from the world, and this was one great reason of his glorying in it. The false teachers were men of a worldly temper, their chief concern was about their secular interests, and therefore they accommodated their religion thereunto. But Paul was a man of another spirit; as the world had no kindness for him, so neither had he any great regard to it; he had got above both the smiles and the frowns of it, and had become as indifferent to it as one who is dying out of it. This is a temper of mind that all Christians should be labouring after; and the best way to attain it is to converse much with the cross of Christ. The higher esteem we have of him the meaner opinion shall we have of the world, and the more we contemplate the sufferings our dear Redeemer met with from the world the less likely shall we be to be in love with it.

3. That he did not lay the stress of his religion on one side or the other of the contesting interests, but on sound Christianity, Gal 6:15. There was at that time an unhappy division among Christians; circumcision and uncircumcision had become names by which they were distinguished from each other; for (Gal 2:9, Gal 2:12) the Jewish Christians are called the circumcision, and those of the circumcision. The false teachers were very zealous for circumcision; yea, to such a degree as to represent it as necessary to salvation, and therefore they did all they could to constrain the Gentile Christians to submit to it. In this they had carried the matter much further than others did; for, though the apostles connived at the use of it among the Jewish converts, yet they were by no means for imposing it upon the Gentiles. But what they laid so great a stress upon Paul made very little account of. It was indeed of great importance to the interest of Christianity that circumcision should not be imposed on the Gentile converts, and therefore this he had set himself with the utmost vigour to oppose; but as for mere circumcision or uncircumcision, whether those who embraced the Christian religion had been Jews or Gentiles, and whether they were for or against continuing the use of circumcision, so that they did not place their religion in it – this was comparatively a matter of little moment with him; for he very well knew that in Jesus Christ, that is, in his account, or under the Christian dispensation, neither circumcision availed any thing nor uncircumcision, as to men’s acceptance with God, but a new creature. Here he instructs us both wherein real religion does not and wherein it does consist. It does not consist in circumcision or uncircumcision, in our being in this or the other denomination of Christians; but it consists in our being new creatures; not in having a new name, or putting on a new face, but in our being renewed in the spirit of our minds and having Christ formed in us: this is of the greatest account with God, and so it was with the apostle. If we compare this text with some others, we may more fully see what it is that renders us most acceptable to God, and about which we should therefore be chiefly concerned. Here we are told that it is a new creature, and in Gal 5:6 that it is faith which worketh by love, and in 1Co 7:19 that it is the keeping of the commandments of God, from all which it appears that it is a change of mind and heart, whereby we are disposed and enabled to believe in the Lord Jesus and to live a life of devotedness to God; and that where this inward, vital, practical religion is wanting, no outward professions, nor particular names, will ever stand us in any stead, or be sufficient to recommend us to him. Were Christians duly concerned to experience this in themselves, and to promote it in others, if it did not make them lay aside their distinguishing names, yet it would at least take them off from laying so great a stress upon them as they too often do. Note, Christians should take care to lay the stress of their religion where God has laid it, namely, on those things which are available to our acceptance with him; so we see the apostle did, and it is our wisdom and interest herein to follow his example. The apostle having shown what was of chief consideration in religion, and what he laid the greatest stress upon, namely, not a mere empty name or profession, but a sound and saving change, in Gal 6:16 he pronounces a blessing upon all those who walk according to this rule: And as many as walk according to this rule peace be upon them, and mercy upon the Israel of God. The rule which he here speaks of may signify more generally the whole word of God, which is the complete and perfect rule of faith and life, or that doctrine of the gospel, or way of justification and salvation, which he had laid down in this epistle, namely, by faith in Christ without the works of the law; or it may be considered as more immediately referring to the new creature, of which he had just before been speaking. The blessings which he desires for those who walk according to this rule, or which he gives them the hope and prospect of (for the words may be taken either as a prayer or a promise), are peace and mercy – peace with God and conscience, and all the comforts of this life as far as they are needful for them, and mercy, or an interest in the free love and favour of God in Christ, which are the spring and fountain of all other blessings. A foundation is laid for these in that gracious change which is wrought in them; and while they behave themselves as new creatures, and govern their lives and hopes by the rule of the gospel, they may most assuredly depend upon them. These, he declares, shall be the portion of all the Israel of God, by whom he means all sincere Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, all who are Israelites indeed, who, though they may not be the natural, yet are become the spiritual seed of Abraham; these, being heirs of his faith, are also heirs together with him of the same promise, and consequently entitled to the peace and mercy here spoken of. The Jews and judaizing teachers were for confining these blessings to such as were circumcised and kept the law of Moses; but, on the contrary, the apostle declares that they belong to all who walk according to the rule of the gospel, or of the new creature, even to all the Israel of God, intimating that those only are the true Israel of God who walk according to this rule, and not that of circumcision, which they insisted so much upon, and therefore that this was the true way to obtain peace and mercy. Note, (1.) Real Christians are such as walk by rule; not a rule of their own devising, but that which God himself has prescribed to them. (2.) Even those who walk according to this rule do yet stand in need of the mercy of God. But, (3.) All who sincerely endeavour to walk according to this rule may be assured that peace and mercy will be upon them: this is the best way to have peace with God, ourselves, and others; and hereupon, as we may be sure of the favour of God now, so we may be sure that we shall find mercy with him hereafter.

4. That he had cheerfully suffered persecution for the sake of Christ and Christianity, Gal 6:17. As the cross of Christ, or the doctrine of salvation by a crucified Redeemer, was what he chiefly gloried in, so he had been willing to run all hazards rather than he would betray this truth, or suffer it to be corrupted. The false teachers were afraid of persecution, and this was the great reason why they were zealous for circumcision, as we see, Gal 6:12. But this was the least of Paul’s concern; he was not moved at any of the afflictions he met with, nor did he count his life dear to him, so that he might finish his course with joy, and the ministry which he had received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God, Act 20:24. He had already suffered much in the cause of Christ, for he bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus, the scars of those wounds which he had sustained from persecuting enemies, for his steady adherence to him, and that doctrine of the gospel which he had received from him. As from this it appeared that he was firmly persuaded of the truth and importance of it, and that he was far from being a favourer of circumcision, as they had falsely reported him to be, so hereupon, with a becoming warmth and vehemence, suitable to his authority as an apostle and to the deep concern of mind he was under, he insists upon it that no man should henceforth trouble him, namely by opposing his doctrine or authority, or by any such calumnies and reproaches as had been cast upon him; for as, both from what he had said and what he had suffered, they appeared to be highly unjust and injurious, so also those were very unreasonable who either raised or received them. Note, (1.) It may justly be presumed that men are fully persuaded of those truths in the defence of which they are willing to suffer. And (2.) It is very unjust to charge those things upon others which are contrary not only to their profession, but their sufferings too.

III. The apostle, having now finished what he intended to write for the conviction and recovery of the churches of Galatia, concludes the epistle with his apostolical benediction, Gal 6:18. He calls them his brethren, wherein he shows his great humility, and the tender affection he had for them, notwithstanding the ill treatment he had met with from them; and takes his leave of them with this very serious and affectionate prayer, that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ may be with their spirit. This was a usual farewell wish of the apostle’s, as we see, Rom 16:20, Rom 16:24, and 1Co 16:23. And herein he prays that they might enjoy the favour of Christ, both in its special effects and its sensible evidences, that they might receive from him all that grace which was needful to guide them in their way, to strengthen them in their work, to establish them in their Christian course, and to encourage and comfort them under all the trials of life and the prospect of death itself. This is fitly called the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, as he is both the sole purchaser and the appointed dispenser of it; and though these churches had done enough to forfeit it, by suffering themselves to be drawn into an opinion and practice highly dishonourable to Christ, as well as dangerous to them, yet, out of his great concern for them, and knowing of what importance it was to them, he earnestly desires it on their behalf; yea, that it might be with their spirit, that they might continually experience the influences of it upon their souls, disposing and enabling them to act with sincerity and uprightness in religion. We need desire no more to make us happy than the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This the apostle begs for these Christians, and therein shows us what we are chiefly concerned to obtain; and, both for their and our encouragement to hope for it, he adds his Amen.

Matthew Poole (1624-1679): Gospel of John Ch-02

Commentary on

The Gospel According To John

Chapter Two

By

Matthew Poole (1624-1679)

Copyright Public Domain

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THE ARGUMENT

The penman of this Gospel is generally taken to have been John the son of Zebedee, Mat 10:2, not either John the Baptist, or John surnamed Mark, Act 15:37. He was a person mightily honoured by Christ’s personal favours, and therefore often called the beloved disciple; you may read of these favours in these scriptures following, Mat 17:1 Luk 9:28 Luk 22:8 Joh 13:23 Joh 19:26-27 Joh 20:2 Act 3:3 Act 4:13 Gal 2:9. Thus far the Scripture guides us. He is thought to have gone to and continued in Asia till the third of the ten persecutions in the time of Trajan. He was by Domitian banished into Patmos, where he wrote the Revelation.

The time when he wrote this Gospel is uncertain; some think about the latter part of his life: he died the last of all the apostles, judged about a hundred years after the birth of Christ. It is said that the heresies of Ebion and Cerinthus, who denied Christ’s Divinity, and of the Nicolaitanes, who held many absurd things about his person, gave occasion to the writing of this Gospel; himself mentions the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, Rev 2:6; and Ebion and Cerinthus are thought to be those antichrists which he in his Epistles reflects upon.

Two things are observed of him:

1. That he insists more on the proof of Christ’s Divinity, than any of the evangelists; producing his miracles most evidently to prove it.

2. That he mentions very little reported by the other evangelists:

to which I think may be added, that he delivereth the history of the gospel after Christ’s resurrection more fully than any of them; he gives us also a more distinct account of the four passovers happening after Christ’s baptism; the necessity of faith in Christ, and regeneration; the doctrine of our mystical union with Christ; the sending of the Holy Spirit, and end of his mission, and the advantage that the apostles and others should receive from it. His Gospel is most particularly remarkable for the sublimeness and mysteriousness of the matter, and sweetness of the phrase.

JOHN CHAPTER TWO

Joh 2:1-11        Christ turneth water into wine in Cana of Galilee.

Joh 2:12            He goeth to Capernaum.

Joh 2:13-17      Thence to Jerusalem, where he driveth the buyers and sellers out of the temple.

Joh 2:18-22      He giveth his own death and resurrection for a sign.

Joh 2:23-25      Many believe in him because of his miracles, but he would not trust himself unto them.

Whether it was the third day after that our Saviour had left the province of Judea or the third day after Philip came to him, or after Peter or Nathanael came to him, is hardly worth the disputing; if it be to be interpreted with relation to Joh 1:43, (which speaks of the day following), it must be the third day after Simon came to Christ, there happened to be a marriage in Cana of Galilee. Some reckon three cities of this name; one in the lot of Manasseh, another in the lot of Ephraim, another in rite lot of Asher. This Cana is concluded by most interpreters to be the same mentioned, Jos 19:28, which was in the tribe of Asher, which was in Galilee: some others say, it was another Cana, near to Capernaum. At this wedding feast was the virgin Mary, our Lord’s mother; and it is probable that the persons for whose marriage the feast was solemnized were some of the virgin’s kindred or near relations. Some think, from the virgin’s taking notice of the want of wine, that it was a family where she had either a constant charge, or the charge for that day.

Whether only the five disciples mentioned in the former chapter, or some others also, the Scripture doth not say. Christ and his disciples being at this marriage feast, both lets us know that feasting at such a time is proper, and that the most severe religious persons may lawfully be present at such meetings; only they are obliged to keep to rules of frugality, modesty, and sobriety, to a breach of which possibly such meetings may give more temptations.

The word υστερησαντος may as well be translated, coming short, or behind, as wanting; and so some think it is to be understood; but Mary tells Jesus, they had no wine: they either had none, or she discerned it came short; they had not enough. It lets us know the frugality of him who made the feast. But whether Mary told her Son of it in expectation that he should supply it by a miracle, or that he should entertain the company with some pious discourse while the want should be supplied, is not so easy to determine: that which seems to oppose the first (and most generally received) opinion, is, that this was the first miracle he wrought, which we have upon record; nor had our Saviour by any words given her hope to see any miraculous operations from him; for though some say he had, from the last verse of the former chapter, yet the words can hardly be strained to such a sense, nor doth it appear that Mary was in Judea to hear them. But yet it seems probable she had some such expectation, both from our Saviour’s answer, Joh 2:4, and from her saying to the servants, Joh 2:5,

Whatsoever he say unto you, do it; and though Christ had as yet done no public miracle, yet what the virgin might have seen of him in thirty years time, while he lived at home with her, we cannot tell.

That it was ordinary with the Jews, speaking to women, to call them by the name of their sex, is plain from Mat 15:28 Luk 13:12 Luk 22:57 Joh 4:21. But that, speaking to their relations, they were wont to own their relation in their compellation, sometimes is also evident, from 1Ki 2:20, Ask on, my mother. So as our Saviour’s here calling the blessed virgin, Woman, not mother, is agreed by most to signify to her, that in this thing he did not own her as his mother, and so clothed with an authority to command him. And indeed so much the next words (what have I to do with thee?) signify, which is a form of speech that both signifies some displeasure for her unseasonable interrupting him, and also that she had no right nor authority upon him in this thing. See the use of the same phrase, Jud 11:12 2Sa 16:10 Ezr 4:3 Mat 8:29 27:19. None was more obedient and respective to his parents than our Saviour, Luk 2:51, therein fulfilling the will of God, Jer 35:13,14; but in the business of his calling he regarded them not, Mat 12:48 Luk 2:49; and hath hereby taught us our duty, to prefer our obedience to our heavenly Father before our obedience to any earthly relation, Mat 5:37 Luk 14:26. He hath also hereby taught us, that the blessed virgin is not to be preferred before her Son (as the papists do). Besides this, our Lord giveth another reason for his not present hearkening to his mother, mine hour is not yet come; either, because the time was not yet come to work miracles publicly; or to show her, that she was not to prescribe the time to him when he should work miraculously; thereby also showing us, that for things in this life we are to submit our desires to the Divine will, and to wait God’s leisure; yet by this expression he also gives her some hopes that he would in his own time supply this want.

She plainly by these words declareth her confidence that Christ (notwithstanding the repulse he gave her) would supply this want; and therefore taking no notice of Christ’s reprehension of her, she orders the servants to be absolutely obedient to him, doing, without disputing, whatsoever he bid them; and indeed such is the obedience which we all owe to God and Jesus Christ.

The Jews were wont in their dining rooms to have waterpots standing; whether one for every guest (upon which account some think here were six) doth not appear. For the contents of these vessels, it is uncertain; the reason is, because the Jewish measures, both for things dry and liquid, are much unknown to us, most countries varying in their measures. According to our measures, these vessels should contain three hogsheads, or near it; but it is not probable that so great vessels of stone should stand in a room: the end of their standing there was for the people to wash in, before they did eat, Mat 15:2 Mar 7:3, and to wash their vessels in, Mar 7:4. We are certain of the number of the vessels, but not of the contents of them. Some say, they held so much water as, being turned into wine, was enough for one hundred and fifty persons; but we can make no certain judgment of it.

Either the water was defiled by some persons washing in it, or else the vessels were not full. Our Lord commands them to be filled (the water pots, not wine vessels) with water, pure water; he commands them all to be filled by the servants, who could attest the miracle, that there was nothing in the vessels but pure water. Here was no new creature to be produced; he doth not therefore command the production of wine out of nothing; but only the transformation of a creature already existent into a creature of another kind. The servants dispute not his command, nor ask any reason of his command, but yield that ready and absolute obedience which we all of us owe to Divine precepts. They fill them, and so full that they could hold no more.

The Jews had one who was to order the affairs of their feast, and who is upon that account called the master, or governor, of it; to whom our Saviour directs, that some of this newly made wine should be carried; either that they might not suspect it was by some art provided by him, or because he was of the best judgment in those affairs. The servants yield the same ready obedience to his commands which they had before yielded.

Our Saviour’s action, by which he turned the water into wine, being not obvious to the senses of any; but only the secret motion of his will, willing the thing to be; is not recorded, only the effect and the consequents of it are. The papists would from hence argue, that the bread in the sacrament may be called bread, though it be transubstantiated, as the water here is called water, though it were turned into wine; but it must be observed, that it is not here called water, without the addition of that was made wine: we have no such addition in the gospel, where the sacramental bread is called bread; it is not said, the bread which now is turned into the flesh of Christ; nor doth the Scripture any where (as here) attest any such transubstantiation. The governor of the feast had a cup of wine presented to him, but knew not whence it came; only the servants, who by Christ’s command first filled the vessels, and drew out this cupful, they knew.

The governor calls the bridegroom, (at whose cost the provision for the feast was to be provided), and minds him, that he seemed to have done contrary to the common practice of such as made feasts; for they used to bring forth their best wine first, when men’s palates were quickest, and least adulterated; and worse after that they had drank well; so the word μεθυσθωστ signifies, as appears by the Septuagint’s translation of the Hebrew word so signifying, Gen 43:34 Hag 1:6; not only men’s distempering themselves with wine, which it also sometimes signifieth; and this speaketh our translation of it, 1Co 11:21, are drunken, something hard, the word not necessarily nor always so signifying; and they must be very uncharitable to the primitive church of Corinth, who can think that it would permit persons actually drunken to come to the Lord’s table. But the custom, it seems, was, if they had any wine worse than another, to bring it out to their guests after that the edge of their palates was a little blunted with the taste of better. Now this bridegroom, as the governor of the feast (who knew nothing of the miracle) thought, had kept his briskest and most generous wine to the last; thereby giving a great approbation of the miracle, not only owning it to be true wine, but much better than they had before at the feast.

The sense is not, that this was the first miracle which Christ wrought in Cana of Galilee; but this was the first miracle which Christ wrought after he was entered upon the public ministry, and it was wrought in that Cana which is within the confines of Galilee, either in the lot of Zebulun or Asher: yet there are some who would not have it the first miracle which Christ wrought, but the first which he wrought in that place; but there is no reason for such an interpretation; for then there had been no reason for the following words, for Christ did not manifest his glory there only; though some object those wonderful or miraculous things happening at our Saviour’s birth, of which we read, Mat 2:9 Luk 2:9. Yet as some distinguish between mira and miracula, so others give a more plain and satisfactory answer, telling us those were miraculous operations more proper to the Father and the Spirit, thereby attesting the Deity of Christ, than to Christ considered as God man. This was the first of those miraculous operations which were wrought by Christ Jesus as God man, by which he manifested his glory, the glory mentioned in Joh 1:14, as of the only begotten of the Father; his Divine majesty and power.

And his disciples, who before believed on him, Joh 1:41,45, now more firmly believed on him,  Joh 14:1, as Mediator. In Scripture that is often said to be, which doth not commence, but increase from that time and occasion.

Capernaum was a city lifted up to heaven, for mercies of all sorts, which Christ foretold, Mat 11:28, should be brought down to hell, for their contempt of his doctrine and miracles. It was in the tribe of Naphtali, whose lot was contiguous to Zebulun, and lay on the north east of it; a place where Christ afterwards preached much, and wrought many miracles, Mat 8:13,14 9:18 Mar 2:1 5:22; a place brought so low in Hierom’s time, that it scarce consisted of seven poor cottages of fishermen. Thither at this time went Christ, and his mother, and his brethren, ( by which term the Scripture often expresses any near kinsmen), and his disciples; whether only the five mentioned in the former chapter, or others also, is not said. But they did not at that time stay long there, probably because the passover time (when they were to be at Jerusalem) was so nigh, as would not admit any long stay before they began their journey; and it is likely that the company mentioned here to be with Christ at Capernaum, did also design to go along with him to the passover, of which we next read.

Concerning the Jewish passover we have once and again spoken in our notes on the other evangelists. The institution of it was Exo 12:1-51. It was to be solemnized yearly in the place which the Lord should choose, according to the law, Deu 16:6. Christ, though he was not naturally subject to the law, yet to fulfil all righteousness, and to redeem his people from the curse of the law, Gal 4:5, kept the passover yearly, taking also advantage from the conflux of the people to Jerusalem at that time, to make himself and his doctrine more known. None of the other evangelists make mention of more than one passover between the time of Christ’s baptism and death: John plainly mentions three, one here, another in Joh 6:4, the last, Joh 18:39; and some think that he mentions another, though more obscurely, Joh 5:1. Our Lord was at them all.

Mat 21:12 Luk 19:45, is a piece of history so like this, that some have questioned whether it mentions not the same individual matter of fact; but it is apparent that it doth not:

1. Because St. John mentions it as done three years before it, at the first passover; all the other evangelists mention what they report as done at the fourth passover.

2. The circumstances of the narrative make it appear.

a) John mentions only the ejection of the sellers; all the others mention the ejection both of the buyers and sellers.

b) Here, he only saith they had made his Father’s house a place of merchandise; the others say, that whereas it was written, it should be called a house of prayer, they had made it a den of thieves.

c) Here he only bids them that sold doves take their goods away; the others say he overturned the seats of them that sold doves: so as our Saviour plainly appeareth to have done this twice, at his first passover and at the last.

For the more full explication of the parts of this history, See Poole on “Mat 21:12. See Poole on “Mar 11:15. See Poole on “Luk 19:45. The reason of their bringing oxen, and sheep, and doves into the temple, was to supply those that came afar off, and could not bring their sacrifices with them, with such sacrifices as the law required in several cases. The money changers were there, to change the people’s money into half shekels, every one being obliged to offer his half shekel, Exo 30:13. Our Saviour did not condemn this course of accommodating of people; but blames the covetousness of the priests, who for their private lucre had made the temple their marketplace, whenas there was room enough elsewhere.

It concerns not us to inquire where our Saviour had the small cords, of which he made his whip; there were doubtless cords enough at hand, taken off from beasts brought thither, though he was himself in no Franciscan habit, as the papists idly dream. But herein was the mighty power of God seen, that Christ, a single, private, obscure person, should without any more noise or opposition drive out the multitude of these hucksters, and overturn their tables. Nor I think (after the consideration of this circumstance) need we inquire by what authority he did this? It was prophesied of him, Mal 3:1, that he should come to his temple;  Mal 3:3, should sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver. Christ here, according to that prophecy, cometh to his temple, and begins to purge it.

At this his first coming, he gives them that sold doves a liberty to take their goods away; but at the last coming, Mat 21:12, it is said, he overturned their seats. Those that think this precedent sufficient to vindicate private persons tumultuous pulling down images, seem not to consider, that Christ was no private person, (though so esteemed), and did what he did as Lord of his house. Those who urge it as inferring magistrates and superiors duty in this case, urge it well; for it may well be from hence concluded, that it is the will of Christ, that places set apart for public worship, should neither wickedly be made dens of thieves, nor yet indecently made places for men to buy and sell in; though we can ascribe no such holiness to any place as to the temple, which had not only a particular dedication, but was built by God’s order, his acceptation of it declared, and had peculiar promises annexed to it; besides its prefiguration of Christ (of which we shall speak more afterward); yet even nature itself teacheth, that there is a decent reverence and respect due to such places. This action of Christ’s also, before he had published the doctrine of the gospel, instructs us, that those who have authority are not always to refrain from removing instruments of superstition and idolatry, or gross and indecent corruptions, until people be first by the preaching of the true doctrine persuaded willingly to part with them. But if this were to make God’s house a place of merchandise for men, there to sell oxen, and sheep, and doves, and keep shops for changing money; what do papists make such houses, by their showing their relics and images to people, thereby to get money for their priests, and for selling pardons, indulgences, &c.? Never were God’s houses to that degree made places of merchandise, and dens of thieves, if every one that cheateth for his profit be (as he is) a thief.

The disciples, as well as the rest of the people there present, could not but be astonished at this so strange a thing, to see a single person, and he in no repute but as a private person, to make a whip, and with authority drive the buyers and sellers out of the temple, and nobody to oppose him; but they remembered the words of David, Psa 69:9. Some think that John here reports what they did after Christ’s resurrection; and, indeed, whoso considereth the following part of the gospel history, would think that it were so; for they did not seem so early to have had a persuasion of Christ’s Divine nature, nor that he was the Messiah; or if they at this time remembered it, and apprehended that Christ was the Son of David, the impression seems to have worn off. It is a greater question whether Psa 69:1-36 (from whence this quotation is) is to be understood of Christ, properly and literally, or merely as the Antitype to David, of whom that Psalm is literally to be understood? Some of the Lutherans think that Psalm primarily concerned Christ. Mr. Calvin and others think it only concerned Christ as David’s Antitype. The former, for their opinion, take notice of the frequent quotation of it in the New Testament, Mat 27:48 Joh 19:28 Act 1:20 Rom 15:3. The other urge that there are some things in that Psalm which cannot agree to Christ. The matter is not much. Zeal is nothing but a warmth of love and anger. It is good to be zealous, yea, swallowed up with zeal, in a good cause; but men must take heed of the Pharisaical zeal, not according to knowledge. Christ was zealous, but the cause was good.

Which of the Jews, whether some of the magistrates, or the priests, (who were more specially concerned for their profit), or the common people, or all together, is not said. They undertake not to justify their fact, nor could they deny it, but they ask him what sign he could show them to justify his Divine authority. For this seemeth to have been their principle, that let corruptions and abuses in a church be never so great, yet they were not to be reformed, but either by the ordinary authority of the magistrate, or by all extraordinary authority from God. Such an extraordinary authority they would acknowledge in prophets; but they expected that those who pretended to such an extraordinary Divine mission, should be able to confirm that mission by some miraculous operations, as Moses did, Exo 4:30. They had had no prophets now for four hundred years amongst them; the Jews required therefore a sign, 1Co 1:22. The papists were at the same point with the first reformers; but they mistook, for they brought no new doctrine, but still cried, To the law and to the testimony; and where the true doctrine and sacraments are upheld, there is a true church, which hath power to call and send out preachers.

Our Saviour refuseth to give them any sign, but that of his resurrection the third day from the dead. This was the sign to which he afterwards refers the Pharisees, Mat 12:39 Luk 11:29. Our Saviour’s words must not be understood as commanding or licensing them to destroy him, but as foretelling what they would do. It is in Scripture very ordinary to use the imperative mood for the future tense of the indicative; see Gen 42:18 Deu 32:50 Isa 8:9,10 54:1 Joh 13:27.

Destroy, is as much as, I know you will destroy, or, If you do destroy this temple, I will build it up in three days. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is ordinarily in Scripture attributed to the Father; but here Christ saith he would do it; and the Spirit, by whom he is said to have been quickened, equally proceedeth both from the Father and the Son. Nor is this the only text where it is attributed to Christ; see Joh 20:17,18. It was the work of the Trinity, out of itself, and so the work of all the three Persons. These words were three years after this made a great charge against Christ, Mat 26:61; but they reported them thus, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. He said only, this temple, meaning his body.

The Jews understood his words of that material temple in which they at this time were, which the best interpreters think was the temple built by Ezra and Zerubbabel; but how to make it out that it was forty six years building, they are not well agreed. Some say, Cyrus reigned thirty, Cambyses eight, Darius six; these added together make forty four. Others say that the Magi reigned two years more. Some reckon to Cyrus thirty one, to his son Cambyses nine, Darius six. Others say that the years wherein the building was hindered during Artaxerxes’s time, Ezr 4:21, added to the two years of Darius, Ezr 4:24, in whose sixth year it was finished, are reckoned together. The Jews thought it strange that our Saviour should undertake in three days to rear a building which had cost their forefathers so many years.

But, alas, our Saviour spoke not of their material temple, but of the temple of his body; which yet was proper speaking: for if the apostle calleth our bodies the temple of God, as he doth, 1Co 3:16 6:19 2Co 6:16; it much more may be said so of the body of Christ: for as God dwelt in the temple, and there revealed his will, and would be there worshipped; how properly must the notion of the temple agree to Christ, in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily, Col 2:9, who revealeth his Father’s nature and will to men, Mat 11:27, and in whom all must worship him? So as the temple at Jerusalem was every way a most illustrious type of Christ, and Christ might well, speaking concerning his body, say, Destroy this temple; and thus Christ (would these blind Jews have seen it) drew off the Jews from glorying in their temple, Jer 7:4; and from the temple, which was but a type, (as the tabernacle was before, Act 7:44 Heb 9:23,24), to himself, prefigured by those houses, Heb 9:11. Nor doth he think fit at this time to speak more plainly; for as he knew that the perverse Jews, in seeing would not see, nor bear any such doctrine; so he also knew, that his better disciples were as yet weak in faith; and none putteth new wine into old bottles.

Even Christ’s own disciples at the first rather admired than perfectly understood their Lord. It is said of Christ, Luk 24:45, a little before his ascension into heaven, Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scripture. The disciples did not distinctly understand many things till after Christ’s resurrection from the dead, when they saw the things accomplished, and when Christ further opened their eyes; which was also further done when the Holy Ghost came upon them in the days of Pentecost. Thus we hear for the time to come; and the seed which lieth a long time under the clods, at last springeth up through the influence of heaven upon it.

And they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said; the disciples then more clearly and more firmly believed the Scriptures, and were able to make a clearer application and interpretation of them. By the Scripture here, are meant the Scriptures of the Old Testament; to which is added, and the word which Jesus had said. Christ’s words gave them a clearer insight into the Scriptures of the Old Testament; and the harmony of the writings of the Old Testament with Christ’s words under the New Testament, confirmed the disciples’ faith in both.

To believe in Christ’s name, and to believe in Christ himself, are one and the same thing; as it is the same to call upon God, and to call upon the name of God: so Act 3:16. The meaning is, that they believed the things which were published concerning his person and office: yet the periphrasis, Believed in his name, is not vain; but declareth a mutual relation between God and the word, by the preaching of which he maketh himself known to the world.

True faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. I think it is to no purpose disputed here by some, whether the faith here mentioned was true faith, yea or no. It appeareth by what followeth, that it was not true justifying faith; but it was true in its kind. To make up true justifying, saving faith, which the apostle calls the faith of God’s elect, three things are required:

1. A knowledge of the proposition of the word revealing Christ: this is acquired by reading, hearing, meditation, &c.

2. The second is assent, which is the act of the understanding, agreeing in the truth of the word revealed, when such an assent is given to a proposition, if merely upon the Divine revelation of it: this is faith, a true faith in its kind.

3. Upon this now (in those who savingly believe) the will closes with Christ as an adequate object; for it receiveth him, accepteth him, relies on him as its Saviour, and moveth by the affections to love, desire, hope, rejoice in him; and commandeth the outward man into an obedience to his law.

Now it is very possible, that, through a common influence of the Holy Spirit of God, men upon the hearing of the word, especially having the advantage of seeing miraculous operations confirming the word, may give a true assent to the proposition of the word, as a proposition of truth, and yet may never receive Christ as their Saviour, close with him, trust in him, desire, love, or obey him; this was the case of these persons, many at least of them. They believed, seeing the miracles which Christ did: they wanted a due knowledge of Christ founded in the word; neither had they any certain, steady, fixed assent, founded in the discerning the truth of the proposition; their assent was sudden, founded only upon the miracles they saw wrought; so as though they might have some confidence in him, as a famous person, and some great prince, from whom they might expect some earthly good, yet this was all, which was far enough from true saving faith.

Christ did not take all these seeming believers into his bosom, nor call them after him, nor maintain any familiar fellowship and communion with them; but made haste again into Galilee, till his time was come, knowing that in so public a place of danger they were not to be trusted; for being God blessed for ever, he had knowledge of the hearts of all men.

And needed not any information concerning the principles and humours of all men; for he perfectly knew men, not only from their more external acts and behaviours, (as we know them), but he knew what was in them, searching the hearts, and trying the reins, which is the property of God alone, 1Ki 8:39 Psa 33:15. Here what we formerly observed is again observable, that oft times in holy writ, for the further confirmation of a proposition, to a universal affirmative is added a contrary negative. Here ariseth a question, agitated between the Lutherans and the Calvinists, Whether Christ as man knew all things, and what is in the heart of man. They affirm it, because of the personal union of the Divine and human natures in Christ. We say, that although there be such a personal union, yet the properties of each nature remain distinct; upon which account Christ denieth that he, as the Son of man, knew the day and hour of the end of the world. Besides, by the same reason that omniscience belongeth to the human nature of Christ, omnipotence, infiniteness, and omnipresence, also must; which last indeed they affirm, seeing that without it they were not able to defend their doctrine of consubstantiation, or the presence of the body and blood of Christ, wherever the sacrament of his supper is administered; but this being a matter polemical, we shall not here discourse it. Those who would be satisfied as to what is said on either side, may find enough in Gerard, Hunnius, and Farnovius, on the Lutherans’ side; and in Zanchius and others on the Calvinists’ side, Zanchius de Natura and Attributis Dei, lib. 3. cap. 2. qu. 16.

Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910): Psalm 105:19

Commentary on Psalm 105:19

by

Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910)

Copyright Public Domain

 

GOD’S PROMISES TESTS

I do not think I shall be mistaken if I affirm that these words do not convey any very clear idea to most readers. They were spoken with reference to Joseph, during the period of his imprisonment. For the understanding of them I think we must observe that there is a contrast drawn between two ‘words,’ ‘his’ (i.e. Joseph’s) and God’s. If we lay firm hold of that clue, I think it will lead us into clear daylight, and it will be obvious that Joseph’s word, which delayed its coming, or fulfilment, was either his boyish narrative of the dreams that foreshadowed his exaltation, or less probably, his words to his fellow-prisoners in the interpretation of their dreams. In either case, the terminus ad quem, the point to which our attention is directed, is the period when that word came to be fulfilled, and what my text says is that during that long season of unfulfilled hope, the ‘word of God,’ which was revealed in Joseph’s dream, and was the ground on which his own ‘word’ rested-did what? Encouraged, heartened, strengthened him? No, that unfulfilled promise might encourage or discourage him; but the Psalmist fixes our thoughts on another effect which, whether it encouraged or discouraged, it certainly had, namely, that it tested him, and found out what stuff he was made of, and whether there was staying power enough in him to hold on, in unconquerable faith, to a promise made long since, communicated by no more reliable method than a dream, and of the fulfilment of which not the faintest sign had, for all these weary years, appeared. His circumstances, judged by appearances, shattered his early visions, and bade him believe them to be no more than the boyish aspirations which grown men dismiss or find melt away of themselves when life’s realities wake the dreamer. We might either say that the non-fulfilment of the promise tested Joseph, or that the promise, by its non-fulfilment, tested him. The Psalmist chooses the latter more forcible and half paradoxical mode of speech. It proved the depth and vitality of his faith, and his ability to see things that are not as though they were. Will this man be able continually through years of poverty and imprisonment to keep his eye on the light beyond, to see his star through clouds? Will he despise the ‘light affliction,’ in the potent and immovable belief that it is ‘but for a moment?’ Thus, for all these years the great blessed word, or the hope that was built upon it, tested Joseph in the very depths of his soul. And is not that just what our anticipations, built upon God’s assurances, whether they are in regard to earthly matters that seem long in coming, or whether they, as they ought to do, travel beyond the bounds of the material, to grasp the hope which is the promise, ‘the hope of eternal life,’ ought to do for us, test us and find out what sort of people we are? And they do!

Let us go back to the man in our text. According to some commentators, he was imprisoned for something like ten years. We do not know how long his Egyptian bondage had lasted, nor how long before that his endurance of the active ill-will of his surly brothers had gone on. But at all events his chrysalis stage was very long, and one would not have wondered if he had said to himself, down in that desert pit or in that Egyptian dungeon, ‘Ah, yes! they were dreams, and only dreams,’ or if he had, as so many of us do, turned his back on his youthful visions, and gained the sad power of being able to smile at his old hopes and ambitions. Brethren! especially you young men and women, cherish your youthful dreams. They are often the prophecies of capacities and possibilities, signs of what God means you to make yourselves. But that is apart from my subject. Suppose we had clear before us, with unwavering confidence in its reality, the great promise which God has given us, do you not think that its presence would purify our souls, and give power and dignity to our lives?

The promise was a test, says my text. The word which it employs to designate the manner of testing or trying, is one drawn from the smelting operations of the goldsmith, by which, heat being applied, the mass is made fluid and the dross is run off, and as the result of the trial, there flows out gold refined by fire.

‘Having these promises, dearly beloved! let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.’ ‘Every man who hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.’ The result of the great promise of eternal life and of the hope that it kindles is meant to be that it shall purge our spirits from meanness, from sense, from undue dependence upon the miserable trivialities of to-day, that it shall emancipate us from slavery to the moment, and lead us into the liberty of the eternities, ‘while we look not at the things that are seen, but at the things which are not seen.’ Oh! if we would only see clearly and habitually before us-for we could if we would-what God’s heart inclines Him to do for us, and what He certainly will do for us, in the far-off future, if we will only let Him, do you not think that these trifles that put us off our equanimity this morning would have been borne with a little more composure? Do you not think that the things that looked so huge when we were down abreast of them would, by the laws of perspective, diminish in their proportions as we rose steadily above them, until all the hubbub in the valley was unheard on the mountain peak, and the great trees that waved their giant branches below and shut out the sky from our eyes while we were among them would dwindle to a green smear on the plain, and all the foes ‘show scarce so gross as beetles,’ from the height from which we look down upon them? Get up beside God’s promise, if you would take the true dimensions of cares and tasks, and burdens and sorrows. Then, brother! you will learn the truth of the paradox, ‘light . . . but for a moment’; though often they all but crush the burden-bearing shoulder and seem to last through slow years.

‘The word of the Lord tried him,’ and because it tried him, it purified him. If we give credence, as we ought to, to that word, it will purify us, and it will test of what contexture our faith is. The further away the object of any hope is, the more noble the cherishing of it makes a life. The trivial, short-lived anticipations which do not look beyond the end of next week are far less operative in making strong and noble characters than are those, of whatever kind they may be otherwise, which look far ahead and need years for their realisation. It is a blessing to have the mark far, far away, because that means that the arm that pulls the bow must draw more strongly, and the eye that sees the goal must gaze more intently. Be thankful for the promise that cannot be fulfilled in this world because it lifts us above the low levels, and already makes us feel as if we were endowed with immortality.

The word will test our patience, and it will test our willingness, though we be heirs of the kingdom, to do humble tasks. Christian men in this world are sons of a King, and look forward to a royal inheritance, but in the meantime they have, as it were, to keep a little huckster’s shop in a back alley. But if we adequately realised the promise of our inheritance, the meanness of our surroundings and the triviality of our occupations would not make us mean or trivial, but our souls would be ‘like stars’ and ‘dwell apart’ while we travelled ‘on life’s common way in cheerful godliness,’ and did small duties in such a manner as to make them great.

Because Joseph was sure that God’s long-lingering word would be fulfilled, he did not mind though he had to be the lackey of his brothers, the Midianites’ chattel, Potiphar’s slave, Pharaoh’s prisoner, and a servant of servants in his dungeon. So with us, the measure of our willing acceptance of our present tasks, burdens, humiliations, and limitations is the measure of our firm faith in the promise that tarries.

‘If we hope for what we see not, then do we with patience wait for it,’ says the Apostle, though most of us would have said exactly the opposite. We generally suppose that the more ardent the hope, the more is it impatient of delay. Paul had learned better. The more certain the assurance, the better we can tolerate the procrastination of its fulfilment.

So, brethren! God’s greatest gift to us, like all His other gifts, has in it the quality of testing us; and we can come to a pretty fair approximation to an estimate of what sort of Christian people we are, by observing how we deal with God’s promises of help according to our need here and of heaven hereafter. How do we deal with them? Why, a sadly large number of us never think about them at all; and a large proportion of the others would a great deal rather stay working in the huckster’s shop in the back alley, than go home to the King. I am quite sure that if the inmost sentiments of the bulk of professing Christians about a future life were dragged into light, these would be a revelation of a faith all honeycombed with insincerity. God tests us, and it is a sharp test if we submit ourselves to it; He tests us by His promises. ‘Child, wilt thou believe?’ is the first testing question put to us by these. ‘Wilt thou keep them hid in thy heart?’ is the next. ‘Wilt thou go out towards them in desire?’ is the next. ‘Wilt thou live worthy of them?’ is the last. ‘The word of the Lord tried him.’

So let us be thankful for the delays of love, for the wide gap between promise and realisation. It was for Joseph’s sake that the slow years were multiplied between the first gleam of his future and the full sunshine of his exaltation. And it is for our sakes that God in like manner protracts the period of anticipation and non-fulfilment. ‘If the vision tarry, wait for it.’ ‘Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus their brother’ very dearly. ‘When He heard, therefore, that he was sick, He abode still two days’-to give time for Lazarus to die-’in the same place where He was.’ Ay, and when each sister came to Him with her most natural and yet most faithless ‘Lord! if Thou hadst been here my brother had not died,’ He only said, ‘If thou wouldst believe thou shouldst see the glory of God.’ Was not Lazarus dearer, restored from the grave, than he would have been, raised from his sickbed? Is not the delaying of the blessing a means of increase of the blessing? And shall not we be sure that however long ‘He that shall come’ may seem to tarry ere He comes, when He has come they who have waited for His coming more than they that watch for the morning and have sometimes been ready to cry out: ‘Hath the Lord forgotten? Doth His promise fail for ever more?’ will be ashamed of their impatient moments and will humbly and thankfully exclaim: ‘He came at the very right time and did not tarry.’ ‘Until the time that his word came, the word of the Lord tried him,’ and the coming of that word was all the more blessed for every heavy-laden hour of hope deferred, which, by God’s grace, did not make the heart sick, but prepared it for fuller possession of the blessings enhanced by the delays of love.

Matthew Henry (1662-1714): Romans 7 and 8 Commentary

Matthew Henry (1662-1714)

Romans 7 and 8 Commentary

Copyright: Public Domain

 

 

Romans 7

We may observe in this chapter, I. Our freedom from the law further urged as an argument to press upon us sanctification (Rom 7:1-6). II. The excellency and usefulness of the law asserted and proved from the apostle’s own experience, notwithstanding (Rom 7:7-14). III. A description of the conflict between grace and corruption in the heart (Rom 7:14, Rom 7:15, to the end).

Romans 7:1-6

Among other arguments used in the foregoing chapter to persuade us against sin, and to holiness, this was one (Rom 7:14), that we are not under the law; and this argument is here further insisted upon and explained (Rom 7:6): We are delivered from the law. What is meant by this? And how is it an argument why sin should not reign over us, and why we should walk in newness of life? 1. We are delivered from the power of the law which curses and condemns us for the sin committed by us. The sentence of the law against us is vacated and reversed, by the death of Christ, to all true believers. The law saith, The soul that sins shall die; but we are delivered from the law. The Lord has taken away thy sin, thou shalt not die. We are redeemed from the curse of the law, Gal 3:13. 2. We are delivered from that power of the law which irritates and provokes the sin that dwelleth in us. This the apostle seems especially to refer to (Rom 7:5): The motions of sins which were by the law. The law, by commanding, forbidding, threatening, corrupt and fallen man, but offering no grace to cure and strengthen, did but stir up the corruption, and, like the sun shining upon a dunghill, excite and draw up the filthy steams. We being lamed by the fall, the law comes and directs us, but provides nothing to heal and help our lameness, and so makes us halt and stumble the more. Understand this of the law not as a rule, but as a covenant of works. Now each of these is an argument why we should be holy; for here is encouragement to endeavours, though in many things we come short. We are under grace, which promises strength to do what it commands, and pardon upon repentance when we do amiss. This is the scope of these verses in general, that, in point of profession and privilege, we are under a covenant of grace, and not under a covenant of works – under the gospel of Christ, and not under the law of Moses. The difference between a law-state and a gospel-state he had before illustrated by the similitude of rising to a new life, and serving a new master; now here he speaks of is under the similitude of being married to a new husband.

I. Our first marriage was to the law, which, according to the law of marriage, was to continue only during the life of the law. The law of marriage is binding till the death of one of the parties, no matter which, and no longer. The death of either discharges both. For this he appeals to themselves, as persons knowing the law (Rom 7:1): I speak to those that know the law. It is a great advantage to discourse with those that have knowledge, for such can more readily understand and apprehend a truth. Many of the Christians at Rome were such as had been Jews, and so were well acquainted with the law. One has some hold of knowing people. The law hath power over a man as long as he liveth; in particular, the law of marriage hath power; or, in general, every law is so limited – the laws of nations, of relations, of families, etc. 1. The obligation of laws extends no further; by death the servant who, while he lived, was under the yoke, is freed from his master, Job 3:19. 2. The condemnation of laws extends no further; death is the finishing of the law. Actio moritur cum personâ – The action expires with the person. The severest laws could but kill the body, and after that there is no more that they can do. Thus while we were alive to the law we were under the power of it – while we were in our Old Testament state, before the gospel came into the world, and before it came with power into our hearts. Such is the law of marriage (Rom 7:2), the woman is bound to her husband during life, so bound to him that she cannot marry another; if she do, she shall be reckoned an adulteress, Rom 7:3. It will make her an adulteress, not only to be defiled by, but to be married to, another man; for that is so much the worse, upon this account, that it abuses an ordinance of God, by making it to patronise the uncleanness. Thus were we married to the law (Rom 7:5): When we were in the flesh, that is, in a carnal state, under the reigning power of sin and corruption – in the flesh as in our element – then the motions of sins which were by the law did work in our members, we were carried down the stream of sin, and the law was but as an imperfect dam, which made the stream to swell the higher, and rage the more. Our desire was towards sin, as that of the wife towards her husband, and sin ruled over us. We embraced it, loved it, devoted all to it, conversed daily with it, made it our care to please it. We were under a law of sin and death, as the wife under the law of marriage; and the product of this marriage was fruit brought forth unto death, that is, actual transgressions were produced by the original corruption, such as deserve death. Lust, having conceived by the law (which is the strength of sin, 1Co 15:56), bringeth forth sin, and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death, Jam 1:15. This is the posterity that springs from this marriage to sin and the law. This comes of the motions of sin working in our members. And this continues during life, while the law is alive to us, and we are alive to the law.

II. Our second marriage is to Christ: and how comes this about? Why,

1. We are freed, by death, from our obligation to the law as a covenant, as the wife is from her obligation to her husband, Rom 7:3. This resemblance is not very close, nor needed it to be. You are become dead to the law, Rom 7:4. He does not say, “The law is dead” (some think because he would avoid giving offence to those who were yet zealous for the law), but, which comes all to one, You are dead to the law. As the crucifying of the world to us, and of us to the world, amounts to one and the same thing, so doth the law dying, and our dying to it. We are delivered from the law (Rom 7:6), katērgēthēmenwe are nulled as to the law; our obligation to it as a husband is cassated and made void. And then he speaks of the law being dead as far as it was a law of bondage to us: That being dead wherein we were held; not the law itself, but its obligation to punishment and its provocation to sin. It is dead, it has lost its power; and this (Rom 7:4) by the body of Christ, that is, by the sufferings of Christ in his body, by his crucified body, which abrogated the law, answered the demands of it, made satisfaction for our violation of it, purchased for us a covenant of grace, in which righteousness and strength are laid up for us, such as were not, nor could be, by the law. We are dead to the law by our union with the mystical body of Christ. By being incorporated into Christ in our baptism professedly, in our believing powerfully and effectually, we are dead to the law, have no more to do with it than the dead servant, that is free from his master, hath to do with his master’s yoke.

2. We are married to Christ. The day of our believing is the day of our espousals to the Lord Jesus. We enter upon a life of dependence on him and duty to him: Married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, a periphrasis of Christ and very pertinent here; for as our dying to sin and the law is in conformity to the death of Christ, and the crucifying of his body, so our devotedness to Christ in newness of life is in conformity to the resurrection of Christ. We are married to the raised exalted Jesus, a very honourable marriage. Compare 2Co 11:2; Eph 5:29. Now we are thus married to Christ, (1.) That we should bring forth fruit unto God, Rom 7:4. One end of marriage is fruitfulness: God instituted the ordinance that he might seek a godly seed, Mal 2:15. The wife is compared to the fruitful vine, and children are called the fruit of the womb. Now the great end of our marriage to Christ is our fruitfulness in love, and grace, and every good work. This is fruit unto God, pleasing to God, according to his will, aiming at his glory. As our old marriage to sin produced fruit unto death, so our second marriage to Christ produces fruit unto God, fruits of righteousness. Good works are the children of the new nature, the products of our union with Christ, as the fruitfulness of the vine is the product of its union with the root. Whatever our professions and pretensions may be, there is no fruit brought forth to God till we are married to Christ; it is in Christ Jesus that we are created unto good works, Eph 2:10. The only fruit which turns to a good account is that which is brought forth in Christ. This distinguishes the good works of believers from the good works of hypocrites and self-justifiers that they are brought forth in marriage, done in union with Christ, in the name of the Lord Jesus, Col 3:17. This is, without controversy, one of the great mysteries of godliness. (2.) That we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter, Rom 7:6. Being married to a new husband, we must change our way. Still we must serve, but it is a service that is perfect freedom, whereas the service of sin was a perfect drudgery: we must now serve in newness of spirit, by new spiritual rules, from new spiritual principles, in spirit and in truth, Joh 4:24. There must be a renovation of our spirits wrought by the spirit of God, and in that we must serve. Not in the oldness of the letter; that is, we must not rest in mere external services, as the carnal Jews did, who gloried in their adherence to the letter of the law, and minded not the spiritual part of worship. The letter is said to kill with its bondage and terror, but we are delivered from that yoke that we may serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness, Luk 1:74, Luk 1:75. We are under the dispensation of the Spirit, and therefore must be spiritual, and serve in the spirit. Compare with this 2Co 3:3, 2Co 3:6, etc. It becomes us to worship within the veil, and no longer in the outward court.

Romans 7:7-14

To what he had said in the former paragraph, the apostle here raises an objection, which he answers very fully: What shall we say then? Is the law sin? When he had been speaking of the dominion of sin, he had said so much of the influence of the law as a covenant upon that dominion that it might easily be misinterpreted as a reflection upon the law, to prevent which he shows from his own experience the great excellency and usefulness of the law, not as a covenant, but as a guide; and further discovers how sin took occasion by the commandment. Observe in particular,

I. The great excellency of the law in itself. Far be it from Paul to reflect upon the law; no, he speaks honourably of it. 1. It is holy, just, and good, Rom 7:12. The law in general is so, and every particular commandment is so. Laws are as the law-makers are. God, the great lawgiver, is holy, just, and good, therefore his law must needs be so. The matter of it is holy: it commands holiness, encourages holiness; it is holy, for it is agreeable to the holy will of God, the original of holiness. It is just, for it is consonant to the rules of equity and right reason: the ways of the Lord are right. It is good in the design of it; it was given for the good of mankind, for the conservation of peace and order in the world. It makes the observers of it good; the intention of it was to better and reform mankind. Wherever there is true grace there is an assent to this – that the law is holy, just, and good. 2. The law is spiritual (Rom 7:14), not only in regard to the effect of it, as it is a means of making us spiritual, but in regard to the extent of it; it reaches our spirits, it lays a restraint upon, and gives a direction to, the motions of the inward man; it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, Heb 4:12. It forbids spiritual wickedness, heart-murder, and heart-adultery. It commands spiritual service, requires the heart, obliges us to worship God in the spirit. It is a spiritual law, for it is given by God, who is a Spirit and the Father of spirits; it is given to man, whose principal part is spiritual; the soul is the best part, and the leading part of the man, and therefore the law to the man must needs be a law to the soul. Herein the law of God is above all other laws, that it is a spiritual law. Other laws may forbid compassing and imagining, etc., which are treason in the heart, but cannot take cognizance thereof, unless there be some overt act; but the law of God takes notice of the iniquity regarded in the heart, though it go no further. Wash thy heart from wickedness, Jer 4:14. We know this: Wherever there is true grace there is an experimental knowledge of the spirituality of the law of God.

II. The great advantage that he had found by the law. 1. It was discovering: I had not known sin but by the law, Rom 7:7. As that which is straight discovers that which is crooked, as the looking-glass shows us our natural face with all its spots and deformities, so there is no way of coming to that knowledge of sin which is necessary to repentance, and consequently to peace and pardon, but by comparing our hearts and lives with the law. Particularly he came to the knowledge of the sinfulness of lust by the law of the tenth commandment. By lust he means sin dwelling in us, sin in its first motions and workings, the corrupt principle. This he came to know when the law said, Thou shalt not covet. The law spoke in other language than the scribes and Pharisees made it to speak in; it spoke in the spiritual sense and meaning of it. By this he knew that lust was sin and a very sinful sin, that those motions and desires of the heart towards sin which never came into act were sinful, exceedingly sinful. Paul had a very quick and piercing judgment, all the advantages and improvements of education, and yet never attained the right knowledge of indwelling sin till the Spirit by the law made it known to him. There is nothing about which the natural man is more blind than about original corruption, concerning which the understanding is altogether in the dark till the Spirit by the law reveal it, and make it known. Thus the law is a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ, opens and searches the wound, and so prepares it for healing. Thus sin by the commandment does appear sin (Rom 7:13); it appears in its own colours, appears to be what it is, and you cannot call it by a worse name than its own. Thus by the commandment it becomes exceedingly sinful; that is, it appears to be so. We never see the desperate venom or malignity there is in sin, till we come to compare it with the law, and the spiritual nature of the law, and then we see it to be an evil and a bitter thing. 2. It was humbling (Rom 7:9): I was alive. He thought himself in a very good condition; he was alive in his own opinion and apprehension, very secure and confident of the goodness of his state. Thus he was once, potein times past, when he was a Pharisee; for it was the common temper of that generation of men that they had a very good conceit of themselves; and Paul was then like the rest of them, and the reason was he was then without the law. Though brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, though himself a great student in the law, a strict observer of it, and a zealous stickler for it, yet without the law. He had the letter of the law, but he had not the spiritual meaning of it – the shell, but not the kernel. He had the law in his hand and in his head, but he had it not in his heart; the notion of it, but not the power of it. There are a great many who are spiritually dead in sin, that yet are alive in their own opinion of themselves, and it is their strangeness to the law that is the cause of the mistake. But when the commandment came, came in the power of it (not to his eyes only, but to his heart), sin revived, as the dust in a room rises (that is, appears) when the sun-shine is let into it. Paul then saw that in sin which he had never seen before; he then saw sin in its causes, the bitter root, the corrupt bias, the bent to backslide, – sin in its colours, deforming, defiling, breaking a righteous law, affronting an awful Majesty, profaning a sovereign crown by casting it to the ground, – sin in its consequences, sin with death at the heels of it, sin and the curse entailed upon it. “Thus sin revived, and then I died; I lost that good opinion which I had had of myself, and came to be of another mind. Sin revived, and I died; that is, the Spirit, but the commandment, convinced me that I was in a state of sin, and in a state of death because of sin.” Of this excellent use is the law; it is a lamp and a light; it converts the soul, opens the eyes, prepares the way of the Lord in the desert, rends the rocks, levels the mountains, makes ready a people prepared for the Lord.

III. The ill use that his corrupt nature made of the law notwithstanding. 1. Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence, Rom 7:8. Observe, Paul had in him all manner of concupiscence, though one of the best unregenerate men that ever was; as touching the righteousness of the law, blameless, and yet sensible of all manner of concupiscence. And it was sin that wrought it, indwelling sin, his corrupt nature (he speaks of a sin that did work sin), and it took occasion by the commandment. The corrupt nature would not have swelled and raged so much if it had not been for the restraints of the law; as the peccant humours in the body are raised, and more inflamed, by a purge that is not strong enough to carry them off. It is incident to corrupt nature, in vetitum niti – to lean towards what is forbidden. Ever since Adam ate forbidden fruit, we have all been fond of forbidden paths; the diseased appetite is carried out most strongly towards that which is hurtful and prohibited. Without the law sin was dead, as a snake in winter, which the sunbeams of the law quicken and irritate. 2. It deceived men. Sin puts a cheat upon the sinner, and it is a fatal cheat, Rom 7:11. By it (by the commandment) slew me. There being in the law no such express threatening against sinful lustings, sin, that is, his won corrupt nature, took occasion thence to promise him impunity, and to say, as the serpent to our first parents, You shall not surely die. Thus it deceived and slew him. 3. It wrought death in me by that which is good, Rom 7:13. That which works concupiscence works death, for sin bringeth forth death. Nothing so good but a corrupt and vicious nature will pervert it, and make it an occasion of ins; no flower so sweet by sin will such poison out of it. Now in this sin appears sin. The worst thing that sin does, and most like itself, is the perverting of the law, and taking occasion from it to be so much the more malignant. Thus the commandment, which was ordained to life, was intended as a guide in the way to comfort and happiness, proved unto death, through the corruption of nature, Rom 7:10. Many a precious soul splits upon the rock of salvation; and the same word which to some is an occasion of life unto life is to others an occasion of death unto death. The same sun that makes the garden of flowers more fragrant makes the dunghill more noisome; the same heat that softens wax hardens clay; and the same child was set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel. The way to prevent this mischief is to bow our souls to the commanding authority of the word and law of God, not striving against, but submitting to it.

Romans 7:14-25

Here is a description of the conflict between grace and corruption in the heart, between the law of God and the law of sin. And it is applicable two ways: – 1. To the struggles that are in a convinced soul, but yet unregenerate, in the person of whom it is supposed, by some, that Paul speaks. 2. To the struggles that are in a renewed sanctified soul, but yet in a state of imperfection; as other apprehend. And a great controversy there is of which of these we are to understand the apostle here. So far does the evil prevail here, when he speaks of one sold under sin, doing it, not performing that which is good, that it seems difficult to apply it to the regenerate, who are described to walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; and yet so far does the good prevail in hating sin, consenting to the law, delighting in it, serving the law of God with the mind, that it is more difficult to apply it to the unregenerate that are dead in trespasses and sins.

I. Apply it to the struggles that are felt in a convinced soul, that is yet in a state of sin, knows his Lord’s will, but does it not, approves the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law, and yet lives in the constant breach of it, Rom 2:17-23. Though he has that within him that witnesses against the sin he commits, and it is not without a great deal of reluctancy that he does commit it, the superior faculties striving against it, natural conscience warning against it before it is committed and smiting for it afterwards, yet the man continues a slave to his reigning lusts. It is not thus with every unregenerate man, but with those only that are convinced by the law, but not changed by the gospel. The apostle had said (Rom 6:14), Sin shall not have dominion, because you are not under the law, but under grace, for the proof of which he here shows that a man under the law, and not under grace, may be, and is, under the dominion of sin. The law may discover sin, and convince of sin, but it cannot conquer and subdue sin, witness the predominancy of sin in many that are under very strong legal convictions. It discovers the defilement, but will not wash it off. It makes a man weary and heavy laden (Mat 11:28), burdens him with his sin; and yet, if rested in, it yields no help towards the shaking off of that burden; this is to be had only in Christ. The law may make a man cry out, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me? and yet leave him thus fettered and captivated, as being too weak to deliver him (Rom 8:3), give him a spirit of bondage to fear, Rom 8:15. Now a soul advanced thus far by the law is in a fair way towards a state of liberty by Christ, though many rest here and go no further. Felix trembled, but never came to Christ. It is possible for a man to go to hell with his eyes open (Num 24:3, Num 24:4), illuminated with common convictions, and to carry about with him a self-accusing conscience, even in the service of the devil. He may consent to the law that it is good, delight to know God’s ways (as they, Isa 58:2), may have that within him that witnesses against sin and for holiness; and yet all this overpowered by the reigning love of sin. Drunkards and unclean persons have some faint desires to leave off their sins, and yet persist in them notwithstanding, such is the impotency and such the insufficiency of their convictions. Of such as these there are many that will needs have all this understood, and contend earnestly for it: though it is very hard to imagine why, if the apostle intended this, he should speak all along in his own person; and not only so, but in the present tense. Of his own state under conviction he had spoken at large, as of a thing past (Rom 7:7, etc.): I died; the commandment I found to be unto death; and if here he speaks of the same state as his present state, and the condition he was now in, surely he did not intend to be so understood: and therefore,

II. It seems rather to be understood of the struggles that are maintained between grace and corruption in sanctified souls. That there are remainders of indwelling corruption, even where there is a living principle of grace, is past dispute; that this corruption is daily breaking forth in sins of infirmity (such as are consistent with a state of grace) is no less certain. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, 1Jo 1:8, 1Jo 1:10. That true grace strives against these sins and corruptions, does not allow of them, hates them, mourns over them, groans under them as a burden, is likewise certain (Gal 5:17): The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that you cannot do the things that you would. These are the truths which, I think, are contained in this discourse of the apostle. And his design is further to open the nature of sanctification, that it does not attain to a sinless perfection in this life; and therefore to quicken us to, and encourage us in, our conflicts with remaining corruptions. Our case is not singular, that which we do sincerely strive against, shall not be laid to our charge, and through grace the victory is sure at last. The struggle here is like that between Jacob and Esau in the womb, between the Canaanites and Israelites in the land, between the house of Saul and the house of David; but great is the truth and will prevail. Understanding it thus, we may observe here,

1. What he complains of – the remainder of indwelling corruptions, which he here speaks of, to show that the law is insufficient to justify even a regenerate man, that the best man in the world hath enough in him to condemn him, if God should deal with him according to the law, which is not the fault of the law, but of our own corrupt nature, which cannot fulfil the law. The repetition of the same things over and over again in this discourse shows how much Paul’s heart was affected with what he wrote, and how deep his sentiments were. Observe the particulars of this complaint. (1.) I am carnal, sold under sin, Rom 7:14. He speaks of the Corinthians as carnal, 1Co 3:1. Even where there is spiritual life there are remainders of carnal affections, and so far a man may be sold under sin; he does not sell himself to work wickedness, as Ahab did (1Ki 21:25), but he was sold by Adam when he sinned and fell – sold, as a poor slave that does his master’s will against his own will – sold under sin, because conceived in iniquity and born in sin. (2.) What I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that do I, Rom 7:15. And to the same purport, Rom 7:19, Rom 7:21, When I would do good, evil is present with me. Such was the strength of corruptions, that he could not attain that perfection in holiness which he desired and breathed after. Thus, while he was pressing forward towards perfection, yet he acknowledges that he had not already attained, neither was already perfect, Phi 3:12. Fain he would be free from all sin, and perfectly do the will of God, such was his settled judgment; but his corrupt nature drew him another way: it was like a clog, that checked and kept him down when he would have soared upward, like the bias in a bowl, which, when it is thrown straight, yet draws it aside. (3.) In me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good, Rom 7:18. Here he explains himself concerning the corrupt nature, which he calls flesh; and as far as that goes there is no good to be expected, any more than one would expect good corn growing upon a rock, or on the sand which is by the sea-side. As the new nature, as far as that goes, cannot commit sin (1Jo 3:9), so the flesh, the old nature, as far as that goes, cannot perform a good duty. How should it? For the flesh serveth the law of sin (Rom 7:25), it is under the conduct and government of that law; and, while it is so, it is not likely to do any good. The corrupt nature is elsewhere called flesh (Gen 6:3, Joh 3:6); and, though there may be good things dwelling in those that have this flesh, yet, as far as the flesh goes, there is no good, the flesh is not a subject capable of any good. (4.) I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, Rom 7:23. The corrupt and sinful inclination is here compared to a law, because it controlled and checked him in his good motions. It is said to be seated in his members, because, Christ having set up his throne in his heart, it was only the rebellious members of the body that were the instruments of sin – in the sensitive appetite; or we may take it more generally for all that corrupt nature which is the seat not only of sensual but of more refined lusts. This wars against the law of the mind, the new nature; it draws the contrary way, drives on a contrary interest, which corrupt disposition and inclination are as great a burden and grief to the soul as the worst drudgery and captivity could be. It brings me into captivity. To the same purport (Rom 7:25), With the flesh I serve the law of sin; that is, the corrupt nature, the unregenerate part, is continually working towards sin. (5.) His general complaint we have in Rom 7:24, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The thing he complains of is a body of death; either the body of flesh, which is a mortal dying body (while we carry this body about with us, we shall be troubled with corruption; when we are dead, we shall be freed from sin, and not before), or the body of sin, the old man, the corrupt nature, which tends to death, that is, to the ruin of the soul. Or, comparing it to a dead body, the touch of which was by the ceremonial law defiling, if actual transgressions be dead works (Heb 9:14), original corruption is a dead body. It was as troublesome to Paul as if he had had a dead body tied to him, which he must have carried about with him. This made him cry out, O wretched man that I am! A man that had learned in every state to be content yet complains thus of his corrupt nature. Had I been required to speak of Paul, I should have said, “O blessed man that thou art, an ambassador of Christ, a favourite of heaven, a spiritual father of thousands!” But in his own account he was a wretched man, because of the corruption of nature, because he was not so good as he fain would be, had not yet attained, neither was already perfect. Thus miserably does he complain. Who shall deliver me? He speaks like one that was sick of it, that would give any thing to be rid of it, looks to the right hand and to the left for some friend that would part between him and his corruptions. The remainders of indwelling sin are a very grievous burden to a gracious soul.

2. What he comforts himself with. The case was sad, but there were some allays. Three things comforted him: –

(1.) That his conscience witnessed for him that he had a good principle ruling and prevailing in him, notwithstanding. It is well when all does not go one way in the soul. The rule of this good principle which he had was the law of God, to which he here speaks of having a threefold regard, which is certainly to be found in all that are sanctified, and no others. [1.] I consent unto the law that it is good, Rom 7:16, sumphēmiI give my vote to the law; here is the approbation of the judgment. Wherever there is grace there is not only a dread of the severity of the law, but a consent to the goodness of the law. “It is a good in itself, it is good for me.” This is a sign that the law is written in the heart, that the soul is delivered into the mould of it. To consent to the law is so far to approve of it as not to wish it otherwise constituted than it is. The sanctified judgment not only concurs to the equity of the law, but to the excellency of it, as convinced that a conformity to the law is the highest perfection of human nature, and the greatest honour and happiness we are capable of. [2.] I delight in the law of God after the inward man, Rom 7:22. His conscience bore witness to a complacency in the law. He delighted not only in the promises of the word, but in the precepts and prohibitions of the word; sunēdomai expresses a becoming delight. He did herein concur in affection with all the saints. All that are savingly regenerate or born again do truly delight in the law of God, delight to know it, to do it – cheerfully submit to the authority of it, and take a complacency in that submission, never better pleased than when heart and life are in the strictest conformity to the law and will of God. After the inward man; that is, First, The mind or rational faculties, in opposition to the sensitive appetites and wills of the flesh. The soul is the inward man, and that is the seat of gracious delights, which are therefore sincere and serious, but secret; it is the renewing of the inward man, 2Co 4:16. Secondly, The new nature. The new man is called the inner man (Eph 3:16), the hidden man of the heart, 1Pe 3:4. Paul, as far as he was sanctified, had a delight in the law of God. [3.] With the mind I myself serve the law of God, Rom 7:25. It is not enough to consent to the law, and to delight in the law, but we must serve the law; our souls must be entirely delivered up into the obedience of it. Thus it was with Paul’s mind; thus it is with every sanctified renewed mind; this is the ordinary course and way; thitherward goes the bent of the soul. I myselfautos egō, plainly intimating that he speaks in his own person, and not in the person of another.

(2.) That the fault lay in that corruption of his nature which he did really bewail and strive against: It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. This he mentions twice (Rom 7:17, Rom 7:20), not as an excuse for the guilt of his sin (it is enough to condemn us, if we were under the law, that the sin which does the evil dwelleth in us), but as a salvo for his evidences, that he might not sink in despair, but take comfort from the covenant of grace, which accepts the willingness of the spirit, and has provided pardon for the weakness of the flesh. He likewise herein enters a protestation against all that which this indwelling sin produced. Having professed his consent to the law of God, he here professes his dissent from the law of sin. “It is not I; I disown the fact; it is against my mind that it is done.” As when in the senate the major part are bad, and carry every thing the wrong way, it is indeed the act of the senate, but the honest party strive against it, bewail what is done, and enter their protestation against it; so that it is no more they that do it. – Dwelleth in me, as the Canaanites among the Israelites, though they were put under tribute: dwelleth in me, and is likely to dwell there, while I live.

(3.) His great comfort lay in Jesus Christ (Rom 7:25): I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. In the midst of his complaints he breaks out into praises. It is a special remedy against fears and sorrows to be much in praise: many a poor drooping soul hath found it so. And, in all our praises, this should be the burden of the son, “Blessed be God for Jesus Christ.” Who shall deliver me? says he (Rom 7:24), as one at a loss for help. At length he finds an all-sufficient friend, even Jesus Christ. When we are under the sense of the remaining power of sin and corruption, we shall see reason to bless God through Christ (for, as he is the mediator of all our prayers, so he is of all our praises) – to bless God for Christ; it is he that stands between us and the wrath due to us for this sin. If it were not for Christ, this iniquity that dwells in us would certainly be our ruin. He is our advocate with the Father, and through him God pities, and spares, and pardons, and lays not our iniquities to our charge. It is Christ that has purchased deliverance for us in due time. Through Christ death will put an end to all these complaints, and waft us to an eternity which we shall spend without sin or sigh. Blessed be God that giveth us this victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Romans 8

The apostle, having fully explained the doctrine of justification, and pressed the necessity of sanctification, in this chapter applies himself to the consolation of the Lord’s people. Ministers are helpers of the joy of the saints. “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,” so runs our commission, Isa 40:1. It is the will of God that his people should be a comforted people. And we have here such a draught of the gospel charter, such a display of the unspeakable privileges of true believers, as may furnish us with abundant matter for joy and peace in believing, that by all these immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation. Many of the people of God have, accordingly, found this chapter a well-spring of comfort to their souls, living and dying, and have sucked and been satisfied from these breasts of consolation, and with joy drawn water out of these wells of salvation. There are three things in this chapter: I. The particular instances of Christians’ privileges (v. 1-28). II. The ground thereof laid in predestination (Rom 8:29, Rom 8:30). III. The apostle’s triumph herein, in the name of all the saints (Rom 8:31 to the end).

Romans 8:1-9

I. The apostle here beings with one signal privilege of true Christians, and describes the character of those to whom it belongs: There is therefore now no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus, Rom 8:1. This is his triumph after that melancholy complaint and conflict in the foregoing chapter – sin remaining, disturbing, vexing, but, blessed be God, not ruining. The complaint he takes to himself, but humbly transfers the comfort with himself to all true believers, who are all interested in it. 1. It is the unspeakable privilege and comfort of all those that are in Christ Jesus that there is therefore now no condemnation to them. He does not say, “There is no accusation against them,” for this there is; but the accusation is thrown out, and the indictment quashed. He does not say, “There is nothing in them that deserves condemnation,” for this there is, and they see it, and own it, and mourn over it, and condemn themselves for it; but it shall not be their ruin. He does not say, “There is no cross, no affliction to them or no displeasure in the affliction,” for this there may be; but no condemnation. They may be chastened of the Lord, but not condemned with the world. Now this arises from their being in Christ Jesus; by virtue of their union with him through faith they are thus secured. They are in Christ Jesus, as in their city of refuge, and so are protected from the avenger of blood. He is their advocate, and brings them off. There is therefore no condemnation, because they are interested in the satisfaction that Christ by dying made to the law. In Christ, God does not only not condemn them, but is well pleased with them, Mat 17:5. 2. It is the undoubted character of all those who are so in Christ Jesus as to be freed from condemnation that they walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. Observe, The character is given from their walk, not from any one particular act, but from their course and way. And the great question is, What is the principle of the walk, the flesh or the spirit, the old or the new nature, corruption or grace? Which of these do we mind, for which of these doe we make provision, by which of these are we governed, which of these do we take part with?

II. This great truth, thus laid down, he illustrates in the following verses; and shows how we come by this great privilege, and how we may answer this character.

1. How we come by these privileges – the privilege of justification, that there is no condemnation to us – the privilege of sanctification, that we walk after the Spirit, and not after the flesh, which is no less our privilege than it is our duty. How comes it about?

(1.) The law could not do it, Rom 8:3. It could neither justify nor sanctify, neither free us from the guilt nor from the power of sin, having not the promises either of pardon or grace. The law made nothing perfect: It was weak. Some attempt the law made towards these blessed ends, but, alas! it was weak, it could not accomplish them: yet that weakness was not through any defect in the law, but through the flesh, through the corruption of human nature, by which we became incapable either of being justified or sanctified by the law. We had become unable to keep the law, and, in case of failure, the law, as a covenant of works, made no provision, and so left us as it found us. Or understand it of the ceremonial law; that was a plaster not wide enough for the wound, it could never take away sin, Heb 10:4.

(2.) The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus does it, Rom 8:2. The covenant of grace made with us in Christ is a treasury of merit and grace, and thence we receive pardon and a new nature, are freed from the law of sin and death, that is, both from the guilt and power of sin – from the course of the law, and the dominion of the flesh. We are under another covenant, another master, another husband, under the law of the Spirit, the law that gives the Spirit, spiritual life to qualify us for eternal. The foundation of this freedom is laid in Christ’s undertaking for us, of which he speaks Rom 8:3, God sending his own Son. Observe, When the law failed, God provided another method. Christ comes to do that which the law could not do. Moses brought the children of Israel to the borders of Canaan, and then died, and left them there; but Joshua did that which Moses could not do, and put them in possession of Canaan. Thus what the law could not do Christ did. The best exposition of this verse we have Heb 10:1-10. To make the sense of the words clear, which in our translation is a little intricate, we may read it thus, with a little transposition: – God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and a sacrifice for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, which the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, etc., Rom 8:4. Observe, [1.] How Christ appeared: In the likeness of sinful flesh. Not sinful, for he was holy, harmless, undefiled; but in the likeness of that flesh which was sinful. He took upon him that nature which was corrupt, though perfectly abstracted from the corruptions of it. His being circumcised, redeemed, baptized with John’s baptism, bespeaks the likeness of sinful flesh. The bitings of the fiery serpents were cured by a serpent of brass, which had the shape, through free from the venom, of the serpents that bit them. It was great condescension that he who was God should be made in the likeness of flesh; but much greater that he who was holy should be made in the likeness of sinful flesh. And for sin, – here the best Greek copies place the comma. God sent him, en homoiōmati sarkos hamartias, kai peri hamartiasin the likeness of sinful flesh, and as a sacrifice for sin. The Septuagint call a sacrifice for sin no more than peri hamartiasfor sin; so Christ was a sacrifice; he was sent to be so, Heb 9:26. [2.] What was done by this appearance of his: Sin was condemned, that is, God did therein more than ever manifest his hatred of sin; and not only so, but for all that are Christ’s both the damning and the domineering power of sin is broken and taken out of the way. He that is condemned can neither accuse nor rule; his testimony is null, and his authority null. Thus by Christ is sin condemned; though it live and remain, its life in the saints is still but like that of a condemned malefactor. it was by the condemning of sin that death was disarmed, and the devil, who had the power of death, destroyed. The condemning of sin saved the sinner from condemnation. Christ was made sin for us (2Co 5:21), and, being so made, when he was condemned sin was condemned in the flesh of Christ, condemned in the human nature: So was sanctification made to divine justice, and way made for the salvation of the sinner. [3.] The happy effect of this upon us (Rom 8:4): That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us. Both in our justification and in our sanctification, the righteousness of the law if fulfilled. A righteousness of satisfaction for the breach of the law is fulfilled by the imputation of Christ’s complete and perfect righteousness, which answers the utmost demands of the law, as the mercy-seat was as long and as broad as the ark. A righteousness of obedience to the commands of the law is fulfilled in us, when by the Spirit the law of love is written upon the heart, and that love is the fulfilling of the law, Rom 13:10. Though the righteousness of the law is not fulfilled by us, yet, blessed be God, it is fulfilled in us; there is that to be found upon and in all true believers which answers the intention of the law. Us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. This is the description of all those that are interested in this privilege – they act from spiritual and not from carnal principles; as for others, the righteousness of the law will be fulfilled upon them in their ruin. Now,

2. Observe how we may answer to this character, Rom 8:5, etc.

(1.) By looking to our minds. How may we know whether we are after the flesh or after the Spirit? By examining what we mind, the things of the flesh or the things of the spirit. Carnal pleasure, worldly profit and honour, the things of sense and time, are the things of the flesh, which unregenerate people mind. The favour of God, the welfare of the soul, the concerns of eternity, are the things of the Spirit, which those that are after the Spirit do mind. The man is as the mind is. The mind is the forge of thoughts. As he thinketh in his heart, so is he, Pro 23:7. Which way do the thoughts move with most pleasure? On what do they dwell with most satisfaction? The mind is the seat of wisdom. Which way go the projects and contrivances? whether are we more wise for the world or for our souls? phronousi ta tēs sarkosthey savour the things of the flesh; so the word is rendered, Mat 16:23. It is a great matter what our savour is, what truths, what tidings, what comforts, we do most relish, and are most agreeable to us. Now, to caution us against this carnal-mindedness, he shows the great misery and malignity of it, and compares it with the unspeakable excellency and comfort of spiritual-mindedness. [1.] It is death, Rom 8:6. It is spiritual death, the certain way to eternal death. It is the death of the soul; for it is its alienation from God, in union and communion with whom the life of the soul consists. A carnal soul is a dead soul, dead as a soul can die. She that liveth in pleasure is dead (1Ti 5:6), not only dead in law as guilty, but dead in state as carnal. Death includes all misery; carnal souls are miserable souls. But to be spiritually minded, phronēma tou pneumatosa spiritual savour (the wisdom that is from above, a principle of grace) is life and peace; it is the felicity and happiness of the soul. The life of the soul consists in its union with spiritual things by the mind. A sanctified soul is a living soul, and that life is peace; it is a very comfortable life. All the paths of spiritual wisdom are paths of peace. It is life and peace in the other world, as well as in this. Spiritual-mindedness is eternal life and peace begun, and an assuring earnest of the perfection of it. [2.] It is enmity to God (Rom 8:7), and this is worse than the former. The former speaks the carnal sinner a dead man, which is bad; but this speaks him a devil of a man. It is not only an enemy, but enmity itself. It is not only the alienation of the soul from God, but the opposition of the soul against God; it rebels against his authority, thwarts his design, opposes his interest, spits in his face, spurns at his bowels. Can there be a greater enmity? An enemy may be reconciled, but enmity cannot. How should this humble us for and warn us against, carnal-mindedness! Shall we harbour and indulge that which is enmity to God our creator, owner, ruler, and benefactor? To prove this, he urges that it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. The holiness of the law of God, and the unholiness of the carnal mind, are as irreconcilable as light and darkness. The carnal man may, by the power of divine grace, be made subject to the law of God, but the carnal mind never can; this must be broken and expelled. See how wretchedly the corrupt will of man is enslaved to sin; as far as the carnal mind prevails, there is no inclination to the law of God; therefore wherever there is a change wrought it is by the power of God’s grace, not by the freedom of man’s will. Hence he infers (Rom 8:8), Those that are in the flesh cannot please God. Those that are in a carnal unregenerate state, under the reigning power of sin, cannot do the things that please God, wanting grace, the pleasing principle, and an interest in Christ, the pleasing Mediator. The very sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination, Pro 15:8. Pleasing God is our highest end, of which those that are in the flesh cannot but fall short; they cannot please him, nay, they cannot but displease him. We may know our state and character,

(2.) By enquiring whether we have the Spirit of God and Christ, or not (Rom 8:9): You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. This expresses states and conditions of the soul vastly different. All the saints have flesh and spirit in them; but to be in the flesh and to be in the Spirit are contrary. It denotes our being overcome and subdued by one of these principles. As we say, A man is in love, or in drink, that is, overcome by it. Now the great question is whether we are in the flesh or in the Spirit; and how may we come to know it? Why, by enquiring whether the Spirit of God dwell in us. The Spirit dwelling in us is the best evidence of our being in the Spirit, for the indwelling is mutual (1Jo 4:16): Dwelleth in God, and God in him. The Spirit visits many that are unregenerate with his motions, which they resist and quench; but in all that are sanctified he dwells; there he resides and rules. He is there as a man at his own house, where he is constant and welcome, and has the dominion. Shall we put this question to our own hearts, Who dwells, who rules, who keeps house, here? Which interest has the ascendant? To this he subjoins a general rule of trial: If any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. To be Christ’s (that is, to be a Christian indeed, one of his children, his servants, his friends, in union with him) is a privilege and honour which many pretend to that have no part nor lot in the matter. None are his but those that have his Spirit; that is, [1.] That are spirited as he was spirited-are meek, and lowly, and humble, and peaceable, and patient, and charitable, as he was. We cannot tread in his steps unless we have his spirit; the frame and disposition of our souls must be conformable to Christ’s pattern. [2.] That are actuated and guided by the Holy Spirit of God, as a sanctifier, teacher, and comforter. Having the Spirit of Christ is the same with having the Spirit of God to dwell in us. But those two come much to one; for all that are actuated by the Spirit of God as their rule are conformable to the spirit of Christ as their pattern. Now this description of the character of those to whom belongs this first privilege of freedom from condemnation is to be applied to all the other privileges that follow.

Romans 8:10-16

In these verses the apostle represents two more excellent benefits, which belong to true believers.

I. Life. The happiness is not barely a negative happiness, not to be condemned; but it is positive, it is an advancement to a life that will be the unspeakable happiness of the man (Rom 8:10, Rom 8:11): If Christ be in you. Observe, If the Spirit be in us, Christ is in us. He dwells in the heart by faith, Eph 3:17. Now we are here told what becomes of the bodies and souls of those in whom Christ is.

1. We cannot say but that the body is dead; it is a frail, mortal, dying body, and it will be dead shortly; it is a house of clay, whose foundation is in the dust. The life purchased and promised does not immortalize the body in its present state. It is dead, that is, it is appointed to die, it is under a sentence of death: as we say one that is condemned is a dead man. In the midst of life we are in death: be our bodies ever so strong, and healthful, and handsome, they are as good as dead (Heb 11:12), and this because of sin. It is sin that kills the body. This effect the first threatening has (Gen 3:19): Dust thou art. Methinks, were there no other argument, love to our bodies should make us hate sin, because it is such an enemy to our bodies. The death even of the bodies of the saints is a remaining token of God’s displeasure against sin.

2. But the spirit, the precious soul, that is life; it is now spiritually alive, nay, it is life. Grace in the soul is its new nature; the life of the saint lies in the soul, while the life of the sinner goes no further than the body. When the body dies, and returns to the dust, the spirit if life; not only living and immortal, but swallowed up of life. Death to the saints is but the freeing of the heaven-born spirit from the clog and load of this body, that it may be fit to partake of eternal life. When Abraham was dead, yet God was the God of Abraham, for even then his spirit was life, Mat 22:31, Mat 22:32. See Psa 49:15. And this because of righteousness. The righteousness of Christ imputed to them secures the soul, the better part, from death; the righteousness of Christ inherent in them, the renewed image of God upon the soul, preserves it, and, by God’s ordination, at death elevates it, and improves it, and makes it meet to partake of the inheritance of the saints in light. The eternal life of the soul consists in the vision and fruition of God, and both assimilating, for which the soul is qualified by the righteousness of sanctification. I refer to Psa 17:15, I will behold thy face in righteousness.

3. There is a life reserved too for the poor body at last: He shall also quicken your mortal bodies, Rom 8:11. The Lord is for the body; and though at death it is cast aside as a despised broken vessel, a vessel in which is no pleasure, yet God will have a desire to the work of his hands (Job 14:15), will remember his covenant with the dust, and will not lose a grain of it; but the body shall be reunited to the soul, and clothed with a glory agreeable to it. Vile bodies shall be newly fashioned, Phi 3:21; 1Co 15:42. Two great assurances of the resurrection of the body are mentioned: – (1.) The resurrection of Christ: He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken. Christ rose as the head, and first-fruits, and forerunner of all the saints, 1Co 15:20. The body of Christ lay in the grave, under the sin of all the elect imputed, and broke through it. O grave, then, where is thy victory? It is in the virtue of Christ’s resurrection that we shall rise. (2.) The indwelling of the Spirit. The same Spirit that raiseth the soul now will raise the body shortly: By his Spirit that dwelleth in you. The bodies of the saints are the temples of the Holy Ghost, 1Co 3:16; 1Co 6:19. Now, though these temples may be suffered for awhile to lie in ruins, yet they shall be rebuilt. The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, shall be repaired, whatever great mountains may be in the way. The Spirit, breathing upon dead and dry bones, will make them live, and the saints even in their flesh shall see God. Hence the apostle by the way infers how much it is our duty to walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, Rom 8:12, Rom 8:13. Let not our life be after the wills and motions of the flesh. Two motives he mentions here: – [1.] We are not debtors to the flesh, neither by relation, gratitude, nor any other bond or obligation. We owe no suit nor service to our carnal desires; we are indeed bound to clothe, and feed, and take care of the body, as a servant to the soul in the service of God, but no further. We are not debtors to it; the flesh never did us so much kindness as to oblige us to serve it. It is implied that we are debtors to Christ and to the Spirit: there we owe our all, all we have and all we can do, by a thousand bonds and obligations. Being delivered from so great a death by so great a ransom, we are deeply indebted to our deliverer. See 1Co 6:19, 1Co 6:20. [2.] Consider the consequences, what will be at the end of the way. Here are life and death, blessing and cursing, set before us. If you live after the flesh, you shall die; that is, die eternally. It is the pleasing, and serving, and gratifying, of the flesh, that are the ruin of souls; that is, the second death. Dying indeed is the soul’s dying: the death of the saints is but a sleep. But, on the other hand, You shall live, live and be happy to eternity; that is the true life: If you through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body, subdue and keep under all fleshly lusts and affections, deny yourselves in the pleasing and humouring of the body, and this through the Spirit; we cannot do it without the Spirit working it in us, and the Spirit will not do it without our doing our endeavour. So that in a word we are put upon this dilemma, either to displease the body or destroy the soul.

II. The Spirit of adoption is another privilege belonging to those that are in Christ Jesus, Rom 8:14-16.

1. All that are Christ’s are taken into the relation of Children to God, Rom 8:14. Observe, (1.) Their property: They are led by the Spirit of God, as a scholar in his learning is led by his tutor, as a traveller in his journey is led by his guide, as a soldier in his engagements is led by his captain; not driven as beasts, but led as rational creatures, drawn with the cords of a man and the bands of love. It is the undoubted character of all true believers that they are led by the Spirit of God. Having submitted themselves in believing to his guidance, they do in their obedience follow that guidance, and are sweetly led into all truth and all duty. (2.) Their privilege: They are the sons of God, received into the number of God’s children by adoption, owned and loved by him as his children.

2. And those that are the sons of God have the Spirit,

(1.) To work in them the disposition of children.

[1.] You have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, Rom 8:15. Understand it, First, Of that spirit of bondage which the Old Testament church was under, by reason of the darkness and terror of that dispensation. The veil signified bondage, 2Co 3:15. Compare Rom 8:17. The Spirit of adoption was not then so plentifully poured out as now; for the law opened the wound, but little of the remedy. Now you are not under that dispensation, you have not received that spirit. Secondly, Of that spirit of bondage which many of the saints themselves were under at their conversion, under the convictions of sin and wrath set home by the Spirit; as those in Act 2:37, the jailer (Act 16:30), Paul, Act 9:6. Then the Spirit himself was to the saints a spirit of bondage: “But,” says the apostle, “with you this is over.” “God as a Judge,” says Dr. Manton, “by the spirit of bondage, sends us to Christ as Mediator, and Christ as Mediator, by the spirit of adoption, sends us back again to God as a Father.” Though a child of God may come under fear of bondage again, and may be questioning his sonship, yet the blessed Spirit is not again a spirit of bondage, for then he would witness an untruth.

[2.] But you have received the Spirit of adoption. Men may give a charter of adoption; but it is God’s prerogative, when he adopts, to give a spirit of adoption – the nature of children. The Spirit of adoption works in the children of God a filial love to God as a Father, a delight in him, and a dependence upon him, as a Father. A sanctified soul bears the image of God, as the child bears the image of the father. Whereby we cry, Abba, Father. Praying is here called crying, which is not only an earnest, but a natural expression of desire; children that cannot speak vent their desires by crying. Now, the Spirit teaches us in prayer to come to God as a Father, with a holy humble confidence, emboldening the soul in that duty. Abba, Father. Abba is a Syriac word signifying father or my father; patēr, a Greek work; and why both, Abba, Father? Because Christ said so in prayer (Mar 14:36), Abba, Father: and we have received the Spirit of the Son. It denotes an affectionate endearing importunity, and a believing stress laid upon the relation. Little children, begging of their parents, can say little but Father, Father, and that is rhetoric enough. It also denotes that the adoption is common both to Jews and Gentiles: the Jews call him Abba in their language, the Greeks may call him patēr in their language; for in Christ Jesus there is neither Greek nor Jew.

(2.) To witness to the relation of children, Rom 8:16. The former is the work of the Spirit as a Sanctifier; this as a Comforter. Beareth witness with our spirit. Many a man has the witness of his own spirit to the goodness of his state who has not the concurring testimony of the Spirit. Many speak peace to themselves to whom the God of heaven does not speak peace. But those that are sanctified have God’s Spirit witnessing with their spirits, which is to be understood not of any immediate extraordinary revelation, but an ordinary work of the Spirit, in and by the means of comfort, speaking peace to the soul. This testimony is always agreeable to the written word, and is therefore always grounded upon sanctification; for the Spirit in the heart cannot contradict the Spirit in the word. The Spirit witnesses to none the privileges of children who have not the nature and disposition of children.

Romans 8:17-25

In these words the apostle describes a fourth illustrious branch of the happiness of believers, namely, a title to the future glory. This is fitly annexed to our sonship; for as the adoption of sons entitles us to that glory, so the disposition of sons fits and prepares us for it. If children, then heirs, Rom 8:17. In earthly inheritances this rule does not hold, only the first-born are heirs; but the church is a church of first-born, for they are all heirs. Heaven is an inheritance that all the saints are heirs to. They do not come to it as purchasers by any merit or procurement of their own; but as heirs, purely by the act of God; for God makes heirs. The saints are heirs though in this world they are heirs under age; see Gal 4:1, Gal 4:2. Their present state is a state of education and preparation for the inheritance. How comfortable should this be to all the children of God, how little soever they have in possession, that, being heirs, they have enough in reversion! But the honour and happiness of an heir lie in the value and worth of that which he is heir to: we read of those that inherit the wind; and therefore we have here an abstract of the premises. 1. Heirs of God. The Lord himself is the portion of the saints’ inheritance (Psa 16:5), a goodly heritage, Psa 16:6. The saints are spiritual priests, that have the Lord for their inheritance, Num 18:20. The vision of God and the fruition of God make up the inheritance the saints are heirs to. God himself will be with them, and will be their God, Rev 21:3. 2. Joint-heirs with Christ. Christ, as Mediator, is said to be the heir of all things (Heb 1:2), and true believers, by virtue of their union with him, shall inherit all things, Rev 21:7. Those that now partake of the Spirit of Christ, as his brethren, shall, as his brethren, partake of his glory (Joh 17:24), shall sit down with him upon his throne, Rev 3:21. Lord, what is man, that thou shouldst thus magnify him! Now this future glory is further spoken of as the reward of present sufferings and as the accomplishment of present hopes.

I. As the reward of the saints’ present sufferings; and it is a rich reward: If so be that we suffer with him (Rom 8:17), or forasmuch as we suffer with him. The state of the church in this world always is, but was then especially, an afflicted state; to be a Christian was certainly to be a sufferer. Now, to comfort them in reference to those sufferings, he tells them that they suffered with Christ – for his sake, for his honour, and for the testimony of a good conscience, and should be glorified with him. Those that suffered with David in his persecuted state were advanced by him and with him when he came to the crown; see 2Ti 2:12. See the gains of suffering for Christ; though we may be losers for him, we shall not, we cannot, be losers by him in the end. This the gospel is filled with the assurances of. Now, that suffering saints may have strong supports and consolations from their hopes of heaven, he holds the balance (Rom 8:18), in a comparison between the two, which is observable. 1. In one scale he puts the sufferings of this present time. The sufferings of the saints are but sufferings of this present time, strike no deeper than the things of time, last no longer than the present time (2Co 4:17), light affliction, and but for a moment. So that on the sufferings he writes tekel, weighed in the balance and found light. 2. In the other scale he puts the glory, and finds that a weight, an exceeding and eternal weight: Glory that shall be revealed. In our present state we come short, not only in the enjoyment, but in the knowledge of that glory (1Co 2:9; 1Jo 3:2): it shall be revealed. It surpasses all that we have yet seen and known: present vouchsafements are sweet and precious, very precious, very sweet; but there is something to come, something behind the curtain, that will outshine all. Shall be revealed in us; not only revealed to us, to be seen, but revealed in us, to be enjoyed. The kingdom of God is within you, and will be so to eternity. 3. He concludes the sufferings not worthy to be compared with the gloryouk axia pros tēn doxan. They cannot merit that glory; and, if suffering for Christ will not merit, much less will doing. They should not at all deter and frighten us from the diligent and earnest pursuit of that glory. The sufferings are small and short, and concern the body only; but the glory is rich and great, and concerns the soul, and is eternal. This he reckons. I reckonlogizomai. It is not a rash and sudden determination, but the product of a very serious and deliberate consideration. he had reasoned the case within himself, weighed the arguments on both sides, and thus at last resolves the point. O how vastly different is the sentence of the word from the sentiment of the world concerning the sufferings of this present time! I reckon, as an arithmetician that is balancing an account. He first sums up what is disbursed for Christ in the sufferings of this present time, and finds they come to very little; he then sums up what is secured to us by Christ in the glory that shall be revealed, and this he finds to be an infinite sum, transcending all conception, the disbursement abundantly made up and the losses infinitely countervailed. And who would be afraid then to suffer for Christ, who as he is before-hand with us in suffering, so he will not be behind-hand with us in recompence? Now Paul was as competent a judge of this point as ever any mere man was. He could reckon not by art only, but by experience; for he knew both. He knew what the sufferings of this present time were; see 2Co 11:23-28. He knew what the glory of heaven is; see 2Co 12:3, 2Co 12:4. And, upon the view of both, he gives this judgment here. There is nothing like a believing view of the glory which shall be revealed to support and bear up the spirit under all the sufferings of this present time. The reproach of Christ appears riches to those who have respect to the recompence of reward, Heb 11:26.

II. As the accomplishment of the saints’ present hopes and expectations, Rom 8:19, etc. As the saints are suffering for it, so they are waiting for it. Heaven is therefore sure; for God by his Spirit would not raise and encourage those hopes only to defeat and disappoint them. He will establish that word unto his servants on which he has caused them to hope (Psa 119:49), and heaven is therefore sweet; for, if hope deferred makes the heart sick, surely when the desire comes it will be a tree of life, Pro 13:12. Now he observes an expectation of this glory,

1. In the creatures Rom 8:19-22. That must needs be a great, a transcendent glory, which all the creatures are so earnestly expecting and longing for. This observation in these verses has some difficulty in it, which puzzles interpreters a little; and the more because it is a remark not made in any other scripture, with which it might be compared. By the creature here we understand, not as some do the Gentile world, and their expectation of Christ and the gospel, which is an exposition very foreign and forced, but the whole frame of nature, especially that of this lower world – the whole creation, the compages of inanimate and sensible creatures, which, because of their harmony and mutual dependence, and because they all constitute and make up one world, are spoken of in the singular number as the creature. The sense of the apostle in these four verses we may take in the following observations: – (1.) That there is a present vanity to which the creature, by reason of the sin of man, is made subject, Rom 8:20. When man sinned, the ground was cursed for man’s sake, and with it all the creatures (especially of this lower world, where our acquaintance lies) became subject to that curse, became mutable and mortal. Under the bondage of corruption, Rom 8:21. There is an impurity, deformity, and infirmity, which the creature has contracted by the fall of man: the creation is sullied and stained, much of the beauty of the world gone. There is an enmity of one creature to another; they are all subject to continual alteration and decay of the individuals, liable to the strokes of God’s judgments upon man. When the world was drowned, and almost all the creatures in it, surely then it was subject to vanity indeed. The whole species of creatures is designed for, and is hastening to, a total dissolution by fire. And it is not the least part of their vanity and bondage that they are used, or abused rather, by men as instruments of sin. The creatures are often abused to the dishonour of their Creator, the hurt of his children, or the service of his enemies. When the creatures are made the food and fuel of our lusts, they are subject to vanity, they are captivated by the law of sin. And this not willingly, not of their own choice. All the creatures desire their own perfection and consummation; when they are made instruments of sin it is not willingly. Or, They are thus captivated, not for any sin of their own, which they had committed, but for man’s sin: By reason of him who hath subjected the same. Adam did it meritoriously; the creatures being delivered to him, when he by sin delivered himself he delivered them likewise into the bondage of corruption. God did it judicially; he passed a sentence upon the creatures for the sin of man, by which they became subject. And this yoke (poor creatures) they bear in hope that it will not be so always. Ep’ elpidi hoti kai, etc. – in hope that the creature itself; so many Greek copies join the words. We have reason to pity the poor creatures that for our sin have become subject to vanity. (2.) That the creatures groan and travail in pain together under this vanity and corruption, Rom 8:22. It is a figurative expression. Sin is a burden to the whole creation; the sin of the Jews, in crucifying Christ, set the earth a quaking under them. The idols were a burden to the weary beast, Isa 46:1. There is a general outcry of the whole creation against the sin of man: the stone crieth out of the wall (Hab 2:11), the land cries, Job 31:38. (3.) That the creature, that is now thus burdened, shall, at the time of the restitution of all things, be delivered from this bondage into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom 8:21) – they shall no more be subject to vanity and corruption, and the other fruits of the curse; but, on the contrary, this lower world shall be renewed: when there will be new heavens there will be a new earth (2Pe 3:13; Rev 21:1); and there shall be a glory conferred upon all the creatures, which shall be (in the proportion of their natures) as suitable and as great an advancement as the glory of the children of God shall be to them. The fire at the last day shall be a refining, not a destroying annihilating fire. What becomes of the souls of brutes, that go downwards, none can tell. But it should seem by the scripture that there will be some kind of restoration of them. And if it be objected, What use will they be of to glorified saints? we may suppose them of as much use as they were to Adam in innocency; and if it be only to illustrate the wisdom, power, and goodness of their Creator, that is enough. Compare with this Psa 96:10-13; Psa 98:7-9. Let the heavens rejoice before the Lord, for he cometh. (4.) That the creature doth therefore earnestly expect and wait for the manifestation of the children of God, Rom 8:19. Observe, At the second coming of Christ there will be a manifestation of the children of God. Now the saints are God’s hidden ones, the wheat seems lost in a heap of chaff; but then they shall be manifested. It does not yet appear what we shall be (1Jo 3:2), but then the glory shall be revealed. The children of God shall appear in their own colours. And this redemption of the creature is reserved till then; for, as it was with man and for man that they fell under the curse, so with man and for man they shall be delivered. All the curse and filth that now adhere to the creature shall be done away then when those that have suffered with Christ upon earth shall reign with him upon the earth. This the whole creation looks and longs for; and it may serve as a reason why now a good man should be merciful to his beast.

2. In the saints, who are new creatures, Rom 8:23-25. Observe, (1.) The grounds of this expectation in the saints. It is our having received the first-fruits of the Spirit, which both quickens our desires and encourages our hopes, and both ways raises our expectations. The first-fruits did both sanctify and ensure the lump. Grace is the first-fruits of glory, it is glory begun. We, having received such clusters in this wilderness, cannot but long for the full vintage in the heavenly Canaan. Not only they – not only the creatures which are not capable of such a happiness as the first-fruits of the Spirit, but even we, who have such present rich receivings, cannot but long for something more and greater. In having the first-fruits of the Spirit we have that which is very precious, but we have not all we would have. We groan within ourselves, which denotes the strength and secrecy of these desires; not making a loud noise, as the hypocrites howling upon the bed for corn and wine, but with silent groans, which pierce heaven soonest of all. Or, We groan among ourselves. It is the unanimous vote, the joint desire, of the whole church, all agree in this: Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. The groaning denotes a very earnest and importunate desire, the soul pained with the delay. Present receivings and comforts are consistent with a great many groans; not as the pangs of one dying, but as the throes of a woman in travail – groans that are symptoms of life, not of death. (2.) The object of this expectation. What is it we are thus desiring and waiting for? What would we have? The adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. Though the soul be the principal part of the man, yet the Lord has declared himself for the body also, and has provided a great deal of honour and happiness for the body. The resurrection is here called the redemption of the body. It shall then be rescued from the power of death and the grave, and the bondage of corruption; and, though a vile body, yet it shall be refined and beautified, and made like that glorious body of Christ, Phi 3:21; 1Co 15:42. This is called the adoption. [1.] It is the adoption manifested before all the world, angels and men. Now are we the sons of God, but it does not yet appear, the honour is now clouded; but then God will publicly own all his children. The deed of adoption, which is now written, signed, and sealed, will then be recognized, proclaimed, and published. As Christ was, so the saints will be, declared to be the sons of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead, Rom 1:4. It will then be put past dispute. [2.] It is the adoption perfected and completed. The children of God have bodies as well as souls; and, till those bodies are brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God, the adoption is not perfect. But then it will be complete, when the Captain of our salvation shall bring the many sons to glory, Heb 2:10. This is that which we expect, in hope of which our flesh rests, Psa 16:9, Psa 16:10. All the days of our appointed time we are waiting, till this change shall come, when he shall call, and we shall answer, and he will have a desire to the work of his hands, Job 14:14, Job 14:15. (3.) The agreeableness of this to our present state, Rom 8:24, Rom 8:25. Our happiness is not in present possession: We are saved by hope. In this, as in other things, God hath made our present state a state of trial and probation – that our reward is out of sight. Those that will deal with God must deal upon trust. It is acknowledged that one of the principal graces of a Christian is hope (1Co 13:13), which necessarily implies a good thing to come, which is the object of that hope. Faith respects the promise, hope the thing promised. Faith is the evidence, hope the expectation, of things not seen. Faith is the mother of hope. We do with patience wait. In hoping for this glory we have need of patience, to bear the sufferings we meet with in the way to it and the delays of it. Our way is rough and long; but he that shall come will come, and will not tarry; and therefore, though he seem to tarry, it becomes us to wait for him.

Romans 8:26-28

The apostle here suggests two privileges more to which true Christians are entitled: –

I. The help of the Spirit in prayer. While we are in this world, hoping and waiting for what we see not, we must be praying. Hope supposes desire, and that desire offered up to God is prayer; we groan. Now observe,

1. Our weakness in prayer: We know not what we should pray for as we ought. (1.) As to the matter of our requests, we know not what to ask. We are not competent judges of our own condition. Who knows what is good for a man in this life? Ecc 6:12. We are short-sighted, and very much biassed in favour of the flesh, and apt to separate the end from the way. You know not what you ask, Mat 20:22. We are like foolish children, that are ready to cry for fruit before it is ripe and fit for them; see Luk 9:54, Luk 9:55. (2.) As to the manner, we know not how to pray as we ought. It is not enough that we do that which is good, but we must do it well, seek in a due order; and here we are often at a loss – graces are weak, affections cold, thoughts wandering, and it is not always easy to find the heart to pray, 2Sa 7:27. The apostle speaks of this in the first person: We know not. He puts himself among the rest. Folly, and weakness, and distraction in prayer, are what all the saints are complaining of. If so great a saint as Paul knew not what to pray for, what little reason have we to go forth about that duty in our own strength!

2. The assistances which the Spirit gives us in that duty. He helps our infirmities, meant especially of our praying infirmities, which most easily beset us in that duty, against which the Spirit helps. The Spirit in the world helps; many rules and promises there are in the word for our help. The Spirit in the heart helps, dwelling in us, working in us, as a Spirit of grace and supplication, especially with respect to the infirmities we are under when we are in a suffering state, when our faith is most apt to fail; for this end the Holy Ghost was poured out. Helpeth, sumantilambanetaiheaves with us, over against us, helps as we help one that would lift up a burden, by lifting over against him at the other end – helps with us, that is, with us doing our endeavour, putting forth the strength we have. We must not sit still, and expect that the Spirit should do all; when the Spirit goes before us we must bestir ourselves. We cannot without God, and he will not without us. What help? Why, the Spirit itself makes intercession for us, dictates our requests, indites our petitions, draws up our plea for us. Christ intercedes for us in heaven, the Spirit intercedes for us in our hearts; so graciously has God provided for the encouragement of the praying remnant. The Spirit, as an enlightening Spirit, teaches us what to pray for, as a sanctifying Spirit works and excites praying graces, as a comforting Spirit silences our fears, and helps us over all our discouragements. The Holy Spirit is the spring of all our desires and breathings towards God. Now this intercession which the Spirit makes is, (1.) With groanings that cannot be uttered. The strength and fervency of those desires which the Holy Spirit works are hereby intimated. There may be praying in the Spirit where there is not a word spoken; as Moses prayed (Exo 14:15), and Hannah, 1Sa 1:13. It is not the rhetoric and eloquence, but the faith and fervency, of our prayers, that the Spirit works, as an intercessor, in us. Cannot be uttered; they are so confused, the soul is in such a hurry with temptations and troubles, we know not what to say, nor how to express ourselves. Here is the Spirit interceding with groans that cannot be uttered. When we can but cry, Abba, Father, and refer ourselves to him with a holy humble boldness, this is the work of the Spirit. (2.) According to the will of God, Rom 8:27. The Spirit in the heart never contradicts the Spirit in the word. Those desires that are contrary to the will of God do not come from the Spirit. The Spirit interceding in us evermore melts our wills into the will of God. Not as I will, but as thou wilt.

3. The sure success of these intercessions: He that searches the heart knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, Rom 8:27. To a hypocrite, all whose religion lies in his tongue, nothing is more dreadful than that God searches the heart and sees through all his disguises. To a sincere Christian, who makes heart-work of his duty, nothing is more comfortable than that God searches the heart, for then he will hear and answer those desires which we want words to express. He knows what we have need of before we ask, Mat 6:8. He knows what is the mind of his own Spirit in us. And, as he always hears the Son interceding for us, so he always hears the Spirit interceding in us, because his intercession is according to the will of God. What could have been done more for the comfort of the Lord’s people, in all their addresses to God? Christ had said, “Whatever you ask the Father according to his will he will give it you.” But how shall we learn to ask according to his will? Why, the Spirit will teach us that. Therefore it is that the seed of Jacob never seek in vain.

II. The concurrence of all providences for the good of those that are Christ’s, Rom 8:28. It might be objected that, notwithstanding all these privileges, we see believers compassed about with manifold afflictions; though the Spirit makes intercession for them, yet their troubles are continued. It is very true; but in this the Spirit’s intercession is always effectual, that, however it goes with them, all this is working together for their good. Observe here.

1. The character of the saints, who are interested in this privilege; they are here described by such properties as are common to all that are truly sanctified. (1.) They love God. This includes all the out-goings of the soul’s affections towards God as the chief good and highest end. It is our love to God that makes every providence sweet, and therefore profitable. Those that love God make the best of all he does, and take all in good part. (2.) They are the called according to his purpose, effectually called according to the eternal purpose. The call is effectual, not according to any merit or desert of ours, but according to God’s own gracious purpose.

2. The privilege of the saints, that all things work together for good to them, that is, all the providences of God that concern them. All that God performs he performs for them, Psa 57:2. Their sins are not of his performing, therefore not intended here, though his permitting sin is made to work for their good, 2Ch 32:31. But all the providences of God are theirs – merciful providences, afflicting providences, personal, public. They are all for good; perhaps for temporal good, as Joseph’s troubles; at least, for spiritual and eternal good. That is good for them which does their souls good. Either directly or indirectly, every providence has a tendency to the spiritual good of those that love God, breaking them off from sin, bringing them nearer to God, weaning them from the world, fitting them for heaven. Work together. They work, as physic works upon the body, various ways, according to the intention of the physician; but all for the patient’s good. They work together, as several ingredients in a medicine concur to answer the intention. God hath set the one over against the other (Ecc 7:14): sunergei, a very singular, with a noun plural, denoting the harmony of Providence and its uniform designs, all the wheels as one wheel, Eze 10:13. He worketh all things together for good; so some read it. It is not from any specific quality in the providences themselves, but from the power and grace of God working in, with, and by, these providences. All this we know – know it for a certainty, from the word of God, from our own experience, and from the experience of all the saints.

Romans 8:29-30

The apostle, having reckoned up so many ingredients of the happiness of true believers, comes here to represent the ground of them all, which he lays in predestination. These precious privileges are conveyed to us by the charter of the covenant, but they are founded in the counsel of God, which infallibly secures the event. That Jesus Christ, the purchaser, might not labour in vain, nor spend his strength and life for nought and in vain, there is a remnant given him, a seed that he shall see, so that the good pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hands. For the explication of this he here sets before us the order of the causes of our salvation, a golden chain, which cannot be broken. There are four links of it: –

I. Whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. All that God designed for glory and happiness as the end he decreed to grace and holiness as the way. Not, whom he did foreknow to be holy those he predestinated to be so. The counsels and decrees of God do not truckle to the frail and fickle will of men; no, God’s foreknowledge of the saints is the same with that everlasting love wherewith he is said to have loved them, Jer 31:3. God’s knowing his people is the same with his owning them, Psa 1:6; Joh 10:14; 2Ti 2:19. See Rom 11:2. Words of knowledge often in scripture denote affection; so here: Elect according to the foreknowledge of God, 1Pe 1:2. And the same word is rendered fore-ordained, 1Pe 1:20. Whom he did foreknow, that is, whom he designed for his friends and favourites. I know thee by name, said God to Moses, Exo 33:12. Now those whom god thus foreknew he did predestinate to be conformed to Christ. 1. Holiness consists in our conformity to the image of Christ. This takes in the whole of sanctification, of which Christ is the great pattern and sampler. To be spirited as Christ was, to walk and live as Christ did, to bear our sufferings patiently as Christ did. Christ is the express image of his Father, and the saints are conformed to the image of Christ. Thus it is by the mediation and interposal of Christ that we have God’s love restored to us and God’s likeness renewed upon us, in which two things consists the happiness of man. 2. All that God hath from eternity foreknown with favour he hath predestinated to this conformity. It is not we that can conform ourselves to Christ. Our giving ourselves to Christ takes rise in God’s giving us to him; and, in giving us to him, he predestinated us to be conformable to his image. It is a mere cavil therefore to call the doctrine of election a licentious doctrine, and to argue that it gives encouragement to sin, as if the end were separated from the way and happiness from holiness. None can know their election but by their conformity to the image of Christ; for all that are chosen are chosen to sanctification (2Th 2:13), and surely it cannot be a temptation to any to be conformed to the world to believe that they were predestinated to be conformed to Christ. 3. That which is herein chiefly designed is the honour of Jesus Christ, that he might be the first-born among many brethren; that is, that Christ might have the honour of being the great pattern, as well as the great prince, and in this, as in other things, might have pre-eminence. It was in the first-born that all the children were dedicated to God under the law. The first-born was the head of the family, on whom all the rest did depend: now in the family of the saints Christ must have the honour of being the first-born. And blessed be God that there are many brethren; though they seem but a few in one place at one time, yet, when they come all together, they will be a great many. There is, therefore, a certain number predestinated, that the end of Christ’s undertaking might be infallibly secured. Had the event been left at uncertainties in the divine counsels, to depend upon the contingent turn of man’s will, Christ might have been the first-born among but few or no brethren – a captain without soldiers and a prince without subjects – to prevent which, and to secure to him many brethren, the decree is absolute, the thing ascertained, that he might be sure to see his seed, there is a remnant predestinated to be conformed to his image, which decree will certainly have its accomplishment in the holiness and happiness of that chosen race; and so, in spite of all the opposition of the powers of darkness, Christ will be the first-born among many, very many brethren.

II. Whom he did predestinate those he also called, not only with the external call (so many are called that were not chosen, Mat 20:16; Mat 22:14), but with the internal and effectual call. The former comes to the ear only, but this to the heart. All that God did from eternity predestinate to grace and glory he does, in the fulness of time, effectually call. The call is then effectual when we come at the call; and we then come at the call when the Spirit draws us, convinces the conscience of guilt and wrath, enlightens the understanding, bows the will, persuades and enables us to embrace Christ in the promises, makes us willing in the day of his power. It is an effectual call from self and earth to God, and Christ, and heaven, as our end – from sin and vanity to grace, and holiness, and seriousness as our way. This is the gospel call. Them he called, that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand: we are called to that to which we were chosen. So that the only way to make our election sure is to make sure our calling, 2Pe 1:10.

III. Whom he called those he also justified. All that are effectually called are justified, absolved from guilt, and accepted as righteous through Jesus Christ. They are recti in curia – right in court; no sin that ever they have been guilty of shall come against them, to condemn them. The book is crossed, the bond cancelled, the judgment vacated, the attainder reversed; and they are no longer dealt with as criminals, but owned and loved as friends and favourites. Blessed is the man whose iniquity is thus forgiven. None are thus justified but those that are effectually called. Those that stand it out against the gospel call abide under guilt and wrath.

IV. Whom he justified those he also glorified. The power of corruption being broken in effectual calling, and the guilt of sin removed in justification, all that which hinders is taken out of the way, and nothing can come between that soul and glory. Observe, It is spoken of as a thing done: He glorified, because of the certainty of it; he hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling. In the eternal glorification of all the elect, God’s design of love has its full accomplishment. This was what he aimed at all along – to bring them to heaven. Nothing less than that glory would make up the fulness of his covenant relation to them as God; and therefore, in all he does for them, and in them, he has this in his eye. Are they chosen? It is to salvation. Called? It is to his kingdom and glory. Begotten again? It is to an inheritance incorruptible. Afflicted: It is to work for them this exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Observe, The author of all these is the same. It is God himself that predestinated, calleth, justifieth, glorifieth; so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange God with him. Created wills are so very fickle, and created powers so very feeble, that, if any of these did depend upon the creature, the whole would shake. But God himself hath undertaken the doing of it from first to last, that we might abide in a constant dependence upon him and subjection to him, and ascribe all the praise to him – that every crown may be cast before the throne. This is a mighty encouragement to our faith and hope; for, as for God, his way, his work, is perfect. He that hath laid the foundation will build upon it, and the top-stone will at length be brought forth with shoutings, and it will be our eternal work to cry, Grace, grace to it.

Romans 8:31-39

The apostle closes this excellent discourse upon the privileges of believers with a holy triumph, in the name of all the saints. Having largely set forth the mystery of God’s love to us in Christ, and the exceedingly great and precious privileges we enjoy by him, he concludes like an orator: What shall we then say to these things? What use shall we make of all that has been said? He speaks as one amazed and swallowed up with the contemplation and admiration of it, wondering at the height and depth, and length and breadth, of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. The more we know of other things the less we wonder at them; but the further we are led into an acquaintance with gospel mysteries the more we are affected with the admiration of them. If Paul was at a loss what to say to these things, no marvel if we be. And what does he say? Why, if ever Paul rode in a triumphant chariot on this side of heaven, here it was: with such a holy height and bravery of spirit, with such a fluency and copiousness of expression, does he here comfort himself and all the people of God, upon the consideration of these privileges. In general, he here makes a challenge, throws down the gauntlet, as it were, dares all the enemies of the saints to do their worst: If God be for us, who can be against us? The ground of the challenge is God’s being for us; in this he sums up all our privileges. This includes all, that God is for us; not only reconciled to us, and so not against us, but in covenant with us, and so engaged for us – all his attributes for us, his promises for us. All that he is, and has, and does, is for his people. He performs all things for them. He is for them, even when he seems to act against them. And, if so, who can be against us, so as to prevail against us, so as to hinder our happiness? Be they ever so great and strong, ever so many, ever so might, ever so malicious, what can they do? While God is for us, and we keep in his love, we may with a holy boldness defy all the powers of darkness. Let Satan do his worst, he is chained; let the world do its worst, it is conquered: principalities and powers are spoiled and disarmed, and triumphed over, in the cross of Christ. Who then dares fight against us, while God himself is fighting for us? And this we say to these things, this is the inference we draw from these premises. More particularly.

I. We have supplies ready in all our wants (Rom 8:32): He that spared, etc. Who can be against us, to strip us, to deprive us of our comforts? Who can cut off our streams, while we have a fountain to go to? 1. Observe what God has done for us, on which our hopes are built: He spared not his own Son. When he was to undertake our salvation, the Father was willing to part with him, did not think him too precious a gift to bestow for the salvation of poor souls; now we may know that he loves us, in that he hath not withheld his Son, his own Son, his only Son, from us, as he said of Abraham, Gen 22:12. If nothing less will save man, rather than man shall perish let him go, though it were out of his bosom. Thus did he deliver him up for us all, that is, for all the elect; for us all, not only for our good, but in our stead, as a sacrifice of atonement to be a propitiation for sin. When he had undertaken it, he did not spare him. Though he was his own Son, yet, being made sin for us, it pleased the Lord to bruise him. Ouk epheisatohe did not abate him a farthing of that great debt, but charged it home. Awake, O sword. He did not spare his own Son that served him, that he might spare us, though we have done him so much disservice. 2. What we may therefore expect he will do: He will with him freely give us all things. (1.) It is implied that he will give us Christ, for other things are bestowed with him: not only with him given for us, but with him given to us. He that put himself to so much charge to make the purchase for us surely will not hesitate at making the application to us. (2.) He will with him freely give us all things, all things that he sees to be needful and necessary for us, all good things, and more we should not desire, Psa 34:10. And Infinite Wisdom shall be the judge whether it be good for us and needful for us or no. Freely give – freely, without reluctancy; he is ready to give, meets us with his favours; – and freely, without recompence, without money, and without price. How shall he not? Can it be imagined that he should do the greater and not do the less? that he should give so great a gift for us when we were enemies, and should deny us any good thing, now that through him we are friends and children? Thus may we by faith argue against our fears of want. he that hath prepared a crown and kingdom for us will be sure to give us enough to bear our charges in the way to it. He that hath designed us for the inheritance of sons when we come to age will not let us want necessaries in the mean time.

II. We have an answer ready to all accusations and a security against all condemnations (Rom 8:33, Rom 8:34): Who shall lay any thing? Doth the law accuse them? Do their own consciences accuse them? Is the devil, the accuser of the brethren, accusing them before our God day and night? This is enough to answer all those accusations, It is God that justifieth. Men may justify themselves, as the Pharisees did, and yet the accusations may be in full force against them; but, if God justifies, this answers all. He is the judge, the king, the party offended, and his judgment is according to truth, and sooner or later all the world will be brought to be of his mind; so that we may challenge all our accusers to come and put in their charge. This overthrows them all; it is God, the righteous faithful God, that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? Though they cannot make good the charge yet they will be ready to condemn; but we have a plea ready to move in arrest of judgment, a plea which cannot be overruled. It is Christ that died, etc. It is by virtue of our interest in Christ, our relation to him, and our union with him, that we are thus secured. 1. His death: It is Christ that died. By the merit of his death he paid our debt; and the surety’s payment is a good plea to an action of debt. It is Christ, an able all-sufficient Saviour. 2. His resurrection: Yea, rather, that has risen again. This is a much greater encouragement, for it is a convincing evidence that divine justice was satisfied by the merit of his death. His resurrection was his acquittance, it was a legal discharge. Therefore the apostle mentions it with a yea, rather. If he had died, and not risen again, we had been where we were. 3. His sitting at the right hand of God: He is even at the right hand of God – a further evidence that he has done his work, and a mighty encouragement to us in reference to all accusations, that we have a friend, such a friend, in court. At the right hand of God, which denotes that he is ready there – always at hand; and that he is ruling there – all power is given to him. Our friend is himself the judge. 4. The intercession which he makes there. He is there, not unconcerned about us, not forgetful of us, but making intercession. He is agent for us there, an advocate for us, to answer all accusations, to put in our plea, and to prosecute it with effect, to appear for us and to present our petitions. And is not this abundant matter for comfort? What shall we say to these things? Is this the manner of men, O Lord God? What room is left for doubting and disquietment? Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Some understand the accusation and condemnation here spoken of of that which the suffering saints met with from men. The primitive Christians had many black crimes laid to their charge – heresy, sedition, rebellion, and what not? For these the ruling powers condemned them: “But no matter for that” (says the apostle); “while we stand right at God’s bar it is of no great moment how we stand at men’s. To all the hard censures, the malicious calumnies, and the unjust and unrighteous sentences of men, we may with comfort oppose our justification before God through Christ Jesus as that which doth abundantly countervail,” 1Co 4:3, 1Co 4:4.

III. We have good assurance of our preservation and continuance in this blessed state, Rom 8:35, to the end. The fears of the saints lest they should lose their hold of Christ are often very discouraging and disquieting, and create them a great deal of disturbance; but here is that which may silence their fears, and still such storms, that nothing can separate them. We have here from the apostle,

1. A daring challenge to all the enemies of the saints to separate them, if they could, from the love of Christ. Who shall? None shall, Rom 8:35-37. God having manifested his love in giving his own Son for us, and not hesitating at that, can we imagine that any thing else should divert or dissolve that love? Observe here,

(1.) The present calamities of Christ’s beloved ones supposed – that they meet with tribulation on all hands, are in distress, know not which way to look for any succour and relief in this world, are followed with persecution from an angry malicious world that always hated those whom Christ loved, pinched with famine, and starved with nakedness, when stripped of all creature-comforts, exposed to the greatest perils, the sword of the magistrate drawn against them, ready to be sheathed in their bowels, bathed in their blood. Can a case be supposed more black and dismal? It is illustrated (Rom 8:36) by a passage quoted from Psa 44:22, For thy sake we are killed all the day long, which intimates that we are not to think strange, no not concerning the fiery bloody trial. We see the Old Testament saints had the same lot; so persecuted they the prophets that were before us. Killed all the day long, that is, continually exposed to and expecting the fatal stroke. There is still every day, and all the day long, one or other of the people of God bleeding and dying under the rage of persecuting enemies. Accounted as sheep for the slaughter; they make no more of killing a Christian than of butchering a sheep. Sheep are killed, not because they are hurtful while they live, but because they are useful when they are dead. They kill the Christians to please themselves, to be food to their malice. They eat up my people as they eat bread, Psa 14:4.

(2.) The inability of all these things to separate us from the love of Christ. Shall they, can they, do it? No, by no means. All this will not cut the bond of love and friendship that is between Christ and true believers. [1.] Christ doth not, will not, love us the less for all this. All these troubles are very consistent with the strong and constant love of the Lord Jesus. They are neither a cause nor an evidence of the abatement of his love. When Paul was whipped, and beaten, and imprisoned, and stoned, did Christ love him ever the less? Were his favours intermitted? his smiles any whit suspended? his visits more shy? By no means, but the contrary. These things separate us from the love of other friends. When Paul was brought before Nero all men forsook him, but then the Lord stood by him, 2Ti 4:16, 2Ti 4:17. Whatever persecuting enemies may rob us of, they cannot rob us of the love of Christ, they cannot intercept his love-tokens, they cannot interrupt nor exclude his visits: and therefore, let them do their worst, they cannot make a true believer miserable. [2.] We do not, will not, love him the less for this; and that for this reason, because we do not think that he loves us the less. Charity thinks no evil, entertains no misgiving thoughts, makes no hard conclusions, no unkind constructions, takes all in good part that comes from love. A true Christian loves Christ never the less though he suffer for him, thinks never the worse of Christ through he lose all for him.

(3.) The triumph of believers in this (Rom 8:37): Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors.

[1.] We are conquerors: though killed all the day long, yet conquerors. A strange way of conquering, but it was Christ’s way; thus he triumphed over principalities and powers in his cross. It is a surer and a nobler way of conquest by faith and patience than by fire and sword. The enemies have sometimes confessed themselves baffled and overcome by the invincible courage and constancy of the martyrs, who thus overcame the most victorious princes by not loving their lives to the death, Rev 12:11.

[2.] We are more than conquerors. In our patiently bearing these trials we are not only conquerors, but more than conquerors, that is, triumphers. Those are more than conquerors that conquer, First, With little loss. Many conquests are dearly bought; but what do the suffering saints lose? Why, they lose that which the gold loses in the furnace, nothing but the dross. It is no great loss to lose things which are not – a body that is of the earth, earthy. Secondly, With great gain. The spoils are exceedingly rich; glory, honour, and peace, a crown of righteousness that fades not away. In this the suffering saints have triumphed; not only have not been separated from the love of Christ, but have been taken into the most sensible endearments and embraces of it. As afflictions abound, consolations much more abound, 2Co 1:5. There is one more than a conqueror, when pressed above measure. He that embraced the stake, and said, “Welcome the cross of Christ, welcome everlasting life,” – he that dated his letter from the delectable orchard of the Leonine prison, – he that said, “In these flames I feel no more pain than if I were upon a bed of down,” – she who, a little before her martyrdom, being asked how she did, said, “Well and merry, and going to heaven,” – those that have gone smiling to the stake, and stood singing in the flames – these were more than conquerors.

[3.] It is only through Christ that loved us, the merit of his death taking the sting out of all these troubles, the Spirit of his grace strengthening us, and enabling us to bear them with holy courage and constancy, and coming in with special comforts and supports. Thus we are conquerors, not in our own strength, but in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. We are conquerors by virtue of our interest in Christ’s victory. He hath overcome the world for us (Joh 16:33), both the good things and the evil things of it; so that we have nothing to do but to pursue the victory, and to divide the spoil, and so are more than conquerors.

2. A direct and positive conclusion of the whole matter: For I am persuaded, Rom 8:38, Rom 8:39. It denotes a full, and strong, and affectionate persuasion, arising from the experience of the strength and sweetness of the divine love. And here he enumerates all those things which might be supposed likely to separate between Christ and believers, and concludes that it could not be done. (1.) Neither death nor life – neither the terrors of death on the one hand nor the comforts and pleasures of life on the other, neither the fear of death nor the hope of life. Or, We shall not be separated from that love either in death or in life. (2.) Nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers. Both the good angels and the bad are called principalities and powers: the good, Eph 1:21; Col 1:16; the bad, Eph 6:12; Col 2:15. And neither shall do it. The good angels will not, the bad shall not; and neither can. The good angels are engaged friends, the bad are restrained enemies. (3.) Nor things present, nor things to come – neither the sense of troubles present nor the fear of troubles to come. Time shall not separate us, eternity shall not. Things present separate us from things to come, and things to come separate and cut us off from things present; but neither from the love of Christ, whose favour is twisted in with both present things and things to come. (4.) Nor height, nor depth – neither the height of prosperity and preferment, nor the depth of adversity and disgrace; nothing from heaven above, no storms, no tempests; nothing on earth below, no rocks, no seas, no dungeons. (5.) Nor any other creature – any thing that can be named or thought of. It will not, it cannot, separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. It cannot cut off or impair our love to God, or God’s to us; nothing does it, can do it, but sin. Observe, The love that exists between God and true believers is through Christ. He is the Mediator of our love: it is in and through him that God can love us and that we dare love God. This is the ground of the stedfastness of the love; therefore God rests in his love (Zep 3:17), because Jesus Christ, in whom he loves us, is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.

Mr. Hugh Kennedy, an eminent Christian of Ayr, in Scotland, when he was dying, called for a Bible; but, finding his sight gone, he said, “Turn me to the eighty of the Romans, and set my finger at these words, I am persuaded that neither death nor life,” etc. “Now,” said he, “is my finger upon them?” And, when they told him it was, without speaking any more, he said, “Now, God be with you, my children; I have breakfasted with you, and shall sup with my Lord Jesus Christ this night;” and so departed.