Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. HOW LAW CAN COMPETE SUCCESSFULLY WITH A CRUCIFIED SAVIOUR FOR THE HOMAGE OF THOUGHTLESS HEARTS. (Ver. 1.) Paul here declares that two attractive powers had been presented to the Galatians - a crucified Christ in his own preaching, and the Law in the preaching of the Judaizers; and, to his amazement, the Law had so bewitched them as to lead them to look for salvation to Law-keeping instead of to the Saviour. And yet it only brings out the fact that there is in Law and self-righteousness a bewitchery which is continually leading souls back to bondage. It seems so natural to establish some claim by Law-keeping and ceremony that poor souls are from time to time falling into legal hope and its delusions. The superstition, which is abroad now, and leads so many to ceremonials for salvation, rests upon this foundation. It is the fascination of an evil eye which is upon the foolish votaries; they fancy they can save themselves by Law, and maintain their self-complacency and pride all the time. But it is delusion pure and simple.
II. ALL THAT LAW CAN REALLY DO FOR SINNERS IS TO CONDEMN THEM. (Vers. 10, 13.) The position taken up by Law is this - to condemn every one who falls short of perfect obedience. No partial obedience will be entertained for a moment. "Every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the Law to do them," is by the Law "cursed." This tremendous deliverance ought to be the death of all "legal hope." The soul who continues to hope in the Law, after such a definite utterance only proclaims his foolishness. One breach of Law is sufficient to secure the curse. The Law maintains its demand for perfect obedience, and, if this be not rendered, it can do nothing but condemn. It becomes the more amazing that any after this could be bewitched by Law. Surely if the Law can only curse sinners, the sooner we look for salvation in some other direction than Law, the better. And to go back to Law-keeping from grace, in hope of acceptance, is clear retrogression.
III. JUSTIFICATION AND ITS COGNATE BLESSINGS CAN ONLY COME BY FAITH, (Vers. 2-9, 12, 14.) The Law in the nature of things cannot justify sinners. It has no means of doing so. But God in his grace has provided a way of justification. It is through the merits of his Son. And here we must remember that imputation of merit is the commonest fact of experience. There is not one of us who does not get a start in life and a consideration extended to us which are due to the merits of others, a respected parent or some deeply interested friend. We are surrounded with a halo of glory by virtue of the character of others. Their character helps us to a position and opportunity we could not otherwise obtain. It may be called a mere association of ideas, but it is strictly the passing of merit over from man to man. In the same way Jesus Christ has come into our world, allied himself with our sinful race, merited consideration and acceptance by obedience to Law, even as far as death, and this merit of the Divine Man passes over to believers. In the Father's sight, therefore, we are regarded as just, notwithstanding all our sin. We have been justified through faith. But besides, the believers obtain the Spirit to dwell within them, so that a process of sanctification is set up within them as soon as justification takes place. And the indwelling Spirit may manifest his presence and power in wonderful works, as appears to have been the case with these Galatians (ver. 5). So that Divine grace not only secures the justification of all who trust in Jesus, but their sanctification and spiritual power as well. Wondrous blessings are thus the outcome of Divine grace, and the heritage of those who believe. What a change from having to endure the curse of Law!
IV. ABRAHAM ILLUSTRATES THE BENEFIT OF FAITH IN GOD AS CONTRASTED WITH RELIANCE ON LAW. (Vers. 6-9.) The legalists claimed Abraham as their father. One would have supposed that Abraham had been the greatest ceremonialist of the early dispensation. But the truth is that Abraham was justified and accepted by simply believing God when he promised a world-wide blessing through Abraham's seed. The blessing came to the patriarch through simple trust in God. Those who hoped in Law-keeping, therefore, were not the true followers of Abraham. It was only those who trusted God for salvation and blessing who walked in the patriarch's footsteps. Consequently, all the ceremonialism which tried to shelter itself under the wings of Abraham was a simple imposition ] The "merit-mongers," as Luther calls them in his ' Commentary,' have thus no pretence of countenance from the case of Abraham. It was to simple trust in God he owed his standing before him. How needful, then, it is for us to shake ourselves free from every remnant of self-righteousness, and to look simply and implicitly to Christ alone] It is by faith we stand and live. The Christ who became the curse for us by hanging on a tree, calls us to trust him for acceptance and inspiration; and in trusting him we find the promise amply redeemed. - R.M.E.
I. FOOLISHNESS OF THE GALATIANS SHOWN FROM THEIR OWN EXPERIENCE.
1. Expression of astonishment in view of their first impressions of the cross. "O foolish Galatians, who did bewitch you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified?" Paul's address to Peter concluded with his presenting the dreadful supposition of Christ having died for nought. He with that turns to the Galatians, and calls to their recollection the memorable impression which the first presentation of Christ crucified had made on their minds. There had been, as it were, a localization of the cross among them. Christ had been so presented to them that preacher and time and place were all forgotten. There on Galatian soil was the cross erected; there was the Holy One and the Just taken and nailed to the tree; there his blood flowed forth for the remission of sins. And they were deeply affected, as if the crucifixion scene] had passed before their eyes. It is a blessed fact that the evil of our nature is not insuperable - that there is in the cross what can act on it like a spell. Even the greatest sinners have been arrested and entranced by the eye of the Crucified One. It is, on the other hand, a serious fact that evil can be presented to us in a fascinating form. Here the Galatians are described as those who had been bewitched. It was as if some one had exerted an evil spell on them. His evil eye had rested on them and held them so that they could not see him by whose crucifixion they had formerly been so much affected. And the apostle wonders who it could be that had bewitched them. Who had been envious of the influence which the Crucified One had obtained over them? What false representations had he made? What flattering promises had he held out? Such a one had great guilt on his head; but they also were chargeable with foolishness in allowing themselves to be bewitched by him. The Galatians were by no means stupid; they were rather of quick perception. They had the strong emotional qualities of the Celtic nature; their temptation was sudden change of feeling. They were foolish in yielding to their temptation, in not subjecting their feelings to the guidance of reason, in not using the Divine helps against their being bewitched. And the apostle, in charging home foolishness on them, would have them recall what the cross had once been in their eyes, in order to break the present spell of evil.
2. The one admission he asks of them in order to prove their foolishness. "This only would I learn from you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith?" He felt that he had such a hold on them from their past experiences that he could have asked of them many admissions. With one, however, he will be content. This had reference to the reception of the Spirit. The gospel dispensation was the dispensation of the Spirit. It was by the sacrifice of Christ that the Spirit was really obtained. It was soon after the offering of that sacrifice that the Spirit was poured out, as though liberated from previous restraints. The great blessing, then, of that dispensation, obtained they it by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith? The Law is to be understood in the sense of the Mosaic Law, which the Judaists sought to impose on Gentile Christians. The Law and faith are here placed in opposition. Works are the characteristic of the Law; hearing is the characteristic of faith. Was it, then, by Law-working that they had received the Spirit? When would it quantitatively and qualitatively have sufficed for their receiving the Spirit? Was it not the case, too, that the great majority of them in the Galatian Churches had not been under the Law? They had not been circumcised, and yet the Spirit had been received by them. Was it not, then, by the hearing which belongs to faith? They had not tediously to elaborate a Law-righteousness. They had not to work for a righteousness at all. They had simply to hear in connection with the preaching of the gospel. They had to listen to the proclamation of a righteousness elaborated for them. And while their faith was imperfect, and could not be in itself the ground of their justification, they had, as perfectly justified, received the Spirit.
3. Two points in which their foolishness was shown at its height. "Are ye so foolish?"
(1) They belied the beginning they had made. "Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh?" They began by renouncing the flesh, by confessing that, with the weak elements in their nature, they never could arrive at perfection. In despair of the flesh, then, and in order to be delivered from its weakness, they cast themselves upon the Spirit. They called in Divine help against their sinful tendencies. This was the right beginning to make. And having thus begun, they should have gone on, in dependence on the help of the Spirit, toward perfection. But they were proving untrue to the beginning they had made. They were going back to the flesh which they professed to have left behind as a source of dependence. They were now saying that it, forsooth, with all its weakness, was able. to bring about their 'perfection.'
(2) They stultified their sufferings. Did ye suffer so many things in vain? if it be indeed in vain." It is to be inferred that they suffered persecution. They suffered many things, though of their sufferings we have no record. They suffered for Christ, and it may have been for liberty in him. That gave a noble character to their sufferings, and promised a glorious reward. But now, with their changed relation to Christ, those sufferings had lost their character. There was no longer a Christian halo around them. They were simply a blunder, what might have been avoided. They could not hope, then, for the reward of the Christian confessor or martyr. The apostle is, however, unwilling to believe that the matter has ended with them. In the words which he appends, "if it be indeed in vain," he not only leaves a loophole of doubt, but makes an appeal to them not to throw away that which they had nobly won.
4. The one admission reverted to with special reference to the miraculous operations of the Spirit. "He therefore that supplieth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith?" It was God who supplied the Spirit to them. He especially supplied the power of working miracles. It is taken for granted that miracles were still being wrought in connection with the Galatian Churches. The miraculous operations of the Spirit are not more remarkable in themselves than his ordinary operations; but they were more exceptional. Being more easily appreciated, too, they were especially fitted to attract attention to Christianity, and to commend it to them that were outside. And as the Galatians had thrown doubt on their relation to Christianity, he very naturally meets them by making his appeal to the evidence of miracles. Did God give any token of his approval to those who were identified with the works of the Law - to the Judaizing teachers? Was there any exceptional power possessed by them? Did not God work miracles through those who were identified with the hearing of faith - through the preachers of the gospel? And was that not conclusive evidence that he was with them in their teaching?
II. THE CASE OF ABRAHAM WITH REFERENCE TO JUSTIFICATION.
1. He was justified by faith. Scripture statement. "Even as Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness." There could be no question regarding the high authority of Abraham's example. And the best way to deal with it was in connection with Scripture. What, then, was the Scripture account of Abraham's justification? In Genesis 15:6 it is said, "He believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness." It is not "He was circumcised, and that was reckoned unto him for righteousness." There is no mention of his justification in connection with his circumcision. Indeed, he was justified before he was circumcised. Abraham's case, then, tells against justification by the works of the Law. On the other hand, he was a signal example of the hearing of faith. He heard God saying to him, "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee;" and he went forth, leaving country and kindred and home, not knowing whither he went. He heard God saying that he should have a seed numerous as the stars of heaven, and it was his crediting this as God's word, though it conflicted with all human experience, that was reckoned unto him for righteousness. Again, he heard God commanding him to offer up the son of the promise, and, notwithstanding all the difficulties it involved, he acted upon what he heard. It is true that this was personal righteousness so far as it went. It was the right disposition towards God. Abraham approved himself before God by his faith, and by his works which evidenced his faith. But it is not said that this was his righteousness. It was not meritorious righteousness; it was simply faith grasping the Divine word which made him righteous. It was imperfect faith, and therefore could not be the ground of his justification. But the language is that "it was reckoned unto him for righteousness." Though his faith was not meritorious, was imperfect, it was reckoned unto him as though he had fulfilled the whole Law. From the moment of his hearing in faith he was fully justified. Inference. "Know therefore that they which be of faith, the same are sons of Abraham." The contention of the Judaists would be that the keepers of the Law were the true sons of Abraham. The apostle regards this Scripture as a disproof of their position. Abraham was notably a believer. He heard God speaking to him on various occasions, and it was his humbly distrusting his own judgment and listening to the voice of God for which he was commended. It was, therefore, to be known, to be regarded as indisputable, that believers, those who have faith as the source of their life, and not those who are of the works of the Law, are the true sons of Abraham.
2. The promise on which his faith rested. Scripture with preface. "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed." The Scripture is here put in place of the Author of Scripture, and foresight is ascribed to it which is properly to be ascribed to God. The foresight of God was shown in the form in which the promise was given. It had nothing of Jewish exclusiveness about it, but was suitable to gospel times. Indeed, it could be described as the gospel preached beforehand unto Abraham. The language recalls our Lord's words, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad." It was the promise of blessing without any restriction of contents. It was the promise of blessing to all nations. There was thus the same ring about it that there was about the angelic message when Jesus was born: "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." And God, having in view the extension of the blessing to the Gentiles, promised it in Abraham. He did not promise it in Moses, who was identified with the Law; but he promised it in Abraham, who was characteristically a believer. The being in him points to Abraham, not only as a believer, but as holding the position of the father of believers. He was thus more than an example of the mode of justification. It was in him that the blessing was given, that the connection was formed between faith and justification. It is as his seed, or sons, that it is to be obtained by us. General inference. "So then they which be of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham." He has already shown who the sons of Abraham are, viz. "they which be of faith." Founding, then, upon that, as well as upon what he has just quoted, his conclusion is that believers are sharers with Abraham in his blessing. He not only stood in the relation of father to believers: as a believer himself, he was blessed. He had especially the blessing of justification, which has been referred to. And along with him do all believers enjoy especially the blessing of justification.
(1) A curse lies on the workers of the Law. "For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse." So far from enjoying the blessing, they are under the curse. Having laid down this proposition, he establishes it in the most conclusive manner. Even the form of the syllogism is apparent. Major proposition. "For it is written, Cursed is every one which continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the Law, to do them." The words are a quotation from Deuteronomy 27:26. They form the conclusion of the curses pronounced from Mount Ebal. The Law requires obedience to be rendered to it in every precept. And it requires obedience to all time. If a person kept all the precepts and transgressed only one, or if he transgressed one at last after having kept all for a lifetime, he would thereby be placed in a wrong relation to the Law, and would be subject to its curse, as really as though he had been a flagrant and lifelong transgressor. All are cursed who do not render whole and continued obedience to the Law. Minor proposition. "Now that no man is justified by the Law in the sight of God, is evident." Of the major proposition he did not need to offer any proof because it is Scripture; but this minor proposition, in his singular love for proof, especially from Scripture, he will not assume. It therefore becomes the conclusion of another syllogism Major proposition of second syllogism. "For, The righteous shall live by faith." This is cited from Habakkuk 2:4, and is also cited in Romans 1:17 and Hebrews 10:38. The spirit of the Old Testament passage is given. The reference was to a season of danger from the Chaldeans. An announcement of deliverance was made in plain terms. "Behold," it is added, "his soul [either of the Chaldean or of the heedless Jew] which is lifted up is not upright in him;" i.e. priding himself in his own sufficiency, he was destitute of righteousness, and therefore it was to be presumed, from the theocratic standpoint, would perish; "but the just shall live by faith;" i.e. relying on promised help, he would be righteous, and thus obtain the theocratic blessing of deliverance. The New Testament bearing is obvious. Relying on Divine righteousness, he is righteous, and thus has title to life. Formally, what the apostle lays down here is that none but believers are justified. Minor proposition of second syllogism. "And the Law is not of faith; but, He that doeth them shall live in them." The principle of faith is reliance on the promise in order to obtain a title to life. The principle of the Law, as brought out in the quotation from Leviticus 18:5, is reliance on our own doing of all the precepts in order to obtain a title to life. Thus all doers must be excluded from the class of believers. And thus, by formal proof, is the minor proposition of the first syllogism established, viz. No man is justified by the Law in the sight of God. And, it being established, the conclusion of that syllogism follows, which is given in the first clause of the tenth verse, "As many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse."
(2) How the blessing is enjoyed by believers. Redemption from the curse. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." The Jews (with whom Paul identifies himself) were under the curse of the Law for many precepts transgressed, and transgressed many times. They found a Redeemer from the curse in Christ, who redeemed them by becoming a curse for them, i.e. on their behalf, and, by implication at least, in their stead. The transference of the curse, as of sin, was quite familiar to the Jewish mind. He not only became cursed, but abstractly and more strongly he became a curse; he became the receptacle of the curse of the Law. And in his great fondness for Scripture exhibited in the whole of this paragraph, the apostle points out that this was in accordance with words found in Deuteronomy 21:23, "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." The words did not refer to crucifixion, which was not a Jewish mode of putting to death; but referred to the hanging of the body of a criminal on a tree after death as a public spectacle. The words were applicable to Christ, because he was made a public spectacle, not only in hanging on a tree, but in being nailed to a tree. The infamy which Christ was subjected to from men was a very subordinate element in his death. There was especially the wrath which he endured from God, the hiding of the Father's face from him as the Representative of sinners. This was the curse (all curses in one) by bearing which he became Redeemer. Twofold aim of redemption. Extension of the blessing to the Gentiles. "That upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus." The effect of the endurance of the curse was the opening of the blessing to the Gentiles. The Law, in its precepts and curse, no longer presented an obstacle. The whole meaning of the Law was realized; the whole curse of the Law was exhausted. So complete was the satisfaction rendered, that there could be no supplementing it by works of the Law. All that was needed was faith to receive the satisfaction presented in Christ, and not in the Law, for justification. Thus did the blessing attain its world-wide character, announced to Abraham. Gentiles had simply to believe, like Abraham, in order to be blessed in and with Abraham. Reception of the Spirit. "That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." Not only was there the extension of the blessing enjoyed among the Jews, which was eminently justification (as appears from the whole strain of this paragraph); but this extension was signalized by the sending of a richer blessing. This was the realization of the promise of the Spirit. In this the Jews were sharers. All alike were recipients of the Spirit, simply through faith. And thus the apostle, after a remarkable chain of arguments, comes back to the point from which he started. - R.F.
I. THE FIRST OBJECT OF THE TRUE PREACHER OF THE GOSPEL IS TO SET FORTH CHRIST CRUCIFIED.
1. He preaches Christ. Christ is Christianity. To know him is to know all. St. Paul was most anxious to make manifest the person and character and life of Christ. To demonstrate a system of doctrine or to expound a "plan of salvation" was not his method of preaching the gospel. Only show men Christ; that was enough. Even doctrinal errors would melt and vanish before that vision.
2. He preaches the crucified Christ. A crucified Christ was a King humiliated, a Lord slain; yet herein lay the essence of St. Paul's gospel. We see Christ, not only as a beautiful character, a great Teacher, or a wise Reformer; we see him dying - revealing thus his faithfulness, his purity, his love, suffering for us, sacrificed for us.
3. He preaches Christ by setting him forth openly. St. Paul says that Christ was "placarded" before the eyes of the Galatians. This suggests a vivid, pictorial style of language united to an energetic, almost dramatic, force of expression. The whole effort of the apostle was to make his hearers see Christ. No doubt the method was in some respects specially adapted to the Celtic excitability and the semi-barbarous condition of the Galatians, and was in form very different from the apostle's manner of speaking to the cultured Athenians on the Areopagus. Yet to the Greeks at Corinth he says he determined to know nothing among them "save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." It is to be feared that of late the pulpit has lost weight through abandoning descriptive for argumentative preaching, in deference to the supposed higher intelligence of the age, but in defiance of the natural disinclination of average men for reasoning and of their susceptibility to visual imagination. Whatever may be said as to the method of doing it, it is plain that what is most wanted for the man of culture, as much as for the illiterate man, is not to understand Christian theology, but to see Christ.
II. THEY WHO HAVE ONCE SEEN CHRIST CRUCIFIED SET FORTH OPENLY MUST BE "BEWITCHED" IF THEY EVER FORSAKE HIM.
1. They must have seen him. The vision by the hearer may be missed through no fault of the preacher. There must be the eyes to see. Cattle that see only the grass at their feet will not be impressed by the grandest scene of crag and moor. They who see Christ to any effect must see him spiritually, not merely as the crowd about the cross saw his bodily agony, but as St. Paul set forth the great, awful fact.
2. Such a vision of Christ will produce a profound impression. No one who saw the sea for the first time - really saw it - returned home the same man. There are sights that transform. Sinking deep into our hearts, they saturate our whole nature and haunt our memories for ever. Such is a true vision of Christ crucified. At the sight of the cross, Christian lost his burden, never to recover it, The Divine majesty of sorrow and love that illumines this vision, once possessing a man's soul, should dwell with him for ever.
3. To forsake Christ after such a vision is only possible through some strange malign influence. St. Paul compares it to the blighting effect of the evil eye. To turn to the Lord from such a gracious sight as to a higher and better thing is indeed most unaccountable. If anything allures us from Christ after we have once truly seen him, it must be an irrational influence to which we weakly succumb, for no reasonable attraction can be greater than the power with which, when once lifted up before them, he draws all men to himself. - W.F.A.
I. THIS COURSE REVERSES THE NATURAL ORDER OF PROGRESS. It is absurd to think of being perfected in the flesh after having begun in the Spirit. These two, the flesh and the Spirit, correspond in our experience to the two methods - by Law and by grace through faith. It is the weakness of Law that it is external, and governs only external acts, that it directs the flesh, the outer life, but infuses no inward spiritual life. Grace does not concern itself directly with such outward acts. It is a spiritual inspiration, and faith is a spiritual act. Now, the natural progress is from the outward to the inward. We see this in our personal experience. Children first learn to obey direct commands, and gradually learn principles of right conduct, until conscience takes the place of external authority. With the race the same progress holds good. Earlier forms of religion are more external. The latest is the most spiritual. To turn away from the spiritual is not merely to go back; it is to revert to a more improper method. Spiritual religion is the highest religion. Nothing can exceed the power of faith and love and inward grace. If these influences are slow in ripening the perfect character, it is absurd to think of hastening the result by reverting to weaker influences of Law and formal rules,
II. THIS COURSE STULTIFIES THE PAST ENDURANCE OF PERSECUTION. (Ver. 4.) St. Paul's allusion implies that the Galatians had been persecuted - as we know other Churches had been - at the instigation of the Jews. If the Jewish Law were the highest method of righteousness, persecution provoked by slighting or opposing it must have been endured for nothing. This was an argumentum ad hominem. We have to make sacrifices in other ways if we are faithful to spiritual religion. We are also appealed to by the memories of our fathers, who testified to spiritual liberty at the rack and the stake. When we play with the broken chains which they cast off, and even forge them afresh by submitting to the revival of old formalities and superstitions, the spirits of those martyred heroes of Protestantism rise up to rebuke us. Or does the most noble page of England's history describe only a huge, quixotic delusion?
III. THIS COURSE CONTRADICTS THE EVIDENCE AFFORDED BY THE POWER THAT FLOWS FROM SPIRITUAL GRACE. (Ver. 5.) St. Paul and other men endued with the Spirit wrought miracles. The most rigid follower of the Law could not do so. But more than power over material things grew out of the grace of the Spirit. The conquests of the gospel flowed from faith and spiritual gifts. The men of formal devotion never turned the world upside down. There is no fire in Law, The new creation of the world only follows spiritual activity. It is the work of the men of faith. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Whatever fascination there may be in religions of strict rules and rigid ordinances, we find that it is the free spiritual energy of unfettered souls that moves the hearts of others. This religion of faith and grace which possesses the most Divine power must be for us the highest and best. - W.F.A.
I. ABRAHAM WAS A MAN OF FAITH. He knew nothing of the Levitical Law. He walked by faith. His faith was not assent to a creed. Nor was it an intelligent conviction of any "plan of salvation" obtained by means of a miraculous foresight of the atonement to be accomplished many centuries later in the sacrifice of Christ. It was a grand, simple trust in God. It was shown in his forsaking the idols of his forefathers and worshipping the one spiritual God, in his leaving his home and going he knew not whither in obedience to a Divine voice, in his willingness to sacrifice his son, in his hope of a future inheritance. Such a faith is personal reliance, leading to active obedience and encouraged by confident anticipation. Abraham's faith is the model faith for us. For us faith is to rely upon Christ, to be loyal to Christ, to hope in Christ, and also to accept the fuller revelations of truth which Christ opens up to us as Abraham accepted the Divine voices vouchsafed to him. For the contents of faith will vary according to our light, The spirit of it, however, must be always the same.
II. ABRAHAM'S FAITH WAS RECKONED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS. The special point in Abraham's character was not his holiness, but his faith. God's favour flowed to him through this channel. It was the way through which he, though imperfect and sinful, as are all the sons of Adam, was called to the privileged place of a righteous man. This is recorded of him in the sacred history (Genesis 15:6), and therefore should be admitted by all Jews. So much for St. Paul's special argument. For us the important lesson is that, if so famous a saint, living even under the older religion, was accepted through faith, how much more apparent is it that faith is necessary for us! The reasons for relying on faith are
(1) historical - faith justified Abraham, therefore it will justify us;
(2) theological - faith brings us into living fellowship with God, and so opens our hearts to receive the forgiveness that puts us in the position of righteous men; and
(3) moral - faith is the security for the future growth of righteousness, with the first effort of faith the first seed-grace of righteousness is sown.
III. PARTICIPATION IN ABRAHAM'S FAITH IS THE CONDITION OF PARTICIPATION IN ABRAHAM'S BLESSING. Jews claimed the blessing by birthright. Jewish Christians offered it to the Gentiles on condition of their becoming as Jews. Both were wrong. Abraham received his blessing through his faith. It was necessarily conditioned by faith. Only men of faith could have it. Therefore Jews who lost faith lost the blessing. But all men of faith are spiritual sons of Abraham. Therefore all nations are blessed in Abraham just in proportion as they have a similar faith. Indeed, the finest legacy left by the patriarch was his faith. Canaan came and went. Spiritual blessings such as faith includes are eternal. - W.F.A.
I. THE LAW BRINGS A CURSE. It is not itself a curse, though it is a heavy burden. It was not sent for the purpose of injuring us, nor, rightly obeyed, would it cause any evil to fall upon us. It is the breach of the Law that is followed by the curse. But we have all broken the Law. So long, then, as we continue to live under the Law the curse hangs over us. Instead of hankering after a religion of Law, as the Galatians were doing, we should regard it with horror as for us sinners only a prelude to a fearful doom. The curse is the wrath of God, banishment from God, death.
II. CHRIST REDEEMS FROM THIS CURSE. This great truth implies three things.
1. Christians are set free from the curse of the Law,
(1) by the free forgiveness that stays the curse from falling on those who have incurred it in transgressing the Law; and
(2) by removal from the dominion of Law for the future, so that its requirements no longer apply, and principles of love resulting from grace have full sway. Obligations to righteousness are not thereby diminished, but increased; the motive for fulfilling them, however, is no longer the terror of a curse, but the spontaneous devotion of love.
2. This liberation is effected by Christ. We cannot fling off the yoke of Law nor dispel the curse. If done at all it must be done by One mightier than us. Hence the need of a Saviour. The gospel proclaims, not only deliverance, but a Christ who accomplishes it.
3. The deliverance is at a cost. It is redemption. The cost is Christ's endurance of a curse.
III. CHRIST SUFFERED THE CURSE OF THE CROSS. He was not cursed of God. It is significant that that expression is omitted in the quotation from the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy 21:23). We have no evidence of any mysterious spiritual curse falling upon Christ. On the contrary, we are told in what the curse consisted. It was the endurance of crucifixion itself. That was a death so cruel, so horrible, so full of shame, that to suffer it was to undergo a very curse. Christ was crucified, and therefore the curse fell upon him. Moreover, this curse is very directly connected with the breach of the Law by us.
1. Death is the penalty of transgression. Christ never deserved this penalty of violated Law, yet, being a man and mortal, he suffered the fate of fallen men.
2. It was man's wickedness, i.e. nothing else than man's violation of God's Law, that led to man's rejection of Christ and to Christ's death. The world flung its curse on Christ. By a wonderful act of infinite mercy that act of hellish wickedness is made the means through which the world is freed from the curse of its own sins.
IV. CHRIST'S ENDURANCE OF THE CURSE OF THE CROSS LIBERATES US FROM THE CURSE OF THE LAW. He freely endured the curse. He endured it for our sakes. He became "a curse for us."
1. His endurance of the curse gave weight to his propitiatory sacrifice of himself. This was the most extreme surrender of himself to God in meek submission. As our Representative, he thus obtained for us Divine favour and grace of forgiveness in answer to that most powerful intercession, the giving of himself to a death that was a very curse rather than abandon his saving work.
2. Christ's endurance of the curse for us is the grand inducement for us to leave the "beggarly elements" of Law and devote ourselves in faith and love to him who died fur us. - W.F.A.
I. THE COVENANT OF PROMISE MADE WITH CHRIST AS SEED OF ABRAHAM. (Vers. 15, 16.) We are too prone to contemplate the promises of God out of their relation to Christ. No wonder that they then seem incredible. They are too good news to be true. But the exceeding great and precious promises are all yea and amen in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20); they are promises made to Christ and secured by his obedience; and consequently they ought not to seem at any time incredible. Now, when God spoke to Abraham of a universal blessing being given through the patriarch's "Seed," it never suggested to Abraham any idea of merit upon his part. He simply hoped upon God's word, which would be fulfilled in due season. The Seed would convey the blessing. The old man's hope rested upon his Seed, the Christ whom the ages would reveal. The Seed might be meritorious, but Abraham felt that he himself was not. In the humility of felt helplessness, therefore, he trusted God, and found pardon and acceptance and inspiration through his trust. It is just here we must all begin. The Lord Jesus deserves the fulfilment of all the promises. The covenant of grace made with him by the Father has received a fulfilment of its conditions so far as he was concerned; and so he can claim the promises as no more than his due. Their guarantee is in his obedience unto death.
II. THE SINAITIC LAW COULD NOT DISANNUL THE COVENANT OF PROMISE. (Vers. 17, 18.) Four hundred and thirty years elapsed and, lo, another covenant is made with the seed of Abraham. At Sinai, and through the mediation of Moses and of angels, a "fiery Law" went forth from Heaven, and the question Paul answers here is what effect this latter covenant had upon the former. He adduces the fact that legal documents when once perfected are not disannulled by subsequent ones. The later documents must proceed upon the validity and power of the preceding. Hence the Mosaic Law could not render the Abrahamic covenant of promise null and void. It must consist with and supplement the preceding. The promise made to the seed of Abraham remained in force, notwithstanding the thunders of Mount Sinai. Nay, the thunders of Sinai were, as we shall next see, to incline the people to accept the previous promise. There was no antithesis between promise and Law; but Law came to incline the people to embrace the promise. There was something more venerable and more sacred even than the covenant at Sinai, and this was the promises made to Abraham in Canaan. These were the well-head of Jewish privileges. The Jews had not been called to law-keeping and self-righteousness, but to promises exceeding great and precious to be won by their Messiah. It was to faith, not to ceremony, that their system really summoned them.
III. THE PURPOSE OF THE LAW. (Vers. 19-22.) Was the Sinaitic covenant, then, a work of supererogation? By no means. It was a grand instrument, when rightly regarded, to drive sinners into a Saviour's arms. What did it require? Perfect obedience. Did the people at Mount Sinai fancy they could render it? Nay; the utterance of the ten commandments in the great and terrible tones convinced them that they could not stand up in their own strength before such a holy God. Hence their flight from the mount (Exodus 20:18). Hence their cry for the mediation of Moses (ver. 19). In a word, the effect of the publication of the Law was to overwhelm the people with a sense of their sin. This is the purpose of the Law. It is not to feed man's hope of claiming life by law-keeping; it is, on the contrary, to kill that hope and send him to God's free grace that he may be saved by faith in the promises. The Law is to secure our despair of self that we may build all our hope on the Saviour. What, then, were the ceremonies of Judaism? They were embodiments of the promises. The Judaizers said," We are to be saved by observing these ceremonies;" but the truth was that the ceremonies were enacted to make the promises emphatic and to lead sinners away from self-righteousness to God and his mercy. The ceremonial Law was a pictorial gospel, to keep up the hearts of those whom the moral Law had reduced to despair; but the false teachers made the ceremonies saving, and so ignored the gospel they embodied. May we be kept from all analogous mistakes! - R.M.E.
I. THE PROMISE WAS NOT INVALIDATED BY THE LAW.
1. Human analogy. "Brethren, I speak after the manner of men: Though it be but a man's covenant, yet when it hath been confirmed, no one maketh it void, or addeth thereto." When the apostle professes to speak after the manner of men, he is not thinking of himself as having to come down from the spiritual standpoint, but of God as greater than man, and of his having to use a certain freedom in arguing as he does from a man's covenant to God's covenant. We are not to understand "covenant" in the sense of" testament." It is an engagement under which one comes to another with or without engagement on the part of that other. To be thoroughly valid a covenant must be confirmed. Testimony must be given that an engagement has been really and fully entered into. The signing of a legal document is a common mode of confirmation. We read frequently in old times of confirmation by oath. When a covenant has been confirmed, no one maketh it void or addeth thereto. Meyer says, "no third party;" but the language is applicable even to the person who comes under engagement. He is not free to set his engagement aside or to modify it by additions. It is different from the case of a testator while he is still living. In signing a will he has come under no engagement to any one, and is free to cancel it or to add a codicil. But when an engagement has been entered into it can neither be set aside nor modified by additions, but stands to be carried out to the letter.
2. Two points to be taken into account in applying the analogy.
(1) The covenant with Abraham was of the nature of a promise. "Now to Abraham were the promises spoken." This brings down the general idea of covenant to a special kind. Promise is not a contracting for benefit and with conditions. In its purest form, as employed by the apostle, it is an engagement to bestow blessing, without conditions attached. It is here used in the plural number, not because distinct blessings were promised, but because the same blessing was repeatedly promised, with variety of form and circumstance.
(2) The covenant of promise was made, not only with Abraham, but included Christ. "And to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many: but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." With resemblance in form to the rabbinical style of argument, this cannot be said to have anything of rabbinical feebleness. The point is, that the idea of plurality might have been brought out in the form given to the promise. It might have been said, "And to thy descendants," thus excluding reference to one in particular. Instead of that it was said, "And to thy seed," which is applicable, though not necessarily limited in application, to one. The apostle, having pointed this out, declares (does not argue) that there was an intended application to Christ. As he was the Seed of the woman, so also was he the Seed of Abraham. The, bearing of the declaration is, that, Christ having been included in the promise, it had to be made good to him as well as to Abraham.
3. Application of the analogy.
(1) Position. "Now this I say: A covenant confirmed beforehand by God, the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years after, doth not disannul, so as to make the promise of none effect." So far as God was concerned, the promise had full validity as soon as it was announced (Genesis 13:15). So far as Abraham was concerned, it was confirmed by the fire passing between the pieces of the sacrifice (Genesis 15:17), and by oath (Genesis 22:18), and also by repetition (Genesis 17:8). It was also confirmed to the other patriarchs (Genesis 26:4; Genesis 28:4). That being the case, it could not be set aside by the Law, which was four hundred and thirty years later. If it had been a covenant with conditions, then it might have been inferred that, the conditions not having been complied with, the Law had been introduced. Thus the Law would virtually have displaced the covenant. But the apostle's position is that the covenant, being of the nature of promise, there could be no displacing of it by the Law. "So as to make the promise of none effect" comes in as qualifying the assertion. Whatever covenant the Law might have displaced, it could never displace a covenant of pure promise.
(2) Argument by which it is supported. "For if the inheritance is of the Law, it is no more of promise: but God hath granted it to Abraham by promise." The blessing is described as the inheritance, which had a reference beyond the land of Canaan to the heavenly Canaan, and even to the whole earth, which is now to be regarded as the earthly Canaan. If the inheritance was associated with the Law, then it must never have been promised. For promise, according to the apostle's understanding of it, is engagement to bless without conditions. But the inheritance never could be associated with the Law. For it was authenticated that God free]y- promised it to Abraham. By this promise, then, to speak after the manner of men, God was bound. He was not in the position of a testator who could cancel or add fresh clauses. Nor was he in the position of one who had made a covenant with conditions which had not been complied with. But having given an unconditional promise, he could not under any circumstances withdraw it.
II. FOUR POINTS IN WHICH THE LAW DIFFERED FROM THE PROMISE. "What then is the Law?"
1. It was additional to the promise. "It was added because of transgressions." It was never intended to stand alone. It was simply intended to be an adjunct to the promise already given and still continuing in force. "It was added because of transgressions." There is not yet brought into view the purpose which the Law served with reference to transgressions, checking them, making them clear. It is simply indicated that the introduction of the Law was necessitated by the disposition to transgress. There is the same teaching here as by our Lord with regard to the law of divorce. It was not, he said, so from the beginning; but was necessitated by the hardness of men's hearts. So, with regard to the Law and its rigour, it was not so from the beginning. God began with promise; and it was only when it was not sufficiently responded to that the Law was introduced, not as a substitute, but as an addition to the promise.
2. It was a temporary addition. "Till the seed should come to whom the promise hath been made." As it was an after institution, so it was never intended to last. It had not the permanence which belonged to the promise. It had reference to the coming of the Seed to whom the promise had been made. That was the great reason of its existence. There is not yet brought into view the purpose which the Law served with reference to the coming Seed. It is simply indicated that it was so related to Christ that, when he came to receive the promise, it was necessarily done away as an institution.
3. It was given mediately by God. "And it was ordained through angels." The connection of the angels with the giving of the Law was prominent in Jewish tradition. It is remarkable that there is no mention of them in the historical account in Exodus. They are thus introduced in Deuteronomy 33:2: "The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them: he shined forth from Mount Paran, and he came with ten thousand of his saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them." The ten thousand of his holy ones were doubtless angels. So in Psalm 68:17 it is said, "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels; the Lord is among them as in Sinai, in the holy place." This fact was so recognized among the Jews that Stephen could tell them that they had received the Law by the disposition of angels. Their connection with it was not confined to accompanying the Lord, or ordering the miraculous accompaniment. But the language in Hebrews - "the word spoken by angels" - taken along with the language here, points to them as the instruments employed by God in delivering the Law. This circumstance is introduced by the apostle here, in keeping with the context, not to glorify the Law, but to show that God stood at a distance from men in the giving of the Law. It was something which was in a manner foreign to him. Therefore, in giving it he did not come immediately into contact with men, but interposed angels on his side.
4. It was mediately received by men. "By the hand of a mediator." This was Moses. "I stood between the Lord and you." In the giving of the Law great stress was laid on the fact that the people were not fit to draw near to God to receive it from him. Therefore a mediator was interposed on man's side. Added comment on double mediation. "Now a mediator is not a mediator of one; but God is one." It is said that there have been as many as four hundred and thirty different interpretations of these words. If that speaks to extraordinary labour bestowed on the interpretation of the words, it also speaks to extraordinary misdirection of labour. It can be said that new there is substantial unanimity of interpretation. The first statement does not refer to Moses nor to Christ, but to a mediator generally; and means that a mediator implies two parties, between whom the mediation takes place. The second statement, that God is one, has often been taken to mean that God is one of the two parties, the children of Israel being the other party, which is pointless for the purpose of the argument. It means that God is mediatorless in the promise. In the Law, God kept at a distance, interposing mediators on his side and interposing also a mediator on man's side. But in the promise God came immediately into contact with Abraham, employing no mediator, but speaking to him as to a friend.
III. THE LAW WAS NOT ANTAGONISTIC TO THE PROMISE. "IS the Law then against the promises of God? God forbid." In keeping with what has been said, God identifies himself with the promises, and not with the Law. They were not, however, antagonistic.
1. The Law did not supply the condition of the blessing. "For if there had been a Law given which could make alive, verily righteousness would have been of the Law." In the case supposed (righteousness being of the Law, and so making alive), the Law would have been antagonistic to the promise. There would have been an antagonistic mode of justification. The blessing would have been put on the ground of obedience to the Law. The apostle repudiates that supposition, without any disparagement of the Mosaic Law. It had a perfectness of its own. If there had been a Law fitted to give life, he strongly asserts that would have been the Mosaic Law. It was raised above all mere human law. It presented an admirable idea of righteousness. That it did not actually effect righteousness was simply because that was impossible.
2. The Scripture represented men as all shut up to the obtaining of the blessing simply by faith. "Howbeit the Scripture hath shut up all things under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." Scripture is not the Law, but rather that which holds Law and promise in harmony. The office ascribed to Scripture is peculiar. It has placed, not only all men but all things (man's surroundings) under sin as gaoler. In this imprisonment there was not finality. On the contrary, it was with the view of magnifying the promise. Not by doing the Law, but by believing the promise, is the blessing attained. As the promise was made good to Jesus Christ, and was thus identified with him, faith in him, as obtaining the blessing for us, has become the simple and all-sufficient principle of the religious life. - R.F.
I. DIVINE GRACE IS PLEDGED BY COVENANT. The grace here referred to is offered to Abraham and through him to all nations (Genesis 12:1-3). Thus offered in covenant, it is
(1) definitely promised by God,
(2) with the confirmation of an oath,
(3) on condition, however, of our faith.
We are not left to speculate about the grace of God as a possibility; it is distinctly revealed. Nor are we in doubt as to its permanence; it is pledged for the future.
II. THE COVENANT OF DIVINE GRACE IS ETERNAL.
1. As a revelation of truth it is eternal. Truth does not vary with time. When once a genuine truth has been seen, no later knowledge of another truth can set it aside. The discovery of Australia did not invalidate the earlier discovery of America.
2. As a declaration of God's will it is eternal. God does not vacillate, like a fickle, capricious despot. He is constancy itself. What he wills now he wills for ever.
3. As a pledge of God's honour it is eternal. It is in infinite condescension to our weakness that God makes us a promise. We ought to be able to rely on his love and goodness alone. But since he has mercifully stooped to encourage us in our poor faith by promise and pledge, herein lies the greater assurance to us of his changeless grace.
III. THE COVENANT OF GRACE IS MORE ANCIENT THAN THE CURSE OF THE LAW. The Judaizers claim precedence for the Law over the gospel because of its greater antiquity. But St. Paul reminds them that the promise on which the gospel is founded is a still more ancient Divine word. Grace precedes wrath; love is anterior to Law. The first vision of God is a revelation of loving-kindness. The weight and dignity of hoary age are with the blessings of God's goodness. A shallow research discovers Law; dig deeper, penetrate further, and you find love.
IV. LATER DIVINE UTTERANCES MAY OBSCURE BUT CANNOT ABOLISH THE COVENANT OF GRACE.
1. They may obscure it. The severity of the Law appeared to hide the gracious promise to Abraham. Dark dispensations of Providence sometimes come between us and God's love. We cannot reconcile the harder with the more pleasing utterances of Scripture. Stern voices sometimes repel us when we are hungering for gentle voices to comfort.
2. Nevertheless, these later revelations do not nullify the earlier promises. The grace is still undiminished, though for a time it is beyond our gaze and grasp. Presently it will break out in more than its pristine splendour, as the sun shines more brightly than ever after it has been hidden by a brief summer shower. The purpose of grace both precedes and outlives the threatenings of Law. The thunders of Sinai are but an interlude between the promise of love at Bethel and its fulfilment at Bethlehem. - W.F.A.
sins into transgressions; i.e, to give to amorphous and almost unconscious wickedness a definite form, so that it could be seen, handled, chastised, and cured (Romans 7:8, 9).
I. SIN IS NATURALLY OBSCURE. It spreads through the soul as a rank malaria, felt in its evil effects, but not clearly seen and known. We feel ourselves to be ailing, but cannot lay our fingers upon the seat of the disease. Just in proportion to its internal character it is dangerous; yet in the same proportion it is vague and beyond our reach. It is darkness and death - things vast, shapeless, without definition, mere blank negations. Nothing is more erratic than an unenlightened conscience. A spiritually ignorant person cannot tell when he sins or how far his guilt extends. He is like a blind man groping among pathless wilds, stumbling and falling he knows not how or where.
II. LAW CONVERTS VAGUE SIN INTO DEFINITE TRANSGRESSION. It does not simply reveal the hidden sin, as the acid develops the photograph and as the daylight lays bare the ugly ruin. It gives to sin a new form and character, as the chemical re-agent precipitates a solution. It compels the diffused sinfulness to crystallize into sharply defined offences, The force of the tide is not seen till the wave breaks against the shore. The current of evil is strong, but unrecognized, till it meets a Law and dashes over it in wild assault. Sin lurks in our hearts and creeps through our lives as a formless spirit of evil. Then a Law is declared, "Thou shalt not steal," or, "Thou shalt not kill." Sin meeting this directly breaks the Law. Now, it is a clear offence, a definite, chargeable transgression, capable of being brought home to the criminal.
III. THIS CONVERSION OF SIN INTO TRANSGRESSION IS FOR OUR ULTIMATE GOOD. At first it looks cruel, if not immoral. It seems like God tempting us. But God does not send the inducement to sin. He only sends the forbidding Law, which gives form to the sin already present.
1. Thus Law becomes an external conscience. By means of it we know how far we have fallen.
2. It becomes an occasion for the Divine chastisement which we need in order to be brought to repentance.
3. It prepares us to receive the gospel by rousing us from the slumber of indifference, making us see how evil and how helpless we are, and so urging us to seek redemption from the curse of Law in the grace of Christ. - W.F.A.
I. A RELIGION OF LAW SEPARATES US FROM DIRECT COMMUNION WITH GOD. The Levitical Law depended on an elaborate system of mediation. The Jew regarded it as given through angels. Moses received it for the people. When the Israelites saw the terrors of Sinai they shrank back and begged Moses to go alone for them into the presence of God, and thus they received the Divine message through their human leader (Exodus 20:18, 19). Subsequently it was administered through the priesthood. The consequence was that the people were not admitted to the sanctuary. The penalty of relying on a human intercessor out of fear of God was separation from direct communion with Heaven. This penalty is still paid by those who pursue the same course. The magnifying of human priesthood and the elaboration of ceremonial religion by one school in the Church, and the over-dependence on human teaching and preaching of another school, put new mediators between us and God, and so separate us from the privileges of immediate Divine fellowship. The same result follows the slavish observance of rules and regulations laid down by the wisest and holiest of teachers. Those men come between us and God.
II. THE HIGHEST RELIGION CONSISTS IN DIRECT COMMUNION WITH GOD, "God is one." When he speaks to us we have all that we need. Many advantages belong to this pure and lofty relation with God.
1. Clear visions of truth. Truth is no longer adulterated with human imaginations.
2. The full efficacy of grace. This is not weakened by the harsh and ugly additions of man's blundering attempts to improve his fellow-man. It flows clear and full in its own heavenly beauty.
3. The blessedness of fellowship with God. A religion of Law is irksome. There is no joy in obedience forced by constraint. But direct communion with God is itself the source of the deepest joy, and it makes all service glad, so that we delight to do the will of God.
III. THE GOSPEL BRINGS TO US THIS RELIGION OF DIRECT COMMUNION. It is true that Christ is a Mediator, but in quite another way from the mediation of Moses. Moses and all human mediators stand between us and God, so as to separate us from him and darken the vision of his glory by their human shadows. But Christ only comes between to bridge over the gulf that separates, to unite us to God, to be the mirror in which the presence of God is revealed; nay, to bring God to us, made manifest in the flesh. Thus in Christ we have immediate communication with God. Through him we not only know that God is spirit and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth, we also have grace thus to worship. In Christ God's grace directly flows to us with all its fresh, untainted purity and power. In Christ we have grace to enter through the rout veil to the holiest place, and to rest in the eternal light of God's near presence. - W.F.A.
I. THE LAW-SCHOOL. (Vers. 23, 24.) The idea was once entertained that the Law, as παιδαγωγός, meant the slave who was entrusted with the guidance of the child to the school of Christ. But this notion is now abandoned, and, as the superior slaves were often entrusted with the education of the child to a certain age, the idea which is now accepted from this passage is that the soul goes to the school of the Law, and learns from the Law the lessons which fit it for coming home to Christ. Christ is not the Schoolmaster to whom Law leads the soul, but is the elder Brother of the Divine family to whom the lessons of the schoolmaster, the Law, leads the enlightened soul. The Law-school is an institution of great strictness and severity. Hence we are represented here as "kept in ward under the Law" (Revised Version). Like one of the great barracks which are called euphoniously "public schools," and where, as in public prisons, the youths are for some hours daily confined, and out of which they are thankful to escape; so the Mosaic Law is meant to be the severe training-school which will make us relish ever so much the freedom and comfort of home.
II. THE BURDEN OF ITS TEACHING. (Ver. 24.) The lesson of the Law is personal unworthiness, the impossibility of our ever saving ourselves. The more we study the ten commandments, the more we enter into the spirit and meaning of the moral Law, the deeper must be our conviction that we cannot keep it perfectly, and so must be liable to its penalties. But the Jews, instead of holding hard to the teaching of the moral Law, turned their back upon it and betook themselves to the ceremonial Law as their hope of life. Their notion was that, though they might neglect the weightier matters of the Law, such as judgment, mercy, and faith, they were perfectly safe so long as they tithed the mint, the anise, and the cummin (Matthew 23:23). Instead of learning Law's lesson and being "shut up to faith," they mistook the lesson altogether and shut themselves up to ceremony. The Law was meant to defeat self-righteousness; the pupils allowed it to minister to self-righteousness. Instead of being shut up to faith, they remained in the school of Law for ever and never got home. Now, every well-conducted school impresses upon its pupils the desirability of their getting beyond its lessons and its confinement. The broad liberty of manhood and of home lies in supposed sunlight beyond it, and the school training encourages the vision. So with God's Law; it is designed to create a longing for the liberty in Christ and the larger opportunities that liberty implies.
III. THE HOME-COMING. (Vers. 25, 26.) If we learn the true lesson from the Law, we are carried by it to the feet of Christ, and we seek justification by trusting him. Faith is thus the home-coming of the soul; and undoubtedly no schoolboy ever came whistling so joyfully home, even when his home-coming was the final one, as the soul does which has learned to trust and love Christ. Then the sense of imprisonment and confinement gives place to a sense of freedom. As children of God in Christ Jesus, we rejoice in the abundant liberty of home. Our education is so far finished when we have learned to hope in our elder Brother only. Then do we know what it is to be "at home" with God. The prodigal son enjoyed himself greatly at the father's banquet, and so do all of us; for we are all prodigals by nature, when by faith and repentance we come home to God.
IV. UNITY IN CHRIST. (Vers. 27, 28.) The home-coming is attended by the entertainment of the Christian spirit. By that spirit all caste-distinctions die. Having put on Christ, we do not look contemptuously on any, but hopefully on all. The Jew and the Greek forget their national differences and separations; the bond and the free do not dwell despairingly or proudly on the accident of birth; the man does not tyrannize over the woman, and neither will the Christian woman, when she secures her rights, tyrannize over the man; but each and all will rejoice in their unity in Christ. Christ thus proves himself to be the unifying element in the human race. Coming near to each, he brings each near to all, and establishes around his person the brotherhood of man.
V. FAITH ALSO INTRODUCES SOULS TO THE PRIVILEGES OF THE ABRAHAMIC FAMILY. (Ver. 29.) Unquestionably the Jews were the heirs of magnificent promises. But is it carnal Jews that are to get them? is it men who are only descended from Abraham according to the flesh? Nay; Abraham has a spiritual seed, and all who are Christ's through faith become children of Abraham. Paul thus proclaims a chosen generation, whose fellowship may be entered by faith and not by circumcision, by the Christian spirit and not by Jewish ceremony. This is better than converting the world to Judaism, to convert it to Christ, and through relationship to Christ to count kindred with Abraham. "We are the circumcision," as he says to the Philippian converts, "who worship God in the spirit, who rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Philippians 3:3). The Law teaches us a precious lesson if it sends us for salvation to Christ, and enables us to find in fellowship with our Lord the privileges of the chosen people becoming ours. - R.M.E.
I. BEFORE FAITH CAME. "But before faith came." The faith which is here brought into prominence is that which was historically manifested when Christ came. Faith existed before Christianity, as is evident from the eleventh of Hebrews. There was trust in the Divine word. But the attitude toward Christ was that of expectancy. "We who had before hoped in Christ." It had been faith along with the observance of the Mosaic Law. But when the gospel of salvation was preached, it was faith, pure and simple, on Christ.
1. The state of God's people under the Law. "We were kept in ward under the Law, shut up." They were wards of the Law. A strict watch was kept over them, as those who could not manage themselves. This went the length of their being in custody.
(1) There were manifold restrictions. The limits were greatly narrowed within which they were free to act. Even their common life was encompassed with ceremonial regulations. However good these were, there was this to be said, that they were outwardly imposed. And they had the effect of multiplying the occasions of offence. They made many things sins which were not sins in themselves. There was thus a heavy pressure laid on the life. The moral Law, too, came in with its oppressive "Thou shalt not."
(2) There was the feeling of helplessness produced. The Law represented the Divine requirement. As a revelation of what God required, it raised a very high ideal. God was to be loved with the whole soul, and a man's neighbour as himself. But at the same time, it did not bring with it strength for the attainment of this ideal. It, therefore, sometimes even stimulated the sinful life. It excited desires which it had not power to quell. And thus it worked towards despondency.
(3) There was the feeling of guilt produced. The Law revealed what ought to have been attained; but, revealing at the same time the wide distance between the ideal raised and the actual attainment, instead of being a witness of its high ends as accomplished, it became an accuser.
(4) There were appeals to fears. Its "Thou shalt not" was accompanied with a threat. There was a curse pronounced on the breaking of every one of its requirements.
(5) There was the feeling of condemnation produced. The Law, in showing them their guilt, showed them also to be condemned sinners, actually lying under the curse. Thus the outcome of its working was the eliciting of the cry, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?"
2. The goal intended for them. "Unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed." It is to be remembered that the Law existed alongside of the promise, to which it was simply an addition. It is to be remembered, also, that the ceremonial part of the Law had promise largely mixed up with it, many of the types being really promises. And, so far as the promise was concerned, there could be, in the religious life of those times, a feeling of liberty in the enjoyment of forgiveness and in the hope of the attainment of their ideal. There was grace, too, in the heart of the Law. It was a disciplinary institution, preparatory to Christianity. It was with a view to the people of God being brought into a higher state, into the freer relation of faith, which was to be revealed when Christ came. Illustration. "So that the Law hath been our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." The pedagogue (formerly translated "schoolmaster," now "tutor") was one who got his name born leading the child to school. He had the responsible office of superintending the education of the child, and also his morals and manners. He had strictly to regulate and watch over the employments and deportment of the child, and he was armed with the power of punishment. The pedagogic function is what belongs to every parent. He has himself or by deputy to educate his child, physically, intellectually, morally, and spiritually. The restrictions he has to lay on the employment of his time, thoughts, energies, are not agreeable to him, but they are with a view to his being of age. The Law is thus laid upon him that it may be ultimately within him, and that he may do that which is right and proper with no sense of bondage. The people of God were under the Law as under a pedagogue. They were treated as children, and had their duty minutely prescribed to them and their fears appealed to. This produced a sense of bondage, but it was that by-and-by they might the better welcome Christ and those higher influences he was to bring with him. The feeling of guilt and condemnation which the Law produced was that Christ might be longed for in his justifying merit to be received through faith.
II. NOW THAT FAITH IS COME. "But now that faith is come."
1. Christian emancipation. "We are no longer under a tutor." We are no longer under the discipline of the Mosaic institution. We do not need rules outwardly imposed on us, nosy that the higher Christian influences are operative in us. We are absolutely freed from the ceremonial Law, which received its fulfilment in Christ. The moral Law could never be called Mosaic, rather it was that round which the whole Mosaic institution was gathered. We are freed from it as the ground of our justification or condemnation. But it is still needed to hold up before us higher ideas of righteousness. It is still needed to work in us deeper conviction of sin. It is still needed to keep us to the true source of our security. But what thus disciplines us, is the Law as it has received its highest exhibition in the cross of Christ. From it, as connected with the Mosaic institution, we are freed.
2. Christian sonship.
(1) The relation described. "For ye are all sons of God." Gentiles as well as Jews are sons of God. We are not in the relation of slaves, without any feeling of freedom. Neither are we in the relation of servants, with such freedom as belongs to them. But we are in the freest relation of sons of God. Neither are we mere children, but we are sons that have come of age. That does not mean that we are to leave our Father's house. "The servant goeth away; the son abideth ever." We are independent, not in being liberated from our Father's control, but in having our Father's will so much within our heart that we act according to it without the need of rules being imposed on us.
(2) How the relation is formed. "Through faith." We are not sons of God by virtue of our living in a Christian land. Multitudinism is alien to Christianity. We cannot be Christians merely in the mass. The state, whatever it has to do with religion, cannot relieve us of the responsibility of acting for ourselves. We are not sons of God by virtue of our connection with godly parents. There is a certain law of heredity in religion. "The unfeigned faith that is in thee; which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and, I am persuaded, in thee also." The promise is to us and to our children; therefore there is encouragement to use the means. Still, all that parents can do is to act upon their children by good advice and example and prayer. They cannot relieve their children, any more than the state its subjects, of the responsibility of thinking and acting for themselves. We are not sons of God by virtue of our having been baptized. Baptism, as we shall presently see, is an important Christian rite. It should be attended with regenerating grace. Only, when there is no evidence of regeneration in the life, it is vain to be satisfied with baptism. It should be used simply as an argument for taking action in accordance with it. We are not sons of God by virtue of our being members of a Christian Church. There has been, in this case, examination by a representative of the Church, and admission has been granted; but this is not to be rested upon. Man is not the lord of our conscience. Every one must judge for himself as to the evidences of his being a child of God. And if he was not a child of God before admission, the fact of his admission will not make him one. He is just presumably what he was before. The Church has no magical virtue. It can assist men in becoming children of God, but it cannot do more than assist. And when Church connection does not benefit, it will certainly add to condemnation. But we are sons of God through faith. This is the instrument by which we become sons of God. We take action for ourselves. Our souls lay hold upon Christ. We place our dependence on his finished work, and we are not only justified, but are adopted into the family of God.
(3) Causal element in which our sonship subsists. "In Christ Jesus." Christ alone can make us sons of God. Our rulers cannot make us sons of God. Our parents cannot make us sons of God. A rite like baptism cannot make us sons of God. Even the Church cannot make us sons of God. Christ alone can. He is not the means, but the efficient cause. It is in him that our sonship is originated and is maintained.
(4) Sign of our sonship. "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ." By insisting on faith the apostle has supplied a counteractive to superstitious ideas of baptism. But this shows how much importance he attached to it. Baptized into Christ, they did put on Christ. And from the connection it is to be understood that they so put on Christ in baptism as to stand in the same relation to God in which Christ stands to God.
3. Christian equality.
(1) What it is. It sometimes matters very essentially in whose hands is the advocacy of a doctrine. In the hands of the communists, who have the modern intellectual activity without any hold upon the everlasting principles of religion, there is no more dangerous doctrine than that of equality. As used by them, it would lead to complete anarchy, disturbing altogether the present order and putting no stable order in its stead. It is already, in one or other of its phases, producing a feeling of insecurity among the supporters of old institutions, extending to that of monarchy. Paul, also, is an advocate of equality; but he was held by everlasting truth and love. And, in his hands, equality is a safe doctrine, which would indeed be the salvation of society, curing present canker and alienation, and introducing a blessed order such as would realize the golden age. As men we are essentially equal. "God hath made of one blood all nations of men that dwell upon the earth." We lay aside this and that and all the other unlikenesses, till we come to that which refuses to be taken away. And this, we say, is man, the same as to kind under all conditions. The apostle pointed to the everlasting common humanity, when he quoted to the Athenians the words, "For we are also his offspring." Adam, the source of humanity, is declared to be the son of God, i.e. by constitution. "Which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God." What Christianity does is, not to add a new element of sonship to our constitution, but to bring us back into the reality and forward into the full flood of this relationship. It is after establishing our sonship in Christ that Paul proceeds here to lay down his doctrine of Christian equality. And by it he means that, in regard to this most essential element, there are no classes, no distinctions. There are not some in the position of superiors and others in the position of inferiors, but all are placed on the same platform, and that the highest platform of sonship. All are sons of God, therefore all are equal.
(2) Specimens of earthly distinctions which are obliterated in Christ. "There can be neither Jew nor Greek." The Greek is the weaker member in this coupling, but he was by no means to be despised. As there was greater natural inventiveness among the descendants of Cain than among the descendants of Seth, so there was greater intellectual force and culture among the Greeks than among the Jews. Not to speak of their art, their poetry, their philosophy, their language itself, slowly formed, was a magnificent product of mind. Significant of a widespread Greek influence, that language had mastered even the Jews. The mob at Jerusalem were prepared to hear a Greek oration from Paul, only they gave the more silence when he spoke in the Jewish vernacular. And, what was more, the Greek language was chosen by God as the medium of conveying the Christian revelation. And yet the Jew, thus inferior, was of more consequence than the Greek. In the wise purposes of God, which looked beyond one nation, the Jew was raised to very high religious privilege, and any Greek could only share in the same privilege by being naturalized as a Jew. But what was Jewish was at best only external and subject to removal, and was actually removed when the Divine purposes were matured. And now, in and through Christ, the universal Mediator, the Gentile is as near and dear to God as is the Jew. We are so much accustomed to the Gentile being in Christian privilege that it is more to the point now to say that the Jew is as near and dear to God as is the Gentile. Under Christianity there is no privileged nation. In Colossians it is said that there is neither barbarian nor Scythian in Christ. The Scythians were those who appeared barbarians to the barbarians. In Christ there is no barbarian far down in the scale of civilization. There is not even the Scythian, down at the very bottom and only too readily despised by the despised. Christ does not belong to the white skin; but even under the black skin and crisp hair and imperfect configuration there may be the same consciousness of sonship that the finest of Europeans has, in Christ. There is a common ground, upon which all peoples and nations and tribes can meet, deep down below all distinctions of colour and figure and civilization, which thus appear as unessential. "There can be neither bond nor free." There can be no greater diversity in social position than between the bondman and the freeman. It may be said to be infinite; for the freeman has rights - rights to bestow his labour where he thinks he can get most for it, rights to demand redress if he thinks himself injured, to be judged if he is complained of. But the bondman has no rights, being classed as a chattel. Cato, censor-general of morals, a Roman more virtuous than the Romans, gives written advice to the farmers" to sell worn-out iron implements, old slaves, sick slaves, and other odds and ends that have no further use on the farm!" But, though thus put out of the ranks and trampled upon by men, he could be conscious in his own mind of his rights as a man, and, what availed more, through the gospel of the grace of God preached to and received by him, he, a man, the equal at bottom of his master and of that master's master, the august Caesar, - he could be ranked as a son of God, without any super-added badge of inferiority, as much a son of God as Paul himself. There is a most touching, most beautiful exemplification of this in Paul's brief Epistle to Philemon. Paul takes as much interest in Onesimus, a runaway slave, converted by him at Rome, as though he had been a noble born. He calls him his very heart, and, more than a servant, even a brother beloved to Philemon, both in the flesh and in the Lord. The gap between men in respect of social standing, between the sovereign and the common subject of the realm, between the nobleman and the peasant, between the rich and the poor, between master and servant, sometimes so impresses us that we do not think of their being equal at all, they seem beings of a different order; but in Christ there is no difference; there is a great absolute equality before God, who is no respecter of persons, and the man with a Christian heart under a rough exterior is full brother to the Christian gentleman, and the servant-girl who loves her Bible is of as much account as her Christian mistress. Paul says to slaves, wanting to be set free, "For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman; likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant." It has been made out of this, not that there are no conditions in Christ, but, what also puts us on an equality, that all conditions are possessed in Christ. "If a man is a slave, he may be free in Christ. If free, he may have the joy of utter submission to an absolute master in Christ. If you and I are lonely, we may feel all the delights of society by union with him. If surrounded and distracted by companionship, and seeking for seclusion, we may get all the peace of perfect privacy in fellowship with him. If we are rich, and sometimes think that we were in a position of less temptation if we were poorer, we may find all the blessings for which we sometimes crave poverty in communion with him. If we are poor, and fancy that if we had a little more, just to lift us above the grinding, carking care of to-day, and the anxiety of to-morrow, we should be happier, we may find all tranquillity in him." "There can be no male and female." This distinction in sex has more foundation in nature than the distinction of men by nationality or by their social standing. "Male and female created he them." In the resurrection, the distinction, in its physical aspect, will have no place; but now it reigns, and forms an agreeable contrast in humanity. But it also disappears in the lower ground of a common sonship. There is daughterhood spoken of in that passage," Ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty;" but generally it is a filial standing, without any distinction of sex, that is indicated. "And, after all, women are men. Their relation with God is an immediate one. They stand in exactly the same position with regard to him as man; and, in this supreme point of view, the equality of the sexes is perfect, as is that between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak. The two sexes are only the two forms, or two functions, of our common humanity, the members of which are all called to serve and glorify God, some as men, others as women. The service of God is the substance, the rest is only the mode or the accident. Now, we fully believe that God has made the woman for the man, in that he has dualized man, for whom it was not good to be alone, and who would have been alone in a moral sense, and in that sense more especially, with a being exactly similar and perfectly equal to himself; but we cannot, we must not, imagine that the whole feminine sex has been called out of nothingness into being, merely to complete the existence of individuals of the other sex. The proposition, "the woman was made for the man," has, therefore, for counterpoise and complement, another proposition - the woman has been created for herself, or, better still, "man and woman both have been created for God." Inferences. We are to rejoice most in that wherein we are equal. It is not external advantages or points of superiority over others that can afford any man the deepest, purest joy. If he is vain of these, and allows them prevalence in his thoughts, he will certainly forfeit his joy. When the seventy returned from their missionary tour, they were flushed with the joy of a new-found power over devils: "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us, through thy Name." Christ directed them to the true source of joy: "Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you, but rather rejoice that your names are written in heaven." That God numbers us among his children - that is the humble, equalizing element in our joy. It is not implied that inequalities are to be repudiated. There are inequalities in the providence of God, mainly for purposes of trial; and we are not to find fault with them. "Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God." The instance in point was the converted slave, who, when he came to the knowledge of Christ, was not to go away and demand a change of condition; but if it was the will of God that he should still remain in slavery, he was to abide therein with God, content to enjoy that freedom with which Christ had made him free. The same consideration might lead a man not to shirk, like Jonah, but to take a very high position, for which, perhaps, he had no natural liking, but to which he felt that he was called by a higher will. But, whatever the position intended for us, we are to accept of it as an expression of the will of God; and, if we see the same will in the stations which others occupy, that will keep us right in the midst of inequalities. It has been remarked "that a great part of the duties of life are based, and must be, on the fact that men are unequal; some inferior, some superior; some elected to power and leadership, and some to homage and trust. Everything here will depend on how much of personal quality and soul-force different men may have for their endowments; how much reason, conscience, love, will, vision, music, science, and worship they have room for; and then it will be seen what precedences they are to yield, what deferences to pay, or what patronages to assume, what forward conditions to support. Thus far the true beauty of life will consist in a due observance of inequalities; every man consenting to be himself, and let everybody else be himself too, in his own true measure." There are duties founded upon our equality as Christians. "Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily, I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." One might perform the same little act from considerations of humanity, but it is the performing it from considerations of discipleship that receives the commendation of Christ. There is a whole tier of virtues rising up here, for which there is required the greatest delicacy, and which are really of the finest mould. They are such as will be suggested by the names, Christian courtesy, Christian consideration, and the like. Here is culture, accomplishment, for any Christian lady or Christian gentleman. There have none of us learned enough to show consideration all round the Christian circle because of sonship and equality in Christ. Some have a long, hard lesson to learn here, who, perhaps, little imagine it. The inequalities of Providence form their peculiar temptation. They naturally like to associate with persons of their own tastes and manners, and, perhaps, they are so accustomed to regard men because they are rich, because they are influential, that they cannot bring their minds to respect a man simply because he is a Christian. Now, how becoming it is that those who are unequally placed in providence should meet freely together on the ground of an equality in the Divine covenant! It would let the rich feel more potently that wealth and station and culture are on the outside; and it would let the poor see that honesty and piety are not confined to them. Whatever opportunities for meeting may be enjoyed in the common walks of life, there is a special meeting-ground afforded for all classes in the Church. Here the rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the Maker of them all. The Church is the place where most of all we should be helped to understand and to feel the levelling influence of Christian love, and to value and to honour the Christian under all distinctions. There is an equalizing process going on under Christian influences. If we take the Jew and the Greek as bringing before us national distinctions, there is better feeling between nations than there once was. A Christian in a nation sees and feels that in Christ all nations are one, that there is a common salvation for them, and that the loss of one is really the loss of all. If there is a considerable body of Christians in each nation, especially known, in some degree, to one another, that will be the strongest counteractive to hostile feeling; and it will only be in seasons of great national excitement that these will be borne down, and, perhaps, themselves carried away, by the national impulse. Certainly, in calm moments there is a growing conviction that the true and best condition to be sought after is that which Christianity puts before us, and gives us reason to hope for - a brotherhood of nations, free from selfishness and intrigue, in which nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. The second distinction between bond and free in that particular form is very nearly obliterated. Although Christianity did not preach revolution, did not incite to a rising of the slaves against their masters, yet it has led indirectly to the abolition of slavery. When it represented even slaves as some of them invested with the privileges of sonship in Christ, in the logic of events the conclusion was sure to follow, that their rights as men could not justly be withheld from them. The poor African race has been the last to know the elevating, equalizing power of Christianity; and some think that they may be gradually matured to be the equals of Europeans in civilization, having great capacities of vision, of song, and of worship. There will be an equalizing even in that which communists have an eye to - material condition. Only this is to be got at, not by any flashy communistic scheme, but by Christianity having more the moulding of the conditions of trade and commerce, and also more the moulding of the individual character. The last distinction between male and female has been materially changed by Christianity. Her equality before God was a lever power which could not but raise woman out of that degradation into which man's sin had brought her. We see the process going on in India which has taken place in many nations, zenana agencies especially spreading influences which must eventually liberate. The most real inequality is that which is produced by sin. If we are equal in sonship, let us also be equal in fidelity.
(3) Ground of our Christian equality. "For ye all are one man in Christ Jesus. And if ye are Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise." It has already been implied that we are equal because of our sonship in Christ. That it may be placed beyond doubt, it is explicitly stated that we are equal because of what we are in Christ. And we are in Christ in such a way that, because he is Abraham's seed, we are Abraham's seed too. And, as Abraham's seed, we are heirs according to the tenor of the promise. This heirship he proceeds to connect with sonship. So that the teaching is that our equality is based on our sonship in Christ. - R.F.
I. THE TUTOR RESTRAINS AND CONTROLS HIS PUPIL, The tutor or poedagogos was not so much the teacher as the person to whom was entrusted the charge of the whole moral direction of the child. He had an almost absolute authority, such as English lads with the greater freedom allowed among us would resent as a galling yoke. A similar function pertained to the Jewish Law, and pertains to all law in so far as it comes into practical relations with our religious life. In particular note three characteristics common to the control of the tutor over his charge and the dominion of a religion of Law.
1. Rigid orders. The tutor would leave little to the discretion of his pupil, nor would he be likely to explain the reason for his mandates. So Law requires definite actions and affords little scope for the intelligent consideration of general principles and none for freedom of action upon them.
2. Compulsion. The tutor commands. He does not spare the rod. Law depends on threats and fear of punishment, or on hopes of reward, or at best on a stern sense of necessary obligation, and not on love and willing acquiescence.
3. Restraints. Probably the old tutor would check and repress rather than guide, encourage, and develop the natural disposition of his pupil Law says, "Thou shalt not," with more emphasis than "Thou shalt."
II. THE TUTOR IS SUITED TO THE PERIOD OF CHILDHOOD. Much that entered into the stern old system of discipline was as unfitted to youth as to manhood, and we are beginning to see the advantages of a freer kind of education. Nevertheless, certain restraints are essential to the condition of childhood, and the relaxing of them must be most disastrous. The duty of implicit obedience must be learnt before it is possible to understand the principles of abstract morality. Conscience must be educated by Law. In the infancy of the race the pure spirituality of Christianity could not be perceived, and a lower, narrower religion was all that came within the grasp of men. There is a law enclosed within the gospel, and those who are spiritually too backward to say, "The love of Christ constraineth me," are reminded that "whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap."
III. THE TUTOR PREPARES FOR THE TIME or MANHOOD. If he does his work welt he does not convert his pupil into a slave. By teaching the habit of obedience he prepares for a willing acquiescence in a higher will; by inculcating a certain course of action he lays the foundation for a character in harmony with it. This preparatory influence in education admits of wide application; e.g. the boy must first master the rules of arithmetic in order that he may subsequently comprehend the principles of mathematics, must take grammar as an introduction to philology, etc. Thus St. Paul gives no excuse for the Marcionite heresy, which rejects the Old Testament religion as a had thing. He not only allows it to be good in its way, but the only thing possible in its time and a direct preparation for the later and freer religion. There is a continuity in history, there is a continuity in God's providential control of history, and there is a continuity in the growing stream of grace that flows through history. Christianity stands on the foundation of Judaism. The Old Testament is useful in preparing us for Christ. Nevertheless, it must not be forgotten that part of this efficacy is negative. The very failure of the Law and its increasing irksomeness prepare for Christ by making us feel the need and enjoy the liberty of his grace.
IV. THE TUTOR IS DISMISSED WHEN THE TIME OF MANHOOD ARRIVES. The tutor who was useful to the child will be a hindrance to the grown man. The submission which was dutiful in childhood becomes servile in manhood. The yoke of the Law is not the less a nuisance to the Christian because it was a necessity for the Jew. There is great skill in the apostle's argument, for, while showing that he was no enemy to the Law but appreciated its utility, he pointed out that that very utility involved its being superseded. Its purpose was important, but preparatory, to prepare for the gospel. The blossom must fall that the fruit may develop. - W.F.A.
I. THE CONDITION OF SONSHIP. God is the Father of all mankind, and all human creatures, even the most ignorant, the most degraded, and the most vicious are naturally God's children. The prodigal son is still a son and can think of "my father." Nevertheless, it is clear that St. Paul often speaks of a sonship that does not belong to all men - a sonship which is the Christian's peculiar condition and is not even shared. by the Jew, a sonship which is not enjoyed by natural birth, but must be received by adoption, i.e. by a special act of Divine grace. What does this mean?
1. Near relationship with God. The son is most closely related to his father. But the disobedient child who forsakes his home is practically dead, for him practically the old relation is severed. It needs to be restored if he is to enjoy it again. The son, too, with St. Paul is not the young child in the nursery, but the older child admitted into the society of his father. The Jew was kept in the nursery separated from God by a "mediator" (ver. 19) and a "tutor" (ver. 24). The Christian is admitted into close fellowship with God.
2. Liberty. This is an idea always associated with St. Paul's description of sonship. The son is no longer the child "under guardians and stewards," who "differeth nothing from a bond-servant." He is a free man enjoying the confidence of his father. Such are Christians; to them the mind and will of God are revealed; they are free from restraints of formal Law; they are put in positions of trust.
II. THE ORIGIN OF SONSHIP.
1. Through rattle. This is an important point in the apostle's argument. So long as we have not faith we remain in tutelage and at a distance from God. Faith breaks the yoke and brings us into the presence of God. Faith teaches us to realize that God is our Father and to trust him fearlessly, and so to take the position of sons.
2. By union with Christ. Christ is the Son of God. Yet he is not desirous of keeping his privileges to himself. On the contrary, he laboured and suffered that his people might share them. The baptized, that is to say, all of the Galatian people who accepted Christianity as a religion, had happily gone further and really entered into the spirit of it. They had since backslidden, but they were no hypocrites. Living Christianity is "putting on Christ," being clothed with the spirit of Christ. They who do this through faith in Christ become one with him, and, as his brethren, become sons of his Father.
III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF SONSHIP.
1. Universal brotherhood. We are all one "in Christ Jesus." Here is the secret. The fraternity that sprang from the mere enthusiasm of philosophic philanthropy led to the guillotine. It is only union in Christ that secures true lasting union among men. As all colours melt into one common brilliancy under the rays of a very strong light, all distinctions vanish when Christ's presence is deeply felt.
(1) National distinctions vanish. The old antagonism of Jew and Gentile disappears. Christianity now tends to blend nations.
(2) Social distinctions vanish. Slaves are free in Christ. Free men are servants to Christ. The gospel is the enemy of all caste-feeling.
(3) Even distinctions of sex count for nothing. This meant much in ancient times, when cruel injustice was done to women. Women are under eternal obligations to the gospel, which has freed them from an unworthy bondage and given them their true place in the world.
2. The inheritance of ancient promises. The son of a king is an heir. What shall be the inheritance of a Son of God? To him it is said, "All things are yours." The Jew cherished the promises as a hope. The Christian enjoys the fulfilment of the promises. As yet the fulfilment is but partial, though enough to be an earnest of better things to come for those sons of God who are being made "meet for the inheritance of the saints in light." - W.F.A.