The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Preacher's Complete Homiletic Commentary of the Books of the Bible: Volume 29 (of 32)

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Title: The Preacher's Complete Homiletic Commentary of the Books of the Bible: Volume 29 (of 32)

Author: George Barlow

Release date: May 16, 2020 [eBook #62148]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by John Hagerson and Mrs. Faith Ball

*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE PREACHER'S COMPLETE HOMILETIC COMMENTARY OF THE BOOKS OF THE BIBLE: VOLUME 29 (OF 32) ***

Transcriber’s Notes

[p. i]

THE PREACHER’S

COMPLETE HOMILETIC

COMMENTARY

ON THE BOOKS OF THE BIBLE

WITH CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES,
INDEXES, ETC., BY VARIOUS AUTHORS

THE OLD TESTAMENT
Volumes 1–21

THE NEW TESTAMENT
Volumes 22–32

 

Volume 29

 

 

[title page]

The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic

COMMENTARY

ON THE EPISTLES OF ST. PAUL THE APOSTLE

Galatians, Ephesians,
Philippians, Colossians,

AND
I.–II. Thessalonians

 

By the REV. GEORGE BARLOW

Author of the Commentaries on Kings, Psalms (CXXI.—CXXX.),
Lamentations, Ezekiel, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon

 

[LOGO]

printed in the united states of america

FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY

NEW YORK

 

 

[p. 1]

THE

PREACHER’S HOMILETICAL COMMENTARY.


GALATIANS.

INTRODUCTION.

Character of the Galatians.—These people were of Celtic descent. They were the relics of a Gaulish invasion which swept over South-eastern Europe in the early part of the third century before Christ and poured into Asia Minor. Here the Celtic tribes maintained themselves in independence under their native princes, until a hundred years later they were subdued by the Romans. Their country now formed a province of the empire. They had retained much of their ancient language and manners; at the same time, they readily acquired Greek culture, and were superior to their neighbours in intelligence. Jews had settled among them in considerable numbers and had prepared the way of the Gospel; it was through their influence that the Judaistic agitation took so strong a hold of the Galatian Churches. The epistle implies that its readers generally were acquainted with the Old Testament and with Hebrew history, and that they took a lively interest in the affairs of the Churches of Jerusalem and Antioch. None of the New Testament Churches possesses a more strongly marked character. They exhibit the well-known traits of the Celtic nature. They were generous, impulsive, vehement in feeling and language; but vain, fickle, and quarrelsome. Cæsar wrote: “The infirmity of the Gauls is that they are fickle in their resolves, fond of change, and not to be trusted”; and by Thierry they are characterised thus: “Frank, impetuous, impressible, eminently intelligent, but at the same time extremely changeable, inconstant, fond of show, perpetually quarrelling, the fruit of excessive vanity.” Eight of the fifteen works of the [p. 2] flesh enumerated in chap. v. 20, 21 are sins of strife. They could hardly be restrained from “biting and devouring one another” (ch. v. 15). Like their kinsmen at this time in the west of Europe, they were prone to revellings and drunkenness. They had probably a natural bent towards a scenic and ritualistic type of religion, which made the spirituality of the Gospel pall upon their taste and gave to the teaching of the Judaisers its fatal bewitchment.

The authorship of the epistle.—That it was written by St. Paul has never been seriously doubted. His authorship is upheld by the unanimous testimony of the ancient Church. Allusions and indirect citations are found in the writings of the apostolic Fathers—Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, and Justin Martyr, or whoever wrote the Oratio ad Græcos. The internal evidence of Pauline authorship is conclusive by allusions to the history and by the self-portrayal of the writer’s character. No forger ever made an imitation in which were so many secret threads of similarity, which bore such a stamp of originality, or in which the character, the passion, the mode of thought and reasoning, were so naturally represented. The apostle’s mental characteristics are indelibly impressed on the letter.

The time of writing the epistle.—Lightfoot, in disagreement from most earlier interpreters, maintained that this epistle was written between 2 Corinthians and Romans—that is, during the latter part of Paul’s journey in Macedonia, or the earlier part of his sojourn at Corinth, towards the close of the year 57 or 58 a.d. Dr. Beet comes to the same conclusion. There is nothing in the letter itself to fix definitely either the place or time of its composition. From chap. i. 9, iv. 13, v. 3 we gather that St. Paul had now been in Galatia twice; the epistle was therefore subsequent to the journey which he took across Asia Minor in setting out on his third missionary tour (Acts xviii. 22—xix. 1). All students are agreed that it belongs to the period of the legalist controversy and to the second group of the epistles. On every account one is inclined to refer the letter to the last rather than to an earlier period of the third missionary tour. Comparison with the other epistles of the group raises this probability almost to a certainty and enables us to fix the date and occasion of this letter with confidence.

The purpose and analysis of the epistle.—It is intensely polemical. It is a controversial pamphlet rather than an ordinary letter. The matter of dispute is twofold: 1. Paul’s apostleship; and 2. The nature of the Gospel and the sufficiency of faith in Christ for full salvation. This gives the order of the first two and main parts of the epistle. A third section is added of a moral and hortatory nature. The contents of the epistle may be thus analysed:—

I. Introductory address.—1. The apostolic salutation (i. 1–5). 2. The Galatians’ defection (i. 6–10).

II. Personal apologia: an autobiographical retrospect.—The apostle’s teaching derived from God and not man, as proved by the circumstances of: 1. His education (ch. i. 13, 14). 2. His conversion (ch. i. 15–17). 3. His intercourse [p. 3] with the other apostles (ch. i. 18–24, ii. 1–10). 4. His conduct in the controversy with Peter at Antioch (ch. ii. 11–14). The subject of which controversy was the supersession of the law by Christ (ch. ii. 15–21).

III. Dogmatic apologia: inferiority of Judaism, or Legal Christianity, to the doctrine of faith.—1. The Galatians bewitched into retrogression from a spiritual system into a carnal system (ch. iii. 1–5). 2. Abraham himself a witness to the efficacy of faith (ch. iii. 6–9). 3. Faith in Christ alone removes the curse which the law entails (ch. iii. 10–14). 4. The validity of the promise unaffected by the law (ch. iii. 15–18). 5. Special pædagogic function of the law (iii. 19–29). 6. The law a state of tutelage (ch. iv. 1–7). 7. Meanness and barrenness of mere ritualism (ch. iv. 8–11). 8. The past zeal of the Galatians contrasted with their present coldness (ch. iv. 12–20). 9. The allegory of Isaac and Ishmael (ch. iv. 21–31).

IV. Hortatory application of the foregoing.—1. Christian liberty excludes Judaism (ch. v. 1–6). 2. The Judaising intruders (ch. v. 7–12). 3. Liberty not licence, but love (ch. v. 13–15). 4. The works of the flesh and of the Spirit (ch. v. 16–26). 5. The duty of sympathy (ch. vi. 1–5). 6. The duty of liberality (ch. vi. 6–10).

V. Autograph conclusion.—1. The Judaisers’ motive (ch. vi. 12, 13). 2. The apostle’s motive (ch. vi. 14, 15). 3. His parting benediction and claim to be freed from further annoyance (ch. vi. 16–18). (Findlay and Sanday.)

 [p. 5]

CHAPTER I.

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.

Ver. 1. Paul, an apostle.—He puts his own name and apostleship prominent, because his apostolic commission needs to be vindicated against deniers of it. Not of, or from, men, but by, or from, Jesus Christ and God the Father. The Divine source of his apostleship is emphatically stated, as also the infallible authority for the Gospel he taught.

Ver. 6. I marvel that ye are so soon removed.—So quickly removed; not so soon after your conversion, or soon after I left you, but so soon after the temptation came; so readily and with such little persuasion (cf. ch. v. 7–9). It is the fickleness of the Galatians the apostle deplores. An early backsliding, such as the contrary view assumes, would not have been matter of so great wonder as if it had taken place later.

Vers. 8, 9. Any other gospel.—The apostle is here asserting the oneness, the integrity of his Gospel. It will not brook a rival. It will not suffer any foreign admixture. Let him be accursed.—Devoted to the punishment his audacity merits. In its spiritual application the word denotes the state of one who is alienated from God by sin.

Ver. 11. Not after man.—Not according to man; not influenced by mere human considerations, as it would be if it were of human origin.

Ver. 12. But by the revelation of Jesus Christ.—Probably this took place during the three years, in part of which the apostle sojourned in Arabia (vers. 17, 18), in the vicinity of the scene of the giving of the law; a fit place for such a revelation of the Gospel of grace which supersedes the ceremonial law. Though he had received no instruction from the apostles, but from the Holy Ghost, yet when he met them his Gospel exactly agreed with theirs.

Ver. 14. Exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.—St. Paul seems to have belonged to the extreme party of the Pharisees (Acts xxii. 3, xxiii. 7, xxvi. 5; Phil. iii. 5, 6), whose pride it was to call themselves “zealots of the law, zealots of God.” A portion of these extreme partisans, forming into a separate sect under Judas of Galilee, took the name of zealots par excellence, and distinguished themselves by their furious opposition to the Romans.

Ver. 16. To reveal His Son in me that I might preach Him.—The revealing of His Son by me to the Gentiles was impossible, unless He had first revealed His Son in me; at first on my conversion, but especially at the subsequent revelation from Jesus Christ (ver. 12), whereby I learnt the Gospel’s independence of the Mosaic law.

Ver. 24. They glorified God in me.—He does not say, adds Chrysostom, they marvelled at me, they praised me, they were struck with admiration of me, but he attributes all to grace. They glorified God in me. How different, he implies to the Galatians, their spirit from yours.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 1–5.

Apostolic Credentials.

I. That apostolic credentials claim distinctively Divine authority.—“Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father” (ver. 1). It must have been a painful moment when Paul first became aware that spurious teachers questioned the validity of his apostolic call, and a still more painful disappointment when he discovered his Galatian converts so readily gave credence to those who maligned him. His fears were roused, not so much [p. 6] for his personal reputation as for the injury to the religious life of his converts if they cherished suspicions as to the Divine character of the truth they had been taught. The mischief must be dealt with at once. He boldly and emphatically declared that his commission was direct from God and bore the same Divine stamp as that of the other apostles, whose authority even the false teachers had not the temerity to deny. It has been ever the rôle of the subtle adversary of man to strive to eliminate the Divine element from the truth and drag it down to a common human level. Truth then loses its stability, begins to move in a flux of confused human opinions, and the soul is plunged into bewilderment and doubt. Whatever tends to vitiate the truth brings peril to the peace and upward progress of the soul. The power of the teacher increases with an ever-deepening conviction of the Divine authority of his message.

II. That apostolic credentials recognise the oneness of the Christian brotherhood.—“And all the brethren which are with me” (ver. 2). Here is the indication that St. Paul was not unduly solicitous about his personal reputation. While insisting upon the unquestioned Divine source of his apostleship, he does not arrogate a haughty superiority over his brethren. He is one with them in Christ, in the belief of and fidelity to the truth, in the arduous labours of pioneer work, in building up and consolidating the Church, and unites them with himself in his Christian greeting. It is the sublime aim of the Gospel to promote universal brotherhood by bringing men into spiritual union with Christ, the Elder Brother. Christ is the unifying force of redeemed humanity. Ecclesiastical ranks are largely human expedients, necessary for maintaining order and discipline. The great Head of the Church has promulgated the unchallengeable law of religious equality: “One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren” (Matt. xxiii. 8).

III. That apostolic credentials justify the use of a sublime and comprehensive greeting.—“Grace be to you and peace,” etc. (ver. 3). A greeting like this from some lips would be fulsome, or at the best mere exaggerated politeness. But coming from one who was in constant communion with the Source of the blessings desired, and from which Source he had received his call to the apostleship, it is at once dignified, large-hearted, and genuine. Grace and peace are inclusive of the best blessings Heaven can bestow or man receive. They are Divine in their origin and nature—“from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace is the spontaneous outflow of Divine love in the redemption of the race and is the more precious because unmerited; and peace is the conscious experience of that grace in the believing soul—peace from outward dissension and inward fret, peace of conscience, peace with God and man. The blessings the apostle desires God is ever eager to bestow. “Filling up our time with and for God is the way,” said David Brainerd, “to rise up and lie down in peace. I longed that my life might be filled up with fervency and activity in the things of God. Oh, the peace, composure, and God-like serenity of such a frame! Heaven must differ from this only in degree, not in kind.”

IV. That apostolic credentials are evident in the clear statement of the great principles of the Gospel salvation.—“Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us,” etc. (vers. 4, 5). In these words, we have a suggestive epitome of the whole Gospel. Man is delivered from sin and from the present evil age by the self-sacrifice of Jesus; and this method is “according to the will of God,” and brings unceasing glory to His name. This is the Gospel in a nutshell and involves all the grand principles of redemption the apostle was commissioned to declare, and which he develops more clearly in the course of this epistle. Deliverance is Divinely provided, irrespective of human effort or merit. The Galatians in seeking to return to legal bondage ignored the root principles of the Gospel and imperilled their salvation. The apostle vindicated [p. 7] the credentials of his high office by faithful remonstrance and plain authoritative statement of the truth Divinely revealed to him. It is a mark of high intellectual power to make the greatest truths clear to the humblest mind. Christian teaching has all the more weight when associated with irreproachable moral character.

Lessons.—1. God should be gratefully recognised as the Giver of all good. 2. The special endowments of one are for the benefit of all. 3. It is a solemn responsibility to be entrusted with the preaching of the Gospel.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Ver. 1. The Power of the Gospel.—1. Free grace doth often light upon the most unworthy, not only by giving salvation to themselves, but making them instrumental for the kingdom of Christ, and bringing about the salvation of others. 2. Faithful and called ministers of Christ are to be so far from cowardly ceding, or heartless fainting under the bold, bitter, and unjust aspersions of those who question their calling, and thereby weaken their authority and render the truth of their doctrine doubtsome, that they ought the more to avow their calling against all who question it. 3. The office of an apostle had this peculiar to itself, that the designation was not mediately by the election and suffrages of men, as in the calling of ordinary office-bearers, but immediately from God, so that the function of the apostles ceased with them and did not pass by succession to a pope or any other. 4. The false apostles, that they might shake the truth preached by Paul and establish their own contrary error, alleged that he was no lawful apostle. This Paul refutes by showing he was called by Christ after He was raised from the dead and had taken possession of His kingdom, so that his calling had at least no less dignity and glory in it than if he had been called by Christ when He was on earth.—Fergusson.

Ver. 2. The Church a Witness.—1. The more they are whom God maketh use of to hold out the beauty of truth that we may embrace and follow it, or the deformity and danger of error that we may fly from and hate it, we are the more to take heed how we reject or embrace what is pressed upon us, as there will be the more to bear witness of our guilt and subscribe to the equity of God’s judgment if we obey not. 2. We are not so to stumble at the many sinful failings which may be in Churches, as to unchurch them, by denying them to be a Church, or to separate from them, if their error be not contrary to fundamental truths, or if they err from human frailty, and not obstinately and avowedly.—Ibid.

Ver. 3. Christian Salutation.—1. God’s gracious favour and goodwill is to be sought by us in the first place, whether for ourselves or others, that being a discriminating mercy betwixt the godly and the wicked. 2. Peace is to be sought after grace, and not to be expected before it. Peace without grace is no peace. There can be no peace with God or His creatures, nor sanctified prosperity, except through Jesus Christ we lay hold on God’s favour and grace. 3. Grace and peace we cannot acquire by our own industry or pains. They come from God, are to be sought from Him, and His blessing is more to be depended on than our own wisdom or diligence. 4. They to whom grace and peace belong are such as acknowledge Christ to be their Lord to command and rule them, and yield subjection to Him in their heart and life.—Ibid.

Grace and Peace.

I. Grace is not any gift in man but is God’s and in God. It signifies His gracious favour and goodwill, whereby He is well pleased with us in Christ.

[p. 8] II. Peace is a gift not in God, but in us. 1. Peace of conscience—a quietness and tranquillity of mind arising from a sense of reconciliation with God. 2. Peace with the creatures—with angels, with the godly, with our enemies. 3. Prosperity and good success.

III. Whereas Paul begins his prayer with grace we learn that grace in God is the cause of all good things in us.

IV. The chief things to be sought after are the favour of God in Christ and the peace of a good conscience.

V. As grace and peace are joined we learn that peace without grace is no peace.Perkins.

Vers. 4, 5. The Unselfishness of Jesus.

  1. Prompting self-surrender.—“Who gave Himself.”
  2. His self-surrender was an unmerited and unlooked-for expiation.—“For our sins.”
  3. Creates the hope and possibility of immediate salvation.—“That He might deliver us from this present evil world.”
  4. Was a suggestive revelation of the Divine character.—“According to the will of God and our Father.”
  5. Should evoke the spirit of grateful praise.—“To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Ver. 4. Christ our Sacrifice.

I. Whereas Christ is the giver of Himself it follows that His death and sacrifice were voluntary.

II. Therefore, all merit and satisfaction for sin are reduced to the person of Christ, and there are no human satisfactions for sin, nor meritorious works done by us.

III. Christ our sacrifice works love in us.—We must in mind and meditation come to the cross of Christ. 1. The consideration of His endless pains for our sins must breed in us a godly sorrow. If He sorrowed for them, much more must we. 2. This knowledge is the beginning of amendment of life. 3. Is the foundation of comfort in them that truly turn to Christ.

IV. Christ gave Himself that He might deliver us from this evil world.—1. We must be grieved at the wickedness of the world. 2. We must not fashion ourselves to the wicked lives of the men of this world. 3. Seeing we are taken out of this world, our dwelling must be in heaven.—Perkins.

The Gift of Christ.

I. The gift.—“He gave Himself.” Regard Christ: 1. As the object of every prophecy. 2. The substance of every type and shadow. 3. The subject of every promise. 4. He was qualified for the work of redemption. Divine, human, spotless.

II. Christ’s marvellous act.—“He gave Himself for our sins.” 1. To what He gave Himself. To all the privations and sorrows of human life, to obscurity and indigence, to scorn and infamy, to pain and anguish, to an ignominious and painful death. 2. The purpose for which He gave Himself. To deliver us from sin’s curse, defilement, dominion, and from the effects of sin in this world and in eternity.

III. The design of Christ’s offering.—“That He might deliver us from the present evil world.” From its evil practices, its spirit, from attachment to it, and from the condemnation to which it will be subjected.

IV. Christ’s offering was according to the will of God.—1. It was the will of God we should be saved. 2. Christ was the appointed agent. 3. The sacrifice of Christ was voluntary.—Helps.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 6–9.

The One Gospel.

I. Is an introduction into the grace of Christ.—“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ” (ver. 6). The [p. 9] one true Gospel is the emphatic call of God to man to participate and revel in the grace of Christ as the element and the only means by which his salvation can be secured. The grace of Christ, with its persuasive gentleness and vast redemptive resources, is in vivid contrast to the grim formalism and impossible demands of the yoke of bondage into which the Galatians were being so foolishly seduced. There is only one Gospel that can introduce the soul into the midst of saving influences and bring it into contact with the living Christ. This one fact differentiates the Gospel from all mere human methods and gives it a unique character as the only remedial agency in dealing with human sin and sorrow.

II. The perversion of the one Gospel is not a gospel.—“Unto another gospel which is not another” (vers. 6, 7).

1. It is a caricature of the true Gospel.—“And would pervert the gospel of Christ” (ver. 7). The perversion is not in the one Gospel, which is impossible of perversion (for truth is an incorruptible unity), but in the mind of the false teacher. He distorts and misrepresents the true Gospel by importing into it his own corrupt philosophy, as the wolf did with Baron Munchausen’s horse. Beginning at the tail, it ate its way into the body of the horse, until the baron drove the wolf home harnessed in the skin of the horse. The Gospel has suffered more from the subtle infusion of human errors than from the open opposition of its most violent enemies.

2. It occasions distractions of mind.—“There be some that trouble you” (ver. 7). A perverted gospel works the greatest havoc among young converts. They are assailed before they reach the stage of matured stability. Their half-formed conceptions of truth are confused with specious ideas, attractive by their novelty, and mischief is wrought which in many cases is a lifelong injury. The spirit that aims at polluting a young beginner in the way of righteousness is worse than reckless; it is diabolical.

III. The propagator of a perverted gospel incurs an awful malediction.—“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel, . . . let him be accursed” (vers. 8, 9). Let him be devoted to destruction, as one hateful to God and an enemy of the truth. The word denotes the condition of one alienated from God by persistent sin. He not only rejects the truth himself, but deliberately plots the ruin of others. He reaps the fruit of his own sowing. It is impossible to do wrong without suffering. The greater the wrong-doing, the more signal is the consequent punishment. All perversions of truth are fruitful in moral disasters. It is a mad, suicidal act for man to fight against God.

Lessons.—1. There can be but one true and infallible Gospel. 2. The best human method for moral reformation is but a caricature of the true. 3. The false teacher will not escape punishment.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 6, 7. Remonstrance with Revolters against the Gospel.

I. The apostle reproves with meekness and tenderness of heart.

II. He frames his reproof with great wariness and circumspection.—He says not, ye of yourselves do remove to another gospel, but ye are removed. He blames them but in part and lays the principal blame on others.

III. The revolt was a departure from the calling to the grace of Christ.—1. They were soon carried away. This shows the lightness and inconstancy of man’s nature, especially in religion. The multitude of people are like wax and are fit to take the stamp and impression of any religion; and it is the law of the land that makes the most embrace the Gospel, and not conscience. 2. That we may constantly persevere in the profession of the true faith we must receive the Gospel simply for itself. 3. We must [p. 10] be renewed in the spirit of our minds and suffer no by-corners in our hearts. 4. We must not only be hearers but doers of the Word in the principal duties to be practised.

IV. The Galatians revolt to another gospel, compounded of Christ and the works of the law.—Here we see the curious niceness and daintiness of man’s nature that cannot be content with the good things of God unless they be framed to our minds. If they please us for a time, they do not please us long, but we must have new things. The apostle shows that, though it be another gospel in the estimation of the false teachers, is not another, but a subversion of the Gospel of Christ. There is but one Gospel, one in number, and no more. There is but one way of salvation by Christ, whereby all are to be saved from the beginning of the world to the end.

V. The apostle charges the authors of this revolt with two crimes.—1. They trouble the Galatians, not only because they make divisions, but because they trouble their consciences settled in the Gospel of Christ. 2. They overthrow the Gospel of Christ. They did not reach a doctrine flat contrary. They maintained the Gospel in word and put an addition to it of their own out of the law—salvation by works. They perverted and turned upside-down the Gospel of Christ.—Perkins.

The Perversion of Truth—

  1. Supplants the Gospel with a valueless imitation.—“Another gospel which is not another.”
  2. Is contrary to the Divine purpose.—“From Him that called you into the grace of Christ.”
  3. Creates a gulf between the soul and God.—“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him.”
  4. Unsettles the faith of new converts.—“There be some that trouble you and would pervert the gospel of Christ.”

Ver. 6. Disappointed Hopes in Christian Work.—1. It is the duty of Christian ministers, not only to hold out the pure truth of the Gospel, but to defend it by convicting gainsayers and reproving solidly those who are carried away with contrary errors. 2. Ministers in all their reproofs are to use much wariness and circumspection, not omitting any circumstance which may justly extenuate the sin or furnish ground of hope of amendment. Hereby the bitter portion of a medicinal reproof is much sweetened, and the guilty patient allured to the more thorough receiving of it. 3. The most quick-sighted may be deceived and disappointed in their expectation of good things from some eminent professors, and so may readily fall short of their hope. 4. As the dangerous consequences which follow upon error ought to be presented unto people that they may fly from it, so there are some errors in doctrine which do no less separate from God than profanity of life doth, of which errors this is one—the maintaining of justification by works. 5. It is ordinary for seducers to usher in their errors by some excellent designations as of new lights, a more pure gospel way, and what not, as here they designate their error by the name of another gospel.—Fergusson.

Ver. 7. The Inviolable Unity of the Gospel.—1. There is but one Gospel, one in number and no more, and but one way to salvation, which is by faith. 2. The effect of error is to trouble the Church’s peace; peace among themselves, the patrons of error being zealous of nothing so much as to gain many followers, to attain which they scruple not to make woeful rents and deplorable schisms; inward peace of conscience, while some are perplexed and anxious what to choose and refuse until they question all truth, and others to embrace error for truth and so ground their peace on an unsure foundation. 3. The doctrine which maintains that justification is partly by Christ and partly by the merit of good works is a perverting [p. 11] and total overturning of the Gospel, in so far as it contradicts the main scope of the Gospel, which is to exalt Christ as our complete Saviour, Mediator, and Ransom, and not in part only.—Fergusson.

Ver. 8. The Inviolability of Christianity.

I. The import and construction of the Gospel cannot be vague and indeterminate.—The character of the Gospel was alleged to be its truth. This was, to the sophists of that era, a strange and novel pretension. To require faith to a testimony only so far as conformable to fact, only so far as supported by evidence, appeared to them a startling affectation. In the fixed character we recognise the true perfection of the Gospel. It is the same through all ages, not changing to every touch and varying beneath every eye but unfolding the same features and producing the same effects. Unless there was this invariableness in the Christian system, if a fixed determination of its purport is impossible, we should be at a loss in which manner to follow the conduct and imbibe the spirit of the early Christians. Those lights and examples of the Church would only ensnare us into a mien and attitude ridiculous as profane. It would be the dwarf attempting to bare a giant’s arm, a wayfaring man aspiring to a prophet’s vision. The truth as it is in Jesus is contained in that Word which is the truth itself; there it is laid up as in a casket and hallowed as in a shrine. No change can pass upon it. It bears the character of its first perfection. Like the manna and the rod in the recess of the Ark, it is the incorruptible bread of heaven, it is the ever-living instrument of might, without an altered form or superseded virtue.

II. Its Divine origin and authority cannot be controverted.—The history of Saul of Tarsus has often been cited with happy success in confirmation of Christianity. 1. What must have been the strength and satisfaction of conviction entertained by the writer! The conviction has to do with facts. It pertains to no favourite theory, no abstract science, but occurrences which he had proved by sensible observation and perfect consciousness. Wonders had teemed around him; but his own transformation was the most signal wonder of all. Nothing without him could equal what he discerned within. 2. As we estimate the measure and force of his convictions, inquire what weight and credibility should be allowed them. Put his conduct to any rack, his design to any analysis, and then determine whether we are not safe where he is undaunted, whether we may not decide for that on which he perils all, whether the anathema which he dares pronounce does not throw around us the safeguard of a Divine benediction.

III. Its efficacy cannot be denied.—It was not called into operation until numberless expedients of man had been frustrated. Philosophy, rhetoric, art, were joined to superstitions, radicated into all habits and vices of mankind. The very ruins which survive the fall of polytheism—the frieze with its mythological tale, the column yet soaring with inimitable majesty, the statue breathing an air of divinity—recall the fascinations which it once might boast and of the auxiliaries it could command. Yet these were but the decorations of selfishness most indecently avowed, of licentiousness most brutally incontinent, of war the most wantonly bloody, of slavery the most barbarously oppressive. And Christianity subverted these foundations of iniquity; and yet so all-penetrating is its energy, that it did not so much smite them as that they sank away before it. It reaches the human will and renews the human heart. And a thousand blessings which may at first appear derived from an independent source are really poured forth from this.

IV. The authority and force of the present dispensation of Divine truth cannot be superseded.—It is final. In it He hath spoken whose voice shall be heard no more until it “shake not the [p. 12] earth only but also heaven.” No other sensible manifestation can be given, the doctrine is not to be simplified, the ritual is not to be defined to any further extent, nothing more will be vouchsafed to augment its blessings or ratify its credentials. We possess the true light, the perfect gift, the brightest illumination, the costliest boon. Such a dispensation constituted to be co-existent with all future time, must resist every view which would impress a new form or foist a strange nature upon it.

V. No circumstance or agency can endanger the existence and stability of the Christian revelation.—When the security of the Gospel is to be most confidently predicted and most strongly ascertained, supernatural power is restrained—a curse encloses it round about, a “flaming sword turning every way guards this tree of life.” It shall endure coevally with man. Feeble are our present thoughts, confused our perceptions; we see everything as from behind a cloud and in a disproportion. Our convictions are more like conjectures and our speculations dreams. But we shall soon emerge from this state of crude fancies and immature ideas. Worthy sentiments and feelings will fill up our souls. Each view shall be as a ray of light striking its object, and each song the very echo of its theme. Then shall we adequately understand why apostles kindled into indignation and shook with horror at the idea of “another gospel,” and why even angels themselves must have been accursed had it been possible for them to have divulged it.—R. W. Hamilton.

A Supernatural Revelation.—There can be no doubt whatever as a matter of historic fact, that the apostle Paul claimed to have received direct revelation from heaven. He is so certain of that revelation that he warns the Galatians against being enticed by any apparent evidence to doubt it. It would be impossible to express a stronger, a more deliberate, and a more solemn conviction that he had received a supernatural communication of the will of God.—Dr. Wace, Bampton Lectures.

The Best Authority to be obeyed.—A dispute having arisen on some question of ecclesiastical discipline and ritual, King Oswi summoned in 664 a great council at Whitby. The one set of disputants appealed to the authority of Columba, the other to that of St. Peter. “You own,” cried the puzzled king to Colman, “that Christ gave to Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven: has He given such power to Columba?” The bishop could but answer, “No.” “Then I will obey the porter of heaven,” said Oswi, “lest when I reach its gates he who has the keys in his keeping turn his back on me, and there be none to open.”

Latitudinarianism.—Referring to Erasmus’s temporising policy in the Reformation, Froude says: “The question of questions is, what all this latitudinarian philosophising, this cultivated epicurean gracefulness, would have come to if left to itself, or rather, what was the effect which it was inevitably producing? If you wish to remove an old building without bringing it in ruin about your ears, you must begin at the top, remove the stones gradually downwards, and touch the foundation last. But latitudinarianism loosens the elementary principles of theology. It destroys the premises on which the system rests. It would beg the question to say that this would in itself have been undesirable; but the practical effect of it, as the world then stood, would have been only to make the educated into infidels, and to leave the multitude to a convenient but debasing superstition.”

Ver. 9. The True Gospel to be preached and believed.

I. The repetition of these words by Paul signify that he had not spoken rashly but advisedly, whatsoever he had said before.

II. That the point delivered is an infallible truth of God.

[p. 13] III. That we may observe and remember what he had said as the foundation of our religion—that the doctrine of the apostles is the only infallible truth of God, against which we may not listen to Fathers, Councils, or to the very angels of God.

IV. They are accursed who teach otherwise than the Galatians had received.—As Paul preached the Gospel of Christ, so the Galatians received it. The great fault of our times is that whereas the Gospel is preached it is not accordingly received. Many have no care to know it; and they who know it give not unto it the assent of faith, but only hold it in opinion.—Perkins.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 10–12.

The Superhuman Origin of the Gospel.

I. The Gospel is not constructed on human principles.—“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man” (ver. 11). Its character is such as the human mind would never have conceived. When it was first proclaimed it was the puzzle of the religious and the ridicule of the learned—“unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.” It is wholly opposed to the drift of human tendencies. Its supreme aim is to effect a complete transformation of human nature. Not to destroy that nature, but to renew, elevate, and sublimate it. By its principle of self-sacrificing love, its insistence of the essential oneness of the race, its methods in dealing with the world’s evils, its lofty morality, and its uncompromising claims of superiority the Gospel transcends all the efforts of human ingenuity. Augustine, the father of Western theology in the fifth century, divided the human race into two classes—the one who lived according to man and the other who lived according to God. The Gospel is the only revelation that teaches man how to live according to God.

II. The Gospel does not pander to human tastes.—“For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (ver. 10). The adversaries of the apostle insinuated that he was a trimmer, observing the law among the Jews and yet persuading the Gentiles to renounce it; becoming all things to all men that he might form a party of his own. Such an insinuation was based on an utter misconception of the Gospel. So far from flattering, Paul preached a Gospel that humbled men, demanding repentance and reform. It often came in collision with popular tastes and opinions; and though the apostle was a man of broad views and sympathies, he was ever the faithful and uncompromising servant of Christ. Public opinion may be hugely mistaken, and there is danger of over-estimating its importance. It is the lofty function of the preacher to create a healthy public opinion and Christianise it, and he can do this only by a scrupulous and constant representation of the mind of Christ, his Divine Master. The wise Phocion was so sensible how dangerous it was to be touched with what the multitude approved that upon a general acclamation made when he was making an oration he turned to an intelligent friend and asked in a surprised manner, “What slip have I made?” George Macdonald once said, “When one has learned to seek the honour that cometh from God only, he will take the withholding of the honour that cometh by man very lightly indeed.”

III. The Gospel has a distinctly superhuman origin.—“For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (ver. 12). Paul’s reception of the Gospel was not only a revelation of Christ to him, but at the same time a revelation of Christ in him. The human vehicle was spiritually prepared for the reception and understanding of the Divine [p. 14] message; and this moral transformation not only convinced him of the superhuman character of the Gospel, but also empowered him with authority to declare it. The Gospel carries with it the self-evidencing force of its Divine origin in its effect upon both preacher and hearer. It is still an enigma to the mere intellectual student; only as it is received into the inmost soul, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, is its true nature apprehended and enjoyed.

Lessons.—1. Man everywhere is in dire need of the Gospel. 2. The human mind is incapable of constructing a saving Gospel. 3. The Gospel is inefficacious till it is received as a Divine gift.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Ver. 10. Fidelity in the Ministry.

I. The proper nature of the ministry is not the word or doctrine of man but of God.—Ministers are taught to handle their doctrine with modesty and humility, without ostentation, with reverence, and with a consideration of the majesty of God, whose doctrine it is they utter.

II. The dispensing of the Word must not be for the pleasing of men but God.—Ministers must not apply and fashion their doctrine to the affections, humours, and dispositions of men, but keep a good conscience and do their office.

III. If we seek to please men we cannot be the servants of God.—He that would be a faithful minister of the Gospel must deny the pride of his heart, be emptied of ambition, and set himself wholly to seek the glory of God in his calling.—Perkins.

The Servant of Christ.

I. There is nothing dishonourable in the idea of a servant absolutely considered.—On the contrary, there may be much in it that is noble and venerable. Nothing can be more contemptible than an affectation of independence which resents or is ashamed of a servant’s name. And many who despise servants should be told that they themselves are so worthless that nobody would think of honouring them with hiring them for service. It was Christ’s honour that His Father so employed Him for the work of our salvation, and said, “Behold My Servant, whom I have chosen”: and the highest honour of the preachers of the Gospel is that they are the ministers, that is, the servants, both of Christ and His Church. There are cases, no doubt, in which servitude is degrading. The master may be infamous; though even then the servant’s condition is not dishonourable unless he be employed in infamous work. Many servants have wrought out most honourable names for themselves in doing good work under bad masters. Matthew Henry has said well that there is nothing mean but sin, and with such meanness and dishonour is every man affected who is not a servant of Christ. There is for us all the choice of only two conditions; there is not a third and neutral one. The alternative is a servant of the Son of God or a slave of sin. It may not be of sin in its most hideous forms, in the form in which it tyrannises over the drunkard, the lewd man, or the ambitious, but even in its milder and less-offensive form, when it may reign only with the power which it exercises over the worshipper of wealth or of human applause; still, it is a degrading vassalage. Let no worldly man, then, affect to pity or scorn the disciple of the Gospel as being one whom superstition enslaves, though it were admitted to be a slavery; he himself labours under one infinitely more oppressive and degrading. Whose appears the greater liberty and the least oppression, he who is governed by the salutary laws of the Gospel, or he who is the sport and victim of his own ignorance and passions, or of the opinion of the world, to which, at the expense of the violation of his own conscience, he feels himself compelled [p. 15] ignominiously to submit? The question needs not an answer. There is everything honourable in the one service, everything dishonourable in the other. Only that man is truly a free man who is a servant of Christ.

II. The servant of Christ.—Others profess that they are servants of God; the Christian replies that he is a servant of Christ. There is perhaps nothing by which his faith is more distinctly characterised than this. “Is he not, then, a servant of God?” some one may ask, either in the spirit of a scorning objector or in that of an astonished inquirer who is as yet ignorant of the beautiful mystery of Christian salvation. When others profess that they are the servants of God, and when the Christian replies that he is a servant of Christ, does it signify that he is not a servant of the eternal Father? Such is the question; and our reply is, that in serving Christ he approves himself not only the best servant of God, but the only one whose service is genuine. In serving Christ he serves God, because God has so appointed and ordained. He has ordained that we be the servants of His Son; and if we serve not His Son, then we resist His ordination, so that we serve neither His Son nor Himself.

III. The Christian is Christ’s servant, not by hire, but by purchase.—This is a circumstance which claims our most thoughtful consideration. In the case of a servant who is hired there is a limitation of the master’s right, by the terms of the agreement, in respect to the kind and amount of labour to be exacted. There is also a definite term, at the expiry of which the right of service ceases, and the remuneration of the service is exigible by law. There is a vast difference in the case of a purchased servant, or, as otherwise expressed, a slave. He is his master’s property, to be treated entirely according to his master’s discretion. There is no limitation either to the amount or nature of the work which he may exact. The period of service is for life, and no remuneration can be claimed for the labour, howsoever heavy and protracted. Our servant-condition in relation to Christ is of this character: He does not hire us but has purchased us—purchased us by His blood, and made us His property, to be used according to His sovereign will. But this is far from being all. Our gracious Master often sinks, as it were, the consideration of His past services—His humiliation, His privation, His wounds and agony by which He saved us from punishment and woe—and reasons and deals with us as if we were hired servants and could merit something at His hand, animating us in our work by exhibiting to our hope that crown of glory which He will confer on all who are faithful unto death. Blessed servitude—the servitude of the Christian! Servitude of peace! Servitude of honour! Servitude of liberty! Servitude of victory and everlasting glory! 1. The Christian, as a servant, submits his mind to the authority of Christ—submits it to Him in respect of his opinions; at the utterance of His Word renounces its own judgments and prejudices, and turns away from the teaching of the world’s philosophy and priesthood in scorn, saying, “You have no part in me. Christ is the Lord of my conscience; I will listen to Him.” 2. As the servant of Christ, the Christian subjects his body to His control and regulation in the gratifying of its appetites, and in providing for its comfort and adornment; his lips in what they speak; his hands in what they do; his ears in what they listen to; his eyes in what they read and look at; and his feet in all their journeying and movements. 3. As the servant of Christ, he regulates his family according to his Master’s mind and law. 4. As a servant of Christ, he conducts his business according to Christ’s law, with the strictest honesty, and for Christ’s end, distributing his profits in a proportion—I shall say a large proportion; nay, I shall say a very large proportion—to the maintenance [p. 16] and education of his family, and some provision of an inheritance for them, and even a considerable proportion for the gratification of his own tastes. Is not that a large allowance for a slave? But oh, some of you! you seize on all—wickedly appropriate all to yourselves, or part, and that with a grudge, a murmur, and a scowl, with but the smallest fraction to the Master’s poor and the Master’s Church! Slaves indeed! Slaves of Avarice and his daughter, Cruelty! 5. As a servant of Christ, the country of the Christian is Christ’s, to be regulated, so far as his influence and vote may extend, by Christ’s rule, for Christ’s ends.—W. Anderson, LL.D.

Vers. 11, 12. The Gospel and the Call to preach it.

I. It is necessary that men should be assured and certified that the doctrine of the Gospel and the Scripture is not of man but of God.—That the Scripture is the Word of God there are two testimonies. 1. One is the evidence of God’s Spirit imprinted and expressed in the Scriptures, and this is an excellence of the Word of God above all words and writings of men and angels. 2. The second testimony is from the prophets and apostles, who were ambassadors of God extraordinarily to represent His authority unto His Church, and the penmen of the Holy Ghost to set down the true and proper Word of God.

II. It is necessary that men should be assured in their consciences that the calling and authority of their teachers are of God.—To call men to the ministry and dispensation of the Gospel belongs to Christ, who alone giveth the power, the will, the deed; and the Church can do no more than testify, publish, and declare whom God calleth.

III. The Gospel which Paul preached was not human—he did not receive it, neither was he taught it by man; and preached it not by human but by Divine authority. 1. Christ is the great prophet and doctor of the Church. His office is: (1) To manifest and reveal the will of the Father touching the redemption of mankind. (2) To institute the ministry of the Word and to call and send ministers. (3) To teach the heart within by illuminating the mind and by working a faith of the doctrine taught. 2. There are two ways whereby Christ teaches those who are to be teachers. (1) By immediate revelation. (2) By ordinary instruction in schools by the means and ministry of men.

IV. They who are to be teachers must first be taught, and they must teach that which they have first learned themselves. They are first to be taught, and that by men where revelation is wanting. This is the foundation of the schools of the prophets. All men should pray that God would prosper and bless all schools of learning where this kind of teaching is in use.—Perkins.

The Gospel a Divine Revelation.

  1. It is not constructed by human ingenuity.—“The gospel which was preached of me is not after man” (ver. 11).
  2. It derives no authority from man.—“For I neither received it of man” (ver. 12).
  3. It is not acquired by mere mental culture.—“Neither was I taught it.”
  4. It is a direct and special revelation from heaven.—“But by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Apostolic Assurance of the Supernatural Character of the Gospel.—1. It is the custom of the adversaries of the truth, when they have nothing to say in reason against the doctrine itself, to cast reproach on those who preach it, and to question their call and authority to preach, that so they may indirectly at least reflect upon the doctrine. 2. As none may take upon him to dispense the Word of God publicly unto others without a call from God, so there are several sorts of callings: one of men and ordinary when God [p. 17] calls by the voices and consent of men; another of God and extraordinary, the call of the Church not intervening. 3. It is required of an apostle to have the infallible knowledge of the truth of the Gospel and this not wholly by the help of human means, as we learn at schools and by private study, but mainly by immediate inspiration from the Spirit of God. Paul shows that the Gospel was not taught him of man; and this he saith, not to depress human learning, but that he may obviate the calumny of his adversaries who alleged he had the knowledge of the Gospel by ordinary instruction from men only, and so was no apostle.—Ferguson.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 13, 14.

A Zealous Ritualist—

I. Is conspicuous for his adherence to religious formalities.—“For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion” (ver. 13)—of my manner of life formerly in Judaism. Saul of Tarsus was a full-blown ritualist, and a master-leader in the art, setting the pattern to all his contemporaries. He did not play at forms and ceremonies. Their observance was to him a matter of life and death. An intense nature like his could do nothing by halves. The listlessness and pictorial parade of modern ritualism he would have denounced with withering scorn. Religious formality has for some minds an irresistible fascination. It appeals to the instinct of worship which is latent in all, and to the love of æstheticism which is shared by most in varying degrees. The votary deludes himself into the belief that signs and symbols represent certain great truths; but the truths soon fade away into the background, and he is in turn deluded in regarding the outward ceremonies as everything. Formality is the tendency of the mind to rest in the mere externals of religion to the neglect of the inner life of religion itself. It is the folly of valuing a tree for its bark instead of its goodly timber, of choosing a book for its ornate binding irrespective of its literary genius, of admiring the finished architecture of a building regardless of its accommodation or the character of its inmates. “There are two ways of destroying Christianity,” says D’Aubigné; “one is to deny it, the other is to displace it.” Formality seeks to displace it. Ritualism may be of use in the infantile stage, either of the world or the individual. It is a reversion to the petrifaction of ancient crudities. A robust and growing spiritual manhood is superior to its aids.

II. Violently opposes the representatives of genuine piety.—“How that beyond measure I persecuted the Church of God, and wasted it” (ver. 13). Animated by extravagant zeal for the religion of his forefathers, the bigoted Pharisee became the deadliest enemy of the Church of Christ in its infant days. Indifferent to personal peril or to the feelings of the oppressed, he prosecuted his work of destruction with savage energy. He was a type of the Jewish fanatics who afterwards thirsted and plotted for his life, and the forerunner of the cruel zealots of the Inquisition and the Star Chamber in later times. The curse of ritualism is excessive intolerance. Blinded and puffed up with its unwarrantable assumptions, it loses sight of the essential elements of true religion. It sees nothing good in any other system but its own, and employs all methods that it dare, to compel universal conformity. It admits no rival. It alone is right; everything else is wrong, and all kinds of means are justifiable in crushing the heresy that presumes to deny its supreme claims. “Christ and Ritualism,” says Horatius Bonar, “are opposed to each other, as light is to darkness. The cross and the crucifix cannot agree. Either ritualism will banish Christ or Christ will banish ritualism.”

[p. 18] III. Is distinguished by his ardent study and defence of traditional religionism.—“And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in my mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers” (ver. 14). The apostle had studied the Mosaic law under the ablest tutors of his day. He knew Judaism by heart and won a distinguished reputation for learning and for his strict adherence to the minutest details of traditional legalism. He was one of the ablest champions of the Mosaic system. The zealous ritualist spends his days and nights in studying, not the Word of God, but the sayings of men and the rules of the Church handed down by the traditions of past generations. Divine revelation is ignored, and human authority unduly exalted. His studies are misdirected, and his zeal misspent. He is wasting his energy in defending a lifeless organism. No man can honestly and prayerfully study God’s Word and catch its meaning, and remain a mere ritualist.

Lessons.—1. Ritualism is the worship of external forms. 2. It breeds a spirit of intolerance and persecution. 3. It supplants true religion.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 13, 14. Mistaken Zeal—

  1. May create a reputation for religious devotion.—“Ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion” (ver. 13).
  2. Breeds the spirit of violent persecution.—“How that beyond measure I persecuted the Church of God, and wasted it” (ver. 13).
  3. Makes one ambitious for superiority.—“Profited . . . above many my equals, . . . being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers” (ver. 14).
  4. Is neither good nor wise.
  5. Stores up a retrospect of bitter and humiliating regret.

Review of a Misspent Life.—1. A sincere convert will not shun to make confession of his wicked life, not omitting anything which may tend to a just aggravation of it, not in a boasting manner, but that the freedom of God’s grace may be commended. 2. That the Scriptures were indited by the Spirit of God, and the penmen not actuated with human policy, appears from this, with other evidences in the Scripture itself, that they concealed not their own faults, but blazed them to the world when the glory of God did so require. 3. Though the Church of God, as to the inward estate, cannot be utterly wasted, neither can the outward state be so far decayed as to cease to be, yet the Lord may so far give way to the rage of persecutors that the outward face and beauty of the Church may be totally marred, the members partly killed, partly scattered, the public ordinances suppressed, and the public assemblies interrupted. 4. The life and way of some engaged in a false religion may be so blameless and, according to the dictates of their deluded conscience, so strict, as that it may be a copy unto those who profess the true religion and a reproof for their palpable negligence. 5. As our affections of love, joy, hatred, anger, and grief are by nature so corrupt that even the choicest of them, if not brought in subjection to the Word by the Spirit, will lay forth themselves upon forbidden and unlawful objects, so our zeal and fervency of spirit will bend itself more toward the maintenance of error than of truth. Error is the birth of our own invention; so is not truth.—Fergusson.

True and False Zeal.

I. Zeal is a certain fervency of spirit arising out of a mixture of love and anger, causing men earnestly to maintain the worship of God and all things pertaining thereto, and moving them to grief and anger when God is in any way dishonoured.

[p. 19] II. Paul was zealous for the outward observance of the law and for Pharisaical unwritten traditions.

III. He himself condemns his zeal because it was against the Word, and tended to maintain unwritten traditions, and justification by the works of the law, out of Christ. What Paul did in his religion we are to do in the profession of the Gospel. 1. We are to addict and set ourselves earnestly to maintain the truth of the Gospel. 2. We are to be angry in ourselves and grieved when God is dishonoured and His Word disobeyed. 3. We are not to give liberty to the best of our natural affections as to zeal, but mortify and rule them by the Word.—Perkins.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 15–19.

The Imperative Claims of a Divine Commission—

I. Are independent of personal merit.—“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace” (ver. 15). From the beginning the apostle was Divinely destined to fulfil his high vocation. His Hebrew birth and Hellenistic culture combined to prepare him for his future work. When he developed into a hot persecutor of the Christian faith he seemed far away from his life-mission. But a change took place, and it soon became apparent that, not on the ground of any merit of his own, but because it pleased God, the training from his birth was the best possible preparation for his lofty calling. We cannot see far into the future or forecast the issue of our own plans or of those we form for others.

“There is a Divinity that shapes our ends,
 Rough hew them as we may.”

The Divine element in our lives becomes more evident as we faithfully do the duty imposed on us. Joseph recognised this when he declared to his brethren, “It was not you that sent me hither, but God” (Gen. xlv. 8).

II. Are based on an unmistakably Divine revelation.—“To reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the heathen” (ver. 16). The dazzling appearance of Christ before his eyes, and the summons of His voice addressed to Saul’s bodily ears, formed the special mode in which it pleased God to call him to the apostleship. But there was also the inward revelation of Christ to his heart by the Holy Ghost. It was this which wrought in him the great spiritual change and inspired him to be a witness for Christ to the Gentiles. His Judaic prejudices were swept away, and he became the champion of a universal Gospel. The same revelation that made Paul a Christian made him the apostle of mankind. The true preacher carries within his own spiritually renovated nature evidence and authority of his Divine commission.

“This is what makes him the crowd-drawing preacher,
 There’s a background of God to each hard-working feature;
 Every word that he speaks has been fierily furnaced
 In a blast of a life which has struggled in earnest.”

III. Are superior to the functions of human counsel.—“I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me” (vers. 16, 17). The counsel of the wise and good is valuable, and ordinarily should be diligently sought and thoughtfully pondered. But when God calls, the commission is beyond either the advice or the opposition of men. Paul had reached a state into which no human authority could lift him, and from which it could not dislodge him. He might legitimately confer with others as to methods of work, but his call to work was imposed upon him by a power to which all human counsellors and ecclesiastical magnates must submit. [p. 20] Channing once said: “The teacher to whom are committed the infinite realities of the spiritual world, the sanctions of eternity, the powers of the life to come, has instruments to work with which turn to feebleness all other means of influence.”

IV. Stimulate to active service.—“But I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus” (ver. 17). Immediately after his conversion the history tells us, “Straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues” (Acts ix. 20). In Arabia, a country of the Gentiles, he doubtless preached the Gospel, as he did before and after at Damascus, and thus demonstrated the independence of his apostolic commission. A call to preach demands immediate response and impels to earnest and faithful endeavour. It is said that Whitefield’s zealous spirit exhausted all its energies in preaching, and his full dedication to God was honoured by unbounded success. The effect produced by his sermons was indescribable, arising in a great degree from the most perfect forgetfulness of self during the solemn moment of declaring the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. His evident sincerity impressed every hearer and is said to have forcibly struck Lord Chesterfield when he heard him at Lady Huntingdon’s. The preacher, as the ambassador for Christ, is eager to declare His message, and anxious it should be understood and obeyed.

V. Are recognised by the highest ecclesiastical authority.—“Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and . . . James the Lord’s brother” (vers. 18, 19). The claims of Paul to the apostleship, evidenced by such supernatural signs and such solid Christian work and patient suffering, were at length acknowledged by the chief leaders of the mother Church in Jerusalem. Good work advertises itself, and sooner or later compels recognition. What an eventful meeting of the first Gospel pioneers, and how momentous the influence of such an interview and consultation! Though the call of God is unacknowledged, ridiculed, and opposed, its duties must be faithfully discharged. The day of ample reward will come.

Lessons.—1. God only can make the true preacher. 2. A call to preach involves suffering and toil. 3. The fruit of diligent and faithful work will certainly appear.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 15–17. The Conversion and Vocation of St. Paul.

I. The causes of St. Paul’s conversion.—1. The good pleasure of God. 2. His separation from the womb, which is an act of God’s counsel whereby He sets men apart to be members of Christ and to be His servants in this or that office. 3. His vocation by grace—the accomplishment of both the former in the time which God had appointed.

II. The manner of his vocation.—“To reveal His Son in me.” 1. By preparation. God humbled and subdued the pride and stubbornness of his heart and made him tractable and teachable. 2. By instruction. (1) Propounding unto him the commandment of the Gospel, to repent and believe in Christ. (2) Offering to him the promise of remission of sins and life everlasting when he believed. 3. By a real and lively teaching when God made Paul in his heart answer the calling. Ministers of Christ must learn Christ as Paul learned Him.

III. The end of Paul’s conversion.—To preach Christ among the Gentiles. 1. Christ is the substance or subject-matter of the whole Bible. 2. To preach Christ is: (1) To teach the doctrine of the incarnation of Christ, and His offices as King, Prophet, and Priest. (2) That faith is an instrument to apprehend and apply Christ. (3) To certify and reveal to every hearer that it is the will of God to [p. 21] save him by Christ if he will receive Him. (4) That he is to apply Christ with His benefits to himself in particular. 3. To preach to the Gentiles: (1) Because the prophecies of the calling of the Gentiles must be fulfilled. (2) Because the division between the Jews and Gentiles is abolished.

IV. Paul’s obedience to the calling of God (vers. 16, 17).—1. God’s Word, preached or written, does not depend on the authority of any man—no, not on the authority of the apostles themselves. 2. There is no consultation or deliberation to be used at any time touching the holding or not holding of our religion. 3. Our obedience to God must be without consultation. We must first try what is the will of God, and then absolutely put it into execution, leaving the issue to God. 4. Paul goes into Arabia and Damascus, and becomes a teacher to his professed enemies.—Perkins.

Vers. 15, 16. Conversion as illustrated by that of St. Paul.—In the case of St. Paul there are many circumstances not paralleled in the general experience of Christians; but in its essential features, in the views with which it was accompanied and the effects it produced, it was exactly the same as every one must experience before he can enter into the kingdom of God.

I. Its causes.—1. Paul was chosen by God before his birth to be a vessel of honour. “It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb.” Are not all genuine Christians addressed as “elect of God” or chosen of God, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ? Why should not the real Christian give scope to those emotions of gratitude which such reflections will inspire? 2. The more immediate cause was the call of Divine grace. “And called me by His grace.” There is a general call in the Gospel addressed to all men indiscriminately. There is, in every instance of real conversion, another and inward call, by which the Spirit applies the general truth of the Gospel to the heart. By this interior call Christ apprehends, lays hold on the soul, stops it in its impenitent progress, and causes it to hear His voice.

II. The means by which conversion is effected.—“To reveal His Son in me.” The principal method which the Spirit adopts in subduing the heart of a sinner is a spiritual discovery of Christ. There is an outward revelation of Christ—in the Scriptures; and an internal, of which the understanding and the heart are the seat. 1. The Spirit reveals the greatness and dignity of Christ. 2. The transcendent beauty and glory of Christ. 3. The suitableness, fulness, and sufficiency of Christ to supply all our wants and relieve all our miseries.

III. The effect of conversion on St. Paul.—“Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.” He set himself without hesitation or demur to discharge the duties of his heavenly vocation. 1. His compliance with the will of Christ was immediate. 2. Universal and impartial. 3. Constant and persevering.—Robert Hall.

Ver. 16. The Qualification of the True Minister

  1. Begins in an unmistakable revelation of Christ to his own soul.—“To reveal His Son in me.”
  2. Urges him to declare the Gospel to the most needy.—“That I might preach Him among the heathen.”
  3. Raises him above the necessity of mere human authority.—“Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.”

Ver. 17. The Divine Call to the Apostleship.—1. That extraordinary way whereby the Lord made known His mind to the penmen of Scripture was so infallible in itself and so evident to those to whom it came to be no delusion that they were above all doubt and needed not to advise with the best of men in order to their confirmation about the reality of it. [p. 22] 2. The Lord maketh sometimes the first piece of public service as hazardous, uncouth, and unsuccessful as any wherein He employs them afterwards, that His ministers may be taught to depend more on God’s blessing than on human probabilities, and that they may give proof of their obedience. Thus it was with Moses (Exod. ii. 10), and Jeremiah (Jer. i. 19). 3. The apostles were not fixed to any certain charge, as ordinary ministers are. Their charge was the whole world. They went from place to place as the necessities of people required, or as God by His providence and Spirit directed.—Fergusson.

Ver. 18. Requirement of a Preparation for Work.—“I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.” 1. Affording opportunity for thought and self-testing. 2. Gives leisure for study and forming plans for future service. 3. Is often the prelude of a busy and prosperous career.

Vers. 18, 19. The Divine Call acknowledged.—1. That nothing of Peter’s supposed supremacy over Paul and the rest of the apostles can be gathered from this place appears from this, that Paul went first to his work before he came to Peter, and that his business with Peter was not to receive ordination from him or to evidence his subjection to him, but from respect and reverence to give him a friendly visit. 2. It ought to be the endeavour of Christ’s ministers to entertain love and familiarity one with another, as also to make their doing so evident to others, it being most unseemly for those who preach the Gospel of peace to others to live in discord among themselves. 3. As ministers may and ought to meet sometimes together, to evidence and entertain mutual love and concord, and because of that mutual inspection which they ought to have one of another, so their meeting ought neither to be so frequent nor of so long continuance that their flocks suffer prejudice.—Fergusson.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 20–24.

God glorified in His Servant

I. By the undoubted truthfulness of his statements.—“Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not” (ver. 20). The assertions of the apostle flatly contradicted the allegations of his enemies. They insinuated that Paul was but a messenger of the authorities of the Church at Jerusalem, and that all he knew of the Gospel had been learned from the twelve. So far from this being the case it is evident that for several years he had been preaching the Gospel, and had not seen any of the twelve, except Peter and James, and that only for a fortnight at Jerusalem about three years after his conversion. “In the present case,” remarks Professor Jowett, “it is a matter of life and death to the apostle to prove his independence from the twelve.” Having said all he can to substantiate his point, he concludes by a solemn appeal to God as to his veracity: “Behold, before God, I lie not.” The apostle never makes an appeal like this lightly, but only in support of a vital truth he is specially anxious to enforce (Rom. ix. 1; 2 Cor. i. 17, 18, 23; 1 Thess. ii. 5).

“When fiction rises pleasing to the eye;
 Men will believe, because they love the lie;
 But truth herself, if clouded with a frown,
 Must have some solemn proof to pass her down.”—Churchill.

The vigorous and faithful maintenance of the truth brings glory to God.

II. By his evangelistic activity.—“Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia” (ver. 21). During this tour very probably the Churches were founded, referred to in Acts xv. 23, 41. “A man’s work,” says George [p. 23] Macdonald, “does not fall upon him by chance, but it is given him to do; and everything well done belongs to God’s kingdom, and everything ill done to the kingdom of darkness.” God is the sublime end of all human activity, and our powers can never be more nobly employed than in expounding His will, unfolding His gracious character, advancing the interests of His kingdom, and striving to promote His glory among the children of men. Man is never so great, so luminous, so grand as when he is doing work for God with the light and help of God; and all such work is a revelation of the character and purposes of God open to the eyes of all who will see.

III. By the reputation of his changed life.—“And was unknown by face unto the Churches: . . . they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preached the faith which once he destroyed” (vers. 22, 23). The conversion of Saul of Tarsus was one of the most striking events in the early history of the Church. It was a marvel to all who had known his previous life. It was an unanswerable testimony to the power of the Gospel, and an argument that has been used in all ages to illustrate the possibility of the salvation of the worst of sinners. It is said the Duke of Burgundy was born terrible. He would indulge in such paroxysms of rage that those who were standing by would tremble for his life. He was hard-hearted, passionate, incapable of bearing the least opposition to his wishes, fond of gambling, violent hunting, the gratifications of the table, abandoned to his pleasures, barbarous, and born to cruelty. With this was united a genius of the most extraordinary kind; quickness of humour, depth and justice of thought, versatility and acuteness of mind. The prodigy was, that in a short space of time the grace of God made him a new man. He became a prince, affable, gentle, moderate, patient, modest, humble, austere only to himself, attentive to his duties, and sensible of their extent. If we could lay a hand on the fly-wheel of the Scotch express, running fifty or sixty miles an hour, and stop it, we should perform an astounding miracle. But this is what God does in His miracles of conversion. He laid His mighty hand on the fly-wheel of Paul’s life, and not only stopped its mad career, but turned it right round in the opposite direction. The persecutor becomes a preacher.

IV. By the recognition of His Divine call.—“And they glorified God in me” (ver. 24). The attempt to disparage the authority of Paul was the work of a few malcontents, who sought to ruin his influence in order to extend their own. The Churches of Jerusalem and Judea, though many of them had not seen the apostle, acknowledged and praised God for the Divine work done in him and by him. A few false teachers may work much mischief, but they cannot overturn the work of God, nor prevent its full recognition. The faithful servant may safely leave his reputation in the hands of God. It lifts humanity, especially Christianised humanity, into special dignity, when it is discovered that God is glorified in man.

Lessons.—1. The Gospel elevates man by transforming him. 2. The conscientious worker has God on his side. 3. God is glorified by obedient toil.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Ver. 20. Self-conscious Truth.—1. The choicest servants of Christ may be looked upon as liars and unworthy to be trusted, even by those to whom they are sent, and yet they must not give over to preach as knowing that the Word spoken by them doth still get credit from some, and will beget trust to itself from others, and for the rest it will seal up their condemnation and make them inexcusable. 2. It is not unlawful for Christians to take an oath, providing it be with these conditions: (1) That the thing we swear [p. 24] be truth. (2) That there be weighty reasons for taking an oath. (3) That we swear only by the name of God, and not by the creatures, seeing none but God can bear witness to the secrets of the heart.—Fergusson.

Vers. 21–24. The Self-evidencing Proof of a Divinely commissioned Messenger.—1. Seen in disinterested labours and travels (vers. 21, 22). 2. Seen in a remarkable change of character and conduct (ver. 23). 3. Seen in that the glory of his work is ascribed to God (ver. 24).

Practical Proofs of Apostleship.

I. Paul went from Jerusalem into Syria and Cilicia.—1. Because he was ordained specially to be the apostle of the Gentiles. 2. Because Cilicia was his own country, and his love to his country was great. If any apostle above the rest be the pastor and universal bishop of the Church over the whole world, it is Paul and not Peter.

II. Paul was known to the Christian Jews only by hearsay, because it is the office of an apostle not to build on the foundation of another or to succeed any man in his labour, but to plant and found the Church of the New Testament.

III. Seeing the intent of the devil and wicked men is to destroy the faith, we must have a special care of our faith.—1. We must look that our faith be a true faith. 2. We must keep and lock up our faith in some safe and sure place—in the storehouse or treasury of a good conscience. 3. Our care must be to increase in faith that our hearts may be rooted and grounded in the love of God.

IV. Our duty is to sanctify and glorify the name of God in every work of His.—Neglect in glorifying and praising God is a great sin.—Perkins.

Ver. 24. God glorified in Good Men.—We are taught to honour God in man and man in God. We are taught to avoid, on the one hand, all creature idolatry, and, on the other, that cynical severity, or ungrateful indifference to the Author of all good in man, which undervalues or neglects the excellencies which ought to be held up to admiration that they may be imitated by ourselves and others. Each of these extremes robs God of His just revenue of grateful praise. In what does creature idolatry consist but in honouring and trusting in the natural and acquired excellencies of creatures to the exclusion of God? But is there then no wisdom, no might, no excellence, in man? As it were absurd to deny this, it would be affectation to pretend to overlook it. Admire and deny not this wisdom, acknowledge this efficiency, and affect not to lower its estimate; only glorify God who worketh all in all. If He has chosen any of them to be more eminently His instruments for the furtherance of His purposes of mercy to mankind, He does it by virtue of His sovereignty. If He continues their useful lives, whilst you have their light rejoice in the light and glorify Him from whom it comes as its original and source; and when He chooses to quench these stars of His right hand in the darkness of death, still glorify Him. As to us, this is to remind us of our dependence on Him, who appointed their orbit and invested them with their different degrees of glory; and as to them, though their lustre fades from these visible skies, it is that it may be rekindled in superior glory in the kingdom of their Father.—R. Watson.


 [p. 25]

CHAPTER II.

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.

Ver. 1. Then fourteen years after.—From Paul’s conversion inclusive. I went again to Jerusalem.—The same visit referred to in Acts xv., when the council of the apostles and Church decided that Gentile Christians need not be circumcised.

Ver. 2. I went up by revelation.—Quite consistent with the fact that he was sent as a deputy from the Church at Antioch (Acts xv. 2). The revelation suggested to him that this deputation was the wisest course. Communicated privately to them which were of reputation.—It was necessary that the Jerusalem apostles should know beforehand that the Gospel Paul preached to the Gentiles was the same as theirs, and had received Divine confirmation in the results it wrought on the Gentile converts.

Ver. 3. Neither Titus [not even Titus], being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.—The apostles, constrained by the firmness of Paul and Barnabas, did not compel or insist on his being circumcised. Thus they virtually sanctioned Paul’s course among the Gentiles, and admitted his independence as an apostle. To have insisted on Jewish usages for Gentile converts would have been to make them essential parts of Christianity.

Ver. 4. False brethren unawares [in an underhand manner] brought in privily to spy out.—As foes in the guise of friends, wishing to destroy and rob us of our liberty—from the yoke of the ceremonial law.

Ver. 5. To whom we gave place by subjection not for an hour.—We would willingly have yielded for love, if no principle was at issue, but not in the way of subjection. Truth precise, unaccommodating, abandons nothing that belongs to itself, admits nothing that is inconsistent with it (Bengel).

Ver. 6. They in conference added nothing to me.—As I did not by conference impart to them aught at my conversion, so they now did not impart aught additional to me above what I already knew. Another evidence of the independence of his apostleship.

Ver. 9. They gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship.—Recognising me as a colleague in the apostleship, and that the Gospel I preached to the Gentiles by special revelation was the same as theirs.

Ver. 10. Remember the poor.—Of the Jewish Christians in Judea then distressed. Paul’s past care for their poor prompted this request. His subsequent zeal in the same cause was the answer to their appeal (Acts. xi. 29, 30; Rom. xv. 26, 27; 1 Cor. xvi. 3; 2 Cor. ix. 1; Acts xxiv. 17).

Ver. 11. When Peter was come to Antioch I withstood him to the face.—The strongest proof of the independence of his apostleship in relation to the other apostles, and an unanswerable argument against the Romish dogma of the supremacy of St. Peter.

Ver. 13. The other Jews dissembled likewise with him.—The question was not whether Gentiles were admissible to the Christian covenant without becoming circumcised, but whether the Gentile Christians were to be admitted to social intercourse with the Jewish Christians without conforming to the Jewish institution. It was not a question of liberty and of bearing with others’ infirmities, but one affecting the essence of the Gospel, whether the Gentiles are to be virtually compelled to live as do the Jews in order to be justified.

Ver. 14. Walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel.—Which teaches that justification by legal works and observances is inconsistent with redemption by Christ. Paul alone here maintained the truth against Judaism, as afterwards against heathenism (2 Tim. iv. 16, 17).

Ver. 17. Is therefore Christ the minister of sin?—Thus to be justified by Christ it was necessary to sink to the level of Gentiles—to become sinners, in fact. But are we not thus making Christ a minister of sin? Away with the profane thought! No; the guilt is not in abandoning the law, but in seeking it again when abandoned. Thus, and thus alone, we convict ourselves of transgression (Lightfoot).

Ver. 19. I through the law am dead to the law.—By believing union to Christ in His death we, being considered dead with Him, are severed from the law’s past power over us.

Ver. 21. If righteousness came by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.—Died needlessly, without just cause. Christ’s having died shows that the law has no power to justify us, for if the law can justify or make us righteous, the death of Christ is superfluous.

 

[p. 26] MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 1–9.

Confirmatory Proofs of a Divine Call—

I. Seen in a prudent consultation with the acknowledged leaders of the church (vers. 1, 2).—The men of reputation referred to in these verses are not so called by way of irony, but because of their recognised authority in the mother Church. Paul was not summoned to Jerusalem, but Divinely directed to take the journey. Neither his teaching nor his office was called in question, nor did he fear the most searching inquiry into his commission. Conscious of his Divine call, he claimed equality of status with the rest of the apostles and explained to them and to the Church the principles and methods of the Gospel he preached. He had nothing to fear, whatever might be the judgment of the Church leaders in Jerusalem. He expected from them nothing but sympathy and encouragement in his work, and he hailed with joy the opportunity of sharing the counsel of men as interested as himself in the success of the Gospel. With his God-given convictions and views, it was impossible for him to meet the apostles on any other ground than that of perfect equality.

II. Seen in a prompt and stern refusal to compromise principle (vers. 3–5).—The object of Paul’s visit to Jerusalem was to discuss a vital principle of the Gospel—the right of the Gentiles to the privileges of the Gospel without observing the works of the Jewish law. A misunderstanding at that critical moment might have imperilled the liberty of the Gospel. The presence of Barnabas and Titus was significant—the one a pure Jew, a man of gentle disposition and generous impulse; and the other a Gentile convert, representing the world of the uncircumcised. It is to the credit of the Church leaders at Jerusalem that, with their strong Jewish prejudices, they admitted that the legal rite of circumcision must not be imposed on Gentile converts. They were so convinced that this was the will of God, and that He had already sanctioned this an essential feature of the Gospel, that they dared do no other. An attempt was made, not by the apostles, but by certain “false brethren,” to insist that Titus should be circumcised; but this was promptly and stoutly opposed. A concession on this point would have been fatal to the universality of the Gospel—the whole Gentile world would have been trammelled with the bondage of legal ceremonies. It was then that the great battle of Christian liberty was fought and won. The victory was another testimony of the validity and power of the Divine commission with which Paul was entrusted.

III. Seen in the inability of the wisest leaders to add anything to the Divine authority.—“But of these who seemed to be somewhat . . . in conference added nothing to me” (ver. 6). When Paul was called to the apostleship he “conferred not with flesh and blood”; now he affirms that flesh and blood did not confer anything on him. In conference and debate with the chiefs of the Church he showed himself their equal, and on the great essentials of the Gospel he was in perfect agreement with them. Though Paul is too modest to say it, so far from his learning anything from them, they were more likely to learn something from him, especially as to the wider scope of the Gospel. “In doctrine Paul holds the primacy in the band of the apostles. While all were inspired by the Spirit of Christ, the Gentile apostle was in many ways a more richly furnished man than any of the rest. The Paulinism of Peter’s first epistle goes to show that the debt was on the other side. Their earlier privileges and priceless store of recollections of all that Jesus did and taught were matched on Paul’s side by a penetrating logic, a breadth and force of intellect applied to the facts of revelation, and a burning intensity of spirit which in their combination was unique. The Pauline teaching, as it appears in the New Testament, bears [p. 27] in the highest degree the marks of original genius, the stamp of a mind whose inspiration is its own” (Findlay).

IV. Seen in winning the recognition of a special mission and of equality in the apostleship.—“They saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, . . . and perceived the grace that was given unto me,” etc. (vers. 7–9). Paul won the confidence and admiration of his fellow-apostles. They listened with candour and ever-deepening interest to his explanations, and, whatever might have been their prejudices, they frankly acknowledged his Divine commission. What a memorable day was that when James, Peter, John, and Paul met face to face! “Amongst them they have virtually made the New Testament and the Christian Church. They represent the four sides of the one foundation of the City of God. Of the evangelists, Matthew holds affinity with James; Mark with Peter; and Luke with Paul. James clings to the past and embodies the transition from Mosaism to Christianity. Peter is the man of the present, quick in thought and action, eager, buoyant, susceptible. Paul holds the future in his grasp and schools the unborn nations. John gathers present, past, and future into one, lifting us into the region of eternal life and love.”

Lessons.A Divine call.—1. Confers the necessary qualifications to carry out its mission. 2. Demands courage and fidelity. 3. Compels public recognition.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 1, 2. Truth its Own Evidence.—1. Though the minister of Jesus Christ is not to depend upon the approbation of others for confirmation of his doctrine, as if he were uncertain before their testimony is added, yet he is not to be so self-willed as to misregard what others judge or think, but ought to demit himself so far as to give a friendly account of the doctrine, that mistakes arising from misinformation may be removed and the joint consent of others to the truth obtained. 2. As there are always some in the Church of God who have deservedly more reputation than others, so Christian prudence will teach a man to be so far from striving against such that he will endeavour, by giving due respect to them, to receive approbation from such, that he may be in a better capacity to do good to others. 3. Nothing marreth the success of the Gospel more than difference of judgments and strifes and debates among eminent preachers, many resolving to believe nothing till preachers agree among themselves, and many stumbling-blocks are cast before people by the venting of passions, jealousies, animosities, and revenge. Paul endeavoured to get the consent of the other apostles to the doctrines preached by him, lest by the calumnies of his adversaries his preaching should be useless.—Fergusson.

Vers. 3–5. The Power of Truth.

  1. Superior to ceremonial observances (ver. 3).
  2. Detects and exposes the wiliest tactics of false teachers (ver. 4).
  3. Is uncompromising in its attitude towards the subtlest errors (ver. 5).

Vers. 4, 5. False Brethren and their Treatment.

I. The Church of God on earth, even at the best, hath wicked men and hypocrites in it.

II. They who teach Christ, joining some other thing with Him in the cause of salvation, are said to creep in, because in appearance they maintain Christ; yet because they add something to Christ, they neither enter nor continue in the true Church with any good warrant from God.

III. No man can set down the precise time when errors had their beginning, for the authors thereof enter in secretly, not observed of men.

IV. The false brethren urged circumcision to bring the converts [p. 28] into bondage.—They that be of a corporation stand for their liberties. What a shame it is that men should love bondage and neglect the spiritual liberty which they have by Christ.

V. The false brethren urged the apostles to use circumcision but once; but they would not yield so much as once, because their act would have tended to the prejudice of Christian liberty in all places. Julian, sitting in a chair of state, gave gold to his soldiers one by one, commanding them to cast frankincense so much as a grain into the fire that lay upon a heathenish altar. Christian soldiers refused to do it, and they which had not refused afterwards recalled their act and willingly suffered death. We are not to yield the least part of the truth of the Gospel. This truth is more precious than the whole world beside. There is no halting between two religions.

VI. The apostles gave no place by way of subjection.—They willingly suffered their doctrine to be tried, yet they were not bound to subjection. We are to give place by meek and patient bearing of that which we cannot mend, but we are not to give place by subjection.

VII. If circumcision be made a necessary cause of salvation, the truth of the Gospel does not continue, and falsehood comes in the room.—Perkins.

Ver. 4. A Spy.—Captain Turner Ashby was a young officer in the Confederate army, the idol of the troops for his general bravery, but especially for his cleverness in gathering information of the enemy. On one occasion he dressed himself in a farmer’s suit of homespun that he borrowed and hired a plough-horse to personate a rustic horse-doctor. With his saddlebags full of some remedy for spavin or ringbone, he went to Chambersburg, and returned in the night with an immense amount of information. His career was one full of romantic episode.

Ver. 5. Fidelity to Truth.—1. Though much may be done for composing Church differences by using meekness and forbearance towards those who oppose themselves, yet we are not for peace’ sake to quit the least part of truth. Thus Paul, who for lawful ceding became all things to all men, would not give place by way of subjection, so as to yield the cause to the adversaries; neither would he do anything, in its own nature indifferent, that would be an evidence of yielding. 2. A minister, when called to confess and avow truth, hath not only his own peace with God and keeping of a good conscience to look to, but also the condition of his flock, who will be shaken or confirmed in the truth by his faint or bold and faithful confession. 3. It is not enough that people have the name of the Gospel among them or some truths mixed with errors; but all, and especially ministers, should endeavour to have the Gospel in purity and integrity, free from any mixture of contrary errors.—Fergusson.

The Truth not to be yielded.—Shortly after James I. came to the throne of England he set up a claim to all the small estates in Cumberland and Westmorland, on the plea that the Statesmen were merely the tenants of the Crown. The Statesmen met, to the number of two thousand, at Ratten Heath, between Kendal and Staveley, where they came to the resolution that “they had won their lands by the sword and were able to hold them by the same.” After that meeting no further claim was made to their estates on the part of the Crown.

Vers. 6–9. Recognition of a Special Mission.

  1. By men of reputation who confessed their inability to augment its authority (ver. 6).
  2. Acknowledging that the commission was distinctly Divine (vers. 7, 8).
  3. Confirmed by cordially admitting [p. 29] the messenger into the fellowship of highest service (ver. 9).

Vers. 8, 9. Divine Blessing the Highest Sanction of Ministerial Authority.—1. It is not the pains of ministers, or any virtue in the Word preached, from whence success flows, but from the effectual working of the Spirit. Paul ascribed the success both of his own and Peter’s ministry to this. 2. Whom God doth call to any employment, and chiefly whom He calls to the ministry, He fitteth with gifts and abilities suitable thereto. James, Cephas, and John did not acknowledge Paul to be an apostle called by God, but on perceiving that grace and gifts, ordinary and extraordinary, were bestowed upon him. 3. We ought not to withhold our approbation, especially when it is craved, from that which by evident signs and reasons we perceive to be approved of God, though the giving of our approbation may disoblige those who pretend much friendship towards us.—Fergusson.

The Efficacy of the Christian Ministry.

  1. That grace or power to regenerate is not included in the Word preached, as virtue to heal in a medicine. To regenerate is the proper work of God.
  2. That grace is not inseparably annexed and tied to the Word preached, for to some it is the savour of death unto death.
  3. The preaching of the Word is an external instrument of faith and regeneration, and the proper effect of it is to declare or signify.
  4. The apostles at Jerusalem acknowledged Paul to be an apostle because he had the gifts of an apostle, and because his ministry was powerful among the Gentiles.
  5. As all minsters in their places are pillars, they are hereby admonished to be constant in the truth against all enemies whatsoever.
  6. As ministers are pillars, we are taught to cleave to them and their ministry at all times—in life and death.—Perkins.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verse 10.

Christianity and Poverty.

I. Christianity has ever been the friend of the poor.—1. The poor who are made so by accepting Christianity. Accepting Christ often means the loss of friends, of status, of fortune. The discovery of this result among the first Christians might have much to do in the formation of a common fund. There are many Jews and heathen to-day who are convinced of the truth of Christianity but hesitate to make a public avowal of their belief because of the apparent impossibility of gaining a livelihood and the certainty of social ostracism. Christian missionaries are not in a position to guarantee their support, nor do they wish to encourage, a system that might easily degenerate into wholesale bribery. There are converts who run all risks and deliberately accept Christ and poverty. All such the Christian Church, often at great sacrifice, does its best to befriend.

2. The poor who are made so by unavoidable calamity.—Judea was devastated by famine in the reign of Claudius Cæsar, and the apostles promptly organised relief for the sufferers in the Jewish Churches (Acts xi. 27–30). Christianity has ever been ready to help the distressed and unfortunate. The hospitals, alms-houses, and other benevolent institutions that abound are substantial monuments of the practical benevolence of the Christian Church. Christianity is the best friend of the people.

II. Christianity inculcates a zealous and unselfish charity.—“Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same I also was forward [zealous] to do.” Paul had already rendered noble service in this direction, and was prompted [p. 30] by the Spirit of the Gospel to continue to do so. He was zealous in good works, though he stoutly denied any merit in them to justify the sinner. His first concern was to help the Jewish poor, though many of them impugned his apostolic authority and strove to ruin his influence. As champion of the Gentiles he employed the wealth of his converts in supplying the needs of his famishing Jewish brethren. Christian charity is superior to the jealousies of sects and parties, and even to personal insult and wrong. Behind the hand of the generous alms-giver is the heart of love.

III. Christianity elevates and enriches the poor.—It enjoins temperance, industry, honesty, and perseverance—the practice of which has raised many from poverty to wealth. The man who has prospered should never forget the claims of the poor. It is said that a certain man dreamed that the Saviour appeared to him and upbraided him with giving so little to His cause. The man replied, “I can’t afford it.” “Very well,” said the Saviour; “let it be so. But do you remember, that when that business panic happened, how you prayed to Me to keep you out of difficulties? and I heard your prayer and tided you over the trouble. And do you remember also, when your little child was sick, how you prayed that her life might be spared, and again I heard your prayer and restored her? But now let it be an understanding between us that henceforth when you are in trouble I do nothing for you, seeing you can’t afford to help Me.” The man’s conscience was touched, and he exclaimed, “Lord, take what I have; it is Thine.”

Lessons.—1. Christianity is the source of the highest philanthropy. 2. Is the unfailing hope and comfort of the poor. 3. Has achieved its greatest triumphs among the poor.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Ver. 10. Remember the Poor.

I. The Church of Jerusalem was in extreme poverty.—1. Because the poorer sort received the Gospel. 2. Because the richer were deprived of their riches for their profession of the name of Christ.

II. It is the office of pastors and teachers, not only to preach and dispense the Word, but also to have care of the poor.

III. Satisfaction, recompense, and restitution are the way to life by the appointment of God.—1. He must restore who is the cause of any wrong or loss to others and all that are accessory. 2. Restitution is to be made to him that is wronged and bears the loss if he be known and alive; if he be dead, to his heirs; if all be dead, to the poor. 3. The things to be restored are those which are of us unjustly received or detained, either known to us or unknown. 4. As to the order of restitution, things certain must first be restored, and things uncertain after.

IV. It is not enough for us to give good words and wish well, but we must in our places and calling do our endeavour that relief may be sealed to our poor.—1. The charge was great to maintain the altar of the Lord in the Old Testament; the poor come in the room of the altar. 2. The poor represent the person of Christ. 3. Compassion in us is a pledge or an impression of the mercy that is in God towards us, and by it we may know or feel in ourselves that mercy belongs unto us. The observing of the commandment of relief is the enriching of us all.—Perkins.

Christian Duty to the Poor.—1. It is frequently the lot of those who are rich in grace to be poor in the things of the present life, and driven into such straits as to be forced to live upon some charitable supply from others, [p. 31] God seeing it convenient hereby to wean them from worldly contentments that heaven may be more longed after and more sweet when it comes. 2. Though those who are our own poor, within the bounds where we live, are chiefly to be relieved by us, yet in cases of extremity the poor who live remote from us are also to be supplied. 3. Ministers ought to press upon the people, not only duties which are easy and cost them nought, but also those that are burdensome and expensive, especially that they would willingly give of those things they enjoy for the supply of others who want.—Fergusson.

The Poor Representative of Christ.—One evening at supper, when one of the boys had said the grace, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest, and bless what Thou hast provided,” a little fellow looked up and said, “Do tell me why the Lord Jesus never comes. We ask Him every day to sit with us, and He never comes!” “Dear child, only believe, and you may be sure He will come, for He does not despise our invitation.” “I shall set a seat,” said the little fellow, and just then there was a knock at the door. A poor frozen apprentice entered, begging a night’s lodging. He was made welcome, the chair stood empty for him, every child wanted him to have his plate, and one was lamenting that his bed was too small for the stranger, who was quite touched by such uncommon attentions. The little one had been thinking hard all the time. “Jesus could not come, and so He sent this poor man in His place: is that it?” “Yes, dear child; that is just it. Every piece of bread and every drink of water that we give to the poor, or the sick, or the prisoners for Jesus’ sake, we give to Him.”—Memoir of John Falk.

Remembrance of the Poor recommended.

I. The nature of the assertion.—1. Remember the work of the poor. 2. The deprivations of the poor. 3. Our remembrance of the poor should be founded on a personal acquaintance with their circumstances. “Indeed, sir,” said a person of large property, “I am a very compassionate man; but to tell you the truth, I do not know any person in want.” He kept aloof from the poor.

II. Obligations to comply with the recommendation.—1. The dictates of humanity require it. 2. The demands of duty. 3. The rights of justice. 4. The claims of interest.

III. Answer objections.—Such as: 1. My circumstances are impoverished and I have nothing to spare. 2. Charity must begin at home. 3. I have a right to do what I will with my own. 4. The poor do not deserve to be remembered.—Beta.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 11–21.

A Fearless Defence of Fundamental Truth—

I. Does not hesitate to impeach a distinguished Church dignitary of inconsistency.—“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed,” etc. (vers. 11–14). Peter had been accustomed to mingle with the Gentile converts on the ground of perfect social equality. Influenced by the fierce bigots of legalism, who insinuated that the circumcised occupied a superior status to the uncircumcised, he withdrew from the social circle of the Gentiles and confined himself to that of his Jewish brethren. The pliability of his impulsive nature led him into this as into other mistakes. To create a social distinction between Jew and Gentile was to undermine the Gospel. Paul saw at a glance the threatened peril, and it needed all his tact and courage to confront it. Though it meant a public impeachment of the sincerity and consistency of one of the most venerated apostles, the champion of the Gentiles did [p. 32] not hesitate. Alone, even Barnabas having for the time being deserted him, he stood up boldly for the truth of the Gospel.

II. Is the opportunity for an authoritative restatement of the truth imperilled (vers. 15–18).—In these verses the apostle again sets forth the fundamental doctrine of justification by faith, without the works of the law. The Judaisers contended that to renounce legal righteousness was in effect to promote sin—to make Christ the minister of sin (ver. 17). Paul retorts the charge on those who made it and showed that they promote sin who set up legal righteousness again (ver. 18). The reproach of the Judaisers was in reality the same that is urged against evangelical doctrine still—that it is immoral, placing the virtuous and vicious in the common category of sinners (Findlay). “The complaint was this,” says Calvin,—“Has Christ therefore come to take away from us the righteousness of the law, to make us polluted who were holy? Nay, Paul says—he repels the blasphemy with detestation. For Christ did not introduce sin but revealed it. He did not rob them of righteousness, but of the false show thereof.”

III. Is made more impressive by showing the effect of the truth on personal experience (vers. 19–21).—In these words the apostle indicates that his own deliverance from the law was effected by being dead to the law—being crucified with Christ; and that his own spiritual life was originated and sustained by a living faith in a loving and self-sacrificing Christ. “Legalism is fatal to the spiritual life in man. Whilst it clouds the Divine character, it dwarfs and petrifies the human. What becomes of the sublime mystery of the life hid with Christ in God, if its existence is made contingent on circumcision and ritual performance? To men who put meat and drink on a level with righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, or in their intercourse with fellow-Christians set points of ceremony above justice, mercy, and faith, the very idea of a spiritual kingdom of God is wanting. The religion of Jesus and of Paul regenerates the heart, and from that centre regulates and hallows the whole ongoing of life. Legalism guards the mouth, the hands, the senses, and imagines that through these it can drill the man into the Divine order. The latter theory makes religion a mechanical system; the former conceives it as an inward, organic life.”

Lessons.—1. The leaven of error is not easily suppressed. 2. True religion has never lacked a race of brave defenders. 3. Experimental religion is the best guarantee of its permanence.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 11–13. Christian Consistency

  1. May be spoilt by yielding to an unworthy fear (ver. 12).
  2. Should be strictly maintained for the sake of others (ver. 13).
  3. Should be defended with intrepid courage (ver. 11).

Ver. 11. An Astute Defender of the Faith.

I. Here we have an example of true virtue, in St. Paul resisting evil to the utmost of his power. In like manner must every one of us resist evil, first in himself and then in them that appertain to him.

II. An example of boldness and liberty in reproving sin.—1. This liberty in reproving is not the fruit of a bold and rash disposition, but is the fruit of God’s Spirit, and is so to be acknowledged. 2. This liberty is to be ordered by a sound mind whereby we are able to give a good account of our reproofs, both for the matter and manner of them. 3. Our admonitions must be seasoned and tempered with love.

III. An example of an ingenuous and honest mind.—When Paul sees Peter he reproves him to the face. Contrary to this is the common practice in [p. 33] backbiting, whispering, and tale-bearing, whereby it comes to pass that when a man is in fault every man knows it save he who is in fault. We see that excellent men, even the chief apostles, are subject to err and be deceived.—Perkins.

Vers. 12, 13. The Power of Example.—1. So weak and inconstant are the best of men that, being left to themselves, the least blast of temptation will make them break off the course of doing well in the very midst, and without respect either to conscience or credit, openly desert it. 2. To separate from a true Church and break off communion with its members cannot be attempted without sin, not though we eschew the offence and stumbling of many. 3. Of so great force is the bad example of men, eminent, gracious, and learned, that not only the weak and infirm, but even those who are strong and richly endowed with both grace and parts, will sometimes be corrupted by it. It is usual for us unawares to esteem such as more than men and being once so far engaged in our esteem of them we do not so narrowly examine their actions as we do those of other men. 4. An inundation of evil examples, though held forth by private Christians, is so impetuous and of such force to carry others along with it, that even the very best of men can hardly stand against it.—Fergusson.

An Erring Apostle.

I. Peter’s sin was simulation.—Among the Gentiles at Antioch he used Christian liberty in eating things forbidden by the ceremonial law; yet after the coming of certain Jews from Jerusalem, he separates himself from the Gentiles, and plays the Jew among the Jews. This act of Peter was not a sin in itself, but the circumstances made it a sin. 1. He not only abstained from meats forbidden by the ceremonial law but withdrew himself from the Gentiles and kept company apart with the Jews. 2. He abstained not among the Jews at Jerusalem, but at Antioch among the Gentiles, where a little before he had openly done the contrary, using his Christian liberty. 3. He used this abstinence when certain Jews came from Jerusalem to search out the liberty of the Gentiles. 4. While Peter seeks to avoid the small offence of some Jews, he incurs a greater offence of all the Gentiles. 5. This act of Peter tended to the overthrowing of Paul’s ministry and the suppressing of the truth of the Gospel.

II. The cause of Peter’s sin was fear of offending the Jews.—It was a sin because he feared man more than God. It was a sin, not of malice, but infirmity. A sin of infirmity is when there is a purpose in the heart not to sin, and yet for all this the sin is committed, by reason the will is over-carried by temptation, or by violence of affection as by fear, anger, lust.

III. The effect of Peter’s sin.—He drew the Jews and Barnabas to the like dissimulation. Here we see the contagion of an evil example. 1. Ministers of the Word must join with good doctrine the example of a good life. 2. Practice in the ministry is a part of the teaching. 3. All superiors are warned to go before their inferiors by good example. 4. The consent of many together is not a note of truth. Peter, Barnabas, and the Jews, all together are deceived; Paul alone has the truth. Ponormitane said, “A layman bringing Scripture is to be preferred before a whole council.” Paphnutius alone had the truth, and the whole council of Nice inclined to error.—Perkins.

Vers. 14–16. Justification by Faith, not by Works.—1. Though private sins, which have not broken forth to a public scandal, are to be rebuked in private, public sins are to receive public rebukes, that public scandal may be removed, and others scared from taking encouragement to do the like (ver. 14). 2. Though the binding power of the ceremonial law was [p. 34] abrogated at Christ’s death, and the practice in some things left as a thing lawful and in itself indifferent, yet the observance, even for that time, was dispensed with more for the Jews’ sake, and was more tolerable in them who were born and educated under that yoke, than in the Gentiles, to whom that law was never given, and so were to observe it, or any part of it, only in case of scandalising the weak Jews by their neglecting of it (ver. 14). 3. Though every man by nature is a child of wrath and enemy to God, yet those born within the visible Church have a right to Church privileges and to enjoy the external means of grace and salvation (ver. 15). 4. The doctrine of justification by faith and not by works was early opposed, and no doctrine so much opposed, because no truth is more necessary to be kept pure, as if it be kept pure several other truths are kept pure also, and if it fall other truths fall with it (ver. 16).—Fergusson.

Ver. 16. Justification by Faith.

I. Man is justified by the mere mercy of God.—And there is excluded by justification all merit of congruity, all meritorious works of preparation wrought by us, all co-operation of man’s will with God’s grace in the effecting of our justification.

II. Man is justified by the mere merit of Christ.—That is, by the meritorious obedience which He wrought in Himself, and not by anything wrought by Him in us.

III. A sinner is justified by mere faith.—That is, nothing within us concurs as a cause of our justification but faith, and nothing apprehends Christ’s obedience for our justification but faith. This will more easily appear if we compare faith, hope, and love. Faith is like a hand that opens itself to receive a gift, and so is neither love nor hope. Love is also a hand, but yet a hand that gives out, communicates, and distributes. For as faith receives Christ into our hearts, so love opens the heart and pours our praise and thanks to God and all manner of goodness to men. Hope is no hand, but an eye that wistfully looks and waits for the good things faith believes. Therefore, it is the only property of faith to clasp and lay hold of Christ and His benefits.

IV. The practice of them that are justified is to believe.—To put their trust in Christ. 1. Faith and practice must reign in the heart and have all at command. We must not go by sense, feeling, reason, but shut our eyes and let faith keep our hearts close to the promise of God. Faith must overrule and command nature and the strongest affections thereof. 2. When we know not what to do by reason of the greatness of our distress, we must fix our hearts on Christ with separation, as he that climbs up a ladder or some steep place: the higher he goes the faster he holds.—Perkins.

Vers. 17, 18. False Methods of Salvation

  1. To seek justification in any other way than through Christ.—“If, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves are found sinners” (ver. 17).
  2. Reflect unjustly on the character of the only Saviour.—“Is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid” (ver. 17).
  3. Aggravate our sin by restoring in practice what we have abandoned in theory.—“For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor” (ver. 18).

Ver. 19. The Christian Dead to the Law.

I. The state in which the apostle describes himself to be.—“I am dead to the law.” Not the moral law of God. Every rational creature in the universe is under its dominion, the believer as well as others. He must escape from existence before he can escape from the law of God. The apostle means he is dead to it as a covenant between God and himself. There still stands the law before him in all its primitive authority, purity, [p. 35] and majesty; he honours it and strives to obey it, and often rejoices in the thought that the time will come when he shall have his soul in a state of perfect conformity to it, but this is all. Its life-giving, death-bringing powers are utterly at an end, and he knows they are at an end. He is dead to all hope from the law, dead to all expectation of heaven or of salvation from it. He builds no more hope on his obedience to it than as though the law had ceased to exist, and no more fear has he of condemnation from it. The believer, dead to the legal covenant, rests from it. The connection between him and it is over, and with it are over the feelings within him, the painful, perturbing, apprehensive, slavish feelings arising out of it.

II. The means whereby the apostle has been brought into the state he describes.—“I through the law am dead to the law.” Suppose a man anxious to pass from one country to another, from a dangerous and wretched country to a safe and happy one. Directly in his road stands a mountain which he cannot pass over, and which he at first imagines he can without much difficulty climb. He tries, but scarcely has he begun to breast it when a precipice stops him. He descends and tries again in another direction. There another precipice or some other obstacle arrests his course; and still ever as he begins his ascent he is baffled, and the little way he contrives to mount serves only to show him more and more of the prodigious height of the mountain, and its stern, rugged, impassable character. At last, wearied and worn, heart-sick with labour and disappointment, and thoroughly convinced that no efforts of his can carry him over, he lies down at the mountain’s foot in utter despair, longing still to be on the other side, but making not another movement to get there. Now ask him as he lies exhausted on the ground what has occasioned his torpor and despair; he will say that mountain itself: its situation between him and the land of his desires, and its inaccessible heights and magnitude. So stands the law of God between the Christian and the land he longs for. The impossibility of making our way to God by means of the law arises from the extent of its requirements, and the unbending, inexorable character of its denunciations. We can do nothing but die to it, sink down before this broad, high, terrific mountain in utter despair. While through the law the believer dies to all hope from the law, through the cross of Christ he also dies to all apprehension from it.

III. The design of this deadness to the law in the Christian’s soul.—“That I might live unto God.” This living unto God dethrones self, discovers to the man the base, degrading idol to which he has been bowing down, makes him ashamed of the worship he has paid it, and places on the throne of his heart his Saviour and his God. His renunciation of his self-righteousness has gradually brought on other renunciations of self. The law driving him to Christ has been the means of driving him out of self altogether. It has brought him into the sphere of the Gospel and among those soul-stirring principles, feelings, and aspirations connected with the Gospel. There is no greater mistake than to imagine that the Gospel has destroyed the law or loosened in any degree its hold on men. The Gospel rests on the law. But for the law and its unbending, unchangeable, external character the Gospel had not existed, for it would not have been needed. Dead to the law and alive unto God are two things that go together; the one springs out of the other. The more completely we die to the law as a covenant, the more fully, freely, and happily shall we live unto God.—C. Bradley.

Dead to the Law by the Law.

I. The person justified is dead to the law.—Here the law is compared to a hard and cruel master, and we to slaves or bondmen, who so long as they are alive are under the dominion [p. 36] and at the command of their masters; yet when they are dead they are free from that bondage, and their masters have no more to do with them. To be dead to the law is to be free from the dominion of the law. 1. In respect of the accusing and damnatory sentence of the law. 2. In respect of the power of the law. 3. In respect of the rigour of the law, exacting most perfect obedience for our justification. 4. In respect of the obligation of the conscience to the observance of ceremonies.

II. The justified person is dead to the law by the law.—By the law of Moses I am dead to the law of Moses. The law accuses, terrifies, and condemns us, and therefore occasions us to flee unto Christ who is the cause that we die unto the law. As the needle goes down and draws in the thread which sews the cloth, so the law goes before and makes a way that grace may follow after and take place in the heart.

III. The end of our death to the law is that we may live to God.—We live to God wisely in respect of ourselves, godly in respect go God, justly in respect to men. That we may live godly we must: 1. Bring ourselves into the presence of the invisible God and set all we do in His sight and presence. 2. We must take knowledge of the will of God in all things. 3. In all we do and suffer we must depend on God for success and deliverance. 4. In all things we must give thanks and praise to God.—Perkins.

Ver. 20. The Believer crucified with Christ, and Christ living in the Believer.

I. The believer is conformed to the death of Christ.—1. The nature of this crucifixion. It is figurative, not literal; yet real, and not chimerical. It not only signifies suffering and dying to sin, but also to effect this by the efficacy of Christ’s cross. 2. The objects to which the Christian is crucified, and the principles which thereby expire: (1) The law considered as a means of justification. (2) The world—its applause, treasures, gratification. (3) Self. 3. The sufferings which accompany this crucifixion. Severe conviction and mortification. The complete surrender of heart is attended with many pangs. The continuance of the struggle is grievous.

II. The believer participates in the life of Christ.—1. The principle of the life—Christ living in the soul. 2. The evidences of this life—holy tempers, spiritual conversation, benevolent actions. 3. The instrument by which this life is introduced and maintained in the soul—faith.

Lessons.—1. This subject furnishes a test to try the reality of our religion and the measure of our attainments. 2. Exposes the delusion of Pharisees, hypocrites, and antinomians. 3. Exhibits the dignity, felicity, and exalted hopes of the real believer.—Delta.

The Religious Life of the Apostle

  1. Was characterised from the beginning by promptitude of action.
  2. Was marked by a constant solicitude for his own personal salvation.
  3. Was eminent for its spirit of devotion.
  4. Was one of high fellowship with the Divine.
  5. Had its foundation and power in a living faith in Christ.

Truths to live on.—Some one has said, “Give me a great truth that I may live on it.” And the preacher may well say, “Give me a great truth that I may preach it.” There are many great truths in this verse. And yet how simply are they put! The first great truth taught in this verse is the oneness between Christ and those who believe in Him. What St. Paul means is this, that having died with Christ on the cross, he has in Christ paid the penalty of sin, and it is no longer his old self that lives and rules, but Christ lives in him. And is not this the Christ I want? Not only a Christ [p. 37] to copy, not a Christ outside me, but a Christ living and reigning within. The believer lives by faith, and faith lives on the promises, for faith is a loving trust. The presence or absence of faith rules the whole destiny of every man. The man who believes will live one way. The unbeliever will live in another way. If you have this simple trust in Christ, you may appropriate the last clause of the verse, “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.” When did that love begin? Never. When will that love end? Never.

     "Every human tie may perish,
        Friend to friend ungrateful prove,
      Mothers cease their own to cherish,
        Heaven and earth at last remove;
             But no changes
        Can attend the Saviour's love."

For those Christ loves He will undertake altogether. He gives them His peace, His joy, His smile, His arm, His hand, His home. For He gave Himself. There are all treasures in Him. Strength for every need, wisdom for every question, comfort for every sorrow, healing for every wound, provision for every day. “For me,” so insignificant, unworthy, so bad; for me, whose iniquities have darkened the blue heavens; for me, a slave of sin.

     "Why was I made to hear Thy voice
        And enter while there's room,
      While thousands made a wretched choice,
        And rather starve than come?
      'Twas the same love that spread the feast,
        That gently forced me in,
      Else I had still refused to taste,
        And perished in my sin."

F. Harper, M.A.

The Love of the Son of God to Men.

I. The existence of this amazing affection.—Let not the strangeness of the love stagger us into doubt or disbelief, but let us receive and rest in the revealed fact. Viewed from the side of the Divine, it is affection from a superior towards those vastly inferior. Viewed from the side of the human beings beloved, it is an affection altogether undeserved. The contrast between His dignity and our demerit is the background on which His love stands out conspicuously.

II. The proof of affection He gave.—Not left to assertion or speculation, but proved by a public act. What he did expresses what He felt. He showed it openly by self-denial and self-surrender. He gave not His substance or possessions, not another being, but to procure our salvation and express His love He delivered up His own person.

III. The personality or individuality of the affection.—He died for all and for each. His love to each human being might be inferred from that to the whole race, but it is affirmed directly. Each singly had a distinct place in His loving death. Each was a unit before Him, and had a personal interest in His affection.—W. Smiley, B.A.

The Life of Faith.

I. The life which the apostle lived in the flesh.—1. His whole life was a life of religious decision. He made his choice and never faltered in it. He saw what he had to do, and he began to do it at once. He allowed no parley with the enemy. Nor was this resolution fleeting; it continued through life.

2. His life was marked by a solemn regard and care for his own personal salvation.—There are two sources of religious danger of which we are not always sufficiently aware—zeal for doctrinal truth, and active employment in promoting the spread of truth. How possible it is that, through the treachery of our hearts, even these may be allowed insensibly to sap the very foundations of that solemn fear, as to our own selves, which ought to influence us! Remember that truth is not the substance of salvation but its instrument. Water others, but neglect not your own vineyard.

3. His life was truly a life of devotion.—His was a life of prayer. Philosophy asks for a reason for the efficacy of prayer, and waiting for an answer, never prays at all. Religion hears [p. 38] that God will be inquired of by us, thankfully bends the knee, touches the golden sceptre, and bears away the blessing. We always want; we must always pray. And wish we for a model of high aspiration in prayer? Let the apostle elevate and expand our languid desires.

4. His life was one of heavenly-mindedness.—He lived indeed in the flesh, but his life was in heaven. Heavenly-mindedness is the result of three things—an assurance of present acceptance with God, habitual intercourse with Him through His Son, and the extinction of the worldly spirit. Our fears and aversions result from principles directly opposite.

5. His life was one of cheerful submission to providential appointments.—His was no life of envied ease. In every city bonds and afflictions awaited him. These dispensations operated on a tender and delicate mind, for in him were united great energy and great tenderness. Yet this man, hunted like a beast of prey, always preserves and exhibits a contented cheerfulness. There was no sorrow for himself, none allowed to others for him. The principle itself reason could not furnish; but when furnished it is seen to be most reasonable.

6. His life was one of laborious usefulness.—He lived not to himself, but to Christ Jesus his Lord, in the promotion of His will in the moral benefit and eternal salvation of men. This was the life he lived in the flesh, even to spread the light and influence of the Gospel to all.

II. The principle and source of his life.—1. It is Christian faith. Its object, the Son of God. It receives His words as true, and regards Him as an atoning sacrifice. “He gave Himself for me.”

2. In its nature it is confiding and appropriating.—How does faith connect itself with the results stated? (1) It regenerates as well as justifies. (2) It produces vital union with Christ. (3) It is habitual in its exercise. (4) It is realising. It gives a spiritual apprehension of invisible and eternal realities.—R. Watson.

Self-abolished and Replaced.—Caroline Herschel, the sister of the great astronomer, was through all her life the most attached servant of her brother. She called herself “a mere tool, which my brother had the trouble of sharpening.” She learned the details of observing with such success that she independently discovered eight comets. Her devotion was most complete. Wherever her brother was concerned she abolished self and replaced her nature with his. Having no taste for astronomy, her work at first was distasteful to her; but she conquered this and lived to help his work and fame.

Ver. 21. The Perils of False Teaching.

  1. It seeks to base personal righteousness on an effete legalism.—“If righteousness come by the law.”
  2. It defeats the gracious purposes of God.—“I do not frustrate the grace of God.”
  3. It renders the sacrifice of Christ nugatory.—“Then Christ is dead in vain.”

Frustrating Divine Grace.—1. The joining of works with faith in the manner of justification is a total excluding of God’s free grace and favour from any hand in the work. Grace admits of no partner. If grace does not all, it does nothing; if anything be added, that addition makes grace to be no grace. 2. That the apostle doth exclude in this dispute from having any influence in justification the works, not only of the ceremonial but also of the moral law, appears from this—that he opposes the merit of Christ’s death to all merit of our own, whether by obedience to the one law or the other. 3. If there had been any other way possible by which the salvation of sinners could have been brought about but by the death of Christ, then Christ would not have died. To suppose Christ died in vain or without cause is an absurdity. If justification [p. 39] could have been attained by works or any other means, then His death had been in vain, and it were an absurd thing to suppose He would have died in that case.—Fergusson.

Justification by Works makes Void the Grace of God.

I. Grace must stand wholly and entirely in itself.—God’s grace cannot stand with man’s merit. Grace is not grace unless it be freely given every way. Grace and works of grace in the causing of justification can no more stand together than fire and water.

II. The apostle answers the objection that if a sinner is justified only by faith in Christ then we abolish the grace of God.—He shows that if we be justified by our own fulfilment of the law then Christ died in vain to fulfil the law for us.

III. We have here a notable ground of true religion.—That the death of Christ is made void if anything be joined with it in the work of our justification as a means to satisfy God’s justice and to merit the favour of God. Therefore the doctrine of justification by works is a manifest error.—Perkins.


 

CHAPTER III.

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.

Ver. 1. Who hath bewitched you?—Fascinated you, as if overlooked by the evil eye, so that your brain is confused. The Galatians were reputed to possess acute intellects: the apostle marvelled the more at their defection. That you should not obey the truth.—Omitted in R.V. Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified.—In preaching, a vivid portraiture of Christ crucified has been set before you as if depicted in graphic characters impossible to mistake.

Ver. 3. Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?—What monstrous folly is this! Will you so violate the Divine order of progress? The flesh may be easily mistaken for the Spirit, even by those who have made progress, unless they continue to maintain a pure faith (Bengel).

Ver. 4. Have ye suffered so many things in vain?—Since ye might have avoided them by professing Judaism. Will ye lose the reward promised for all suffering?

Ver. 5. He that worketh miracles among you.—In you, at your conversion and since.

Ver. 6. Even as Abraham believed God.—Where justification is there the Spirit is, so that if the former comes by faith the latter must also.

Ver. 8. Preached before the Gospel unto Abraham.—Thus the Gospel in its essential germ is older than the law, though the full development of the former is subsequent to the latter. The promise to Abraham was in anticipation of the Gospel, not only as announcing the Messiah, but also as involving the doctrine of righteousness by faith.

Ver. 10. As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.—This the Scripture itself declares. It utters an anathema against all who fail to fulfil every single ordinance contained in the book of the law (Deut. xxvii. 26).

Ver. 13. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse.—Bought us off from our bondage and from the curse under which all lie who trust to the law. The ransom price He paid was His own precious blood (1 Pet. i. 18, 19). Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.—Christ’s bearing the particular curse of hanging on the tree is a sample of the general curse which He representatively bore. Not that the Jews put to death malefactors by hanging, but after having put them to death otherwise, in order to brand them with peculiar ignominy, they hung the bodies on a tree, and such malefactors were accursed by the law. The Jews in contempt called Him the hanged one. Hung between heaven and earth as though unworthy of either.

Ver. 17. The covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law cannot disannul.—From the recognised inviolability of a human covenant (ver. 15), the apostle argues the impossibility of violating the Divine covenant. The law cannot set aside the promise.

Ver. 19. Wherefore then serveth the law?—As it is of no avail for justification, is it either useless or contrary to the covenant of God? It was added because of transgressions.—To [p. 40] bring out into clearer view the transgression of the law; to make men more fully conscious of their sins, by being perceived as transgression of the law, and so make them long for the promised Saviour. It was ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator.—As instrumental enactors of the law. In the giving of the law the angels were representatives of God; Moses, as mediator, represented the people.

Ver. 20. Now a Mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.—The very idea of mediation supposes two persons at least, between whom the mediation is carried on. The law then is of the nature of a contract between two parties—God on the one hand, and the Jewish people on the other. It is only valid so long as both parties fulfil the terms of the contract. It is therefore contingent and not absolute. Unlike the law, the promise is absolute and unconditional. It depends on the sole decree of God. There are not two contracting parties. There is nothing of the nature of a stipulation. The Giver is everything, the recipient nothing (Lightfoot).

Ver. 22. The Scripture hath concluded all under sin.—The written letter was needed so as permanently to convict man of disobedience to God’s command. He is shut up under condemnation as in a prison.

Ver. 24. The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.—As a tutor, checking our sinful propensities, making the consciousness of the sinful principle more vivid, and showing the need of forgiveness and freedom from the bondage of sin.

Ver. 26. Ye are all the children of God.—No longer children requiring a tutor, but sons emancipated and walking at liberty.

Ver. 28. Ye are all one in Christ Jesus.—No class privileged above another, as the Jews under the law had been above the Gentiles. Difference of sex makes no difference in Christian privileges. But under the law the male sex had great privileges.

Ver. 29. If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs.—Christ is Abraham’s seed, and all who are baptised into Christ, put on Christ (ver. 27), and are one in Christ (ver. 28), are children entitled to the inheritance of promise.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 1–5.

The Deceptive Glamour of Error

I. Diverts the gaze of the soul from the most suggestive truth.—“Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified” (ver. 1). The cross of Christ was the great theme of Paul’s preaching. He depicted it in such vivid colours and dwelt on every detail of the story with such intense earnestness and loving emphasis, that the Galatians were arrested, excited, charmed. They were smitten with a sense of sin. They seemed to be actors in the scene, as if their own hands had driven in the nails that pierced the sacred Victim. They were bowed with shame and humiliation, and in an agony of repentance they cast themselves before the Crucified and took Him for their Christ and King. While they looked to Jesus they were secure, but when they listened to the deceptive voice of error, their gaze was diverted, and the deep significance of the cross became obscured. Then backsliding began. Like mariners losing sight of their guiding star, they drifted into strange waters. The cross is the central force of Christianity; when it fades from view Christianity declines. “As the sun draws the vapours of the sea, and then paints a rainbow on them, so Christ draws men and then glorifies them. His attraction is like that of the sun. It is magnetic too, like that of the magnet to the pole. It is not simply the Christ that is the magnet; it is the crucified Christ. It is not Christ without the cross, nor the cross without Christ; it is both of them together.”

II. Confuses the mind as to the nature and value of spiritual agencies.—1. Concerning the method of their first reception.—“Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (ver. 2). Making it appear that spiritual blessings were acquired by outward observance rather than by inward contemplation and faith. Confusing the true method of moral regeneration, it arrests all growth and advancement in the spiritual life. It throws back the soul on the weary round of toilsome and hopeless human effort.

2. Concerning the purpose for which they were given.—“Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (ver. 3). It was a reversal of [p. 41] the Divine order. Having begun in the Spirit, so they must continue, or they would be undone. It was absurd to look for perfection in the flesh, especially when they had discovered its helplessness and misery. Pharisaic ordinances could do nothing to consummate the work of faith and love; Moses could not lead them higher than Christ; circumcision could never effect what the Holy Ghost failed to do. Spiritual results can be brought about only by spiritual agencies.

3. Rendering suffering on behalf of the truth meaningless.—“Have ye suffered so many things in vain?” (ver. 4). The Galatians on their conversion were exposed to the fiercest persecution from the Jews and from their own countrymen incited by the Jews. No one could come out of heathen society and espouse the cause of Christ in those days, nor can he do so to-day, without making himself a mark for ridicule and violence, without the rupture of family and public ties, and many painful sacrifices. But if the truth may be so easily abandoned, all early struggles against opposition and all the educative influence and promised reward of suffering must go for nothing. It is disappointing and disastrous when a youthful zeal for religion degenerates in maturer life into apathy and worldliness, when the great principles of right and liberty, for which our fathers fought and suffered, are treated by their descendants with supine indifference.

III. Creates misconceptions as to the Divine method of ministering spiritual blessing.—“He that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (ver. 5). One of the most subtle effects of error is to suspend the mind in a state of hesitation and doubt. It is a dangerous mood. Confidence in the truth is shaken, and for the moment the soul has nothing stable on which to lay hold. It is the opportunity for the enemy, and damage is done which even a subsequent return to the truth does not wholly efface. Paul saw the peril of his converts, and he suggests this test—the Spirit of God had put His seal on the apostle’s preaching and on the faith of his hearers. Did any such manifestation accompany the preaching of the legalists? He takes his stand on the indubitable evidence of the work of the Spirit. It is the only safe ground for the champion of experimental Christianity (1 Cor. ii. 14, 15).

Lessons.—1. Every error is the distortion of some truth. 2. The cross is the central truth of Christianity. 3. The highest truths are spiritually discerned.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Ver. 1. Faithful Reproof.—1. The minister when he is called to insist upon the clearing up of truth, whether positively by showing what is revealed in Scripture or controversially by refuting errors, should mix his discourse with exhortation and reproof, to excite and quicken the affections of his hearers. 2. False teachers, who by fair words deceive the simple, are spiritual sorcerers, and error is spiritual witchcraft. As sorcerers by deluding the senses make people apprehend that they see what they see not, so false teachers, by casting a mist of seeming reason before the understanding, delude it, and make the deluded person to believe that to be truth which is not. 3. Though Christ and His sufferings are to be vividly represented and pictured by the plain and powerful preaching of the Gospel, yet it does not follow they are to be artificially painted with colours on stone or timber for religious use. The graven image is a teacher of lies (Hab. ii. 18).—Fergusson.

The Folly of Disobedience.

I. We are wise in matters of the world, but in matters concerning the kingdom of heaven the most of us are fools, besotted and bewitched with worldly cares and pleasures, without [p. 42] sense in matters of religion; like a piece of wax without form, fit to take the form and print of any religion.

II. The truth here mentioned is the heavenly doctrine of the Gospel, so called because it is absolute truth without error, and because it is a most worthy truth—the truth according to godliness.

III. The office of the minister is to set forth Christ crucified.—1. The ministry of the Word must be plain, perspicuous, and evident, as if the doctrine were pictured and painted out before the eyes of men. 2. It must be powerful and lively in operation, and as it were crucifying Christ within us and causing us to feel the virtue of His passion. The Word preached must pierce into the heart like a two-edged sword. 3. The effectual and powerful preaching of the Word stands in three things: (1) True and proper interpretation of the Scripture. (2) Savoury and wholesome doctrine gathered out of the Scriptures truly expounded. (3) The application of the said doctrine, either to the information of the judgment or the reformation of the life.

IV. The duty of all believers is to behold Christ crucified.—And we must behold Him by the eye of faith, which makes us both see Him and feel Him, as it were, crucified in us. 1. By beholding Christ crucified we see our misery and wickedness. 2. This sight brings us true and lively comfort. 3. This sight of Christ makes a wonderful change in us. The chameleon takes the colours of the things it sees and that are near to it; and the believing heart takes to it the disposition and mind that was in Christ—Perkins.

Attractiveness of Worth.—In the Paris Salon some few years ago there was a bust of the painter Baudry by Paul Dubois, one of the greatest modern sculptors. Mr. Edmund Gosse was sitting to contemplate this bust when an American gentleman strolled by, caught sight of it, and after hovering round it for some time came and sat by his side and watched it. Presently he turned to Mr. Gosse inquiring if he could tell him whose it was, and whether it was thought much of, adding with a charming modesty, “I don’t know anything about art; but I found that I could not get past that head.” Would that we could so set forth Christ that His Word might be fulfilled, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me”! (John xii. 32).

Vers. 2–5. Searching Questions.—1. As to the mode of receiving the Spirit (ver. 2). 2. As to the folly of expecting advancement by substituting an inferior for a superior force (ver. 3). 3. As to the uselessness of suffering (ver. 4). 4. As to the exercise of spiritual and miraculous power (ver. 5).

Ver. 4. Suffering for the Truth.—1. They may suffer many things for truth who afterwards fall from it. As the example of others, particular interest and general applause will make even hypocrites suffer much, so continued suffering will make even the godly faint for a time. The best, being left to themselves, in an hour of temptation, will turn their back upon truth, so that no profession, no experience or remembrance of the joy and sweetness found in the way of truth, nor their former sufferings for it, will make them adhere to it. 2. Whatever have been the sufferings for truth, they are all in vain, lost and to no purpose, if the party make defection from and turn his back upon the truth. 3. Though those who have suffered much for the truth should afterwards fall from it, we are to keep charity towards them, hoping God will give them repentance and reclaim them. All our sharpness towards them ought to be wisely tempered, by expressing the charitable thoughts we have of them.—Fergusson.

The Uses of Suffering.—1. They serve for trial of men, that it may appear what is hidden in their hearts. 2. They serve for the correction of [p. 43] things amiss in us. 3. They serve as documents and warnings to others, especially in public persons. 4. They are marks of adoption if we be content to obey God in them. 5. They are the trodden and beaten way to the kingdom of heaven.—Perkins.

Ver. 5. Miracles confirmatory of the Truth.—1. The Lord accompanied the first preaching of the Gospel with the working of miracles that the truth of the doctrine might be confirmed, which being once sufficiently done, there is no further use for miracles. 2. So strong and prevalent is the spirit of error, and so weak the best in themselves to resist it, that for love to error they will quit truth, though confirmed and sealed by the saving fruits of God’s Spirit in their hearts.—Fergusson.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 6–9.

The Abrahamic Gospel

I. Recognised the principle that righteousness is only by faith.—“Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (ver. 6). The promise to Abraham contained the germ of the Gospel and was the only Gospel known to pre-Christian times. Though dimly apprehending its vast import, Abraham trusted in God’s Messianic promise, and his unfaltering faith, often severely tried, was in the judgment of the gracious God imputed to him as rectitude. “In this mode of salvation there was after all nothing new. The righteousness of faith is more ancient than legalism. It is as old as Abraham. In the hoary patriarchal days as now, in the time of promise as of fulfilment, faith is the root of religion; grace invites, righteousness waits upon the hearing of faith.”

II. Was universal in its spiritual provisions.—“The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed” (ver. 8). Twice is Abraham designated “the friend of God.” The Arabs still call him the friend. His image has impressed itself with singular force on the Oriental mind. He is the noblest figure of the Old Testament, surpassing Isaac in force, Jacob in purity, and both in dignity of character. His religion exhibits a heroic strength and firmness, but at the same time a large-hearted, genial humanity, an elevation and serenity of mind, to which the temper of those who boasted themselves his children was utterly opposed. Father of the Jewish race, Abraham was no Jew. He stands before us in the morning light of revelation a simple, noble, archaic type of man, true father of many nations. And his faith was the secret of the greatness which has commanded for him the reverence of four thousand years. His trust in God made him worthy to receive so immense a trust for the future of mankind (Findlay).

III. Shares its privilege and blessing with all who believe.—“They which are of faith, the same are the children of . . . are blessed with faithful Abraham” (vers. 7, 9). With Abraham’s faith the Gentiles inherit his blessing. They were not simply blessed in him, through his faith which received and handed down the blessing but blessed with him. Their righteousness rests on the same principle as his. Reading the story of Abraham, we witness the bright dawn of faith, its springtime of promise and of hope. These morning hours passed away; and the sacred history shuts us in to the hard school of Mosaism, with its isolation, its mechanical routine and ritual drapery, its yoke of legal exaction ever growing more burdensome. Of all this the Church of Christ was to know nothing. It was called to enter into the labours of the legal centuries without the need of sharing their burdens. In the “Father of the Faithful” and the “Friend of God” Gentile believers were to see their exemplar, to find the warrant [p. 44] for that sufficiency and freedom of faith of which the natural children of Abraham unjustly strove to rob them (Findlay).

Lessons.—1. The Gospel has an honourable antiquity. 2. Righteousness is the practical side of true religion. 3. Faith is the way to righteousness.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 6–9. Righteousness through Faith.

  1. The Divine method of blessing in past ages (ver. 6).
  2. Modern believers are spiritual successors of the most eminent examples of faith in ancient times (ver. 7).
  3. The unchanging Gospel taught in Holy Scripture (ver. 8).
  4. Ensures the enjoyment of promised blessings (ver. 9).

Vers. 6, 7. Imitators of Abraham’s Faith.

I. We must have knowledge of the main and principal promise touching the blessing of God in Christ, and all other promises depending on the principal; and we must know the scope and tenor of them that we be not deceived.

II. We must with Abraham believe the truth and power of God in the accomplishment of the said promises, or in the working of our vocation, justification, sanctification, glorification.

III. We must by faith obey God in all things, shutting our eyes and suffering ourselves to be led blindfold, as it were, by the Word of God. Thus did Abraham in all things, even in actions against nature. But this practice is rare among us. For there are three things which prevail among us—the love of worldly honour, the love of pleasure, and the love of riches; and where these bear sway there faith takes no place.—Perkins.

Vers. 8, 9. All Nations blessed in Abraham.—1. The covenant of grace with Abraham extended not only to his carnal seed, but to all believers, even among the Gentiles. 2. The blessings promised to Abraham were not only temporal, but heavenly and spiritual: the temporal were often inculcated on the ancient Church, not as if they were all or the main blessings of the covenant, but as they were shadows of things heavenly. 3. The promise to Abraham contained the sum of the Gospel—the glad tidings of all spiritual blessings, and that the Gentiles should have access, in the days of the Gospel, to these blessings. The Gospel is therefore no new doctrine, but the same in substance with that taught to Abraham and to the Church under the Old Testament. 4. Eminent privileges bestowed on particular persons do not exempt them from walking to heaven in the common pathway with others. Abraham, the father of believers, in whom all nations were blessed, enjoyed the blessing, not because of his own merit, but freely and by faith as well as others.—Fergusson.

The Abrahamic Gospel intended for All.

I. The nation of the Jews shall be called and converted to the participation of this blessing.—When and how, God knows; but it shall be done before the end of the world. If all nations be called, then the Jews.

II. That which was foretold to Abraham is verified in our eyes.—This nation and many other nations are at this day blessed in the seed of Abraham. 1. Give to God thanks and praise that we are born in these days. 2. We must amend and turn to God that we may now be partakers of the promised blessing. 3. We must bless all, do good to all, and hurt to none.

III. All men who are of Abraham’s faith shall be partakers of the same blessing with him.—God respects not the greatness of our faith so much as the truth of it.—Perkins.

 

[p. 45] MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 10–14.

The Conflict between the Law and Faith.

I. The law condemns the least violation of its enactments.—“Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things . . . in the law to do them” (ver. 10). The law is a unity; to violate a part is to violate the whole. It is like a perfect bell, every stroke resounds through every atom of the metal. If the bell is fractured in the least degree, the dissonance is evident in every part. Law is so all-pervasive and so perfect that to break one law is to be guilty of all. It is intolerant of all imperfection and makes no provision to prevent or repair imperfection except by a rigid obedience to every statute. If obedience could be perfect from this moment onwards, the past disobedience would not be condoned; we should be still liable to its penalties, still be under the curse. To pledge ourselves to unsinning obedience is to pledge ourselves to the impossible. All our efforts to obey law—to conform our life to the law of righteousness, the purity and beauty of which we perceive even while in a state of lawless unnature—are futile. It is like running alongside a parallel pathway into which we are perpetually trying to turn ourselves, but all in vain. We cannot escape the condemnation of the disobedient.

II. The law cannot justify man.—“But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith” (ver. 11). The law reveals our sin and our utter helplessness to rid ourselves of its misery. The law forces out the disease that is spreading under the skin. Such is its task. But healing it does not bring. “The law,” says Luther, “is that which lays down what man is to do; the Gospel reveals whence man is to obtain help. When I place myself in the hands of the physician, one branch of art says where the disease lies, another what course to take to get quit of it. So here. The law discovers our disease, the Gospel supplies the remedy.” We become aware in critical moments that our evil desires are more powerful than the prohibition of law and are in truth first stirred up thoroughly by the prohibition. And this disposition of our heart is the decisive point for the question, “Whether then the holy law, the holy, just and good commandment makes us holy, just, and good men?” The answer to this is, and remains a most decided, “No.”

III. The law ignores faith.—“The law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them” (ver. 12). Its dictum is do, not believe; it takes no account of faith. To grant righteousness to faith is to deny it to legal works. The two ways have different starting-points, as they lead to opposite goals. From faith one marches through God’s righteousness to blessing; from works, through self-righteousness, to the curse. In short, the legalist tries to make God believe in him. Abraham and Paul are content to believe in God. Paul puts the calm, grand image of Father Abraham before us for our pattern, in contrast with the narrow, painful, bitter spirit of Jewish legalism, inwardly self-condemned.

IV. The law, the great barrier to man’s justification, is done away in Christ.—“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law” (ver. 13). Christ brought us out of the curse of the law by Himself voluntarily undergoing its penalty and submitting to the utmost indignity it imposed—hanging on a tree. It was this crowning scandal that shocked the Jewish pride and made the cross an offence to them. Once crucified, the name of Jesus would surely perish from the lips of men; no Jew would hereafter dare to profess faith in Him. This was God’s method of rescue; and all the terrors and penalties of law disappear, being absorbed in the cross of Christ. His redemption was offered to the Jew first. But not to the Jew alone, nor as a Jew. The time of release had come for all men. Abraham’s blessing, long withheld, was now to be imparted, as it had been promised, to all the tribes of the earth. In the removal of the legal [p. 46] curse, God comes near to men as in the ancient days. In Christ Jesus crucified, risen, reigning, a new world comes into being, which restores and surpasses the promise of the old.

V. Faith ends the conflict of the law by imparting to man a superior spiritual force.—“That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (ver. 14). Faith is a spiritual faculty, and its exercise is made possible by the operation of the Holy Spirit. The law of works is superseded by the higher law of the Spirit. It is in the human soul that law has its widest sweep and accomplishes its highest results. The soul can never rise higher in its experience and efforts than the law by which it is governed. The law of sin has debased and limited the soul, and only as it is united by faith to Christ and responds to the lofty calls of His law will it break away from the corruption and restraints of the law of sin and rise to the highest perfection of holiness. “In every law,” says F. W. Robertson, “there is a spirit, in every maxim a principle; and the law and the maxim are laid down for the sake of conserving the spirit and the principle which they enshrine. Man is severed from submission to the maxim because he has got allegiance to the principle. He is free from the rule and the law because he has got the spirit written in his heart.”

Lessons.—1. It is hopeless to attain righteousness by law. 2. Faith in Christ is the only and universal way of obedience. 3. The law is disarmed by obeying it.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 10–12. The Inexorability of Law.

  1. The law renders no help in fulfilling its requirements but curses the incompetent (ver. 10).
  2. The law, though strictly observed, is powerless to justify (ver. 11).
  3. The law does not admit of faith; it offers life only to the doer (ver. 12).

Ver. 11. Man is justified by Faith alone.—One day wishing to obtain an indulgence promised by the Pope to all who should ascend on their knees what is called Pilate’s Staircase, the poor Saxon monk, Luther, was humbly creeping up those steps when he thought he heard a voice of thunder crying from the bottom of his heart, as at Wittenberg and Bologna, “The just shall live by faith!” He rises in amazement, he shudders at himself, he is ashamed of seeing to what a depth superstition had plunged him. He flies from the scene of his folly. It was in these words God then said, “Let there be light, and there was light” (Gen. i. 3).—D’Aubigné.

Ver. 12. The Difference between the Law and the Gospel.

I. The law promises life to him who performs perfect obedience, and that for his works. The Gospel promises life to him who doeth nothing in the cause of his salvation, but only believes in Christ; and it promises salvation to him who believeth, yet not for his faith or for any works else, but for the merit of Christ. The law then requires doing to salvation, and the Gospel believing and nothing else.

II. The law does not teach true repentance, neither is it any cause of it, but only an occasion. The Gospel only prescribes repentance and the practice of it, yet only as it is a fruit of our faith and as it is the way to salvation.

III. The law requires faith in God, which is to put our affiance in him. The Gospel requires faith in Christ, the Mediator God-man; and this faith the law never knew.

IV. The promises of the Gospel are not made to the work, but to the worker; and to the worker not for his work, but for Christ’s sake, according to His work.

[p. 47] V. The Gospel considers not faith as a virtue or work, but as an instrument, or hand, to apprehend Christ. Faith does not cause or procure our salvation, but as the beggar’s hand it receives it, being wholly wrought and given of God.

VI. This distinction of the law and the Gospel must be observed carefully, as the two have been often confounded. It has been erroneously stated that the law of Moses, written in tables of stone, is the law; the same law of Moses, written in the hearts of men by the Holy Ghost, is the Gospel. But I say again that the law written in our hearts is still the law of Moses. This oversight in mistaking the distinction of the law and the Gospel is and has been the ruin of the Gospel.—Perkins.

Vers. 13, 14. Redemption and its Issues.

  1. Redemption was effected by Christ enduring the penalty of violated law (ver. 13).
  2. Redemption by Christ has brought blessing to all nations.—“That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ” (ver. 14).
  3. The spiritual results of redemption are realised only by faith.—“That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (ver. 14).

Ver. 13. The Curse and Sentence of the Law lies on record against sinners, it puts in its demand against our acquittance, and lays an obligation upon us unto punishment. God will not reject nor destroy His law. Unless it be answered, there is no acceptance for sinners. Christ answered the curse of the law when He was made a curse for us, and so became, as to the obedience of the law, the end of the law for righteousness to them that believe. And as to the penalty that it threatened, He bore it, removed it, and took it out of the way. So hath He made way for forgiveness through the very heart of the law; it hath not one word to speak against the pardon of those who believe.—John Owen.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 15–18.

The Divine Covenant of Promise

I. Is less susceptible of violation than any human covenant.—“Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed [approved], no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto” (ver. 15). Common equity demands that a contract made between man and man is thoroughly binding and should be rigidly observed; and the civil law lends all its force to maintain the integrity of its clauses. How much more certain it is that the Divine covenant shall be faithfully upheld. If it is likely that a human covenant will not be interfered with, it is less likely the Divine covenant will be changed. Yet even a human covenant may fail; the Divine covenant never. It is based on the Divine Word which cannot fail, and its validity is pledged by the incorruptibility of the Divine character (Mal. iii. 6).

II. Is explicit in defining the channel of its fulfilment.—“Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made; . . . to thy seed, which is Christ” (ver. 16). The promise is in the plural because the same promise was often repeated (Gen. xii. 3, 7, xv. 5, 18, xvii. 7, xxii. 18), and because it involved many things—earthly blessings to the literal children of Abraham in Canaan, and spiritual and heavenly blessings to his spiritual children; and both promised to Christ—the Seed and representative Head of the literal and spiritual Israel alike. Therefore the promise that in him “all families of the earth shall be blessed” joins in this one Seed—Christ—Jew and Gentile, as fellow-heirs on the same terms of acceptability—by grace through faith; not to some by promise, to others by the law, but to all alike, circumcised and uncircumcised, constituting but one [p. 48] seed in Christ. The law, on the other hand, contemplates the Jews and Gentiles as distinct seeds. God makes a covenant, but it is one of promise; whereas the law is a covenant of works. God makes His covenant of promise with the one Seed—Christ—and embraces others only as they are identified with and represented by Him (Fausset).

III. Cannot be set aside by the law which was a subsequent revelation.—“The covenant, . . . the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul” (ver. 17). The promise to Abraham was a prior settlement, and must take precedence, not only in time but also in authority, of the Mosaic law. It was a bold stroke of the apostle to thus shatter the supremacy of Mosaism; but the appeal to antiquity was an argument the most prejudiced Jew was bound to respect. “The law of Moses has its rights; it must be taken into account as well as the promise to Abraham. True; but it has no power to cancel or restrict the promise, older by four centuries and a half. The later must be adjusted to the earlier dispensation, the law interpreted by the promise. God has not made two testaments—the one solemnly committed to the faith and hope of mankind, only to be retracted and substituted by something of a different stamp. He could not thus stultify Himself. And we must not apply the Mosaic enactments, addressed to a single people, in such a way as to neutralise the original provisions made for the race at large. Our human instincts of good faith, our reverence for public compacts and established rights, forbid our allowing the law of Moses to trench upon the inheritance assured to mankind in the covenant of Abraham” (Findlay).

IV. Imposed no conditions of legal obedience.—“If the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise” (ver. 18). The law is a system of conditions—so much advantage to be gained by so much work done. This is all very well as a general principle. But the promise of God is based on a very different ground. It is an act of free, sovereign grace, engaging to confer certain blessings without demanding anything more from the recipient than faith, which is just the will to receive. The law imposes obligations man is incompetent to meet. The promise offers blessings all men need and all may accept. It simply asks the acceptance of the blessings by a submissive and trustful heart. The demands of the law are met and the provisions of the covenant of promise enjoyed by an act of faith.

Lessons.—1. God has a sovereign right to give or withhold blessing. 2. The Divine covenant of promise is incapable of violation. 3. Faith in God is the simplest and sublimest method of obedience.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 15–18. The Promise a Covenant confirmed.

I. The promises made to Abraham are first made to Christ, and then in Christ to all that believe in Him.—1. Learn the difference of the promises of the law and the Gospel. The promises of the law are directed and made to the person of every man particularly; the promises of the Gospel are first directed and made to Christ, and then by consequent to them that are by faith ingrafted into Christ. 2. We learn to acknowledge the communion that is between Christ and us. Christ died upon the cross, not as a private person, but as a public person representing His people. All died in Him, and with Him; in the same manner they must rise with Him to life. 3. Here is comfort against the consideration of our unworthiness. There is dignity and worthiness sufficient in Him. Our salvation stands in this, not that we know and apprehend him, but that He knows and apprehends us first of all.

II. The promise made to Abraham [p. 49] was a covenant confirmed by oath.—Abraham in the first making and in the confirmation thereof must be considered as a public person representing all the faithful. Here we see God’s goodness. We are bound simply to believe His bare Word; yet in regard of our weakness He ratifies His promise by oath, that there might be no occasion of unbelief. What can we more require of him?

III. If the promise might be disannulled, the law could not do it.—1. The promise, or covenant, was made with Abraham, and continued by God four hundred and thirty years before the law was given. 2. If the law abolish the promise, then the inheritance must come by the law. But that cannot be. If the inheritance of eternal life be by the law, it is no more by the promise. But it is by the promise, because God gave it unto Abraham freely by promise; therefore, it comes not by the law. This giving was no private but a public donation. That which was given to Abraham was in him given to all that should believe as he did.—Perkins.

Vers. 15–17. Divine and Human Covenants.

  1. A covenant, as between man and man, is honourably binding (ver. 15).
  2. The Divine covenant made to Abraham ensures the fulfilment of promises to all who believe as Abraham did (ver. 16).
  3. The law cannot abrogate the Divine covenant of promise (ver. 17).

Ver 18. Law and Promise.—1. So subtle is the spirit of error that it will seem to cede somewhat to truth, intending to prejudice the truth more than if it had ceded nothing. The opposers of justification by faith did sometimes give faith some place in justification and pleaded for a joint influence of works and faith, of law and promise. 2. The state of grace here and glory hereafter is the inheritance of the Lord’s people, of which the land of Canaan was a type. There are only two ways of attaining a right to this inheritance—one by law, the other by promise. 3. There can be no mixture of these two, so that a right to heaven should be obtained partly by the merit of works and partly by faith in the promise. The only way of attaining it is by God’s free gift, without the merit of works.—Fergusson.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 19, 20.

The Inferiority of the Law.

I. It did not justify but condemn the sinner by revealing his sin.—“It was added because of transgressions” (ver. 19). Law has no remedial efficacy. It reveals and emphasises the fact of sin. It has no terror while it is obeyed. When it is violated then it thunders, and with pitiless severity terrifies the conscience and inflicts unsparing punishment. There is no strain of mercy in its voice, or in the inflexibility of its methods. It surrenders the condemned to an anguish from which it offers no means of escape. It is said that, after the murder of Darnley, some of the wretches who were concerned in it were found wandering about the streets of Edinburgh crying penitently and lamentably for vengeance on those who had caused them to shed innocent blood.

II. It was temporary in its operation.—“Till the seed should come to whom the promise was made” (ver. 19). The work of the law was preparatory and educative. Centuries rolled away and the promised Seed was long in coming, and it seemed as if the world must remain for ever under the tutelage of the law. All the time the law was doing its work. God was long in fulfilling His promise because man was so slow to learn. When Christ, the promised Seed, appeared, the law was superseded. Its work was done. The preparatory gave [p. 50] place to the permanent; the reign of law was displaced by the reign of grace. The claims of the law were discharged once for all.

III. Its revelation was through intermediaries.—“It was ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator” (ver. 19). In the Jewish estimation the administration of the law by angels enhanced its splendour, and the pomp and ceremony with which Moses made known the will and character of Jehovah added to the impressiveness and superiority of the law. In the Christian view these very methods were evidences of defect and inferiority. The revelations of God by the law were veiled and intermediate; the revelation by Grace is direct and immediate. Under the law God was a distant and obscured personality, and the people unfit to enter His sacred presence; by the Gospel God is brought near to man and permitted to bask in the radiance of His revealed glory, without the intervention of a human mediator. The law, with its elaborate ceremonial and multiplied exactions, is a barrier between the soul and God.

IV. It was contingent, not absolute, in its primal terms.—“Now a Mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one” (ver. 20). Where a mediator is necessary unity is wanting—not simply in a numerical but in a moral sense, as a matter of feeling and of aim. There are separate interests, discordant views, to be consulted. This was true of Mosaism. It was not the absolute religion. The theocratic legislation of the Pentateuch is lacking in the unity and consistency of a perfect revelation. Its disclosures of God were refracted in a manifest degree by the atmosphere through which they passed. In the promise God spoke immediately and for Himself. The man of Abraham’s faith sees God in His unity. The legalist gets his religion at second-hand, mixed with undivine elements. He projects on the Divine image confusing shadows of human imperfection (Findlay).

Lessons.—1. The law is powerless to remove the sin it exposes. 2. The law had the defect of all preparatory dispensations. 3. The law imposes conditions it does not help to fulfil.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 19, 20. The Law is for Transgressors.

I. We are taught to examine and search our hearts by the law of God.—1. When any sin is forbidden in any commandment of the law, under it all sins of the same kind are forbidden, all causes of them and all occasions. 2. A commandment negative includes the affirmative, and binds us not only to abstain from evil, but also to do the contrary good. 3. Every commandment must be understood with a curse annexed to it, though the curse be not expressed. 4. We must especially examine ourselves by the first and last commandments. The first forbids the first motions of our hearts against God, and the last forbids the first motions of our hearts against our neighbour.

II. The law of God to be reverenced.—1. Because it was ordained or delivered by angels. 2. We are to fear to break the least commandment, because the angels observe the keepers and breakers of it, and are ready to witness against them that offend. 3. If thou offend and break the law, repent with speed, for that is the desired joy of angels. 4. If thou sin and repent not, look for shame and confusion before God and His angels.

III. God, the Author and Source of law, is one.—1. He is unchangeable. 2. His unchangeableness the foundation of our comfort. 3. We should be unchangeable in faith, hope, love, good counsels, honest promises, and in the maintenance of true religion.—Perkins.

Ver. 19. The Use of the Law.

  1. It is a standard to measure our defects.
  2. It is a sword to pierce our conscience.
  3. [p. 51] It is a seal to certify that we are in the way of grace.Tholuck.

No Trust in Legal Prescriptions.—St. Paul, with the sledge-hammer force of his direct and impassioned dialectics, shattered all possibility of trusting in legal prescriptions, and demonstrated that the law was no longer obligatory on Gentiles. He had shown that the distinction between clean and unclean meats was to the enlightened conscience a matter of indifference, that circumcision was nothing better than a physical mutilation, that ceremonialism was a yoke with which the free, converted Gentile had nothing to do, that we are saved by faith and not by works, that the law was a dispensation of wrath and menace introduced for the sake of transgressions, that so far from being, as all the Rabbis asserted, the one thing on account of which the universe had been created, the Mosaic code only possessed a transitory, subordinate, and intermediate character, coming in, as it were in a secondary way, between the promise of Abraham and the fulfilment of that promise in the Gospel of Christ.—Dean Farrar.

The Use of the Law under the Gospel.

I. The law never was intended to supersede the Gospel as a means of life.

II. The most perfect edition of the Gospel, so far from having abolished the least tittle of the moral law, has established it.

III. The use of the law.—1. To constitute probation. 2. The law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. 3. The law serves to give beauty and symmetry to the hidden man of the heart. 4. To vindicate the conduct of our Judge in dooming the impenitent to eternal death.

Lessons.—1. Since the law as a covenant has been superseded by a covenant better adapted to our guilty and helpless circumstances, let us make a proper use of the mercy, acquaint ourselves with its demands, and abound in the holiness it enjoins. 2. Mark those who set aside the law, shun their company, and pray for their repentance.Iota.

Ver. 20. The Unity of God and His Purpose regarding Man.—1. The covenant with Adam in his innocency was immediate, no mediator intervening to make them one; there was no disagreement betwixt them because of sin. 2. No man can attain heaven, or reap any advantage, except he be perfectly holy. God made no covenant of works with men on Mount Sinai, nor could they have reaped benefit from such a covenant as they were a sinful people, standing in need of a midsman betwixt God and them. 3. The Lord in all His dispensations is always one and like to Himself without shadow of turning. If any plead a right to heaven by the merit of their works, God will abate nothing of what He did once prescribe and require of man in the covenant of works.—Fergusson.

An Effectual Mediator.—Edward III., after defeating Philip of France at Creçy, laid siege to Calais, which, after an obstinate resistance of a year, was taken. He offered to spare the lives of the inhabitants on the condition that six of their principal citizens should be delivered up to him, with halters around their necks, to be immediately executed. When these terms were announced the rulers of the town came together, and the question was proposed, “Who will offer himself as an atonement for the city? Who will imitate Christ who gave Himself for the salvation of men?” The number was soon made up. On reaching the English camp they were received by the soldiers of Edward with every mark of commiseration. They appeared before the king. “Are these the principal inhabitants of Calais?” he inquired sternly. “Of France, my lord,” they replied. “Lead them to execution.” At this moment the queen arrived. She was informed of the punishment about to be inflicted on the six victims. She hastened to [p. 52] the king and pleaded for their pardon. At first he sternly refused, but her earnestness conquered, and the king yielded. When we submit our hearts as captives to the Father, and feel that we are condemned and lost, we have an effectual Mediator who stays the hand of justice.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 21–25.

The True Use of the Law

I. Was not intended to bestow spiritual life.—“If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law” (ver. 21). The law was not against the promises. It was a Divine method in dealing with man, and one Divine method never conflicts with another. It was intended to mediate between the promise and its fulfilment. It is not the enemy but the minister of grace. It did not profess to bestow spiritual life; but in its sacrifices and oblations pointed to the coming Christ who is “the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. x. 4).

II. Was to reveal the universal domination of sin.—“The Scripture hath concluded all under sin” (ver. 22). The Bible from the beginning and throughout its course, in its unvarying teaching, makes the world one vast prison-house with the law for gaoler, and mankind held fast in chains of sin, condemned and waiting for the punishment of death. Its perpetual refrain is, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Its impeachment covers the whole realm of human life, thought, and desire. “Every human life,” says Martensen, “that has not yet become a partaker of redemption is a life under the law, in opposition to the life under grace. The law hovers over his life as an unfulfilled requirement; and, in the depth of his own being, remains as an indismissible but unsatisfied and unexpiated claim on him, which characterises such a human existence as sinful and guilt-laden.”

III. Was to teach the absolute necessity of faith in order to escape its condemnation.—“But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed” (ver. 23). The law was all the while standing guard over its subjects, watching and checking every attempt to escape, but intending to hand them over in due time to the charge of faith. The law posts its ordinances, like so many sentinels, round the prisoner’s cell. The cordon is complete. He tries again and again to break out; the iron circle will not yield. But deliverance will yet be his. The day of faith approaches. It dawned long ago in Abraham’s promise. Even now its light shines into his dungeon, and he hears the word of Jesus, “Thy sins are forgiven thee; go in peace.” Law, the stern gaoler, has after all been a good friend if it has reserved him for this. It prevents the sinner escaping to a futile and illusive freedom (Findlay).

IV. Was to act as a moral tutor to train us to the maturity and higher freedom of a personal faith in Christ.—“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ,” etc. (vers. 24, 25). The schoolmaster, or pedagogue, among the Greeks meant a faithful servant entrusted with the care of the boy from childhood, to keep him from evil, physical and moral, and accompany him to his amusements and studies. “If then the law is a pedagogue,” says Chrysostom, “it is not hostile to grace, but its fellow-worker; but should it continue to hold us fast when grace has come, then it would be hostile.” Judaism was an education for Christianity. It trained the childhood of the race. It humbled and distressed the soul with the consciousness of sin. It revealed the utter inadequacy of all its provisions to justify. It brought the despairing soul to Christ and showed that the true way to righteousness was by personal faith in Him.

[p. 53] Lessons.—1. Law is the revealer of sin. 2. Law demands universal righteousness. 3. Law is a training for faith.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 21, 22. The Law not contrary to the Divine Promise.—1. It is the way of some to make one Scripture contradict another, yet their bold allegations will be found always false, and truth to be every most consonant and never contrary to itself. 2. So exact and full is the righteousness required in order to life, and so far short do all mankind come of it, that no works of our own, done in obedience to the law, can amount to that righteousness. 3. Though all men by nature be under sin, it is a matter of no small difficulty to convince any man of it. The work of the law, accusing, convincing, or condemning the sinner, is compared to the work of a judge detaining a malefactor in prison which is not effectuated but with force and violence. 4. The law by its threatenings prepares and necessitates the soul to embrace salvation by faith in the Christ revealed in the promise.—Fergusson.

Ver. 22. The Great Prison; or, All concluded under Sin.—1. Satan does indeed draw and drive men into sin—this is the accursed work of his restless, Sabbath-less life; and when he has got them there he binds them fast and will not let them flee from his toils. He builds a high wall of sin all round them so that they shall not look over it into the goodly land beyond, and here he shuts them up together, sinner with sinner, a never-ending ghastly multitude, that they may encourage and pamper each other in wickedness, and that no example, no voice of holiness, may ever reach and startle them. But God never drove, never drew, any man into sin. He is calling us to come out from the deadly land, from the loathsome, plague-breathing dungeon. So, when the Scripture concludes, or shuts all men up together under sin, it is not by driving them into sin, but for the sake of calling them out of it. 2. With all the light of the Scripture shining around us, with the law of God ever sounding in our ears, and the life of Christ set continually before us, how prone are we to forget our sinfulness, to turn away from the thought of it, to fancy we are as good as we need be, and that, though we might certainly be better, yet it does not matter much! How apt are we still to forget that we are concluded under sin, to forget that we are shut up in a prison! Although the souls of so many millions are lying around us, bloated with the poison of sin, how tardily do we acknowledge that the poison by which they perished must also be deadly to us! 3. Suppose you were to be carried before an earthly court of justice, and that one sweeping accusation were to be brought against you; suppose you were found guilty, and the excuse you set up were the complete proof of your guilt,—what would follow? The judge would straightway pass sentence upon you, and you would be condemned to suffer punishment according to the measure of your offence. And must we not expect that the course of things should be the very same when you are carried before a heavenly court of justice? 4. When a man’s eyes are opened to see the prison in which he is shut up, to see and feel the chains that are fast bound round his soul and have eaten into it; when he has learnt to see and know that the pleasures, whatever they may, of sin are only, like the flesh-pots of Egypt, intoxicating drugs, given to him to deprive him of all sense of his captivity,—then will he long for a deliverer, rejoice on hearing of his approach, hail him when he comes in view, and follow him whithersoever he may lead. As unbelief is the one great universal sin, in which all mankind are concluded, as it is only from having let slip our faith in God [p. 54] that we have yielded our hearts to the temptations of the world and given ourselves up to its idolatries, so it is only through faith that we can be brought back to God—that we can receive the promise given to those who believe.—J. C. Hare.

Ver. 23. “Shut up unto the faith.” The Reasonableness of Faith.—The mode of conception is military. The law is made to act the part of a sentry, guarding every avenue but one, and that one leads those, who are compelled to take it, to the faith of the Gospel. Out of the leading varieties of taste and sentiment which obtain in the present age we may collect something which may be turned into an instrument of conviction for reclaiming men from their delusions and shutting them up to the faith.

I. There is the school of natural religion.—It is founded on the competency of the human mind to know God by the exercise of its own faculties, to clothe Him in the attributes of its own demonstration, to serve Him by a worship and a law of its own discovery, and to assign to Him a mode of procedure in the administration of this vast universe upon the strength and plausibility of its own theories. They recognise the judicial government of God over moral and accountable creatures. They hold there is a law. One step more, and they are fairly shut up to the faith. That law has been violated.

II. There is the school of classical morality.—It differs from the former school in one leading particular. It does not carry in its speculations so distinct and positive a reference to the Supreme Being. Our duties to God are viewed as a species of moral accomplishment, the effect of which is to exalt and embellish the individual. We ask them to look at man as he is and compare him with man as they would have him to be. If they find that he falls miserably short of their ideal standard of excellence, what is this but making a principle of their own the instrument of shutting them up unto the faith of the Gospel, or at least shutting them up into one of the most peculiar of its doctrines, the depravity of our nature, or the dismal ravage which the power of sin has made upon the moral constitution of the species? This depravity the Gospel proposes to do away.

III. There is the school of fine feeling and poetical sentiment.—It differs from the school of morality in this—the one makes virtue its idol because of its rectitude, the other makes virtue its idol because of its beauty, and the process of reasoning by which they are shut up unto the faith is the same in both. However much we may love perfection and aspire after it, yet there is some want, some disease, in the constitution of man which prevents his attainment of it, that there is a feebleness of principle about him, that the energy of his practice does not correspond to the fair promises of his fancy, and however much he may delight in an ideal scene of virtue and moral excellence, there is some lurking malignity in his constitution which, without the operation of that mighty power revealed to us in the Gospel, makes it vain to wish and hopeless to aspire after it.—Dr. Thomas Chalmers.

Vers. 24, 25. The Law our Schoolmaster.—There was a time when God put His world under a schoolmaster; then it would have been preposterous to apply faith. There is a time when a larger spirit has come, and then it would be going back to use law.

I. The uses of restraint in the heart’s education.—1. The first use of law is to restrain from open violence. It is necessary for those who feel the inclination to evil, and so long as the inclination remains so far must a man be under law. Imagine a governor amidst a population of convicts trusting to high principle. Imagine a parent having no fixed hours, no law in his household, no punishment for evil. There is a [p. 55] morbid feeling against punishment; but it is God’s method.

2. The second use of restraint is to show the inward force of evil.—A steam-engine at work in a manufactory is so quiet and gentle that a child might put it back. But interpose a bar of iron many inches thick, and it cuts through as if it were so much leather. Introduce a human limb—it whirls round, and the form of man is in one moment a bleeding, mangled, shapeless mass. It is restraint that manifests this unsuspected power. In the same way law discovers the strength of evil in our hearts.

3. The third use is to form habits of obedience.—In that profession which is specially one of obedience—the military profession—you cannot mistake the imparted type of character. Immediate, prompt obedience, no questioning “why?” Hence comes their decision of character. Hence, too, their happiness. Would you have your child, happy, decided, manly? Teach him to obey. It is an error to teach a child to act on reason, or to expect reasons why a command is given. Better it is that he should obey a mistaken order than be taught to see that it is mistaken. A parent must be the master in his own house.

4. The fourth use is to form habits of faith.—As Judaism was a system calculated to nurture habits of obedience, so was it one which nourished the temper of faith. All education begins with faith. The child does not know the use of the alphabet, but he trusts. The boy beginning mathematics takes on trust what he sees no use in. The child has to take parental wisdom for granted. Happy the child that goes on believing that nothing is wiser, better, greater, than his father! Blessed spirit of confiding trust which is to be transferred to God.

II. The time when restraint may be laid aside.—1. When self-command is obtained. Some of us surely there are who have got beyond childish meanness: we could not be mean; restraint is no longer needed; we are beyond the schoolmaster. Some of us there are who have no inclination to intemperance; childish excess in eating and drinking exists no longer. Some of us there are who no longer love indolence. We have advanced beyond it. The law may be taken away, for we are free from law. True Christian liberty is this—self-command, to have been brought to Christ, to do right and love right, without a law of compulsion to school into doing it.

2. When the state of justification by faith has been attained.—There are two states of justification—by the law and by faith. Justification by the law implies a scrupulous and accurate performance of minute acts of obedience in every particular; justification by faith is acceptance with God, not because a man is perfect, but because he does all in a trusting, large, generous spirit, actuated by a desire to please God. In Christianity there are few or no definite laws—all men are left to themselves.

3. Restraint must be laid aside when the time of faith has come, whether faith itself have come or not.—It is so in academical education. We may have attained the full intellectual comprehension of the Gospel, but religious goodness has not kept pace with it, and the man wakes to conviction that the Gospel is a name and the powers of the world to come are not in him. You cannot put him to school again. Fear will not produce goodness. Forms will not give reverence. System will not confer freedom. Therefore the work of childhood and youth must be done while we are young, when the education is not too late.—F. W. Robertson.

Ver. 24. The Law preparing for Christ.

I. The law led men to Christ by foreshadowing Him.—This was true of the ceremonial part of it. The ceremonies meant more than the general duty of offering to God praise and sacrifice, since this might have been secured by much simpler rites. What [p. 56] was the meaning of the solemn and touching observance of the Jewish Day of Atonement? We know that what passed in that old earthly sanctuary was from first to last a shadow of the majestic self-oblation of the true High Priest of Christendom, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Each ceremony was felt to have some meaning beyond the time then present, and so it fostered an expectant habit of mind; and as the ages passed these expectations thus created converged more and more towards a coming Messiah, and in a subordinate but real way the ceremonial law did its part in leading the nation to the school of Christ.

II. By creating in man’s conscience a sense of want which Christ alone could relieve.—This was the work of the moral law, of every moral precept in the books of Moses, but especially of those most sacred and authoritative precepts which we know as the Ten Commandments. So far from furnishing man with a real righteousness, so far from making him such as he should be, correspondent to the true ideal of his nature, the law only inflicted on every conscience that was not fatally benumbed a depressing and overwhelming conviction that righteousness, at least in the way of legal obedience, was a thing impossible. And this conviction of itself prepared men for a righteousness which should be not the product of human efforts, but a gift from heaven—a righteousness to be attained by the adhesion of faith to the perfect moral Being, Jesus Christ, so that the believer’s life becomes incorporate with His.

III. By putting men under a discipline which trained them for Christ.—What is the Divine plan for training, whether men or nations? Is it not this—to begin with rule and to end with principle, to begin with law and to end with faith, to begin with Moses and to end with Christ? God began with rule. He gave the Mosaic law, and the moral parts of that law being also laws of God’s own essential nature could not possibly be abrogated; but as rules of life the Ten Commandments were only a preparation for something beyond them. In the Christian revelation God says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” When you have done this, and He on His part has by His Spirit infused into you His Divine life so that you are one with Him, you will not depend any longer mainly upon rules of conduct. Justification by faith is so far from being moral anarchy that it is the absorption of rule into the higher life of principle. In the experience of the soul faith corresponds to the empire of principle in the growth of individual character and in the development of national life, while the law answers to that elementary stage in which outward rules are not yet absorbed into principle.—H. P. Liddon.

The Law a Schoolmaster.

I. The Jewish religion brought men to Christ by the light, the constraining force, of prophecy.—First, a human deliverance of some kind, then a personal Saviour, is announced. He was exactly what prophecy had foretold. He Himself appealed to prophecy as warranting His claims.

II. By that ceremonial law which formed so important a part of it.—The Jewish ceremonial pointed to Christ and His redemptive work from first to last. The epistle to the Hebrews was written to show this—that the ceremonial law was far from being a final and complete rule of life and worship, did but prefigure blessings that were to follow it, that it was a tutor to lead men to the school of Christ.

III. By creating a sense of moral need that Christ alone could satisfy.—The moral law—God’s essential, indestructible moral nature in its relation to human life, thrown for practical purposes into the form of commandments—is essentially, necessarily beyond criticism; but when given to sinful man it does, but without grace, discover a want which it cannot satisfy. [p. 57] It enhanced the acting sense of unpardoned sin before a holy God. It convinced man of his moral weakness, as well as of his guilt, of his inability without the strengthening grace of Christ ever to obey it.

Lessons.—1. We see a test of all religious privileges or gifts: Do they or do they not lead souls to Christ? 2. Observe the religious use of all law—to teach man to know his weakness and to throw himself on a higher power for pardon and strength. 3. We see the exceeding preciousness of Christ’s Gospel—the matchless value of that faith which lives in the heart of the Church of God.—H. P. Liddon.

The Progress of Revelation.

I. The law was our schoolmaster as giving precepts in which principles were involved but not expressly taught.

II. As teaching inadequate and not perfect duties—a part instead of the whole, which was to develop into the whole. Examples—the institution of the Temple worship; the observance of the Sabbath; the third commandment.

Lessons:—1. Revelation is education. 2. Revelation is progressive. 3. The training of the character in God’s revelation has always preceded the illumination of the intellect.—F. W. Robertson.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 26–29.

The Dignity of Sonship with God

I. Enjoyed by all who believe in Christ.—“For ye are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (ver. 26). Faith in Christ emancipates the soul from the trammels and inferior status of the tutorial training and lifts it to the higher and more perfect relationship of a free son of God. The believer is no longer a pupil, subject to the surveillance and restrictions of the pedagogue; but a son, enjoying immediate and constant intercourse with the Father and all the privileges and dignities of a wider freedom. The higher relation excludes the lower; an advance has been made that leaves the old life for ever behind. The life now entered upon is a life of faith, which is a superior and totally different order of things from the suppressive domination of the law.

II. It is to be invested with the character of Christ.—“For as many as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ” (ver. 27). For if Christ is Son of God, and thou hast put on Him, having the Son in thyself and being made like to Him, thou wast brought into one kindred and one form of being with Him (Chrysostom). To be baptised into Christ is not the mere mechanical observance of the rite of baptism; the rite is the recognition and public avowal of the exercise of faith in Christ. In the Pauline vocabulary baptised is synonymous with believing. Faith invests the soul with Christ, and joyfully appropriates the estate and endowments of the filial relationship. Baptism by its very form—the normal and most expressive form of primitive baptism, the descent into and rising from the symbolic waters—pictured the soul’s death with Christ, its burial and its resurrection in Him, its separation from the life of sin, and entrance upon the new career of a regenerated child of God (Rom. vi. 3–14).

III. Implies such a complete union with Christ as to abolish all secondary distinctions.—“For there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (ver. 28). All distinctions of nationality, social status, and sex—necessary as they may be in the worldly life—disappear in the blending of human souls in the loftier relationship of sons of God. The Gospel is universal in its range and provisions and raises all who believe in Christ to a higher level than man could ever reach under the Mosaic regimen. To add circumcision to faith would be not to rise but to sink from the state of sons to that of serfs. Christ is the central bond of unity to the whole human race; [p. 58] faith in Him is the realisation by the individual of the honours and raptures of that unity.

IV. Is to be entitled to the inheritance of joint heirship with Christ.—“If ye be Christ’s, then are ye . . . heirs according to the promise” (ver. 29). In Christ the lineal descent from David becomes extinct. He died without posterity. But He lives and reigns over a vaster territory than David ever knew; and all who are of His spiritual seed, Jew or Gentile, share with Him the splendours of the inheritance provided by the Father. Here the soul reaches its supreme glory and joy. In Worcester Cathedral there is a slab with just one doleful word on it as a record of the dead buried beneath. That word is Miserrimus. No name, no date; nothing more of the dead than just this one word to say he who lay there was or is most miserable. Surely, he had missed the way home to the Father’s house and the Father’s love, else why this sad record? But in the Catacombs at Rome there is one stone recently found inscribed with the single word Felicissima. No name, no date again, but a word to express that the dead Christian sister was most happy. Most happy; why? Because she had found the Father’s house and love, and that peace which the storms of life, the persecutions of a hostile world, and the light afflictions of time could neither give nor take away.

Lessons.—1. Faith confers higher privileges than the law. 2. Faith in Christ admits the soul into sonship with God. 3. The sons of God share in the fulness of the Christly inheritance.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 26–29. Baptism.

I. The doctrine of Rome.—Christ’s merits are instrumentally applied by baptism; original sin is removed by a change of nature; a new character is imparted to the soul; a germinal principle or seed of life is miraculously given; and all this in virtue, not of any condition in the recipient, nor of any condition except that of the due performance of the rite. The objections to this doctrine are: 1. It assures baptism to be not the testimony to a fact, but the fact itself. Baptism proclaims the child of God; the Romanist says it creates him. 2. It is materialism of the grossest kind. 3. It makes Christian life a struggle for something that is lost, instead of a progress to something that lies before.

II. The doctrine of modern Calvinism.—Baptism admits all into the visible Church, but into the invisible Church only a special few. The real benefit of baptism only belongs to the elect. With respect to others, to predicate of them regeneration in the highest sense is at best an ecclesiastical fiction, said in the judgment of charity. You are not God’s child until you become such consciously. On this we remark: 1. This judgment of charity ends at the baptismal font. 2. This view is identical with the Roman one in this respect—that it creates the fact instead of testifying to it. 3. Is pernicious in its results in the matter of education.

III. The doctrine of the Bible.—Man is God’s child, and the sin of the man consists in perpetually living as if it were false. To be a son of God is one thing; to know that you are and call Him Father is another. Baptism authoritatively reveals and pledges to the individual that which is true of the race. 1. This view prevents exclusiveness and spiritual pride. 2. Protests against the notion of our being separate units in the Divine life. 3. Sanctifies materialism.—F. W. Robertson.

Ver. 26. The Children of God.

  1. We are all children.
  2. We are all children of God.
  3. We are all children of God through faith.
  4. [p. 59] We are all children of God in Christ Jesus.Dr. Beet.

God’s Children.

  1. If thou be God’s child, surely He will provide all things necessary for soul and body.—Our care must be to do the duty that belongs to us; when this is done our care is ended. They who drown themselves in worldly cares live like fatherless children.
  2. In that we are children we have liberty to come into the presence of God.
  3. Nothing shall hurt those who are the children of God.
  4. Walk worthy of your profession and calling.—Be not vassals of sin and Satan; carry yourselves as King’s sons.
  5. Our care must be to resemble Christ.
  6. We must have a desire and love to the Word of God that we may grow by it.
  7. We must have afflictions, if we be God’s children, for He corrects all His children.—Perkins.

Vers. 27, 28. The Christly Character

  1. Acquired by a spiritual union with Christ.—“Baptised into Christ.”
  2. Is a complete investiture with Christ.—“Have put on Christ.”
  3. Is a union with Christ that absorbs all conventional distinctions (ver. 28).

Ver. 27. Profession without Hypocrisy.—Hypocrisy is professing without practising. Men profess without feeling and doing or are hypocrites in nothing so much as in their prayers. Let a man set his heart upon learning to pray and strive to learn, and no failures he may continue to make in his manner of praying are sufficient to cast him from God’s favour. Let him but be in earnest, striving to master his thoughts and to be serious, and all the guilt of his incidental failings will be washed away in his Lord’s blood. We profess to be saints, to be guided by the highest principles, and to be ruled by the Spirit of God. We have long ago promised to believe and obey. It is true we cannot do these things aright—nay, even with God’s help we fall short of duty. Nevertheless, we must not cease to profess. There is nothing so distressing to a true Christian as to have to prove himself such to others, both as being conscious of his own numberless failings and from his dislike of display. Christ has anticipated the difficulties of his modesty. He does not allow such a one to speak for himself; He speaks for him. Let us endeavour to enter more and more fully into the meaning of our own prayers and professions; let us humble ourselves for the very little we do and the poor advance we make; let us avoid unnecessary display of religion. Thus we shall, through God’s grace, form within us the glorious mind of Christ.—Newman.

Teachings of Baptism

I. Our baptism must put us in mind that we are admitted and received into the family of God.

II. Our baptism in the name of the Trinity must teach us to know and acknowledge God aright.

III. Our baptism must be unto us a storehouse of comfort in time of need.

IV. Baptism is a putting on of Christ.—Alluding to the custom of those who were baptised in the apostle’s days putting off their garments when they were baptised, and putting on new garments after baptism. 1. In that we are to put on Christ we are reminded of our moral nakedness. 2. To have a special care of the trimming and garnishing of our souls. 3. Though we be clothed with Christ in baptism, we must further desire to be clothed upon—clad with immortality.—Perkins.

Ver. 28. All are One in Christ.

  1. People of all nations, all conditions, and all sexes.
  2. They who are of great birth and [p. 60] high condition must be put in mind not to be high-minded, nor despise them of low degree, for all are one in Christ.
  3. All believers must be of one heart and mind.
  4. We learn not to hate any man, but do good to all.—Men turn their swords and spears into mattocks and scythes, because they are one with Christ by the bond of one Spirit.—Perkins.

Ver. 29. The Promise of Grace.—The specific form of the whole Gospel is promise, which God gives in the Word and causes to be preached. The last period of the world is the reign of grace. Grace reigns in the world only as promise. Grace has nothing to do with law and requisition of law; therefore, the word of that grace can be no other than a word of promise. The promise of life in Christ Jesus is the word of the new covenant. The difference between the Gospel of the old covenant and that of the new rests alone on the transcendently greater glory of its promise.—Harless.

Heirs according to the Promise.

  1. The basest person, if he believes in Christ, is in the place of Abraham, and succeeds him in the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven.
  2. Believers must be content in this world with any estate God may lay upon them, for they are heirs with Abraham of heaven and earth.
  3. They that believe in Christ must moderate their worldly cares and not live as drudges of the world, for they are heirs of God, and are entitled to all good things promised in the covenant.
  4. Our special care must be for heaven.—The city of God is thy portion, or child’s part.—Perkins.

 

CHAPTER IV.

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.

Ver. 1 The heir, as long as he is a child.—An infant, one under age. Differeth nothing from a servant.—A slave. He is not at his own disposal. He could not perform any act but through his legal representative.

Ver. 2. Under tutors and governors.—Controllers of his person and property.

Ver. 3. Under the elements of the world.—The rudimentary religious teaching of a nonreligious character. The elementary lessons of outward things.

Ver. 4. God sent forth His Son.—Sent forth out of heaven from Himself. Implies the pre-existence of the Son. Made of a woman.—Made to be born of a woman. Indicating a special interposition of God in His birth as man. Made under the law.—By His Father’s appointment and His own free will, subject to the law, to keep it all, ceremonial and moral, for us, as the Representative Man, and to suffer and exhaust the full penalty of our violation of it.

Ver. 5. The adoption of sons.—Receive as something destined or due. Herein God makes of sons of men sons of God, inasmuch as God made of the Son of God the Son of man (Augustine).

Ver. 6. Abba, Father.Abba is the Chaldee for father. The early use of it illustrates what Paul has been saying (ch. iii. 28) of the unity resulting from the Gospel; for Abba, Father, unites Hebrew and Greek on one lip, making the petitioner at once a Jew and a Gentile.

Ver. 9. How turn ye again [anew]?—Making a new beginning in religion, lapsing from Christianity just in as far as they embrace legalism. To the weak and beggarly elements.—Weak is contrasted with power as to effects, and beggarly with affluence in respect of gifts. The disparaging expression is applied; not to the ritualistic externalism of heathen religions, but rather to that God-given system of ritualistic ordinances which had served the Church in her infancy. That which was appropriate food for a babe or sick man is feeble and poor for a grown man in full health.

[p. 61] Ver. 12. Be as I am, for I am as ye are.—Paul had become as a Gentile, though he was once a passionate Jew. Their natural leanings towards Judaism they ought to sacrifice as well as he.

Ver. 13. Ye know how through infirmity of flesh I preached.—The weakness may have been general debility, resulting from great anxieties and toils. It has been supposed that Paul was feeble-eyed, or blear-eyed (Acts xxii. 6), and that this special weakness had been aggravated at the time now in question.

Ver. 17. They zealously affect you, but not well.—They keenly court you, but not honourably. They would exclude you—from everything and every one whose influence would tend to bring the Galatians back to loyalty to the Gospel.

Ver. 20. I desire to be present with you, and to change my voice.—To speak not with the stern tones of warning, but with tender entreaties. I stand in doubt of you.—I am sorely perplexed, nonplussed, bewildered, as if not knowing how to proceed.

Ver. 24. Which things are an allegory.—Under the things spoken of—the two sons, with their contrast of parentage and position—there lies a spiritual meaning.

Ver. 25. Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.—Judaism as rejecting the light and liberty of the new dispensation.

Ver. 26. But Jerusalem which is above is free.—Is the spiritual reality which, veiled under the old dispensation, is comparatively unveiled in the dispensation of grace, and destined to be fully and finally manifested in the reign of glory. Christians are very different in standing to slave-born slaves.

Ver. 27. The desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.—The special purpose of the quotation appears to be to show that the idea of a countless Church, including Gentiles as well as Jews, springing out of spiritual nothingness, was apprehended under the Old Testament as destined for realisation under the New.

Ver. 30. Cast out the bondwoman and her son.—Even house-room to Judaism is not matter of right, but only by sufferance, and that so long and so far as it leaves the Gospel undisturbed in full possession.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 1–7.

The Nonage of the Pre-Christian World.

I. Mankind in pre-Christian times was like the heir in his minority.—1. In a state of temporary servitude, though having great expectations. “The heir differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; but is under tutors and governors” (vers. 1, 2). Under the Old Testament the bond-servant had this in common with a son, that he was a recognised member of the family; and the son had this in common with the slave, that he was in servitude, but with this difference, the servitude of the son was evanescent, that of the slave was permanent. The heirship is by right of birth, but possession and enjoyment can be reached only by passing through servitude and attaining majority. The minor is in the hands of guardians who care for his person and mental training, and of stewards who manage his estate. So the world, though possessing the promise of great blessing, was held for ages in the servitude of the law.

2. Subject to the restraint of external ordinances.—“Were in bondage under the elements of the world” (ver. 3). The commandments and ordinances imposed by the law belonged to an early and elementary period. In their infantile externalism they stand contrasted with the analogous things of the new dispensation, in which the believer is a grown man who casts away childish things. The Mosaic system watched over and guarded the infancy of the world. It exacted a rigid obedience to its mandates, and in doing so trained mankind to see and feel the need and appreciate the rich heritage of the covenant of grace. Mosaism rendered invaluable service to Christianity. It safe-guarded the writings that contained promises of future blessings and educated the race throughout the period of its nonage.

II. The matured sonship of mankind is accomplished through redemption.—1. The Redeemer is Divinely provided and of the highest dignity. “God sent forth His Son” (ver. 4). The mystical Germans speak of Christ as the ideal Son of man, the foretype of humanity; and there is a sense in which mankind was [p. 62] created in Christ Jesus, who is “the image of God, the first born of every creature.” But the apostle refers here to a loftier dignity belonging to Christ. He came in the character of God’s Son, bringing His sonship with Him. The Word, who became flesh, was with God, and was God, in the beginning. The Divine Son of God was sent forth into the world by the all-loving Father to be the Redeemer of mankind and to put an end to the world’s servitude.

2. The Redeemer assumes the nature and condition of those He redeems.—“Made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law” (vers. 4, 5). Christ was born of woman as other men are, and, like them, was at first a weak and dependent babe. His child-life has for ever beautified and consecrated child-nature. He was born under law—not the law as a mere Jew, which would have limited His redeeming work to the Jewish nation, but under law in its widest application. He submitted not only to the general moral demands of the Divine law for men, but to all the duties and proprieties incident to His position as a man, even to those ritual ordinances which His coming was to abolish. The purpose of His being sent was “to redeem them that were under the law”—to buy them out of their bondage. He voluntarily entered into the condition of the enslaved that He might emancipate them.

3. The sonship acquired through redemption is not by merit or legal right, but by adoption.—“That we might receive the adoption of sons” (ver. 5). The sonship is by grace, not of nature. Man lost his sonship by sin; by grace he gets it back again. Adoption we do not get back; we simply receive it. It is an act of God’s free grace.

III. The attainment of sonship is a conscious reality.—1. Made evident by the Spirit of God witnessing in us and crying to Him as to a Father. “Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (ver. 6). God sent forth His Son into the world of men: He sent forth the Spirit of His Son into their individual hearts. The filial consciousness was born within them, supernaturally inspired. When they believed in Christ, when they saw in Him the Son of God, their Redeemer, they were stirred with a new ecstatic impulse; a Divine glow of love and joy kindled in their breasts; a voice not their own spoke to their spirit; their soul leaped forth upon their lips, crying to God “Father, Father!” They were children of God and knew it.

2. Confirmed by the heirship that results from the Divine adoption.—“If a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (ver. 7). The nonage, the period of servitude and subjection, is passed. It gives place to the unrivalled privilege of a maturer spiritual manhood, and the heirship to an inheritance of indescribable and imperishable blessedness.

Lessons.—1. The law held the world in bondage. 2. The Gospel is a message of liberty by redemption. 3. Redemption by Christ confers distinguished privileges.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 4, 5. Christ’s Mission for the Adoption of Sons in the Fulness of Time.

I. The mission of Jesus Christ and the manner in which He manifested Himself.—“God sent forth His Son.” These words present the great fact of Christ’s mission from the Father and His appearance in the world. To denote the inexpressible dignity of Jesus, as being one with the Father in His most essential prerogatives and perfections, He is here styled, “His Son.” He was “made of a woman.” The circumstances of His incarnation placed Him at an immeasurable distance from all other parts of the human race. He was the immediate production of God, by His Divine power He was conceived of the Holy Ghost, and thereby completely exempted from the [p. 63] taint of original sin. He was the holy thing born of a virgin. He was by constitution placed in the same state as our first parents. He underwent a similar but severer trial and maintained His innocence against all the assaults of Satan. He was “made under the law”; whereas all other creatures are under it by the very terms of their existence, by the condition of their nature. He was made under the ceremonial law, under the moral law, under the mediatorial law.

II. The design of Christ’s mission.—“To redeem.” He came not merely to exemplify a rule of life, but to satisfy its violation; not to explain the statutes of heaven, but to pay the penalty arising from the curse announced against their transgression. He came essentially to change the moral situation of mankind. Christ has added to our original brightness; He has not only redeemed us from the first transgression, but accumulated blessings which man, even in innocence, could never have obtained.

III. The fitness of the season at which Christ was manifested.—“The fulness of time.” 1. It was the period foretold by the prophets. Hence the general expectation of His coming. 2. It was a period of advancement in politics, legislation, science, and arts, and manners; an age of scepticism. 3. It was a period of toleration. The epoch will arrive when this world shall be thought of as nothing but as it furnished a stage for the manifestation of the Son of God.—Robert Hall.

Ver. 4. The Fulness of the Time.—Christ comes when a course of preparation, conducted through previous ages, was at last complete. He was not the creation of His own or any preceding age. What is true of all other great men, who are no more than great men, is not true of Him. They receive from their age as much as they give it; they embody and reflect its spirit. Christ really owed nothing to the time or the country which welcomed His advent.

I. The world was prepared politically for Christ’s work.—There was a common language—the Greek; a common government—the Roman.

II. There was a preparation in the convictions of mankind.—The epoch of religious experiments had been closed in an epoch of despair.

III. There was a preparation in the moral experience of mankind.—The dreadful picture of the pagan world which St. Paul draws at the close of the first chapter of his epistle to the Romans is not a darker picture than that of pagan writers—of moralists like Seneca, of satirists like Juvenal, of historians like Tacitus; and yet enough survived of moral truth in the human conscience to condemn average pagan practice. It led them to yearn for a deliverer, although their aspirations were indefinite enough. This widespread corruption, this longing for better things, marked the close of the epoch of moral experiments.

Lessons.—1. The earthly life of Christ stood in a totally different relation towards moral truth from that of every other man. 2. It was a life at harmony with itself and a revelation of higher truth. 3. His incarnation delivers us from false views of the world and of life, from base and desponding views of our human nature, and from bondage.—H. P. Liddon.

Christ Obedient to the Law.

I. This obedience was not a matter of course, following upon His incarnation. He might have lived and died, had it been consistent with His high purpose, in sinless purity, without expressly undertaking as He did openly to fulfil the law. It was a voluntary act, becoming and fit for the great work He had in hand.

II. This obedience was not only an integral but a necessary part of His work of redemption.—Had this not been so, redemption would have been incomplete. Not only God’s unwritten law in the conscience, but God’s written law in the tables of stone, must be completely satisfied. It [p. 64] being shown, by both Gentile and Jew, that neither by nature nor by revealed light was man capable of pleasing God, all men were left simply and solely dependent on His free and unmerited grace. All cases of guilt must be covered, all situations of disobedience taken up and borne and carried triumphantly out into perfection and accordance with the Father’s will, by the Son of God in our flesh.

III. This obedience for man was to be not only complete, so that Christ should stand in the root of our nature as the accepted man, but was to be our pattern, that as He was holy so we might be holy also.

IV. This obedience arose from the requirements of His office connected with the law.—He was the end of the law. It all pointed to Him. Its types and ceremonies all found fulfilment in His person and work. All has been fulfilled. All looked forward to One that was to come—to one who has come, and in His own person has superseded that law by exhausting its requirements, has glorified that law by filling out and animating with spiritual life its waste and barren places. So that God has not changed, nor has His purpose wavered, nor are His people resting on other than their old foundation.—Dean Alford.

Ver. 5. Under the Law

I. As the rule of life.—Thus angels are under the law. Adam was before his fall, and the saints in heaven are so now. None yield more subjection to the law than they, and this subjection is their liberty.

II. As a grievous yoke which none can bear.—1. It bound the Church of the Old Testament to the observance of many and costly ceremonies. 2. It binds every offender to everlasting death. 3. It is a yoke as it increases sin and is the strength of it. The wicked nature of man is the more to do a thing the more he is forbidden.—Perkins.

Adoption.

I. In what adoption consists.—1. The points of resemblance between natural and spiritual adoption. (1) We cease to have our former name and are designated after the name of God. (2) We change our abode. Once in the world, now in the Church and family of God. (3) We change our costume. Conform to the family dress: garments of salvation. 2. The points of difference between natural and spiritual adoption. (1) Natural adoption was to supply a family defect. God had hosts of children. (2) Natural adoption was only of sons. No distinction in God’s adoption. (3) In natural adoption there was only a change of condition. God makes His children partakers of His own nature. (4) In natural adoption only one was adopted, but God adopts multitudes. (5) In natural adoption only temporal advantages were derived, but in spiritual the blessings are eternal.

II. Signs of adoption.—1. Internal signs. Described in ch. iv. 6; Rom. viii. 14–16. 2. External signs. (1) Language; (2) Profession; (3) Obedience.

III. Privileges of adoption.—1. Deliverance from the miseries of our natural state. 2. Investiture into all the benefits of Christ’s family. 3. A title to the celestial inheritance.

Learn—1. The importance of the blessing. 2. Seek the good of God’s family. 3. Invite strangers to become sons and heirs of God.—Sketches.

Adoption and its Claims.—Among the American Indians when a captive was saved to be adopted in the place of some chieftain who had fallen, his allegiance and his identity were looked upon as changed. If he left a wife and children behind him, they were to be forgotten and blotted from memory. He stood in the place of the dead warrior, assumed his responsibilities, he was supposed to cherish those whom he had cherished and hate those whom he had hated; in fact, he was supposed to stand in the same relation of consanguinity to the tribe.—Bancroft.

Vers. 6, 7. Evidences of Sonship.

I. The presence of the Spirit in the [p. 65] heart.—1. The beginning of our new birth is in the heart, when a new light is put into the mind, a new and heavenly disposition into the will and affection. 2. The principal part of our renovation is in the heart were the Spirit abides. 3. The beginning and principal part of God’s worship is in the heart. 4. Keep watch and ward about thy heart, that it may be a fit place of entertainment for the Spirit, who is an Ambassador sent from God to thee.

II. The work of the Spirit.—1. Bestowing conviction that the Scriptures are the Word of God. 2. Submission to God and a desire to obey Him. 3. The testimony of the Spirit—a Divine manner of reasoning framed in the mind—that we are God’s children. 4. Peace of conscience, joy, and affiance in God.

III. The desires of the heart directed towards God.—1. Our cries are to be directed to God with reverence. 2. With submission to His will. 3. With importunity and constancy.—Perkins.

The Character and Privileges of the Children of God.

I. The distinguishing characteristic of the children of God.—1. It is a spirit of filial confidence as opposed to servile fear. No unpardoned sinner has a sufficient ground of confidence in God. Till assured that God loves him, he knows not how God may treat him at any particular time. But we cannot believe that God loves us and at the same time doubt His mercy. He that heartily reposes on God’s favour cannot dread His vengeance.

2. This filial spirit is one of holy love as opposed to the bondage of sin.—The love of God is a powerful element well calculated to change the whole of our inner man. It gives a new bias to our wayward affections and a healthful vigour to every good desire.

3. The filial spirit is one of ready obedience as opposed to the gloomy spirit of servitude.—The service of a slave is unwilling, extorted, unsatisfactory; the obedience of a child is ready, loving, energetic. Love is self-denying, soul-absorbing, devoted.

II. Some of the distinguishing privileges of the children of God.—1. The child of God has a part in the Father’s love and care. 2. Has a filial resemblance to the heavenly Father. 3. Children of God have the privileges of family communion and fellowship. 4. Have a share in the family provisions. 5. Have a title to the future inheritance.—Robert M. Macbrair.

Ver. 7. God’s Offspring.—1. This is the state of all poor heathen, whether in England or foreign countries: they are children, ignorant and unable to take care of themselves, because they do not know what they are. Paul tells them they are God’s offspring, though they know it not. He does not mean that we are not God’s children till we find out that we are God’s children. You were God’s heirs all along, although you differed nothing from slaves; for as long as you were in heathen ignorance and foolishness God had to treat you as His slaves, not as His children. They thought that God did not love them, that they must buy His favours. They thought religion meant a plan for making God love them. 2. Then appeared the love of God in Jesus Christ, who told men of their heavenly Father. He preached to them the good news of the kingdom of God, that God had not forgotten them, did not hate them, would freely forgive them all that was past; and why? Because He was their Father and loved them so that He spared not His only begotten Son. And now God looks at us in the light of Jesus Christ. He does not wish us to remain merely His child, under tutors and governors, forced to do what is right outwardly and whether it likes or not. God wishes each of us to become His son, His grown-up and reasonable son. 3. It is a fearful thing to despise the mercies of the living God, and when you are called to be His sons [p. 66] to fall back under the terrors of His law in slavish fear and a guilty conscience and remorse which cannot repent. He has told you to call Him your Father; and if you speak to Him in any other way, you insult Him and trample underfoot the riches of His grace. You are not God’s slaves, but His sons, heirs of God and joint-heirs of Christ. What an inheritance of glory and bliss that must be which the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is to inherit with us—an inheritance of all that is wise, loving, noble, holy, peaceful, all that can make us happy and like God Himself.—C. Kingsley.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 8–11.

Legalism a Relapse.

I. Legalism is no advance on heathenism.—“When ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods” (ver. 8). Paganism was an elaborate system of formalism. The instinct of worship led men to sacrifice to imaginary deities—gods which were no gods. Ignorant of the true God, they multiplied deities of their own. The Galatian pagans created a strange Pantheon. There were the old weird Celtic deities before whom our British forefathers trembled. On this ancestral faith had been superimposed the frantic rites of the Phrygian mother Cebele, with her mutilated priests, and the more genial and humanistic cultus of the Greek Olympian gods. The oppressive rites of legalism were little better than the heathen ritual. Religion degenerated into a meaningless formality. Dickens describes how in Genoa he once witnessed a great feast on the hill behind the house, when the people alternately danced under tents in the open air and rushed to say a prayer or two in an adjoining church bright with red and gold and blue and silver—so many minutes of dancing and of praying in regular turns of each.

II. Legalism to converted heathen, is a disastrous relapse.—“After ye have known God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements? . . . Ye observe days and months and times and years” (vers. 9, 10). The heathen in their blindness and ignorance might be excused, and ritualism, even to the Jews before the coming of the Messiah, might be well enough; but for Christians, who had received ampler knowledge and been illumined by the Holy Spirit, to return to the weak and beggarly elements, was irrational, monstrous! Having tasted the sweets of liberty, what folly to submit again to slavery! having reached spiritual manhood, how childish to degenerate! Legalism destroys the life of religion and leaves only a mass of petrified forms. In his Stones of Venice, Ruskin says: “There is no religion in any work of Titian’s; there is not even the smallest evidence of religious temper or sympathies either in himself or those for whom he painted. His larger sacred themes are merely for the exhibition of pictorial rhetoric—composition and colour. His minor works are generally made subordinate to the purposes of portraiture. The Madonna in the Frari church is a mere lay figure, introduced to form a link of connection between the portraits of various members of the Pesaro family who surround her. Bellini was brought up in faith; Titian in formalism. Between the years of their births the vital religion of Venice had expired.”

III. A relapse to legalism is an occasion of alarm to the earnest Christian teacher.—“I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain” (ver. 11). The apostle knew something of the fickleness of the Galatians and of the weakness of human nature but was hardly prepared for such a collapse of the work which he had built up with so much anxiety and care. He saw, more clearly than they, the peril of his converts, and the prospect of their further defection filled him with alarm and grief. It meant the loss of advantages [p. 67] gained, of precious blessing enjoyed, of peace, of character, of influence for good. It is a painful moment when the anxious Christian worker has to mourn over failure in any degree.

Lessons.—1. Legalism suppresses all religious growth. 2. Is a constant danger to the holiest. 3. Shows the necessity for earnest vigilance and prayer.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 8–11. The Dilemma of Turncoats.

I. Their first condition was one of ignorance.—1. Ignorance of God. (1) The light of nature is imperfect, because we know by it only some few and general things of God. (2) It is weak, because it serves only to cut off excuse, and is not sufficient to direct us in the worship of God. (3) It is a great and grievous sin.

2. Idolatry.—(1) When that which is not God is placed and worshipped in the room of the true God. (2) When men acknowledge the true God, but do not conceive Him as He will be conceived, and as He has revealed Himself. (3) What a man loves most, cares for most, and delights in most, that is his god. Where the heart is, there is thy god.

II. Their changed condition is the knowledge of God in Christ.—1. This is a special knowledge whereby we must acknowledge God to be our God in Christ. 2. This knowledge must be not confused, but distinct. (1) We must acknowledge God in respect of His presence in all places. (2) In respect of His particular providence over us. (3) In respect of His will in all things to be done and suffered. 3. This knowledge must be an effectual and lively knowledge, working in us new affections, and inclinations.

III. Their revolt is an abandonment of salvation.—It is an exchange of knowledge for ignorance, of the substance for the shadow, of reality for emptiness—a return to weak and beggarly elements. It is the substitution of ceremonies for genuine worship.

IV. The conduct of turn-coats is an occasion of ministerial disappointment and alarm (ver. 11).—Work that is in vain in respect of men is not so before God.—Perkins.

Vers. 8, 9. Ignorance of God a Spiritual Bondage.—1. However nature’s light may serve to make known there is a God and that He ought to be served, it is nothing else but ignorance, as it leaves us destitute of the knowledge of God in Christ, without which there is no salvation. 2. Men are naturally inclined to feign some representation of the Godhead by things which incur in the outward senses, from which they easily advance to give Divine worship unto those images and representations. 3. Though the Levitical ceremonies were once to be religiously observed as a part of Divine worship leading to Christ, yet when the false teachers did urge them as a part of necessary commanded worship, or as a part of their righteousness before God, the apostle is bold to give them the name of “weak and beggarly elements.” 4. People may advance very far in the way of Christianity, and yet make a foul retreat afterwards in the course of defection and apostasy.—Fergusson.

Vers. 9, 10. God’s Sabbatic Law antedated the Mosaic Law.—And whatever of legal bondage has been linked with the observance of the Jewish Sabbath was eliminated together with the change to the first day of the week. This at once removes the Lord’s Day from the category of days, and also of weak and beggarly elements. The mode of observance is learned from the Lord’s words, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath,” which at the same time imply, when rightly understood, the perpetual necessity for a Sabbath.—Lange.

[p. 68] Ver. 11. Ministerial Anxiety—1. Prompts to earnest efforts in imparting the highest spiritual truths. 2. Looks for corresponding results in consistency of character and conduct. 3. Is grieved with the least indications of religious failure.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 12–20.

The Pleadings of an Anxious Teacher with his Pupils in Peril.

I. He reminds them of the enthusiastic attachment of former days.—1. Urges them to exercise the same freedom as he himself claimed. “Be as I am; for I am as ye are” (ver. 12). Though himself a Jew, Paul had assumed no airs of superiority, and did not separate himself from his Gentile brethren; he became as one of them. He asks them to exercise a similar liberty; and lest they should fear he would have a grudge against them because of their relapse, he hastens to assure them, “Ye have not injured [wronged] me at all” (ver. 12).

2. Recalls their extravagant expression of admiration on their first reception of his teaching.—“Ye know how through infirmity I preached at the first. My temptation ye despised not; but received me as an angel of God. . . . Ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me” (vers. 13, 14, 15). His physical weakness, which might have moved the contempt of others, elicited the sympathy of the warm-hearted Galatians. They listened with eagerness and wonder to the Gospel he preached. The man, with his humiliating infirmity, was lost in the charm of his message. They were thankful that, though his sickness was the reason of his being detained among them, it was the opportunity of their hearing the Gospel. Had he been an angel from heaven, or Jesus Christ Himself, they could not have welcomed him more rapturously. They would have made any sacrifice to assure him of their regard and affection.

3. Shows he was not less their friend because he rebuked them.—“Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (ver. 16). And now they rush, with Gallic-like fickleness, to the opposite extreme. Because he attacks the new fancies with which they have become enamoured, and probes them with some wholesome and unwelcome truths, they imagine he has become their enemy. Not so; he is but using the privilege of a true and faithful friend.

II. He warns them against the seductive tactics of false teachers.—1. Their zealous flattery was full of danger. “They zealously affect you, but not well; they would exclude you” (ver. 17). They are courting you, these present suitors for your regard, dishonourably; they want to shut us out and have you to themselves, that you may pay court to them. They pretend to be zealous for your interests; but it is their own they seek. They would exclude you from all opportunities of salvation—yea, from Christ Himself. The flatterer should be always suspected. The turning away from sound doctrine goes hand in hand with a predilection for such teachers as tickle the ear, while they teach only such things as correspond to the sinful inclinations of the hearers.

2. Though genuine zeal is commendable.—“It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing” (ver. 18). Christian zeal must be seen not only to correspond and to be adapted to the intellect but must also be in harmony with the highest and profoundest sentiments of our nature. It must not be exhibited in the dry, pedantic divisions of a scholastic theology; nor must it be set forth and tricked out in the light drapery of an artificial rhetoric, in prettiness of style, in measured sentences, with an insipid floridness, and in the form of elegantly feeble essays. No; it must come from the soul in the language of earnest conviction and strong feeling.

III. He pleads with the tender solicitude of a spiritual parent.—“My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, . . . I desire to be present with you, and [p. 69] to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you” (vers. 19, 20). As a mother, fearful of losing the affection of her children for whom she has suffered so much, the apostle appeals to his converts in tones of pathetic persuasion. His heart is wrung with anguish as he sees the peril of his spiritual children, and he breaks out into tender and impassioned entreaty. And yet he is perplexed by the attitude they have taken, and as if uncertain of the result of his earnest expostulations. The preacher has to learn to be patient as well as zealous.

Lessons.—1. Strong emotions and warm affections are no guarantee for the permanence of religious life. 2. How prone are those who have put themselves in the wrong to fix the blame on others. 3. Men of the Galatian type are the natural prey of self-seeking agitators.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Ver. 12. Christian Brotherhood.—Here is: 1. A loving compellation—“Brethren.” 2. A submissive address by way of comprecation—“I beseech you.” 3. A request most reasonable—“Be ye as I am; for I am as ye are.” 4. A wise and prudent preoccupation or prevention which removes all obstructions and forestalls those jealousies, those surmises and groundless suspicions, which are the bane of charity and the greatest enemies to peace. “Ye have not injured me at all.”

I. Nature herself hath made all men brethren.—1. This may serve to condemn all those who look upon men under other consideration than as men or view them in any other shape than as brethren. And the very name of man and of brother should be an amulet for all mankind against the venom of iniquity and injustice.

2. By this light of nature we may condemn ourselves when any bitterness towards our brother riseth in our hearts, and allay or rather root it out as inhuman and unnatural. None can dishonour us more than ourselves do, when one man hath trodden down another as the clay in the streets, when we think ourselves great men by making our brethren little, when we contemn and despise, hate and persecute them.

II. Brethren as Christians professing the same faith.—There is such a brotherhood that neither error nor sin nor injury can break and dissolve it.

1. Men may err and yet be brethren.—We may be divided in opinion and yet united in charity. Consider the difficulty of finding out truth in all things and avoiding error, that our brother may err rather from want of light than out of malice and wilfully and conceive it possible we may err as foully as others.

2. Men may sin and yet be brethren.—Charity, because she may err, nay, because she must err, looks upon every Christian as a brother. If he err, she is a guide to him; if he sin, she is a physician; if he fall, she strives to lift him up, being a light to the blind and a staff to the weak.

3. Men may injure each other and yet be brethren.—Socrates, being overcome in judgment, professed he had no reason to be angry with his enemies unless it were for this, that they conceived and believed they had hurt him. Indeed, no injury can be done by a brother to a brother. The injury is properly done to God, who reserves all power of revenge to Himself. “If a brother strike us,” said Chrysostom, “kiss his hand; if he would destroy us, our revenge should be to save him.” Nazianzen said to the young man who was suborned to kill him, “Christ forgive thee, who hath also forgiven me, and died to save me.”

Lessons.—1. Brotherly love is pleasant and delightful. 2. Profitable and advantageous. 3. So necessary that it had been better for us never to have been than not to love the brethren.—A. Farindon.

[p. 70] Vers. 13–15. Love for the Preacher

  1. Notwithstanding the physical infirmity of the messenger (ver. 13).
  2. Generates the loftiest esteem for his character and abilities (ver. 14).
  3. Is often expressed in exaggerated terms (ver. 15).

Ver. 14. The Authority of the Messenger of God.

  1. He is to be heard even as Christ Himself, because in preaching he is the mouth of God.
  2. Here we see the goodness of God, who does not speak to us in His majesty, but appoints men in His stead, who are His ambassadors.
  3. There must be fidelity in teachers.—They stand in the stead of Christ, and must deliver only that which they know to be the will of Christ.
  4. They must have especial care of holiness of life.
  5. The people are to hear their teachers with reverence, as if they would hear the angels or Christ Himself.
  6. The comfort of the ministry is as sure as if an angel came down from heaven, or Christ Himself, to comfort us.—Perkins.

Ver. 16. The Right Mode of giving and receiving Reproof.—Should it be esteemed the part of a friend faithfully to tell men the truth? and should the suppression of truth and the substitution of its opposite be held to mark the character of an enemy? How often has the amicable state of feeling been broken up by telling the truth, even when done in a proper spirit and manner!

I. What would you wish your friend to be?—1. Sincere. 2. That he should take a very general interest in my welfare and be desirous to promote it. 3. A person of clear, sound, discriminating judgment, and with a decided preference in all things. 4. That he should not be a man full of self-complacency, a self-idolater, but observant and severe towards his own errors and defects. 5. A man who would include me expressly in his petitions, praying that I may be delivered from those evils which he perceives in me, and God far more clearly. 6. Such that, as the last result of my communications with him, a great deal of what may be defective and wrong in me shall have been disciplined away.

II. Why do we regard a friend as an enemy because he tells us the truth?—1. Because plain truth, by whatever voice, must say many things that are displeasing. 2. Because there is a want of the real earnest desire to be in all things set right. 3. Because there is pride, reacting against a fellow-mortal and fellow-sinner. 4. Because there is not seldom a real difference of judgment on the matters in question. 5. Because there is an unfavourable opinion or surmise as to the motives of the teller of truth.

III. How should reproof be administered?—1. Those who do this should well exercise themselves to understand what they speak of. 2. It should be the instructor’s aim that the authority may be conveyed in the truth itself, and not seem to be assumed by him as the speaker of it. 3. He should watch to select favourable times and occasions.

IV. How should reproof be received?—1. By cultivating a disposition of mind which earnestly desires the truth, in whatever manner it may come to us. 2. There have been instances in which a friend, silent when he should have spoken, has himself afterwards received the reproof for not having done so from the person whom he declined to admonish. 3. If there be those so painfully and irritably susceptible as to be unwilling to hear corrective truth from others, how strong is the obligation that they should look so much the more severely to themselves.—John Foster.

Ver. 18. Zeal.

I. Various kinds of zeal.—1. There [p. 71] is a zeal of God which is not according to knowledge. 2. There is a mistaken zeal for the glory of God. (1) When that is opposed which is right, under a false notion of its being contrary to the glory of God. (2) When ways and methods improper are taken to defend and promote the glory of God. (3) There is a superstitious zeal, such as was in Baal’s worshippers, who cut themselves with knives and lancets; particularly in the Athenians, who were wholly given to idolatry; and the Jews, who were zealous of the traditions of the fathers. (4) There is a persecuting zeal, under a pretence of the glory of God. (5) There is a hypocritical zeal for God, as in the Pharisees, who make a show of great zeal for piety, by their long prayers, when they only sought to destroy widows’ houses by that means. (6) There is a contentious zeal, which often gives great trouble to Christian communities. (7) True zeal is no other than a fervent, ardent love to God and Christ, and a warm concern for their honour and glory.

II. The objects of zeal.—1. The object of it is God. The worship of God, who must be known, or He cannot be worshipped aright. 2. The cause of Christ is another object of zeal. The Gospel of Christ; great reason there is to be zealous for that, since it is the Gospel of the grace of God. 3. The ordinances of Christ, which every true Christian should be zealous for, that they be kept as they were first delivered, without any innovation or corruption. 4. The discipline of Christ’s house should be the object of our zeal. 5. True zeal is concerned in all the duties of religion and shows itself in them.

III. Motives exciting to the exercise of true zeal.—1. The example of Christ. 2. True zeal answers a principal end of the redemption of Christ. 3. It is good, the apostle says, to be zealously affected in and for that which is good. 4. A lukewarm temper, which is the opposite to zeal, seems not consistent with true religion, which has always life and heat in it. 5. The zeal of persons shown in a false way should stimulate the professors of the true religion to show at least an equal zeal.—Pulpit Assistant.

Christian Zeal

  1. Implies unwavering steadfastness of purpose.
  2. Universal and hearty obedience to God’s commands in all things, small as well as great.
  3. Supreme devotion of heart and life to Christ.
  4. Should be exercised in a good thing.—True zeal seeks benevolent ends by lawful means, else it is fanaticism. It seeks practical ends by wise means, else it is enthusiasm. Zeal should be shown in active and useful devotion to the cause of religion, rather than in excitement and warm devotional exercise.
  5. Should be uniform, not periodical.—It should not depend upon the fluctuations of feeling, but should act upon principle. Periodical fervours are deceitful, dangerous, injurious, dishonourable to religion. They are commonly a proof of superficial piety, or of none at all.—Stephen Olin.

Godly Zeal and its Counterfeits.

I. Let us distinguish between mere natural zeal and spiritual ardour.—1. There is a zeal of sympathy which is awakened by the zeal of others with whom we associate. It is only that of the soldier who, though himself a coward, is urged on to battle by the example of those around him. 2. There is constitutional zeal, a warmth, an ardour, which enters into all we say or do, which pervades all our actions and animates all our services. This is not strictly religious but animal excitement and is no more allied to our soul-life than our arms or our feet. 3. There is a zeal which is merely sentimental. It throws a romantic glamour over our objects; but its exercises are too occasional, too random, to produce much effect. 4. There is a zeal of affectation like that of Jehu (2 Kings x. 16). This [p. 72] is religious foppery and hypocritical vanity. 5. Christian zeal is a fair demonstration of what is felt within. It seeks not the eye of man but acts under the conviction of God’s omniscience.

II. Consider the objects to which Christian zeal should be directed.—This “good thing” may be taken as including all true religion, and embracing: 1. The promotion of God’s glory. 2. The extension of Christ’s kingdom. 3. The salvation of men. 4. The conversion of the world.

III. The good that results from the exercise of Christian zeal to the persons that possess it.—1. It renders them more Christ-like. 2. It furthers the Divine designs in the most effective way. 3. We become worthy followers of the great heroes of faith in the past ages.—The Preacher’s Magazine.

True Christian Zeal.

I. The Christian convert is zealously affected in a good thing.—1. All the teachings of Christianity are good. They enlighten, guide, and sanctify. They are peculiar, harmonious, infallible, Divine. Their morality is sublime, their spirit heavenly, their effect glorious.

2. The influence of Christianity is good.—It has created the sweet charities of national and domestic life, sanctified advancing civilisation, softened the fierceness of war, stimulated science, promoted justice and liberty. Sceptics have admitted this.

3. All that Christianity accomplishes for man is good.—It saves him from sin, from the stings of guilt, from the eternal consequences of wrong-doing.

II. The zeal of the Christian convert is to be steady and continuous.—There should be no diminution nor fluctuation in our zeal. 1. Because no reason can be assigned why we should not be as zealous at any after-hour as at the hour of our conversion. 2. Because it is only by steady and continuous zeal that a proper measure of Christian influence can be exerted. 3. Because only by steady and continuous zeal can Christian character be matured. 4. Because only thus can success in Christian enterprises be attained. 5. Because steady and continuous zeal will alone bring Divine approval.

III. The zeal of the Christian convert is not to be unduly influenced by the presence of others.—While Paul was with the Churches in Galatia they were zealous, but after his departure their zeal ceased. To lose our zeal because we have lost the influence of another is to show: 1. That we never possessed true Christian motives. 2. That our supposed attachment to Christ and His cause was delusive. 3. That our zeal had merely been an effort to please men, not God.—The Lay Preacher.

Ver. 19. The Christmas of the Soul.—The apostle refers to the spiritual birth. The soul then rises into a consciousness of its infinite importance; its thoughts, sympathies, and purposes become Christ-like, and Christ is manifested in the life. The soul-birth were impossible if Christ had not been born in Bethlehem. That was an era in the world’s history, this in the individual life; that was brought about by the Holy Spirit, this is effected by the same Divine Agent; that was followed by the antagonism of the world, this is succeeded by the opposition of evil, both within and without; that was the manifestation of God in the flesh, this is the renewing of man’s nature in the image of God; that came to pass without man’s choice, this requires man’s seeking. Has this spiritual birth taken place in you? If so, you have a right to the enjoyment of a happy Christmas. Keep the feast as a new man in Christ Jesus.—Homiletic Monthly.

Ver. 20. A Preacher’s Perplexity

  1. Occasioned by the defection of his converts.—“I stand in doubt of you.”
  2. As to what method he should adopt to restore them.—“And to change my voice.”
  3. Increased by the difficulty of [p. 73] effecting a personal interview.—“I desire to be present with you now.”

“I stand in doubt of you.” Doubtful Christians.

I. Persons whose religion is liable to suspicion.—1. Those who have long attended the means of grace, and are very defective in knowledge. 2. Who profess much knowledge and are puffed up with it. 3. Who contend for doctrinal religion rather than for that which is practical and experimental. 4. Who waver in their attachment to the fundamental principles of the Gospel. 5. Who neglect the ordinances of God’s house. 6. Who neglect devotional exercises. 7. Who co-operate not with the Church to advance the kingdom of Christ in the world.

II. The improvement to be made of the subject.—1. Should lead to self-examination. 2. Shows the loss and danger of persons so characterised. 3. Should lead to repentance and faith. 4. While exercising a godly jealousy over others, let Christians watch with greater jealousy over themselves.—Helps.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 21–31.

The History of Hagar and Sarah allegorical of the Law and the Gospel.

I. The two women represented two different covenants.—1. Hagar represented Sinai, typical of the law with its slavish exactions and terrible threatenings (vers. 22, 25). Sinai spoke of bondage and terror. It was a true symbol of the working of the law of Moses, exhibited in the present condition of Judaism. And round the base of Sinai Hagar’s wild sons had found their dwelling. Jerusalem was no longer the mother of freemen. Her sons chafed under the Roman yoke. They were loaded with self-inflicted burdens. The spirit of the nation was that of rebellious, discontented slaves. They were Ishmaelite sons of Abraham, with none of the nobleness, the reverence, the calm and elevated faith of their father. In the Judaism of the apostle’s day the Sinaitic dispensation, uncontrolled by the higher patriarchal and prophetic faith, had worked out its natural result. It gendered to bondage. A system of repression and routine, it had produced men punctual in tithes of mint and anise, but without justice, mercy, or faith; vaunting their liberty while they were servants of corruption. The Pharisee was the typical product of law apart from grace. Under the garb of a freeman he carried the soul of a slave.

2. Sarah represented Jerusalem, typical of the Gospel with its higher freedom and larger spiritual fruitfulness (vers. 26–28).—Paul has escaped from the prison of legalism, from the confines of Sinai; he has left behind the perishing earthly Jerusalem, and with it the bitterness and gloom of his Pharisaic days. He is a citizen of the heavenly Zion, breathing the air of a Divine freedom. The yoke is broken from the neck of the Church of God; the desolation is gone from her heart. Robbed of all outward means, mocked and thrust out as she is by Israel after the flesh, her rejection is a release, an emancipation. Conscious of the spirit of sonship and freedom, looking out on the boundless conquests lying before her in the Gentile world, the Church of the new covenant glories in her tribulations. In Paul is fulfilled the joy of prophet and psalmist, who sang in former days of gloom concerning Israel’s enlargement and world-wide victories (Findlay).

II. The antagonism of their descendants represented the violent and incessant opposition of the law to the Gospel.—“As he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. . . . Cast out the bondwoman and her son” (vers. 29, 30). Sooner or later the slave-boy was bound to go. He has no proper birthright, no permanent footing in the house. One day he exceeds his licence, he makes himself intolerable; he must be gone. [p. 74] The Israelitish people showed more than Ishmael’s jealousy toward the infant Church of the Spirit. No weapon of violence or calumny was too base to be used against it. Year by year they became more hardened against spiritual truth, more malignant towards Christianity, and more furious and fanatical in their hatred towards their civil rulers. Ishmael was in the way of Isaac’s safety and prosperity (Ibid.).

III. The Gospel bestows a richer inheritance than the law.—“The son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. . . . We are children of the free” (vers. 30, 31). The two systems were irreconcilable. The law and the Gospel cannot coexist and inherit together; the law must disappear before the Gospel. The higher absorbs the lower. The Church of the future, the spiritual seed of Abraham gathered out of all nations, has no part in legalism. It embraces blessings of which Mosaism had no conception—“an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away” (1 Pet. i. 4).

Lessons.—1. The law and the Gospel differ fundamentally. 2. The law imposes intolerable burdens. 3. The Gospel abrogates the law by providing a higher spiritual obedience.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 21–31. Legal Bondage and Spiritual Freedom contrasted

  1. In their inception and development (vers. 21–27).
  2. In their ceaseless antagonism (ver. 29).
  3. In their inevitable results (vers. 28, 30, 31).

Ver. 21. A Lesson from the Law

  1. Addressed to those eager for its subjection.—“Ye that desire to be under the law.”
  2. Is suggestive of solemn warning.
  3. Should be seriously pondered.—“Tell me, do ye not hear the law?”

Ver. 26. Jerusalem Above.

I. The Church of Christ as she exists in the present world.—“Jerusalem, above and free.”

1. Above; that is, seen in connection with God and the scenes of the heavenly world.—(1) Her Head is from above. (2) If we take the Church as a whole, though she is in part on earth, the greater number of her members are in heaven. (3) Our Jerusalem is above because her members all fix their affections there and thither then as the great end of their profession.

2. Jerusalem above is free, and so are her children.—From the bondage of seeking salvation by works of law, from the guilt of sin, from its dominion.

II. The filial sentiment with which we ought to regard the Church of Christ.—She is “the mother of us all.” The general idea is, that if we are indeed spiritual, under God, we owe all to the Church. To her God has committed the preservation of His truth. In stormy times she has sheltered her lamps in the recesses of the sanctuary, and in happier times has placed them on high to guide and save. The Spirit of God is in the Church. To her you owe your hallowed fellowships. In the Church it is that God manifests Himself.

III. The animating anticipations we are thus taught to form of the Church as glorified.—Turn to the description given in Revelation xxi. 1. Mark the wall great and high—denoting the perfect, impregnable security of those who dwell there. 2. At the gates are angels—still ushering in the heirs of salvation and disdaining not to be porters to this glorious city. 3. Mark the foundations, garnished with all manner of precious stones—implying permanency. 4. Mark the circumstance that in the twelve foundations are inscribed the names of the twelve apostles—the whole being the result of their doctrine. [p. 75] 5. The whole city is a temple all filled with the presence and glory of God. No holiest of all is there where every part is most holy. All are filled, sanctified, beatified, by the fully manifested presence of God. He is all in all; all things in and to all.—Richard Watson.

Jerusalem a Type of the Universal Church.

I. God chose Jerusalem above all other places to dwell in. The Church catholic is the company chosen to be the particular people of God.

II. Jerusalem is a city compact in itself by reason of the bond of love and order among the citizens. In like sort the members of the Church catholic are linked together by the bond of one Spirit.

III. In Jerusalem was the sanctuary, a place of God’s presence, where the promise if the seed of the woman was preserved till the coming of the Messiah. Now the Church catholic is in the room of the sanctuary, in it we must seek the presence of God and the Word of life.

IV. In Jerusalem was the throne of David. In the Church catholic is the throne or sceptre of Christ.

V. The commendation of a city, as Jerusalem, is the subjection and obedience of the citizens. In the Church catholic all believers are citizens, and they yield voluntary obedience and subjection to Christ their King.

VI. As in Jerusalem the names of the citizens were enrolled in a register, so the names of all the members of the Church catholic are enrolled in the Book of Life.

VII. The Church catholic is said to be above: 1. In respect to her beginning. 2. Because she dwells by faith in heaven with Christ.—Perkins.

Ver. 28. Believers Children of Promise.

I. The character.—1. Believers are the children of promise by regeneration. 2. By spiritual nourishment. 3. In respect of education. 4. With respect to assimilation, likeness, and conformity.

II. State the comparison.—1. Isaac was the child of Abraham, not by natural power. Believers are children of Abraham by virtue of promise. 2. Isaac was the fruit of prayer, as well as the child of the promise. 3. Isaac’s birth was the joy of his parents. Even so with reference to believers. 4. Isaac was born not after the flesh, but by the promise; not of the bondwoman, but of the free. So, believers are not under the law. 5. Isaac was no sooner born but he was mocked by Ishmael; so, it is now. 6. Isaac was the heir by promise, though thus persecuted. Even so believers.

III. How the promise hath such virtue for begetting children to God.—1. As it is the discovery of Divine love. 2. The object of faith. 3. The ground of hope. 4. The seed of regeneration. 5. The communication of grace. 6. The chariot of the Spirit.

Inferences.—1. If believers are children of promise, then boasting is excluded. 2. Then salvation is free. 3. The happiness and dignity of believers—they are the children of God.—Pulpit Assistant.

Ver. 29. On Persecution.

I. That no privilege of the Church can exempt her from persecution.—1. From the consideration of the quality of the persons here upon the stage, the one persecuting, the other suffering. (1) The persecuting—“born after the flesh.” Like Hannibal, they can part with anything but war and contention; they can be without their native country, but not without an enemy. These whet the sword, these make the furnace of persecution seven times hotter than it would be. The flesh is the treasury whence these winds blow that rage and beat down all before them. (2) The suffering—“born after the Spirit.” Having no security, no policy, no eloquence, no strength, but that which lieth in his innocency and truth, which he carrieth about as a cure, but it is looked upon as a persecution by those who will not be healed. “For he must appear,” said Seneca, “as a fool that [p. 76] he may be wise, as weak that he may be strong, as base and vile that he may be more honourable.” If thou be an Isaac, thou shalt find an Ishmael.

2. From the nature and constitution of the Church which in this world is ever militant.—Persecution is the honour, the prosperity, the flourishing condition of the Church. When her branches were lopped off she spread the more, when her members were dispersed there were more gathered to her, when they were driven about the world they carried that sweet-smelling savour about them which drew in multitudes to follow them.

3. From the providence and wisdom of God who put this enmity between these two seeds.—God’s method is best. That is method and order with Him which we take to be confusion, and that which we call persecution is His art, His way of making saints. In Abraham’s family Ishmael mocketh and persecuteth Isaac, in the world the synagogue persecuteth the Church, and in the Church one Christian persecuteth another. It was so, it is so, and it will be so to the end of the world.

II. The lessons of persecution.—1. The persecution of the Church should not create surprise. 2. Not to regard the Church and the world as alike. 3. Build ourselves up in faith so as to be prepared for the fiery trial. 4. Love the truth you profess. 5. Be renewed in spirit.—A. Farindon.

Ver. 30. Cast out the Bondwoman and her Son.—To cast out is an act of violence, and the true Church evermore hath the suffering part. How shall the Church cast out those of her own house and family? 1. By the vehemency of our prayers that God would either melt their hearts or shorten their hands, either bring them into the right way, or strike off their chariot wheels. 2. By our patience and longsuffering. 3. By our innocency of life and sincerity of conversation. 4. By casting our burden upon the Lord.—Ibid.

The Fate of Unbelievers.

I. All hypocrites, mockers of the grace of God, shall be cast forth of God’s family, though for a time they bear a sway therein. This is the sentence of God. Let us therefore repent of our mocking and become lovers of the grace of God.

II. The persecution of the people of God shall not be perpetual, for the persecuting bondwoman and her son must be cast out.

III. All justiciary people and persons that look to be saved and justified before God by the law, either in whole or in part, are cast out of the Church of God, and have no part in the kingdom of heaven. The casting out of Hagar and Ishmael is a figure of the rejection of all such.—Perkins.


 

CHAPTER V.

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.

Ver. 1. Stand fast in.—Stand up to, make your stand for. The liberty wherewith Christ has made you free.—As Christ has given you this liberty you are bound to stand fast in it. Be not entangled.—Implicated in a way which involves violence to true spontaneous life. The yoke of bondage.—Contrasted with the yoke of Christ, which is compatible with the fullest spiritual freedom.

Ver. 2. If ye be circumcised.—Not simply as a national rite, but as a symbol of Judaism and legalism in general; as necessary to justification. Christ shall profit you nothing.—The Gospel of grace is at an end. He who is circumcised is so fearing the law, and he who fears disbelieves the power of grace, and he who disbelieves can profit nothing by that grace which he disbelieves (Chrysostom).

[p. 77] Ver. 5 Wait for the hope of righteousness.—Righteousness, in the sense of justification, is already attained, but the consummation of it in future perfection is the object of hope to be waited for.

Ver. 6. Faith which worketh by love.—Effectually worketh, exhibits its energy by love, and love is the fulfilling of the law.

Ver. 9. A little leaven.—Of false doctrine, a small amount of evil influence.

Ver. 10. He that troubleth you.—The leaven traced to personal agency; whoever plays the troubler. Shall bear his judgment.—Due and inevitable condemnation from God.

Ver. 11. Then is the offence of the cross ceased.—The offence, the stumbling-block, to the Jew which roused his anger was not the shame of Messiah crucified, but the proclamation of free salvation to all, exclusive of the righteousness of human works.

Ver. 12. I would they were cut off which trouble you.—Self-mutilated, an imprecation more strongly expressed in chap. i. 8, 9. Christian teachers used language in addressing Christians in the then heathen world that would be regarded as intolerable in modern Christendom, purified and exalted by Christ through their teachings.

Ver. 13. Use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh.—Do not give the flesh the handle or pretext for its indulgence, which it eagerly seeks for. By love serve one another.—If ye must be in bondage, be servants to one another in love.

Ver. 15. If ye bite and devour one another, . . . consumed.—Figures taken from the rage of beasts of prey. The biting of controversy naturally runs into the devouring of controversial mood waxing fierce with indulgence. And the controversialists, each snapping at and gnawing his antagonist, forget the tendency is to consume the Christian cause. Strength of soul, health of body, character, and resources, are all consumed by broils.

Ver. 18. If ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law.—Under no irksome restraint. To him who loves, law is not irksome bondage but delightful direction. Active spiritual life is a safeguard against lawless affection.

Ver. 19. The works of the flesh.—1. Sensual vices—“adultery [omitted in the oldest MSS.], fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness.” 2. Theological vices—“idolatry, witchcraft.” 3. Malevolent vices—“hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders.” 4. Vices of excess—“drunkenness, revellings.”

Ver. 22. The fruit of the Spirit.—The singular fruit, as compared with the plural works, suggests that the effect of the Spirit’s inworking is one harmonious whole, while carnality tends to multitudinousness, distraction, chaos. We are not to look for a rigorous logical classification in either catalogue. Generally, the fruit of the Spirit may be arranged as: I. Inward graces—“love, joy, peace.” II. Graces towards man—“longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.” III. A more generic form of inward graces—“meekness, temperance.”

Ver. 23. Against such there is no law.—So far from being against love, law commands it.

Ver. 24. Have crucified the flesh.—Not human nature, but depraved human nature. With the affections and lusts.—Affections refer to the general frame of mind; the lusts to special proclivities or habits.

Ver. 26. Not to be desirous of vainglory, provoking [challenging], envying one another.—Vaingloriousness provokes contention; contention produces envy.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verse 1.

Christian Liberty

I. Should be valued considering how it was obtained.—“The liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.” It is a liberty purchased at a great cost. Christ, the Son of God, became incarnated, suffered in a degree unparalleled and incomprehensible, and died the shameful and ignoble death of the crucified to win back the liberty man had forfeited by voluntary sin. The redemption of man was hopeless from himself, and but for the intervention of a competent Redeemer he was involved in utter and irretrievable bondage. Civil liberty, though the inalienable right of every man, has been secured as the result of great struggle and suffering. “With a great sum,” said the Roman captain to Paul, “obtained I this freedom;” and many since his day have had to pay dearly for the common rights of citizenship. But Christian liberty should be valued as the choicest privilege, remembering it was purchased by the suffering Christ, and that it has been defended through the ages by a noble army of martyrs.

II. Should remind us of the oppression from which it delivers.—“And be [p. 78] not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” The Galatians had been bondmen, enslaved by the worship of false and vile deities. If they rush into the snare of the legalists, they will be bondmen again, and their bondage will be the more oppressive now they have tasted the joys of freedom. Disobedience involves us in many entanglements. It is among the most potent of the energies of sin that leads astray by blinding and blinds by leading astray; that the soul, like the strong champion of Israel, must have its eyes put out, when it would be bound with fetters of brass and condemned to grind in the prisonhouse (Judg. xvi. 21). Redemption from the slavery of sin should fill the heart with gratitude. A wealthy and kind Englishman once bought a poor Negro for twenty pieces of gold. He presented him with a sum of money that he might buy a piece of land and furnish himself a home. “Am I really free? May I go whither I will?” cried the Negro in the joy of his heart. “Well, let me be your slave, massa; you have redeemed me, and I owe all to you.” The gentleman took him into his service, and he never had a more faithful servant. How much more eagerly should we do homage and service to the divine Master, who Himself has made us free!

III. Should be rigorously maintained.—“Stand fast therefore.” The price of freedom is incessant vigilance; once gained it is a prize never to be lost, and no effort or sacrifice should be grudged in its defence. “As far as I am a Christian,” said Channing, “I am free. My religion lays on me not one chain. It does not hem me round with a mechanical ritual, does not enjoin forms, attitudes, and hours of prayer, does not descend to details of dress and food, does not put on me one outward badge. It teaches us to do good but leaves us to devise for ourselves the means by which we may best serve mankind.” The spirit of Christian liberty is eternal. Jerusalem and Rome may strive to imprison it. They might as well seek to bind the winds of heaven. Its seat is the throne of Christ. It lives by the breath of His Spirit. Not to be courageous and faithful in its defence is disloyalty to Christ and treachery to our fellow-men.

Lessons.—1. Christ is the true Emancipator of men. 2. Christian liberty does not violate but honours the law of love. 3. Liberty is best preserved by being consistently exercised.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSE.

Ver. 1. Freedom from Bondage.—1. Every man by nature is a bondslave, being under the bondage of sin. The Jews were under bondage to the ceremonial law, involving great trouble, pain in the flesh, and great expense. 2. Jesus Christ by His obedience and death has purchased freedom and liberty to His Church—liberty not to do evil, nor from the yoke of new obedience, nor from the cross, nor from that obedience and reverence which inferiors owe to superiors; but from the dominion of sin, the tyranny of Satan, the curse and irritating power of the law, and from subjecting our consciences to the rites, doctrines, ceremonies, and laws of men in the matter of worship. 3. Though civil liberty be much desired, so ignorant are we of the worth of freedom from spiritual bondage that we can hardly be excited to seek after it, or made to stand to it when attained, but are in daily hazard of preferring our former bondage to our present liberty.—Fergusson.

Bondage and Liberty.

I. We are in bondage under sin.

II. We are subject to punishment.—Implying: 1. Bondage under Satan, who keeps unrepentant sinners in his snare. 2. Bondage under an evil conscience, which sits in the heart as accuser and judge, and lies like a wild beast at a man’s door ready to pluck out his throat. 3. Bondage under the [p. 79] wrath of God and fear of eternal death.

III. We are in bondage to the ceremonial law.—To feel this bondage is a step out of it; not to feel it is to be plunged into it.

IV. We have spiritual liberty by the grace of God.—1. Christian liberty is a deliverance from misery. (1) From the curse of the law for the breach thereof. (2) From the obligation of the law whereby it binds us to perfect righteousness in our own persons. (3) From the observance of the ceremonial law of Moses. (4) From the tyranny and dominion of sin. 2. Christian liberty is freedom in good things. (1) In the voluntary service of God. (2) In the free use of all the creatures of God. (3) Liberty to come to God and in prayer to be heard. (4) To enter heaven.

V. Christ is the great Liberator.—He procured this liberty: 1. By the merit of His death. The price paid—His precious blood—shows the excellence of the blessing, and that it should be esteemed. 2. By the efficacy of His Spirit—assuring us of our adoption and abating the strength and power of sin.

VI. We are to hold fast our liberty in the day of trial.—1. We must labour that religion be not only in mind and memory but rooted in the heart. 2. We must join with our religion the soundness of a good conscience. 3. We must pray for all things needful.—Perkins.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 2–6.

Christianity Superior to External Rites.

I. External rites demand universal obedience.—“Every man that is circumcised is a debtor to do the whole law” (ver. 3). The Galatians were in a state of dangerous suspense. They were on the brink of a great peril. Another step and they would be down the precipice. That step was circumcision. Seeing the imminence of the danger the apostle becomes more earnest and emphatic in his remonstrance. He warns them that circumcision, though a matter of indifference as an external rite, would in their case involve an obligation to keep the whole law. This he has shown is an impossibility. They would submit themselves to a yoke they were unable to bear, and from whose galling tyranny they would be unable to extricate themselves. Knowing this, surely they would not be so foolish as, deliberately and with open eyes, to commit such an act of moral suicide. There must be a strange infatuation in ritualistic observances that tempts man to undertake obligations he is powerless to perform, utterly heedless of the most explicit and faithful warnings.

II. Dependence on external rites is an open rejection of Christ.—“Christ shall profit you nothing; . . . is become of no effect unto you; ye are fallen from grace” (vers. 2, 4). Here the result of a defection from the Gospel is placed in the most alarming aspect and should give pause to the wildest fanatic. It is the forfeiture of all Christian privileges, it is a complete rejection of Christ, it is a loss of all the blessings won by faith, it is a fall into the gulf of despair and ruin. It cannot be too plainly understood, nor too frequently iterated, that excessive devotion to external rites means the decline and extinction of true religion. Ritualism supplants Jesus Christ. “It is evident that the disciples of the Church of Rome wish to lead us from confession and absolution to the doctrine of transubstantiation, thence to the worship of images, and thence to all the abuses which at the end of the fifteenth century and at the beginning of the sixteenth excited the anger and scorn of Luther, Calvin, Zwinglius, and others. The primary faith of the Reformers is in the words of Christ. The primary faith of the ritualists is in Aristotle. If the British nation is wise, it will not allow the Roman Church with its infallible head, or the [p. 80] ritualists with their mimic ornaments, or those who are deaf to the teachings of Socrates and Cicero, of Bacon and Newton, to deprive them of the inestimable blessings of the Gospel.”

III. Christianity as a spiritual force is superior to external rites.—1. It bases the hope of righteousness on faith. “For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith” (ver. 5). Look on this picture and on that. Yonder are the Galatians, all in tumult about the legalistic proposals, debating which of the Hebrew feasts they shall celebrate and with what rites, absorbed in the details of Mosaic ceremony, all but persuaded to be circumcised and to settle their scruples out of hand by a blind submission to the law. And here on the other side is Paul with the Church of the Spirit, walking in the righteousness of faith and the communion of the Holy Spirit, joyfully awaiting the Saviour’s final coming and the hope that is laid up in heaven. How vexed, how burdened, how narrow and puerile is the one condition; how large, lofty, and secure the other! Faith has its great ventures; it has also its seasons of endurance, its moods of quiet expectancy, its unweariable patience. It can wait as well as work (Findlay).

2. Faith is a spiritual exercise revealing itself in active love.—“Faith worketh by love” (ver. 6). In ver. 5 we have the statics of the religion of Christ; in ver. 6 its dynamics. Love is the working energy of faith. “Love gives faith hands and feet; hope lends it wings. Love is the fire at its heart, the life-blood coursing in its veins; hope the light that gleams and dances in its eyes.” In the presence of an active spiritual Christianity, animated by love to Christ and to men, ritualism diminishes into insignificance. “In Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision” (ver. 6). The Jew is no better or worse a Christian because he is circumcised; the Gentile no worse or better because he is not. Love, which is the fulfilling of the law, is the essence of Christianity, and gives it the superiority over all external rites.

Lessons.—1. Externalism in religion imposes intolerable burdens. 2. To prefer external rites is an insult to Christ. 3. The superiority of Christianity is its spiritual character.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 2–4. Christianity nullified by Legalism.

  1. To accept legalism is to reject Christ (vers. 2, 4).
  2. Legalism demands universal obedience to its enactments (ver. 3).
  3. Legalism is a disastrous abandonment of Christianity.—“Ye are fallen from grace” (ver. 4).

Vers. 5, 6. Righteousness attained by Active Faith.—1. No personal righteousness entitles us to the blessed hope of the heavenly inheritance, but only the righteousness of Christ apprehended by faith. It is only the efficacious teaching of God’s spirit which can sufficiently instruct us in the knowledge of this righteousness and make us with security and confidence venture our hope of heaven upon it. 2. To impose the tie of a command on anything as a necessary part of Divine worship wherein the Word has left us free, or to subject ourselves to such command, is a receding from and betrayal of Christian liberty. 3. The sum of a Christian’s task is faith; but it is always accompanied with the grace of love. Though faith and love are conjoined, faith, in the order of nature, has the precedency.—Fergusson.

Ver. 6. Religion is Faith working by Love.

I. External and bodily privileges are of no use and moment in the kingdom of Christ.—1. We are not to esteem men’s religion by their riches and external dignities. 2. We [p. 81] are to moderate our affections in respect of all outward things, neither sorrowing too much for them nor joying too much in them.

II. Faith is of great use and acceptance in the kingdom of Christ.—1. We must labour to conceive faith aright in our hearts, by the use of the right means—the Word, prayer, and sacraments, and in and by the exercises of spiritual invocation and repentance. 2. Faith in Christ must reign and bear sway in our hearts and have command over reason, will, affection, lust. 3. It is to be bewailed that the common faith of our day is but a ceremonial faith.

III. True faith works by love.—Faith is the cause of love, and love is the fruit of faith.—Perkins.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 7–12.

Disturber of the Faith—

I. Checks the prosperous career of the most ardent Christian.—“Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” (ver. 7). The Galatians were charmed with the truth as it fell from the lips of the apostle; it was to them a new revelation; they eagerly embraced it, it changed their lives, and they strove to conform their conduct to its high moral teachings. The apostle was delighted with the result and commended their Christian enthusiasm. They were running finely. But the intrusion of false teaching changed all this. Their progress was arrested, their faith was disturbed, they wavered in their allegiance, and were in danger of losing all the advantages they had gained. The influence of false doctrine is always baneful, especially so to new beginners, in whom the principles of truth have not become firmly rooted. The loss of truth, like inability to believe, may be traced back to an unhealthy corruption of the mind. The great danger of unsound doctrine lies in this, that, like a cancer, it rankles because it finds in the diseased condition of the religious life ever fresh nourishment.

II. Is opposed to the Divine method of justification.—“This persuasion cometh not of Him that calleth you” (ver. 8). The disturber of the Galatians taught a human method of salvation—a salvation by the works of the law. This was diametrically opposed to the Divine calling, which is an invitation to the whole race to seek salvation by faith. The persuasion to which the Galatians were yielding was certainly not of God. It was a surrender to the enemy. All error is a wild fighting against God, an attempt to undermine the foundations that God has fixed for man’s safety and happiness.

III. Suggests errors that are contagious in their evil influence.—“A little leaven, leaveneth the whole lump” (ver. 9). A proverbial expression the meaning of which is at once obvious. A small infusion of false doctrine, or the evil influence of one bad person, corrupts the purity of the Gospel. It is a fact well known in the history of science and philosophy that men, gifted by nature with singular intelligence, have broached the grossest errors and even sought to undermine the grand primitive truths on which human virtue, dignity, and hope depend. The mind that is always open to search into error is itself in error, or at least unstable (1 Cor. xv. 33; Eccles. ix. 18).

IV. Shall not escape chastisement whatever his rank or pretensions.—1. Either by direct Divine judgment. “He that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be” (ver. 10). The reference here may be to some one prominent among the seducers, or to any one who plays the troubler. God will not only defend His own truth but will certainly punish the man who from wicked motives seeks to corrupt the truth or to impair the faith of those who have embraced it. The seducer not only deceives himself but shall suffer judgment for his self-deception and the injury he has done to others.

[p. 82] 2. Or by excision from the Church.—“I would they were even cut off which trouble you” (ver. 12). An extravagant expression, as if the apostle said, “Would that the Judaising troublers would mutilate themselves,” as was the custom with certain heathen priests in some of their religious rites. The phrase indicates the angry contempt of the apostle for the legalistic policy, and that the troublers richly deserved to be excluded from the Church and all its privileges. The patience of the Gentile champion was exhausted and found relief for the moment in mocking invective.

V. Does not destroy the hope and faith of the true teacher.—1. He retains confidence in the fidelity of those who have been temporarily disturbed. “I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded” (ver. 10). Notwithstanding the insidious leaven, the apostle cherishes the assurance that his converts will after all prove leal and true at heart. He has faithfully chided them for their defection, but his anger is directed, not towards them, but towards those who have injured them. He is persuaded the Galatians will, with God’s help, resume the interrupted race they were running so well.

2. His sufferings testify that his own teaching is unchanged.—“If I preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? Then is the offence of the cross ceased” (ver. 11). The rancour and hostility of the legalists would have been disarmed, if Paul advocated their doctrine, and the scandalous “offence of the cross”—so intolerable to the Jewish pride—would have been done away. But the cross was the grand vital theme of all his teaching, that in which he most ardently gloried, and for which he was prepared to endure all possible suffering. The value of truth to a man is what he is willing to suffer for it.

Lessons.—1. The man who perverts the truth is an enemy to his kind. 2. The false teacher ensures his own condemnation. 3. Truth becomes more precious the more we suffer for it.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 7–10. How Perfection is attained.—Everything in the universe comes to its perfection by drill and marching—the seed, the insect, the animal, the man, the spiritual man. God created man at the lowest point, and put him in a world where almost nothing would be done for him, and almost everything should tempt him to do for himself.—Beecher.

Ver. 7. The Christian Life a Race.

I. Christians are runners in the race of God.—1. They must make haste without delay to keep the commandments of God. It is a great fault for youth and others to defer amendment till old age, or till the last and deadly sickness. That is the time to end our running, and not to begin. 2. We are to increase and profit in all good duties. We in this age do otherwise. Either we stand at a stay or go back. There are two causes for this: (1) Blindness of mind. (2) Our unbelief in the article of life everlasting. 3. We must neither look to the right nor the left hand, or to things behind, but press forward to the prize of eternal life. 4. We must not be moved with the speeches of men which are given of us, for or against. They are lookers on and must have their speeches. Our care must be not to heed them but look to our course.

II. Christians must not only be runners, but run well.—This is done by believing and obeying, having faith and a good conscience. These are the two feet by which we run. We have one good foot—our religion—which is sound and good; but we halt on the other foot. Our care to keep conscience is not suitable to our religion. Three things cause a lameness in this foot: the lust of the eye—covetousness, the [p. 83] lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.

III. Christians must run the race from the beginning to the end.—1. We must cherish a love and fervent desire of eternal life, and by this means be drawn through all miseries and overpass them to the end. 2. We must maintain a constant and daily purpose of not sinning.—Perkins.

Bad Companions.—“Bad company,” wrote Augustine, “is like a nail driven into a post, which, after the first or second blow, may be drawn out with very little difficulty; but being once driven up to the head, the pincers cannot take hold to draw it out, which can only be done by the destruction of the wood.” Of course, it is useless to define bad company. Men and women, boys and girls, feel instinctively when they have fallen in with dangerous associates; if they choose to remain amongst them they are lost. So in the high tides, barks of light draught will float over Goodwin quicksands; in summer at low tide the venturous boys and young people will play cricket thereon: but neither can remain long in the neighbourhood. The time comes when the sands are covered with but a thin surface of water, and beneath is the shifting, loose, wet earth, more dangerous and treacherous than springtide ice; and then it is that to touch is to be drawn in, and to be drawn in is death. So is it with bad company.—The Gentle Life.

Cowardly Retreat.—General Grant relates that just as he was hoping to hear a report of a brilliant movement and victory of General Sigel, he received an announcement from General Halleck to this effect: “Sigel is in full retreat on Strasburg; he will do nothing but run; never did anything else.” The enemy had intercepted him, handled him roughly, and he fled.

Vers. 8–10. The Disintegrating Force of Error.—1. Whatever persuasion cometh not of God and is not grounded on the Word of truth, is not to be valued, but looked upon as a delusion (ver. 8). 2. The Church of Christ, and every particular member thereof, ought carefully to resist the first beginnings of sin, for the least of errors and the smallest number of seduced persons are here compared to leaven, a little quantity of which secretly insinuates itself and insensibly conveys its sourness to the whole lump (ver. 9). 3. The minister is not to despair of the recovery of those who oppose themselves, but ought in charity to hope the best of all men, so long as they are curable; and to show how dangerous their error was by denouncing God’s judgment against their prime seducers (ver. 10). 4. So just is God, He will suffer no impenitent transgressor, however subtle, to escape His search, or to pass free from the dint of His avenging stroke, whoever he be for parts, power, or estimation.—Fergusson.

Ver. 9. Reform of Bad Manners.

I. We must resist and withstand every particular sin.—One sin is able to defile the whole life of man. One fly is sufficient to mar a whole box of sweet ointment. One offence in our first parents brought corruption on them and all mankind; yea, on heaven and earth.

II. We must endeavour to the utmost to cut off every bad example in the societies of men.—One bad example is sufficient to corrupt a whole family, a town, a country. A wicked example, being suffered, spreads abroad and does much hurt.

III. We are to withstand and cut off the first beginnings and occasions of sin.—We say of arrant thieves they began to practise their wickedness in pins and points. For this cause, idleness, excessive eating, drinking and swilling, riot, and vanity in apparel are to be suppressed in every society as the breeder of many vices.—Perkins.

Ver. 11. The Perversion of Apostolic Preaching.—There are two attempts or [p. 84] resolves in constant operation as to the cross. One is man’s, to accommodate to human liking and taste; the second is God’s, to raise human liking and taste to it.

I. The aim of man.—The following may be named as the principal exceptions taken to the cross by those who rejected it:—

1. It was an improbable medium of revelation.—Man can talk loudly how God should manifest Himself. Shall the cross be the oracle by which He will speak His deepest counsels to our race?

2. It was a stigma on this religion which set it in disadvantageous contrast with every other.—It was unheard of that the vilest of all deaths should give its absolute character to religion, and that this religion of the cross should triumph over all.

3. It was a violent disappointment of a general hope.—There was a desire of all nations. And was all that the earliest lay rehearsed, all that the highest wisdom enounced, only to be wrought out in the shameful cross?

4. It was a humiliating test.—Ambition, selfishness, insincerity, licentiousness, ferocity, pride, felt that it was encircled with an atmosphere in which they were instantly interrupted and condemned. Man is desirous of doing this away as a wrongful and unnecessary impression. He would make the offence of the cross to cease: (1) By fixing it upon some extrinsic authority. (2) By torturing it into coalition with foreign principles. (3) By transforming the character of its religious instructions. (4) By applying it to inappropriate uses. (5) By excluding its proper connections.

II. The procedure of God.—1. It is necessary, if we would receive the proper influence of the cross, that we be prepared to hail it as a distinct revelation. Science and the original ethics of our nature do not fall within the distinct province of what a revelation intends. Its strict purpose, its proper idea, is to make known that which is not known, and which could not be otherwise known. Not more directly did the elemental light proceed from God who called it out of darkness than did the making known to man of redemption by the blood of the cross.

2. When we rightly appreciate the cross, we recognize it as the instrument of redemption.—This was the mode of death indicated by prophecy. The cross stands for that death; but it is an idle, unworthy superstition that this mode of death wrought the stupendous end. It is only an accessory. We must look further into the mystery. “He His own self bore our sin in His own body on the tree.” It is that awful identity, that mysterious action, which expiates, and not the rood.

3. When our mind approves this method of salvation, it finds in the cross the principle of sanctification.—A new element of thought, a new complexion of motive, enter the soul when the Holy Spirit shows to it the things of Christ. We are new creatures. We reverse all our sins and desires. We are called unto holiness. (1) Mark the process. We had hitherto abided in death. But now we are quickened with Him. (2) Mark the necessity. Until we be brought nigh to it, until we take hold of it, the doctrine of the crucified Saviour is an unintelligible and uninteresting thing. (3) Mark the effect. There is a suddenly, though a most intelligently, developed charm. It is the infinite of attraction. All concentrates on it. It absorbs the tenderness and the majesty of the universe. It is full of glory. Our heart has now yielded to it, is drawn, is held, coheres, coalesces, is itself impregnated by the sacred effluence. The offence of the cross has ceased.—R. W. Hamilton.

Ver. 12. Church Censure.—The spirit of error may so far prevail among a people that discipline can hardly attain its end—the shaming of the person censured, and the preservation of the Church from being leavened. In which case the servants of God should proceed with slow pace, and in all lenity [p. 85] and wisdom, and should rather doctrinally declare the censures deserved than actually inflict the censure itself.

Judgment on the Troubles of the Church.

  1. God watches over His Church with a special providence.
  2. The doctrine of the apostles is of infallible certainty because the oppugners of it are plagued with the just judgment of God.
  3. Our duty is to pray for the good estate of the Church of God, and for the kingdoms where the Church is planted.—Perkins.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 13–18.

Love the Highest Law of Christian Liberty.

I. Love preserves liberty from degenerating into licence.—“Only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh” (ver. 13). Christian liberty is a great boon, but it also a solemn responsibility. It is hard to win and is worth the most gigantic struggle; but the moment it is abused it is lost. Men clamour for liberty when they mean licence—licence to indulge their unholy passions unchecked by the restraints of law. Christian liberty is not the liberty of the flesh, but of the Spirit, and love is the master-principle that governs and defines all its exercises.

“He is the freeman whom the truth makes free,
 And all are slaves besides.”

We know no truth, no privilege, no power, no blessing, no right, which is not abused. But is liberty to be denied to men because they often turn it into licentiousness? There are two freedoms—the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where a man is free to do what he ought. Love is the safeguard of the highest liberty.

II. Love is obedience to the highest law.—“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (ver. 14). “By love serve one another” (ver. 13). We may be as orthodox as Athanasius and as scrupulous as Jerome, we may be daily and ostentatiously building to God seven altars and offering a bullock and a ram on every altar, and yet be as sounding brass and as a clanging cymbal, if our life shows only the leaves of profession without the golden fruit of action. If love shows not itself by deeds of love, then let us not deceive ourselves. God is not mocked; our Christianity is heathenism, and our religion a delusion and a sham. Love makes obedience delightful, esteems it bondage to be prevented, liberty to be allowed to serve.

     "Serene will be our days and bright,
        And happy will our nature be,
      When love is an unerring light,
        And joy its own security."—Wordsworth.

III. Love prevents the mutual destructiveness of a contentious spirit.—“But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (ver. 15). The condition of the Galatians at this time was very different from the ideal Paul set before them. The quick, warm temperament of the Gauls was roused by the Judaistic controversy, and their natural combativeness was excited. It was easy to pick a quarrel with them at any time, and they were eloquent in vituperation and invective. The “biting” describes the wounding and exasperating effect of the manner in which their contentions were carried on; “devour” warns them of its destructiveness. If this state of things continued, the Churches of Galatia would cease to exist. Their liberty would end in complete disintegration. Love is the remedy propounded for all [p. 86] ills—the love of Christ, leading to the love of each other. Love not only cures quarrels but prevents them.

IV. Love by obeying the law of the Spirit gains the victory in the feud between the flesh and the Spirit.—“Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh: . . . these are contrary the one to the other” (vers. 16, 17). The flesh and the Spirit are rivals, and by their natures must be opposed to and strive with each other. The strong man is dispossessed by a stronger than he—the Spirit. The master must rule the slave. “This soul of mine must rule this body of mine,” said John Foster, “or quit it.” The life of a Christian is lived in a higher sphere and governed by a higher law—walking in the Spirit. Christianity says, “Be a man, not a brute. Not do as many fleshly things as you can but do as many spiritual things as you can.” All prohibitions are negative. You can’t kill an appetite by starvation. You may kill the flesh by living in the higher region of the Spirit; not merely by ceasing to live in sin, but by loving Christ. The more we live the spiritual life, the more sin becomes impossible. Conquest over the sensual is gained, not by repression, but by the freer, purer life of love.

V. Love emancipates from the trammels of the law.—“If ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law” (ver. 18). The Spirit of love does not abolish the law, but renders it harmless by fulfilling all its requirements, without being compelled to it by its stern commands. Law does not help the soul to obey its behests, but it has nothing to say, nothing to threaten, when those behests are obeyed. To be under the law is to be under sin; but yielding to the influence of the Spirit, and living according to His law, the soul is free from sin and from the condemnation of the law. Freedom from sin, and freedom from the trammels of the Mosaic law—these two liberties are virtually one. Love is the great emancipator from all moral tyrannies.

Lessons.—1. Love is in harmony with the holiest law. 2. Love silences all contention. 3. Love honours law by obeying it.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 13, 14. The Service of Love

  1. Is the noblest exercise of Christian liberty (ver. 13).
  2. Preserves Christian liberty from degenerating into selfish indulgence (ver. 13).
  3. Is the fulfilment of the highest law (ver. 14).

Ver. 13. The Abuse of Christian Liberty.

I. To use it as an occasion of fleshly and carnal liberty.—When men make more things indifferent than God ever made. Thus, all abuses of meat, drink, apparel, rioting, gaming, dicing, and carding are excused by the names of things indifferent.

II. Our liberty is abused by an immoderate use of the gifts of God.—1. Many gentlemen and others offend when they turn recreation into an occupation. 2. When men exceed in eating and drinking. 3. They offend who, being mean persons and living by trades, yet for diet and apparel are as great gentlemen and gentlewomen.

III. Liberty is abused when the blessings of God are made instruments and flags and banners to display our riot, vanity, ostentation, and pride.—It is the fashion of men to take unto themselves a toleration of sinning. Some presume on the patience of God, others on the election of grace, and others on the mercy of God. A certain dweller in Cambridge made away with himself. In his bosom was found a writing to this effect: that God did show mercy on great and desperate sinners, and therefore he hoped for mercy though he hanged himself. Of [p. 87] this mind are many ignorant persons, who persevere in their sins, yet persuade themselves of mercy.—Perkins.

The Right Use of Christian Liberty.

I. We ourselves must be renewed and sanctified.—The person must first please God before the action can please Him.

II. Besides the lawful use of the creatures we must have a spiritual and holy use of them.—1. The creatures of God must be sanctified by the Word and prayer. 2. We must be circumspect lest we sin in the use of the creatures. In these days there is no feasting or rejoicing unless all memory of God be buried, for that is said to breed melancholy. 3. We must use the gifts of God with thanksgiving. 4. We must suffer ourselves to be limited and moderate in the use of our liberty. 5. Our liberty must be used for right ends—the glory of God, the preservation of nature, and the good of our neighbour.

III. We must give no occasion of sinning by means of Christian liberty.Ibid.

Ver. 14. The Law fulfilled in Love to Others.

I. The end of man’s life is to serve God in serving others.

II. True godliness is to love and serve God in serving man.—To live out of all society of men, though it be in prayer and fasting in monkish fashion, is no state of perfection, but mere superstition. That is true and perfect love of God that is showed in duties of love and in the edification of our neighbour. It is not enough for thee to be holy in church; thou mayest be a saint in church and a devil at home.—Ibid.

Regard for a Neighbour’s Rights.—Speaking of the early American prairie settlements a modern historian says: “Theft was almost unknown. The pioneers brought with them the same rigid notions of honesty which they had previously maintained. A man in Mancoupin county left his waggon loaded with corn stuck in the prairie mud for two weeks near a frequented road. When he returned he found some of his corn gone, but there was money enough tied in the sacks to pay for what was taken.”

Ver. 15. Church Quarrels.—1. When schism in a Church is not only maintained on the one hand with passion, strife, reproaches, and real injuries, but also impugned on the other hand, not so much with the sword of the Spirit as with the same fleshly means, then is it the forerunner and procuring cause of desolation and ruin to both parties and to the whole Church. 2. As it is a matter of great difficulty to make men of credit and parts, being once engaged in contentious debates, to foresee the consequence of their doing so further than the hoped-for victory against the contrary party, so it were no small wisdom, before folk meddle with strife, seriously to consider what woeful effects may follow to the Church of God.—Fergusson.

Ver. 16. The Positiveness of the Divine Life.

I. There are two ways of dealing with every vice.—One is to set to work directly to destroy the vice; that is the negative way. The other is to bring in as overwhelmingly as possible the opposite virtue, and so to crowd and stifle and drown out the vice; that is the positive way. Everywhere the negative and positive methods of treatment stand over against each other, and men choose between them. A Church is full of errors and foolish practices. It is possible to attack those follies outright, showing conclusively how foolish they are; or it is possible, and it is surely better, to wake up the true spiritual life in that Church which shall itself shed those follies and cast them out, or at least rob them of their worst harmfulness. The application of the same principle is seen in matters of taste, matters of reform, and in matters of opinion.

II. In St. Paul and in all the New [p. 88] Testament there is nothing more beautiful than the clear, open, broad way in which the positive culture of human character is adopted and employed.—We can conceive of a God standing over His moral creatures, and, whenever they did anything wrong, putting a heavy hand on the malignant manifestation and stifling it, and so at last bringing them to a tight, narrow, timid goodness—the God of repression. The God of the New Testament is not that. We can conceive of another God who shall lavish and pour upon His children the chances and temptations to be good; in every way shall make them see the beauty of goodness; shall so make life identical with goodness that every moment spent in wickedness shall seem a waste, almost a death; shall so open His Fatherhood and make it real to them that the spontaneousness of the Father’s holiness is re-echoed in the child; not the God of restraint, but the God whose symbols are the sun, the light, the friend, the fire—everything that is stimulating, everything that fosters, encourages, and helps. When we read in the New Testament, lo, that is the God whose story is written there, the God whose glory we see in the face of Jesus Christ. The distinction is everywhere. Not merely by trying not to sin, but by entering further and further into the new life in which, when it is completed, sin becomes impossible; not by merely weeding out wickedness, but by a new and supernatural cultivation of holiness, does the saint of the New Testament walk on the ever-ascending pathway of growing Christliness and come at last perfectly to Christ.

III. This character of the New Testament must be at bottom in conformity with human nature.—The Bible and its Christianity are not in contradiction against the nature of the man they try to save. They are at war with his corruptions, and, in his own interest, they are for ever labouring to assert and re-establish his true self. Man’s heart is always rebelling against repression as a continuous and regular thing. There is a great human sense that not suppression, but expression is the true life. It is the self-indulgence of the highest and not the self-surrender of the lowest that is the great end of the Gospel. The self-sacrifice of the Christian is always an echo of the self-sacrifice of Christ. Nothing can be more unlike the repressive theories of virtue in their methods and results than the way in which Christ lived His positive life, full of force and salvation. The way to get out of self-love is to love God. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.”—Phillips Brooks.

The Flesh and the Spirit.

I. When St. Paul talks of man’s flesh he means by it man’s body, man’s heart and brain, and all his bodily appetites and powers—what we call a man’s constitution, the animal part of man. Man is an animal with an immortal spirit in it, and this spirit can feel more than pleasure and pain; it can feel trust, hope, peace, love, purity, nobleness, independence, and, above all, it can feel right and wrong. There is the infinite difference between an animal and man, between our flesh and our spirit; an animal has no sense of right and wrong.

II. There has been many a man in this life, who had every fleshly enjoyment which this world can give, and yet whose spirit was in hell all the while, and who knew it; hating and despising himself for a mean, selfish villain, while all the world round was bowing down to him and envying him as the luckiest of men. A man’s flesh can take no pleasure in spiritual things, while man’s spirit of itself can take no pleasure in fleshly things. Wickedness, like righteousness, is a spiritual thing. If a man sins, his body is not in fault; it is his spirit, his weak, perverse will, which will sooner listen to what his flesh tells him is pleasant than to what God tells him is right. This is the secret of the battle of life.

[p. 89] III. Because you are all fallen creatures there must go on in you this sore lifelong battle between your spirit and your flesh—your spirit trying to be master and guide, and your flesh rebelling and trying to conquer your spirit and make you a mere animal, like a fox in cunning, a peacock in vanity, or a hog in greedy sloth. It is your sin and your shame if your spirit does not conquer your flesh, for God has promised to help your spirit. Ask Him, and His Spirit will fill you with pure, noble hopes, with calm, clear thoughts, and with deep, unselfish love to God and man; and instead of being the miserable slave of your own passions, and of the opinions of your neighbours, you will find that where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty, true freedom, not only from your neighbours’ sins, but, what is far better, freedom from your own.—C. Kingsley.

Walking in the Spirit.

I. The Spirit is a Divine nature, quality, or condition whereby we are made conformable to Christ.—1. It is a rich and liberal grace of God. It contains the seeds of all virtues. 2. Its largeness. The Spirit is in all the powers of them who are regenerate in mind, conscience, will, affections, and in the sensual appetite. 3. Its sincerity. The grace of God is without falsehood or guile. 4. Its excellency. The spirit of grace in Christians is more excellent than the grace of creation, in respect of the beginning thereof, and in respect of constancy. 5. Its liveliness, whereby the Spirit is effectual in operation. (1) The Spirit works in and by the Word of God. (2) Works by degrees, to make us feel our need of Christ, and to kindle in us a desire for reconciliation with God. (3) Works to write the law in our hearts.

II. Walking in the Spirit is to order our lives according to the direction and motion of the Spirit.—1. The Spirit renews our nature. (1) Makes us put a further beginning to our actions than nature can, causing us to do them in faith. (2) To do our actions in a new manner, in obedience to the Word. (3) Makes us put on a new end to our actions—to intend and desire to honour God. 2. We must become spiritual men. Must do things lawful in a spiritual manner. 3. We must not judge any man’s estate before God by any one or some few actions, good or bad, but by his walking, by the course of his life.—Perkins.

Ver. 17. The Strife of the Flesh and Spirit.

I. Man, under the influence of corruption, is called flesh.—He may be said to be a spiritual being because he is possessed of an immortal spirit; but the term flesh seems to be awfully appropriate, because he is wholly and exclusively under the dominion of matter. In the text it implies the evil principle that inhabits the bosom of man. It is the mighty autocrat of humanity in the wreck of the Fall. Sin is such a mighty monster that none can bind him in fetters of iron and imprison him but God Himself. In the operation of weaving, different materials cross each other in the warp and woof in order to make one whole, and this is the case with the family of heaven here below. Sin and grace are perpetually crossing each other.

II. The spiritual offspring which is born of God is called the new man.—It is the junior offspring, the junior disposition, the offspring of the second Adam. Corruption has its root only in humanity. Not so with grace. This springs alone from God. The new man lives in Him; his head is above the skies, his feet lower than hell; and the reason why he is destined to be conqueror is that he fights in and under the inspiration of Heaven.

III. These two principles are in a state of ceaseless warfare, ever opposed to each other.—They are like two armies, sometimes encamped, at others engaged in terrible conflict; but, whether apparently engaged or not, each seeks the destruction of the [p. 90] other perpetually. They are and must be ever opposed, till one fall; one must perish and the other live eternally. Where there is no conflict there can be no grace.

IV. Consider the wisdom and valour evinced by this new principle.—It is illumined by the Spirit and by the truth of God. The sun does not give me an eye. God alone can confer this organ; yet it is equally true my eye must attain its full vigour in the light of the sun: so the external means are necessary to teach us what God is, and to develop all the principles of the new man, to clothe it with the panoply of Deity, and to lead it on from battle to battle, and from victory to victory, till the last battle is eventually fought, the last victory won, and the fruits of triumph enjoyed for ever.—William Howels.

Ver. 18. The Leading of the Spirit.—1. The new man performs the office of guide to the godly in all actions truly spiritual. (1) As it is ruled by the Word, which is the external light and lantern to direct our steps. (2) The work of grace itself is the internal light whereby the regenerate man spiritually understands the things of God. (3) The same work of grace being actuated by the continual supply of exciting grace from the Spirit is a strengthening guide to all spiritual actions. 2. The natural man is so much a slave to his sinful lusts that the things appointed by God to curb and make them weaker are so far from bringing this about that his lusts are thereby enraged and made more violent. The rigidity of the law, which tends to restrain sin, is turned by the unregenerate man into an occasion for fulfilling his lusts.—Fergusson.

The Guidance of the Spirit.

I. Preservation, whereby the Holy Ghost maintains the gift of regeneration in them that are regenerate.

II. Co-operation, whereby the will of God, as the first cause, works together with the regenerate will of man, as the second cause. Without this co-operation, man’s will brings forth no good action; no more than the tree which is apt to bring forth fruit yields fruit indeed till it have the co-operation of the sun, and that in the proper season of the year.

III. Direction, whereby the Spirit of God ordereth and establisheth the mind, will, and affections in good duties.

IV. Excitation, whereby the Spirit stirs and still moves the will and mind after they are regenerate, because the grace of God is hindered and oppressed by the flesh.

V. Privilege of believers not to be subject to the ceremonial law.—“Ye are not under the law.” Not under the law respecting its curse and condemnation, though we are all under law, as it is the rule of good life.—Perkins.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 19–21.

The Works of the Flesh

I. Are offensively obtrusive.—“Now the works of the flesh are manifest” (ver. 19). Sin, though at first committed in secret, will by-and-by work to the surface and advertise itself with shameless publicity. The rulers of the civilised world in the first century of the Christian era, such as Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, Domitian, are the execration of history as monsters of vice and cruelty. Their enormities would have been impossible if the people they governed had not been equally corrupt. It is the nature of evil to develop a terrible energy the more it is indulged, and its works are apparent in every possible form of wickedness. “Every man blameth the devil for his sins; but the great devil, the house-devil of every man that eateth and lieth in every man’s bosom, is that idol which killeth all—himself.”

[p. 91] II. Furnish a revolting catalogue.—The sins enumerated may be grouped into four classes:—

1. Sensual passions.—“Adultery [omitted in the oldest MSS.], fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness” (ver. 19). Fornication was practically universal. Few were found, even among severe moralists, to condemn it. It is a prostitution of the physical nature which Jesus Christ wore and still wears, which He claims for the temple of His Spirit, and will raise from the dead to share His immortality. Uncleanness is the general quality of licentiousness, and includes whatever is contaminating in word or look, in gesture or in dress, in thought or sentiment. Lasciviousness is uncleanness open and shameless. It is the final loathsome analysis of the works of the flesh.

2. Unlawful dealing in things spiritual.—“Idolatry, witchcraft [sorcery],” (ver. 20). Idolatry and sensuality have always been closely related. Some of the most popular pagan systems were purveyors of lust and lent to it the sanctions of religion. When man loses the true conception of God he becomes degraded. Sorcery is closely allied to idolatry. A low, naturalistic notion of the Divine lends itself to immoral purposes. Men try to operate upon it by material causes, and to make it a partner in evil. Magical charms are made the instruments of unholy indulgence.

3. Violations of brotherly love.—“Hatred [enmities], variance [strife], emulations [jealousies], wrath [ragings], strife [factions], seditions [divisions], heresies [keen controversial partisanship], envyings, murders” (vers. 20, 21). A horrible progeny of evils having their source in a fruitful hotbed of unreasoning hatred, each vice preying upon and feeding the other. Settled rancour is the worst form of contentiousness. It nurses its revenge, waiting, like Shylock, for the time when it shall “feed fat its ancient grudge.”

4. Intemperate excesses.—“Drunkenness, revellings, and such like” (ver. 21). These are the vices of a barbarous people. Our Teutonic and Celtic forefathers were alike prone to this kind of excess. The Greeks were a comparatively sober people. The Romans were more notorious for gluttony than for hard drinking. The practice of seeking pleasure in intoxication is a remnant of savagery which exists to a shameful extent in our own country. With Europe turned into one vast camp, and its nations groaning audibly under the weight of their armaments, with hordes of degrading women infesting the streets of its cities, with discontent and social hatred smouldering throughout its industrial populations, we have small reason to boast of the triumphs of modern civilisation. Better circumstances do not make better men (Findlay).

III. Exclude the sinner from the kingdom of God.—“They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (ver. 21). How poor life seems outside that kingdom! How beautiful and glorious inside its gates! If I tried to tell you how Christ brings us there, I should repeat to you once more the old familiar story. He comes and lives and dies and rises again for us. He touches us with gratitude. He sets before our softened lives His life. He makes us see the beauty of holiness and the strength of the spiritual life in Him. He transfers His life to us through the open channel of faith, and so we come to live as He lives, by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. How old the story is, but how endlessly fresh and true to him whose own career it describes (Phillips Brooks). Exclusion from the kingdom of God is man’s own act; it is self-exclusion. He will not enter in; he loves darkness rather than light.

Lessons.—1. Sin is an active principle whose works are perniciously evident. 2. Sin is the primal cause of every possible vice. 3. Sin persisted in involves moral ruin.

 

[p. 92] GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 19–21. Biblical Account of Sin.—A mournful catalogue of words, based on a great variety of images, is employed in Scripture to describe the state of sinfulness which man inherits from his birth. Sometimes it is set forth as the missing of a mark or aim; sometimes as the transgressing of a line—the word occurs seven times in the New Testament and is twice applied to Adam’s Fall (Rom. v. 14; 1 Tim. ii. 14); sometimes as disobedience to a voice, i.e. to hear carelessly, to take no need of—the word occurs three times (Rom. v. 19; 2 Cor. x. 6; Heb. ii. 2); sometimes as ignorance of what we ought to have done (Heb. ix. 7); sometimes as a defect or discomfiture—to be worsted, because, as Gerhard says, “A sinner yields to, is worsted by, the temptations of the flesh and of Satan”; sometimes as a debt (Matt. vi. 12); sometimes as disobedience to law—the word occurs fourteen times in the New Testament and is generally translated by “iniquity.” The last figure employed in the most general definition of sin given in the New Testament—sin is the transgression of the law (1 John iii. 4).—Trench and Maclear.

The Works of the Flesh.

I. Sins against chastity.—Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, wantonness. 1. We must stock up the root of these things, mortify the passion of concupiscence. 2. All occasions of these sins must be cut off, two especially, idleness and the pampering of the body. 3. All signs of these vices must be avoided, any speech or action that may give suspicion of incontinent disposition, as light talk, wanton behaviour, curiousness and excess in trimming of the body, suspected company.

II. Sins against religion.—Idolatry, witchcraft, heresies.

III. Sins against charity.—Enmity, debate, emulations, anger, contention, seditions.

IV. Sins against temperance.—Drunkenness, gluttony. 1. We may use meat and drink not only for necessity, but also for delight. 2. That measure of meat and drink which in our experience makes us fit both in body and mind for the service of God and the duties of our calling is convenient and lawful. To be given to drinking and to love to sit by the cup, when there is no drunkenness, is a sin. Drunkenness: (1) Destroys the body. (2) Hurts the mind. (3) Vile imaginations and affections that are in men when they are drunk remain in them when they are sober, so being sober they are drunk in affection.—Perkins.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 22–26.

The Fruit of the Spirit

I. Is evident in manifold Christian virtues.—1. Virtues describing a general state of heart. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace” (ver. 22). Love is foremost of the group of Christian graces, and gives a nameless charm to all the rest, for there is an element of love in all true goodness. Love derives its power from being in the first place, love to God. When the soul centres its affection in God through Christ all its outgoings are influenced and regulated accordingly. Joy is the product of love. A philosophy or religion which has no room for the joy and pleasure of man is as little conversant with the wants of man as with the will of God. “Joy in the Lord quickens and elevates, while it cleanses all other emotions. It gives a new glow to life. It sheds a Diviner meaning, a brighter aspect, over the common face of earth and sky. Joy is the beaming countenance, the elastic step, the singing voice, of Christian goodness.” Peace is the holy calm breathed into the soul by a pardoning God. It is the gift of Christ, giving rest to the soul in the midst of external agitations. [p. 93] “It is a settled quiet of the heart, a deep, brooding mystery that ‘passeth all understanding,’ the stillness of eternity entering the spirit, the Sabbath of God. It is the calm, unruffled brow, the poised and even temper which Christian goodness wears.”

2. Virtues exercised in the Christian’s intercourse with his neighbour.—“Longsuffering, gentleness, goodness.” Charity suffereth long. The heart at peace with God has patience with men. Longsuffering is the patient magnanimity of Christian goodness, the broad shoulders on which it “beareth all things.” Gentleness (or kindness, as the word is more frequently and better rendered) resembles longsuffering in finding its chief objects in the evil and unthankful. But while the latter is passive and self-contained, kindness is an active, busy virtue. It is the thoughtful insight, the delicate tact, the gentle ministering hand of charity. Linked with kindness comes goodness, which is its other self, differing from it as only twin sisters may, each fairer for the beauty of the other. Goodness is perhaps more affluent, more catholic in its bounty; kindness more delicate and discriminating. Goodness is the honest, generous face, the open hand of charity (Findlay).

3. Virtues indicating the principles which regulate the Christian’s life.—“Faith [honesty, trustworthiness], meekness, temperance” (vers. 22, 23). The faith that unites man to God in turn joins man to his fellows. Faith in the divine Fatherhood becomes trust in the human brotherhood. He who doubts every one is even more deceived than the man who blindly confides in every one. Trustfulness is the warm, firm clasp of friendship, the generous and loyal homage which goodness ever pays to goodness. Meekness is the other side of faith. It is not tameness and want of spirit; it comports with the highest courage and activity and is a qualification for public leadership. It is the content and quiet mien, the willing self-effacement, that is the mark of Christ-like goodness. Temperance, or self-control, is the third of Plato’s cardinal virtues. Temperance is a practised mastery of self. It covers the whole range of moral discipline and concerns every sense and passion of our nature. It is the guarded step, the sober, measured walk in which Christian goodness keeps the way of life, and makes straight paths for stumbling and straying feet (Ibid.).

II. Violates no law.—“Against such there is no law” (ver. 23; comp. ver. 18). The fruit of the Spirit is love; and the law, so far from being against love, commands it (ver. 14). The practice of love and all its works is the fulfilling of the law and disarms it of all terror. The expression, “Against such there is no law,” so far from being more than superfluous, as Hoffman asserts, is intended to make evident how it is that, by virtue of this, their moral frame, those who are led by the Spirit are not subject to the Mosaic law. For whosoever is so constituted that a law is not against him, over such a one the law has no power.

III. Indicates the reality of a great spiritual change.—1. The old self-hood is crucified. “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh” (ver. 24). This well expresses how sin must, little by little, be disabled and slain, for the crucified man did not die at once. He was first made fast with nails to the cross, and then kept there, till through hunger and thirst and loss of blood he became weaker and weaker, and finally died. We are to be executioners, dealing cruelly with the body of sin which caused the acting of all cruelties on the body of Christ.

2. A new law now regulates the life.—“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (ver. 25). The life is governed, not by the law of the flesh, but of the Spirit. The electrician can demagnetise and remagnetise a bar of iron, but the biologist cannot devitalise a plant or an animal and revivify it again. Spiritual life is not a visit from a force, but a resident tenant in the soul. The Spirit who created the life within sustains it and directs all its outgoings.

[p. 94] 3. Everything provocative of strife and envy is carefully avoided.—“Let us not be desirous of vainglory, provoking one another, envying one another” (ver. 26). Vaingloriousness was a weakness of the Galatic temperament; and is not unknown in modern Christian life. Superiority, or fancied superiority, in talents or status is apt to proudly display itself. It is indeed a pitiable exhibition when even spiritual gifts are made matter of ostentation, exciting the jealousy of inferior brethren, and creating discontent and envy. The cultivation of the fruit of the Spirit is the best remedy against all bitterness and strife.

Lessons.—1. The fruit of the Spirit a suggestive contrast to the works of the flesh. 2. Consistency of life is the test of genuine religion. 3. The operations of the Spirit are in harmony with the highest law.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 22, 23. The Fruit of the Spirit.

I. Love.—1. The love of God. (1) Shown in a desire of fellowship with God. (2) To love the Word of God above all earthly treasure, and to tread our own will underfoot. (3) The love of them that love God and Christ. 2. The love of our neighbour. This is love indeed, to show love and to do good to them that wrong and abuse us.

II. Joy.—1. To rejoice in the true acknowledgment of God. 2. To rejoice in the work of our regeneration. 3. To rejoice in the hope of eternal glory.

III. Peace.—To maintain peace and concord: 1. Neither take offence nor give offence. 2. Seek to edify one another; either do good or take good.

IV. Longsuffering.—To moderate our anger and desire of revenge when many and great wrongs are done us. Set and sow this plant in the furrows of your heart, and consider: 1. The goodness of God, who forgives more to us than we can forgive. 2. It is the duty of love to suffer and forbear. 3. It is a point of injustice to revenge ourselves, for then we take to ourselves the honour of God, and against all equity—we are the parties and judge and witness and all. 4. We are often ignorant of the mind of men in their actions, and of the true circumstances thereof, and so may easily be deceived.

V. Gentleness.—Right courtesy is with an honest heart to bless when we are wronged.

VI. Goodness.—The virtue whereby we communicate to others good things, for their good and benefit.

VII. Faith.—Faith towards man, which means: 1. To speak the truth from the heart. 2. To be faithful and just in the keeping of our honest promise and word. This faith a rare virtue in these days. The common fashion of them that live by bargaining is to use glorying, facing, soothing, lying, dissembling, and all manner of shifts. They that deal with chapmen shall hardly know what is truth, they have so many words and so many shifts.

VIII. Meekness.—The same in effect with longsuffering. The difference is that meekness is more general, and longsuffering the highest degree of meekness.

IX. Temperance.—The moderation of lust and appetite in the use of the gifts and creatures of God. 1. We must use moderation in meats and drinks. That measure of meat and drink which serves to refresh nature and make us fit for the service of God and man is allowed us of God and no more. 2. We must use moderation in the getting of goods. 3. In the spending of our goods—contrary to the fashion of many who spend their substance in feasting and company, and keep their wives and children bare at home. 4. In our apparel. To apparel ourselves according to our sex, according [p. 95] to the received fashion of our country, according to our place and degree, and according to our ability.

X. Against such virtues there is no law.—1. No law to condemn. 2. No law to compel obedience. Spiritual men freely obey God, as if there were no law; they are a voluntary and free people, serving God without restraint.—Perkins.

Ver. 22. Love an Attendant of Regeneration.—1. Love is a delight in happiness. 2. Is universal. 3. Is just. 4. Is disinterested. 5. Is an active principle. 6. Is the only voluntary cause of happiness. 7. Is the only equitable spirit towards God and our fellow-creatures. 8. Is the only disposition which can be approved or loved by God.—Dr. Dwight.

The Powers of Love.—If these be the fruit of the Spirit, they cannot be mere matters of temperament. When philosophy gives an account of the human soul it can find only constitutional propensities and voluntary acquisitions. When we interrogate Christianity, we are told besides of communicated sanctities, states of mind which inheritance cannot give or resolution command, which need some touch of God to wake them up, which are above us and yet ours, and seem to lie on the borderland of communion between the finite and the infinite Spirit.

I. There is humane love, which constitutes the humblest and most frequent form of unselfish feeling. It finds its objects among the miserable and attaches itself to them in proportion to their woes. In human pity there is a strange combination of repulsion and attraction, which it is the paradox of philosophy to state, and the mercy of God to ordain; it cannot endure the sight of wretchedness, and yet can never leave it. But there is a work ordained for us which this impulse will not suffice to do. Fastening itself on suffering alone, it sees nothing else. Yet beneath the smooth and glossy surface of easy life there may hide itself many an inward disease which the mere glance of pity does not discern. Flourishing iniquity that gives no seeming pain it lets alone; invisible corruption may spread without arrest.

II. There is imaginative or æsthetic love, which attaches itself to objects in proportion as they are beautiful, kindles the enthusiasm of art, and completes itself in the worship of genius. Yet is this affection very barren until thrown into the midst of others to harmonise and glorify them. No reciprocal sympathy is requisite to this sentiment; that which is admired as beautiful does not admire in return. And above all there is a direct tendency to turn with indifference or even merciless repugnance from what is unlovely.

III. There is moral love, which has reference to persons only, not to things, which attaches itself to them in proportion as they are good, judges them by the standard of an internal law, and expresses itself in tones, not of tenderness as in pity, or of admiration as in the trance of beauty, but of grave and earnest approval. Even this moral love is not without imperfections. Its characteristic sentiment of approbation has always in it a certain patronising air not welcome to the mercy of a true heart, and more like the rigour of a Zeno than the grace of Christ.

IV. There is a Divine love, directed first upon God Himself, and thence drawn into the likeness of His own love, and going forth upon other natures in proportion to their worth and claims. This is the crowning and calming term of all prior affections, presupposing them, and lifting them up from clashing and unrest to harmony and peace. The humane, the beautiful, the right, remain only scattered elements of good till they are gathered into the Divine and blended into one by the combining love of God.—Dr. Martineau.

Love the Perfection of Character.—The [p. 96] fruit of the true vine has been analysed, and in the best specimens nine ingredients are found. In poor samples there is a deficiency of one or other of these elements. A dry and diminutive sort is lacking in peace and joy. A tart kind, which sets the teeth on edge, owes its austerity to its scanty infusion of gentleness, goodness, and meekness. There is a watery, deliquescent sort which, for the want of longsuffering, is not easily preserved; and there is a flat variety which, having no body of faith or temperance, answers few useful purposes. Love is the essential principle which is in no case entirely absent, and by the glistening fulness and rich aroma which its plentiful presence creates you can recognise the freshest and most generous clusters, whilst the predominance of some other element gives to each its distinguishing flavour, and marks the growth of Eshcol, Sibmah, or Lebanon.—Dr. James Hamilton.

The Power of Meekness and Affection.—Once in Holland a person of high rank invited Tersteegen to be his guest. This individual imagined himself to have attained to a state of peculiar inward peace and took occasion during dinner to criticise Tersteegen for being too active, and for not sufficiently knowing the ground on which he wrought. Tersteegen attended meekly and silently to all that was said; and when dinner was over he offered up a fervent prayer in which he commended his host to the Lord in terms of such affection and compassion that this great and warm-tempered man was so much struck and affected by it that his feelings overpowered him, and he fell upon the neck of his guest and begged his forgiveness.

Who are the Meek?—A missionary to Jamaica was once questioning the little black boys on the meaning of Matt. v. 5, and asked, “Who are the meek?” A boy answered, “Those who give soft answers to rough questions.”

The Grace of Gentleness.

I. It is not a gift, but a grace.—It is not a natural demeanour, amiable and courteous, a soft, feminine compliance, but a grace of the Spirit which takes into it the strength of the Divine. You may have the instinct of delicacy, a natural tenderness and affability, yet not have this grace of the Spirit which impels you for Christ’s sake to deal gently and save men. It is the underlying motive which determines whether grace or nature reigns. How is it when your ideas and methods of doing good are thwarted? Moses seems to have in Zipporah what Socrates had in Xantippe, yet her abuse had no more abiding effect on him than the spray which angry waves toss against the rock. Calvin hearing of Luther’s ire said, “Let him hate me and call me a devil a thousand times; I will love him and call him a precious servant of God.”

II. The cultivation of this grace will cost you many a struggle.—You are to get the better of your temper on your knees. No minstrel as in the case of Saul can do the work. We must forgive in our heart those who offend us.

III. The grace of gentleness is a queen with a train of virtues.—It ennobles our whole nature. An English nobleman could not be bound to keep the peace, for it was supposed that peace always kept him. So we should suppose that every professed Christian would have this grace; but if you should put your ear to the door of some Christian homes, it would be like listening to a volcano. If you did not behold a sulphurous flame bursting out, you might hear a continual grumbling. A man said to me once, “When I see Mr. So-and-so my passion is bigger than myself, and I long to make him feel it.” The Spirit of Christ leads us to pray for those who despitefully use us. Only as His temper prevails in us shall we be able [p. 97] to illustrate the beauty of Divine greatness.—Homiletic Monthly.

Constant Joy.—Father Taylor, the Boston sailor-preacher, when going out to make a call, said to his host on the doorstep, “Laugh till I get back.”

Ver. 24. Crucifying the Flesh.

I. What is meant by being Christ’s.—It is to accept of and have an interest in Christ in His prophetic, kingly, and sacerdotal offices. By His prophetic office we come to know His will; by His kingly office, ruling and governing us, we come to yield obedience to that will; and by His sacerdotal or priestly office we come to receive the fruit of that obedience in our justification.

II. What is meant by the flesh.—The whole entire body of sin and corruption; that inbred proneness in our nature to all evil, expressed by concupiscence. 1. It is called flesh because of its situation and place, which is principally in the flesh. 2. Because of its close, inseparable nearness to the soul. 3. Because of its dearness to us. Sin is our darling, our Delilah, the queen-regent of our affections; it fills all our thoughts, engrosses our desires, and challenges the service of all our actions. This reveals: (1) The deplorable state of fallen man. (2) The great difficulty of the duty of mortification. (3) The mean and sordid employment of every sinner—he serves the flesh.

III. What is imported by the crucifixion of the flesh.—1. The death of it. He that will crucify his sin must pursue it to the very death. 2. A violent death. Sin never dies of age. The conquest need be glorious, for it will be found by sharp experience that the combat will be dangerous. 3. A painful, bitter, and vexatious death. 4. A shameful and cursed death.

IV. The duty of crucifying the flesh.—1. A constant and pertinacious denying it in all its cravings for satisfaction. 2. Encounter it by actions of the opposite virtue.—Robert South.

Ver. 25. Life and Walk in the Spirit.—Life relates to what is inward, walk to what is outward.

I. To live in the Spirit.—1. The Spirit begins the life of God in the soul. 2. The Spirit gives new desires and changes all the motives of life. 3. The Spirit lives in us.

II. To walk in the Spirit.—1. The walk will follow from the life, for every kind of life is after its own kind and development. 2. Every outward manifestation will correspond to the inward principle of life and will be marked by love to God and love to man. 3. Reputation will correspond to character and conduct to life.

III. To be led by the Spirit.—1. The Christian’s life is a growth, his walk a progress; but he is led and guided by the Spirit. 2. No new revelation is made by the Spirit. He leads and guides by what is written in the Word.

IV. Learn our relations to the Spirit.—1. We live under the Spirit’s dispensation. 2. He is the Spirit of God, and so of life, truth, and authority. 3. He is the Spirit of Christ, and so unites us to Him. 4. If we live by the Spirit, let conversation and conduct be answerable thereunto.—Homiletic Monthly.

Walking in the Spirit—

I. Is to savour the things of the Spirit.—To subject a man’s soul to the law of God in all the faculties and powers of the soul. The things revealed in the law are the things of the Spirit, which Spirit must at no hand be severed from the Word.

II. To walk in the path of righteousness without offence to God or man.

III. To walk not stragglingly, but orderly by rule, by line and measure.—To order ourselves according to the rule and line of the Word of God. The life of a man will discover to the world what he is.—Perkins.

Ver. 26. Vaingloriousness.

  1. The exciting cause of many quarrels.
  2. [p. 98] A source of envy and disappointment.
  3. Unbecoming the dignity and aims of the Christian life.

The Vice of Vainglory and its Cure.

I. Vainglory is a branch of pride, wherein men principally refer all their studies, counsels, endeavours, and gifts to the honouring and advancing of themselves. They who have received good gifts of God are often most vainglorious. Whereas all other vices feed upon that which is evil, this vice of vainglory feeds upon good things. A man will sometimes be proud even because he is not proud.

II. The cure of vainglory.—1. Meditation. (1) God resisteth all proud persons and gives grace to the humble, because the vainglorious man, seeking himself and not God, robs God of His honour. (2) It is the work of the devil to puff up the mind with self-liking and conceit, that thereby he may work man’s perdition. (3) There is no religion in that heart that is wholly bent to seek the praise of men. The man who desires to be talked of and admired by others gives notice to the world that his heart is not sound in the sight of God. 2. Practice. (1) Endeavour to acknowledge the great majesty of God, and our own baseness before Him. (2) We ought to ascribe all good things we have or can do to God alone, and nothing to ourselves. (3) In all actions and duties of religion we must first endeavour to approve ourselves to God, and the next place is to be given to man. (4) When we are reviled we must rest content; when we are praised take heed. Temptations on the right hand are far more dangerous than those on the left. (5) Men who are ambitious, if they be crossed, grow contentious; if they prosper, they are envied by others. Abhor and detest vainglory; seek to preserve and maintain love.—Perkins.


 

CHAPTER VI.

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.

Ver. 1. Overtaken in a fault.—Be caught red-handed in any transgression, the result of some sudden and overpowering gust of evil impulse. Restore such an one.—The same word used of a dislocated limb reduced to its place. Such is the tenderness with which we should treat a fallen member in restoring him to a better state. In the spirit of meekness.—Meekness is that temper of spirit towards God whereby we accept His dealings without disputing; then towards men whereby we endure meekly their provocations, and do not withdraw ourselves from the burdens which their sins impose upon us (Trench).

Ver. 2. Bear ye one another’s burdens.—The word is “weights,” something exceeding the strength of those under them. “One another’s” is strongly emphatic. It is a powerful stroke, as with an axe in the hand of a giant, at censoriousness or vainglorious egotism. We are not to think of self, but of one another. To bear the burden of an erring brother is truly Christ-like. And so fulfil the law of Christ.—If you must needs observe a law, let it be the law of Christ.

Ver. 3. He deceiveth himself.—He is misled by the vapours of his own vanity, he is self-deceived.

Ver. 4. Rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.—In that his own work stands the test after severe examination, and not that he is superior to another.

Ver. 6. Communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.—Go shares with him in the good things of this life. While each bears his own burden he must think of others, especially in ministering out of his earthly goods to the wants of his spiritual teacher (see 2 Cor. xi. 7, 11; Phil. iv. 10; 1 Thess. ii. 6, 9; 1 Tim. v. 17, 18).

Ver. 7. God is not mocked.—The verb means to sneer with the nostrils drawn up in contempt. Excuses for illiberality may seem valid before men but are not so before God.

Ver. 8. He that soweth to his flesh.—Unto his own flesh, which is devoted to selfishness. [p. 99] Shall reap corruption.—Destruction, which is not an arbitrary punishment of fleshly-mindedness, but is its natural fruit; the corrupt flesh producing corruption, which is another word for destruction. Corruption is the fault, and corruption the punishment.

Ver. 9. Let us not be weary: we shall reap, if we faint not.—“Weary” refers to the will; “faint” to relaxation of the powers. No one should faint, as in an earthly harvest sometimes happens.

Ver. 11. Ye see how large a letter I have written with mine own hand.—At this point the apostle takes the pen from his amanuensis, and writes the concluding paragraph with his own hand. Owing to the weakness of his eyesight he wrote in large letters. He thus gives emphasis to the importance of the subjects discussed in the epistle.

Ver. 12. Lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.—They would escape the bitterness of the Jews against Christianity and the offence of the cross, by making the Mosaic law a necessary preliminary.

Ver. 13. For neither they themselves keep the law.—So far are they from being sincere that they arbitrarily select circumcision out of the whole law, as though observing it would stand instead of their non-observance of the rest of the law. That they may glory in your flesh.—That they may vaunt your submission to the carnal rite, and so gain credit with the Jews for proselytising.

Ver. 14. God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross.—The great object of shame to them, and to all carnal men, is the great object of glorying to me. By whom the world is crucified unto me.—By His cross, the worst of deaths, Christ has destroyed all kinds of death. Legal and fleshly ordinances are merely outward and elements of the world. To be crucified to the world is to be free from worldliness, and all that makes men slaves to creature fascinations.

Ver. 15. But a new creature.—All external distinctions are nothing. The cross is the only theme worthy of glorying in, as it brings about a new spiritual creation.

Ver. 16. As many as walk according to this rule.—Of life: a straight rule to detect crookedness. Upon the Israel of God.—Not the Israel after the flesh, but the spiritual seed of Israel by faith.

Ver. 17. I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.—The Judaising teachers gloried in the circumcision marks in the flesh of their followers; St. Paul in the scars or brands of suffering for Christ in his own body—the badge of an honourable servitude.

Ver. 18. Brethren.—After much rebuke and monition, he bids them farewell with the loving expression of brotherhood as his last parting word, as if Greatheart had meant to say, “After all, my last word is, I love you, I love you.”

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 1–5.

Mutual Sympathy in Burden-bearing.

I. That sympathy towards the erring is a test of spiritual-mindedness.—1. Shown in the tenderness with which the erring should be treated. “If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness” (ver. 1). Worldly and self-seeking men are often severe on a neighbour’s fault. They are more likely to aggravate than heal the wound, to push the weak man down when he tries to rise than to help him to his feet. The spiritual, moved by genuine compassion, should regard it as their duty to set right a lapsed brother, to bring him back as soon and safely as may be to the fold of Christ. To reprove without pride or acrimony, to stoop to the fallen without the air of condescension, requires the spirit of meekness in a singular degree.

2. Reflecting that the most virtuous may some day be in need of similar consideration.—“Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (ver. 1). The disaster befalling one reveals the common peril; it is a signal for every member of the Church to take heed to himself. The scrutiny which it calls for belongs to each man’s private conscience. The faithfulness and integrity required in those who approach the wrong-doer with a view to his recovery must be chastened by personal solicitude. The fall of a Christian brother should be in any case the occasion of heart-searching and profound humiliation. Feelings of indifference towards him, much more of contempt, will prove the prelude of a worse overthrow for ourselves.

[p. 100] II. That sympathy in burden-bearing is in harmony with the highest law.—“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (ver. 2). As much as to say, “If ye will bear burdens, bear one another’s burden; if ye will observe law, observe the highest law—the law of love.” There is nothing more Christ-like than to bear the burden of a brother’s trespass. Christ bore burdens which to us would have been intolerable and overwhelming. The heaviest burden becomes supportable when shared with loving sympathy. Kindness towards the needy and helpless is work done to Christ. There is a poetic legend among the Anglian kings that Count Fulc the Good, journeying along Loire-side towards Tours, saw, just as the towers of St. Martin’s rose before him in the distance, a leper full of sores who put by his offer of alms and desired to be borne to the sacred city. Amidst the jibes of his courtiers, the good count lifted him in his arms and carried him along bank and bridge. As they entered the town the leper vanished from their sight, and men told how Fulc had borne an angel unawares! Mutual burden-bearing is the practical proof of the unity and solidarity of the Christian brotherhood.

III. That no man can afford to be independent of human sympathy.—1. Fancied superiority to sympathy is self-deception. “If a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself” (ver. 3). Others will see how little his affected eminence is worth. Some will humour his vanity, many will ridicule or pity it, few will be deceived by it. Real knowledge is humble; it knows its nothingness. Socrates, when the oracle pronounced him the wisest man in Greece, at last discovered that the response was right, inasmuch as he alone was aware that he knew nothing, while other men were confident of their knowledge. It is in humility and dependence, in self-forgetting, that true wisdom begins. Who are we, although the most refined or highest in place, that we should despise plain, uncultured members of the Church, those who bear life’s heavier burdens and amongst whom our Saviour spent His days on earth, and treat them as unfit for our company, unworthy of fellowship with us in Christ? (Findlay). The most exalted and gifted is never lifted above the need of fellow-sympathy.

2. A searching examination into our conduct will reveal how little cause there is for boasting a fancied superiority.—“But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another” (ver. 4). As if the apostle said: “Let each man try his own work. Judge yourselves instead of judging one another. Mind your own duty rather than your neighbours’ faults. Do not think of your worth or talents in comparison with theirs but see to it that your work is right.” The question for each of us is not, “What do others fail to do?” but, “What am I myself really doing? What will my life’s work amount to when measured by that which God expects from me?” The petty comparisons which feed our vanity and our class-prejudices are of no avail at the bar of God. If we study our brother’s work, it should be with a view of enabling him to do it better, or to learn to improve our own by his example; not in order to find excuses for ourselves in his shortcomings. If our work abide the test, we shall have glorying in ourselves alone, not in regard to our neighbour. Not his flaws and failures, but my own honest work, will be the ground of my satisfaction (Ibid.).

IV. That individual responsibility is universal.—“For every man shall bear his own burden [load]” (ver. 5). No man can rid himself of his life-load; he must carry it up to the judgment-seat of Christ, where he will get his final discharge. Daniel Webster was present one day at a dinner-party given at Astor House by some New York friends, and in order to draw him out one of the company put to him the following question, “Will you please tell us, Mr. Webster, what was the most important thought that ever occupied your mind?” Mr. Webster [p. 101] merely raised his head, and passing his hand slowly over his forehead, said, “Is there any one here who doesn’t know me?” “No, sir,” was the reply; “we all know you and are your friends.” “Then,” said he, looking over the table, “the most important thought that ever occupied my mind was that of my individual responsibility to God”; and he spoke on the subject for twenty minutes. The higher sense we have of our own responsibility the more considerate we are in judging others and the more we sympathise with them in their struggles and trials. Æsop says a man carries two bags over his shoulder, the one with his own sins hanging behind, that with his neighbour’s sins in front.

Lessons.—1. Sympathy is a Christ-like grace. 2. Sympathy for the erring does not tolerate wrong. 3. Practical help is the test of genuine sympathy.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Ver. 1. The Sins of Others.

I. The follies and misconduct of others are the choice subjects of conversation in every stage of society; and if we take slander out of these conversations, we rob them of their keenest fascination. I have felt it, that fearful joy which the discovery of others’ faults produces; and then I found nothing at all extravagant in the strongest expressions by which the Scriptures depict the depth of our fall and the depravity of our heart.

II. One of your brethren has lapsed: but you who condemn him, have you never erred? Do you know his history? Did he know what you know yourself? The fall of a brother should call forth a painful self-examination and a sincere humiliation before God.

III. Real and profound compassion should be felt for the brother whom sin has overtaken. But sympathy alone will not suffice. There is a sympathy which is mere weakness. Our mission lays upon us the duty of restoration. This is a delicate and sublime work, for it is the work of God, but the work of God destined to be accomplished by man. Do the work of Jesus Christ in the spirit of Jesus Christ. You must have for your fallen brethren a love without weakness and a holiness without pride. We cannot raise them en masse, and by I know not what a collective action which would exempt us from individual love and sacrifice. All will be of no avail unless each of us, in the post where God has placed him, acts upon those around him, and brings them all individually under that influence of love which nothing can either equal or replace. Have you never asked yourself with terror if you have not lost some soul? Do you know if, among all those unfortunate beings whom God will cast from His presence at the last day, more than one will not sorrowfully turn towards you and say, “It is thou, it is thou that has lost me”?—Eugene Bersier.

Vers. 1, 2. Christian Reformation.

I. A thief is the man who uses, in order to keep up appearances, that which does not justly belong to him, whether that appearance be kept up by actually robbing his neighbour’s pocket, or by delaying the payment of his just debts, or by stinting God and man of their dues in any way. Such a one has, for keeping up appearances, every advantage up to a certain point, and that point is the moment of detection. After that, all is changed. The detected thief is the most miserable of men. Two ways only are open to him by which he can endure life or carry on hope. One if these is to declare war against society, and become an open instead of a secret offender; the other is to begin anew, and strive to build up a fresh reputation under more favourable auspices, it may be by shrewder and deeper deceit, or it may be in the way of [p. 102] genuine repentance and amendment. It is hard to say whether of these two is the more difficult or hopeless.

II. Were we all true men, safe in our own consciences, fearless of detection in any point ourselves, we should be ever ready to help up an erring brother or sister; but it is just because we are afraid of our own weak and unsound points that we are so reluctant ever to let a tarnished character again brighten itself. It is hardly possible to over-estimate the vast conspiracy which is arranged against the delinquent’s effort to be reinstated in the favour of his fellow-men.

III. It would be by no means uninstructive to inquire how far these feelings have influenced us in our views and practice with regard to the punishment of crime. The last thing we believe in is reformation. You may view this as a judicial consequence of guilt. Terrible as may be the fears of a conscience dreading detection, far more difficulty, far more anguish, far bitterer self-reproach, is in store for the penitent struggling to regain peace and the fair name which he has lost. He carries the past evermore, as it were, branded on his brow, for men to see and avoid.

IV. While we rejoice and are grateful to God for His mercy to us, we should at the same time tremble at our own unworthiness, and ever bear in mind our personal liability to fall into sin. In such a spirit should we set about the blessed work of restoration, ever looking on the fallen as our brethren, going to meet them across the gulf which human Pharisaism has placed between them and us, the undetected; as common children of that God whose grace is able to raise them up again, bearing their burdens instead of disclaiming them and letting them sink under their weight, and so fulfilling the law of Christ.—Dean Alford.

The Restoration of the Erring.

I. The Christian view of other men’s sins.—1. The apostle looks upon sin as if it might be sometimes the result of a surprise. 2. As that which has left a burden on the erring spirit. (1) One burden laid on fault is that chain of entanglement which seems to drag down to fresh sins. (2) The burden of the heart weighing on itself. (3) The burden of a secret, leading a man to tell the tale of his crimes as under the personality of another, as in the old fable of him who breathed his weighty secret to the reeds; to get relief in profuse and general acknowledgment of guilt; evidenced in the commonness of the longing for confession. (4) The burden of an intuitive consciousness of the hidden sins of others’ hearts.

II. The Christian power of restoration.—1. Restoration is possible. 2. By sympathy. 3. By forgiveness. 4. In the spirit of meekness. 5. The motive urging to attempt restoration.—“Considering thyself,” etc.—F. W. Robertson.

Brotherly Reproof.—1. A man must so reprove his brother as that it may be most for the advancement of God’s glory, best for winning him to God, and least to the defaming of him abroad. He must pray that God would guide his tongue and move the other’s heart. We may not traduce him to others, either before or after our reproof. 2. Every reproof must be grounded on a certainty of knowledge of the fault committed. 3. It is very requisite the reprover be not tainted with the like fault he reproves in another. 4. The vinegar of sharp reprehension must be allayed and tempered with the oil of gentle exhortation. The word “restore” signifies to set a bone that is broken. We are to deal with a man who has fallen and by his fall disjoined some member of the new man as the surgeon does with an arm or leg that is broken or out of joint—handle it tenderly and gently, so as to cause least pain. 5. Every reproof must be fitted to the quality and condition of him we reprove and to the nature of the offence. 6. Must be administered in fit time when we [p. 103] may do the most good. 7. Secret sins known to thee or to a few must be reproved secretly. 8. We must be careful to observe the order set down by our Saviour (Matt. xviii. 15).—Perkins.

Vers. 2, 5. Our Twofold Burdens.—1. The burden which every man must bear for himself is the burden of his own sins, and from this burden no man can relieve him. 2. If a man be overtaken in a fault, we are to bear his burden by trying to restore him. 3. We are to do this in the spirit of meekness, bending patiently under the burden which his fault may cast on us. This spirit towards those who commit faults is wholly at variance with the natural man’s way of acting, speaking, and thinking. We are to love our friends in spite of their faults, to treat them kindly, cheerfully, graciously, in spite of the pain they may give us. 4. Our Saviour has given us an example of what we should wish and strive to be and do. The law of Christ is the law of love.—J. C. Hare.

Ver. 2. Bear One Another’s Burdens.—The law of Christ was lovingkindness. His business was benevolence. If we would resemble Him,—

1. We must raise up the fallen.—This was hardly ever attempted till Christ set the pattern. People went wrong, and the world let them go; they broke the laws, and the magistrate punished; they became a scandal, and society cast them out—out of the synagogue, out of the city, out of the world. But with a moral tone infinitely higher Christ taught a more excellent way.

2. We must bear the infirmities of the weak.—Very tiresome is a continual touchiness in a neighbour, or the perpetual recurrence of the same faults in a pupil or child. But if by self-restraint and right treatment God should enable you to cure those faults, from how much shame and sorrow do you rescue them, from how much suffering yourself.

3. We must bear one another’s trials.—With one is the burden of poverty; with another it is pain or failing strength, the extinction of a great hope, or the loss of some precious faculty. A little thing will sometimes ease the pressure. In a country road you have seen the weary beast with foaming flank straining onward with the overladen cart and ready to give in, when the kindly waggoner called a halt, and propping up the shaft with a slim rod or stake from the hedgerow, he patted and praised the willing creature, till after a little rest they were ready to resume the rough track together. Many a time a small prop is quite sufficient.

4. By thus bearing others’ burdens you will lighten your own.—Rogers the poet has preserved a story told him by a Piedmontese nobleman. “I was weary of life, and after a melancholy day was hurrying along the street to the river, when I felt a sudden check. I turned and beheld a little boy who had caught the skirt of my cloak in his anxiety to solicit my notice. His look and manner were irresistible. Not less so was the lesson I learnt. ‘There are six of us, and we are dying for want of food.’ ‘Why should I not,’ said I to myself, ‘relieve this wretched family? I have the means, and it will not delay me many minutes.’ The scene of misery he conducted me to I cannot describe. I threw them my purse, and their burst of gratitude overcame me. It filled my eyes; it went as a cordial to my heart. ‘I will call again to-morrow,’ I cried. Fool that I was to think of leaving a world where such pleasure was to be had, and so cheaply.” There is many a load which only grows less by giving a lift to another. A dim Gospel makes a cold Christian; a distant Saviour makes a halting, hesitating disciple.—Dr. James Hamilton.

Ver. 2. Christian Generosity.

I. The duty enjoined.—1. It may apply to a weight of labour or bodily toil. 2. To a weight of personal [p. 104] affliction. 3. To a weight of providential losses and embarrassments. 4. To a weight of guilt. 5. Of temptation. 6. Of infirmities.

II. The enforcing motive.—1. The apostle’s requirement is worthy of the character of Christ, as it is a law of equity. 2. It is congenial with the Spirit of Christ. 3. It is agreeable to the example of Christ. 4. It is deducible from the precepts of Christ. 5. It has the approbation of Christ.—Sketches.

Bearing One Another’s Burdens.—The metaphor is taken from travellers who used to ease one another by carrying one another’s burdens, wholly or in part, so that they may more cheerfully and speedily go on in their journey. As in architecture all stones are not fit to be laid in every place of the building, but some below and others above the wall, so that the whole building may be firm and compact in itself; so, in the Church those who are strong must support the weak. The Italians have a proverb—Hard with hard never makes a good wall, by which is signified that stones cobbled up one upon another without mortar to combine them make but a tottering wall that may be easily shaken; but if there be mortar betwixt them yielding to the hardness of the stones, it makes the whole like a solid continued body, strong and stable, able to endure the shock of the ram or the shot of the cannon. So that society, where all are as stiff as stones which will not yield a hair one to another, cannot be firm and durable. But where men are of a yielding nature society is compact, because one bears the infirmities of another. Therefore the strong are to support the weak, and the weak the strong; as in the arch of a building one stone bears mutually, though not equally, the burden of the rest; or as harts swimming over a great water do ease one another in laying their heads one upon the back of another—the foremost, having none to support him, changing his place and resting his head upon the hindermost. Thus in God’s providence. Luther and Melancthon were happily joined together. Melancthon tempered the heat and zeal of Luther with his mildness, being as oil to his vinegar; and Luther, on the other side, did warm his coldness, being as fire to his frozenness.—Ralph Cudworth.

Association (A Benefit Club Sermon).—1. This plan of bearing one another’s burdens is not only good in benefit clubs—it is good in families, in parishes, in nations, in the Church of God. What is there bearing on this matter of prudence that makes one of the greatest differences between a man and a brute beast? Many beasts have forethought: the sleep-mouse hoards up acorns against the winter, the fox will hide the game he cannot eat. The difference between man and beast is, that the beast has forethought only for himself, but the man has forethought for others also. 2. Just the same with nations. If the king and nobles give their whole minds to making good laws, and seeing justice done to all, and workmen fairly paid, and if the poor in their turn are loyal and ready to fight and work for their king and their nobles, then will not that country be a happy and a great country? 3. Just the same way with Christ’s Church, the company of true Christian men. If the people love and help each other, and obey their ministers and pray for them, and if the ministers labour earnestly after the souls and bodies of their people, and Christ in heaven helps both minister and people with His Spirit and His providence and protection, if all in the whole Church bear each other’s burdens, then Christ’s Church will stand, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.—Charles Kingsley.

Burden-bearing.

I. Different kinds of burdens.—1. Those that are necessary. 2. Those that are superfluous. 3. Those that are imaginary.

[p. 105] II. What shall we do with them?—1. Reduce their number to the limits of necessity. 2. Some of these we are expected to carry ourselves. 3. Some we may expect our friends to help us to carry. 4. We may take them all to the Lord that He may either remove them or sustain us under them.

Lessons.—1. With grace burdens are removed or lightened. 2. In what way can we best help others with their burdens? “Thou lightenest thy load by lightening his.” 3. Let our burdens be reduced to light running order.Homiletic Monthly.

Practical Christian Sympathy.

I. Consider the burdens you can bear for others.—All have to bear burdens. Some man can only bear for himself. Others he can be helped to bear, such as the burden of carnal tendency, persecution, anxiety over loved ones, affliction that is not punishment.

II. Consider how we may bear the burdens of others.—1. We can bear them on our hearts in prayer. 2. We can lighten the burden by friendly help. 3. We can by the strength of our sympathies come under the burdens of others.

III. Bearing the burdens of others is the chief way by which we can fulfil the law of Christ.—Nothing will give us such a resemblance to Him. He lives solely for others. He came voluntarily under the burden of man’s miseries, sacrificing Himself for the race.

IV. Consider the importance of obeying this injunction.—1. For our own sakes. 2. For the good of others. 3. For the prosperity of the Church.The Lay Preacher.

Ver. 5. Burden-bearing.

I. There is the burden of personal responsibility.—This comes out in the formation of character.

II. There is the burden of toil.—Among the steep precipitous mountains of Thibet the traveller meets long processions of hungry, ill-clad Chinamen, carrying enormous loads of tea. There they go, climb, climbing day after day up the rough sides of the mountains, each with his great burden on his back, eyes fixed on the ground, all silent, stepping slowly, and leaning on great iron-pointed sticks, till the leader of the gang gives the signal for a halt, and, after standing for a few minutes, the heavy load again falls on the back and head, the body is again bent towards the ground, and the caravan is once more in motion. You do not wonder that, with a task so monotonous, these poor drudges should acquire a dreary, stupid look, little better than beasts of burden; and you feel sorry for those in whose lives there is a large amount of the like irksome and exhausting routine. Yet there are many who, in order to earn their daily bread, must go through a similar task.

III. There is the burden of sorrow.—Sorrow dwells beneath a king’s robes as much as beneath a peasant’s cloak; the star of the noble, the warrior’s corslet, the courtier’s silken vesture, cannot shut it out. That rural home is such a picture of peace we cannot believe that care or tears are there. That noble castle amidst ancient trees is surely lifted up in its calm grandeur above sighs and sadness. Alas! it is not so. Man is the tenant of both, and wherever man dwells sorrow is sure to be with him.

IV. There is one burden which it is wrong to bear.—It is a sin and a shame to you if you are still plodding along under the burden of unpardoned transgression. The load of guilt, the feeling that our sin is too great for the blood of Christ to expiate, or the grace of God to pardon—this burden it is wrong to bear.—Dr. James Hamilton.

Bearing our Burdens Alone.

I. The loneliness of each one of us.—One of the tendencies of these bustling times it to make us forget that we are single beings, detached souls. Each great star flung out like an atom of gold dust into space may seem lost amid the hundreds of millions of mightier worlds that surround; and [p. 106] yet no; it rolls on, grave in itself, careering in its own orbit, while its sister-stars sweep round on every side. We stand cut off from one another. We are to stave up side by side our own destiny, we are to be alone with our burdens, not lost in the forest of human lives.

II. Look at some of the forms of this burden.—1. There is the burden of being itself. 2. The burden of duty. 3. The burden of imperfection and sin. 4. The burden of sorrow. 5. The burden of dying alone. 6. If a man is lost, he is lost alone; if saved, he is saved alone.—The Lay Preacher.

Every Man has his Own Burden.

I. No man can pay a ransom for his brother, or redeem his soul from death, or satisfy the justice of God for his sin, seeing that every man by the tenor of the law is to bear his own burden, and by the Gospel none can be our surety but Christ.

II. We see the nature of sin that is a burden to the soul.—It is heavier than the gravel of the earth and the sand of the sea.

III. We are not to wonder that sin being so heavy a burden should be made so light a matter by carnal men, for it is a spiritual burden.

IV. The more a man fears the burden of his sins the greater measure of grace and spiritual life he has, and the less he feels it the more he is to suspect himself.

V. The greatest part of the world are dead in their sins in that they have no sense of feeling of this heavy burden.

VI. We are to take heed of every sin, for there is no sin so small but hath its weight.—Many small sins will as easily condemn as a few great. Like as sands, though small in quantity, yet being many in number, will as soon sink the ship as if it were laden with the greatest burden.

VII. Feeling the weight and burden of our sins, we are to labour to be disburdened; and this is done by repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.—Perkins.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 6–10.

Moral Sowing and Reaping.

I. Beneficence by the taught towards the teacher is sowing good seed.—“Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things” (ver. 6). The good things referred to, though not confined to temporal good, do certainly mean that. While every man must bear his own burden, he must also help to bear the burden of his brother. Especially must the taught go shares with his spiritual teacher in all things necessary. But beneficence shown towards the minister in temporalities is the least, and with many the easiest, part of the duty. Teacher and taught should mutually co-operate with each other in Christian work, and share with each other in spiritual blessings. The true minister of the Gospel is more concerned in eliciting the co-operation and sympathy of the members of his Church than in securing their temporal support. If he faithfully ministers to them in spiritual things, they should be eager to minister unto him of their worldly substance, and to aid him in promoting the work of God. Every good deed, done in the spirit of love and self-sacrifice, is sowing good seed.

II. By the operation of unchanging Divine law the reaping will correspond to the kind of seed sown and the nature of the soil into which it is cast.—“Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh,” etc. (vers. 7, 8). Men may wrong each other, but they cannot cheat God. To expect God to sow His bounties upon them, and not to let Him reap their gratitude and service, is mockery. But it is not God they deceive; they deceive themselves. For at last every one shall reap as he sows. The use made of our seed-time determines exactly, and with a moral [p. 107] certainty greater even than that which rules in the natural field, what kind of fruitage our immortality will render. Eternity for us will be the multiplied, consummate outcome of the good or evil of the present life. Hell is just sin ripe—rotten ripe. Heaven is the fruitage of righteousness. “He that soweth to his own flesh reaps corruption”—the moral decay and dissolution of the man’s being. This is the natural retributive effect of his carnality. The selfish man gravitates downward into the sensual man; the sensual man downward into the bottomless pit. “He that soweth to the Spirit reaps life everlasting.” The sequence is inevitable. Like breeds its like. Life springs of life, and death eternal is the culmination of the soul’s present death to God and goodness. The future glory of the saints is at once a divine reward and a necessary development of their present faithfulness (Findlay, passim).

III. Sowing the seed of good deeds should be prosecuted with unwearied perseverance.—1. Because the harvest is sure to follow. “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (ver. 9). Here is encouragement for the wearied, baffled worker. We have all our moments of despondency and disappointment and are apt to imagine our labours are futile and all our painstaking useless. Not so. We are confounding the harvest with the seed-time. “In due season”—in God’s time, which is the best time—“we shall reap, if we faint not.” Our heavenly harvest lies in every earnest and faithful deed, as the oak with its centuries of growth and all its summer glory sleeps in the acorn-cup, as the golden harvest slumbers in the seeds under their covering of wintry snow.

2. Because the opportunity of doing good is ever present.—“As we have opportunity let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (ver. 10). The whole of life is our opportunity, and every day brings its special work. Opportunity is never to seek; it is ever present. There is not a moment without a duty. While we are looking for a more convenient opportunity, we lose the one that is nearest to us. As members of the household of faith there is ever work enough to do—work that fits us to do good on a wider scale—“unto all men.” True zeal for the Church broadens rather than narrows our charities. Household affection is the nursery, not the rival, of love to our fatherland and to humanity.

Lessons.—1. Our present life is the seed-time of an eternal harvest. 2. The quality of the future harvest depends entirely on the present sowing. 3. God Himself is the Lord of the moral harvest.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Ver. 6. Pastors and People.

I. It is the duty of the people to give their pastors not only countenance but maintenance.

II. It is the law of nations, and a conclusion grounded on common equity, that those who spend themselves, as a candle, to give light to others and for the common good of all, should be maintained of the common stock by all.

III. Every calling is able to maintain them that live therein, therefore we may not think that the ministry, the highest calling, should be so base or barren as that it cannot maintain them that attend thereupon.

IV. Ministers are the Lord’s soldiers, captains, and standard-bearers, and therefore are not to go a warfare at their own cost.

V. Ministers are to give themselves wholly to the building of the Church and to the fighting of the Lord’s battles. Therefore they are to have their pay that they may attend upon their calling without distraction.

VI. It is the ordinance of God that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.—Ministers should [p. 108] be liberally provided for, yet with moderation, that they draw not all men’s wealth into their purses. He that would live of the Gospel must teach the Gospel. A benefit requires a duty, and diligence is that duty.—Perkins.

Ministerial Maintenance.—1. Seeing Christ’s ministers are to bestow themselves wholly in the work of the ministry and not to be entangled with the affairs of this life, therefore the people of God, among whom they spend their strength, are bound by common equity to give them worldly maintenance, that they may be neither diverted from nor discouraged in their work of watching over souls. 2. This maintenance, though it should be moderate and such as may not through abundance occasion pride, luxury, and prodigality, yet should be liberal and creditable, such as may not only supply pinching necessities, but also that they may have wherewith to supply the necessities of the indigent, to educate their children so as they may sustain themselves and be profitable members both of Church and commonwealth. 3. The Church’s maintenance is only due unto such ministers as have abilities to preach and are faithful and diligent labourers in the Word. Those who are unfit or unwilling to preach should be removed from their charge, and not suffered to eat up the Church’s maintenance, feeding themselves and starving the souls of people committed to their charge.—Fergusson.

Vers. 7–9. Deceived Sowers to the Flesh.

I. The solemnity of the apostle’s warning.—He seems to intimate that such is the audacious wickedness of the human heart, that it has within it so many latent mazes of iniquity, that they might be self-deceived either as to their apprehensions of that which was right before God, or as to their own actual condition in His sight; and he tells them God is not mocked by this pretended service, that to Him all hearts are open, and that in impartial and discriminating arbitration He will render to every man according to his deeds. It is sad to be deceived in a friend, in our estimate of health, in our computation of property; but a mistake about the state of the soul—a veil folded about the heart so that it cannot see its own helplessness and peril—this is a state of which thought shudders to conceive, and to describe whose portentousness language has no words that are sufficiently appalling. There can be no peril more imminent than yours. The headlong rider through the darkness before whom the dizzy precipice yawns; the heedless traveller for whom in the bosky woodland the bandits lie in ambush, or upon whom from the jungle’s density the tiger waits to spring; the man who, gazing faintly upward, meets the cruel eye and lifted hand and flashing steel of his remorseless enemy; they of whose condition you can only poorly image, who in far dungeons and beneath the torture of a tyrant’s cruelty groan for a sight of friend or glimpse of day; all around whom perils thicken hopelessly, and to whom, with feet laden with the tidings of evil, the messengers of disaster come,—how they move your sympathy, how you shudder as you dwell upon their danger, how you would fain stir yourselves into brave efforts for their rescue or their warning! Brethren, your own danger is more nearly encompassing and is more infinitely terrible.

II. The import of the apostle’s statement.—We have largely the making or the marring of our own future—that in the thoughts we harbour, in the words we speak and in the silent deeds, which, beaded on Time’s string, are told by some recording angel as the story of our lives from year to year, we shape our character and therefore our destiny for ever. There are three special sowers to the flesh—the proud, the covetous, the ungodly. They are all spiritual sins—sins of which human law takes no cognisance, and to which codes of earthly jurisprudence [p. 109] affix no scathing penalty. There is the greater need, therefore, that these spiritual sins should be disclosed in all their enormity and shown in their exceeding sinfulness and in their disastrous wages, in order that men may be left without excuse if they persist wilfully to believe a lie.—W. M. Punshon.

Vers. 7, 8. The Double Harvest.

I. Our present life is a moral trial for another to come.—On till death is our seed-sowing; after death is the sure and universal harvest. On till death is our moral trial; after death is the life of judicial retribution, alike for the just and the unjust.

II. Human life has one or the other of two great characters, and will issue in one or the other of two great results.—1. They sow to the flesh who live under the influence of their natural inclinations and desires, pleasing only themselves and despising or neglecting the holy will of God. They live to the Spirit the whole current of whose being has been supernaturally reversed under the grace of the Gospel. 2. The sowers to the Spirit live. And this true and proper life of man, in its maturity and full perfection, is the great and glorious reward which, by Divine appointment, shall eventually crown the labours of the sowers to the Spirit. The sowers to the flesh sow seed which brings forth death. Even now their life is death in rudiment, and in the end, they must reap it in its full and external development. Degraded existence, miserable existence, everlastingly degraded and miserable existence.

III. We are liable to delusions with respect to these great verities.—All history and experience teem with illustrations of the spiritual spells and juggleries which men, prompted by the invisible potentate of evil, practise upon themselves, that so they may reduce to their convictions the sinfulness of sin, and may tone the booming of the great bell of Scripture menace down to the gentle whisper of an amiable reprimand.—J. D. Geden.

On the Difference between sowing to the Flesh and to the Spirit.

I. The man who soweth to his flesh.—It is to spend our lives in doing these works of the flesh—to lay out our time, our thoughts, and our care in gratifying the vain, sensual, and selfish inclinations which the evil state of the heart naturally and continually puts forth. Broken health, loathsome diseases, ruined fortunes, disappointed wishes, soured tempers, infamy, and shame are among those things which usually come from walking after the flesh.

II. The man who soweth to the Spirit.—It is to live under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, and in every part of our conduct to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit. He enjoys even at present the fruit of his labour: inward peace and joy, and a hope full of immortality.—Edward Cooper.

The Principle of the Spiritual Harvest.

I. The principle is this, “God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”—There are two kinds of good possible to men—one enjoyed by our animal being, the other felt and appreciated by our spirits. Reap what you have sown. If you sow the wind, do not complain if your harvest is the whirlwind. If you sow to the Spirit, be content with a spiritual reward, invisible, within, more life and higher life.

II. The two branches of the application of this principle.—1. Sowing to the flesh includes those who live in open riot. 2. Those who live in respectable worldliness. 3. Sowing to the Spirit, the harvest is life eternal. 4. The reward is not arbitrary but natural. The thing reaped is the very thing sown, multiplied a hundredfold. You have sown a seed of life, you reap life everlasting.—F. W. Robertson.

Ver. 7. Sowing and Reaping in their bearing on the Formation of Individual Character.—There are three plots in which every man is perpetually engaged in sowing and reaping—in the plot of [p. 110] his thoughts, in the plot of his words, and in the plot of his deeds. And there is a storehouse into which the harvests from these three plots are being secretly but unmistakably garnered—the storehouse of individual character. The moral condition of the man to-day is the inevitable result of his thoughts, words, and deeds; his selfhood is rich or poor according to his sowing and reaping in these respective fields.

I. Whatever a man sows in thought that will he also reap in the formation, tone, and tendency of his intellectual and moral nature.—1. Vain thoughts. If we indolently sport with vain and foolish thoughts, they will inevitably produce a crop of the same kind. The mind will be garnished with flimsy and unprofitable fancies, inflated with a too conscious self-importance, and the outcome is heard in “the loud laugh that proclaims the vacant mind,” and seen in the pompous swagger of the intellectual fop (Prov. xiii. 16; Ps. xciv. 11).

2. Proud thoughts.—The man dominated by pride is the most pitiable of objects. His pride of birth will not bear investigation into three generations, his pride of social status is snubbed in a way that leaves a wound that never heals, his pride of wealth smitten down by an unexpected turn of the ever-revolving wheel of fortune, and his pride of life withered by the passing breath of the great Destroyer. But he reaps what he sowed. He sowed the dragon’s teeth of proud and boastful thoughts, and the monster grew up and devoured him (Prov. xvi. 18).

3. Thoughts of sinful pleasure.—If we allow the mind to dream of pleasures that are forbidden, the bloom of innocence is rubbed off never to be again replaced, the conscience is outraged till its voice is muffled and but feebly heard, one vile thought indulged breeds another that is viler still, and the moral atmosphere of the soul is poisoned. What he sows he reaps.

4. Good thoughts.—The mind that aims at the loftiest style of thought, declining to tolerate the presence of a debasing sentiment, that keeps in check the wild and savage brood of evil thoughts ever seeking to overrun and defile the mind, that cultivates a chaste imagination and cherishes the exalted and unselfish charity that “thinketh no evil”—reaps the result in an accession of intellectual vigour, in the creation of a nobler standard by which to judge of men and things, in the unbounded raptures of a refined and fertile imagination, and in the increase of power for doing the highest kind of work for God and humanity.

II. Whatsoever a man sows in words that shall he also reap.—1. Bitter and rancorous words. If a man studies how much of spiteful venom he can pack into a single sentence, how he can most skilfully whet and sharpen the edge of his words so as to make the deepest wound and raise the most violent storm of irritation and ill-feeling, unalterable as the course of nature the harvest is sure to come. “Our unkind words come home to roost.” The man offensive with his tongue is the devil’s bellows with which he blows up the sparks of contention and strife, and showers of the fiery embers are sure to fall back upon himself to scathe and destroy.

2. False words.—If we deliberately and maliciously concoct a lie, and utter the same with whispered humbleness and hypocritical commiseration, as sure as there is justice in the heavens, the lie will come back with terrific recompense upon the head of the originator.

3. Kind and loving words.—If we speak in the kindest spirit of others, especially in their absence, if we stand up for a friend unjustly maligned and defend him with dignity and faithfulness, if we study to avoid words which cannot but grieve and irritate, then as we have sown so shall we reap—reap the tranquil satisfaction of conscious inoffensiveness, and, best of all, the Divine approval. “Heaven in sunshine will requite the kind.”

III. Whatsoever a man sows in [p. 111] deeds that shall he also reap.—1. Cruel deeds. If we take a savage delight in torturing beast or bird or insect, if we plot how we can inflict the most exquisite pain on our fellow-man, if we make sport of the anguish and distress of others which we make no effort to relieve, we shall inevitably reap the harvest—reap it in the embruting and degradation of our finer sensibilities, reap it in the tempest of rebellion and retaliation which those we outraged will launch upon us.

2. Selfish deeds.—If we live for our own selfish gratification, indifferent to the rights and woes of others; if we surrender ourselves to a covetous spirit, living poor that we may die rich—as we sow we reap. The thing we lived to enjoy ceases to gratify, and our noblest sentiments are buried amid the rubbish of our own sordidness.

3. Generous and noble deeds.—If we aim at the elevation of ourselves and others, if we seek to act on the highest level of righteousness and truth, if we are diligent, unwearied, and persistent in well-doing, then in due season we shall reap the harvest—reap it in a heightened and expansive nobility of character, in an intensified influence and enlarged capacity for doing good, and in the eternal enrichment of the Divine plaudit, “Well done.”

Be not Deceived.—This phrase occurs several times as preface to warning, seeming to indicate thus that the subject of the warning is one about which we are specially liable to deception, and upon examination we find that observation justifies the presumption. We are thus guarded against any deception as to the following important practical truths:—

  1. The contaminating influence of evil associations (1 Cor. xv. 33).
  2. The personal responsibility of each for his own sin (Jas. i. 16).
  3. Entrance into heaven conditioned on character (1 Cor. vi. 9).
  4. Human destiny, once settled, irreversible (Gal. vi. 7).—British and Foreign Evangelical Review.

Ver. 8. Sowing to the Spirit.

I. The natural man has no desire for immortality.—He has not been seized with the earnest and real wish for a future life; but he is entirely bound by this world in all his thoughts, aims, and wishes: he identifies life and existence altogether with this world, and life out of this world is a mere name to him. He is shut up within the walls of the flesh and within the circle of its own present aims and projects.

II. The spiritual man has a strong desire for immortality, and it is the beginning and foundation of the religious life he leads here. Every field of action becomes unimportant and insignificant compared with the simply doing good things, because in that simple exercise of goodness lies the preparation for eternity.

III. The natural and spiritual man are divided from each other by these distinctions—one has the desire for everlasting life, the other has not. The success of the one perishes with the corruptible life to which it belongs; the success of the other endures for all ages in the world to come.—J. B. Mozley.

The Law of Retribution.

I. We see the justice of God—His bounty and severity.—His bounty in recompensing men above their deserts; His severity in punishing sinners according to their deserts.

II. This doctrine, that we shall drink such as we brew, reap such as we sow, and that men have degrees of felicity or misery answerable to their works, will make us more careful to avoid sin.

III. It serves as a comfort against inequality; whereas the wicked flourish and the godly live in contempt, the time shall come when every one shall reap even as he has sown.

IV. It crosses the conceit of those who promise to themselves an impunity from sin and immunity from all the judgments of God, notwithstanding they go on in their bad practices.—Perkins.

[p. 112] Ver. 9. Against Weariness in Well-doing.—1. There is the prevailing temper of our nature, the love of ease—horror of hard labour. 2. The reluctance and aversion are greater when the labour is enjoined by extraneous authority—the imperative will of a foreign power. 3. In the service of God there is a good deal that does not seem for ourselves. 4. There is a principle of false humility—what signifies the little I can do? 5. The complaint of deficient co-operation. 6. In the cause of God the object and effect of well-doing are much less palpable than in some other provinces of action. 7. Yet the duty expressly prescribed is an absolute thing, independently of what men can foresee of its results. 8. There is the consciousness and pleasure of pleasing God. 9. What relief has man gained by yielding to the weariness? 10. Our grave accountableness is for making a diligent, patient, persevering use of the means God has actually given us.—J. Foster.

Apathy one of our Trials.—1. Because, as in everything else, so in our spiritual growth, we are inevitably disappointed in much of our expectations. 2. The temptation to weariness is no sign at all that the man so tempted is not a true servant of God, though this very often is the first thought that enters the mind. It is no sin to feel weary; the sin is to be weary—that is, to let the feeling have its way and rule our conduct. 3. We expect a kind of fulness of satisfaction in God’s service which we do not get nearly so soon as we fancy that we shall. 4. You are quite mistaken to your belief that former prayers and former resolutions have been in vain and have produced no fruit because no fruit is visible. 5. In due season we shall find that it has been worth while to persevere in trying to serve Christ.—Dr. Temple.

Well-doing.

I. Contrasted with fruitless profession.—It is possible to have a clear notion of Christian truth and to talk well, and yet be idle and useless.

II. Contrasted with mistaken standards.—It is easy to do as others are doing; but are they doing well? Practice must be guided by holy precepts.

III. Contrasted with wrong motives.—Many are careful to do what is literally the right thing, but they do it with base motives. The correct motives are—love (2 Cor. v. 14), gratitude (Ps. cxvi. 12), compassion (2 Cor. v. 11), desire to imitate Christ. All well-doing is humble and self-renouncing.—The Lay Preacher.

“Reap if we faint not.”—The image is agricultural.

I. Points of resemblance.—1. The material harvest is of two kinds—weeds and golden grain. 2. The spiritual harvest is of two kinds—corruption and everlasting life. 3. A combination of agencies. (1) For the material harvest seed, soil, and elements work with the efforts of the farmer. (2) For the spiritual harvest the seed of the Word and the power of God must co-operate with man’s agency. 4. As to difficulties. (1) The season may be too wet, too dry, or too hot, or an army of insects may attack the growing grain. (2) The foes of the spiritual harvest are the world, the flesh, and the devil.

II. Points of contrast.—1. The material harvest is annual, the spiritual eternal. 2. There are seasons so unfavourable that all the efforts of the farmer prove in vain; the spiritual harvest will never fail. 3. The drouth of one year may be made good by next year’s abundance, but eternity cannot compensate for what was lost in time.

III. Encouragements.—1. “Our labour is not in vain in the Lord.” 2. “In due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” 3. The harvest will be glorious and eternal.—Homiletic Monthly.

Ver. 10. On doing Good.

I. It is our duty to do good.—This [p. 113] duty is enforced both by the words and example of Christ. Christianity not only requires its adherents to abstain from evil, but it demands their active service.

II. In doing good man attains to true nobility of character.—The characters in history that exert the greatest fascination over us are not those of eminent statesmen or scientists, but those who have been distinguished for their philanthropy. We see in them a moral dignity that is unique. What reversals in human estimates of character will take place when the Divine standard of greatness is appealed to!

III. In doing good we find true happiness.—God has so constituted us that the exercise of our malevolent passions is productive of inward dissatisfaction, while the exercise of benevolent affections is attended with the greatest joy. There is real luxury in doing good.—Preacher’s Magazine.

The Opportunity of Beneficence.

I. What a precious thing is opportunity.—People talk about making time for this or that purpose. The time is really made for us, only we are too idle or too careless to use it for the proper end. Opportunities of usefulness are of frequent occurrence; they are wont to come and go with rapidity. They must be seized as you would lay hold of a passing friend in the street.

II. The whole of life is an opportunity.—There is such a thing as a useful life, a true life, a noble life, though all lives must needs contain a multitude of neglected opportunities. As a series of opportunities its record is woefully imperfect. As one opportunity it is not utterly unworthy of the example of Christ. Let us have a thread of right intention running through life. Let us have an active purpose of benevolence—a constant design of love. The continuous opportunity of life must be utilised, if the particular opportunities of life are to be turned to the best account.

III. The field of beneficence is very wide.—Wherever men are found it is possible for us to do them good. We touch only a few persons, but each of these is in contact with others. To do great things with great powers is easy enough; but things so done may be undone so. The glory of Christianity has always been that it does great things with small powers, or powers that men think small; and the results of its work remain. Good work done by many hands is better than the extended philanthropy of an individual; for what is this but the effort of one man to make amends for the neglect of a thousand?

IV. Though all men have a claim on our Christian benevolence some are entitled to a special share.—A man does not become a better citizen when he spurns his own family and neglects his duties at home. On the contrary, the noblest philanthropist is the most affectionate of fathers and husbands, and he who loves most widely in the world loves most intensely in his own house. So it will be with us in our Christian charity. We shall begin with those who are called by the common name and worship the common Lord, and from these we shall go on, with our energy not exhausted but rather refreshed, to the great mass of mankind.—Edward C. Lefroy.

Doing Good.

I. We must do good with that only which is our own.—We may not cut a large and liberal shive off another man’s loaf; we may not steal from one to give to another, or deal unjustly with some that we may be merciful to others.

II. We must do good with cheerfulness and alacrity.—What more free than gift; therefore we may not play the hucksters in doing good, for that blemishes the excellency of the gift.

III. We must so do good as that we do not disable ourselves for ever doing good.—So begin to do good as that we may continue.

IV. We must do all the good we can within the compass of our calling and hinder all the evil.

[p. 114] V. We must do good to all.—1. From the grounds of love and beneficence. 2. God is good and bountiful to all. 3. Do good to others as we would they should do to us. 4. Our profession and the reward we look for require us to do this.

VI. There is no possibility of doing good to others after this life.Perkins.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 11–13.

Apostolic Exposure of False Teachers.

I. The apostle gives special emphasis to his warning by concluding his epistle in his own handwriting.—“Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand” (ver. 11). The apostle usually dictated his epistle to an amanuensis, except the concluding salutation, which he wrote himself by way of authentication. At this point of the epistle to the Galatians he appears to have taken the pen from the hand of the amanuensis, and with his own hand written the concluding sentences in clear, bold characters, thus giving the utmost possible emphasis and solemnity to his words. They are a postscript, or epilogue, to the epistle, rehearsing with incisive brevity the burden of all that it was in the apostle’s heart to say to these troubled and shaken Galatians. He wishes to reimpress upon his emotional readers the warnings he had already expressed against the false teachers, to assure them of his intense regard for their welfare, and to lay additional stress upon the peril of their hesitating attitude. The more apparent and imminent the danger, the louder and more earnest is the warning expressed.

II. It is shown that the policy of the false teachers was to avoid the suffering connected with the ignominy of the cross of Christ.—“They constrain you to be circumcised, only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.” (ver. 12). The false teachers were really cowards, though this accusation they would be the first indignantly to resent. They wanted to mix up the old faith with the new, to entangle the new Christian converts with Mosaic observances. If they succeeded in persuading the Gentile Christians to be circumcised, they would propitiate the anger of their Israelite kindred, and dispose them to regard the new doctrine more favourably. They would, with heartless recklessness, rob the believer of all his privileges in Christ in order to make a shield for themselves against the enmity of their kinsmen. Cowards at heart, they were more afraid of persecution than eager to know and propagate the truth. If a man will be a Christian, he cannot avoid the cross; and to attempt to avoid it will not release from suffering. It is a craven fear indeed that refuses to espouse the truth because it may bring pain. “No servant of Christ,” says Augustine, “is without affliction. If you expect to be free from persecution, you have not yet so much as begun to be a Christian.”

III. The insincerity of the false teachers was apparent in their not keeping the law themselves, but in boasting of the number of their converts to its external observance.—“For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh” (ver. 13). The Judaists were not only cowardly, but insincere. It was not the glory of the law they were concerned about, but their own success. If they had tried to convert the heathen, however imperfect might be their creed, they would have merited some respect; but, like some religious troublers to-day, they selected for their prey those who were already converted. They practised their wiles on the inexperience of young believers, as they expected to gather from that class the greater number of proselytes of whom to make their boast. “Their policy was dishonourable both in spirit and in aim. They were false to Christ in whom they professed to believe, and to the law which they pretended to [p. 115] keep. They were facing both ways, studying the safest not the truest course, anxious in truth to be friends at once with the world and Christ. Their conduct has found many imitators, in men who make godliness a way of gain, whose religious course is dictated by considerations of worldly self-interest. Business patronage, professional advancement, a tempting family alliance, the entrée into some select and envied circle—such are the things for which creeds are bartered, for which men put their souls and the souls of their children knowingly in peril.”

Lessons.—1. The false teacher may be the occasion of much mischief and spiritual loss. 2. He succumbs in the presence of suffering. 3. He is more anxious for public success than for the spread of the truth.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Ver. 12. The Odium of the Cross of Christ.

I. The history of the cross.—It is a history of sin on our part, and of suffering on the part of Christ. What a change has been produced in the moral aspect of the universe by the preaching of the cross!

II. The odium connected with the cross.—There is odium and suffering connected with the cross still; in some shape we shall suffer persecution for it. If we will lead a holy life, then suffering, persecution, reproach, hatred and ill-will, sarcasm, wit, ridicule, and obloquy will be cast upon us. It was said by one, when several were expelled from one of our universities, that “if some are expelled for having too much religion, it is high time to begin to inquire whether there are not some who have too little.” If we speak of the reproach of the cross, what should that reproach be? Not that you have too much religion, but that you have too little, and that many of you have none at all.

III. As to those who suffer persecution for the cross, it is the greatest possible honour to be laughed at, mocked, and insulted for the sake of the Saviour. If the spirit of the martyrs influenced us, there would be no shunning of persecution on account of the cross, but suffering would be welcomed with joy.—The Pulpit.

Christianity and Persecution.

  1. We should suspect ourselves that our hearts are not sound, nor our practice sincere, when all men speak well of us.
  2. We must not be discouraged though there be never so many that make opposition, or so mighty that raise persecution against us.
  3. That we think it not strange when we find affliction or meet with persecution. The Gospel and persecution go hand in hand, or follow one another inseparably.—Perkins.

Ver. 13. Empty Boasting

  1. When professed teachers do not practise the virtues they enforce on others.
  2. When zeal for the observance of outward rites disguises the lack of personal godliness.
  3. When success is sought simply to be able to boast of success.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 14, 15.

Glorying in the Cross

I. Because of the great truths it reveals.—“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (ver. 14). “The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” is a comprehensive phrase signifying the whole redeeming work of Christ—the salvation effected for the race by His crucifixion and death [p. 116] upon the cross. The problem how God can forgive sin without any breach in His moral government, or dimming the lustre of His perfections, is solved in the cross. God is great in Sinai. The thunders precede Him, the lightnings attend Him, the earth trembles, the mountains fall in fragments. But there is a greater God than this. On Calvary, nailed to a cross, wounded, thirsting, dying, He cries, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do!” Great is the religion of power, but greater is the religion of love. Great is the religion of implacable justice, but greater is the religion of pardoning mercy. The cross was the master-theme of the apostle’s preaching and the chief and exclusive subject of his glorying.

II. Because of its contrast to effete ceremonialism.—“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision” (ver. 15). To the Jew circumcision was everything. By the cross Judaism, as a means of salvation, is utterly abolished. Uncircumcision includes all Gentile heathenism. Before the cross all heathen religions must perish. The Gentile cultus was never intended to supplant Jewish customs; both are excluded as unavailing in human salvation. The devotees of form and ceremony are apt to develop into bigotry and pride; the foes of ritualism are in danger of making a religion of their opposition; and both parties indulge in recriminations that are foreign to the spirit of Christianity. “Thus, I trample on the pride of Plato,” said the cynic, as he trod on the philosopher’s sumptuous carpets; and Plato justly retorted, “You do it with greater pride.” Ceremonialism is effete, and is not worth contending about. It is nothing; Christ is everything, and the cross the only subject worthy of the Christian’s boast.

III. Because of the moral change it effects.—“But a new creature”—a new creation (ver. 15). In the place of a dead ceremonialism the Gospel plants a new moral creation. It creates a new type of character. The faith of the cross claims to have produced not a new style of ritual, not a new system of government, but new men. The Christian is the “new creature” which it begets. The cross has originated a new civilisation, and is a conspicuous symbol in the finest works of art. Ruskin, describing the artistic glories of the Church of St. Mark in Venice, says: “Here are all the successions of crowded imagery showing the passions and pleasures of human life symbolised together, and the mystery of its redemption: for the maze of interwoven lines and changeful pictures lead always at last to the cross, lifted and carved in every place and upon every stone, sometimes with the serpent of eternity wrapped round it, sometimes with doves beneath its arms and sweet herbage growing forth from its feet; but conspicuous most of all on the great rood that crosses the church before the altar, raised in bright blazonry against the shadow of the apse. It is the cross that is first seen and always burning in the centre of the temple, and every dome and hollow of its roof has the figure of Christ in the utmost height of it, raised in power, or returning in judgment.” The true power of the cross is not artistic or literary or political, but moral. It is a spiritually transforming force that penetrates and guides every form of human progress.

IV. Because of personal identification with its triumph over the world.—“By whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (ver. 14). As the world of feverish pleasure, of legal ordinances, was conquered by the cross, so the faith of the apostle in the crucified One gave him the victory over the world, so that it lost all power to charm or intimidate. The world of evil is doomed, and the power of the cross is working out its ultimate defeat. I have seen a curious photograph of what purports to be a portrait of the Saviour in the days of His flesh, and which by a subtle manipulation of the artist has a double representation. When you first look upon the picture you see the closed eyes of the Sufferer, and the face wears a pained and wearied expression; but as you [p. 117] gaze intently the closed eyes seem to gently open and beam upon you with the light of loving recognition. So, as you gaze upon the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ it seems to you the symbol of suffering and defeat, but as you keep your eyes steadily fixed upon it the cross gradually assumes the glory of a glittering crown, incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away (1 Pet. i. 4).

Lessons.—1. The cross is the suggestive summary of saving truth. 2. The cross is the potent instrument of the highest moral conquests. 3. The cross is the loftiest theme of the believer’s glorying.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Ver. 14. Christ Crucified.

  1. By Christ crucified we have reconciliation with God, remission of sins, and acceptance to eternal life.
  2. We have the peace of God, peace with men, with ourselves, with the creatures.
  3. We recover the right and title which we had in creation to all the creatures and blessings of God.
  4. All afflictions cease to be curses and punishments and become either trials or corrections.
  5. Those who can truly glory in the cross are dead to the world and the world to them.
  6. We are taught to carry ourselves in the world as crucified and dead men, not to love, but to renounce and forsake it.—Perkins.

Glorying in the Cross of Christ.

I. We glory in the doctrine of the cross—the justification of guilty men through a propitiatory sacrifice—because of its antiquity.—It was taught by patriarchs and prophets, the law of sacrifice was its grand hieroglyphical record, the first sacrifices were its types, the first awakened sinner with his load of guilt fell upon this rock and was supported, and by the sacrifice of Christ shall the last sinner saved be raised to glory.

II. Because it forms an important part of the revelation of the New Testament.

III. As affording the only sure ground of confidence to a penitent sinner.

IV. Because of its moral effects.—Not only in the superstitions and idolatries it has destroyed, the barbarous nations it has civilised, the cruel customs it has abrogated, and the kindly influence it has shed upon the laws and manners of nations; but in its moral effect on individuals, producing the most ardent love to God and kindling benevolence towards all—Richard Watson.

The True Glory of the Christian.

I. The disposition of mind denoted by the expressions—“The world is crucified unto me; I am crucified to the world.”—1. The nature of it—a total rupture with the world. 2. The gradations of which it admits. Deadness to avarice and pride—in respect to exertion and actual progress—in respect of hope and fervour. 3. The difficulty, the bitterness, of making a sacrifice so painful.

II. In such a disposition true glory consists.—Comparison between the hero of this world and the Christian hero. The hero derives his glory from the greatness of the master he serves, from the dignity of the persons who have preceded him in the same honourable career, from the brilliancy of his achievements, from the acclamations his exploits excite. How much more the Christian hero!

III. The cross of Christ alone can inspire us with these sentiments.—If we consider it in relation to the atrocious guilt of those who despise it, in relation to the proofs there displayed of Christ’s love, in the proofs it supplies of the doctrine of Christ, and in relation to the glory that shall follow.—Saurin.

[p. 118] The Cross a Burden or a Glory.

I. There is the constant ordinary discipline of human life.—Life when it is earnest contains more or less of suffering. There is a battle of good and evil, and these special miseries are the bruises of the blows that fill the air, sometimes seeming to fall at random and perplexing our reason, because we cannot rise to such height of vision as to take in the whole field at once.

II. There is the wretchedness of feeling self-condemned.—Law alone is a cross. Man needs another cross—not Simon’s, but Paul’s. He took it up, and it grew light in his hands. He welcomed it, and it glowed with lustre, as if it were framed of the sunbeams of heaven.

III. The same spiritual contrast, the same principle of difference between compulsory and voluntary service, opens to us two interpretations of the suffering of the Saviour Himself.—Neither the cross of Simon nor the cross of Paul was both literally and actually the cross of Christ. Its charm was that it was chosen. Its power was that it was free. The cross becomes glorious when the Son of God takes it up; there is goodness enough in Him to exalt it. It was the symbol of that sacrifice where self was for ever crucified for love.—F. D. Huntington.

The Cross—

  1. The sinner’s refuge.
  2. The sinner’s remedy.
  3. The sinner’s life.

The Glory of the Cross.

  1. The cross was the emblem of death.
  2. Christ was not only a dead Saviour, but a condemned Saviour.
  3. A disgraced Saviour, because the cross was a disgraceful kind of punishment.
  4. Paul gloried in the cross because it is an exhibition of the righteousness of God.
  5. Because it proclaims His love.
  6. The contemplation of Christ’s cross helps us to conquer the world.Newman Hall.

Glorying in the Cross.

I. The subjects in which the apostle gloried.—1. He might have gloried in his distinguished ancestry. 2. In his polished education. 3. In the morality of his former life. 4. In his extraordinary call to the apostleship. 5. In his high ecclesiastical position. 6. He did not glory in the literal cross. 7. Nor in the metaphorical cross. 8. But in the metonymical cross (1 Cor. i. 17; Col. i. 20).

II. The characteristics of the apostle’s glorying.—1. His glorying was not merely verbal, but practical. 2. Not sectarian, but Christian and catholic. 3. Not temporary, but permanent.

III. The reasons of the apostle’s glorying.—1. Here he saw a grander display of the Divine character and perfections than elsewhere. 2. This was the scene of the most glorious victory ever witnessed. 3. It was the centre of all God’s dispensations. 4. The cross was the most powerful incentive to true morality. 5. Hence flowed all the blessings of the Gospel economy. 6. Here was made an atonement equal to the needs of our fallen world.

Lessons.—1. Let us here see the purity of the moral law and the heinousness of sin. 2. Let the sinner come to the cross for pardon, purity, peace, and joy.W. Antliff.

Glorying in the Cross.

I. Paul’s enthusiasm as expressed in the exclamation of the text.

II. One main source of his zeal lay in the subject of his enthusiasm.—1. The cross is a fit subject for glory as symbolising an infinite, boundless truth. 2. Because it is an eternal fact. 3. Because it is the ground of man’s justification and the symbol of his redemption.

III. Look at the result—crucifixion to the world.—The true solution of [p. 119] the Christian’s relationship to the world lies in the fact that it is a separation not in space but in spirit.—J. Hutchinson, in “Scottish Pulpit.”

Ver. 15. Scriptural View of True Religion.

I. What true religion is not.—1. It is not circumcision nor uncircumcision. 2. It is not an outward thing. (1) You are not religious because you have been baptised. (2) Because you are called a Christian, and have been born of Christian parents. (3) Because you frequent the Church, attend the Lord’s Supper, and are regular at your devotions.

II. What true religion is.—1. It is not an outward but an inward thing. It is not a new name, but a new nature. A new creation describes a great change in man. 2. The greatness of this change shows also the power by which it is wrought. Creation is a Divine work. 3. The rite of circumcision taught the necessity of the change. Though it was a seal of the righteousness of faith, it was also a sign of the inward renewal and purification of the heart. Baptism in the Christian Church teaches the same truth. The texts of Scripture which set forth the evil nature of man set forth the necessity of this great change.—Edward Cooper.

The New Creature.—The new creature is the only thing acceptable to God. It is the renovation of the whole man, both in the spirit of our minds and in the affections of our heart. Neither the substance nor the faculties of the soul are lost by the Fall, but only the qualities of the faculties, as when an instrument is out of tune the fault is not in the substance of the instrument, nor in the sound, but in the disproportion or jar in the sound: therefore, the qualities only are renewed by grace. These qualities are either in the understanding or the will and affections. The quality in the understanding is knowledge; in the will and affections they are righteousness and holiness, both which are in truth and sincerity. Holiness performs all the duties of piety, righteousness the duties of humanity, truth seasoning both the former with sincerity.—Ralph Culworth.

The Necessity of a New Nature.—The raven perched on the rock where she whets her bloody beak, and with greedy eye watches the death-struggles of an unhappy lamb, cannot tune her croaking voice to the mellow music of a thrush; and since it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaketh, how could a sinner take up the strain and sing the song of saints?—Guthrie.

The New Birth begins our True Life.—A stranger passing through a churchyard saw these words written on a tombstone: “Here lies an old man seven years old.” He had been a true Christian only for that length of time.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 16–18.

A Dignified and Touching Farewell

I. Supplicates the best blessing on the truly righteous.—“As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God” (ver. 16). Jewish discipline and pagan culture are for ever discredited by the new creation of moral virtue. The rule of the renewed inward life supersedes the works of the condemned flesh. On all who seek to regulate their lives according to this rule the apostle invokes the peace and mercy of God. Peace is followed by the mercy which guards and restores it. Mercy heals backslidings and multiplies pardons. She loves to bind up a broken heart or a rent and distracted Church. For the betrayers of [p. 120] the cross he has stern indignation and alarms of judgment. Towards his children in the faith nothing but peace and mercy remains in his heart. As an evening calm shuts in a tempestuous day, so this blessing concludes the epistle so full of strife and agitation. We catch in it once more the chime of the old benediction, which through all storm and peril ever rings in ears attuned to its note: “Peace shall be upon Israel” (Ps. cxxv. 5).

II. Pleads the brand of suffering for loyalty to Christ as conclusive proof of authority.—“From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (ver. 17). The apostle has sufficiently vindicated his authority by facts and arguments, and he would effectually silence all quibbles on this subject by triumphantly pointing to the marks of suffering on his own body received in his Master’s service. These marks he carried wherever he went, like the standard-bearer of an army who proudly wears his scars. No man would have suffered as Paul did unless he was convinced of the importance of the truth he had received and of his supernatural call to declare the same. Suffering is the test of devotion and fidelity. For a picture of the harassed, battered, famished sufferer in the cause of Christ and His Gospel read 2 Cor. iv. 8–10, xi. 23–28. Marks of suffering are more eloquent than words. The highest eminence of moral perfection and influence cannot be reached without much suffering. It is a callous nature indeed that is not touched with the sight of suffering heroically endured. The calm bravery of the early Christians under the most fiendish persecution won many a convert to the truth.

III. Concludes with an affectionate benediction.—“Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen” (ver. 18). Placing the word “brethren” at the end of the sentence, as in the Greek, suggests that, after much rebuke and admonition, the apostle bids his readers farewell with the warm-hearted expression of brotherhood. Notwithstanding fickleness on their part, his love towards them remains unchanged. He prays that the grace of Christ, the distinctive and comprehensive blessing of the new covenant, may continue to rest upon them and work its renewing and sanctifying power upon their spirit, the place where alone it can accomplish its most signal triumphs. Forgiveness for their defection and confidence in their restoration to the highest Christian privileges and enjoyment, are the last thoughts of the anxious apostle. Between them and moral bankruptcy is the prayerful solicitude of a good man.

Lessons.—1. When argument is exhausted prayer is the last resource. 2. Prayer links Divine blessing with human entreaty. 3. Last words have about them a solemn and affecting efficacy.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Ver. 16. The True Israel of God

  1. Are those who personally enjoy the inward righteousness that comes through faith.
  2. Who live consistently with their spiritual profession and the truth they have embraced.
  3. Enjoy the Divine benedictions of mercy and peace.

Ver. 17. Marks of the Lord Jesus.

I. The word picture here presented.—1. The figure—slave-brands, στἱγματα. 2. The facts—Paul’s historic experiences (1 Cor. iv. 9–15; 2 Cor. xi. 23–30). 3. The challenge—“Let no man trouble me.”

II. The suggestion the picture makes.—1. He who follows the Lord Jesus must expect some will try to trouble him. 2. He whose marks are most conspicuous will be troubled the least. 3. He who has marks may take comfort in knowing how much his Master paid for him. 4. He who is owned may remember that his Master [p. 121] owns and recognises the marks also. 5. He that has no marks is either a better or a poorer Christian than the apostle Paul. 6. Satan outwits himself when he gives a believer more marks. 7. A sure day is coming when the marks will be honourable, for the body of humiliation will be like the glorious body of Christ.—Homiletic Monthly.

Marked Men.

I. Ill-marked men.—Think of the marks left on men by sickness, intemperance, impurity, crime, sin of any kind. Evil will always leave its mark.

II. Well-marked men.—1. Christian marks—the marks of Christ. Paul was the slave of Christ. Some of his marks for Christ were literal, as the weals caused by the rods of the Roman Cæsars, the red lines caused by scourging in Jewish synagogues, the scars caused by repeated stonings. The marks of the Christian are mainly spiritual—marked by trustfulness, gentleness, purity, unselfishness.

2. Distinct marks.—Marked that he may be recognised. If you have the marks of Jesus, confess and obey Him.

3. Deep marks.—Branded on the body, not lines that can easily be removed, but going down to the flesh. Our Christian life is often feeble because it is not deep.

4. Personal marks.—The marks of Jesus of no avail unless you possess them. No man can really trouble you if you bear branded on your body the marks of Jesus.—Local Preacher’s Treasury.

Suffering for Jesus.

I. The scars of the saints for the maintenance of the truth are the sufferings, wounds, and marks of Christ Himself, seeing they are the wounds of the members of that body whereof He is Head.

II. They convince the persecutors that they are the servants of Christ who suffer thus for righteousness’ sake.

III. If men be constant in their profession—in faith and obedience—the marks of their suffering are banners of victory.—No man ought to be ashamed of them, no more than soldiers of their wounds and scars, but rather in a holy manner to glory of them. Constantine the Great kissed the holes of the eyes of certain bishops who had them put out for their constant profession of the faith of Christ, reverencing the virtue of the Holy Ghost which shined in them. 1. By suffering bodily afflictions we are made conformable to Christ. 2. They teach us to have sympathy with the miseries of our brethren. 3. Our patient enduring of affliction is an example to others and a means of confirming them in the truth. 4. They serve to scour us from the rust of sin.—Perkins.

Ver. 18. Concluding Benediction.

I. The apostle invokes the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.—1. Because He is the fountain of it. 2. Because He is the conduit or pipe by which it is conveyed to us.

II. Christ is called our Lord—1. By right of creation. 2. Of inheritance. 3. Of redemption. 4. Of conquest. 5. Of contract and marriage.

III. Observe the emphasis with which the apostle concludes the epistle.—1. Opposing Christ, the Lord of the house, to Moses, who was but a servant. 2. The grace of Christ to inherent justice and merit of works. 3. The spirit in which he would have grace to be seated, to the flesh in which the false teachers gloried so much. 4. Brotherly unity one with another—implied in the word “brethren”—to the proud and lordly carriage of the false teachers.—Ibid.


Transcriber’s Notes


 [p. 123]

THE

EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS.

INTRODUCTION.

Readers to whom the epistle was sent.—In the two most ancient copies of the Scriptures which we possess—dating from the fourth century of our era—the words in our A.V. (ch. i. 1), “at Ephesus,” are missing; and Basil the Great, who lived in the fourth century, says he had seen copies which, “ancient” even at that early date, spoke of the readers as “those who are, and the faithful in Christ Jesus.” When it is observed, however, that Basil still says in that passage the apostle is “writing to the Ephesians,” in all honesty we must admit another interpretation of his words to be possible.

Add to these early witnesses that Ephesus is not named in the text the further fact that, though St. Paul had lived and laboured between two and three years in Ephesus, there is absolutely no mention of any name of those with whom he had been associated, and what on the assumption of the Ephesian destination of the epistle is stranger still, no reference to the work, unless we may be allowed to regard the “sealing with the Holy Spirit of promise” as a reminiscence of Acts xix. 1–7.

We must not make too much, however, of this absence of personal greetings. Tychicus can do, vivâ voce, all that needs to be done in that way. St. Paul had been “received as an angel of God, or even as Christ Jesus,” by Galatians, not one of whom is mentioned in the letter sent to the Galatians.

Certain expressions in the body of the letter are strange if the Ephesian Christians were the first readers of it. In ch. i. 15 the apostle says, “After I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus.” One asks, “Did not the faith which ‘cometh by hearing’ result from Paul’s preaching in Ephesus? Then how can he speak of hearing of it?” It may be answered, “Does not Paul say to Philemon, ‘Thou owest unto me thine own self’ (ver. 19), and yet says (ver. 5) that, hearing of his love and faith, he thanks God?” Moreover, has any one quite demonstrated the impossibility of this faith being the continuity of that which began with the abjuration of magic in a costly offering of fifty thousand pieces of silver? [p. 124] (Acts xix. 17–20). “Faith” may take the form of fidelity as easily as of credence.

Again, in ch. iii. 2 Paul, at the word “Gentiles,” enters into a digression about his specific commission as their apostle. Just as to the Galatian Church he expatiates on the special grace bestowed by God and recognised by the “pillars” of the Church, so here he magnifies his office, and his words here no more prove that he had never seen his readers than the section of Galatians (Gal. ii. 6–9) proves that he did not know the Galatians. Even supposing they did, it surely would not be an astonishing thing that in the ever-shifting population of a seaport many may have joined the Church since St. Paul was in Ephesus. That this was the place to which St. Paul sent his messenger with the letter before us cannot be demonstratively shown; but we feel something like conviction by considering: (a) that the preponderant evidence of the MSS. says “Ephesus”; (b) that the versions are unanimous as an echo of the MSS.; (c) that the entire ancient Church has spoken of the epistle as “to the Ephesians,” Marcion’s voice being the only exception; (d) the improbability of St. Paul writing “to the saints which are” without adding the name of some place; (e) “Ephesus” more easily meets internal difficulties than any other place. This, in substance, is Bishop Ellicott’s view. Still, we cannot regard it as impossible that “Ephesus” may comprise many Churches in the vicinity, and therefore regard the letter as really encyclical, even though it were proved that St. Paul wrote “to the saints at Ephesus.”

Analysis of the Epistle.

i.1, 2.Salutation. Joy and well-being to those in Christ.
 3–14.Hymn of praise to the Father, who worked out in Christ His pre-temporal designs of beneficence, and gave pledge of the yet more glorious consummation of His Divine will in the bestowal of the Holy Ghost.
 15–23.Thanksgiving of the apostle over their fidelity, and his prayer for their complete illumination in the incorporation of the Gentiles in the mystical body of Christ, “the Head.”
ii.1–10.The power that delivered Christ from bodily corruption in the tomb saved His members out of the corruption of fleshly lusts, thus silencing every human boast and magnifying the Divine grace.
 11–22.Wholesome reminder of their former distance from Christ as contrasted with present union with Him, and union with the Jews in Him, being led to the Father with them.
iii.1–13.Paul’s familiar statement of the origin of his apostolate as specially commissioned—“ambassador extraordinary” to the Gentiles.
 14–19.Prayer that by “power and faith and love” they may grasp “the mystery,” and become brimful of love Divine.
 20, 21.Doxology to the doctrinal half of the epistle.
[p. 125]iv.1–16.Exhortation to a practical observation of this doctrinal unity by the thought that every member of Christ is necessary in its full development to the perfection of the body of which Christ is the Head.
 17–24.Casting off the old and putting on the new man.
25—v. 21.Exhortation to conduct in harmony with the new nature.
v. 22—vi. 9.Relative duties of wives and husbands, children and parents, servants and masters.
vi.10–18.The Christian panoply.
 19, 20.Apostle’s request for prayers.
 21, 22.Personalia.
 23, 24.A twin doxology, reversing the order of the salutation—“Peace and grace.”

Genuineness of the epistle.—Dr. Ellicott sums up the matter briefly by saying, “There is no just ground on which to dispute the genuineness.” Arguments based on certain expressions in the body of the letter have been speciously urged against its genuineness by De Wette and others; and Holzmann has “learnedly maintained that the epistle is only the expansion of a short letter to the Colossians by some writer about the close of the first century” (Godet).

“We have, on the other hand, subjective arguments, not unmixed with arrogance, but devoid of sound historical basis; on the other hand, unusually convincing counter-investigations and the unvarying testimony of the ancient Church.” Adverse arguments have been answered so satisfactorily and sometimes so crushingly as to leave no room for doubt. Those who cannot read the epistle without being moved by the peculiar loftiness, by the grandeur of conception, by the profound insight, by the eucharistic inspiration they recognise in it, will require strong evidence to persuade them that it was written by some other man who wished it to pass as St. Paul’s.

The practical design of the epistle.—The object is to set forth the ground, course, aim, and end of the Church of the faithful in Christ. The Ephesians are a sample of the Church universal. The key to the epistle may be found in the opening sentence (ver. 3). Fixing his eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ, the apostle opens his mind to the blessings which radiate forth from Him, and from the Father through Him, upon the whole world. The mind of God towards men unveiled in Christ, the relation of men towards God exhibited in Christ, the present spiritual connection of men with Christ, the hopes of which Christ is the ground and assurance, the laws imposed by the life of Christ upon human life—these are the blessings for which he gives thanks. Christ embracing humanity in Himself is the subject of the epistle. St. Paul tells with strict faithfulness what he has read and seen in Christ; Christ fills the whole sphere of his mind.

 [p. 126]

CHAPTER I.

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.

Ver. 1. To the saints.—Dismiss the commonly accepted meaning. Not men who by hard and rigorous methods have reached the heights where but few abide, but those who, as the elect of God, are separated from everything unholy and kept for God’s peculiar possession (1 Pet. ii. 9). And faithful.—Sometimes the word may mean “believers,” sometimes “trustworthy.” “The use of the adjective for the Christian brotherhood cannot be assigned rigidly either to the one meaning or the other. Its very comprehensiveness was in itself a valuable lesson” (Lightfoot).

Ver. 2. Grace . . . and peace.—The light-hearted Greek salutation was, “Rejoice”; the more sober Hebrew—our Lord’s own—was, “Peace be to you.” Here both unite.

Ver. 3. Blessed be the God and Father.—The Hebrew form for “hallowing the Name” was, “The Holy One, blessed be He.” The Prayer Book version of Psalm c. gives, “Speak good of His name.” Who blessed us.—When old Isaac pronounces the blessing uttered on Jacob unwittingly to be irreversible, he depends on God for the carrying out of his dying blessing: the Divine blessing makes whilst pronouncing blest. In the heavenly places.—Lit. “in the heavenlies”—so, as A.V. margin says, either places or things. Perhaps the local signification is best; “relating to heaven and meant to draw us thither” (Blomfield).

Ver. 4. Even as He chose us in Him.—Whatever be the manifestation of the Divine goodness, it is “in Christ” that it is made. “This sentence traces back the state of grace and Christian piety to the eternal and independent electing love of God” (Cremer). There is always the connotation of some not chosen. Before the foundation of the world.—St. Paul, like Esaias, “is very bold.” His Master had only said “from,” not “before,” the foundation (Matt. xxv. 34), reserving the “before” for the dim eternity in which He was the sharer, with the eternal Spirit, of the Father’s love (John xvii. 24). Without blemish (R.V.), or, in one word, “immaculate.” A sacrificial term generally; used by St. Peter (1 Pet. i. 19) to describe that “Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.” This word serves to guard “holy,” just before it; a separated (holy) people must also be a spotless people.

Ver. 5. Having predestinated us.—By pointing as the R.V. margin does, we get Love Divine as the basis on which our foreordination rests. “There is no respect of persons with God,” and so arrière pensée in the invitation, “All that labour and are heavy laden.” Unto adoption as sons.—The end, as regards man. Perhaps St. John’s word goes more deeply into the heart of the mystery, “That we should be called the children of God”—“born of God.” Through Jesus Christ.—Mediator of this and every implied blessing. According to the good pleasure of His will.—The word for “good pleasure” characterises the will as one whose intent is something good; the unhampered working of the will lies in the expression too. The measure of human privilege in the adoption is according to the Divine Graciousness.

Ver. 6. To the praise of the glory of His grace.—The ultimate end, “that God may be all in all.” Wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.—The change in the R.V., considerable as it seems, turns on the rendering of one word, the meaning in the New Testament being “to bestow favour.” Compare Luke i. 28 and the A.V. marginal alternative “much-graced.” Chrysostom’s beautiful interpretation must not be lightly rejected, “to make love-worthy”—just as if one were to make a sick or famished man into a beautiful youth, so has God made our soul beautiful and love-worthy for the angels and all saints and for Himself.

Ver. 7. In whom we have redemption.—Release in consideration of a ransom paid—“deliverance effected through the death of Christ from the retributive wrath of a holy God and the merited penalty of sin” (Grimm). Through His blood.—St. Paul quite agrees with the author of Hebrews (Heb. ix. 22) that apart from the pouring out of blood, the putting away of sin cannot be brought about. The forgiveness of our trespasses.—Another way of stating in what the redemption consists. Notice the “forgiveness” as compared with the “passing over” (Rom. iii. 25, R.V.). The one is the remission of punishment; the other the omission [p. 127] to punish sin that has been observed, “leaving it open in the future either entirely to remit or else adequately to punish them as may seem good to Him” (Trench).

Ver. 8. In all wisdom and prudence.—“Wisdom embraces the collective activity of the mind as directed to Divine aims to be achieved by moral means. Prudence is the insight of practical reason regulating the dispositions” (Meyer).

Ver. 9. The mystery of His will.—“Mystery” is here to be taken not so much as a thing which baffles the intellect as the slow utterance of a long-kept secret, which “the fulness of time” brings to birth.

Ver. 10. The fulness of times.—The word for “times” denotes “time as brings forth its several births.” It is the “flood” in the “tide of affairs.” To sum up all things.—“To bring together again for Himself all things and all beings (hitherto disunited by sin) into one combined state of fellowship in Christ, the universal bond” (Grimm). “It is the mystery of God’s will to gather all together for Himself in Christ, to bring all to a unity, to put an end to the world’s discord wrought by sin, and to re-establish the original state of mutual dependence in fellowship with God” (Cremer). The things which are in heaven and which are on earth.

“The blood that did for us atone
 Conferred on them some gift unknown.”

Ver. 11. In whom also we have obtained an inheritance.—R.V. “were made a heritage.” “The Lord’s portion is His people, Jacob is the lot of His inheritance,” sang dying Moses (Deut. xxxiii. 9). The verbal paradox between A.V. and R.V. is reconciled in fact. “All are yours, and ye are Christ’s” (1 Cor. iii. 22, 23). “Before the Parousia an ideal possession, therefore a real one“ (Meyer). After the counsel of His own will.—“The ‘counsel’ preceding the resolve, the ‘will’ urging on to action” (Cremer).

Ver. 12. That we should be to the praise.—R.V. “to the end that we should be.”Causa finalis of the predestination to the Messianic lot” (Meyer). “We” in antithesis to “you” in ver. 13—We Jewish—you Gentile Christians.

Ver. 13. In whom ye also, etc.—The word “trusted,” supplied by A.V., is dropped by R.V. It seems best to regard the words after “ye also” as one of the frequent breaks in the flow of the apostle’s language, the second “ye” taking up the first. “In whom ye were sealed.” “The order of conversion was: hearing, faith, baptism, reception of the Spirit” (Meyer). Ye were sealed.—“This sealing is the indubitable guarantee of the future Messianic salvation received in one’s own consciousness” (Meyer).

Ver. 14. Who is the earnest.—The guarantee. The word represented by “earnest” was derived from the Phœnician merchants, and meant money which in purchases is given as a pledge that the full amount will be subsequently paid (Grimm). The word is found in the Hebrew of Gen. xxxviii. 17, 18, and means “pledge.” F. W. Robertson makes a distinction between “pledge” and “earnest”—the grapes of Eshcol were an “earnest” of Canaan. He who receives the Holy Spirit partakes the powers of the age to come (Heb. vi. 4, 5). Until the redemption.—The final consummation of the redemption effected by the atonement of Christ. The “until” is faulty, the “earnest” being “something towards” the redemption. Of the purchased possession.—R.V. “of God’s own possession.” “The whole body of Christians, the true people of God acquired by God as His property by means of the redeeming work of Christ” (Meyer).

Vers. 15, 16.—St. Paul is always ready to give a prompt acknowledgment of all that is best in his readers and to pray for something better. Cease not to give thanks.—My thanksgiving knows no end.

Ver. 17. That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.—The connection or unity of the Father and the Son is the basis of the plea for those who are in the Son. Christ said, “I ascend unto My Father and your Father, to My God and your God” (John xx. 17). The Father of glory.—Compare the phrases, “the Father of mercies” (2 Cor. i. 3), “the Father of lights” (Jas. i. 17), “our Lord Jesus Christ, the glory” (Jas. ii. 1). The spirit of wisdom and revelation.—The wisdom which is from above is the heritage of all the redeemed in Christ (1 John iv. 20); but this day-spring, which gladdens the eyes of the heart, grows to mid-day splendour by successive apocalypses. In the knowledge.—The word means a complete knowledge. It is a word characteristic of the four epistles of the first Roman captivity.

Vers. 18, 19. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened . . . to us-ward who believe.—Three pictures for heaven-illumined eyes: 1. The hope of His calling.—Meyer says “the hope” is not here (nor anywhere) the res sperata, “the object on which hope fastens, but the great and glorious hope which God gives”—a statement too sweeping for other scholars, though here they agree that it is the faculty of hope “which encourages and animates.” 2. The riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.—“What a copious and grand accumulation, mirroring, as it were, the weightiness of the thing itself!” (Meyer). “Riches of the glory” must not be watered down into “glorious riches.” 3. The exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward.—The amazing and wholly unexpected working of [p. 128] the same Hand that wrought our first deliverance: the Power that smites the oppressor with dismay opens the path through the sea (see Isa. xl. 10, 11). According to the working of His mighty power.—This may be regarded as a specimen of the Divine power, the norm or standard by which we may gain an idea of the “exceeding greatness” of it—that from the tomb of His humiliation Christ was raised by that power to an unrivalled dignity in God’s throne. The R.V. gives “working of the strength of His might”: “working”—“the active exertion of power” (Meyer); “strength”—might expressing itself in overcoming resistance, ruling, etc.; “might”—strength in itself as inward power.

Ver. 20. Set Him at His own right hand.“Dexter Dei ubique est.” We cannot dogmatise about the relations to space which a glorified body holds. The transcendent glory of God in that body links God to man, the humanity in the glory gives man his claim in God. “The true commentary on the phrase is Mark xvi. 19, ‘He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God’ ” (Meyer).

Ver. 21. Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion.—R.V., “Rule, and authority, and power, and dominion.” “To be understood of the good angels, since the apostle is not speaking of the victory of Christ over opposing powers, but of His exaltation above the existing powers of heaven” (Meyer). “Powers and dominions, deities of heaven,” as Milton calls them, ranged here, perhaps, in a descending order. And every name that is named.—“God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name.” “Let any name be uttered, whatever it is, Christ is above it, is more exalted than that which the name affirms” (Meyer). Not only in this world.—“This age.” “No other name under heaven given among men.” But also in that which is to come.—There Zechariah’s word will have its fullest application. “The Lord shall be King over all the earth; there shall be one Lord, and His name one.

Ver. 22. And hath put all things under His feet.—Compare 1 Cor. xv. 27.

“Strong Son of God, immortal Love, . . .
 Thou madest Death; and lo Thy foot
 Is on the skull which Thou hast made.”—In Memoriam.

Ver. 23. The fulness of Him that filleth all in all.—“The Church, viz., is the Christ-filled, i.e. that which is filled by Him in so far as Christ penetrates the whole body and produces Christian life” (Meyer). “The brimmed receptacle of Him who filleth all things with all things” (Farrar). “Among the Gnostics the supersensible world is called the Pleroma, the fulness or filled, in opposition to ‘the empty,’ the world of the senses” (Meyer).

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 1, 2.

Apostolic Salutation.

I. He declares the Divine source of his authority.—“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (ver. 1). The faithful ambassador scans his commission with the utmost care and is solicitous to clearly understand the will of his Sovereign. If he examines his own fitness for the office, it is only to be humbled under a sense of unworthiness, and to express surprise that he should be chosen to such a dignity and be entrusted with such powers. His supreme ambition is to sink his own personal predilections in the earnest discharge of his duty. Paul does not dilate on his own mental capabilities or spiritual endowments. He accepts his appointment to the apostleship as coming directly from the hand of God and recognises the Divine will as the source of righteousness and of all power to do good. This lofty conception of his call gave him unfaltering confidence in the truth he had to declare, inspired him with an ever-glowing zeal, rendered him immovable in the midst of defection and opposition, and willing to obliterate himself, so that the Gospel committed to him might be triumphant. The true minister, in the onerous task of dealing with human doubt and sin, feels the need of all the strength and prestige conferred by the conscious possession of Divine authority. He seeks not to advance his own interests or impose his own theories, but to interpret the mind of God to man and persuade to submission and obedience. The power that makes for righteousness has its root in the Divine will.

II. He designates the sacred character of those he salutes.—“To the saints [p. 129] which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus” (ver. 1). The Ephesian saints were made so by their faith in Christ Jesus. They were not saints because Paul called them so. Sanctity is not the result of human volition, nor can it be created by a college of cardinals. “Many saints have been canonised who ought to have been cannonaded.” Sanctity is the gift of God and is bestowed on those who believe in Christ Jesus and maintain their allegiance by continued faith in Him. They are holy so long as they are faithful. The saints of God! “Think,” says Farrar, “of the long line of heroes of faith in the olden times: of the patriarchs—Enoch the blameless, Noah the faithful, Abraham the friend of God; of the sweet and meditative Isaac, the afflicted and wrestling Jacob; of Moses, the meekest of men; of brave judges, glorious prophets, patriotic warriors, toiling apostles; of the many martyrs who would rather die than lie; of the hermits who fled from the guilt and turmoil of life into the solitude of the wilderness; of the missionaries—St. Paul, Columban, Benedict, Boniface, Francis Xavier, Schwartz, Eliot, Henry Martyn, Coleridge, Patteson; of the reformers who cleared the world of lies, like Savonarola, Huss, Luther, Zwingli, Wesley, Whitefield; of wise rulers, like Alfred, Louis, Washington, and Garfield; of the writers of holy books, like Thomas-à-Kempis, Baxter, Bunyan, Samuel Rutherford, Jeremy Taylor; of the slayers of monstrous abuses, like Howard and Wilberforce; of good bishops, like Hugo of Avalon, Fénélon, and Berkeley; of good pastors, like Oberlin, Fletcher of Madeley, Adolphe Monod, and Felix Neff; of all true poets, whether sweet and holy, like George Herbert, Cowper, Keble, and Longfellow, or grand and mighty, like Dante and Milton. These are but few of the many who have reflected the glory of their Master Christ, and who walk with Him in white robes, for they are worthy.”

III. He supplicates the bestowal of the highest blessings.—“Grace be to you, and peace” (ver. 3). Grace and peace have a Divine source. Grace is the rich outflow of God’s goodness, made available for man through the redeeming work of Christ. There is sometimes the thought that grace implies God’s passing by sin. But no, quite the contrary; grace supposes sin to be so horribly bad a thing that God cannot tolerate it. Were it in the power of man, after being unrighteous and evil, to patch up his ways and mend himself so as to stand before God, there would then be no need of grace. The very fact of the Lord’s being gracious shows sin to be so evil a thing that man, being a sinner, is utterly ruined and hopeless, and nothing but free grace can meet his case. This grace God is continually supplying. Grace, like manna, will rot if kept overnight. “Wind up thy soul,” says George Herbert, “as thou dost thy watch at night.” Leave no arrears from day to day. Give us this day’s food; forgive us this day’s sins. Peace is first peace with God, with whom the soul was at enmity; then peace of conscience, troubled on account of repeated sins, and peace with all men. All our best wishes for the welfare of others are included in the all-comprehensive blessings of grace and peace.

Lessons.—1. The will of God is the highest authority for Christian service. 2. The saintly character is the outgrowth of a practical faith. 3. Grace and peace describe the rich heritage of the believer.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 1, 2. Paul’s Introduction to the Epistle.—The design of this epistle is more fully to instruct the Ephesians in the nature of that Gospel they had received, to guard them against certain errors to which they were exposed from the influence and example of unbelieving Jews and Gentiles, and to inculcate upon them the importance of a conversation becoming their faith and profession. It contains the substance of the Gospel.

[p. 130] I. Paul here calls himself an apostle of Jesus Christ.—The word “apostle” signifies a messenger sent on some particular business. Jesus Christ is called an Apostle because He was sent of God to instruct and redeem mankind. Paul and others are called apostles because they were sent of Christ to teach the doctrines they had received from Him. To confirm this commission, as well as to give their ministry success, Christ, according to His promise, wrought with them and established their words with signs following.

1. Paul was an apostle by the will of God.—He received not his call or commission from man; nor was he, as Matthias was, chosen to his apostleship by men; but he was called by Jesus Christ, who in person appeared to him for this end that He might send him among the Gentiles, and by God the Father, who revealed His Son in him, and chose him that he should know His will and be a witness of the truth unto all men.

2. He was called of God by revelation.—It was not a secret revelation known only to himself, like the revelation on which enthusiasts and impostors ground their pretensions, but a revelation made in the most open and public manner, attended with a voice from heaven and a light which outshone the sun at noonday, and exhibited in the midst of a number of people to whom he could appeal as witnesses of the extraordinary scene. The great business of Paul and the other apostles was to diffuse the knowledge of the Gospel and plant Churches in various parts of the world.

II. Paul directs this epistle to the saints and faithful.—The phrases denote they had been called out of the world and separated from others that they might be a peculiar people unto God. The religion we profess contains the highest motives to purity of heart and life. If, content with a verbal profession of and external compliance with this religion, we regard iniquity in our hearts, we are guilty of the vilest prevarication, and our religion, instead of saving us, will but plunge us the deeper into infamy and misery. That which is the visible ought to be the real character of Christians.

III. The apostle expresses his fervent desire that these Ephesians may receive the glorious blessings offered in the Gospel.—1. Grace. Pardon is grace, for it is the remission of a deserved punishment. Eternal life is grace, for it is a happiness of which we are utterly unworthy. The influences of the Divine Spirit are grace, for they are first granted without any good disposition on our part to invite them, they are continued even after repeated oppositions, they prepare us for that world of glory for which we never should qualify ourselves.

2. Peace.—By this we understand that peace of mind which arises from a persuasion of our interest in the favour of God. Our peace with God is immediately connected with our faith in Christ. Our peace of mind is connected with our knowledge of the sincerity of our faith. “If our heart condemn us not, we have confidence toward God.” The way to enjoy peace is to increase in all holy dispositions and to abound in every good work. If the apostle wished grace and peace to Christians, surely they should feel some solicitude to enjoy them.—J. Lathrop, D.D.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 3–14.

Praise for the Work of the Trinity in the Gospel of Grace.

These verses are an outburst of descriptive eloquence that even the ample resources of the Greek language seem too meagre to adequately express. The grandeur and variety of ideas, and the necessary vagueness of the phrases by which those ideas are conveyed in this paragraph, create a difficulty in putting the subject into a practical homiletic form. It may help us if we regard the [p. 131] passage as an outpouring of praise for the work of the Trinity in the Gospel of grace, the part of each person in the Trinity being distinctly recognised as contributing to the unity of the whole.

I. The Gospel of grace originated in the love of the Father.—1. He hath chosen us to holiness. “Blessed be the God and Father . . . who hath chosen us . . . that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (vers. 3, 4). The love of God the Father gave Christ to the world, and in Him the human race is dowered with “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.” The blessings from heaven link us to heaven, and will by-and-by bring us to heaven, where those blessings will be enjoyed in unrestricted fulness. Before time began, in the free play of His infinite love, God the Father, foreseeing the sin and misery that would come to pass, resolved to save man, and to save him in His own way and for His own purpose. Man was to be saved in Christ, and by believingly receiving Christ; and his salvation was not to free him from moral obligation, but to plant in him principles of holiness by which he could live a blameless life before God. He chose for Himself that we might love Him and find our satisfaction in the perpetual discovery of His great love to us. The true progression of the Christian life is a growth of the ever-widening knowledge of the love of God. Love is the essence and the crown of holiness.

2. He hath ordained us to sonship.—“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Christ Jesus Himself” (ver. 5). The sonship is not by natural right of inheritance, but by adoption. It is an act of Divine grace, undeserved and unexpected. It is said that, after the battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon adopted the children of the soldiers who had fallen. They were supported and educated by the State, and, as belonging to the family of the emperor, were allowed to attach the name of Napoleon to their own. This was not the adoption of love, but as a recognition of service rendered by their fathers. None can adopt into the family of God but God Himself, and it is an act on His part of pure, unmerited love. He raises us to the highest dignity, and endows us with unspeakable privileges, when He makes us His children; and our lives should be in harmony with so distinguished a relationship.

3. He hath accepted us in Christ.—“Wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved” (ver. 6). Christ, the beloved One, is the special object of the Father’s love, and all who are united to Christ by faith become sharers in the love with which the Divine Father regards His Son. It is only in and through Christ that we are admitted into the Divine family. God loves us in Christ, and the more so because we love Christ. We are accepted to a life of holiness and a service of love. Christ is the pattern of our sonship and the means of our adoption. The love of God to the race finds an outlet through the person and gracious intervention of His Son.

II. The Gospel of grace was wrought out by the sufferings of the Son.—1. In Him we have forgiveness of sins. “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (ver. 7). How little do we realise the greatness and blessedness of the pardon of sin! It may seem difficult to explain how the forgiveness of sins is connected with the sufferings and death of Christ; but there is no fact in the New Testament writings more clearly revealed or more emphatically repeated than this. “The death of Christ was an act of submission on behalf of mankind to the justice of the penalties of violating the eternal law of righteousness—an act in which our own submission not only received a transcendent expression, but was really and vitally included; it was an act which secured the destruction of sin in all who, through faith, are restored to union with Christ; it was an act in which there was a revelation of the righteousness of God which must otherwise have been revealed in the infliction of the penalty of sin on the human race. Instead of inflicting suffering [p. 132] God has elected to endure it, that those who repent of sin may receive forgiveness, and may inherit eternal glory. It was greater to endure suffering than to inflict it” (Dale). The forgiveness is free, full, and complete.

2. In Him we have the revelation of the mystery of the Divine will.—“Wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known to us the mystery of His will” (vers. 8, 9). The will of God is to advance the ultimate glorious destiny of the whole creation. This sublime purpose was for ages an unrevealed mystery, unknown to the prophets, psalmists, and saints of earlier times. In the depths of the Divine counsels this purpose was to be carried out by Christ, and it is revealed only through and in Him. The believer in Christ discovers in Him, not only his own blessedness, but also the ultimate glory of all who are savingly united to the great Redeemer. The abounding grace of God bestows wisdom to apprehend a larger knowledge of the ways and will of God, and prudence to practically apply that knowledge in the conduct of life.

3. In Him we enjoy the unity and grandeur of the heavenly inheritance.—“That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, . . . in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, . . . that we should be to the praise of His glory” (vers. 10–12). The fulness of times must refer to the Gospel age and the glorious ages to follow, in which the accomplishment of the Divine purpose will become more apparent. That purpose is to heal up the estrangement of man from God, and to restore moral harmony to the universe, which has been disordered by the introduction of sin. The great agent in the unifying and harmonising of all things is Christ, who is the centre and circumference of all. The angels who never sinned, and the saints who are made such by redeeming mercy, will share together the inheritance of bliss provided by the suffering and triumphant Christ. “One final glory will consist, not in the restoration of the solitary soul to solitary communion with God, but in the fellowship of all the blessed with the blessedness of the universe as well as with the blessedness of God.”

III. The Gospel of grace is confirmed and realised by the operation of the Holy Spirit.—1. By Him we hear and understand the Word of truth. “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (ver. 13). The Gospel is emphatically the Word of truth; it is reliable history, not romance—a revelation of truths essential to salvation. It is the function of the Holy Spirit to illuminate the mind by the instrumentality of the truth, to apply the Word to the conscience, and to regenerate the heart. He takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto us, and the vision leads on to a spiritual transformation.

2. By Him we are sealed as an earnest of possessing the full inheritance of blessing.—“Ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance” (vers. 13, 14). The work of the Spirit broke down all class distinctions. The Jewish Christians discovered that the exclusive privileges of their race had passed away. All believers in Christ Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile, received the assurance of the Spirit that all the prerogatives and blessings of God’s eternal kingdom were theirs. The seal of the Spirit is the Divine attestation to the believing soul of its admission into the favour of God, and the guarantee of ultimately entering into the full possession and enjoyment of the heavenly inheritance.

Lessons.—1. The Gospel of grace is the harmonious work of the blessed Trinity. 2. The grace of the Gospel is realized by faith. 3. Praise for the gift of the Gospel should be continually offered to the Triune God.

 

[p. 133] GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 3–6. The Doctrine of Predestination.—Neither Calvinism nor Arminianism has solved the problem presented in this chapter. Like difficulties meet us in God’s providential dealings—ay, in the workings of His natural laws; for, as a brilliant author has said, “Nature is a terrible Calvinist.”—Lange.

Election.—It is above logic and philosophy and even technical theology, even as on many, and these, the most important subjects, the heart is a better teacher than the head. In these matters I am so fearful that I dare not speak further—yea, almost none otherwise than the text does, as it were, lead me by the hand.—Ridley.

Mystery of election.—Those who are willing are always the elect; those who will not are not elected. Many men are wrapped up in the doctrines of election and predestination; but that is the height of impertinence. They are truths belonging to God alone; and if you are perplexed by them, it is only because you trouble yourself about things which do not concern you. You only need to know that God sustains you with all His might in the winning of your salvation if you will only rightly use His help. Whoever doubts this is like a crew of a boat working with all their might against the tide and yet going back hour after hour; then they notice that the tide turns, while at the same time the wind springs up and fills their sails. The coxswain cries, “Pull away, boys! wind and tide favour you!” But they answer, “What can we do with the oars? don’t the wind and tide take away our free agency?”—H. W. Beecher.

Ver. 3. Spiritual Blessings.

I. They are accommodated to our spiritual wants and desires, they come down from heaven, prepare us for heaven, and will be completed in our admission to heaven.—The influences of the Spirit are heavenly gifts, the renovation of the heart by a Divine operation is wisdom from above, the renewed Christian is born from above and becomes a spiritual man, the state of immortality Christ has purchased for believers is an inheritance reserved for them in heaven, in the resurrection they will be clothed with a house from heaven, with spiritual and heavenly bodies, and they will sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

II. The blessings granted to the Ephesians are tendered to us.—He offers us the honours and felicities of adoption and the remission of all our sins through the atonement of His Son. He has proposed for our acceptance an inheritance incorruptible in the heavens. We have happier advantages to become acquainted with the doctrines and precepts of the Gospel than the primitive Christians could enjoy. If they were bound to give thanks for their privileges, how criminal must be ingratitude under ours! We must one day answer before God for all the spiritual blessings He has sent us.—Lathrop.

Vers. 4–6. The Nature, Source, and Purposes of Spiritual Blessings.

I. God chose and predestinated these Ephesian Christians before the foundation of the world.—We must not so conceive of God’s election and the influence of His grace as to set aside our free agency and final accountableness; nor must we so explain away God’s sovereignty and grace as to exalt man to a state of independence. Now, so far as the grace of God in the salvation of sinners is absolute and unconditional, election or predestination is so, and no farther. If we consider election as it respects the final bestowment of salvation, it is plainly conditional. To imagine that God chooses some to eternal life without regard to their faith and holiness is to suppose that some are saved without these qualifications or saved contrary to His purpose. [p. 134] God hath chosen us to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.

II. Consider the spiritual qualifications to which the Ephesians were chosen.—“To be holy and without blame before Him in love” (ver. 4). Holiness consists in the conformity of the soul to the Divine nature and will and is opposed to all moral evil. Love is a most essential part of the character of the saint. Charity out of a pure heart is the end of the commandment. Without charity all our pretensions to Gospel holiness are vain.

III. Consider the adoption to which believers are predestinated (ver. 5).—Our sonship is not our native right, but the effect of God’s gracious adoption. 1. It implies a state of freedom in opposition to bondage. Believers are free as being delivered from the bondage of sin, and as having near access to God and intimate communion with Him. Children are usually admitted to that familiar intercourse which is denied to servants. 2. Adoption brings us under the peculiar care of God’s providence. 3. Includes a title to a glorious resurrection from the dead and to an eternal inheritance in the heavens. If believers are the children of God, then their temper must be a childlike temper, a temper corresponding to their relation, condition, and character.

IV. That all spiritual blessings are derived to us through Christ (vers. 5, 6).

V. The reason of God’s choosing believers in Christ and predestinating them to adoption is the good pleasure of His will (ver. 5).—If we admit we are sinful, fallen creatures, unworthy of God’s favour and insufficient for our own redemption, then our salvation must ultimately be resolved into God’s good pleasure. There is no other source from which it can be derived. If death is our desert, our deliverance must be by grace.

VI. The great purpose for which God has chosen and called us is the praise of the glory of His grace (ver. 6).—God has made this display of His grace that unworthy creatures might apply to Him for salvation. We are to praise the glory of God’s grace by a cheerful compliance with the precepts and thankful acceptance of the blessings of the Gospel, by a holy life, and by encouraging others to accept that grace. Believers will, in a more perfect manner, show forth the praise of God’s glorious grace in the future world.—Lathrop.

Vers. 5, 6. The Glory of Divine Grace

  1. Is the sublime outcome of the Divine will.—“According to His will” (ver. 5).
  2. Is a signal display of joyous benevolence.—“According to the good pleasure of His will” (ver. 5).
  3. Demands profound and grateful recognition.—“To the praise of the glory of His grace” (ver. 6).

Ver. 5. The Adoption of Children by Jesus Christ.—Explain the nature of the privilege.

I. Its greatness.—1. From the Being by whom it is conferred. 2. From the price at which it was procured. 3. From the inheritance which it conveys. 4. From the manner in which it is bestowed. The new birth.

II. Its benefits.—1. The spirit of adoption. 2. Divine care and protection. 3. Divine pity and compassion. 4. Overruling all trials for spiritual good.

III. The evidences of its possession.—1. The image of God. 2. The love of God. 3. The love of the brethren.

IV. Its appropriate duties.—The children of God ought—1. To walk worthy of their high vocation. 2. To be subject to their Father’s will both in doing and in suffering. 3. To be mindful of what they owe to their spiritual kindred. 4. To long for their heavenly home.—G. Brooks.

Ver. 6. The Adopting Love of God.

I. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Beloved of the Father.—From eternity during the preparatory dispensation [p. 135] in the days of His flesh; now; for ever. An ineffable love.

II. The Father’s love of believers is on account of the Lord Jesus Christ.—He accepts them for the sake of Christ as united to Christ. Acceptance distinct from pardon.

III. The Father’s acceptance of believers is an act of sovereign grace.—Irrespective of their merit. Neither the necessity of the atonement nor the obligation of faith is inconsistent with acceptance by grace.

IV. The Father’s acceptance of believers for the sake of Christ promotes His own glory.—His glory is the end of all things. Implore all to seek acceptance with God through Christ.—G. Brooks.

Vers. 7, 8. Redemption through Christ.

I. The subjects of this redemption.—Redemption, though offered without distinction to all who hear the Gospel, is actually bestowed only on those who repent of their sins and believe on the Saviour.

II. The nature of this redemption.—There is a twofold redemption—the redemption of the soul from the guilt of sin by pardon, and the redemption of the body from the power of the grave by the resurrection. The former of these is intended. But these two privileges are connected. The remission of sin, which is a release from our obligation to punishment, is accompanied with a title to eternal life.

III. The way and manner in which believers become partakers of this privilege.—Through the blood of Christ. The death of Christ is the ground of our hope. Jesus Christ, through whose blood we obtain forgiveness, is the Beloved. This character of Christ shows the excellence of His sacrifice and displays the grace of God in giving Him for us.

IV. Observe the foundation from which our redemption flows.—“The riches of His grace.” Every blessing bestowed on sinners is by grace; but the blessing of forgiveness is according to the riches, the exceeding, the unsearchable riches of grace.

V. In this dispensation of mercy God has abounded to us in all wisdom and prudence.—The most glorious display of God’s wisdom is in the work of our redemption. Here the perfections of God appear in the brightest lustre and most beautiful harmony. In this dispensation there is a door of hope opened to the most unworthy, believers have the greatest possible security, and it holds forth the most awful terrors against sin and the most powerful motives to obedience.—Lathrop.

Ver. 7. Pardon an Act of Sovereign Grace.—This free and gracious pleasure of God or purpose of His will to act towards sinners according to His own abundant goodness is another thing that influences forgiveness. Pardon flows immediately from a sovereign act of free grace. This free purpose of God’s will and grace for the pardoning of sinners is that which is principally intended when we say, “There is forgiveness with Him”; that is, He is pleased to forgive, and so to do is agreeable to His nature. Now the mystery of this grace is deep; it is eternal, and therefore incomprehensible. Few there are whose hearts are raised to a contemplation of it. Men rest and content themselves in a general notion of mercy which will not be advantageous to their souls. Freed they would be from punishment; but what it is to be forgiven they inquire not. So what they know of it they come easily by, but will find in the issue it will stand them in little stead. But these fountains of God’s actings are revealed that they may be the fountains of our comforts.—John Owen.

Ver. 8. The Harmony of Christianity in its Personal Influence.

I. The wisdom and prudence of the Gospel are manifested by showing with equal distinctness the Divine justice and mercy.—Justice does not arrest the hand of mercy; mercy does not restrain the hand of justice. They [p. 136] speak with a united voice, they command with a united authority, they shine with a united glory. Neither excels. The one does not overbear the other. Their common splendour is like the neutral tint, the effulgent colourlessness of the undecomposed ray.

II. By exhibiting the incarnate Son as alike the object of love and adoration.

III. By insisting most uniformly on Divine grace and human responsibility.

IV. By the proposal of the freest terms of acceptance and the enforcement of the most universal practice of obedience.

V. By inspiring the most elevated joy in connection with the deepest self-abhorrence.

VI. By displaying the different conduct pursued by the Deity towards sin and the sinner.

VII. By combining the genuine humility of the Gospel with our dignity as creatures and our conscientiousness as saints.

VIII. By causing all supernatural influence to operate through our rational powers and by intelligent means.

IX. By resting our evidence of safety and spiritual welfare upon personal virtues.

X. By supplying the absence of enslaving fear with salutary caution.

XI. The actual existence of our depraved nature and the work of sanctification in us pressing forward to its maturity tend to that regulated temperament of mind which we urge.

XII. Certain views of personal conduct are so coupled in the Gospel with the noblest views of grace that any improper warping of our minds is counteracted.

XIII. While the distinctive blessings and honours of the Christian might tend to elate him, he is affected by the most opposite motives.

XIV. God abounds in this wisdom and prudence towards us by most strongly abstracting us from the things of earth and yet giving us the deepest interest in its relations and engagements.—All the truths of revelation are only parts of one system, but their effects upon the believing mind are common and interchangeable. There is no extraneous, no irreconcilable, no confusing element in Christianity. It is of One; it is one. And if we be Christians, our experience will be the counterpart of it. As it works out from apparent shocks and collisions its perfect unity, so shall our experience be wrought in the same way. In obeying from our hearts its form, whatever of its influence may seem to interfere with each other, they will all be found to establish our heart; as the opposing currents often swell the tide and more proudly waft the noble bark it carries, as the counterbalancing forces of the firmament bear the star onward in its unquivering poise and undeviating revolution.—R. W. Hamilton.

Vers. 9–12. The Mystery of the Gospel.

I. The sovereign grace of God in making known to us the mystery of His will.—1. The Gospel is called the mystery of God’s will, the mystery which from the beginning was hid in God, and the unsearchable riches of Christ. Not that these phrases represent the Gospel as obscure and unintelligible, but that the Gospel scheme was undiscoverable by the efforts and researches of human reason and could be made known to men only by the light of Divine revelation. There are many things in the Gospel which are and will remain incomprehensible to human reason; but though we cannot fully comprehend them, we may sufficiently understand them.

2. God has made known to us His will “according to the good pleasure which He purposed in Himself.”—Though the reason of His administration is not made known to us, yet all His purposes are directed by consummate wisdom. He is Sovereign in the distribution of His favours; His goodness to us is no wrong to the heathen.

II. The purpose of God in making [p. 137] known to us the mystery of His will (ver. 10).—1. The Gospel is called “the dispensation of the fulness of times.” It was introduced at the time exactly ordained in the purpose, and expressly predicted in the Word of God, and in this sense may be called “the dispensation of the fulness of times.”

2. One end of this dispensation was that God “might gather together in one all things in Christ” (ver. 10).—To form one body in Christ, to collect one Church, one great kingdom under Him.

3. The Gospel is intended to unite in Christ all things both which are in heaven and which are in earth.—The Church of Christ consists of the whole family in heaven and earth. Here is a powerful argument for Christian love and for Christian candour.

III. In Him we have obtained an inheritance that we should be to the praise of His glory who first trusted in Christ.—The believing Jews were the first who trusted in Christ. They, with the believing Gentiles, were made heirs of God, not only to the privileges of His Church on earth, but to an inheritance also in the heavens. As they had first obtained an inheritance and first trusted in Christ, so they should be first to the praise of God’s glory.—Lathrop.

Ver. 10. Christ and Creation.—If the Divine purpose of salvation was regulative for the creation of the world, then must salvation as well as creation be grounded on the original Mediator. But that all creation should be thus grounded in Him includes a twofold idea—that not only were all things created by Him, but also for Him, who is to bring to completion both the saving purpose of God as also the whole development of the world which tends towards the realisation of the purpose of God. And because the world has not yet reached this goal, then all things have progressively their existence in Him; and it cannot fail, because the goal of the world established in Him must be realised. But how this goal of the world is conceived of, this verse shows, when it is mentioned as the final goal of the institution of God’s grace that all things may be gathered in Christ as in a centre. He has been appointed to be this central point of the universe, as the universe was created in Him; but here it is pointed out that He must again become so, because a dislocation in the original constitution of the world has taken place by sin, whose removal again the dispensation of grace must have in view. The goal of the world is no longer regarded as the perfected kingdom of God, in which the absolute, universal Lordship of God is realised, in contrast to the earthly, mediatorial Lordship of Christ, which the latter gives back to the Father, and that the exaltation of Christ is extended over everything which has a name both in this world and in the future. One cannot think of the goal of the world without Him in whom even creation has its root.—Weiss.

Vers. 11, 12. Christ the Inheritance of the Saints.—1. Christ the Mediator is that person in whom believers have this heavenly inheritance, as they have all their other spiritual blessings leading to heaven in Him. Every believer hath already obtained this glorious inheritance, though not in complete personal possession. 2. As God is an absolute worker, sovereign Lord of all His actions, His will being His only rule, so His will is always joined with and founded upon the light of counsel and wisdom, and therefore He can will nothing but what is equitable and just. 3. It is no small privilege for any to be trusters in Christ before others. It is a matter of their commendation; it glorifies God in so far as their example and experience may prove an encouraging motive to others. It carries several advantages; the sooner a man closes with Christ, the work will be done more easily, he is the sooner freed from sin, the sooner capacitated to do more service to God, and his concernments are the sooner out of hazard.—Fergusson.

[p. 138] Ver. 13. The Gospel of your Salvation.

I. The import of the salvation proclaimed in the Gospel.—It is deliverance from all the evils that have been brought on us by the Fall. 1. From ignorance, not of science, but of God. 2. From guilt, or the penalty which the law inflicts. 3. From the power of sin, of which we are slaves. 4. From the sorrows and calamities of life, which it does not remove, but alleviate and transform. 5. From the power and fear of death. 6. From everlasting perdition.

II. The persons to whom this view of the Gospel is specially applicable.—1. To the unconverted. It teaches them what they are. 2. To the awakened. It teaches them what they need. 3. To believers. It awakens their gratitude, it reproves their lukewarmness, it stimulates their charity.

III. The reflections to which this view of the Gospel gives rise.—How precious in our estimation should be—1. the Gospel, 2. the Saviour, 3. the Saviour’s work, 4. the Saviour’s ordinances, 5. the Saviour’s servants and people, 6. the Saviour’s second coming.—G. Brooks.

The Truth and Divinity of the Christian Religion.

I. It is reasonable to suppose that God should at some time or season fully and clearly reveal unto men the truth concerning Himself and concerning them as He and they stand related to each other, concerning His nature and will, and concerning our state and duty.—Argued from 1. His goodness, 2. His wisdom, 3. His justice, 4. His Divine majesty.

II. That no other revelation of that kind and importance has been made, which can with good probability pretend to have thus proceeded from God, so as by Him to have been designed for a general, perpetual, complete instruction and obligation of mankind.—1. Paganism did not proceed from Divine revelation, but from human invention or diabolical suggestion. All the pagan religions vanished, together with the countenance of secular authority and power sustaining them. 2. Mohammedanism an imposture. 3. Judaism was defective. (1) This revelation was not general—not directed, nor intended to instruct and oblige mankind. (2) As this revelation was particular, so was it also partial—as God did not by it speak His mind to all, so did He not therein speak out all His mind. (3) It was not designed for perpetual obligation and use.

Conclusion.—No other religion, except Christianity, which has been or is in being, can reasonably pretend to have proceeded from God as a universal, complete, and final declaration of His mind and will to mankind.—Barrow.

Vers. 13, 14. The Assurance of the Christian Inheritance.—By the first act of faith the whole tendencies of man’s life are reversed. Until then the present has been his world and the earth his place of rest; then, by the inspiration of the cross, a spiritual world draws upon his view, that everlasting region becomes his home, and life assumes the character of a pilgrimage. We need to have the deep assurance of the immortal kingdom in order to live an earnest life in a world like this.

I. The nature of the assurance.—The voices of promises in the Christian’s soul—the longings, aspirations, hopes, rising from the Spirit of God within us—are more than promises; they are earnests, i.e. most certain assurances of the inheritance to come. This inheritance of spiritual life consists of three great elements—love, power, blessedness.

II. The necessity of the assurance.—The inheritance is given, but not reached. Between the gift and its attainment there lies a long path of conflict in which the old struggle between the flesh and the Spirit reveals itself in three forms: 1. Sense against the soul; 2. The present against the [p. 139] future; 3. Steadfast work against the roving propensities of the heart.—E. L. Hull.

The Holy Spirit and the Earnest of the Inheritance.

I. The character of the inheritance.—The teaching of the passage is that heaven is likest the selectest moments of devotion that a Christian has on earth. Heaven is the perfecting of the life of the Spirit begun here, and the loftiest attainments of that life here are but the beginnings and infantile movements of immature beings.

II. The grounds of certainty that we shall ultimately possess the fulness of the inheritance.—The true ground of certainty lies in this, that you have the Spirit in your heart, operating His own likeness and moulding you, sealing you, after His own stamp and image. 1. The very fact of such a relation between man and God is itself the great assurance of immortality and everlasting life. 2. The characteristics that are produced by this Holy Spirit’s indwelling, both in the perfectness and imperfection, are the great guarantee of the inheritance being ours. 3. The Holy Spirit in a man’s heart makes him desire and believe in the inheritance.—A. Maclaren.

The Faith of the Early Christians.

I. The object of their faith.—The Word of truth and the Gospel of salvation. It is the Word of truth. It contains all that truth which concerns our present duty and our future glory. It comes attended with demonstrations of its own Divinity. It is the Gospel of our salvation. It discovers to us our ruined, helpless condition, the mercy of God to give us salvation, the way in which it is procured for us, the terms on which we may become interested in it, the evidences by which our title to it must be ascertained, and the glory and happiness it comprehends.

II. The forwardness and yet the reasonableness of their faith.—They trusted in Christ after they heard the Word. They acted as honest and rational men: they did not trust before they heard it, nor refused to trust after they heard it. They did not take the Gospel on the credit of other men without examination; nor did they reject it when they had an opportunity to examine it for themselves. Their faith stood not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

III. The happy consequence of their faith.—They were “sealed with the Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance.” They became partakers of such a Divine influence as sanctified them to a meetness for heaven, and thus evidenced their title to it.

1. The sealing of the Spirit.—Sealing literally signifies the impression of the image or likeness of one thing upon another. A seal impressed on wax leaves there its own image. Instruction is said to be sealed when it is so impressed on the heart as to have an abiding influence. So, the sealing of believers is their receiving on their hearts the Divine image and character by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. The Word of truth is here considered as the seal, the believing heart as the subject, the Holy Spirit as the agent or sealer, and the effect produced as a Divine likeness. By a like metaphor Christians are represented as cast in the mould of the Gospel. The same idea is conveyed by the metaphor of writing the Word on the heart.

2. The earnest of the Spirit.—The Spirit, having sealed believers or sanctified them after God’s image, becomes an earnest of their inheritance. The firstfruits were pledges of the ensuing harvest; earnest-money in a contract is a pledge of the fulfilment of it. So, the graces and comforts of religion are to Christians the anticipations and foretastes of the happiness which awaits them in heaven. (1) The virtues of the Christian temper, which are the fruits of the Spirit, are to believers an earnest of their inheritance because they are in part a fulfilment of the promise which conveys the [p. 140] inheritance. (2) They are an earnest as they are preparatives for it. (3) The sealing and sanctifying influence of the Spirit is especially called an earnest of the inheritance because it is a part of the inheritance given beforehand. It is the earnest till the redemption of the purchased possession. When we actually possess the inheritance the earnest will be no longer needed.

Lessons.—1. All the operations of the Spirit on the minds of men are of a holy nature and tendency. 2. We are strongly encouraged to apply to God for the needful influences of His grace. 3. We can have no conclusive evidence of a title to heaven without the experience of a holy temper. 4. Christians are under indispensable obligations to universal holiness.—Lathrop.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 15–18.

Prayer for Higher Spiritual Knowledge

I. Thankfully acknowledges the grace already possessed (vers. 15, 16).—The possession of some grace prompts the prayer for more. The apostle recognises the faith of the Ephesians in the person and work of Christ and the love they displayed towards the saints. Knowing the source of that grace and that the supply was unlimited, he thanks God and is encouraged to pray for its increase. How slow we are to see the good in others and to thank God for any good found in ourselves! Ingratitude dulls our sensibilities and chills the breath of prayer. If we were more thankful, we should be more prayerful. The way to excite gratitude is to interest ourselves in the highest welfare of others.

II. Invokes the impartation of additional spiritual insight (vers. 17, 18).—The apostle prays, not for temporal good or for prosperity in outward things, or even for the cessation of trouble or persecution, but for an accession of mental and spiritual blessings. He prays for the opening of the eye of the mind that the vision of spiritual realities may be more clear and reliable, and that the soul may be possessed with a fuller knowledge of Christ. The highest wisdom is gained by a more accurate conception of Him “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Sin enters the heart through the avenue of the senses and passions, grace through a spiritually enlightened understanding. Pride, prejudice, and error are expelled from the mind not so much by the repression of evil tendencies as by the entrance and maintenance of superior moral truths. The revelation of the Spirit in the Word will not suffice unless the light of the same Spirit shines through every faculty and power of the inquiring soul. “Man’s knowledge is not perfect within the domain of creation, still less can he know the things of the invisible world. Only by living in a sphere does he gather knowledge of what is found there: knowledge comes from experience of occurrences. Without a disposition of the heart the sense of the understanding is not enlarged and sharpened. Sensible, mental, spiritual knowledge refers to life spheres in which he who knows must move. Only the believing, loving, longing one knows and grows in knowledge unto knowledge.” We need, therefore, continually to pray for the Spirit of wisdom—a keener spiritual insight.

III. Unveils the grandeur of the Divine inheritance in believers.—“That ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (ver. 18). The increase of spiritual knowledge is an ever-widening revelation of the value and splendour of Divine blessings already possessed and in prospect of possession. Faith enjoys the inheritance now, and hope anticipates an ampler revelation and richer experience of its unspeakable blessedness. The phrase “the riches of the glory of His inheritance” indicates how utterly inadequate human language is to describe its boundless spiritual wealth. It is an inheritance implying union to Him who only hath immortality and is eternal. Rust cannot corrupt it, nor decay consume, nor death destroy. [p. 141] We have not only an inheritance in Christ, but He has also an inheritance in us. He finds more in us than we find ourselves, and we should never know it was there but for the revelation of Himself within us.

Lessons.—1. Prayer and thanksgiving go together. 2. The soul needs a daily revelation of truth. 3. The highest spiritual truths are made known to the soul that prays.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 15–18. Clearer Discernment in Divine Things desired.

I. The things for which the apostle commends the Ephesians.—Their faith in Jesus and love to the saints (ver. 15). 1. Faith is such a sensible, realising belief of the Gospel in its general truth and in its particular doctrines and precepts as gives it a practical influence on the heart and life; it looks up to God through Christ; it is made perfect by works. 2. Faith is accompanied with love. Viewing and applying the examples and doctrines of the Gospel, it purifies the soul unto unfeigned love of the brethren. The Gospel requires us to love all men, sinners as well as saints, enemies as well as friends. If we love God for His moral perfections, we shall love the saints as far as they appear to have these Divine qualities wrought into their temper. Our love is not to be confined to a party, to those who live in the same city and worship in the same sanctuary but embraces all.

II. Paul expresses his great thankfulness to God for the success of the Gospel.—“I cease not to give thanks” (ver. 16). He rejoiced in the honour which redounded to the crucified Jesus. He rejoiced to think how many were rescued from the power of Satan, and in the consequences which might ensue to others. If the prevalence of religion is matter of thankfulness, we should spare no pains to give it success.

III. He prays for the future success of the Gospel (ver. 16).—The best Christians have need to make continual improvement. Paul was no less constant in his prayers than in his labours for the spiritual interest of mankind. He knew that the success of all his labours depended on God’s blessing; he therefore added to them his fervent prayers. When ministers and people strive together in their prayers, there is reason to hope for God’s blessing on both.

IV. He prayed for spiritual enlightenment (vers. 17, 18).—That they may seek wisdom from God to understand the revelation He has given, and such an illumination of mind as to discern the nature and excellence of the things contained in this revelation. Christians must not content themselves with their present knowledge but aspire to all riches of the full assurance of understanding.

V. He prayed for power to appreciate Christian privileges (ver. 18).—To know the hope of the Divine calling, the possibility and assurance of attaining the heavenly kingdom. To know what a rich and glorious inheritance God has prepared for and promised to the saints. Though we cannot comprehend its dimensions nor compute its value, yet when we consider the grace of the Being who conveys it, the riches of the price which bought it, and the Divine preparation by which the heirs are formed to enjoy it, we must conceive it to be unspeakably glorious.—Lathrop.

The Apprehension of Spiritual Blessings.

I. Further spiritual blessings are to be apprehended by the saints, therefore their condition is a relative one.—The Ephesians had already received spiritual blessings (vers. 11–15). How much more is here. The possessed bears some proportion to what is to be received. Without this relative view the estimate is vague and erroneous. The further gifts consist specially in [p. 142] the clearer sight and more certain and enlarged experience of what they already saw and possessed. “Him,” “His calling,” “His inheritance,” “His mighty power”—these were to be theirs in a degree of exceeding greatness and glory.

II. Unless saints apprehend blessings now attainable, they live below their privilege.—“If thou knewest the gift of God, thou wouldst have asked of Him” (1 John iv. 10). Without some knowledge there is neither faith nor desire. With these unveilings the heart is deeply moved with the sense of obligation to possess, it is attracted and filled with desire and animation. Otherwise, with an ignorant satisfaction, the condition must remain relatively lean and impoverished.

III. The spiritual apprehension of these blessings is the gift of God.—This is needed because of their Divine nature. As we cannot properly see what the sun has called into life and beauty without his light, so these blessings are truly seen only in the light of the Sun of Righteousness. Through the Redeemer the Spirit is given. He gives the Spirit to enlighten both the object and the eye, to “testify,” to “show,” to “glorify,” to reveal, “that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” Thus, these blessings are seen, not distantly and dimly, but in their nearness and unveiled glory, whilst He creates in the heart corresponding sympathy, desire, and assurance. Nothing can compensate for this gift—no mere intelligence, no reflection upon past experience, no mere help from others.

IV. This gift is bestowed in answer to prayer.—This particular bestowment comes under the promise of the Spirit to believing prayer. This is a gift. Gifts are asked for, not made ours in any other way. This gift is awaiting and challenging prayer, importunate prayer. That an ever-deepening desire for these spiritual gifts may be ours, let us often ask—What truths are given to me, which, if the eyes of my understanding were enlightened, would not exert the most positive influence over me, lifting me into the clearer light of God’s relations, thus empowering me to live above the standard of natural strength, and so to fulfil His present designs? Think of the alternative.—J. Holmes.

Vers. 15, 16. True Religion self-revealing

  1. In its moral results.—“Faith and love” (ver. 15).
  2. Is evident to others.—“I heard of your faith” (ver. 15).
  3. Is the occasion of constant thanksgiving.—“Cease not to give thanks for you” (ver. 16).
  4. Calls forth a spirit of prayer.—“Making mention of you in my prayers” (ver. 16).

Vers. 17, 18. Spiritual Enlightenment.—1. The wisdom which Christians are to seek is not that carnal wisdom which is enmity to God, nor natural wisdom or knowledge of the hidden mysteries of nature, nor the wisdom of Divine mysteries, which is only a gift and floweth from a common influence of the Spirit, but that whereof the Spirit of God by His special operation and influence is author and worker, and is more than a gift, even the grace of wisdom, which is not acquired by our own industry, but cometh from above. 2. It is not sufficient for attaining this grace of wisdom that the truths be plainly revealed by the Spirit in Scripture. There must be the removal of natural darkness from our understandings, that we may be enabled to take up that which is revealed, as in beholding colours by the outward sense there must be not only an outward light to make the object conspicuous, but also the faculty of seeing in the eye. A blind man cannot see at noonday, nor the sharpest-sighted at midnight. 3. Though those excellent things which are not yet possessed, but only hoped for, are known in part, yet so excellent are they in themselves, and remote from our knowledge, and [p. 143] so much are we taken up with trifles and childish toys, that even believers who have their thoughts most exercised about them are in a great part ignorant of them. 4. As the things hoped for and really to be enjoyed in the other life are of the nature of an inheritance not purchased by us but freely bestowed upon us, so they are properly Christ’s inheritance, who has proper right to it as the natural Son of God and by virtue of His own purchase; but the right we have is communicated to us through Him, in whom we have received the adoption of children and are made heirs and co-heirs with Christ. 5. It is a glorious inheritance, there being nothing there but what is glorious. The sight shall be glorious, for we shall see God as we are seen, the place glorious, the company glorious, our souls and bodies shall be glorious, and our exercise glorious, giving glory to God for ever and ever.—Fergusson.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 19–23.

The Church Complete in Christ.

I. The Church is the creation of Divine power (ver. 19).—The Church does not consist in massive architecture or ornate decorations, nor in ecclesiastical organisations and councils. It is not the offspring of the most elaborately constructed creed. It is not confined within the limits of the most expansive ecclesiastical epithet. It is a Divine, spiritual creation. It consists of souls redeemed by the sacrifice of Jesus, clinging to Him for pardon, peace, and righteousness, and created in Him, by “the working of the mighty power” of the Divine Spirit, for good works, and therefore continually striving to disseminate the good they have themselves received. The apostolic idea of the Church was coloured by the leading characteristic of the man. To St. Peter it was the Church as influenced by law—the confessing Church; to St. Paul it was the Church influenced by the freedom of faith—the witnessing Church; to St. John it was the Church as filled with the ideality of faith—working and keeping joyful holiday, the adorned Bride (Rev. xix. 7, 8). The Church is a constant revelation of “the exceeding greatness of His power” who first originated it and sustains its ever-widening growth.

II. The Divine power that creates the Church installs Christ as the supreme authority.—1. This power raised Christ from the deepest humiliation to the highest dignity (vers. 20, 21). It raised Him from the cross to the throne, from the domain of the dead to the life and everlasting glory of the heavenly world. “God ascended with jubilation, and the Lord with the sound of the trumpet. Certainly, if when He brought His only begotten Son into the world He said, ‘Let all the angels worship Him’ (Heb. i. 6); much more, now that He ascends on high and hath led captivity captive, hath He given Him a name above all names, that at the name of Jesus all knees should bow. And if the holy angels did so carol at His birth in the very entrance into that estate of humiliation and infirmity, with what triumph they receive Him now returning from the perfect achievement of man’s redemption! And if, when His type had vanquished Goliath and carried the head into Jerusalem, the damsels came forth to meet him with dances and timbrels, how shall we think those angelic spirits triumph in meeting the great Conqueror of hell and death! How did they sing, ‘Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in’!” (Ps. xxiv. 7–10).

2. This power invests Christ with supreme rule and authority (ver. 22). On the night when Christ was born what a difference was there in all outward marks of distinction between the child of the Hebrew mother as He lay in His [p. 144] lowly cradle, and the Augustus Cæsar, whose edict brought Mary to Bethlehem, as he reposed in his imperial palace. And throughout the lifetime of the two there was but little to lessen that distinction. The name of the one was known and honoured over the whole civilised globe, the name of the Other scarce heard of beyond the narrow bounds of Judea. How stands it now? The throne of the Cæsars, the throne of mere human authority and power, has perished. But the empire of Jesus, the empire of pure, undying, self-sacrificing love, will never perish; its sway over the consciences and hearts of men, as the world grows older, becomes ever wider and stronger (Hanna). The rule of Christ will last till all enemies are subdued, and obedience to Him becomes a reverential and joyous experience.

Transcriber’s Note: Please search the Internet for videos that explore the properties of elemental mercury (“quicksilver”) rather than performing the experiments yourself.

III. The Church is complete as it is endowed with the Divine fulness of Christ (ver. 23).—The Church to-day seems broken into fragments, torn by divisions and strife; but by-and-by it will blend in a glorious unity. Take a mass of quicksilver, let it fall on the floor, and it will split into a vast number of distinct globules; gather them up, and put them together again, and they will coalesce into one body as before. Thus, God’s people below are sometimes divided into various parties, though they are all in fact members of one and the same mystic body. But when taken up from the world and put together in heaven they will constitute one glorious, undivided Church for ever and ever. The completeness of the Church is not the aggregation of all the virtues of the saints blended in beauteous and harmonious unity, but the glory of the Divine fulness that pervades every part.

Lessons.—1. The Church as a Divine creation is a revelation of Christ. 2. The Church is composed of those who are created anew in Christ Jesus. 3. Christ is everything to His Church.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 19–23. The Dignity and Dominion of Christ.

I. The first step in Christ’s exaltation was the resurrection from the dead.—This miracle is an incontestable evidence of the truth of the Christian religion, and an evidence of the great doctrine of the resurrection of the body and a future life, and of the efficacy of Christ’s blood to expiate the guilt of our sins. If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, we must believe that the same mighty power which wrought in Him can also work in us to raise us from the dead.

II. The next step is His ascension to heaven and session at God’s right hand (ver. 20). The right hand is the place of honour and respect and denotes superior dignity. Christ sitting at God’s right hand signifies He has ceased from His labours and sufferings and entered into a state of repose and joy, and imports authority and power. He is exalted not only as Ruler, but also as Intercessor.

III. The exaltation of Christ is supreme.—His kingdom extends to all creatures in heaven, earth, and under the earth. The government of the natural world is in His hands, as well as the government of the Church. He has dominion over devils. His last and most glorious act is the judgment of the world.

IV. The end for which Christ exercises His high and extensive dominion (vers. 22, 23).—All His government is managed in reference to the good of the Church. See how criminal and dangerous it is to oppose the interest of the Church. If the Church is Christ’s body, let us honour it, study to preserve unity in it, labour for its edification and comfort. Let us honour and reverence our Head, and never presumptuously lift up ourselves against the Church.—Lathrop.

[p. 145] Ver. 19. The Power of God in Conversion.—1. The power God exercises in converting and carrying on the work of grace to glory is not only great, but exceeds all power that might impede that work, so that there is no power in the devil, the world, sin, or death which this power does not overcome nor any impotency in believers which this greatness of power will not help and strengthen. There is no more pregnant proof of God’s omnipotent power than in converting sinners from sin to holiness. 2. This mighty power of God extends to all times. It works in the first conversion of believers, preserves them in a state of grace, actuating their graces that they may grow, and continues till their graces are perfected. 3. The experimental knowledge of God’s way of working is to be carefully sought after, to make us thankful for His gracious working in us, in order that our knowledge of God may be increased and our faith and hope in Him strengthened.—Fergusson.

Ver. 20. The Future Life.

I. Our virtuous friends at death go to Jesus Christ.—Here is one great fact in regard to futurity. The good on leaving us here meet their Saviour, and this view alone assures us of their unutterable happiness. The joys of centuries will be crowded into that meeting. This is not fiction. It is truth founded on the essential laws of the mind. Their intercourse with Jesus Christ will be of the most affectionate and ennobling character. They are brought to a new comprehension of His mind and to a new reception of His Spirit. They will become joint workers—active, efficient ministers—in accomplishing His great work of spreading virtue and happiness. They retain the deepest interest in this world. They love human nature as never before, and human friends are prized as above all price.

II. Our virtuous friends go not to Jesus only, but to the great and blessed society which is gathered round Him.—The redeemed from all regions of earth. They meet peculiar congratulations from friends who had gone before them to that better world, and especially from all who had in any way given aids to their virtue. If we have ever known the enjoyments of friendship, of entire confidence, of co-operation in honourable and successful labours with those we love, we can comprehend something of the felicity of a world where souls, refined from selfishness, open as the day, thirsting for new truth and virtue, endowed with new power of enjoying the beauty and grandeur of the universe, allied in the noblest works of benevolence, and continually discovering new mysteries of the Creator’s power and goodness, communicate themselves to one another with the freedom of perfect love. They enter on a state of action, life, and effort. Still more, they go to God. They see Him with a new light in all His works. They see Him face to face, by immediate communion. These new relations of the ascended spirit to the universal Father, how near, how tender, how strong, how exalting! Heaven is a glorious reality. Its attraction should be felt perpetually. They who are safely gathered there say to us, “Come and join us in our everlasting blessedness!”—Channing.

Vers. 21, 22. The Supremacy of Jesus

  1. Acquired by His resurrection power.
  2. Places Him above the highest created intelligences and potentates.
  3. Is expressed in a name that surpasses in dignity and greatness that which has ever been or can be celebrated in earth or heaven.
  4. Gives Him absolute control over all worlds.—“And hath put all things under His feet” (ver. 22).

Vers. 22, 23. Christ the Head of the Church.

  1. The Church depends on Him for life, guidance, activity, and development.—“Which is His body” (ver. 23).
  2. [p. 146] He governs all things in the interest of His Church.—“And gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church” (ver. 22).
  3. The Church is a revelation of the greatness and glory of Christ.—“The fulness of Him that filleth all in all” (ver. 23).

Ver. 22. The Headship of Christ.

  1. The extent of His headship.—1. Over all worlds. 2. Over the whole human race. 3. Over the Church.
  2. The subserviency of its administration to the interests of His Church.—1. For the edification of His Church. 2. For its defence. 3. For its increase.
  3. Its grounds.—1. His merit. 2. His qualifications. Whom do ye serve?—G. Brooks.

The Headship of Christ.—The verse consists of two statements:—

I. That Christ is Head over all things.—The Father hath given Christ to be Head over all things. 1. Originally involved in a covenant or agreement between the Father and the Son. 2. Now a matter of history. 3. The path of Christ to the mediatorial throne capable of being traced. 4. He there laid deep the foundations. 5. The whole universe is under His sway—heaven, earth, hell, all worlds, all elements. 6. He is qualified for such dominion—Divine attributes, angelic spirits, believers, the devil and wicked men, the Holy Spirit.

II. That Christ is Head over all things, to the Church.—Christ sits upon the throne in the same character in which He trod the earth and hung upon the cross. 1. It is as Mediator. 2. The same ends which He contemplated. It was for the Church He clothed Himself in human form. 3. He gives a peculiar character to the entire Divine government. He Christianises it. 4. He employs all His attributes, resources, creatures.

Lessons.—1. Redemption is a wide and extended plan, not so easily accomplished, not so limited. 2. All creatures and dominions should do Christ homage. 3. The Church is secure from real danger. 4. Believers may well glory in Christ as their Head.—Stewart.


 

CHAPTER II.

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.

Ver. 1. And you did He quicken.—The italics in A.V. and R.V. show a broken construction of St. Paul’s meaning, the verb being supplied from ver. 5, where the broken thread is taken up again. Dead in trespasses and sins.—“Dead through,” etc. (R.V.). “What did they die of?” it might be asked; and the apostle answers, “Of trespasses and sins” (so Alford). “The word for trespasses is one of a mournfully numerous group of words” (Trench). It has sometimes the milder meaning of “faults,” “mitigating circumstances” being considered. It makes special reference “to the subjective passivity and suffering of him who misses or falls short of the enjoined command” (Cremer). Meyer denies any “real distinction between the words for ‘trespasses’ and ‘sins.’ They denote the same thing as a ‘fall’ and a ‘missing.’ ”

Ver. 2. “Shadows,” says Meyer, “before the light which arises in ver. 4.” Wherein in time past ye walked.—It is a sombre picture—men walking about “to find themselves dishonourable graves” in the “valley of the shadow of death,” knowing not whither they go because the darkness—the gloom of spiritual death—“hath blinded their eyes” (1 John ii. 11). According to the course of this world.—Well translated by our modern “zeit-geist,” or “spirit of the age.” The prince of the power of the air.—However contemptuous St. Paul may be of the creations of the Gnostic fancy, he never dreams of saying there is nothing existent unless it can be seen and felt. The dark realm and its ruler are not myths to the apostle.

[p. 147] Ver. 3. Among whom also we all had our conversation.—St. Paul does not glorify himself at the expense of his readers’ past life. True his had not been a life swayed by animal delights (Acts xxvi. 5), but it had been marked by implacable enmity to the Son of God. And were by nature children of wrath.—“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, . . . whether it be Jewish or Gentile.”

Ver. 4. But God, who is rich in mercy.—“Unto all that call upon Him” (Rom. x. 12). “He hath shut all up into disobedience, that He might have mercy upon all” (Rom. xi. 32), For His great love wherewith He loved us.—“A combination only used when the notion of the verb is to be extended” (Winer).

Ver. 5. Even when we were dead in sins.—The phrase which closes ver. 3, difficult as it is, must receive an interpretation in harmony with this statement. It is the very marrow of the Gospel that, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” That the wrath of God is real we know, but “God is love.” By grace ye are saved.—“Grace” is as truly characteristic of St. Paul’s writing as his autograph signature; it, too, is the token (“sign-manual”) in every epistle (2 Thess. iii. 17, 18).

Ver. 6. In heavenly places.—As in ch. i. 3.

Ver. 7. The exceeding riches of His grace.—The wealth of mercy mentioned in ver. 4 more fully stated. Grace is condescension to an inferior or kindness to the undeserving. In kindness toward us.—“Kindness” here represents in the original “a beautiful word, as it is the expression of a beautiful grace” (Trench). It is that “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. v. 22) called “gentleness” in the A.V., but which would be better named “benignity.”

Ver. 8. For by grace are ye saved, through faith.“ ‘By grace’ expresses the motive, ‘through faith’ the subjective means” (Winer). The emphasis is on “by grace.”

Ver. 9. Not of works, lest any man should boast.—The more beautiful the works achieved the more natural it is for a man to feel his works to be meritorious. One can understand that a man jealous for the honour of God, like Calvin, should speak of the excellencies of those out of Christ as “splendid vices,” even though we prefer another explanation of them.

Ver. 10. For we are His workmanship.—We get our word “poem” from that which we here translate workmanship, lit., “something made.” Every Christian belongs to those of whom God says, “This people have I formed for Myself, that they should show forth My praise” (Isa. xliii. 21). The archetype of all our goodness lies in the Divine thought, as the slow uprising of a stately cathedral is the embodiment of the conception of the architect’s brain.

Ver. 11. Wherefore remember, that ye, etc.—All that follows in the verse serves to define the “ye,” the verb following in ver. 12 after the repeated “ye”—“ye were without Christ.” “Called Uncircumcision . . . called the Circumcision.” As much rancour lies in these words as generally is carried by terms of arrogance on the part of those only nominally religious, and the scornful epithets flung in return. They can be matched by our modern use of “The world” and “Other-worldliness.”

Ver. 12. Without Christ.—Not so much “not in possession of Christ” as “outside Christ,” or, as in R.V., “separate from Christ.” The true commentary is John xv. 4, 5. The branch “severed from” the trunk by knife or storm bears no fruit thenceforth; disciples “apart from Christ can do nothing.” Being aliens from the commonwealth.—What memories might start at this word! Did St. Paul think of the separation from the Jewish synagogue in Ephesus or of the fanatical outburst created in Jerusalem when “the Jews from Asia” saw Trophimus the Ephesian in company with the apostle? To such Jews the Gentiles were nothing but massa perditionis. Like vers. 2, 3, this is a reminder of the dark past, the misery of which did not consist in a Jewish taunt so much as in a life of heathenish vices. Having no hope, and without God in the world.—To be godless—not sure that there is any God—this is to take the “master-light of all our seeing” from us; to live regardless of Him, or wishing there were no God—“that way madness lies.” To be “God-forsaken” with a house full of idols—that is the irony of idolatrous heathenism.

Ver. 13. Ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh.—The Gentile may sing his hymn in Jewish words: “Doubtless Thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer; from everlasting is Thy name.” “Lo-ammi” (“not My people”) is no longer their name (Hos. ii. 23; Rom. ix. 24, 25).

Ver. 14. For He is our peace, who hath made both one.—“Not the Peacemaker merely, for indeed at His own great cost He procured peace, and is Himself the bond of union of both” (Jew and Gentile). The middle wall of partition.—M. Ganneau, the discoverer of the Moabite Stone, found built into the wall of a ruined Moslem convent a stone, believed to be from the Temple, with this inscription: “No stranger-born (non-Jew) may enter within the circuit of the barrier and enclosure that is around the sacred court; and whoever shall be caught [intruding] there, upon himself be the blame of the death that will consequently [p. 148] follow.” Josephus describes this fence and its warning inscription (Wars of the Jews, Bk. V., ch. v., § 2). It is rather the spirit of exclusiveness which Christ threw down. The stone wall Titus threw down and made all a common field, afterwards.

Ver. 15. Having abolished in His flesh the enmity.—The enmity of Jew and Gentile; the abolition of their enmity to God is mentioned later. “First be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift,” for reconciliation to God. The law of commandments contained in ordinances.—The slave whose duty it was to take the child to his teacher might say, “Don’t do that.” St. Paul does not regard the function of the law as more than that (Gal. iii. 23–25). One new man.—Trench, in an admirable section, distinguishes between the new in time (recens) and the new in quality (novum). The word here means new in quality, “as set over against that which has seen service, the outworn.” “It is not an amalgam of Jew and Gentile” (Meyer).

Ver. 16. That He might reconcile both unto God.—The word “reconcile” implies “a restitution to a state from which they had fallen, or which was potentially theirs, or for which they were destined” (Lightfoot, Col. i. 20). The cross having slain the enmity.—Gentile authority and Jewish malevolence met in the sentence to that painful death; and both Gentile and Jew, acknowledging the Son of God, shall cease their strife, and love as brethren.

Ver. 17. Came and preached peace.—By means of His messengers, as St. Paul tells the Galatians that Christ was “evidently set forth crucified amongst them.” To you afar off, and to them that were nigh.—Isaiah’s phrase (Isa. lvii. 19). The Christ uplifted “out of the earth” draws all men to Him.

Ver. 18. For through Him we both have access.—St. Paul’s way of proclaiming His Master’s saying, “I am the door; by Me if any man enter in he shall be saved”; including the other equally precious, “I am the way: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” “Access” here means “introduction.”

Ver. 19. So then.—Inference of vers. 14–18. Strangers and foreigners.—By the latter word is meant those who temporarily abide in a place, but are without the privileges of it. There is a verb “to parish” in certain parts of England which shows how a word can entirely reverse its original meaning. It not only means “to adjoin,” but “to belong to.” Fellow-citizens with the saints.—Enjoying all civic liberties, and able to say, “This is my own, my native land,” when he finds “Mount Zion and the city of the living God” (cf. Heb. xi. 13, 14). And of the household of God.—The association grows more intimate. The words might possibly mean “domestics of God” (Rev. xxii. 3, 4); but when we think of the “Father’s house” we must interpret “of the family circle of God.”

Ver. 20. Being built upon the foundation.—From the future of a household St. Paul passes easily to the structure, based on “the Church’s One Foundation.” The chief corner-stone.—“The historic Christ, to whom all Christian belief and life have reference, as necessarily conditions through Himself the existence and endurance of each Christian commonwealth, as the existence and steadiness of a building are dependent on the indispensable cornerstone, which upholds the whole structure” (Meyer). The difference between our passage and 1 Cor. iii. 11 is one of figure only.

Ver. 21. All the building.—R.V. “each several building.” Fitly-framed-together.—One word in the original, found again only in ch. iv. 16 in this form.

Ver. 22. For a habitation.—The word so translated is found again only in Rev. xviii. 2, a sharp contrast to this verse.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 1–3.

The Children of Wrath

I. Are spiritually dead.—“Who were dead in trespasses and sins” (ver. 1). The only life of which they are conscious, and in which all their activities are displayed, is a life of sin. They have no conception of a higher life. They are capable of a higher life and know it not. The spiritual, the higher form of life, is entombed and buried under a mass of sin. It is inert, dead, in process of corruption. Dante refers to such as, “These wretched ones who never were alive; I ne’er forsooth could have believed it true, that death had slain such myriads of mankind.” Sin first benumbs, then paralyses, and finally slays our spiritual sensibilities. The soul dead to God shall not be insensible to the reality of the Divine wrath.

II. Are under the spell of an unseen evil power (ver. 2).—“The children of disobedience” are those who are withholding their allegiance from the Lord [p. 149] Jesus Christ, all those who are unconverted; not mere gross sinners and open profligates, but such persons as are strangers to the spiritual life, although they may have many excellencies of nature and disposition. The apostle plainly asserts that before he was brought to the knowledge of Christ he was under the influence of the “prince of the power of the air.” This is a startling statement. It is more startling still if we consider what sort of man Paul was before his conversion—how excellent, how earnest, how devoted to the external duties of a religious life. But startling as it is, it is the apostle who makes it of himself; and the inference is unavoidable, that all that mass of persons who are out of Christ and who are not partakers of His resurrection life, who have given their hearts to the world and not to the Saviour, are just the captives of Satan, and, without knowing it, are doing his lusts and accomplishing his will. The disease is not less deadly because it eats out the life without inflicting pain. The pestilence is not the less awful because it comes without giving notice of its presence, borne on the balmy breezes of the bright, cloudless, summer eve. The vampire does not do its work the less effectually because it fans its victim with its perfumed wings into an unconscious slumber whilst it drains away his life-blood and leaves him a corpse. And Satan is not the less real or the less destructive because he works his fatal work upon our souls without our even being conscious of his approach.

III. Are prompted to sin by the instincts of a depraved nature (ver. 3).—There is the twofold province of a man’s being, by the lower of which he is allied to the brute creation, and by the higher to the angels, both being under the dominion of sin. There is the corrupt body of flesh, and in a higher sense there is the fleshly mind. Every unregenerate person lives more or less in one or the other of these provinces—either in the sphere of fleshly lusts or in the sphere of the fleshly mind. Either he lives simply an animal life, and is in consequence a fleshly man, whose life consists only in fulfilling the desires of his lower nature; or he lives in the higher province of the mind, but it is nevertheless the mind in darkness, in uncertainty, in doubt—mind and heart alike alienated from God through the unbelief which is in them. It would not do to argue from this that our passions are our sins. Sin is not in appetite but lies in the insubordination of appetite. There is need of a curbing and governing will, and our discipline consists in subjugating the lower to the higher. A due balance between the two regions must be preserved, and it is when passion becomes master and the lower invades the province of the higher, when the subordinate becomes insubordinate, that appetite and passion become sin. The flesh is the great rival of the Spirit, for it asserts that dominion over a man which the Holy Spirit alone ought to occupy, and these two are constantly opposed to each other. The depravity within, working in the thoughts of the mind and the passions of the flesh, prompts to a course of disobedience and sin.

IV. Are exposed to condemnation.—“And were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men.” The apostle shows that even the Jews, who boasted of their birth from Abraham, were by natural birth equally children of wrath, as the Gentiles whom the Jews despised on account of their birth from idolaters. The phrase “children of wrath” is a Hebraism, meaning we are objects of God’s wrath from childhood, in our natural state, as being born in sin, which God hates. Wrath abides on all who disobey the Gospel in faith and practice.

Lessons.—1. Sin when it is finished bringeth forth death. 2. Your adversary the devil walketh about seeking whom he may devour. 3. Because there is wrath, beware!

 

[p. 150] GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Ver. 1. A State of Sin a State of Death.

I. There are some respects in which the death of the soul does not resemble the death of the body.—1. It does not involve the extinction of faculties and affections. The dead body moves not, nor feels, nor acts. The dead soul still thinks and feels and wills. 2. It does not exempt from responsibility. The dead soul is commanded to repent and believe and obey. 3. It is not incapable of restoration on earth. The spiritually dead may become spiritually alive here.

II. There are some respects in which the death of the soul does resemble the death of the body.—1. In its cause. Sin. 2. In its extent. All men without exception. 3. In its consequences. The dead are utterly insensible, they fulfil none of the functions or duties of the living, they can be reanimated only by Divine power. Address: (1) Those who are spiritually dead. (2) Those who have reason to believe that they are spiritually alive.—G. Brooks.

Vers. 1–3. The State of Men without the Gospel.

I. The moral state of wicked men resembles a state of natural death (ver. 1).—From the metaphor used in the text we are not to conclude that all sinners are alike, for though all are in a sense dead some are under a greater death than others. The metaphor is usually applied to sinners of the most vicious character. When we speak of human nature as totally depraved we mean only a total destitution of real holiness, not the highest possible degree of vitiosity. In order to denominate one a sinner it is not necessary that he should be as bad as possible. Though natural death does not, yet spiritual death does, admit of degrees. Evil men wax worse and worse, add sin to sin, and treasure up wrath against the day of wrath.

1. Sinners may be said to be dead in respect of their stupidity.—We read of some who are past feeling, whose conscience is seared, who have eyes which see not, ears which hear not, and a heart which is waxed gross. Their hearts are like a mortified limb which feels no pain under the scarifying knife.

2. They are represented as wanting spiritual senses.—They savour the things of the world, not the things which are of God. They indeed love the effects of God’s goodness to them, but they delight not in His character as a holy, just, and faithful Being. They may feel a natural pleasure in certain mechanical emotions of the passions excited by objects presented to the sight, or by sounds which strike the ear, as the artificial tears from the image of the Virgin Mary will melt down an assembly of Catholics, or as a concert of musical instruments will rapture the hearers; but they relish not the Word and ordinances of God, considered as means of holiness and as designed to convince them of their sins and bring them to repentance. If the Word dispensed comes home to their conscience, they are offended. They lose the music of the pleasant song and talk against it by the walls and in the doors of their houses.

3. They resemble the dead in the want of vital warmth.—If they have any fervour in religion, it is about the forms and externals of it, or about some favourite sentiments which they find adapted to soothe their consciences, not about those things in which the power of religion consists. As death deforms the body, so sin destroys the beauty of the soul. It darkens the reason, perverts the judgment, and disorders the affections. To be carnally-minded is death.

4. They may be denominated dead as they are worthy of and exposed to punishment.—This is called death because it is the separation of the soul from God and heaven, from happiness and hope, from all good and unto all evil. This is a death which awaits the impenitent.

[p. 151] II. There is in ungodly men a general disposition to follow the way of the world.—“According to the course of this world” (ver. 2). They, like dead carcases, swam down the stream of common custom, and were carried away with the general current of vice and corruption.

1. Most men have a general idea that religion is of some importance.—Few can wholly suppress it, or reason themselves out of it. But what religion is and wherein it consists they seldom inquire, and never examine with any degree of attention. Such opinions as flatter their ungodly lusts, or pacify their guilty consciences, they warmly embrace. That scheme of doctrine which will make converts without exacting reformation, and give assurance without putting them to much trouble, they highly approve. The path which will lead men to heaven with little self-denial they readily pursue.

2. There are many who blindly follow the examples of the world.—Whether such a practice is right or wrong they take little pains to examine. It is enough that they see many who adopt it. They would rather incur the censure of their own minds and the displeasure of their God than stand distinguished by a singularity in virtue.

III. They are under the influence of evil spirits.—“According to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience” (ver. 2). The number of evil spirits is very great, but there is one distinguished from the rest, and called the devil, Satan, the prince of the power of the air. The manner in which he works in the minds of men is by gaining access to their passions and lusts, which he inflames by suggesting evil thoughts or by painting images on the fancy. It was by the avarice of Judas and Ananias that he entered into them and filled their hearts.

IV. The wickedness of men consists not merely in their evil works, but in the corrupt dispositions which prompt them to those works.—“The lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (ver. 3). The lusts of the flesh are the vices of sensuality, as intemperance, uncleanness, debauchery, and excess of riot. The desires of the fleshly mind are the lusts which arise from the corruption of the mind in its connection with flesh, as pride, malice, envy, wrath, hatred, ambition, and covetousness. Though no man indulges every vice, yet every unregenerate man obeys the carnal mind.

V. The indulgence of carnal lusts and passions brings on men the wrath of God.—“The children of wrath” (ver. 3). A mind sunk in carnality is incapable of rational felicity; it is miserable in itself and from its own corruption and perverseness. If man subjects his nature to the lusts and passions, the order of nature is inverted, the law of creation violated, and the Creator dishonoured and offended.

Lessons.—1. If you have not abandoned yourselves to the grossest forms of vice, it is because you have been placed under superior light and enjoyed a happier education than the heathen. 2. Though you may not have indulged all the lusts and vices which others have done, yet if you are children of disobedience you can no more be saved without renovation of heart and repentance of sin than they can.—Lathrop.

Ver. 3. The State of Nature.

I. If by human nature you mean nature as seen in this man or that, then unquestionably nature is evil—individual nature, personal nature, is contrary to God’s will. But if by human nature you mean nature as God made it, as it has been once in one man of our species and only one, and as by God’s grace it shall be again; if you mean nature as it is according to the idea of the Creator as shown in Jesus Christ, as it is in the eyes of God imputed not as it is but as it shall be,—then that nature is a noble thing, a thing Divine; for the life of the Redeemer Himself, what was it but the one true exhibition of our human nature?

II. Paul says that by nature we [p. 152] fulfil the desires of the flesh and of the mind.—I pray you to observe that it is the second and not in the first sense that he here speaks of nature. The desires of the flesh mean the appetites; those of the mind mean the passions: to fulfil the desires of the flesh is to live the life of the swine; to fulfil those of the mind is to live the life of the devil. But this is the partiality, not the entireness, of human nature. Where is the conscience, where the Spirit with which we have communion with God? To live to the flesh and to the mind is not to live to the nature that God gave us. We can no more call that living to our nature than we can say that a watch going by the mere force of the main-spring without a regulator is fulfilling the nature of a watch. To fulfil the desires of the flesh and of the mind is no more to fulfil the nature which God has given us than the soil fulfils its nature when it brings forth thorns and briars. St. Paul, in the epistle to the Romans, draws a distinction between himself and his false nature: “It is not I, but sin that dwelleth in me.” Sin is the dominion of a false nature; it is a usurped dominion.

III. The next thing that Paul tells us is that by nature we are children of wrath.—In the state of nature we are in the way to bear the wrath of God. Yet God is not wrath; He is infinite love. The eternal severity of His nature does not feel our passions, He remains for ever calm; yet such is our nature that we must think of Him as wrath as well as love: to us love itself becomes wrath when we are in a state of sin. God must hate sin and be forever sin’s enemy. If we sin He must be against us: in sinning we identify ourselves with evil, therefore we must endure the consuming fire. So long as there is evil, so long will there be penalty. Sin, live according to the lusts of the flesh, and you will become the children of God’s wrath; live after the Spirit, the higher nature that is in you, and then the law hath hold on you no longer.—F. W. Robertson.

The Worst of Evils.

I. By nature all are the children of wrath.—1. Because we want that original righteousness in which we were created, and which is required to the purity and perfection of our nature. 2. Because all the parts and powers of our soul and body are depraved with original corruption. Our understandings are so bad that they understand not their own badness, our wills which are the queens of our souls become the vassals of sin, our memories like jet good only to draw straws and treasure up trifles of no moment, our consciences through errors in our understandings sometimes accusing us when we are innocent, sometimes acquitting us when we are guilty, our affections all disaffected and out of order. 3. Some may expect that as the master of the feast said to him that wanted the wedding garment, “Friend, how camest thou in hither?” so I should demand of original sin, “Foe, and worst of foes, how camest thou in hither, and by what invisible leaks didst thou soak into our souls?” But I desire, if it be possible, to present you this day a rose without prickles, to declare plain and positive doctrine without thorny disputes or curious speculations, lest, as Abraham’s ram was caught in the thicket, so I embroil you and myself in difficult controversies. Let us not busy our brains so much to know how original sin came into us, as labour in our heart to know how it should be got out of us. But the worst is, most men are sick of the rickets in the soul, their heads swell to a vast proportion, puffed up with the emptiness of airy speculations, whilst their legs and lower parts do waste and consume, their practical parts decay, none more lazy to serve God in their lives and conversations.

Transcriber’s Note: Baptism is not a sacrament that confers salvation. It is an ordinance that serves as a public statement that salvation has already taken place. Parents are to raise their children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. vi. 4).

II. Ye parents to children, see how, though against your wills, ye have propagated this wrath-deserving on your children unto your children; you are bound, both in honour and honesty, civility and Christianity, to pluck them out of this pit. 1. This you may do [p. 153] by embracing the speediest opportunity to fasten the sacrament of baptism upon them. 2. Let them not want good prayers, which if steeped in tears will grow the better, good precepts, good precedents, and show thy child in thyself what he should follow, in others what he should shun and avoid. 3. In the low countries, where their houses lie buried in the ground, the laying of the foundation is counted as much as the rest of the foundation; so half our badness lies secret and unseen, consisting in original corruption, whereof too few take notice. Witches, they say, say the Lord’s Prayer backward; but concupiscence, this witch in our soul, says all the commandments backward, and makes us cross in our practice what God commands in His precepts. Thus every day we sin, and sorrow after our sin, and sin after our sorrow. The wind of God’s Spirit bloweth us one way, and the tide of our corruption hurrieth us another. These things he that seeth not in himself is sottish, blind; he that seeth and confesseth not is damnably proud; he that confesseth and bewaileth not is desperately profane; he that bewaileth and fighteth not against it is unprofitably pensive; but he that in some weak manner doeth all these is a saint in reversion here, and shall be one in possession hereafter.—T. Fuller.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 4–9.

Salvation an Act of Divine Grace.

I. Springing from the benevolence of God (vers. 4, 7).—A good old saint once said, “There is nothing that affects me more profoundly, or more quickly melts my heart, than to reflect on the goodness of God. It is so vast, so deep, so amazing, so unlike and beyond the most perfect human disposition, that my soul is overwhelmed.” The apostle seems to have been similarly affected as he contemplated the Divine beneficence, as the phrases he here employs indicate. He calls it “the great love wherewith He loved us.” God is “rich in mercy”—in irrepressible, unmerited compassion (ver. 4). Language is too poor to express all he sees and feels, and he takes refuge in the ambiguous yet suggestive expression, “The exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Jesus Christ” (ver. 7)—hinting at the sublime benignity of the Divine nature longing to express itself through the noblest medium possible. By his rebellion and deliberate sin man had forfeited all claim to the Divine favour, and his restoration to that favour, impossible of attainment by any efforts of his own, was an act of sheer Divine goodness. Its spontaneity breaks in as a sweet surprise upon the sinning race. The most vicious and abandoned are included in its gracious provisions, and all men are taught that their salvation, if accomplished at all, must be as an act of free and undeserved grace.

II. Salvation has its life and fellowship in Christ (vers. 5, 6).—God has given us as unquestioned a resurrection from the death of sin as the body of Christ had from the grave, and the same Divine power achieved both the one and the other. The spiritual life of both Jew and Gentile has its origin in Christ, and the axe is thus laid to the very root of spiritual pride and all glorying in ourselves. We are raised by His resurrection power to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. This we do already by our spiritual fellowship with Him, and by anticipation we share the blessedness which we shall more fully enjoy by our union with Him in the heavenly world. The spiritual resurrection of the soul must precede and will be the inviolable guarantee of the future glorious resurrection of the body. As the great Head of the Church is already in the heavenlies, so ultimately all the members that make up the body shall be gathered there. We are already seated there in Him as our Head, which is the ground of our hope; and we shall be hereafter seated there by Him, as the conferring cause, when hope shall be [p. 154] swallowed up in fruition. Our life and fellowship in Christ are susceptible of indefinite expansion and enjoyment in the progressive evolutions of the future.

III. Faith, the instrument of salvation, is the gift of Divine grace (ver. 8).—The question whether faith or salvation is the gift of God is decided by the majority of critics in favour of the former. This agrees with the obvious argument of the apostle, that salvation is so absolutely an act of Divine grace that the power to realise it individually is also a free gift. Grace, without any respect to human worthiness, confers the glorious gift. Faith, with an empty hand and without any pretence to personal desert, receives the heavenly blessing. Without the grace or power to believe, no man ever did or can believe; but with that power the act of faith is a man’s own. God never believes for any man, no more than He repents for him. The penitent, through this grace enabling him, believes for himself; nor does he believe necessarily or impulsively when he has that power. The power to believe may be present long before it is exercised, else why the solemn warnings which we meet everywhere in the Word of God and threatenings against those who do not believe? This is the true state of the case: God gives the power, man uses the power thus given, and brings glory to God. Without the power no man can believe; with it any man may.

IV. Salvation, being unmeritorious, excludes all human boasting.—“Not of works, lest any man should boast” (ver. 9). Neither salvation nor the faith that brings it is the result of human ingenuity and effort. The grand moral results brought about by saving faith are so extraordinary, and so high above the plane of the loftiest and most gigantic human endeavours, that if man could produce them by his own unaided powers he would have cause indeed for the most extravagant boasting, and he would be in danger of generating a pride which in its uncontrollable excess would work for his irretrievable ruin. The least shadow of a ground for pride is however excluded. God protects both Himself and man by the freeness and simplicity of the offer of salvation. It is the complaint of intellectual pride that the reception of the Gospel is impossible because it demands a humiliation and self-emptying that degrade and shackle intellectual freedom. Such an objection is a libel on the Gospel. It humbles in order to exalt; it binds its claims upon us to lift us to a higher freedom. So completely is salvation a Divine act, that the man who refuses to accept it on God’s terms must perish. There is no other way.

V. The glory of Divine grace in salvation will be increasingly demonstrated in the future.—“That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of his grace” (ver. 7). The most valuable function of history is not that which deals with the rise and fall of empires, the brutal ravages of war, the biographies of kings, statesmen, and philosophers, but that which treats upon the social and moral condition of the people and the influence of religion in the development of individual and national character. The true history of the world is the history of God’s dealings with it. The ages of the past have been a revelation of God; the ages to come will be an enlargement of that revelation, and its most conspicuous feature will be an ever-new development of the riches of Divine grace in the redemption of the human race. In all successive ages of the world we are authorised to declare that sinners shall be saved only as they repent of their sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Lessons.Salvation—1. Is a revelation of what God does for man. 2. Is absolutely necessary for each. 3. Should be earnestly sought by all.

 

GERM NOTES OF THE VERSES.

Vers. 4–7. The Great Change effected in Man by the Gospel.

I. The happy change which the Gospel made in the Ephesians.—A [p. 155] change not peculiar to them, but common to all sincere believers.

1. God hath quickened us.—Made us alive with Christ. (1) True Christians are alive; they have spiritual senses and appetites. (2) Spiritual motions. (3) Spiritual pleasures. (4) Spiritual powers. The spiritual life comes through Christ and is conformed to Him.

2. God hath raised us up together with Christ (ver. 6).—His resurrection is a proof and pattern of that of believers.

3. God hath made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ.—His entrance into heaven is a proof of the final salvation of believers. He sits there for them, to take care of their interests, and in due time will bring them to sit where He is.

II. Contemplate the mercy of God in this great change.—“God, who is rich in mercy” (ver. 4). The mercies of God are rich in extent, in number, in respect of constancy, in variety, in value. “The great love wherewith He loved us.” He first loved us. His love shines brighter when we consider what a being He is. He is infinitely above us. He is self-sufficient. The Gospel gives us the most exalted conceptions of God’s character.

III. The general purpose of God’s particular mercy to the Ephesians (ver. 7).—God’s mercy in reclaiming one transgressor may operate to the salvation of thousands in ages to come. The Gospel dispensation was intended to serve some useful purposes among other intelligences. Not only God’s gracious dispensation to fallen men, but also His righteous severity toward irreclaimable offenders, is designed for extensive beneficial influence.—Lathrop.

Vers. 4, 5. The State of Grace.

1. Salvation originates in the love of God.

2. That it consists in emancipation from evil.—“Quickened us together with Christ;” that is, gave life. The love and mercy of God were shown in this—not that He saved from penalty, but from sin. What we want is life, more life, spiritual life, to know in all things the truth of God, and to speak it, to feel in all things the will of God and do it.

3. The next word to explain is grace.—It stands opposed to nature and to law. Whenever nature means the dominion of our lower appetites, then nature stands opposed to grace. Grace stands opposed to law. All that law can do is to manifest sin, just as the dam thrown across the river shows its strength; law can arrest sometimes the commission of sin, but never the inward principle. Therefore, God has provided another remedy, “Sin shall not have dominion over you,” because ye are under grace.

4. Paul states salvation here as a fact.—“By grace ye are saved.” There are two systems. The one begins with nature, the other with grace: the one treats all Christians as if they were the children of the devil, and tells them that they may perhaps become the children of God; the other declares that the incarnation of Christ is a fact, a universal fact, proclaiming that all the world are called to be the children of the Most High. Let us believe in grace instead of beginning with nature.—F. W. Robertson.

Vers. 4–6. The Believer exalted together with Jesus Christ.

I. The believer is assured he is raised up with Christ by the proofs which assure him of the exaltation of Christ.—These proofs, irresistible as they are, do not produce impressions so lively as they ought. 1. From the abuse of a distinction between mathematical evidence and moral evidence. 2. Because the mind is under the influence of a prejudice, unworthy of a real philosopher, that moral evidence changes its nature according to the nature of the things to which it is applied. 3. Because the necessary discrimination has not been employed in the selection of those proofs on which some have pretended to establish it. 4. Because we are too deeply affected [p. 156] by our inability to resolve certain questions which the enemies of religion are accustomed to put on some circumstances relative to that event. 5. Because we suffer ourselves to be intimidated more than we ought by the comparison instituted between them and certain popular rumours which have no better support than the caprice of the persons who propagate them. 6. Because they are not sufficiently known.

II. The means supplied to satisfy the believer that he is fulfilling the conditions under which he may promise himself that he shall become a partaker of Christ’s exaltation.—Though this knowledge be difficult, it is by no means impossible of attainment. He employs two methods principally to arrive at it: 1. He studies his own heart; 2. He shrinks not from the inspection of the eyes of others.

III. The believer is raised up with Christ by the foretastes which he enjoys on earth of his participation in the exaltation of Christ.—This experience is realised by the believer. 1. When shutting the door of his closet and excluding the world from his heart, he is admitted to communion and fellowship with Deity in retirement and silence. 2. When Providence calls him to undergo some severe trial. 3. When he has been enabled to make some noble and generous sacrifice. 4. When celebrating the sacred mysteries of redeeming love. 5. Finally, in the hour of conflict with the king of terrors.—Saurin.

Ver. 5. Justification by Faith.

I. We hold that we are justified by faith, that is, by believing, and that unless we are justified we cannot be saved. Of all men whoever believed this, those who gave us the Church catechism believed it most strongly. Believing really what they taught, they believed that children were justified. For if a child is not justified in being a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven, what is he justified in being? They knew that the children could only keep in this just, right, and proper state by trusting in God and looking up to Him daily in faith and love and obedience.

II. These old reformers were practical men and took the practical way.—They knew the old proverb, “A man need not be a builder to live in a house.” At least they acted on it; and instead of trying to make the children understand what faith was made up of, they tried to make them live in faith itself. Instead of puzzling and fretting the children’s minds with any of the controversies then going on between Papists and Protestants, or afterwards between Calvinists and Arminians, they taught the children simply about God, who He was, and what He had done for them and all mankind, that so they might learn to love Him, look up to Him in faith, and trust utterly to Him, and so remain justified and right, saved and safe for ever. By doing which they showed that they knew more about faith and about God than if they had written books on books of doctrinal arguments.

III. The Church catechism, where it is really and honestly taught, gives the children an honest, frank, sober, English temper of mind which no other training I have seen gives.—I warn you frankly that if you expect to make the average of English children good children on any other ground than the Church catechism takes, you will fail. If it be not enough for your children to know all the articles of the Apostles’ Creed, and on the strength thereof to trust God utterly and so be justified and saved, then they must go elsewhere, for I have nothing more to offer them, and trust in God that I never shall have.—C. Kingsley.

Ver. 8. Salvation by Faith.

I. What faith it is through which we are saved.—1. It is not barely the faith of a heathen. 2. Nor is it the faith of a devil, though this goes much further than that of a heathen. 3. It is not barely that the apostles had [p. 157] while Christ was yet upon earth. 4. In general it is faith in Christ: Christ and God through Christ are the proper objects of it. 5. It is not only an assent to the whole Gospel of Christ, but also a full reliance on the blood of Christ, a trust in the merits of His life, death, and resurrection, a recumbency upon Him as our atonement and our life, as given for us and living in us, and in consequence hereof, a closing with Him and cleaving to Him as our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, or, in one word, our salvation.

II. What is the salvation which is through faith?—1. It is a present salvation. 2. A salvation from sin. 3. From the guilt of all past sin. 4. From fear. 5. From the power of sin. 6. A salvation often expressed in the word “justification,” which taken in the largest sense implies a deliverance from guilt and punishment by the atonement of Christ actually applied to the soul of the sinner now believing on Him, and a deliverance from the power of sin, through Christ formed in his heart.

III. The importance of the doctrine.—Never was the maintaining this doctrine more seasonable than it is at this day. Nothing but this can effectually prevent the increase of the Romish delusion among us. It is endless to attack one by one all the errors of that Church. But salvation by faith strikes at the root, and all fall at once where this is established.—Wesley.

Vers. 8, 9. Our Salvation is of Grace.

I. Consider how we are saved through faith.—1. Without faith we cannot be saved. 2. All who have faith will be saved.

II. What place and influence works have in our salvation.—1. In what sense our salvation is not of works. (1) We are not saved by works considered as a fulfilment of the original law of nature. (2) We are not saved by virtue of any works done before faith in Christ, for none of these are properly good. 2. There is a sense in which good works are of absolute necessity to salvation. (1) They are necessary as being radically included in that faith by which we are saved. (2) A temper disposing us to good works is a necessary qualification for heaven. (3) Works are necessary as evidences of our faith in Christ and of our title to heaven. (4) Good works essentially belong to religion. (5) Works are necessary to adorn our professions and honour our religion before men. (6) By them we are to be judged in the great day of the Lord.

III. The necessity of works does not diminish the grace of God in our salvation nor afford us any pretence for boasting.—1. Humility essentially belongs to the Christian temper. 2. The mighty preparation God has made for our recovery teaches that the human race is of great importance in the scale of rational beings and in the scheme of God’s universal government. 3. It infinitely concerns us to comply with the proposals of the Gospel. 4. Let no man flatter himself that he is in a state of salvation as long as he lives in the neglect of good works. 5. Let us be careful that we mistake not the nature of good works.—Lathrop.

Ver. 8. True Justifying Faith is not of Ourselves.—It is through grace that we believe in the grace of God. God’s grace and love, the source; faith, the instrument; both His gift. The origin of our coming to Christ is of God. Justifying faith, not human assent, but a powerful, vivifying thing which immediately works a change in the man and makes him a new creature and leads him to an entirely new and altered mode of life and conduct. Hence justifying faith is a Divine work.

 

[p. 158] MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verse 10.

The Christian Life a Divine Creation.

I. The true Christian a specimen of the Divine handiwork.—“We are His workmanship.” So far is man from being the author of his own salvation, or from procuring salvation for the sake of any works of his own, that not only was his first creation as a man the work of God, but his new spiritual creation is wholly the result of Divine power. Man, in the marvellous mechanism of his body, and in his unique mental and spiritual endowments, is the noblest work of God. He is the lord and high priest of nature and has such dominion over it as to be able to combine and utilise its forces. But the creation of the new spiritual man in Christ Jesus is a far grander work, and a more perfect and exalted specimen of the Divine handiwork. It is a nearer approach to a more perfect image of the Divine character and perfections. As the best work of the most gifted genius is a reflection of his loftiest powers, so the new spiritual creation is a fuller revelation of the infinite resources of the Divine Worker.

II. The Christian life is eminently practical.—“Created in Christ Jesus for good works” (R.V.). The apostle never calls the works of the law good works. We are not saved by, but created unto, good works. Works do not justify, but the justified man works, and thus demonstrates the reality of his new creation. “I should have thought mowers very idle people,” said John Newton, “but they work while they whet the scythe. Now devotedness to God, whether it mows or whets the scythe, still goes on with the work. A Christian should never plead spirituality for being a sloven; if he be but a shoe-cleaner, he should be the best in the parish.”

III. The opportunities and motives for Christian usefulness are Divinely provided.—“Which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Every man has his daily work of body or mind appointed him. There is not a moment without a duty. Each one has a vineyard; let him see that he till it, and not say, “No man hath hired us.” “The situation,” says Carlyle, “that has not its duty, its ideal, was never yet occupied by man. Yes, here in this poor, miserable, hampered, despicable Actual wherein thou even now standest, here or nowhere is thy ideal. Work it out therefrom, and working, believe, live, and be free.” There is no romance in a minister’s proposing and hoping to forward a great moral revolution on the earth, for the religion he is appointed to preach was intended and is adapted to work deeply and widely and to change the face of society. Christianity was not ushered into the world with such a stupendous preparation, it was not foreshown through so many ages by enraptured prophets, it was not proclaimed so joyfully through the songs of angels, it was not preached by such holy lips and sealed by such precious blood, to be only a pageant, a form, a sound, a show. Oh no! It has come from heaven, with heaven’s life and power—come to make all things new, to make the wilderness glad, and the desert blossom as the rose, to break the stony heart, to set free the guilt-burdened and earth-bound spirit, and to present it faultless before God’s glory with exceeding joy.

Lessons.—1. Christianity is not a creed, but a life. 2. The Christian life has a manifest Divine origin. 3. The Christian life must be practically developed in harmony with the Divine mind.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSE.

Ver. 10. Interruptions in our Work, and the Way to deal with Them.—In proportion to the seriousness with which a Christian does his work will be his sensitiveness to interruptions, and this sensitiveness is apt to disturb [p. 159] his peace. The remedy is a closer study of the mind that was in Christ, as that mind transpires in His recorded conduct. The point in the life of our Lord is the apparent want of what may be called method or plan. His good works were not in pursuance of some scheme laid down by Himself, but such as entered into God’s scheme for Him, such as the Father had prepared for Him to walk in.

I. Notice His discourses both in their occasions and their contexture.—1. His discourses often take their rise from some object which is thrown across His path in nature, from some occurrence which takes place under His eyes, or from some question which is put to Him. 2. The contexture of His discourses are not systematic in the usual sense of the word. There is the intellectual method, and the method of a full mind and loving heart. The only plan observable in our Lord’s discourses is that of a loving heart pouring itself out as occasion serves for the edification of mankind.

II. Study the life of Christ.—The absence of mere human plan, or rather strict faithfulness to the plan of God as hourly developed by the movements of His providence, characterises the life of our Lord even more than His discourses. Illustrated from Matthew ix. God has a plan of life for each one of us, and occasions of doing or receiving good are mapped out for each in His eternal counsels. Little incidents, as well as great crises of life, are under the control of God’s providence. Events have a voice for us if we will listen to it. Let us view our interruptions as part of God’s plan for us. We may receive good, even when we cannot do good. It is self-will which weds us to our own plans and makes us resent interference with them. In the providence of God there seems to be entanglements, perplexities, interruptions, confusions, contradictions, without end; but you may be sure there is one ruling thought, one master-design, to which all these are subordinate. Be not clamorous for another or more dignified character than that which is allotted to you. Be it your sole aim to conspire with the Author, and to subserve His grand and wise conception. Thus shall you find peace in submitting yourself to the wisdom which is of God.—E. M. Goulburn.

The New Spiritual Creation.—God has kindled in us a new spiritual life by baptism and the influence of the Holy Spirit connected therewith. He has laid the foundation of recreating us into His image. He has made us other men in a far more essential sense than it was once said to Saul—“Thou shalt be turned into another man.” What is the principal fruit and end of this new creation? A living hope. Its object is not only our future resurrection, but the whole plenitude of the salvation still to be revealed by Jesus Christ, even until the new heavens and the new earth shall appear. Birth implies life; so is it with the hope of believers, which is the very opposite of the vain, lost, and powerless hope of the worldly-minded. It is powerful, and quickens the heart by comforting, strengthening, and encouraging it, by making it joyous and cheerful in God. Its quickening influence enters even into our physical life. Hope is not only the fulfilment of the new life created in regeneration, but also the innermost kernel of the same.—Weiss.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 11, 12.

The Forlorn State of the Gentile World.

I. Outcast.—“Gentiles, . . . called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision” (ver. 11). The circumcised Jew regarded himself as a special favourite of Heaven, and superior to all other men. He hardly felt himself a member of the human family. He was accustomed to speak of himself as chosen of God, and as holy and clean; whilst the Gentiles were treated as sinners, dogs, [p. 160] polluted, unclean, outcast, and God-abandoned. Between Jew and Gentile there was constant hatred and antagonism, as there is now between the Church and the world. On the one hand, the old religion, with its time-honoured teachings, its ancient traditions, the Church of the Fathers, the guardian of revelation, the depositary of the faith, the staunchness that tends to degenerate into bigotry—here is the Jew. On the other hand, the intellectual searchings, the political aspirations and mechanical contrivings—science, art, literature, commerce, sociology, the liberty which threatens to luxuriate into licence—here is the Gentile. Ever and again the old feud breaks out. Ever and again there is a crack and a rent. The gulf widens, and disruption is threatened. The majority is outside the circle of the Church.

II. Christless.—“That at that time ye were without Christ.” The promises of a coming Deliverer were made to the Jews, and they were slow to see that any other people had any right to the blessings of the Messiah, or that it was their duty to instruct the world concerning Him. They drew a hard line between the sons of Abraham and the dogs of Greeks. They erected a middle wall of partition, thrusting out the Gentile into the outer court. Christ has broken down the barrier. On the area thus cleared He has erected a larger, loftier, holier temple, a universal brotherhood which acknowledges no preferences and knows no distinctions. In Christ Jesus now there is neither Jew nor Greek, but Christ is all and in all—a vivid contrast to the Christlessness of a former age.

III. Hopeless.—“Being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope” (ver. 12). Where there is no promise there is no hope. Cut off from any knowledge of the promises revealed to the Jews, the Gentiles were sinking into despair.

IV. Godless.—“Without God in the world.” With numberless deities the Gentiles had no God. They had everything else, but this one thing they lacked—knowledge of God their Father; and without this all their magnificent gifts could not satisfy, could not save, them. Culture and civilisation, arts and commerce, institutions and laws, no nation can afford to undervalue these; but not only do all these things soon fade, but the people themselves fall into corruption and decay, if the Breath of Life is wanting. As with nations, so is it with individuals. Man cannot with impunity ignore or deny the Father of earth and heaven.

Lessons.—1. Man left to himself inevitably degenerates. 2. When man abandons God his case is desperate. 3. The rescue of man from utter ruin is an act of Divine mercy.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 11, 12. The Condition of the Ephesians before their Conversion descriptive of the State of Sinners under the Gospel.

I. They were in time past Gentiles in the flesh.—He admonishes them not to forget the dismal state of heathenism out of which they had been called, and often to reflect upon it, that they might ever maintain a sense of their unworthiness and awaken thankful and admiring apprehensions of that grace which had wrought in them so glorious a change.

II. Reminds them of the contempt with which they had been treated by the Jews.—The Jews, instead of improving the distinction of their circumcision to gratitude and obedience, perverted it to pride, self-confidence, and contempt of mankind. They not only excluded other nations from the benefit of religious communion, but even denied them the common offices of humanity. One of their greatest objections to the Gospel was that it offered salvation to the Gentiles.

III. They were without Christ.—To [p. 161] the Jews were chiefly confined the discoveries which God made of a Saviour to come. From them in their captivities and dispersions the Gentiles obtained the knowledge they had of this glorious Person. This knowledge was imperfect, mixed with error and uncertainty, and at best extended only to a few. The Gentiles, contemplating the Messiah as a temporal prince, regarded His appearing as a calamity rather than a blessing.

IV. They were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.—To the forms of worship instituted in the Mosaic law none was admitted but Jews and such as were proselyted to the Jewish religion. All uncircumcised heathens were excluded as aliens.

V. They were strangers from the covenants of promise.—The discovery of the covenants of promise until the Saviour came was almost wholly confined to the Jews. How unhappy was the condition of the Gentile world in the dark, benighted ages which preceded the Gospel!

VI. They had no clear hope of a future existence.—Many of them scarcely believed or thought of a life beyond this. They had no apprehension, hardly the idea of a restoration of the body. Those who believed in a future state had but obscure and some of them very absurd conceptions of it. Still more ignorant were they of the qualifications necessary for happiness after death.

VII. They were atheists in a world in which God was manifest.—The heathens generally had some apprehension of a Deity; but they were without a knowledge of the one true God and without a just idea of His character. There are more atheists in the world than profess themselves such. Many who profess to know God in works deny Him.—Lathrop.

Ver. 12. Hopeless and Godless.—The soul that has no God has no hope. The character of the God we love and worship will determine the character of our hope. 1. The heathen religion was the seeking religion. Their search arose out of a deeply felt want. They felt the need of something they did not possess; and the finest intellects the world has ever known bravely and anxiously devoted all their colossal powers to the task of fathoming the mysteries of life. The hope of discovery buoyed them up and urged them onwards; but their united endeavours brought them only to the borderland of the unseen and the unknown, where they caught but glimmerings of a truth that ever receded into the great beyond. “The world by wisdom knew not God,” and therefore had no hope. 2. The Hebrew religion was the hoping religion. Favoured with a revelation of the only true God, their hope expanded with every advancing step of the progressive revelation. Their hope was based on faith, as all true hope must be—faith in the promises of God. They had the promise of a Deliverer whose wisdom should excel that of Moses and Solomon, and whose power should surpass that of Joshua and of his heroic successors in the most brilliant period of their military career; and, through the centuries of prosperity and decline, of scattering and captivity, and amid unparalleled sufferings which would have extinguished any other nation, hope fastened and fed upon the promises till the true Messiah came, whom St. Paul justly described as “the Hope of Israel, the Hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers.” 3. The Christian religion is the complement and perfection of all previously existing systems; it is the grand realisation of what the heathen sought, and the Hebrew hoped for. It is in Jesus we have the clearest, fullest, and most authoritative revelation of God, and it is in Him, and in Him alone, that the loftiest hope of man finds its restful and all-sufficient realisation. The apostle Paul refers to Jesus specifically as our Hope—“Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is our Hope” (1 Tim. i. 1). 4. In the light of this great and indubitable truth the [p. 162] words of our text may be clearly and unmistakably interpreted, and they assume a terrible significance. To be without Christ is to be without God and without hope. (1) Hope is not simply expectation. We expect many things we do not hope for. In the natural course of things we expect difficulties, we expect opposition and misrepresentation—“black wounding calumny the whitest virtue strikes”—we expect infirmities and disabilities of age; but we are none of us so fond of trouble for trouble’s sake as to hope for any of these things. (2) Hope is not simply desire. Our desires are as thick and plentiful as apple blossoms, few of which ever ripen into the fruit they promise. We desire uninterrupted health, we desire wealth—the most dangerous and disappointing of all human wishes—we desire pleasure, success in life, and the realisation of the most ambitious dreams; but we have no reasonable ground for hoping that all our desires will ever be attained. (3) Hope is the expectation of the desirable, and it must have a foundation on which the expectation rests and an object to which the desire can rise. The foundation of hope is Christ, and the object of hope is to live with Him in eternal glory. To be without hope and without God does not mean that hope and God do not exist. The world is full of both; they are among you, they surround you, the very air vibrates with the ever-active presence of these grand realities; but they are as though they did not exist for you unless you know and feel they do exist within you. (4) Hope presupposes faith; they cannot exist apart. Faith discovers “the only foundation which is laid, which is Christ Jesus,” fastens the soul to and settles it on this foundation, and faith and hope rouse all the activities of the soul to build on this foundation a superstructure which shall grow in solidity, in symmetry, and in beauty, until it becomes a perfect marvel of moral architecture, richly ornamented with the most delicate tracery and shimmering and flashing with the resplendent glory of God. (5) Hope is the balloon of the soul, soaring majestically into the heavens, scanning scenes of beauty and grandeur never beheld by our earth-bound senses, and faithfully reporting to the soul the state of affairs in the skies; but it is a captive balloon, and the connecting cords are firmly held in the hand of faith. The loftiest flights and the swing of what might seem the most eccentric gyrations of hope are held in check by the friendly, the sympathetic, but unswerving grasp of faith. “My dear Hope,” Faith says, “it is very nice for you to be up there, basking in the cloudless sunshine and drinking in the melody of the ascending lark as it ripples up the heights; and I like you to be there. I could never get there myself; and you tell me of things I should never otherwise know, and they do me good. But, remember, I cannot let you go. We are linked together in the sacred bonds of a holy wedlock. We are necessary to each other and cannot do without each other. If you were to break away from me, you would vanish like vapour into space, and I should be left forlorn and powerless.” And Hope replies: “I know it, my dear Faith. Divorce would be fatal to us both, and our union is too sweet and precious ever to dream of separation. I live in these upper regions purely for your sake. You know I have cheered you up many a time and will do so again. My joy is to brighten your life of toil and conflict down there. When the soul has done with you it will have done with me, and when my work is finished I shall be content to die.” Thus, faith and hope are essentially united, and both are wedded together by the soul’s living union with Christ. (6) A false hope is really no hope. It rests on no solid foundation; it is not justified by sound reason. It is but the blue light of a frantic conjecture generated amid the restless tumults of a soul in the last stages of despair. At the best a [p. 163] false hope is but a beautiful dream spun from the gossamer threads of a busy and excited fancy, a dream of what we wish might be, and, like all other dreams having no substantial basis, it dissolves into space under the first touch of reality. A false hope lures its victims on to destruction, as the flickering lights of the marsh gases seduce the belated traveller into the dismal swamps from which there is no release.

A State of Sin a State of Ungodliness.—1. Men do not recognise the existence of God. 2. They do not acknowledge His moral government. 3. They do not seek His favour as their chief good. 4. They do not delight in His communion. 5. They do not anticipate their final reckoning with Him. 6. They do not accept His own disclosures concerning the attributes of His nature and the principles of His administration.—G. Brooks.

Man without God.—He is like a ship tossed about on a stormy sea without chart or compass. The ship drifts as the waves carry it. The night is dark. The pilot knows not which way to steer. He may be close to rocks and quicksands. Perhaps a flash of lightning falls on a rock, or he hears the waves breaking over it. But how shall he escape, or how prepare to meet the danger? Shall he trust in providence? What providence has he to trust in? Poor man! He is without God. Shall he throw out an anchor? But he has no anchor. He wants the best and only safe anchor, hope—the anchor of the soul. Such is the state of man when he is far off, without a God to trust in, without hope to comfort and support him. But give the man a true and lively faith in Christ, tell him of a merciful and loving Father who careth for us and would have us cast all our care upon Him, show him that hope which is firm to the end, and straightway you make a happy man of him. You give him a course to steer, a chart and compass to guide him, an anchor which will enable him to withstand the buffeting of every storm. You insure him against shipwreck, and you assure him of a blessed haven where at length he will arrive and be at rest.—A. W. Hare.

Practical Atheism.—If it had been without friends, without shelter, without food, that would have made a gloomy sound; but without God! That there should be men who can survey the creation with a scientific enlargement of intelligence and then say there is no God is one of the most hideous phenomena in the world.

I. The text is applicable to those who have no solemn recognition of God’s all-disposing government and providence—who have no thought of the course of things but just as going on, going on some way or other, just as it can be; to whom it appears abandoned to a strife and competition of various mortal powers, or surrendered to something they call general laws, and these blended with chance.

II. Is a description of all those who are forming or pursuing their scheme of life and happiness independent of Him.—They do not consult His counsel or will as to what that scheme should be in its ends or means. His favour, His blessing are not absolutely indispensable. We can be happy leaving Him out of the account.

III. Is a description of those who have but a slight sense of universal accountableness to God as the supreme authority—who have not a conscience constantly looking and listening to Him and testifying for Him. This insensibility of accountableness exists almost entire—a stupefaction of conscience—in very many minds. In others there is a disturbed yet inefficacious feeling. To be thus with God is in the most emphatical sense to be without Him—without Him as a friend, approver, and patron. Each thought of Him tells the soul who it is that it is without, and who it is that in a very fearful sense it never can be without.

[p. 164] IV. The description belongs to that state of mind in which there is no communion with Him maintained or even sought with cordial aspiration. How lamentable to be thus without God! Consider it in one single view only, that of the loneliness of a human soul in this destitution.

V. A description of the state of mind in which there is no habitual anticipation of the great event of going at length into the presence of God; in which there is an absence of the thought of being with Him in another world, of being with Him in judgment, and whether to be with Him for ever.

VI. A description of those who, professing to retain God in their thoughts, frame the religion in which they are to acknowledge Him according to their own speculation and fancy.—Will the Almighty acknowledge your feigned God for Himself, and admit your religion as equivalent to that which He has declared and defined? If He should not, you are without God in the world. Let us implore Him not to permit our spirits to be detached from Him, abandoned, exposed, and lost; not to let them be trying to feed their immortal fires on transitory sustenance, but to attract them, exalt them, and hold them in His communion for ever.—John Foster.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 13–18.

Christ the Great Peacemaker.

I. His mission on earth was one of peace.—“And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh” (ver. 17). His advent was heralded by the angelic song, “Peace on earth, and goodwill toward men.” The world is racked with moral discord; He is constantly striving to introduce the music of a heavenly harmony. It is distracted with war; He is propagating principles that will by-and-by make war impossible. The work of the peacemaker is Christ-like. Shenkyn, one of whose anomalies was that with all his burning passions he was a notorious peacemaker, and had means of pouring oil upon troubled waters, once upon a time was deputed to try his well-known skill upon a Church whose strife of tongues had become quite notorious. He reluctantly complied and attended a meeting which soon proved to his satisfaction that the people were possessed by a demon that could not easily be expelled. The peacemaker got up, staff in hand, paced the little chapel, and with his spirit deeply moved, cried out, “Lord, is this Thy spouse?” Faster and faster he walked, thumping his huge stick on the floor, and still crying out, “Lord, is this Thy spouse? Slay her!” Then there came, as it were from another, a response, “No, I will not.” “Sell her, then!” “No, I will not.” “Deny her, then!” Still the answer came, “I will not.” Then he lifted up his voice, saying, “I have bought her with My precious blood; how can I give her up? How can I forsake her?” The strife had now ceased, and the people looked on with amazement, crying out for pardon.

II. He made peace between man and man.—“For He is our peace, who hath made both one; . . . to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace” (vers. 14, 15). The hostility of Jew and Gentile was conquered; the new spiritual nature created in both formed a bond of brotherhood and harmony. The Jew no longer despised the Gentile; the Gentile no longer hated and persecuted the Jew. Where the Christian spirit predominates personal quarrels are speedily adjusted.

III. He made peace between man and God.—“That He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross” (ver. 16). The enmity of man against God is disarmed and conquered by the voluntary suffering of Jesus in man’s stead, and by Him thus opening up the way of reconciliation of man with God. God [p. 165] can now be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. The violated law is now atoned for, and the violator may obtain forgiveness and regain the forfeited favour of the offended God. There is peace only through forgiveness.

IV. His death removed the great barrier to peace.—This paragraph is very rich and suggestive in the phrases used to explain this blessed result: “Ye are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (ver. 13). “By the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (ver. 16). “Hath broken down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in His flesh the enmity” (vers. 14, 15). It is not the calm, silent, featureless, helpless, forceless, peace of death, but a living, active, aggressive, ever-conquering peace. The death was the result of agonising struggle and intense suffering, and the peace purchased is a powerfully operating influence in the believing soul.

“A peace is of the nature of a conquest;
 For then both parties nobly are subdued,
 And neither party loser.”—Shakespeare.

V. True peace is realised only in Christ.—“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (ver. 13). “For He is our peace” (ver. 14). “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (ver. 18). “Christ takes us by the hand, and leads us to the Father.” Men seek peace in the excitements of worldly pleasures, or in the pursuit of ambitious aims, but in vain. They only stimulate the malady they seek to cure. Christ is the restful centre of the universe, and the sin-tossed soul gains peace only as it converges towards Him. The efforts of men to find rest independent of Christ only reveal their need of Him, and it is a mercy when this revelation and consciousness of need does not come too late.

Lessons.—1. Sin is the instigator of quarrels and strife. 2. Only as sin is conquered does peace become possible. 3. Christ introduces peace by abolishing sin.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 13–18. Nearness to God.

  1. They were brought into the Church of God and admitted to equal privileges with His ancient people the Jews.
  2. They were brought near to God as they were admitted to enjoy the Gospel, which is a dispensation of grace and peace.
  3. They were brought near to God by the renovation of their souls after His image.
  4. This nearness to God implies a state of peace with Him.
  5. Another circumstance of the nearness is access to God in prayer.
  6. Another is the presence of His Holy Spirit.—Let us be afraid of everything that tends to draw us away from God, and love everything which brings us nearer to Him. Let us seek Him with our whole heart, persevere daily communion with Him, choose His favour as our happiness, His service as our employment, His Word as our guide, His ordinances as our refreshment, His house as the gate of heaven, and heaven as our eternal home.—Lathrop.

Ver. 13. Our State by Nature and by Grace.

I. Our state by nature.—The distance from God here spoken of is not a local distance, neither is it that which separates us from Him as an infinite Being. 1. It is legal. Banished by a righteous sentence and by a sense of guilt and unworthiness. 2. It is moral. Estrangement. Absence of sympathy. Want of harmony. 3. In both these respects it is ever-widening. 4. It is miserable and dangerous.

II. Our state by grace.—1. The legal barriers are removed by the [p. 166] blood of Christ shed on the cross. 2. The moral alienation is removed by the blood of Christ as applied to the believer by the Holy Spirit. 3. The nearness to God thus effected is a valuable privilege. It includes reconciliation, friendship, communion. Sinner, apply now to be made nigh. Believer, remember thy obligations.—G. Brooks.

Vers. 14, 15. Death a Peacemaker.—The struggle between the Northern and Southern States of America closed for ever at the funeral of General Grant. The armies of rebellion surrendered twenty years before; but the solemn and memorable pageant at the tomb of the great Union soldier, where the leading generals of the living Union and of the dead Confederacy stood shoulder to shoulder and mingled their tears in a common grief—this historical event marked the absolute conclusion of sectional animosity in America.

Ver. 16. The Power of the Gospel to dissolve the Enmity of the Human Heart against God.—1. The goodness of God destroys the enmity of the human mind. When every other argument fails, this, if perceived by the eye of faith, finds its powerful and persuasive way through every barrier of resistance. Try to approach the heart of man by the instruments of terror and of authority, and it will disdainfully repel you. There is not one of you skilled in the management of human nature who does not perceive that, though this may be a way of working on the other principles of our constitution—of working on the fears of man, or on his sense of interest—this is not the way of gaining by a single hair-breadth on the attachments of his heart. Such a way may force, or it may terrify, but it never, never can endear; and after all the threatening array of such an influence as this is brought to bear upon man, there is not one particle of service it can extort from him but what is all rendered in the spirit of a painful and reluctant bondage. Now this is not the service which prepares for heaven. This is not the service which assimilates men to angels. This is not the obedience of those glorified spirits, whose every affection harmonises with their every performance, and the very essence of whose piety consists of delight in God and the love they bear to Him. To bring up man to such an obedience as this, his heart behoved to be approached in a particular way; and no such way is to be found but within the limits of the Christian revelation. There alone you see God, without injury to His other attributes, plying the heart of man with the irresistible argument of kindness. There alone do you see the great Lord of heaven and of earth, setting Himself forth to the most worthless and the most wandering of His children—putting forth His hand to the work of healing the breach which sin had made between them—telling them that His Word could not be mocked, and his justice could not be defied and trampled on, and that it was not possible for His perfections to receive the slightest taint in the eyes of the creation He had thrown around them; but that all this was provided for, and not a single creature within the compass of the universe He has formed could now say that forgiveness to man was degrading to the authority of God, and that by the very act of atonement, which poured a glory over all the high attributes of His character, His mercy might now burst forth without limit and without control upon a guilty world, and the broad flag of invitation be unfurled in the sight of all its families. 2. Let the sinner, then, look to God through the medium of such a revelation, and the sight which meets him there may well tame the obstinacy of that heart which had wrapped itself up in impenetrable hardness against the force of every other consideration. Now that the storm of the Almighty’s wrath has been discharged upon Him [p. 167] who bore the burden of the world’s atonement, He has turned His throne of glory into a throne of grace and cleared away from the pavilion of His residence all the darkness which encompassed it. The God who dwelleth there is God in Christ; and the voice He sends from it to this dark and rebellious province of His mighty empire is a voice of the most beseeching tenderness. Goodwill to men is the announcement with which His messengers come fraught to a guilty world; and, since the moment in which it burst upon mortal ears from the peaceful canopy of heaven, may the ministers of salvation take it up, and go round with it among all the tribes and individuals of the species. Such is the real aspect of God towards you. He cannot bear that His alienated children should be finally and everlastingly away from Him. He feels for you all the longing of a parent bereaved of his offspring. To woo you back again unto Himself He scatters among you the largest and the most liberal assurances, and with a tone of imploring tenderness does He say to one and all of you, “Turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die?” (Ezek. xxxiii. 11). He has no pleasure in your death. He does not wish to glorify Himself by the destruction of any one of you. “Look to Me, all ye ends of the earth, and be saved” (Isa. xlv. 22), is the wide and generous announcement by which He would recall, from the outermost limits of His sinful creation, the most worthless and polluted of those who have wandered away from Him. 3. Now give us a man who perceives, with the eye of his mind, the reality of all this, and you give us a man in possession of the principle of faith. Give us a man in possession of this faith; and his heart, shielded as it were against the terrors of a menacing Deity, is softened and subdued, and resigns its every affection at the moving spectacle of a beseeching Deity; and thus it is, that faith manifests the attribute which the Bible assigns to it, of working by love. Give us a man in possession of this love; and, animated as he is with the living principle of that obedience, where the willing and delighted consent of the inner man goes along with the performance of the outer man, his love manifests the attribute which the Bible assigns to it when it says, “This is the love of God, that ye keep His commandments.” And thus it is, amid the fruitfulness of every other expedient, when power threatened to crush the heart which it could not soften—when authority lifted its voice, and laid on man an enactment of love which it could not carry—when terror shot its arrows, and they dropped ineffectual from that citadel of the human affections, which stood proof against the impression of every one of them—when wrath mustered up its appalling severities, and filled that bosom with despair which it could not fill with the warmth of a confiding attachment—then the kindness of an inviting God was brought to bear on the heart of man, and got an opening through all its mysterious avenues. Goodness did what the nakedness of power could not do. It found its way through all intricacies of the human constitution, and there, depositing the right principle of repentance, did it establish the alone effectual security for the right purposes and the right fruits of repentance.—Dr. T. Chalmers.

Ver. 18. The Privilege of Access to the Father.—In the Temple service of the Jews all did not enjoy equal privileges. The court of the Gentiles was outside that of the Jews and separated from it by “a marble screen or enclosure three cubits in height, beautifully ornamented with carving, but bearing inscriptions, in Greek and Roman characters, forbidding any Gentile to pass within its boundary.” Such restricted access to God the new dispensation was designed to abolish. The middle wall of partition is now broken down, and through Christ we, both Jews and Gentiles—all mankind—have equal access by one Spirit unto the Father. Observe:—

[p. 168] I. The privilege of access unto the Father.—That God is the proper object of worship is implied in our text, and more explicitly declared in other portions of the sacred writings. According to the nature of the blessings desired, prayer may be addressed to any of the three Persons in the Godhead; but the Bible teaches that prayer generally is to be presented to the Father through Christ and by the Holy Spirit. And so appropriate are the offices of the Persons in the Trinity that we cannot speak otherwise. We cannot say that through the Spirit and by the Father we have access to Christ, or through the Father and by Christ we have access to the Spirit. We must observe the apostle’s order—through Christ and by the Spirit we have access to the Father. Access unto the Father implies:—

1. His sympathy with us.—God is our Creator and Sovereign, but His authority is not harsh or arbitrary. He does not even deal with us according to the stern dictates of untempered justice. On the contrary, in love and sympathy He has for our benefit made His throne accessible. He will listen to our penitential confessions, our vows of obedience, our statements of want. He has sympathy with us.

2. His ability to help us.—That access is permitted to us, taken in connection with God’s perfections, prove this. He raises no hope to disappoint, does not encourage that He may repel, but permits access that He may help and bless.

3. His permission to speak freely.—There is nothing contracted in God’s method of blessing. We are introduced to His presence not to stand dumb before Him, nor to speak under the influence of slavish fear. We have such liberty as those enjoy who are introduced to the presence of a prince by a distinguished favourite, or such freedom as children have in addressing a father. We are brought into the presence of our King by His Own Son; to our heavenly Father by Christ, our elder Brother. The results of this access to ourselves: 1. It teaches dependence; 2. Excites gratitude; 3. Produces comfort; 4. Promotes growth in grace.

II. The medium of access.—Under the law the high priest was the mediator through whom the people drew near to God. He went into the “holiest of all, once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people” (Heb. ix. 7). Under the new covenant “boldness to enter into the holiest” is “by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. x. 19). But as the mediation of the Jewish high priest, though “done away in Christ,” was typical, it may serve to teach us how we are to come to God. He sprinkled the blood of the sin-offering on the mercy-seat and burnt incense within the veil (Lev. xvi.), thus symbolising the sacrifice and intercession of Christ.

1. We, then, have access to God through Christ as a sacrifice.—“Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. ix. 22). But, “that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” we could never, as suppliants, have found acceptance with God.

2. Through Christ as an intercessor.—“But this man,” etc. (Heb. x. 12). A disciple in temptation cries for deliverance from evil, and Christ prays, “Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me” (John xvii. 11). A dying saint asks for “an entrance into the heavenly kingdom,” and Christ pleads, “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am” (John xvii. 24). None need deem himself too unworthy to call on God who comes to Him through Christ’s sacrifice and intercession.

III. The assistance afforded by the Holy Spirit.—As we have access unto the Father through Christ pleading for us, so we have access unto the Father by the Spirit pleading in us.

1. The Spirit kindles holy desire.—It is the work of the Spirit to draw off the hearts of men from the world and raise them to God in prayer. As in playing on a musical instrument no [p. 169] string sounds untouched, so without this influence of the Spirit man would never look heavenward, or his heart fill with desire toward God.

2. Prompts to immediate application.—Blessings are often desired but feebly. The Spirit rebukes this hesitancy, and urges on to immediate application.

3. Aids in that application.—“Without the Spirit we know not what we should pray for” (Rom. viii. 26). Our thoughts wander, our affections chill, the fervour of our importunity flags, unless the Spirit “helpeth our infirmities.”

Reflections.—1. Those who do not enjoy this privilege are highly culpable. 2. Those who do enjoy this privilege are indeed happy.—The Lay Preacher.

Access to God, revealing the Trinity in Unity.

I. The end of human salvation is access to the Father.—That is the first truth of our religion—that the source of all is meant to be the end of all, that as we all come forth from a Divine Creator, so it is into Divinity that we are to return and to find our final rest and satisfaction, not in ourselves, not in one another, but in the omnipotence, the omniscience, the perfectness, and the love of God. Now we are very apt to take it for granted that, however we may differ in our definitions and our belief of the deity of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we are all at once, there can be and there is no hesitation, about the deity of the Father. God is Divine. God is God. And no doubt we do all assent in words to such a belief; but when we think what we mean by that word “God”; when we remember what we mean by “Father,” namely, the first source and the final satisfaction of a dependent nature; and then when we look around and see such multitudes of people living as if there were no higher source for their being than accident and no higher satisfaction for their being than selfishness, do we not feel that there is need of a continual and most earnest preaching by Word and act, from every pulpit of influence to which we can mount, of the Divinity of the Father. The Divinity of the Father needs assertion first of all. Let men once feel it, and then nature and their own hearts will come in with their sweet and solemn confirmations of it. But nature and the human heart do not teach it of themselves. The truest teaching of it must come from souls that are always going in and out before the Divine Fatherhood themselves. By the sight of such souls, others must come to seek the satisfaction that comes only from a Divine end of life—must come to crave access to the Father. So we believe, and so we tempt other men to believe, in God the Father.

II. And now pass to the Divinity of the method.—“Through Jesus Christ.” Man is separated from God. That fact, testified to by broken associations, by alienated affections, by conflicting wills, stands written in the whole history of our race. And equally clear is it to him who reads the Gospels, and enters into sympathy with their wonderful Person, that in Him, in Jesus of Nazareth, appeared the Mediator by whom was to be the Atonement. His was the life and nature which, standing between the Godhood and the manhood, was to bridge the gulf and make the firm, bright road over which blessing and prayer might pass and repass with confident, golden feet for ever. And then the question is—and when we ask it thus it becomes so much more than a dry problem of theology; it is a question for live, anxious men to ask with faces full of eagerness—Out of which nature came that Mediator? Out of which side of the chasm sprang the bridge leaping forth toward the other? Evidently on both sides that bridge is bedded deep and clings with a tenacity which shows how it belongs there. He is both human and Divine. But from which side did the bridge spring? It is the most precious part of our belief that it was with God that the activity began. It is the very soul of the Gospel, as I read it, that the Father’s heart, sitting [p. 170] above us in His holiness, yearned for us as we lay down here in our sin. And when there was no man to make an intercession, He sent His Son to tell us of His love, to live with us, to die for us, to lay His life like a strong bridge out from the Divine side of existence, over which we might walk fearfully but safely, but into the Divinity where we belonged. Through Him we have access to the Father. As the end was Divine, so the method is Divine. As it is to God that we come, so it is God who brings us there. I can think nothing else without dishonouring the tireless, quenchless love of God.

III. The power of the act of man’s salvation is the Holy Spirit.—“Through Christ Jesus we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” What do we mean by the Holy Spirit being the power of salvation? I think we are often deluded and misled by carrying out too far some of the figurative forms in which the Bible and the religious experience of men express the saving of the soul. For instance, salvation is described as the lifting of the soul out of a pit and putting it upon a pinnacle, or on a safe high platform of grace. The figure is strong and clear. Nothing can overstate the utter dependence of the soul on God for its deliverance; but if we let the figure leave in our minds an impression of the human soul as a dead, passive thing, to be lifted from one place to the other like a torpid log that makes no effort of its own either for co-operation or resistance, then the figure has misled us. The soul is a live thing. Everything that is done with it must be done and through its own essential life, If a soul is saved, it must be by the salvation, the sanctification, of its essential life; if a soul is lost, it must be by perdition of its life, by the degradation of its affections and desires and hopes. Let there be nothing merely mechanical in the conception of the way God treats these souls of ours. He works upon them in the vitality of thought, passion, and will that He put into them. And so, when a soul comes to the Father through the Saviour, its whole essential vitality moves in the act. When this experience is reached, then see what Godhood the soul has come to recognise in the world. First, there is the creative Deity from which it sprang, and to which it is struggling to return—“the Divine End, God the Father.” Then there is the incarnate Deity, which makes that return possible by the exhibition of God’s love—the Divine Power of salvation, God the Holy Spirit. To the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. This appears to be the truth of the Deity as it relates to us. I say again, “as it relates to us.” What it may be in itself; how Father, Son, and Spirit meet in the perfect Godhood; what infinite truth more there may, there must, be in that Godhood, no man can dare to guess. But, to us, God is the end, the method, and the power of salvation; so He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is in the perfect harmony of these sacred personalities that the precious unity of the Deity consists. I look at the theologies, and so often it seems as if the harmony of the Father, Son, and Spirit has been lost, both by those that own and those that disown the Trinity. One theology makes the Father hard and cruel, longing as it were for man’s punishment, extorting from the Son the last drops of life-blood which man’s sin had incurred as penalty. Another theology makes the Son merely one of the multitude of sinning men, with somewhat bolder aspirations laying hold on a forgiveness which God might give but which no mortal might assume. Still another theology can find no God in the human heart at all; merely a fermentation of human nature is this desire after goodness, this reaching out towards Divinity. The end is not worthy of the method. I do not want to come to such a Father as some of the theologians have painted. Or the method is not worthy of the end. No man could come to the perfect God through such a Jesus as some men [p. 171] have described. Or the power is too weak for both; and all that Christ has done lies useless, and all the Father’s welcome waits in vain for the soul that has in it no Holy Ghost. But let each be real and each be worthy of the others, and salvation is complete. But each cannot be worthy of the others unless each is perfect. But each cannot be perfect unless each is Divine; that is, our faith is in the Trinity—three Persons and one God.—Philips Brooks.

The Christian Law of Prayer

I. To the Father.—1. How honourable! Right of entry to an earthly sovereign. 2. How delightful! Our pleasures may be graduated according to the part of our nature in which they have their rise. The pleasures of devotion are the highest taste for devotion. 3. How profitable! God is able to bestow all temporal and spiritual blessings. 4. How solemn! The intercourse of our spirit with the Father of our spirits. Heart to heart.

II. Through the Son.—1. Through His atonement. Legal barriers to our access must be removed. Have been removed by the death of Christ as a satisfaction to Divine Justice. He has demolished the wall, He has constructed a bridge across the chasm, He has laid down His own body as the medium of approach. 2. Through His intercession. It perpetuates His sacrifice. The Jewish high priest entering the holy of holies on the Great Day of Atonement. Amyntas, mother of Coriolanus; Philippa after the siege of Calais.

III. By the Spirit.—1. He teaches us what are our wants. For the most part we are likely to be aware of our temporal wants. In spiritual things the greater our need the less our sense of need. 2. He makes us willing to ask the supply of our wants. Aversion to beg. Aversion to lay bare the symptoms of humiliating disease. 3. He gives us power to spread our wants before God. One person employed to write a letter or a petition for another. 4. He inspires us with confidence to plead with importunity and faith. Confidence in the Father, in the Son, in the power of prayer.—G. Brooks.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 19–22.

The Church the Temple of God.

I. Enjoying special privileges.—1. A saintly citizenship. “No more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints” (ver. 19). The apostle has spoken of the separation and enmity existing between Jew and Gentile. The Jew, trained to believe in the one invisible and only true God, who could not be imagined by any material form, learned to look with hatred and contempt on the outcast, lawless Gentile, with his idol deities in every valley and on every hill; and the intellectual Gentile looked with philosophic pride on the stern land of the Hebrew and in philosophic scorn on his strange, exclusive loneliness. They were not only at enmity with each other, but both were at enmity with God. Now the writer is showing that by the provisions of the Gospel both Greek and Jew are united as citizens of one Divine kingdom. They enjoy the same privileges and are in actual fellowship with prophets and apostles and all holy souls in all ages and are sanctified subjects of a kingdom that can never be moved.

2. A family life.—“And of the household of God” (ver. 19). The Church is a family having one Father in God, one Brother in Christ, one life in the Spirit, and one home in Heaven. As in earthly families, there are diversities of character, tastes, gifts, tendencies, and manifestations, but all the members of the heavenly household are bound together by the one common bond of love to God and to each other.

[p. 172] II. Resting on a sure foundation (ver. 20).—The materials composing the foundation of the Church are living stones—teachers and confessors of the truth, “apostles and prophets”; but Christ, as the one foundation, is the “chief corner-stone.” The foundation of the Church is not so much in the witnesses of the truth as in the truth itself, and in propagating which truth the first teachers and confessors sacrificed their all. The truth which produced and sustained the martyrs is itself immovable. The apostles and prophets—teachers in the apostolic times—laid the first course in the foundation of the Church and were careful to recognise and build only one foundation, united and held together by the one corner-stone—Christ Jesus. They fixed the pattern and standard of Christian doctrine and practice. The Christian Church is sure because the foundation is deep and broad and can never be removed and replaced by any human structure.

III. Ever rising to a higher perfection (ver. 21).—The image is that of an extensive pile of buildings, such as the ancient temples commonly were, in process of construction at different points over a wide area. The builders work in concert upon a common plan. The several parts of the work are adjusted to each other, and the various operations in process are so harmonised that the entire construction preserves the unity of the architect’s design. Such an edifice was the apostolic Church—one but of many parts—in the diverse gifts and multiplied activities animated by one Spirit and directed towards one Divine purpose (Findlay). Since the Day of Pentecost, when three thousand living stones were laid on the foundation, the Church has been growing in symmetry, beauty, and vastness, and it is constantly advancing towards perfection. The building, though apparently disjoined and working in separate parts, is growing into a final unity.

IV. Made by the Spirit His glorious dwelling-place (ver. 22).—The Holy Spirit is the supreme Builder as He is the supreme Witness to Jesus Christ (John xv. 26, 27). The words “in the Spirit” denote not the mode of God’s habitation—that is self-evident—but the agency engaged in building this new house of God. With one chief corner-stone to rest upon, and one Spirit to inspire and control them, the apostles and prophets laid their foundation, and the Church was builded together for a habitation of God. Hence its unity. But for this sovereign influence the primitive founders of Christianity, the later Church leaders, would have fallen into fatal discord (Findlay). The Church is a spiritual organisation, pervaded and made vital and progressive by the presence and operation of the Spirit of God. An organ is composed of several instruments—the choir, the swell, the pedal, the great; and many stops—the diapason, the flute, the trumpet; and yet it is one. And the Church of God is one. One Spirit—one breath of wind turned on by one living Hand—makes all the organ vocal.

Lessons.—1. The Church is the depositary of great religious privileges. 2. God dwells in the Church by dwelling in the heart of every member of it. 3. The Church provides every facility for worship and service.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 19–22. The Church of God a Spiritual Building.

I. The apostle represents the Church of God under the figure of a city and a household.—1. A Church must resemble a family or city in respect of order and government; for without these a religious society can no more subsist than a civil community or a household. 2. In a city or household all the members have a mutual relation and partake in the common privileges; and though they are placed in different stations and conditions, they must all contribute to the general happiness. 3. In a city and [p. 173] also in a family there is a common interest. 4. In a well-ordered city or household there will be peace and unity; so there ought to be in a Christian Church.

II. The manner in which the Church is founded.—The mediation of Christ is the foundation of our faith and hope. The apostles and prophets are a foundation only as they describe and exhibit to use the doctrines and works, the atonement and intercession, of the Redeemer. In Him all the doctrines of the apostles and prophets meet and unite, as the stones in the foundation are fixed and bound together by the corner-stone.

III. The Church must be united with and framed into the foundation.—Thus it may stand secure. Christ is the chief corner-stone in which all the building is framed. That only is true faith in Christ which regards Him as the foundation of our present hope and final acceptance.

IV. As the Church must rest on the foundation, so the several parts of it must be framed and inserted into each other.—As it is faith which fixes the saints on Christ the foundation, so it is love which binds them together among themselves. If we would preserve the beauty, strength, and dignity of the spiritual house, we must be watchful to repair breaches as soon as they appear, and to remove those materials which are become too corrupt to be repaired, lest they communicate their own corruption to sounder parts.

V. The Church is to grow into a holy temple for God through the Spirit.—We must not content ourselves with having built on the true foundation, but must bring the structure to a more finished and beautiful condition. The Church may grow and make increase both by the progress of its present members in knowledge and holiness and by the addition of new members who become fellow-workers in the spiritual building. God dwells in His Church, not only by His Word and ordinances, but also by the influence of His Spirit which He affords to assist His people in the duties of His worship and to open their hearts for the reception of His Word.—Lathrop.

Ver. 19. Christian Prayer a Witness of Christian Citizenship.

I. The foundation of the citizenship of the Christian.—In access to the Father—in the power of approaching Him in full, free, trustful prayer.

1. Christian prayer is the approach of the individual soul to God as its Father.—Until a man utterly believers in Christ he can never pray aright. There are veils around the unbelieving spirit which hinder this free, confiding approach. The touch of God startles memories, rouses ghosts of the past in the soul’s secret chambers; they flutter fearfully in the strange Divine light, and the man shudders and dare not pray. A man bathed in the life of God in prayer feels he is no more a stranger and a foreigner, but has entered into God’s kingdom, for God is his Father.

2. That prayer of the individual soul must lead to the united worship of God’s Church.—We cannot always pray alone. The men who stand most aloof from social worship are not the men who manifest the highest spiritual life. Our highest prayers are our most universal. I do not say we don’t feel their individuality, we do—but in and through their universality.

II. The nature of Christian citizenship.—1. Prayer a witness to our fellowship with the Church of all time. Realising the Fatherhood of God in the holy converse of prayer, we are nearer men. Our selfishness, our narrow, isolating peculiarities begin to fade. In our highest prayers we realise common wants.

2. Prayer a witness to our fellowship with the Church of eternity.—All emotions of eternity catch the tone of prayer. Sometimes in the evening, when the sounds of the world are still, and the sense of eternity breaks in upon us, is not that feeling a prayer? We know that we are right, that in worship we have taken no earthly [p. 174] posture, but an attitude from higher regions.

Lessons.—1. Live as members of the kingdom. 2. Expect the signs of citizenship—the crown of thorns, the cross. 3. Live in hope of the final ingathering.—E. L. Hull.

The Communion of Saints.

I. Society becomes possible only through religion.—Men might be gregarious without it, but not social. Instinct which unites them in detail prevents their wider combination. Intellect affords light to show the elements of union, but no heat to give them crystalline form. Self-will is prevailingly a repulsive power, and often disintegrates the most solid of human masses. Some sense of a Divine Presence, some consciousness of a higher law, some pressure of a solemn necessity, will be found to have preceded the organization of every human community, and to have gone out and perished before its death.

II. Worship exhibits its uniting principle under the simplest form, in the sympathies it diffuses among the members of the same religious assembly.—There is, however, no necessary fellowship, as of saints, in the mere assembling of ourselves together; but only in the true and simple spirit of worship. Where a pure devotion really exists, the fellowship it produces spreads far beyond the separate circle of each Christian assembly. Surely it is a glorious thing to call up, while we worship, the wide image of Christendom this day. Could we be lifted up above this sphere and look down as it rolls beneath this day’s sun, and catch its murmurs as they rise, should we not behold land after land turned into a Christian shrine? In how many tongues, by what various voices, with what measureless intensity of love, is the name of Christ breathed forth to-day!

III. But our worship here brings us into yet nobler connections.—It unites us by a chain of closest sympathy with past generations. In our helps to faith and devotion we avail ourselves of the thought and piety of many extinct ages. Do not we, the living, take up in adoration and prayer the thoughts of the dead and find them Divinely true? What an impressive testimony is this to the sameness of our nature through every age and the immortal perseverance of its holier affections!

IV. And soon we too shall drop the note of earthly aspiration and join that upper anthem of Diviner love.—The communion of saints brings us to their conflict first, their blessings afterwards. Those who will not with much patience strive with the evil can have no dear fellowship with the good; we must weep their tears ere we can win their peace.—Martineau.

Characteristics of Believers.

I. Believers are here described as having been strangers and foreigners.—1. There are relative expressions, meaning that natural men are strangers to the household of God and foreigners as respects the city of Zion. 2. Consider the natural man with reference to the city of Zion, and the truth of this representation will appear. (1) He is a stranger and foreigner—(a) By a sentence of exile (Gen. iii.). (b) By birth (Gen. v. 3; John iii. 6). (2) He is proved to be a stranger and foreigner—(a) By features (Gal. v. 19–21). (b) By manners (1 Pet. iv. 3). (c) By language. As such he is under another ruler (Eph. ii. 2), he is at war (Gal. iv. 29). 3. Though “strangers and foreigners” in relation to Zion, yet men are naturalised in another country. 4. This does not imply living beyond the pale of the visible Church. The Parable of the Tares. An alien to the saints and a stranger to God may be in the visible Church. 5. That there are “strangers and foreigners” in the Church seems a calamity. (1) They are thereby deceived. (2) They injure Christians. (3) They betray Christ.

II. Believers are described as being fellow-citizens with the saints.—1. They [p. 175] are citizens. (1) Their sentence of exile is cancelled (ver. 13). (2) They are naturalised by birth (John iii. 5). (3) They are reconciled to God and believers. (4) They are under Zion’s government. 2. They are “fellow-citizens with the saints.” (1) They have intercourse—holy. (2) They are united by mutual love. (3) They have reciprocal duties. (4) They have common rights and privileges. (5) They have common honour and reputation. (6) They have common prosperity and adversity. (7) They have common enemies. (8) They have common defence and safety. (9) They have a common history. 3. As a congregation we are professedly a section of this peculiar and spiritual community. (1) Do we seek each other’s welfare? (2) Is our intercourse the communion of saints? (3) Are we careful of each other’s reputation? 4. Are we as a congregation isolating ourselves from each other? Are we “fellow-citizens with the saints”? 5. The city is above.

III. Believers are here described as belonging to the household of God.—1. Believers as citizens are God’s subjects. 2. As belonging to God’s household they are His children. 3. As in God’s household—(1) They are like Him. (2) They are near to Him. (3) They see His face. (4) They enjoy His fellowship. (5) They are provided for by Him. (6) They are under His protection. (7) They serve Him. (8) They worship Him—His house is a temple. 4. These are very tangible privileges and belong to this present life. 5. Many may suppose that they are “fellow-citizens with the saints” whose experience does not prove that they are “of the household of God.” 6. For this “household” God has “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”—Stewart.

Vers. 20, 21. The Church a Divine Edifice.—1. Though God Himself be the principal Author and Builder of this spiritual edifice, yet He employs His called ministers and servants as instruments, among whom He made special use of the prophets and apostles for laying the foundation in so far as they first did reveal and preach Jesus Christ, and commit to writings such truths concerning Him as are necessary for salvation, while other ministers are employed in preaching Christ to build up the elect on the foundation laid by them. 2. There is a sweet harmony and full agreement between the doctrines and writings of the prophets and apostles in holding forth Christ for a foundation and rock of salvation, the latter having taught and written nothing but what was prefigured in types and foretold in prophecies by the former. 3. As growth in grace is a privilege which appertains to all parts of this spiritual building who are yet on earth, so this growth of theirs flows from their union and communion with Christ; and the more their union is improved by daily extracting renewed influence from Him, they cannot choose but thrive the better in spiritual growth.—Fergusson.

Ver. 22. The Church the Habitation of God.—1. Jesus Christ differs from the foundation of other buildings in this, that every particular believer is not only laid upon Him and supported by Him as in material buildings, but they are also indented in Him, and hid, as it were, in the clefts of the rock by saving faith. 2. As all believers, however far soever removed by distance, are yet more strictly tied and joined together, so by taking band with Christ the foundation, they are fastened one to another as the stones of a building. 3. So inseparable is the union among the persons of the Trinity that the presence and indwelling of One is sufficient to prove the indwelling of all; for believers are a habitation to God the Father and Son, because the Spirit dwells in and sanctifies them.—Ibid.


 [p. 176]

CHAPTER III.

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.

Ver. 1. The prisoner of Jesus Christ may be regarded as “the prisoner whom the Lord has bound” (so Winer and Meyer), or as “a prisoner belonging to Christ,” or again as “the prisoner for Christ’s sake.” The indignity of an ambassador being “thrown into irons” is lost in the feeling of being, even though bound, the representative of such a Lord.

Ver. 2. If ye have heard.—We have the same form of expression at ch. iv. 21—“assuming that is, that ye heard” (cf. Col. i. 23). Of the grace.—The favour which God conferred on me in appointing me your apostle. The Divine “Taskmaster” (to use Milton’s expression) confers honour upon us when He sets us to work. “He is not served by men’s hands as though He needed anything” (Acts xvii. 25).

Ver. 3. How that by revelation.—The familiar disavowal of any other source than the will of God (cf. Gal. i. 12).

Ver. 4. Ye may understand my knowledge.—You may, as the public reader proceeds to read my letter, discern my insights of the mystery.

Ver. 5. Which in other ages.—R.V. “other generations.” Might possibly refer to those dim ages of the past national history when the Gentiles were thought of only as left to “unconvenanted mercies.” We must note the word for “other”—it means a “different kind.” Was not made known . . . as it is now revealed.—If any distinction is to be observed, we may say the “revelation” is one of the ways of “making known” (see ver. 3) the intuitional. Unto His holy apostles and prophets.—“If all saints were holy à fortiori the apostles” (Bishop Alexander).

Ver. 6. Fellow-heirs . . . the same body . . . partakers.—“The A.V. loses a point of similarity in the three Gentile privileges by not expressing the force of the Greek compounds by the same English word. Lit. ‘heirs together,’ ‘incorporated together,’ ‘sharers together,’ not heirs after, but together with, the Jews; not attached to the Hebrew body, but incorporated into it together with the element that previously constituted it; not receivers of the promise after others had been satisfied, but partakers of it together with them” (Bishop Alexander). “Co-heirs, and concorporate, and comparticipant. The strange English words may perhaps correspond to the strange Greek words which St. Paul invented to express this newly revealed mystery in the strongest form, as though no words could be too strong to express his conception of the reunion in Christ of those who apart from Him are separate and divided” (Farrar).

Ver. 7. Whereof I was made a minister.—A deacon, a runner of errands. A lowly word, which reminds us of his own self-estimate—“not worthy to be called an apostle”—and prepares us for the strange expression in ver. 8.

Ver. 8. Less than the least of all saints.—“As though he said ‘leaster than all Christians’ ” (Bishop Alexander). “The greatest sinner, the greatest saint, are equidistant from the goal where the mind rests in satisfaction with itself. With the growth in goodness grows the sense of sin. One law fulfilled shows a thousand neglected” (Mozley, quoted by Farrar). The unsearchable riches.—“The untrackable wealth” (Farrar), inexplicable by creaturely intelligences, unspeakable therefore by human tongues.

Ver. 9. And to make all men see.—He says to the Galatians (Gal. iii. 1), “Christ was placarded before you”—so here he wants men to see for themselves.

Ver. 10. To the intent that now . . . might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.—The Church as it expands from a “little flock” to a “multitude which no man can number” is to declare the multiform wisdom of God, ever fertile in new modes of operation. “Manifold” represents a word used to describe a floral wreath as consisting of “variegated” flowers.

Ver. 12. In whom we have boldness.—Originally meaning as regards speech. In Christ the reconciled child of God has the right of speaking to God without reserve. The same word is translated “confidence” in 1 John v. 14, A.V.: “It is the free, joyful mood of those reconciled to God” (Meyer). And access.—As in ch. ii. 13. With confidence.—Hardly as equal to assurance—certainly never self-assurance, but in quiet leaning on the arm of Christ.

Ver. 13. I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations.—Compare 2 Cor. iv. 1–16, where the same word is used. As an agonised sufferer, heroically suppressing every sign of pain, begs those who wait on him not to give way to grief; as Socrates, having quaffed the poison, rallies his friends, who have broken out into uncontrollable weeping, with the words, “What are you doing my friends? What! such fine men as you are! Oh, where is virtue?”; so (with a possible reminiscence of Acts xx. 36–38) St. Paul begs his readers not to lose heart.

[p. 177] Ver. 15. The whole family.—R.V. “every family.” The word for “family” is only found in the New Testament in St. Luke ii. 4 and Acts iii. 25; in one translated “lineage,” in the other “kindreds” in A.V.; consistently as “family” by R.V. Chrysostom, and others who followed him, have surely a special claim to be heard. They translate it “races.” Bishop Alexander contends for the A.V. translation, “the whole.” He says, “A special force and signification in the expression make this translation necessary” (cf. ch. ii. 19).

Ver. 16. The riches of His glory.—“The whole glorious perfection of God.” To be strengthened with might.—There may be a verbal connection with the “fainting” of ver. 13, but the thought goes far out beyond that. In the inner man.—We are reminded again of the text quoted above (2 Cor. iv. 16). A mode of expression derived from the Platonic school, not necessarily presupposing any acquaintance with that system of philosophy.

Ver. 17. That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.—The condition of this, declared by Christ Himself, is that a man should keep the word of Christ. Being rooted and grounded.—A double metaphor—of a tree that has struck its roots deep into the crevices of the rock, and of a building with a foundation of bed-rock. “Every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God” (1 John iv. 7). Love conditions knowledge of things Divine (see ver. 18).

Ver. 18. May be able.—Perfectly able. With all saints.—The highest and most precious knowledge Paul can desire only as a common possession of all Christians. What is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height.—“The deeply affected mind with its poetico-imaginative intuition looks upon the metaphysical magnitude as a physical, mathematical one. Every special attempt at interpretation is unpsychological, and only gives scope to that caprice which profanes by dissecting the outpouring of enthusiasm” (Meyer).

Ver. 19. And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.—“An adequate knowledge of the love of Christ transcends human capacity, but the relative knowledge of the same opens up in a higher degree the more the heart is filled with the Spirit of Christ, and thereby is strengthened in loving. This knowledge is not discursive, but based in the consciousness of experience” (Meyer).

Ver. 20. Now unto Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly.—After his prayer proper is ended the full heart of the apostle swells out into a solemn doxology. The frequent and bold compound expressions of St. Paul (Farrar says twenty of the New Testament twenty-eight with ὑπέρ are St. Paul’s) spring from the endeavours adequately to express his energetic thought. According to the pour that worketh in us.—“The measure of a man” or “of an angel” is insufficient here. Things are not achieved by creaturely mensuration where God works (cf. ch. i. 19–23).

Ver. 21. To Him be the glory.—“The honour due to His name.” By Christ Jesus.—He that “climbeth up some other way” with his offering courts his own destruction. Throughout all ages, world without end.—R.V. “Unto all generations, for ever and ever.” A good specimen of the “exceeding abundantly above all that we . . . understand” as regarded under the aspect of time. It carries our thoughts along the vista of the future, till time melts into eternity.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 1–6.

An Enlarged Gospel

I. Declaring the admission of the Gentiles on the same footing as the Jews to its highest privileges (ver. 6).—It came as a surprise to the world of the apostle’s day that the Gospel he preached offered its blessings on equal terms to Jew and Gentile. The Jew, accustomed to be the sole repository of Divine revelation, was staggered at the discovery that heaven extended its favours to the outcast, heathenish Gentile; and the Gentile, proudly trusting to his own intellectual activity in the search after truth, greeted with wonder the ampler and loftier revelations of the new evangel. It seemed too good to be true. A new era was dawning, and men were dazzled and bewildered with the splendour of the vision. It is now authoritatively declared that, on the simple conditions of penitence and faith, the Gentile world is incorporated into the body of Christ. So far from being excluded from the Divine favour, the believing Gentiles are reckoned as “fellow-heirs, and of the same body and partakers of the promise in Christ by the gospel”; and the marvel is increased by the discovery that this astounding privilege is no new thought in the Divine mind, but was an essential part of the purpose concerning the race that had been developing in the slow [p. 178] march of the ages. The Hebrew Scriptures with their records of extraordinary theophanies, the saintly characters of Old Testament times, the Messianic revelations and the wealth of spiritual blessing which the isolated Jew had selfishly appropriated to himself, are the heaven-given privileges of universal man.

II. Was wrapped in mystery for ages.—“Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men” (ver. 5). The mystery all centres in Christ. The revelation of Messiah as the hope and salvation of the race was dimly and slowly unveiled in progressive stages. “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing.” Some of His grandest movements are veiled in mystery till the right moment comes, when the obscurity vanishes and the vastness and beauty of the completed work elicit our admiration and praise. We are familiar with this process in the natural world and in the progress of human history. The fruits of the earth do not reach maturity at a bound. Slowly and in secret the bud is rounded, then comes the delicately tinted blossom, and afterwards the tempting, mellow fruit. The same may be said of the growth of human character. It reaches the higher grades of mental and moral excellence by slow and silent stages, and advances in the ratio of the fidelity and energy with which the man carries out the great plan of his life-career. So the revelation of the Gospel mystery has been gradual and progressive. The purpose itself is incapable of progress—it has been fixed from eternity; but it has been made known to the world in portions suited to each succeeding period of its history. The law shadowed forth that purpose with more fulness than any previous dispensation, and the prophets went beyond the law, occupying a middle place between it and the Gospel, while the Gospel in its fuller revelation has gone as far beyond the prophets as they went beyond the law. Thus we see that God “who appears deliberate in all His operations” has unfolded His great purpose to save the race by slow and successive stages. The mystery of yesterday is the sunlit epiphany of to-day.

III. Was specially revealed by the Spirit.—“How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery” (ver. 3). “As it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (ver. 5). Notwithstanding the gradual disclosure of the mystery of the Gospel, its full significance could not have been caught without supernatural help. Mere flux of time adds nothing to our knowledge; nor can the most active intelligence decipher the spiritual meaning of truth. The Spirit of God, operating on the alert and awakened mind of the apostle, revealed to him the glory and power of Christ—the hidden mystery of ages—and opened to him the far-reaching provisions of the enlarged Gospel of which Christ is the inexhaustible theme. There is still much mystery in the Gospel that remains to be fathomed—the problem of the atonement, the origin of sin, the future destiny and eternal state of human souls, and the revelation of Christ and His Church to present-day social and economic questions in their bearing on human development and the future prosperity of the kingdom of God on earth. We are in daily need of the light and teaching of the Holy Spirit.

IV. Was entrusted to man as a stewardship of Divine grace.—“The dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward” (ver. 2). The mystery of the Gospel was revealed to Paul that he might dispense its benefits to others. Former generations had received light from heaven; but not sufficiently appreciating it, or wishing to keep it within too narrow a sphere, it grew dim and went out. Where it fell on prepared hearts it was used for the illumination and blessing of others. Paul was Divinely prepared for the revelation; he received it in trust for others; he saw the boundless provisions of the Gospel, and became a powerful advocate for its universal claims. Every minister is a steward of the mysteries of the kingdom of God, and it is his joy to minister to others whatever of insight into truth and grace of experience the Divine Spirit may [p. 179] entrust to him. The Gospel is an ever-enlarging Gospel to the soul lit up and informed by the revealing Spirit.

Lessons.—1. The Gospel is an advance on all previous revelations. 2. It is the grandest revelation of saving truth. 3. It can be known and enjoyed only by the Spirit.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 1–21. Riches of Christ.—Many make Christianity something local, temporary, and thus degrade it. Christ is inexhaustible for mind and heart; we find all in Him. Let us never make of this rich Christ a poor one. What Christ has instituted must be something transcendent, and not so common that every intellect can discover it.—Heubner.

Vers. 1–6. The Calling of the Gentiles.

I. Paul calls himself a prisoner of Christ for the Gentiles.—The liberality of his sentiments towards them and the boldness with which he asserted their title to equal privileges with Jews were the principal reasons why the latter persecuted him with such violence, and caused him to be sent a prisoner to Rome. The spring of this bitter enmity in the Jews was their spiritual pride and worldly affection. Liberality of sentiment essentially belongs to true religion. Bigotry, hatred, and envy among Christians debase their character and scandalise their profession. We should entertain exalted thoughts of the Divine Goodness. Such thoughts enlarge the mind and liberalise the feelings.

II. The Gospel is called a dispensation of the grace of God.—It is a discovery of that method which the wisdom of God has chosen for dispensing His grace and mercy toward fallen men. It is called the Gospel of God as it originated in His pleasure; and the Gospel of Christ as He is the immediate author of it, and His doctrines and works, His life and death, His resurrection and ascension, and the blessings procured by Him are the subjects on which it principally treats. The grace which the Gospel offers is pardon and glory. Under such a dispensation how inexcusable are the impenitent, and how amazing will be the punishment of those who finally perish in their guilt!

III. This dispensation was committed to the apostle for the benefit of mankind.—It was a trust committed to him by the will of God, not a power arrogated by his own presumption. He did not rely on a secret, internal call as what alone would warrant him to commence as a preacher. He carefully conformed to the order which Christ has instituted in His Church. He instructed Timothy and Titus to do likewise. Ministers are not to found their warrant to preach on any immediate revelation. If they should pretend to this, it would be no warrant for them to assume it, unless they can by miracles prove to the world the reality of the pretended revelation.

IV. The knowledge of the Gospel was communicated to Paul by revelation.—God did not, at the expense of inspiration, teach the apostles those things which they knew or might know by other means. But where actual knowledge and the means of obtaining it were wanting, there inspiration supplied the defect. It is not necessary for us to know the nature of this inspiration, or the manner in which the apostles were assured of its divinity. If we believe there is an infinite and all-perfect Spirit, who pervades universal nature, we must believe He can reveal His will to men by such an immediate influence as shall carry its own evidence and leave no possible doubt of its reality. If we deny the possibility of a certain inspiration from God, we deny that power to Him which we ourselves possess, for we can speak to men in such a manner that they shall certainly know we speak to them [p. 180] and perfectly understand our meaning.—Lathrop.

Vers. 4, 6. The Knowledge of Christ intended for All.—It is significant that the inscription on the cross was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. 1. Hebrew, the language of religion, of the revelation concerning the one true God. 2. Greek, the language of literature, of arts and culture, the best medium in which to transmit the literature of the New Testament, as Hebrew was for that of the Old. It might be designated as the human language. 3. Latin, the language of the conquerors and masters of the world—also of the Roman Empire, as that kingdom of worldly aggrandisement and power, falsehood and wrong, in opposition to the kingdom of God destined to uproot and replace it. The Roman soldiers stationed throughout Europe became useful factors in the spread of the Gospel. Note also the synoptic gospels of 1. Matthew—Hebrew in thought and diction, written to convince Jews. 2. Mark—Latin in thought, and written for the Roman mind. 3. Luke—Greek in thought and style, written for Gentiles.

Vers. 4, 5. God known in Christ.—After the death of Pascal there was found in the lining of his coat a parchment which he never parted from, in order to keep in his memory a certain epoch in his life. It contained these words: “Certainty—joy—the God of Jesus Christ, not of the philosophers and savants. O that I may never be separated from Him!” The explanation of this is, that on one memorable night, during a holy watching, he had met, not merely the Machinist of the universe, the God who is but the substance or the law of the world, but the God who wills and creates the happiness of His children.

Vers. 5, 6. The Comprehensiveness of the Gospel.—1. God’s purpose to call the Gentiles was not altogether unknown to the ancient Church; but it was not so clearly revealed under the Old Testament as under the New. 2. Though God might easily communicate the knowledge of Himself unto all immediately and without the help of second means, yet He hath chosen so to communicate His mind to some few only who have, at His appointment, set down in sacred writ what they immediately received, by which means the knowledge of God may, in an ordinary way, be conveyed to others. 3. It is a great and glorious privilege to be a part of that mystical body of which Christ is Head, because of the strict union such have with Christ and with all believers in Christ, and because of their interest in all the privileges of that body and in the gifts and graces of every member of it.—Fergusson.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 7–9.

An Exalted Ministerial Commission

I. To distribute the unbounded wealth of the Gospel.—“Unto me . . . is this grace given, that I should preach the unsearchable riches of Christ” (ver. 8). In calling the Gospel “the unsearchable riches of Christ” the apostle signifies that Christ, the whole truth about Him and centred in Him, is the theme of his preaching, and that in Christ he finds a mine of inexhaustible wealth, a treasure of truth which cannot be told. He speaks as one who has searched—searched so long, so far, as to have produced on his mind the impression of unsearchableness. His whole style of writing in this chapter is that of a man overwhelmed with a sense of the infinite grace of God revealed in Christ. The expression “unsearchable riches,” while conveying the impression of infinitude as the words “breadth,” “length,” “height,” “depth,” suggests a different idea—that of a mine of precious metal, rather than that of a vast continent of great length and breadth with high mountains and deep valleys spread over its surface. Paul speaks as [p. 181] a man digging in a recently discovered gold-field, who finds particles of the precious metal in such abundance that he cannot refrain from exclaiming ever and anon, “What an inexhaustible supply of gold is here!” He speaks further as one who feels it his special business to let all the world know of this gold-field, and invite all to come and get a share of its wealth (A. B. Bruce).

II. To reveal to men the secret mind of God.—1. The Gospel was for long hidden alone in God. “Which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God” (ver. 9). It was a mystery hid in God, not from God. The idea of the universality of the Gospel, though veiled for ages by the limitations of the Divine dealings with the Jewish people, was never absent from the mind of God. Down through the rolling years one eternal purpose runs, and now and then the most gifted of the Hebrew seers caught a glimpse of its ever-widening range. This great secret of the ages was revealed to Paul in such clearness and fulness that he regarded it as the one purpose of his life—his heaven-sent commission—to make it known to his fellow-men, of whatever nationality.

2. The purpose of the creation of all things by Christ was also a part of the Divine mystery.—“Who created all things by Jesus Christ” (ver. 9). The statement of this fact—thrown in by way of parenthesis—links the whole created things with the development of the Divine purpose, and asserts the absolute sovereignty of Jesus over all worlds. In some way yet to be more fully explained as the Divine purpose ripens all created beings are to be advantaged by the sublime redemptive work unfolded in the Gospel. “For He hath created all things, and by Him all things consist.”

3. The mystery was revealed to one for the benefit of all.—“And to make all men see what is the fellowship [the stewardship] of the mystery” (ver. 9). It was well for us and the race that the revelation and commission were committed to one who by training and gifts was so well qualified to explain and propagate the grand Divine idea. The barriers of Jewish prejudice in Paul were swept away by the vastness and universality of the message. He saw it included his Hebrew brethren—and to them the Gospel was first preached—but he saw also it included all in its comprehensive sweep. Paul was not alone among the apostles in comprehending the breadth of the Gospel; but he was foremost and most resolute and unbending in battling for the right of the Gentiles to be admitted to all its blessed privileges. He thought out the Gospel for himself, and he became the fearless and astute champion of the sinning race. What is accepted as a commonplace to-day was not won without argument, suffering, and struggle.

III. Bestowed as an act of Divine grace.—1. As an act of Divine grace it was confirmed by the conscious possession of Divine power. “Given unto me by the effectual working of His power” (ver. 7). Paul himself experienced the transforming power of the Gospel. He was deeply convinced of its truth, he believed and embraced its provisions, he accepted Christ as the living core of the Gospel, and he was thrilled with the Divine power that wrought in him a great moral change. He spoke not only with the force and authority of clearly apprehended truth, but with the unfaltering certitude of personal experience. He was henceforth the willing agent of the Divine power working within him.

2. As an act of Divine grace his commission overwhelmed him with a sense of personal unworthiness.—“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given” (ver. 8). The immense favour humbles him to the dust. That Saul, the Pharisee and the persecutor, the most unworthy and unlikely of men, should be the chosen vessel to bear Christ’s riches to the Gentile world, how shall he sufficiently give thanks for this! how express his wonder at the unfathomable wisdom and goodness that the choice displays in the mind of God! But we can [p. 182] see that this choice was precisely the fittest. A Hebrew of the Hebrews, steeped in Jewish traditions and glorying in his sacred ancestry, none knew better than the apostle Paul how rich were the treasures stored in the house of Abraham that he had to make over to the Gentiles. A true son of that house, he was the fittest to lead in the aliens, to show them its precious things, and make them at home within its walls (Findlay).

Lessons.—1. The minster of the Gospel has a solemn responsibility. 2. Should be faithful and earnest in his work. 3. Should guard against temptations to pride.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Ver. 7. A God-made Minister.—1. It is not sufficient warrant for any to meddle with the ministerial office that he hath competent gifts, except he have also ministerial power and authority conveyed to him, either immediately by God, as it was in the calling of the apostles, or mediately according to that order which God has established in His Church, as in the calling of ordinary ministers. 2. As it is required to make a man a minister that he be endued with competent abilities and gifts for that employment, so it is no less requisite that God concur with him. God giveth not to all one and the same gift, or in the same measure, but to some a greater, to others a less, as He hath more or less to do with them. 3. So great and many are the difficulties of ministers before they attain to freedom and boldness in exercising their ministerial gift that no less is required than the power of God, working effectually with a kind of pith and energy. A minister will be always ready to acknowledge his gifts as from God and His powerful working in him, and not to his own dignity, diligence, or parts.—Fergusson.

Vers. 8, 9. The Apostle’s View of his Ministry.

I. Consider what a humble opinion the apostle had of himself.—“Who am less than the least of all saints.” In his abilities and gifts he was not a whit behind the chiefest apostles, and in sufferings he was more frequent and in labours more abundant than they all. But in respect to worthiness he esteemed them his superiors; for they had not, like him, persecuted the Church, and they were in Christ and became apostles before him. Good Christians in honour prefer one another. True religion will produce self-abasing thoughts. The true convert forgets not his former character. He reflects often on his past guilty life, that he may be more humble in himself, more thankful, more watchful, more diligent.

II. The apostle expresses his admiring apprehensions of God’s grace in calling him to the ministry.—To the same grace which had called him he ascribes all his furniture for the ministry and all his success. However contemptible some render themselves in the Gospel ministry, the office itself is honourable.

III. The apostle’s elevated sentiments concerning the Gospel.—He calls it “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” The blessings of the Gospel, being purchased by the blood of Christ, are called His riches. They are called riches on account of their excellency, fulness, and variety. They are undiscoverable by human reason, and made known only by revelation. They were but imperfectly made known in the prophetic revelation. They are of inestimable value.

IV. Consider the grand and enlarged conceptions the apostle entertained of the design and importance of his ministry (ver. 9).—It was to open to mankind that mighty scheme which the wisdom of God had formed, and which His goodness had for ages been carrying into execution, for the redemption of our fallen race. [p. 183] His ministry was designed for the benefit, not of men only, but of angels too (ver. 10).—Lathrop.

Ver. 8. Christian Humility illustrated in the Character of Paul.

I. The apostle remembered his past sins.—Wherever there is a quickened conscience, it will prompt the possessor to think of his past sins, and this even when he has reason to believe that they have been forgiven. The apostle continued to remember the natural and deeply seated pride and self-righteousness which he had so long cherished. Allusion is made in every one of his public apologies and in a number of his epistles to the circumstance of his once having been an enemy of the cross of Christ and a persecutor. It is for the benefit of the believer to remember his past sinfulness. The recollection of his infirmities may enable him to guard against their recurrence. Our sins, even when past and forgiven, are apt to leave a prejudicial influence behind. Our sins are like wounds, which even when cured and closed are apt to leave a scar behind. It is most meet and becoming, and in every respect for his own profit and the advantage of the Church and world, that the sinner, and more particularly the man whose former life has been known, should walk humbly before God and his fellow-men all the days of his life. Nor let it be forgotten that the remembrance of past sin is one of the motives impelling the Christian to be “zealously affected in every good thing.” The remembrance of the injury he had done to the Church stimulated him to make greater endeavours to benefit it. The persecution which he had inflicted on others made him more steadfast in bearing the sufferings to which he was now exposed. According to the account handed down from the early Church, the apostle had to suffer a violent death in the reign of Nero, when Christians were covered with pitch and burned as torches, or clothed with the skins of wild beasts and dogs let loose upon them. We can conceive that as he saw the terrible preparations for putting him to death, his memory would go back thirty years, and he would remember how he himself had stood by and consented to the death of the holy martyr Stephen, and he would feel himself thereby the more strengthened to endure what the Lord was now pleased to lay upon him.

II. The apostle mourned over the sin yet cleaving to him.—He had not only a recollection of past sin, he had a sense of present sin. This sense of indwelling sin is one of the elements that conduce to the onward progress of the believer. Why is it that so many professing Christians, ay, and too many true Christians, are not advancing in the spiritual life; are the same this week as they were the previous week; the same this year as they were the last year; and to all appearance, and unless God arouse them, will be the same the next week or next year as they are this? It is because they are contented with themselves and with their condition, they have reached a state of self-complacency, they have “settled upon their lees,” and they do not wish to be disturbed by so much as an allusion to their sin. Very different was the temper of the apostle. Conscious of the sin that still adhered to him, he longed to have it completely exterminated, and sought the heavenly aid which might enable him to reach that after which he was always striving—“unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”

III. The apostle acknowledged God to be the Author of all the gifts and graces possessed by him.—Paul on more than one occasion found it necessary to speak of his gifts. And when he follows this train of reflection, he arrests himself to explain that his faults are his own, and to ascribe the glory of his gifts to God. There may be circumstances requiring us to speak of our attainments in the spiritual life; but there can be no excuse for our thinking of them or alluding to them in a spirit of complacency. Of all pride, spiritual pride is the most hateful, and the most [p. 184] lamentably inconsistent. How often does it happen that, when persons are suddenly elevated to places of honour, they see nothing but their own merits, their own talent, their own skill or good management? Elevation of rank thus leads in too many cases to an increase of pride and vanity. This is painfully illustrated in the history of Saul, the son of Kish. Setting out in search of his father’s asses, he received before he returned a kingdom for the discharge of the offices of which he had many qualifications. But his rise seems to have fostered the morbid vanity of his mind; and when this was not fed by constant incense, when the Israelites cried: “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands,” it led to envy and revenge, which goaded him on to deeds of utter infatuation. How different with Saul of Tarsus! At every step of his elevation in the Church he saw the finger of God, and was the more impressed with his own unworthiness.

IV. The apostle took a high standard of excellence: he took as his model the law of God and the character of Jesus.—All actual excellence, whether earthly or spiritual, has been attained by the mind keeping before it and dwelling upon the ideas of the great, the good, the beautiful, the grand, the perfect. The tradesman and mechanic reach the highest eminence by never allowing themselves to rest till they can produce the most finished specimens of their particular craft. The painter and sculptor travel to distant lands that they may see and as it were fill their eye and mind with the sight of the most beautiful models of their arts. Poets have had their yet undiscovered genius awakened into life as they contemplated some of the grandest of nature’s scenes; or as they listened to the strains of other poets the spirit of inspiration has descended upon them, as the spirit of inspiration descended on Elisha while the minstrel played before him. The soldier’s spirit has been aroused even more by the stirring sound of the war-trumpet than by the record of the courage and heroism of other warriors. The fervour of one patriot has been created as he listened to the burning words of another patriot; and many a martyr’s zeal has been kindled at the funeral pile of other martyrs. In this way fathers have handed down their virtues to their children, and those who could leave their offspring no other have in their example left them the very richest legacy; and the deeds of those who perform great achievements have lived far longer than those who do them, and have gone down from one generation to another. Now the believer has such a model set before him in the character of Jesus, which as it were embodies the law and exhibits in it the most attractive and encouraging light. We may copy others in some things; we should copy Christ in all.—Dr. J. McCosh.

Ver. 8. Paul’s Humility.

I. In what it consisted.—1. In the unreserved submission of his reason to the authority of revelation. He was a great thinker, and he was a great scholar. 2. In the unwavering reliance of his heart on Christ for the salvation of his soul. Self-righteous by constitution and education. 3. In ascribing to God alone the glory of all that he was and of all that he did. He could not but be conscious how far he stood above the ordinary in point of Christian excellence and supernatural gifts and ministerial usefulness. He never took any part of the praise to himself: “Yet not I, but the grace of God which was in me.” 4. In cherishing a sense of his unworthiness and guilt: “Sinners, of whom I am chief.” 5. In forming a lowly estimate of his own comparative standing: “Less than the least of all saints.”

II. How it was cultivated.—1. By frequent meditation on the holiness of God. 2. By looking away from self to Christ. 3. By gratitude to God and to Christ for an interest in the blessings of redemption. 4. By a due appreciation of the importance of humility. [p. 185] It is ornamental, but it is also useful. It lies at the very root of all the graces of the Christian character.—G. Brooks.

Humility a Growth.—The progress which St. Paul made in humility has often been given by comparing three expressions in his epistles with the supposed dates when they were written: “Not meet to be called an apostle” (1 Cor. xv. 9: a.d. 59); “Less than the least of all saints” (Eph. iii. 8: a.d. 64); “Sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Tim. i. 15: a.d. 65).

The Unsearchable Riches of Christ.—The riches of Christ’s Divinity are unsearchable, the riches of His condescension are unsearchable, the riches of His tenderness are unsearchable, the riches of His redeeming love are unsearchable, the riches of his intersession are unsearchable, the riches of his faithfulness are unsearchable, and the riches of his supporting grace are unsearchable. These riches will never be expressed, even to all eternity. No! not by the noble army of martyrs, nor the glorious company of the apostles, nor the goodly fellowship of the prophets, nor the general assembly and Church of the first-born, nor the innumerable company of angels, nor the spirits of just men made perfect, nor by all the ransomed throng of heaven. It will form their most ecstatic employment in heaven. Join, all ye happy throng—join, holy Abel and Enoch, upright Job, perfect Noah, souls of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, grand souls of Moses, Samuel, and Elijah, pardoned David and Manasseh, soul of Isaiah the prophet. Join, all ye whose souls are under the altar cry, “How long, O Lord, wilt Thou not avenge our blood upon the earth?” Join, holy Stephen and Polycarp, holy Latimer, Ridley, Hooper, Rowland Taylor, and Anne Askew. Join, brave Wicklif, gallant Luther, stern John Knox, sweet John Bunyan, and praying George Fox. Join, pious Doddridge and tuneful Watts, noble George Whitefield, holy Fletcher, exhaustless John Wesley, dauntless Rowland Hill, and grand though lowly Robert Hall. Ye sweetest trebles of the eternal choir, ye million million babes who died without actual sin, join all your notes of praise! Pull out every stop of the grand organ of heaven, from the deep swell diapason to the lofty flute and cornet! Gabriel, strike the loftiest note of thy harp of gold. And let all the host of heaven, angels and men, begin the grand anthem, “Worthy is the Lamb.” And let the eternal Amen peal and roll and reverberate through all the arches of heaven! But never through all eternity shall the gathered host be able fully to express the unsearchable riches of Christ.—Thomas Cooper.

Ver. 9. The Fellowship of the Mystery.

I. It is a mystery it should be so long hid; a mystery, because when it was plainly revealed it was not understood by those to whom it was manifested; a mystery, for God was pleased to raise up a special apostle to explain and reveal, to make an epiphany of this great truth—the will of God that all men should be saved, that His Gospel should be universally known, should be open to all for acceptance.

II. Our share and fellowship in the work of the Gospel is to make all men see their interest in it, to make them understand its true catholicity, to make all men see that it is from the first the will of God that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs. By the Church is to be made known the manifold wisdom of God. Every member of the Church is to have his or her part in doing this work. We are all to take part in it by our lives, our conversation, our example, our good works and words. By availing ourselves of opportunities we are to help to make known this manifold wisdom of God.

III. Think for a moment what is the state of those men who do not know what is their fellowship with this mystery.—I am not speaking of the entirely ignorant. Even religious people do not half understand or appreciate [p. 186] the deep meaning of such words as these. Christianity means expansion, comprehension; it embraces all, and all men must see in it what is the fellowship of the mystery that we have received and that has been made known to us. We must be a light that cannot be hid.—Bishop Claughton.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 10–13.

The Manifold Wisdom of God

I. Seen in the development of a long-cherished plan.—1. This plan was carried out by Christ. “According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ” (ver. 11). The plan is here called the “eternal purpose,” and that purpose was the redemption of man, and the personage selected for its accomplishment was the Lord Jesus Christ. This was the unchanging theme of “the Gospel of which the apostle was made a minister,” this the Divinely freighted argosy of “the unsearchable riches of Christ,” the veiled and sacred repository of all heavenly mysteries. The plan is significantly called the “manifold wisdom of God”—as manifold as mysterious, for there is variety in the mystery and mystery in every part of the variety. The wisdom is seen, not so much in one act as in the masterly combination of a multitude of acts, all marshalled and disposed with consummate skill to the attainment of one grand end; just as the light that fills and irradiates the valley, penetrating every nook and crevice and clothing every object with beauty, is produced, not by a solitary ray, but by manifold rays poured from the central sun, and all uniting in one harmonious illumination. The crowning wisdom of the plan was in God appointing His only Son as the agent in carrying it out. He, the sinless One, must suffer for sin; the Innocent die for the guilty, and by dying conquer sin. Only thus could the righteous claims of the violated law be fully satisfied, the offence of the sinning one condoned, the authority of the Divine government maintained, and the character of the Holy One vindicated to the whole universe.

2. That the plan has been accomplished is evident from the attitude assumed towards man and towards God by believers (ver. 13).—As regards the attitude of the believer towards man, he has now “boldness” in declaring the whole truth, and towards God he has “access with confidence by the faith of Him”—he has confidential fellowship with God. Both these experiences are the result of the redeeming plan, and would have been impossible without it.

II. Seen in the indifference to suffering its revelations inspire.—“I desire that ye faint not [do not lose heart] at my tribulations for you, which is your glory” (ver. 13). Paul had no anxiety for himself. He almost playfully alludes to his imprisoned state: “The prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles” (ver. 1). His soul was too full of heavenly visions and of the practical bearing of the Gospel on the destiny of the race to be harassed about his personal suffering. When he thought about it at all it was to rejoice in the honour of being allowed to suffer for such a cause, and in the opportunities afforded of spreading the Gospel in quarters that might otherwise have been closed to him. But the Church feared for their champion’s life, and was troubled about his prolonged sufferings and imprisonment. The apostle assures his friends there was more reason for joyous boasting than for pity and dread. The sufferings and misfortunes of the Church have been overruled in promoting her enlargement. The flames of the martyrs have illumined the truth, and the captivity of its professors has prepared the throne of its universal empire. Personal religion has grown stronger by opposition and suffering, and the Church has multiplied by the very means which were intended to destroy her.

III. Seen in making the Church of the redeemed the means of instructing the heavenly intelligences (ver. 10).—These lofty beings, with their vast knowledge [p. 187] and gigantic powers, learn something from the Divine treatment of sinful, rebellious men. They gain new light, fresher and more expansive views, regarding the character and perfections of God; and perhaps the chief point on which their angelic knowledge will be increased is in the glorious revelations the Gospel unfolds of the infinite love of God. The Church on earth, with all its contradictions and imperfections, presents a magnificent picture of self-denial, devotion, and praise; but this is only a faint representation of the splendour of the Church above in its more completed state. The Church above is a society organised; the church below is a society organising. The heavenly intelligences are watching both processes, and their wondering adoration is being continually excited as they observe the building up and ever-advancing completion of the redeemed community. If there is one thing more than another that amazes “the principalities and powers”—amazes them more than the manifold wisdom of God unfolded to them by the Church—it must surely be the apathy and indifference of men on earth to their redemptive blessings!—that so much has been done to make man wise, and he remains willingly and contentedly ignorant; that God has been so prodigal of His wealth, and man is so slow to appreciate and seize the proffered enrichment; that God offers the abundant bread of eternal life, and man prefers to starve in lean and comfortless poverty, and grumbles against heaven that he is so poor; that salvation is pressed on his acceptance, and man persists in perishing; that “heaven lies about him in his infancy,” and the celestial gate opens before him in every subsequent stage of life, and yet man resists the alluring glory, and stumbles at last into the bottomless chasm of eternal darkness.

Lessons.—1. The wisdom of God is continually presenting new illustrations of its manifoldness. 2. The most signal display of Divine wisdom is seen in the redemption of the race. 3. The future history of the Church will reveal new features in the manifold wisdom of God.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Ver. 10. The Manifold Wisdom of God

I. Seen in the gradual unfolding of His great purpose to save the human race.—1. This process suited the revelation to men’s nature and condition as finite and sinful beings. Had the revelation been more rapid and brilliant it could not have been so readily appreciated, nor could men have dared to hope they had any share in it. It was adapted to the infantile state of the Church and the world when the mind is most powerfully affected by sensible objects. 2. This method was a training for appreciating the fuller discoveries of the Divine will. It has been an education and discipline, has provoked inquiry, and encouraged full submission to the will of God and faith in His wisdom and power.

II. Seen in the means He employed to carry out His saving purpose.—1. By the gift of His Son. 2. As a subsidiary means, by the institution of preaching, and by selecting men, and not angels, as instruments in spreading the knowledge of Gospel redemption.

III. Seen in using the Church of the redeemed as an object-lesson in teaching the heavenly intelligences.—The Church teaches the angels: 1. By its composition. 2. By its marvellous history. 3. By its glorious completion.

Learn.—1. The dignity and glory of the Church. 2. Let it be your all-important concern to become a member of this spiritual community.

Vers. 11–13. Access to God.

I. We have access.—The word signifies an approach to some object. Here it intends a near approach to God in worship, or such a state of peace with God as allows a freedom of intercourse. It is a familiar expression [p. 188] suited to convey the idea of great condescension on God’s part and high privilege on ours.

II. We have boldness of access. The word signifies a freedom of speaking in opposition to that restraint which we feel when in the presence of one we dread and in whose goodness we can place no confidence. It expresses the fulness of that liberty which under the Gospel all Christians enjoy of drawing near to God, and that freedom of spirit with which we should come to God. The disposition of our hearts should correspond with the liberal and gracious dispensation under which we are placed. We should come to God with a spirit of love, in opposition to servile fear. This boldness imports frequency in our approaches to God. Slaves, under fear, stand at a distance. Children, invited by the goodness of a father, come often into his presence.

III. We have access with confidence. This confidence is elsewhere called a better hope and the full assurance of faith. It is opposed to doubting and distrust. Confidence in prayer is a full reliance on God; but this may be accompanied with a humble diffidence of ourselves.

IV. All our hope of success in prayer must rest upon the mediation of Christ (ver. 12).—In His name we are to come before God; and in the virtue of His atonement and intercession we may hope for acceptance.

V. Access to God a refuge in trouble (ver. 13).—Fearing lest his sufferings in the cause of the Gospel should dishearten his converts, the apostle sets before them a view of their security under the protection of Divine grace. Dangers were before them; but what had they to fear who had boldness of access to God? It was one of the glories of their religion that he who preached it was not ashamed to suffer for it.

Lessons.—1. In the apostle Paul we have a noble example of benevolence. 2. New converts should be assisted and encouraged. 3. Our best support under trouble is boldness of access to God. 4. Let the grace and condescension of God encourage us to come often into His presence.—Lathrop.

Ver. 12. Access to God in Prayer.—Prayer is to be exercised with the greatest caution and exactness, being the most solemn intercourse earth can have with heaven. The distance between God and us, so great by nature and yet greater by sin, makes it fearful to address Him; but Christ has smoothed a way, and we are commanded to come with a good heart, not only in respect of innocence, but also of confidence.

I. There is a certain boldness and confidence very well becoming our humblest addresses to God.—It is the very language of prayer to treat God as our Father. The nature of this confidence is not so easily set forth by positive description as by the opposition it bears to its extremes. It is opposed: 1. To desperation and horror of conscience. 2. To doubtings and groundless scrupulosities. 3. To rashness and precipitation. 4. To impudence.

II. The foundation of this confidence is laid in the mediation of Christ.

III. The reason why Christ’s mediation ought to minister such confidence to us.—His incomparable fitness for the performance of that work. Considering Him: 1. In respect to God, with whom He has to mediate. God sustains a double capacity of Father and Judge. Christ appears not only as an Advocate, but as a Surety, paying down the utmost justice can exact. 2. In reference to men for whom He mediates. He is a friend, brother, surety, lord or master. 3. In respect to Himself. (1) He is perfectly acquainted with all our wants and necessities. (2) He is heartily sensible of and concerned about them. (3) He is best able to express and set them before the Father.

IV. Whether there is any other ground that may rationally embolden us in our addresses to Him.—If there [p. 189] is, it must be either: 1. Something within us as the merit of our good actions. But this cannot be—(1) because none can merit but by doing something absolutely by his own power for the advantage of him from whom he merits; (2) because to merit is to do something over and above what is due. 2. Something without us. This must be the help and intercession either of angels or saints. Angels cannot mediate for us—(1) because it is impossible for them to know and perfectly discern the thoughts; (2) because no angel can know at once all the prayers that are even uttered in words throughout the world. These arguments are still more forcible against the intercession of saints. The invocation of saints supposed to arise: 1. From the solemn meetings used by the primitive Christians at the saints’ sepulchres, and there celebrating the memory of their martyrdom. 2. From those seeds of the Platonic philosophy that so much leavened many of the primitive Christians. 3. From the people being bred in idolatry. But the primitive fathers held no such thing; and the Council of Trent, that pretended to determine the case, put the world off with an ambiguity. Christ is the only true way.—R. South.

Ver. 13. Courage under Suffering.—1. Affliction and tribulation for the Gospel is a trial not only to those under it, but to others who look on, and are in no less hazard to be thereby brangled (made to disagree) in their confidence, blunted in their zeal, and rendered remiss in their forwardness, than the person himself who suffers. 2. A faithful minister suffering for truth will not be so solicitous for his own outward estate as for the Church and people of God, lest they be turned aside, or made to faint by reason of his sufferings. This may guard from discouragement when we consider the excellent worth of truth, and how those who suffer for it have not cast themselves without necessity upon their sufferings, but were necessitated to meet them in the way of their calling. 3. So honourable is it to suffer for Christ and truth that not only the persons who suffer are honoured, but also all such as have interest in them, who should not faint, but rather glory in them and take encouragement from them.—Fergusson.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 14–21.

A Sublime and Comprehensive Prayer

I. For spiritual strengthening (ver. 16).—The first necessity of the new convert is strength. The change from the former life is so new and strange. The spiritual faculties are but recently called into exercise; and though they are thrilled with the vigour of youth, they possess the inherent weakness and are exposed to the temptations of youth. Their newly acquired strength is at once their glory and their danger—their glory in giving them the capacity and impulse for the highest kind of work; their danger because they are tempted to rely upon their own conscious power rather than upon the grace of God within them, which is the source of their best strength. If that strength is once undermined or eaten away, it can never be replaced. The strength of youth, physical or spiritual, belongs only in the period of youth; if lost in youth, it can never be regained in maturer life. Whatever strength we may gain in after-years will never be what it might have been if ye had never lost the strength of our first love. The apostle here prays that his converts may be invigorated with a manful courage, the moral strength to meet dangers and to battle with difficulties without quailing.

Transcriber’s Note: The Transcriber is unsure what the author means by “faith . . . must be constantly exercised to keep Him there” in this next paragraph. Please remember Christ’s words in Hebrews xiii. 5: “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”

1. This spiritual strengthening is achieved by the indwelling Christ welcomed and retained in the heart by faith.—“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” (ver. 17). The source of this strength is not in us; we cannot evoke it by any [p. 190] voluntary effort of our own. It is a Divine power working in us (ver. 20). It is the Christ within us making Himself felt in our otherwise enfeebled powers. We are invested with the strength of Christ by our faith in Christ; and increase of strength comes with increase of faith. The faith that receives Christ into the heart must be constantly exercised to keep Him there, and to derive inspiration and help from Him in attaining spiritual growth and in doing useful work.

2. This spiritual strengthening is cherished by an accession of Christian love.—“That ye, being rooted and grounded in love” (ver. 17). The double metaphor gives emphasis to the idea—“rooted,” a tree; “grounded” a building. When Christ is planted and settled in our hearts, love is shed abroad there, and becomes the genial soil in which our graces grow, and the basis of all our thought and action. Love is strength, the most reliable, sustaining, and victorious kind of strength.

II. For a clearer comprehension of the immeasurable love of Christ (vers. 18, 19).—Here the prayer rises in sublimity and comprehensiveness. The apostle prays that we may know the unknowable—“know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.” There is nothing so fascinating as the love of Christ, ever leading us on by fresh revelations, and ever leaving the impression that there are unfathomable depths and inaccessible heights yet to be discovered. “Oh that Christ would,” exclaimed the saintly Rutherford, “arrest and comprise my love and my heart for all. I am a bankrupt who have no more free goods in the world for Christ, save that it is both the whole heritage I have, and all my moveables besides. Lord, give the thirsty man a drink. Oh to be over ears in the well! Oh to be swimming over head and ears in Christ’s love! I would not have Christ’s love entering in me, but I would enter into it, and be swallowed up of that love. But I see not myself here, for I fear I make more of His love than of Himself, whereas He Himself is far beyond and much better than His love. Oh, if I had my sinful arms filled with that lovely one Christ! Blessed be my rich Lord Jesus, who sendeth not away beggars from His house with an empty dish. He filleth the vessel of such as will come and seek. We might beg ourselves rich, if we were wise, if we would but hold out our withered hands to Christ, and learn to seek, ask, and knock.” The highest conceptions of the love of Christ are realised by the soul that prays.

III. For the attainment of the most complete endowment of the Divine fulness.—“That you might be filled with all the fulness of God” (ver. 19). The prayer asks that man may gain the sum-total of God’s gifts, be filled in every capacity of his nature with the whole plenitude (the πλήρωμα) of God. To reach this glorious result, we need, indeed, special spiritual strengthening. New wine bursts old bottles; and a large and sudden inflow of Divine grace would be disastrous to the soul unprepared to receive it. What is wanted is strength—strength of the highest and purest kind. Muscular strength—a magnificent healthy physique—is a great gift; but it is one of our lowest endowments, and its abuse sinks us to a worse than brutish sensuality. Intellectual strength is a still higher gift, and if rightly used will lift us into a loftier world of wonders, of beauty, of purity and joy; but if abused will drag us down to the base level of the vapouring, scoffing sceptic, whose attempts to glorify error are instigated by a savage but utterly powerless hatred of truth. Spiritual strength is the highest gift of all. It is the motive-power that gives movement and direction to thought and action. Without it man is the plaything and victim of unrestrained passions. A short time ago I inspected one of the finest ocean-going steamships, a marvellous combination of strength and elegance. Everything seemed as perfect as engineering science could make it. But there was something wanting; it was a fatal defect. The giant shaft and powerful screw, the triple expansion cylinders, the cranks, pistons, and wheels were all there, but the noble vessel was [p. 191] useless, heaving helplessly on the rolling tide. The fires were out, and the active driving-power was lacking. What steam is to that great floating mass of complicated mechanism, giving it life, movement, direction, purpose—that spiritual strength is to our mental and physical organism. To receive the fulness of indwelling Deity the soul must be strengthened with spiritual strength. We cannot pray too earnestly for this.

IV. Uttered with a reverential recognition of the great Giver of all blessing.—1. Beginning with the submissive awe of a humble suppliant. “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father,” etc. (vers. 14, 15). The apostle is overwhelmed with the contemplation of the rich blessings stored up for man in Christ Jesus, and prostrates himself with lowly homage in the conscious presence of the great Donor of all spiritual good. Nothing humbles us more than a sight of the blessings possible of attainment by the greatest sinner.

2. Ending with an outburst of triumphant praise (vers. 20, 21).—Praise soars higher than prayer. Man’s desires will never overtake God’s bounty. When the apostle desires that God’s praise may resound in the Church “throughout all ages,” he no longer supposes that the mystery of God may be finished speedily as men count years. The history of mankind stretches before his gaze into its dim futurity. The successive generations gather themselves into that consummate age of the kingdom of God, the grand cycle in which all the ages are contained. With its completion time itself is no more. Its swelling current, laden with the tribute of all the worlds and all their histories, reaches the eternal ocean. The end comes; God is all in all. At this furthest horizon of thought, Christ and His own are seen together rendering to God unceasing glory (Findlay).

Lessons.—1. Prayer is the cry of conscious need. 2. Increases in importunity as it is strengthened by faith. 3. Finds its sublimest themes in the culture of the spiritual life.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 14, 15. The Christian Church a Family.

I. The definition here given of the Christian Church.—1. A society founded upon natural affinities—“a family.” A family is built on affinities which are natural, not artificial; it is not a combination, but a society. In ancient times an association of interest combined men in one guild or corporation for protecting the common persons in that corporation from oppression. In modern times identity of political creed or opinion has bound men together in one league in order to establish those political principles which appeared to them of importance. Similarity of taste has united men together in what is called an association, or a society, in order by this means to attain more completely the ends of that science to which they had devoted themselves. But, as these have been raised artificially, so their end is, inevitably, dissolution. Society passes on, and guilds and corporations die; principles are established, and leagues become dissolved; tastes change, and then the association or society breaks up and comes to nothing. It is upon another principle altogether that that which we call a family, or true society, is formed. It is not built upon similarity of taste nor identity of opinion, but upon affinities of nature. You do not choose who shall be your brother; you cannot exclude your mother or your sister; it does not depend upon choice or arbitrary opinion at all, but is founded upon the eternal nature of things. And precisely in the same way is the Christian Church formed—upon natural affinity, and not upon artificial combination.

2. The Church of Christ is a whole made up of manifold diversities.—We are told here it is “the whole family,” taking into it the great and good of [p. 192] ages past now in heaven, and also the struggling, the humble, and the weak now existing upon earth. Here, again, the analogy holds good between the Church and the family. Never more than in the family is the true entirety of our nature seen. Observe how all the diversities of human condition and character manifest themselves in the family. First of all, there are the two opposite pales of masculine and feminine, which contain within them the entire of our humanity; which together, not separately, make up the whole of man. Then there are the diversities in the degrees and kinds of affection. For, when we speak of family affection, we must remember that it is made up of many diversities. There is nothing more different than the love which the sister bears towards the brother, compared with that which the brother bears towards the sister. The affection which a man bears towards his father is quite distinct from that which he feels towards his mother; it is something quite different towards his sister; totally diverse, again, towards his brother. And then there are diversities of character. First, the mature wisdom and stern integrity of the father, then the exuberant tenderness of the mother. And then one is brave and enthusiastic, another thoughtful, and another tender. One is remarkable for being full of rich humour; another is sad, mournful, even melancholy. Again, besides these, there are diversities of condition in life. First, there is the heir, sustaining the name and honour of the family; then perchance the soldier, in whose career all the anxiety and solicitude of the family is centred; then the man of business, to whom they look up, trusting his advice, expecting his counsel; lastly, perhaps, there is the invalid, from the very cradle trembling between life and death, drawing out all the sympathies and anxieties of each member of the family, and so uniting them all more closely, from their having one common point of sympathy and solicitude. Now, you will observe that these are not accidental, but absolutely essential to the idea of a family; for so far as any one of them is lost, so far the family is incomplete. And precisely in the same way all these diversities of character and condition are necessary to constitute and complete the idea of a Christian Church.

3. The Church of Christ is a society which is for ever shifting its locality and altering its forms.—It is the whole Church, “the whole family in heaven and earth.” So, then, those who were on earth and now in heaven are members of the same family still. Those who had their home here, now have it there. The Church of Christ is a society ever altering and changing its external forms. “The whole family”—the Church of the patriarchs and of ages before them; and yet the same family. Remember, I pray you, the diversities of form through which, in so many ages and generations, this Church has passed. Consider the difference there was between the patriarchal Church of the time of Abraham and Isaac and its condition under David; or the difference between the Church so existing and its state in the days of the apostles and the marvellous difference between that and the same Church four of five centuries later; or, once again, the difference between that, externally one, and the Church as it exists in the present day, broken into so many fragments. Yet, diversified as these states may be, they are not more so than the various stages of a family.

II. Consider the name by which this Church is named.—“Our Lord Jesus Christ,” the apostle says, of whom “the whole family in heaven and earth is named.”

1. First, the recognition of a common Father.—That is the sacred truth proclaimed by the Epiphany. God revealed in Christ—not the Father of the Jew only, but also of the Gentile. The Father of a whole family. Not the partial Father, loving one alone—the elder—but the younger son besides, the outcast [p. 193] prodigal who had spent his living with harlots and sinners, but the child still, and the child of a Father’s love.

2. The recognition of a common humanity.—He from whom the Church is named took upon Him not the nature merely of the noble, of kings, or of the intellectual philosopher, but of the beggar, the slave, the outcast, the infidel, the sinner, and the nature of every one struggling in various ways.

3. The Church of Christ proceeds out of and rests upon the belief in a common Sacrifice.—F. W. Robertson.

The Family in Heaven and Earth.—With the boldness of a true and inspired nature the apostle Paul speaks with incidental ease of one family distributed between heaven and earth. There is, it seems, domesticity that cannot be absorbed by the interval between two spheres of being—a love that cannot be lost amidst the immensity, but finds the surest track across the void—a home affinity that penetrates the skies, and enters as the morning or evening guest. And it is Jesus of Nazareth who has effected this; has entered under the same household name, and formed into the same class, the dwellers above and those beneath. Spirits there, and spirits here, are gathered by Him into one group; and where before was saddest exile, He has made a blest fraternity.

I. Members of the same home cannot dwell together, without either the memory or the expectation or some mutual and mortal farewell.—All we who dwell in this visible scene can think of kindred souls that have vanished from us into the invisible. These, in the first place, does Jesus keep dwelling near our hearts; making still one family of those in heaven and those on earth. This He would do, if by no other means, by the prospect He has opened, of actual restoration. And since the grave can bury no affection now, but only the mortal and familiar shape of their object, death has changed its whole aspect and relation to us; and we may regard it, not with passionate hate, but with quiet reverence. It is a Divine message from above, not an invasion from the abyss beneath; not the fiendish hand of darkness thrust up to clutch our gladness enviously away, but a rainbow gleam that descends through Jesus, without which we should not know the various beauties that are woven into the pure light of life. Once let the Christian promise be taken to the heart, and as we walk through the solemn forest of our existence, every leaf of love that falls, while it proclaims the winter near, lets in another patch of God’s sunshine to paint the glade beneath our feet and give a glory to the grass. Tell me that I shall stand face to face with the sainted dead; and, whenever it may be, shall I not desire to be ready, and to meet them with clear eye and spirit unabashed? Such and so much encouragement would Christianity give to the faithful conversation of all true affections, if it only assured us of some distant and undefinable restoration. But it appears to me to assure us of much more than this; to discountenance the idea of any, even the most temporary, extinction of life in the grave; and to sanction our faith in the absolute immortality of the mind. Rightly understood, it teaches not only that the departed will live, but that they do live, and indeed have never died, but simply vanished and passed away.

II. But it is not merely the members of the same literal home that Christ unites in one, whether in earth or heaven. He makes the good of every age into a glorious family of the children of God; and inspires them with a fellow-feeling, whatever the department of service which they fill. Keeping us ever in the mental presence of the Divinest wisdom and in veneration of a perfect goodness, it accustoms us to the aspect of every grace that can adorn and consecrate our nature; trains our perceptions instantly to recognise its influence or to feel its want. It looks with an eye of full [p. 194] and clear affection over the wide circle of human excellence. Such hope tends to give us a prompt and large congeniality with them; to cherish the healthful affections which are domestic in every place and obsolete in no time; to prepare us for entering any new scene, and joining any new society where goodness, truth, and beauty dwell.—Martineau.

The Christian Brotherhood of Man.—The brotherhood of man has been the dream of old philosophers, and its attainment the endeavour of modern reformers. Man can only reach his highest life when he forms part of a society bound together by common sympathies and common aims, for by a great law of our nature it is true that he who lives utterly apart from his fellows must lose all true nobleness in selfish degradation. There is no real progress for the individual but through social sympathy. There is no strong and enduring aspiration but in the fellowship of aspiring souls. That conviction which men have so strongly felt and so vainly endeavoured to realise is perpetually asserted in the Book of God.

I. The brotherhood of man in Christ.—1. The Christian brotherhood is a unity of spirit under a diversity of form. Thus with the Church of the first century. At first it was one band of brotherhood; but as it grew and individual thought expanded and experience deepened there arose infinite diversities. The more men think and the more they grow, the more will they differ.

2. There are spiritual ties in action which in Christ bind man to man.—Paul’s words imply a threefold unity. 1. The fellowship of devotion to a common Father. 2. The fellowship with Christ our common Brother. 3. That fellowship is unbroken by the change of worlds.

II. Results of realising this fact of brotherhood.—1. Earnestness of life. 2. Power and grandeur of hope.—Some complain that their ideas of heaven are vague and ineffective. Only realise the brotherhood of man, and then the hope of the future will become a power in life.—E. L. Hull.

The One Family.—1. Believers on earth and saints and angels in heaven spring from the same common parent. 2. Are governed by the same general laws. 3. Share in the same pleasures and enjoyments. 4. Have the same general temper, the same distinguishing complexion. 5. Have one common interest. 6. Look to, rely upon, and are guided by the same Head. 7. Are all objects of God’s love. 8. At the last day will meet in God’s presence, be openly acknowledged as His children, and admitted to dwell in His house for ever.

Lessons.—1. If we estimate the dignity of men from the families with which they are connected, how honourable is the believer! 2. We see our obligations to mutual condescension, peaceableness, and love. 3. Let those who are not of this family be solicitous to obtain a place in it.—Lathrop.

Vers. 16–19. Paul’s Prayer for the Ephesians.

I. For spiritual strength.—It was not bodily strength, civil power, or worldly distinction; it was the grace of fortitude and patience.

II. For an indwelling Christ.—As we become united to Christ by faith, so by faith He dwells in our hearts.

III. For establishment in love.—True love is rooted in the heart. It is a spiritual affection towards Christ. Its fruits are love to men, imitation of Christ’s example, obedience to His commands, zeal for His honour, and diligence in His service.

IV. For increase of knowledge in the love of Christ.—The love of Christ passeth all known examples of love. This love passeth our comprehension in respect of its breadth or extent, its length, its depth, as the benefits it has procured exceed all human estimate. Though the love of Christ passeth knowledge, there is a sense in which it [p. 195] is known to the saints. They have an experimental knowledge, an influential knowledge, an assimilating knowledge of the love of Christ.

V. For the fulness of God.—That they may have such a supply of Divine influence as would cause them to abound in knowledge, faith, love, and all virtues and good works.—Lathrop.

Ver. 19. The Love of Christ.

I. The love of Christ passeth knowledge.—1. He Himself furnishes an illustrative instance when Paul says, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die”—a merely just and righteous man would be admired; but he would not so take hold of the heart of another to produce a willingness to die for him;—“yet peradventure,” in some rare case, “for a good man,” a man of benevolence, adorned with the softer virtues and abounding in the distribution of his favours—for such a one “some might even dare to die”; some one, overcoming even the love of life in the fulness of his gratitude, might venture to give his own life to preserve that of such a one. But we were neither just nor good; we were sinners, and “God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Passes it not, then, all knowledge, all reasonable conception and probability, that this fallen nature should be so sympathised with that these flagrant rebellions should excite, not an inexorable anger, but pity and love? And such love that our Saviour—looking not so much on man as offending, but as His creature, and as His creature still capable of restoration—should melt in compassion and die to effect his redemption; this is indeed love “that passeth knowledge.”

2. The manner in which this love is manifested carries the principle beyond all conception and expression.—It was love to the death. It was death for sinners, death in their stead; death, that the penal claims of law, and that law the unchangeable, unrelaxable law of God, might be fully satisfied. The redemption price was fixed by a spotless justice, and the love of Christ to the sinner was to be tested by the vastness of the claims to be made upon Him. But the wages of sin is death; and His love shrank not from the full and awful satisfaction required. It was death in our stead. Then it must be attended with anxious forebodings. Of what mysteries have I suggested the recollection to you? Can you comprehend them? That feeling with which He spoke of the baptism of blood? That last mysterious agony? That complaint of being forsaken of God? You feel you cannot. They transcend all your thought; and the love which made Him stoop to them is therefore love “which passeth knowledge.”

3. The love of Christ passeth knowledge if we consider it as illustrated by that care for us which signalises His administration.

4. The subject is further illustrated by the nature of the blessings which result to men from the love of Christ.—We usually estimate the strength of love by the blessings it conveys or, at any rate, would convey. And if the benefits be beyond all estimate, neither can we measure the love.

5. The love of Christ passeth knowledge because it is the love of an infinite nature. Love rises with the other qualities and perfections of the being in whom it is found. Among animals the social attachments are slight, and the instinctive affection dies away when its purposes are answered. In man love arises with his intellect. In him it is often only limited by his nature, and when rightly directed shall be eternal. Many that love on earth shall doubtless love for ever. Were Christ merely a man His love could not pass knowledge. What man has felt man can conceive. Love can be measured by the nature which exercises it. But this love passeth all knowledge but that of the Divine nature, because itself is Divine. Christ is God, and he who would fully know His love must be able to span immensity and to grasp the Infinite Himself.

[p. 196] II. But while it is true that the love of Christ passeth all knowledge, it is equally true that it is to be known by us.—To know the love of Christ is: 1. To recognise it in its various forms and expressions in our constant meditations. And where shall we turn and not be met by this, to us, most important subject? How delightful an occupation, to track all the streams of mercy up to their source. We are surrounded by the proof of the love of Christ. Let us see to it that the blinding veil be not on our heart, that our eyes be not holden that we should not know Him. We are called to know the love of Christ. Let us accustom ourselves to reflect upon it, to see it in its various forms and results; and then shall our meditation of Him be sweet. 2. To know the love of Christ is to perceive it in its adaptation to our own personal condition. 3. To know the love of Christ is to experience it in its practical results. He offers you pardon, and the offer is a proof and manifestation of His love; but properly to know it pardon itself must be accepted and embraced. This is to know his love. Seek it, and you must find it. Rest without it, and you are but “as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.” 4. To know the love of Christ we must put forth those efforts through which that love is appointed to express itself in our daily experience.

Lessons.—1. The rejection of love, especially of redeeming love, involves the deepest guilt. 2. Remember that the grace is common to you all.—R. Watson.

The Unknown and Known Love of Christ.

I. There are some respects in which the love of Christ passeth our knowledge.—1. In its objects; so unworthy and degraded. 2. In its sufferings; love to the death. 3. In its care. 4. In its blessings. 5. In its degree. It is the love of an infinite nature.

II. There are some respects in which the love of Christ may be known.—1. Our views of it may be clearer and more consistent. 2. Our views of it may be more confidential and appropriating. 3. Our views of it may be more impressive and more influential.—G. Brooks.

The Transcendent Love of Christ.

I. This representation must be confirmed.—1. This love is Divine. 2. Consider the objects it embraced. 3. The means by which it manifested itself. 4. The blessings it secured.

II. The perception the Christian may acquire of this love, notwithstanding its Divine infinitude.—1. It is the great interpreting principle which he applies to all the tremendous facts of redemption. 2. The sacred element and incentive of all piety—the theme of contemplation, the ground of confidence, the motive of obedience. 3. The impulse and model of all benevolence and zeal.

III. Conclusions from a review of the subject.—1. It is only natural to expect a transcendent character in Christianity. 2. No better test exists of what is genuine Christianity than the level of the views which it exhibits concerning the person and work of Christ and the tone of the affections which it encourages towards Him. 3. There is much of implicit as well as declarative evidence in support of the Saviour’s supreme Divinity. 4. How necessary is it that we should live habitually under the influence of this transcendent love.—R. W. Hamilton.

Vers. 20, 21. A Devout Doxology.

I. The acknowledgment the apostle makes of God’s all-sufficiency.—1. God often does for men those favours which they never thought of asking for themselves. 2. God answers prayers in ways we think not of. 3. The mercies God is pleased to grant often produce consequences far beyond what we asked or thought. 4. The worth of the blessings we ask and God bestows infinitely exceeds all our thought.

II. The ascription of glory the apostle makes to this all-sufficient God.—1. God is glorified by the increase [p. 197] of his Church. 2. God is glorified in the Church when a devout regard is paid to the ordinances He has instituted. 3. By the observance of good order in the Church, and by the decent attendance of the members on their respective duties. 4. That God may be glorified there must be peace and unity in the Church.—Lathrop.

God’s Infinite Liberality.

I. The object of this doxology.—The God of all grace. Whatever we think we ask. No limit to our asking but our thinking. God gives beyond our thinking. Here, take all this! Ah, poor thing, that transcends thine asking and even thy thinking, but take it. If it transcend all communicated power of mind, I say, “I thank Thee, my God, for it. I know it is exceeding good, but I cannot understand it. Keep it among Thy treasures. My blessedness rests not in my intellect, but in Thy favour. Remember Thou hast given it me. It may come I shall be able to understand it better and appreciate it more.” I shall never have asked too much, I shall never have thought too much, till I have asked beyond God’s ability, till I have thought beyond God’s ability. That ability is not a bare abstraction of the omnipotence of God, but it is the omnipotence of God as working in the Church and in the people of God. He is not omnipotent in heaven, and impotent in thee, or partially powerful in thee.

II. The doxology itself (ver. 21).—All should glorify God, but all will not. In the Church alone will God get glory. It is as the name of Christ is glorified in us that we are glorified in Him. It is when the glory that God reflects on the creature is by the creature ascribed as due only to God when He is glorified as the Author of it, transcendently and infinitely glorious, it is then that the glory rests. When it is appropriated it is lost, but it is possessed when it is tossed back and fro between God and the creature. When the creature gives it to God, God of His rich grace sends it back in greater measure; but the humble creature, emulous of God’s glory, sends it all back again to Him, and as it reciprocates so it increases. God gives not to end by enriching us—that is an immediate end; but the ultimate end is that He may be glorified. Be ashamed to get little—get all things. Get out of your poverty, not by fancying you are rich, but by coming and getting. The more you get always give glory, and come and ask and receive.—Dr. John Duncan.


 

CHAPTER IV.

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.

Ver. 1. Walk worthy of the vocation.—They had been called to life in the Spirit, and they must also “walk in the Spirit.”

Ver. 2. With all lowliness.—The Christian—“born from above”—is to exhibit a trait of character with the “high-born” Greek despised, and which Heine in modern times called “a hound’s virtue.” “The pride that apes humility” steals in under Chrysostom’s description of this “lowliness.” He says, “It is a making of ourselves small when we are great.” And meekness.—“A grace in advance of ‘lowliness,’ not as more precious than it, but as presupposing it, and as being unable to exist without it” (Trench). With longsuffering.—The exact opposite of our “short-tempered”—e.g. “Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened?” means “Has the Lord become irritable?” (Mic. ii. 7). The word suggests to men by nature irascible that “slowness to wrath” recommended by St. James. Forbearing [p. 198] one another in love.—The brother who is tempted to anger is not to look down from the height of a lofty pride on those who try his patience, but in compassionate love, remembering his own frailty, must “suffer long and be kind.”

Ver. 3. Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Sprit in the bond of peace.—It is no easy-going indifference that is inculcated; they will have to “exert themselves,” “give diligence” (R.V.), before that peace obtains which is the harmonious and frictionless working of each part of the machine.

Vers. 4–6. One body . . . and in you all.—“Seven elements of unity St. Paul enumerates. . . . They form a chain stretching from the Church on earth to the throne and being of the universal Father in heaven” (Findlay).

Ver. 7. But unto every one of us is given grace.—The distributing Spirit (1 Cor. xii. 11) leaves no humblest member of the body of Christ without His endowment.

Ver. 8. Wherefore He saith.—What follows is a quotation of Ps. lxviii. 18 “with free alteration” (Meyer), adapting the return of the hero-king to his own city to that most magnificent of all triumphs—over Hades and Death—achieved by Him “who was dead and is alive for evermore.” “Being by the right hand of God exalted He hath poured forth this” abundance, as a conqueror scatters his largesse.

Vers. 9, 10. Now that He ascended . . . that He might fill all things.—The exaltation, in His case, presupposed the humiliation. From the throne of the universe—“the glory which He had with the Father”—to the profoundest depths where any poor lost piece of humanity that is redeemable can be found, and thence again to the throne He relinquished. The same also.—Exalted, to be confidingly and adoringly loved; humbled, to be worshipped no less as “the Son of man who is in heaven.”

Ver. 11. And He gave some to be, etc.—“Christ gave the persons, and the community gave to them the service” (Meyer). Apostles . . . prophets . . . evangelists.—We cannot accept the order as significant of rank. It would grace an angel to be the “evangelist” of such a salvation. As apostles they went forth “sent” by their Master to men in their need; as prophets they “spoke out” what He had taught them; as evangelists they were the messengers of good tidings. They were apostles that they might be evangelists (Matt x. 5–7), “going about heralding” the kingdom and gathering men into it. Pastors and teachers.—Shepherds and instructors of those gathered together by men of another order. These are the true “bishops,” whatever “other name” they bear (1 Pet. v. 1–4).

Ver. 12. For the perfecting of the saints.—“Saints,” whilst a title of the highest honour, is often expressive of the ideal rather than the real life of those who bear it; the “perfecting” is the rendering into actual life of what is implied in the term of honour. For the work of the ministry.—R.V. “into the work.” If the end of all Christ’s gifts so far as “the saints” are concerned is their perfect equipment, so far as His messengers are concerned they go forth unto service first, honour afterwards. For the edifying of the body of Christ.—Practically the same as the foregoing, but with an ultimate reference to Christ. The double figure of a building and of a body is familiar to our own speech, as when we speak of “building up a strong frame.”

Ver. 13. Till we all come.—Suggestive of standing opposite to something towards which we have been toiling. Can one think without a tremor of joy, of the moment when he will find himself in perfect correspondence with the Divine Archetype? In the unity of the faith.—The world has seen many attempts to bring about uniformity of creed, after the manner of Procrustes, by stretching or chopping. “The unity of the faith” is a very different thing, and much to be desired. The knowledge of the Son of God.—Lit. the complete knowledge. Unto a full-grown man.—As above intimated, a child does not become a man by means of the rack. The significance of the word “man” here is as great as when we bid some one who has lost his self-respect to “be a man.”

Ver. 14. That we henceforth be no more children.—In what respects his readers are not to be children the apostle makes plain, viz. in helplessness and credulity. Tossed to and fro.—With no more power of resistance than a cork on the waves. By the sleight of men and cunning craftiness.—As some poor simpleton, who thinks himself capable, falls a victim to card-sharpers, so unstable souls fall victims to those who say with Falstaff, “If the young dace be a bite for the old pike, I see no reason in the law of nature but I may snap at him.”

Ver. 15. But speaking the truth in love.—If it be possible to make the medicine palatable without destroying its efficacy—to capsule the bitter pill—its chances are so much the greater of doing good. The A.V. margin gives “being sincere,” and the R.V. “dealing truly,” the different renderings indicating the difficulty of finding an English equivalent.

Ver. 16. Fitly joined together and compacted.—R.V. “fitly framed and knit together.” Bengel suggests that the first expression means the fitting together, and the second the fastening together. Meyer, denying this, says the distinction is that the former corresponds [p. 199] to the figure, the latter to the thing represented. The grammar, like the physiology, of this verse is difficult. Are we to read, “The whole body . . . maketh increase of the body”? Apparently we must, for the body “builds itself up in love.”

Ver. 17. That ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk.—In this and the two following verses we have again the lurid picture of ch. ii. 2, 3: “in the vanity of their mind.”

“The creature is their sole delight,
 Their happiness the things of earth.”

Ver. 18. Having the understanding darkened.—Remembering our Lord’s saying about the single eye and the fully illuminated body we might say, “If the understanding—by which all light should come—be darkened ‘how great is that darkness’!” Because of the blindness.—R.V. “hardness.” The word describes the hard skin formed by constant rubbing, as the horny hand of a blacksmith.

Ver. 19. Who being past feeling.—Having lost the “ache” which should always attend a violation of law. An ancient commentator uses the now familiar word “anæsthetes” to explain the phrase. Having given themselves over.—“Given” represents a word which often connotes an act of treason—and “themselves” is emphatic—“the most tremendous sacrifice ever laid on the altar of sin” (Beet). To lasciviousness.—“St. Paul stamps upon it the burning word ἀσέλγεια like a brand on the harlot’s brow” (Findlay). To work all uncleanness with greediness.—R.V. margin, “to make a trade of all uncleanness with covetousness.” Their “sins not accidental, but a trade”; and a trade at which they work with a “desire of having more.”

Ver. 20. No not so.—As differently as possible. The same mode of speech which led St. Paul to say to the Galatians, “Shall I praise you? . . . I praise you not.”—i.e. “I blame you highly.”

Ver. 21. If so be that ye have heard Him.—The emphasis is on “Him”—“assuming, that is, that it is He, and no other.”

Ver. 22. That ye put off concerning the former conversation.—It is no “philosophy of clothes” inculcated here. It is a deliverance from “the body of death,” like stripping oneself of his very integument. Conversation.—R.V. “manner of life.” Which is corrupt.—R.V. much more strikingly—“waxeth corrupt.” St. Paul’s figure elsewhere is appropriate—“like a gangrene eating into the flesh.”

Vers. 23, 24. The stripping off being complete, and the innermost core of the man being renewed, the investiture may begin. The “habit” laid aside is never to be resumed, and the new robes, “ever white,” are not to be soiled. Righteousness and true holiness.—R.V. “Righteousness and holiness of truth.” See the “dealing truly” of ver. 15, R.V. margin.

Ver. 25. Putting away lying.—Findlay holds to it that “the lie, the falsehood, is objective and concrete; not lying, or falsehood as a subjective act, habit, or quality.” Members one of another.—Let there be “no schism in the body.”

Ver. 26. Let not the sun go down on your wrath.—The word for “wrath” is not the usual one. It almost seems as if the compound form had reference to the matter “alongside which” wrath was evoked. If “curfew” could ring out the fires of wrath at sundown, we might welcome the knell. Meyer quotes the Pythagorean custom of making up a quarrel by the parties “shaking hands” before sunset.

Ver. 28. Let him that stole steal no more.—Though we have not here the word for “brigand,” we may think that the thieving had not always been without violence. That he may have to give.—Not the profits of wickedness, but “the good” results of his own labour, and may give it to the needy “with cheerfulness” (Rom. xii. 8), with a “hilarity” beyond that of “those who divide the spoil” (Isa. ix. 3).

Ver. 29. Let no corrupt communication.—R.V. “speech.” Putrid speech can never come forth from any but a bad person, “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” But that which is good to the use of edifying.—The word in season “fitly spoken” has an æsthetic charm (Prov. xxv. 11), but it was more necessary to teach these loquacious Asiatics the utilitarian end of having a human tongue. “It is the mere talk, whether frivolous or pompous—spoken from the pulpit or the easy-chair—the incontinence of tongue, the flux of senseless, graceless, unprofitable utterance that St. Paul desires to arrest” (Findlay).

Ver. 30. Grieve not.—“Do not make Him sorrow.” A strong figure like that which says that God was sorry that He had made man (Gen. vi. 6). Whereby ye are sealed.—Cf. ch. i. 13. “In whom ye were sealed” (R.V.)

Ver. 31. Let all bitterness.i.e. “of speech.” “Sarcasm I now see to be, in general, the language of the devil,” said one liberally endowed with it. The satirist Hipponax—a native of Ephesus—was called “the bitter.” Such a man as “speaks poniards,” and whose “every word stabs,” may be brilliant and a formidable opponent; he will never be loved. Wrath and anger.—The former is the fuming anger, “the intoxication of the soul,” as St. Basil calls it; the latter is the state after the paroxysm is over, cherishing hatred and planning revenge. Clamour and railing.—“Clamour” is the loud outcry so familiar in an Eastern concourse of [p. 200] excited people (Acts xxiii. 9), like that hubbub in Ephesus when for two hours the populace yelled, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians” (Acts xix. 28). “Railing,” blasphemy—speech that is calculated to do injury. Malice.—“Badness.” “This last term is separated from the others as generic and inclusive” (Beet).

Ver. 32. Be ye kind.—The word is found in Christ’s invitation to the weary—“My yoke is easy.” It is characteristic of the Father that “He is kind to the unthankful.” The man who drinks wine that is new and harsh says, “The old is good” (mellow). Tenderhearted.—Soon touched by the weakness of others. Forgiving . . . as God . . . forgave you.—The motive and measure of our forgiveness of injuries is the Divine forgiveness shown to “all that debt” of our wrong-doing (Matt. xviii. 32).

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 1–3.

The Dignity of the Christian Life

I. Imposes the obligation to act in harmony with its lofty aims.—“Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (ver. 1). There is the practical, stimulative influence of a high ideal. The Spirit within us has not only changed our nature and cleansed our spiritual vision, but He has lifted our horizon, formed within us distinct outlines of the Christian ideal after which we are to labour, and furnished us with the moral forces with which we are to attain the beauty and unity of a perfect spiritual character. We who are created in God’s image and restored in Christ and made partakers of the Divine nature in Him, are bound by condition of our creation and redemption to endeavour to be like Him here that we may have the fruition of His glorious Godhead hereafter. The true Christian cannot stoop to any meanness either in thought or action. He is dignified without being proud.

II. Involves the practice of self-suppression.—1. In a just estimate of ourselves. “With all lowliness and meekness.” In endeavouring to balance the value and use of our powers and faculties, and in measuring the degree and volume of our influence, we must observe humility—not a cringing cowardly spirit which would deter us from the right for fear of doing wrong, but an elevated sense of right with courage to perform it, and with humility to acknowledge and confess when we are in the wrong. It does not mean the craven surrender of our honest convictions and carefully formed judgment. We may efface ourselves, but not the truth within us. An Italian bishop being asked the secret of his habitual humility and patience replied, “It consists in nothing more than in making good use of my eyes. In whatever state I am, I first of all look up to heaven and remember that my principal business here is to get there. I then look back down to earth and call to mind the space I shall shortly occupy in it. I then look abroad into the world and observe what multitudes there are who in all respects have more cause to be unhappy than myself. Thus I learn where true happiness is placed, where all our cares must end, and how very little reason I have to repine or complain.”

2. In a loving forbearance towards each other.—“With longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (ver. 2). The meek man may be severe with himself, and his constant habit of self-suppression may render him somewhat impatient with the unreasonable outbreaks of temper in others. Meekness must be balanced and moderated with patience, and both virtues exercised in the all-pervading element of love. Love softens every harshness, tones down asperity, and welds together the Christian character in a firm but not too rigid a unity. “Bind thyself to thy brother,” said Chrysostom. “Those who are bound together in love bear all burdens lightly. Bind thyself to him and him to thee. Both are in thy power; for whomsoever I will, I may easily make my friend.”

III. Demands an earnest striving after a peaceful spiritual unity.—“Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (ver. 3). [p. 201] Peace—“a silken cord binding into one the members of the Church; the encompassing element of the unity of the Spirit” (Beet). The apostle repeatedly and solemnly inculcates unity and peace on all the Churches, warns them against contentions and divisions, and kindles into righteous indignation against all those insidious and false teachers who, under the pretence of advocating a higher piety really disturb and rend the Church of Christ. On what an enormous scale are preparations made for war! We should not be less diligent and elaborate in taking every precaution in promoting and maintaining peace.

Lessons.—1. True humility is always dignified. 2. Personal happiness is not the highest aim of the Christian life. 3. The noblest virtues of the Christian character are not attained without earnest endeavour.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 1–3. True Church Life.—1. The word “walk” is a very extensive signification. It includes all our inward and outward motions, all our thoughts, words, and actions. It takes in, not only everything we do, but everything we either speak or think. 2. We are called to walk, first, “with all lowliness,” to have the mind in us which was also in Christ Jesus; not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think; to be little, and poor, and mean, and vile in our own eyes; to know ourselves as also we are known by Him to whom all hearts are opened; to be deeply sensible of our own unworthiness. Who can be duly sensible how much remains in him of his natural enmity to God, or how far he is still alienated from God by the ignorance that is in him? 3. Yea, suppose God has now thoroughly cleaned our heart, and scattered the last remains of sin; yet how can we be sensible enough of our own helplessness, our utter inability to all good, unless we are every hour, yea, every moment, endued with power from on high? 4. When our inmost soul is thoroughly tinctured therewith, it remains that we “be clothed with humility.” The word used by St. Peter seems to imply that we be covered with it as with a surtout; that we be all humility, both within and without; tincturing all we think, speak, and do. Let all our actions spring from this fountain; let all our words breathe this spirit; that all men may know we have been with Jesus, and have learned of Him to be lowly in heart. 5. And being taught of Him who teacheth as never man taught, to be meek as well as lowly in heart. This implies not only a power over anger, but over all violent, turbulent passions. It implies the having all our passions in due proportion; none of them either too strong or too weak, but all duly balanced with each other, all subordinate to reason, and reason directed by the Spirit of God. 6. Walk with all “longsuffering.” This is nearly related to meekness, but implies something more. It carries on the victory already gained over all your turbulent passions, notwithstanding all the powers of darkness, all the assaults of evil men or evil spirits. It is patiently triumphant over all opposition, and unmoved though all the waves and storms thereof go over you. 7. The “forbearing one another in love” seems to mean, not only the not resenting anything, and the not avenging yourselves; not only the not injuring, hurting, or grieving each other, either by word or deed, but also the bearing one another’s burdens, yea, and lessening them by every means in our power. It implies the sympathising with them in their sorrows, afflictions, and infirmities; the bearing them up when, without our help, they would be liable to sink under their burdens. 8. Lastly, the true members of the Church of Christ “endeavour,” with all possible diligence, with all care and pains, with [p. 202] unwearied patience, to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” to preserve inviolate the same spirit of lowliness and meekness, of longsuffering, mutual forbearance, and love; and all these cemented and knit together by that sacred tie—the peace of God filling the heart. Thus only can we be and continue living members of that Church which is the body of Christ. 9. Does it not clearly appear from this whole account why, in the ancient creed commonly called the Apostles’, we term it the universal or catholic Church, “the holy catholic Church”? The Church is called holy, because it is holy, because every member thereof is holy, though in different degrees, as He that called them is holy. How clear this is! If the Church, as to the very essence of it, is a body of believers, no man that is not a Christian believer can be a member of it. If this whole body be animated by one Spirit, and endued with one faith, and one hope of their calling, then he who has not that Spirit and faith and hope is no member of this body. It follows, that not only no common swearer, no Sabbath-breaker, no drunkard, no whoremonger, no thief, no liar, none that lives in any outward sin, but none that is under the power of anger or pride, no lover of the world—in a word, none that is dead to God—can be a member of His Church.—Wesley.

Brotherly Love in Action.

I. Walk in lowliness.—Humble thoughts of ourselves, of our own knowledge, goodness, and importance are necessary to Christian peace and union. We shall not despise our brethren for their want of the internal gifts or external advantages we enjoy. We shall not lean to our own understanding; but, conscious of our liability to err, we shall be attentive to instruction and reproof, open to conviction, ready to retrace our errors and confess our faults.

II. Walk in meekness—in a prudent restraint and government of the passions. We shall not be easily provoked, our resentments will not be sudden, without cause or without bounds. If a variance happens, we shall stand ready to be reconciled. We shall be cautious not to give, and slow to take offence. In matters of religion our zeal will be tempered with charity.

III. To our meekness we must add longsuffering and forbearance.—These terms express the patient and exalted exercise of meekness rather than virtues distinct from it. We are not only to be meek, but longsuffering in our meekness; not only to restrain anger under ordinary offences, but to suppress malice and forbear revenge under the most provoking injuries.

IV. We must endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.—Not unity of opinion—this is not possible, nor reasonable to be expected, in the present state of mankind; but unity of spirit, of heart and affection, disposing us to preserve the bond of peace and maintain all the duties of Christian fellowship, whatever differences of sentiment take place. To the same purpose are the apostle’s exhortations to all the Churches, and especially to those in which diversity of opinion concerning ceremonial usages threatened their external peace.—Lathrop.

Ver. 3. Peace the Bond of Unity.

I. There is a union of the visible Church and the members thereof among themselves, and this is twofold: the one necessary to the being of a Church and being of a Church member, so that a Church cannot be a Church nor a man a member without it, the tie of which is God’s covenant with the visible Church, and the Church’s laying hold of it; the other necessary to the well-being of the Church, which is entertained by unity in judgment, in heart and affection, by concurrences in purposes and actings.

II. Neither fair pretences for peace and union in the Church, nor seconded but contradicted by practice, nor yet careless endeavours easily broken by [p. 203] difficulties, will God accept as the duty required for preserving or restoring unity.—There is no less called for than the utmost of our serious endeavours for that end, so that we not only eschew what may give cause of rending, but also be not easily provoked when it is given by others, and when a rent is made spare no pains for having it removed, and weary not under small appearances of success.

III. Whatever differences may fall out among the members of the Church they are not to break the bond of peaceable walking one with another by factious sidings, but ought to study unanimous and joint practice in those things wherein there is agreement; and where this peaceable deportment is, it tends to preserve what remains of spiritual unity and to regain what is already lost.—Fergusson.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 4–6.

The Sevenfold Unity of the Church reflected in the Trinity of Divine Persons.

I. One Spirit (ver. 4), the animating Principle of the one body (ver. 4)—the Church; the Source of its life and ever-watchful Guardian of the Church’s unity; the Inspirer of the one hope, “Even as ye are called in one hope of your calling” (ver. 4). Where the Spirit of Christ dwells as a vitalising, formative principle, He finds or makes for Himself a body. Let no man say, “I have the spirit of religion, I can dispense with forms, I need no fellowship with men, I prefer to walk with God.” God will not walk with men who do not care to walk with His people. The oneness of communion amongst the people of Christ is governed by a unity of aim. The old pagan world fell to pieces because it was without hope; the golden age was in the past. No society can endure that lives upon its memories, or that contents itself with cherishing its privileges. Nothing holds men together like work and hope. Christianity holds out a splendid crown of life. It promises our complete restoration to the image of God, the redemption of the body with the spirit from death, and our entrance upon an eternal fellowship with Christ in heaven. The Christian hope supplies to men more truly and constantly than Nature in her most exalted forms--

“The anchor of their purest thoughts, the nurse,
 The guide, the guardian of their heart, and soul
 Of all their moral being.”

The hope of our calling is a hope for mankind, nay, for the entire universe. We labour for the regeneration of humanity. We look for the actual ingathering into one in Christ of all things in all worlds, as they are already gathered in God’s eternal plan. If it were merely a personal salvation that we had to seek, Christian communion might appear to be an optional thing and the Church no more than a society for mutual spiritual benefit. But seen in this larger light, Church membership is of the essence of our calling (Findlay).

II. One Lord (ver. 5), or Master, whom we are called to serve. A consentaneous and harmonious obedience to His mandates blends His servants into one compact unity. One faith (ver. 5), one body of inviolable truth, one code of Divine commands, one Gospel of promise, presenting one object of faith. One baptism (ver. 5), one gateway of entrance into the company of believers forming the one Church, one initiatory rite common to all. Christians may differ as to the mode of baptism and the age at which it should be administered, but all agree it is an institution of Christ, a sign of spiritual renewal, and a pledge of the righteousness that comes by faith. Wherever the sacraments are duly observed, there the supremacy of Christ’s rule is recognised, and this rule is the basis on which future unity must be built.

III. One God, the supreme and final unity, who is “the Father of all,” [p. 204] who is above all, and through all, and in you all (ver. 6). Above all—He reigns supreme over all His people (Rom. ix. 5). Through all—informing, inspiring, stimulating, and using them as instruments to work out His purpose (Rom. xi. 36). In all—dwelling in and filling their hearts and the ever-widening circle of their experience. “The absolute sovereignty of the Divine Mind over the universe,” said Channing, “is the only foundation of hope for the triumph of the human mind over matter, over physical influences, over imperfection and death.” With what a grand simplicity the Christian conception of the one God and Father rose above the vulgar pantheon, the swarm of motley deities—some gay and wanton, some dark and cruel, some of supposed beneficence, all infected with human passion and baseness—which filled the imagination of the Græco-Asiatic pagans. What rest there was for the mind, what peace and freedom for the spirit, in turning from such deities to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! This was the very God whom the logic of Greek thought and the practical instincts of Roman law and empire blindly sought. Through ages He had revealed Himself to the people of Israel, who were now dispersed amongst the nations to bear His light. At last He declared His full name and purpose to the world through Jesus Christ. So the gods many and lords many have had their day. By His manifestation the idols are utterly abolished. The proclamation of one God and Father signifies the gathering of men into one family of God. The one religion supplies the basis for one life in all the world. God is over all, gathering all worlds and beings under the shadow of His beneficent dominion. He is through all and in all; an omnipresence of love, righteousness, and wisdom, actuating the powers of nature and of grace, inhabiting the Church and the heart of men (Findlay).

Lessons.—1. In the moral as in the material world there is diversity in unity and unity in diversity. 2. All phases of good find their consummation in an imperishable unity. 3. To disturb the balance of unity is a great evil.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 4–6. The Unity of the Church.

I. There is one body.—The Church is a body of which Christ is the Head, and believers are the members. Though Christians are formed into distinct societies, they constitute but one body. They are united to the Head by faith and to their fellow-members by love.

II. There is one Spirit.—As all members of the natural body are animated by one soul, so all the members of Christ’s body are sanctified, strengthened, and led by the same Spirit. Since there is one Spirit which dwells in all Christians, all contention, bitterness, and envy, all animosity, division, and separation in the Church are offences against the Holy Spirit.

III. There is one hope of our calling.—We are all called by the same Word, our hope is grounded on the same promises, the object of our hope is the same immortal life.

IV. There is one Lord.—Christ is Lord of all by the same right. He has bought us with a high price, redeemed us by His own blood. There is no respect of persons with him. We are called to the same service, are under the same laws, and must appear at the same judgment.

V. There is one faith.—The same Gospel is the rule of our faith, and this all Christians profess to receive. The faith of all true Christians is essentially the same. The object of it is the Word of God, the nature of it is receiving the love of the truth, the effect of it is to purify the heart.

VI. There is one baptism.—We are all baptised in the name of Christ, and He is not divided. May differ as to the age at which persons become the subjects of baptism and the manner of administration, but regarding the design of it we are one. Baptism intended [p. 205] not to divide, but unite the whole Christian world.

VII. There is one God and Father.—The Father of the whole creation, but in a more eminent sense the Father of Christians. He is above all. He reigns supreme. He is through all. His essence pervades our frame, His eyes search and try our souls, His influence preserves our spirits. He is in all. In all true Christians by His Spirit. They are the temple of God, and His Spirit dwelleth in them.—Lathrop.

Ver. 4. The Oneness of the Church.—1. All the members of the Church being one body is a strong argument enforcing the duty of keeping peace and unity; it being no less absurd for Christians to bite and devour one another than if the members of the selfsame natural body should tear and destroy one another. 2. As those in nature are in a hopeless state, having no right to heaven and happiness, so the Gospel doth open to the person called a large door of well-grounded hope, that, whatever be his misery here, he shall be perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of God for ever hereafter. 3. The joint aiming of the saints at one mark should make them of one mind and heart, seeing there is that in glory which will suffice all. Their seeking of one thing need be no occasion of strife and emulation, but rather of unity, for why should they strive together who not only are brethren but also heirs together of the grace of life and shall one day reign together in glory?—Fergusson.

One Body and One Spirit.

I. The unity or oneness of the Church as set forth by the unity or oneness of the body.—One life animates the whole. The parts mutually subserve one another, while the head thinks and the heart beats for all. There is a certain harmony existing between all the members; they constitute a symmetry among themselves, so that one could not be taken away without destroying the perfection of all the others, more or less marring the grace and beauty of the whole frame. So the Church is one—one mystical body—having one author, God; one Head, which is Christ; and one informing Spirit, the Holy Ghost; one country towards which all its members are travelling, heaven; one code of instructions to guide them thither, the Word of God; one and the same band of enemies seeking to bar their passage, the world, the flesh, and the devil. Despite all miserable divisions, wherever there is a man with true love to God and man, any true affiance on Christ, any true obedience to the Spirit and His leadings, there exists a member of this mystical body.

II. As in the human body there is unity, so there is also variety, diversity, multiplicity.—This is true of the Church of Christ. Its different members have different functions and offices, and in performing these the Church makes equable and harmonious growth.

Lessons.—1. As members of the same body, let us not separate from brethren in Christ. 2. If we are members one of another, many are the debts as such we owe the one to the other. (1) We owe one another truth. (2) Love one to another. (3) Honour one to another.—R. C. Trench.

Ver. 5. One Lord.

I. Christ is our Lord according to every notion and acceptation of the word “Lord.”—He is our Prince and Governor, we are His subjects and vassals; He is our Master, and we are His servants; He is our Owner, or the Possessor and Proprietary of us; He is our Preceptor or Teacher; that is, the Lord of our understanding, which is subject to the belief of His dictates; and the Lord of our practice, which is to be directed by His precepts. He is therefore also our Captain and Leader, whose orders we must observe, whose conduct we should follow, whose pattern we are to regard and imitate in all things.

II. Christ is also our Lord according to every capacity or respect of nature [p. 206] or office that we can consider appertaining to Him.—1. He is our Lord as by nature the Son of God, partaking of the Divine essence and perfection. 2. He is our Lord as man, by the voluntary appointment and free donation of God His Father; in regard to the excellency of His Person, and to the merit of His performances. 3. He also, considered as God and man united in one Person, is plainly our Lord. 4. If we are to consider Him as Jesus, our Saviour, that notion doth involve acts of dominion, and thence resulteth a title thereto. Nothing more becomes a Lord than to protect and save; none better deserves the right and the name of a Lord than a Saviour. 5. Likewise, if He be considered as the Christ, that especially implieth Him anointed and consecrated to sovereign dominion, as King of the Church.

III. Survey the several grounds upon which dominion may be built, and we shall see that upon all accounts He is our Lord.—1. An uncontrollable power and ability to govern is one certain ground of dominion. 2. To make, to preserve, to provide and dispense maintenance, are also clear grounds of dominion. 3. He hath acquired us by free donation from God His Father. 4. He hath acquired us by just right of conquest, having subdued those enemies unto whom (partly by their fraud and violence, partly from our own will and consent) we did live enslaved and addicted. 5. He hath also further acquired us to Himself by purchase, having by a great price bought us, ransomed us out of sad captivity, and redeemed us from grievous punishment due to us. 6. He likewise acquired a lordship over us by desert, and as a reward from God, suitable to His performance of obedience and patience, highly satisfactory and acceptable to God. 7. He hath acquired a good right and title to dominion over us as our continual most munificent benefactor. 8. Our Saviour Jesus is not only our Lord by nature and by acquisition in so many ways (by various performances, deserts, and obligations put on us), but He is also so by our own deeds, by most free and voluntary, most formal and solemn, and therefore most obligatory acts of ours. (1) If we are truly persuaded that Christ is our Lord and Master, we must then see ourselves obliged humbly to submit unto and carefully to observe His will, to attend unto and to obey His law, with all readiness and diligence. (2) If Christ be our Lord, then are we not our own lords or our own men; we are not at liberty, or at our own disposal, as to our own persons or our actions. (3) If Christ be our Lord (absolutely and entirely such), then can we have no other lords whatever in opposition to Him, or in competition with Him, or otherwise any way than in subordination and subserviency to Him. (4) If Christ be our Lord, we are thereby disobliged, yea, we are indeed prohibited, from pleasing or humouring men, so as to obey any command, to comply with any desire, or to follow any custom of theirs, which is repugnant to the will or precept of Christ. (5) Finally, for our satisfaction and encouragement, we may consider that the service of Christ is rather indeed a great freedom than a service.—Barrow.

Ver. 6. God the Father.

I. God is the universal Father.—1. God is the Father of all things, or of us as creatures, as the efficient Cause and Creator of them all. 2. The Father of intellectual beings. He is styled the Father of spirits; the angels, in way of excellency, are called the sons of God. 3. The Father in a more especial manner to mankind. 4. The Father of all good men, with a relation being built upon higher grounds; for as good they have another original from Him, virtue springs in their hearts from a heavenly seed, that emendation and perfection of nature is produced by His grace enlightening and quickening them; they are images of Him, resembling Him in judgment and disposition of mind, in will and purpose, in action and [p. 207] behaviour, which resemblances argue them to be sons of God and constitute them such.

II. The uses of this truth.—1. It may teach us what reverence, honour, and observance are due from us to God, in equity and justice, according to ingenuity and gratitude. 2. This consideration may instruct and admonish us what we should be and how we should behave ourselves, for if we be God’s children it becometh us, and we are obliged in our disposition and demeanour to resemble, to imitate Him. It is natural and proper for children to resemble their parents in their complexion and countenance, to imitate them in their actions and carriage. 3. This consideration may raise us to a just regard, esteem, and valuation of ourselves; may inspire noble thoughts and breed generous inclinations in us; may withdraw us from mean, base, and unworthy designs or practices; may excite and encourage us to handsome, brave, worthy resolutions and undertakings suitable to the dignity of our nature, the nobleness of our descent, the eminence of so high a relation, of so near an alliance to God. 4. This consideration is a motive to humility, apt to depress vain conceit and confidence in ourselves. If we are God’s children, so as to have received our beings, all our powers and abilities, all our goods and wealth, both internal and external, both natural and spiritual, from His free disposal, so as be continually preserved and maintained by His providence to depend for all our subsistence upon His care and bounty, what reason can we have to assume or ascribe anything to ourselves? 5. This consideration shows us the reason we have to submit entirely to the providence of God with contentedness and acquiescence in every condition. 6. Obligeth us to be patient and cheerful in the sorest afflictions, as deeming them to come from a paternal hand, inflicted with great affection and compassion, designed for and tending to our good. 7. Shows the reason we have to obey those precepts which enjoin us to rely on God’s providence. 8. Serves to breed and cherish our faith, to raise our hope, to quicken our devotion. For whom shall we confide in if not in such a Father? From whom can we expect good if not from Him? To whom can we have recourse so freely and cheerfully on any occasion if not to Him? 9. Considering this point will direct and prompt us how to behave ourselves towards all God’s creatures according to their respective natures and capacities. If God be the Father of all things, they are all thence in some sort our brethren, and so may claim from us a fraternal affection and demeanour answerable thereto.—Barrow.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 7–12.

The Gifts of Christ to His Church

I. That each member of the Church possesses some gift from Christ.—“Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (ver. 7). All are not alike talented, but each one has some gift of grace. Every gift is not from earth, but from heaven; not from man, but from Christ. Look not down, then, as swine to the acorns they find lying there, and never once up to the tree they come from. Look up; the very frame of our body bears that way. It is nature’s check to the body. “Graces are what a man is; but enumerate his gifts and you will know what he has. He is loving, he has eloquence, or medical skill, or legal knowledge, or the gift of acquiring languages, or that of healing. You have only to cut out his tongue, or to impair his memory, and the gift is gone. But you must destroy his very being, change him into another man, obliterate his identity, before he ceases to be a loving man. Therefore you may contemplate the gift separate from the man; you may admire it and despise [p. 208] him. But you cannot contemplate the grace separate from the man” (F. W. Robertson).

“If facts allure thee, think how Bacon shined,
 The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind.”—Pope.

The humblest member of the Church of Christ is not without his gift. The grace of the Gospel elevates and sanctifies all his powers and opportunities, and turns them into noblest uses.

II. That the gifts of Christ to His Church are distributed with the lavish generosity of a conqueror returning from the field of victory (vers. 8–10).—We have read of the profuse gifts of victorious warriors:—of Gonsalvo, the great Spanish captain, whose unselfish prodigality was proverbial. “Never stint your hand,” he was accustomed to say: “there is no way of enjoying one’s property like giving it away”;—of Alexander the Great, who on one occasion gave a blank draft to one of his generals with liberty to fill in any amount he chose. When the treasurer, surprised at the enormous sum inserted, asked his imperial master if there was not some mistake, he answered: “No; pay it, pay it; the man honours me by assuming the inexhaustible resources of my empire”;—of Belisarius, whose victories were always followed by liberal and extravagant largesses. “By the union of liberality and justice,” writes Gibbon, “he acquired the love of his soldiers, without alienating the affections of the people. The sick and wounded were relieved with medicines and money, and still more efficaciously by the healing visits and smiles of their commander. The loss of a weapon or a horse was instantly repaired, and each deed of valour was rewarded by the rich and honourable gifts of a bracelet or a collar, which were rendered more precious by the judgment of Belisarius. He was endeared to the husbandmen by the peace and plenty which they enjoyed under the shadow of his standard. Instead of being injured, the country was enriched by the march of the Roman armies; and such was the rigid discipline of their camp that not an apple was gathered from the tree, not a path could be traced in the fields of corn. Victory by sea and land attended his armies. He subdued Africa, Italy, and the adjacent islands, led away captives the successors of Genseric and Theodoric, filled Constantinople with the spoils of their palaces, and in the space of six years recovered half the provinces of the Western empire”;—and of Aurelian, whose triumphant entry into Rome after his victories in the East was the longest, most brilliant, and imposing of any recorded in the annals of the empire, and was signalised by rich donations to the army and the people; the Capitol and every other temple glittered with the offerings of his ostentatious piety, and the temple of the sun alone received above fifteen thousand pounds of gold. But who can measure the munificence of the ascended Saviour, the Divine Conqueror, who, as the fruit of His unparalleled victory, has scattered His gifts among men, to enrich them for ever? He gives not grudgingly and sparingly, but after the measure of His own great nature. He gives not for display but for blessing, and His smallest gift out-values the most lavish donation of the richest earthly benefactor.

III. That the gifts of Christ qualify man for special work in His Church (ver. 11).—The “apostles, prophets, evangelists” linked Church to Church and served the entire body; the “pastors and teachers” had charge of local and congregational affairs. The apostles, with the prophets, were the founders of the Church. Their distinctive functions ceased when the foundation was laid and the deposit of revealed truth was complete. The evangelistic and pastoral callings remain; and out of them have sprung all the variety of Christian ministries since exercised. Evangelists, with apostles or missionaries, bring new souls to Christ and carry His message into new lands. Pastors and teachers follow in their train, tending the ingathered sheep, and labouring [p. 209] to make each flock that they shepherd, and every single man, perfect in Christ Jesus.

IV. That the gifts of Christ furnish the full moral equipment of the members of His Church (ver. 12).—Christ’s gifts of great and good men in every age have been bestowed for a thoroughly practical purpose—“the perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry, the edifying of the body of Christ.” No one man has all the gifts requisite for the full development of the Church; but it is the privilege and honour of each worker to use his special gift for the general good. The combination of gifts, faithfully and diligently employed, effects the desired end. The Church must be built up, and this can be done only by the harmonious use of the gifts of Christ, not by mere human expedients. “We may have eloquent preaching, crowded churches, magnificent music, and all the superficial appearance of a great religious movement, whilst the vaunted revival is only a poor galvanised thing, a corpse twitching with a strange mimicry of life, but possessed of none of its vital energy and power.” Gifts are dangerous without the grace and wisdom to use them. Many a brilliant genius has gone down into oblivion by the reckless abuse of his gifts. Christ endows His people with gifts that they may use them for the increase and upbuilding of His Church, and they must be exercised in harmony with the rules and purposes of the Divine Architect. “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.”

Lessons.—1. Christ’s estimate of His Church is seen in the spiritual riches He has lavished upon it. 2. The gifts of each member of the Church are for the benefit of all. 3. The gifts of Christ to His Church are the offerings of a boundless love.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Ver. 7. The Gospel according to Mark.—The writers of the four Gospels completed their work not for the sake of making a literary reputation for themselves, or of adding to the literary masterpieces of the world, but for the spiritual benefit of the Christian Church. Christ our Lord sitting in the heavens, seeing exactly what was wanted in the apostolic Churches, and in the Church of all time, seeing what was wanted in the evangelists themselves if they were to supply the Church’s wants, measured out His gifts to the evangelists. Accordingly, to each evangelist He gave that special gift which was needed in order to do his particular work. What was the grace that was given to St. Mark? It has been said that St. Mark’s Gospel has no special character, that it is the least original of the four, that it is insipid, that it might have been dispensed with without loss to the harmony of the evangelical narrative. Even St. Augustine has spoken of it as an epitome of St. Matthew; and his deservedly great authority has obtained a currency of this opinion in the Western Church. But in point of fact, although St. Mark has more in common with St. Matthew than with any other evangelist, he is far from being a mere epitomist of the first Gospel. He narrates at least three independent incidents which St. Matthew does not notice. He has characteristics which are altogether his own.

I. St. Mark is remarkable for his great attention to subordinate details.—He supplies many particulars which evangelists who write more at length altogether omit. From him, for instance, we learn the name of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, and of Bartimæus, the blind man healed by our Lord. From him we learn how Simon of Cyrene was related to well-known Christians of the next generation—Alexander and Rufus. He it is who tells us that the woman of Canaan whose petition our Lord so indulgently received was a Syrophenician, and that our Lord was popularly spoken of as the carpenter. He is careful to point [p. 210] out more minutely than do others the scenes in which our Lord took part on four occasions. He describes particularly our Lord’s look. He notes the express affections of our Lord’s human soul, His love for the rich young man, His anger with the Pharisee, His pity for the leper, His groaning in spirit on two separate occasions. And here we have something more than a literary peculiarity—than a style of writing which corresponds to those pre-Raphaelite artists who render every leaf and every blade of grass with scrupulous accuracy. I say that we are here face to face with a moral and spiritual excellence which forms part of the special grace given to St. Mark. Close attention to details in any workman means a recognition of the sacredness of fact. Where details are lost sight of, or blurred over, in the attempt to produce a large, general, indistinct effect, there is always a risk of indifference to the realities of truth. The very least fact is sacred, whatever be its relative importance to other facts. But in a life like that of our Lord, everything is necessarily glowing with interest, however trivial it might appear to be in any other connection. This care for details is thus the expression of a great grace—reverence for truth, reverence for every fragment of truth that touched the human life of the Son of God.

II. St. Mark is remarkable for the absence of a clearly discernible purpose in his Gospel, over and above that of furnishing a narrative of our Lord’s conflict with sin and evil during His life as man upon the earth. The three other evangelists have each of them a manifest purpose in writing of this kind. St. Matthew wishes to show to the Jews that our Lord is the Messiah of the Jewish prophecy. St. Luke would teach the Gentile Churches that He is the Redeemer whose saving power may be claimed through faith by the whole race of men. St. John is, throughout, bent upon showing that He speaks and acts while in the flesh as the eternal Word or Son of God, who has been made flesh and was dwelling among us. And it has been said that St. Mark’s narrative is an expansion of those words of Peter—that Jesus of Nazareth “went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with Him.” Probably this is true; but then these words describe not a purpose beyond the narrative, but the substance of the narrative itself. St. Mark simply records a sacred life as he had learned it from the lips of Peter, not for any purpose beyond the narrative itself; but whatever it might prove beyond itself, it was to a believing Christian unspeakably precious.

III. A few words in conclusion.—“Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” As no two human souls exactly resemble each other, so no two souls are endowed in an exactly similar way. And for the difference of endowment let us be sure there is always a reason in the Divine Mind, for each soul in every generation has its appointed work to do, without itself as within itself; and it is endowed with exactly the grace, whether of mind or heart, which will best enable it to do that particular work. Some may think that they have received little or nothing—some gift so small as to be scarcely appreciable. The probability is that they have not yet considered what God has done for them. They have spent their time in thinking of what He has withheld, instead of thinking of what He has given; of what they might have been, instead of what they are. Certainly the grace which our Lord gave to St. Paul when he wrote his great epistle to the Romans was immensely greater than that which He gave to Tertius, the poor amanuensis, who took it down from the apostle’s dictation, and who inserts a greeting from himself just at the end of the document. And yet Tertius, too, had his part in the work—a humble but a very real part, according to the measure of the gift of Christ. He did not say, “Because I am not the eye I am not of [p. 211] the body.” He made the most of the grace which was certainly his. And others may think, rightly or wrongly, that unto them very great graces have been given according to the gift of Christ, that they are the hands or the eyes of the holy body, the men who do its work, or the men who discern the truths which support its life. Well, if it be so, this is a reason, not for confident satisfaction, but for anxiety. Such gifts as these are edge tools; they may easily prove the ruin of their possessors. For all such gifts an account must one day most assuredly be rendered; and if self has appropriated that which belongs to God or to His Church, it cannot but entail misery on the possessor. If a man has wealth, or ability, or station; much more if he has cultivated intelligence and generous impulses; most of all if his heart has been fixed by the love of God, and the unseen is to him a serious reality, and he has hopes and motives which really transcend the frontiers of the world of sense, then, assuredly, his safety lies in remembering that he is a trustee who will one day have to present his account at the great audit, when the eminence of his gifts will be the exact measure of his responsibility. Eighteen centuries have passed since St. Mark went to reign somewhere beneath his Master’s throne whose life he had described; but he has left us the result of his choicest gift—he has left us his Gospel. What has it—what have the four Gospels—hitherto done for each of us? It is recorded that John Butler, an excellent Church of England layman of the last generation, stated on his death-bed that on looking back on his life the one thing he most regretted was that he had not given more time to the careful study of the life of our Lord in the four evangelists. Probably he has not been alone in that regret; and if the truth were told, many of us would have to confess that we spend much more thought and time upon the daily papers, which describe the follies and errors of the world, than on the records of that Life which was given for the world’s redemption. The festival of an evangelist ought to suggest a practical resolution that, so far as we are concerned, the grace which he received, according to the measure of the gift of Christ, shall not, please God, be lost. Ten minutes a day seriously spent on our knees, with the Gospel in our hands, will do more to quicken faith, love, reverence, spiritual and moral insight and power, than we can easily think.—H. P. Liddon.

Vers. 9, 10. The contrasted Humiliation and Exaltation of Christ.

I. The circumstances of the Saviour’s depression from His original state.—We say that a person stoops, that he bends, that he sinks. Moral correspondencies to these actions are understood. They are condescensions. Immanuel is the name of our Saviour when born into our world and dwelling in it—God with us. A local residence is thus described. And we are informed of the degree which marks His coming down from heaven, of the manner in which He came into the world—He descended into the lower parts of the earth. What lowliness is this! Similar terms are employed in other portions of the inspired volume; by collating them with those of the text we shall most satisfactorily determine its sense.

1. The incarnation of Christ may be thus expressed.—To what did He not submit? By what was He not buffeted? What insult did not disfigure His brow? What shade did not cloud His countenance? What deep waters did not go over His soul? His was humanity in its severest pressures and humblest forms.

2. This form of language may denote the death of Christ.—It is the ordinary phrase of the Old Testament; “They shall go into the lower parts of the earth: Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.” Does it not seem strange that His soul should be commended hence who had often bound death to His bidding and summoned [p. 212] from the grave its prey? He is brought low to the dust of death. The erect figure is prostrated. The instinctive life is arrested. That mysterious frame—related to the infinite and the Divine temple of all greatness, shrine of all sanctity—that “Holy Thing” sleeps in death.

3. This style may be intended to intimate that burial to which He yielded.—“Lest I become like them that go down into the pit.” “So must the Son of man be in the heart of the earth.” He has made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death! He is put away into darkness. He is held of death in its gloomy chambers. He is as a victim and a prey. It is a prison-keep.

4. The separation of the Redeemer’s body and spirit may be described in these words.—We mark in this departure of His soul the simple requirement of death. It could not be retained. It descended into the lower parts of the earth. This is the reverse of resurrection and heavenward flight. It was humiliation. These are the gradations of His descent. These are the “lower parts of the earth” to which He declined. This is His coming forth from the Father! This is His coming down from heaven! This is His coming into the world! His measureless surrender of claims! His inconceivable renunciation of honours! Stooping to inferior and still inferior levels of ignominy! Plunging to deeper and still deeper abysses of shame!

II. The glory of His subsequent exaltation.—1. It is in itself an absolute expression of love.

2. It justifies an expectation of surpassing benefits.

3. The act regulates and secures its own efficiency.

4. This act is to be regarded as of incomparable worth and excellence.—The mission of Christ contemplated the highest principles which can direct the Divine conduct. He came to vindicate that character which to conceive aright is the happiness of all creatures—to uphold and avenge that law which cannot be infringed without an utter loss of good and overthrow of order—to atone for sin whose slight and impunity would have been the allowance of infinite mischiefs and evils—to bring in an everlasting righteousness adequate to the justification of the most guilty, and of the most multiplied objects who needed it—leaving it for ever proved that no rule nor sanction of God’s moral government can be violated without a necessary and meet resentment! His ascension was a radiant triumph. Scarcely is it more descried than His resurrection. We catch but a few notes of the resounding acclaim, we mark but a few fleeces of the glory-cloud, we recognise but a few attendants of the angel-train. With that laconic force which characterises holy writ, it is simply recorded, “Who is gone into heaven.”

III. The reciprocal influence of these respective facts.—“The same” was He who bowed Himself to these indignities and who seized these rewards. And this identity is of the greatest value. Not only do we hail Him in His reinstatement in original dignities, but in the augmentation of His glories. Deity was never so beheld before. There is a combination and a form of the Divine perfections entirely new. We repine that He is not here. We forget that it is expedient that He should go away. Heaven alone provides scope for His undertakings and channel for His influences. There must He abide until the restitution of all things. But nothing of His sympathy or His grace do we forego.—R. W. Hamilton.

Vers. 9, 10. The Ascension and its Results.

I. With respect to the new heavens and the new earth, what may we not infer from the ascension of Christ in full integrity of His nature above all heavens with respect to the conversion and transformation and ennobling of this material?—The nature and history of His person revealed the relations clearly between heaven and [p. 213] earth, between God and man, between the material and the spiritual. We cannot for a moment look upon the transformation and exaltation of Christ’s nature as an isolated fact dissociated from the restitution and exaltation of all things spoken of in His Word. The nature with which He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven was the same nature in which He was crucified, though glorified and swallowed up of life. Must we not say, then, that the body which ascended in relation to the body which was crucified and laid in the grave may illustrate the relation of the present heavens and the new earth? And, in accordance with this idea, are there not every way most wonderful changes and transformations of which the ascension of Christ’s body seems to be the fulfilment and crown and also the firstfruits? The flower from its imprisoned bud, the insect from its grovelling form, light out of darkness, electricity from ponderable elements, the strange affinities of matter striving to break forth from their captivity, the unerring instincts of animal life held, as it were, in bondage—all seem to point with prophetic finger to a future deliverance and ennobled state and condition whilst meekly waiting, but with earnest expectation, with the whole creation for the deliverance and glorious liberty of the sons of God. The Gospel therefore contains a Gospel for nature as well as for man—the prediction of the day when the strife of elements shall cease, when the powers of darkness shall be swallowed up of life, when the lion shall lie down with the lamb, when the tares shall no longer grow with the wheat, when creation, now so weary, shall lift up her head and rejoice in the redemption for which she now groans and travails.

II. If we cannot dissociate the history of Jesus from the history of the earth, much less can it be dissociated from the history of mankind.—He is humanity, root and crown. Humanity exists nowhere else but in Him. No aggregate of men make humanity, nor can personality be ascribed to humanity except in Him. Individual men may have a personality, but humanity is only an idea except it exists in Him who is its root and crown; and it is in this sense that He is spoken of, and that He speaks of Himself as, the Son of man. In His ascension, therefore, which carries as a necessary presupposition all the facts of His history, mankind is delivered from its curse and from bondage. Identity of nature and reciprocity of choice now constitute the most intimate union and most blessed fellowship of which we are conscious, and it is the fair offshoot, the true type of that which is to be the highest, to which He is exalted above all heavens, from which height He has promised to gather together our common humanity. In such and for such a relation He is exalted to the throne of universal dominion as the Bridegroom of mankind, to be the Head over all things to His Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him which filleth all in all.

III. What may we not learn from the fact of Christ’s ascension—not merely with respect to the new heavens and the new earth, not merely with respect to mankind and its history, but with respect to the government and providence of earth? If all nature is gathered up and represented in human nature, and if all human nature is gathered up and represented in the Son of man, and if the Son of man resteth and sitteth upon the throne of universal dominion, then, my brethren, the conclusion is as direct as it is clear, that all things must be working together in the interests of His kingdom and of His Church, that all things have but one purpose and one end to which the whole creation moves. We may say with Herbert:

     "For us the winds do blow,
      The earth does rest, heavens, move, and fountains flow;
      Nothing we see but means our good—
        'Tis our delight or has our treasure.
      The whole is either cupboard of our food
        Or cabinet of pleasure."

These lines contain as deep a philosophy [p. 214] as they do good poetry. “All things unto our flesh are kind in their descent and being.” As they descend to us they bless our lower nature, but as we follow them in their ascent they bless our minds. And in history are there not changes similar to and commensurate with those which we have seen in nature, and all subordinated to one end? Mighty nations and kingdoms have arisen and passed away, and passed away, we might add, in the greatness of their might. What strange development, as it has well been asked, is it that the power of the world should rise to a great height of glory, and, not able to sustain it, pass away? Because they knew not God—because they were prejudicial to the interests of man. The present state and prospects of the world are but the results of all its past history, of the action and reaction, the strife and ceaseless conflict, which have been going on from the first—the strife and ceaseless conflict between the spirit of man’s revolt in all the forms of will-worship and idolatrous power, and the returning spirit of allegiance towards God and His kingdom of life and love. On the one hand, therefore, we have a series of rapid and mighty developments of the very power which destroyed them when at the very height of their glory; on the other hand, we have the continuous and silent growth and expansion of the same ideas—all-conquering ideas and all-conquering beliefs personally embodied from the first in men confessing their allegiance to God.—Dr. Pulsford.

Ver. 10. The Humiliation and Exaltation of Christ.

I. Christ’s humiliation.—Implied in the words, “He that descended.” These words bear the same sense with those of Ps. cxxxix. 15, and may be properly taken for Christ’s incarnation and conception in the womb of the Virgin.—1. Because other expositions may be shown to be unnatural, forced, or impertinent, and there is no other besides this assignable. 2. Since Paul here uses David’s words it is most probable he used them in David’s sense. 3. The words descending and ascending are so put together in the text that they seem to intend a summary of Christ’s whole transaction in man’s redemption, begun in His conception and consummated in His ascension.

II. Christ’s glorious advancement and exaltation.—“He ascended far above all heavens” to the most eminent place in dignity and glory in the highest heaven.

III. The qualification and state of Christ’s person in reference to both conditions.—He was the same, showing the unity of the two natures in the same person.

IV. The end of Christ’s ascension.—“That He might fill all things.” All things may refer—1. To the Scripture prophecies and predictions. 2. To the Church as He might fill that with His gifts and graces. 3. To all things in the world. This latter interpretation preferred. He may be said to fill all things—1. By the omnipresence of His nature and universal diffusion of His Godhead. 2. By the universal rule and government of all things committed to Him as Mediator upon His ascension.—South.

Vers. 11, 12. The Work of the Ministry.

I. It is evident that public teachers in the Church are to be a distinct order of men.—Christ has given some pastors and teachers. None has a right publicly to teach in the Church but those who are called, sent, authorised to the work in the Gospel way. All Christians are to exhort, reprove, and comfort one another as there is occasion; but public teaching in the Church belongs peculiarly to some—to those who are given to be pastors and teachers.

II. Public teachers are here called Christ’s gifts.—“He gave some pastors and teachers.” The first apostles were commissioned immediately by Christ. They who were thus commissioned of Heaven to preach the Gospel were [p. 215] authorised to ordain others. Christ gave pastors and teachers, not only to preach His Gospel, but to train up and prepare holy men for the same work.

III. Ministers are to be men endued with gifts suitable to the work to which they are called.—As in the early days of the Gospel public teachers were called to extraordinary services, so they were endued with extraordinary gifts; but these gifts were only for a season. As the business of a minister is to teach men the things which Christ has commanded in the Scriptures, so it is necessary he himself should be fully instructed in them. In the early days, as there were evangelists who went forth to preach the Gospel where Christ had not been named, so there were pastors and teachers who had the immediate care of Churches already established.

IV. The great object of the ministry is the building up of the Church of Christ.—The ministry is intended for the improvement of saints, as well as for the conversion of sinners. The apostle mentions also the unity of the knowledge of Christ. We must not rest in attainments already made, but continually aspire to the character of a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.—Lathrop.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 13–16.

True Christian Manhood

I. Attained by the unity of an intelligent faith in Christ.—1. This faith must be based on knowledge. “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (ver. 13). A faith, so called, not based on knowledge is fanaticism. True faith is the result of conviction—a profound consciousness of the truth. Many reach this stage. They have heard the evidence, examined it, and are clearly persuaded of its truth; but they never get beyond that. They are like the neap tide that comes rolling in as if it would sweep everything before it; but when it arrives at a certain point, it stops, and with all the ocean at its back it never passes the mark where it is accustomed to pause. It is well to get to the neap-tide mark of conviction; but there is no salvation till the soul is carried by the full spring tide of conviction into a voluntary and complete surrender to Christ. It is weak, it is cowardly, when convinced of the right, not to do it promptly and heartily. Faith acquires its full-rounded unity when it is exercised, not on any abstract truth, but on a Person who is the living embodiment of all truth. The final object of faith is “the Son of God,” and any truth is valuable only as it helps us to Him. Christ has Himself revealed the truth essential to be believed in order to salvation: He is Himself that truth.

2. Perfect manhood is a complete Christ-likeness.—“Unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (ver. 13). Man is so great that he is perpetually striving after a loftier ideal; nothing that has limits can satisfy him. “It is because there is an infinite in him which with all his cunning he cannot quite bury under the finite. Will the whole finance ministers and upholsterers and confectioners of modern Europe undertake in joint-stock company to make one shoeblack happy? They cannot accomplish it above an hour or two; for the shoeblack also has a soul quite other than his stomach, and would require, if you consider it for his permanent satisfaction and saturation, simply this allotment, no more and no less—God’s infinite universe altogether to himself, therein to enjoy infinitely and fill every wish as fast as it arose. Try him with half a universe of an omnipotence, he sets to quarrelling with the proprietor of the other half and declares himself the most maltreated of men” (Carlyle). True manhood does not consist in the development of a fine physique, or a brilliant mentality, or in the pursuit of heroic [p. 216] ambitions. It lies in the nobleness of the soul at peace with God, seeking in all things to please Him, and to possess and exhibit the mind of Christ. The pagan hero is the warrior, the ruler, the poet, the philosopher; the Christian hero is the Christ-like man. The supreme type of manhood is Christ-likeness. The ideal is conceived by faith, and the actual is attained only by the exercise of the same grace.

II. Superior to the childish vacillation induced by deceptive teaching (ver. 14).—The false teachers played with truth, as men play with dice, with the reckless indifference of gamblers, and they and their victims were swayed to and fro, with ruin for the ultimate goal. Like a rudderless ship they were tossed about at the caprice of every current, with the inevitable result of wreckage among the rocks and quicksands. Professing a zeal for truth, they deceived themselves and others by ever changing their point of view, and craftily avoiding the practical bearing of truth in the aims to change the heart and reform the life. The moment the application of truth pressing upon the conscience made them uncomfortable, they tacked about and sailed off under another issue. As the restless seaweed, waving to and fro in the ever-changing tide, can never grow to the dignity of a tree, so those who were swayed by every changing phase of error can never grow up to the strength and stability of true Christian manhood. We can sympathise with the doubts and perplexities of an earnest seeker after truth; but our sympathy changes into impatience when we discover that the seeker is more in search of novelty than truth, of variety rather than certainty. To be for ever in doubt is to be in the fickle stage of mental and moral infancy. It is the worst phase of childishness.

III. It is a continual growth in the truth and love of Christ (vers. 15, 16).—It is the high distinction of man that he is susceptible of almost unlimited growth in mental and moral attainments. One of the greatest distances between animalism and man is seen in the unbridged gulf of progress. The animal remains where he was, but man has been progressing in every department of life from the very first. There is between them all the breadth of history. The animal builds its nest as it ever did, the bee by the same marvellous instinct constructs its geometrical cells now as at the first; but man is a genius—he creates. His first rude efforts in shaping his dwellings have gone on progressing and improving until we have the architectural development of to-day. In every kind of art it is the same—rude flint knives, lance heads, needles, were his first weapons and implements; to them succeeded bronze, and then iron—each marking stages in that history of progress up to the beautiful cutlery, stores, and arsenals of the present day. The animal roars or chatters to-day as it has done all along. It has made no progress towards intelligent speech—a Rubicon the animal will never cross. But man, who began with one speech, and a very limited vocabulary of words, has developed speech into the great languages of ancient and modern literature. A wider gulf than this is hardly conceivable. But the moral growth of man is more remarkable. The era of the Gospel is a revelation of the power of love. With the ancients a mere sentiment, Christianity teaches that love is the essence of religion; and that nature is the manliest and noblest that advances in the knowledge of Divine truth and in the self-sacrificing love of Christ. The whole fabric of the Christian character is built up in the ever-increasing exercise of Christ-like love.

Lessons.Christian manhood is—1. Acquired by an intelligent faith in Christ. 2. Developed by an imitation of Christ. 3. Maintained and strengthened by constant fidelity to Christ.

 

[p. 217] GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 13–16. The Growth of the Church.

I. The goal of the Church’s life (ver. 13).—The mark at which the Church is to arrive is set forth in a two-fold way—in its collective and its individual aspects. We must all unitedly attain the oneness of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God; and we must attain, each of us, a perfect manhood, the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. All our defects are, at the bottom, deficiencies of faith. We fail to apprehend and appropriate the fulness of God in Christ. The goal of the regenerate life is never absolutely won; it is hid with Christ in God. But there is to be a constant approximation to it, both in the individual believer and in the body of Christ’s people. And a time is coming when that goal will be practically attained, so far as earthly conditions allow. The Church after long strife will be reunited, after long trial will be perfected. Then this world will have had its use, and will give place to the new heavens and earth.

II. The malady which arrests its development (ver. 14).—The childishness of so many Christian believers exposed them to the seductions of error, and ready to be driven this way and that by the evil influences active in the world of thought around them. So long as the Church contains a number of unstable souls, so long she will remain subject to strife and corruption. At every crisis in human thought there emerges some prevailing method of truth, or of error, the resultant of current tendencies, which unites the suffrages of a large body of thinkers, and claims to embody the spirit of the age. Such a method of error our own age has produced as the outcome of the anti-Christian speculation of modern times, in the doctrines current under the names of Positivism, Secularism, or Agnosticism. Modern Agnosticism removes God farther from us, beyond the reach of thought, and leaves us with material nature as the one positive and accessible reality, as the basis of life and law. Faith and knowledge of the Son of God it banishes as dreams of our childhood. This materialistic philosophy gathers to a head the unbelief of the century. It is the living antagonist of Divine revelation.

III. The means and conditions of its growth (vers. 15, 16).—To the craft of false teachers St. Paul would have his Churches oppose the weapons only of truth and love. Sincere believers, heartily devoted to Christ, will not fall into fatal error. A healthy life instinctively repels disease. Next to the moral condition lies the spiritual condition of advancement—the full recognition of the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ. He is the perfect ideal for each, the common source of life and progress for all. He is the Head of the Church and the heart of the world. Another practical condition of Church growth is organization—“all the body fitly framed and knit together.” A building or a machine is fitted together by the adjustment of its parts. A body needs, besides this mechanical construction, a pervasive life, a sympathetic force, knitting it together. And so it is in love that this body of the Church builds up itself. The perfect Christian and the perfect Church are taking shape at once. Each of them requires the other for its due realisation. The primary condition of Church health and progress is that there shall be an unobstructed flow of the life of grace from point to point through the tissues and substance of the entire frame.—Findlay.

Vers. 13–15. Christian Manhood.

I. Christian manhood is a growth.—1. A growth having its inception in the simple fact of becoming a Christian. This is a decided advance upon the most moral and cultivated state otherwise attainable. It involves the quickening into a new life which is to grow. 2. A growth marking a continual advancement till we all come in [p. 218] the unity—the respect in which one grows—the union, conjunction of faith and of knowledge. 3. A growth resulting from culture under Divinely appointed agencies. The most splendid growth, other things being equal, is the result of the highest culture. The highest culture is possible only through the most rigid conformity to the laws of development and the appliance of the best agencies. 4. A growth the standard of whose completeness is the fulness of Christ. The stature—the adultness, the full-grown manhood of Christ—is the standard of growth, whose attainment is the Christian’s noblest zeal.

II. The elements of Christian manhood.—1. Largeness—in the Christian’s views of truth, of man’s need, of Christ’s work, of schemes and plans for its greater furtherance.

2. Dignity.—That deep, inwrought sense of the true worth and greatness of his nature, as a renewed man, and of his position as a child of God and joint-heir with Christ. Christian ethics are the best ethics; highest, purest, noblest, safest. He lives by these naturally who has a well-developed Christian manhood.

3. Courageousness and strength.—Courage makes a man put forth his best strength, while strength enables courage to achieve its best deeds.

III. The outworking of Christian manhood.—It gives:—

1. Steadfastness.—No more children. No more carried about—borne round and round as in the swiftly whirling eddy of the sea—by every wind of doctrine.

2. Sincerity.—“Speaking the truth in love” refers both to the sincerity of life and our relation to the truth.

3. A further growth.—As the full-grown tree, leaves and blossoms and bears; as fruit, after it is full-grown, mellows, matures, sweetens; ripening as wheat for the garner.—J. M. Frost.

Vers. 14–16. Christian Maturity.

I. The negative part of this description.—1. Christians must not remain children.—In humility, meekness, and teachableness, let them be children; but in understanding, constancy, and fortitude they should be men. Children have but little knowledge and a weak judgment. They believe hastily and act implicitly. They are governed by passion more than reason, by feeling more than judgment.

2. The apostle cautions that we be not tossed to and fro like a ship rolling on the waves.—The man without principle, knowledge, and judgment is at the mercy of every rude gust. He is driven in any direction, as the wind happens to blow. He makes no port, but is every moment in danger of shipwreck.

3. We must not be carried about with every wind of doctrine.—False doctrines, like winds, are blustering and unsteady. They blow from no certain point, but in all directions, and frequently shift their course. The light and chaffy Christian, the hypocritical and unprincipled professor, is easily carried about by divers and strange doctrines. He shifts his course and changes his direction, as the wind of popular opinion happens to drive.

4. We are in danger from the cunning craftiness of men.—True ministers use plainness of speech, and by manifestation of the truth commend themselves to the consciences of men. Corrupt teachers use sleight and craft, that they may ensnare the simple, decoy the unsuspecting, and thus make proselytes to their party. They pretend to superior sanctity. They are watchful to take advantage of an unhappy circumstance in a Church. They unsettle men’s minds from the established order of the Gospel, and prejudice them against the regular maintenance of the ministry, representing all order in Churches as tyranny and all stated provision for the ministry as oppression. They promise men liberty, but are themselves the servants of corruption.

II. The positive part.—1. The mature Christian must speak the truth in love. Be sincere in love. We should acquire a good doctrinal knowledge [p. 219] of the truth as it is in Jesus. We should be well established in the truth. We should see that our hearts are conformed to the truth. We must walk in the truth.

2. We must grow up in all things into Christ.—A partial religion is not that which the Gospel teaches. We must have respect to the whole character of Christ, to the whole compass of duty, to every known doctrine and precept of Scripture. All the graces of the Gospel unite in forming the Christian’s temper. They all operate in harmony. His religion is one continued, uniform, consistent work.

III. How Christian maturity is attained.—From the growth of the human body the apostle borrows a similitude to illustrate the spiritual growth of the Christian Church. It is as absurd to expect growth in knowledge and holiness without the means instituted for the edifying of the body of Christ as it would be to expect the growth of a natural body without supplies of food.

Lessons.—1. There is no Christian growth where love is wanting. 2. Christians are bound to seek the peace in order to the edification of the Church.—Lathrop.

Ver. 14. The Case of Deceivers and Deceived considered.

I. Consider the case of deceivers or seducers such as by their sleight and cunning craftiness lie in wait to deceive.—The particular motives by which men may be led to beguile others are reducible to three—pride, avarice, and voluptuousness: love of honour, or profit, or pleasure. 1. There is often a great deal of pride and vanity in starting old notions and broaching new doctrines. It is pretending to be wiser than the rest of the world, and is thought to be an argument of uncommon sagacity. Upon this footing some are perpetually in quest of new discoveries. Nothing pleases them, if they have not the honour of inventing it or of receiving it in their times. When once a man has thus far given loose to his vanity and thinks himself significant enough to be head of a sect, then he begins first to whisper out his choice discoveries to a few admirers and confidants, who will be sure to flatter him in it; and next to tell aloud to all the world how great a secret he had found out, with the inestimable value of it. And now at length comes in the use of sleight and cunning craftiness and all imaginable artifices; first to find out proper agents to commend and cry up the conceit, next to spread it in the most artful manner among the simple and least suspecting, and after that to form interests and make parties; and so, if possible, to have a public sanction set to it or a majority at least contending for it. Love of fame and glory is a very strong passion, and operates marvellously in persons of a warm complexion. 2. Observe how avarice or love of profit may sometimes do the same thing. There is a gain to be made in some junctures by perverting the truth and deceiving the populace. Men who are not worthy to teach in the Church, or who have been set aside for their insufficiency or immorality, may bring up new doctrines and draw disciples after them, for the sake of protection and maintenance or for filthy lucre. With such the vending of false doctrines is a trade and preaching a merchandise. Thus has avarice been the mother of heresies and has brought many deceivers into the Church of Christ; but they have contrived generally to give some plausible turn and colour to their inventions through their “sleight” and “cunning craftiness,” in order to deceive the hearts of the simple and to beguile unwary and unstable souls. 3. One motive more—voluptuousness, or love of pleasure. As religious restraints set not easy upon flesh and blood, but bear hard upon corrupt nature, so men of corrupt minds will be ever labouring to invent and publish smooth and softening doctrines, such as may either qualify the strictness of the Gospel rule or sap the belief of a [p. 220] future reckoning. Many ancient heretics had such views as these in the first broaching of their heresies. Their design was to take off the awe and dread of a future judgment, and thereby to open a door to all licentiousness of life and dissoluteness of manners.

II. Consider the case of the deceived who suffer themselves to be “tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine.”—They are supposed to be ignorantly, and in a manner blindly, led on by others, otherwise they would be rather confederates and confidants in managing the deceit, and so would be more deceivers than deceived. 1. Now as to those who are so ignorantly imposed upon. They are more or less to blame, according as their ignorance is more or less blamable; and that, again, will be more or less blamable, according as it is more or less affected or wilful. There are, I think, three cases which will take in all sorts of men who suffer themselves to be deceived in things of this kind. The first is of those who have no opportunity, no moral possibility of informing themselves better; the second is of those who might inform themselves better, but do not; the third of those who might also be better informed, but will not. If they be “like children tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine,” yet if they are really children in understanding and are overborne by others in such a way as is morally irresistible considering their circumstances, then it seems to be their misfortune to be so imposed upon rather than their fault, and so is not imputable. 2. A second case is of those who may inform themselves better but neglect to do it. I suppose it to be merely neglect in them, not design. Perhaps they have little or no leisure for inquiries; they are taken up with worldly cares and business. They have a very great esteem and value for the man who so misleads them, and they know no better, but swallow everything he says without considering; or they are not aware of any ill consequences of the doctrine, see or suspect no harm in it. They are much to blame in this affair, because God has given them the faculty of reason, which ought not to be thus left to lie dormant and useless. Men who can be sharp enough in secular affairs to prevent being imposed upon may and ought to have some guard upon themselves with respect also to their spiritual concernments. 3. There is yet a third sort of men, worse than the former, who suffer themselves to be deceived and might know better, but will not; that is to say, their ignorance is affected and wilful, they “love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.” These are such as readily run in with “every wind of doctrine” which hits their taste and chimes in with their favourite inclinations. They admit the doctrine because they like it, and they easily believe it true because they would have it so. It is with this kind of men that deceivers prevail most and make their harvest.

III. Some advices proper to prevent our falling in with either.—The best preservative in this case is an honest and good heart, well disposed towards truth and godliness, having no by-ends to serve, no favourite lust or passion to indulge. If any man is but willing to know and to do God’s commandments, he will easily discern in most cases whether a doctrine be of God or whether it be of men. The evidences of the true religion and of its main doctrines are so bright and strong when carefully attended to, that common sense and reason are sufficient to lead us, when there is no bias to mislead us. For several years last past rude and bold attacks have been made against the important doctrines of Christianity and against all revealed religion, and this is what they are still carrying on with exquisite subtlety and craftiness many ways and with a great deal of fruitless pains and labour. For I may have leave to suppose that no man can in this case be deceived who has not first a desire to be so, and is not the dupe and bubble to his own lust and vices.—Dr. Waterland.

[p. 221] Ver. 15. Speaking the Truth in Love.—1. A different thing from the irritating candour of the professed friend. 2. Implies an experimental knowledge of the truth and its spiritual mission. 3. Is the most effectual way of winning a hearing and gaining adherents. 4. A method conspicuously exemplified in the teaching of Christ.

Growth into Christ in Love and Truth.

I. The standard of Christian excellence—Christ’s headship.—1. The prominent notion suggested is His rank in the universe. He rules as God in creation. But evidently the apostle does not mean this in the text. We are to grow into Him as Head. Growth into Christ’s Godhead is impossible. God-like we may, God we cannot even by truth and love, become. 2. He is the Head as being the Source of spiritual life. This is implied in metaphor. The highest life-powers—sensation, feeling, thought—come from the brain. To one who has read the history of those times, there is an emphatic truth in Christ’s being the life of the world. The world was like a raft becalmed in the tropics—some of its freight dead and baking in the sun, some sucking as if for moisture from dried casks, and some sadly, faintly looking for a sail. Christ’s coming to the world was as life to the dead, imparting new impulse to human heart and human nature. It was like rain and wind coming to that bark—once more it cuts the sea, guided by a living hand. So also with each man who drinks Christ’s Spirit. He becomes a living character. Not sustained on dogmas or taken-up opinions, but alive with Christ. 3. He is Head as chief of the human race. Never had the world seen, never again will it see, such a character. Humanity found in Him a genial soil, and realised God’s idea of what man was meant to be. He is chief. Nothing comes near Him.

II. Progress towards the standard of Christian excellence.—“We grow up into Him in all things.”

1. Growth in likeness to Him.—The human soul was formed for growth, and that growth is infinite. The acorn grows into the oak, the child into the philosopher. And at death the soul is not declining; it is as vigorous as ever. Hence nothing but an infinite standard will measure the growth of the soul of man.

2. Growth in comprehension of Him.—Christ is not comprehensible at first. Words cannot express the awe with which a man contemplates that character when it is understood. This is the true heroic, this the only God-like, this the real Divine. From all types of human excellence I have made my choice for life and death—Christ.

III. The approved means of growth the mode of progress.—“Speaking the truth in love.” Truth and love—and these joined. To “grow into Christ” we must have both traits of character. Would you be like Christ? Cultivate love of beauty and tenderness. His soul was alive to beauty. He noted the rising and setting sun, the waving corn, the lily of the field. His was love which insult could not ruffle nor ribaldry embitter, and which only grew sweeter and sweeter. Would you be like Christ? Be true! He never swerved. He was a martyr to truth. Would He soften down truth for the young man whom He loved, or make it palatable? No; not for friendship, not for love, not for all the lovely things this world has to show. “One thing thou lackest: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow Me” (Mark x. 17–22; Luke xviii. 17–23). That was “speaking the truth in love.” There is no good to be got out from Christ, except by being made like him. There is no pardon, no blessing, separate from inward improvement. Sanctity of character alone blesses. Each man is his own hell and his own heaven. God Himself cannot bless you unless He gives you His own character.—F. W. Robertson.

[p. 222] Ver. 16. The Law of Mutual Dependence.

I. This text admonishes us of the manifold instruments and agencies on whose concurrence and harmonious action the prosperity and the perfection of the Christian Church depend.—It likens the Church to that most complicated, admirable machine, the human body, which only produces its proper results, the preservation and comfort of human life, by the healthful tone and right performance of its various powers and functions. We live, and are at ease, in virtue of the sound condition and regular operation of all the multitude of parts and organs which compose our corporeal frame. Should the heart refuse to circulate the blood, and to diffuse through all the various channels of inter-communication with the members of the body its life-sustaining pulses, death ensues in a moment.

II. The same law of mutual dependence reigns in improved civilised society.—In man, social as well as individual, the body politic and social must prosper, or its members suffer. The individual too cannot suffer without inflicting, by so much, an injury on the community. The ruler and the subject, the capitalist and the operative, the merchant, the farmer, the scholar and the artisan, the manufacturer and the sailor, perform functions alike indispensable to the great result aimed at or desired by all communities. They are mutually dependent, are indissolubly united in interest by ties not always visible, but yet real and essential to the well-being of all parties.

III. I hasten to apply my subject to the Church, where the text finds illustration yet more pertinent and affecting. The Church is a community, organised, with special ends to be accomplished, and endowed with special capabilities and adaptations, yet having many points of resemblance to human society in general. All the members and all the officers of the Church are appointed and honoured of God to be co-workers with Himself, co-agents with the Holy Ghost, in the edification of the body of Christ. The pastor, not less in the study, when he gathers things new and old from holy books and common, than in the pulpit or in breaking the bread of the sacrament at the altar, or in the sick-chamber—all the subordinate lay ministries devoted to godly counsel, to faithful admonition, or to the management and conversation of the material interests of the Church—the pious mother nurturing up her children in God’s love—the sufferer on a bed of languishing, giving forth blessed examples of patience and resignation and faith—the teacher of the Sabbath school—they who, in the Spirit, lift up our joyous songs of praise in the sanctuary—all who pray in the closet or in the congregation, are, and should be deemed, essential parts of that good, great system through whose wondrous, harmonious working God is pleased to renew and sanctify souls and train them up to be heirs of glory. Who, in this great co-partnership for honouring Christ, has any ground of complaint?—the foot, that it is not the head? the eye, that it is too feeble to do the functions of the brawny arm? the ears, that they cannot do the office of locomotion? Every part is indispensable. None can say which is most important in God’s plan; and achievements, ascribed hastily to the eloquence of the preacher, often stand credited in the record kept above to the prayer of faith.—Dr. Olin.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 17–24.

A Thorough Moral Transformation

I. Contrasted with a former life of sin.—1. A state of self-induced mental darkness. “Having the understanding darkened, . . . because of the blindness of their heart” (ver. 18). Infidelity is more a moral than a mental obliquity. The [p. 223] mind is darkened because the heart is bad. Men do not see the truth because they do not want to see it. The light that would lead to righteousness and to God is persistently shut out.

2. A state of moral insensibility that abandoned the soul to the reckless commission of all kinds of sin.—“Who being past feeling have given themselves over . . . to work all uncleanness with greediness” (ver. 19). Sin is made difficult to the beginner. The barriers set up by a tender conscience, the warnings of nature, the teachings of providence, the light of revelation, the living examples of the good, have all to be broken down. Early transgressions are arrested by the remorse they occasion; but gradually the safeguards are neglected and despised, until the habit is acquired of sinning for the love of sin. A spirit of recklessness ensues, the reins are relaxed and then thrown upon the neck of the passions, and the soul is abandoned to the indulgence of all kinds of iniquity.

“We are not worst at once. The course of evil
 Is of such slight source an infant’s hand
 Might close its breach with clay;
 But let the stream get deeper, and we strive in vain
 To stem the headlong torrent.”

3. A state that rendered all mental activities worthless.—“Walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind” (ver. 17). The art of right thinking was lost. For the man that will not think, think clearly and justly, the calamities and the raptures of life, the blessing and the curse, have no meaning. They evoke neither gratitude nor fear. The beauties of nature, as they sparkle in the stars, or shine in the flowers, or gleam in the coloured radiance of the firmament, are unheeded. The voice of God that speaks in the events of daily life has no lesson for him. The senses, which are intended as the avenues of light and teaching to the soul, are dulled by inaction, clogged by supine indifference, and polluted and damaged by inveterate sin. When the reason is poisoned at its source, all its deductions are aimless and worthless.

II. Effected by the personal knowledge of the truth in Christ.—“But ye have not so learned Christ, . . . as the truth is in Jesus” (vers. 20, 21). The Gospel has introduced to the world the principles of a great moral change. It announces Christ as the light of the world—a light that shines through all the realms of human life. The diseased reason is restored to health, the intellectual faculties have now a theme worthy of their noblest exercise, and are made stronger and more reliable by being employed on such a theme, and the moral nature is lifted into a purer region of thought and experience. The world is to be transformed by the moral transformation of the individual, and that transformation is effected only by the truth and a personal faith in Christ.

III. Involves the renunciation of the corrupting elements of the former life.—“That ye put off . . . the old man, which is corrupt” (ver. 22). The inward change is evidenced by the outward life. The old man dies, being conquered by the new. Corruption and decay marked every feature of the old Gentile life. It was gangrened with vice. It was a life of fleshly pleasure, and could end in only one way—in disappointment and misery. The new moral order inaugurated by the Gospel of Christ effected a revolution in human affairs, and the corrupting elements of the old order must be weeded out and put away. An excellent man in London kept an institution near the Seven Dials at his own expense. He spent his nights in bringing the homeless boys from the streets into it. When they came in he photographed them, and then they were washed, clothed, and educated. When he sent one out, having taught him a trade, he photographed him again. The change was marvellous, and was a constant reminder of what had been done for him. The change effected in us by the grace of God not only contrasts with our former life, but should teach us to hate and put away its corrupting sins.

[p. 224] IV. Evidenced in investing the soul with the new life Divinely created and constantly receiving progressive renewal by the Spirit (vers. 23, 24).—It is a continual rejuvenation the apostle describes; the verb is present in tense, and the newness implied is that of recency and youth, newness in point of age. But the new man to be put on is of a new kind and order. It is put on when the Christian way of life is adopted, when we enter personally into the new humanity founded in Christ. Thus two distinct conceptions of the life of faith are placed before our minds. It consists, on the one hand, of a quickening constantly renewed in the springs of our individual thought and will; and it is at the same time the assumption of another nature, the investiture of the soul with the Divine character and form of its being. The inward reception of Christ’s Spirit is attended by the outward assumption of His character as our calling amongst men. The man of the coming times will not be atheistic or agnostic; he will be devout; not practising the world’s ethics with the Christian’s creed; he will be upright and generous, manly and God-like (Findlay).

Lessons.—1. Religion is a complete renewal of the soul. 2. The soul is renewed by the instrumentality of the truth. 3. The renewal of the soul is the renewal of the outward life.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 17–19. The Gentile Life—a Warning.

I. The Gentiles walked in the vanity of their minds.—The false deities the Gentiles worshipped are called vanities. The prevalence of idolatry is a melancholy proof of the depravity of human nature. Atheism and idolatry proceed not from the want of sufficient evidence that there is one eternal, all-perfect Being, but from that corruption of heart which blinds the understanding and perverts the judgment.

II. The heathens were darkened in their understanding.—Not in respect of natural things, for in useful arts and liberal sciences many of them greatly excelled; but in respect of moral truth and obligation. Their darkness was owing, not solely to the want of revelation, but to the want of an honest and good heart. Religion consists not merely in a knowledge of and assent to Divine truths, but in such conformity of heart to their nature and design, and in such a view of their reality and importance as will bring the whole man under their government.

III. They were alienated from the life of God.—They walked according to the course of the world, not according to the will of God. Their alienation was through ignorance. Particular wrong actions may be excused on the ground of unavoidable ignorance. This ignorance had its foundation in the obstinacy and perverseness of the mind. Such a kind of ignorance, being in itself criminal, will not excuse the sins which follow from it.

IV. They were become past feeling.—This is elsewhere expressed by a conscience seared with a hot iron. By a course of iniquity the sinner acquires strong habits of vice. As vicious habits gain strength, fear, shame, and remorse abate. Repeated violations of conscience blunt its sensibility and break its power.

V. They gave themselves over to lasciviousness.—If we break over the restraints the Gospel lays upon is, and mock the terrors it holds up to our view, we not only discover a great vitiosity of mind, but run to greater lengths in the practice of iniquity. As water, when it has broken through its mounds, rushes on with more impetuous force than the natural stream, so the corruptions of the human heart, when they have borne down the restraints of religion, press forward with more violent rapidity, and make more awful devastation in the soul [p. 225] than where these restraints had never been known.

Reflections.—1. How extremely dangerous it is to continue in sin under the Gospel. 2. You have need to guard against the beginnings of sin. 3. Christians must be watchful lest they be led away by the influence of corrupt example. 4. Religion lies much in the temper of the mind.—Lathrop.

Vers. 17, 18. The Life of God.

I. There is but one righteousness, the life of God; there is but one sin, and that is being alienated from the life of God.—One man may commit different sorts of sins from another—one may lie, another may steal; one may be proud, another may be covetous; but all these different sins come from the same root of sin, they are all flowers off the same plant. And St. Paul tells us what that one root of sin, what that same devil’s plant, is, which produces all sin in Christian brethren. It is that we are every one of us worse than we ought to be, worse than we know how to be, and, strangest of all, worse that we wish or like to be. Just as far as we are like the heathen of old, we shall be worse than we know how to be. For we are all ready enough to turn heathens again, at any moment. They were alienated from the life of God—that is, they became strangers to God’s life; they forgot what God’s life and character was like; or if they even did awake a moment, and recollect dimly what God was like, they hated that thought. They hated to think that God was what He was, and shut their eyes and stopped their ears as fast as possible. And what happened to them in the meantime? What was the fruit of their wilfully forgetting what God’s life was? St. Paul tells us that they fell into the most horrible sins—sins too dreadful and shameful to be spoken of; and that their common life, even when they did not run into such fearful evils, was profligate, fierce, and miserable. And yet St. Paul tells us all the while they knew the judgment of God, that those who do such things are worthy of death.

II. These men saw that man ought to be like God; they saw that God was righteous and good; and they saw, therefore, that unrighteousness and sin must end in ruin and everlasting misery.—So much God had taught them, but not much more; but to St. Paul He had taught more. Those wise and righteous heathen could show their sinful neighbours that sin was death, and that God was righteous; but they could not tell them how to rise out of the death of sin into God’s life of righteousness. They could preach the terrors of the law, but they did not know the good news of the Gospel, and therefore they did not succeed; they did not convert their neighbours to God. Then came St. Paul and preached to the very same people, and he did convert them to God; for he had good news for them, of things which prophets and kings had desired to see, and had not seen themselves, and to hear, and had not heard them. And so God, and the life of God, was manifested in the flesh and reasonable soul of a man; and from that time there is no doubt what the life of God is, for the life of God is the life of Christ. There is no doubt now what God is like, for God is like Jesus Christ.

III. Now what is the everlasting life of God, which the Lord Jesus Christ lived perfectly, and which He can and will make every one of us live, in proportion as we give up our hearts and wills to Him, and ask Him to take charge of us and shape us and teach us? And God is perfect love, because He is perfect righteousness; for His love and His justice are not two different things, two different parts of God, as some say, who fancy that God’s justice had to be satisfied in one way and His love in another, and talk of God as if His justice fought against His love, and desired the death of a sinner, and then His love fought against His justice, and desired to save a sinner. The old heathen did not [p. 226] like such a life, therefore they did not like to retain God in their knowledge. They knew that man ought to be like God; and St. Paul says they ought to have known what God was like—that He was love; for St. Paul told them He left not Himself without witness, in that He sent rain and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness. That was, in St. Paul’s eyes, God’s plainest witness of Himself—the sign that God was love, making His sun shine on the just and on the unjust, and good to the unthankful and the evil—in one word, perfect, because He is perfect love. But they preferred to be selfish, covetous, envious, revengeful, delighting to indulge themselves in filthy pleasures, to oppress and defraud each other.

IV. God is love.—As I told you just now, the heathen of old might have known that, if they chose to open their eyes and see. But they would not see. They were dark, cruel, and unloving, and therefore they fancied that God was dark, cruel, and unloving also. They did not love love, and therefore they did not love God, for God is love. And therefore they did not love each other, but lived in hatred and suspicion and selfishness and darkness. They were but heathen. But if even they ought to have known that God was love, how much more we? For we know of a deed of God’s love, such as those poor heathen never dreamed of. And then, if we have God abiding with us, and filling us with His eternal life, what more do we need for life, or death, or eternity, or eternities of eternities? For we shall live in and with and by God, who can never die or change, an everlasting life of love.—C. Kingsley.

Ver. 19. Past Feeling.—1. Though original sin has seized upon the whole soul, yet the Lord has kept so much knowledge of Himself and of right and wrong in the understanding of men as they may know when they sin, and so much of conscience as to accuse or excuse according to the nature of the fact, whereupon follows grief or joy in their affections. Wicked men may arrive at such a height of sin as to have no sense of sin, no grief, nor check, nor challenge from conscience from it. 2. A watchful conscience doing its duty is the strongest restraint from sin; and where that is not, all other restraints will serve for little purpose. For a man to be given over to lasciviousness without check or challenge argues a great height of impiety. 3. As upon senseless stupidity of conscience there follows an unsatiableness in sinning especially in the sin of uncleanness, so when a man comes to this, he is then arrived at the greatest height of sin unto which the heathens, destitute of the knowledge of God, ever attained.—Fergusson.

Vers. 20–24. Putting off the Old Nature and putting on the New.

I. The change here spoken of is radically seated in the mind.—These terms do not import the creation of new powers and faculties, but the introduction of new tempers and qualities. The renovation enlightens the eyes of the understanding, and gives new apprehensions of Divine things. It purifies the affections and directs them to their proper objects. There are new purposes and resolutions.

II. He who is renewed puts off the old man.—The new spirit is opposite to sin and strives against it. The Christian mortifies the affections and lusts of the flesh because he has found them deceitful. He in deliberate and hearty purpose renounces all sin. He abstains from the appearance of evil.

III. He puts on the new man.—As the former signifies a corrupt temper and conversation, so the latter must intend a holy and virtuous disposition and character. The new man is renewed in righteousness and true holiness. He not only ceases to do evil, but learns to do well.

IV. The pattern according to [p. 227] which the new man is formed is the image of God.—The likeness must be understood with limitations. The image of God in us bears no resemblance to the perfections in the Divine nature, such as immensity, immutability, and independence. There are some essential properties of the new man to which there is nothing analogous in the Deity. Reverence, obedience, trust, and resignation are excellencies in rational creatures; but cannot be ascribed to the Creator. In those moral perfections in which the new man is made like God there is only a faint resemblance, not an equality. The new man resembles God in mercy and goodness, in holiness, in truth.

V. This great change is effected by the Gospel.—It was the consequence of their having learned Christ. The first production and improvement of this change is the work of Divine grace, and the Spirit of God works on the soul by means of the Word. To this change the use of means and the grace of God are both necessary.

VI. The change is great.—Let none imagine he is a subject of this change merely because he entertains some new sentiments, feels transient emotions, or has renounced some of his former guilty practices. The real nature and essence of conversion is the same in all.—Lathrop.

Religious Affections are attended with a Change of Nature.

I. What is conversion?—1. A change of nature. 2. A permanent change. 3. A universal change. 4. A union of God’s spirit with the faculties of the soul. 5. Christ by His grace savingly lives in the soul.

II. Its connection with sanctification.—1. All the affections and discoveries subsequent to the first conversion are transforming. 2. This transformation of nature is continuous until the end of life, when it is brought to perfection in glory.

III. Reflections.—1. Allowance must be made for the natural temper. 2. Affections which have no abiding effect are not spiritual and gracious. 3. In some way it will be evident, even to others, that the true disciple has been with Jesus.—Lewis O. Thompson.

Ver. 23. The Christian Spirit, a New Spirit.

I. There are some changes in men which come not up to the renewed spirit, and yet are too often rested in.—1. The assuming of a new name and profession is a very different thing from a saving change in the temper of the mind. We may be of any profession, and yet be unrenewed. People value themselves upon wearing the Christian name, instead of that of Pagan, or Jew, or Mahometan; or upon being styled Papists or Protestants; or upon their attaching themselves to one or another noted party, into which these are subdivided, and upon such a new appellation they are too ready to imagine that they are new men: whereas we may go the round of all professions, and still have the old nature remaining in full force. 2. A bare restraint upon the corrupt spirit and temper will not come up to this renovation, though the one may sometimes be mistaken for the other. The light of nature may possess conscience against many evils, or a sober education lay such a bridle upon the corrupt inclination as will keep it in for a season, the fear of punishment or of shame and reproach may suppress the outward criminal act, while the heart is full of ravening and wickedness. Therefore, though it is a plain sign of an unrenewed mind if a man live in any course of gross sin, yet it is not safe to conclude merely from restraints that a man is truly renewed. 3. A partial change in the temper itself will not amount to such a renovation as makes a true Christian. Indeed, in one sense the change is but partial in any in this life; there will be remains of disorder in all the powers of the soul, so as to exclude a pretence to absolute perfection. It is not enough to have the mind filled with sound [p. 228] knowledge and useful notions, nor barely to give a dead assent to the doctrines of the Gospel, unless we believe with the heart, and the will and affections be brought under the power of those truths; and even here there may be some alteration, and yet a man not be renewed. Nor is it sufficient that we should find ourselves disposed to some parts of goodness, while our hearts are utterly averse to others which are equally plain. And therefore, though we should be of a courteous, peaceable, and kind temper towards men; though we should be inclined to practise justice, liberality, truth, and honesty in our transactions with them, and to temperance and chastity in our personal conduct; though these are excellent branches of the Christian spirit; yet if there be not a right temper towards God also, if the fear and love of God are not the ruling principles of the soul, there is an essential defect in the Christian spirit.

II. A particular view of this renovation in some principal acts of the mind.—1. The mind comes to have different apprehensions of things, such as it had not before. The new creation begins with light, as the old is represented to do. Light bearing in, and the mind being fixed in attention, man discerns the great corruption of his heart, and the badness of the principles and ends which governed him in the appearances of goodness, upon which he valued himself before. And so the excellency and suitableness of Christ, in all His offices, and the necessity of real, inward holiness, appear in quite another manner to his soul than hitherto. 2. The practical judgment is altered. This light, shining with clearness and strength into the mind, unsettles and changes the whole practical judgment by which a man suffered himself to be governed before in the matters of his soul. He judges those truths of religion to be real which once had no more force with him than doubtful conclusions, and accordingly he cannot satisfy himself any longer barely not to disbelieve them, but gives a firm and lively assent to them. 3. A new turn is given to the reasoning faculty, and a new use made of it. When the Word of God is mighty it casts down imaginations; so we render the original word (2 Cor. x. 5). It properly signifies “reasonings.” Not that the faculty itself is altered, or that when men begin to be religious they lay aside reasoning; then in truth they act with the highest reason; they reason most justly and most worthy of their natures. But now the wrong bias, which was upon the reasoning faculty from old prejudices and headstrong inclinations, is in a good measure taken off; so that instead of its being pressed at all adventures into the service of sin, it is employed a better way, and concludes with more truth and impartiality. 4. There is an alteration in man’s governing aim, or chief end. This is like the centre, to which all inferior aims and particular pursuits tend. The original end of a reasonable creature must be to enjoy the favour of God as his supreme happiness, to be acceptable and pleasing to Him. By the disposition of depraved nature we are gone off from this centre, and have changed our bias, from God to created good, to the pleasing of the flesh, to the gratification of our own humour, or to the obtaining of some present satisfaction, according to the prevailing dictate of fancy or appetite. This makes the greatest turn that can be in the spirit of the mind; all must be out of course till this be set right. Now it is the most essential part of the new nature to bring a sinner in this respect to himself, that is, to bring him back to God. All the light he receives, all the rectification of his judgment, is in order to this; and when this is well settled, everything else, which was out of course before, will return to its right channel. 5. There is hereupon a new determination to such a course of acting as will most effectually secure this end. As long as this world is the chief good which a man has in view, he contrives the best [p. 229] ways he can think of to promote his particular ends in it. But when the favour of God comes to have the principal share in his esteem, he carefully examines and heartily consents to the prescribed terms of making that sure. Now he is desirous to be found in Christ upon any terms. 6. The exercise of the affections becomes very different. A change will appear in this respect, through the different turns of his condition as well as in the prevailing tenor of his practice. While a man is a stranger to God and blind to the interests of his soul, he is little concerned how matters lie between God and him. But a sinner come to himself is most tenderly concerned at anything that renders his interests in God doubtful or brings his covenant-relation into question; and nothing sets the springs of godly sorrow flowing so much as the consciousness of guilt, or of any unworthy behaviour to God.

Lessons.—1. Let us seriously examine our own minds, whether we can discern such an alteration made in our spirit. 2. If we must answer in the negative, or have just ground to fear it, yet let us not despair of a change still, but apply ourselves speedily in the appointed way to seek after it. 3. Let the best retain a sense of the imperfection of the new nature in them, and of their obligation still to cultivate it, till it arrive at perfection.—Dr. Evans.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 25–32.

Christian Principles applied to Common Life.

Let us put these principles into the form of concrete precepts.

I. Be truthful.—“Putting away lying, speak every man truth, . . . for we are members one of another” (ver. 25). Society is so clearly welded together and interdependent that the evil effects of a falsehood not only damage others but rebound ultimately towards the man who uttered it. A lie is a breach of promise; for whosoever seriously addresses his discourse to another tacitly promises to speak the truth, because he knows the truth is expected. Truth never was indebted to a lie. “In the records of all human affairs,” writes Froude, “it cannot be too often insisted on that two kinds of truths run for ever side by side, or rather crossing in and out with each other form the warp and woof of the coloured web we call history: the one the literal and eternal truths corresponding to the eternal and as yet undiscovered laws of fact; the other the truths of feeling and thought, which embody themselves either in distorted pictures of outward things or in some entirely new creation—sometimes moulding and shaping history; sometimes taking the form of heroic biography, tradition, or popular legend.”

II. Avoid sinful anger.—“Be ye angry, and sin not: . . . neither give place to the devil” (vers. 26, 27). Anger is not forbidden. A nature ardent for truth and justice burns with indignation against cruelty and wrong. But it is a dangerous passion even for the best of men, and is apt to exceed the limits of prudence and affection. To nurse our wrath and brood over our imagined wrongs is to give place to the devil, who is ever near to blow up the dying embers of our anger. Plutarch tells us it was an ancient rule of the Pythagoreans that, if at any time they happened to be provoked by anger to abusive language, before the sun set they would take each other’s hands, and embracing make up their quarrel. The Christian must not be behind the pagan in placability and forgiveness.

III. Be honest.—“Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour” (ver. 28). Laziness is a fruitful source of dishonesty, and is itself dishonest. There are sensitive natures to whom it is very difficult to be dishonest. In Abraham Lincoln’s youthful days he was a storekeeper’s clerk. Once, after he had sold a woman a little bill of goods and received the money, he found on [p. 230] looking over the account again that she had given him six and a quarter cents too much. The money burned in his hands until he had locked the shop and started on a walk of several miles in the night to make restitution before he slept. On another occasion, after weighing and delivering a pound of tea, he found a small weight upon the scales. He immediately weighed out the quantity of tea which he had innocently defrauded the customer, and went in search for her, his sensitive conscience not permitting any delay. The thief is not reformed and made an industrious worker by simply showing him the advantages of honesty. The apostle appeals to a higher motive—sympathy for the needy—“That he may have to give to him that needeth.” Let the spirit of love and brotherhood be aroused, and the indolent become diligent, the pilferer honest.

IV. Be circumspect in speech.—“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth” (ver. 29). The possession of a human tongue is an immense responsibility. Infinite good or mischief lies in its power. The apostle does not simply forbid injurious words; he puts an embargo on all that is not positively useful. Not that he requires all Christian speech to be grave and serious. It is the mere talk, whether frivolous or pompous—spoken from the pulpit or the easy-chair—the incontinence of tongue, the flux of senseless, graceless, unprofitable utterance, that he desires to arrest (Findlay).

V. Grieve not the Holy Spirit (ver. 30).—Perhaps in nothing do we grieve the Spirit more than by foolish and unprofitable speech, or by listening willingly and without protest to idle gossip and uncharitable backbiting. His sealing of our hearts becomes fainter, and our spiritual life declines, as we become indiscreet and vain in speech.

VI. Guard against a malicious disposition.—“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, and evil speaking be put away, with all malice” (ver. 31). Malice is badness of disposition, the aptness to envy and hatred, which apart from any special occasion is always ready to break out in bitterness and wrath. Bitterness is malice sharpened to a point and directed against the exasperating object. Wrath and anger are synonymous, the former being the passionate outburst of resentment in rage, the latter the settled indignation of the aggrieved soul. Clamour and railing give audible expression to these and their kindred tempers. Clamour is a loud self-assertion of the angry man who will make every one hear his grievance; while the railer carries the war of the tongue into his enemy’s camp and vents his displeasure in abuse and insult. Never to return evil for evil and railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing—this is one of the lessons most difficult to flesh and blood (Findlay).

VII. Cherish a forgiving spirit.—“Be ye kind, . . . forgiving one another, even as God hath forgiven you” (ver. 32). It is man-like to resent an injury; it is Christ-like to forgive it. It is a triumph of Divine grace when the man who has suffered the injury is the most eager to effect a reconciliation. Dean Hook relates he was once asked to see a gentleman who had ill-treated him. Found him very thin and ill. Told me that he was conscious that his feelings and conduct had not been towards me what they ought to have been for years. I told him that whenever there was a quarrel there were sure to be faults on both sides, and that there must be no question as to the more or less, but the forgiveness must be mutual. I kissed his hand, and we wept and prayed together. O God, have mercy on him and me for Jesu’s sake! I have had a taste of heaven where part of our joy will surely consist in our reconciliations.

Lessons.—1. Religion governs the whole man. 2. True religion is intensely practical. 3. Religion gives a nameless charm to the commonest duties.

 

[p. 231] GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Ver. 25. Truth between Man and Man.

I. The duty of veracity here recommended.—1. Truth is to be observed in common conversation. People have more special need, in some respects, to be admonished of their obligations inviolably to maintain truth here; for many are more ready to allow themselves to transgress in what they account trivial instances than upon solemn occasions; and yet by such beginnings way is made for the disregard of truth, in the most considerable matters, in process of time. 2. Truth should be maintained in bearing testimony. A conscientious regard to truth will engage us to be very careful that we spread nothing to the lessening or reproach of our neighbour of which we have not good assurance; that we publish not a defamation upon hearsay, nor take up, without sufficient grounds, “a report against our neighbour.” If we are called to give public testimony between man and man, a sincere respect to truth will engage us to a careful recollection, before we give our testimony, as to what we can say upon the matter. It will dispose to lay aside affection on one hand and prejudice on the other, and impartially to relate the true state of things as far as we can bear witness to them, nakedly to represent facts as they have come within our notice. 3. Truth must be exercised in our promises and engagements, and veracity requires two things in relation to them: (1) That we really intend to perform them when they are made; (2) That we are careful of performance after they are made.

II. The reason the apostle gives for the inviolable maintenance of truth: because we are members one of another.—1. This argument is applicable to mankind in general. We are members one of another, as we partake of the same human nature, and in that respect are upon a level. We are members of society in common, entitled to the same rights, claims, and expectations one from another as men, and are mutually helpful and subservient as the members of the body are to each other; and the principal link that holds us together is mutual confidence, founded upon the hope of common fidelity. Now, lying makes void and useless the great instrument of society, the faculty of speech or writing. The power of speech was given us by our Creator, and the art of writing, since found out, on purpose that we might be able so to convey our sense to others, that they may discern it, where we pretend to express it, just as if they were so far privy to what passed in our minds. And unless truth be inviolably observed in everything, the bonds of human society cannot fail to be weakened. 2. This argument may be particularly applicable to Christians. We are members one of another in a more distinguishing sense, as we belong to the body of Christ. And this lays additional engagements upon all the visible members of that body to put away lying and to speak the truth one to the other,—in conformity to the common Father, to whom we belong, who is eminently styled “a God of truth”; in conformity to our head the Lord Jesus, there should be a strict observation of truth among Christians; in conformity to the Spirit that animates us, who is eminently described by this attribute, “the Spirit of truth.”

Inferences.—1. This is one remarkable evidence how much Christianity is calculated for the benefit of mankind and the good of society at present, as well as for our everlasting welfare, in that it so strictly enjoins and enforces the exacted regard of truth. 2. We see thence upon how good reason the Christian religion strictly forbids common swearing. 3. All that name the name of Christ are concerned to see that they comply with the exhortation. 4. Christians should do all they can to promote truth among others, both for the honour of God, and the spiritual and eternal good of their [p. 232] neighbours, and the general interest of society.—Jeremiah Seed.

The Sin of Falsehood.

I. There are cases in which one may speak that which is not true and yet not be chargeable with lying, for he may have no intention to deceive.

II. The grossest kind of lying, or speaking a known falsehood under the awful solemnity of an oath.—Men violate truth when they affix to words an arbitrary meaning or make in their own minds certain secret reservations with a design to disguise facts and deceive the hearers. When we express doubtful matters in terms and with an air of assurance, we may materially injure as well as grossly deceive our neighbour. Men are guilty of malicious falsehood when they repeat with romantic additions and fictitious embellishments the stories they have heard of a neighbour that they may excite against him severer ridicule or cast on his character a darker stain. Men may utter a falsehood by the tone of their voice, while their words are literally true.

III. We are bound to speak truth in our common and familiar conversation.—We must speak truth in our commerce with one another. In giving public testimony we must be careful to say nothing but truth, and conceal no part of the truth. We must adhere to truth when we speak of men’s actions or characters. We must observe truth in our promises.

IV. A regard to truth is a necessary part of the Christian character.—Deceitfulness is contrary, not only to the express commands of the Gospel, but to the dictates of natural conscience.

V. The argument the apostle urges for the maintenance of truth.—“We are members one of another.” As men we are members one of another. As Christians we are children of the same God, the God of truth; we are disciples of the same Lord, the faithful and true Witness. If we walk in guile and deceit, if we practise vile arts of dishonesty, we contradict our human and our Christian character. We see the danger of profane language, as it leads to the grossest kind of falsehood, even to perjury in public testimony. We see how dangerous it is to practise those diversions which are attended with temptations to fraud.—Lathrop.

College Life. “For we are members one of another.”

I. It is for us who govern and teach to remember how great is our responsibility in those respects.—We are not merely instructors but educators of youth. The question of what books we use or what vehicles of teaching we employ sinks into insignificance compared with the question what end it is we design in our teaching. Are we prepared to abdicate our higher functions of educators and to sink down to the lower one of teachers? Must we not, if we are are true to our calling, strive to instil into you that manliness which springs from the fear of God, that truthfulness which is seen in the frank look and unshrinking eye, that obedience which is rendered in no spirit of servility as unto the Lord and not as unto men, that self-mastery which is the foundation of all wisdom and all power? If the soul is of more value than the body, if the life to come is of more importance than the life that now is, if the knowledge of God and His Christ is infinitely more precious than all the knowledge of this world and all the distinction to which it leads—then there can be no question that education is infinitely before instruction, that principles are higher than knowledge, that knowledge is only of value in proportion as it is pervaded and sanctified by the Spirit of Christ. But precept without example is powerless. A man whose life is pure and high may not open his lips, yet his very silence shall be eloquent for God. Day by day a virtue is going out of him; day by day he is giving strength to one who is wrestling with doubt or temptation; day by day he is a beacon to those who are tossed on the waves of irresolution and uncertainty. [p. 233] The teacher, if he is to produce a powerful moral effect, if he is to mould character, if he is to leave an impress upon the minds and hearts of those whom he teaches, must be what he teaches, must live what he inculcates.

II. And now I would place before you your duties.—1. Keep distinctly before you the end and aim of your coming here—the ministry of Christ’s Church. 2. You are members of a community. You are all united to one another. You have all common pursuits, common ends, common interests. You may all help greatly to make or to mar the lives and characters of those with whom you are in such constant and daily intercourse. Let this consideration have its full weight with you. Be but true to yourselves, and to the God who has called you to the knowledge of Himself and His Son Jesus Christ, and by you this college shall grow and prosper. If principles and aims such as those I have endeavoured to indicate prevail in a college, there will be a real and substantial harmony between those who govern and those who are governed. Let us strive one and all, teachers and taught, to make this our college a college of which none can be ashamed.—J. J. Stewart Perowne (preached on the forty-sixth anniversary of St. David’s College, Lampeter).

Vers. 26, 27. Sinful Anger.

I. These words are not an injunction to be angry, but a caution not to sin when we are angry.—As there is in our nature a principle of resentment against injury, so there is in us a virtuous temper, a holy displeasure against moral evil.

II. Anger is sinful when it rises without cause.—Rash anger is sinful. Anger is sinful when it breaks out into indecent, reviling, and reproachful language; when it promotes to designs or acts of revenge; when it settles into malice.

III. Neither give place to the devil.—See that you subdue your lusts and rule your spirits. Arm yourselves with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Take time to consider whether any motive suggested in favour of sin is so powerful as the arguments the Scriptures offer against it. Our greatest danger is from ourselves.—Lathrop.

Ver. 26. Anger and Meekness.

I. In what cases our anger may be innocently indulged.—1. On the approach of any injurious aggressor threatening our destruction, or using any act of violence that may endanger our safety. 2. How far soever the harsh gratings of anger may seem to be removed from the soft motions of benevolence, yet these sometimes, as oil does to steel, give an edge to our resentment; where it will be found not only innocent and excusable, but even commendable and generous. As in the natural system of the world there are some repelling qualities, which yet must conspire to aid the grand power of attraction; so even those passions which, considered in a simple view, have but an unfriendly and unsociable aspect, are yet, in their general comprehension, aiding and assisting to preserve inviolable the bonds of the great community. 3. Our anger is apt to kindle at the apprehension of a slight or an affront, a contempt or reproach thrown upon us; on which occasions, if the apprehension be well grounded, our resentment, to a certain degree, must be allowed to be excusable, and so not sinful. Our tameness in these instances would be construed into stupidity, and be treated as such by the pert and petulant. 4. We may not only be angry without sinning in the instances alleged, as we sometimes may sin in not being angry. God, who designed human society, designed the good of it; and that good to be promoted by every individual to the utmost of his power. Hereby there is tacitly committed to every man a kind of trust and guardianship of virtue whose rights he is [p. 234] obliged to support and maintain in proportion to his abilities; not only by example, by advice and exhortation, but even by reproof and resentment, suitable to the circumstances of the offender and the offence.

II. When our anger becomes intemperate and unlawful.—1. When it breaks out into outrageous actions; for then, like a boisterous wind, it quite puts out that light which should guide our feet in the way of peace; it dethrones our reason, and suspends its exercise. An extravagance of this kind is the more dangerous, and therefore the more sinful, because, though the impulse of passion should meet with no opposition to inflame it—which, however, is generally the case—yet, when it has worked the blood into so violent a ferment, it is apt of itself to redouble its force. And no one can tell what fury, wound up to the highest pitch, may produce. 2. Anger becomes unlawful when it vents itself in unseemly and reviling language. It were to be wished that those who have such a peculiar delicacy of feeling when they are affronted would abstain from all appearance of an affrontive and disrespectful behaviour to others; that they who are so quick to receive would be as slow to give an affront. On the contrary it often happens that they only feel for themselves; they are not the least sensible of the indignities offered to others. How frequently do those who are highly enraged pass a general and undistinguishing censure upon a man’s character? 3. We are not always to judge of the sinfulness of anger from the open and undignified appearance of it, either in our words or actions; it may be concealed and treasured up in our thoughts, and yet retain as much malignity as when it immediately breaks out and discovers itself in contumelious language or acts of violence. For by brooding in the mind it becomes the parent of a very untoward issue, malice, and hatred. Malice is a cool and deliberate resentment; but sometimes more keen and malevolent than that which is rash and precipitate. It is like a massive stone, slowly raised, but threatening the greater danger to him on whom it shall fall. Anger is yet sinful when encouraged in our thoughts to the degree of hatred.

III. Consider its opposite virtue, meekness.—Meekness, is, as Aristotle long ago defined it, a due mean between tameness and stupidity on the one hand, and rage and fury on the other. It is not absolute freedom from passion, but such a command over it as to prevent our being transported beyond the bounds of humanity and good sense. It is this virtue which, if it does not give a man such a glaring and shining figure as some other good qualities, yet constitutes the most lovely, beautiful, and agreeable character, and gains unenvied praise. 1. A meek man will have sense enough to know when he is injured, and spirit enough to resent it; but then he will consider whether he can do more good by openly resenting the offence and punishing the offender than by overlooking it and passing it by. 2. A man of meek temper will distinguish between a man’s general standing sentiments when he is perfectly calm and undisturbed and his occasional sentiments when his spirits are ruffled and overheated. 3. A meek man will never be angry with a person for telling him what he imagines to be a fault in him, provided it be done in a private manner, and the advice be conveyed in the most palatable vehicle. 4. A man of a meek spirit is glad to be reconciled to the person who has offended or injured him, and therefore is ready to hearken to all overtures of accommodation. A meek man will show such an inclination and readiness to forgive the offences of others as if he had perpetual need of the same indulgence, but will so carefully avoid giving the least offence as if it might be thought he would forgive nobody.

Lessons.—1. Let us endeavour to acquire a greatness of mind: by this I do not mean arrogance, for that bespeaks [p. 235] a little mind—a mind that can reflect on nothing within itself that looks great except arrogance; but a true greatness of mind arises from a true judgment of things, and a noble ascendency of the soul inclining us to act above what is barely our duty. It is rising to the sublime in virtue. This will create a reverence for ourselves, and will set us as far above the mean gratification of giving any real occasion of passion to others, as of being susceptible of it when an occasion may be given to us. 2. One of the ancients said that he had gained one advantage from philosophy: that it had brought him to wonder at nothing. But it looks as if we, the generality of us, were strangers in the world; we are ever expressing our surprise and wonder at everything; and thus surprise prepares the way for passion. We wonder that we should meet with such a behaviour, such a treatment, such an affront; whereas the greatest wonder is that we should wonder at it. 3. Nothing can have so prevalent a power to still all the undue agitations of passion so apt to arise from the various connections we have with the prejudices and passions of others, nothing so fit to induce a smooth and easy flow of temper, as a frequent application to the throne of grace, to beseech Him, who is the God of Peace, that His peace may rule in our heats, that it may be the fixed and predominant principle there.—Jeremiah Seed.

Ver. 28. A Warning against Theft.

I. Here is a general prohibition of theft.—This supposes distinct rights and separate properties. Stealing is taking and carrying away another’s goods in a secret manner and without his consent. The prohibition relates to every unfair, indirect, dishonest way by which one may transfer to himself the property of another.

II. This prohibition of theft is a virtual injunction of labour.—If a man may not live at the expense of others, he must live at his own; and if he has not the means of subsistence, he must labour to acquire them. No man has a right to live on charity so long as he can live by labour. The obligation to labour is not confined to the poor; it extends to all according to their several capacities.

III. Every man must choose for himself an honest calling, and must work that which is good.—A work in which a man makes gain by the expense and enriches himself by the loss of others is theft embellished and refined. Gaming, when it is used as an art to get money, is criminal, because it is unprofitable, and what one gains by it another must lose.

IV. In all our labours we should have regard to the good of others.—The man who is poor should aim to mend his circumstances and to provide not only for his immediate support but for his future necessities. The condition which subjects us to labour does not exempt us from obligations to beneficence. We must confine ourselves within our own proper sphere, for here we can do more good than elsewhere. In all our works, secular or spiritual, charity must direct us. Love is an essential principle in religion, and as essential in one man as another.—Lathrop.

St. Paul’s Exaltation of Labour.

I. St. Paul often recurs to the plain and quiet work of humble life.—He enforces not only the duty of it, but how high the duty ranks; and if it is well done, how it raises those who do it. Having worked with his own hands, he appreciated the sterling test of honest attention to work. He knew what temptations there were to relax and to give in to the sense of tediousness day by day and hour by hour. St. Paul, who honours the industry of a slave, will not allow it to be dishonoured by the slave himself thinking himself superior to it, and discourages all high flights which set him at enmity with his work and draw him away from the sterling Christian yoke of humble labour to which he has been called in God’s providence.

[p. 236] II. At the same time the apostle does not honour all industry; far from it. He always reprobates the covetous, money-getting spirit. He admires industry, but it must be industry which is consecrated by the motive; and the motive which he requires for it is that of duty—when a man fulfils in the fear of God the task which is allotted to him. Men form their religious standard by two distinct tests: one the law of conscience and obedience to God, the other what is striking to man. St. Paul’s standard is seen in his sympathy with the work of the ruler of a household, with the work of a father or mother of a family, the work of hospitality and attention to strangers, the work of common trades and callings, the work even of the slave in doing his assigned daily tasks.

III. We see the spirit of this great apostle—how it embraced the whole appointed lot of man, from his highest to his most humble field of employment. He rejected nothing as mean or low that came by God’s appointment; all was good, all was excellent, all was appropriate that He had commanded. The heathen valued all labour by which men became eloquent or became able soldiers or statesmen; but they had not the slightest respect for the ordinary work of mankind. They thought this world made for the rich. How different is St. Paul’s view! No work allotted to man is servile work in his eyes, because he has an insight into what faithful labour is—what strength of conscience it requires, what resistance to temptations and snares it demands. The Word of God consecrates the ordinary work of man—it converts it into every one’s trial, and as his special trial his special access to a reward also.—J. B. Mozley.

Ver. 29. The Government of the Tongue.

  1. The apostle cautions us against all loose and licentious language.
  2. Enticing language is forbidden.
  3. Corrupt communication includes all kinds of vain discourse; all such language as offends Christian sobriety, seriousness, and gravity, savours of profaneness and impiety, or borders on obscenity and lewdness.
  4. Instruction is useful to edifying.
  5. Reproof conducted with prudence is useful to edifying.
  6. Exhortation is good for the use of edifying.
  7. Christians may edify one another by communicating things they have experienced in the course of the religious life.
  8. Conversing on religious subjects in general is good for the use of edifying.Lathrop.

Ver. 30. The Benefit conferred by the Spirit on Believers.

I. That believers are sealed by the Spirit implies that they are recognised and set apart and in a peculiar sense the Divine property.—1. A seal is often a distinguishing mark or token by which a claim to property may be shown and established (Rev. iii. 2, 3). 2. That believers are thus sealed proves that they are His in a peculiar manner. 3. The sense in which they are His is clearly brought out (1 Cor. iii. 23). They are Christ’s by gift, by purchase, by conquest, by surrender. Christ is God’s, and His people in Him. 4. They who are sealed are thus a peculiar people, separated to God’s worship, service, and glory. 5. Have you recognised practically that you are God’s?

II. That believers are sealed implies that attempts will be made to alienate them from God’s possession.—1. A mark or token is affixed to that which is in danger of being taken away. 2. We are distinctly taught that believers are exposed to efforts to separate them from God (John x. 7–10, 27–29). 3. The activity of the wicked one seems in a great measure directed to this point. 4. The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints does not lead him to indolence. 5. Your safety is not merely to get into the place of safety, but to continue there.

III. That believers are sealed [p. 237] implies that they have received the impress of the Divine image.—1. The sealing is the work of the Spirit, whose office it is to regenerate and sanctify. 2. The seal is that which distinguishes the believer from the unbeliever, and the true distinguishing mark is regeneration. 3. We therefore conclude that the seal has engraven on it the image of God, which it leaves. 4. The confidence of no one should outrun his sanctification. 5. Can you discern the outline of the image? There are counterfeits.

IV. That believers are sealed implies that, though associated and mixed up with others, they are not confounded with them.—1. A distinguishing mark is necessary when things which are again to be separated and classified are mingled with each other. 2. The seal leads to recognition. Hence the believer is known by himself, fellow-believers, the world, the devil, angels, Christ, the Father. 3. This recognition takes place in time, at the judgment, in eternity.

V. That believers are sealed implies that God will visit the earth with distinguishing judgments.—In proof and illustration (Exek. ix.; Rev. vii., ix.). The Passover. The destruction of Jerusalem. Now. The judgment day. Are you prepared for such a season?

VI. That believers are sealed implies that they are in a state of reservation.—A seal is a pledge, a signature. An engagement presently fulfilled needs no pledge.—Stewart.

The Office of the Holy Spirit and the Danger of grieving Him.

I. His office is to seal us unto the day of redemption.—That day in which the people of God will be put into complete possession of the blessings purchased for them by Christ. To seal us to this day is to prepare us and to set us apart from it, to fix such a mark on us as in that day shall distinguish us from others and make it fully appear to whom we belong. When a man sets his seal to a paper, he thereby declares his approbation of it and acknowledges it to be his own deed. Those who bear the seal of the Spirit will be approved by Christ and acknowledged for His own in the day of resurrection. A seal stamps its own image on the wax. The Spirit stamps on the soul the image of Himself. This seal is said to be the earnest of our inheritance. An earnest is a pledge of something to be bestowed and enjoyed hereafter—a part of it is already bestowed to assure us that in due time we shall receive the whole.

II. He is not to be grieved.—1. Beware of doing anything which your conscience, enlightened by the Word of God, forbids you to do. 2. Beware of running into temptation. 3. Beware of indulging fleshly lusts. 4. Beware of practising deceit and falsehood. 5. Beware of profaning the Lord’s Day. 6. Beware of cherishing evil and malignant tempers.—E. Cooper.

On Grieving the Holy Spirit.

  1. Our duty is to render to the Holy Spirit cheerful and universal obedience.
  2. The Spirit is the great Sanctifier.
  3. We must co-operate diligently in the production of the fruits of the Spirit.
  4. Our danger is in quenching the Spirit.—Our light grows dim, and we gradually adopt evil habits. We neither see nor heed spiritual dangers. Religious sensibilities are blunted. How far any of us have gone in resisting the Spirit God alone knows. Many who resist great light and strong impressions seem never to feel again.—Olin.

Grieving the Spirit.

  1. Indifference and carelessness in religion is opposition to the grace of God.
  2. Spiritual pride grieves the Divine Spirit.
  3. The Spirit is grieved when we neglect the means appointed for obtaining His influence.
  4. Opposition to the strivings of the Spirit is another way in which He is often grieved.
  5. [p. 238] There are particular sins which are opposite to the work of the Spirit. Impurity, intemperance, dissipation, and all the vices of sensuality. The indulgence of malignant passions grieves the Spirit. Contentions among Christians are opposite to the Spirit. Men grieve the Spirit when they ascribe to Him those motions and actions which are contrary to His nature. If they blindly follow every impulse of a heated imagination, every suggestion of the common deceiver, every motion of their own vanity and pride, they profane and blaspheme His sacred name.—Lathrop.

Grieve not the Spirit.—But wherewith can we so grieve Him? Alas! that one must rather ask, “Wherein may he not?” I fear that one of the things which will most amaze us when we open our eyes upon eternity will be the multitude of our own rudenesses to Divine grace, that is, to God the Holy Ghost whose motions grace is. Oh, let not that His seal upon you, the gift of His Spirit, mark you as a deserter! O Holy Creator Spirit, come down once more into our souls in Thine own thrilling fire of life and light and heat, kindling our senses with Thy light, our hearts with Thy love! wash away our stains, bedew our dryness, heal our wounds, bend our stubbornness, guide our wanderings, that Thou, being the inmate of our hearts, the instructor of our reason, the strength of our will, we may see by Thy light whom as yet we see not and know Him who passeth knowledge, and through God may love God now as wayfarers, and, in the day of perfect redemption, in the beatific vision of our God!—E. B. Pusey.

The Sealing of the Spirit.—1. The seal is used in conveying and assuring to any person a title to his estate, in delivering which a part is put into the hands of the new proprietor. We are sealed as an assurance of our title to our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession. 2. In sealing any person, the contra-part of the seal is impressed on that which is sealed. We are thus sealed by the Spirit, stamped with the image of God. 3. Sealing is used for preservation. It is by this we are to be preserved until that day. By grieving the Spirit we break this seal.—E. Hare.

Vers. 31, 32. Vices to be renounced and Virtues to be cherished.

I. Put away all bitterness.—All such passions, behaviour, and language as are disgusting and offensive to others, wound their tender feelings, and embitter their spirits. No temper is more inconsistent with the felicity of social life than peevishness.

II. Put away wrath and anger.—The former signifies heat of temper, the latter this heat wrought into a flame. Though anger, as a sense and feeling of the wrongs done us, is innocent and natural, all the irregular and excessive operations of it are sinful and dangerous.

III. Put away all malice.—This is a degree of passion beyond simple anger. It is a fixed, settled hatred, accompanied with a disposition to revenge. It is anger resting in the bosom and studying to do mischief. Malice is a temper which every one condemns in others, but few discern in themselves.

IV. Put away all clamour and evil speaking.—Clamour is noisy, complaining, and contentious language in opposition to that which is soft, gentle, and courteous. Never believe, much less propagate, an ill report of your neighbour without good evidence of its truth. Never speak ill of a man when your speaking may probably do much hurt, but cannot possibly do any good.

V. Christians are to be kind one to another.—Such kindness as renders us useful. Kindness wishes well to all men, prays for their happiness, and studies to promote their interest. It will reprove vice and lend its aid to promote knowledge and virtue.

VI. Christians should be tenderhearted.—They should not be guided [p. 239] by a blind, instinctive pity; but by habitual goodness of heart, cultivated with reason, improved by religion, and operating with discretion. While they commiserate all who appear to be in affliction, they should regard among them the difference of characters and circumstances.

VII. We are to forgive one another.—Forgiveness does not oblige us tamely to submit to every insult and silently bear every injury. To those who have injured us we should maintain goodwill and exercise forbearance. God’s forgiveness of our sins is urged as a motive to mutual forgiveness. “Even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” He who forgives not an offending brother will not be forgiven of his heavenly Father.—Lathrop.

Malice incompatible with the Christian Character.

I. That we may be convinced of the hatefulness of a malignant temper look to the source whence it proceeds.—From the bitterness of the fountain we may judge of the character of the water which it sends forth. From the corruptness of the tree we may estimate the character of the fruit. The author of malice is the devil.

II. Let us after the same manner proceed to appreciate the loveliness of the opposite quality, the quality of mercy and lovingkindness, by a reference to its Author. Malice is gratified by murder. In God we live and move and have our being. Malice is envious. God giveth us richly all things to enjoy. Malice is false and calumnious. God sent His Son into the world to give light to them that sit in darkness. Malice is resentful and vindictive, impatient of offence, and intemperate in requiring satisfaction. God is love.

III. Let us turn for a further motive to the character and conduct of the Son of God.—He has given us an example of the most profound humility, a temper in which malice has no portion, and which cannot exist independently of lovingkindness and tenderness of heart.

IV. To the example of our blessed Redeemer let us add His commandments; and there arises another forcible motive to put away all malice and to be kind one to another.—“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.”

V. If we would avoid a malicious and cultivate a charitable temper, we must renounce the devil and all his works.—We must triumph over those passions which he plants and propagates in the heart of man.—R. Mant.

Ver. 32. Errors respecting Forgiveness of Sin.

I. That forgiveness of sin is unnecessary.—Every sin is punished on the spot. This natural punishment is felt as long as the sin is indulged, and it ceases as soon as the sin is abandoned. This error may be exposed by a reference to the philosophy of human nature, to experience, and to Scripture.

II. That forgiveness of sin is impossible.—The consequences of every sin stretch out into infinity, and they cannot be annihilated without a supernatural interposition; but it would derogate from the supremacy of law to allow that a miracle is possible. The possibility of miracle is contrary neither to intuition nor to experience. A supernatural Being is the Author of a supernatural system: creation, incarnation, the Bible, spiritual influence.

III. That forgiveness of sin might be dispensed without an atonement.—“If a man suffer insult or injury from his fellow-man, he ought to forgive him freely; why should not God?” Because He is God, and not man. He is the moral Governor of the universe, and must consult for the majesty of His law and the interests of His responsible creatures. Forgiveness without atonement would not satisfy the conscience of the awakened sinner.

IV. That forgiveness of sin will not be bestowed till the day of judgment.—Pardon through Christ is immediate. It is enjoyed as soon as we believe.

V. That forgiveness of sin as freely [p. 240] offered in the Gospel is inimical to morality.—“Pay a workman before he begins his work, and he will be indolent; pay him when he has finished his work, and he will be diligent.” Not if he were an honest man, and no one is forgiven who is not sanctified. A sense of unpardoned guilt is the greatest hindrance to obedience. A sense of redeeming love the most powerful incentive.—G. Brooks.

Christian Forgiveness.

I. The reality of forgiveness, or the grace of a forgiving spirit in us, lies not so much in our ability to let go or to be persuaded to let go the remembrance of our injuries, as in what we are able to do, what volunteer sacrifices to make, what painstaking to undergo, that we may get our adversary softened to want or gently accept our forgiveness.

II. In all that you distinguish of a nobler and Diviner life, in Christ’s bearing of His enemies and their sins, He is simply showing what belongs in righteousness to every moral nature from the uncreated Lord down to the humblest created intelligence. Forgiveness, this same Christly forgiveness, belongs to all—to you, to me, to every lowest mortal that bears God’s image.

III. Christ wants you to be with Him in His own forgiveness. He wants such a feeling struggling in your bosom that you cannot bear to have an adversary, cannot rest from your prayers and sacrifices and the lifelong suit of your concern, till you have gained him away from his wrong and brought him into peace. This in fact is salvation: to be with Christ in all the travail of His forgiveness. As Christ was simply fulfilling the right in His blessed ways of forgiveness, so we may conceive that He is simply fulfilling the eternal love. For what is right coincides with love, and love with what is right.

IV. When a true Christian goes after his adversary in such a temper as he ought—tender, assiduous, proving himself in his love by the most faithful sacrifices—he is not like to stay by his enmity long. As the heat of a warm day will make even a wilful man take off his overcoat, so the silent melting of forgiveness at the heart will compel it, even before it is aware, to let the grudges go. A really good man may have enemies all his life long, even as Christ had, and the real blame may be chargeable not against him, but against them.

V. Have then Christian brethren under Christ’s own Gospel nothing better left than to take themselves out of sight of each other just to get rid of forgiveness, going to carry the rankling with them, live in the bitterness, die in the grudges of their untamable passion? What is our Gospel but a reconciling power even for sin itself, and what is it good for, if it cannot reconcile? No, there is a better way. Christ laid it on them by His own dear passion when He gave Himself for them, by His bloody sweat, His pierced hands, and open side, to go about the matter of forgiving one another even as He went about forgiving them.—Bushnell.


 [p. 241]

CHAPTER V.

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.

Ver. 1. Followers of God.—R.V. imitators. St. Paul gathers up all duties into one expression, “imitation of God,” and urges them on his readers by a reminder of their high birth laying them under obligation, and rendering their copying easier.

Ver. 2. Walk in love.—“Love must fulfil all righteousness; it must suffer law to mark out its path of obedience, or it remans an effusive, ineffectual sentiment, helpless to bless and save.”

Ver. 3. Let it not be once named.—After the things themselves are dead let their names never be heard.

Ver. 4. Nor jesting.—“Chastened insolence,” as Aristotle’s description of it has been happily rendered. “Graceless grace” [of style], as Chrysostom called it. It is the oozing out of the essential badness of a man for whom polish and a versatile nature have done all they can.

Vers. 5, 6. Because of these things cometh the wrath of God, etc.—Look down beneath the pleasing manners to the nature. If such terms as are used in ver. 5 describe the man, he is simply one of Disobedience’s children, and all his versatility will not avert the descending wrath of God.

Ver. 7. Be not ye therefore partakers with them.—Do not wish to share the frivolity and impiety of their life, as you would shun the wrath that inevitably awaits it. How could they so partake and continue to be what ch. iii. 6 calls them?

Ver. 8. Ye were . . . ye are . . . be.—The lesson must be learnt, and therefore reiteration is necessary.

Ver. 9. For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.—Neither here nor at Gal. v. 22 does St. Paul intend a complete list of the fruits of the Spirit. St. John’s tree of life bore “twelve manner of fruits” (Rev. xxii.2). All Christian morality lies in the good, the right, and the true.

Ver 10. Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.—Each is to be an assayer—rejecting all base alloys. Nothing must be accepted because it looks like an angel of light—“the spirits” must be put to the proof (1 John iv. 1).

Ver. 11. Rather reprove them.—It may be with a voice as firm as the Baptist’s; it may be by gentle and yet unflinching “showing up” of certain proceedings (cf. St. John iii. 20). “This chastening reproof is an oral one,” says Meyer.

Ver. 12. It is a shame even to speak of.—Though the only sign of their shame having touched them is that they seek the cover of secrecy, and our own cheeks burn as we speak of what they do, we must convict.

Ver. 13. Made manifest by the light.—Whatever the light falls upon is no longer of the darkness, but belongs to the light. Shame is one of the influences by which the light conquers a soul from darkness.

Ver. 14. Wherefore He saith.—What follows is “a free paraphrase from the Old Testament formed by weaving together Messianic passages—belonging to such a hymn as might be sung at baptisms in the Pauline Churches” (Findlay). The thought is that of the change from darkness to light—a change produced by the opening of the eyes to the light shining in the face of Jesus Christ.

Ver. 15. See then that ye walk circumspectly.—R.V. “Look then carefully how ye walk.” The way of life must be one of exactitude; and that it may be so the steps must not be haphazard, but carefully taken.

Ver. 16. Redeeming the time.—R.V. margin, “buying up the opportunity.” Seizing the crucial moment as eagerly as men bid for a desirable article at an auction sale. Because the days are evil.—A man in Paul’s circumstances and with his consuming earnestness of spirit may be forgiven if he does not see everything rose-coloured.

Ver. 18. Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess.—The word for “excess” is found again in Tit. i. 6 as “riot,” and in 1 Pet. iv. 4. In all three texts the warning against intoxication is near the word. In Luke xv. 13 we have the adverbial form—“riotously.”

Ver. 19. Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.—When the spirit is elevated so that ordinary prose conversation is inadequate to express the feelings let it find vent in sacred music. St. James’s advice to the “merry” heart is, “Sing psalms” (James v. 13). The “psalm” is properly a song with accompaniment of a stringed instrument; “a ‘hymn’ must always be more or less of a Magnificat, a direct address of praise and glory to God.” “Spiritual songs” were [p. 242] “such as were composed by spiritual men and moved in the sphere of spiritual things” (Trench). No spiritual excitement, however highly wrought, can be injurious that flows between the banks of thanksgiving and mutual submission in the fear of God.

Ver. 20. Giving thanks always for all things.—If one who speaks as a philosopher merely can praise the “sweet uses of adversity” and discern the “soul of goodness in things evil,” how much more should one believing Rom. viii. 28!

Ver. 21. Submitting yourselves one to another.—In another Church the endeavour to take precedence of each other had produced what a stranger might have taken for a madhouse (1 Cor. xiv. 23). St. Paul’s word for “submitting” means “ranging yourselves beneath,” and finds its illustration in the Lord’s words, “Go and sit down in the lowest place” (Luke xiv. 10).

Ver. 22. Submit yourselves.—Same word as in previous verse; neither here nor there does it involve any loss of self-respect. The wife’s tribute to her husband’s worth is submission—the grace of childhood to both parents equally is obedience.

Ver. 23. Christ is the head of the Church.—Defending her at His own peril (“If ye seek Me, let these go their way,” John xviii. 8); serving her in utmost forgetfulness of self (“I am amongst you as he that serveth,” Luke xxii. 27); “Giving Himself up for her,” (ver. 25).

Ver. 25. Husbands, love your wives.—This will prevent the submission of the wife from ever becoming degrading—as submission to a tyrant must be.

Ver. 26. That He might sanctify and cleanse.—There is no “and” between “sanctify” and “cleanse” in what St. Paul wrote. “Sanctify it, having cleansed it” (R.V.). “I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified” (John xvii. 19).

Ver. 27. Spot or wrinkle.—“Spot,” a visible blemish, used in the plural, figuratively, in 2 Pet. ii. 13, of men who disfigure Christian assemblies. “Wrinkle”—“a wrinkled bride” is an incongruity, just as the mourning which produces wrinkles is out of place in the bridechamber (Matt. ix. 15).

Ver. 28. As their own bodies.—Not “as they love their own bodies” merely, but “as being their own.” See ver. 31, “one flesh.”

Ver. 31. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife.—We must regard these words, not as a continuation of Adam’s in Gen. ii. 23, but as the words of the narrator, who regards what our first father said as a mystical hint of the origin of marriage.

Ver. 32. This is a great mystery.—The meaning of which is known only to the initiated. Something having a significance beyond what appears on the surface. But I speak.—The “I” is emphatic: “I give my interpretation.” My chief interest in this mystery is as it relates to Christ and to the Church.

Ver. 33. Nevertheless.—“I pursue the matter no further”; and though this mystical turn is given to the words, still in actual life let the husband love (ver. 25) and the wife show reverence (ver. 22). Let all the married among you apply the mystery to their own case, so that the husband may love the wife and the wife fear the husband.

 

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Verses 1, 2.

The Life of Love

I. Is an imitating of the Divine life.—“Be followers of God: . . . walk in love” (vers. 1, 2). Though God is infinitely beyond us, and lifted above all heights, we are to aspire towards Him. When we contemplate His glorious perfections we are more deeply conscious of our limitations and sins, bend before Him in lowly awe, and seem to despair of ever being able to approach to anything within ourselves, that can be like Him. Nevertheless God is the pattern of all excellence, and we can attain excellence ourselves only by imitating Him. The ideal character is ever above and beyond the seeker, growing more beautiful, but seeming as distant as ever. The life of God is the life of love—love is the essence of His nature and the crowning glory of all His perfections. The chief way in which He is imitable by us is in that direction: to love God is to be like Him. Our life, in all its impulses, outgoings, and accomplishments, must be suffused and penetrated with love. As the soul opens to the inflow of God’s love and is filled with it, it becomes like God. Loving God is allowing God to love us. The love of God is the most transcendent revelation of the Gospel. In Paris, a little girl, seven years old, was observed to read the New Testament continually. Being asked what pleasure she found in doing so, she said, “It makes me wise, [p. 243] and teaches how to love God.” She had been reading the history of Martha and Mary. “What is the one thing needful?” asked her friend. “It is the love of God,” she earnestly replied.

II. Is befitting the relation in which the believer is Divinely regarded.—“Followers of God, as dear children” (ver. 1). God is our Father, and He loves us. That is enough; but how much is implied in that, who can tell? To realise the Divine Fatherhood is to become acquainted with the love of God. When we discover we are dear to Him our hearts melt, our rebellion is conquered, we seek His forgiveness, we revel in His favour, we exult in His service. When we discover He has always loved us we are overwhelmed. A mother, whose daughter had behaved badly and at length ran away from home, thought of a singular plan to find the wanderer and bring her back. She had her own portrait fixed on a large handbill and posted on the walls of the town where she supposed her daughter was concealed. The portrait, without name, had these words painted underneath: “I love thee always.” Crowds stopped before the strange handbill, trying to guess its meaning. Days elapsed, when a young girl at last passed by, and lifted her eyes to the singular placard. She understood: this was a message for her. Her mother loved her—pardoned her. Those words transformed her. Never had she felt her sin and ingratitude so deeply. She was unworthy of such love. She set out for home, and crossing the threshold was soon in her mother’s arms. “My child!” cried the mother, as she pressed her repentant daughter to her heart, “I have never ceased to love thee!”

III. Is a love of Christ-like sacrifice.—“As Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us” (ver. 2). The offering of Christ as a sacrifice for the sins of men was acceptable to God, and came up before Him as a sweet-smelling savour, because it was the offering and sacrifice of love. The life of love is the life of obedience; it is eager to serve, and it shrinks not from suffering. Nothing can be love to God which does not shape itself into obedience. We remember the anecdote of the Roman commander who forbade an engagement with the enemy, and the first transgressor against whose prohibition was his own son. He accepted the challenge of the leader of the other host, met, slew, spoiled him, and then with triumphant feeling carried the spoils to his father’s tent. But the Roman father refused to recognise the instinct which prompted this as deserving of the name of love. Disobedience contradicted it and deserved death. Weak sentiment—what was it worth? It was the dictate of ambition and self-will overriding obedience and discipline; it was not love. A self-sacrificing life is prompted, sustained, and ennobled by love. The trials which love cheerfully undergoes in its ministry of love to others and in obedience to the will of God are often transformed into blessings. There is a legend that Nimrod took Abraham and cast him into a furnace of fire because he would not worship idols; but God changed the coals into a bed of roses. So it will ever be. The obedience that leads to the furnace of fire will find in the end that it is a bed of roses. The life of loving sacrifice will issue in eternal blessedness.

Lessons.The life of love is—1. The highest life. 2. The happiest life. 3. The life most fruitful in usefulness to others.

 

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES.

Vers. 1, 2. St. Paul’s Doctrine of Christian Ethics.

I. The fundamental truth of the Fatherhood of God.—Man’s life has its law, for it has its source in the nature of the Eternal. Behind our race instincts and the laws imposed on us in the long struggle for existence, behind those imperatives of practical reason involved in the structure of our intelligence, is the presence and active will of Almighty God our heavenly Father. [p. 244] Institutional morals bear witness to the God of creation, experimental morals to the God of providence and history. The Divine Fatherhood is the keystone of the arch in which they meet. The command to be imitators of God makes personality the sovereign element in life. If consciousness is a finite and passing phenomenon, if God be but a name for the sum of the impersonal laws that regulate the universe, for the “stream of tendency” in the worlds, Father and love are meaningless terms applied to the Supreme, and religion dissolves into an impalpable mist. Love, thought, will in us raise our being above the realm of the impersonal; and these faculties point us upward to Him from whom they came, the Father of the spirits of all flesh. It is not the loss of strength for human service nor the dying out of joy which unbelief entails that is its chief calamity. The sun in the soul’s heaven is put out. The personal relationship to the Supreme which gave dignity and worth to our individual being, which imparted sacredness and enduring power to all other ties, is destroyed. The heart is orphaned, the temple of the Spirit desolate. The mainspring of life is broken.

II. The solidarity of mankind in Christ furnishes the apostle with a powerful lever for raising the ethical standard of his readers. The thought that we are “members one of another” forbids deceit. Self is so merged in the community that in dealing censure or forgiveness to an offending brother the Christian man feels as though he were dealing with himself—as though it were the hand that forgave the foot for tripping, or the ear that pardoned some blunder of the eye. The Christ loved and gave; for love that does not give, that prompts to no effort and puts itself to no sacrifice, is but a luxury of the heart—useless and even selfish. The Church is the centre of humanity. The love born and nourished in the household of faith goes out into the world with a universal mission. The solidarity of moral interests that is realised there embraces all the kindreds of the earth. The incarnation of Christ knits all flesh into one redeemed family. The continents and races of mankind are members one of another, with Jesus Christ for Head.

III. Another ruling idea lying at the basis of Christian ethics is St. Paul’s conception of man’s future destiny.—There is disclosed a world beyond the world, a life growing out of life, an eternal and invisible kingdom of whose possession the Spirit that lives in Christian men is the earnest and firstfruits. Human reason had guessed and hope had dreamed of the soul’s immortality. Christianity gives this hope certainty, and adds to it the assurance of the resurrection of the body. Man’s entire nature is thus redeemed. Our bodily dress is one with the spirit that it unfolds. We shall lay it aside only to resume it—transfigured, but with a form and impress continuous with its present being.

IV. The atonement of the cross stamps its own character and spirit on the entire ethics of Christianity.—The Fatherhood of God, the unity and solidarity of mankind, the issues of eternal life or death awaiting us in the unseen world—all the great factors and fundamentals of revealed religion gather about the cross of Christ; they lend to it their august significance, and gain from it new import and impressiveness. The fact that Christ “gave Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God” throws an awful light upon the nature of human transgression. All that inspired men had taught, that good men had believed and felt, and penitent men confessed in regard to the evil of human sin, is more than verified by the sacrifice which the Holy One of God has undergone in order to put it away. What tears of contrition, what cleansing fires of hate against our own sins, what scorn of their baseness, what stern resolves against them, are awakened by the sight of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! The sacrifice of Christ demands from us devotion to Christ Himself. Our first duty as [p. 245] Christians is to love Christ, to serve and follow Christ. There is no conflict between the claims of Christ and those of philanthropy, between the needs of His worship and the needs of the destitute and suffering in our streets. Every new subject won to the kingdom of Christ is another helper won for His poor. Every act of love rendered to Him deepens the channel of sympathy by which relief and blessing come to sorrowful humanity.—Findlay.

Christ’s Sacrifice of Himself explained, and Man’s Duty to offer Spiritual Sacrifice inferred and recommended.

I. Our Lord’s unexampled sacrifice.—1. The Priest. As a prophet or an apostle properly is an ambassador from God to treat with men, so a priest is an agent or solicitor in behalf of men to treat with God.

2. The sacrifice.—Our Lord was both offering and sacrifice. Every sacrifice is an offering to God, but every offering to God is not a sacrifice. Perfect innocence and consummate virtue, both in doing and suffering, were not only the flower and perfection but the very form and essence of our Lord’s sacrifice. These were the sacrifice of sweet odour, acceptable to Him who alone could judge perfectly of the infinite worth and merit of it.

3. The altar.—From the third century to this time the cross whereon our Lord suffered has been called the altar. There is another altar, a spiritual altar—the eternal Spirit, the Divine nature of our Lord. The sacrifice of our Lord is an undoubted Scripture truth; but as to a proper altar for that sacrifice, it is a more disputable point, about which wise and good men may be allowed to judge as they see cause.

4. The Divine Lawgiver.—To whom the sacrifice was made, and by whom it was graciously accepted. God the Father is Lawgiver-in-chief, and to Him our Lord paid the price of our redemption. Thus the glory of God and the felicity of men are both served in this dispensation.

II. Our own sacrifice of ourselves.—As Christ give Himself for us, so we ought to give up ourselves to God in all holy obedience, and particularly in the offices of love towards our brethren, as these are the most acceptable sacrifices we can offer to God. We cannot do greater honour to our Lord’s sacrifice than by thus copying it in the best manner we are able—a sacrifice of love to God and love to our neighbours.—Waterland.

The Imitation of God.—No argument is so frequently urged as the example of Christ to persuade us to mutual love, because none is so well adapted to influence the mind of a Christian. God’s approbation of Christian charity is expressed in the same terms as His acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ; for charity to our fellow-Christians, flowing from a sense of Christ’s dying love, is a virtue of distinguished excellence. As the death of Christ is called “a sacrifice for a sweet-smelling savour,” so Christian charity is called “an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.” Let it be our care to follow Christ in His goodness and love, and to learn of Him humility, condescension, mercy, and forgiveness. Religion is an imitation of the moral character of God, brought down to human view and familiarised to human apprehension in the life of Christ. The sacrifice of Christ is of great use, not only as an atonement for guilt, but also as an example of love.—Lathrop.

Ver. 1, The Duty and Object of a Christian’s Imitation.

I. The duty enjoined.—1. Remove the hindrances to imitation. (1) Spiritual pride and self-conceit. (2) This self-conceit works in us a prejudiced opinion, and makes us undervalue and detract from the worth of our brother. (3) Spiritual drowsiness. 2. Observe the rules of imitation. (1) We must not take our pattern upon trust; no, not St. Paul himself. He brings it in indeed as a duty—“Be ye followers of me”; but he adds this direction, “as I am of [p. 246] Christ” (1 Cor. xi. 1). “For in imitation, besides the persons, there is also to be considered,” saith Quintilian, “what it is we must imitate in the persons. We must no further follow them than they follow the rules of art.” “Some there were,” said Seneca, “who imitated nothing but that which was bad in the best.” It is so in our Christian profession: we must view, and try, and understand what we are to imitate. We must not make use of all eyes, but of those only which look upon the Lord. (2) That we strive to imitate the best. Saith Pliny: “It is great folly not to propose always the best pattern”; and saith Seneca, “Choose a Cato,” a prime, eminent man, by whose authority thy secret thoughts may be more holy, the very memory of whom may compose thy manners; whom not only to see, but to think of, will be a help to the reformation of thy life. Dost thou live with any in whom the good gifts and graces of God are shining and resplendent, who are strict and exact, and so retain the precepts of God in memory that they forget them not in their works? Give men the instructive examples of these good men: let them always be before my eyes; let them be a second rule by which I may correct my life and manners; let me not lose this help, which God hath granted me, of imitation.

II. The object of imitation.—We must make God the rule of goodness in all our actions: we must be just, to observe the law; valiant, to keep down our passions; temperate, to conform our wills to the rule of reason; and wise, to our salvation. But there is no virtue which makes us more resemble God than this which the apostle here exhorts the Ephesians to; and that is mercy. For although all virtues are in the highest degree, nay, above all degrees, most perfect in Him; yet, in respect of His creatures, none is so resplendent as mercy. Mercy is the queen and empress of God’s virtues; it is the bond and knot which unites heaven and earth, that by which we hold all our titles—our title to be men, out title to the name of Christian, our title to the profession of Christianity, our title to earth, our title to heaven. 1. As God forgiveth us, so we must forgive our enemies. 2. As we must forgive, so God’s mercy must be the motive: we must do it “out of a desire to imitate God.” 3. We must conform our imitation to the Pattern. He with one act of mercy wipes out all scores; so must we. When He forgives our sins, He is said to cast them behind Him, never to think of them, so to forget them as if they never had been; so must we. He doth it too without respect of persons; and so we ought to do. We must forgive all, for ever; and so far must we be from respect of persons that we must acknowledge no title but that of Christian.—Farindon.

Likeness to God.

I. Likeness to God belongs to man’s higher or spiritual nature.—It has its foundation in the original and essential capacities of the mind. In proportion as these are unfolded by right and vigorous exertion, it is extended and brightened. In proportion as these lie dormant it is obscured. Likeness to God is the supreme gift. He can communicate nothing so precious, glorious, blessed as Himself. To hold intellectual and moral affinity with the supreme Being, to partake His Spirit, to be His children by derivations of kindred excellence, to bear a growing conformity to the perfection which we adore—this is a felicity which obscures and annihilates all other good. It is only in proportion to this likeness that we can enjoy either God or the universe. To understand a great and good being we must have the seeds of the same excellence.

II. That man has a kindred nature with God, and may bear most important and ennobling relations to Him, seems to me to be established by a striking proof. Whence do we derive our knowledge of the attributes and perfections which constitute the supreme [p. 247] Being? I answer, We derive them from our own souls. The Divine attributes are first developed in ourselves, and thence transferred to our Creator. The idea of God, sublime and awful as it is, is the idea of our own spiritual nature, purified and enlarged to infinity. It is the resemblance of a parent to a child, the likeness of a kindred nature.

III. God is made known to us as a Father.—And what is it to be a father? It is to communicate one’s own nature, to give life to kindred beings; and the highest function of a father is to educate the mind of the child, and to impart to it what is noblest and happiest in his own mind. God is our Father, not merely because He created us, or because He gives us enjoyment: for He created the flower and the insect, yet we call Him not their Father. This bond is a spiritual one. This name belongs to God, because He frames spirits like Himself, and delights to give them what is most glorious and blessed in His own nature. Accordingly Christianity is said with special propriety to reveal God as the Father, because it reveals Him as sending His Son to cleanse the mind from every stain, and to replenish it for ever with the spirit and moral attributes of its Author.

IV. The promise of the Holy Spirit is among the most precious aids of influence which God imparts. It is a Divine assistanc