SYNOPSIS OF THE CHAPTER
i. S. Paul proceeds to urge the Galatians not to submit to the yoke of the Old Law, lest they be deprived of the fruits of Christ"s righteousness, since in Him neither circumcision nor uncircumcision will avail anything, but only faith which worketh by love.
ii. He invites them (ver13) to Christian liberty, and shows that it is based on charity, which causes him to pass from the dogmatic to the ethical portion of the Epistle.
iii. He points out (ver17) how the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and then he enumerates the works of each respectively.
Ver1.—Be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. You once served idols and devils: why do you now wish to serve the shadows and burdensome ceremonies of the Mosaic law? The Greek for entangled is rendered by the Vulgate contained, by Vatablus implicated, by Erasmus ensnared. The Judaisers, says S. Paul, are enticing you to their law as into a net, in which, if you are once entangled, you will be unable to escape from its legal windings and toils.
Ver2.—If ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. If you trust to circumcision as necessary to salvation, Christ and His religion will be of no avail to you; but you seem to be putting your trust in this under the tuition of the Judaisers, although you were Gentiles, and baptized as such. Why do you tack on circumcision to baptism now? There can be no other reason for this proceeding except your belief that baptism by itself is insufficient, and needs to be supplemented by circumcision. Certainly you have not the Jews" pretext that they use circumcision in deference to their law. This may be good excuse for them; it is none for you.
Ver3.—I testify. He who is circumcised thereby proclaims his allegiance to the Jewish Church, its laws and its obligations, just as one who is baptized does with regard to the Christian Church. The Apostle is seeking to dissuade the Galatians by a reason drawn from the burdensome character of the yoke of the Mosaic law.
Ver4.—Christ is become of no effect unto you. You are outside the redemption wrought by Christ, deprived of His merits, and void of His grace.
Whosoever of you are justified by the law. Who seek for righteousness from circumcision and other legal rites. By distrusting the grace of Christ and preferring the law, you have treated Christ with ingratitude, and in consequence He has withdrawn His grace from you. The Galatians, says S. Paul, were once filled with the grace of Christ, like a well with water; but they have now emptied it all out, and so lost the fruits of His Passion. Or, to put it in another way, Christ has emptied His Church of them, because of their want of faith. [Note.—The Vulgate rendering here is evacuati estis.]
Vatablus [as A.V.] interprets the term to mean that Christ had become of no effect, His labour had been thrown away, His Passion made fruitless by the withdrawal of His grace. The very name of Christian was no longer due to them, and should be dropped; or if they wished to retain it, they must say farewell to the law. Cf. a similar expression in Romans 7:6.
Ver5.—For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. This is to prove that the Judaisers, in seeking to be justified by the law, are no longer Christians; for we, he says, who are Christians indeed look for the promised righteousness, not from the law, but from the Spirit, through faith in Christ.
It is faith which excites hope, and so causes a man to pray for that grace by which we are justified. Some take the hope of righteousness here for eternal glory, which we hope to obtain through righteousness. Others, and better, take it to be that righteousness which we all pray and sigh for, which the Jews seek through their law, and Christians from Christ.
Ver6.—For in Christ Jesus, &c. In the Church neither Judaism nor Gentilism is of any avail towards the life of holiness and bliss. Judaism is depreciated here by being classed with Gentilism. The only effectual power is faith—not a faith that is barren of works, but that which worketh by love, and manifests itself in works of charity. Such a faith was that of the Magdalene when she bathed Christ"s feet with her tears. But a faith which shows no works of charity is, as Anselm says, the faith, not of Christians, but of devils. The Protestants who attribute justification to faith alone should remark this. Our brother Campian, the martyr of England, when in prison and disputing with the Lutherans, refuted them by this syllogism: That faith which avails before God to justify is, as the Apostle testifies, a faith which worketh by love; therefore it is obvious that it is united to charity. But the justifying faith of the Lutherans is not a faith that worketh by love, for it is, they say, alone, and hence is not accompanied by charity; therefore, the faith which they lay down is not a faith that justifies before God. To say, then, that faith is alone, and that such a faith justifies, is a contradiction. If faith is to justify, it must be accompanied by charity; and when it is so accompanied it is no longer alone.
It should be remarked that faith does not work by means of charity as an efficient cause works by its instrument, but in the way that beat in the form of fire kindles wood. Faith through charity does good works, by performing acts of charity towards God and our neighbour, and by determining, the nature of acts of other virtues. For charity is not an essential but an accidental form, which gives to faith and all good works their life, validity, and merit, in due relation to their ultimate end. It gives to faith and all other virtues (1.) their character of virtue. Where charity is, vice cannot be; but virtue reigns enthroned as queen by charity, which ennobles also every act, so that the man under its sway may be called absolutely virtuous, righteous, and holy. (2.) Charity also gives the acts of virtue their dignity and power of winning merit, for it makes a man the friend and son of God, and so dignifies his works that God promises them eternal rewards. (3.) Charity also determines the relation of the various acts of virtue to their ultimate end, inasmuch as it directs to God the whole man, and all that he does, says, or thinks. So S. Thomas.
The Greek word for worketh denotes internal efficacy, hidden power. Faith informed by charity, having charity as its soul, by its inward and spiritual power, worketh the living works of virtue.
Ver7.—Ye did run well. In the teaching of Christ, as in an arena a runner strives to win the appointed prize.
Who did hinder you? Or, as S. Anselm renders it, Who did bewitch you, to start aside from your Christian course, and to run after Judaism?
Ver8.—This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. The counsel given you by the Jews, that the ceremonies of the law are necessary to salvation, cometh not from God the Father, who hath called you through Christ, but from the devil and his angels. So Anselm.
Ver9.—A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. A little leaven communicates its bitterness to the whole mass of meal. This is a maxim describing the way that a vicious part spoils the whole, and of course is capable of general application. In 1 Corinthians 5:6 it is applied to the fornicator who was corrupting the whole Corinthian Church, and here it is applied to the Judaisers, who are being dealt with throughout this chapter, and declares that they are corrupting the whole of the Galatian Church. Jerome says: "Arius in Alexandria was but a single spark, but not being at once extinguished, he grew to a flame, and devastated the whole world. For their word eateth the body as a canker, and the rot in a single sheep infects the whole flock."
The maxim may be yet more fitly applied to the doctrine itself of the Judaisers, in the sense that a single error in the faith, such as that about the necessity of the law, overturns the whole faith. Chrysostom and Theophylact apply it, yet more particularly, to circumcision, the receipt of which acts like leaven, and corrupts the whole lump. Their application is supported by the fact that the Apostle, in vers2, 4, and6, is treating of circumcision, and declares that he who is circumcised is debtor to the whole law. The Judaisers, however, seem to have persuaded the Galatians that circumcision was not a matter of great moment, and to have passed lightly over the onerous character of the burdens to which those who were circumcised subjected themselves. On the contrary, Paul here lays bare their artifice, and declares circumcision to denote a profession of the whole of the Jewish law, and to be a corruption of Christianity as a whole, on the ground that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
Ver10.—I have confidence in you. I trust the Lord to stablish you in the faith you have received, and to save you from believing aught save what I have taught you, and from following these new teachers and their novel doctrines.
But he that troubleth you. He who is stirring up this strife, and tending the whole Church, shall bear the punishment which God in His wrath shall inflict on those who teach heresy. By metonymy, judgment is put for punishment.
Ver11.—And I, brethren, if I yet preach. This is a reply to the calumny of the Judaisers, that Paul Judaised among the Jews, and opposed Judaism among the Gentiles. He asks, if this be so, why the Jews should so persecute him, and implies that the real reason is that he publicly opposes them, and condemns circumcision, so as to establish the Gospel.
Then is the offence of the cross ceased. If what they say of me is true, then they are not offended at the Cross which I preach, for they themselves wish to seem Christians, provided only that the Mosaic law may be taken into partnership with the Cross. Nay, the stricter Jews, whose only concern is for Judaism, oppose the preaching of the Cross only because it overturns their law, so much so that they would cease to persecute me if I would combine the law and the Cross. But since, as a matter of fact, they are offended at my preaching, it is obvious that I openly preach the abolition of the law by the Gospel, and the sole sufficiency of the Cross for salvation.
Ver12.—I would that they were even cut off which trouble you. Cut off from the Church and your fellowship, lest they corrupt the whole. Cf. 1 Corinthians 5:3. This is the obvious meaning, and one befitting the dignity of an apostolic writer. However, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Jerome, Augustine, and others understand it of the total deprivation of the organ to which circumcision is applied, so as to bring it more closely within the scope of the whole passage, in which circumcision is the main topic.
It may be asked how the Apostle can rightly imprecate a curse on the Judaisers, since this is opposed to charity, and is a mark of impatience and of a revengeful temper. "So detestable," says Jerome, "is the act of castration, that whoever inflicts it on a man against his will, or on himself, ought to be accounted infamous."
1. Jerome replies that the Apostle said this as a man and in passion; but God forbid that an Apostle, and one especially who was moved by the Holy Spirit, should so speak. Accordingly, Jerome gives another answer, according to which, like Peter to Simon Magus ( Acts 8:20), and Elisha to the children who mocked him ( 2 Kings 2:24), he spoke, not in anger, but partly in zeal for righteousness, partly in love, and entreated that they might be punished through their sin, i.e., through circumcision, and so, when punished, be purged of their shame.
2. Chrysostom and Theophylact say that the Apostle is not imprecating a curse, but speaking jestingly, as much as to say, If they insist on it, let them be not only circumcised, but wholly cut off.
3. S. Augustine and Anselm think that there is no curse here but a blessing, as if he were to say, Would that the Jews would become spiritual eunuchs by chastity for the kingdom of heaven"s sake, and cease to preach Jewish circumcision, fixing their thoughts instead on heavenly things, and on the law of Christ, as the way to attain them. Of these three explanations the second of Jerome"s is the best.
Origen castrated himself to prevent the motions of lust disturbing his chastity, but, as Chrysostom rightly says, wrongly; for this is not taught by the Apostle, nor is it the members of the body but our vices that are to be cut off, otherwise it would be lawful to destroy our eyes, ears, and tongue. Moreover, castration does not destroy lust, but sometimes increases it, as S. Basil says in his treatise on Virginity. Cf. Sirach 20:2, and Sirach 30:21.
Which trouble you. Who would rob you of your evangelical liberty.
Ver13.—Ye have been called unto liberty. Liberty from the burden of so many useless ceremonies of the law. Christian liberty throughout the Epistle is contrasted with Jewish slavery.
It is obvious, therefore, how grossly the Protestants pervert the Apostle"s words, when they argue from this that Christians are free from all positive law, and owe no obedience to prelates, to magistrates, or to parents. This is contrary to the law of nature and the Decalogue, subversive of all civil government, of all ecclesiastical order, of all human society. There has never been a nation, however barbarous, without its magistrates and laws, nor without them could the peace be kept, nor any nation continue, as all nations have clearly seen. If once men are persuaded that the civil or the ecclesiastical law does not oblige in conscience, but only as its sanctions constrain our fears, they will violate the law without any scruple, whenever they think it safe to do so. Accordingly, Christ, Paul, and the Apostles in general frequently order Christians to obey Csar and other unbelieving magistrates, not only for wrath"s sake, but also for conscience"s sake. Cf. Romans 13.
It may be objected that at all events, by parity of reasoning, Christians, since they live under a law of liberty, ought to be free from subjection to so many canons and rules, the burden of which is equal to that imposed by the older law. I answer that no just comparison can be drawn—(1.) Because the laws of the Church, so far as they concern the laity, are much fewer in number, and are all reducible to the five precepts of the Church. The canons, it is true, which deal with the clergy, are more numerous, but no one is obliged by them unless he, of his own tree will, chooses to become a clerk. Moreover, it is the duty of the Pope and the Bishops to see that the number of canons and censures be reduced rather than added to. Many men of unquestioned piety are anxious lest too heavy a burden of rules be laid on the clergy, and so become a snare to them. (2.) Because the older laws were more burdensome and more difficult of observance, as may be seen in the number of sacrifices and lustrations. (3.) Because they were shadows of the laws of the New Testament. These latter, therefore, as being of easier observance, succeed to the former; and, surely, it is better to serve the reality than to serve shadows. (4.) The older laws were unable to excite internal piety, and could only keep the people from idolatry, as the Fathers lay down unanimously; but the laws of the Church are ordained for the special purpose of exciting piety, as is clearly shown by the laws about fasting, hearing Mass, confessing, and communicating.
Only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh. Do not (as the Protestants in our time are doing) use your freedom from Jewish ceremonies as an excuse for rushing into the lusts of the flesh. Do not let the flesh take what the Jew has been forced to give up.
But by love serve one another. As Chrysostom says: "Having removed one yoke, he, lest they should wax wanton, imposes another, the yoke of charity, so much the more strong as it is more light and pleasant." Do not, says the Apostle, serve ceremonies, nor yet the flesh; I would have you free from both, and subject to one another through the spirit of love. The love of the Spirit is opposed to that love of the flesh so much boasted of by Adamites and other obscene sectaries.
1. The Apostle, as Chrysostom says, here cuts at the root of the evil, viz., the heresy and schism which induced some of the Galatians to try and draw others away to Judaism, and declares it to be pride and the love of power. He then applies the remedy, viz., charity.
"Since you have been torn asunder, while you were trying to get the mastery one over the other, now serve one another and return to unity. As fire melts wax, so does love more readily disperse all pride and arrogance" (Chrysostom in loco).
2. Chrysostom does not here say love one another, but serve one another, because charity makes men servants, not by compulsion, but by glad choice, even to the extent of performing the meanest services for the poor and the afflicted. This holy and free service is not bondage, but a noble freedom, to be sought for by all Christians.
3. From the liberty of the law and the liberty of the flesh the Apostle now passes, by an easy transition, to the second part of the Epistle. From doctrine he proceeds to morals, with the view of improving the conduct of the Galatians.
Ver14.—For all the law is fulfilled in one word. That is, the whole law so far as it concerns our neighbour, or according to what was said in the preceding verse, as we serve one another. Cf. Romans 13:8. S. Augustine (de Trin. lib. viii.), S. Thomas, Anselm, however, say that the whole law rests on the love of God or of our neighbour, but that the latter presupposes the former, inasmuch as our neighbour is to be loved for the sake of God. Therefore he who loves his neighbour both fulfils the law, which says, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and also loves God and fulfils the law, which says, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.
Ver15.—But if ye bite and devour one another. Beware, if you attack one another with calumnies, lest you be mutually consumed. Two men calumniating and enviously pursuing each other are like two dogs fighting, and biting each other. They consume each other, nay, they devour themselves. Well said the poet: "Than envy nothing is more just, for it forthwith bites and tortures its author." And therefore: "Than envy not even Sicilian tyrants have found a greater torment." See my notes on Philippians 1:18, where I enumerate the properties of envy. Wisely and piously said S. Augustine (Sent179): "To a religious man it ought to be little not to excite enmities, or to excite them only by awkward speech; he ought to strive to extinguish them by seasonable discourse."
Ver16.—I say then, Walk in the Spirit. The summary, the one aim of the whole of this Epistle, is this: Walk not in the law, not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. The root of all your trouble is want of the Spirit: if you had Him, you would shut out as well the legal as the carnal life.
To walk in the Spirit is to order our whole life after the impulse of the Spirit, who inspired us to works of piety, to prayer, faith, charity, and works of mercy. This Spirit the Apostles received abundantly at Pentecost, as did the first Christians, and they added to the gift they then received by loyally following His workings, by labouring and suffering everything, if only they might bring others to Christ, by fiery charity and burning zeal. Whither has fled that Spirit now? Lord Jesus, kindle in us that fire which Thou camest to send on earth, and which Thou didst will to burn vehemently.
Ver17.—The flesh lusteth against the Spirit. From this the Manichæans inferred that man has two souls—one spiritual, which is good and the gift of a good god, and another carnal, which is evil and the gift of an evil god. Some philosophers, too, hold that man has two souls—one sensational, by which he feels, eats, and generates as do the beasts; and another rational, by which he reasons and understands as do the angels; and they depend for this conclusion on the contrary appetites and mental operations found in the same individual.
1. But it is certain that in man there is but one soul, and that a rational one, but which also in a special degree embraces vegetative and sensational powers. Hence, as man has in him both sets of powers, it is no wonder if he experiences contrary appetites, carrying him to diverse objects, and exciting him to action when they are present. In its powers the soul of man is twofold or rather threefold.
2. The word flesh stands by metonymy for that concupiscence which is in the flesh, impressing on it its own ideas and desires.
3. This concupiscence resides not only in the sensitive appetite, but also in the rational, as S. Augustine points out (Conf. viii5); for as in the domain of desire, it excites the appetites of hunger and procreation, in the domain of self-protective instinct the passions of envy and hatred, so in the domain of reason it arouses the desire to excel and the spirit of curiosity. All our mental powers are infected by the leaven of original sin, but they are described as the flesh, because the desires of the flesh are those that are most frequently and most violently aroused, and so are the principal part of our desires, and give their name to the whole. Hence the Apostle uses the phrase "works of the flesh," i.e., of concupiscence, not only for fornication, drunkenness, and revellings, which are strictly fleshly sins, but also for such things as the service of idols and envy, which are strictly sins of the rational part of our nature.
4. The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, because it lusteth for carnal things, and the Spirit against the flesh, because it desires spiritual goods. This warfare is carried on within between the flesh and the Spirit; their forces are marshalled by the Apostle when he says, on the one side, The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, &c., and on the other, But the fruit of the Spirit is love joy, &c. Prudentius gives a vivid description of this warfare in his Psychomachia, and S. Augustine in his "Confessions" (viii11). Cassian (Collat. iv11) describes it as follows: "The flesh delights in lust and lasciviousness; the spirit can hardly be brought to acknowledge the existence of these natural desires. The flesh seeks for sleep and food; the spirit is so engaged in fasting and watching that with difficulty it brings itself to consent to the necessities of nature. The flesh would abound in this world"s goods; the spirit is content with the slenderest provision of daily bread. The flesh loves the baths, and troops of flatterers; the spirit rejoices in squalor, and in the silence of the desert. The flesh is fed on honours and praises; the spirit joys in the persecutions and injuries inflicted on it." See to the motives of grace and of nature depicted by Thomas Kempis in his "Imitation of Christ" (lib. iii. c59), in his own simple but vigorous style.
The Abbot Pamenius, in his "Lives of the Fathers" (vii27), rightly describes concupiscence as an evil will, a devil attacking us; or, as Abbot Achilles in the same passage puts it, as a handle of the devil.
Augustine at one time thought that this warfare was waged in a sinner under the law, not in one living under grace; but he afterwards modified this opinion (Retract. i24). It is beyond question that it is found in the Saints, nay, is the more fierce in proportion as they strive to live more spiritually. Accordingly, S. Augustine says (Serm43de Verbis Domini): "The Spirit lusteth against the flesh in good men, not in evil men, who have not the spirit of God for the flesh to lust against."
Again, commenting on Psalm 76:2. (A.V.), S. Augustine says: "You have to meet an attack not only from the wiles of the devil, but also from within yourself—against your bad habits, against your old evil life, which is ever drawing you to its wonted courses. On the other hand you are held back by the new life, while you still belong to the old. Hence you are lifted up by the joy of the new, you are weighed down by the burden of the old. The war is against yourself; but just where it is irksome to yourself it is pleasing to God, and where it is pleasing to God you gain power to conquer, for He is with you who overcometh all things. Hear what the Apostle saith: "With my mind I serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." How with the mind? Because your evil life is hateful to you. How with the flesh? Bemuse you are beset by evil suggestions and delights. But from union with God comes victory. In part you go before; in part you follow after. Betake yourself to Him who will lift you up. Being weighed down with the burden of the old man, cry aloud and say: "0 wretched man that I am; who shall deliver me from the body of this death, from the burden which is weighing me down"—for the body which is corrupted weigheth down the soul. But why is this warfare permitted to last so long, even till all evil lusts are swallowed up? It is that you may understand that the punishment is in yourself. Your scourge is in yourself, and proceeds from yourself, and therefore your quarrel is against yourself. This is the penalty imposed on any one who rebels against God, that as he would not have peace with God he shall have war within himself. But do you hold your members bound against your evil lusts. If anger, for example, is roused, remain close to God and hold your hand. It will not do more than rise if it finds no weapons. The attack is on the side of anger; the arms, however, are with you; let the attacking force find no arms, and he will soon learn not to rise if he finds that his rising is to no purpose." Cf. my comments on Rom. vii. in fine.
These are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. You would wish to be free from the feelings of lust, anger, and gluttony, so as not to be hindered from charity, temperance, chastity, and prayer; and yet you are not free, nor can be free in this life. Or, on the other hand, you would wish to do cheerfully heroic deeds of virtue, but often you cannot, because the flesh is contrary. Anselm well says: "Your lusts do not allow you to do what you wish; do not permit them to do what they wish, and then neither you nor they will attain your ends. Although lusts rise in you, yet they are not consummated if you withhold your consent. In the same way, though there may be in you good works of the Spirit, yet they are not consummated either, because you cannot do them cheerfully and perfectly, while you have the pain of resisting your lusts."
Ver18.—But if ye are led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. This anticipates a possible objection of the Galatians that they had apparently only exchanged one yoke for another heavier one, under which they had constantly to fight a tedious and irksome battle. The Apostle replies to this that if they were led by the Spirit they were not the slaves of concupiscence but its masters, and so were not under the law, inasmuch as they kept its provisions not from fear, but by spontaneously doing what it bade, and restraining the motions of concupiscence forbidden by it.
The Galatians were not, says S. Paul, under the law as a compelling force, still less under it as accusing and condemning, but they were under it as binding the conscience. Even so, however, they kept the law of their own accord, and so might be said to be outside the law, or above the law; not under it, but rather under the Spirit. This is why, after enumerating the fruits of the Spirit, he adds, Against such there is no law.
Ver19.—The works of the flesh are manifest. The works that spring from the flesh, i.e., from concupiscence, as I said in the note to ver17.
Fornication. On the works of the flesh in detail, see Jerome, Anselm, and S. Thomas.
Uncleanness. Effeminacy. The effeminate are guilty of mutual pollution, contrary to the instincts of nature.
Lasciviousness. Any wanton, and, according to Jerome, extraordinary form of lust. He adds: "The works of the married even, if not done with delicacy and modesty, as in the sight of God, and if merely for the procreation of children, come under the Apostle"s description of uncleanness and lasciviousness." This, of course, must be understood of mortal sin; cf., e.g., the act of matrimony is performed otherwise than nature dictates, or if its consummation is purposely prevented; for then both are guilty of mortal sin, excluding them from the Kingdom of heaven. Otherwise lust in the married is only venial.
Ver20.—Wrath. Anger is the desire for revenge, and is a deadly sin when a bitter revenge is sought, or an object on which to bestow the angry feelings. It is venial only when it is instinctive, or when it aims at some slight revenge. The Apostle, therefore, is dealing here with the various sins enumerated in their highest and extremest form, for it is then only that they exclude from the Kingdom of heaven (ver21).
Heresies. Acts of private judgment against the teaching of the Church. These evince great temerity and presumption.
Ver21.—Revellings. This seems to teach that immoderate indulgence in the pleasures of the table is a mortal sin, as it excludes from the Kingdom of heaven. On this I remark that some Theologians hold from this verse that gluttony and lust are mortal sins, not only if they impair the use of reason, but if they be excessive. They rely on the case of the rich man in the parable, who was condemned, not because he was a drunkard, but because he fared sumptuously every day; on the words of Isaiah ( Isaiah 5:22), where woe, i.e., eternal damnation, is threatened against those who are mighty to drink strong drink; on the fact that excess in eating may be more than bestial; and they ask why should gluttony, so degrading to reason as it is, not be a mortal sin, if pollution is.
But the common opinion of doctors is in favour of a milder view, viz., that excess in eating is not a deadly sin, except when it seriously impairs the health, or causes some disease; or when a man eats with the object of vomiting, so as to commence again—and even this some hold to be not a deadly sin.
1. Note that revelings represents the Greek word κω̃μοι, which stands for the lascivious words and actions of drunkards, for obscene songs, dances, and kisses. Hence Bacchus is called Comus, and κωμάζειν is to revel, or to be wanton. Cf. notes to Romans 13:13.
2. If the word is to be understood of banquetings, then it must be also understood of them in their most extreme and finished form, when men sit at table till they are overcome with excess. Cf. Isaiah 28:8. As in the preceding words the Apostle subjoins variance to wrath, and heresies to seditions, and murders to envyings, so here he subjoins revellings to drunkenness, the second member in each case showing what the first tends to end in. Cf. Proverbs 23:20.
1. As to the opinions referred to above, I remark as follows. (a) to fare sumptuously is by itself a venial sin, and becomes mortal only when it leads to vomiting and similar excesses. (b) It also becomes a mortal sinner per accidens, i.e., when it is united to drunkenness, lust, slander, cruelty, and contempt for the poor. This last was the sin of Dives.
2. The denunciation of Isaiah 5:22 is directed against those who mix their drinks so as to make them more intoxicating, and who make a point of making themselves and their guests drunken, and think their hospitality disgraced if they fail in this.
3. Undoubtedly gluttony is a base thing in itself, but so are all our bodily functions; but they are not entirely contrary to right reason, unless indeed they deprive reason of its power to act. The case is different with aberrations of the generative powers. The act of copulation is ordained for a special end, and in its proper method. To defeat this, or to elude the end, is to go contrary to the workings of God, and is therefore a deadly sin.
Ver22.—But the fruit of the Spirit is love. The works of the Spirit are opposed to the works of the flesh, i.e., those works which are performed through the influence of the Holy Spirit, by which we merit that kingdom from which the works of the flesh exclude those who do them.
Observe that these fruits are different dispositions, or rather acts, of the different virtues—the acts that the virtues beget in the soul, such as joy and peace. Observe, too, that the Apostle does not give a complete catalogue of all these fruits, but only of the more conspicuous ones, and of such as are opposed to the works of the flesh just specified. And in the third place, notice that the first fruit of the Spirit is charity, it being the parent of all the rest.
Joy. The joy which springs from a clear conscience, one free from guilt and from mental disturbances. A contented mind is a perpetual feast. Cyprian (lib. de Disciplin et Bono Pudiciti) says "The greatest pleasure is to have conquered pleasure; and there is no greater victory than that that is obtained over our lusts." On the other hand, the fruit of concupiscence is grief and sorrow. As Chrysostom says (Hom13in Acts), "impure pleasure is like that obtained by a scrofulous man when he scratches himself. For to this pleasure, so short-lived, there succeeds a more enduring pain.":
Peace. The peace, says Jerome, enjoyed by the mind that is free from all passions. The pure mind, undisturbed by fear of punishments, or remorse for past sins, is in friendship with God, enjoys a wonderful calmness, and inspires its tranquillity into others, so that, as much as possible, it lives at peace with all men. This is a peace that passeth all understanding ( Philippians 4:7); and even if holy living brought no other reward than this, it yet would be quite sufficient of itself to stir us up to endure all sufferings, and undergo all labours.
Longsuffering. To have peace with ourselves and with others, we have need of patience to bear cheerfully every ill, especially those arising from the rough, haughty, or peevish tempers of others.
Gentleness. A man may be good and generous, and yet lack that courtesy and gentleness in word and deed which is one token of holiness. Cf. Wisd7:22. Hence the common people are wont to gauge a man"s holiness by his gentle courtesy, and to suffer themselves to be guided in their actions by one who shows this fruit of the Spirit.
Goodness. A disposition to do kindnesses to others, goodness being much the same as beneficence. Jerome says that Zeno defines this latter thus: "Goodness is a virtue which does good to others, or a virtue from which usefulness to others springs, or a disposition which makes a man the benefactor of his fellows." This is an evident token of the Holy Spirit, and was most manifest in Christ. Cf. Acts 10:38: If you have His Spirit, do harm to no one, do good to all.
Meekness. One, says Anselm, that is tractable, versatile, not self-opinionated; as opposed to one who is headstrong, who will bear no yoke, who is prompt to revenge an injury, and give blow for blow.
Faith. This, says Jerome, is a theological virtue, opposed to heresy, which makes us believe all that we ought to believe, even when opposed to nature, sense, and reason. But this faith is not so much a fruit of spiritual grace as its root and beginning. Accordingly, Anselm"s explanation is better, who says that faith is loyal adherence to our promises, as opposed to dishonesty and lying. As the Holy Spirit is :steadfast, certain, sure [Wisd. vii23], He makes His followers, like Himself, faithful and true. Or, thirdly, faith here may be taken for the disposition to believe what others say, for the spirit that is free from suspicion and distrust, for that charity which believeth all things, for the candid, open, and receptive mind.
Modesty. Modesty is the virtue which imposes a mode or rule to all external actions, and controls our speech, laughter, sport. It proceeds from the inward power we have to control our passions. Ambrose (0ffic. i18) says. "According to our external actions the hidden man of the heart is judged. From them he is declared to be light, or boastful, or heady, or earnest, or firm, or pure, or of good judgment." Cf. also Sirach 19:27. Hence S. Augustine"s counsel (Reg3): "In all your actions let there be nothing to offend the eyes of any one, but only what becometh holiness."
Temperance. Abstinence, says Vatablus, from food and drink, or, as Anselm says, continence, i.e., abstinence from lust. Continence differs from chastity, as war differs from peace. Hence continence is in the militant stage, and is but chastity inchoate. But it would be better to take temperance, with Aristotle, as a general virtuous habit of the soul, restraining man from all lusts and passions. S. Jerome says: "Temperance has to do not only with sexual appetite, but also with food and drink, with anger, and menial disturbance, and the love of detraction. There is this difference between modesty and temperance, that the former is found in the perfect, of whom the Saviour says, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth," just as He says of Himself", "Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart." But temperance is found in those that are in the way of virtue, who have not yet arrived at the goal; in whose minds impure thought and desires arise, but only to be checked; whose souls are polluted, but not overcome; in whom act does not follow evil suggestion. It is not enough, however, that the desires should be under the power of temperance; it must rule also over the three other emotions of sorrow, joy, and fear."
N.B.—The Greek MSS. here are imperfect, and want the word for modesty, and hence give only nine fruits of the Spirit, in which they are followed by Augustine and Jerome. On these fruits of the Spirit, see the remarks of S. Thomas in the Secunda Secundæ, of his Summa, where he deals with them in detail.
Against such there is no law. There is no law to condemn those who show these fruits of the Spirit, and accordingly those who are led by the Spirit are not under the law, as was said in ver18.
Ver24.—They that are Christ"s, &c. This sets out the preceding antithesis between the works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit. Two armies are ranged in battle array; but Christ"s soldier crucifies his flesh with its affections and lusts, and not only these, but by fastings, hair-shirts, labours, and penances, he crucifies the corrupt flesh itself, as being the seed-ground of lust. So Anselm; but it is, better to take flesh, not properly, but as standing for the concupiscence residing in the flesh, as in ver17. Those who are led by the Spirit of Christ have crucified their lust, their corrupt nature with its vicious tendencies and actual vices. "They have subdued it," says S. Augustine, "out of that holy fear which abideth for ever, which makes us afraid of offending Him whom we love with all our heart and soul and mind."
Note that concupiscence here is, as it were, a soul: its affections are its faculties; its lusts are its acts. Christians crucify these, i.e., crush them with such pain as that endured by Christ when He was crucified. This they do (a) by the fear of hell and of God; (b) by reason, and a constant will, and a firm purpose of pleasing God; (c) by a vigilant watch over their eyes and their senses; (d) by prayer; and (e) by fastings, watchings, and other acts of austerity.
Ver25.—If we live in the Spirit. Ifwe have this inward life of grace, let us live outwardly as the Spirit dictates. The Greek word used here denotes to follow a settled plan or order. Cf. notes to chap iv25. But according to Chrysostom and Theophylact, it is an exhortation to follow the rule of the Spirit of Christ, and not deviate into the ways of Judaism.
Ver26.—Let us not be desirous of vain-glory. Whoever seeks the praises of men seeks a vain thing. He pursues a bubble, swollen by wind, but void of all substance. The only true and lasting glory which alone can satisfy the mind, is with God. S. Jerome says: "They are desirous of solid glory who seek the approval of God, and that praise which is due to virtue."
Provoking one another. To broils, lawsuits, and other contests. The thirst for praise and eminence gives birth to these rivalries and to envy: while Pompey will not brook an equal, nor Caesar a superior.
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Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on Galatians 5". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Easter