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Galatians 6

Lapide's Great Biblical CommentaryLapide's Commentary

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Verses 1-18



i. He exhorts the Galatians to good works, especially works of mercy towards Christians, particularly doctors and catechists. He bids them not to seek for the praise of men, but to study to sow seeds of good works, from which they may reap eternal life.

ii. He opposes (ver. 12) his own glorying in the Cross of Christ to that of the Jews in circumcision. Ver. 1 . Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault , &c. The Apostle enjoins here the brotherly correction of any fault, but with a special reference to sins committed through the eyes, as Jerome correctly observes the sin of Judaism, against which the whole Epistle is directed, being of that character. He bids them correct the Judaisers, but in a brotherly manner. There is a parallel to this passage in Rom. xiv. 1, where a man overtaken in a fault isdescribed as weak in the faith. There he is to be received, here he is to be instructed. This is another instance of the close connection between these two Epistles, which I have so often pointed out. In the earlier chapters of both Epistles he vigorously attacks the tenets of the Judaisers, and in the latter he moderates his tone.

S. Paul is not speaking here of those who are obstinate in their evil doing. These, as S. Gregory insists, because they sin deliberately, are to be rebuked sternly. Their hard hearts, as Tertullian says, must be broken, not soothed. S. Paul is referring to those who, being weak in the faith, have been seduced into Judaism, have been overtaken before they could resist. The Greek word rendered fault denotes an accidental fall, as when one through inadvertence stumbles over a stone, or falls into a ditch.

Restore. Ephrem renders this raise ; the Vulgate, instruct ; and Vatablus [with the A.V.], restore. Erasmus, indeed, but wrongly, thinks the instruite of the Vulgate is a copyist's error for instaurate. The texts, however, are against this. The difference in meaning, in any case, is not important. The restoring of a man in faith and morals is the same as the instructing him in them.

In the spirit of meekness. Gently, tenderly, kindly. Spirit here is used to denote the gift of the Spirit , as Chrysostom observes. The Spirit, by the words of admonishment He inspires men to use, breathes into him who uses them His own mildness and benignity. Rebuke is like a bitter medicine, bearing away the disease; hence it is to be sugared over with mild words and sympathetic temper, that its bitterness may not be tasted.

S. Chrysostom ( Hom. 52 ad. Populum ) says, with equal truth and beauty, that our speech becomes the speech of Christ, if, throughout it all, we imitate His benignity. S. Dionysius ( Ep . 8 ad Demophilum ) says that it was the meekness of Moses which won for him his special intimacy with God, and says that if pastors feed Christ's flock with similar meekness, they will show thereby that they love Christ above all things, and will be so accepted by Him. Towards the end of the letter, S. Dionysius relates a striking proof of this, drawn from a vision, vouchsafed to S. Carpus, when he was bitterly enraged against some heathen who had seduced two Christians from the faith. Christ, chiding him, said: " Strike Me, for I am ready to suffer again for man's salvation, and to suffer gladly, if only other men do not sin ."

Hence, too, S. Augustine lays down the mode in which correction should be ministered: " The task of rebuking others' sins is never to be undertaken, except when after self-examination our conscience assures us in the presence of God that we do it simply out of love of the offender. Love, and then say what you will. In no way will that which sounds like a curse be a curse indeed, if you recollect and feel throughout that your only wish in using the sword of the word of the Lord is to be the deliverer of your brother from the snares of sin ." If, however, any feeling of impatience or anger do assail us while we are administering our rebuke, let us, he says, bear in mind, " that we ought not to be rigid towards sinners, since we ourselves sin even while rebuking sin, inasmuch as we feel angry with the sinner more readily than we feel pity for his misery ." So too S. Basil ( Reg. 51), urges that Superiors, and all who engage in the work of healing spiritual diseases, should take a lesson from physicians, and not be angry with the patient, but attack his disease.

Considering thyself, lest Thou also be tempted. S. Paul passes from the distributive plural to each individual from brethren to thou. It would have been offensive to address the whole community, and to insinuate that it might as a whole be tempted and fall. His appeal was likely to be more effectual if addressed to any individual member, to remind him that God suffers those to fall who are hard towards others. Often, in the "Lives of the Fathers," we read that older men, who had reproved with excessive severity their juniors for lust or other sin, were themselves smitten with the same passion, that they might learn to have mercy on others.

Cassian relates ( de Instit. lib . v.) the saying of an abbot, that in three things he had judged his brethren, and through the same three things he had fallen, in order that the heathen might know themselves to be but men. Another of the Fathers was wont to exclaim, weeping, whenever he heard of any one falling: " He today, and I tomorrow ." In the same way, whenever we hear of the fall of any neighbour, let us each say: " I am a man, and nothing that is human is foreign to me ." As S. Gregory says ( Hom. 34 in Evang. ), " True righteousness is merciful, false is unforgiving ." Cassian relates ( Collat. ii . c. 13) that a certain young monk, who was grievously assaulted by the desire of fornication, went to an older monk, who was uncouth and void of discretion, and who forthwith scolded him bitterly for his impure imaginings. On this the young monk lost heart, and determined to return to the world, and to marry. Abbot Apollo, however, perceived what was amiss, and with gentle words induced him to remain true to his vow. Then going to the cell of the older monk, he prayed that God would subject him to the same temptation as that of the younger man. Soon the prayer was granted, and the older man became as one distracted. On perceiving this, Apollo went to the old man, and told him that God had sent him that temptation that he might learn to feel for those who were younger, so as not to drive them to despair, as he had recently done in the case of the younger monk who came to him. Cf. Isaiah 1:4 ; xlii. 3; S. Matt. xii. 20.

S. Augustine ( Serm. Dom. in Monte., lib. ii. c. 20) has these three excellent rules for the correction of our neighbour: " Great care must be taken that, when duty compels us to correct any one, we think (1.) whether the fault is such as we have never committed in the past, nor are subject to at the moment. (2.) If we have been addicted to it, and now are not, let some thought of human weakness touch the mind, so that our reproaches may spring not from hatred but from pity; and, whether our efforts succeed in reforming the offender, or only avail to confirm him in evil (for the issue is uncertain), in either case we may be certain that our own eye is single. (3.) If, however, we find on reflection that we ourselves are guilty of the same fault as he whom we undertake to correct, let us not rebuke him nor scold him, but only mourn together, and invite him not to obey us, but to unite with us in guarding against the common enemy ." Ver. 2. Bear ye one another's burdens. 1. Let each bear with the weaknesses of others. Do you bear another's irritability and hasty words, and let him put up with your moroseness and sluggish temperament. Reflect that your neighbour's failings are a greater trouble to himself than they are to you, and sympathise with him accordingly.

2. A better interpretation, and as being more general, is that burdens stands for whatever oppresses our neighbour his illnesses, his cares, his vices which call for compassion, help, and comfort. Be a foot to the lame, eye to the blind, staff to the aged. Cf. S. Augustine ( Enarr. in Psalms 76:0; Psalms 76:0 .).

3. S. Basil's interpretation ( Reg. Brev. reg. 278) is still more to the point: " Sin is a burden pressing on the soul, nay, weighing it down, and dragging it down to hell ." As a beast sinks under a burden too heavy for him, so does the soul, burdened with sin, sink down to hell, without power of itself to raise itself. The fault of the preceding verse shows the nature of the burden here referred to, as does verse 5, following.

Although every sin is here called a burden , yet the Apostle specially refers to that of Judaism, which was called a yoke of bondage in chap. v. 1. Hence the exhortation, strictly speaking, is that if any one be found sinking under the burden of Judaising ceremonies, he is not to be harshly censured, but gently and sympathetically lifted up, and restored to the Church. Just as an ass that has fallen under its load is able to rise when the load is taken from its back, so the sinner is able to rise from his sin when another, by his gentleness and kindness, shares the burden with him, and so removes it from him. So says S. Basil: " We remove this burden one from another as often as we take the trouble to bring to a better mind those who have sinned and fallen ." Cf. Isaiah 53:4 .

We bear our neighbour's burden then (1.) by sympathetic correction of him; (2.) by prayer that God will take it from him; (3.) and most completely by penances, when, after Christ's example, we bear others' sins by undergoing in expiation of them voluntary fasts and hair-shirts, and other modes of discipline.

1. Sin is the heaviest burden man can be called on to bear. S. Augustine ( Hom . 22 in, Loco ) says: " See the man laden with the burden of avarice; see him sweating under it, gasping, thirsty, and making his load the heavier. What do you look for, 0 miser, as the reward for this so great labour of yours? Why do you toil thus? What do you long for? Merely to satisfy your avarice. It can oppress you, but you cannot satisfy it. Is it by any chance not grievous? So much so that you have even lost the power of feeling? Is not avarice grievous? If not, why is it that it wakes you from sleep, and sometimes prevents you from sleeping at all? Perhaps too with it you have a second load of indolence, and so two most evil burdens pulling you in different directions. They do not give you the same orders. Indolence says, 'Sleep;' avarice says, 'Rise.' Indolence says, 'Avoid the cold;' avarice says, 'Bear even the storms of the sea.' The one says, 'Rest;' the other, so far from allowing rest, bids you cross the sea, and venture on unknown lands ." S. Augustine adds that Christ takes away this burden of lust, and puts in its place His own yoke of charity, which does not weigh down, but, like wings added to a bird, enables its possessor to rise.

2. It is the proper office of charity to teach us how to bear these burdens in turn, as S. Augustine points out from the beautiful image of stags ( Hom . 21 in Eadem Verba ) " It is the office of love to bear others' burdens in turns. It has been said that stags when crossing water are accustomed to help each other, by those in front carrying the weight of the heads of those behind. The foremost stag, having, no one on whom to rest his head, is relieved in turns by some stag who is less fatigued. Bearing one another's burdens, in this way they cross over the water, and so reach dry land once more. Perhaps Solomon was alluding to this peculiarity of stag life when he said, 'Let the friendly stag, and the young of thy thanksgiving, speak with thee; for nothing is such a test of a friend as his willingness to bear his friend's burdens.' You will bear your friend's bad temper by being not angry with him; and then when you are in your turn vexed, he will remain undisturbed. So too if one has mastered his own loquacity but not his obstinacy, while another on the other hand has overcome his own obstinacy but not his loquacity, let each bear the other's burdens until both be healed. So too did S. Paul write: 'Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others, adding: 'Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,' meaning that, as the Word became incarnate and took our sins upon Him, so should we, like Him, bear the burdens of others. Let us then show to those who are in trouble what we should wish shown to us, if our positions were reversed. 'I am made all things to all men, that I might gain all,' says S. Paul. He was made all things to all men by regarding it as possible that he himself might have been in the position of the man he was anxious to set free ."

Those who support the weaknesses and burdens of others are happily compared to bones by S. Basil, when explaining the words of Psalms 34:20 : "He keepeth all His bones:" " Just as bones are given us to support the weakness of the flesh, so in the Church there are some whose functions it is by their fortitude to strengthen the weaker brethren. And as the bones are fitly jointed, and formed into a unity by nerves and ligaments, so in the Church of God does charity bind all together into a perfect whole. It is of the solution of this continuity that the Prophet speaks when he cries, 'All my bones are out of joint.' And again it is of some internal weakness that he complains when he prays, 'Heal me, 0 Lord; for my bones, are sore troubled.' And it is of their preservation that he says, 'Not one of them shall be broken.' And when they are worthy to give honour and praise to Gad, he exclaims, 'All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto Thee?' "

3. From this it follows that those who feel for others' woes are strong in virtue, like bones, and have, therefore, the tokens of a perfect Christian, while, on the contrary, those who are devoid of sympathy are self-convicted of some concealed viciousness of character. This is what Cassian says ( Collat. xi . c. 11): " It is an evident mark of a soul not yet freed from the dregs of wickedness that it does not compassionate the sinner, but judges him harshly. For how can he be perfect who wants that which fulfils the law, which bears others' burdens, which is not wrathful, is not puffed up, which thinketh no evil, which beareth all things, believeth all things, endureth all things? The righteous man hath regard for the life of his beasts, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. Therefore it is certain that the monk who judges others harsher is himself under the power of the same sins as the man he condemns ." For other illustrations of this subject, see the notes to Numbers 11:12 .

And so fulfil the law of Christ. The law of Christ is love. Cf. S. John xxiv. 35; xv. 12. The most difficult act of love, and the one most expected by Christ, is that we bear one another's burdens. If we do this, we do our duty to our neighbour, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Again, we fulfil this law when we supply by charity others' breaches of the law. If one breaks the law by the use of angry words, let another supply his defects, and keep the law in his stead, by patience and sympathy. Or, what is more to the immediate purpose of the Apostle, if any bear with a Judaiser and bring him to a better mind, he supplies what the latter lacks, and so fulfils the law of Christ. S. Bernard ( de Præcept. et Dispens .) says that a man who has sinned and then repented, and prayed for forgiveness, fulfils the law which he had previously broken. Ver. 3. For if a man think himself to be something ., &c. If a man is proud of his superior spirituality, and despises his brother, and treats him harshly for sinning especially for Judaising he is nothing, and so he deceiveth himself. Ver-4. But let every man prove his own work. Let no one treat his neighbour as the Pharisee the publican, but rather take heed to his own works, and see whether the motive of them be pure. He will probably find many faults, and so will not think himself to be something. But even if he finds none, or very few, then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone that is, in his own conscience and this will be in the Lord, who gave him the power to do all his good deeds. He will not rejoice because he finds himself good by comparison with others, i.e ., he will not have rejoicing in another, as S. Paul expresses it. So Chrysostom, Theophylact, Anselm.

S. Jerome says well: " The meaning is this: You who think yourself spiritual, and superior to another's weakness, ought to consider, not his weakness, but your own strength; for he does not make you a perfect Christian by any inability of his to pass from Judaism to Christianity. If indeed your own conscience does not reprove you, you have whereof to glory in yourself, but not in comparison with him. An athlete is not necessarily strong because he has overcome a competitor who was feeble. If he really is strong, he rejoices in his strength, not in his rival's weakness. Or we may understand the Apostle's words as meaning: If a man on due consideration finds nothing to reproach himself with, he is not to go and trumpet the fact abroad, that he may win the applause of men, but keep his knowledge to himself, and say, 'God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ ." But the first interpretation is closer to the text. Ver. 5. For every man shall bear his own burden. This seems primâ facie in conflict with ver. 2. Jerome harmonises the two by referring ver. 2 to the present, and ver. 5 to the future, i.e ., to the day of judgment. In the world we can help each other, but at the dread Tribunal neither Job, Daniel, nor Noah can free the souls of their own sons even, but each shall bear his own iniquities. Cf. Ezekiel 14:14 . Christ will examine us, not as to the doings of others, but as to our own. Let us prove our own doings, therefore, to make sure that they will be able to stand the last great trial.

The Protestants therefore are wrong in twisting these words into an argument against purgatory, and against the prayers we offer for souls there. The Apostle is not speaking of purgatory, but of the day of judgment, and then he says each shall bear his own burden. Before that day, however, we can, as required by the article of the Communion of Saints, help one another, whether those we help be living or in purgatory.

Observe that each of us, as he leaves this life, takes with him nothing but his own works. These works are, as it were, burdens that we carry as we travel towards the judgment-seat of Christ, which, when examined, will show whether our destiny is heaven or hell. As is the burden, so will the bearer be declared, and so will be the burden of reward or punishment. Ver. 6. Let him that is taught in the word , &c. S. Ambrose understands this to refer to him who is taught through the word of a teacher or catechist. S. Jerome agrees with him in referring the duty of communicating good to the catechumen, who is to assist his benefactor, the catechist. Marcion, according to S. Jerome, explained these words to order the former to communicate with the latter in prayer, holy living, and all good spiritual things.

The word rendered him that is taught shows the antiquity of catechising. In the earliest days indeed it was regarded as impious to divulge Christian mysteries, and all teaching was accordingly oral. S. Paul refers to the practice in 1 Cor. xiv. 19. The Apostles were followed by the Fathers, witness the catechetical lectures of S. Cyril of Jerusalem, the Liber de Catechizandis Rudibus of S. Augustine, and the great Catechetical Oration of Gregory of Nyssa. John Gerson, Chancellor of Paris, following this primitive custom, took delight in teaching the young and in hearing their confessions, as many men of religion, and many doctors, still do, to the great profit of the Church. While so many unlettered and ignorant men are in the Church, who do not know anything of the mysteries of the Holy Trinity, of the Incarnation, and of the redemption wrought by Christ, and who repeat their Creed like a parrot his "Good morning," the work of catechising will never be obsolete. See the decree on this point drawn up by the Council of Trent. Session xxiv. c. 4 and 7.

John Gerson wrote a tract in praise of the custom and in defence of his practice. " It seems to many a work so unworthy of a doctor and a famous man of letters, or a dignitary of the Church, to catechise the young, that it has been made a reproach even against me that I have engaged in it. But they should be convicted of their error by the words of Christ, who said, 'Suffer little children to come unto Me.' 0 most holy Jesu, who after this can be ashamed of his condescension to children, when Thou, who art God, stoopest to receive their embraces? Give me a man who is spiritual, who seeks not his own but the things of Christ Jesus, who is filled with charity and humility, in whom is no place for vanity or covetousness, whose conversation is in heaven, who is as an angel of God, moved by neither blessing or cursing, whom no bodily delight can goad or entice, who dwells in the highest citadel of contemplation, and is learned in the science of souls. Such a man will understand what I mean. But people say that my position as Chancellor calls me to higher tasks. I do not know what can be a higher work than to snatch souls from hell, and to plant them and tend them as good plants in the fair garden of the Church. They retort that I should do this better by public preaching. This may indeed be a more imposing work, but in any judgment not so fruitful. The cask will long retain the perfume that it once acquired in its early days. Come then to me, children; I will teach you what is true: you shall repay me with your prayers. So shall we in turns rejoice our guardian angels ." Ver. 7. Be not deceived. Do not, says Anselm, excuse yourselves from the duty of helping your catechists on the plea of poverty or family calls. This may deceive men; it cannot deceive God. So Jerome and Theophylact.

These words, however, may perhaps be better referred to ver. 4 Let every man prove his works honestly before God. In this let him not err. He may throw dust in the eyes of men; he will not elude the vigilance of God. The words that follow show that this clause is to be taken in the wider sense.

God is not mocked. The Greek word here is very vivid. It denotes the action of those who turn their back on a person, and then put out the tongue or point the finger at him.

Whatsoever a man soweth. Our life is the seed-time; the future life is the harvest. What we sow now we shall reap then in blessing or in cursing. Ver. 8. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption. He who does carnal works, and casts them as it were seed into his flesh, shall of this carnal seed reap death now and hereafter. The reference is chiefly to sins of gluttony and impurity. On the other hand, those who sow spiritual things strengthen the spirit within, and shall reap life everlasting.

But although the phrase is couched in general terms, the Apostle's immediate reference is to the works of beneficence done by catechumens for their teachers. In either case the meaning is the same. Ver. 9. In due season we shall reap if we faint not. The "due season" is the Day of Judgment. If we are not tired here of doing well, we shall attain that perfect peace where fatigue cannot come. Ver. 10 - Let us do good unto all men. While the time of sowing lasts, let us do good to all not only to catechists, but to all even to the heathen, though specially to our fellow-Christians, who are members of the same household of God. S. Jerome relates a beautiful example of this in the Apostle S. John: " When he was living at Ephesus in his extreme old age, and was with difficulty carried into the Church in the arms of his disciples, nor could find breath for many words, he would say nothing time after time but, 'Little children, love one another.' At length, his hearers being tired of hearing nothing else, asked him, 'Master, why do you always repeat the same exhortation?' He replied in a sentence worthy of him: 'Because it is the Lord's command; and if this be done all is done.' " To this Jerome adds: " Brief is the course of this world. Titus, the son of Vespasian, was wont to say at evening, if he could recollect no good action during the day, 'I have lost a day.' We do not reflect that we lose an hour, a day, a moment, time, eternity, whenever we speak an idle word, for which we shall have one day to give an account ."

Posidippus, and, following him, Blessed Thomas More and Giraldus ( Syntag. 1), happily describe this opportuni ty (καιρός): "'Who art thou? 'I am time, who destroys all things.' 'Why do you hasten by so quickly?' 'I am always in motion.' 'Why with wings on your feet?' 'I travel as does the light breeze.' 'Why carry razors in your hand?' 'To show that nothing is ke ener than I.' 'Why does a lock hang over your forehead?' 'That you may lay hold of me as I approach.' 'Why bald behind?' 'To show that when I have once flown by no one can bring me back, however much he may wish it.' "

Would that we would reflect how short is the time of our trial, how time flies never to return, how on each moment hangs eternity! How zealous should we then be in all good works. What we now neglect, we shall never regain; for in a short time all opportunity for living, acting, meriting, will vanish away. Cf. Rev. x. 6. When time shall be no more, eternity will be with us. " Short is the time given us in this present life. Unless we employ it on needful things, what shall we do when we pass into the next world? " (S. Chrysostom, Hom. 17 in Joan .). The pagan Seneca ( Ep. i.) can say the same: " It is a disgrace to lose time through mere carelessness; and if you will notice it, you will see that a great part of life glides by with those who do evil, the greatest part with those who do nothing, and the whole with those who do anything else ."

S. Gregory Nazianzen says, in his Iambics , that life is a market in which we can procure all wealth, i.e ., all virtues; but when it is closed, there remains no more chance of buying. The time for buying is short, nay, it is a single day, when compared with eternity. Ver. 11 . Ye see how large a letter. S. Chrysostom and Theophylact understand this to mean: You see what misshapen letters I have formed, but your love for me will excuse their imperfections. S. Augustine: Ye see how freely and openly I have written, without any fear of the Judaisers. S. Hilary, and others following him: Ye see what lofty ideas I have put before you. S. Jerome, however, thinks that the words show that up to this point S. Paul had used an amanuensis, but that from here to the end he wrote himself, to prevent any one from objecting to the genuineness of the Epistle. The best explanation is that which sees an allusion to the length of the letter, and a reference to S. Paul's affection for the Galatians, which had made him dispense with his usual amanuensis, and write a long letter with his own hand. Ver. 12. As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh. This is a reference to the Judaisers, and their desire to commend themselves to their kinsmen after the flesh. Or the meaning may be that they desired to please by the observance of carnal circumcision. This latter is supported by the use of the term flesh in the next verse

They constrain you to be circumcised. Because they hope to be secure from the persecutions of the Jews, who were bitterly hostile to the Cross of Christ, and all who preached it. Ver. 13 . For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law . They do not proselytise from zeal for the law, for they do not themselves observe it, but to obtain the praise of the Jews for having converted you to Judaism. Many other religious teachers unhappily pursue the same policy, and strive for their own glory, and gamble for others' skins, nay, rather for their very souls. Ver. 14. But God forbid that I should glory , &c. The adversative but marks a contrast between the glory of the Judaisers in circumcision and the glorying of S. Paul in the Cross. The Cross of course stands for itself and all the redemptive benefits it bestows, and in it is shown the greatness of man's sin and the depth of God's love. S. Augustine ( Serm. 20 de Verbis Apost .) says: " The Apostle might well have gloried in the wisdom of Christ, or His majesty, or His power; but it was the Cross he specified. The philosopher's shame is the Apostle's boast. He glories in his Lord. What Lord? Christ crucified. In Him are conjoined humility and majesty, weakness and power, life and death. Would you come to Him? Despise not these; be not ashamed; you have received the sign of the Cross on your forehead as on the seat of shame ."

S. Bernard ( Serm. 25 in Cant .) says: " He thinks nothing more glorious than to bear the reproach of Christ. The shame of the Cross is pleasing to him who is not unpleasing to the Crucified ."

And again he writes ( Serm. 1 de S. Andrea ): " The Cross is precious, capable of being loved, and is a cause of exultation. The wood of the Cross puts forth blossoms, bears pleasant fruit, drops the oil of gladness, exudes the balsam of temporal gifts. It is no woodland tree, but a tree of life, to those who lay hold of it. It bears life-giving fruits, else how should it occupy the Lord's land, that most precious soil, to which it was affixed by nails which were, as it were, its roots ?"

So ( in Ep . 190 ad Innocent. Pont .) he says: " I see three principal things in this work of our salvation: the form of humility, in which Christ emptied Himself; the measure of charity, which stretched itself even to death, and that the death of the Cross ; the sacrament of redemption, whereby He bore that death He vouchsafed to take upon Him ."

By whom the world is crucified unto me. As the world shrinks from the Cross or any crucified corpse, so do I shrink from the pomps and vanity of the world. Whatever, as S. Bernard says, the world thinks of the Cross, that do I think of worldly pleasures; and whatever the world thinks of pleasure, that do I think of the Cross.

A simpler explanation, however, is to take crucified in the general meaning of death, that being the consequence of crucifixion. The Apostle used the term crucified to maintain the continuity of his subject. Being crucified with Christ, he says, I am a new creature, and breathe a new life. I am dead to the worldly things clung to by the Jews (he still has these in his mind); I am not held by them or by the opinions, applause, or hatred of anybody whatsoever, as the Judaisers are. And by consequence all worldly things are, so far as I am concerned, dead they have no power to affect me. The world is crucified to me; it cannot hold me. I am crucified to the world; I do not regard it. The world cannot hurt me, nor do I desire anything from it. S. Ignatius, writing to the Romans, said: " My love is crucified, and hence corruptible food and worldly pleasure delight me not. I long for the bread of God, that bread which cometh down from heaven, which is the Flesh of Christ. With Him I am crucified ."

Cassian ( de Institut. Renunt. iv. 34, 35) relates the beautiful description of the monastic ideal given to a novice by Abbot Pinusius. He put before him Christ crucified: " Renunciation of the world is nothing but the choice of the Cross and the mortified life. You know, therefore, that this day you have done with the world its activity and its delights, and that, as the Apostle says, you are crucified to the world, and the world to you. Consider, then, the conditions of life under the Cross, under the shadow of which you are henceforth to dwell. For it is no longer you that live, but He liveth in you who was crucified for you. As He hung on the Cross, so must we be in this life, mortifying our flesh in the fear of the Lord, with all its affections and lusts; not serving our own wills, but nailing them to His Cross. So shall we fulfil the Lord's command, 'He that taketh not up his cross and followeth not after Me is not worthy of Me.' " He then describes in detail the way we should be crucified with Christ: " If it be asked, How can a man take up his cross and be crucified while still living, I reply: Our cross is the fear of the Lord; as the crucified man has no power over his own members, so are we to order our wills, not after our own desires, but according to the fear of the Lord, which constraineth us. And just as the man fastened to a cross regards not things present, studies not his own feelings, is not anxious about the morrow, is stimulated by no worldly desires, grieves not over present injuries, thinks not of the past, and, while still breathing, holds that he has done with the elements of this world, sending on his spirit whither where he will soon be, so must we be crucified by the fear of the Lord to all these things, not only to sins of the flesh, but to all earthly things, keeping our eyes intent on the land to which we hope every moment to travel ."

The Apostle here is speaking not only to religious, but to all Christians, who by baptism have renounced the world, with its conventional ideals and low code of honour. The world may say: "Go to market adapt yourself to everybody; be a heretic with heretics, a politician with politicians; and when you dine with them, eat flesh as they do, even on a fast day." But the Christian will reply that he is dead to a life of this sort, and is bound to live the Christ life. Though he be called Papist, hypocrite, Jesuit, he will care nothing. The world scorns a man who refuses to fight a duel when challenged. The Christian will be content to know that duelling is forbidden by the law of Christ, and will despise the stupid opinions of a stupid world, preferring to follow the wisdom of Christ, which condemns all duelling as wicked and foolish. He will recollect that Christian fortitude is seen in bearing injuries in the defence of our country or ourselves, not in the retaliation of insults and injuries.

S. Bernard ( Serm. 7 in Quadrag .) says that there are three steps in the way of perfection through crucifixion to the world. " The first is to bear ourselves as pilgrims who, if they see men quarrelling, give no heed; if they see men marrying, or making merry, pass by as pilgrims who are longing to reach their country, and who, therefore, decline to trouble themselves with anything but food and raiment. The second is to bear ourselves as though we were dead, void of feeling, knowing no difference between praise or blame, between flattery or calumny, nay, deaf to everything, even as a dead man. Happy is the death which thus keeps us spotless, nay, which makes us wholly foreigners to this world. But as the Apostle says, he who lives not in himself, must have Christ living in him. All else must find him dead; the things of Christ alone must find him living. The third is that He be not merely dead but crucified. Sensual pleasure, honours, riches, fame all that the world delights in must be a cross to us. All that the world regards as painful must be gladly chosen by us and clung to ."

S. Bernard then adds a figurative explanation of this passage: " The Apostle might not improperly be understood to mean that the world was crucified to him so far as its character was concerned, it being bound by the chains of its vines, and that he was crucified to the world by the pity he felt for its condition ."

And I unto the world. Blessed Dorotheus ( Biblioth . SS. Patrum, vol. iii.) asks: " How is the world crucified to any one? When he renounces it and lives a life of solitude, having left father and mother and all earthly possessions. How is a man crucified to the world? Again, by renunciation; when any one, after retiring from the world, strives against his own lusts and his own will, and subdues the motions of the flesh within. We religious seem to ourselves to have crucified the world, because we have left it and retired to our monasteries; but we are unwilling to crucify ourselves to the world. Its blandishments still have power over us; we have still a lurking love for it; we hanker after its glory, its pleasures, its gaiety, and for these vile things cherish the passions which once swayed us. What madness is this to leave what is precious and worry ourselves over what is despicable. If we have renounced the world, we ought also to have renounced all worldly desires as well ."

This explanation is, however, too narrow. The Apostle is speaking to all, and not to religious alone. Moreover, crucifixion to the world and crucifixion of the world are not two distinct things, as Dorotheus seems to think, but two sides of the same thing. Ver. 15 . In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything. Whether you be Jew or Gentile matters nothing; neither brings you nearer Christ. What is of importance is a new creature, i.e ., a soul regenerated in baptism, and fortified by grace to walk in newness of life. Cf. Revelation 3:14 , where Christ is called "the beginning of the creation of God," and Isaiah 9:6 , where He is called "the Father of the world that is to be " (Vulg.), for from Him began a new creation. Cf. too Virgil ( Ecl. iv . 8), where Virgil transfers to Salonius, the newly born son of Asinius Pollio, Roman Consul, the predictions by the Cumæan Sibyl of the birth of Christ, in which the Christian era is described as a golden age. Ver. 16 . And as many as walk according to this rule. The rule laid down by S. Paul as to justification, and the relation of Judaism to Christianity.

Peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. On Jews and Gentiles alike who believe on Christ, according to Ambrose; but comparing this verse with Eph 1:1 and Colossians 2:8 , it is better to explain the Israel of God as those who are Israelites indeed, i.e ., who have embraced Christianity and renounced whether Gentilism or Judaism. Not those who are descended from Jacob according to the flesh are the Israel of God, but those who have embraced his faith. These find peace within, and on them God plentifully bestows His grace.

There may be a reference to the meaning of Israel, i.e ., he who sees God, says Theophylact. They who see Him by faith here will see Him under a fitting image in heaven. Or Israel may mean "he who has power with God," according to Genesis 32:28 . As Jacob by his prayers obtained success against Esau, so the people of God are by His grace masters over the world and all its lusts, and over Judaism. So S. Thomas and Haymo. Ver. 17. From henceforth let no man trouble me. Let no Jew trouble me in future by asking whose servant I am. He bears the marks of circumcision, I the marks of Christ. Maldonatus takes the words as a defence of his apostleship.

For I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. The Greek word used here denotes marks burnt in, like those impressed on slaves. It also stands for the scars left by wounds. S. Paul gives reasons for believing that he bore these latter in 2 Cor. xi. 23. As soldiers are proud of their scars gained in honourable warfare, so does S. Paul point with pride to those he had gained in the service of Christ.

S. Ambrose ( in Psalms 119:120; Psalms 119:120 ) writes: " That man is pierced with the nails of God's fear who bears in his body the mortification of Jesus. He merits to hear his Lord saying: 'Set Me as a seal upon thy hears, as a seal upon thine arm.' Place then on thy breast and on thy heart the seal of the Crucified; place it too an thy arm, that thy works may be dead unto sin. Perchance not only fear but love also will pierce thee with its nails, for love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave. May our souls be wounded by these nails of charity, that they may cry out: 'We bear the wounds of charity.' "

In the same way did Blessed Theodorus Studita rejoice in the wounds he received in defence of the sacred images when they were assailed by Leo the Armenian, in A.D. 824. Baring his body to the scourge, he said: " Delightful to me is the scourging of this vile body, and delightful will it be to lay it aside altogether, that my liberated soul may flee to Him whom it thirsts for ." And when the scourging was over, he wrote joyfully to Naucratius: " Is it not more glorious to bear the marks of Christ, than to wear earthly crowns? " See Baronius, Annals for that year.

They bear the marks of Christ, says S. Jerome, who for love of Christ afflict their bodies, or who are afflicted with illness. S. Francis of Assissi, as S. Bonaventura relates in his Life of him (c. 13), received from a seraph nails in his hands and feet, out of his intense love of Christ crucified. These nails were not of iron but of hard, dead flesh, having their heads projecting, and the sharp end turned inwards, so that it was with pain and difficulty that he could walk. Pope Alexander IV testified that he saw these nails himself with his own eyes after the death of S. Francis, and from him S. Bonaventura learnt the fact.

Let the impious blasphemy of Beza then do its worst, which speaks of this as a "stigmatic idol," fondly and fraudulently fashioned. S. Paul, however, is not claiming here such marks for himself, nor do the oldest likenesses of him show any of the sort. Indeed Sixtus IV., in a Bull quoted by Henry Sedulius, in his "Notes to the Life of S. Francis," forbade, under pain of excommunication, any other saint but S. Francis to be so painted. The Dominicans, who have lately depicted S. Catherine of Sienna in this way, claim a special privilege given them for the purpose by Pius V.





Edinburgh & London


Bibliographical Information
Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on Galatians 6". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/clc/galatians-6.html. 1890.
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