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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Galatians 3". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tbi/ galatians-3.html. 1905-1909. New York.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Galatians 3". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
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O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?
A foolish Church
I. In its origin.
II. In its idea of the sustaining energy of the Church.
III. In its retrogression.
IV. In its estimate of the true position and requirements of humanity.
V. In having left its first love. (D. Allport.)
The folly of apostasy
I. Barters truth for falsehood.
II. Ignores the facts of consciousness and is victimized by fantastic fictions.
III. Abandons the sure means of securing the spirit for the certain means of losing Him (verse 2).
IV. Abandons a good beginning for the sake of reaching a bad conclusion (verse 3).
V. Yields willingly to persuasion what could not be extorted by persecution (verse 4).
VI. Rejects unquestionable evidence in favour of baseless assumptions (verse 5).
Christ evidently crucified
I. He placarded Christ crucified before their eyes.
II. He arrested the gaze of the spiritual loiterer.
III. He rivetted that gaze on the proclamation of his sovereign. (Bishop Lightfoot.)
The Galatians bewitched
St. Paul’s metaphor is derived from the popular belief in the power of the evil eye, and the word he employs originally referred to witchery by spells and incantations; but as it occurs in actual use it denotes the blighting influence of the evil eye. This belief is not confined to the East or to ancient times, but is common in some countries of Europe even now. The word then involves two ideas--
(1) The baleful influence on the recipient.
(2) The envious spirit of the agent. (Bishop Lightfoot.)
Christ evidently set forth
Christ crucified belongs to no one age or place. In this matter period and locality are not of much account. Faith bridges over intervening land and seas, and leaps across centuries at a bound. In the modern period, in the middle ages, in the primitive times, faith sees and experiences over again what apostles saw and experienced. Faith detaches Christ crucified from geography and chronology, and throws Him on Christian consciousness where, independent of local associations and mere sequences of time, He bangs, as it were for all time, between earth and heaven as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Canon Liddon.)
Christ crucified, the preacher’s theme
It hath been told me in the ear and whispered into my very soul, that there is pardon for the greatest guilt through faith in Jesus Christ; that His precious blood shed on Calvary is able to cleanse us from every sin of every kind; and that as many as believe in Him are saved: their sins, which are many, are forgiven. I read this once; I thought it through. I heard this many times; I thought it through. But on a day I looked to Him that did hang upon the cross. It was a dark day for my spirit, and my burden was exceeding heavy. I was like a man that preferred to die rather than to live; and would have laid violent hands upon myself to end my misery, but that the dread of something after death did haunt me. I found no rest nor respite; but I heard one say, “Look unto Christ, and you shall be saved.” I looked; and that my sins were there and then forgiven me I do know, as I know that I am standing here and speaking to you. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Power of Christ
A burglar, not long ago, rifled an unoccupied dwelling by the seaside. He ransacked the rooms, and heaped his plunder in the parlour. There were evidences that here he sat down to rest. On a bracket in the corner stood a marble bust of Guido’s “Ecce Homo”--Christ crowned with thorns. The guilty man had taken it in his hands and examined it. It bore the marks of his fingers, but he replaced it with its face turned to the wall, as if he would not have even the sightless eyes of the marble Saviour look upon his deeds of infamy. (Professor Phelps.)
The enchantment of error
I. The enchantment by which they had been deluded. They had been bewitched. Their eyes had been dazzled by mere appearances.
II. The circumstances under which the enchantment had been practised. The apostle significantly points out the fact that the Galatians had been led away by error, even when before their eyes Christ crucified had been clearly and distinctly set forth. The cross of Christ had been set forth in their midst.
III. The practical results of the enchantment. It had affected both their conduct and character.
1. They had not obeyed the truth. This was the truth as it was in Jesus. At first they yielded to the claims of the truth. Their thoughts, feelings, actions, were governed by the understanding and belief which they had of the truth. Now they had departed from the truth, and relinquished their hold of its doctrines.
2. In doing this they had displayed the greatest folly. They were foolish in surrendering what they did. They had given up a Divine appointment, a Divine Redeemer, and peace with God. They had turned away from the fountain of living waters.
1. The preaching of the gospel should consist in holding up Christ crucified to the eyes of men.
2. Those who have looked to Christ should still be on their guard against false teachers. (R. Nicholls.)
The Lord’s Supper a picture of Christ crucified
I. The person depicted.
II. The particular aspect in which Jesus Christ is set forth. Not the Teacher, Maker, but as crucified.
III. The feelings with which Christ crucified should be contemplated. There are pictures of martyrs and other sufferers which cannot be looked upon without deep feeling. But no picture can stir our hearts like this. It is so near--“Before whoso eyes.” It is so real--“Evidently.” It is so vital to our interests--“Among you.” It is so transforming and elevating in its character. Only those who are stupid, senseless, beguiled--who are “bewitched”--can fail to be ennobled and benefited by its holy and benign influence. This picture should be contemplated with--
1. Deep seriousness.
2. Unfeigned faith.
3. Holy aspiration.
4. Adoring gratitude.
5. Catholic love and self-dedication. (W. Forsyth, M. A.)
The folly of being captivated by form, etc., after the experience of faith
I. It contradicts our clearest convictions.
II. Denies the work of the Spirit in our hearts.
III. Deteriorates our moral nature.
IV. Deprives us of our reasonable hope.
V. Attributes the mightiest operations of grace to an insufficient cause. (J. Lyth.)
The folly of forsaking the right path
There are many who have lost their way; some through ignorance, and some who have been deceived by false lights, and led away by untrustworthy guides. Many are the stories which travellers relate of the perils of leaving the right path. A visitor, recently arrived in New Zealand, ascended to the top of a mountain overgrown with the huge ferns of that country. He had climbed up by a winding road cut through the bushwood, and was advised by the rest of his party to return by the same circuitous route; but he was tempted to make a short cut, and go straight down the side of the mountain. So he started, and went on rapidly for a while, but soon he found that the ferns of New Zealand were far taller than those of England. They rose over his head. They shut out light and air. Beneath their palm-like leaves the heat was suffocating, and soon he panted for breath. To retrace his steps was impossible. He could not see in any direction, but tried to follow the rapid slope of the ground, hoping to meet some open space. But his progress amongst the innumerable tall stems of the ferns was necessarily slow, The ground was so steep, it was difficult to keep on his feet, and in the dim green twilight he felt himself getting more and more exhausted; and when, in a fainting condition, he emerged at last on a pathway, he had bitterly regretted his folly in wandering from the usual road. (Dr. Hardman.)
I. Christ crucified had been declared to the Galatians.
1. Christ as the Redeemer.
2. Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
3. The whole system of Christian doctrine, including the duties, responsibilities, and privileges of believers.
4. Christ crucified had been received, believed in, loved by them.
II. They were going back.
1. Back to the slavery of the ceremonial law.
2. Back to the world, to fleshly lusts, to the devil.
3. Appeal to backsliders, reminding them of former peace and blessedness, present wretchedness.
III. Who hath bewitched you?
1. Your desires.
2. Your companions.
3. Your prejudices.
4. Your procrastination.
5. Your unbelief.
6. Your want of principle.
7. Your lack of childlike love. (A. F. Barfield.)
I. The subtle danger. Epidemic of error. People calmly tolerating what shortly before they would have indignantly repudiated.
II. The only preservative--Christ crucified.
1. Set forth plainly.
2. Realized vividly.
3. Clung to simply but firmly.
III. The supreme folly of any other course. If you say, “We see what the gospel can do in the way of reclaiming sinners, but we are going to try something else,” you will be fools. I am always ready to try a new machine: we will try the electric light one of these days, instead of gas, when we are sure of it; but suppose it should all go out and leave us in the dark! I will wait till the invention has been tested. So it may happen with the new religious lights that men bring up, which are like dim rushlights compared with the blazing sun of gospel truth; we are not going to try anything new to the risk of our souls. We will keep to the old, old gospel, until it is worn out. When that happens, it will be time to think of something fresh. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The evil eye and the amulet
Two picturesque metaphors here, “Bewitched” refers to the old superstition that still lingers in many dark corners of England itself--the old superstition of the “evil eye,” according to which some persons had the power of hurting and even slaying with a glance. The spiritual life of the Galatian churches seemed to Paul as if it had been sucked out of them by the baleful glitter of some evil eye. “Openly set forth” is the technical expression to describe all public notices and proclamations; it might almost be rendered, “placarded as a proclamation.” The whole verse brings before us the mysterious melancholy factor religious declension, the fascinations which produce it, and seem as if they worked by some malign magic, and the one charm which guards against their power.
I. Religious declension.
1. The Church as a whole. The apostles were not cold in their graves when grievous wolves began to enter in and spoil the flock. The law seems to work almost inevitably that close on the heels of every period of earnestness and quickened life, there shall follow a period of reaction and torpor. However high the arrow is shot, the impulse that sped it on its way heavenwards soon seems to die, and gravitation begins, and down it comes again. 2 The individual. Moments of illumination are replaced by use and wont; we get into our old ruts again, and quaff once more the opium soporifics which have lulled us to sleep so often before. How strange, how sad, that this should be so universally true.
II. The fascinations which produce religious declension.
1. External. Worldly cares, occupation, treasures. Many men’s Christianity trickles out without their knowing it. They are too busy to look after it, or even to notice its escape, and so, drop, drop, drop, slow and unnoticed through the leak, it slips until there is none left.
2. But the real cause lies within. No outward temptation has any power to seduce, unless we choose to allow it. If I had not combustibles in my heart, it would do me no harm to put ever so fierce a light to it. But if I carry about a keg of gunpowder within me, I must not blame the match if there comes an explosion. It is because our hearts do not find in Jesus Christ all that they crave, that we are unfaithful and turn away from Him; and it is because our hearts are foolish and bad, that they do not find in Him all that they crave. If we were as we should be, there would not be a desire in us that would not be met in our loving Lord, in His sweetness and grace. And if there were not a desire in us that was not met in our loving Lord’s sweetness and grace, then all these temptations might play upon us innocuously; we should walk through the fire and not be harmed.
III. the amulet. Fix your eye, not on the glittering eye that would fascinate you, but on the counter charm--Christ crucified. Hearts and minds that are occupied with Him will not be at leisure for lower and grosser tastes. An empty vessel let down into the ocean will have its sides bulged in far more quickly than one that is filled. Fill your hearts, and keep them full, with Jesus Christ, and they will be able to resist the pressure of temptation. Try to see placarded on every common thing the crucified Christ. That sight will take the brightness out of many a false glitter, as a poor candle pales before the electric light, or as the sun puts even it to shame. You may be as powerless of yourself before temptations, as a hummingbird before a snake; but if you look fixedly to Him, neither the glittering eye of the serpent nor the forked tongue with its hiss will harm or frighten you. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
To “bewitch” here involves two ideas.
1. A pernicious influence exercised on the recipient.
2. The envious, jealous spirit of the agent. (Emilius Bayley, B. D.)
The fascination of the cross
A rebuke for apostasy. St. Paul tells the Galatians they have been fascinated as with the power which the Orientals ascribe to the “evil eye,” notwithstanding the clear representation of the wondrous love of Christ’s death set forth in the vivid and impressive preaching of the apostle, as in a picture The fascination of the cross should prevent the power of all other fascinations. Of many it may be asked, “Who did fascinate you?”
I. The fascinations which turn us from obedience to the truth.
II. The fascination of the cross should destroy the power of all these. The cross should teach us--
1. Self-denial in opposition to worldliness.
2. Humility as against intellectual pride.
3. Steadfastness in place of love of novelty in doctrine.
4. Submission of our will to God.
The cross may exercise a magic charm over us. Let us always be in the circle of its influence. (Canon Vernon Hutton.)
Paraphrase of the verse
Christ’s death in vain? O ye senseless Gauls, what bewitchment is this? I placarded Christ crucified before your eyes. You suffered them to wander from this gracious proclamation of your King. They rested on the withering eye of the sorcerer. They yielded to the fascination and were rivetted there. And the life of your souls has been drained out of you by that envious gaze. (Bishop Lightfoot.)
The Galatians’ deflection
I. Consider wherein their disobedience to the truth consisted.
II. The particular aggravation with which their deflection was attended.
III. The apostle’s reproof. Inferences--
1. How great is the evil and danger of self-righteousness.
2. What need have even the most eminent Christians to watch against apostasy.
3. What cause of thankfulness have they who are kept stedfast in the truth. (C. Simeon, M. A.)
Importance of preaching Christ crucified
In any circumstances it is both sinful and unwise to turn away from the truth as it is in Jesus; it bespeaks us blind to our own interest, as well as regardless of the glory of God. But what rendered such conduct inexcusable in the Galatians, was the degree of evidence with which the gospel was attended, and the abundance of evangelical preaching which they enjoyed.
I. Endeavour to ascertain the import of the terms employed in the text. Not merely the setting forth of Christ’s bodily sufferings.
1. Christ is set forth in the gospel as the great propitiation, by which God’s righteousness might appear in the remission of sins (Romans 3:25).
2. Christ is set forth as the great expression of Divine love to a sinful and perishing world (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).
3. Christ is set forth in the gospel as affording the strongest proof of God’s displeasure against sin (Romans 8:3; Galatians 3:13).
4. Christ crucified is set forth as the only foundation of a sinner’s hope (John 1:29; John 3:14-15).
5. The terms in the text further denote, the high degree of evidence which attended the ministry of the apostles, especially among the Galatians.
II. Consider the importance of setting forth Christ in the preaching of the gospel. It is a principal part of the work of the Holy Spirit to take of the things of Christ, and show them unto us; it should, therefore, be the great object of the Christian ministry to co-operate with this design.
1. To exhibit Christ crucified will tend to prove the hearts of men, and make them manifest.
2. It is the only way of giving peace to souls in distress for sin. When a sinner is brought under the terrors of the law, made to see and realize his guilt and danger, and to feel his need of a Saviour, he is apt to look inward for some qualification to recommend him to Christ; but to set forth a crucified Saviour is to point him to the only refuge, and to show him at once his remedy. All his help must come from Calvary. If we desire a more spiritual and humble frame of mind, no means are so effectual to its production as the contemplation of a crucified Redeemer.
3. It is the way to draw forth and bring into exercise all the Christian graces.
4. The preaching of Christ crucified is that which leaves all unbelievers without excuse. It will be impossible for those to plead ignorance of the way of salvation, before whose eyes this truth has been evidently set forth. If they perish it will not be for lack of knowledge, but for want of a heart to attend to the things which belong to their everlasting peace. (Theological Sketch-Book.)
Beholding the crucifixion
Jesus Christ was certainly not crucified in Galatia. Your children can tell you He was crucified at Golgotha, without the gate of Jerusalem. Nor do I suppose that many Galatians were present in Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion, Yet the words of the apostle are very forcible--“Before whose eyes,” etc. These men had seen the Lord, though not in the flesh. They had seen Him crucified, and they were crucified with Him. Although Christ was set forth crucified, only in representation, in the words of truth and soberness, yet the representation was indeed a reality to them. They believed it; they saw it; they felt it. They knew its truth; they felt its power; they beheld its glory. If this be all, some of you say, that is meant by the words, then there is nothing more intended than may be seen and felt in these latter times and in this our land, Just so I mean you to understand me. There is nothing in this vision of Jesus Christ “evidently set forth crucified” which may not be seen in our day, and seen by you as the life of your own souls. This is not an old picture of the crucifixion, suspended in the churches of Galatia for their especial benefit, but a lively representation, having grace and power unexhausted, for all times and places, wherever on the face of the earth is to be found a company of sinners looking for salvation. But our text suggests another very solemn consideration. These Galatians, “before whose eyes Jesus Christ had been evidently set forth, crucified among them,” were so bewitched, notwithstanding the glorious sight which they beheld, that they did not obey the truth. This strange infatuation was not confined to the old times.
I. Explain the vision of Jesus Christ “evidently set forth, crucified among you,” An evident setting forth, glorious in its own evidence, and mighty in its own power; a great sight which fills the soul of men beholding, and works upon the springs of life and activity within them. It is Christ brought so near them that nothing seems nearer, everything else is distant. That voice of prayer--prayer, loving and mighty in death, sounds so near that its tones touch their hearts, and they feel it working mightily in them for their regeneration. The pitiful compassion of the Saviour is so near that He seems to weep with them and feel for them, as though He suffered to succour them, was tempted to encourage them to resist the tempter, and fought in the dreadful conflict that they, in His strength and spirit, may fight with Him, and like Him, overcome the same enemies. The shedding of His blood is so near them that it seems to sprinkle their consciences, and allay the burning sense of guilt. Penitence sees Christ set forth crucified where impenitence cannot discern Him. Looking through its tears, it sees the great sight, and instantly feels the healing virtue and soothing power of that wonderful death. But, then, ye must be penitent, ye must feel your sinfulness--that is, you must be in the condition to which the death of Christ is appropriate. Men naturally overlook things inappropriate to them, or those in which they have no concern. Thus it is that the penitent, broken-hearted sinner sees Christ when the evangelist sets Him forth crucified for sin. Have you thus seen Christ crucified for you? You saw no miraculous signs as the Galatians saw; but there are personal signs of the Spirit in changing your heart, subduing your sins, overcoming temptations, conquering the world, inspiring bright hopes, exciting fervent prayers, forming Christian graces--all the fruits of the Spirit; not, indeed, miracles, prophesyings, tongues, interpretations, gifts of healing; but better fruits in the maturity, not the infancy, of true religion--love, joy, peace, etc.
II. Propose a solemn and affecting inquiry. Has anything bewitched you (and if anything, what?) “that ye do not,” etc. To have had the experience of a present Christ; to have seen Him crucified before our eyes; to have felt and handled that good Word of life. And to have experienced all these things in vain! Those who have experienced these things in vain--who can they be? The man who sees the truth and does not obey it may well be regarded as bewitched, under the spell of a sorcerer, choosing what he knows is death and refusing what he knows is life. What is the spell? The preceding thoughts wilt suggest the nature of the sorcery. How did we bring Christ before the eyes of the sinner? By convincing him of the appropriateness of the Saviour and His great salvation. And this was appropriate to the sense of guilt,--humble penitence beholds Christ, and rejoices in His presence. Now let an opposite feeling, a proud feeling of self-righteousness and self-sufficiency, take possession of the heart, and the vision of Christ crucified vanishes as a dream when one awaketh. Feeling no need of Christ crucified, the soul looks no longer to Him. It has found other hope, and applied to itself a false peace. It has healed the wound slightly, and, so long as the pain is relieved, it seeks no other remedy. Just so it was with the Galatians: they listened to Jewish teachers, who told them of the ritual of Moses, the righteousness of the Pharisees, the works of the law, by the doing of which they might be saved. And so they were beguiled from the simplicity of Christ. But there are other sorcerers which infest the Christian Church, and beguile many. Whatever renders us indisposed to receive Christ, to love Him, to serve Him, blinds us to the glory of His gospel, and so removes Him further from us. There is the infatuation of the world, with its gaieties and follies; and sad infatuation it is upon some, of whom better things might have been expected. There is the infatuation of avarice, of men who make haste to be rich, who will be rich at all costs and hazards, until they destroy their own peace and make their past experience vanity, and past profession a lie. (R. Halley, D. D.)
The folly of disobeying the truth
I. What is implied in Christ being evidently set before us crucified. Christ is evidently set before us crucified--
1. In the evangelical histories of the New Testament. The whole scenery of the cross is there exhibited.
2. In the preaching of the gospel. The cross is its very essence, its sum and substance, its all and in all. We must know nothing else.
3. In the Holy Communion. There we set forth the broken Body, the shed Blood.
II. What is implied in not obeying the truth. By “the truth” we may understand either Christ, who is emphatically the Truth, or the gospel, which is the revelation of God’s truth. We shall consider the latter as the meaning of the text. In reference to the truth of the gospel--
1. Some reject it wholly. Revelation disbelieved and despised.
2. Many reject it practically. Do not obey its exhortations. Are hearers only. Do not yield themselves to God. Still live in unbelief and sin.
3. Others reject the truth partially. Believe general truths--obey general commands--and acknowledge general principles; but are undecided, compromising, and half-hearted.
III. The folly and bewitchment of such a course of disobedience. It is evidently folly--
1. As it is the rejection of true light. Darkness is fraught with present evil, and tends to eternal destruction.
2. It deprives of all the solid comforts of religion. No peace, or joy, or hope. Desponding, restless, miserable.
3. It exposes to the severe disapprobation of God.
4. It will end in everlasting and irremediable ruin (Hebrews 3:2; 1 Peter 4:17-18). How important, then, that the question of the apostle be duly considered?
Who hath bewitched you?
1. Have men, by their creeds and false doctrines?
2. Has Satan, by his devices?
3. Has the world, by its allurements?
1. We urge the sinner to consider his ways--receive the truth in the love of it--and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and he shall be saved.
2. We expostulate with backsliders--and say, Why will ye die? Why forsake Christ? Oh, return.
3. We exhort the believer to buy the truth--to grow in truth--to witness to the truth--to rejoice in the truth--and stedfastly to hold fast the truth to the end. (J. Burns, D. D.)
Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
The hearing of faith
I. What faith?
1. A historical (James 2:19).
2. Dogmatical (Acts 8:13; Acts 8:23; Luke 4:41).
3. A temporary (Luke 8:13; John 5:35).
4. A faith of miracles (Luke 17:6; 1 Corinthians 13:2).
5. A saving faith (Romans 10:10; Acts 16:31; 1 Peter 2:6).
II. What is meant by hearing? Hearing the Word of God--
III. How is faith wrought by the Word? Not as a principal, but as an instrumental cause. Thus--
1. The minister commissioned by God speaks it to the ears sometimes of God’s mercy to man, sometimes of man’s duty to God (2 Timothy 4:2).
2. The ears of the hearer take in what is spoken, and convey it to the understanding. But that cannot receive it (1 Corinthians 2:14): therefore--
3. The Spirit goes along with the “Word, and enables the understanding to receive it.
4. And also inclines the will to embrace it (Philippians 2:13; Romans 7:15; Hebrews 4:12). (Bishop Beveridge.)
Directions for hearing
I. Before hearing--
1. Consider what thou art going about.
2. Set all worldly thoughts aside (Nehemiah 13:19-20) and sins (James 1:21).
3. If thou would have God pour forth His blessing, do thou pour forth thy spirit to Him in prayer (Psalms 10:17; Psalms 65:2).
(1) For the minister (Romans 15:30).
(2) For yourselves, that God would put in with the Word (Isaiah 8:11).
4. Come with an appetite.
5. With large expectations.
6. With strong resolutions to practise.
II. During hearing. Hear--
2. Diligently, with hearts as well as ears.
3. Meekly (James 1:21).
4. With faith (Hebrews 4:2).
5. Apply it to thyself (Job 5:27).
6. Renew your resolutions, lifting up your heart in prayer.
III. After hearing.
1. Meditate (1 Timothy 4:15).
2. Confer with others.
3. Square thyself according to it, that thy life may be the commentary (James 1:22; Matthew 7:24-25). (Bishop Beveridge.)
A lesson for the Church
The helmsman may work the wheel with the greatest dexterity and earnestness, but unless he hears and obeys the captain’s signal, his work will be worthless, and the ship must go out of its course. The builder may accumulate the best materials, and may put them together with industry and skill; but what if he be so busy as to have no time to listen to the architect’s instructions? His labour will be lost, and lost in proportion to his very carefulness: and the house he builds will be thrown upon his hands as not according to the plan, and may possibly be his ruin. A child to whom a father has promised a gift may earn what he deems an equivalent, and may offer it as a filial recompense; but that is not the way to secure it, and will probably lead to disappointment. And so men may work in what moral manner they like, and in what moral direction they like, but they will only labour in vain and go astray unless they hear God’s voice, and obey His directions respecting the Divine gift of the Spirit. “If ye being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask for Him?” The Holy Spirit comes through the believing hearing of that message. Works will only obstruct, but faith will open an entrance for the Spirit. And we have learned this as individuals, but we have yet to learn it as Churches. How many revivals are manufactured, yet how few Churches are revived, but on the contrary made more impotent by the manufacture. The patching of organizations, the utilization of special agencies may be hindrances rather than helps. The Spirit alone quickeneth a dead Church, and He is to be had not by special services as such, but by the hearing of faith. “Not by might nor by power,” etc. “I will pour My blessing on thy seed, and My spirit on thy offspring.” Hear this, ye Churches, and your souls shall live.
The mode of salvation
A great delusion is upon the heart of man as to his salvation. His ways are perverse. He does not love the law of God; nay, his mind is opposed to it, and yet he sets up to be its advocate. When he understands the spirituality and severity of the law, he reckons it to be a sore burden; and yet, when the gospel is preached, and set forth as the gift of sovereign grace, and he is bidden to accept it by an act of faith, he professes great concern about the law, lest it should be made void by the freeness of grace. He takes the broken pieces of the two tables of the law, and hurls them at the cross. He will resort to any pretence to oppose the way of salvation appointed by God. The reason is, that man is not only poor, but proud; not only guilty, but conceited. He will not humble himself to be saved upon terms of Divine charity. Rather than believe God, he will accept the proud falsehoods of his own heart, which delude him into the flattering hope that he may merit eternal life. Against this error the text opposes itself. St. Paul points out to the Galatians that they were bound to admit, each one for himself, that they received the Holy Spirit by faith, and by no other means.
I. An argument of experience for the people of God.
1. See the testimony to this in the early history of the Church (Acts 1:1-26; Acts 2:1-47; Acts 3:1-26; Acts 4:1-37; Acts 5:1-42; Acts 6:1-15; Acts 7:1-60; Acts 8:1-40.).
2. In your own experience.
(d) Communion with God.
(e) Assurance. These are all received by “the hearing of faith.” They cannot be obtained in any other way but that.
II. An argument derived from observation for the use of seekers. Honesty, generosity, righteousness--these have not justified, cannot justify. Why not abandon this vain method, and try the Lord’s appointed way “the hearing of faith”?
1. Personal hearing. Each for himself.
2. Hearing of the gospel. The faith that saves does not come by just hearing whatever comes first; it only comes by hearing the testimony of the Spirit to the appointed Saviour.
3. Attentive hearing.
4. The hearing of faith. Accepting the gospel as God’s message, and depending upon it fully and wholly. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The venture of faith
When a man is in trouble of spirit, faith is a venture to him; it appears to him to be the greatest venture possible. He that saith, “This gospel which I have heard is true, and I will venture my soul upon the truth of it,” is the man who has given to the gospel “the hearing of faith.” Let me try to set forth faith yet again: This bridge is strong enough to carry me over the stream, therefore I am going over the stream upon it. That is real faith. Faith is a most practical principle in daily life. The most of trade hangs on trust. When a man sows wheat he has to scatter it into the furrows and lose it, and he does so because he has faith that God will send a harvest. When the sailor loses sight of the shore, he has to sail by faith; believing in his compass, he feels safe, though he may not see land for weeks. Faith is the hand which receives what God presents to us, and hence it is a simple, childlike thing. When a child has an apple offered him, he may know nothing about the orchard in which the apple grew, and nothing of the mechanism of his hand and arm, but it is quite enough for him to take the apple. Faith does the most effectual thing when it takes what God gives. All the rest may or may not be. Faith is the main thing. When God holds out to me salvation by Christ Jesus, I need not ask anything further about it, but just take it to myself and be at once saved, for by faith the Spirit of God is received. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Faith and works
I heard a grumbler say, “We do not want this doctrine. What we want is more morality and honesty.” You remind me of a poor little child. His father planted bulbs to come up in the spring, and make the garden gay with golden flowers. But the boy said, “We don’t want bulbs; we want crocus cups and daffodils.” The child forgot that flowers never grow without roots. Flowers stuck into the ground without roots are babes, follies, and good works without faith are childish vanities. We preach faith in order that good works may follow, and they do follow. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Having begun in the Spirit.
I. The commencement of salvation is the holy spirit’s work. Salvation is not begun by--
1. The means of grace alone.
2. The minister or priest.
II. What the holy spirit does at the beginning. He--
1. Regenerates the soul.
2. Teaches the soul that it is incapable of saving itself.
3. Gives the grace of faith, and applies the cleansing blood of Christ.
4. Brings all precious things to the believer.
1. To the sceptic.
2. To the self-righteous.
3. To the morally estimable. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A good beginning and a sad ending
I. A good beginning.
1. In the faith given by the Spirit.
2. In the enjoyment of the Spirit through faith.
3. In the experience of spiritual privileges.
4. In the use of spiritual powers.
5. In the discharge of spiritual duties.
6. In the exercise of spiritual hopes of perfection and heaven.
II. A sad ending. Flesh may mean either
(1) the beggarly elements of Galatians 4:9, or
(2) the works of the flesh, Galatians 5:19.
1. The works of the law will not secure perfect holiness: as shown in the ease of Paul and Luther.
2. The works of the flesh will not give perfect happiness, as shown in the case of Augustine and John Newton.
3. Because both alike throw away the means by which both holiness and happiness are promoted here and consummated in heaven.
1. To begin as you intend to continue.
2. To continue as you have begun.
Though the man of mean estate, whose own want instructs his heart to commiserate others, say to himself, “If I had more good, I would do more good”; yet experience justifieth the point that many have changed their minds with their means, and the state of their purse hath forespoken that of their conscience. So they have begun in “the charity of the spirit,” and ended in the “cares of the flesh.” (T. Adams.)
There are impetuous good people; fickle good people; unwise good people; let us say it out, foolish good people, who lack wisdom, and do not know they lack it. A certain sober judgment ought to mark Christians. They should be like the needle in the mariner’s compass, not like the pendulum which, within its limited range, is always going from one extreme to another. They should not startle people with paradoxes, nor banish all confidence in them by the wildness with which they unfold their ideas to minds quite unprepared. (Dr. John Hall.)
Love of change
It will be found that they are the weakest-minded and the hardest-hearted men that most love variety and change; for the weakest-minded are those who both wonder most at things new, and digest worst things old; in so far that everything they have lies rusty, and loses lustre from want of use. Neither do they make any stir among their possessions, nor look over them to see what may be made of them, nor keep any great store, nor are householders with storehouses of things new and old; but they catch at the new-fashioned garments, and let the moth and thief look after the rest; and the hardest-hearted men are those that least feel the endearing and binding power of custom, and hold on by no cords of affection to any shore, but drive with the waves that cast up mire and dirt. (John Ruskin.)
The work of the Spirit in the Church
I. The Church is the product of the Holy Ghost. This is the doctrine of the whole of this text; it is the cord by which all its parts are bound together. Throwing the minds of the Galatians back upon the beginning of their religious life, whether as Churches, or as individual believers, the apostle reminds them that then they received the Holy Ghost. They began in the Spirit. This truth admits of a twofold application. First, in relation to the Church as a whole; secondly, in relation to those who compose its members.
1. The Church of Christ had no existence before the Holy Spirit was given. In the Old Testament, and also in the New, an assembly or congregation of men received that name (Deuteronomy 18:16;: Nehemiah 5:13; Psalms 22:22; Acts 7:38; Acts 19:32-40). But the Church of Christ, which is His body, has been originated by the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38-41; 1 Peter 1:2). Before the coming of Christ, and during His ministry on the earth, the Holy Spirit was in the world.
2. Believers enter upon the new life through the Holy Spirit. They are born of the Spirit.
II. All the attainments of the Church are reached through the help of the Spirit.
1. That the Spirit dwells in His people that they may make progress in the Divine life. Truth relating to salvation is revealed by Him (1 Corinthians 11:10). Guidance is given through Him (1Co 8:14). Liberty (2 Corinthians 3:18). His presence is the earnest of the future inheritance (Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 1:14).
2. Through the Holy Ghost the conditions and circumstances of this present life are made subservient to spiritual ends.
III. The efficiency and power of the Church depend upon the Spirit.
1. It is possible for Churches, after having received the Holy Spirit, to lose His gracious presence and power.
2. The most fatal means to this end is renouncing faith in Christ as the all-sufficient Saviour.
3. Turning from Christ, and from the Spirit’s work, is conduct most foolish in its commencement, and most disastrous in its final results.
4. Avoiding the errors described in the text, all Christians should seek to profit by instruction and correction, and through the Spirit to become thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (R. Nicholls.)
Have ye suffered so many things in vain?
The vanity of past Christian life in the case of apostasy
Unless you continue faithful to the end, all your former Christian life must remain without the recompense God longs to bestow. Your struggles, your self-sacrifice, will all be unrewarded. The apostasy of the closing days of your life would render worthless the fidelity of all your previous years. You have done so well, that if now you do not fail you will have an abundant entrance into glory. It is not God’s will that any who have suffered with Christ should miss the honour and blessedness of reigning with Him. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)
The power of hopefulness
It is worthy of consideration on the part of all who are entrusted with the moral and religious care of others, that throughout Holy Scripture there is the union of kindly loving hopefulness with strong and even stern rebuke. If in despair of men who have gone grievously wrong, they will soon despair of themselves. Those who have been most successful in prevailing others to trust in Christ have commonly had an ardent and unconquerable persuasion that they should succeed; the eager faith of their own hearts has passed into the hearts of those with whom they pleaded. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)
Use of adversity
As the skilful pearl-seller and cunning lapidary doth willingly suffer the Indian diamond or adamant to be heavily smitten, because he knoweth well the hammer and anvil will sooner be bruised than the diamond or adamant be broken; so our most wise God suffereth men of excellent virtues, of unquenchable love and charity, and invincible constancy, to fall into divers temptations, great afflictions, and manifold miseries, because He will have their moral grace to break out and shine before men, that they, seeing the constancy of His saints, may glorify God which is in heaven. (Cawdray.)
Backsliders run in vain
The philosopher, being asked in his old age why he did not give over his practice, and take his ease, answered, “When a man is to run a race of forty furlongs, would you have him sit down at the nine-and-thirtieth, and so lose the prize? We do not keep a good fire all day, and let it go out in the evening, when it is coldest; but then rather lay on more fuel, that we may go warm to bed.” He that slakes the heat of his zeal in old age will go cold to bed, and in a worse case to his grave. Though the beginning be more than half, yet the end is more than all. (Spencer.)
He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles.
I. Its nature. The supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in man.
1. In ordinary Christians: regeneration; Christian energy” moral influence.
2. In extraordinary ministers, as apostles and prophets: miracles; tongues; prophecy. The latter form intermittent; the former permanent.
II. Its origin. Divine, and therefore to be distinguished from--
1. The intellectual inspiration of genius.
2. The emotional inspiration of rhapsody.
3. The evil inspiration of imposture.
On the lowest possible hypothesis the inspiration of Shakespeare, Mohammed, and Simon Magus must differ not only in degree but in kind from that of St. Paul.
III. Its measure.
1. Sufficient for
(1) the age in which it works;
(2) the purpose for which it is given.
2. According to the capacity of the recipient.
IV. The means of its enjoyment.
1. Not the works of the law. The folly of this supposition may be seen by the endeavour to work for the inspiration of the poet; but poets are born, not made. So are apostles and Christians.
2. By the hearing of faith. We do not call the genius a deserving man, but a “gifted” man; so is the apostle in working miracles, and the Christian in exerting his influence for good.
Inspiration, literary and moral
The great, the sublime, is almost always something involuntary and unforeseen. The higher we rise in literary creation, the more it seems as though we get effaced, and no longer dispose of ourselves. The mediocre in our achievements is thoroughly our own. We feel this by our fatigue, our exhaustion. The great is given us. We write under dictation; we do not know the source, we cannot predict the arrival. It is ours, and yet not ours. What we are, then, we are by grace; and thus all poets have spoken of their inspiration, of a God in us, of a mens divinior, Remarkable testimony, and too little reflected upon! Oh, why will man, who in his artistic life so readily believes in grace and in the Spirit, in his moral life believe only in himself? Why not understand this confession of poets, and recognize in general that man is not the source but the channel and the organ of all that rises above the habitual level of his life; that he is then only a medium through which the Divine alternately appears and disappears. (Vinet.)
Inspiration to be respected
Let, us respect in each man, whether he be poet or no, the moment--so well named that of inspiration--when he says more than he knows, does more than he can, and becomes more than he is; that mysterious moment when he ceases to comprehend himself, when he honours himself not in what he himself is, but in the word he has just pronounced, the act he has just accomplished; when, perhaps, he trembles at the unforeseen height on which that effort has placed him, because well aware that his own strength cannot sustain him there. It is the Titan raising himself beneath the mountain that crushes him, or some imprisoned god that sighs within our breast. (Vinet.)
The use of miracles
“Miracles,” says Fuller, “are the swaddling-clothes of the infant churches”; and, we may add, not the garments of the full-grown. They were as the proclamation that the king was mounting his throne; who, however, is not proclaimed every day, but only at his accession. When he sits acknowledged on his throne, the proclamation ceases. They were as the bright clouds which gather round and announce the sun at his first appearing: his midday splendour, though as full, and fuller indeed, of light and heat, knows not those bright heralds and harbingers of his rising. Or they may be likened to the framework on which the arch is rounded, which framework is taken down as soon as that is completed. (R. C. Trench.)
Miracles of to-day
Miracles are like candles lit up until the sun rises, and then blown out. Therefore, I am amused when I hear sects and Churches talk about having evidence of Divine authority, because they have miracles. Miracles in our time are like candles in the street at midday. We do not want miracles. They are to teach men how to find out truths themselves; and, after they have learned this, they no more need them than a well man needs a staff, or than a grown-up child needs a walking-stool. They are the educating expedients of the early periods of the world. As such, they are divinely wise. After they have served their purpose as such, it is humanly foolish for persons to pretend to have them. There is no teaching in Scripture of a stated providence of miracles. They are not daily helps. They do not even belong to the mere economic relations of men. In secular things, God helps the men that help themselves. (H. W. Beecher.)
Even as Abraham believed God.
The faith of Abraham
I. A simple, child-like dependence on the naked word of God.
II. An acceptance of and trust in God’s promised Saviour.
III. A renouncing of his own works as meritorious.
IV. A faith that wrought by love, making him the friend of God.
V. One that overcame the world, leading him to seek a better country.
VI. One that evinced its reality by a self-denying obedience. (T. Robinson.)
I. Its object.
1. The promise of a seed, and consequently of a Saviour.
2. The faith of the gospel not simply Divine promise of salvation, but the specific offer of a Saviour.
II. Its ground.
1. Neither reason nor sense.
2. But the solemnly given, clearly stated, perfectly sufficient, wholly unsupported Word of God.
3. So the Christian rests on the offer of Christ (John 3:36).
III. Its acting.
2. Full-hearted (Romans 4:21).
IV. Its effect. It was counted to him for righteousness.
1. The nature of justification. Possessing no righteousness of his own, Abraham had the righteousness of another (not yet revealed) set to his account.
2. The time. The instant a soul believes, whether he is cognisant of it or not. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.)
I. It was faith in the personal revealed, covenant Jehovah; not merely in a word or sign, or in a prospect.
II. The bond of covenant. Faith on the one side, God dealing with a sinful creature as righteous on the other. The elements of that bond are--
1. Gracious acceptance.
2. Gracious revelation
3. Gracious reward of obedience. (W. Roberts, M. A.)
In Abraham the attitude of trustfulness was most marked. By faith he left home and kindred, and settled in a strange land; by faith he acted upon God’s promise of a race and an inheritance, although it seemed at variance with all human experience; by faith he offered up his only son, in whom alone that promise could be fulfilled (Acts 7:2-5; Romans 4:16-22; Hebrews 11:8-12; Hebrews 11:17-19). Thus this one word “faith” sums up the lesson of his whole life. (Bp. Lightfoot.)
Abraham justified by faith
Powerful as is the effect of these words when we read them in their first untarnished freshness, they gain immensely in their original language, to which neither Greek nor German, much less Latin or English, can furnish any full equivalent. “He supported himself, he built himself up, he reposed as a child in his mother’s arms” (such seems to be the force of the Hebrew) in the strength of God, in God whom he did not see, more than in the giant empires of earth, and the bright lights of heaven, or the charms of tribe and kindred, which were always before him. It was counted to him for “righteousness.” It “was counted to him,” and his history seals and ratifies the result. His faith transpires not in any outward profession, but precisely in that which far more nearly concerns him and every one of us, in his prayers, his actions, in the righteousness, uprightness, moral elevation of soul and spirit which sent him on his way straightforward, without turning to the right hand or to the left. (Dean Stanley.)
He was justified by faith when his faith was mighty in effect, when he trusted in God, when he believed the promises, when he expected a resurrection of the dead, when he was strong in faith, when he gave glory to God, when, against hope, lie believed in hope; and when all this passed into an act of a most glorious obedience, even denying his greatest desires, contradicting his most passionate affections, offering to God the best thing he had, and exposing to death his beloved Isaac at the command of God. “By this faith he was justified,” saith St. Paul; “by these works,” saith St. James, i.e., by this faith working this obedience. (Jeremy Taylor.)
Marks of a justifying faith
He that hath true justifying faith believes the power of God to be above the power of nature; the goodness of God above the merit and disposition of our persons; the bounty of God above the excellency of our works; the truth of God above the contradiction of our weak arguings and fears; the love of God above our cold experience and ineffectual reason; and the necessity of doing good works above the faint excuses and ignorant pretences of disputing sinners; but want of faith makes us generally wicked as we are, so often running to despair, so often baffled in our resolutions of a good life; but he whose faith makes him more than conqueror over these difficulties, to him shall Isaac be born even in his old age, the life of God shall be perfectly wrought in him; and by this faith, so operative, so strong, so lasting, so obedient; he shall be justified, and he shall be saved. (Jeremy Taylor.)
Faith accounted for righteousness
We call a child’s imitation of copper-plate writing a copy, though every letter betrays a fault, and the whole effort, strictly speaking, more a caricature than a copy, but there is sincere intention in it, and therefore we account it a copy. In imputing faith for righteousness God acts by way of encouragement, and uses the most certain means by bringing us to righteousness at last. (E. W. Shalders, M. A.)
Trusting the promises
Last winter a man crossed the Mississippi on the ice, and, fearing it was too thin, began to crawl on his hands and knees in great terror; but when he gained the opposite shore, all worn out, another man drove past him gaily, sitting upon a sled loaded with pig-iron. That is just the way most Christians go up to the heavenly Canaan, trembling at every step lest the promises shall break under their feet, when really they are secure enough for us to hold our heads and sing with confidence as we march to the better land.
Abraham a witness to the doctrine of justification by faith
I. The text speaks of a gracious blessing. The blessing Abraham received was that his faith was accounted to him for righteousness. This is another term for justification. For the amplification of this part of the subject see Romans 4:1-8. Justification is a gracious blessing, for it includes--
1. The forgiveness of sins.
2. “The being brought into the right relationship with Divine law. When a man has broken the Divine law, he is not justified--he feels himself condemned and excluded from the Divine favour. Could he be but once restored, and brought into harmony with that Divine law, he would be justified.”
3. “The being brought into a state of potential righteousness. While justification is not to be confounded with sanctification, it implies that sanctification will take place in the processes of spiritual recovery through which we shall pass. We are justified among other reasons because we shall be sanctified.” How precious, then is this blessing!
II. The text states by whom this blessing is enjoyed. “They which are of faith.” This means--
1. Those who for salvation put no trust in any human work. They have no confidence in the flesh, in hereditary privileges, or national distinctions. (The Jews trusted in the fact that they were the natural descendants of Abraham.)
2. Those who through faith alone seek to obtain and retain spiritual life. “Those who are not working that they may obtain the favour of God as a meritorious reward, but who are believing that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself; and that the gift of God is eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
III. The apostle introduces a witness to these truths. To those who boasted that Abraham was their father, and who yet clung to the law for justification, the apostle declares that Abraham obtained the favour of God not as a worker but as a believer.
1. The object of Abraham’s faith. “He believed God.” Bearing in mind the incidents of his life, this is abundantly clear that the Being in whom he trusted was the Almighty.
2. The subject of Abraham’s faith.
3. The result of his faith.
1. There is no righteousness possible to us but through faith.
2. The inheritance of the gospel is a spiritual inheritance.
3. The Divine promise is the support of faith. (R. Nicholls.)
They which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
The children of Abraham
By grace all believers are such.
I. By imitation: in that Abraham is set forth as a pattern in the steps of whose faith believers walk.
II. By succession: in that they succeed him in the same blessing.
III. By a kind of spiritual generation: in that Abraham by believing the promise of a seed did after a sort beget them and receive them as his children (Romans 9:8). Here then is the true mark of a child of Abraham: to be of his faith.
1. The Jews are not his children though descended of Isaac, because they follow not the faith of Abraham.
2. Nor the Papists, in spite of their antiquity and numbers, unless they are of his faith.
3. Nor the mere professors of that faith (Matthew 7:22). To be children of Abraham we must--
(1) Have knowledge of the promises touching the blessing of God in Christ.
(2) Believe the power and truth of God to accomplish those promises.
(3) Faithfully follow God in all things. (W. Perkins.)
The example faithful Abraham
I. The particulars of this example. In his faith in God’s promise, he considered--
1. The terms of the promise.
2. The attributes of Him who made it.
II. The duty of imitating this example.
1. We must, like Abraham, think of--
(1) The object.
(2) The promise.
(3) The promiser.
2. Our faith, like his, must be--
III. The benefit of such an example. (T. Dale, M. A.)
Children of Abraham--Spiritual kinship
To be the children of a person, in a figurative sense, is equivalent to, “to resemble him, and to be involved in his fate, good or bad.” The idea is, similarity both in character and circumstances. To be “the children of God,” is to be like God and also, as the apostle states it to be, “heirs of God.” To be “the children of Abraham,” is here to resemble Abraham, to imitate his conduct, and to share in his blessedness (John 8:39; 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:1; 1 John 3:8-9). It is as if the apostle had said, “These Judaising teachers talk much of the glory and advantage of being children of Abraham, and insist that it is by circumcision that men attain to this dignity and happiness. But how far is this from the truth! Abraham’s highest distinction was that he was a justified person, a friend of God; and this distinction he attained not by circumcision, but by faith. It follows, then, that they who believe like Abraham, and are like Abraham justified through believing, they--they alone--are his true spiritual descendants. Though a man should be “a Hebrew of the Hebrews, circumcised the eighth day, and touching the righteousness that is in the law, blameless,” if he is not a believer, he is not spiritually a child of Abraham. And if a man be but a believer, be he Jew or Gentile, he is spiritually a child of Abraham. And this fact, that all who believe, whether they were descendants of Abraham or not, were to be made partakers of his blessedness, was distinctly enough taught in the ancient oracles given to Abraham. (John Brown, D. D.)
The blessing of the gospel
All the weight and force hereof lies in the words “with faithful Abraham.” For he puts a plain difference between Abraham and Abraham; of one and the selfsame person making two. As if he said: There is a working and there is a believing Abraham. With the working Abraham we have nothing to do. For if he be justified by works, he hath to rejoice, but not with God. Let the Jews glory as much as they will of that begetting Abraham, which is a worker, is circumcised, and keepeth the law; but we glory of the faithful Abraham, of whom the Scripture saith, that he received the blessing of righteousness through his faith, not only for himself, but also for all those which believe as he did; and so the world was promised to Abraham, because he believed. Therefore all the world is blessed; that is to say, receiveth imputation of righteousness, ii it believe as Abraham did. Wherefore the blessing is nothing else but the promise of the gospel. And that all nations are blessed, is as much as to say, that all nations shall hear the blessing; that is, the promise of God shall be preached and published by the gospel among all nations. To bless signifieth nothing else, but to preach and teach the word of the gospel, to confess Christ, and to spread abroad the knowledge of Him among all the Gentiles. And this is the priestly office, and continual sacrifice of the Church in the New Testament, which distributeth this blessing by preaching and by ministering of the sacraments, by comforting the broken-hearted, by distributing the word of grace which Abraham had, and which was also his blessing; which when he believed, he received the blessing. So we also believing the same are blessed. (Luther.)
Faith obtains salvation
I have seen shrubs and trees grow out of the rocks, and overhang fearful precipices, roaring cataracts, and deep running waters; but they maintained their position, and threw out their foliage and branches as much as if they had been in the midst of a dense forest. It was their hold of the rock that made them secure, and the influences of nature that sustained their life: so believers are oftentimes exposed to the most horrible dangers in their journey to heaven; but, so long as they are “rooted and grounded” in the Rock of Ages, they are perfectly secure. Their hold of Him is their guaranty; and the blessings of His grace give them life, and sustain them in life. And as the tree must die, or the rock fall, before a dissolution could be effected between them, so either the believer must lose his spiritual life, or the rock must crumble, ere their union can be dissolved. (J. Bate.)
And the Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith.
The Scripture foreseeing
I. God foresaw that He would justify the heathen through faith.
II. Foreseeing this issue, God announced it by word of mouth to Abraham.
III. Moses recorded it in the spirit of prophecy.
IV. Paul justifies this use of scripture here, and in Romans 15:1-4, and 1 Corinthians 10:1-11. See also 1 Peter 1:11-12.
V. We may apply it to the New Testament.
1. The Scripture foresaw and provided against the doctrine of the supremacy of Peter, which is the foundation of the Papal claims (Galatians 2:11, etc.; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 5:1-3).
2. Against mariolatry (Luke 8:21; Luke 9:28). (Dean Goulburn.)
The foresight of Scripture
The Old Testament is endowed with foresight of the New; the New with foresight of things that should come after in the history of the Church. The Scripture expresses the prescience of its Divine Author. Nor is there any ground for confining this prescience to great events, and the solemn crises of ecclesiastical history. God foresaw us, with the circumstances into which we should be thrown, the characters which we should exhibit, the temptations to which we should be subjected. Writing in the spirit of foresight we may well conceive then that He has dropped a word for each one of us somewhere in His book, and that this word will find us out, and come home to us if we study it under the light of prayer. (Dean Goulburn.)
I. Its antiquity--preached to Abraham.
II. Its universality.
1. In its objects: heathen, all nations.
2. In its terms: faith.
III. The slowness but sureness of its development: foreseeing.
IV. Its gratuitousness: justification
V. Its blessedness.
1. Fellowship in Abraham’s privileges on earth.
2. Fellowship with Abraham in heaven.
The universality of the gospel. Salvation is for all the sinful family of man. The plan is vast, immense, worthy of God. The arms of Divine love are open to embrace all. All nations are invited to the life-giving waters of God’s grace. Let the sons of wealth come, and they shall be welcome; let the hardy sons of toil come, and they shall quench their thirst; let the ignorant come, and they shall be made wise unto salvation; let the young come, and Godwill be their guide through life; let the aged come, and they shall find peace at the eleventh hour. (Thomas Jones.)
The worst are justified by faith
Mr. Fleming, in his “Fulfilling of the Scriptures,” relates the case of a man who was a very great sinner, and for his horrible wickedness was put to death in the town of Ayr. This man had been so stupid and brutish a fellow, that all who knew him thought him beyond the reach of all ordinary means of grace; but while the man was in prison, the Lord wonderfully wrought on his heart, and in such a measure discovered to him his sinfulness, that after much serious exercise and sore wrestling, a most kindly work of repentance followed, with great assurance of mercy, insomuch, that when he came to the place of execution, he could not cease crying out to the people, under the sense of pardon, and the comforts of the presence and favour of God,--“O, He is a great forgiver! He is a great forgiver!” And he added the following words,--“Now hath perfect love cast out fear. I know God hath nothing to lay against me, for Jesus Christ hath paid all; and those are free whom the Son makes free.”
The gospel is
I. Old as Abraham: the promise given to him contained the spirit of it--the assurance of it--the power of it, for he was justified by faith.
II. Comprehensive as the world: it includes all nations--offers them the same privileges--on the same terms.
III. Unchangeable as God: it is His purpose.
foreseen and predicted--steadily advancing with the course of time--must be fully accomplished in the happiness of all nations. (J. Lyth.)
Are blessed with faithful Abraham.
Aspects of faith
I. Faith as a possessor--“of faith.”
1. Men are hardly believers in the fullest sense until they have been mastered and subjugated by their faith.
2. History, secular and sacred, is full of examples of men who have not only had faith, but have belonged to faith.
The true believer--
1. Acts on faith’s impulse;
2. Follows faith’s guidance as a good servant
II. Faith as a possession--“Faithful.”
1. There is a partial faith
(1) of the intellect;
(2) of the affections;
(3) of the will;
(4) of the life.
Of these one may act without the other. We may believe in Christ
2. There is a fulness of faith which embraces all.
III. Faith as a bond of union, “Blessed with Abraham.”
1. This bond unites all classes, Jew and Gentile.
2. Unites all ages.
3. Unites all classes and ages in a common blessedness.
Believers are saved
I recollect the lesson which I learned from my Sunday school class, Though yet a youth, I was teaching the gospel to boys, and I said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” One of them asked somewhat earnestly, “Teacher, are you saved?” I answered, “I hope so.” As if he had been sent to push the matter home to me the boy replied, “Teacher, don’t you know?” and further inquired, “Teacher, have you believed?” I said, “Yes.” “Have you been baptized?” I said “Yes.” Well, then, he argued, “You’re saved.” I was happy to answer, “Yes, I am,” but I had hardly dared to say that before. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
God’s people blessed in faithful Abraham
I. Observe, then, in the first place--Abraham is declared to be faithful and blessed. Truly he may well be called faithful Abraham; for though there are some evident marks of want of faith in Abraham, yet this is saying no more of him than of any one of God’s people. In those the most excellent--standing forth the most prominently in God’s Word--it is remarkable, that in the very point in which the Holy Ghost made them peculiarly excellent--gave a peculiar beauty in their character--you will find in that very point are they distinguished, in some few stages of their journey, for that which is the direct opposite; and if that teaches us no more than this, than Abraham was not saved for his faith’s sake--that Job was not saved for his patience” sake--that David was not saved for his courage’ sake--it leads us to this, to say that by grace they were saved, and not by anything wrought in them or done by them. When we look at the character of this eminent servant of God, truly he was distinguished for this most excellent gift--the faith of God’s elect. But observe: the passage also asserts that faithful Abraham was “blessed,” Faithful Abraham had temporal blessings. That’s one proof, among many, why I cannot think that Abraham’s covenant is the same with our gospel covenant. There was the act of circumcision that entitled him to a blessing; and there was the promised land--the temporal good. Surely this does not savour of the unearthly gospel. The gospel covenant gives no promise of any temporal blessing, except, indeed, in this way”Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these shall be added unto you.” All these things shall be thrown in. Ye shall find riches in your poverty, and health in your sickness. Ye shall find that God, who worketh by contraries, shall give you real good even out of evil. But His covenant gives no assurance of earthly blessings, though the covenant of Abraham did; and that’s one reason, among ten thousand, why I never could consider it the same with the gospel covenant. But besides this, Abraham was especially blessed in spiritual things. He inherited the promise--the great promise. He inherited the promise of Isaac, and saw through him the Messiah that was to be cut off, but not for Himself.
II. But now observe, secondly, that “they which be of faith are blessed with him.” When it is said that “they which be of faith,” we are not to understand that they have the same measure of faith as Abraham. My dear friends, we are oftentimes accused of laying too great stress on faith. I never heard a believer think we laid too much stress upon faith. I hear of those who talk of faith as a blind man talks of colours, unable to describe or truly to understand that of which he speaks. I have heard them saying we lay too much stress upon faith; but the Apostle Paul wrote two whole Epistles especially on this subject; and you will find, throughout the whole of the Romans, and throughout the whole of the Galatians, how great and how continued a stress he lays on this most important point; and how is that? He knew well this grand subject of faith sinks everything else. As faith is strong, so every thing is strong. When our views of faith rise, so our views of God rise; and when such is the case, obedience to the law of God flows as a stream, pervades the heart, and worketh by love--subjecteth the will, and leadeth a man upwards to his salvation. All the blessings are received by faith. They are as much received by faith as I receive the bread I eat. That bread becomes mine as I eat it, it becomes mine by appropriation, as it were--it becomes my own, to nutrify and sustain me; and so, by faith, Christ becomes the support of my spiritual frame. I now come to that part of the subject which opens a great and glorious prospect: “they are blessed.” They who have Christ are blessed; they inherit the promise--the great promise--Christ--Jehovah--Jesus the Saviour. They have Him in the glory of His person, the perfection of His work, and all the fulness of His grace. Oh I what a blessing has that man who has Christ for his portion. Does any one doubt it? They are blessed because they are hastening to that world where they shall be superlatively blessed. (J. H. Evans.)
Abraham; or, the influence of faith
Let us consider:
I. The character of his faith. Few things are more talked about, and less understood, than this subject of faith. St. James teaches us in his second chapter and twenty-sixth verse, that there are two distinct kinds of faith--that, as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. There are those who possess what we may call a living faith amongst the heathen--a faith which indeed does not come down from the living Spirit--but it inspires the soul of the Hindoo mother when she is constrained to cast her own child beneath the wheels of the ponderous machine which carries the god called Juggernaut. Is it not so, also, where the Jew really trusts on his god--who, however, is not the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, but one of his own creation? Is it not equally so with the Mahommedan, who will imbrue his hands in the blood of those who deny that Mahomet was God’s prophet? Is it not so with those Roman Catholics who believe the Virgin Mary to be more tender and compassionate than Christ, who came into the world and suffered death to save us? They exercise a living faith, but its object is such as to render it nevertheless short of salvation. You will observe that the right object of faith is as essential as the living principle of faith. Here then is the one true and only object by which faith is made instrumental in saving the soul. I need not say that faith itself never saves a man--it is the object of that faith. Faith is the instrument--it is not the life which is brought into the soul, but it merely opens the soul to receive that life--it leads the thirsty soul to the waters of life, where it may be refreshed. Still, it may be asked, how can this be true as regards the Old Testament Saints? The text teaches us to take Abraham as a type of the whole of the Old Testament Saints, and that Abraham did believe in Jesus Christ; for you will find in verse 16--“Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, ‘and to seeds,’ as of many; but, as of one, ‘and to thy seed’--which is Christ.” He did believe. As you read in the first lesson of this evening’s service, you will remember that Abraham said unto his son--“My son, God will provide himself a Lamb for a burnt-offering.” Now this Lamb was no other than the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom it is said--“He was the Lamb which was slain from the foundation of the world.” He was regarded by all the Old Testament Saints as a Lamb slain for them. They looked forward to the sacrifice which was to be made, as we look back to it now it has been made. The promise made to Abraham is noticed in Galatians 3:8. Now this does away with the notion that any faith in the abstract can possibly save. I know that there is a common notion amongst men in these latitudinarian days, by which they affirm and endeavour to maintain that it matters little what a man’s faith is, provided it be sincere. Now you will observe from this that it does matter altogether what his faith is; for it may be sincerely placed on a wrong object. We come, therefore, to the inevitable conclusion, that unless the object of your faith be one with the object of Abraham’s faith--i.e., the Lord Jesus Christ, His blessing cannot be yours.
II. The influence of his faith. They that be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham by righteousness imputed to their souls. Another point is, that through faith Abraham walked with God. St. James tells us that Abraham was a friend of God. What an exalted honour and privilege is this. Can there be any term more endearing to the believing soul than to be called the friend of God? And yet Jesus says to His people, “Ye are my friends”! Now, dear friends, those who be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. They have the same blessing, and they, too, are the friends of God. How do they prove they are His friends? They follow the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ, who says, “My sheep hear My voice, and they follow Me.” Through faith Abraham was supported in all his trials, and protected in all his dangers; and was there ever a friend of God left in an un-befriended state by God? No! Genesis 15:1 --“Fear not, I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” He is a shield to ward off and protect. But not only was Abraham blessed: he was made a blessing to others. He was made a blessing to all the families of the earth by being the father of the seed to whom the promises were made. He was also a blessing by his bright example of faith and holiness, and all who follow his example shall receive his blessing. He was made a blessing to others; and, dear friends, all who are “of faith” are “blessed with faithful Abraham” by being made a blessing to others. Suffer me, then, to ask you, brethren, whether you this night have the mark of the blessing of Abraham? Because, if you have not this mark, you have not his faith, and consequently are not blessed with him. There is, one thought more before we leave the subject, Abraham through faith realized the Lord as his portion. You will find in Genesis 15:1 : “I am thy shield and exceeding great reward.” Dear friends, what a depth there is here! “I am thy exceeding great reward!” This is what we are all seeking for--a recompense for our labours, toils, and anxieties. But here--“All them that be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham”--they have the Lord as their “exceeding great reward.” He is their portion, their everlasting inheritance--He is their all in all in this world! But here is a blessing which reaches not only to the end of time, but to all eternity. (G. A. Rogers, M. A.)
The blessing in Abraham is like a stream
I. Full--of comfort and refreshment for guilty man--of promise for the world.
II. Flowing--first enjoyed by Abraham--it flows on through time.
III. Expansive--it reaches to all nations.
IV. Free--for every one that believeth.
V. Inexhaustible--for its source is Christ. (J. Lyth.)
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.
The curse and its removal
I. The curse of the law is of universal application. All are born under the law, and are bound to observe it. But all have broken it, and their guilt remains. There is no question of mercy here. Law, viewed in itself, knows no mercy. It pronounces a man righteous only on condition of perfect obedience. The chain is severed, though only one link be broken. The cable which joins two continents together, fails to convey the electric current if hut a single flaw exist in it. Every other part may be perfect; but one fault mars the whole. So with law. Thus all are under condemnation.
II. The spirit of the law is antagonistic to faith. The starting-point of the law is obedience.
III. The curse removed. Christ not only died for our sins, but suffered that particular kind of death with which the law had specially connected the infliction of the curse, and so became a curse for us.
1. He who was to remove the curse must not be Himself liable to it. The Substitute for the guilty must Himself be innocent.
2. He who was to be the Substitute for all, must have the common nature of all.
3. He who was to do more than counterbalance the weight of the sins of all, must have infinite merits of His own, in order that the scale of Divine justice may preponderate in their favour.
4. In order that He may remove the curse pronounced in the law of God for disobedience, He must undergo that punishment which is specially declared in that law to be the curse of God.
5. That punishment is hanging on a tree (Deuteronomy 21:23). (Emilius Bayley, B. D.)
The curse realized
The curse that men have in this life is as nothing compared with the curse that is to come upon them hereafter. In a few short years, you and I must die. Come, friend, I will talk to you personally again--young man, we shall soon grow old, or, perhaps, we shall die before that time, and we shall lie upon our bed--the last bed upon which we shall ever sleep--we shall wake from our last slumber to hear the doleful tidings that there is no hope; the physician will feel our pulse, and solemnly assure our relatives that it is all over! And we shall lie in that still room, where all is hushed except the ticking of the clock, and the weeping of our wife and children: and we must die. Oh, how solemn will be that hour when we must struggle with that enemy, Death! The death-rattle is in our throat--we can scarce articulate--we try to speak; the death-glaze is on the eye; Death hath put his fingers on those windows of the body, and shut out the light for ever; the hands well-nigh refuse to lift themselves, and there we are, close on the borders of the grave! Ah! that moment, when the spirit sees its destiny; that moment, of all moments the most solemn, when the soul looks through the bars of its cage, upon the world to come! No, I cannot tell you how the spirit feels, if it be an ungodly spirit, when it sees a fiery throne of judgment, and hears the thunders of Almighty wrath, while there is but a moment between it and hell. I cannot picture to you what must be the fright which men will feel, when they realize what they often heard of. It is a fine thing for you to laugh to-night! But when you are lying on your deathbed, you will not laugh. Now, the curtain is drawn, you cannot see the things of the future, it is a very fine thing to be merry. When God has removed that curtain, and you learn the solemn reality, you will not find it in your hearts to trifle … I think I see that terrible day. The bell of time has tolled the last day. Now comes the funeral of damned souls. Your body has just started up from the grave, you unwind your cerements and look up. What is that I see? Oh! what is that I hear? I hear one dread, tremendous blast, that shakes the pillars of heaven, and makes the firmament reel with affright; the trump of the archangel shakes creation’s utmost bound. You look and wonder. Suddenly a voice is heard, and shrieks from some, and songs from others--He comes, He comes, He comes--and every eye must see Him. There He is; the throne is set upon a cloud, which is white as alabaster. There He sits. ‘Tis He, the Man that died on Calvary--I see His pierced hands--but ah, how changed! No thorn-crown now. He stood at Pilate’s bar, but now the whole earth must stand at His bar. He opens the book. There is silence … “Come, ye blessed”… “Depart, ye cursed.” Oh, escape, before it is too late. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Mercy needed by all
Though we have sinned less than others, we cannot be saved by merit; even as, thank God, though we have sinned more than others, we maybe saved by mercy. How idle to talk of other men being greater sinners than we are--to flatter and deceive ourselves with that! He drowns as surely who has his head beneath one inch of water, as he who, with a millstone hung round his neck, has sunk a hundred fathoms down. Let the strain of the tempest come, and the ship that has one bad link in her cable, as certainly goes ashore to be dashed to pieces on the rocks, as another that has twenty bad. It is, no doubt, by repeated strokes of the woodman’s axe that the oak, bending slowly to fate, bows its proud head and falls to the ground, and it is by long dropping that water hollows the hardest stone. But those who speak of great and little, of few or many, sins, seem to forget that man’s ruin was the work of one moment, and of one sin. The weight of only one sin sank this great world into perdition; and now all of us, all men, lie under the same sentence of condemnation. Extinguishing every hope of salvation through works, and sounding as ominous of evil in men’s ears, as the cracking of ice beneath our feet, or the roar of an avalanche, or the grating of a keel on the sunken rock, or the hammer that wakens the felon from dreams of life and liberty, that sentence is this: “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law, to do them.” Such is our position; and instead of shutting our eyes to it, like the foolish ostrich that hides her head in the bush when the hunters are at her heels, it is well to know and to face it. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)
Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things.--
The slightest flaw is fatal
Who does not see that the tiniest flaw or fracture in a diamond vitiates the whole gem, be it a very Koh-i-noor--that the smallest streak or stain sets aside the marble block of Carrara that is like the driven snow--that the slightest spot or speck dims to rejection the whole polished speculum--that the most insignificant leak is perilous? In these cases it will not arrest the verdict, to allege the fault is so very small. Actual transactions can easily be quoted which establish this. Once a famous ruby was offered to this country. The report of the crown jeweller was that it was the finest he had ever seen or heard of, but that one of its facets--one of the “little” cuttings of the face--was slightly fractured. The result was, that almost invisible flaw reduced its value by thousands of pounds, and it was rejected from the regalia of England. Again: when Canova was about to commence his great statue of the great Napoleon, his keenly-observant eye detected a tiny red line running through the upper portion of the splendid block, which at infinite cost had been fetched from. Paros, and he refused to lay a chisel on it. Once more: in the story of the early struggles of the elder Herschel, while he was working out the problem of gigantic telescope specula, you will find that he made scores upon scores ere he got one to satisfy him. A scratch like the slenderest spider-cord sufficed to place among the spoiled what had cost him long weeks of toil and anxiety. Again: in the leak of a ship, the measure of the ship to resist the shock of wave or the strain of wind, is not, its strongest but its weakest part. The tremendous issues contingent on attention or non-attention to the slightest leak, was illustrated in a recent incident in the late deplorable civil war in America. One of the Federal war-ships had what seemed a merely superficial leakage, and, though noticed, it was not thought necessary to countermand the order that she should take part in an approaching conflict. At the crisis of the encounter, it was found that the sea-water had got oozing into the gunpowder magazine, and rendered nearly the whole useless. On that powder hung victory or defeat. The “little leak” went uncared for, and an inferior force won. The very perfection aimed at, you will observe, necessitated rejection of gem, and marble block, and speculum, and leaking timber. Even so, were Christianity a less holy thing--a thing that could abide compromise--then what are called “small sins”--the larger and grosser being acknowledged--might be passed over, winked at. (A. B. Grosart, LL. D.)
Look, as one drop of ink coloureth a whole glass of water, so one gross sin, one shameful action, one hour’s compliance with anything of Antichrist, will colour and stain all the great things that ever you have suffered, and all the good things that ever you have performed; it will stain and colour all the good prayers that ever you have made, and all the good sermons that ever you have heard, and all the good books that ever you have read, and all the good words that ever you have spoken, and all the good works that ever you have done; and therefore, whatever you do, keep off from sin, and keep off from all sinful compliances, as you would keep off from hell itself. (T. Brooks.)
A call to the unconverted
I. Try the prisoner.
1. One pleads “not guilty.” Well, have you continued in all things? Let us go through the Tea Commandments. Each convicts you.
2. Another says, “I shall not plead guilty, because, although I have not continued in all things, I have done the best I could.”
3. Another pleads, “While I have broken the law, I am no worse than others.”
4. Another cries, “I have striven to keep the law, and think I have succeeded a little.”
5. Another, “There are many things I have not done, but I have been virtuous.” But all are guilty because none have continued in all things.
II. Declare the sentence. Sinner, thou art cursed--
1. Not by some wizard.
2. Not by an earthly monarch.
3. But by God the Father.
4. This curse is present.
5. In some cases visible: in the drunkard, e.g.
III. Proclaim the deliverer.
1. Christ has borne your curse.
2. This substitution is realized by penitence and faith.
3. All classes of sinners may be freed from the curse through Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The curse of the law
I. Brings home to the sinner the guilt of sin.
1. He is a debtor to do the whole law
2. But he has broken the whole law in
(1) sins of omission,
(2)sins of commission.
II. Places the sinner under the wrath of God.
1. God has guarded the law with the most solemn and terrible sanctions.
2. The condemnation of the sinner is present as well as future.
III. It reduces the sinner to despair.
1. To perform its obligation.
2. To escape its penalties.
IV. It drives the sinner To Christ the only Saviour who has borne this curse. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
I. Every man by nature is under this curse (Ephesians 2:3).
II. This curse abideth on us till we believe in Christ (John 3:18; John 3:36.)
III. There is no way of escaping this curse but by fleeing to Christ for refuge (Hebrews 6:18).
IV. Having accepted Christ, the life of faith must become one of sincere obedience (1 John 5:3; Galatians 5:24).
V. But when Christ is tendered and finally refused, the sentence of the law is ratified in the gospel, the court of mercy. (T. Manton.)
The claims of the law
I. Practical obedience: not hearing, knowing, speaking what is written, but doing.
II. Personal obedience--“every one.” Proxies, sureties, mediators, are excluded.
III. Perfect obedience--“all things,” every jot and tittle as well as weightier matters.
IV. Perpetual obedience--past, present, future. (Swinnock.)
No salvation by works
The voice of that cromlech stone, which still stands on our moors, the centre of the Druids’ grey, lonely, mystic circle, and on whose sloping surface I have traced the channel which, when human victims lay bound on this altar, drained off the blood of beautiful maiden, or grim captive of the fight--the voice of those tears the Indian mother sheds, as she plucks the sweet babe from her throbbing bosom to fling it into the Jumna or Ganges’ sacred stream--the voice of those ruined temples which, silent now, once resounded with the groans of expiring victims, what are these, again, but an imperfect echo of the words, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us? (Dr. Guthrie.)
Righteousness by works
I read lately that the Emperor of Brazil had given the Queen a dress made of spiders’ webs; it took 17,000 webs to make it. What a curiosity! No doubt the Queen would keep it all her life. Such a robe is the righteousness of works without Christ, a curiosity indeed, but not made to stand the storm of the judgment day.
One sin ruinous
One wheel broken in the machinery will render the whole inefficient; one breakage of a stave in the ladder may make it unfit for safe and full use; one piece of rail displaced on the railway may result in fearful disaster: one inch of wire cut out of the telegraph would prevent the use of all the rest, whatever its extent; one failure in any law of Nature may go on producing other failures ad infinitum. So the transgression of but one law of God: it is ruinous to the soul; it leads on to innumerable transgressions; it violates the whole code. (J. Bate.)
The penalty of the law is--
I. Severe--in character--authority--execution.
II. Comprehensive--includes every sinner-every sin.
III. Inevitable--except through God’s mercy--for none is guiltless, can satisfy the demands of the law or make amends for the past. (J. Lyth.)
I. Its import--it includes Divine condemnation--moral weakness--misery--death.
II. Its extent--it reaches all men because all have sinned--are incapable of fulfilling the law--are condemned by the law.
III. Its severity--the law permits no escape--provides no justification--insists upon its full demands.
IV. Its relief--God is merciful--has made full satisfaction--justifies us by faith. (J. Lyth.)
Redemption from the curse of the law
I. The fearful condition of men as transgressors--“Under the curse.”
1. What the law demands.
2. The reasonableness of this requirement. Law cannot be satisfied with partial obedience.
3. The doom denounced upon all who do not comply with this requirement.
(1) It is universal--“Cursed is every one,” etc.
(2) It is unspeakably awful in its nature.
(3) It is present in its infliction.
(4) It is irremediable as far as our own deeds and deservings are concerned.
II. The blessedness of those who are interested in the glorious provisions of the Gospel--“Christ hath redeemed us.”
1. The person who interposed in order to effect our redemption.
2. From what He redeems.
3. How this redemption was effected--“Being made a curse for us.”
4. The blessed results which flow from His redeeming work. (Expository Outlines of Sermons.)
Transgressors of the law are under the curse
The law consists of two parts: a system of precepts, and the sanction and enforcement of those precepts by promises and threatenings. According to the first, it is the rule of our obedience, and shows what we ought to render unto God. According to the second, it is the rule of Divine justice, and shows what God will render unto us.
I. The sanction of this law is twofold. First: A promise of life and happiness to the observers of it (Romans 10:5; Galatians 3:12; Ezekiel 20:11). Second: Threatenings of a most heavy and tremendous curse against all that transgress it; a curse that will blast and wither their souls for ever.
1. What the apostle means by those who are “of the works of the law.” To be of the works of the law signifies no other than to expect justification and eternal happiness by legal works; to depend wholly on our obedience unto and observation of the law, to render us acceptable to God and worthy of eternal life. Those, who thus rely on a legal righteousness, are said to be of the works of the law; as persons are said to be of such or such a party, because they stiffly defend the cause of the law; and stand for justification by the observance of it, in opposition to the grace of the gospel, and the way of obtaining justification and eternal life by believing.
2. What it is to be accursed. So that the true and proper notion of a curse is this: That it is the denunciation or execution of the punishment contained in the law, in order to the satisfaction of Divine justice for transgressing the precepts of it.
(1) Some, therefore, are only under the curse denounced. And so are all wicked men, whose state is prosperous in this life, though they flourish in wealth and honour, and float in ease and pleasure; yet are they liable to all that woe and wrath, with which the threatenings of the law stand charged against them.
(2) Some are under the curse already executed. And so are all wicked men, on whom God begins to take vengeance and exact satisfaction in the miseries and punishments which He inflicts on them in this life,
II. You see, then, what an universal curse these words denounce; a curse that sets “its mouth and dischargeth its thunder against all the sinful sons of Adam. A curse it is which, as Zechariah speaks (Zechariah 5:3), “goeth forth over the face of the whole earth;” and will, if mercy rebate not the edge of it, cut off on every side all those that stand in its way; that is, all that are sinners, and all are so; for the characters which the apostle doth here give to those who are under the curse of the law are so general and comprehensive, that no man living could possibly escape if God should judge him according to the conditions of the covenant of works.
1. It is said that every one is accursed that doth not those things which are written in the book of the law. And this is a curse that cuts off on both sides. On this side it cuts off those who are but negatively righteous, who ground all their hopes for heaven and happiness upon what they have not done and put into the inventory of their virtues that they have not been vicious, no extortioners, no unjust persons, no adulterers, etc., but, alas! this account will not pass in the day of reckoning; the law requires thee not only to forbear the gross acts of sin but to perform the duties of obedience. And it cuts off on that side all those who have done contrary to what is written in the law.
2. Those, also, who have not done all that is written in the law are struck with this anathema or curse. And where is the man that dares lift up his face to justify himself against this charge?
3. But suppose that, at some time or other, thou shouldst have performed every particular duty; yet, hast thou continued in all things that are written in the law to do them? Hast thou spun an even thread of obedience? Are there no flaws, no breaks, no breaches in it? Hast thou been always constant in the highest fervour of thy zeal for God? Hast thou been in the fear of the Lord all the days of thy life? Have thy affections never languished; thy thoughts never turned aside, so much as to glance upon vanity? Didst thou never drop one unsavoury word, nor do any one action which, both for the matter and manner of it, was not perfectly agreeable to the law?
III. This curse is most dreadful, if we consider that it is universal, and extends itself not only over all persons but unto all things. Everything which a sinner either doth or hath is accursed to him.
1. He is accursed in all his temporal enjoyments. His bread is kneaded and his drink mingled with a curse, his table becomes a snare to him, and every morsel he eats is dipped in the bitterness of God’s wrath and curse. His very mercies are curses unto him; as, on the contrary, a true believer’s afflictions are blessings.
2. He is accursed in all his spiritual enjoyments. And, oh, what a sad and dreadful curse is this that thou, who comest to hear the same word preached, which to ethers proves the savour of life unto life eternal, to thee, through the corruption and wickedness of thine own heart, it should prove the savour of death unto death eternal!
3. If all the favours of God’s providence and all the dispensations of His grace; then, certainly, much more are all their chastisements and afflictions turned into curses. If there be poison in the honey, much more certainly is there in the sting. If God be wroth with them when He shines, much more when He frowns upon them.
4. In hell they shall be cursed to purpose, and lie for ever under the revenging wrath of God. Their sentence is, “Depart from me, ye cursed” (Matthew 25:41). Hell, indeed, is the general assembly of all curses and plagues. They are eternally cursed
(1) In their separation from the sight and presence of God.
(2) In the society of devils and damned spirits.
(3) In the work of hell, which is blaspheming and cursing.
(4) In the pains and torments which they must eternally suffer.
1. See what an accursed thing sin is that carries, wrapped up in its bowels, woe, wrath, and eternal death.
2. If every transgressor of the law be accursed, see, then, the desperate folly of those wretches who make light of sin, and account the commission of it a matter of small or no concern to them.
3. If every transgression exposes us to the curse, beware, then, that you never encourage yourself to commit any sin because the world accounts it but small and little.
4. See here, what reason we have to bless God for Jesus Christ, who has delivered us from the curse of the law. (E. Hopkins, D. D.)
The desert of sin
Though some sins are greater than others, yet there is no sin but deserves damnation. Consider--
1. The party condemned by the law. Every sinner. Condemned for omissions as well as commissions.
2. The doom pronounced. God’s wrath and curse.
I. I shall show, what is God’s wrath and curse which every sin deserves.
1. God’s wrath is no passion nor is there any perturbation in God, though an angry God. His wrath may be taken up in these two things.
(1) God’s displeasure against the sinner (Psalms 5:4-5). Sin makes the soul loathsome and hateful in God’s sight, kindles a holy fire in His heart against the sinner (Psalms 90:11).
(2) God’s dealing with sinners as His enemies, whom He is incensed against (Nehemiah 1:2; Isaiah 1:24). The wrath of a king is as the roaring of a lion; what then must the wrath of God be, an enemy where we can neither fight nor flee from, neither outwit nor outbrave? Of this wrath it is said, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
2. His curse is His separating one to evil (Deuteronomy 29:21). It is a devoting the sinner to destruction, to all the direful effects of the Divine wrath.
II. I shall show, what is God’s wrath and curse in this life and that which is to come.
1. In this life they comprehend all the miseries of this world which one meets with on this side of time, miseries on the body, relations, name, estate, employment; miseries on the soul, as blindness, hardness, vile affections, horrors of conscience, etc., and, finally, death in the separation of soul and body. Thus they make a flood of miseries in this life.
2. In the life to come they comprehend eternal death and damnation, and an eternal being under the punishment of loss and sense in hell. So they make a shoreless sea of miseries in the life to come.
III. I proceed to show, that there is no sin which does not deserve these, but that every sin deserves this wrath and curse,
1. The wages of every sin is death (Romans 6:23).
2. Every sin is a breach of the law; and he who breaks it in erie point is guilty of all (James 2:10). The commands of the law have all one Author, whose majesty is offended by whatsoever breach. The law requires universal obedience.
3. Christ died for all the sins of all His elect (1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 1:7).
4. The least sin will condemn a man if it be not forgiven (Matthew 5:19); even idle words (Matthew 12:36-37).
IV. I come to show, why every sin deserves so much. The reason is, it is a kind of infinite evil; and, therefore, since the punishment is deservedly proportioned to the offence, it deserves infinite punishment. Sin is an infinite evil in two respects.
1. In respect that the guilt and defilement of it is never taken away, but endures for ever, unless the Lord Himself in mercy do remove it.
2. In respect it wrongs an infinite God. The creature, being finite, is not capable of punishment infinite in value, therefore it is necessarily infinite in duration, There is a manifold wrong to God in the least sin.
(1) It wrongs His infinite sovereignty (James 2:10-11).
(2) It wrongs His infinite goodness (Exodus 20:1-2).
(3) It wrongs His holiness (Habakkuk 1:13).
(4) It breaks His law, the eternal rule of righteousness (1 John 3:4). (T. Boston, D. D.)
The condition of men under the broken covenant
In a shipwreck, when the ship is dashed in pieces upon a rock, how heavy is the case of the crew among the raging waves? The ship can no more carry them to the harbour, but, failing them, leaves them to the mercy of the waves. If one can get a broken plank to hold by, that is the greatest safety there; but that doth often but hold in their miserable lives for a little, till the passengers are swallowed up. Such, and unspeakably worse, is the case of sinners under the broken covenant of works, which leaves them under the curse, as we see in the text. In which we have--
1. The covenant-state of some of mankind, yea, of many of them. They “are of the works of the law;” it is the same thing as to be of the law of works; that is, to be under the covenant of works.
2. The state and case of men under that covenant; they “are under the curse.” The covenant is broken, and so they are fallen under the penalty. As the blessing or promise, which they have lost, comprehends all good for time and eternity, soul and body; so the curse comprehends all evil on soul and body for time and eternity.
3. The proof and evidence of this their miserable state and case.
I. I shall evince the truth of this doctrine, that there are some, yea, many of mankind, who are still under the broken covenant of works. This will clearly appear, if ye consider--
1. That there are but “few that shall be saved” (Matthew 7:14). Christ’s flock is but a very little flock (Luke 12:32). The truth is, all men by nature are under it, and so are born under the curse (Ephesians 2:3).
2. The Scripture is plain on this head. It curseth and condemneth many; Galatians 3:10, “Cursed is every one,” viz., who is under the law; for its curse cannot reach others, there being “no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). It condemns all unbelievers; John 3:18, “He that believeth not is condemned already,” viz., by the sentence of the law as the covenant of works; for the covenant of grace condemns no man (John 5:45); said our Lord to the Jews, “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father; there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.” Chap. 12:47, “And if any man hear My words and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world but to save the world.”
3. As all men in Adam were taken into the covenant of works, so no man can be freed from the obligation of it, but they who are discharged from it by God, who was man’s party in it. This is evident from the general nature of contracts. And none are discharged from it but on a full answering of all it could demand of them (Matthew 5:18). This no man can attain unto but by faith in Jesus Christ, whereby the soul appropriates and applies to itself Christ’s obedience and satisfaction offered in the gospel; and so, pleading these, gets up the discharge; “For being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
4. Freedom from the covenant of works is such a privilege as requires both price and power, each of them infinite, to invest a sinner with it.
5. There are many who still live as they were born; in the same state wherein their father Adam left them when he broke; who were never to this day in any due concern how to be discharged from the debt he left upon their head, or of the bond of the covenant of works which in him they entered into.
6. There are but two covenants, viz., of works and grace (Galatians 4:24), as there never were but two ways of life and salvation, by works and by grace; and but two federal heads of mankind, the first and second Adam.
II. Those under the covenant of works described.
1. Men may be under the covenant of works, and yet living under the external dispensation of the covenant of grace.
2. Men may receive the seals of the covenant of grace, and yet be under the covenant of works.
3. Men may be convinced in their consciences of the impossibility of obtaining salvation by Adam’s covenant of works, and yet remain under it still.
4. Men, upon the offer of the covenant of grace made to them, may aim at accepting of it, and so enter into a personal covenant with God, and yet remain under the covenant of works. But more particularly and directly--
(1) All unregenerate persons are under the covenant of works. That man or woman is yet a branch of the old Adam, growing on the old stock, a stranger to ,the new covenant, because not in Christ, the head of the covenant.
(2) All that have not the Spirit of Christ dwelling in them are under the covenant of works, for “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Romans 8:9). Galatians 5:8, “But if ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” It is one of the first promises of the covenant of grace, the giving of the Spirit (Ezekiel 37:27), “A new Spirit will I put within you.”
(3) All unbelievers (John 3:18). Whosoever is destitute of saving faith is under the covenant of works; for it is by faith that one is brought within the bond of the covenant of grace, is married unto Christ, being dead to the law.
(4) All unsanctified, unholy persons (Romans 6:14). So that true holiness is an infallible mark of one delivered from the law; and unholiness, of one that is yet hard and fast under it (Galatians 5:18).
(5) All profane, loose, and licentious men are under the covenant of works (Romans 7:5; Romans 8:2). These men of Belial are under that heavy yoke.
(6) All mere moralists, such as satisfy themselves with common honesty and sobriety, living in the meantime strangers to religious exercises, and without a form of godliness. These are under the covenant of works, as seeking justification and acceptance with God by their conformity (such as it is) to the letter of the law (Galatians 5:4). They are under the covenant of works with a witness, having betaken themselves to their shreds of moral honesty, as so many Broken boards of that split ship.
(7) All formal hypocrites or legal professors, these sons and daughters of the bond-woman (Galatians 4:24-25). These are they who have been convinced, but never were converted; who have been awakened by the law, but were never laid to rest by the gospel; who are brought to duties, but have never been brought out of them to Jesus Christ; who pretend to be married to Christ, but were never yet divorced from nor dead to the law; and so are still joined to the first husband, the law, as a covenant of works.
III. The effect of the broken covenant of works upon those who are under it.
1. It has and exercises a commanding power over them, binding them to its obedience with the strongest bonds and ties of authority.
(1) It commands and binds to perfect obedience under pain of the curse.
(2) It commands, without any promise of strength at all to perform.
2. It has a debarring power over those under it, in respect of the promise. It bars them from life or salvation so long as they are under its dominion,
(1) There is no life to the sinner without complete satisfaction to justice for the wrong he has done to the honour of God and His law; Hebrews 9:22, for “without shedding of blood is no remission.”
(2) There is no life and salvation without perfect obedience to its commands for the time to come; Matthew 19:17, “If thou wilt enter into life,” says Christ unto the young man in the gospel, “keep the commandments.” This was the condition of the covenant; and it is not enough that a man pay the penalty of a broken covenant, but he must perform the condition of it ere he can plead the benefit.
3. A cursing and condemning power, in respect of the threatening.
4. An irritating influence upon all that are under it, so that, instead of making them better, it makes them worse, stirring up their corruptions, like a nest of ants, being “troubled by one’s touching of them (Romans 7:9-11). Now this is accidental to the law as the covenant of works; for it is holy, and just, and good; and therefore ,an never bring forth sin as the native fruit of it. But it is owing to the corruption of men’s hearts, impatient of restraint (Romans 7:12-13), forecited. While the sun shines warm on a garden, the flowers send forth a pleasant smell; but while it shines so on the dunghill, it smells more abominably than at other times. So it is here. There are two things here to be considered in the case of the law.
(1) It lays an awful restraint on the sinner with its commands and threatenings (Galatians 3:10). The unrenewed man would never make a holy life his choice; might he freely follow his own inclination, he would not regard what is good, but give himself a liberty in sinful courses. But the law is as a bridle to him; it crosses and contradicts his sinful inclinations. It is to him as the bridle and spur to the horse; as the master and his whip to the slave. So that the sinner can never cordially like it, but all the obedience it gets from him is mercenary, having no higher springs than hope of reward and fear of punishment.
(2) In the meantime it has no power to subdue his corruptions, to remove his rebellious disposition, to reconcile his heart to holiness, or to strengthen him for the performance of duty; “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). As it finds the man without strength, so it leaves him, though it never ceases to exact duty of him. Though no straw is given to the sinner by it, yet the tale of the bricks it will not suffer to be diminished.
IV. I now proceed to show, why so many do still remain under the broken covenant of works.
1. It is natural to men, being made with Adam, and us in his loins; it is engrained in the hearts of all men naturally. “Tell me,” says the apostle (Galatians 2:21), “ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?” And there are impressions of it to be found in the hearts of all among the ruins of the fall. We have a clear proof of it--
(1) In men left to the swing of their own nature; they all go this way in their dealing with God for life and favour.
(2) In men awakened and convinced, and in moral seriousness seeking to know what course they shall take to be saved, and plying their work for that end. They all take this principle for granted, That it is by doing they must obtain life and salvation (Matthew 19:16).
(3) in the saints, who are truly married to Jesus Christ, O what hankering after the first husband, how great the remains of a legal spirit, how hard is it for them to forget their father’s house! (Psalms 45:10).
2. The way of that covenant is most agreeable to the pride of man’s heart. A proud heart will rather serve itself with the less, than stoop to live upon free grace (Romans 10:3). Man must be broken, bruised, and humbled, and laid very low, before he will embrace the covenant of grace. While a broken board of the first covenant will do men any service they will hold by it rather than come to Christ; like men who will rather live in a cottage of their own than in another man’s castle.
3. It is most agreeable to man’s reason in its corrupt state. If one should have asked the opinion of the philosophers concerning that religion which taught salvation by a crucified Christ, and through the righteousness of another, they would have said it was unreasonable and foolish, and that the only way to true happiness was the way of moral virtue.
4. Ignorance and insensibility of the true state of the matter as it now is. There is a thick darkness about Mount Sinai through the whole dominion of the law, so that they who live under the covenant of works see little but what they see by the lightnings now and then flashing out. Hence they little know where they are nor what they are.
(1) They do not understand the nature of that covenant to purpose (Galatians 4:21).
(2) They are not duly sensible of their own utter inability for that way of salvation.
V. Application of this doctrine.
1. For information. Hence learn--
(1) That some, yea, many of mankind, are under the curse, bound over to wrath.
(2) See here whence it is that true holiness is so rare, and wickedness and ungodliness so rife.
(3) Here ye may see the true spring of legalism in principles as well as in practice.
(4) See whence it is that the doctrine of the gospel is so little understood, and in the purity of it is looked at as a strange thing.
2. For exhortation. Be exhorted then seriously and impartially to try what covenant ye are under. For motives, consider--
(1) It is in the region of the law that we all draw our first breath. And no man will get out from its dominion in a morning dream. We owe it to our second birth, whoever of us are brought into the covenant of grace; but that is not our original state.
(2) Till once ye see yourselves under the covenant of works, and so lost and ruined with the burden of that broken covenant on you; ye may hear of the covenant of grace, but ye will never take hold of it in good earnest (Galatians 2:6). Here lies the ruin of the most part who hear the gospel; they were never slain by the law, and therefore never quickened by the gospel; they never find the working of the deadly poison conveyed to them from the first Adam, and therefore they see no beauty in the second Adam for which He is to be desired.
(3) Your salvation or ruin turns on this point.
(4) There is no ease for a poor sinner but severity and rigour, under the covenant of works.
(5) While ye are under that covenant ye are without Christ (Ephesians 2:12). And being without Christ, ye have no saving interest in his purchase.
(6). All attempts you make to get to heaven while under this covenant will be vain. The children of that covenant are, by an unalterable statute of the court of heaven, excluded from the heavenly inheritance; so that, do what you will, while ye abide under it you may as well fall a-ploughing the rocks, and sowing your seed in the sand of the sea, as think to get to heaven that way. (T. Boston, D. D.)
The misery of those under the broken covenant
I. What the curse is which men are under.
1. God’s curse.
2. The curse of the law.
(1) the revenging wrath of God is in it.
(2) A binding over of the sinner unto punishment for the satisfaction of offended justice.
(3) A separating of the sinner unto destruction.
II. What it is to be under the curse.
1. Under the wrath of God.
2. Bound over to revenging justice.
3. A mark for the arrows of vengeance.
III. Confirmation of the truth of this doctrine.
1. This is evident from plain Scripture testimony. The text is express.
2. It is evident from the consideration of the justice of God, as the Sovereign of the world.
Two things will make this clear.
1. The breaking of that covenant, whereof all under it are guilty, deserves the curse. They broke it in Adam, and they are breaking it every day; and so they deserve the curse. Now, sin’s deserving of the curse does not arise from the threatening of eternal wrath annexed for a sanction to the commands in the law, as our new divinity would have it; that is framed for bringing believers under the curse of the law too. But it arises from sin’s contrariety to the command of the holy law; for it is manifest, that sin does not therefore deserve a curse, because a curse is threatened against it; but because it deserves a curse, therefore a curse is threatened. Now look at sin in the glass of the holy commandment, and you will see it deserves the curse. For the commandment is--
(1) An image of the sovereign spotless holiness of God--“The law is holy” (Romans 7:12). When God would let out the beams of His own holiness to man, He gave him the law of the ten commandments, as a transcript of it, and wrote them in his heart; and afterwards, the writing being much defaced, He wrote them to him in His Word. So the commandment is holy without spot, as God is. So that the creature rising up against the commandment, riseth up against God.
(2) It is an image of His righteousness and equity, whereby He does justly to all: “The commandment is just” (Romans 7:12). The commandment is all right in every part, and of perpetual equity” I esteem all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right” (Psalms 119:128). Look to it as it prescribes our duty to God, to our neighbour, and to ourselves (Titus 2:12). It is of spotless and perfect righteousness, as that God is whose righteous nature and will it represents.
(3) An image of His goodness The commandment is good (Romans 7:12). It is all lovely, lovely in every part; lovely in itself, and in the eyes of all who are capable to discern truly what is good, and what evil--“O how I love Thy law!” (Psalms 119:97). Conformity to it is the perfection of the creature, and its true happiness, as rendering the creature like unto God (1 John 3:2). Thus the breaking of the covenant, by doing contrary to the holy commandment, is the transgressing of the holy, just, and good will of our sovereign Lord; a defacing of and doing violence to His image, who is the chief good and infinite good. Therefore sin is the chief or greatest evil, and consequently deserves the curse.
2. Since it deserves the curse, the justice of God, which gives everything its due, ensures the curse upon it (Genesis 18:25; 2 Thessalonians 1:6). If sin did not lay the sinner under the curse, how would the rectoral justice of God appear? He will rain a terrible storm on the wicked, not because He delights in the death of the sinner, but because He loves righteousness (Psalms 11:6-7), and His righteousness requires it.
3. It appears from the threatening of the covenant--“In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). And the truth of God requires that it take effect, and be not like words spoken to the wind.
4. If man had once run the course of His obedience, being come to the last point of it, he behoved to have been justified and adjudged to eternal life, according to the tenor of the covenant--“The man which doth those things shall live by them” (Romans 10:5); the sentence of the law would immediately have passed in his favour, according to the promise. And therefore man, having once broken the covenant, falls under the curse, and is adjudged to eternal death; for the curse bears the same relation to the threatening that law-justification bears to the promise.
5. Christ’s being made a curse for sinners is a clear evidence of sinners being naturally under the curse. (T. Boston, D. D.)
Man’s condition under the curse
The most terrible scene that men are capable of beholding, in time or eternity. Happy they who timely behold it, so as to be thereby stirred up to flee to Christ.
I. The condition of the natural man’s soul under the curse. This is the most noble part of man. In the moment he sinned, his soul fell under the curse. And so
1. His soul was separated from God, in favour with whom its life lay.
2. Hence, man’s soul-beauty was lost; death seized on him by sin, his beauty went off. A dead corpse is an awful sight, where the soul is gone.. But thy dead soul, from which God is gone, O natural man I is a more awful one. Couldst thou see thy inward man, as well as thou seest the outward, thou wouldst see a soul within thee of a ghastly countenance, the eyes of its understanding set, its speech laid, all the spiritual senses now locked up, no pulse of kindly affection towards God beating any more; but the soul lying speechless, motionless, cold and stiff like a stone, under the curse.
3. Hence the whole soul is corrupted in all the faculties thereof. As the soul being gone, the body corrupts; so the soul, being divested of its original righteousness, is wholly corrupted and defiled, having a kind of verminating life in it--“They are altogether become filthy” (Psalms 14:3). And as when the curse was laid on the earth, the very nature of the soil was altered; so the souls of men under the curse are quite altered from their original holy constitution. This appears in all the faculties thereof.
(1) Look into the mind, framed at first to be the eye of the soul; there is a lamentable alteration upon it under the curse. “O how is the fine gold become dim!” There is a mist upon it, whereby it is become weak, dull, and stupid in spiritual things, and really incapable of these things. Darkness has sat down on the mind--“Ye were sometimes darkness” (Ephesians 5:8); and there spiritual blindness and ignorance reign, not to be removed by man’s instruction, or any power less than what can take off the curse. This cursed ground is fruitful of mistakes, misapprehensions, delusions, monstrous and misshapen conceptions in Divine things; doubtings, distrust, unbelief of Divine Revelation, grow there, of their own accord, as the natural product of the cursed soil; while the seed of the word of the kingdom sown there does perish, and faith cannot spring up in it, for such is the soil that they cannot take with it.
(2) Look into the will, framed to have the command in the soul, and it is in wretched plight. Its uprightness for God is gone, and it is turned away backward from Him. It is not only under an inability for good, but having lost all power to turn itself that way--“We were without strength” (Romans 5:6); “For it is God which worketh in you to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13); but it is averse to it, as the untrained bullock is to the yoke (Psalms 81:11).
(3) Look into the affections, framed to he the arms and feet of the soul for good, and they are quite wrong. Set spiritual objects before them to be embraced, then they are powerless, they cannot embrace them, nor grip them stedfastly; they presently grow weary, and let go any hold they have of them; like the stony-ground hearers, who because they had no root withered away (Matthew 13:6). But as for carnal objects, agreeable to their lusts, they fly upon them, they clasp and twine about them; they hold so fast a grip, that it is with no small difficulty they can be got to let go their hold. Summon them to duty, they are flat, there is no raising of them, they cannot stir; but on the least signal given them by temptation, they are like Saul’s hungry soldiers, flying on the spoil.
(4) Look into the conscience, framed to be in the soul God’s deputy for judgment, His spy, and watchman over His creature; and it is miserably corrupted--“Their mind and conscience is defiled” (Titus 1:15). It is quite unfitted for its office. It is fallen under a sleepy distemper, sleeping and loving to slumber.
(5) Look into the memory, framed to be the storehouse of the soul, and the symptoms of the curse appear there too. Things agreeable to the corruption of nature, and which may strengthen the same, stick fast in the memory, so that often one cannot get them forgotten, though they would fain have their remembrance razed. But spiritual things natively fall out of it, and are soon forgotten; the memory, like a leaking vessel, letting them slip.
4. Man being in these respects spiritually dead, the which death was the consequent of the first sin, the curse lies on him as a gravestone, and the penalty binds it upon him, that he cannot recover. So he is in some sort, by the curse, buried out of God’s sight.
5. Hence that corruption of the soul grows more and more. As the dead corpse, the longer it lies in the grave, it rots the more, till devouring death has perfected its work in its utter ruin; so the dead soul under the curse grows worse and worse in all the faculties thereof, till it is brought to the utmost pitch of sin and misery.
6. And hence the corruption of nature shoots forth itself in innumerable particular lusts, according to its growth (Mark 7:21-23). But this is not all the misery of the soul under the curse; there are additional plagues, which by the curse they are liable to, who are under it. These soul-plagues are of two sorts--silent strokes, and tormenting plagues.
1. Silent strokes, which make their way into the soul with no noise; but the less they are felt, they are the more dangerous; such as--
(1) Judicial blindness.
(2) Strong delusions.
(3) Hardness of heart.
(4) A reprobate sense.
(5) Vile affection.
2. Tormenting plagues. Many are the executioners employed against the soul fallen under the curse, who together do pierce, rack, and rend it, as it were, in pieces.
(4) Sorrow of heart.
(5) Fear and terror.
II. The condition of the natural man’s body under the curse.
1. It is liable to many defects and deformities in the very constitution thereof. Adam and Eve were at their creation not only sound and entire in their souls, but in their bodies, having nothing unsightly about them. But O how often now is there seen a variation from the original pattern, in the very formation of the body! Some are born deaf, dumb, blind, or the like. Some with a want of some necessary organ, some with what is superfluous. Some with such a constitution of body as makes them idiots, the organs of the body being so far out of case, that they are unfit for the actions of the rational life; and the soul is by them kept in a mist during the union with that body. All this is owing to sin and the curse, without which there had been no such things in the body of man.
2. As the temperature of the body was by the first sin altered, so as it disposed to sin (Genesis 3:7), so by the curse that degenerate constitution of it is penally bound on, by which it comes to pass that it is a snare to the soul continually. The seeds of sin are in it; it is “sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3), “a vile body” (Philippians 3:21), and these seeds are never removed while the curse lies on it, being a part of that death to which it is bound over by the curse.
3. It is under the curse a vessel of dishonour. By its original make, it was a vessel of honour, appointed to honourable uses, and was so used by the soul before sin entered; and every member had its particular honourable service, serving the soul in subordination to God. But now it is brought down from its honour, and its “members are yielded instruments of unrighteousness unto sin” (Romans 6:13), and it is abused to the vilest purposes; and it is never restored to its honour till, the curse being removed, it becomes the temple of God, by virtue of the purchase of it made by the blood of Christ.
4. It is liable to many mischiefs from without, tending to render it uneasy for the time, and at length to dissolve the frame of it. From the heavens above us, the air about us, the earth underneath us, and all that therein is, it is liable to hurt.
5. There is a seed-plot of much misery within it. It is by the curse become a weak body, and so liable to much toil and weariness, fainting and languishing under the weight of the exercise it is put to (Genesis 3:19). And not only so, but it hath in it such seeds of corruption, tending to its dissolution, as spring up in many and various maladies, which often prove so heavy that they make life itself a burden.
6. In all these respects the body is a clog to the soul in point of duty, often hanging like a dead weight upon it, unfitting it for, and hindering it from, its most necessary work. The sinful soul is in itself most unfit for its great work, in this state of trial, by reason of the evil qualities of it under the curse. But the wretched body makes it more so. The care of the body doth so take up its thoughts with most men, that, caring for it, the soul is lost. Its strength and vigour is a snare to it, and its weakness and uneasiness often interrupt or quite mar the exercises wherein the soul might profitably be employed. But it may be objected, That by this account of the condition of those under the curse, the case of natural men and of believers in Christ is alike; since it is evident, that not only these bodily miseries, but many of these soul miseries, are common to both. I answer: Though it seem to be alike in the eye of beholders, in regard these miseries are materially the same on natural men and on the children of God; yet really there is a vast difference. On the former they are truly effects of the curse; on the latter they are indeed effects of sin, but not of the curse--“For Christ hath redeemed them from the curse of the law, being made a curse for them” (Galatians 3:13).
(1) The stream of miseries on soul or body to a natural man, runs in the channel of the covenant of works; but to a believer, in the channel of the covenant of grace.
(2) There is revenging wrath in the one, but fatherly anger only in the other.
(3) The miseries of the ungodly in this life are an earnest of eternal misery in hell; but those of the godly are medicines, to keep back their soul from death--“When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:32).
III. The whole man is under the curse. He is cursed--
1. In his name and reputation.
2. In his employment and calling in the world.
3. In his worldly substance.
4. In his relations.
5. In his lot, whether afflicted or prosperous.
6. In his use of the means of grace.
7. In his person.
(1) He is under the power of Satan.
(2) Being under the curse, he is continually in hazard of utter destruction, of having the copestone put on his misery, and being set beyond all possibility of help.
If his eyes were opened he would see himself every moment in danger of dropping down into the pit of hell (Psalms 7:12). (T. Boston, D. D.)
Death under the curse
I. The natural under the curse must not only die, but die by virtue of the curse. Death in any shape has a terrible aspect, it is the king of terrors, and can hardly miss to make the creature shrink, being a destruction of nature, and carrying him into another world where he never was before, and putting him into a quite new state, which he has had no prior experience of. But death to the natural man is in a singular manner terrible; it is death of the worst kind. Soul and body joined in sin against God, and by sin the man was separated from God; and as a meet reward of the error, the companions in sin are separated by the curse at length; which would have remained eternally in a happy union had not sin entered. Now, that we may have a view of death to a sinner by virtue of the curse, consider--
1. It is the ruining stroke from the hand of an absolute God, proceeding according to the covenant of works against the sinner in full measure.
2. It is the breaking up of the peace betwixt God and them for ever: it is God setting His seal to the proclamation of an everlasting war with them; after which no message of peace is to go betwixt them any more for ever.
3. It puts an end to all their comfort of whatsoever nature (Luke 16:25).
4. It is death armed with its sting, and all the strength it has from sin, and a holy just broken law.
5. It is the fearful passage out of this world into everlasting misery (Luke 16:22-23). It is a dark valley at best; but the Lord is with His people while they go through it (Psalms 23:4). It is a deep water at best; but where the curse is removed, the Lord Jesus will be the lifter up of the head, that the passenger shall not sink. But who can conceive the horror of the passage the sinner under the curse has, upon whom that frightful weight lies? It leads him as an ox to the slaughter; it opens like a trap-door underneath him, by which he falls into the pit, and like a whirlpool swallows him up in a moment, and he is staked down in an unalterable state of unspeakable misery.
II. After death he still remains under the curse. Then comes the full execution of the curse, and it is fixed on the sinner without possibility of deliverance.
1. All his sins, of all kinds, in all the periods of his life, from the first to the last breathing on earth are upon him. The curse seals them up as in a bag, that not one of them can be missing (Hosea 13:12).
2. As the man’s sins were multiplied(so the curses of the law were multiplied upon him; for it is the constant voice of the law, upon every transgression of those under the covenant of works, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10). How then can such a one escape, while innumerable cords of death are upon him, before a just Judge with their united force binding him over to destruction?
3. There is no removing of the curse then (Luke 13:25). The time of trial is over, and judgment is to be passed according to what was done in the flesh. When a court is erected within a sinner’s own breast in this world, and conscience convicts him as a transgressor of the law, a covenant breaker, and therefore pronounces him cursed; there is a Surety for the sinner to fly to, an Advocate into whose hands he may commit his cause, a Mediator to trust in and roll his burden on by faith. But before that tribunal there is none for the sinner who comes thither under the curse.
4. Wherefore he must there inevitably sink under the weight of the curse for ever (Psalms 1:5). He must fall a sacrifice for his own sin, who now slights the only atoning sacrifice, even Christ our passover sacrificed for us.
III. The soul is shut up in hell, by virtue of the curse.
1. Separate souls under the curse, after their particular judgment, are lodged in the place of the damned.
2. The dregs of the curse shall there be wrung out to them, and they made to drink them, in the fearful punishment inflicted upon them for the satisfaction of offended justice, for all their sins, original and actual.
3. They are sensible of their lost happiness (Luke 16:23). They see it to their unspeakable anguish. And how must it pierce the wretched soul, to think that not only all is lost, but lost without possibility of recovery?
4. Their consciences are then awakened, never to fall asleep any more for ever. They will scorch them then like a fire that cannot be quenched, and gnaw them like a worm that never dieth. The conscience that was seared till it was past feeling, will then be fully sensible. The evil of sin will then be clearly seen, because felt; the threatenings of the holy law will no more be accounted scarecrows, nor will there be any such fools there as to make a mock of sin.
5. They will be filled with torturing passions, which will keep the soul ever on the rack. Their sinful nature remains with them under the curse, and they will sin against God still, as well as they did in this life; but with this difference, that whereas they had pleasure in their sins here, they shall have none in their sins there.
6. In this state they must continue till the last day, that they be reunited to their respective bodies, and so the whole man get his sentence at the general judgment, adjudging both soul and body to everlasting fire.
IV. The sinner’s body goes to the dust.
1. It is laid up there as in a prison, like a malefactor in a dungeon, to be kept there till the day of execution. The bodies of the godly go to the grave too, but it is a place of rest to them, where they rest as in their bed, till the joyful morning of the resurrection (Isaiah 57:2).
2. Their sin and guilt remains on them there, and that without further possibility of a removal (Job 20:11). Sin is a dangerous companion in life; one had better live in chains of iron, than in chains of guilt; but happy they with whom sin parts when soul and body part at death. That is the lot of believers in Christ, who at the Red Sea of death get the last sight of it. There the Lord says to the dying saint, whether he hears it or not, as Exodus 14:13, “The Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day ye shall see them again no more for ever. But the man dying under the curse, all his sins take a dead gripe of him never to helot go; and when he lies down in the grave, they lie down with him, and they never part.
3. All the ruin brought on their bodies there, is done by virtue of the curse (Job 24:19, “The grave consumes those which have sinned”). Death makes fearful havoc where it comes; not only doth it separate the soul from the body; but separates the several parts of the body one from another, until it reduce the whole into dust, not to be discerned by the quickest eye from common dust. Thus it fares with the bodies of the godly indeed, as well as the bodies of the wicked; nevertheless great is the difference,--the curse working these effects in the bodies of the latter, but not of the former,--stinged death in the one, unstinged death in the other; so all these effects in the one are pieces of revenging wrath for the satisfaction of justice; in the other not so, but like the melting down of the crazy silver vessel, to be cast into a new mould.
V. The wicked shall rise again under the curse.
1. They shall rise again out of their graves by virtue of the curse (John 5:29). When the end of time is come, the last trumpet shall sound, and all that are in the graves shall come forth, godly and ungodly; but the godly shall rise by virture of their blessed union with Christ (Romans 8:11); the ungodly by virtue of the curse of the broken covenant on them. As the malefactor is, in virtue of the sentence of death passed on him, shut up in close prison till the time of execution; and in virtue of the same sentence brought out of prison at the time appointed for his execution; even so the unbeliever is, in virtue of the curse of the law adjudging him to eternal death in hell, laid up in the grave till the last day; and, in virtue of the same curse, brought out of the grave at that day.
2. All their sin and guilt shall rise again with them; the body that was laid in the grave, a vile body; a foul instrument of the soul in divers lusts; an unclean vessel, stained, polluted, and defiled, with divers kinds of filthy-impure lusts; shall rise again with all its impurities cleaving to it (Isaiah 66:24, “They shall be an abhoring unto all flesh “). It is the peculiar privilege of believers to have their “vile bodies changed” (Philippians 3:21). If the bodies of sinners be not cleansed try the washing with that pure water (Hebrews 10:22), viz., the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ; though they be strained in never so minute parts, through the earth in a grave, they will lose nothing of their vileness and pollution, it will still cleave to every part of their dust, and appear again therewith at the resurrection.
3. Their appearance will be frightful and horrible beyond expression, when they come forth of their graves under the curse, and set their feet on the earth again. When, at the sound of the trumpet, the dead shall all arise out of their graves, and the wicked are cast forth as abominable branches, what a fearful awakening will they have out of their long sleep!
VI. Then will appear before Christ’s tribunal under the curse.
1. In virtue of the curse they shall be set on the left hand (Matthew 25:33). No honour is designed for them, but shame and everlasting contempt.
2. The face of the Judge must needs be terrible to them, as being under the curse of Him who sits upon the throne (Revelation 6:16-17).
3. To clear the equity of the curse, and the execution thereof upon them, their “works shall be brought into judgment” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Their whole life shall be searched into, and laid to the rule of the holy law, and the enormity and sinfulness thereof be discovered. The mask will then be entirely taken off their faces, and all their pretences to piety solemnly rejected, and declared to have been but hypocrisy. Their secret wickedness, which they rejoiced to have got hid, and which they so artfully managed, that there was no discovering of it while they might have confessed and found mercy, shall then be set in broad daylight before God and the world when there is no remedy. Conscience shall then be no more blind nor dumb; but shall witness against them and for God; and shall never be silent any more.
4. Their doom shall be pronounced (Matthew 25:41). A final sentence.
VII. They must lie for ever under the weight of the curse in hell.
1. In virtue of the curse, the pit, having received them, shall close its mouth on them.
2. The curse shall then be like a partition wall of adamant, to separate them quite from God, and any the least comfortable intercourse with Him (Matthew 25:41). While on the other side of the wall the light of glory shines, mere bright than a thousand suns, filling the saints with joy unspeakable.
3. It shall hence be a final stop to all sanctifying influences towards them. While they are in this world, there is a possibility of removing the curse, and that the worst of men may be made holy; but when there is a total and final separation from God in hell, surely there are no sanctifying influences there. The corrupt nature they carried with them thither, must then abide with them there; and they must needs act there, since their being is continued; and a corrupt nature will ever act corruptly, while it acts at all (Matthew 7:17).
4. It shall be the breath that shall blow the fire continually, and keep it burning, for their exquisite torment in soul and body (Isaiah 30:33).
5. The curse shall lengthen out their misery to all eternity (Matthew 25:41). Hence, when the sinner has suffered millions of ages in hell, the curse still binds him down to suffer more.
VIII. Practical application.
1. For conviction.
i. Do ye suitably prize and esteem your God, Redeemer, and Saviour? Are your hearts suitably affected with the love of God in Christ, that set on foot your deliverance, and brought it about?
ii. Do ye suitably prize the new covenant, the second covenant? Do ye pry into the mystery of the glorious contrivance, stand and wonder at the device for bringing cursed sinners to inherit the blessing? Would it not become you well to be often looking into it, and saying, “This is all my salvation, and all my desire?” (2 Samuel 23:5.)
iii. Do ye walk answer-ably to the deliverance from this curse? O look to the curse of the covenant of works, from which ye are delivered, and be convinced and humbled to the very dust.
(1) That ye should walk so untenderly, unwatchfully, and uncircumspectly, before the Lord that bought you, and that in the midst of cursed children, a crooked and perverse generation.
(2) That ye should so dote upon this earth, this cursed earth, that the curse of the broken covenant of works has lain upon these five thousand years, and has sucked the sap out of, and so dried up by this time, that it is near to taking fire, and to be burnt to ashes, by virtue of the curse upon it.
(3) That ye should perform duties so heartlessly, coldly, and indifferently; with so little faith, love, fervency, humility, zeal, and confidence. O look to the curse of the broken covenant, with the effects of it in earth and hell, that ye may be stirred up to the performance of duty after another manner.
(4) That ye should bear your troubles and trials so impatiently, as if your crosses were so many curses. Look to the condition of those under the curse in this world, and you will see your heaviest cross is lighter than their smallest ones, yea your adversity is better than their prosperity. Look how Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, and you will see the poison taken out of the cup, and the pure water of affliction presented to you in your cup to pledge Him in; and why not drink it, and drink it thankfully?
iv. Have ye due thoughts of the evil of sin? Is your horror of it suitably raised? Romans 12:9, “Abhor that which is evil,” abhor it as hell, so the word may bear. If you duly consider the curse, it may fill you with shame and blushing on this head.
v. Are ye duly affected with the case of those who, being
(1) Strangers to Christ, are yet under the curse? Are ye at due pains for their recovery and deliverance? How natural is it for men, who with difficulty have escaped the greatest danger, to be affected with the case of others who are still in the same danger, in hazard of perishing?
(2) Sinners; ye who are under the broken covenant of works still, not united to Christ by faith, and savingly interested in the covenant of grace, but living yet in your natural unregenerate state, ye may hence be convinced--
1. That ye are under the curse.
2. That, being under the curse, ye are in a very miserable condition.
3. That your case is desperately sinful, while under the covenant of works.
(1) The guilt of your sin lies on you, the guilt of eternal wrath; and it cannot be removed.
(2) Sin has a reigning power over you; and it neither is nor can be broken, while you continue under that covenant.
4. That while ye remain under that covenant, ye remain under the curse; and there is no deliverance from the curse without deliverance from the covenant.
5. That there is no salvation for you under that covenant.
6. That there is an absolute necessity of being set free from the covenant of works, of being brought into the covenant of grace, and savingly interested in the Lord Jesus, the second Adam.
7. That your help must come wholly from the Lord Jesus Christ, and that you can contribute nothing by your own working for your own relief (Hosea 13:9).
2. For exhortation, First, Let unbelievers, who are still under this covenant, receive these convictions, and be warned, excited, and exhorted timely to sue to be belivered from under the covenant of works, and for that end to be instated in the covenant of grace, by faith in Jesus Christ.
1. The curse is a weight which you will never be able to bear.
2. It is a growing weight; as your sins grow, the curse grows (Romans 2:5).
3. It is a weight that may be now removed from off you (2 Corinthians 6:2), “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Those whom this weight has sunk down into the pit already, it can never be removed from off them; but ye are yet within the reach of mercy, the Mediator is ready to take the yoke off your jaws.
4. If the weight of the curse be not removed from off you, it will be the heavier that deliverance from it was in your power (Matthew 11:21).
5. It will be an eternal weight (Matthew 25:41), “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” There is an eternal weight of glory for the saints in the promise; and an eternal weight of wrath for sinners in the curse, which they shall for ever lie under, and never get clear of. Let these motives then excite and induce you to flee from the curse of the broken covenant of works, unto the covenant of grace, where life is only to be found.
Secondly, believers in Christ, delivered from this covenant--
1. Be thankful for your deliverance, as a deliverance from the curse. Let the warmest gratitude glow in your breasts for so great a deliverance; and let your soul, and all that is within you, be stirred up to bless your glorious Deliverer for this unspeakable blessing.
2. Walk holily and fruitfully in good works, since the bands of death are removed, and your souls are healed. Be holy in all manner of life and conversation; adorning, the doctrine of God your Saviour in all things. Let the whole tenor of your lives testify that you are not under the curse, but that you inherit the blessing of eternal life, by living to the praise and honour of Christ, who hath delivered you from the wrath to come.
3. Turn not back to the broken covenant of works again, in legal principles, nor in legal practices. The more the temper and frame of your spirit lies that way, the more unholy will ye be; and the more your duties savour of it, the less savoury will they be unto your God. It is only by being dead to the law, that ye will live unto God. (T. Boston, D. D.)
Sinners under the curse
The way to Christ lies through the sense of misery.
1. The attribute, “cursed.” This curse is the penalty of God’s violated law, and so an evil of punishment. This evil of punishment being assigned by Divine justice, must be proportionable to the evil of sin.
2. There is the subject expressed as fully and pregnantly as anything in Scripture. Here is no less than a threefold universality; it extends to all persons, times, things.
(1) It is extended to all persons, ever one. It is not some; for so, many might escape. It is not many; for so, some might escape. It is not the greatest part; for so, a considerable part of mankind might be excepted. It is not all; for that might be taken, for some of all sorts; for so, some of every sort might be exempted. But it is every one, simply and absolutely; universal, without restriction, without exception; every one, Jew and Gentile. Adam himself not excepted; the curse seized upon the root, and so diffused itself into every one of the branches. Nay, the second Adam, Christ himself, is not exempted; he taking upon him our sins, came under our curse. Sin and the curse are inseparable. Where-ever sin is, the curse will be, even there where sin is but by imputation.
(2) It is extended to all times. “That continues not.” It is not enough to begin well, it is not enough to persist long, if at length there be any desisting from a practical observance. Wherever there is a breach, the curse enters.
(3) It is extended to all things.
I. Premise something by way of caution. That the expressions may not be mistaken (when I say “the least sin”) observe there is no sin absolutely little. Every sin is big with guilt and provocation. If we speak absolutely, every sin is great; but if we speak comparatively, some sins are greater than others. Astronomy teaches us that the earth, compared with the heavens, is of no sensible magnitude, it is but like a point; yet considered in itself, we know it is a vast body, of a huge bulk. Compare an idle word with blasphemy, it will seem small; or a vain thought with murder. Ay, but consider these in themselves, and they are great sins. There needs no other proof of this than what I am to undertake in the next place. They make liable to eternal death.
1. From general testimonies of Scripture (Romans 1:18; Romans 6:23, etc.).
2. From instances in some particular sins which pass for small in the world.
(1) Omission of good (see Jeremiah 10:25; Matthew 25:30; Matthew 25:42-43).
(2) Secret evils, those that are confined to the heart, and break not out into visible acts. Men are apt to think that the Lord is such a one as themselves, that he will take little notice of those things which men cannot take notice of, and therefore are secure if no pollutions taint their lives, whatever evils lodge secretly in their hearts. But this is a delusion too (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
(3) Idle words, how fearless or careless soever ye are of them, are sufficient to bring you under the curse (Matthew 12:36-37).
(4) Vain thoughts, the unaccountable vagaries of the cogitative faculty, the mere impertinencies of the mind, are of no less concernment to the soul than everlasting condemnation (Acts 8:22). Evil thoughts, while not forsaken, are unpardonable, they are such as infinite mercy will not pardon; and what then remains for these but a fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation?
(5) Motions to sin without consent. Such motions as, arising from our corrupt natures, are suppressed, stifled in the birth, these expose to the curse. For the law requires a conformity to itself, both in qualities, motions, and actions, but such motions to sin are a nonconformity to the law, therefore sinful, and consequently cursed; for the penalty annexed to the law is due to every violation of it.
3. From the object against which sin is directed. The least sin is infinitely evil.
4. from the continuance of that law which at first made eternal death the penalty of the least sin.
1. For conviction.
(1) To sinners, in whose lives the characters of wickedness are so large and visible, as he that runs may read them. These words should be to you as the handwriting on the wall to Belshazzar (Daniel 5:6).
(2) To formal professors; those who think their condition good because they are not so bad as others; think they shall escape the curse merely because they have escaped the visible pollutions of the world, who are apt to say with the Pharisee (Luke 18:12), “I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.” It may be thou dost not act that wickedness which is frequently perpetrated by the sons of Belial amongst us. Oh, but let thy conscience answer, Dost thou not omit the exercise of holiness and mortification? Dost thou not omit, in whole or in part, the duty of religion and godliness?
2. For exhortation.
(1) To those that are under the curse. Make haste for deliverance. “The Lord has laid help upon One that is mighty,” upon Christ, who was only able, who was only willing, to bear man’s curse, who is both able and willing to deliver sinners from it; but then you must come to Him for deliverance, in a way honourable to Him, prescribed by Him. You must resign up yourselves wholly unto Christ, as your King, your Redeemer.
(2) To those that are delivered from the curse. You whom Christ has redeemed from everlasting wrath, you whom He has saved from going down into the pit, you whom He has rescued from these everlasting burnings, oh praise, admire, adore, rejoice in your Redeemer. How will they draw out your affections to Christ!
(3) To all. If the least sin bring under the curse, then look upon the least sin as a cursed evil. Let your apprehensions, affections, actings, be answerable. Say not of any as of Zoar, “Is it not a little one?” etc. Hate the least sins as you hate that which is destructive, that which will destroy the whole man. But to enforce this more distinctly, let me represent to you the heinousness of the least sins in some particulars. Nor will I digress; the considerations will be such as have a near affinity with the truth, and such as do tend to confirm and illustrate it.
1. There is something of atheism in these small sins. It is atheism to deny there is a God, to deny the Lord to be God. Now, these less sins are a denial of God; if not expressly, yet by interpretation; if not directly, yet by consequence; for he that denies any excellency to be in God which is essential to Him: denies Him to be God.
2. There is something of idolatry in these small sins. But now, in admitting these small sins, we prefer other things before God, and so give that worship to others which is due only to God.
3. There is something of murder in admitting the least sin. The least is a deadly evil, of a bloody tendency, as to the life of the soul (Ezekiel 18:20). He says not, “that sinneth thus and thus, that sinneth in this or that degree,” etc. (Romans 6:21). No matter how small the seed be, the fruit is death. The least is a deadly evil, and that should be enough to make it formidable. A spider may kill, as well as a lion; a needle run into the heart or bowels may let in death, as well as a rapier or cannon bullet; a small breach neglected may let in the enemy, and so prove as destructive as if all the walls and fortifications were thrown down. Sin is compared to poison, the poison of asps (Psalms 140:3), and the venom of dragons (Romans 3:8; Deuteronomy 32:1-52.). Now a drop of such strong poison may kill as well as a full draught.
4. The least sin is a violation of the whole law, and therefore more heinous, of more dangerous consequence, than we are apt to imagine. There is in the least sin, as in plants (and other creatures) a seminal virtue, whereby it multiplies itself. The seed at first is a small inconsiderable thing, but let it lie quietly on the ground, it will take root, grow into a bulky stock, and diffuse itself into a variety of branches. A sinful motion (if not stifled in the conception) will procure consent, and consent will bring forth into act; and one act will dispose to others, till custom have begot a habit, and a habit will dull and stupefy the conscience.
5. The least part of the law is more valuable in God’s account than heaven and earth; a tittle of the law of more account than the whole fabric of the world. He had rather heaven and earth should perish, than one iota of the law (Matthew 5:18). First, heaven and earth shall vanish, rather than the least letter, one ἰωτα, rather than the least apex, the least point, one χέραια of the law shall pass away. So much more valuable is the law, etc., as He seems more tender of the least point of this, than of that whole fabric.
6. The least sin is the object of infinite hatred. The Lord infinitely hates the least sin; He hates it, is not only angry for it, offended with it, grieved at it, but He hates it; He hates it perfectly; there is not the least mixture of love, liking, or approbation, nothing but pure hatred.
7. There is more provocation in the least sin against God, than in the greatest injuries against men. Let all the injuries imaginable be put together, the total sum of them will not amount to so much as a single unit against God. The dignity of the person puts an accent upon the injury.
8. The least sin requires infinite satisfaction. Such an injury is the least sin, as nothing can compensate it, but that which is of infinite value; this is grounded upon the former.
9. The least sin is now punished in hell with those torments that will last for ever. Hell is the reward of the least sin, not only in respect of its demerit, but in regard of the event.
10. The least sin is worse than the greatest punishment.
3. For information.
(1) See here an impossibility for a sinner to be justified by his observance of the law, or according to the tenor of the first covenant. The law requires to justification a righteousness exactly perfect; but the best righteousness of fallen man is as a rag. It is not only torn and ragged, but spotted and defiled.
(2) See here the dangerous error of those who make account to be justified and saved by works; by their conformity to the law, or observance of it. The apostle is express (verse 10). An imperfect observance of the law leaves the observer under the curse, but all observance of the law by fallen man is imperfect; no observance of all, no continuing in the observance of all, imperfection in both.
(3) See here the necessity of Christ. Get lively apprehensions of your necessity of Christ. Walk continually under the sense and power of these apprehensions, and be often making application of the blood and mediation of Christ to your souls. So hath the Lord ordered the way to salvation, as that every one should see a necessity of Christ; a continual necessity of Him, and a necessity of Him in all things. And it is evident upon this account, because “cursed is every one that continueth not in all things to do them.” (D. Clarkson, B. D.)
1. It is a general curse. It extends itself to all things. Many things may reach the body that cannot reach the soul.
2. It is a growing curse. Every sinner is treasuring up unto himself wrath against the day of wrath.
3. It is real wrath. The cursings of men are but verbal curses, but the curse that is due for sin is not a verbal curse, but a real curse.
4. It is a righteous curse. We know that God is righteous in pouring out the vials of His wrath upon sinners.
5. It is an unavoidable curse. None can run sway from it.
6. It is an intolerable curse. As there is no avoiding from it, so there is no abiding of it.
7. It is an effectual curse. It doth its business where it comes; that which it is sent to do it doth always.
8. It is eternal wrath. (Philip Henry.)
But that no man is Justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident.
Justification not by the law but by faith in Christ
I. What is justification.
1. To be justified is to be brought into a right relation to law.
2. Justification is the bringing of a man into right relations with all law-loving and law-keeping beings.
3. When God justifies He brings us into a condition of potential righteousness.
II. Justification is impossible through the law.
1. Not ceremonial but moral law.
2. The Bible assumes
(1) that man has broken this law, and
(2) that no amount of obedience can restore him to his lost dignity.
III. Justification is possible through faith in Jesus Christ.
1. His atonement is the ground of it.
2. Faith in that atonement the means. (S. Pearson, M. A.)
The just shall live by faith
I. Life is received by the faith which makes a man just. A man begins to live--
1. By a full acquittal from condemnation and from penal death as soon as he believes in Christ.
2. As one raised out of spiritual death.
3. No form of works, or knowledge, or profession, or feeling, can prove him to be an absolved and quickened man; but faith does this.
II. Life is sustained by the faith which keeps a man just.
1. He who is forgiven and quickened lives ever afterwards as he began--by faith. Neither feelings, devotion, nor acquirements become his trust; he still looks out of himself to Jesus.
2. He lives by faith as to all the forms of his life.
(1) As a child and a servant.
(2) As a pilgrim progressing and a warrior contending.
(3) As a pensioner enjoying and a heir expecting.
3. He lives by faith in every condition.
(1) In joy and sorrow.
(2) In wealth and poverty.
(3) In strength and weakness.
(4) In labouring and languishing.
(5) In life and death.
4. He lives best when faith is at its best, even though in other respects he may be sorely put to it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. The soul is the life of the body.
II. Faith is the life of the soul.
III. Christ is the life of faith. (Flavel.)
The impossibility of a legal and the certainty of a Christian justification
The law is like a noble vessel which man has damaged so that the waters flow through many a leak. As the waves rise higher and higher, and the prospects of destruction become more stern, and every effort is seen to be but wasted strength, these words come over the drowning soul, “As many as are of the works of the law are under a curse.” But Christ Jesus has come on to the sinking vessel, and, engulfed in the waves, has taken upon Him the effect of our folly and sin. And by His death the curse that rested upon us rests on Him. (S. Pearson, M. A.)
Faith engrafts us into Christ; by faith we are inserted lute the vine; but the plant that is engrafted, must also be fruitful, or else it shall be quite cut off from the root, and thrown into everlasting burning. And this is the full plain meaning of those words so often used for the magnification of faith, “The just shall live by faith.” (Jeremy Taylor.)
Living by faith requires effort
A schoolmaster teacheth a boy gratis, but the youth cannot possibly attain to learning unless he be industrious; but it doth not therefore cease to be free on the teacher’s part because the learner’s pains are required. (Arrowsmith.)
Life by faith
Men who are saved by faith become just. The operation of faith upon the human heart is to produce love, and through love, obedience, which is only another name for morality or holiness, the flower of the new nature. The Christian man should aim after the highest degree of spiritual culture and heavenly perfection; yet his salvation depends not on his attainments, but upon his faith in a crucified Redeemer. Faith is the fruitful root, the inward channel of sap, the great life-grace in every branch of the vine.
I. In the purest spiritual sense it is true that the just shall live by faith. Great saints must be great believers. Little-faith can never be a matured saint.
1. The nobility of the inner life depends upon faith. A man whose life is hid with Christ in God is one of the aristocrats of this world. In proportion as the spiritual life is developed, the man grows in dignity.
2. The energy of the spiritual life depends on faith. Wherever the spiritual life fairly pervades a man, it is a force which cannot be bound, fettered, or kept under; a holy fury, a sacred fire in the bones. But this energy can only be exerted under the power of faith.
3. Growth in the spiritual life depends upon our faith. Faith enriches the soil of the heart, fills our treasuries with the choicest gold, and loads our tables with the daintiest food for the soul.
II. Faith is operative in our daily life.
1. It sustains the just man under all his trials, difficulties, sufferings, or labours.
2. It has an effect upon the dispensations of Divine Providence.
III. This is also true in the history of the Christian Church as a whole.
1. The Church lives by faith, not speculation.
2. By faith, not retiring despondency.
3. By faith, not “the proprieties.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Life by faith
The Jews in the Talmud have the saying, “The whole law was given to Moses at Sinai, in six hundred and thirteen precepts.” David, in the fifteenth Psalm, brings them all within the compass of eleven. Isaiah brings them to six (Isaiah 33:15); Micah to three (Micah 6:8); Isaiah, again, to two (Isaiah 56:1-12.); Habakkuk to this one, “The just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). (Lightfoot.)
Hopeful endeavour the beginning of faith
See the spider casting out her film to the gale, she feels persuaded that somewhere or other it will adhere and form the commencement of her web. She commits the slender filament to the breeze, believing that there is a place provided for it to fix itself. In this fashion should we believingly cast forth our endeavours in this life, confident that God will find a place for us. He who bids us pray and work will aid our efforts and guide us in His Providence in a right way. Sit not still in despair, O son of toil, but again cast out the floating thread of hopeful endeavour, and the wind of love will bear it to its resting place. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Justification by the law impossible
I. The requirements of the law.
1. Its authority. It was the Word of God.
2. In reference to its precepts, perfect obedience was required (Deuteronomy 33:2).
II. The penalty which the failure of obedience involved. “Cursed is every one that continueth not,” etc.
III. The ruin to which those are exposed who are seeking justification through the works of the law. “As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.” Lesson--The folly of those who are seeking justification by works. To expect to be warmed by the keen northern blast, or to have our thirst quenched by a draught of liquid fire, were not more--were not so--incongruous. This were merely to expect that a positive appointment of God should be altered, which is not in the nature of things impossible--which in particular cases has actually taken place. That were, to expect a revolution to take place in the moral nature of Him “with whom there is no variableness or shadow of turning.” (R. Nicholls.)
Justification by law inconsistent with Scripture
I. The blessedness of the righteous is obtained by faith.
II. In contrast to faith, the law gives the promise of life only to him who worketh. The law says: “The man that doeth them shall live in them.” The law knows nothing of faith; it secures blessings only for those who obey its precepts.
III. Having proved that the blessedness of the righteous is obtained by faith, and that through the law there is a promise for the obedient only, the conclusion is obvious that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God. The man who seeks to establish his own righteousness may “justify himself” in his own estimation, or in that of his fellow-men, but he cannot make himself acceptable in the judgment of God. In the lower courts, where partial justice is administered, he may succeed in obtaining a favourable verdict, but, entering into the presence of God, he stands condemned. (R. Nicholls.)
And the law is not of faith.
The law and the gospel
I. They differ in the work of our justification.
1. The law promiseth life to him that performs perfect obedience, and that for his works.
2. The gospel promiseth life to him that believes for the sake of Christ.
3. The law then requires doing, the gospel believing.
II. They agree in our good conversation.
1. Faith comes first.
2. Then the life of faith.
3. Then the evidence of the love of faith in obedience.
1. Salvation was the unfulfilled end of the law, and so it is now.
2. Salvation is the accomplished beginning of the gospel.
3. The law under which we live is not by obedience-salvation, but by salvation-obedience. (W. Perkins.)
The necessity of Divine law
Under whatever relation we consider God to stand to us we must feel that He has a law by which He governs us all. Is He a King? There must be royal decrees. Is He a Master? There must be appointed service. Is He a Judge? The very name implies a tribunal. Is He a Redeemer? The redemption must be in accordance with the principles of righteousness. Is He a Father? The home over which He presides must be a scene of harmonious action. (S. Pearson, M. A.)
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.
Sin and redemption
I. The divine execration of sin.
1. Under a moral government a righteous governor will, yea, must, append blessing to good and cursing to evil.
2. There is a law above all human laws:
(1) In the perfection of its nature;
(2) the extent of its application;
(3) the power of its condemnation.
3. If we have broken this law, then we are placed under a curse.
II. The Divine redemption of the sinner
1. Guilty men are under the curse; a guiltless one comes under it
2. The Lord Jesus Christ, then, represents our race, and for us has become a curse.
(1) He was of such dignity that He could represent it;
(2) His act was spontaneous;
(3) He was appointed of the Father;
(4) foreseeing the result of His work He rejoiced to do it (Isaiah 53:11; Hebrews 13:1-2).
3. By bearing the curse on Himself He bore it off from us.
4. The curse being thus rolled away, the way is prepared for the coming of the blessing.
5. The blessing comes to those who repent and believe. (C. Clemance, D. D.)
I. The curse of the law contained all that was due to sin.
II. This belonged to us.
III. It was transferred to Christ. His hanging on a tree was the sign and token of this (Deu 21:23 cf.; 1 Peter 2:24).
IV. This secures for all believers the blessing of faithful Abraham.
1. An interest in Christ.
3. Acceptance with God. (J. Owen, D. D.)
The necessity for Christ
’s bearing our curse
The sentence or curse of the law must not fall to the ground, for then the aid of God’s governing the world could not be secured; His law would seem to be given in jest, and His threatenings would be interpreted to be a vain scarecrow, and the sin of the creature would not seem so odious a thing, if the law might be broken and there were no more ado about it; therefore Christ must come to bear this curse. (T. Manton.)
Deliverance firm the curse through Christ
1. The threatenings of the law, denouncing a curse against those who yield not personal obedience to it, did not exclude or forbid a surety to come in the sinner’s room, and to undergo the curse due to him.
2. All men are by nature under the sentence of the law’s curse, whereby in God’s justice they are under the power of darkness (Colossians 1:13), slavery and bondage to sin and Satan (Ephesians 2:2), so to remain until they be cast into utter darkness (Jude 1:13), except delivery and redemption intervene.
3. There is no delivery of enslaved man from this woeful bondage, but by giving satisfaction and by paying of a price for the wrong done to Divine justice, either by himself, or by some surety in his stead. Satisfaction is demanded by
(1) God’s fidelity (Genesis 2:17);
(2) His righteous nature (Psalms 11:6-7);
(3) the inward desert of sin (Romans 1:32).
4. It is not in the power of fallen man to acquire a ransom for himself, by anything he can either do or suffer.
5. Jesus Christ has undertaken and accomplished this great work.
6. This work is to “redeem.” Christ buys back what was once His own, but for a time lost.
7. It is a real redemption, all that was forfeited being restored.
8. The price paid by Christ, in order to our redemption, was no less than His undergoing the curse due to us. (James Ferguson.)
Christ made a curse for us
The apostle here unveils a reason why men are not saved by their personal righteousness, but by their faith. He says the reason is, that men are not saved now by any personal merit, but their salvation lies in another, viz., in Christ Jesus, the Representative Man, who alone can deliver from the curse of the law; and since works do not connect us with Christ, but faith is the uniting bond, faith becomes the way of salvation. Since faith is the hand that lays hold upon the finished work of Christ, which works could not and would not do, for works lead us to boast and to forget Christ, faith becomes the true and only way of obtaining justification and everlasting life. Let us try to understand more clearly the nature of His substitution, and of the suffering which it entailed upon Him.
I. What is the curse of the law here intended?
1. It is the curse of God. God who made the law has appended certain penal consequences to the breaking of it; and the man who violates the law becomes at once the subject of the wrath of the Lawgiver. Hence it must be
(1) supremely just;
(2) morally unavoidable;
(3) most weighty.
2. It is a sign of displeasure. God is angry with the wicked every day: His wrath towards sin is great.
3. God’s curse of something more than a threatening; He comes at length to blows. He uses warning words at first, but sooner or later He bares his sword for execution. Cain. Flood. Sodom.
II. Who are under the curse?
1. The Jewish nation. To them the law of God was very peculiarly given beyond all others.
2. All nations. The law, although not given to all from Sinai, has been written by the finger of God more or less legibly upon the conscience of all mankind.
3. Those who, when offered the gospel, prefer to remain under the law (Galatians 3:10). All that the law of works can do for men is to leave them still accursed.
III. How was Christ made a curse for us?
1. By substitution. Christ was no curse in Himself. Of His own free will He became a curse for us.
2. All the sins of His people were actually laid upon Him. He endured both
(1) the penalty of loss; and
(2) the penalty of actual suffering, both
(a) in body and
(b) in soul.
It was an anguish never to be measured, an agony never to be comprehended. To God only were His griefs fully known. Well does the Greek liturgy put in, “Thine unknown sufferings,” for they must for ever remain beyond guess of human imagination. Behold Christ bearing the curse instead of His people. Here He is coming under the load of their sin, and God does not spare Him, but smites Him as He must have smitten us, lays His full vengeance on Him, launches all His thunderbolts against Him, bids the curse wreak itself upon Him, and Christ suffers all, sustains all.
IV. The blessed consequences of Christ’s having thus been made a curse for us.
1. We are redeemed from the curse. The law is silenced; it can demand no more. The quiver of wrath is exhausted.
2. The blessing of God, hitherto arrested by the curse, is now made most freely to flow. A great rock has been lifted out from the river-bed of God’s mercy, and the living stream comes rippling, rolling, swelling on in crystal tides, sweeping before it all human sin and sorrow, and making the thirsty who stoop down to drink at it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The nature of our redemption
Redemption being deliverance by means of the substitution of a ransom, it follows that, although the ransom can only be paid to God, and to Him only as the moral governor of the universe, we may still be said to be redeemed from all that we are delivered from by means of the ransom paid in the sacrifice of Christ. Thus we are said to be redeemed from
(1) our vain conversation (1 Peter 1:18);
(2) death (Hosea 12:14);
(3) the devil (Colossians 2:15);
(4) all iniquity (Titus 2:14);
(5) the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13; Galatians 4:5).
It is, of course, not meant that the ransom is paid to the devil, or to sin or to death, or to the law. These different conceptions are not inconsistent. A captive is redeemed by a price paid only to him that holds him in bondage, but by the same act he may be redeemed from labour, from disease, from death, from the persecution of his fellow-captives, and from a slavish disposition. (Hodge.)
The two curses
Two curses pronounced in the law are here referred to. All mankind was liable to the former one. How was it to be removed?
1. He who was to remove it must not Himself be liable to it. He who was to be a substitute for the guilty must Himself be innocent. He who was to suffer in the stead of the disobedient must Himself be obedient in all things.
2. He who was to be the substitute for all must have the common nature of all. He must not take the person of one individual man (such as Abraham, Moses, Elias), but He must take the nature of all, and sum up all mankind in Himself.
3. He who was to do more than counterbalance the weight of the sins of all, must have infinite merits of His own, in order that the scale of Divine justice may preponderate in their favour. And nothing that is not Divine is infinite. In order, therefore, that He may be able to suffer for sin, He must be human; and in order that He may be able to take away the sins, and to satisfy God’s justice for them, He must be Divine.
4. In order that He may remove the curse pronounced in the law of God for disobedience, He must undergo that punishment which is especially declared in the law to be the curse of God.
5. That punishment is hanging on a tree (Deuteronomy 21:23).
6. By undergoing this curse for us, Christ, He who is God from everlasting, and who became Emmanuel, God with us, God in our flesh, uniting together the two natures--the Divine and the human--in His one person--Christ Jesus, redeemed us from the curse of the law. Thus, having accepted the curse, He liberated us from it. (Bishop Chris. Wordsworth.)
Christ stood for the “every one who continueth not,” by becoming the “very one” who hung upon the tree. (M. B. Riddle, D. D.)
The satisfaction of Christ
1. The believer’s discharge. The law of God hath three parts, commands, promises, and threatenings or curses. The curse of the law is its condemning sentence, whereby a sinner is bound over to death, even the death of soul and body. The chain, by which it binds him, is the guilt of sin, and from which none can loose the soul but Christ. This curse of the law is the most dreadful thing imaginable; it strikes at the life of a sinner, yea, his best life, the eternal life of the soul; and when it hath condemned, it is inexorable, no cries nor tears, no reformations or repentance, can loose the guilty sinner: for it requires for its reparation that which no mere creature can give, even an infinite satisfaction. Now from this curse Christ frees the believer; that is, He dissolves the obligation to punishment, cancels the hand-writing, looses all the bonds and chains of guilt, so that the curse of the law hath nothing to do with him for ever.
2. We have here the way and manner in and by which this is done; and that is by a full price paid down, and that price paid in the room of the sinner, both making up a complete and full satisfaction. He pays a full price, every way adequate and proportionable to the wrong.
3. The nature of Christ’s satisfaction.
(1) It is the act of God-man; no other was capable of giving satisfaction for an infinite wrong done to God. But by reason of the union of the two natures in His wonderful person, He could do it, and hath done it for us.
(2) If He satisfy God for us, He must present Himself before God, as our Surety, in our stead, as well as for our good; else His obedience had signified nothing to us: To this end He was made under the law (Galatians 4:4), comes under the same obligation with us, and that as a Surety, for so He is called (Hebrews 7:22). Indeed, His obedience and sufferings could be exacted from Him upon no other account. It was not for anything He had done that He became a curse.
(3) The internal moving cause of Christ’s satisfaction for us was His obedience to God, and love to us. That it was an act of obedience is plain from Philippians 2:8, “He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
(4) The matter of Christ’s satisfaction was His active and passive obedience to all the law of God required.
(5) The effect and fruit of this His satisfaction is our freedom, ransom, or deliverance from the wrath and curse due to us for our sins. Such was the dignity, value, and completeness of Christ’s satisfaction, that in strict justice it merited our redemption and full deliverance; not only a possibility that we might be redeemed and pardoned, but a right whereby we ought to be so. We pass on to state some obections, and to answer them. The doctrine of Christ’s satisfaction is absurd, for Christ (say we) is God; if so, then God satisfies Himself, than which what can be more absurd to imagine? I answer, God cannot properly be said to satisfy Himself; for that would be the same thing as to pardon, simply, without any satisfaction. But there is a twofold consideration of Christ; one in respect of His essence and Divine nature, in which sense He is the object both of the offence, and of the satisfaction made for it. Another in respect of His person and economy, or office; in which sense He properly satisfies God, being in respect of His manhood another, and inferior to God (John 14:28). The blood of the man Christ Jesus is the matter of the satisfaction; the Divine nature dignifies it, and makes it of infinite value.
2. If Christ satisfied by paying our debt, then He should have endured eternal torments; for so we should, and the damned shall. We must distinguish betwixt what is essential, and what is accidental in punishment. The primary intent of the law is reparation and satisfaction; he that can make it at one entire payment (as Christ could and did) ought to be discharged. He that cannot (as no mere creature can) ought to lie for ever, as the damned do, under sufferings.
3. If God will be satisfied for our sins before He pardon them, how then is pardon an act of grace? Pardon could not be an act of pure grace, if God received satisfaction from us; but if He pardon us upon the satisfaction received from Christ, though it be of debt to Him, it is of grace to us: for it was grace to admit a surety to satisfy, more grace to provide Him, and most of all to apply His satisfaction to us, by uniting us to Christ, as He hath done.
4. But God loved us before Christ died for us; for it was the love of God to the world that moved Him to give His only-begotten Son. Could God love us, and yet not be reconciled and satisfied? God’s complacential love is indeed inconsistent with an unreconciled state: He is reconciled to every one He so loves. But His benevolent love, consisting in His purpose of good, may be before actual reconciliation and satisfaction.
5. Temporal death, as well us eternal, is a part of the curse; if Christ have fully satisfied by bearing the curse for us, how is it that those for whom He bare it die as well as others? As temporal death is a penal evil, and part of the curse, so God inflicts it not upon believers; but they must die for other ends, viz., to be made perfectly happy in a more full and immediate enjoyment of God, than they can have in the body; and so death is theirs by way of privilege (1 Corinthians 3:22). They are not death’s by way of punishment. The same may be said of all the afflictions with which God, for gracious ends, now exercised His reconciled ones. Thus much may suffice to establish this great truth. We proceed to make the following inferences:
1. If the death of Christ was that which satisfied God for all the sins of the elect, then certainly there is an infinite evil in sin, since it cannot be expiated, but by an infinite satisfaction. Fools make a mock at sin, and there are but few souls in the world that are duly sensible of, and affected with its evil; but certainly, if God should damn thee to all eternity, thy eternal sufferings could not satisfy for the evil that is in one vain thought.
2. If the death of Christ satisfied God, and thereby redeemed the elect from the curse, then the redemption of souls is costly; souls are dear things, and of great value with God.
3. If Christ’s death satisfied God for our sins, how unparalleled is the love of Christ to poor sinners!
4. If Christ, by dying, hath made full satisfaction, then God is no loser in pardoning the greatest of sinners that believe in Jesus; and consequently His justice can be no bar to their justification and salvation. He is just to forgive us our sins (1 John 1:9). What an argument is here for a poor believer to plead with God!
5. If Christ hath made such a full satisfaction as you have heard, how much is it the concernment of every soul, to abandon all thoughts of satisfying God for his own sins, and betake himself to the blood of Christ, the ransomer, by faith, that in that blood they may be pardoned? It would grieve one’s heart to see how many poor creatures are drudging and tugging at a task of repentance, and revenge upon themselves, and reformation, and obedience, to satisfy God for what they have clone against Him: And alas! it cannot be, they do but lose their labour; could they swelter their very hearts out, weep till they can weep no more, cry till their throats be parched, alas, they can never recompense God for one vain thought. For such is the severity of the law, that when it is once offended, it will never be made amends again by all that we can do; it will not discharge the sinner, for all the sorrow in the world. (John Flavel.)
Suffering, redemption, blessing
I. The sufferings of Christ. He was made a curse. Upon Him rested, for a season, the wrath of God.
1. This was the bitter experience of His life. From His standpoint of perfect rectitude and purity, He saw how far men had wandered from God, and how deeply they had fallen in sin.
2. This was the agony of His death. Man’s hatred to God culminated in the act that put Christ to death.
3. That Christ endured such suffering, being made a curse, was evident from the peculiar manner of His death. “As it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”
II. Redemption by christ. “He hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.”
III. Blessing through Christ. In this blessing is included--
1. Salvation for the Gentiles, “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ.”
2. Blessing through Christ included the “promise of the Spirit.”
1. Christ the sufferer must be Christ the Redeemer.
2. The blessings of salvation are to be obtained in Christ (ἐν Χριστῷ). There must be fellowship with Christ.
3. Salvation becomes an actual and personal blessing through the ministration of the Spirit. (Richard Nicholls.)
Christ made a curse for man
A man pays a ransom for slaves; but Christ took the slave’s place. A doctor gives medicine to a sick man; but Christ “took the disease on Himself.” We are told of Sister Dora “that she was in the habit of bringing back to life patients who had sunk into the first stage of the fatal collapse which often precedes death from small-pox, by actually putting her mouth to theirs, and breathing into them, until vitality was restored.” (“Sister Dora,” by M. Lonsdale.) St. Vincent do Paul was at one time almoner-general to the prison ships in the chief harbours of France, during the reign of Louis XIII. “While visiting those at Marseilles, he was so much struck by the broken-down looks and exceeding sorrowfulness of one of the convicts, that, on discovering his sorrow was less for his own sake than for the misery to which his absence must needs reduce his wife and children, St. Vincent absolutely changed places with the convict. The prisoner went free, whilst St. Vincent wore a convict’s chain, did a convict’s work, lived on convict fare, and, worst of all, had only convict society. He was soon sought out and released, but the hurts he had received from the pressure of the chains lasted all his life …. After this St. Vincent worked with infinitely more force on the consciences of the convicts for having been for a time one of themselves.” (From Miss Yonge’s “Book of Golden Deeds.”)
Our redemption by Christ
This curse is the wretched inheritance of all the guilty sons of Adam. And can there any, in this forlorn and desperate ease, interpose to shelter the trembling sinner from so great, so deserved, so imminent a destruction? Is there any way of escape, any door of hope opened? There is; for, behold! I this day bring unto all penitent and humble souls the glad tidings of great joy; joy which, if excess of fear and horror have not altogether stupefied and made us insensible, must needs fill us with the highest raptures of triumph and exultations. A Saviour, a Redeemer: O sweet and precious names, for lost and undone sinners! Names, full of mercy, full of life! Justice is answered; the law is satisfied; the curse removed; and we restored to the hopes of eternal life and salvation. “Christ hath redeemed us,” etc.
I. Jesus Christ, the ever-blessed God, was made a curse for us.
1. What it is to be made a curse. Now to be accursed, in its proper notion, signifies to be devoted to miseries and punishments; for we are said to curse another when we devote and, so far as in us lies, appoint him to plagues and miseries. And God is said to curse men when He doth devote and appoint them to punishments. Men curse by imprecation; but God curseth more effectually by ordination and infliction. But yet, notwithstanding, every one whom God afflicts must not be esteemed as cursed by Him. Every one, therefore, that is afflicted is not presently accursed. For God hath two ends for which He brings any affliction upon us. The one is the manifestation of His holiness; the other is the satisfaction of His justice. And accordingly as any affliction or suffering tends to the promoting of these ends, so it may be said to be a curse or not.
2. How Jesus Christ, who is God blessed for ever, could be made a curse or become accursed. This, at the first glance of our thoughts upon it, seems very difficult, if not impossible, to be reconciled. And the difficulty is increased, partly because the true faith acknowledgeth our Lord Jesus Christ to be the true God, blessed for ever; and partly because the apostle tells us, “That no man, speaking by the Spirit of God, calleth. Jesus accursed” (1 Corinthians 12:3).
(1) Then certain it is that Christ is essentially blessed, being the most blessed God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, possessing all the infinite perfections of the Deity, invariably and immeasurably. Yea, and He is the fountain of all blessing, whence flow all our hopes and happiness. But although He is for ever blessed essentially, yet,
(2) Mediatorily, He was accursed; and that because the economy and dispensation of His mediatory office required that tie should be subjected unto sufferings, not only as they were simply evil, but as they were penal, and inflicted on Him to this very end, that justice might be repaired and satisfied.
(3) But the curse of the law being only duo unto sin and guilt, it remains yet to be inquired how this curse could be justly inflicted on our Saviour, who was infinitely pure and innocent; and to whom the Scripture gives this testimony, that He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth (1 Peter 2:22). To this I answer: That sin may be considered either as personal or imputed.
(a) Christ was free from all personal sin, whether of corruption of nature or transgression of life.
(b) Yet He was not free from all imputed sin and guilt. The sins of all the world assembled and met together upon Him.
3. Is it consistent with the justice of God to punish an innocent person for the sins of those that are guilty? To this I answer:
(1) In general, that it is not unjust for God to punish the sins of one person upon another who hath not committed them. We find frequent instances of this in the Scripture (Exodus 20:8; Lamentations 5:7; Genesis 9:25; 2 Samuel 21:1-14; 2 Samuel 24:17).
(2) It is just with God to inflict the punishment of our sins upon Christ, though innocent. And there are two things upon which this justice and equity are founded--conjunction and consent.
 There is a near conjunction between Christ and us, upon which account it is no injustice to punish Him in our stead. And this conjunction is twofold-either natural or mystical.
1st. There is a natural conjunction between us, as Christ is truly man, and hath taken upon Him our nature, which makes a cognation and alliance between us. We are bone of His bone, and flesh of His flesh. It was therefore necessary that Christ should take our nature upon a threefold account.
(1st) That thereby the same person, who is God, might become passive, and a fit subject to receive and bear the wrath of God; for had He not been man, He could not have received it; and had He not been God, He could not have borne it.
(2ndly) That satisfaction might be made to offended justice in the same nature which transgressed; that as it was man which sinned, so man also might be punished. And yet farther,
(3rdly) that the right of redemption might be in Christ, being made near of kin unto us, by His taking our flesh and our nature. For we find in the law that the person who was next of kin was to redeem to himself the lands of his relations, when they were fallen to decay, and constrained by poverty to sell them (Leviticus 25:25; Ruth 3:12; Ruth 4:4). Whereby was typified unto us our redemption by Jesus Christ, who, having a body prepared for Him, is now become near of kin unto us, and is not ashamed to call us brethren. Now, because of this natural conjunction, the transferring the punishment from us, who are guilty, unto Christ, who is guiltless, doth, at least in this respect, answer the rules and measures of justice; that although the same person be not punished, yet the same nature is. But this is not all, for--
2ndly. There is a nearer conjunction between Christ and us, and that is mystical, whereby we are made one person with Him. And by reason of this, God, in punishing Christ, punisheth not only the same nature, but the same person. For there is such an intimate union by faith between Christ and a believer, that they make up but one mystical person.
 As Christ is thus conjoined to us, both naturally and mystically, so He has also given His full consent to stand in our stead, and to bear our punishment.
4. Did Christ bear the same wrath and curse which were due to us for our sins, or some other punishment in lieu thereof? For answer to this, we must carefully distinguish between the substance of the curse and the adjuncts and circumstances of it. For want of rightly distinguishing between these, too many have been woefully staggered and perverted in their faith; and have been induced to believe that Christ died not in the stead of any, but only for the good of all, as the Socinians blaspheme. Now certain it is that Christ underwent the very same punishment, for the matter and substance of it, which was due to us by the curse and threatening of the law, though it may be different in very many circumstances and modifications, according to the divers natures of the subjects on whom it was to be inflicted. For the substance of the curse and punishment threatened against sinners is death. “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
5. For whose sake was Christ thus accursed and punished?
(1) He died in our place and stead as a Ransom for us.
(2) He suffered our punishment to free us from it.
II. Christ being thus made a curse for us, and suffering all the wrath and punishment that was due unto us, hath thereby redeemed us from the curse and condemnation threatened in the law.
1. Let us consider what redemption is. Redemption, therefore, may be taken either properly or improperly. An improper redemption is a powerful rescue of a man from under any evil or danger in which he is. Thus Jacob makes mention of the angel which redeemed him from all evil (Genesis 48:16); and the disciples profess that they hoped that Jesus had been He who should have redeemed the Israelites from under the Roman yoke and subjection, etc. A proper redemption is by paying a price and ransom. And that either fully equivalent: thus one kinsman was to redeem another out of servitude (Leviticus 25:49-50); or else what is given for the redemption of another may, in itself, be of a less value, but yet is accepted as a recompense and satisfaction: thus the first-born of a man was to be redeemed, and the price paid down for him no more than five shekels (Numbers 18:15-16). Now the redemption made for us by Christ is a proper redemption, by way of price; and that price, not only reckoned valuable by acceptation, but, in itself, fully equivalent to the purchase, and compensatory to Divine justice.
2. The reasons which moved God to contrive the method of our redemption by substituting His own Son to bear the punishment of our offences.
(1) God substitutes His Son to undergo our punishment that thereby the exceeding greatness of His love towards us might be expressed and glorified.
(2) In the sufferings of Jesus Christ, God manifests the glory both of His justice and mercy, and with infinite wisdom reconciles them one with the other.
(3) By this means also God most effectually expresses His infinite hatred and detestation of sin. For it is expedient that God should, by some notable example, show the world how provoking a thing sin is. It is true He hath already demonstrated His hate against it by ruthful examples upon all the creatures. As soon as ever the least breath of this contagion seized upon them, God turned the angels out of heaven, and man out of Paradise; He subjected the whole creation unto vanity, that nothing but fears, care, sorrow, and disappointment reign here below; and under these woeful effects of the Divine wrath we groan and sign away our days. But all these are but weak instances of so great and almighty a wrath; and their capacity is so narrow, that they can only contain some few drops of the Divine indignation, and those, likewise, distilled upon them by degrees and succession. And, therefore, God is resolved to fit a vessel large enough, a subject capable enough, to contain the immense ocean of His wrath; and because this cannot be in any finite and limited nature, God Himself must be subject to the wrath of God.
(4) God so severely punisheth His Son that the extremity of His sufferings might be a caution to us, and affect us with a holy dread and fear how we provoke so just and so jealous a God. For if His own Son, dear to Him as His own essence, could not escape, when He only stood in the place of sinners, how thinkest thou, O wretch! to escape the righteous judgment of God if thou continuest in thy sins and provocations?
3. Who the persons are for whom Jesus Christ has wrought out this great redemption.
(1) That Christ died for all men, with an absolute intention of bringing all and every one of them into a state of salvability; from the which they were excluded by their guilt and God’s righteous judgment, and that He is not frustrated in this His intention, but, by His death, hath fully effected and accomplished it.
(2) The second argument is this: The covenant of grace is propounded to all indefinitely and universally. (Mark 16:16) “Whosoever believeth shall be saved.” And, under these general terms, it may be propounded unto all, even the most desperate and forlorn sinners on earth. But if Christ had not died for all, as well for the reprobate as the elect, this tender could not be made to all, as our Saviour commands it to be (v. 15), “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”
(3) It must needs be acknowledged that Christ died for all men, in such a sense, as He is denied to have died for the fallen angels; then His death was not only a sufficient, but an intended, ransom for all. For the death of Christ had sufficient worth and value in it to have redeemed and restored them, being an infinite price, through the infinite dignity of His person.
(4) All are bound to the great duty of believing in Christ; therefore He died for all.
(5) All men in the world are obliged to return gratitude and obedience unto Christ upon the account and consideration of His death; therefore His death had a respect to all (See 1 Corinthians 6:20; 2 Corinthians 5:15).
(6) Christ challenges unto Himself supreme authority and dominion over all by the right of His death (Romans 14:9). But if Christ’s authority over all, as Mediator, be founded on His death, it will follow that, as His authority is over all, so His death was for all; otherwise He must exercise His jurisdiction over those persons over whom He hath no right nor title.
III. Practical inferences and corollaries.
1. Be exhorted to admire and adore the infinite love of our Lord Jesus Christ towards fallen and undone mankind, in that He was pleased to substitute Himself in our stead, and, when the hand of justice was lifted up against us, to thrust Himself between us and the dread effects of the Divine wrath, receiving into His own bosom all the arrows of God’s quiver, every one of them dipped in the poison of the curse
(1) Consider the infinite glory and dignity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(2) Consider our infinite vileness and wretchedness.
(3) The infinite love of Christ, in being made a curse for us, is mightily glorified, if we consider, not only what He was, and who we are, but the several bitter and direful ingredients that compounded the curse which was laid upon Him.
2. If Christ has thus borne the curse for us, why should we think it much to bear the cross for Him?
3. Here is abundant satisfaction made to the justice of God for all the transgressions of true believers. They, by their Surety, have paid to the full, yea, and supererogated in His sufferings. For God could never have been so completely satisfied in exacting the penalty from us in our own- persons as now He is by the punishments laid upon His own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. For those very sufferings of thy Saviour, which were an expiation for the sins of the whole world, were all of them tendered to the Father as an expiation for thine, and the full value of His infinite satisfaction belongs all of it entirely unto thee. And, therefore, look upon thy sins as horrid and heinous as thou canst; yet, unless thine in particular have been more than the sins of all the world, unless thine have been more sinful than sin itself can be, know, for thy comfort, that a full atonement is made, and now nothing is expected from thee but only to accept, it, and to walk worthy of it. (E. Hopkins, D. D.)
One of our boys had committed an offence so bad that Mr. Gibb, his teacher, though rarely using the rod, felt it necessary to make an example of him. The punishment was to be publicly inflicted, “that others might fear.” But when the culprit, who had only been a few days in our school, was stripped, he was such a living skeleton, that the master had not the heart to beat him. At his wit’s end what to do--for the crime must be punished--it occurred to him to make such an appeal as, to compare small things to great, reminds us of the mystery of salvation, and the love of Him who “was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities, and by whose stripes we are healed.” Turning to the others, “It goes,” he said, “against my heart to lay a hand on that miserable creature. Will any one take his place, and be punished in his stead?” The words bad hardly left his lips when, with tears of pity brimming in his eyes, a boy stepped bravely out, pulled his jacket off, and pushing the culprit aside, offered his own back and shoulders to the rod. A ragged school boy, he was a hero in his way, presenting an example of courage and kindness, of sympathy and unselfishness, rare in schools--or anywhere else. (Dr. Guthrie.)
Christ our substitute
Damon, a Grecian philosopher, is remarkable for his devotion to Pythias, his friend. Pythias having been condemned to death, he obtained leave of absence to go home and settle his affairs, and Damon pledged himself to endure the punishment if his friend did: not return. Pythias was absent at the time for the execution, but Damon was punctual, and ready to die for his friend, and the king was so pleased with the friendship of Damon that he pardoned him. (W. Birch.)
Enduring the curse for another
“About a fortnight ago a man was admitted to the Bristol Royal. Infirmary, suffering from an affection of the throat, supposed to be diphtheria. The operation of tracheotomy was performed by Mr. W. C. Lysaght, M.R.C.S., assistant medical officer to the Infirmary; but the tube becoming choked, the last chance of saving the man’s life was for some one to apply his lips to the tube and suck the moisture. This Mr. Lysaght did, but without avail, for shortly afterwards the patient died of suppressed scarlatina. Mr. Lysaght caught the disease in its worse form, and died.” (From “The Yorkshire Post,” Aug. 6, 1887.)
Christ made a curse
I. “Christ made a curse.” First of all, I lay down this position as certain (however unlikely it might have seemed to us beforehand:), that the curse which the apostle speaks of is the curse of God. True, there was no lack of the cursing of this blessed One, in a secondary sense of the word, from other quarters,--no lack of the cursing of Him by men and devils, in the sense of maligning, blaspheming--wishing, calling Him accursed. But Paul assuredly does not speak of anything of that kind. Besides that he says “made”--not called, or wished, but (γενόμενος) made a curse,--see how certain it is from the entire context that it is the curse of God which he speaks of, and which he says Christ was made. He had begun to speak of this curse at the tenth verse, saying, “As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that con-tinueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” Then in the thirteenth verse, where the text lies, “Christ,” says he, “hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” It is out of the question to imagine the sense of the term to be entirely changed in this second: clause. Beyond all doubt the meaning is, Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, having borne that curse--been made the curse of the law for us. And then, as it is God’s curse which the apostle says Christ was made, so was it God Himself who made Him that curse. God alone can bring His curse on any man. And you may only further notice as to this, that the word “made” here is the same the apostle uses in the fourth verse of the next chapter, “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law”--made by God, of course. Our first position then is, that it is the curse of God “which the apostle says Christ was made, and God Himself who made Him that curse.
II. But, secondly, at once the question arises, how could such a thing ever be? For the righteous God will bring His curse on no guiltless one. But it is certain He will not bring His curse on the guiltless. Wicked men may curse them--may wish, or call them, accursed.
III. But now, thirdly, there was a mysterious manner, yet most real and true, in which Christ was not guiltless. I might remind you of those words of the ransomed Church in Isaiah, “All we like sheep have gone astray; “we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” But let us fix our attention a little more closely on those words of 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” “Made Him to be sin”--the entire expression is, “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us.” So much is certain, therefore, negatively, that the apostle’s meaning is not, and cannot be, that He was made our sin in the pollution, or stain, or turpitude of it, either in nature or in life. For, besides the frightfulness of such a thing to be even imagined, it were in contradiction to the express words, “He hath made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us.” So that the question remains just as before, what that sin was which was transferred. It could not be the pollution, the turpitude, on the one hand; it was not the suffering simply, on the other. But there was a great intermediate element between the turpitude and the suffering;and this it was that Christ was made in the whole fearful reality of it--even the guilt (the reatus, as the Latins spoke)--the just liability in law, and in the eye of the lawgiver, to endure the suffering, the punishment, the curse. For Christ, by an altogether peculiar Divine constitution--of infinite grace alike on the Father’s part and on His own--had become the Head of His body the Church,--taken their place in law--become one with them in law for ever. Read again, for instance, that fourth verse of the following chapter, “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law”--under the law? But what could the Son, the very Lawgiver, have to do with subjection to the law? Nothing, assuredly, for Himself--nothing save as a public Person, Surety, Representative. And now turn we for a moment to the passage cited by the apostle from the Pentateuch. Let no one be startled in the reading of it. It is the twenty-first of Deuteronomy, the twenty-second and twenty-third verses--“If a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree; his body Shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day (for he that is hanged is accursed of God); that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.”
IV. Fourthly, thus have we the wondrous explanation of the whole life of our Lord Jesus Christ, which otherwise were an inexplicable enigma. Even had His sufferings proceeded simply from the hands of men and devils, the mystery would not have been removed, since neither devils nor men could be more than instruments--voluntary and guilty, yet only instruments--in the hand of Jehovah for the executing of His designs. But the fact, unquestionably, was that the principal sufferings of this Just One came from the immediate hand of the Father himself. It is impossible to read the Gospel histories without perceiving that by far His deepest agonies were those which He endured when there was no hand of man upon Him at all, or when, at least, He himself traces the suffering to another hand altogether--saying, for example, “Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour? but for this cause came I unto this hour.”--“My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death; tarry ye here and watch with Me”--“Oh My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me”--“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Ah! behold the explanation of all--of the travail of Messiah’s soul--of an agony that wrung the blood from every pore of His sacred body--of what He himself declared to be His own Father’s desertion of Him--see, not the source of it only, but the soul also of its deepest bitterness and anguish, in these words, “made sin,” “made a curse,”--not accursed simply, but--as if all the curses due to a world’s sin had been made to meet in His person--“made curse,” that we might be redeemed from the curse of the law!
V. Fifthly, there are certain great central things among the types of the Old Testament which cast much light over the mysterious fact in our text, and, in their turn, receive important light from it. Let me select three--the brazen serpent, the burnt offering, and the sin offering.
1. The brazen serpent. At first view it seems very strange that the chosen type of the blessed Redeemer should have been the likeness of a serpent,--that, when the Israelites were dying of the bite of serpents, the medium of their cure should have been the likeness of one, “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole; and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.” But the wonder ceases, or rather is turned into another wonder of holy admiration, when we find that the only possible way of our deliverance from sin, was the Redeemer’s taking it, in its whole guilt and curse into His own person--being made sin and a curse for us. What glorious light is thus cast on the words of Jesus, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life!”
2. The burnt offering. There is no doubt that the fire of all the burnt offerings of the law, whether it came down immediately from heaven to consume the victim, as on various memorable occasions, or was kindled naturally, was the emblem of the Divine holiness and justice, consuming the substitute lamb on which the sin had been laid--the sacrifice in place of the sinner. What a picture of Christ made a curse, enduring the fire of “the wrath of God revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men!” What a picture of the prophet’s “Awake, O sword, against My shepherd, and against the man that is My fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts; smite the shepherd!” What a picture of Him who cried, “My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of My bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and My tongue cleaveth to My jaws; and Thou hast brought me into the dust of death!”
3. The sin-offering. Let these words, for example, be carefully observed (Leviticus 16:27-28), “The bullock for the sin offering, and the goat for the sin-offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the holy place, shall one carry forth without the camp; and they shall burn in the fire their skin, and their flesh, and their dung. And he that burneth them shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp.” That is to say, the victim, as having had the whole iniquities transferred to it by the laying of the hand upon its head, had become an unclean and accursed thing, and so behoved to be carried away out of God’s sight without the camp, and consumed in the fire. This is what our apostle refers to in those words in Hebrews, “The bodies of those beasts, whose blood for sin is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate.” As if to say that when God appointed the sin-offerings of the law to be carried forth outside the camp as unclean and accursed, and to be burned in the fire, it was but a figure of our Lord Jesus, laden with our accursed iniquities, made sin and a curse, numbered with the transgressors, dealt with as the vilest of all--not by man so much as by God, the Holy One of Israel--because the Lord had, with His own most free consent, made to meet on Him the iniquities of us all. When Jesus was led forth out of Jerusalem, and there crucified between the thieves, it was as if all the innumerable multitudes of sinners whom He represented had been in that hour carried out, and had there endured, in their own persons, the curse of the Divine law due to their whole ungodliness, unrighteousness, pride, falsehood, vanity, uncleanness, rebellion, and I know not what other crimes and sins.
VI. But thus I observe, once more, that we do not get at the full explanation of the mysterious fact in our text till we have taken into view the wondrous design and issue of all, as set forth in the passage thus--“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” And now, not only are we thus delivered from the law’s terrible sentence, but--the stone which lay over the grave of our corruption once removed--the way is open for the Holy Ghost’s descending into it to make an end of our corruption too,--yea, open for the whole blessing of the Abrahamic covenant, “I will be a God to thee,” coming on believers everywhere, of the Gentiles and of the Jews alike--from which blessing the apostle singles out the promise of the Holy Ghost, as being the centre and sum of it all, saying, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, etc., that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Three words in conclusion.
1. The apostle, in the opening chapter of this Epistle, speaks of “another gospel, which is not another.” Very rife in our day is another gospel, which truly is not another gospel. Substantially it is this, that God never has had a quarrel with man, but only man a quarrel with God,--that God never has been angry with men, but men only jealous of Him; and that the whole design, of Christ’s coming into the world, and of His suffering unto death was to convince men of this--who, as soon as they are persuaded to believe it--to believe that God loves them, and has loved them always, are saved. Another gospel truly--which in fact turns the whole mission and work of our Lord Jesus Christ into an unreality! But see the apostle’s gospel in verses 10, 13, 14, of this chapter. Verse 10, God’s quarrel with guilty men--“As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” Then, the wondrous settlement of that quarrel (verse 13), “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” And hence the settlement of our vile quarrel also with God (verse 14), “that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Now at length a conscience purged, and righteously purged, from dead works, to serve the living God! Now all possible motives, of love, and fear, and gratitude, and hope, and joy, unto a new and child-like obedience! “O Lord, truly I am Thy servant; I am Thy servant, and the son of Thine handmaid: Thou has loosed my bonds.”
2. Behold here the very soul of the Lord’s Supper, which might have for its motto, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us,”--“This is My body broken for you: this cup is My blood of the new covenant, shed for remission of the sins of many.” Oh for a profound self-abasement, and fervent love, and lively faith, in the observing of it!
3. Be it well known to all, that we become partakers of this whole redemption by faith alone without the deeds of the law. (C. G. Brown, D. D.)
That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ.
The purpose of redemption
I. That the blessing of abraham might come upon the gentiles.
1. Whence comes this blessing? From the cursed death of Christ.
2. Where is it to be found? In Christ Jesus, who is
(1) the storehouse of God’s blessing;
(2) the dispenser thereof to all nations.
II. That we might receive the promise of the spirit through faith.
1. What is meant by the promise? (see Isaiah 44:3; Joel 2:28).
2. For what end do we receive the Spirit?
(1) For illumination (1 John 2:27; 1 Corinthians 2:13).
(2) Regeneration, whereby the image of God is restored to us (John 3:5).
(3) For the government of our counsels, will, affections, actions (Isaiah 11:1; Romans 8:14).
(4) For union with Christ (1 Corinthians 6:17).
(5) For consolation (Romans 8:16).
(6) For the confirmation of our faith in every good duty (2 Corinthians 1:22). (W. Perkins)
The blessing of Abraham
I. The receivers of God’s blessing receive it not for themselves alone.
II. One is most blessed in being made a blessing to others. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The meek, the just, the pious, the devout souls are everywhere and in all ages of one religion; and when death hath taken off the mask they know one another, though the liveries they wear here make them strangers. (William Penn.)
It has been asked why the goodness of one man should extend to, and be rewarded in, successive generations, covering the remotest ages and reaching to the close of our present economy? But is it not a fact that in the world of providence the very same thing occurs? Has not, e.g., such a character as Howard left a mark upon the world that cannot be obliterated, and bequeathed influences that live long after he has gone up higher? Have not the victories of Wallington, secured at a dread price, left us years of prosperity and peace? Do not millions shine in the light, and are not thousands of hearts warmed by the fires, that were kindled by Luther, Ridley, Cranmer, Knox, Calvin, and others? And if you find this to be a fact in the world, you should not object to its being declared the law of God’s administration of the world. The discovery of printing, steam, the telegraph, are also illustrations all tending to show that beneficent discoveries made by fathers break in benedictions upon their children. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
The value and power of faith
Faith is the only sure and infallable good, the solace of life, the fulfilment of worthy hopes, barren of evil and fertile in good, the repudiation of the powers of evil, the confession of piety, the inheritance of happiness, the entire amelioration of the soul which leans for support on Him who is the cause of all things and willeth to do those things which are excellent. In the possession of this Abraham was thrice blessed indeed. (Philo.)
Blessing through Christ’s sufferings
When the prairie grass catches fire and the wind is strong and the flames hasten onward twenty feet high, what do the frontier men do when they see them coming? Knowing that they cannot outrun them--the fleetest horse cannot do that--“they just take a match,” says Mr. Moody, “and light the grass around them, and let the fire sweep it, and then they get into the burnt district and stand safe. They hear the flames roar; they see death coming towards them; but they do not tremble, because the fire has passed over the place where they are and there is no danger; there is nothing for the fire to burn. There is one mountain peak that the wrath of God has swept: that is Mount Calvary, and that fire spent its fury upon the bosom of the Son of God. Take your stand here by the Cross, and you will be safe for time and for eternity.”
Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.
I. It is allowable to use human analogies in the enforcement of divine truth--“after the manner of men.”
II. The conditions of covenant-making in human life.
1. A covenant is an arrangement between two parties for mutual benefit, with an implied character of permanence.
2. The covenant stands in all the integrity of its provisions without either party having the power to annul it or add fresh clauses to it.
III. What is tree of a human covenant is essentially involved in the idea of a Divine covenant. It is irreversible and irrevocable, since it is a covenant established by oath.
IV. The Judaistic theory: the law as a supplement would entirely abrogate the covenant. (Professor Crosskerry.)
The whole new covenant consists in these two words--Christ and faith--Christ bestowed on God’s part; faith required on ours--Christ the matter; faith the consideration of the covenant. (Hammond.)
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made.
The great promise
The promise was twofold.
I. A lower or temporal blessing:
II. A higher or spiritual blessing.
III. The two are intermingled. The spiritual could not have come without the temporal, nor the temporal without the spiritual. (Christian Age.)
The promise was fulfilled in the benefits the world has received from--
I. The industry, wealth, genius, and morality of the Jewish people.
II. The scriptures, the monotheism and religious spirit of the Jews.
III. The Messiah who was Abraham’s seed. (Todd.)
Some of the promises are like the almond tree--they blossom hastily in the very earliest spring; but there are others which resemble the mulberry tree--they are very slow in putting forth their leaves. Then what is a man to do, if he has a mulberry tree promise which is late in blossoming? Why, he is to wait till it does. If the vision tarry, wait for it till it come, and the appointed time will surely bring it. (Spurstow.)
Seed and seeds
The singular form denotes Christ’s individuality, while its collective force suggests the representative character of His human nature. (Canon Liddon.)
The Paradisiacal promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head was from the first understood of some deliverer. It was so understood when Cain was named as the expected restorer (Genesis 4:1); so again when Noah was expected to be one that “shall comfort us” (Genesis 5:29). During the long ages that followed, this promise must have been the stay of every devout and God-fearing soul. It survived the terrible judgment of the flood; it passed into the expectation of the better part of every nation. It was surely not wanting in the family of Shem, nor in the race of Eber; and when Abraham was called to be the father of a chosen nation, and it was promised that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed, he must have understood by it that the long-expected Redeemer, the seed of the woman, was to be born of his posterity. So the promise was understood as it was localized successively in the tribe of Judah and in the family of David. And the later prophets never waver in the idea that it was to be accomplished by a “Person,” whose birthplace at Bethlehem is distinctly announced by Micah. He was then an individual, not a multitude. To express this in English we should say; it was not to seeds as of many; but as of One, and “to thy seed, which is Christ,” without any reference to the intrinsic etymological value of the singular and plural. Similarly, St. Paul uses these words, not arguing from the force of the singular in the promise, but from the whole idea and understanding of that promise which he simply explains by the singular and plural in Greek. (Professor Gardiner.)
The promises are given to believers
Where is thy casket of promises? Bring it out. Open the jar of jewels. Pour out the golden ingot, stamped with the image and superscription of heaven’s King. Count over the diamonds that flash in thy hand like stars. Compute the worth, of that single jewel, “Ask and ye shall receive ,” or that other ruby, “All things shall work together for good to them that love God.” Bring forth that royal Koh-i-noor, “He that believeth shall be saved.” Then remember who it is that gave them, and to what an unworthy sinner, and tell me if they are not “exceeding great and precious.” When Caesar once gave a man a great reward, he exclaimed, “This is too great a gift for me to receive.”--“But,” said Caesar, “it is not too great a gift for me to give.” So the smallest promise in thy casket is too much for thee to deserve: yet tile most magnificent promise is not too great for the King of kings to bestow. God scorns to act meanly and stingily by His children; and how must He scorn us often when we put Him off with such contemptible stinginess of deeds or donations! (C. H. Spurgeon.)
But some may object, and say, Is the law opposed to the older promise? Clearly not; for it is powerless to do that which the Faith alone could do, give life. For if the law could have given spiritual life it would have conferred righteousness. But this the law does not pretend to do, since it does but declare all to be under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. In the Epistle, then, for this day the apostle shows:--
1. That the faith in Christ, the promise made by God to Abraham and to his seed, was prior to the law of Moses.
2. That the original promise made to Abraham is more excellent in itself, and attended by more glorious circumstances, than the law of Moses.
3. That the completion, the perfection of the law itself is the faith in Christ. The covenant made by God with Abraham is here called the promises, because these promises are the instruments, as it were, by which the inheritance is conferred. These are promises, for the pledge of future possession and of future blessing was not made once only, but was often repeated; neither was one blessing only promised,--but many,--things in earth, Canaan in its fertility; things in heaven, peace, and rest, and abundant joy. All the good things of God were comprised in these promises to Abraham and his seed. The reasons why the covenant is spoken of as promises are:--
1. Because it chiefly consists of promises of God’s gifts.
2. Because the covenant was revealed to Abraham in promises of blessings to be afterwards given. (W. Denton, M. A.)
The great promise
The best commentary on this whole passage is perhaps to be found in St. Paul’s own words: “All the promises of God in Him are “yea,” and in Him “amen,” to the glory of God by us.” Christ is the foundation and the accomplisher of every good thing that God has decreed for man: in Him alone is enjoyment or blessing to be obtained. When creation’s fair beauty was marred by the dark shadow of sin, the voice of prophecy rang forth with promise of future deliverance; but the promise was, in reality, a promise to Christ. Later on, when one race was singled out for special notice and peculiar privilege, their faith was sustained by a great inspiring promise; but again, that promise was centred in Christ--“In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” With grammatical and logical accuracy, the apostle proves the point he is arguing. He shows that the true explanation of the singular number being used where the plural might have been expected, is to be found in the fact that God was speaking of one collective seed according to the spirit. The Inheritor of the promise made to Abraham was Christ: not Christ as an individual merely, but Christ the anointed Head and Representative of His people--Christ the Elder Brother in a united family-Christ and all who are incorporated with Him in that spiritual Body which includes Abraham and all the faithful of every age and race. “For ye are all one man in Christ Jesus. And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.” Having made it clear that the gospel of Jesus Christ, believed and received, puts men in possession of the inheritance promised to Abraham, St, Paul goes on (in verse 17) to deal with the question that naturally rises to the mind: “What relation, then, does the law of Moses bear to the promise made to Abraham?” To this he replies, that whatever the law does it cannot for a moment be supposed to abrogate and annul the promise which existed so long before it: it was not a codicil, cancelling or limiting the promissory document of earlier date. Totally distinct and separate are the ideas involved in law and promise respectively: the one is a gift, the other a contract. If in the wise ordering of God’s providence they both come into play, there must be arranged for each its proper place and function--neither trespassing upon the domain of the other. And this is just what has been arranged. The Covenant of Promise and the law of Moses, so far from being opposed to one another, are parallel lines which gradually converge until they meet in Christ. (J. Henry Burn, B. D.)
Epistle for the thirteenth Sunday after Trinity
The covenant of God with Abraham an everlasting covenant with the good.
1. Establishment, character of the same in itself.
(1) It is truly Divine, inviolable.
(2) It had reference, as to its contents, to all men and their redemption through Christ.
2. The continuance of the same even under the law.
(1) The law cannot abrogate the covenant of grace.
(2) On the other hand, the law is meant as a dispensation on account of sin, to prepare the way for the perfect dispensation of the covenant.
3. The perfecting of the same by Christianity.
(1) Necessity of this covenant even according to the law.
(2) The condition of the same is faith in Christ. (Heubner.)
The great promise
Here we are carried back to a promise made to Abraham four thousand years ago, which is declared to be full of vital importance still. This shows the Bible is one book, and may not be treated as a collection of fragments to be accepted or rejected at pleasure. The passage is similar to many in St. Paul’s writings. In his view the Old Testament is full of half-fulfilled expectations, and the fact that they were only half-fulfilled is in itself a prophecy of a truer and more perfect fulfilment to come. He sees in them all a looking forward to Christ, who came to fulfil the law, the prophets, the types, the promises, and all the hitherto unrealized expectations of men. Taking advantage of the fact that the noun used to particularize the descendants of Abraham is, according to Hebrew usage, in the singular number, he shows that this is no mere verbal accident, but that as a matter of fact the children of Abraham are all summed up in One Man, even in Christ, and that upon Him came spiritually all the promises which had generally been supposed to apply to the Jewish nation collectively. Christ is the nation in its highest aspect, and for the fulfilment of its noblest end. Since, then, Christians are in Christ--part of Him--the promise is theirs also.
(1) The Promiser. God. The unchangeable; the unerring; He who is Love. One and the same at all times and to all people.
(2) The promise.
(a) Inheritance in God’s chosen country. A type of the better country we are now seeking.
(b) To be a blessing to others.
High privilege. The gift is conferred on us, in order that we may hand it on. We have not truly received Christ, unless we are seeking to minister Him.
(3) The conditions of the promise. We must be in Christ. He is the heir; we can only share in His inheritance, by becoming one with Him. (Canon Vernon Hutton.)
The promise really made to Christ
This comment of St. Paul has given rise to much discussion. It has been urged that the stress of the argument rests on a grammatical error; that, as the plural of the word here rendered σπέρμα is only used to signify “grain” or “crops,” the sacred writer could not under any circumstances have said “seeds as of many.” The answer to this objection is, that St. Paul is not laying stress on the particular word used, but on the fact that a singular noun of some kind, a collective term, is employed, where a plural (such as τὰ τέκνα or οἱ ἀπόγονοι) might have been substituted. Avoiding the technical terms of grammar, he could not express his meaning more simply than by the opposition, “not to thy seeds, but to thy seed.” A plural substantive would be inconsistent with the interpretation given; the singular collective noun, if it admits of plurality, at the same time involves the idea of unity. The question therefore is no longer one of grammatical accuracy, but of theological interpretation. Is this a legitimate sense to assign to the seed of Abraham? Doubtless by the seed of Abraham was meant in the first instance the Jewish people, as by the inheritance was meant the land of Canaan; but in accordance with the analogy of Old Testament types and symbols, the term involves two secondary meanings:
(1) With a true spiritual instinct, though the conception embodied itself at times in strangely grotesque and artificial forms; even the Rabbinical writers saw that “the Christ” was the true seed of Abraham. In Him the race was summed up, as it were. In Him it fulfilled its purpose and became a blessing to the whole earth. Without Him its separate existence as a peculiar people had no meaning. Thus He was not only the representative, but the embodiment of the race. In this way the people of Israel is the type of Christ; and in the New Testament parallels are sought in the career of the one to the life of the other. In this sense St. Paul uses “the seed of Abraham” here. But
(2) according to the analogy of interpretation of the Old Testament in the New, the spiritual takes the place of the natural; the Israel after the flesh becomes the Israel after the spirit; the Jewish nation denotes the Christian Church. So St. Paul interprets the seed of Abraham (Romans 4:18; Romans 9:7; and above, verse 7. These two interpretations are not opposed to each other; they are not independent of each other. Without Christ the Christian people have no existence. He is the source of their spiritual life. They are one in Him. By this link St. Paul at the close of the chapter (verses 28, 29) connects together the two senses of the “seed of Abraham,” dwelling once more on the unity of the seed--“ye are all one man in Christ; and if ye are part of Christ, then are ye Abraham’s seed and heirs according to promise.” (Bishop Lightfoot.)
The difference between a promise and a law
A promise gives: a law takes. A promise bestows something on others: a law demands something from others. Suppose some great king to promise vast riches and possessions to all his faithful subjects. And suppose that, seeing those subjects to be proud and headstrong, and to need humbling and curbing, the same king after a time made laws which he ordered them to obey. Which should we say the subjects owed their riches and possessions to--the king’s laws, or the king’s promise? We could all see it would be to the promise. So it is with the riches and possession which we, the subjects of the heavenly King, look for. (Bishop Walsham How.)
And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul.
God’s covenants with men
A covenant is an agreement or contract, in which the parties to it solemnly bind themselves to the fulfilment of certain conditions. When we speak of a covenant as entered into by God, we understand that He, who has no rule of action but His own will, has been pleased to bind Himself, in His dealings with men, to the observance of certain specified conditions; whilst those with whom the covenant is made are hound to fulfil the obligations imposed upon them, under pain of forfeiting the promised blessings, and incurring the attendant penalties.
1. The covenant under which all men are born is that of works; in other words, the moral law, the law of Adam’s nature, written in his heart, and afterwards republished from Mount Sinai, The terms of this covenant are, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and mind, and soul, and strength, and thy neighbour as thyself.” The sanctions by which it is enforced are, on the one hand, “This do, and thou shalt live,” and on the other, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” This covenant is one by which an unfallen being, continuing in his obedience to it, might merit life; but to creatures such as we are, it can only be a dispensation of death. Of mercy to transgressors it knows nothing. It is law for man, as God made man--perfect--and to man in that condition, and in that only, is it a law that can give life. We ask, therefore, is there any other covenant whereby (letting go the first, and laying hold on this) we may have that eternal life which we have forfeited by the covenant of works?
2. The Scriptures reveal to us the covenant of grace, so called, inasmuch as it is grace which especially distinguishes it from the former covenant of works. The terms of this covenant are contained in the gospel of Jesus Christ: by it God is graciously pleased to bind Himself to bestow all spiritual blessings upon those who give up entirely their hope of life by the works of the first covenant, and, embracing this, plead the gracious provisions of it as the ground of their acceptance with God. But besides these two covenants, which form the groundwork of all God’s dealings with men, there is a third--that, viz., which was entered into with Israel at Sinai.
3. The Sinaitic Covenant was
(1) national, as made only with one people, the Jews;
(2) temporary, as designed to fulfil certain special ends, and to cease when those ends were accomplished;
(3) mixed, as partaking in part of the covenant of works, while containing certain provisions which had in them an echo, and something more than an echo, of the covenant of grace. (Emilius Bayley, B. D.)
The Abrahamic covenant
I. The Abrahamic covenant viewed in itself (Genesis 13:15; Genesis 17:7). The prominent feature in it is grace, and it clearly looks forward to Christ. Its chief blessings are--
(1) Divine forgiveness;
(2) Divine reward;
(3) Divine adoption;
(4) Divine illumination.
II. The Abrahamic covenant viewed in its relation to the Covenant of Sinai. The covenant of grace was announced to Abraham in the promise made to him and his seed, Christ, long before the giving of the covenant of Sinai; its conditions were fulfilled by Christ during the Incarnation, at a period long subsequent to the giving of that covenant, it was therefore independent of and superior to it; it was designed for the benefit of the whole human race, whereas the Sinaitic covenant was confined to a single nation, was limited in its application, imperfect in its provisions, and, as far as the Jews were concerned, a failure in its results. We may conceive of the covenant of grace as stretching through time like some vast geological formation, having its beginning in the ages that are past, and reaching onward to the ages that are to come. As such formation, however, displays itself upon the surface of the earth, there is at one point a depression, a sinking of its outline, and that depression or valley is filled up by a formation of more recent growth, an overlying stratum which conceals the older formation from view, but does not destroy it. Such older formation crops up on the one side, and on the other of the later one, and in fact underlies it in all its parts; the one being limited and partial as contrasted with the other, which is comparatively unlimited and universal. Thus the covenant of grace stretches through the entire period of man’s history; but at one point in its course it becomes overlaid by a covenant of recent growth, the national covenant of Sinai. But the older covenant is neither lost nor superseded; it recedes for a while from view; it gives place in the history of man to an intermediate covenant; but it does not vanish from our history. It had shown itself in Abrahamic times; it was to display itself yet more gloriously at the coming of Christ; but yet even during the period of its seeming obscuration, its operation was not suspended: the pious Jew looked through his own covenant to the covenant of grace--he dug, as it were, through the mixed and local deposit of his own economy, to the rock beneath him. (Emilius Bayley, B. D.)
The everlasting covenant
I. God made a covenant of grace with Abraham long before the law was given on Sinai.
II. Abraham was not present on Sinai, and therefore there could have been no alteration in the covenant made there by his consent.
III. Abraham’s consent was never asked as to any alteration in the covenant, without which the covenant could not have been set aside.
IV. The covenant stands firm, seeing that it was made to Abraham’s seed as well as to Abraham himself. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The supremacy of faith
I. To be the true seed of Abraham the gentiles are to seek justification, not by the law but by faith.
II. Faith has precedence of the law, and consequently is not disannulled by it. It rests on promises given to Abraham.
III. The purposes of the law are subservient to conviction and preparation (V. 19), and, therefore, were not designed to disannul it.
IV. The inferiority of the law is marked by its being in the hands of a mediator, and not personal, as was the promise to Abraham.
V. Nevertheless faith and law do not clash. There is harmony between the Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic law. (Canon Vernon Hutton.)
The immutability of the covenant
I. Time cannot disannul it: neither the time before the law nor the time which has elapsed since.
1. Some covenants run out in the course of time, or are annulled through non-fulfilment within a given time, or are abrogated in the very fact of their fulfilment.
2. The Christian covenant is independent of time.
(1) No time was specified.
(2) In a sense its fulfilment began at once.
(3) It cannot pass away till the last of Abraham’s seed has enjoyed its provisions.
II. The unfaithfulness of one of the contracting parties did not disannul it.
1. During the four hundred and thirty years.
(1) The obliquities of Jacob.
(2) The evil conduct of his sons.
(3) The religious apathy of the Egyptian sojourn.
(4) The perversities of the wilderness wandering.
2. During the following years till the advent.
(1) In spite of Divine revelation.
(2) Notwithstanding repeated chastisements, Israel grieviously sinned; yet the covenant was not withdrawn.
III. The intermediary dispensation did not disannul it.
1. The law itself did not.
(1) It was intended to help on its fulfilment.
(2) It was one part of God’s remedial plan of which the covenant was another part.
2. The infraction of the law did not.
(1) Sin led men to yearn for its fulfilment.
(2) Where sin abounded grace did much more abound.
III. It rests on the immutability of God.
1. Of His wisdom. He saw when the time would be ripe.
2. Of His mercy: He knew when it would be best to work in the interests of mankind.
The covenant, then, was not disannulled by the law.
1. Because then the blessing promised by the covenant would not have depended upon that promise.
2. Because then in vain is any mention made of the seed of Abraham, that is, of Christ.
3. Because those who died before the law was given on Sinai, amongst others, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, would have no claim to partake of the Divine blessing, no share in the promised inheritance. (W. Denton, M. A.)
The covenant in Christ
I. Its nature--a covenant of promise--of mercy:
II. Its antiquity--older than the law--old as the first promise.
III. Its Immutability--confirmed to (Galatians 3:16) and in Christ--cannot be disannulled. (J. Lyth.)
For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise.
Law and promise
I. The law was restricted and conditional--“added because of transgression”: the promise was absolute and unconditional.
II. The law was temporary and provisional--“until the seed should come”: the promise was permanent and eternal.
III. The law was communicated indirectly--“by angels”: the promise was directly given by God (Hebrews 2:2-3).
IV. The law was received from God through “a mediator”: the promise was received by Abraham in person. (P. J. Gloag, D. D.)
The covenant of grace is called “the promise,” because God hath promised both the reward and the condition. And so--
I. It differs from human covenants. Among men each party undertaketh for and looketh after his own part of the engagement; but here the duties required of us are undertaken by Him that, requireth them. No man filleth his neighbour’s hand with anything to pay his rent to him, or enableth him to do what he hath covenanted to do; but God filleth our heart with a stock of habitual grace, with actual influences to draw forth habits into act (Ezekiel 36:26-27; Jeremiah 32:39-40).
II. It differs from the covenant of works. That had more of a law and less of a promise: there was a promise of reward to the obeyer but none of obedience. There man was to keep the covenant; here the covenant keepeth us (Jeremiah 32:40). God undertaketh for both parties, and worketh in His people all that is required of them. (T. Manton.)
The inheritance of the promises
I. The promises of God to the believer an inexhaustible mine of wealth. Happy is it for him if he knows how to enrich himself with their hidden treasures.
II. They are an armoury containing all manner of offensive and defensive weapons. Blessed is he who has learned to enter the sacred arsenal, to put on the breastplate and the helmet, and to lay his hand to the spear and the sword.
III. They are a surgery in which the believer will find all manner of restoratives and blessed elixirs; nor lacks there an ointment for every wound, a cordial for every faintness, a remedy for every disease. Blessed is he who is well skilled in heavenly pharmacy, and knoweth how to lay hold on the healing virtues of the promises of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
On these streets, I have seen the poor hanging on the steps of the rich, and refusing to be ordered away; to move pity, laying bare their sores; and holding out their skinny hands to implore men’s charity. But whoever saw the rich following the poor, with a hand filled with gold;pressing money on their acceptance; stopping them; entreating, beseeching, imploring them to take it? Yet thus, to the amazement both of angels and devils, God does with you, in offering His Son; and through Him, the gift of eternal life. (Dr. Guthrie.)
Salvation all of grace
Mr. McLaren and Mr. Gustart were ministers of the Tolbooth Church, Edinburgh. When Mr. McLaren was dying, Mr. Gustart paid him a visit, and put the question to him, “What are you doing, brother?” His answer was, “Doing! I’ll tell you what I am doing, brother. I am gathering together all my prayers, all my sermons, all my good deeds, all my evil deeds; and I am going to throw them all overboard, and swim to glory on the plank of free grace.” (E. Foster.)
Wherefore then serveth the law?
It was added because of trasgressions.
The function of the law
Of what use, then, is the law, if (as you assert) it is not simply a codicil to--a substitute for--God’s promise to Abraham? “It was added.” Not being a part of the original scheme, but made necessary on account of the hardness of men’s hearts, it came in as a sort of marginal addition or parenthesis in the dealings of God with the Jews. The moral atmosphere was changed. In circumstances of amity the promise had been given, God speaking to Abraham as a man with his friend; in circumstances of discord, with suitable accompaniment of hailstones and coals of fire, the law was promulgated and enforced. The function of the law was to assist as an ally: to be subsidiary to the promise, and help towards its fulfilment. This it did by revealing men’s deeds to them in their true light--showing them their own sinfulness in the sight of God, and their own inability to do anything towards mending matters--a necessary preliminary to their attainment of that faith which would lead them to embrace the promise. The law, again, was merely a temporary, enactment; its work would be done when He Should appear to whom the promise had been made. Still further: the provisional nature of the law may be perceived, if we consider the manner of its promulgation. “It was ordained through angels in the hand of a mediator.” Direct had been God’s communication with Abraham when He gave the promise; but at the giving of the law He delivered His decrees to angels, and the angels entrusted them to a second intermediate agent, viz., Moses. Now the existence of a mediator (or go-between) implies duality, separation, disunion; whereas a promise is a simple direct transaction requiring no such intervention. If there had not been discord, at the time of the giving of the law, a mediator would have been out of place; he would have had no business there at all. There was discord at that time; and for that reason Moses was appointed to mediate. But this, instead of proving that the law is antagonistic to the promise, proves exactly the contrary, for--“God is one.” If the law had been intended to annul the promise, it would necessarily follow that God had changed His mind, His dealings with the children of Israel through Moses would contradict His dealings four hundred and thirty years before with Abraham. Such a thought cannot for a moment be tolerated. The Lord our God is one Lord; with Him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. He is ever one and the same; and the eternal principles upon which He acts can never alter. However different and opposed to one another His various dispensations towards mankind may at first sight appear, a secret thread of harmony runs through them all. His unity of purpose is expressed from first to last, in unity of plan. He will justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision by the same faith--in Jesus Christ, the seed of Abraham, to whom the promise was made. Now it is easy to see in what sort of relation the law stands to the promise. The work of the law is a work of discipline. It presents to view the sterner side of the Divine character; it shows God frowning at sin, and holding aloof from the sinner; it teaches man that by no effort of his own can he regain that communion with his Maker which was forfeited at the fall. But if that communion is not regained, man is lost--hopelessly lost for ever. Is there no other means of recovering the forfeited possession, and of once more enjoying the privilege of basking in the light of the Divine countenance? Yes, there is; and surely the law has been a most useful and valuable institution, if it has led men to ask that question. The promise, given hundreds of years before the law, still remains in force. Nothing can abrogate it--seeing that God is one and the same both in essence and in will. If in the time of Abraham He was willing to justify by faith, He is willing to justify by faith now, and He will continue in the same mind to the end of time and throughout eternity. Thus is the law our pedagogue, taking us by the hand, and leading us back over rough and devious paths to that earlier promise which was made to Christ the true seed of Abraham, and, in Christ, to all who believe. (J. Henry Burn, B. D.)
I. Its purpose.
1. To reveal sin.
2. To convict of sin.
3. To warn respecting its punishment.
Consequently we should examine ourselves by the law.
(1) When any one sin is forbidden, all sins of the same kind are forbidden.
(2) A negative commandment includes the affirmative.
(3) Every command must be understood with a curse.
(4) Look particularly to the first commandment, which forbids the first motions of our heart against God; and to the last, which forbids the first motions of our heart against man.
II. Its duration.
1. Particularly: till Christ should come in the case of the Jews.
2. Generally: till God has revealed His Son in us, before which the law, although abrogated as a dispensation, has still a condemning power.
III. The method of its promulgation.
1. Guilty man could not have received it direct.
2. It was therefore given
(1) by angels (Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalms 68:17; Acts 7:53).
(a) They were attendants on God at the time of its delivery.
(b) They were witnesses and approvers of its delivery.
(c) Perhaps its commands were uttered by angels (Hebrews 2:2).
(2) By the instrumentality of Moses (Deuteronomy 5:5).
3. Learn then
(1) to reverence it,
(2) to fear to break it,
(3) to repent of breaking it,
(4) to look for shame and confusion in the case of impenitence in the presence of God and the angels. (W. Perkins.)
The present use of the law
I. To the unconverted.
1. To restrain and limit transgression.
2. To bring to light transgressions.
3. To convince of transgression.
4. To prepare men to seek and receive the mercy of God in Christ.
II. To the justified.
1. It is a rule by which they are to be governed.
2. It serves to warn and guard them against the commission of sin.
3. To make them grateful for the privileges they enjoy.
4. To keep them in close dependence on Jesus.
In conclusion: the final judgment must be administered in accordance with the provisions of the law. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
I. The law was like a torch carried into the dark crevices and cellars of human nature that it might reveal the foul shapes that lurked there, and rouse man to long for a righteousness which it could not itself confer.
II. In the process of doing this, the law aggravated the very evil it brought to light: the presence of a Divine rule which forbade the indulgence of human passion had the effect of irritating those passions into new self-asserting activity (Romans 7:7). In the absence of the law, the sinful tendency had been inert, “but when the commandment came sin revived and I died.”
III. Not that the law was answerable for this result. In itself it was holy, just, and good; the cause lay in the sinful tendency of fallen human nature.
IV. So the law inflicted on the conscience that was not fatally benumbed an overwhelming conviction that righteousness in the way of legal obedience was a thing impossible; and was very far from furnishing a man with a real righteousness, of making him what he should be, correspondent to the true ideal.
V. This conviction prepared men for a righteousness which should not be 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, and man becomes such as he should be, viz., “justified by faith.” (Canon Liddon.)
The revealing power of the law
The law acts as a surgeon does when he takes the film from the eye of the blind. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The restraining power of the law
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, and it cuts through as though 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. Now, observe, it is the restraint that manifests the unsuspected power. In the same way law discovers the strength of evil in our hearts. Not till a man has felt something resisting the evil does he know its force. (F. W. Robertson.)
I. To prepare the way for the gospel.
II. To constitute a period of probation.
III. To bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24).
IV. To guide us in the path of holiness.
V. To vindicate the justice of God in the punishment of sinners. (J. Lyth.)
Christ our Mediator
As, when a king is angry with a subject, the king’s son marries the daughter of the subject, and brings him into favour with the king again: so, when God the Father was angry with us, Christ married Himself to our nature, and now mediates for us with His Father, and brings us to be friends again; and now God looks upon us with a favourable aspect. As Joab pleaded for Absalom, and brought Him to King David, and David kissed Him; so doth Jesus Christ ingratiate us into the love and favour of God. Therefore He may well be called a peacemaker, having taken our flesh upon Him, and so made peace between us and His angry Father. (T. Watson.)
During one of the journeys of Queen Victoria, a little boy was desirous of seeing her. He determined to go direct to the castle where she was residing, and ask to see her. He was stopped at the gate by the sentry, who demanded what he wanted. “I want to see the queen,” he replied. The soldier laughed at the boy, and with the butt-end of his musket pushed him away, and told him to be off immediately, or he would shoot him. The boy turned to go away, and gave vent to his grief in tears. He had not gone far when he was met by the Prince of Wales, who inquired why he was crying. “I want to see the queen,” replied the boy, “and that soldier won’t let me.”--“Won’t he?” said the prince: “then come along with me, and I’ll take you to the queen.” He accordingly took’ him by the hand, and led him towards the castle. On passing the sentinel, he, as usual, presented arms to the prince; and the boy became terrified, and ran away, fearing that the soldier was going to shoot him. The prince soon quieted his fears, and led him past the gates into the presence of her Majesty. The queen with surprise, inquired of her son whom he had there; and, upon being informed of what had taken place, she laughed heartily, spoke kindly to her little visitor, and to his great delight dismissed him with a piece of money. As the prince presented the boy to the queen, so Christ presents us to His Father. (T. Watson.)
The use of the law is
I. Moral--it was brought in to detect--expose--restrain--punish transgression.
II. Preparatory--it prepared the way for the gospel, developing human weakness--pointing to Christ its substance and antitype.
III. Divinely ordained--by angels (Deuteronomy 33:2; Hebrews 2:2)--in the hand of a mediator, Moses.
IV. Temporary--because mediatorial (see Galatians 3:15-22, also Lisco, in loco)--but the promise is everlasting, for God is one.
V. Harmonious with the gospel--it does not propose to communicate righteousness and life--but concludes all under sin.
VI. Conducive to faith--by convincing men of sin--excluding all other hope--shutting them up to the faith of Christ--in whom the promise is given. (J. Lyth.)
The nature of the law
I. In the first place, I will endeavour to define what is meant by the law of God is the abstract. The simple sense of the term law, and the most general sense, is this--it is that mode by which an agent proceeds. The mode by which the government of a country proceeds to rule its subjects, is called the law of that government. The term will be found to have the same signification when applied to the very highest class of objects--I mean, the government of God: the constant procedure of the Divine will, with respect to any object in any part of His dominions, is called the law of God, in respect of that particular object. While we are upon the nature of the law, let it be observed, chat these modes by which the Divine Being governs either the moral or the natural “world, are not merely arbitrary regulations imposed upon its objects solely with a design to exercise His authority; but, that they are the necessary perceptions of the Divine mind, as to what is proper or benevolent, in regard to each of the objects to which they relate. Whence it follows, that the law of God, in relation to any class of beings in His government (but, in relation to man, pre-eminently) is the result of infinite wisdom and infinite goodness, the Lawgiver Himself being infinitely wise and good. One more remark may be added, which is, that the law of God, being the transcript of His own benevolence and wisdom, proposes and accomplishes the best possible results; promotes happiness to the utmost extent of which the object may be capable. This law may be expressed and promulgated by different modes. God has impressed His laws upon all nature below man. He did not render the obedience of man a matter of mechanical certainty; but the result of free choice.
II. This leads me, secondly, to consider the modes whereby God hath promulgated His laws. These are two. He wrote the law originally upon the mind of Adam in the garden of Eden; and when it was effaced in a great measure by his apostasy, and almost obliterated from the mind of man, through the love of sin, he republished it to the world in the form of the Decalogue on Mount Sinai.
III. Thirdly, to remark on the different kinds of the law, which we must distinguish in perusing the Holy Scriptures. Although all that was republished on Sinai to the Jews, and at all other times, goes under the general term of the law of God; yet, upon close inspection, this law will be found to consist of three kinds, which are clearly distinct from one another. These three kinds of law are, the judicial law, or the state law of the Jews; the ceremonial law, that is to say, that law which prescribed the religious rites and services of the Jews under the Old Testament dispensation; and the moral law, which prescribed their conduct, and our conduct, as men. It has been inferred that the moral law was intended to be perpetual from the very mode of its promulgation. Let not this be dismissed as trifling. Everything in the promulgation of the law was the effect of premeditation on the part of the Divine mind, who doeth nothing in vain. Every part of it had a signification attached to it. The judicial part of the law, and the ceremonial part, were delivered to Moses privately, during the forty days in which he was on the Mount; but the moral law was delivered from the mouth of God Himself, in the presence of the whole assembled camp. The ceremonial part of the law was written in a perishable book; the moral part of the law was written by the finger of God upon two tables of stone, the emblem of perpetuity; and after wards, when the first tables of the law were destroyed by the zeal of Moses, they were restored by the same finger upon two other similar tables. Now, we must be persuaded that every particular in that solemn event of giving the law was the result of design: and that the moral part of the law was intended to be perpetual, seems the most probable meaning of the distinction made in the mode of promulgating the ceremonial and the moral law. But we have conclusive argument to prove the universal obligation and perpetuity of the law. That it is intended to be universal is most evident, because it was only the republication of the law which was imprinted on the mind of Adam in Eden, and which was effaced from his mind by his disobedience. But, as Adam was the head and father of all, and as all that had been prescribed to him first was intended to be taught to all his posterity, we infer that the moral law was intended to be perpetual and universally binding. Again, it is one great requisition of the gospel, that it should be preached to every creature; and that its object should be to testify toward Jews and Greeks, repentance toward God. But, if repentance be required of every creature, it follows that every creature is a sinner. Yet, every creature cannot be a sinner by disobedience to the judicial law, which was only for the Jews as a nation, nor by disobedience to the ceremonial law, which was to cease at Christ’s coming. But, by the disobedience of law, mankind became sinners, and consequently, the subject of the gospel must be the moral law; therefore, the moral law is universal. The precepts of the moral law have all of them respect only to the moral character of man, properly so called. They relate not to outward observances--not to the things which go into a man, but to the things which come out of him, namely, the thoughts and intents of his heart. Our Lord said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” This could not be the judicial law, which was to cease with the existence of the Jews as a nation. It could not mean the ceremonial law, which was done away by Christ. This declaration refers to the moral law, and there is ample reason for believing that his assertion should be true. (J. P. Denham, M. A.)
Jesus Christ the true and only Mediator between God and man
St. Paul commences his explanation of the use of the law of Moses, by saying that “it was added because of transgressions.” It was added, therefore was not, so to speak, included in the original purpose of God--because of transgressions, not that the law made transgression, but that it was a test whereby transgression might be--
1. Manifested and exposed;
2. Avoided and corrected.
Thus we find the use of the law to have consisted in being a witness to God between the patriarchal and the Christian dispensations. It was meant to be a standard of God’s righteousness, and thus a means of convincing man of his own unrighteousness. It would appear, then, that the one great object the apostle had in view in this Epistle to the Galatians was to shew the temporary character of the law, and that it only filled a sphere of subordinate usefulness in the economy of the Divine government; and so, by lowering their ideas of its dignity, to exalt their impressions of the higher dignity of evangelical truth, and of the greater necessity of faith in the evangelical promises. And this object we find wrought out in the text, wherein he shows its fleeting character in the assertion that it was only added “until the seed should come.” The word “angels” is capable of two interpretations.
1. The word translated “angels,” and from which our English word angel is derived, in its simple sense means “messengers.” It does not mean necessarily that spiritual and (to us) invisible messenger which we call an angel, but may mean any one entrusted with the performance of another’s will, or the execution of a commission. Thus we may take the law in its fullest sense, comprehending the moral as well as the ritual observances enjoined by God, and revealed by Him at various times through patriarchs, lawgivers, prophets, and ready scribes (like Ezra); and suppose these to have been the “messengers” by whom it was “ordained;” or (more literally) “set in order,” until the time of the Mediator arrived, when all the ordinances alike of ceremonial and moral law were realized in Him, even Jesus Christ, who fulfilled all righteousness.
2. But I confess that this interpretation, however satisfactory it may appear in itself as explanatory of the meaning of the apostle’s words, does not appear to me to elucidate the sense of the apostle upon the point in question. I prefer, therefore, to abide by the second interpretation, which, while it narrows its signification, applies more closely and explains more satisfactorily its meaning. St. Paul, you will bear in mind, was still dwelling on the temporary character of the law. This was the key-note of the whole chant in praise of the superiority of faith. He appears, therefore, in this expression to make a distinct allusion to the giving of the law to Moses, the mediator between God and His people Israel after the patriarchal times had ceased. I conceive hence that the law alluded to in the text was the ceremonial law ordained, or set in order by angelic ministers and conveyed to Moses in the Mount, when for forty days he was permitted to commune with Jehovah, and entrusted to his hands as the mediator appointed by God to convey His will to His chosen people Israel. Now, if, as I believe, this be a correct explanation of the meaning of the apostle, we shall find, on carrying out the idea contained therein, that it has a very important connection with the following portion of the text, “Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.” This connection may not at first appear so clear as I hope to make it; but, if I understand the apostle’s argument, his meaning was to this effect: “I have shown you the real use of the law, have explained that it was not God’s original covenant, but was only intended to fill up a gap, as it were, between the declaration and the fulfilment of the antecedent promise; that during that gap or interval, it was useful in convincing of sin, and thus leading to a necessity of faith, but had in itself no justifying power like the faith already illustrated in Abraham when he believed God and it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now, I have a still farther object in view: I wish to prove its inferiority, both in the mode of its revelation and in the person of its mediator.” He wished, I say, to prove the inferiority of the ritual law. First: in the mode of its revelation. The law was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. How far superior then must have been that promise which came direct from God Himself. The law was calculated to depress the thoughts to earth by its carnal rites and burthensome observances. How far superior, then, must have been that promise which elevated the thoughts, hopes, affections at once to the throne and mercy seat of God. The law was intended only to have a typical efficacy by shadowing forth good things yet to come. How far superior then in their fulfilment must have been those abiding realities, those spiritual substances which were thus foreshadowed. Second: In the person of its Mediator. The mediator of the covenant of the law was Moses, the servant of God, but the Mediator of the covenant of promise was Jesus the Son of God, and that we may duly appreciate the special, the specific superiority, in this character of the latter over the former, let us consider what was the office of, and what was the necessary qualification for a mediator. A mediator is one who seeks to reconcile differences between conflicting persons. In order to do this successfully between man and man, he must be utterly unbiassed by the prejudices of either, while he must feel a sympathy with the affections of both. In the arrangement of human differences we know by experience that if a person attempts to mediate between two, while all his sympathies are enlisted on the side of one, his office is sure to fail, even if his mediation be not rejected. Therefore, when the apostle says, “A mediator is not a mediator of one,” he at once shows the inefficiency of Moses for his office; because, being only man, he could not mediate on the side of Deity. He could convey God’s commands to His people. He could even act out God’s will in his own person. But not being a partaker of the Divine nature, he could not mediate as a Divine participator in the covenant. But contrast this with the Mediator of the covenant of promise, and regard His immeasurable superiority. Behold the development of the mystery contained in the concluding words of the text, “But God is one!” But while thus congratulating ourselves upon an undeserved, and I trust richly appreciated mercy, it is necessary heedfully to avoid one dangerous error--viz., not to degrade our faith into a mere result of external evidences. The mind and intellect being convinced will not always influence the conduct, will certainly fail to change the heart, and cannot of itself sanctify the will. Holy Scripture tells us that it is “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” (Bishop Suffragan of Nottingham.)
Law contrasted with promise
1. The law has no organic relation to the promise; was neither a new form of it, nor a codicil to it; did not spring out of it, but was superadded as a foreign and unallied element.
2. The law has functional connection with sin; the promise regards an inheritance.
3. The law was provisional and temporary only: the promise has no limitation of time, and is not to be superseded.
4. The law was given by a species of double intervention--the instrumentality of angels and the mediation of Moses; the promise was given directly and immediately from God’s own lips, no one stepping in between its Giver and its recipient--neither angel ordaining it nor man conveying it.
5. The promise, as resting solely on God, was unconditioned, and therefore permanent and unchanging; the law, interposed between two parties, and specially contingent on a human element, was liable to suspension or abolition.
6. This law, so necessitated by sin, so transient, so connected with angelic ordinance and human handling, was an institute later also by far in its imagination. (John Eadie, D. D.)
Inferiority of the law to the dispensation of grace
Had the law then no purpose? Yes; but its very purpose, its character and history, betray its inferiority to the dispensation of grace.
1. Instead of justifying, it condemns; instead of giving life, it kills; it was added to reveal and multiply, transgressions.
2. It was but temporary; when the seed came to whom the promise was given, it was annulled.
3. It did not come direct from God to man. There was a double interposition, a twofold mediation, between the giver and the recipient. There were the angels, who administered it as God’s instruments; there was Moses (or the high priest) who delivered it to man.
4. As follows from the idea of mediation, it was of the nature of a contract, whereas the promise, proceeding from the sole fiat of God, is unconditional and unchangeable, (Bishop Lightfoot.)
The uses of the law
The law was never intended to be the means of conveying life. Its office was to bring home to men the necessity of seeking life elsewhere. It was subservient and preparatory to the gospel. The general reason for which it was given was “because of transgressions.”
1. To restrain sin. As a curb. It holds men in check wherever it is known. Without some such restraint this earth would soon become a hell.
2. To reveal sin (Romans 7:7-9). The sediment at the bottom of a pool is there, but its existence does not become apparent until the pool is stirred. The chamber may be full of all that is unseemly and unsightly, but the fact is not known so long as darkness prevails. So the law lets in the light of God’s truth upon man’s evil heart.
3. To provoke sin (Romans 5:20). The very fact that fruit is forbidden makes it to be more desired. The heart chafes at restraint. Just as a barrier thrown across a stream causes it, however smooth and quiet before, to rage and fret against the new obstruction, if perchance it may sweep it away; so does the law, with its demands, warnings, threatenings, stir up the enmity of the heart, and provoke it to rebel against God.
4. To condemn sin. “the law, when it has once found a man, holds him fast in its grip. It has but two sentences--death or life. It reveals to man his own helpless misery, and leaves him in it. (Emilius Bayley, B. D.)
The purposes the law was intended to serve
Take a bird’s-eye view of the works of the law in this world. Lo, I see the law given upon Mount Sinai. The very hill doth quake with fear. Lightnings and thunders are the attendants of those dreadful syllables which make the hearts of Israel to melt. Sinai seemeth altogether on the smoke. The Lord came from Paran, and the Holy One from Mount Sinai; He came with ten thousand of His saints. Out of His mouth went a fiery law for them. It was a dread law even when it was given; and since then from that Mount of Sinai an awful lava of vengeance has run down, to deluge, to destroy, to burn, and to consume the whole human race, if it had not been that Jesus Christ had stemmed its awful torrent, and bidden its waves of fire be still. Apart from Christ and His gospel, the law is nothing but the condemning voice of God thundering against mankind. So it is natural to ask the question in the text; and the answer to that question is--
1. To manifest to man his guilt. Asleep on the edge of the precipice, God sends the law as a messenger to open men’s eyes and show them their danger.
2. To slay all hope of salvation by a reformed life. Future obedience can be no atonement for past guilt, even if perfect obedience for the future could be guaranteed, which is far from the case.
3. To show man the misery which will fall upon him through his sin.
4. To show the value of a Saviour. As foils set off jewels, and dark spots make bright tints more bright, so does the law make Christ appear the fairer and more heavenly. How harsh and discordant is the voice of the law with its cure; how sweet and harmonious that of Jesus, saying, “Come unto Me.”
5. To keep Christian men from self-righteousness. When we read the law we see our faults as in a mirror. If we would be saved, we must come with nothing of our own to Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Because of transgressions:--
Relation of the law to sin
The “transgressions” on account of which the law was added refer, I apprehend, to the criminal conduct of the Israelites, which rendered the introduction of such a system as the law necessary in order to the attainment of the great object of the covenant about Christ, and justification by faith through Him. This arrangement was first made known in the first promise, but from the prevalence of human depravity it seems to have been in the course of ages almost entirely forgotten. “All flesh corrupted its way on the earth.” The deluge swept away the whole inhabitants of the ancient world with the exception of one family, among whom the true religion was preserved. In the course of no very long period, the great body of their descendants, the inhabitants of the new world, became idolaters. To prevent the utter extinction from among mankind of the knowledge of God, and the way of obtaining His favour, Abraham was called, and a plainer revelation made to him of the Divine purposes of mercy, and his decendants by Isaac and Jacob chosen as the depositaries of this revelation, till He should come to whom the revelation chiefly referred. In consequence of the descendants of Jacob coming down into Egypt, they gradually contracted a fondness for Egyptian superstitions, and were fast relapsing into a state of idolatry, which must soon have terminated in their being lost among the nations; and the revelation with which they were entrusted being first corrupted and then forgotten, God raised up Moses as their deliverer, brought them out of Egypt, and placed them under that very peculiar order of things which we commonly term the Mosaic Law--an order of things admirably adapted to preserve them a distinct and peculiar people--and by doing so, to preserve the revelation of mercy through the Messiah, of which they were the depositaries, and to prepare abundant and satisfactory stores of evidence and illustration when the great Deliverer appeared--evidence that He was indeed the Person to whom the hopes of mankind had from the beginning been directed, an illustration rendering in some measure level to human apprehension what otherwise would have been unintelligible. Every person acquainted with the principles of depraved human nature, and with the history of the Jews at and subsequent to their deliverance from Egypt, will see that their “transgressions” rendered some such arrangement as the Mosaic law absolutely necessary, on the supposition that the Messiah was not to appear for a course of ages, and that the revelation of salvation through Him was to be preserved in the world by means of the Jewish people. We are not so much, if at all, to consider the Mosaic law as a punishment for the transgressions of the descendants of Abraham. We are rather to consider it as the means which their transgressions rendered necessary in order to secure the object of their being chosen to be God’s peculiar people. To be preserved from being involved in the ignorance, and idolatry, and vice in which the surrounding nations were sunk, was a blessing, at whatever expense it might be gained. At the same time, had it not been for the transgressions of the Israelites, the more spiritual and less burdensome order of things under which Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were placed might have been continued, and the law as a distinct order of things never have existed because never needed. (John Brown, D. D.)
The law, then, was given for these two purposes
1. To show the people what actions were sins, that they might not fall into them without knowledge and without warning.
2. To restrain them from those sins against the law of nature and the covenant with God, through fear of the punishment which should follow, and thus root out from them those habits of wickedness which they had contracted in Egypt. In both these respects was the necessity of a mediator, a redeemer, kept before the eyes of the people. Their weakness taught them the need of a Saviour, who should strengthen them; the sight of their sinfulness directed them to a Redeemer, through whom they should obtain deliverance from present sin and forgiveness for the past. For the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners; and therefore, since the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
The inferiority of the law to the covenant of promise which was fulfilled by the gospel is considered in these particulars.
1. The law represses outward transgressions through the fear which it excites; the gospel effects an inward transformation in man by love.
2. Instead of justifying, which is the work of the gospel, the law condemns; instead of giving life, it does but kill.
3. The law was temporary; it was only to continue until the coming of the seed.
4. The law did not come to man directly from the mouth of God as the gospel does, but by the intervention of angels. Until Christ came, man indeed was not brought face to face with God, but the will of the Father was revealed to the world by the ministry of angels. Only in these last days hath He spoken unto us by His Son. The law depended for its fulfilment on the observance of its conditions by the two contracting parties, whilst the promise of God to Abraham is absolute. (W. Denton, M. A.)
Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.
I. The key to the apostle’s argument--“One.”
1. (Galatians 3:16) One is the seed of Abraham, to whom the promise was made. “In thee shall all the nations be blessed” (Galatians 3:8), was the proposition with which St. Paul started to prove (Galatians 3:14) that the blessing of Abraham was to come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ.
2. (Galatians 3:28-29) The conclusion evidently reverts to the beginning, “Ye are all one in Christ Jesus … then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to promise.”
3. In Galatians 3:20, therefore, the oneness in the centre must refer to the same unity. When, in the intermediate argument, designed to refute the plea of the Jews that their covenant was the fulfilment of the promise to Abraham, St. Paul insists on the non-unity or want of oneness connected with a mediator, the presumption is strong that it is to the Mosaic covenant and its mediator that he is denying the oneness which he claims to be fulfilled in the Christian covenant and its Mediator.
II. The steps of the argument.
1. (Galatians 3:16) One is the “seed” of Abraham, to whom the “blessing” which extends to all nations is promised.
2. (Galatians 3:20. The mediator must be a “mediator of one” (seed), including all Jews and Gentiles! and making all one; and “the God (of both) is One.”
3. (verses 28-29) But “ye are all one in Christ Jesus; and therefore Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.”
III. The conclusion of the argument.
1. Moses, the mediator of the Jewish covenant, is not such a “mediator of one” (Galatians 3:20), uniting all into one, making all one seed, one body, one with God, one with each other.
2. But Christ is exactly such a mediator.
(1) He is the one seed in whom all find their unity.
(2) In Him God and man are made one, for He is both in one Person.
(3) In Him all men and all nations, the most diverse have become one. (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:10).
3. Christ, as Mediator, is a Mediator of one in the fullest sense as making all one. “God,” the author of the promise, “is one” God of all, Jews and Gentiles (Galatians 3:20).
4. “Ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28), being all “baptized into Christ,” having “put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27), “and if ye be Christ’s, then ye be Abraham’s seed and heirs,” etc. (Galatians 3:29). (Principal Forbes.)
The law was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator; but a mediator is not a mediator of one person, but of two--here, in the case under consideration, the mediator was Moses, and the two parties between whom he stood were God and the Israelites. But God is not a Mediator between two parties: He is one; in His promise God acts alone and independently--here, in the case under consideration, in the giving of a promise to Abraham by God, there was no mediator, it was absolute and unconditional, without the intervention of a third party. The covenant which God made with the Israelites at Sinai was given through a mediator, viz., Moses; but the covenant which God made with Abraham that in him and his seed all nations should be blessed, was given without a mediator. The one was conditional, and by law or contract; the other was unconditional, and by promise. (P. J. Gloag, D. D.)
Mediation and God’s oneness
Perhaps no passage in Scripture has received so many interpretations as this--more than two hundred and fifty at least. Who does not see in this an illustration of the honour done to the Word of God? On what other book would the same amount of time, and mental labour, and literary attainment, have been expended for the illustration of an occasional remark? The causes of the diversity of sentiment are various Some suppose the apostle to speak in his own person; others consider either the whole verse, or at any rate the first part of it, as the words of an objector. Some by the “mediator” understand any mediator; others, Moses; others, Christ. Some understand “one” as a substantive; others as an adjective which requires a substantive to be supplied to bring out the sense, and that substantive they have supplied very variously: some, of one party; others, of one seed; others, of one law; others, of one race; others, of one thing, etc. Some understand the assertion “is not of one” of the person; ethers, of the condition, others, of the design and business of the mediator. Some consider the last member of the sentence, “God is one,” as philosophical or dogmatic; others as historical, looking to the times of Abraham, or of the giving of the law at Sinai. Luther’s notion is quite singular--“God offendeth no man, and therefore needeth no mediator; but we offend God, and therefore we need a mediator.” The mode of connecting the passage has also given origin to diversity of view respecting its meaning. Now, in any discussion of this passage, two things must be kept in mind:
1. The repetition of the word “mediator” is not in the original. The text reads literally thus: “Now a”--or the--“mediator is not of one.”
2. The words must contain in them some statement which lays a foundation for the conclusion deduced in the next verse, that the law is not against the promises of God. However plausible in other respects an interpretation may be, it cannot be the right one if it does not bring out a sense which justifies the apostle’s inference. The almost innumerable opinions of interpreters may be reduced to two classes--those in which the words, “Now a mediator is not of one,” are understood as a general proposition, true of all mediators, and applied by the apostle in the course of his reasoning to the subject before him; and those in which they are considered as a particular statement, referring exclusively and directly to the mediator spoken of in preceding verse. Those who are agreed in thinking the words are a general proposition, differ widely in the way in which they understand it, and in which they make it bear on the apostle’s argument. One class consider the words as equivalent to--“Now a mediator does not belong to a state of unity or agreement. The use of a mediator seems to intimate that the parties between whom he mediates are not at one.” This mode of interpretation labours under great difficulties. For, first, it is not true that the use of a mediator necessarily supposes disagreement. There are causes of the use of a mediator besides this. God continues to deal with those with whom He is reconciled through a mediator. And secondly, it breaks the connection between the two clauses of the verse, which obviously is very intimate. Another class consider the words as equivalent to--“a mediator does not belong exclusively to one party; a mediator belongs to both parties;” and they consider the apostle as arguing thus: “No man can be a mediator who is not appointed by both parties. There were two parties in the original agreement--God and the spiritual seed of Abraham. Moses was indeed appointed by God; but God was one of the parties, so that whatever such a mediator could do could not affect the interests of the other party.” This explanation is not satisfactory, because in the appointment of the Great Mediator of the better covenant, God alone was concerned. A third class consider the words as equivalent to--“a mediator is not peculiar to this one dispensation. There have been various mediators, but there is but one God. The mediator may be changed, but God continues the same.” But the words do not naturally convey this meaning. The mediator of this verse is evidently the same as the mediator referred to in the preceding verse. The question still remains, then, Who is the mediator thus referred to? Some consider the mediator by whose hands the law was given, as Jesus Christ. But Christ is nowhere in Scripture called the mediator of the law; and surely if the reference had been to Him, the language in verse :19 would not have been “a mediator,” but “the mediator,” if not the expression elsewhere used, “the one Mediator between God and men.” This still further narrows the field of discussion. We have now only--taking for granted that the mediator is Moses--to seek for a meaning which the words of the apostle will bear, and which will support his conclusion, that the law is not, cannot be, against the promises of God. If the first part of the verse be read interrogatively, and if the word one be understood, not numerically, but morally, as signifying uniform and unchangeable, always self-consistent, a plain meaning may be deduced from the words, in harmony with the context. “The law was given by the hands of Moses as a mediator. But was he not the mediator of Him who is one and the same for ever? Now God, who appointed Moses mediator, is one and the same--unchanged, unchangeable. Can, then, the law be against the promises of God?” (John Brown, D. D.)
God is one. He alone is to be considered in this transaction. It is all His doing. He not only mediates with us, but also for us; He is on our side; He takes part with us. It is His single hand which achieves the issue; the whole depends upon Him, and is consummated by Him.
I. The parties supposed. God; man. These two at variance.
II. The mediator. One who can take up both sides of the case. Necessary that he should receive power and deputation from both, and that each party abide by his determination. In God’s stead, and yet man’s substitute and surety. Where shall such an one be found?
III. God provides the mediator. He acts for man, as well as for Himself.
1. God originates the plan.
2. God removes every obstruction.
3. God secures man’s co-operation.
4. God alone is to be adored. (R. W. Hamilton, D. D.)
Explanation of the verse
Some two or three hundred interpretations go upon the misconception that the meaning is: “A mediator is a mediator, not of one party, but of two parties, and God is one of those two parties.” This is, I strongly think, quite erroneous. The structure of the Greek excludes it. The word “one” clearly points not to number, but to quality; and so the sense will be: “A mediator has nothing to do with what is one, whatsoever be the number of individuals constituting that unit, but God is pre-eminently one--one with Himself, as in essence, so in will … one in His one method of dealing with all.” (Canon T. S. Evans, D. D.)
St. Paul’s view of the unity of God
There is more than one sense in which unity may be understood. It may mean “one and no more,” i.e., numerical unity; or, one and the same to all and always; or, union of many in a collective unit. We may say, there is one king, meaning that there are not two or more; or, there is one king, meaning that all have the same king, that he is the same to all his subjects; and we may say, the kingdom is one, meaning that it is not divided, that it is a collective unit in the monarchy. It is therefore important to observe in what sense St. Paul uses the word εἶς when in any passage he speaks of unity, and especially when he refers to the unity of God. Now it is plainly his habit to use the word in senses other than numerical. The following are instances: 1Co 3:8; 1 Corinthians 6:16; 1 Corinthians 10:17; 1Co 12:13; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 2:14-15; Philippians 1:27. And so, when St. Paul speaks of God being one, it is certainly not usually, if it is ever, in the numerical sense. The very word θεός, as he understands it, excludes the idea of polytheism; and against polytheism, as implying many actual gods, he is nowhere concerned to argue … Brought up in Judaism, he had imbibed, as it were with his mother’s milk, the idea of one God only. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one God,” had been the central principle of his religion from the first, and expressed a self-evident truth which to his mind was unassailable. But he had been taught also to regard the One God as, in a peculiar sense, the God of Israel only; the whole Gentile world being to the mind of the Jew outside the circle of special Divine favour. Yet, as his mind became enlarged through familiarity with Gentile thought and literature, and through his own musings and his observation of the world, we may believe that he had long been perplexed by the limitation which his creed seemed to imply of the love of the universal Father. His mind craved a conception of God, as not only supreme, but as one in His own nature, one and the same to all, comprehending all alike in the embrace of His own essential unity. Further, it appears from his language in more than one passage, that he had been perplexed not only by the seeming partition between Jew and Gentile, but also by the discords and anomalies Apparent at present in creation generally. The general “puzzle of this painful earth” had set him musing. Such comprehensive language (as that in Romans 8:19-22) cannot surely be interpreted as referring to humanity alone. It seems to mean that everywhere throughout known sentient creation there is now pain and evil, discordant with the idea of unity in God. But among all the apparent discords of creation those within himself came home to him especially, because personally felt. He was conscious of a “law of God” within him, demanding his entire allegiance; but he was conscious also of another “law in his members”--a “law of sin and death”--warring against the law of his mind--such as to have wrung from him once the almost despairing cry, “O wretched man that I am,” etc. Such inward experience clashed with his conceived ideal of “One God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto Him.” And further, it is evident (as is especially seen in his Epistle to the Ephesians) that even beyond this mundane sphere of things his thoughts extended. His religious faith--confirmed doubtless by his observation of the mystery of spiritual evil among men--told him also of “spiritual things of wickednesses in the heavenly places,” of a “prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience;” and such dissonance in the heavenly places themselves was inconsistent with his grand ideal. For God was to his mind the one absolute existence, the one eternal Being, “of whom are all things:” “the Father (πατήρ) of whom every family (πατριά) in heaven and on earth is named;” and not only the Father, but also present in all creation still And the God of his conscience being to him Love and Righteousness as well as Power and Life, he craved in all creation a reflection of the whole Divine perfection--such as, in the present state of things, he did not find. Such grand conceptions we conceive to have had possession of St. Paul’s mind--after his conversion certainly, as is evident from his writings, and probably long before. To a mind thus prepared, the revelation of God in Christ was as a sudden burst of light. It did not, indeed, show him the original source or purpose of existing evil … But the new light from heaven showed him Reconciliation, and discords resolved, in the fulness of time, into eternal harmony In this passage the apostle has been arguing against the notion that the Mosaic law had either fulfilled or abrogated the promise made to Abraham; and the thought that suggests the verse before us is, that in the giving of the law Moses had intervened as a mediator. In reference to this fact he says: “Now a mediator is not of one; but God is one.” Viewed in the light of St. Paul’s dominant conception, with all that it involves, of the unity of God, the following interpretation at once suggests itself to the mind: “A mediator is not of one” (i.e., “of that which is one”--whether singly or collectively--mediation has no place where there is unity)
; “but God is one” (in the sense, with all that follows from it, ever present to St. Paul’s mind when he says εἶς ὁ Θεός): therefore (the conclusion follows, though not expressed) the law, with its intervening mediator, did not manifest God’s unity, and the consequent unity of all in Him. (J. Barmby, B. D.)
That nothing should disturb our deep and settled repose in immutable love and faithfulness of God. That the most rigid enactments of law can never affect the promises of Divine grace, while the grace revealed in the promises mellows and modifies the rigour of law. That both the law and the promise shut us up to one only ground of dependence and hope of eternal life. That Christianity, with its personal Saviour and remedial scheme of mercy, is the only revelation suited to the moral and undeniable necessities of man’s fallen nature. That the belief and reception of the Christian revelation is the one simple condition of endless life and blessedness. Such we deem to be the true exegesis of this confessedly difficult text, and such the profound truths involved in its interpretation. There are no various readings to perplex us; there is no necessity for taking a single word out of its ordinary and accepted meaning; there is no pretext for twisting or wresting the apostle’s language, nor for interfering with the chain of his argument. His aim is to bring out the superiority of the gospel to the law: and this he does by showing that whatever methods God may adopt in the government of our world, nothing can interfere with His promise of grace, since that promise is founded on the immutability of His own nature, no less than on the depth and the exuberance of His own love. God is one, immutably and for ever the same; so that the promise which was given four hundred years before the law remains the same after the law--as rich in grace, and as pregnant with life. In this promise, or rather in Him to whom the promise refers, we can confide with calm and joyous repose, “persuaded that neither life nor death, neither angels, nor principalities, etc.” (R. Ferguson, LL. D.)
The one Mediator
The argument is based on the fact that when God blessed Abraham, He used a singular and not a plural word, and said, not “seeds,” but “Seed:” “to Abraham and his seed were the promises made.” “The Seed,” therefore, must be One Individual. And who could that single Individual be, but Christ only? Therefore all the promises in the Old Testament are to Christ. Not primarily, nor chiefly, to Isaac, or to Jacob, or to Judah, or to any other earthly descendants; but to one, to Christ. Stop a moment, and consider what that assertion involves. All the promises in the Old Testament are to Jesus only. Nay more, all the promises in the Bible centre in Jesus. They pass to us only through Him. How often have we taken the comfort of some beautiful promise in Deuteronomy; or in the Psalms; or the Proverbs; or in Isaiah; or any of the Prophets, without thinking of this. But not one of those promises was originally made to us. They were made to Christ. How then, could we dare to appropriate them, or even to touch them? Where do we find a right or a title to any one of them? Only by a union to Him to whom they were made. You must have a part in Christ. You must be “in Him;” a member in His mystical body. Thus and thus only, does any promise really belong to and to all that are in Him, what is the use of the law. “Wherefore then serveth the law?” “The law” is not “covenant,” it was “four hundred and thirty years” after covenant. The law does not give us the promises. “Wherefore then serveth the law?” Our fallen nature, and our sins, made it necessary. “It was added (after the covenant) because of transgressions,” to prevent transgressions; to punish transgressions; but not to give pardon, or peace, or salvation, or heaven. It was a beautiful and holy law; and if any law could have saved a man, that would have saved him. “If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” But no law can give life. But now let us consider the mode of the giving of that law which St. Paul introduces as a further link in his chain of argument. “It was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator” (see Deuteronomy 33:2). It is clear, therefore, that in some way, at the giving of the law on mount Sinai, “angels” were employed for the ordering, disposing, and arranging the solemnities of that awful occasion. St. Paul introduces the fact to enhance the glory of the “second” and better “covenant”; he goes on to a climax; the first covenant was very glorious, “it was ordained by angels”; but how much more glorious when Christ did all Himself, in His own Person, by His own act, alone! Then St. Paul passes--from “the angels,” and the order of the solemnities on mount Sinai--to “the mediator,” Moses, who was employed by God to communicate God’s will to man, the Creator’s law to His creatures. “It was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” And at that word “mediator” St Paul (as is his custom), breaks off to the thoughts which that word “mediator” suggested to his mind. “A mediator!”--what is it? What does that word involve? And so we come to the text, “Now a mediator is not a mediator of one; but God is one.” This short sentence is so difficult in its conciseness, so abstruse, and capable of so many meanings, that it is not too much to say that it has more interpretations than any other passage in the Bible. Amongst all the meanings, however, which have been attached to it, there are two which stand out so distinct, and are far superior (as far as I can judge) to all the rest, that the true understanding of the words must be, I think, in one or the other, or in both unitedly. The one is this. “Now a mediator is not a mediator of one.” A “mediator” implies that there are two parties concerned. There cannot be mediators unless there are two between whom ”the mediator” is to act. And the two must be, more or less, at variance, otherwise there would be no need, or occasion, for the mediation. Here, then, there must be two. Two? God is one of the two, one of those two between whom the mediation takes place. Then, who was the other? Man. In what condition, then, must man be? At enmity with God! Else, he would not need a mediation. The other interpretation is this. The words are intended to draw a contrast between the law and the gospel. The mediation of the law--which was conducted by Moses--was of the nature of a contract between two parties--God, on the one side, man on the other. And each must fulfil his part in the contract, or else it would not be valid. Therefore the contract of the law, observe this! leaves the issue uncertain--for it depended, on one side, on man’s obedience, which was an exceedingly doubtful thing; it certainly cannot be depended upon! But just the contrary to that is the contract of the gospel. In that contract God is all in all. It depends on the will and power of God. It is all, from beginning to end, His work. He elects the soul: He makes the faith: He makes the obedience: He makes the holiness; and He has provided, and He Himself gives, and is, the reward. There is nothing but God in it. So the unity of God is complete. There is nothing but God. “God is one.” The mediation is entirely different from the mediation of the law. There, the parties mediated, were two. Here, all are one. God the Author, God the Finisher; only God on either side, in His electing love, in the sinner’s penitence, in the sinner’s peace, in the sinner’s eternal life. It is all God. One; alone. Of these two explanations I myself very much prefer the first. But why may we not embrace the two, reading the verse thus? Man is separate from God. The fact that there is a Mediator, the necessity of a Mediator, proves it. We are all at variance with God. A controversy between a man and God is, on reasonable and rational principles, hopeless. I am one and alone in my deep, sinful degradation. God is one and alone in the solitude of His infinite and unapproachable holiness. There is not the vestige of a hope for me unless there be a Mediator. “But God is one.” One, up in heaven, in His foreordaining love; one, in my poor heart, working there in His grace and mercy; one, in His eternal sovereignty; one, in His power and will to make me all He would have me to be; one to plan, one to execute, His grand design. One to begin, and one to perfect, my salvation. One to save me and glorify Himself by my everlasting happiness. “A mediator is not a mediator of one”--then God and I are at enmity. “But God is one.” And, in His unity, I and God are one for ever. (James Vaughan, M. A.)
I. His office--to act between two parties--needed betwixt God and man.
II. His qualifications--friendly relations with both parties--strict justice and impartiality.
III. His functions--to effect reconciliation-by bringing both together--on a common ground.
IV. His authority--Divine, for God is one--consequently there is but one mediator, the man Christ Jesus--Moses was but a shadow of the true. (J. Lyth.)
The mediation of Christ
I. Effects reconciliation between God and man.
II. Is the realization of the idea faintly depicted in the person of Moses--He gives the law of the Spirit--provides the true sacrifice--makes everlasting intercession.
III. Is based upon the original promise (v. 21)--God is one, therefore supreme--unchangeable--almighty to effect His purpose of grace. (J. Lyth.)
Is the law, then, against the promises of God?
The harmony between the law and the gospel
I. The gospel gift of righteousness is not made of none effect by the law. Abraham was justified by faith.
1. Which is God’s old covenant.
2. Resting on God’s own promises.
3. And still endures.
II. The law is not made of none effect by the gospel gift of righteousness. The law is--
1. For conviction.
2. Discovers need for righteousness.
3. Leads to righteousness by leading to Christ. (Canon Vernon Hutton.)
If the law had been for the same end as the gospel, for man ruined and sinful to obtain life and salvation by it as well as the gospel, then they might have been supposed to contradict one another; but since they are given for different purposes, they are but different revelations of God which are happily subordinate one to another, and their different ends and designs are both obtained. (I. Watts, D. D.)
The harmony of revelation
There is a mighty growth in the discovery of God’s nature and will, but never a point at which we are brought to a pause by a manifest contradiction of one part with another. In reading the Bible we always look on the same landscape, the only difference being that as we take in more of its statements, more and more of the mist is rolled away from the horizon, so that the eye can behold a wider sweep of its beauty. There is a vast difference between the New Testament and the Old, but it is the difference between two parts of one whole. It is no new landscape which opens on our gaze, as the town and the forest come out from the shadow, and fill up the blanks in the glorious panorama; it is no new planet which comes travelling in its majesty, as the crescent deepens into the circle, and the line of faint light gives place to the rich globe of silver; and it is no fresh religion which is made known as the brief notices given to patriarchs expand into the institutions of the law, under the teachings of prophecy, till at length in the days of Christ and His apostles they burst into magnificence, and fill a world with redemption. It is throughout the same system, and revelation has been only the gradual development of this system--the drawing up of another fold of the veil from the landscape, the adding of another stripe of light to the crescent; so that the fathers of our race, and ourselves, look on the same arrangements for human deliverance, though to them there was nothing but cloudy expanse, with here and there a prominent landmark, whilst to us, though the horizon loses itself in the far-off eternity, every object of personal interest is exhibited in beauty and distinctness. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The importance of the law
Law, as law, can do nothing but enjoin the right, and then, justify on perfect obedience, or condemn on proved violation. A sinful man, hearing the law and nothing else, or hearing it more distinctly, and with more corroborating consciousness, than the provision for relief is perceived in its intention or experienced in fact, can only despair and die. Strength withers with the extinction of hope; effort is vain when performance is impossible (see Romans 8:3-4). The law was weak because corruption was strong; and corruption strong because the sense of guilt could not be removed. In proportion, in fact, to its anxiety to realize the ideal of virtue, and its spiritual insight into the inefficacy of ritual observances, humanity, while under the law, was disheartened and bewildered, and was thus made to long for deliverance and life. Sometimes it felt goaded and exasperated, and became desperate and reckless from the feeling of its helplessness (Romans 7:5). The gospel brings hope to the despairing and life to the dead, by its ample arrangements for both pardon and strength; by its atoning sacrifice and sanctifying spirit. Obedience becomes possible because it may be of another sort, and is to be presented for a different object. It is acceptable to God as the result of what He has done, not as a ground of what He is to do. The impulses and instincts of the Divine nature of which the saved are partakers, make duty a necessity, labour a delight, obedience a spontaneous service, conformity to the law a privilege and a joy. (T. Blarney, D. D.)
The law useful
No doubt the Jaw restrains us; but all chains are not fetters, nor are all walls the gloomy precincts of a gaol. It is a blessed chain by which the ship, now buried in the trough, and now rising on the top of the sea, rides at anchor, and outlives the storm. The condemned would give worlds to break his chain, but the sailor trembles lest his should snap; and when the grey morning breaks on the wild lee shore, all strewn with wrecks and corpses, he blesses God for the good iron that stood the strain. The pale captive eyes his high prison wall, to curse the man who built it, and envies the little bird that, perched upon its summit, sings merrily, and flies away on wings of freedom; but were you travelling some Alpine pass, where the narrow road, cut out of the face of the rock, hung over a frightful gorge, it is with other eyes you would look on the wall that restrains your restive steed from backing into the gulf below. Such are the restraints God’s law imposes--no other. It is a fence from evil--nothing else. I challenge the world to put its finger on any one of these Ten Commandments which is not meant and calculated to keep us from harming ourselves or hurting others. (Dr. Guthrie.)
Up to this point the apostle has contrasted the promise made to Abraham, the fulfilment of which was in the gospel, with the law of Moses in these particulars:--
1. The promise was made first four hundred and thirty years before the giving of the law on Sinai, and that which is given afterwards cannot weaken the older covenant.
2. The covenant of promise was one of blessing to mankind, the law regarded transgressions.
3. The promise is absolute and without limitation of time; the blessing will be for ever, the law is given until the coming of the Messiah.
4. The promise was made by God Himself, without the intervention of others. The law was ordained by the ministry of angels.
5. The promise was made without any mediator, the law was given to the people by the hands of Moses. The law here spoken of by the apostle is the ceremonial law; not that of the Decalogue; not the moral law, which was reimposed, but not for the first time given at Sinai. (W. Denton, M. A.)
But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin.
A charge of sin
I. The scripture statement of man’s natural condition. And what now do you expect to hear? That man, though fallen and frail, has nevertheless many native virtues and excellences? that, if his conduct be sometimes amiss, yet his heart is good? These are, I know, the vain imaginations which multitudes indulge:--but they receive no countenance from Holy Scripture. No--if God’s Word is to decide, you will find that--
1. The Scripture brings against man a charge of sin. As preparatory to this, the Bible fully sets forth man’s duty: sometimes dwelling on the several particulars of the ten commandments; at other times, comprehensively demanding “Love” as “the fulfilling” of the whole law; expanding this, again, into the two branches of that love--love to God, love to man; or pointing to still more special duties, arising out of special relations and situations in life. Furthermore, we are told, that “whoso offendeth in one point is guilty of all”--he has broken through that hedge of the law, which should have kept him from all sin. After laying down a strict principle like this, it ceases to be surprising, that the Scripture invariably addresses man as a sinner. For man’s own conscience must tell him that God’s perfect law has not been kept.
2. On this charge the Scripture shuts man up (for that is the meaning of the words “hath concluded”) as already sentenced and condemned. Man is not merely in danger of this sentence; it is passed on him already. Living in this world, he is but a prisoner at large. God’s justice has got firm hold of him; and wander where he may, and vaunt as he likes, the day of execution is coming nearer and nearer--and he cannot escape.
3. All men, without a single exception, come under this charge. All nations. All ranks. All ages.
4. The charge is incessantly reiterated, and pressed again and again.
II. The design with which this statement is so earnestly insisted upon. Why do the Scriptures thus shut up all men under the charge of sin. St. Paul replies--“that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ may be given to them that believe.” The object aimed at, in the Scripture doctrine of man’s sin, was--
1. To show the reasonableness of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone. Though man be guilty, condemned, and under actual sentence; yet his condition, so long as life endures, is not hopeless. There is in the same Scripture a promise--a promise of salvation.
2. To compel sinners actually to accept the promise by believing in Christ. The terrors of God are really mercies; they are the wholesome rod by which the lost sheep are driven back to that gracious fold, where they may remain safe, under the care of the good shepherd, Jesus Christ. In conclusion, I ask,
(1) Are you not sinners? Methinks there should be no doubt on this head.
(2) Is salvation yet given to you? In other words, have you believed in Jesus Christ?
(3) What will ye do in the end--that end which is shortly approaching--death--judgment? (J. Jowett, M. A.)
The great prison
How much is declared in these few words! They set forth the whole counsel of God with regard to mankind. They show us what man is by nature, and what he may become by grace: and they point out the only way in which it is possible for him to pass from one of these states to the other. God, speaking to man through His Holy Scriptures, hath concluded all under sin. He has, so to say, shut up all mankind together in the same great prisonhouse of sin. How has He done this? When a conqueror overruns a country, he will sometimes drive the inhabitants, or at least a large part of them, into bondage (e.g., Shalmaneser, Nebuchadnezzar)
. Now is this the way in which God concluded all mankind under sin? by driving them into sin, and shutting them up in it? God forbid! Satan does indeed draw and drive men into sin: this is the accursed work of his restless sabbathless 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 all up together, sinner with sinner, and 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. This is the way in which Satan would conclude all mankind under sin, in which he does conclude all such as give themselves up to him, to work his bidding. But God never drove, never drew any man into sin. Throughout His Scriptures He is calling to us to come out from the deadly land, from the loathsome plague-breathing dungeon of sin. By His commandments, by entreaties, by threats, by promises, He calls us to come out from sin. So that, when the Scripture concludes, or shuts up all men together under sin, it is not by driving them into sin, but for the sake of calling them out from it. In order however that men should come forth from a place, in order that they should desire to come forth, it is necessary they should know that they are there, that they should know too what sort of a place it is, how dismal, how miserable, how terrible. How unwilling are we to be persuaded that the prison can indeed be a prison! To us at least, we feel confident, it is nothing of the sort. For how can it be a prison, we say to ourselves, when there are no bare walls to be seen? when the walls are all glittering with precious stones, and are far more like the walls of a palace? How can it be a prison, when it is so vast, stretching out to the furthermost parts of the earth, and all mankind are walking about in it: Nay, how can it be a prison, when all the people in it are doing just what they like, are following the lusts of their own hearts, are drinking and rioting and thieving and lying, without any fear of law, without any regard for truth, without any restraint to check them? And what is there to keep them from going out whenever they please? There are no bars, no locks, no chains, no jailor. For this is the craft and subtilty of the evil one,--that he makes us fancy we are free, when we are in prison: he makes us fancy that we are at liberty, when we are in bondage: he makes us fancy that we are our own masters, when we are his slaves: he blinds and cheats and stupefies us, until we deem we are doing our own will, and pursuing our own pleasure, when in fact we are drudging in his toils, and rushing into the jaws of destruction before his lashing scourge. Therefore, in order that our eyes might be open to the misery of our condition, that we might see our danger before it was too late, God was mercifully pleased to give us His Scriptures, wherein He declares in the ears of all mankind, that one and all are concluded under sin; that, however its appearance may deceive us, sin is not a palace but a prison, that in that prison we are all shut up, and that no earthly power can deliver us out of it. God, by the voice of His Scripture, hath concluded all under sin. Now suppose that you were to be carried before an earthly court of justice, and that one sweeping accusation were to be brought against you; suppose that you were to be found guilty to the full extent of that accusation, and that the very excuses you set up were the complete proof of your guilt,--what would follow: The judge would straightway pass sentence upon you; and you would all be condemned to suffer punishment, according to the measure of your offence. Such would be the course of things, if you were taken before an earthly court of justice. The verdict is followed by the sentence; and they who are found guilty are condemned. And must we not expect that the course of things should be the very same, when we are carried before a heavenly court of justice? Surely they who are found utterly guilty, whose own mouth declares their guilt, must likewise be condemned. And yet St. Paul assures us that God has concluded all under sin, not in order that He may stretch forth His arm, and take vengeance on His enemies, and sweep them away from the face of the earth; but in order that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. This has ever been the one great end of all God’s ordinances, both at first in the creation, and ever since in the government of the world. His purpose was from the beginning to pour out all the blessings which infinite wisdom could conceive, and infinite power could bring to pass, upon His creatures. But why was it necessary that all should be concluded by the Scriptures under sin? Would it not have been enough to set the promise by faith in Jesus Christ before men, without saying anything about the sins by which they were bound? No, my brethren, it would not have been enough. Jesus Christ came as a Deliverer: and who will welcome and rejoice in a deliverer, unless he knows that there is something from which he needs to be delivered, unless he feels that he is in a wretched galling bondage, and that he cannot of himself burst his chains, that he cannot throw off his yoke? But when a man’s eyes are opened to see the prison in which he is shut up, to see and feel the chains which are fast bound round his soul, and have eaten into it,--when he has learnt to see and to know that the pleasures, whatever they may be, of sin are only, like the fleshpots of Egypt, intoxicating drugs given to him to deprive him of all sense of his captivity,--then will he long for a deliverer, and rejoice on hearing of his approach, and hail him when he comes into view, and follow him whithersoever he may lead. (J. C. Hare, M. A. )
The reasonableness of faith
Let us try to realize what would have been Paul’s line of argument with modern schools who construct their own methods of self salvation.
I. The school of natural religion holds that men are bound to obedience. But this law has been and is constantly violated. What now? Is God to perpetually interpose with an act of oblivion? If so, what becomes of his admitted moral government? The very foundations of natural religion are destroyed by such a supposition. Then the only alternative is the gospel system of mediation by means of which sin may be forgiven and God justified.
II. The school of classical morality aims at the exaltation of the individual by a species of moral accomplishment. But where has the ideal been realized outside of Christianity? If sincere, therefore, this school must be grievously disappointed as they are brought face to face with universal proofs of the Scripture doctrine of man’s depravity, and so they are “shut up” to the only means of its removal, the sanctification of the Spirit through faith.
III. The school of fine feeling and poetic sentiment worships what is beautiful in human character. But look at the state of the world. That beauty is wanting, and so they are shut up to the operation of that Spirit who alone can produce what is pure, lovely, and of good report. (Dr. Chalmers.)
The reasonableness of the gospel
The gospel is a reasonable scheme, on the principle that whatever other way is divised is found on trial to be deficient: so that man is shut up to the gospel as his only resource. In demonstrating this Paul introduces the law as a successful general which outmanoeuvres man in his every attempt at escape, and so compels him to await the throwing open of God’s method of deliverance.
I. We must assume in man the workings of spiritual solicitude and anxiety. The crying sin of the day is apathy, and many men are shut up in the prison of their own moral listlessness. But, presuming an awakened state, we must examine the avenues through which he tries to enter heaven, and the tactics of the law in intercepting him.
II. Repentance is one of these avenues: but in his attempt to escape:by it man is outgeneralled by the law, which refuses to admit the efficacy of sorrow and amendment, crying, “do this and live,” “fail to do so and die.”
III. Forced back from this outlet, men endeavour to take refuge in the supposed mercy of god. But the law comes forward and dislodges them by showing that God has left no ground for the hope of unconditional forgiveness.
IV. Thus men are shut up by the law to the need of a surety. It proves to the sinner--
1. That his curse must be endured.
2. That it has been endured by Christ the only Saviour. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The great jail, and how to get out of it
We preach, at God’s command, the way of salvation by mercy, not by merit; by faith, not by works: by grace, not by the efforts of men.
I. A crowded prison. All are shut up under sin.
1. The jailer--Scripture.
(a) A lawful authority, for it is not the word of man, but of the Spirit of God.
(b) A powerful authority, for it has the strength of the Almighty to support it.
2. The prisoners--all.
(a) Heathen (Romans 1:18-21).
(b) The outwardly moral.
(c) The sincerely religious.
3. The prison. No escape from vengeance of broken law. One offence enough to keep a sinner bound for ever in misery and degradation.
II. A glorious deliverance. Jesus opens the prison door, and all who will may go free.
1. This deliverance by Jesus is complete. A slave before, a child now; no longer under the law, but under grace. Guiding principle formerly was, “This do, and thou shalt live”; it now is, “I am saved, and so I love to serve my God.” The man now does not work for wages, and expect to win a reward by merit; he is a saved man, and he has all he needs; for Christ is his, and Christ is all.
2. This deliverance comes to men by promise. No bargain--the free gift of God’s sovereign good-will.
3. The promised deliverance is not made to works, but only to faith.
4. The faith necessary for appropriating the promised deliverance, is faith in Christ. Not faith in yourself, or in a priest, or in sacraments, or in a set of doctrines; but you must believe that Christ the Son of God came on earth and became a man, took your sins upon His shoulders, bore them up to the tree, and suffered what was due for your sins in His own person on the cross; and you must trust yourself with Him, with Him fully, with Him alone, and with all your heart: and if you do so, the promise will be fulfilled to you. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The true principle of salvation, and the importance of acting upon it
In every work which we undertake, it is most important that we should act upon right principles; for if We are misled upon essential points, our efforts will be wasted, since success cannot possibly be the result. A man may study the stars as long as he pleases, but he certainly will not come to right conclusions if he calculates their courses upon the theory that they daily revolve round the earth as a centre. The alchymists were earnest even to enthusiasm, but the object of their pursuit was unattainable, and the theories which guided their investigations were absurd, and therefore they exhibited a sorrowful spectacle of perseverance misapplied, and labour thrown away. In mechanics the most ingenious contriver must fail if he forgets the law of gravitation. You must proceed upon right principles, or disappointment awaits you. Now, the greatest matter of concern for any one of us is the eternal salvation of our soul. We need to be saved, and, according to the Scriptures of truth, there is but one way of salvation; but that way does not happen to be in favour among the sons of men. The great popular principle, popular all over the world, no matter whether the people happen to be Protestant or Catholic, Parsee or Mahomedan, Brahminist or Buddhist, is self-salvation--they would reach eternal life by merit. There are differences about what is done, but the great universal principle of unregenerate man is that he is, somehow or other, to save himself. This is his principle; and the further he goes in it, the less likely is he to be saved. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Suitability of the Divine plan of salvation to man’s necessities
Objections are continually raised to the Divine plan of salvation. The world’s plan of salvation is, “Do”; the Bible says, “It is all done; accept it as a free gift.” The gospel way of salvation is, Christ has saved His people, and as many as trust in Him are His people, and are saved. Just think for a minute, is not this way of salvation the only one which would be suited to all sorts and conditions of men? Dear sir, you yourself may be a man of excellent disposition, and of admirable habits; I will suppose that the salvation to be preached by us was exactly such as would be suitable to such a person as you believe yourself to be, but would not this be a very unfortunate thing for many others? Are there not living within your observation many persons who are far below you in moral character? Do you not know of whole swarms of your fellow-creatures whose outward life is utterly defiled? Some of these are conscious of their degradation, and would fain rise out of it: would you have them left to despair? A way of salvation suited to the righteous it is clear would not suit them: are they to be overlooked? Would you have salvation put up to an examination like a place in the Civil Service, and only those allowed to pass who are as good as you are? Are all beneath your level to perish? I feel sure you love your fellow-men enough to say, “No; let the plan of salvation be such as to save the most reprobate of men.” Then I ask you, what plan could there be but this one, that God freely forgives for Christ’s sake even the greatest offenders, if they turn to Him and put their trust in His dear Son? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
God must be accepted on His own terms
A ship’s crew mutinied against their commander, who was the king’s son; and not only-refused to obey him, but threw him overboard with the intention of depriving him of life. Feeling their condition desperate, they commenced pirates, and while disorder and every evil work prevailed among themselves, they carried terror and misery over the ocean and into all the surrounding coasts. The prince, contrary to all probability, reached the shore in safety, and on arriving at his father’s palace, instead of urging the punishment of those who meant to murder him, employed all his influence, and with success, to induce his justly-offended parent to lay aside all thoughts of vengeance, and even to despatch immediately heralds of mercy offering a free pardon to them if they would but acknowledge the prince as their saviour and ruler, and submit to be guided by him in all their future proceedings; but reminding them that if they did not accede to this overture of mercy, sooner or later they must fall into the hands of some of his war-vessels, and must count on being dealt with according to the rigour of the law. On the messengers of mercy approaching the vessel, some of the most determined villains were for treating them as they had done their commander, but this proposal being overruled, they were taken aboard, and their sovereign’s proclamation was made in the hearing of the piratical rebels. Some mocked at it; others said it was a stratagem to get them into the king’s power; and even the most sober thinking among them, though they were tired of this scene of discord and ravage, both in the vessel and when the.y were on the shore, said that really they could not give the king credit for such extraordinary kindness, nor bring their mind to acknowledge the authority of the prince, but that they would endeavour to behave better as individuals, to establish better order in the ship, and to restrain their companions from those excesses of cruelty and rapine in which they had formerly indulged, so that if the king’s cruisers should lay hold of them, as they feared might be the case, the king might be induced to pardon them, perhaps reward them for their good conduct. The time dreaded by them all at last arrived. Their vessel is boarded by the king’s servants in irresistible force, and the whole crew are safely lodged in prison, and in due time brought before the king for judgment. With a calmness of inflexible determination, more appalling than the most furious passion, the sovereign pronounces their sentence. “You most causelessly violated your allegiance; you transgressed the law; you, in intention, murdered my son; yet, on his intercession, I proffered you forgiveness--free, full forgiveness. You refused to give me credit for the generosity I manifested, and dishonoured me by supposing me false and malignant like yourselves. You persisted in despising my authority and opposing my will. And even such of you as have not run to the same enormity of licentiousness and cruelty, have formed laws to yourselves which ye have observed; but my laws ye have not regarded. And you have trampled on my grace as well as my authority. You have spurned mercy on the only terms consistent with my honour to offer it; and you have had the insufferable arrogance of attempting to dictate to me in what way I should bestow my favour. You have had your choice, and you must abide by it. As for those men who would not that I should reign over them, bring them forth and slay them before me.” Let the self-righteous see, in a figure, the doom which awaits him if mercy prevent not. The law by which he must be judged” is none of the laws of human device, but the law of God. (John Brown, D. D.)
All human nature sinful
There is a well in Belgium which once had very pure water, and it was stoutly reasoned with stone and brick, but that well became afterwards the centre of the battle of Waterloo. At the opening of the battle the soldiers with their sabres compelled the gardener, William yon Kylsom, to draw water out of the well for them, and it was very pure water. But the battle raged, and three hundred dead and half dead were flung into the well for quick and easy burial, so that the well of refreshment became the well of death, and long after, people looked down into the well and they saw the bleached skulls but no water. So the human soul was a well of good, but the armies of sin have fought around it, fought across it, and been slain, and it has become a well of skeletons. Dead hopes, dead resolutions, dead ambitions. An abandoned well unless Christ shall reopen and purify’ and fill it as the well of Belgium never was.
Jesus our only hope
It is a pretty thing which is told of the father of the Rev. Newman Hall, that his common seal was a crown with an anchor fixed into it, with just these words: “Other refuge have I none.” Well, if you do not use that seal, if you do not write the words over the door of your house, yet take care that you hear their meaning in your hearts, and never hesitate on any occasion to confess that you are saved by faith in Christ Jesus. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The law and the gospel
Faith, in my text, and in sundry places in this Epistle, seems to have a complex signification: it signifies the object of faith, revealed in the gospel, or the method of salvation through faith in the righteousness of Christ; and it also signifies the grace of faith in the soul, or a hearty compliance with this way of salvation, so that this expression, “before faith came,” refers to the time before the doctrine of faith was revealed in the gospel to the Galatians, and before the grace of faith was wrought in their hearts. Here it may be proper to observe, that the members of the primitive church in general, and particularly that in Galatia, were brought under the gospel dispensation, and embraced the doctrine of the gospel by faith, at one and the same time. But they were not, like us, educated under the gospel dispensation; for part of them had been Jews, educated under the Mosaic dispensation, which by way of eminence is frequently called the law; and, as they were under the legal dispensation, they were generally under the influence of a legal spirit; that is, they sought for justification by their own works of obedience to that law. Another part of them had been educated heathens, and were destitute at once of the revelation of the gospel, and of faith in it. Of this sort the generality of the Galatians had been. And yet St. Paul represents them also as having been under the law, not the Jewish or Mosaic law, which the Gentiles had no concern with, but the law of nature, which is universally binding upon all mankind. And as they were under this law, they were also possessed of a legal spirit; that is, they sought salvation by their own obedience to it, as the only way which they knew, and which was natural to them. But, when the gospel dispensation was set up in the world, and the doctrine of faith preached to them, they immediately believed, and so were freed from the outward dispensation of the law, and from a legal spirit at once; and they heard the doctrine, and received the outward dispensation of the gospel, and savingly believed, “at one and the same time.” My present design is to lay down some propositions for the explication of the apostolic doctrine concerning the law and the gospel, that you may see in what sense mankind are kept prisoners by the law, under condemnation, and shut up to the faith; or to the method of justification, through the righteousness of Christ, as the only way of escape.
I. All mankind, in all ages, are under a law to God. This can be denied by none who grant there is such a thing as sin or duty; for where there is no law, there can be no duty or trangression. If murder or blasphemy are universally evil with regard to all mankind, in all ages, it must be because they are forbidden by a law universally and perpetually binding.
II. This law was first of all given to man in a state of innocence, under the model of a covenant of works; that is, it was the constitution, by obedience to which he was to secure the favour of God, and to obtain everlasting felicity. It was his duty to observe it with a view to obtain immortality and happiness by it; and these blessings he was to secure by his own works of obedience.
III. That this law has passed through several editions, and received several additions and modifications, adapted to the various circumstances of mankind, and the designs of heaven towards them. That you may more fully understand this, I would observe by the way, that the law is either moral or positive. By the moral law, I mean that law which is founded upon the eternal reason of things, and that enjoins those duties which creatures under such and such circumstances owe to God, and to one another, and which necessarily flow from their relation to one another. Thus, love to God, and justice to mankind, are moral duties universally binding upon mankind in all circumstances, whether in a state of innocence, or in a state of sin; whether under the revealed law, or the law of nature. There can be no possible circumstances in which mankind are free from the obligation of such duties, and at liberty to commit the contrary sins. These are more properly the materials of a moral law. But there is another set of duties agreeable to the circumstances of fallen creatures under a dispensation of grace, which I may call evangelical morals; I mean repentance and reformation, and the utmost solicitude to re-obtain the forfeited favour of our Maker. These are universally binding upon mankind in their present state, and result from their circumstances, and consequently partake of the general nature of a moral law. By a positive law, I mean a law not necessarily resulting from the reason of things, and our relations and circumstances, but founded upon the will of the lawgiver, and adapted to some particular occasion. Such was the appendage to the first covenant, “Thou shalt not eat of the tree of knowledge.” Such were the institution of sacrifices immediately after the fall, the ordinance of circumcision given to Abraham., and the various ceremonies of the law of Moses; and such are baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and the institution of the first day of the week for the Christian Sabbath under the gospel. These ordinances are not binding in their own nature, and consequently they are not of universal or perpetual obligation, but they are in force when and where the lawgiver is pleased to appoint.
IV. That the law of God requires perfect, perpetual, and personal obedience. This holds true with regard to every law of God, whatever it be. If it requires purely moral duties, it requires that they be performed exactly according to its prescriptions. If it requires evangelical duties as repentance or sincerity, it requires perfect repentance, perfect sincerity. If it requires the observance of any ceremonial or sacramental institutions, as sacrifice, circumcision, baptism, or the Lord’s Supper, it requires a perfect observance of them. This, my brethren, is the nature of the law, of every law that God ever made under every dispensation of religion, before the fall, and after the fall, before the law of Moses, under it, and under the gospel. In all ages, in all circumstances, and from all persons, it requires perfect, perpetual, and personal obedience: to the performance of this, it promises eternal life: but the sinner, by every the least failure, falls under its dreadful curse, and is cut off from all the promised blessings. And hence it most evidently follows,
V. That it is absolutely impossible for any of the fallen sons of men to be justified and saved by the constitution of the law. Take what dispensation of the law you please, the law of innocence, the law of Moses, or the moral part of the gospel, it is impossible for one of the fallen posterity of Adam to be saved by it in any of these views; and the reason is plain, there is not one of them but what has broken it: there is not one of them that has yielded perfect obedience to it: and, therefore, there is not one of them but what is condemned by it, to suffer its dreadful penalty. Thus you are held in close custody by the law; you are shut up under condemnation by it. And is there no way of escape? No; there is no possible way of escape--but one; and that shall be the matter of the next proposition.
VI. That God has made another constitution, namely, the gospel, or the covenant of grace, by which even guilty sinners, condemned by the law, may be justified and saved by faith, through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. According to this constitution there is encouragement for sinners to repent and use the means of grace; and all who are saved by it, are not only obliged to yield obedience to the law, but also enabled to do so with sincerity, though not to perfection. They are effectually taught by it “to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live righteously, soberly, and godly in the world;” and, in short, holiness of heart and life is as effectually secured in this way as in any other.
VII. That all mankind are under the law, as a covenant of works, till they willingly forsake it, and fly to the gospel for refuge by faith in Christ. There are but two constitutions that God has set up in our world, by which mankind can obtain life, namely, the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, or the law and gospel; and all mankind are under the one, or the other. We are all of us, my brethren, under one or other of these constitutions: for to be from under both of them is the same thing as to be lawless, and to be under no plan of life at all. And would you know whether you are set free from the law, and placed under the covenant of grace? St. Paul, who knew it both by his own experience, and by inspiration from heaven, will inform you.
1. You have been made deeply sensible of sin and condemnation by the law (Romans 3:20; Romans 8:7). Has the law ever had these effects upon you, my brethren? Have you ever had such a conviction of sin and condemnation by it? If not, you are still under it.
2. If you have been delivered from the law, you have been cut off from all hopes of obtaining justification by your own obedience to it; you have given up this point as altogether desperate; or, in the strong language of the apostle, you have been slain by the law. “When the commandment came, sin revived and I died” (Romans 8:9).
3. If you have been set at liberty from the law, and brought under the covenant of grace, you have believed in Christ, and fled to the gospel, as the only way of escape from the bondage and condemnation of the law. It is-the uniform doctrine of the apostle, that it is by faith only that this happy change is brought about in our condition.
4. If you are under the covenant of grace, then you are not willing slaves to sin, but make it your great business to live to God. “I through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God” (Galatians 2:19). And do you thus live to God, sirs? Is this the great business and constant endeavour of your whole life? If not, you are not under grace, but under the law, the Egyptian task-master, who demands perfect obedience, but gives no ability to perform it. (President Davies, M. A.)
Works a hindrance to salvation
I have heard of one who fell into the water and sank, and a strong swimmer standing on the shore did not at the same instant plunge in, though fully resolved to rescue him. The man went down the second time, and then he who would rescue him was in the water swimming near him, but not too near, waiting very cautiously till his time came. He who was drowning was a strong, energetic man, and the other was too prudent to expose himself to the risk of being dragged under by his struggles. He let the man go down for the third time, and then he knew that his strength was quite exhausted, and swimming to him he grasped him and drew him to shore. If he had seized him at first, while the drowning man had strength, they would have gone down together. The first part of human salvation is the sentence of death upon all human power and merit. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. The unhappy period--“Before faith came.”
1. We had no idea of faith by nature. It would never occur to the human mind that we could be saved by believing in Jesus.
2. When we heard of faith as the way of salvation we did not understand it. We could not persuade ourselves that the words used by the preacher had their common and usual meaning.
3. We saw faith in others, and wondered at its results; but we could not exercise it for ourselves.
4. We could not reach to faith, even when we began to see its necessity, admitted its efficacy, and desired to exercise it. The reason of this inability was moral, not mental.
5. We were without the Spirit of God, and therefore incapable. We do not wish to go back to the state in which we were “before faith came,” for it was one of darkness, misery, impotence, hopelessness, sinful rebellion, self-conceit, and condemnation.
II. The custody we were in--“Kept under the law, shut up.”
1. We were always within the sphere of law. In fact, there is no getting out of it. As all the world was only one prison for a man who offended Caesar, so is the whole universe no better than a prison for a sinner.
2. We were always kicking against the bounds of the law, sinning, and pining because we could not sin more.
3. We dared not overleap it altogether, and defy its power. Thus, in the case of many of us, it checked us, and held us captive with its irksome forbiddings and commandings.
4. We could not find rest. The law awakened conscience, and fear and shame attend such an awakening.
5. We could not discover a hope; for, indeed, there is none to discover while we abide under the law.
6. We could not even fall into the stupor of despair; for the law excited life, though it forbade hope. Among the considerations which held us in bondage were these: The spirituality of the law, touching thoughts, motives, desires. The need of perfect obedience, making one sin fatal to all hope of salvation by works. The requirement that each act of obedience should be perfect. The necessity that perfect obedience should be continual throughout the whole of life.
III. The revelation which set us free--“The faith which should afterwards be revealed.” The only thing which could bring us out of prison was faith. Faith came, and then we understood--
1. What was to be believed.
2. What it was to believe. We saw that it was “trust,” implicit and sincere.
3. Why we believed. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Law and gospel
The law and the gospel are two keys. The law is the key that shutteth up all men under condemnation, and the gospel is the key which opens the door and lets them out. (William Tyndale.)
Shut up unto the faith
To let you more effectually into the meaning of this expression, it may be right to state that in the preceding clause, “kept under the law,” the term, kept, is, in the original Greek, derived from a word which signifies a sentinel. The mode of conception is altogether 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. They are shut up to this faith as their only alternative--like an enemy driven by the superior tactics of an opposing general, to take up the only position in which they can maintain themselves, or fly to the only town in which they can find a refuge or a security. This seems to have been a favourite style of argument with Paul, and the way in which he often carried on an intellectual warfare with the enemies of his Master’s cause. It forms the basis of that masterly and decisive train of reasoning which we have in his Epistle to the Romans. By the operation of skilful tactics, he (if we may be allowed the expression) manoeuvred them, and shut them up to the faith of the gospel. It gave prodigious effect to his argument, when he reasoned with them, as he often does, upon their own principles, and turned them into instruments of conviction against themselves. With the Jews he reasoned as a Jew. He made use of the Jewish law as a sentinel to shut them out of every other refuge, and to shut them up to the refuge laid before them in the gospel. He led them to Christ by a schoolmaster whom they could not refuse; and the lesson of this schoolmaster, though a very decisive, was a very short one--“Cursed be he that continueth not in all the words of the law to do them.” But in point of fact, they had not done them. To them, then, belonged the curse of the violated law. The awful severity of its sanctions was upon them. They found the faith and the free offer of the gospel to be the only avenue open to receive them. They were shut up unto this avenue; and the law, by concluding them all to be under sin, left them no other outlet but the free act of grace and of mercy laid before us in the New Testament. (Dr. Chalmers.)
The law was meant to prepare men for Christ
By showing them that there is no other way of salvation except through Him. It had two especial ends: the first was to bring the people who lived under it into a consciousness of the deadly dominion of sin, to shut them up, as it were, into a prison-house out of which only one door of escape should be visible, namely, the door of faith in Jesus; the second intention was to fence about and guard the chosen race to whom the law was given--to keep them as a peculiar people separate from all the world, so that at the proper time the gospel of Christ might spring forth and go out from them as the joy and comfort of the whole human race. (T. G. Rooke.)
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster.
The law was our schoolmaster
I. The condition of humanity and the ultimate purpose of God respecting it. The Jews a type of mankind. Humanity is the Son of God, legally disinherited by apostasy, and gross and sensual. The heart of the Father is set upon its restoration, by pure favour, by means of faith. The Divine purpose was spiritual, and man must be conducted to it gradually. So God put man to school that, by a course of preparatory discipline, he might have his senses exercised.
II. The heir as long as he was a child was at school. The methods adopted were such as befitted his condition and age. The young mind is first made familiar with visible symbols, which for a time it mistakes for substance, but eventually learns the inner meaning. These methods were--
1. Prophetic intimations which must be put together like a dissected map.
2. A large picture-book was put before the scholars in the Levitical institute.
3. In addition to this pupils were required to do something, which constituted another process of emblematical teaching; ceremonies for purification, e.g.
III. These lessons of the schoolmaster became a preparation for the gospel. Christ was the end or scope of the law. The process of learning, however, was similar to what occurs in ordinary teaching. The mind of the scholar opens very gradually to that of the teacher.
1. The map which the young pupil had to study, the earthly land secured to Abraham, and his seed, is found to expand into a higher region, and to associate itself with another race (Romans 4:13; Hebrews 11:8; Hebrews 11:13-16).
2. The pieces of prophecy are put together, and compose the majestic figure of the Messiah.
3. With new views of the centre figure the whole of the Levitical system assumes its Divine significance.
(1) Its sacrifices become symbols of the better sacrifice.
(2) Its purification of the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness.
(3) Its feasts superseded by the spiritual privileges symbolized.
(4) With all this comes a new and ennobling sentiment of obedience. The law is not now heard in thunder and as a terrible “shalt not,” but a privilege and a joy. (T. Binney, D. D.)
There was a time of the world’s minority, and a time when it came of age. These times were marked--
1. By two stages--bondage and liberty.
2. By two principles of action--law and faith. Moses was the world’s schoolmaster, Christ became the world’s higher teacher. This state of things obtains in natural life, and in the single heart’s life. Observe--
I. The uses of restraint in the heart’s education. The law to the Jews was a system of checks.
1. To restrain from violence. The law is a schoolmaster to rule those who cannot rule themselves. In this stage it would be madness to relax from restraint.
2. To show the inward force of evil. Evil is unsuspected until opposed.
3. To form habits of obedience. Would you have your child happy, decided, manly? Teach him to obey.
4. To nourish the temper of faith. The use of all education is to form faith. The child does not know the reason of his teacher’s command; he has to trust.
II. The time when restraint may be safely laid aside.
1. When self-command is obtained. To be brought to Christ is to have learned to deny self.
2. When the state of justification by faith has been attained. Justification is acceptance with God, not because a man is perfect, but because he does all in a large and generous spirit. In such a state a man acts on principle, and gets beyond enactments. Apply to parents and teachers. How is it that children of religious parents turn out ill?
1. Because there has been no restraint during the time of discipline.
2. Because restraint has been applied when there should have been an appeal to principle and faith. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
The law is a schoolmaster
I. As giving precepts in which principles are involved but not expressly taught. Every wise teacher begins so, and the first duty of the pupil is a blind obedience. At length when the pupil discovers the principle he may dispense with the rule or not, as he pleases.
II. As prescribing inadequate duties--a part instead of the whole, which was to develop into the whole.
1. The institution of temple worship, by means of which the Jews were to be led into the truth that God is here, and therefore to be worshipped. But God is everywhere, and His true temples infinite space and the soul of man.
2. The institution of the Sabbath. But just as a right of way is often secured to the proprietor by shutting up a road one day in the year, not to declare it his only on that day, or more on that day than others, but simply to vindicate his right in it for every day; so did God shut up one-seventh part of time, that it might be understood that all belonged to Him.
3. The third commandment, which is not simply a prohibition of blasphemy, but was equivalent to “thou shalt not forswear thyself, but perform thy oaths.”
1. That revelation is education. What education is for the individual, revelation is for the race.
2. That revelation is progressive.
3. That the training of character in God’s revelation has always preceded illumination of the intellect. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
The stern pedagogue
I. The office of the law. Our guardian, ruler, tutor, governor.
1. To teach us our obligations.
2. To show us our sinfulness.
3. To sweep away our excuses.
4. To chasten our delinquencies.
5. To watch us everywhere
II. The design of this office.
1. Not to conduct any man to despair, except of himself and it.
2. Not to urge us to make an amalgam of works and faith.
3. But to make us accept salvation as a free gift of God.
III. The termination of this office. When we come to believe in Jesus, the pedagogue troubles us no more. We become, then, of age. The office of the law ends.
1. When we ascertain that Christ has fulfilled it.
2. When it comes to be written on the heart. The man can be trusted, the boy must be watched.
3. When we take up our heirship in Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The law a guide to Christ
I. The method of this guiding power is exercised--
1. By completely shutting us out from every other hope.
2. By showing us the character and qualifications which we must find in the Saviour on whom we can entirely rely.
(1) He must be one competent to fulfil all the provisions of the holy law.
(2) But no creaturely being has ever accomplished this.
(3) The Saviour, therefore, must be Divine as well as human.
(4) These conditions meet in Christ.
3. By revealing the way in which we must be partakers of the Saviour’s mercy, and be interested in His redemption.
(1) It must be all of grace;
(2) by faith;
(3) issuing in justification.
4. By proclaiming its entire satisfaction with the provided Saviour.
(1) All its demands are honoured;
(2) its penalties borne;
(3) its acquital secured.
II. The object for which this guiding power is exercised.
1. Justification before God is the great want of the rebel under the condemnation of the law. He must gain this blessing or perish.
2. This cannot be obtained by the works of the law, which involve the discharge of its obligations and the endurance of its penalty.
3. It must, and therefore is, to be obtained by faith in Christ.
4. This faith working by love manifests itself in righteousness. (S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
The pedagogue was a slave who had charge of his owner’s children, And who led them to the porch of the one who was really to give them lessons. But his office was not merely to keep the children in the right path and out of danger; he was a sort of private tutor, who prepared them for the instruction they were to receive from the philosopher or the professor. These higher lessons were quite beyond the power of the tutor himself; but he could do something to remove the difficulties which prevented young people from understanding, but above all he could undertake that they should be punctually in their place when the professor began his work. (Canon Liddon.)
Christ our schoolmaster
You send your little child in the care of some one to school. The ward takes the little creature, and says, “Come, I will take you to school,” and away they go to the place of instruction. Now the law was our care-taker, our companion, to take us to our schoolmaster Christ; Christ keeps a school, Christ calls those who go to His school His disciples, His scholars; Christ says, “Learn of Me.” (J. Parker, D. D.)
Life a school
Men are brought into this world, just as children are taken to school, to learn their lessons. We are born into this world to be schooled for heaven. There are vacancies in heaven for a certain number of us, and all who pass a good examination when the time comes will have their cards of admission given them into the place marked which they are to take. This life the public school that prepares for the university which we call heaven; and the Bible the code by which our lives will be tested when we present ourselves as candidates for admission: this is all, literally, that our present existence was contrived for, or the Bible given. (E. S. Ffoulkes, B. D.)
Love in the schooling of the law
A written law of God being given to man, what is its further office? The fulfulling of that law is in one word, love; for God is its Author, and God is love. Can the will of man, by itself and unaided, fulfil that law? And hero observe two things. First, this is not a question of much or little--can man’s will half fulfil the law, or nearly fulfil it, or quite fulfil it?--but it is an absolute question, which must be answered, yea or nay, from the very nature of man’s will and of the law. It is not, “Can man’s will fulfil this or that part of it?” but “Can it ever fulfil it at all, any single command of it?” What is man’s will? A will diverted, in the fall, from its central object; a selfish will; a will which recognizes not, follows not, the law of love as its guide; and in this wandering away from love and from God, leads with it man’s whole nature. Now you see our question is this, “Can such a will again renew itself into love?” Manifestly not. It is powerless to give itself a new direction. What we want, then, is not a law to obey, but a Redeemer to set us free. Next, we may remark, that this question of the ability of man by his own will to keep God’s law, must not be confused, by being mixed up with the entirely distinct question of the relation of God’s absolute foreknowledge and foreordination to the free will of man. That relation did not begin with the fall of man at all; it would have subsisted just as much if he had never fallen: it subsists with regard to the holy angels in heaven, who have never sinned; it is an universal law of all created being. The incapacity of man’s will of which we here speak, is not in consequence of any fettering of it by God’s sovereign decrees, but in consequence of its own act and deed, by which it left God and the law of love in our first parent, and became subject to those lower desires and faculties which it was created to rule and guide. Now let me not be mistaken as to my present position. In saying that the will of fallen man is incapable of fulfilling God’s law, let me be thoroughly understood. I am drawing no wild, exaggerated picture of depravity, but wish to keep to the strict letter of fact, and to build on it important consequences. There is much that the human will can do. It can choose between the outward objects which are presented to us in life--the objects of thought, of speech, of action. Nay, more; over all mere outward obedience to God’s law the will has power. But the will has not power over the desires and affections; in other words, over the superior faculties, of which it is a servant. It can produce good deeds to a certain extent, but it cannot produce good tendencies. And so by the law it has been proved, that redemption is necessary for man. And more; it has been brought about that man should be receptive of redemption, prepared to welcome it, eager to avail himself of it. His very demonstrated helplessness has shown that he must be helped from above. The law was God’s great instrument to prepare man for redemption by Christ. He used it in this way on a large scale in the history of the world. The Jewish people, who were placed under it, were by it not rendered a people acceptable to God, but proved incapable of pleasing Him. Its lower requirements became to them a substitute for its first and great commandment; and no restoration to the law of love was effected by it in them. In the course of history its threatenings were executed on them, its promises, and more than its promises, fulfilled to them as a people; and when the Redeemer came, they were for the most part a nation of hardened hypocrites. All its power was power to convict and find guilty--not power to save even by that conviction:--for man’s depraved conscience might quench and annul the conviction. And He has ever made the same use of His law in the hearts of individuals. And now I would ask you to mark the wonderful course and progress of Divine love towards us. In mankind at large, as in individual men, there must be produced this knowledge and feeling of their own unworthiness and incapacity to save themselves; not indeed so as to make them universally cry out for the gospel, but so as to make them, when the gospel has come, on looking over the page of history, confess that God has manifested beyond a doubt the sinfulness of man. For the first many ages after the fall, the unwritten law took its course. The conscience became darkened--the earth full of violence--till the vengeance of God was drawn down upon it in the Flood. Again, the true knowledge and fear of him, in the family of Noah, was assumed as a starting-point for the new world; again, even from this more definite covenant did the nations of the world go astray as widely as ever. Out of them God selected Abraham, and entered into special covenant with him and his seed. And while in them was proved the powerlessness of His revealed law to renew or to save, among the Gentile nations a lesson not less remarkable was being taught to mankind. Of them God suffered some to advance to the very highest pitch of art, and science, and acuteness of the human intellect. Their philosophy has set the pattern for the world; their oratory, their poetry, have been since unrivalled. And that nothing might be wanting to the full trial of man, another people found its employment and pride in civil arts; in taming the nations, in sparing and consolidating by exquisite polity the states subjected to its sway; in laying the foundation of public right and justice for the latest age of mankind. And thus both by these, and in other parts of the inhabited world by other nations, the powers of man for good were fully and maturely tried. Every facility was given him which belonged to his fallen state. And the result of all was this: that neither by wisdom, nor by imagination, nor by individual or social power for good, nor by the revelation of God’s will in the law, could man put himself back again into the path of love which he had left. O you who read ancient history, whether sacred or profane, read it to trace it in this design of God, to prepare the world for Christ; for this is the master-key to its secrets. (Dean Alford.)
The use of the law
A minister says, When I was a boy I ploughed a field with a team of spirited horses. I ploughed it very quickly, Once in a while I passed over some of the sod without turning it, but I did not jerk back the plough with its rattling devices. I thought it made no difference. After awhile, my father came along, and said: “Why, this will never do; this isn’t ploughed deep enough; there, you have missed this and you have missed that.” And he ploughed it over again. The difficulty with a great many people is that they are only scratched with conviction when the subsoil plough of God’s truth ought to be put in up to the beam.
The law and the gospel
You never saw a woman sewing without a needle. She would come but poor speed if she only sewed wi’ the thread. So, I think, when we’re dealing with sinners, we maun aye put in the needle of the law first; for the fact is, they are sleepin’ sound, and they need to be awakened up wi’ something sharp. But, when we’ve got the needle o’ the law fairly in, we may draw as long a thread as you like o’ gospel consolation after it. (Lockhart.)
The law a schoolmaster
“The method devised by Dr. Arnold at Rugby School, was to eventually raise the moral tone of the whole school by first raising the tone of a certain part. Is it irreverent to call the Israelites the “Sixth Form” of the school of the human race, an elect nation for the sake of the non-elect, chosen neither for their own merits, nor principally for their own blessing (though their privileges were inestimable), but to hasten the coming of Christ, and thus in the end to open the kingdom of heaven to all believers?” (C. R. Lloyd Engstrom, M. A.)
The law leading men to Christ
“The law!” It is one of a group of words round which the thought of St. Paul constantly moves; and he uses it in more senses than one. Here he means by it generally the five Books of Moses to which the Jews commonly gave the name; and more particularly he means those parts of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, in which are contained the various rules which God gave to Moses for the moral, social, political, and religious, or ceremonial conduct of the people of Israel. This was the law in which, as St. Paul said, the Jew of his day made his boast; he was proud to belong to the race which had received it. This was the law, the possession of which made Israel a “peculiar people,” marking it off by a deep-cut line of separation from all the other nations of the world. This was the law which it was the business of every Israelite to obey. Now St. Paul says bluntly, that the main purpose of this law was not present, but prospective; it was not to be so much prized on its own account, as for the sake of that to which it was to lead. It was really like those slaves who were kept in well-to-do households in the ancient world, first to teach the children of their masters roughly, or as well as they could, and then to lead them down day by day to the school of some neighbouring philosopher, at whose hands they would receive real instruction. This, then, was the business of the law; it did the little it could do for the Jewish people as an elementary instructor, and then it had to take them by the hand and lead them to the school of Jesus Christ. This it did:
I. By foreshadowing him. This was especially true of its ceremonies. All the Jewish ritual, in its minutest details, was a shadow of good things to come. 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 converged more and more towards a coming Messiah; and so, 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. Exact obedience to strict precepts was commanded; but who could render it? So the law, universally disobeyed, became like a torch carried into the dark cellars and crevices of human nature that it might reveal the foul shapes lurking there, and might rouse man to long for a righteousness which it could not confer. And this could only be found in Christ.
III. By putting them under a discipline which trained them for Christ. God begins with rule, and ends with principle; begins with law, and ends with faith; begins with Moses and ends with Christ. In the earlier revelation God only said “Do this,” “do not do that.” In the later or Christian revelation He has done much more; He has said, “Join yourselves by an act of adhesion of your whole moral nature to the perfect moral Being”--in other words, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” This is justification by faith. So far from being moral anarchy, it is the absorption of rule into the higher realm 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. (Canon Liddon.)
The schooling of the law
There were three systems of law delivered to the Jews, each leading, like a highway of the Lord, to Christ.
I. The judicial law. This involved their civil policy as a state or nation, governed their conduct as between man and man, and determined their offences and penalties as citizens and subjects.
II. The ceremonial law, determining their ecclesiastical polity.
III. The moral law. Resolved by Christ into two commandments, and by St. Paul into one word--love. This law brings us to Christ
(1) By convicting of sin;
(2) by revealing our peril;
(3) by its weakness through the flesh to save from death. (J. B. Owen, M. A.)
Pedagogic character of the law
A schoolmaster nowadays is not at all like the personage Paul intended. He speaks of a pedagogue, an official seldom if ever now seen among men. This was not a person who actually officiated as master in the school, and gave instruction in the school itself; but one--a slave generally--who was set to take the boys to school, and to watch over them, and to be a sort of general supervisor of them, both in school and Out of school, and at all times. A pedagogue was very generally employed in the training of the young; indeed, it was a common and customary thing for the sons of the Greek and Roman nobility to have appointed over them some trustworthy servant who took them in charge. The boys were entirely under these servants; and thus had their spirits broken in, and their vivacity restrained. As a rule these pedagogues were very stern and strict--they used the rod freely, not to say cruelly, and the condition of the boys was sometimes no better than slavery. The boys (as it was supposed to be for their good) were kept in perpetual fear. Their recreations were restricted; even their walks were under the surveillance of the grim pedagogue. They were sternly held in check in all points, and were thus disciplined for the battle of life. Now Paul, taking up this thought, says the law was our pedagogue, our guardian, our custodian, ruler, tutor, governor, until Christ came. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Church to be governed by principle, not rigid law
A Christian Church, from the necessity of the case, ‘is based on faith--that is, on principle; it represents by its existence the definitive triumph of believing principle over mere outward Jewish rule; it does not discard rule, far from it, but it provides for the good that is to be achieved by rule, by insisting always on the higher influence of principle; and thus the true direction of the Church’s life would seem to be adherence to principle, combined with freedom as to all that touches mere outward rule. In modern language, Holy Scripture, the three great Creeds which guard it, the essential conditions of the means of grace--that is, the governing and informing principles of the Church’s life,--should all of them be defended to the very last extremity; but as to matters of mere ceremonial and the like, there should be as much freedom as is compatible with the very elementary requirements of order. Where the faith is held sincerely, the rules of outward observance should be largely left to take care of themselves; the margin of liberty within which devotional feeling at very different stages of its growth finds its congenial expression, should be as wide as possible. (Canon Liddon.)
The gentleness of Christ’s dominion
Moses and the law is a rigid and severe schoolmaster, who by whips and threats requires a hard lesson of his scholars, whether able to learn it or not; but Christ and the gospel is a mild and gentle teacher, who by sweet promises and good rewards, invite their scholars to duty, and guide and help them to do what of themselves they cannot do; by which means they love both their Master and their lessons, and rejoice when it is nearest to them to direct them in their studies. (W. Burkitt.)
Relation of the law to the gospel
I. The whole law of god is one. God’s law is the declaration of His will; and God’s perfect will never changes, and, therefore, God’s law is like Himself--the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. It is essentially impossible that one part of God’s law should ever contradict any other part; from beginning to end it is one. But this law may develop itself by successive stages, and manifest itself in different ways in these different stages. Under ground, among the rocks, among the subterranean springs, the tree develops in the form of roots. Above ground, we find the tree developing in the form of trunk. We go higher, and our tree is branches, and then leaves, and blossoms, and fruit. The tree is one. Fruit and root are the extremes of one perfect organism; yet what a difference between them. So God’s law is one, whether we see it in its lower or higher stage.
II. We are to distinguish between the substance and the form of the law. The Divine thought is the essential thing; not the mere formal precept or symbol by which it was conveyed. So, while the former must ever be retained, the latter may drop off; just as the tree drops off in the branches the mould which clings about the roots, and drops off in the blossom and fruit the bark of the trunk and branches, while root and trunk and branch and blossom yet continue to be one tree. (Marvin R. Vincent, D. D.)
Rule yields to principle
Here is a boy who begins to study mathematics. The teacher gives him specific rules. “Do thus, and you will add numbers. Do so, and you will subtract or multiply.” It is not a matter of principles or laws at all. The boy has, and can have, no conception of the great fundamental laws of numbers and of their relations. He takes his arithmetic and studies the rule for decimals or long division, and does his sums by the process laid down in the rule. But one day, the boy comes to the teacher with his sum worked out by a process not laid down in his arithmetic. He has thought it out by a process of his own. The rules he has been practising have led him unconsciously up to certain great mathematical principles which are not confined in their working out to the one little rule of the arithmetic, but are capable of a variety of expressions. Is the teacher angry because the sum was not done by the rule? Is he not rather delighted? He sees, in the lad’s overstepping the rule, the very result at which he has been aiming. All the rules were directed to bring about this grasp of principles which he has obtained. Henceforth he will not be bound by the rules, but will he therefore violate the great laws of mathematics? Will “he not be as much under law as ever, yea, under the same law, when he measures the orbits of planets or weighs suns, as when he repeated the multiplication table, or cast up the little columns in simple addition? So it is in moral development. You want to teach a child the great principle of order. You begin with specific rules. “You must put your books in such a place, and your hat in such a place. You must study such and such hours. You may amuse yourself at such times.” The time finally comes when all thess rules drop off of themselves. They are no longer needed. He has got hold of the great truth of order, and its obligation has its grip upon him, and that was all that the rules were intended for. That being reached, he may be orderly and systematic in his own way. The great point is that, however his way may differ from that prescribed by his old rules, he is still under law, and under the same law--the law of order. So then, when God’s law, the pedagogue, the law of commandments, precepts, prohibitions, hands a man over to Christ, it introduces him to a life which is just as much under the power of law and of the same law as ever. Law is not abolished, but whereas formerly the law was applied to the man from without, it now begins to work from within the man. In other words, he lives by the law of God written upon his conscience and wrought into his life. He is a law unto himself. He is no longer a moral schoolboy, but a man in Christ Jesus. The law of precepts has been silently preparing the man to be kindled and quickened into life by contact with Christ’s life. You know how, at the sacred season in Rome, the workmen are engaged for clays in arranging the lines of lamps over the dome and portico of St. Peter’s; and when at last the hour strikes, on a sudden the whole gigantic structure bursts into flame. Just so law draws the line of obedience and duty; but these, however symmetrical and sharp, are dead and cold until they feel Christ’s touch; then the life kindles and glows. The lines of law are all irradiated. (Marvin R. Vincent, D. D.)
Christ supersedes the law
If the law is done away, we are never henceforth under its tyranny, but are under Christ, and live in all security and joy, through Him who now reigns in us mildly and graciously by His spirit. Therefore, if we could rightly apprehend Christ, the dear Saviour, this severe and wrathful schoolmaster would not dare to touch a hair of our heads. From this it follows that believers, as concerns the conscience, are by all means free from the law; on this account the schoolmaster should not rule therein, i.e., he should not affright, threaten, or take the conscience captive, and though he should undertake it, the conscience should not care for it, but should behold Christ on the cross, who through His death had freed us from the law and all its terrors. Nevertheless there is sin still remaining in the saints, whereby their conscience is accused and plagued. Yet Christ helps it up again through His daily, yea, continual drawing near. (Luther.)
The law a schoolmaster
The law taught, as a schoolmaster teaches, the elements of true religion and right morals. It therefore prepared men for Christianity, or was the introduction to Christianity, which supposes and embraces those elements, though it carries them forward into further and higher developments, and surrounds them with more mature and heavenly sanctions than were before revealed; just as the schoolmaster prepares a pupil by the studies of the school-room, for the studies and pursuits of life, and furnishes the knowledge which is absolutely necessary for the attainment of the superior knowledge of future years, and which can never be entirely dispensed with. The pupil is not required to remain in the school-room, amenable to all the minor regulations of the school-room, and indeed would not be justified in doing so, when the time has come for his entrance upon the advanced discipline and broader duties and prospects of maturity and the world; and yet he must never slight or forget the real knowledge and true habits which have been instilled and formed within those humbler precincts, for these are always available and useful, and are indeed indispensable to his progress. “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.” It could not have brought us unto Christ, unless it had taught us much that is intrinsically and permanently true and good, and of Divine authority. Such aa introduction could have been made by no unworthy or unauthorized hand. “Holiness unto the Lord” must have been engraved upon the forehead of that instructor, who performed the high office of leading us into the presence of the Son of God. Let us see how this truth may be confirmed. Let us refer to what may be gathered of the mind of Jesus on this subject. First and chiefly, he always speaks of the God by whose commission Moses gave the law to the Israelites, aa his own God and Father, by whom he was sanctified and sent into the world. It is impossible for any man of common-sense and a clear and unprejudiced head, who shall read the Old Testament and then proceed to read the New, to entertain any other idea than that the Supreme Being and Almighty God of the one is the Supreme Being and Almighty God of the other, though more chiefly revealed and brought nearer to us in the second than in the first. Jesus refers also to the patriarchs and prophets of the former dispensation not as strangers, or belonging to a hostile order or communion, but as His own predecessors and forerunners, who had seen His day and intimated His coming, and He often repeats and applies their sayings and predictions. The proposition is further confirmed by a view of those characters of the law which are evidently intrinsic and unchangeable. The primary truth of the Unity of God is declared in it with a distinctness and a grandeur which no words and no imagination can surpass. The “Hear, O Israel! the Lord our God is one Lord,” is a proclamation which sounds, as with trumpet voice, from one dispensation to the other, from the Tabernacle and the Temple to the Church, and from the Church into the depths of time. Those infinite attributes of God, which, when proposed to the mind, are in perfect conformity with the best exercises of our reason, and are yet so high that our highest reason cannot reach or measure them, are revealed in the law with all the clearness which human language can command, and with an original sublimity which is to be found nowhere else. As in the doctrinal, so in the ethical part of the law, there is a height and a purity which might fitly introduce the moral system of the gospel, and be blended and incorporated with it, because it is in unison with it, and speaks of a common origin. The ten commandments, which are the condensation of this part of the law, are unquestionably permanent and irreversible. Finally, two important inferences must be kept in mind.
1. That we should never take one part of the conclusion, when the apostle is pressing it upon our attention with all his innate zeal, without a reference to the other part, which, under different circumstances, he would have pressed as warmly, and which was never really absent from his mind. He must be interpreted by himself; what he says at one time compared with what he says at another.
2. We ourselves are bound to pay becoming reverence to that ancient law, whose office it was to introduce men to the knowledge and enjoyment of gospel privileges and blessings. There is little danger at present of our falling back under the yoke against which St. Paul warns his converts; but there is some danger of our erring on the opposite side, and treating the law, and the books which contain it, with an undeserved and unbecoming irreverence. Let us remember that the law was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, and that, as such, its instructions were necessary and are still to be revered. Having entered a higher institution, we do not go back to school; but having been well taught in those elements which prepared us for that institution, we will remember the teacher with respect and gratitude. While the Saviour of men appears before us in all his transfigured glory, though we shall give to His person our longest and intensest regards, we shall not shut our eyes to the venerable forms of Moses, and Elias, who appear with Him and talk with Him. (F. W. P. Greenwood, D. D.)
After that faith is come, Christian freedom and sonship
I. To prove to ourselves that we have faith we must prove that we need not the law;
II. To prove that emancipation and liberty we must prove that we are the sons of God.
III. To prove that engrafting and adoption we must prove that we have put on Christ.
IV. To prove that apparelling our proof is that we are baptized into Him. (Doune.)
The superiority of Christianity to Judaism
It was the happiness of the Jews to have had the law, but it is ours not to need it; they had the benefit of a guide to direct them, but we are at our journey’s end; they had a schoolmaster to lead them to Christ, but we have proceeded so far as that we are in possession of Christ. The law of Moses binds us not at all as it is His law; whatsoever binds a Christian in that law would have bound Him though there had been no law given to Moses. (John Donne, D. D.)
The law our schoolmaster
I. The Holy Ghost employs the law as a servant. Salvation never came by the law, never could have come by the law, never can come by the law, through any obedience that fallen man can render either felts letter or its spirit. The law is the map; it is not the country. The law is the model; it is not the substance. The law is the picture; it is not the person. The law prophesies, prefigures, presents the fulness of the salvation which is wrought by Jesus Christ as the ground of the believer’s security and the warrant of his faith. But under the ministry of the Holy Ghost another illustration is introduced, and the apostle says the law is the schoolmaster, or, to Anglicise the Greek word, is the pedagogue, to bring us unto Christ. And the parts of the figure are easily comprehended. The Holy Ghost is the parent of the soul; the law is the tutor to whose instruction it is committed until the time of majority, when all the tutors and governors of minority disappear, and the privileges of heirship in Christ become the possession and the enjoyment of those who have passed from the tutor’s care. Now, the Spirit of God presents to us the law of God under this simile. Go where the sinner will, before he has come to the full age of faith, the law of God is his shadow. Oh I that men would remember this. They do not in darkness escape God’s ever present detection; they do not by double dealing evade the inspection of Him who has established the law for their discipline to bring them unto Christ. Wherever the man goes before he has learned the fulness of his salvation in Jesus, he must be looking about him for the presence of the schoolmaster. When the law of God takes hold of a man, and he realizes his obligation under its commandment and his subjection to its penalty, then, of course, pleasures cease for him, for the presence of the schoolmaster destroys every circumstance of peace and enjoyment. Does he go to a place of frivolous amusement? The law of God whispers to his conscience, “What if you should die here?” Does he go to his pillow and seek relief from remorse? He lays his head upon it without possible quietness, while the law of God recounts to him the condemnation he has justly deserved for every impurity of thought and defection in act. Does he go to church, and is the minister of God expounding the gospel of God’s grace? Next to him in the pew sits the law of God, his inseparable companion, who tells him, in the midst of promises, “These are not for you.” In the midst of all the descriptions of the pleasures of the saint, “You have no part in these.” And when the dark cloud of Divine indignation which brings out in relief the grace of Jesus Christ rises before him, the awful menace of the law tells him, “The storm will burst upon you, the condemnation of God will catch you, hell is yawning to receive you.” Oh! the horrors of this pedagogue-companion under whose discipline men are so ready to live. Now let us, having looked at their inseparable companionship, overtake them in their walk and listen to some of their conversation. The refrain of all that the law says is, “Do.” “Do this and thou shalt live.” And to this constant exhortation, which stirs up all the bitterness of the heart, there is a succession of apologies and pleas presented, which, for the time, will silence the voice of conscience, but which the law brushes away with ridicule as of offering chaff for wheat, brass for gold, currency for coin. “Do this and thou shalt live.” “I want to do it.” “It is not wanting to do; it is doing,” saith the law. “I will try to obey.” “That will not suffice. It is not trying; it is obeying.” “I have obeyed a great many of the commandments. I am reputed to be obedient. I think I have almost reached it.” “Almost is not enough, child; altogether thou must do it.” Not a single defect must there be in either spirit or letter of prohibition or command. Oh, what a multitude of apologies does the pedagogue have to hear! “I am quite as good as those about me.” “Thou hast nothing to do with another;” “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” “Yes, but I am ready to believe in Christ after I have done all I can.” “Christ cannot help thee; as long as thou art under age thou must be under the law and thou must do all. When thou hast become of majority, then my office is at an end, and is passed away.” “Well, I am praying for help to obey the commandment.” “There will no help come to thee until thou dost come of age, child, and dost trust completely in Him who is the Saviour of the world.” Thou canst never compound and commingle and amalgamate the law and the gospel. The illustration might be indefinitely continued to cover all the possible pretexts of sinners before the law of God. But the whole story is told in this one statement, that the law of God never smiles upon a sinner. This schoolmaster always frowns. There is no pity in the law; there is no mercy under its ministration. The one office of the pedagogue was to drag the boy down. The one office of God’s law, as the spirit employs it, is to humble every proud thought, every high look, every personal ambition and determination, until the man is willing to be a beggar and be saved by the blood of the Crucified One.
II. The errand which is entrusted to this pedagogue. “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.” The original reads, “The law is our schoolmaster unto Christ.” When we reach Christ, then is the vocation of the schoolmaster at an end. It convinces men that they need Christ--that they need a free salvation. Christ has fulfilled the law. His obedience was perfect. Now we want to be justified by faith through His righteousness.
III. The sign that the law has discharged his commission. Our boys come of age at twenty-one years. Under the Greek code, the child came of age at thirteen and a half years. And I know some boys in our congregation that it would greatly delight if that were the rule in America. We have very few children nowadays. They are all men and women. Under the Roman law, majority was not attained until twenty-five years, but when the day was reached at which the child, by the custom of the land and the constitution of the Government, was pronounced a man, he could laugh at the school-master, and his office had passed away. Up to that hour he was imperious. Now he was impertinent. Up to that day his sharpness of examination was only the fulfilment of the duty he had assumed. After that day, to assume any such relation to the man, was to bring himself under the law which would condemn him utterly. So, saith the apostle, when faith is come, when the child has passed up toward full majority by trusting in Jesus Christ, then the schoolmaster has gone, the believer is freed from the law as a discipline. Oh I dear friend, this is the mountain top from which we view the land of promise. This is the place of privilege to which every child of God is permitted to attain. We are not under the law, says the apostle, we are under grace. But the sign that this majority has been reached is the transference of the soul from the discipline of precepts to that of principles, which the apostle calls the law written on the fleshly tables of the heart. We are not free from this law. It never passes away; but now we delight in the law of God. There is no fear now as we remember the old commandments. (S. H. Tyng.)
Galatians 3:25; Galatians 3:29
For we are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
Liberty, equality, and fraternity
“Liberty, equality, and fraternity,” is the three-fold watchword of the masses in modern society. These words are written up in large characters on public buildings, and even on some of the churches, in France; and the ideas represented by them are held and aimed after by vast numbers in nearly every European country. What is meant by them?
(a) By “Liberty” is meant perfect freedom for the people to govern themselves, This is attainable, and, so far as political government is concerned, it has been attained by France, Great Britain, and other countries.
(b) By “Equality” is meant the abolition o! rank and title, whether hereditary or otherwise; to many it means socialism or communism--the abolition of personal property--the State becoming the sole proprietor and apportioner of the means of subsistence.
(c) By “Fraternity” is meant the realization of the feeling of true brotherhood as between man and man. Such are the ideas represented by the “liberty, equality, and fraternity” sought after by the world--a mixture of truth and error. True “liberty, equality, and fraternity” are only to be attained through the gospel being accepted and acted on throughout the world. This alone will stop the seethings of dissatisfaction, the upheavals of discontent, and the outbreaks of revolutionary passion.
I. True liberty is that which is enjoyed by the children of God.
1. Freedom from the condemnation of the law.
2. Freedom from the power of evil.
II. Equality in Jesus Christ. Not an equality subverting natural relations; these remain, but with a new spirit of light and love, constituting essential equality under circumstantial inequalities, so far as these are not inlaid in the very constitution of man as a social being.
1. In Christ there is no national inequality.
2. In Christ there is complete equality between master and servant.
3. Equality as between man and woman.
III. True fraternity. This is unattainable by political methods. It never yet has been, and never will be, reached by these means. Neither ancient nor modern republics have been able to secure true brotherhood among the members of the State, e.g., Athenian democracy, French and American Republics. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can make us true brothers, as descended from the same parent, heirs of the same inheritance, and hence possessed of a spirit of true fraternal affection towards each other. Not necessarily do Christians always agree in their opinion on indifferent points; nor do they see fundamental questions always from the same standpoint--one seeing the matter according to his own God-given mental peculiarities, another according to his, and so on; but, amid all differences of opinion, they are one in true brotherly affection, sympathy, and aim. This is the real tendency and intention and aim of Christianity, however far we may at present fall short of it. What we can now see only “in part,” will one day be perfected, for “our citizenship, our commonwealth, is in heaven.” (W. Spensley.)
True believers the children of God
I. Consider the sonship of believers under the gospel.
1. In common with the other intelligent creatures of God (Acts 17:29).
2. By external profession (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15).
3. Their sonship consists chiefly in their regeneration and adoption.
4. This sonship is not a mere title or mark of distinction, but has privileges the most excellent annexed to it. There is no condemnation to them. They are His temples. Led by His spirit. Abiding in their Father’s house, heart, love. They have a title to incorruption and immortality (Romans 8:23). They are born to a great inheritance (Romans 8:17; Psalms 16:5).
5. This sonship is equally the privilege of every believer in Christ. They may be distinguished from each other, as to external circumstances in life, spiritual gifts and graces, etc., but their filial relation is the same.
6. It is a privilege of which they are conscious, and hence they enjoy the comfort of it (Galatians 4:6).
II. How it is that they attain to this privilege and dignity. The text says, by faith in Christ Jesus. To illustrate this, it may be proper to recollect--
1. That in the state of primitive innocence, Adam was truly the son of God: he resembled God (Genesis 1:27). This resemblance was effaced by sin; his former relation of sonship to God then ceased, and he was turned out of God’s family and garden as a rebel, while he and his numerous progeny became children of disobedience and wrath.
2. It is by faith, or a supernatural revelation only, that we are informed how this high prerogative may be regained. This surpasses the capacity of the wisest philosopher, and even of angels. It is brought to light by the gospel (Galatians 4:4-5).
3. We become the children of God, when we cordially believe in Christ: we are thereby brought into union with Christ and into a relation of sonship with the Father (John 1:12). Concluding exhortation:
1. Be astonished, ye heavenly principalities and powers, to see such base-born slaves and rebellious creatures taken into the family of God. Unmeasurable love! Infinite honour!
2. Forget not the love, duty, submission, and service, resulting from this relation.
3. How insipid, alas I are such themes as this to the generality even of gospel hearers. Show them how to acquire a fortune, etc., and they will be all attention; but publish the riches of God’s gracious adoption, they relish it not. Blinded sinner, what a fatal choice! Naught can avail thee in the long run, but this. Claim thy adoption, and live as a child of God. (Theological Sketch Book.)
All children of God by faith in Christ Jesus
I. A wonderful and an inexplicable privilege. What an honour (Proverbs 17:6)! What an advantage (Romans 8:17)! In this name we have--
1. A spiritual right to all the creatures of God (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).
2. An interest in God Himself (Isaiah 49:15-16; 1 John 4:16).
3. The service and guardianship of angels (Psalms 91:11; Matthew 18:10; Hebrews 1:14).
4. A certain and infallible claim to eternal glory (Colossians 1:12; Matthew 25:34).
II. The means of the enjoyment of this privilege.
1. This privilege is not natural to man. By nature we are
(1) children of this world (Luke 16:8); or worse,
(2) a seed of falsehood (Isaiah 57:4); or yet worse,
(3) children of unrighteousness and darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:5); or yet worse,
(4) sons of wilful disobedience (Ephesians 2:3); or worst of all,
(5) children of wrath (Ephesians 2:2).
2. This enjoyment may be obtained by
(1) Adoption (Ephesians 1:5);
(2) Regeneration; not of water only, so we are all sacramentally regenerated; but of the Holy Ghost (John 1:12-13; John 3:5).
3. Union with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Corinthians 4:15; James 1:18).
4. By means of faith as saith the text.
III. How shall we know that we enjoy this privilege. Every child of God is--
1. Like his Father (1 Peter 1:15-16);
(1) He is merciful; are we cruel?
(2) He is righteous; are we unjust?
(3) He is slow to anger; are we furious?
(4) He is abhorrent of evil; do we take pleasure in wickedness?
2. Bears a filial answering to a paternal love.
3. Reverences his Father (Malachi 1:6).
4. Is obedient to his Father.
5. But beyond this there is the witness and guidance of the Holy Spirit of our Father. (Bishop Hall.)
The means of Christian sonship
A man has faith in God as the Creator of the universe, as the Father of man, as the moral Ruler of the world; but that is not what is meant by the faith that admits into the saved family. A man may assure himself that he has scientific ground for his faith in theism, but that is a long way from the faith that saves the soul. To put faith in manhood, or kinghood, or pope, or progress, or church, or creed, as the object of faith is simply to divert the mind from that which saves. Faith in the beautiful, the good, the nobler aspects of the race, in the poetry and yearnings of the higher humanitarianism, are interesting things to talk about; but to put them forth as the dark passages through which men are to find their way into the family, is to shut the door of hope in the face of the great sinning, sorrowing, race. Not without meaning is Fichte’s despair of raising men into the blessed life since they are so far beneath the reach of his philosophy. But Paul here opens the door of hope, and shows how any man may become a new child of God. (Mitchell.)
The vastness of the Christian family
No man ever wrought to make the world better that was not my brother. No man ever laboured to exemplify the coming manhood, that was not kindred to me. Whatever nation he belonged to he belonged to my nation. Whatever language he spoke, he spoke my language. Whatever sphere he wrought in was my sphere. Whether he was crowned or uncrowned, he was of my lineage. I own him; and if he is saved he owns me. And all over the world, there are no spirits bearing and enduring with fortitude and cheerfulness in obscurity that are not my unknown relations. My Father has an enormous family, for my Father is God. My eldest brother is named Jesus Christ, and the relationships which spring out of this Fatherhood and this Brotherhood--how many they are! Wherever men are denying themselves for rectitude, and enduring for that which is just and true, and living courageously for the right, and exemplifying purity and sweetness, and diffusing happiness-these are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, and our brethren. (H. W. Beecher.)
Safety by trusting Christ
A man was fleeing from some men who desired to rob and kill him. He came to a wide gulf, over which there was only a slender plank for a bridge. It looked too weak to bear him, so that there seemed only a choice of the kind of death open to him. What was he to do? Death behind! Death in front by a fearful fall! While his mind was wavering as to his right course, he saw a strong, heavy man on the opposite side, who shouted. ‘Come over, man! I crossed the plank safely; I am heavier than you are. When it has borne me it will bear you’: Similarly, Christ is our plank of safety across the gulf of damnation. He has borne my sins, therefore He can and will bear yours.
Jesus the only Saviour
A person asked me the other day whether I had seen a book entitled, “Sixteen Saviours.” I answered, “No, I have not, and I do not want to know of sixteen saviours, I am satisfied with one. If all who dwell in heaven and earth could be made into saviours, and the whole were put together, you might blow them away as a child blows away thistle-down, but there is this one Saviour, the Son of Man, and yet the mighty God, and He cannot be moved. Joy then, my brethren, and rejoice in your blessed Lord. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Baptized into Christ have put on Christ
I. The clothing is twofold.
1. The putting on of a garment. This is also twofold.
(1) To take the outward name and profession. ‘This doth no good (Haggai 1:6). It may be done to delude others, but God cannot be deluded. He will take off the garment of the hypocrite, and expose him to open shame. For this is an affront to Christ to put on an outward Christianity till noon, and be libertines after. If thou shouldst wear the prince’s livery in scantier proportions or coarser stuff than belongs to thy place, will he accept thee? No more will Christ.
(2) To put on His righteousness by imitation and conformity. We must put off our old clothes and appear naked before God, then we come to our transfiguration (Romans 4:4).
2. The putting on of a person.
(1) We are not to put on Christ as a livery nor as a coin the image of a king.
(2) But as a son doth his father in whom the same nature doth reside.
(3) Then shall we so appear before God, as that he shall take us for His own Christ; we shall bear His name and person.
(4) We shall every one be so accepted as if every one of us were all mankind, yea, as if we were He Himself.
II. Its completeness. AS the garment Christ wore was seamless and entire, so this garment, Christ Jesus our sanctification, must cover us all over, and go through our whole life in a constant, even perseverance. We must not only be hospitable and feed the poor at Christmas; be sober and abstinent the day we receive the sacrament; repent and think of amendment in the day of sickness. No man may take the frame of Christ’s merit in pieces. He that puts on Christ must put Him on all; and not only find that Christ hath died, nor that He hath died for him, but that he also hath died in Christ. (Doune.)
The investiture of Christ
I. The vesture is--
1. Most beautiful.
2. Most costly.
3. Most rare.
(1) In its purity.
(2) In its capacity.
(3) In its importance.
4. Most durable.
II. The investiture is--
(1) from the character of the vesture Christ’s an universal character--“the Man”;
(2) from the nature of the investiture: the assimilation of Christ’s character.
(1) for protection,
(2) for adornment.
3. Accomplished by
III. The invested will have--
1. Comfort in trial.
2. Invincibility in temptation.
3. Confidence in the hour of death and day of judgment.
4. Completeness of joy in this life and in that which is to come.
A child is to be baptized on a given day; but when that day arrives the child is unwell, and the ceremony must be postponed another week or month. Again a delay takes place--the day is damp or cold. At last the time arrives; the service is read; it may require, if read slowly, five minutes more than ordinarily. Then and there, when that ceremony is slowly accomplished, the mystery is achieved. And all this time, while the child is ill, while the weather is bad, while the reader procrastinates--I say it solemnly--the Eternal Spirit who rules the universe, must wait patiently, and come down, obedient to a mortal’s spell, at the very second that it suits his convenience. God must wait attendance on the caprice of a careless parent, ten thousand accidents, nay the leisure of an indolent or an immoral priest. Will you dare insult the Majesty on high by such a mockery as this result. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
Baptism without grace
The Spanish converts in Mexico remembered not anything of the promise and profession they made in baptism, save only their names, which many times they also forgot; and in the kingdom of Congo, in Africa, the Portuguese, at their first arrival, finding the people to be heathens, induced them to be baptized in great abundance, allowing the principles of Christianity till such times as the priests pressed them to lead lives according to their profession, which the most part of them in no case enduring, returned again to their Gentilism. Such renegades are to be found in the midst of us this day, such as give themselves up to Christ in profession; but, when it comes to a holy life, they leave him in the open field, forsaking their colours, renouncing their baptism, and running away to the enemy. (Spencer.)
The putting on of Christ, according to the gospel, consists not in imitation merely, but in a new birth and a new creation; that is to say, in putting on Christ’s innocency, His righteousness, His wisdom, His power, His saving health, His life, and His Spirit. We are clothed with the leather coat of Adam, which is a mortal garment, and a garment of sin; that is to say, we are all subject unto sin, all sold under sin. There is in us horrible blindness, ignorance, contempt, and hatred of God; moreover, evil concupiscence, uncleanness, covetousness, etc. This garment, that is to say, this corrupt and sinful nature, we received from Adam, which Paul is wont to call “the old man.” This old man must be put off with all his works (Ephesians 4:22), that of the children of Adam we may be made the children of God. This is not done by changing of a garment, or by any law or works, but by a new birth, and by the renewing of the inward man, which is done in baptism (Titus 3:5). For, besides that they which are baptized are regenerate and renewed by the Holy Ghost to a heavenly righteousness and to eternal life, there riseth in them also a new light and a new flame; there rise in them new and holy affections, as the fear of God, true faith and assured hope, etc.; there beginneth in them also a new will. This is to put on Christ truly. To be apparelled with Christ is not to be apparelled with the law nor with works, but with an incomparable gift; that is to say, with remission of sins, righteousness, peace, consolation, joy of spirit, salvation, life, and Christ Himself. This is diligently to be noted, because of the fond and fantastical spirits which go about to deface the Majesty of baptism, and speak wickedly of it. Paul contrariwise commendeth it, and setteth it forth with honourable titles. (Luther.)
Putting on Christ
This verse introduces us to some of the very central and most sacred doctrines of the gospel. It tells us what our condition is,--we who have been baptized into Christ;--and, telling us what our condition is, it opens to us so wide and wonderful a view of the duties, burthens, hopes, and helps that belong to that condition, as may well astonish us, and fill us with fear and trembling, with fearful hope, and with trembling joy. I need not linger much in explaining the first words of the verse of the text, “as many of you as have been baptized”; however many of the Galatians St. Paul may have comprehended under this description, there is no question that it comprehends all of us. We have all been baptized, have all been carried, in the faith of the Church, represented by our godfathers and godmothers, to the life-giving font, and have received the promises of God made to us in that sacrament. Again, he says, “have been baptized into Christ.” On this point, too, there is no need to dwell at present; suffice it for the present purpose to say, that to be baptized into Christ signifies
(1) to be baptized into the body of Christ; to be made by baptism a member of that sacred immortal body, whose head is the Lord in heaven, and whose bond of life and union is the blessed Spirit of God; and
(2) to be baptized into the Holy Trinity, into that name, into that belief and profession, into that holy keeping, and into that mysterious communion. These points I will not enlarge upon at present; I will rather assume that we are acquainted with all the great things which are signified by the expression, “being baptized into Christ”; and, turning your attention to the remaining words, consider how it is said, that they who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.
1. First, then, we may regard the words as metaphorical, and understand them to mean, that we have put on, or assumed, the Christian profession of belief, or the Christian character, or the Christian duties, or the Christian hopes. “Consider, therefore,” we may suppose the apostle to go on, “how far your life really tallies with all this great profession which you have made.”
2. But this is not enough To interpret words like these merely metaphorically, is to interpret them very inadequately. To put on Christ can hardly be a less real phrase than to be baptized into Christ, or to be in Christ; and these phrases, as we know from many parts of Holy Scripture, express the wonderful and mysterious connexion which subsists between baptized men and their Redeemer, whereby they are living stones of a spiritual house or temple; living members of a sacred spiritual body; living branches of a holy spiritual vine; partakers of the death, and so of the life of Christ; already immortal in estate; and in right, title, and privilege, already assured of everlasting bliss, unless they forfeit it by impenitent and unholy living. To put on Christ seems to be correlative to being in Christ; it is the duty, while the other is the privilege. God has, of His great mercy, put us in Christ, made us to be baptized into Christ;--now let us pray for His Spirit, and work with His Spirit, and yield ourselves up to His Spirit, that we may put on Christ. In our baptisms we were planted into Christ, into His body, which is the Church; and there took place, by God’s Divine power, the birth of the Spirit in our hearts,--the germinating of the little seed of Divine, spiritual life, the kindling of the little spark of holy immortal fire, which, unless it be smothered by sin unrepented, should be our earnest, and inalienable title to glory and salvation. This was the great baptismal blessing. But there is something else after this. Then Christ has to be formed in us. Then our own souls, in which, even after baptism, the infection of nature remaineth, have to grow up in Christ’s likeness, to grow to the stature of a perfect man in Christ to become filled with the fulness of God. This is the work of our life after baptism; this is the reason why we live so many years after baptism; this is the reason why baptism is early, and death often late, why baptism is not the end, but the beginning of our lives. Our life after baptism should not be a falling back, but a rising and growing; not a declension from baptismal innocence, but a strengthening in Christ-like virtues. Herein then is the precise duty, stated in the lofty and mysterious terms of Holy Scripture, which we are living now to discharge; the putting on Christ,--the forming of Christ in our own separate souls, the growing up to the “perfect man, the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” For this cause, our bodies grow from the infant feebleness in which they received the regenerating washing of holy baptism, through their vigorous and lively youth, to the confirmed strength of manhood; for this cause, our minds naturally widen and grow strong, our imaginations vivid and inventive, our thought strong and deep, our memory firm and tenacious, and our judgment considerate and sound; for this cause, we are placed under training and discipline; for this cause, God has given us kind and loving friends; for this cause He allows us to see and know, in the examples of others, the aspect of sin, and the aspect of obedience, that we may be the rather helped to right, and deterred from wrong, by learning to love and hate them respectively, when exhibited in others; for this cause, He sends us joy or sorrow, takes us from those we love, or takes those we love from us; for this cause, He allows the various events of life to go on in their tangled, inscrutable order, trying us, testing us, proving us in ten thousand ways st every time; for this cause, He gives us His Holy Spirit, bids us pray, sets hopes and bright encouragements before us, leaves us alone, yet not alone, for He is with us, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. For this cause, that, being in Christ by baptism, we may by degrees put on Christ; that we may copy Him, pray to Him, represent Him, love to be near Him, love His house, His people, His little ones; that we may believe in Him, have the thought of Him ever before our minds, read of Him, talk of Him, love His words; that we may think who and how great He is, ascend with Him, love to retire from other thoughts to be with Him, love His Church the place where His honour dwelleth, love His sacraments wherein He is nearest, His baptism wherein He giveth Himself first, His blessed Communion wherein He permits us more and more to be one with Him, to be of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. The Christian estate is glory, it is liberty, it is royal, it is priestly; nothing is too high for it, as the apostle sees it. A baptized Christian is reborn of the Spirit, sits in heavenly places, is companion of angels, has his citizenship in heaven, has his life in Christ. Living on in the flesh, he grows in grace, puts on Christ, Christ is formed in him, he grows to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. No; we must not lower our teaching, or our holding, below the lofty but most real sayings, the wonderful words, but words of most faithful truth and soberness, in which the inspired apostles have been taught to speak them. No; we must raise our lives. We must not speak lower, but we must live higher. The labour and the struggle is, to bring these high truths into the very midst of our daily lives and habits, to remember them when we lie down, and when we rise up, to remember them in our work and our play; to remember them and act upon them all through that endless diversity of little things, which, defying statement or description, make up our weekly, daily, and hourly lives. If your life be destined to be spent in the midst of secular business, let it accompany you, and your secular business will become sanctified to you; if you are hereafter to minister in the sanctuary, let it go with you to the sanctuary, and it will waken up a deeper devotion; if you are to remain among the homes of your fathers, or to do God’s service in distant lands, wheresoever you be, and howsoever occupied, let the remembrance of this thought, the formation of Christ within you, the growing up to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, be, by God’s grace, never absent from your Christian minds! (Bishop Moberly.)
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free.
The unity of true believers
The Christian scheme is a uniting scheme, and all real saints are one in their glorious Head.
I. There is a sense in which the saints are too much one, viz., in that which is evil. They spring from the same depraved original, and are partakers of the same corrupt nature. Though sin does not reign in them, it remains; and too frequently led away captive by it, they act in a manner displeasing to God.
II. There are many respects in which the saints are not one.
1. Natural capacity.
2. Temper and disposition.
3. External advantages.
III. Yet they are really one in Christ Jesus. They are so by virtue of their union with Him, being thereby incorporated into one body, and animated by one spirit, also by virtue of their participation of Him.
1. They are equally objects of the Divine love and favour. One saint may love God more than another; the same saint may love God more at one time than another; but God always loves all His people with the same everlasting, ardent, unalterable affection. Infinite love admits of no degrees.
2. They have the same spiritual privileges. The same gospel is preached, the same Spirit poured on them; they have one Lord, faith, baptism; justified by the same blood, adopted into the same family, regenerated by the same grace, and preserved by the same power.
3. They all hold the Head, Christ Jesus. Differing in circumstantials, they are united in essentials. Inwardly determined for God, they are outwardly obedient to Him. On the other hand, every unconverted man has more hearts than one, and more ways than one.
4. They have the same well-grounded hopes and expectations. As one Father begot them, so one heaven shall receive them. There they shall be one in those senses in which now they are not so, for they shall see eye to eye. (B. Beddome, M. A.)
Unity and union
If there be any truth in revelation, any efficacy to follow the Saviour’s prayer, any power in the Word of God accompanied by the Divine Spirit, an age must come when the Church will both be and appear to be one.
I. There is an essential unity in the church, independent of the purpose, will, schemes, and devices of man. Sincere and intelligent faith brings souls, without the medium of an ecclesiastical organization, into union with Christ, and therefore with all the members of His spiritual Body which is the Church. There can no more be two Churches than there can be two suns in the solar system. All believers are one, but their unity ought to be visible.
II. Notwithstanding this essential unity, divisions exist in the church. To turn from the ideal Church to that which appears to view is like looking off from a peaceful and tranquil lake to an ocean tossed with tempest. These divisions are in themselves injurious, for by splitting up the forces they take away that combined strength which the Church ought to present to the world; and they also show that bitterness of feeling exists. The clouds that are exhaled from the waters of strife hang, like a thick veil, over the bright orb of religion; religion is seen through them, no doubt, but like the sun seen through a mist--shorn of its beams, diminished in its effulgence. Religion suffers in consequence. “Divide and destroy” is the watchword of Satan, net of God.
III. What kind of manifestation of this unity should we seek? Our differences of opinion are not trifles; they are serious matters. If one body of believers is right, then the others must be wrong. If all are wrong in some particulars, they should renounce their errors, and unite on the ground of the common truth. How is such a unity to be brought about?
1. By cultivating personal godliness to a much greater extent. Errors of judgment arise, in great measure, out of the corruption of the heart, and soul, and mind, not yet brought into subjection to the mind of Jesus.
2. Unity of affection. External union will never be brought about until men’s hearts are knit together as thread is interwoven with thread.
3. Unity of persons. Every Christian grace must be seen. Not sectarian love.
4. Unity of action. Working together as labourers in the same vineyard. The oxen must be yoked quietly together (to use a familiar illustration) before they san draw together; the horses must be harnessed, and stand quiet without kicking each other, before they can draw together; we must be harnessed and yoked in love before we can unite externally.
IV. The means to be used to bring about this desirable union.
1. We shall never obtain it unless we really do desire it. All must long and pray together for the healing of our unhappy divisions.
2. There must be a conviction abroad, that it is everybody’s business to do what they can towards accomplishing it. Not ministers only, but lay people as well. The Church is made up of units; let all help.
3. The cultivation of personal religion. The olive branch can never flourish but in the rich soil of personal piety; let that soil be impaired, and the bitter aloe of contention, the thorn, the bramble, the briar, and the nettle of angry controversy will flourish luxuriantly. Man departs from his brother by departing from God; closeness to God will bring each one closer to his brother man. Only the constraining love of Christ can compress and concentrate the Church into a closer union.
4. Let each do what he can in his own narrow circle. Not necessary to wait for the working out of a huge scheme of general union. Heal up the little sores.
5. Be careful about controversy. Don’t elevate secondary matters into primary. Study the unity of heaven, and try to realize it on earth. Pray for the Spirit’s guidance. (J. Angell James.)
Christ and the Church one
I. The oneness of Christ and the Church. The Church is:
(2) manifold; and yet
(3) from this very multitudinousness and manifoldness arises oneness.
II. The truth of the unity and manifoldness of the Church is the basis of new testament morality. (Homilist.)
Grounds of unity
Here are the grounds and reasons for Christian unity.
I. The great end of the gospel is not only to save, but to make one. One great fruit of sin is separation; the great object of the gospel is to bring about unity. Sin is extinguished by the cross; and Christ, the binding element, fills up the chasm between offended God and offending man--of twain making one new man, and so making peace.
II. Our relationship to each other. All are sheep of the same fold.
III. Christ’s own command. “Love one another.” “That they all may be one.”
IV. The safety of the whole body demands it. To be insuperable, Christians must be inseparable. The strength of the Christian Church, like that of Napoleon’s army, lies in consolidation, presenting a united front.
V. Necessary for the extension of Christ’s kingdom. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
Union with Christ and its results
I. The fundamental fact.
1. In Christ, as the stone is in the building.
2. As the fugitive is in the city of refuge.
3. As in a seed.
II. The great consequences of this fundamental fact.
1. Distinction of nations ceases.
2. Distinction between man and man ceases.
3. Distinction between strong and weak ceases.
The native consequence of a fallen state is the mastery of ‘the strong over the weak. Might makes right. And to the everlasting disgrace of the male sex the woman became the bond slave of the stronger man. The only shield of woman’s natural rights is the principle here stated. Thus with one stroke of the pen St. Paul settles the national, personal, and sexual rights of men. By one short sentence he solves the three greatest problems of human society--peace, liberty, fraternity. When all men ate one in Christ, earth will once more be a province of heaven. (J. G. Murphy, LL. D.)
Unity not necessarily uniformity
Look around on all creation, and you will find what metaphysicians have called the “monad,” that is, the ultimate principle of unity, pervading all, but diversity its continual development, characteristic of all. The cloud takes its multifarious shapes from the wind, its varied splendours from the sunbeam, but its substance remains continually the same. The fable varies in the incident and the story, but the moral is essentially the same; the music has many variations, but the old air, the original air or melody may be detected like a chord in the midst of all these variations. Animal life,. from the humblest zoophyte up to man, the very perfection of physical life, presents every variety of organization, and yet its essential characteristics are the same in the dog, the cat, the horse, and the man. Human life, again, has general characteristics of unity, but you will find the utmost diversity of development. It is to me one of the most extraordinary and inexplicable and mysterious phenomena of the world, that while in this assembly there may be 1,000 or 1,100 faces, with the same characteristic features in all, yet not one is the least like any of the others. The principle of unity pervades the whole; each face has the great, essential, elemental characteristics of a face; yet no two faces, for reasons we cannot explain, are so alike that one might be mistaken for the other. If, again, we take spiritual intelligence, we shall find the same characteristic unity with the same developed variety. For instance, man seems to me to be the lowest link in spiritual intelligence. He is the basis where soul or spirit is united to matter; the next grade is the angel, the next the archangel, then the cherub, and after that the seraph. Here are ascending-grades or diversities in heaven itself, and yet the fundamental characteristics of spiritual life are the same. If, again, I refer to the botanical kingdom, I find that every plant, tree, and flower, have each certain essential and elemental characteristics, and yet the utmost possible variety of development. The fragrance of a violet is perfectly distinct from that of a rose; the colour of a dahlia is totally different from the colour of a daisy. One flower differs from another in its shape, fragrance, appearance, stem, calyx, leaves, and yet all flowers have certain elemental and essential characteristics which distinguish the whole botanical kingdom. If I refer to the mineral kingdom, I find that all minerals are originated and guided by the same law; but one throws off its crystals in the shape of hexagons, another in the shape of pentagons; that is to say, the great law of crystallization in the mineral kingdom is the same, but the development of that law is as varied as variety can possibly be. The snowdrop, the raindrop, the snowflake, the buds of trees, and the blossoms of flowers--all things in the botanical kingdom, all things in the mineral, all in the animal kingdom, and all in nature, have each their own essential elemental characteristic unity, and yet in their developments we find the utmost possible varieties of that unity. And so, I would argue, there may be in the Church, where, I cannot but think, uniformity would be a blemish rather than a beauty. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
Near Christ, near Christians
Observing in a large circle a number of lines called by mathematicians “radii,” we perceive that in proportion as each radius approaches the centre, it approaches the radius that is next to it; just in proportion to its nearness to the centre is its nearness to the others; and so it is with the Christian Church. It is one vast circumference, and just as we approach to Christ, in life and character, in the same proportion we draw near each other. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
One in Christ
There lies, deep down in the heart of mankind, not always read aright by the spirit of man which is in him, but always read aright by Him who has all hearts in his hand, a craving, yearning, thirsting desire for this reversal of the curse of Babel--for this re-gathering and re-uniting which is to be found only in Christ. We speak of rest as man’s want. But what rest? Not a rest of dreamy or dreamless slumber; not a rest of indolent self-indulgence; not a rest of undisturbed self-contained isolation: this cannot satisfy the want of a spirit come from and returning to God; this cannot fill the capacities of a heaven-born, everlasting existence. Underneath the longing for rest lies another longing--and that is for union, unity, oneness; for a voice to recall God’s scattered ones from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea, and make for them one blessed home, not by building upon earth a tower whose top shall reach heaven, but by bringing down out of heaven that holy city of which God, God in Christ, shall be at once the Light, and the Presence, and the Temple. The heart craves union: till it finds union it cannot know rest. And this craving for union is often ignorant, often impatient, often perverse, often sinful. It does not, all at once, even when it hears the gospel, submit itself to God’s will, to Christ’s direction, as to the end to be sought, or the manner of the seeking. One man, his heart all athirst for that rest which is union, will look out for himself some earthly object, which he may deck with every fancied perfection, and then bow before it as his idol. Another, of a less refined mould and making, will even find a gross, base, and perishing union in some companionship in sinning. For the moment he finds himself less alone; for the moment he has slaked the thirst of his soul at a muddy and a broken cistern--even in a counterfeit union, to be followed by a more aching loneliness than the former. And if men happen to have a different conception of the natural dispersion--either because their affections are less lively, or their ideas wider and more philosophical--then they frame projects, larger or smaller, of combination and fellowship; they will unite men in leagues, societies, associations, which are to reform nations or remodel Churches: disappointed of unity here, they will seek it there: a new sect shall give them that sense of perfect harmony which older creeds and communions have failed to inspire: even an excluding process has been tried, where schemes of comprehension have been found vain: still beyond, a little beyond, has lain the goal of absolute oneness, and still a weary and foot-sore multitude have plodded and tramped after it--in vain! And then, all at once, there enters this world of dispersion and disunion--enters it, as by a small wicket-gate, in remote, insignificant Palestine--One who represents Himself as possessing, for all mankind, for all time, not only the secret of rest, but the very rest itself--One who cries aloud in the temple-court, crowded for a great festival, in words absolutely unique, probably, in philosophy or in religion, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink”--drink, as He explains Himself, a water which is absolutely satisfying, because it brings into the soul that kind of rest which is union, union with God, and so union with itself and with its brother. “Ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” In Him the dispersion is regathered. All things, St. Paul says, in heaven and in earth are gathered together in Him. It seems as though even angels who never fell are in some manner interested and concerned in that regathering. Certainly the dead, equally with the living, are so. And I desire to say to you, this last night, how alone you and I can ever henceforward be at one. Each separately must enter into, must put on, must invest himself with Jesus Christ. Are the words ambiguous? You know what they say. They bid you to cast all your burden of guilt--is it not heavy? too heavy for you?--upon Christ as your atonement. They bid you to cast all your burden of sin and sorrow and conscious weakness--is it not heavy? too heavy for you?--upon Christ as your friend. Then are you inside Him. He includes, He contains you--and in the dread day of days, when the Avenger of blood looks for you, he shall find only Christ--only Jesus Christ and Him crucified, Him risen I In the exercise of that incorporation, of that union, of that oneness, will our true fellowship henceforth be found. You might detain me, you might pursue me, and yet we might not be one--not one person certainly! But if you and I are all inside Christ, then we must be at one. Then all minor differences, of place and intercourse, sink at once into nothing. Place and sight may make the difference of pleasure, of comfort, of expressed communion, of conscious unity. But they make no difference whatever, as to the reality, as to the essence of union. You may worship here, and I there--you may kneel at these rails, I at others--what then? We are all one person in Christ. In the face of such union, let us learn--it is a hard lesson--let us learn to despise and trample under foot all other. What is neighbourhood? What is co-existence? Men live next door to each other, and never meet--meet, and never commune--commune, and never are one. At last a call comes--one goes forth, at the summons of business, of necessity, of the gospel, to a distant shore--seas roll between--they never see, they never hear of each other more--yet, for the first time, they may be one--one person--in Christ. The communion of saints is between them--and therefore the life of life--the resurrection of the dead, and the life everlasting. Now first they are one. Days may pass, months, years, quarters of centuries--but that bond is fastened between them which cannot be broken. Now life is seen to be death, and death life. Now they know, or they shall know, that the Babel-dispersion is a Christ-gathering. They may have loved each other here, and trembled at the great parting. Now they know that that parting is the groat, the first, the final reunion. Or, it may be, here they have not loved equally, not happily, not without doubting. One loved more than the other--the lavished love seemed to be wasted. There was no felt reciprocity--it was all on one side. O, look forward! Spend all your thoughts upon the union in Christ! Make your friend love Him, then he will at last love you! (Dean Vaughan.)
Oneness in Christ
I. This is a doctrine insisted on throughout the New Testament.
II. The ancient world did not recognize the oneness of the race.
1. Savage tribes preyed on each other as they do now.
2. Jew and Greek were at irreconcilable enmity.
3. Philosophers taught that there was an immutable distinction between freeman and slave, male and female.
III. Christianity came to change all that and--
1. To teach the vivifying doctrines of the Fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of man.
2. To die that all might be gathered into His fold.
IV. This unity in Christ makes us feel at one with the great and good;
(1) of all ages;
(2) of all climes;
(3) of all denominations;
(4) of all sorts of society. (Archbishop Taft.)
Believers one in Christ
On a sweet summer evening a traveller looked along the valley on this peaceful scene, when a shower of rain was falling. Suddenly the sun broke out, and flung a bright bow on the cloud, that, like that of mercy, discharged its showers on all. The rainbow encircled within its arms suburb and city, lofty church and humble meetinghouse. And was it not a true and happy fancy that saw in this heavenly bow an emblem of that covenant which, irrespective of minor differences, embraces all believers within the same arms of mercy? (Dr. Guthrie.)
The oneness of believers
Souls have no sexes and Christ is no respecter of persons. The servant paid the half-shekel as well as the master (Exodus 30:1-38). (Trapp.)
All one in Christ
There are two distinct thoughts in these most wonderful words. St. Paul affirms, first, that the greatest natural differences between men are, as we see them, only temporary, provisional, preparatory.
2. This transformation of the circumstances of human existence has found already a pledge of its accomplishment. Deeper than all which divides you, stronger than all which comes from trine, and place, and circumstance, is this bond of one underlying life which has now been made known in the Son of Man, the Son of God.
3. We are to regard believers not as a family inspired by common affections and with common aims, but as one man, one body quickened by one Spirit, through which the one Lord is manifested to the world. But this doctrine that we men are one man, this doctrine, as it is called, of the solidarity of humanity, is no novelty to the Christian teacher. He finds in it part of the truth which the Incarnation proclaims. “Ye all are one man in Christ Jesus.” This truth, as we reflect upon it, reveals to us the fulness of life, the promise of life, the motive of life.
I. The fulness of life. When St. Paul declared the impossibility of distinctions between peoples and classes, he did not look to their destruction, but to their perfect use--to their consecration. Again and again it has happened in times of great conflict or peril that the thought of education, and rank, and sex, has passed away, and each one who has had to face the struggle has remembered only that he is an Englishman, or a man. All that he had, all that he was before, remained unchanged; every gift and every power was made to serve the immediate end; but larger interests asserted their supremacy, and the soul acknowledged the claim. So it is with the nobler conflict to which we are called as believers in Christ. We all bring to it the fullest offering of individual service; we keep back nothing, and we rest in nothing. Whatsoever we have that is special is the sign whereby God has revealed His purpose for us. But this is the common thought which hallows every effort, which nerves us for concentrated labour, which bears us beyond the narrow limits of personal aim, which binds together with the strength of their manifold energies the scholar, and the artist, and the craftsman, “I am a Christian.” By that confession we know the vastness, the fulness of life in its unity in Christ.
II. The promise of life. The unseen life is greater than we know; now and then the veil is lifted from some dark scene, and-through sordid and repulsive surroundings, light and tenderness and self-sacrifice flash out; revealed, not created, by the circumstances through which it is seen. A time of wide distress shows us what the heart of the vast masses of the people is--beating with the one life, and loyal beyond hope to truth and righteousness. Then, when the deep foundations are being laid open; then, when we remember how the Son of Man has fulfilled man’s destiny--we are sure that there shall never be one lost virtue, sure that the one life with its purifying energy will not fail, sure that it is life and not death which is the seal of humanity.
III. The motive of life. To work for ourselves is a necessity. If then, we can be enabled to feel that our true self is in Christ, who has taken humanity to Himself, the whole aspect of the world is changed. Can we imagine any motive for labour more inexhaustible or more inspiring than this conviction that the well-being of the whole is imperilled in the least member; that subtle influences pass ever over each one of us at every moment which must work for all time; that at every moment we are all entering on the inheritance of the one life, marred or made richer, as it may be, by the action of our fellows? “Ye all are one man in Christ Jesus.” It is through us that Christ works. He is the vine, we are the branches; but where, without the branches, is the manifold fertility of the vine? He is the head, we are the members; but where without the members is the prevailing energy of the body? “Ye all are one man in Christ Jesus.” As we ponder the words and follow them beyond this region of conflict and succession, they disclose a prospect in which our souls can rest. (Canon Westcott.)
Unity in diversity
There are three classes of obstacles to all union, and therefore to Christian union, and to the realization of the wondrous prayer of the Lord Jesus. These difficulties arise out of a threefold distinction that may be made among human beings. The Apostle Paul, in my text, does in three different ways divide mankind. He makes a threefold separation of the human race into two dissimilar classes, which, though here and there correspondent with one another, are by no means parallel the one to the other. This classification is governed by
(1) the great intellectual differences and antagonisms among men;
(2) the chief emotional and constitutional differences of character; and
(3) the prodigious distinctions effected by external circumstances. It is true that St. Paul presents these three antitheses in a pictorial fashion, in a vivid and concrete form, before our consideration, but it is none the less obvious that he is thinking of more than the literal meaning of his own words.
I. The first of these divisions was based on that great antagonism which was so admirably expressed in the apostle’s day by the intellectual differences obtaining between the Jew and the Greek. The Jew, strictly speaking, was the member of the holy family, the descendant of Abraham and Israel, a representative of that well-known nationality which had better reasons: than any other Oriental people possessed, to believe that it was the special object of Divine care, and providence, and government. Thus the Jew became the type of all who, in every age of the Church, are, by their education, their mental habits, their strong dispositions, disposed to lay violent stress on the external sign, on the old tradition, even to the exclusion of the realities which are indicated by them. Now let us look at the other great type of intellectual character--the Greek. The term, even in the Acts of the Apostles and elsewhere in the--New Testament, meant more than a Gentile proselyte to the faith of Christ; and the word “Grecian” or “Hellenist” meant more than a Greek-speaking Jew. It is capable of proof that there was in Judaism a Grecized party even before the time of our Lord, and it is quite clear that the Grecian converts to the faith of Jesus were rather characterized by the freshness of their ideas, the freedom of their speculations, the liberty which they claimed from oppressive rite and ceremonial, than by their mother-tongue. No classes of mind could be more directly opposed and dissimilar in their modes of working than those of the pure Jew and pure Greek. To Jewish conservatism the Greek opposed an incessant love of change; to the Jewish love of tradition and dependence upon the wisdom of the ancients the Greek offered endless speculation and elaborate guesses after truth; instead of the Jewish dogma the Greek luxuriated in the last logical puzzle. By the side of the stern exclusiveness of the Jewish Monotheism, the Greek prided himself in a Pantheon of deities, who were admitted on equal and easy terms to the reverence of the Hellenes. The mind of the Jew was hampered in its philosophical researches by a language of great metrical power, but of comparative rigidity of movement and excessive externality and objectivity; the Greek used the most flexible and delicate instrument of thought which human minds had ever fashioned. The Jew accepted the supernatural with child-like simplicity, and asked eagerly for more; the Greek sought after the causes of things, the meaning of words, the essence of government, the unseen and intangible realities. It is not a wonderful thing that St. Paul should have said, “The Jew requires a sign, the Greek seeks after wisdom.” The unrestrained liberty of the Greek was not without its serious dangers when it was brought by Divine grace within the limit of the true Church. If the two types of mental character of which I have spoken be found within the Church of Christ, we may expect sharp and sustained antagonism. Even regeneration will not change these grave and fundamental differences of mental constitution. How difficult must it ever prove for these two kinds of men to feel the deep-hidden unity which is possible between them! To put the matter in a concrete form, how difficult for one who imagines religious life to be inseparably associated with form, ceremonial, priesthood, sacraments, liturgies, elaborate dogmatic creeds and transcendental propositions, even to believe in the Christianity of another, whose only notion of it is a holy life, free from all these restraints; who thinks, speculates, philosophizes, and tries to prove all things, and only to hold fast that which is good! Verily, if these tendencies are left to themselves unchecked and unchastised, very distant will be the day when Jew and Greek shall be one.
II. The second of them is the great constitutional and emotional difference of character expressed by the antithesis of male and female. It is not merely the difference of sex of which the apostle is speaking, but rather of the great types of character, which, though not confined to either sex, are best expressed by the terms masculine and feminine. By masculine character, we mean the predominance over the passions of reason and conscience, the energy of will, the submission to law, the conscious pride of independence, strength, self-sufficiency, robust and vigorous life. By feminine character, whether seen in woman or man, we mean the predominance of the affections, the delight of dependence, the unreasoning consciousness of right, the strength of submission, the power of suffering, self-sacrifice, and waiting. In the one there is more power to act, in the other to endure. The strength of the one is energy, and of the other is rest. Both may be led to do what is good; but the one because it is right, and the other because it is lovely. The one looks at religion as a system of principles, the other as the expression of deep feelings. The one sees no religion in mere states of mind, devotional postures, strong sentiments; and the other cannot understand the religion of mere principle and energy. How shall these two types of character be harmonized?
III. The third great decision is that due to differences arising out of external circumstances. The bond and the free are the terms which Paul used to describe this great contrast. But though formal slavery be abolished, the distinction between different classes of men is not obliterated. Caste still prevails in India; the difference between the black negro and the Southern planter or Northern merchant will still abide in America. The struggle between capital and labour, and the contrast between rank and wealth and power on the one hand, poverty, dependence, and obscurity on the other, are as vigorous and obvious as they ever were. How hard it is to bridge the gulf between the lordly owner of a county and the half-clad, unclean, besotted, diseased inmate of some hovel within sight of his palace! How difficult to make even Christian people lay down their pride, and their caste, and love one another with a pure heart fervently! Legislation, common griefs and joys, healthful literature, and free press, are bringing these separate classes into one another’s view, and some of the reserve and mutual antipathy may be overcome in the foremost of the nations; but still within the Church, as well as outside its pale, there are the bond and the free. In the person of Jesus Christ is found the true point of contact for them all.
1. That the intellectual antagonism between Jew and Greek, of every age and Church, finds in Christ its true counteraction. The modern representative of the Jew within the Church, when he looks through the form and the letter, and the medium and the visible sign, to the reality which makes him Christian, heartily confesses that it is Christ crucified who satisfies his search. The Jew and Greek of St. Paul’s day meet before the cross. “Come,” says the Hebrew of Hebrews to the sinner of the Gentiles, “come, brother; thou who weft afar off art made nigh by the blood of Jesus. He is our peace, who has made both of us one, and hath broken down the wall of partition between us: Let thee and me clasp hands before the cross, for we two have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” And the Greek responds, “I verily am no more stranger or foreigner, but a fellow-heir and of the same body, and partaker of Divine promise.” There is now neither Jew nor Greek; they are both one in Christ Jesus.
2. Christ Jesus is the mediating power between the masculine and feminine mind. Christ is the well-spring of the strong motives to right action and of the deepest passions of holy love. As the mountain torrent may leap with wild pomp and energy from the same water-shed from which, by a quieter transit, other and a gentle stream may wind its way to the great ocean, “reflecting far and fairy-like from high the immortal lights which live along the sky,” so too from the same fountain of deep emotions and great purposes varied lives may flow. As the two streams of water mingle at length, to do ever after a united work, so the two classes of mind, when they learn the lesson that from the one Christ they both derive their life and hope, then, “like friends once parted, grown single-hearted,” their love begins to abound. (H. R. Reynolds, B. A.)
I. All distinctions are lost.
II. All differences harmonized.
III. All hearts united.
IV. All personal accomplishments ignored.
I. Its foundation.
In Christ we have--
I. One foundation of hope.
II. One pattern of imitation.
III. One motive of action.
IV. One object of triumph.
I. The test--if ye are Christ’s, by faith--redeeming grace--holy consecration.
II. The privilege--then are ye Abraham’s seed included in the covenant--heirs of God, of every blessing, of heaven.
III. The foundation of it--the free--unmerited--unchangeable promise of God. (J. Lyth.)
Christ the centre of Christian union
I. The great central truth of Christian union is the central truth of Christianity itself, which is Christ crucified. Destroy the centre of any system, you have destroyed the system itself. Now, beloved, a great and essential doctrine is placed before you here. All believers are one in Christ Jesus. They have a vital union with Jesus. That includes, too, this great and precious truth--accepted and justified in Christ Jesus. Again, this being in Christ involves our preservation. The child of God is kept not by any power of his own.
II. The consequent unity of all believers in the Lord. The unity of the Church of Christ does not spring out of anything in that Church, but out of the oneness of that Church in Christ. Unity pervades all God’s works and operations--unity, not uniformity. You will find a marvellous richness of diversity in all the works of God. There is unity and there is diversity. The family of God is essentially one, and yet constituted into different households. Now I would remind you, in the first place, beloved, that the unity of the Church of God grows out of the unity of all believers in Christ the one Head. All true believers hold Christ the one Head of the Church. Then, brethren, the essential unity of the Church consists in the indwelling of the self-same Spirit. Every believer is a temple of the Holy Ghost. All believers in Christ then are essentially one. And, brother, how much is there in the circumstances of a child of God to unfold the essential unity of the Church of God? We have the same trials, afflictions, temptations; we take, oftentimes, the same dreary, lonely, tiresome path. O, how much is there in God’s providential dealings with us in our trials, our sorrows, our temptations, to knit the saints of God more closely to their Head!
III. And now, in conclusion, let me remind you that there grows out of this great and precious truth some solemn obligations and precious blessings. I will, in the briefest manner, refer to this point; and, first, with regard to obligations set forth in the Scriptures. If we are in Christ, and Christ is the centre of our union, then we are bound to recognize the unity of God’s dear ones. We are to recognize it. We are to hail a brother in Christ as a brother wherever we find him. My beloved hearers, the world is a keen observer of the Church of God. The world cares not one iota how we differ on points of Church government, or of doctrine, but the world looks at the Church of God in its union. It expects to find oneness, brotherly love, sympathy, co-operation. Therefore, I earnestly implore you, first to recognize the unity of all God’s dear saints with one another, and then to express and manifest a loving spirit. Brethren, shall I advert for a moment to the blessings that will accrue from your recognition and manifestation of this great and glorious truth, the essential unity of the Church? Let me remind you that your happiness will be promoted by it. And not only your happiness, but your holiness will be promoted by your recognition of brotherly love. I will only add that usefulness is another blessing that springs from the recognition and manifestation of union. Beloved, we are useful, not as we stand out in our individual isolated condition. We are useful for Christ in combination--combination of judgment, of heart, of purpose. (Octavius Winslow, D. D.)
And if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the premise.
Abraham’s spiritual seed
If the life we have in the flesh were all we had to provide for, they might be accounted the happiest of mankind who possess in the greatest abundance the means of sustaining it in health and comfort who can--as one of whom Jesus speaks in parable, proposed to do--take their ease, eat, drink, and be merry, because they have much goods laid up for many years. Who then is to be regarded as truly favoured and blest among the children of men? There is a class, few of whom may have been born to opulence in this world, or have any prospect of ever becoming rich in the goods of time; a class whose peculiar possessions may be little coveted or admired by those around them; for the world knoweth them not. Yet with them, if we were true for ourselves, we would desire to have our lot assigned; for they alone have an inheritance that can supply the wants of the immortal spirit, and endure while its being lasts. They are the persons spoken of in our text. Those who are Christ’s, and therefore Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. To be Christ’s is to belong to Him, as those who have given themselves to Him, come under His government and guidance, placed themselves at His disposal, and whom He hath taken for His own, redeeming them from all iniquity, purifying them to Himself. But there is more than this. They are in Him, and He is in them, by a spiritual and vital union formed between them; so they may be regarded as members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. He that is thus joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Now, if ye be Christ’s in this sense, then are ye Abraham’s seed. They have an inheritance. All the promises of God, the promises of the covenant made with Abraham, are in Christ yea, and in Him amen; and they who are Christ’s must therefore have an interest in them all.
1. Their inheritance is one which is freely given them of God, or gratuitously bestowed. This may be said of all the gifts of God to His creatures. “For who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed to him again?” Angels do not possess their thrones of light as the merited reward of service rendered to the Great Supreme. Man in innocence, though he held that fair paradise in which he dwelt, and all its happy fruits, by the tenure of his obedience, could not have been said to have won for himself, as due for that obedience, even had he continued in it, that which was justly forfeited by transgression. It is still more manifest in regard to those of his fallen race, who are constituted heirs according to the promise of an eternal inheritance, that the change effected in their state and prospects must be wholly of grace.
2. It is an inheritance which is spiritual in its character. It includes in it, indeed, the means of temporal subsistence; the things needful for the body. But these, only in as far as they may be subservient to spiritual and eternal interests. The good promised, however, does not lie altogether without themselves, in the abundance of the things they shall possess in the land of their habitation. It is rather an exaltation and enlargement of their own being. The Spirit of promise is the earnest of the inheritance now; and there is nothing of an earthly or carnal nature in what He imparts as a pledge and foretaste of its delights. Wisdom, and purity, and love, are His fruits.
3. That it is yet future and unseen. They who are heirs according to the promise have the inheritance in prospect, not in full possession. They hope for what they see not. They are under tutors and governors, until the time appointed of the Father for their entering on the enjoyment of that for which His discipline is preparing them.
4. It will be satisfying and eternal. How striking in these respects is the difference between it and every earthly inheritance! The inheritance of those who are heirs according to the promise is “incorruptible, and undefiled, and fadeth not away.” The gold and the silver which are so much coveted here are reckoned by the apostle among corruptible things, but this inheritance cannot be marred or vitiated; neither moth nor rust will ever tarnish its beauty or embitter its sweetness; nothing shall enter into that world, that better and heavenly country where it lies, that defileth, or that worketh abomination, or maketh a lie. Holiness and happiness shall there be felt to be but different names for the same thing, or shall be found in indissoluble and blissful union.
5. It is infallibly secured to those who are heirs according to the promise. He is faithful who hath promised it. He who cannot lie, the apostle tells us, promised it before the world began. We trust you have been already examining yourselves.
Yet we may offer a few suggestions further on a subject which at no season can be without its interest to those who would know whether they be in the faith.
1. We may say that they who are heirs according to the promise may be distinguished by the foundation on which they rest their hope of the inheritance. This is not any worth or goodness of their own, not any compensation they have to make for past offences, by contrition for sin and amendment of life, not any gifts or offerings they have to present to God in order to conciliate His favour. It is the promise itself which secures the inheritance to all who are persuaded of it and embrace it. But the promise is in Christ Jesus.
2. They may be distinguished by their regards to the inheritance itself. The character of that inheritance is spiritual, but we are by nature carnal, sold under sin. We have no delight in holy exercises; no desire to know, and see, and dwell with God. A great change must take place in our dispositions before we can derive any satisfaction from the society of saints in light, from fellowship with Jesus, the Holy One of God, from the felt presence of the Father of our spirits. He can no otherwise bless us but by turning us away from our iniquities.
3. They who are heirs according to the promise may be distinguished by the influence which the hope of the inheritance has on their tempers and conduct. (J. Henderson, D. D.)
I. To be Christ’s, i.e., to belong to Him as members of His body.
1. The means. Faith makes us one with Christ.
2. The immediate benefits--
(3) protection (Ephesians 5:29-30).
II. In Christ to be Abraham’s seed.
1. The Jews and all legalists have despised their birthright and broken away from Abraham.
2. Christ is the true seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16), and those who are one with Christ by faith become the same through Him. Note
(1) the antiquity;
(2) the nobility of the Christian’s ancestry.
III. As Abraham’s seed, to be heirs of Abraham’s promise.
1. Of the Spirit (Galatians 3:14), which is the earnest of the inheritance.
2. The full enjoyment of the inheritance in heaven. The Use: Believers should
(1) Be content with any earthly estate. In this regard Abraham was content to forsake his country (Hebrews 11:8-9).
(2) Be moderate in their earthly cares, and not live as drudges in the world.
(3) Have a care for heaven in comparison with which the things of this world are trifles. This did Abraham (Hebrews 11:15-16). (W. Perkins.)
Believers heirs of God
When the Danish missionaries stationed at Malabar set some of their converts to translate a Catechism, in which it was asserted that believers became the sons of God, one of the translators was so startled that he suddenly laid down his pen, and exclaimed, “It is too much: let me rather render it, ‘They shall be permitted to kiss His feet!’”