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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Galatians 6

 

 

Verse 2

DISCOURSE: 2087

BENEVOLENCE RECOMMENDED

Galatians 6:2. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

TO open and unfold the mystery of the Gospel, is doubtless an employment which, in point of utility to others, or of comfort to ourselves, may vie with any other, in which a human being can be engaged. But to inculcate the morality of the Gospel is also a most delightful office: and a minister of Christ, who feels averse to it, gives reason to fear that he has never yet entered into the spirit of the doctrine which he professes to teach. St. Paul manifestly delighted in this good work; for, in the close of all his epistles, he paid the most marked attention to it [Note: See Galatians 5:19-24.]. Nor did he rest in general instruction, but descended to the most minute particulars; omitting nothing that could tend to advance the honour of God, or the welfare of mankind.

That we may enter into the precept before us, we will consider,

I. The duty enjoined—

Burthens of some kind every man is called to sustain—

[Some may be comparatively freed from them; nor do they lie on any with the same weight and pressure at all times: but no child of man is altogether exempt from them. The body is subject to diseases, the mind to trials, and the outward estate to disasters, which no human foresight can prevent, no power on earth can avoid. They greatly mistake, who think that trouble is the exclusive portion of the poor. The rich, in their respective spheres, are as obnoxious to it as the poor; and, for the most part, by reason of their keener sensibility, they feel it more acutely.]

Nor can any support their burthens alone—

[The king upon the throne needs the assistance of others, as much as the beggar upon the dunghill. The very necessities of our nature call for mutual aid. No one could support himself alone. It is by the division of labour that society is kept together, and every individual that composes it is made happy. All, taking on themselves some one office for the benefit of others, promote, at the same time, both their own welfare, and the welfare of the whole community. The artisan, the man of science, the practitioner in any useful line, supply the wants of others in common with their own; and, whilst depending on their employers for their own support, administer support in return to them. It is thus that the hungry are fed, the naked clothed, the sick healed, and the weak protected in their rights.]

But, not confining ourselves to the duty of our own particular station, we should endeavour, as God may enable us, to bear the burthens of all—

[This may be done in a way of sympathy, and in a way of succour. As members of the same body, we ought all to care for each other [Note: Philippians 2:4. 1 Corinthians 12:25.], and to sympathize with each other under our several circumstances, whether of joy or sorrow. The Divine command is, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep [Note: Romans 12:15.].” But sympathy must shew itself in deeds, and not in words only. It will be to little purpose to “say to our destitute and naked brother, ‘Be warmed,’ or, ‘Be filled,’ whilst we withhold from him what is needful for his support [Note: James 2:14-16.].” True, indeed, we cannot all administer relief to others in the same way, or to the same extent: but what we can do, we should with alacrity and joy. The eye, the ear, the tongue, the hand, the foot, cannot all render the same service to the body: but, if they improve their respective energies and powers for the good of the whole, they answer the end for which they were formed. Thus we should consider what service we are best capable of rendering to every afflicted brother: and to that we should address ourselves with all diligence; blessing and adoring God, who has put it into our power to shew love to our fellow-creatures, and fidelity to Him. The word which St. Paul used, to express the assistance which the Holy Spirit affords to us in our necessities, marks the precise office which we are to occupy in assisting all who stand in need of help from us: we should take hold on the opposite end of their load, and bear it together with them [Note: Romans 8:26. συναντιλαμβάνεται.]. And this we may all do in some measure, yea, and must do, if we would approve ourselves faithful to the trust reposed in us.]

That we may be stimulated to this duty, let me endeavour to impress upon your minds,

II. The consideration by which it is enforced—

In executing this office, we “fulfil the law of Christ”—

[The Lord Jesus Christ has enjoined it as our duty: “These things I command you, that ye love one another [Note: John 15:17.].” He has gone further; and proposed himself to us as the pattern to which, in our exercise of love, we should be conformed: “A new command I give unto you, that ye love one another: as I have loved you, that ye also love one another [Note: John 13:34.].” He has gone further still; and declared, that the love which we are here called to exercise is the distinctive badge of all his followers: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Nay more; he has told us that it is the test whereby he will try our fidelity to him in the day of judgment: to those who have administered to the necessities of others be will give a suitable reward; and to those who have neglected this great duty, a just and fearful doom [Note: Matthew 25:34-46.].

Now, if he had only expressed it as a wish that we would perform such services for him, methinks it were abundantly sufficient to call forth all our exertions in his service. But when he issues it as his command, as his command which we must obey at the peril of our souls, who will venture to disobey it? Think but a moment what Christ has done for you: “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:9.].” Has He, the God of heaven, left his throne of glory, that, through his own sufferings unto death he might exalt you to it: and will not you, a redeemed sinner, forego some small comforts, in order to administer to the necessities of your afflicted brethren; and especially when called to it by your Redeemer himself? — — —]

This law, then, I now call you to obey—

[Let the affluent bear the burthens of the poor — — — The healthy, of the sick — — — The enlightened, of the ignorant — — — The saved, of those who are perishing in their sins — — — And let those who are not able to engage actively in the duties of benevolence spread the cases of their afflicted brethren before God in prayer, and bring down from God the help which they themselves are unable to impart — — —]


Verses 3-5

DISCOURSE: 2088

AGAINST SELF-DECEIT

Galatians 6:3-5. If a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.

SELF-KNOWLEDGE is at the root of all true religion. Without that, we shall have no right disposition, either towards God or man. Without that, we shall not be able to pity the fallen, or sympathize with the afflicted; but shall be alike unfeeling towards the failings and the necessities of our fellow-creatures. But, if we are duly conscious of our own weakness, we shall be ready to “restore in meekness any brother that has been overtaken with a fault:” and, if we know our own desert, we shall most willingly labour to “fulfil the law of Christ, in bearing the burthens of others,” as He has borne ours. To cultivate self-knowledge therefore is, in this view, extremely important: but more especially is it so in the prospect of that judgment which God himself will shortly pass on every child of man: for, whatever be our estimate of our own character, it is not by that, but by God’s own view of us, that our state shall be determined to all eternity. This is plainly declared in the words before us; in which we may see,

I. An evil complained of—

The entertaining too high an opinion of ourselves is a common evil; I should rather say, is an evil co-extensive with the human race, with those at least who have not been converted by the grace of God. If it be asked, Whence does this evil arise? I answer,

1. From judging ourselves by a defective standard—

[The generality take no higher standard than that which custom has established in the place where they live: and if they conduct themselves agreeably to that, they consider themselves as having fulfilled all that can reasonably be required of them. They never once suspect, that to “walk according to the course of this world is to walk according to the prince of the power of the air,” or that “the broad road is that which leadeth to destruction.” They have satisfied others; and therefore they have satisfied themselves.

But some take a far higher standard, even the law of God itself, (as far as they understand it,) and aim at obedience to the whole will of God. But they take only the letter of the law; and if they abstain from the actual commission of murder, adultery, and theft, they imagine that they have no reason to reproach themselves with any violation of the commandments which forbid those crimes. Hence, like the Young Man in the Gospel, they will recite the commandments, and say, “All these have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” This was the source of Paul’s self-deception, in his unconverted state. He knew not the spirituality of the law; and therefore he imagined himself to be alive, whilst he was really dead, with respect to all spiritual obedience [Note: Romans 7:9.]. He thought himself to be something, when he was nothing; and thereby deceived himself.]

2. From comparing ourselves with others—

[Some look at those who are of the same rank and age with themselves: and, if they fall not below them, they conclude that they are right. Others look at those rather who live without any particular regard to morals: and, from seeing a manifest superiority in themselves to these, they will with a self-complacent air say, in their hearts at least, if not with their lips, “I thank thee, O God, that I am not as other men are, or even as this Publican.” Others again will compare themselves with the religious world. They will select those who have in any respect dishonoured their holy profession, and hold them forth as a proper specimen of all. Or they will take the more defective part of a good character, and represent it as exhibiting a just picture of the man himself. In doing this too they will believe all they hear, without any examination or inquiry: they will make no allowances for any thing as arising out of peculiar circumstances: they overlook entirely all the humiliation and contrition which in a real saint follow the commission of a fault: they will go further still, and impute all this evil to wilful and deliberate hypocrisy: and then they will bless themselves that they are at least as good, if not better than those who make so much profession of godliness; yea, therefore better, because they make no such profession.

But to these we may apply what the Apostle said of the false teachers at Corinth; “They measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise [Note: 2 Corinthians 10:12.].” For what have they to do with others? It is not by any comparative goodness that their character will be estimated. Whether they be better or worse than others, they are in God’s sight precisely what they are in themselves: and, whilst they form a judgment of themselves by the relative situation which they occupy in the scale of general goodness, they only deceive their own souls.]

3. From comparing our present with our former state—

[It may be, that at an early period of our lives we were gay and dissipated: and that since that time we have reformed, and become observant of many duties. Yet still we may be very far from a state that is pleasing and acceptable to God: we may even (and it is no uncommon case) be more odious in his eyes than before, by having become more inflated with pride and self-confidence, in proportion as we have reformed our external conduct. For what is this, but to exchange “fleshly for spiritual filthiness,” and to acquire the image of Satan in proportion as we have relinquished that of the beast? But, waving this circumstance, which may or may not exist, the question is, not what reformation we have experienced, but what yet remains to be reformed? It matters little that the outward conduct is changed, if the heart remains the same. If we are not “new creatures in Christ Jesus,” we have attained nothing to any good purpose: and, if we look with complacency on any change short of that, we fancy ourselves something when we are nothing, and fatally deceive ourselves.]

4. From judging under the influence of partiality and self-love—

[Self-love blinds us: it hides from us our faults; or puts such a specious gloss upon them, that they are scarcely discerned as faults. It magnifies our virtues too, and not unfrequently represents as virtues what in reality are grievous sins. If there be any point in our character that is more favourable, (as generosity, or benevolence, or any other good quality,) self-love represents that to us as constituting almost the whole of our character, and then fills us with self-complacency in the contemplation of it. Thus it was with the Pharisees of old, who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous,” whilst in the sight of God they were no better than “whited sepulehres.” And thus it will be with all of us, until God open our eyes to see things as they really are, and give us hearts to judge righteous judgment.]

But for this evil there is in our text,

II. A remedy prescribed—

God has given to us an unerring standard of right and wrong—

[In the Holy Scriptures, he has revealed to us his mind and will, and shewn us what is that state which becomes us, as creatures, and as sinners. As creatures, we ought to love him with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. As sinners, we ought to humble ourselves before him in dust and ashes; to lay hold on the covenant which he has made with us in the Son of his love; to seek for mercy solely through the atoning sacrifice of Christ; to live by faith on Christ, receiving out of his fulness as branches from the vine; and by the influences of his Spirit to bring forth fruit to his glory. And, to form a right estimate of our character, we must try ourselves by this standard: we must see how far we are observant of his law, and how far we are obedient to his Gospel.

But besides this written standard, we have a copy of all perfection set before us in the example of Christ. We see how ardent and uniform was his zeal for God, and how active and self-denying his love for man. We see him in all situations of difficulty; we behold all his tempers and dispositions tried to the uttermost by the perverseness and cruelty of men; and we see in every thing how to conduct ourselves towards God and man. In his example, we have a touchstone whereby to try our supposed virtues: and, whereinsoever we differ from him, or come short of him, (unless in those things which arose out of his mediatorial character,) we may assuredly conclude that we are wrong.

Further, though the word of God, and the example of Christ, are the only unerring standards of truth, we have yet further,—what is of great advantage to us,—the examples of men who were of like passions with ourselves. We see Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles, all walking, as it were, before our eyes; and we learn from them how we ought to walk and to please God. If we take the life of Abraham, of Daniel, of the Apostle Paul; if we contemplate their unshaken faith, and unreserved obedience; and then inquire how we have demeaned ourselves under any circumstances which have borne an affinity with theirs; we may certainly attain a pretty correct knowledge of our state and character before God.]

By this standard then we should try ourselves—

[It is of use to all persons, and under all circumstances. From the king on the throne to the beggar on the dunghill, all may find it suitable to their condition. To it therefore we should refer the whole of our conduct, and by it “every one should prove his own work.” Every particular work should be tried by it. Whatever the work be, we should examine what the written word required of us, and see how far our work fell short of the true standard. We should bring it to the test, and inquire into the principle from which it flowed, the manner in which it was executed, and the end for which it was performed; and then form our judgment, after a candid and impartial survey of its defects.

But it is not our actions only that should be so proved: we should examine also the entire state and habit of our minds: for it is this, and this only, that will determine our real character before God. And who that does this will think highly of his own attainments? Who that considers what is that love which is due to the Supreme God; what is that gratitude which the Lord Jesus Christ calls for at our hands; what is that affiance which we should place in him; and what is that zeal which we should put forth in his service; who, I say, will then vaunt himself as somebody, and swell with self-preference and self-conceit? The remedy once brought into daily and habitual use, will soon cure the evil complained of in our text.]

What the Apostle thought of this remedy, appears from,

III. The prescription eulogized—

A more valuable prescription could not be given either,

1. As it respects our present happiness—

[To what purpose is it to be applauded by others, even though we were held forth as patterns of all that is great and excellent? It might please our vanity; but it would afford us no solid satisfaction, whilst we are afraid to bring our conduct to the only true test. What comfort would a merchant feel to hear that he was reputed rich, if his affairs were so embarrassed that he dared not examine his accounts, and knew not but that he was on the very verge of bankruptcy? So is the man, who, whilst he is extolled by his fellow-creatures, is averse to learn what is said of him by his God. On the contrary, the man who tries himself by the standard of God’s word, and finds that, amidst innumerable defects, he is on the whole upright before God, he “has his rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.” He lives not on the testimony of his fellow-creatures: his comfort is independent either of their censure or applause. He rejoices in the testimony of his own conscience, as the Apostle Paul did [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:12.]. He “has the witness in himself:” and “the Spirit of God also witnesses with his Spirit,” that he is a “child of God.” O what an advantage is this, under every situation and circumstance of life! Are we in a state of prosperity? We shall make no account of our wealth or honour in comparison of the testimony of a good conscience. Are we in adversity? Our spirit will be buoyant in a sea of troubles; we shall know assuredly that all things are working together for our good, and that, “light and momentary in themselves, they are working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”]

2. As it respects our eternal welfare—

[Whatever others may think of us, or we may think of ourselves, it will not at all influence the judgment of our God: “for not he that commendeth himself will be approved, but he whom the Lord commendeth [Note: 2 Corinthians 10:18.].” The works that are applauded of men, may be recorded in his book of remembrance as splendid sins: and the works that are condemned by men, may be put to our account as services greatly to be rewarded. The very same judgment which the written word pronounces now, our God will pronounce hereafter. Hence, in bringing ourselves continually to this standard, we know what will be approved in the last day, and what sentence to expect at the mouth of a righteous Judge. There will doubtless be many actions which will be erroneously judged by man, and the precise quality of which we ourselves also are at present unable to discover: but, whilst we are conscious of an unfeigned desire to please and honour God, we shall say with the Apostle, “It is a small matter to be judged of man’s judgment; yea, I judge not mine own self: but he that judgeth me is the Lord [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:3-4.].” My own heart does not condemn me; and therefore I have confidence towards God [Note: 1 John 3:20-21.].” Whilst practising this habit, we shall be attentive to every thing we do. We shall preserve a tenderness of conscience: we shall spy out readily any thing that has been amiss. We shall, from a sense of the imperfection of our very best deeds, wash them daily in the fountain of Christ’s blood, and never hope for the acceptance of them but through his atoning sacrifice, and his all-powerful intercession. Thus, whilst all, who refer their actions to any inferior standard, delude their own souls, and “treasure up wrath against the day of wrath,” the careful Christian attains a just knowledge of his own state, and accumulates “a weight of glory,” which “the Lord, the righteous Judge,” shall confer upon him in exact proportion to the services he has rendered to his God [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:8. Hebrews 11:26.]. Here we are called to bear the burthens of others; and frequently to groan under burthens that are unrighteously cast upon us: but in the day of judgment, both the one and the other of these will be removed from us, and we shall “bear that only which is properly our own:” “we shall reap precisely what we have sown: if we have sown to the flesh, we shall of the flesh reap corruption; and, if we have sown to the Spirit, we shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting [Note: ver. 7, 8.].”]

Address—

1. Those who form too favourable an opinion of their state—

[Do not imagine that we wish unnecessarily to disturb your peace. We would to God that “your peace might flow down like a river!” All that we are anxious to do, is, to keep you from resting in undue security, and “saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace.” When we entreat you to stop and try yourselves, and to prove your own work, what do we but consult your truest happiness both in time and in eternity? We desire to bring every one of you to a state of holy joy, even to “a joy which no man can take from you,” “a rejoicing in yourself alone, and not in another.” Let me then say to you, as the Apostle does, “Let not any man think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but think soberly [Note: Romans 12:3.]:” and again, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith: prove your own selves [Note: 2 Corinthians 13:5.].” It is in this way only that you can attain self-knowledge, or be delivered from self-deception. Think what you will of yourselves, “you are nothing,” nor ever can be any thing, but poor, weak, guilty creatures, indebted to the free grace of God alone for all your hope and all your salvation. Even St. Paul, whilst declaring that “he was not a whit behind the very chiefest Apostles,” confessed that “he was nothing [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:14.].” Let the same mind be in you, and you will find the salvation of the Gospel sweetly suited to your souls.]

2. Those who form too unfavourable an opinion of their state—

[Some there are, who, when they see how far they have departed from God, are ready to imagine, that they have sinned beyond the reach of mercy, and that, with respect to them, Christ has died in vain. But no man is warranted to say, that his state is desperate; nor ought any man to come to such a conclusion after the strictest search. There is one distinction which ought never to be forgotten: it is this; that whatever grounds sin affords for humiliation, it affords none for despondency. If there were not a sufficiency in the blood of Christ to cleanse from the guilt of sin, we might well despair: or, if there were not a sufficiency in the grace of Christ to rescue from the power of sin, we might justly say, There is no hope: but, whilst we are assured that Christ “is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him,” we need not fear, but that if we go to him, he will receive us; and if we trust in him, he will glorify himself in our salvation. Attempt not then to hide from your own eyes the extremity of your guilt; nor, when it is revealed to you, indulge any desponding fears: but flee unto Christ, and lay hold on him, and cleave to him, and determine, that, if you perish, you will perish at the foot of his cross, trusting in his blood, and pleading with him that promise, “Whosoever cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.”]

3. Those who are enabled to form a just estimate of their state—

[These persons are a perfect mystery to all around them. The world sees them humbling themselves as the very chief of sinners, and yet exulting under a sense of God’s pardoning love: and how to reconcile this they know not. ‘If,’ say they, ‘you are so vile, how can you rejoice? and, if you have such cause for joy, how is it that you yet sigh, and mourn, and weep, as if you were the vilest of mankind?’ But it is this union of humility and confidence which characterizes the true Christian: and, the more eminent the Christian is, the more do both these graces flourish in his soul. Thus then, brethren, let it be with you: affix no limits to your self-abasement; for it is not possible for you ever to have too humiliating thoughts of yourselves: yet, on the other hand, let there be no limits to your confidence in Christ, as able, and willing to save the very chief of sinners. Yet, at the same time, do not imagine, that, because you are vile in yourselves, you are at liberty to indulge in sin; or because “in Christ you are complete,” you are not under any necessity of practising universal holiness: these would be fatal errors indeed: were any such licence given you, “Christ would be a minister of sin.” But this is far from being the case. It is true, that you are justified by faith alone: but by your works will you be judged: and the measure of your works will be the certain measure of your reward.]


Verse 7-8

DISCOURSE: 2089

THE GROUND OF GOD’S FINAL DECISION

Galatians 6:7-8. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

SIN and misery are often found to be nearly connected in this life; yet rewards and punishments are not always distributed according to man’s actions. The necessity therefore of a future state of retribution is obvious and undeniable. This was discoverable in a measure by the light of reason; but revelation establishes the certainty of such a state. The inspired writers often urge the consideration of it as a motive to virtue. St. Paul is stating to the Galatians the duty of providing liberally for their pastors. He is aware that some might offer pleas and excuses for their neglect of this duty. He knew that some might even pretend a prior and more sacred obligation [Note: Mark 7:11.]. He therefore cautions them against self-deception, and reminds them that God will hereafter pass sentence on us according to the real quality of our actions.

I. It is in vain to hope for salvation while we live in a neglect of religious duties—

It is common for men to offer pleas and excuses for their disregard of religion:

1. That a life of religion is needless

[They see the world in a state of wickedness. They cannot believe that so many can be in danger of perishing. They forget that the course of this world is just such as Satan would have it [Note: Ephesians 2:2.]. They recollect not our Lord’s declaration respecting the broad and narrow way [Note: Matthew 7:13-14.]. They consider not that the care of the soul is the “one thing needful.”]

2. That a life of religion is impracticable

[They hear what holiness of heart and life God requires of us. They feel how unable they are of themselves to fulfil their duty. They therefore conclude, that it is impossible to serve God aright. At least they think that a religious life cannot consist with social duties. But they forget that the grace of Christ is all-sufficient [Note: Philippians 4:13.]: nor are they aware that that grace will stimulate us to every duty, whether civil or religious, social or personal.]

Besides these, they substitute other things in the place of religion:

1. Their good intentions—

[They purpose to amend their lives at some future period. They expect to find some “more convenient season” for repentance. They hope that their good designs, though never executed, will be accepted.]

2. Their moral lives—

[They are guilty of no very enormous crimes. They perform many commendable actions. They hope that such a life, though they know nothing of contrition, of faith in Christ, of delight in God, &c. will procure them admission to heaven.]

3. Their profession of certain truths—

[Many receive the doctrines of Christianity as a system of truth. They trust to the mere profession of these doctrines without experiencing their transforming efficacy. Thus they substitute “the form of godliness for the power of it.”]

But no pleas or pretences can deceive God—

[To attempt to deceive God is, in fact, to “mock” him. It is to insult him, as though he were too ignorant to discern, too indifferent to regard, or too weak to punish, hypocrisy. But God cannot be deceived; nor will he be mocked.]

Let none then deceive themselves with vain expectations.

II. Our final state will be exactly answerable to our present conduct—

Under the metaphor of a sower the text affords a striking discrimination of character:

Some “sow to the flesh”—

[To sow to the flesh, is to seek in the first place our carnal ease and interests. This we may do notwithstanding we are free from gross sins. Every one comes under this description who “sets his affections on things below.”]

They whose life is so occupied will “reap corruption”—

[The present enjoyments they will have are both corruptible and defiling. The future recompence will be everlasting destruction [Note: This is evidently the import of corruption in this place; because it is opposed to everlasting life. It implies that state of soul which most corresponds with the corruption of the body.]. This is elsewhere affirmed in the plainest terms [Note: Romans 8:13.].]

Others “sow to the Spirit”—

[The Holy Spirit invariably inclines men to the love of God, and of holiness. The new nature of the regenerate affects also spiritual objects and employments. To sow to the Spirit therefore is to seek and delight in spiritual things.]

They who do this will reap everlasting life—

[A life of devotedness to God can never issue in misery. God has promised that it shall terminate in glory [Note: Romans 6:22; Romans 8:13.].]

Thus, not our pleas and pretences, but our life and conduct, will determine our eternal state—

[Our harvest will accord with the seed we sow. These different ends are inseparable from the different means [Note: Romans 2:6-10.]. The punishment, however, will be as wages earned; the reward as a gift bestowed [Note: Romans 6:23.].]

Infer—

1. What extreme folly is it to live regardless of God and our own souls!

[No husbandman expects to reap wheat, when he has sown only tares. How absurd then to hope for heaven while we seek not after it! Let us be convinced of our folly, and learn wisdom even from the children of this world.]

2. How absurd would it be to be diverted from our duty by any difficulties we may meet with in the discharge of it!

[The husbandman does not regard inclemencies of weather, much less would he be deterred from his work by the advice or ridicule of the ignorant and supine. Shall we then be discouraged, whose seed-time is so precarious, and whose harvest is so important? Let all go forward, “sowing in tears that they may reap in joy.”]


Verse 9

DISCOURSE: 2090

STEADFASTNESS IN DUTIES

Galatians 6:9. Let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

THE way of duty is difficult, while that of sin is easy [Note: A learned prelate speaks admirably to this purpose:—“Vice is first pleasing; then easy; then delightful; then frequent; then habitual; then confirmed: then the man is impenitent; then he is obstinate; then he resolves never to repent; and then he is damned.” Jer. Taylor’s Serm. p. 260.]. After we have received grace, we are still prone to depart from God; but the prospect of an happy issue of our labours is a strong support. The Gospel encourages us to expect a certain and seasonable recompence.

We have here,

I. A word of caution—

Well-doing respects every part of a Christian’s duty. We may apprehend ourselves weary in it, when we are not really so. We are not necessarily so, because our affections are not so lively as they once were—

[Age and infirmity may occasion a stupor of the mind: a more enlarged view of our own depravity may cast us down. Love itself may grow in some respects, even while its ardour seems to abate [Note: Philippians 1:9. ].]

We are not necessarily so, because our corruptions appear to have increased—

[When we are first awakened, we know but little of our own hearts. As we proceed, the Lord discovers to us more of our hidden abominations [Note: This may be illustrated by Ezekiel 8:6; Ezekiel 8:13; Ezekiel 8:15.]. The discovery of them, as of objects in a dark place, argues only more light from heaven.]

We are not necessarily so, because we do not find enlargement in prayer—

[Excess of trouble may, for a time, distract and over-whelm the soul. Our Lord himself seems to have experienced somewhat of this [Note: John 12:27.]. Our prayers, perhaps, are never more acceptable, than when they are offered in broken accents, in sighs, and groans [Note: Romans 8:26.].]

But we have reason to apprehend that we are weary in well-doing,

1. When we do not make a progress in our religious course—

[We cannot stand still in religion: we must advance or decline. There are seasons when we grow rather in humility than in the more lively graces; but if we neither shoot our branches upward, nor our roots downward, it must be ill with us [Note: 2 Peter 3:18. Hebrews 6:7-8.].]

2. When we are habitually formal in religious duties—

[The best of men find cause to lament an occasional deadness; but no true Christian can be satisfied in such a state [Note: Nine times in the 119th Psalm does David cry, “Quicken me, O Lord”—]. Habitual formality therefore proves, either that we have never been truly in earnest, or that we are in a state of miserable declension [Note: Philippians 3:3.].]

3. When we do not carry religion into our worldly business—

[As long as we are in the world, we must perform the duties of our station; but if our souls be prospering, we shall maintain a sense of religion even when we are not actually engaged in the offices of it [Note: Proverbs 23:17.].]

4. When our consciences are not tender—

[It is essential to a Christian to hate evil [Note: Romans 12:9.]: he strives to “avoid even the appearance of evil.” He will in no wise allow one sinful temper or inclination [Note: Acts 24:16.].]

We cannot be too much on our guard against such a state.

To confirm what has been spoken, let me add,

II. A word of encouragement—

If we persevere in our exertions, we shall reap the fruit of our labour—

[There will be a harvest to all who labour in God’s field. It may not come so soon as we would desire; but it shall come, as the earthly harvests, “in due season.” We must, however, wait God’s appointed time. If we faint, we shall lose all that we have before wrought [Note: 2 John, ver. 8. Hebrews 10:38.]: but if we continue patiently in well-doing, we shall succeed at last [Note: Romans 2:7.].]

Our prospects of the harvest may well encourage us to persevere, since it will be,

1. Certain—

[The husbandman endures many toils for an uncertain harvest: his hopes may be blasted in a variety of ways. But God has pledged himself, that his faithful servants shall be rewarded [Note: Hebrews 6:10.]: nor shall either men or devils prevent the accomplishment of his promise [Note: Proverbs 11:18.].]

2. Glorious—

[What are all the harvests that ever were gathered since the creation of the world, in comparison of that which the Christian will reap? Shall we faint then with such a prospect in view?]

3. Everlasting—

[However abundant our harvests here may be, we must renew the same process, in order to supply our returning wants: but when once we have reaped the heavenly harvest, we shall “rest from our labours” for evermore. If then a year of toil be considered as compensated by a transient supply, shall not an eternity of happiness be thought worth our care, during the short period of human life? Do any, that are now in glory, regret the pains they bestowed to get there? Let us “be followers of them,” and we shall soon participate their bliss [Note: Hebrews 6:12.].]


Verse 14

DISCOURSE: 2091

THE CROSS OF CHRIST

Galatians 6:14. God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

THE Christian, in whatever he does, is characterized by singleness of eye and simplicity of mind. All others, even when they appear most zealous for God, have sinister and selfish ends in view. This may be seen in the Judaizing teachers, whilst they were insisting on the observance of circumcision and the Jewish ritual. They wished to have it thought that they were actuated only by a conscientious sense of duty to Moses, and to God: but there were other secret motives by which they were impelled: they were themselves preachers of the Gospel; but knowing how obnoxious both to Jews and Gentiles the simple preaching of the cross was, whilst the blending of certain observances with it was palatable to every mind, they sought to avoid the persecution which they knew that a simple exhibition of Christ crucified would bring upon them. They had an eye also to their own glory: for they affected to be leaders of a party in the Church, and laboured to exalt themselves by augmenting the number of their followers. That they were not actuated by a real desire to approve themselves to God, was evident from hence, that they, notwithstanding all their endeavours to enforce the observance of the law on others, did not keep the law themselves. But all such corrupt practices St. Paul abhorred; and, whilst he disdained to seek his own glory, he was proof against the fear of man, and laboured only to advance the glory of his Divine Master, and the salvation of those to whom he ministered: “They,” says he, “who constrain you to be circumcised, desire to make a fair shew in the flesh:” “but God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world!”

In this commendation of the cross of Christ, we behold,

I. His views of its excellency—

By “the cross of Christ,” is here meant the doctrine of salvation through a crucified Redeemer. This he preached, and it was the great subject of all his ministrations. Though it was “to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness,” yet he would “know nothing else [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:2.],” and “glory in nothing else.” He gloried in it,

1. As displaying such wonders of love and mercy to the world at large—

[Here was a plan of salvation suited to, and sufficient for, the necessities of the whole world. All were involved in one common ruin: all needed an atonement to be offered for their sins: the whole universe could not present one capable of expiating their guilt; the highest archangel was as incompetent to it as was the blood of bulls and goats. But God, of his infinite mercy, had devised a way: he had entered into covenant with his only-begotten Son: he had agreed with him, that, if he would assume our nature, and “make his soul an offering for sin,” his sacrifice should be accepted in their behalf, and he should have from amongst the fallen race of Adam a seed, who should serve him, and enjoy him for ever [Note: Isaiah 53:10.]. This stupendous plan has been executed: the Lord Jesus Christ has “been made in the likeness of men, and has become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross:” and, having “borne our sins in his own body on the tree,” and been exalted to the right hand of God as the Head and Forerunner of his people, he now offers salvation unto all freely, “without money and without price.” The persons sent out and commissioned by him to preach his Gospel, are empowered to declare, that “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:19.].” To every living man is this message sent, with a full assurance, that “they who believe in Christ shall never perish, but shall have eternal life [Note: John 3:16.].”

Now in this wonderful mystery St. Paul saw such honour reflected on all the Divine perfections, and such blessedness secured to man, that he could not but glory in it, and determine never to glory in any thing else.]

2. As making such ample provision for his own soul—

[St. Paul felt himself to be the very “chief of sinners,” and deserving of God’s heaviest indignation. But this Saviour had revealed himself to him, even in the midst of all his wickedness; and by a signal act of grace had not only pardoned his sins, but had appointed him to preach to others that salvation, of which he was so remarkable a monument. By the manifestation of Christ to his soul, he was assured of mercy and acceptance with God. From that moment he no more doubted of his own salvation, than he did of his existence: and the blessing which was thus imparted to him, he had been the means of imparting unto others, even to hundreds and thousands of the Gentile world. Could he then be insensible of the value of that which had filled his own soul with such peace and joy, and which, through his ministrations, had diffused such unspeakable blessings all around him? No: he could not but commend to others what had been so effectual for his own benefit, and glory in the cross as “all his salvation, and all his desire.”]

As an especial reason for glorying in the cross, he mentions,

II. His experience of its power—

The words “by whom,” should rather be translated, “by which;” for it is to the doctrine of the cross as received into his soul, and not to Christ’s personal agency upon his soul, that he traced the effects produced.

The world was in the Apostle’s eyes as an object that was crucified; himself also being as one crucified in respect of it—

[The image here used is very remarkable, and deserving of particular attention, “The world was crucified to him.” A person dying upon a cross, how dear so ever he may have been to us, is no longer an object of desire. As soon as he has surrendered up his life, if his body be given to us, we bury it out of our sight. We no longer look to him for any of those comforts which are derived from social intercourse: all relation to him, all dependence on him, all satisfaction in him, are dissolved: every tie that once bound us together is broken, and “we know him no more.” The Apostle further adds, that “he also was crucified to the world.” This does not mean, that the world despised him, and wished him buried out of its sight (that was indeed true; but it is not the truth that is here intimated): the expression imports, that, whilst the world was as a crucified object in his eyes, he beheld every thing in it as a man would do who was himself dying on a cross. He may have loved the world in ever so high a degree; but he now loves it no more. He may have sought its pleasures, its riches, and its honours, with the most insatiable ardour; but he has now no desire after any thing that is in it. He feels himself dying; and he has now no wish but to improve his few remaining moments, for his own benefit, and the benefit of those around him. Take the penitent thief as an example. If crowns and kingdoms could have been given him for the few remaining hours that he had to live, they would have been of no value whatever in his eyes.

Now thus the Apostle looked upon the world and every thing in it. There was nothing in it that he desired: “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life,” were all lighter than vanity, in his estimation: he had now no longer any taste for them: he felt that, whether his life was of longer or shorter continuance, he had nothing to do, but to honour God, and benefit his fellow-creatures, as far as he should have opportunity, and seek the salvation of his own soul. All that the world could either give or take away, was “counted by him as dung, that he might win Christ, and be found in him.”]

And whence was it that he attained such extraordinary deadness to the world?

[This holy feeling was wrought in him altogether by the cross of Christ; which brought such glories to his view, as eclipsed all sublunary good; and filled his soul with such joys as rendered all earthly satisfactions worthless and distasteful as the husks of swine. This it was which raised him above those vain hopes with which the Judaizing teachers were animated, and above those unworthy fears with which their fidelity to God was assailed. A sense of “love to his Redeemer constrained him;” and, when menaced with all that the world could inflict, he could say, “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto me, so that I may but finish my course with joy, and fulfil the ministry committed to me.” Nor was this a vain boast: his whole life testified, that it was his actual experience; and that the doctrine which formed the only basis of his hopes, had a transforming effect, such as no other principles under heaven could produce.]

But we must not suppose this state of mind to be peculiar to the Apostle: it is produced invariably by the cross of Christ, wherever it is surveyed and gloried in as it ought to be. We may see therefore from hence,

1. How sublime are the Christian’s views!

[The cross of Christ is that, and that alone, in which every Christian under heaven will glory. The very words of our text afford the best comment on that description which the Apostle gives of the cross of Christ, when he calls it, “The wisdom of God, and the power of God.” So unfathomable are the counsels of Divine Wisdom contained in it, that all the angels of heaven are searching into it, with a thirst that is insatiable: and such is its efficacy, that nothing can withstand its influence. By this then, you, my brethren, may judge whether you be Christians in deed and in truth, or whether ye be such in name only, A nominal Christian is contented with approving of the way of salvation by a crucified Redeemer: the true Christian loves it, delights in it, glories in it, and shudders at the thought of glorying in any thing else. Say, brethren, are such your views, and such your feelings? Do you see how base and unworthy it would be to glory in any thing else? Does your spirit rise with indignation at the thought of so requiting your adorable Redeemer? Be assured, it will be thus with you, if your hearts are truly enlightened, and if you have “learned of the Father as the truth is in Jesus.”]

2. How heavenly his life!

[He is in the world; but “he is not of it: he has overcome the world; and this is the victory by which he has overcome it, even his faith.” “His treasure is in heaven;” and “his conversation is there also.” Behold him, and you will see “a man of God;” a man “born from above;” a man “filled with the Holy Ghost;” a man “walking as Christ himself walked.” In Christ you see the figure which is used in our text completely illustrated. “He had not even where to lay his head;” yet, “when the people would have taken him, to make him a king, he withdrew, and hid himself from them.” In the primitive Christians, too, you see the same spirit: for “they were not of the world, even as Christ was not of the world.” Aspire ye then, beloved, after this high and holy attainment. Walk ye in a holy indifference to the world: shew yourselves superior to all the things of time and sense. “Set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth.” Let all your joys flow from the contemplation of his cross. Thus shall you “dwell in God, and God in you:” you shall be “one with God, and God with you:” and the very instant that the ties between the world and you shall be finally dissolved by death, you shall soar as on eagles’ wings, to take possession of the crowns and kingdoms that await you in a better world.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Galatians 6:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/galatians-6.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 15th, 2019
the Third Week of Advent
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