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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Galatians 2

 

 


Verse 1

Galatians 2:1

I went up to Jerusalem.

The journey to Jerusalem

I. Which? The third (Acts 15:2), the first being that of the previous chapter (Acts 9:26), the second that of Acts 11:30, both the purpose and time of which forbid its being confounded with them. Both Galatians 2:1-21. and Acts 15:1-41. agree in time, geography, persons, intent, and subsequent events.

II. When? Fourteen years after, when by experiences, trials, and achievements, Paul had earned the right to take the position he had assumed. Let young Christians learn from this to wait until experience and service give them the right to assert their equality with their elders.

III. What for? To fight and win the battle of Christian liberty, equality, and fraternity.

IV. With whom? Titus, a representative of the cause he was fighting; Barnabas, an unexceptionable witness of the justice of his cause.

The reason of the visit

Not to submit, as to a supreme tribunal, the question as to whether he might be permitted to go on receiving uncircumcised Gentiles into the Church: the idea of a human hierarchy to regulate the faith of some by that of others was altogether alien to his spirit. The fact is he had no fear whatever of being gainsaid by the heads of the mother Church. Had it been otherwise he would certainly not have taken a course which in such a case could not but make the rupture open and the evil incurable. The event proved that Paul was not mistaken in the hope that his colleagues would stand by him; and by their timely help Paul’s fear was removed that the labour he had spent in founding a truly universal Church might be lost in the creation of two rival Churches. (E. Reuss, D. D.)

Barnabas and Paul

Barnabas may be said, in a certain sense, to have made Paul what he afterwards became. He brought him out of obscurity. He put him in the forefront, though he must have been well aware that he was likely to become more distinguished and powerful than himself. This is that peculiar mark of a generous disposition, the absence of anxiety for personal credit, the readiness for friendly combination in useful undertakings without any selfish end in view. There are some men who have no heart for any enterprise unless they can have the first place in it. This is perhaps a prevalent temptation with most energetic characters. But this habit of mind is not according to Christ (Matthew 20:27), and Barnabas is a good example to show us how such temptation can be overcome. (Dean Howson.)

A memorable journey

I. The time when it was undertaken. “Fourteen years after I went up to Jerusalem.”

II. The companions of his journey. Barnabas was appointed to go to Jerusalem with Paul, and the latter took with him Titus also. Christian companionship should therefore include--

1. Unity of purpose in the chief aims of life. There may be differences as to inferior things, but in regard to the highest endeavours of the heart and life there should be unity.

2. Christian companionship ought to be the friendship of men governed by the same spirit, and that spirit should be the Spirit of Christ.

3. Christian companionship should be formed with a view to mutual edification.

III. The reason for Paul’s journey--“And I went up by revelation.” In Acts 15:1-41. there is given the history of the events which apparently led to this journey being undertaken. Lesson: In the life of every good man there are epochs which show the progress of God’s plan in reference to him. (R. Nicholls.)

The council of Jerusalem

But now, finally, we are confronted with the question, What may we learn from this whole subject that may be of service in our modern Church life? To this I answer, that for one thing we are taught to be on our guard against introducing division into Churches which are zealously doing God’s work. Never, surely, were men more intent on carrying forward the triumphs of the gospel than these Christians at Antioch. Yet strangers from Jerusalem, more anxious about a matter of ritual observance than for spiritual progress, did not hesitate to interrupt their activity and introduce controversy among them by raising the question of circumcision. It was an unjustifiable, if not also a malicious, proceeding. Missionary work was for the time suspended; and Paul and Barnabas, who might have been earnestly labouring in some new field, were sent to Jerusalem, all because these Judaizers insisted on the essential importance of that which was really indifferent. But how often have similar things been done in our existing Churches? A foolish question has been started by some one-ideaed enthusiast, who has pertinaciously kept it before the minds of the brethren, and those who should have presented an unbroken phalanx to the enemies of religion have turned their weapons against each other. Let us set our faces against all discussion upon such microscopic matters as have no essential importance. The progress of the Church as a whole is infinitely more to be considered than the airing of the pet crotchet of any individual, or even the advancement of that which we may reckon the best form of worship. Nor does this lesson hold only in the intercourse between members of the same Church or congregation. It is of force also in the dealings of denominations with each other. Another thing which we ought to learn from this history is, that our Christian liberty should be regulated by love. We may have a right to do many things which yet, in present circumstances, and out of regard to our brethren, we should not do. Finally, we may learn from this whole narrative to be very zealous for the free grace of the gospel. Paul would not allow that anything was necessary to salvation but faith in Christ. (W. M. Taylor.)


Verses 1-5

Verse 2

Galatians 2:2

And I went up by revelation.

I went up by revelation

I. A fact.

1. Paul was not summoned by the apostles, who, by taking no action, must virtually have endorsed his conduct.

2. Paul was sent by the Spirit of God.

3. Paul was sent to strengthen his inspired mission by securing a co-operation of the apostles.

II. The explanation of a seeming discrepancy. Acts 15:2 describes Paul as sent by the Church. But revelation may have--

1. Governed the action of the Church.

2. Confirmed the desire of the Church.

3. Occurred concurrently to the mind of Paul and the Church. Paul was dismissed from Jerusalem (Acts 9:35) by his anxious brethren; but not without urgent directions from Christ (Acts 22:17; Acts 22:21). The historian looks at these events from the outside, the autobiographer from within.

Learn:

1. Not to follow the wisest counsels until Christ has spoken (Proverbs 3:6). The course will thus be

2. When Christ has spoken obey

3. Leave the responsibility with the great Commissioner.

4. Look for His approbation and reward.

The private conference

I. Its members.

1. Paul.

2. Those of reputation; i.e., the supreme court of appeal in the opinion of his adversaries. In disputes appeal to the fountain-head, otherwise time and effort are wasted.

II. Its business. To discuss Paul’s gospel.

1. Paul professed to receive it by revelation from Christ.

2. The apostles received it from Christ’s tips.

3. Both were found to be in harmony. We have scriptural warrant for frank explanations in religious matters.

III. Its purpose. “Lest I should run.” Paul wanted the hearty sympathy of his brethren, and--

1. Adopted measures calculated to secure it.

2. Because if he gained the leaders he would secure the following.

3. Because a schism between the Jewish and Gentile Churches was imminent, and the cause of Catholicity in danger.

Learn:

1. The value of conciliatory measures.

2. The importance of tact even in religion.

The conciliatory character of St. Paul

You have heard the fable of the Traveller, the Wind, and the Sun. The Traveller was enveloped in a thick cloud. The Wind and Sun contended which could most easily induce him to lay the cloak aside. The Wind made the attempt first; but the Traveller drew his cloak more closely to him. The Sun’s turn came, and as the warmth of his rays increased, the Traveller gradually relaxed his hold. Each step made him feel that the cloak was more and more a burden; he laid it aside. The Sun had succeeded where the Wind had failed. What can never be done by violent attack may often be easily accomplished by gentle persuasion. (Dean Howson.)

Paul’s tact and tolerance

Such men as St. Paul, who have seen much of the world, and made human nature and character their careful study, and who know how much is due to education, association, habit, are inevitably tolerant and invariably indifferent to mere varieties of feeling and peculiarities of manner. When men of St. Paul’s intelligence are animated by a desire to do good, they easily accommodate themselves to idiosyncrasies of race and disposition. In a word they possess tact, and an earnest, conscientious, self-denying, active, generous nature, which is also gifted with discretion, and wields an irresistible influence. And, on the other hand, they who live in a little world of their own, be they apostles or ordinary men, contract a narrow and exclusive temper, set great store by trifles, are conservative and tenacious on minor points, insist on literal obedience, are passionately fond of conformity, are jealous for the letter, are slow to understand the spirit. (Paul of Tarsus.)

A noble example

I made it a rule that I would not let a day pass without speaking to some one about their soul’s salvation; and if they do not hear the gospel from the lips of others, there will be three hundred and sixty-five in a year who shall hear the gospel from my lips. There are five thousand Christians here to-night; cannot they say, “We will not let a day pass without speaking a word to some one about salvation.” (D. L. Moody.)

Private effort neglected

The well-known Rev. Alex. R. C. Dallas was an officer in Wellington’s Peninsular wars before he became a clergyman, and at Cadiz, in Spain, he used to be much in the company of another officer named Cumming, who was always considered steady. Their meeting again in their old age was thus described by Mr. Dallas: “Many years after it had pleased God to enlighten my mind, and to impart to me the knowledge of His salvation in Christ Jesus, I was walking in the Strand, and met Cumming near Temple Bar. He was aged and limped, having suffered from a paralytic stroke; but we knew each other immediately. I gave him my arm, and walked back with him nearly to Charing Cross. My great anxiety was to speak to him of Christ. We began to speak about old times, and especially our eventful march in Spain together. At length I came to the great subject that was upon my heart; he listened to me attentively, and at last he said, ‘My dear Dallas, I knew all that long before I knew you, and many times I prayed God to convert you when you were in the world. I often put Spanish tracts under your pillow: I looked at him,” Dallas continues, “with great surprise, and I told him that I did not know whether to be grateful to him for his prayers or angry with him for his silence to myself. Why did he not tell me of Christ’s salvation, if he knew it so well? What a lesson is this for those who shrink from confessing Christ before the worldly!”

An important mission

I. The communication of the gospel was made with great faithfulness. From the account given in the Acts it is evident that an assembly of the whole Church was called together, and that the question submitted to them was, whether the keeping of the law was necessary to justification or no. Paul’s testimony was unequivocal.

II. This communication was made with signal prudence. Previous to, or independent of, Paul’s teaching before the whole assembly, he sought out the most prominent members of the Church, and carefully made known to them what God had done by him. In this Paul displayed great wisdom.

III. In this communication Paul was most anxious that the gospel should triumph. It was not of himself he was thinking when he spoke of “running in vain.” Lessons:

1. Members of Churches should endeavour to promote the unity of the whole body.

2. Much may be done in the interests of peace without any sacrifice of principle. Paul declared the gospel faithfully; and yet he disarmed the opposition of many of his antagonists. (R. Nicholls.)

How to succeed in questions of great delicacy and importance

I. Seek Divine direction.

II. Proceed cautiously.

III. Secure by private appeal the influence of the wise and good. (J. Lyth.)


Verse 3

Galatians 2:3

But neither Titus, who was with me.

But neither Titus

1. This incident is introduced by way of evidence, not by way of apology.

2. The circumcision of Titus is inconsistent with individual expressions in the passage.

3. For such a concession, both the time and the person were most inopportune. St. Paul is here indirectly meeting a charge brought against him on the ground of his circumcision of Timothy.

I. Not even Titus, who as my fellow-labourer would be constantly brought in contact with the Jews, and therefore might well have adopted a conciliatory attitude.

II. Not even Titus, although the pressure exerted in his case was great.

III. Why? because he was a Greek; Timothy was a Jew. (Bishop Lightfoot.)

Soul liberty

Paul circumcised Timothy, but would not allow Titus to be, to show that Christianity

I. Essentially identified with christ.

II. Is opposed to a ritualistic ministry.

III. Is to be defended with uncompromising determination. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The gravity of the crisis

Judaism was the cradle of Christianity, and very nearly became its grave. (Paul of Tarsus.)

Narrowness and breadth

In our own country people very often attempt to coerce the minority by calumniating its objects, and one of the commonest words used for this purpose is the term un-English. Now, the nationalist party among the Jews might have called the converts un-Jewish. Heated by a narrow patriotism, they were ready to join the cry of the depraved rabble in the heathen cities, and stigmatise the Christian as the enemy of the human race, because his sympathies were comprehensive. (Paul of Tarsus.)


Verse 4

Galatians 2:4

And that because of false brethren.

False brethren

I. The Church of God when at its best has wicked men and hypocrites in it. In Adam’s family there was Cain; in Christ’s family, Judas; in the earliest Church, false brethren. The sheep may be sometimes without the fold; the wolves therein. A perfect Church is an impossible dream.

II. False brethren creep into the Church. Christ is the door of the Church, and His true sheep enter by Him-false brethren climb in another way. They “creep in.”

1. Hence they maintain a certain resemblance to the true.

2. Hence the precise origin of error cannot be detected. The time when the ship sinks we often observe, but the time when it first drew water we do not. (W. Perkins.)

Paul and the false brethren

I. A fierce opposition made by some erroneous Christians against a great apostle and a prime authority in the Church.

II. The cause of this opposition; the violent and unreasonable demands made to him to confirm the practice of a thing as necessary which in itself was not so.

III. The methods taken in this opposition: slandering Paul’s doctrine, and detracting from his authority for withstanding their demands.

IV. The wholesome method of the apostle: not to give place in the least.

V. The end and design of the apostle: the preservation of the gospel in truth and purity. (R. South, D. D.)

The conference interrupted by false brethren:--

The interview took place, but not as Paul had desired and expected

He could not come to an understanding with the principal personages without the interference of others, whose presence could have been well dispensed with, and who came to “spy out.” They were suspicious; some plot was In process; they must be on their guard against novelties, and prevent any resolution being earned by which the Church might be compromised. The debate waxed warm, for these intruders made peremptory demands; the contest was protracted, tOT Paul hints that he had to withstand long and steadily; he boasts that he did not yield for an instant, which proves that the struggle was not over in a moment, and was not confined to an objection modestly made and easily removed. (E. Reuss, D. D.)

Spying

I. Hypocrites spy into the persons and lives of men that they may find some fault to disgrace them (Matthew 7:4).

II. Sceptics pry into the Scriptures that they may discover discrepancies.

III. Hearers often spy out sermon and worship that they may find something to cavil at.

IV. Enemies spy out religion to find the easiest means of overthrowing it. Application: Devote the eye of your mind to a better use.

1. To your sins (Lamentations 3:40).

2. To your spiritual enemies. (W. Perkins.)

Moral Jesuits

I. Their character. False brethren.

II. Their methods.

1. Surreptitious invasion of privacy.

2. Indefatigable espionage.

III. Their objects.

1. To circumscribe Christian liberty.

2. To gain spiritual ascendency over the conscience.

3. To reduce to ritualistic bondage.

False brethren

I. Their character--they have the name and the form--but not the spirit of Christ--the spirit of liberty.

II. Their craft--they creep into the Church--by the wrong door--unawares, because disguised.

III. Their object--to spy out what they can--to do mischief. (J. Lyth.)

Liberty in Christ Jesus

Christianity is no provincialism; it is the world’s highway. (Jeremy Taylor.)

Christian liberty

Spiritual liberty consists in freedom from the curse of the moral law; from me servitude of the ritual; from the love, power, and guilt of sin; from the dominion of Satan; from the corruption of the world; from the fear of death and the wrath to come. (C. Buck.)

Liberty in Christ Jesus

In those ill times when there were slaves across the Atlantic, a lady went down to one of the ships, accompanied by her negro servant. The lady remarked to the captain that if she were to go to England and take this black woman with her, she would be free as soon as she landed. The captain replied, “Madam, she is free already. The moment she came on board a British vessel she was free.” When the negro woman knew this, do you think she went on shore with her mistress? By no means. She chose to keep her liberty. She was free on board and a slave on land. How slight the change of place; but how great the difference involved; marvel not that faith involves such great things. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christian liberty

I. Our liberty, which is in Christ Jesus, includes our freedom from the exactions and impositions of men in religion. Now observe, we say, “in religion;” because we do not here refer to civil things. No, my brethren, where religion is concerned, Jesus is the King in Zion. He is our Lawgiver.

II. We observe, “Our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus,” includes a freedom from the bondage of corruption. I was thinking, in my retirement this morning, what a number of tyrants does every sinner serve! What a tyrant is Satan! What a tyrant is the world!--they who have faith indeed “overcome the world”; but all others are overcome by it. What a tyrant is sin! “He that committeth sin,” says the apostle, “is the servant of sin.” Is he free who is under the dominion of pride and revenge and envy and malice? We are upholden by His free Spirit, and we can say with David, “We will walk at liberty, for we seek Thy precepts.”

III. We said, “Our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus,” includes a freedom from the condemnation of the law. “The soul that sinneth it shall die.”

IV. We said, “Our liberty, which is in Christ Jesus,” includes a freedom of access to God. He is the greatest and the best of Beings. In His presence is “fulness of joy”; at His right hand are” pleasures for evermore.”

V. We said, “Our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus,” is a freedom to partake Of and enjoy the good things of nature and Providence. We have thus endeavoured to exemplify “our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus.” How shall we improve it? The improvement will include four admonitions.

1. “Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free, and be not again entangled with the yoke of bondage.”

2. Do not abuse your liberty. There is nothing too good to he abused. Beware of the Antinomian scheme--Oh, he is freed from the law; therefore he has nothing to do with it. But Paul had to do with it. Paul said, “I delight in the law of the Lord after the inward man.” Though he turned away from it as a covenant of works, he viewed it as a rule of life. Remember, your liberty is not a liberty to sin. There is another abuse of this liberty, that is, of placing all who profess Christianity upon the same level in society, as if, because we are all one in Christ Jesus (for so we are), that the rich and the poor, the master and the servant, the ruler and the ruled, were all the same, in a civil condition. God Himself maintains the gradations and distinctions of life, and the duties and obligations resulting from them; and I never knew any violation of these distinctions but it was attended with injury, not only with regard to those above, but even to those below their level.

3. Improve this liberty. In one sense you cannot; its provisions surpass all expression and conception. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” But we mean we should make use of it and improve it.

4. Recommend this liberty to others; only see that you exemplify yourselves what you recommend, otherwise you may be more injurious than beneficial, as some are by their talking on religious subjects--otherwise you may draw forth the proverb, “Physician, heal thyself;” or the retort, “Thou that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?” (W. Jay.)

Courage in defiance of Christian liberty

I. The liberty assailed. It was a liberty in Christ. This liberty meant being exempt from the requirements of the ceremonial law.

II. This liberty was threatened by false brethren. They were traitors.

III. This attempt upon the liberty of the Church was firmly and courageously resisted.

1. Paul firmly adhered to the truth of the gospel. “Truth precise, unaccommodating, abandons nothing that belongs to itself, admits nothing that is inconsistent with it.”--Bengel.

2. The refusal to submit was absolute. He would not give way by subjection, no, not for an hour. “In things indifferent we may well, out of love, yield something of our liberty to the good of the weak. But where men would press these upon us as necessary to salvation, and our yielding would have the appearance of bringing the truth of the gospel into jeopardy, we should never yield.”--Starke.

We may renounce our liberty for love’s sake, but we must not let ourselves be robbed of it for the truth of the gospel’s sake. We must cling to that which is abiding. “The law is something transient, the gospel is permanent.” Lessons:

1. In the best state of the Christian Church, false brethren may creep in.

2. “False brethren are the most dangerous enemies to liberty. Weak brethren disturb it; false brethren undermine and destroy it.”

3. To preserve the truth should be the first duty of Christians. (R. Nicholls.)

False brethren

A Scotch Churchman was once reproached by a member of a small sect with the blots in the lives of many of his brethren of past days. He answered, “When your chimney has smoked as long as ours there will be some soot in it.” (Anthony Bathe.)


Verse 5

Galatians 2:5

To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour.

The truth in the Church

I. The truth of the gospel is essentially embodied in the doctrinal articles, and the devotional services, of the Church of England. Her basis is the Word of God. There is no one truth contained in the Bible which does not appear interwoven in her services; and, what is of vast importance, those truths are every one of them brought forward throughout her ecclesiastical year with a distinctness, and yet with a beautiful consistency and harmony, according to the analogy of the faith.

II. The reformers, both in their lives and by their deaths, evinced a deep anxiety that the truth of the gospel, by means of a scriptural Church, might continue with us.

III. It becomes us their children, blessed with such privileges, to be alive to the importance of maintaining the truth of the gospel, and handing it down unimpaired to posterity. Gratitude demands this at our hands; the mercy of God in the bestowment of these blessings, and the salvation of souls which is so closely bound up in them, enforce this duty upon us. If religion be anything, it is everything. And surely, if men be anxious and persevering and brave in securing temporal freedom and national liberty, oh! shall the Christian, actuated by the love of Christ, the most constraining principle, be afraid, or unwilling, or indifferent, to perpetuate the truth which sets free the immortal spirit, and obtain, so far as human instrumentality can, the blessings of salvation to children yet unborn?

1. If we would effectually promote the interests of Divine truth, we must take care, first of all, that we ourselves embrace it.

2. And then, having embraced the truth, I would say, “Contend earnestly for the truth”--not in the spirit of party, not in the pride of reason, not with any secular motives, but because of its vitality and importance to the present and eternal well-being of man. And as the truth itself is but a modification of love, let your contention be in the spirit of love, seeking to reclaim those who are in error, in meekness and affection.

3. And see to it, that it is “the truth” you are contending for. In essentials let not false charity or a spurious liberality lead you astray; there ought to be, there can be, no compromise of the one saving truth.

IV. The education of the young in the principles of Divine truth, as embodied and taught in the formularies of the Church, must commend itself as a means at once simple and efficient. (Joseph Haslegrave, M. A.)

Paul’s fearless independence

No characteristic of the apostle is more marked than this. He went on his way unmoved alike by prejudiced and narrow-minded bigotry within the Church, or by armed and persecuting hostility without. Whether he is confronted with the worse than heathen libertinism that threatened to corrupt the Churches of Greece, or by the half-converted Pharisees who would have offered up the universality of the gospel to the prejudices of a sect; whether he stands before a Roman officer or before an infuriated mob; whether he is exposed to the sneers of a scoffer like Agrippa, or the sordid venality of an unjust judge like Felix--in all circumstances and under every temptation to make concessions to the prejudice or passions of those around him, Paul maintained an undaunted fearlessness of bearing, and stands forth with vigorous self-reliance, refusing to submit to the control of others his conviction of duty, refusing to swerve a hairsbreadth from the path his conscience marks out for him. (Prof. Robertson Smith.)

The reasons and consequences of Paul’s resistance

There are some who may see in this resolute attitude the inevitable egotism of a strong will and a clear purpose; but it is more reasonable to discover in such a temper an unshaken conviction in the reality of his mission, and a distinct persuasion that this mission was to be fulfilled in one way on!y, and by those specific means which he had been already adopting. And to us, who can understand the effect of this uncompromising temper upon the history of Christianity, it is manifest that the apostle’s persistency is the reason why Christianity did not become a mere Jewish School, which might have had a faint existence in the Ana of some Talmud or Cabbala; or would, more probably, have been completely lost in the general havoc of the Jewish war. As it is, the teaching of the Pharisee of Tarsus has given method to modern civilization, has erected Christianity into a social system, and has constituted a standard by which the Christian system has been measured and reformed. (Paul of Tarsus.)

Prompt opposition to error

Some years ago I was amused with the sentiment of a witty fellow who said, “A lie will travel from Maine to Georgia while truth is putting on his boots. In that case,” he added, “truth should not stop to put on his boots.” The difficulty lies in allowing the lie to run so far ahead; let them start abreast, and truth will gain the field. It may be distanced at the first heat, but on the long run it is sure to secure the prize. (Cangray.)

Strict faithfulness

The other day I received a communication from a lawyer, who says that a very large owner has discovered that a very small piece of property belongs to him, and not to the small proprietor in whose possession it has for a very long time remained. The matter seemed a trifling one. We had a conference, and there came the steward with the lawyers, and he was furnished with maps, and putting on his spectacles, examined them with great care. Why? It was a small matter to him, but because he was a steward he was expected to be faithful. And when he found that this small piece of ground belonged to his lord he was determined to have it. So let me say--as stewards of the gospel of God--never give up one verse, one doctrine, one word of the truth of God. Let us be faithful to that committed to us, it is not ours to alter. We have but to declare that which we have received. (S. Cook, D. D.)

No terms with error

During the Spartan war against Xerxes, the Athenians were entreated not to abandon their natural allies, and leave Greece to be enslaved. Pointing to the sun, Aristides replied, “While that sun holds his course, we will come to no terms with Xerxes. For you, Spartans, our character might have raised us above your fears. The earth contains not the gold, nor does the sun shine upon the land that could move our purpose.” Even with such unshaken courage and faithfulness must Christians fight against the enemies of the gospel of Christ. (R. Brewin.)

No surrender

To authorize generals, or other officers, to lay down their arms in virtue of a capitulation … affords a dangerous latitude (except when they compose the garrison of a fortress). It is destructive of all military character in a nation to open such a door to the cowardly, the weak, or even the misdirected brave. Great extremities require extraordinary resolution. The more obstinate the resistance of an army, the greater the chances of assistance or success. How many seeming impossibilities have been accomplished by men whose only resource was death! (Maxim LXVII.)
In the campaign of 1759 Frederick directed General Pink, with 18,000 men, upon Maxen, for the purpose of cutting off the Austrian army from the defiles of Bohemia. Surrounded by twice his numbers, Pink capitulated after a sharp action, and 14,000 men laid down their arms. This conduct was the more disgraceful, because General Winch, who commanded the cavalry, cut his way through the enemy. The whole blame of the surrender fell, therefore, upon Pink, who was afterwards tried by a court-martial, and sentenced to be cashiered and imprisoned for two years.


Verse 6

Galatians 2:6

But of those who seemed to be somewhat.

Authority and trust

I. A man who has truth on his side can be indifferent to mere authority. Because--

1. Mere authority has no weight with the Author of truth.

2. The man of truth can gain nothing from the sanction of mere authority.

II. Authoritative decisions derive what value they possess from the truth. The apostles pronounced on what “they saw.”

1. That the gospel of the uncircumcision and the circumcision was committed respectively to Paul and Peter.

2. That God wrought equally by both.

3. That both alike had Divine grace for their work.

God no accepter of persons

I. Spiritual excellence and not the accidents of external condition alone avails with God. Take some illustrations.

1. From Scripture: the choice of Abraham and Moses.

2. From providence.

3. From the administration of redemption. Wilberforce in parliament, Bunyan in his cottage.

4. From the day of judgment and its results.

II. Why God has no respect of persons except in relation to moral goodness.

1. Accidents in condition, seemingly great to us, bear no such relation to Him.

2. They are not the essential and true elements of our being.

III. Why does God supremely value spiritual excellence?

1. It is the true basis of worth in every intelligent creature.

2. It is God’s own spiritual reflection, and therefore the true basis of friendship with Him. (J. Foster, B. A.)

Paul’s non-indebtedness to the apostles

Paul wished to show that his apostolate, both in its origin and by the tenor of the facts which preceded this visit, was independent of the Twelve, and derived no authority from Jerusalem. He could not brook rival, still less superior, in the work that was before him, nor submit to any control whatsoever on the part of any man, however eminent he might be. This had been his constant determination from the first day of his Christianity, and he was not likely to forego it after so many years of missionary labour, and in the case of persons who owed all their knowledge of the gospel to him, till such time as these meddling emissaries had striven to misrepresent him, had repudiated his authority, and called in question the completeness of the gospel he preached. (Paul of Tarsus.)

Usefulness better than mere capacity

A monstrous vat, certainly, is the great tun of Heidelberg. It might hold eight hundred hogsheads of wine at the least; but what is the use of such wasted capacity, since, for nearly a hundred years, there has not been a drop of liquor in it! Hollow and sounding, empty and void and waste; vintages come and go, and find it perishing of dry rot. An empty cask is not so great a spectacle after all, let its size be what it may, though old travellers called this monster one of the wonders of the world. What a thousand pities it is that many men of genius and of learning are, in respect of usefulness, no better than this huge but empty tun of Heidelberg! Very capacious are their minds, but very unpractical. Better be a poor household kilderkin, and give forth one’s little freely, than exist as a useless prodigy, capable of much and available for nothing. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Having a right estimate of one’s self

A great deal of misery would be prevented, if ministers would endeavour to form an honest estimate of their qualifications, and, as a consequence, seek appointments for which they are specially qualified. If one might teach unpleasant doctrines through the medium of a figure, one can imagine how inconvenient it would be in the event of a great cathedral clock wearing out, for a neat Geneva watch to put itself forward as a candidate for the vacancy. The Geneva might be a beautiful little thing, and might keep the most exact time, and might be called endearing names by ladies and little children; yet, to speak the language of charity, it might hardly be adapted to be set a hundred and fifty feet above the ground, in a circular vacancy at least ten feet in diameter. In such a case its very elevation would become its obscurity. On the other hand, it would be quite as inconvenient ii a great cathedral clock, weary of city work, should ask to be carried about as a private timekeeper. There is amoral in the figure. That moral points towards the law of proportion and adaptation. One can imagine the petted Geneva looking up from a lady’s hand, and calling the cathedral clock a great, coarse thing, with a loud and vulgar voice, which indicated the most offensive presumption; and we can imagine the cathedral clock looking down, with somewhat of disdain, upon the little timekeeping toy. Oh, that some sensible chronometer would say to the rivals, “Cease your contention; you are both useful in your places.” The one as a private chaplain, the other as a city orator, may tell the world to redeem its flying time. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

Seeming Christians not always real ones

A servant girl once said she should not have known her master and mistress were religious had she not heard that they took the sacrament. It was a pity they took it. If a man rolled on a bed of spices you would soon know where he had been, and if a man went with Jesus he must be perfumed with the spirit of Jesus. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

God accepteth no man’s person

With God there is no free man but His servant, though in the galleys; no slave but the sinner, though in a palace; none noble but the virtuous, if never so basely descended; none rich but he that possesseth God, even in rags; none wise but he that is a feel to himself and the world; none happy but he whom the world pities. Let me be free, noble, rich, wise, happy, to God. (Bp. Hall.)

God accepteth no man’s person

A North German periodical gives the following story as told by a Bible colporteur: “In one of my journeys I came to Varzin while the Imperial Chancellor was residing there. After I had done a long day’s work, I went to the inn. I was there asked if I would go to evening prayers at Bismarck’s house, as the daughter of the host was going. I accepted the invitation, and when I got there I found myself in a spacious and very suitable room which had been built for the purpose. It was well filled with servants, farm labourers, and villagers, some of whom, having seen me before, greeted me kindly. Soon afterwards Prince Bismarck made his appearance, nodding kindly right and left as he passed. He then said--‘I hear we have a Bible-man among us,’ and he looked me straight in the face in his kindly way. ‘You will be so kind as to conduct service for us this evening: I rose up and answered--‘It would be displacing your highness for me to’ when the prince interrupted me with, ‘Ah, my good man, what does highness signify? Here in God’s sight we are all poor sinners; so come here and take my place this evening, and conduct the service for us: So of course I accepted his invitation, the prince taking his place amongst the audience; and when it was over he shook me warmly by the hand, and wished me God’s richest blessing on my way.”


Verses 6-10

Verse 7-8

Galatians 2:7-8

To the apostleship of the circumcision.

The results of the conference

Barnabas must have been struck with the coincidence between his own conduct towards the newly-enfranchised converts at Antioch (Acts 11:22-23) and that of the apostles towards the delegates of these converts.

I. What the apostles saw--

1. In Paul and Barnabas personally. The closest scrutiny of speech, deportment, aim, could create but one impression.

2. In their work; the conversion of the Gentles and the uprising of so many Christian Churches could be due only to Divine grace.

II. What they felt.

1. That the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed to Paul. The conclusion was irresistible.

2. That Paul was as worthy of his commission as was Peter.

III. What they did.

1. Gave the delegates the right hand of fellowship.

2. Assigned to Paul and Peter--

Learn:

1. That God’s grace when experienced should be employed in work for Him.

2. That true worth is determined not by rank, but by work.

3. That honest work ultimately confers the highest rank.

4. That harmonious and effective working is best promoted by a division of labour.

The gospel commission

I. The gospel is not ours but God’s.

II. The gospel is committed to human trust.

1. What an honour.

2. What a responsibility.

III. The minister’s duty with reference to the gospel is--

1. To keep it.

2. To maintain the truth of it.

3. To apply it to the best use.

IV. Only God can make the gospel effective (1 Corinthians 3:7).

V. The believer’s duty is--

1. To hear it humbly.

2. To receive it thankfully.

3. To obey it diligently.

4. To propagate it earnestly. (W. Perkins.)

The gospel of the uncircumcision

St. Paul’s attitude towards circumcision. The great controversy in which St. Paul was engaged within the Church turned upon the question whether the Jewish observances, and circumcision in particular, were necessary for Christians. A large party of Christians whose centre was Jerusalem, who were probably influenced by the current opinions in the school of Shammai, and who made free use of the names of the apostles Peter, James, and John, maintained that these observances were necessary. To these men St. Paul’s work appeared to be radically revolutionary; and where they could they went over the ground which St. Paul had evangelized. They insisted that if the Gentile converts would be really good Christians, they too must be circumcised. St. Paul maintained that while if a man happened to be circumcised it did him no sort of harm, to insist upon circumcision as necessary for a Christian was to deny fundamental truth, for there were two points of the gravest importance which really were involved in this apparent trifle.

1. Was the work of Christ, as the Restorer of man to a state of righteousness before God, complete in itself; or was it merely a supplement to the Jewish creed? Was the system of the Jewish law, after all, able to make men righteous; and, if it was, where was the need of the work of Christ? If this was the case, moreover, was it even conceivable that Christ was greater than Moses and the prophets--greater in His essential nature? [[he Judaising theory that the law in its entirety was still obligatory meant, at bottom, that Christ’s work was not nearly complete, and so that His Person was really only human.

2. Was Christianity meant to be the religion of mankind, or only of a small sub-division of the Jewish world? Was it to be merely national, or to be catholic? If Christianity was serious in its claim to be the true, the absolute religion, it could not but also claim to be universal. (Canon Liddon.)

Diversity of gifts

We discover a diversity of gifts by a reference to Whitfield and Handel. The one was in eloquence what the other was in sacred song; the one appealing, through the understanding, to the heart and conscience, calling on men everywhere to repent and turn to God; the other drawing out, and bearing upward, as a sweet incense before the altar of the upper sanctuary, the devout aspirations of the new-born soul. There was “an air, a soul, a movement,” in the oratory of Whitfield which created indescribable emotions in his vast assemblies. Handel equally electrified the multitudes in Westminster Abbey. His power of song, while he performed the Messiah, raised them to their feet; and yet greater wonders did Whitfield when preaching the Messiah to the scores of thousands in Moorfields. (H. Read.)

Power of grace in saints

Longfellow in his Hiawatha sings of--

“The pleasant watercourses,

You could trace them through the valley,

By the rushing in the Spring-time,

By the alders in the Summer,

By the white fog in the Autumn,

By the black line in the Winter.”

So traceable are the lives of really gracious men and women. They are not solicitous to be observed, but the gracious “signs following” are sure to reveal them. Like their Master they cannot be hid. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 9

Galatians 2:9

And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars.

Ministers, pillars

I. As founded on Christ.

II. As supporting believers by--

1. Sympathy.

2. Prayer.

3. Preaching.

III. As presenting an example of stability.

IV. As Adorning The Edifice Of The Church.

John and Paul

This is the only meeting between the two recorded in Scripture. It is, moreover, the last notice that we find there of St. John, until the time of the Apocalypse. For both these reasons the mind seizes on this incident. Like other casual Scriptural notices it is Very suggestive. St. John had been silent during the discussion, but at the close he expressed his cordial union with St. Paul. That union has been made visible to all the ages by the juxtaposition of their Epistles in the same sacred volume. They stand among the pillars of the Holy Temple; and the Church of God is thankful to learn how contemplation may be united with action, and faith with love in the spiritual life. (Conybeare and Howson.)

The unity of apostolic doctrine

It might seem to these Galatians, as it seems to some acute critics now, that several gospels were being preached. But Paul shows that this could not be. Of course Christian truth is presented in different phases by Paul, James, Cephas, and John respectively, but only as each facet of a diamond differs from the rest, each displaying its own brilliance, reflecting the light in its own way, but all belonging to one jewel. (S. Pearson, M. A.)

The significance of the apostolic decision

Henceforward the Church and the world become coextensive; other evils may hinder the diffusion of Christianity, but not the limits of a local and national worship; other restrictions may be imposed on the freedom of the human race, but the yoke of Judaism never; other forms may be assumed by the spirit of bigotry and superstition, but from its earlier province it is utterly expelled; the most exclusive zealot will never again venture to confine the privileges of the true religion to a single nation; the most ardent admirer of ancient usages and external forms will never again dare to insist on the necessity of circumcision. (Dean Stanley.)

The division of apostolic labour

The apostles were to continue to devote themselves to evangelization with the understanding that Paul and Barnabas should go to the Gentiles, and Peter and John to the Jews. This arrangement, however, was not made on geographical considerations (see James 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1; Revelation 1:9). The one party were to evangelize the Gentiles, the other the Jews, without distinction of place (see verse 11, etc.). (E. Reuss, D. D.)

Not indeed that Paul would object to any association with the special ministry of Peter--on the contrary, he frequently addressed the Jews--but, the rule was a general one, and in effect most important, because it was a formal acknowledgment of Paul’s mission, and of its total independence. Henceforth the two Churches were to be one in faith and mutual goodwill, but different in their ritual, ceremonies, and government. The Church which Peter was to construct was national, that which was put under Paul’s guidance was oecumenical. The story that Peter ruled the Church of Rome for a quarter of a century is of course contradicted by the facts stated in this Epistle, and is plainly a baseless, though ancient, fable, which has been maintained and amplified in order to serve particular ends, and to justify ecclesiastical caesarism. (Paul of Tarsus.)

Paul’s common-sense

He knew that the best way to obviate quarrels was to recognize differences. He was well aware that men may work for a common purpose, even though their several methods of procedure may be so various as to seem incongruous, and that, provided the means be just and honourable, identity of end is a sufficient bond of unity. The wisdom of the statesman consists in effecting a harmony of interests, that of a religious reformer in enlisting all action on behalf of one grand purpose. Both wreck their reputation when they ally themselves to party cries and narrow rules. (Paul of Tarsus.)

Christian unity consistent with diversity

Ours is not a unity like that of the waters of a stagnant pool, over which the purifying breath of heaven sweeps in vain. Ours is not the unity of darkness, like the cloud-covered midnight sky, where neither moon nor star appears. Ours is not the unity of a forced conformity, such as is found in polar seas, where eternal winter has locked up the waves; but rather like the fountain flowing ever fresh and free; like the rainbow that combines the seven prismatic colours into one glorious arch of promise; like old ocean’s unfettered flow as its waves rush in all their majesty and might, distinct as the billows, but one as a sea. (S. Weir.)

Four pillars of the Church

These four pillars of the Church stand before us for our contemplation.

1. For example, we see that the widest diversity of gifts can be employed to advantage in winning souls to Christ. It would hardly be possible to sketch four characters differing more in essential particulars than these apostles. Paul was the theologian of the early Church. Peter had an undeniable headship in organization. But James brought his cool temperament into service in decisions involving difficult points of casuistry, while John was of all the best calculated to labour for spiritual eminence in the converts. Now when results are before us, no one could venture to pronounce which was the most useful in the grand work Christ gave them all to do. Each was the best for his own work.

2. So this would suggest a second lesson: failure in one particular field or sphere of action does not preclude great after-success in another for the same man. As a home missionary he was a failure. The Lord had other work for him to do.

3. Then once more: we might learn that the individualities of personal character are in no wise destroyed by the new life under the gospel. Paul, after his conversion, was just as earnest and driving as before. James carried his carefulness as a Pharisee into his demeanour as a Christian. Peter left his boats and tackle to become a skilful fisher of men, with the same adroitness and patient business absorption put into his fresh profession. So John was affectionate to Jesus’ mother, because he had grown up affectionate to his own. Naturalness is one of the best evidences of grace, for it excludes assumption and hypocrisy. No one will ever succeed in making himself better by making himself over into another man’s likeness.

4. In the fourth place, we see that true religion in the heart is a powerful helper in intellectual advancement. The history of all these four men affords an illustration of the Scripture text: “The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” We all know how Simon Peter was reared. How is it possible that he could reach literary attainments sufficient to enable him to write two such Epistles as those which bear his name?

5. Again, we can learn from these men’s biographies and writings that the very best Christian excellences may be, unfortunately, marred by personal weaknesses. For every one of them was faulty enough to make some notable mistake, which has been handed down to us in the imperishable record. Paul quarrelled sadly with Barnabas about Mark. James refused to welcome Paul at Jerusalem.

6. Just a suggestion now, which may or may not be called a lesson. Perhaps the ideal Christian might be made up of the best excellences in all. Put Paul’s orthodoxy in doctrine alongside of James’s morality in behaviour; put Peter’s activity in impulse with John’s extensive experience; join all these into one man.

7. Finally, we cannot fail to learn, as the sweetest and best lesson of all, that the truest Christians are those who are most like their Leader, and most loyal to Him as supreme. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Pillars in the Church

Christians are frequently called “God’s building,” and the temple of the Holy Ghost; and said to be “built up.a spiritual house”: and as some occupy more important places in this spiritual house than others, so they may properly be called pillars, or the main supports of the building in comparison with others. But it is one thing to seem to be pillars, and another to be really such, as were James, Cephas, and John.

1. Pillars should be formed of solid materials. In modern architecture, it is too common to decorate the front of buildings, with what seem to be pillars, and are not. The form of a large pillar is often built up with broken tiles, cement, and stucco: it seems to bear a great pressure of responsibility, which is deceptive like the whited sepulchres of old, for, in fact, the burden is borne by some modern supports, that are concealed from view. Now, God’s building does not need the help of such pillars. Those who would seem to be pillars, merely for show, who have no solidity, and can bear no burden, had better take a mote humble position. These imitation pillars are good for nothing but show. They are always porous, and absorb the rain; often retain the damp, generate dry rot, and disgrace what they were intended to adorn.

2. Pillars should be upright. Pillars that incline to one side are painful to 1ook at, and dangerous to the building. When the pillars in the church lose their erect position, the whole building is on the point of falling.

3. Pillars that are designed for use arid ornament should be straight, and not crooked. A bending pillar can bear but little pressure, and is very offensive to the eye. Crooked materials can be used to greater advantage in almost any other position in the building.

4. Pillars should be placed under, and not on the top of the building. They should bear the building, and not compel the building to bear them.

5. Pillars are fixtures, and must always be found in the same position. A weathercock at the top of the edifice may turn with the wind, but a pillar that supports it should remain unmoved by wind and storm. A window or a blind may be adjusted here or there, to the season or the weather, but the pillar can never shift its position without danger to the edifice of which it forms a part.

6. The pillars need a sure foundation, or they will yield to the pressure that is upon them. “The Rock of Ages” is recommended as their best support.

Inferences:

1. We infer, that it requires at least ordinary qualities of Christian character, to fit a man to be a pillar. He must have solidity, uprightness, humility, steadfastness, and true faith. These are indispensable.

2. Many, who seem to be pillars in these days, are far from what they seem; they show a painted surface and a florid capital, but they are of little use, and easily marred and broken.

3. Many whose unassuming dispositions will not allow them to be pillars, have, notwithstanding, the best qualifications for it.

4. Let all who aspire to be pillars, seek to combine those qualities which will fit them for the station they would occupy, and the burden they will have to bear. (Essex Remembrancer.)

The apostle’s recognition by the Church in Jerusalem

I. The recognition which Paul received from the Church was discerning.

1. They saw that to him was entrusted the gospel which was to be preached to the Gentiles. The gospel of the uncircumcision was committed to Paul. The gospel is a Divine deposit or treasure.

2. The Church saw that the power which contributed to the success of the one apostle was effectual also in the other. In Paul as well as Peter God had wrought effectually. They discerned the triumphs of the gospel in both instances.

3. The Church recognized the religion of Paul to be a religion of love. They perceived the grace given unto him.

II. The recognition Paul received was given in spite of certain differences that had separated him from the Church in Jeruselem in the past.

1. Many of them had been familiar with the Lord Jesus Christ when He was on earth. Paul had not. Yet they now saw that God was no respecter of persons, “but in every nation, he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness, is accepted of Him.”

2. There was a difference between them in respect to gifts.

3. There was also a difference as to position. Many of them were of acknowledged reputation. Paul was not regarded as an authority in the Churches of Judaea. Yet in spite of these differences there was a full recognition of his apostolic character and office.

III. The recognition was complete and hearty.

1. There was no reservation as to its extent. They admitted the whole truth Paul declared. They addressed no communication to him, but fully embraced the doctrines he enunciated.

2. It was cordial. They gave to Paul and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship. “What a moment must that have been! What a blessed working of the Holy Ghost!”

IV. In receiving this recognition, Paul was anxious to manifest his high estimate of their brotherly kindness. They had nothing new to communicate concerning doctrine, but they desired him to remember the poor, and this request he gladly complied with. He here shows his fraternal co-operation with the other apostles, and his love for Jewish Christians. He could not comply with the demands of the false brethren, but it was from no lack of charity. Immediately after writing this Epistle, he made a tour, gathering the alms of the Greek Churches for the saints at Jerusalem. Lessons:

1. Unity in the Christian Church has its foundation in Christ.

2. Christian unity is the product of the Holy Spirit.

3. Its genuineness is manifest by acts of beneficence. (R. Nicholls.)

The right hands of fellowship.

St. Paul and the elder apostles

The three apostles here referred to, whatever their prepossessions, yield to the force of Paul’s statements. Peter also at the council called the imposition of the law on Gentile converts an intolerable yoke, for the Gentile was saved by the same grace as the Jew. Peter appealed only to the great facts which had met him unexpectedly in his own experience; but James, in the old theocratic spirit, connected the outburst of Christianity with ancient prophecy as its fulfilment. In his thought, God takes out of the Gentiles a people for His name, and by an election as real as when He separated Israel of old from all the nations. The prophecy quoted by him describes the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David, not by restoring his throne in Jerusalem over Jews, and over heathen who, as a test of their loyalty, became proselytes, but by the reconstitution of the theocracy in a more spiritual form, and over myriads of new subjects--“all the Gentiles”--without a hint of their conformity to any element of the Mosaic ritual. This expansion of the old economy had been foreseen; it was no outgrowth unexpected or unprovided for. Believers were not to be surprised at it, or to grudge that their national supremacy should disappear amidst the Gentile crowds, who in doing homage to David’s son, their Messiah, should raise “the tabernacle of David” to a grandeur which it had never attained, and could never attain so long as it was confined to the territory of Judaea. The Jewish mind must have been impressed by this reasoning- this application of their own oracles to the present crisis. So far from being perplexed by it, they ought to have been prepared for it; so far from being repelled by it, they ought to have anticipated it, prayed for it, and welcomed its faintest foregleams, as in the ‘preaching of Philip in Samaria, and of Peter to Cornelius. Paul and Barnabas, in addressing the multitude--“the Church, the apostles, and elders”--did not launch into a discussion of the general question, or attempt to demonstrate abstract principles. First, in passing through Phoenice and Samaria, they “declared the conversion of the Gentiles;” and secondly, at the convention, theirs was a simple tale which they allowed to work its own impression--they “declared what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.” The logic of their facts was irresistible, for they could not be gainsaid. Let their audience account for it as they chose, and endeavour to square it with their own opinions and beliefs as best they might, God was working numerous and undeniable conversions among the Gentiles as visibly and gloriously as among themselves. The haughty exclusiveness of the later Judaism made it impossible for the Church to extend without some rupture and misunderstanding of this nature. That exclusiveness was nursed by many associations. For them, and them alone, was the temple built, the hierarchy consecrated, and the victim slain. Their history had enshrined the legislation of Moses, the priesthood of Aaron, the throne of David, and the glory of Solomon. The manna had been rained upon their fathers, and the bright Presence had led them. Waters had been divided and enemies subdued. Sinai had been lighted up, and had trembled under the majesty and voice of Jehovah. Their land was hallowed by the only Church of God on earth, and each of them was a member of it by birth. His one temple was on Mount Moriah, and they gloried in the pride of being its sole possessors. The archives of their nation were at the same time the records of their faith. Nothing was so opposed to their daily prepossessions as the idea of a universal religion. Or if the boundaries of the covenanted territory were to be widened, Zion was still to be the centre. Foreign peoples were to have no separate and independent worship; all nations were to flow to the “mountain of the Lord’s house, established in the top of the mountains, and exalted above the hills.” It is impossible for us to realize the intensity of Jewish feeling on these points, as it was ever influencing Hebrew believers to relapse into their former creed, and leading others into the self-deceptive and pernicious middle course of Judaizers. In such circumstances, the work of St. Paul naturally excited uneasiness and suspicion in the best of them, for it was so unlike their own sphere of service. But the elder apostles were at this period brought to acquiesce in it, and they virtually sanctioned it, though there might not be entire appreciation of it in all its extent and certain consequences There is no ground, therefore, for supposing that there was any hostility between Paul and these eider apostles, or any decided theological difference, as many strenuously contend for. They all held the same cardinal truths, as is manifest from the Gospel and Epistles of John, and from the Epistles of Peter. There are varying types of thought arising from mental peculiarity and spiritual temperament--accidental differences showing more strongly the close inner unity. Nor is the Epistle of James in conflict with the Pauline theology. It was in all probability written before these Judaistic disputes arose; for, though addressed to Jews, it makes no mention of them. Its object among other things was to prove that a justifying faith must be in its nature a sanctifying faith; that a dead faith is no faith, and is without all power to save; and that from this point of view a man is justified by works--the products of faith being identified with itself, their one living source. Nor can we say that there were, even after the convention, no misunderstandings between Paul and the other apostles. While they were at one with him in thought, they seem not to have had the same freedom to act out their convictions. There was no opposition on any points of vital doctrine; but though they held that his success justified him, they did not feel at liberty, or had not sufficient intrepidity, to follow his example. Though their earlier exclusiveness was broken, their nationality still remained--their conservatism had become an instinct--“they to the circumcision.” The mere separation of sphere might not give rise to division, but these pharisaic Judaists, who were nat so enlightened and considerate as their leaders, were the forefathers of that Ebionitism which grew and fought so soon after that period, having its extreme antagonism in Marcion and his adherents. How the other, apostles who had left Jerusalem at the Herodian persecution, and may have been in different parts of the world, acted as to these debated matters, we know not. It is storied, indeed, that John, living amidst the Hellenic population of Ephesus, kept the paschal feast on the fourteenth day of the month, in accordance with the Jewish reckoning; and that he wore in his older years one special badge of a priest … The power of early association, which grows with one’s growth, is very difficult to subdue; for it may suddenly reassert its supremacy at some unguarded moment, and expose inherent weakness and indecision. (John Eadie, D. D.)

Grace seen in God’s choice of workmen

God would build for Himself a palace in heaven of living stones. Where did He get them? Did He go to the quarries of Paros? Hath He brought forth the richest and the purest marble from the quarries of perfection? No, ye saints: look to “the hole of the pit whence ye were digged, and to the rock whence ye were hewn!” Ye were full of sin: so far from being stones that were white with purity, ye were black with defilement, seemingly utterly unfit to be stones in the spiritual temple, which should be the dwelling-place of the Most High. Goldsmiths make exquisite forms from precious material; they fashion the bracelet and the ring from gold: God maketh His precious things out of base material; and from the black pebbles of the defiling brooks he hath taken up stones, which He hath set in the golden ring of His immutable love, to make them gems to sparkle on His finger for ever. He hath not selected the best, but apparently the worst of men to be the monuments of His grace; and, when He would have a choir in heaven, He sent Mercy to earth to find out the dumb, and teach them to sing. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The right hand of fellowship

I. To whom should we give it--to all who hold the truth--to all by whom God is pleased to work--to all in whom God exhibits His grace.

II. How must we give it--not by forsaking our own position or encouraging them to leave theirs--but by the maintenance of brotherly esteem and love, by provoking them to love and good works. (J. Lyth.)

The right hand of fellowship should be given

I. To all to whom God has given grace.

II. By the pillars of the Church, as an example to others.

III. Heartily, without reserve. (J. Lyth.)

Division of labour in the Church is

I. Expedient--it prevents collision--economises labour.

II. Advantageous--it provokes emulation--develops effort--accomplishes more.

III. Necessary--there is room--and need for all. (J. Lyth.)

Pillars

I. Some seem to be pillars and are not.

II. Some are pillars and do not seem to be.

III. Some both seem to be and are really such. (J. Lyth.)

Unity in the gospel

I. One gospel yet different views.

II. One Master yet different spheres of labour.

III. One source of power yet different instrumentalities.

IV. One heart yet different modes of procedure. (J. Lyth.)


Verse 10

Galatians 2:10

That we should remember the poor.

A plea for the poor

Good men do not always think alike. When they differ, it is commonly from ignorance and a want of mutual explanation; and therefore when their understandings are informed, as their hearts were right before, they are like so many drops of water on a table--when they touch they run into one. Besides, while differing in some things, they agree in others--and these by fro the most important: and after awhile are generally led to see and acknowledge this. Such the case here. A difference among the brethren in Jerusalem concerning the missions of Peter and Paul; but none about the duty of remembering the poor. On that all agree.

I. Who are to be remembered? The poor. Found in every age and land.

1. Distinguish between the vagrant poor and the resident poor. Vagrants are generally the least entitled to succour, being lazy, and not disposed to work when the opportunity is offered them. The resident poor have these claims;

2. Distinguish between God’s poor and the devil’s poor. In helping the latter while they continue what they are, you are aiding the beer-house, the gin-shop, licentiousness, and every evil. We should try to save them from their suffering by saving them first from their sin.

3. Distinguish between the strong and healthy poor, and the sick and disabled. The latter deserve sympathy and help.

II. Why should you remember the poor?

1. In doing so, you keep the best company, and conform to the noblest examples.

2. You are bound by Divine authority.

3. The poor are your brethren.

4. You ire under great obligations to the poor. You are more dependent on them, than they on you. They cultivate your lands, manage your capital, prepare your food, furnish you with fuel; they man your ships, fill your armies, fight your battles, etc., etc.

5. In remembering them you will remember yourselves. By God’s eternal law, doing good is the way to gain good; giving is the way to thrive (Psalms 41:1-3).

III. How are we to remember the poor?

1. Compassion.

2. Readiness to relieve. All might do much by exercising self-denial, and influencing others.

IV. When should we remember the poor?

1. When you die.

2. When you prosper.

3. When you are unthankful. It will remind you of how many blessings you daily receive, and so stir up your heart to praise.

4. When you are peevish, fretful, discontented, and miserable. Go, then, and see real misery; and consider how much more others have to suffer than you; and then do your best to relieve that suffering. In the act of giving consolation, you shall receive it.

5. When you fast. Let your own abstinence for your soul’s health benefit the bodies of those whose life is a perpetual involuntary fast (Isaiah 58:6-8).

6. Every Lord’s Day (1 Corinthians 16:2).

7. Now. Give liberally to the charity work in aid of which your alms are to-day solicited. If the Saviour were here now as a Man, how would He give? He could not give much. He would then give--what many hero (and the best givers too, perhaps) will give--coppers; not from want of inclination, but from want of ability. He was a poor Man, had not where to lay His head. But suppose He was possessed of the fortunes some of you possess, what would He give then? Think of it, and go and do likewise. (William Jay.)

The duty of remembering the poor

Poverty no virtue; wealth no sin. Nor yet is wealth morally good, poverty morally evil. Virtue is a plant which depends not on the atmosphere surrounding it, but on the hand that waters and the grace that sustains it. Grace must be sustained by Divine power. Yet, as a fact, God has been pleased for the most part to plant His grace in the soil of poverty. A very large multitude of His family are destitute, afflicted, tormented, and are kept leaning day by day upon the daily provisions of God, and trusting Him from meal to meal, believing that He will supply their wants out of the riches of His fulness.

I. The fact, that the Lord has a poor people. A word from Him, and they might all be rich. Yet He does not speak that word. Why?

1. To teach us how grateful we should be for all the comforts He bestows on many of us.

2. To display His sovereignty in all He does.

3. To manifest the power of His comforting promises, and the supports of the gospel. The master.works of God are those that stand in the midst of difficulties--when all things oppose them, yet maintain their stand; these are His all-glorious works; and so His best children, those who honour Him most, are those who have grace to sustain them amidst the heaviest load of tribulations and trials.

4. To plague the devil, e.g., Job.

5. To give us some living glimpse of Christ. A poor saint is a better picture of Jesus than a rich one.

6. To give us opportunities of showing our love to Him. Take away the poor, and one channel wherein our love delights to flow is withdrawn at once.

II. The duty, that we should remember the poor.

1. In prayers.

2. In conversation.

3. In providing for their necessities.

IV. Why we should remember the poor.

1. They are the Lord’s brethren. This is surely reason enough. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Remembrance of the poor recommended

I. Examine the nature of the assertion. No need to describe the poor; they describe themselves. You daily witness the scantiness and poverty of their apparel, their pale and emaciated forms; you hear their piteous plaints, and the tale of their complicated woes. But we should remember--

1. The work of the poor.

2. The deprivations of the poor.

3. Our remembrance of the poor should be founded on personal observation.

4. It should be accompanied by relief. The best form of relief is employment.

II. State the obligations we are under to comply with it.

1. The dictates of humanity require it. The poor are our brethren.

2. The demands of duty require it. The laws of God have made this imperative upon us (Deuteronomy 15:7-9; Daniel 4:27; Luke 6:36-38; Matthew 7:12; 1 John 3:17).

3. The rights of justice require it. To the poor we owe far more than to rich drones who merely live on the labours of others. Who erect our houses? Who make our clothes? Who procure our food? Do not the poor? therefore remember them.

4. The claims of interest require it. God remembers the poor; is it not our interest to imitate Him? (Psalms 41:1-2; Proverbs 3:9; Proverbs 19:17; Isaiah 63:10-11).

III. Answer objections.

1. My circumstances are straitened, I have nothing to spare. What! Nothing? (1 Kings 17:11-12; Luke 21:2-4).

2. Charity must begin at home. True; but it should not end there.

3. I have a right to do what I will with my own. But what is your own? Are you not a steward merely of God’s goods? Will He not call you to account?

4. The poor do not deserve to be remembered. God thinks they do; that is enough. What if He dealt with us according to our deserts? (Theological Sketch-book.)

Care of the poor

When Fox, the author of the “Book of Martyrs,” was once leaving the palace of Aylmer, the Bishop of London, a company of poor people begged him to relieve their wants with great importunity. Fox, having no money, returned to the bishop, and asked the loan of five pounds, which was readily granted. He immediately distributed it among the poor by whom he was surrounded. Some months after, Aylmer asked Fox for the money he had borrowed. “I have laid it out for you,” was the answer, “and paid it where you owed it--to the poor people who lay at your gate.” Far from being offended, Aylmer thanked Fox for thus being his steward.

A plea for the poor

Some one was expressing surprise to Eveillon, canon and archdeacon of Angers, that none of his rooms were carpeted. He answered: “When I enter my house in the winter-time, the floors do not tell me that they are cold; but the poor, who are shivering at my gate, tell me they want clothes.”

Paul’s care for the poor

I. Paul, who had beggared the Church, is now ready to beg for it.

II. Paul sets us as example of care for the poor (Romans 15:25; Romans 15:28). He gave more than good words and wishes.

1. The charge was very great to maintain the altar in the Old Testament. In the New Testament the poor come in place of the altar.

2. Mercy to the poor is a condition of Divine mercy.

III. Paul being warned was diligent to do that of which he was warned. It is a common fault to hear much and do little. (W. Perkins.)

True beneficence: its thoughtfulness

How difficult it is to be wisely charitable; to do good without multiplying the sources of evil! To give alms is nothing unless you give thought also. It is written, not “blessed is he that feedeth the poor,” but “blessed is he that considereth the poor.” A little thought and a little kindness are often worth more than a deal of money. (Ruskin.)

Beneficence: its reward

During the retreat of Alfred the Great at Athelney, a beggar came to him and requested alms; when his queen informed him that they had only one small loaf left, which was insufficient for themselves and their friends who had gone abroad in quest of food, though with little hope of success, “Give the poor Christian one-half of the loaf,” said the king; “He who could feed five thousand men with five loaves and two small fishes can certainly make that half of the loaf suffice for our necessities.” The poor man was relieved accordingly, and this noble act of charity was soon recompensed by a providential store of fresh provisions, with which his people returned.

Remember the poor

I was very much pleased with the conduct of a brother who is here present. A short time ago there stood in the aisle near his pew, a gentleman and a poor fellow in a smock frock! thought to myself “He will let one in, I know; I wonder which it will be?” I did not wait long before out he came and in went the smock frock. He thought very rightly that the poor man was the most tired, for he had no doubt had a hard week’s work, and probably a long walk, for there are not many smock frocks near London. I say again, “Remember the poor.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Remember the orphans

Puddings and potatoes form important articles of diet, and I shall be glad if farmers will remember our orphans in seedtime and harvest. Much more help could be rendered in kind if doners would only think of it. We need not mention things which an orphanage cannot consume; it would take space to mention things we could not use, such as alcoholic liquors, rattlesnakes, gunpowder, dynamite, or books of modern theology. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christian forwardness

And now, when the standard of Christ is unfurled, have Christians become cowardly? Are there none among them who can step forward and say, “Here am I: send me.” I do not believe there is such a cowardly spirit among us. But there is what is generally called a retiring disposition. I am scarcely able to make nice distinctions. In the day of battle if the commanding officer found one of his men in the rear rank on account of his modest and retiring disposition, I think he would tingle it out of him with a few lashes on his back. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 11-12

Galatians 2:11-12

I withstood him to the face.

Paul and Peter

I. Character is growth. The most zealous is not always the most steadfast. Fires slumber within which circumstances may fan into a terrible flame. We bring our evil tendencies with us into the Kingdom of God to be gradually curbed, restrained, overcome by higher and Divine tendencies. Let every man keep sentinel over himself; let him beware of old sins; let him guard his soul by prayer against attacks on his weak points; let him cast aside every weight if he would run the true race, whose goal is perfection.

II. Fear of man deteriorates the character. How many barter their birthright for the world’s empty applause! A little courage would save them a world of shame; a decisive step or a bold word would put to silence their adversaries; but they dare not make a stand, and so their independence is lost and their character lowered.

III. Observe the influence of character on others. Peter did not sin alone. The other Jews dissembled, and even Barnabas was led away. So it is always. Evil companionships and examples corrupt good characters.

IV. Bear in mind the supreme necessity of honesty. The truth must at all hazards be defended, faithfully, courteously, lovingly.

V. Paul’s appeal was successful. Truth always prevails in the end. A little firmness at the right time, and in the right way, may save a brother’s soul.

VI. This was no mere personal dispute, but involved vital issues. The antagenism was between law on the one hand and grace on the other. (S. Pearson, M. A.)

Paul rebukes Peter

One of the most remarkable events in sacred history. Tradition tells us St. Paul was a man of small stature, bearing the marked features of the Jew, yet not without some of the finer lines indicative of Greek thought. His head bald, his beard long and thin; a bright gray eye, overhung by somewhat contracted eyebrows; whilst a cheerful and winning expression of countenance invited the approach and inspired the confidence of strangers. St. Peter is represented as a man of larger form and stronger build, with dark eye, pale and sallow complexion, and short hair curled black and thick round his temples. At the meeting here mentioned Judaism and Christianity were brought face to face. In Galatians 2:14-16 we have the case of Gospel versus Law.

I. The conduct of St. Peter on this occasion may be regarded as--

1. An example of temptation arising from the fear of man. Peter was by nature timid; prompt to act, yet apt to vacillate; afraid of opposition.

2. An instance of an apostle’s departure from the straight path of gospel truth, and of the ease with which such departure may take place. No divergence from God’s truth, however slight, is unimportant. We never know what (to all appearance) the slightest error may result in. Our only safety lies in holding fast the whole truth.

3. Not inconsistent with his integrity as a Christian, or with his inspiration as a writer. His writings were under the direction of the Holy Spirit. He nobly redeemed this error by a faithful and consistent after-life.

II. The conduct of St. Paul was--

1. An example of moral courage in administering reproof. No easy thing, at any time, to rebuke a friend. It is painful to oppose one whom we love, or whose good opinion we value.

2. A noble vindication of gospel truth. (Emilius Bayley, B. D.)

Peter’s inconsistent conduct

The conduct of Peter is not easy to understand. Already, at the council or concordat of the apostles, he had agreed to impose no burdens on the Gentile Christians; and, at a much earlier period in the history of the apostles, he had not only been charged with going in unto men uncircumcised and eating with them, but had taught others that they were to “call nothing common or unclean.” And now, not of his own free will, but under the influence of certain who came from Jerusalem, from a fear of the very same charge, “Thou wentest in unto men uncircumcised and eatest with them,” he held back, and seemed to view his Christian brethren with the feelings with which he would have regarded men who sat at meat in an idol’s temple. It is remarkable, and may be considered as a proof of the truth of the history, that this conduct, however unintelligible, is in keeping with Peter’s character. We recognize in it the lineaments of him who confessed Christ first, and first denied Him; who began by refusing that Christ should wash his feet, and then said, “Not my feet only, but my hands and my head;” who cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest when they came to take Jesus, and then forsook Him and fled. Boldness and timidity--first boldness, then timidity--were the characteristics of his nature. It was natural for such a one, though no longer strictly a Jew himself, to desire that others should conform to the prejudices of Jews; such conduct agreed with the bent of his own mind, though he formally disowned it. There is, we may observe, in many men a sort of tenderness to what they once were themselves; as there is another class of men who learn a lesson, but only to apply it under given circumstances. Something of this kind there may have been in St. Peter; a narrowness of perception, or secret sympathy with the Judaizing converts, which prevented his seeing the wider truth which presented itself to St. Paul. At any rate, his was a disposition on which ancient habits and feelings were ever liable to return; whose heart could scarcely avoid lingering around the weak and beggarly elements of the law; on whom in age the lessons of youth were too prone to come back, “carrying him whither he would not.” The charge which St. Paul brings against him was, inconsistency with himself; he was half a Gentile, and wanted to make the Gentiles altogether Jews. (B. Jowett, M. A.)

Force of example

What a constraining power there is in the example of eminent persons. He is said to compel, in Scripture, not only who doth violently force, but who, being of authority, doth provoke by his example. (Burkitt.)

The errors of those that do rule become rulers of error. Men sin through a kind of authority, through the sins of those who are in authority. (Burkitt.)

Open reproof for open sin

Such as sin openly must be reproved openly. No bands of friendship must keep the ministers of God from reproving sin. A notorious fault must be reproved with much boldness and resolution. If such as are eminent in the Church fall, they fall not alone; many fall with them.

Protestant popery

How many rejoice at Paul’s defence of the liberty of the gospel against Peter’s weakness, who themselves will not receive rebuke as Peter did--nay, are very popes at heart. For there are popes in pews as well as in pulpits, besides the pope who openly claims to be such; Christian liberty suffers from them all. (M. B. Riddle, D. D.)

False doctrine

It is a good and a pleasant thing for brethren to dwell together in unity. But in a world like this such enjoyment cannot be universal or permanent. No Christian vigilance can prevent differences of opinion. They existed even among the apostles, and even upon fundamental truths. We may learn from this fact a twofold lesson.

1. When differences affect only the circumstantials of religion, however interesting, and in their place important, those matters which are in themselves of human origin and rest on human authority may be, the differences respecting them are calculated to teach us a lesson of charity (Romans 14:5-6).

2. When they extend to the fundamental portions of revealed truth, they are equally calculated to teach us a lesson of fidelity (Galatians 1:8). The matter to which the text refers, considered in itself, might have been enumerated among those questions which teach charity; but, considered in its bearing upon the gospel, considered in the aspect which it gave to the gospel among the Gentiles, it compromised the freeness of the gospel, and marred the simplicity of God’s message in Christ. And therefore St. Paul withstood the error of St. Peter “to the face, because he was to be blamed.” Barnabas was carried away also with the dissimulation. St. Paul was left alone. It was a critical moment for the primitive Church. Who can estimate the amount of the disaster that would have followed had St. Paul fallen as St. Peter fell? Who can estimate the damage which would have been sustained had the gospel, from the very outset, been presented in a corrupt form? How could we now have traced its purity had St. Paul sunk with St. Peter? As far as man can judge, the world would then never have had the gospel in its simplicity with the clear authority of Scriptural truth. But, through the mercy and grace of God, St. Paul stood fast. (H. McNeile, D. D.)

Good men are not perfect men

A gentleman of the Perfectionist school of thought called to see an old Christian of his neighbourhood, and began enlarging upon that interesting topic. “Can you point to a single perfect man or woman in the Bible?” inquired the aged saint. “Yes,” readily answered the other; “turn to Luke 1:6, you will there read of two--Elizabeth and Zacharias walked ‘in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless.’” “Then you consider yourself a believer like Zacharias?” “Certainly I do,” said the visitor. “Ah,” replied the old man, “I thought you might be; and we read a few verses further on that he was struck dumb for his unbelief.” (Nye.)

Robert Hall’s temper

It is said that in the earlier part of Robert Hall’s ministry, he was impetuous and sometimes overbearing in argument; but if he lost his temper he was deeply humbled, and would often acknowledge himself to blame. On one of these occasions, when a discussion had become warm, and he had evinced unusual agitation, he suddenly closed the debate, quitted his seat, and, retiring to a remote part of the room, was overheard to ejaculate, with deep feeling, “Lamb of God, Lamb of God, calm my perturbed spirit!”

The fear of man illustrated

Burgomeister Guericke constructed a gigantic barometer with a tube thirty feet in height, part of which projected above the roof of his house at Magdeburg. The index was the figure of a man, who, in fair weather, was seen standing full size above the roof; but, when a storm was brewing, he cautiously withdrew for security and shelter. Antitype of religionists and politicians I When the sun shines brightly, and the breezes scarcely breathe across the landscape, how erect and bold they look! But let the clouds gather, and the thunders mutter, and what a drawing-in of diminished heads! O rare, satirical Burgomeister! you must have had an alderman’s experience. (Dr. W. F. Warren.)

Brotherly reproof

I. What is reproof.

1. An act of charity and mercy, not of pride and vain-glory (2 Thessalonians 3:15; James 3:17.

2. Using fit discourse, not chastisement, and, in general, from God’s Word (Colossians 3:16-17.

3. Having as its end not our brother’s shame, but his reclamation from sin to duty (Galatians 6:1).

II. The kind of reproof it is our duty to give.

1. Authoritative. By way of office (2 Timothy 4:2).

2. In the way of general duty, which lieth on all men (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

III. The manner in which to discharge this duty.

1. Faithfully (Titus 1:13).

2. With lenity and Christian meekness (Galatians 6:1).

3. Prudently. Well weighing all the circumstances of person, time, place, occasion, provocation, that all things may be proportioned to the design (Proverbs 25:12-17).

IV. The arguments which enforce this duty.

1. The law of nature, which teaches us to love our neighbour.

2. The law of God (Proverbs 25:8-10; Matthew 18:15; 1 Thessalonians 3:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; Jude 1:22-23).

3. Giving reproof is commended (Proverbs 24:25; James 5:19-20), and taking reproof (Proverbs 13:18; Proverbs 15:31-32; Ecclesiastes 7:5).

4. The maintenance of society and the improvements of human relations depend upon it.

V. When and to what this duty binds.

1. Not unless the fault is certainly known; not, therefore, on mere suspicion (1 Corinthians 13:5), uncertain hearsay (Isaiah 11:3), flying reports, or slander.

2. Not if our brother has repented.

3. Not if a good result is unlikely, and a bad result probable (Matthew 7:6).

In conclusion:

1. If we are to reprove others, let us take care that we are blameless (Matthew 6:3-5; Romans 3:21).

2. If others are bound to reprove, we are bound to take reproof. (T. Manton.)

The end of St. Peter’s error

Though St. Paul’s narrative stops short of the last scene in this drama, it would not be rash to conclude that it ended as that other had ended, that the revulsion of feeling was as sudden and complete, and that again he went out and wept bitterly, having denied his Lord in the person of these Gentile converts. (Bishop Lightfoot.)

Differences among the apostles

Nothing can be more false and delusive than to imagine that the first teachers were men whose harmony of opinion and action was complete, who had neither debate, difference, or quarrel. They were not unconscious mouthpieces of a supernatural inspiration, automata of some uncontrollable enthusiasm, unanimous machines, but men of like passions with ourselves, men with characters, impulses, affections, fears, dislikes--men human in the mistakes they made and in the truths they embraced and enunciated. It is sheer superstition to treat them as more than men, as other than men, however highly we may esteem them and their work. If we make them unreal and transcendental personages we do them a great injustice, and ourselves a certain mischief, because all free inquiry into their motives and feelings is suspected as a challenge of their authority, and every other form of commentary becomes mere verbiage around a foregone conclusion. They ace not stars fixed round the great central Light, and differing only in glory and goodness from Him who is the centre of their system; but they have what light they possess from reflection, and feel themselves immeasurably distant from the Power which illumines them. (Paul of Tarsus.)

The dissension a witness to the truth of the Bible

The Bible is of great worth for its natural, fresh, and honest expressions of human thought and feeling. The faith, hope, love, reverence, wonder; the doubts, sorrows, fears, temptations, and sins of the writers are recorded for our instruction, as well as the Divine doctrine they teach. In this spiritual portrait gallery we behold the work of truthful artists. No vanity, no pride, no desire to deceive, prevented them from pourtraying themselves just as they appeared. We value the Scriptures because their truths make us wise unto salvation; but we value them also as a record of what the good and wise thought and felt during their life-struggle on this earth. The Bible is not only a revelation of God, but also a revelation of man--the most Divine and the most human book ever written. (Thomas Jones.)

Blemishes in Christians

There are MSS. which are called palimpsests--MSS, written over again. The original inscription, which was fair and full of Divine wisdom, has been defaced, and in its place may now be seen letters and words and sentences in contrast to what was contained before. And so the character of men--these great men, men born of the Spirit--over their better natures you may see scratched in ugly scrawls, obvious imperfections and failures. But, thank God, Divine grace, through discipline of various kinds, rubs out the evil and brings back the good, and causes the soul at last to reveal again most distinctly what had been only dimmed and not destroyed, even as there has been discovered a method by which the palimpsests can be made to exhibit once more what seemed for ever spoiled. (J. Stoughton, D. D.)

Truth-telling: an act of friendship

There cannot more worthy improvement of friendship than in a fervent opposition to the sins of those whom we love. (Bishop Hall.)

The truth-tellers’ reward

Years after this encounter Peter took his revenge. Having to write to the strangers scattered through “Galatia,” who through a celebrated Epistle knew of his humiliation, what does he do? Vindicate himself? State the other side? No; he calls his reprover a brother beloved, and testifies that in all his Epistles he wrote according to the wisdom given him of God.

The weakness and dissimulation of Peter

The act of which he was guilty was dissimulation; it was not what he believed to be right, but an expediency adopted in a moment of weakness. It is described--

I. As a violation of his convictions. He had commenced upon equal terms with Gentile believers, and he bad done this according to the express will of God revealed to him (Acts 10:28). These convictions had been further deepened by what had taken place in Jerusalem during Paul’s visit to that city.

II. This dissimulation was prompted by a very unworthy motive. Peter feared them which were of the circumcision. Many have made shipwreck of faith upon this same rock. How often have men been ashamed to confess Christ, or to acknowledge their connection with His people for fear of man.

III. This dissimulation was an evil example, soon copied by others--“And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.” Peter’s sin was followed by the sin of others. One of the greatest mysteries of our life is that so much of our happiness or misery appears to depend upon others. “As it sometimes happens on the snow slopes of the Alps, that one man’s slip will involve the overthrow and destruction of all his fellow-travellers, so is it with us in the moral and spiritual life. Peter drags Barnabas and the rest of the Jews with him; and in our day men too often exercise the same fatal spell on those within the region of their influence.” Lessons:

1. Honesty of belief, purpose, and work should be one of the chief laws of Christian life. This should apply to every kind of secular business, and to religion.

“This above all; to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day.

Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

2. God can preserve the truth by the few as well as by the many. Whatever may be the character of human conduct, God does not allow his purpose to fail. At Antioch Paul alone was faithful (of the Jewish believers), but the truth triumphed notwithstanding. (Richard Nicholls.)

A fearless spirit in rebuking evil strikes us with admiration

When Frederick the First, the half-mad king of Prussia, was so enraged against his son that he announced his intention of condemning him to death, even though the Emperor remonstrated, in his fury exclaiming--“Then I will hold my own court on him at Konigsberg, which is outside of the Empire, where no one can control me!” But a fearless courtier spoke out--“Only God, your majesty, will be over you there to call you to task for shedding your son’s blood!” (Dr. Hardman.)

The two contentions

Now, before we go farther, we may learn the following lessons from this personal contention between Paul and Peter: In the first place, before we withstand a brother, let us be quite sure that he is to be blamed, and that the occasion warrants our protest. Paul would not have cared to interfere, with Peter in any trivial matter; nor would he have felt constrained to move in the ease but for the handle which would be made of his peculiar vacillation just at that time. No one had a fuller comprehension of what Christian liberty involved than had Paul; and no one was more jealous of its infringement. If, therefore, he had not seen that the fundamental principle of the gospel was at stake, he would not have said a word. The thing which Peter had done was in itself indifferent; but by doing it just then, at the appearance of the Judaizers, he had compromised that truth which was dearer to Paul than friendship, or even than life, and therefore he could not be silent. Now, let us learn from this example to withstand a brother only when we are thus constrained to do so by our allegiance to the truth of the gospel. If in any respect we cannot approve his conduct, while yet it may be explained in perfect harmony with his loyalty to Christ, let us give him the benefit of the explanation, and be silent. But if his procedure is such as seriously to compromise the purity of the Church or the truth of the gospel, then let us withstand him. Nothing is more contemptible than to be always putting ourselves on the opposition benches; objecting to everything that is proposed by some particular brother, and going to a church meeting with the motive of the Scotchman for appearing in the debating society--“jist to contradic a wee.” But on the other hand, nothing ought to be dearer to a Christian than “the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which is committed to his trust.” Again, we may learn not to be deterred from opposing wrong by the position of him who has committed it. Peter was an apostle. He was, in fact, one of the greatest pillars of the early Church; but Paul was not prevented by any such considerations as these from protesting against his injudicious and unseemly vacillation. On the contrary, the very prominence of Peter made it all the more important that his inconsistency should be promptly and publicly dealt with. Had he been an ordinary member of the Church, moving only in private circles, Paul might have been disposed to pass his conduct by with a mild remonstrance. It was not, therefore, because he loved Peter less, but because he loved the truth more, that he uttered this glowing and uncompromising admonition. But the same principles hold still; error or evil is dangerous in any man, but it is far more so in a leader of the people or a minister of the gospel than in others. Great eminence may command our respect, but the truth is before all things else; and nothing whatever should be allowed by us to excuse treason to that. Once more we may learn from Paul’s conduct here that when we withstand a brother, it should be to his face. He did not go hither and thither among the elders, speaking against Peter and complaining of his course, while at the same time he kept unbroken silence concerning it to Peter himself. Let us say nothing in his absence that we would not utter in his presence; and if we have not the courage to speak to him, let us at least have the grace to be silent about him. From the conduct of Peter here, however, we may learn the no less valuable lesson that when we are thus withstood we should take it meekly, and, if we are in the wrong, should frankly own our error, and retrace our steps as rapidly as possible. We cannot doubt, therefore, that he accepted Paul’s rebuke in the spirit of meekness. Now in all this there was a magnanimity which is worthy of all praise. So far as appears, he did not become excited, and exclaim against Paul for presuming to think that he could be wrong, but he did a more difficult and a more manly thing: he acknowledged his fault. Now here was a great triumph of grace. It may seem a paradox to say it; but there are few things which test a man’s real Christianity more than reproof for that which is actually blameworthy. It is comparatively easy to guard against giving offence; but it is exceeding hard to keep from taking offence in such circumstances, and to say with the Psalmist, “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head.” We all assent to Solomon’s proverb, “Open rebuke is better than secret love.” We cry out against the modern dogma of papal infallibility, but we have all too much belief in that of our own infallibility; for our tempers are roused, and our hearts are estranged by any exposure of our error or inconsistency. How many personal alienations and ecclesiastical schisms might have been prevented, if there had been on the one side the honest frankness of Paul, and on the other the manly meekness of Peter, as these come out in this transaction! If I had my choice, I would rather see a controversy spring up in a Church about some great central doctrine than about some question of paltry detail of arrangement or of pitiful personality; for there would be less likelihood in the one case than in the other of an angry and acrimonious debate. “Little sticks kindle great fires.” The flame that would die out before it could set fire to a log will easily ignite a chip, and that may have strength enough to kindle a faggot that will at length set the log in a blaze. Take care, therefore, especially in little things, lest temper should explode, and make a painful separation between you and your friend. Admirably has the poet said:

“Alas! how light a cause may move

Dissension between those that love.”

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Grace not suddenly destructive of the old nature

The grace of God, which raises men’s hearts by degrees into conformity with the Divine image, does not suddenly destroy the old nature. St. Peter is still the same impulsive man who could now confess the Christ, and now, when troubles came, deny Him; who could follow Him bravely into danger, yet be overcome by the gossiping remark of a girl that met him by chance. We must not try this ease by the standard of Anglo-Saxon consistency. We sometimes perhaps run the risk of purchasing too dearly the favourite virtue, at the price of zeal and ardour. We are not naturally indulgent towards that impulsive nature which the great apostle, more Jewish in this than the Jews, derived from his race. Anxious to please, and to be in sympathy with those about him, he rejoiced at first in the Gentile freedom, until those came about him who were full of prejudice for their venerable law, its severe conditions of communion, its austere separation. Let us neither praise nor blame--let us only say grace has not yet wrought her perfect work in this apostle’s heart. Nor has the other great apostle yet learned all that the school of grace can teach him. Face to face, before the whole Church, he rebukes and humbles a brother whom Christ had honoured, who had laboured much, and turned many from darkness to light. He quotes it as a proof of his independence amongst the apostles, not without complacency. All this is consistent with this bold and resolute nature, which marched straight to its objects, and refused to swerve either out of respect of persons or out of fear. His steadfast resolution, that Christ should be all in all, came from above; his manner of compassing it bears clear marks of his old nature. That blessed change under the power of grace can be perhaps more fully studied in St. Paul’s career than anywhere else in the Church history. The strong, loving, fierce, harsh nature--you see the faults transformed to virtues, the angles rounded off, the strong will made obedient to the bit and bridle of love; and yet it is the same man still. You recognize the old features of the portrait, but it is transfigured by preternatural light. Again we will not praise or blame; we will rather recognize the power of the mighty Spirit of God which could use for His purposes the timid impulse of one man and the impatient zeal of another, for building up the house of God; and at the same time could take in hand the timid and the impatient natures alike, and give courage to the one and softening to the other, thus building at one time the great house of God and carving delicately each living stone of which the house is compacted. It is very common for us to look up out of our welter of troubles, our sects, and schisms, and disputations, and to see far back in the first ages nothing but peace; a united Church, offering its harmonious, universal praise; a well-drilled army, marching in obedience to a single will, a code of faith which always, everywhere, all the faithful heard, and, without questioning, believed. But, as the student draws near, the object grows more distinct, the mists disperse, the shadows separate and fall into their places; and the rose-flush of the dawn ceases to conceal the true colours of that primaeval region. Then we come to see something very different from our preconceptions, and learn--what is indeed gladness to learn--that upon the whole, in the old time as in the new, the Holy Spirit sent of the Lord has wrought in the Church in the same manner. He was a Spirit of light and life and comfort to the souls of men; but then, as now, the men were enlightened, not transformed. And the glory of God’s great work lay in this--not that the powers, wishes, and passions of the actors were petrified into a lifeless uniformity, and the superseding life from heaven took their place; but rather that, using as His instruments men so weak and perverse, He built with them the Church of God. To me, I do confess, it is a comfort to know that the Church in the first age grew by the same principles as it grows by in the nineteenth; that the very divisions amongst us have their counterparts in the age of the apostles, and that our disputes, like them, may be but permitted struggles and aberrations of us who are acting out God’s great commands, and that all the while He is making perfect the circle of His purpose and accomplishing His kingdom. The Church has grown, as all things seem to grow, by the life within her striving to perfect itself amidst opposing forces. So grows the acorn, pushing its weak shoot through hard ground, and its strength and dignity are not less that once the swinish jaws narrowly missed devouring the heart, and the swinish foot did actually trample it into the clay. So grew the liberties of the English people: are they less dear to us because they have been threatened, and at times, eclipsed in the past? So grow the mind and spirit of a man, passing through trials and efforts, even through falls, to the ripeness of a resolute, tolerant, patient, helpful age. So grew the Church of Christ; and her life is not less real, less secure, if she has passed sometimes through fears and fightings, and the deep waters of the proud have seemed to go even over her life. At one time Athanasius has had to stand against a world; at another, a Hildebrand imperils the Church by making it the supreme kingdom amongst the earthly kingdoms. Worldly motives are said to have tainted the Reformation of religion in this country: and it is true. So much the greater is our reason for blessing God: that the sweet honeycomb has come from the lion’s carcase; that amidst the strife and selfishness of kings, and the ignorance of peoples, the truth passed safely. So even now the Church is growing, and God dwelling in her gives the increase. We seem in deadly peril. There is unbelief on one side, and on the other that deadening system which would hand over the conscience to the priest, and the priest to a mediaeval theology, hostile to knowledge and incapable of change. “The waves of the sea are mighty and rage horribly, but yet the Lord that dwelleth on high is mightier.” Yet there is one more lesson which the study of the past might bring us. By the vehemence of past disputes--nay, by the bitter hatred that they have brought in, one might think that men had lost faith in the power of the Holy Ghost to keep safe the ark of God upon the stormy waters. To “withstand to the face” has been the common remedy for emergencies. It may be permitted us reverently to doubt whether the pulse of Divine life in the Church has been hastened by one beat by the violence of the zealous, who have thought well to be angry for the cause of God. Through strife, but not by strife, the Church has passed upon her way. Struggle and conflict, and even partial failure, should not convince us that God has left us: they are the heritage of the Church from the beginning. (Archbishop Thomson.)

Paul’s rebuke of Peter was

I. Just--because he was guilty of dissimulation--misled others--acted in opposition to the spirit and doctrine of Christ (verses 11-14).

II. Fearless.

without respect of Peter’s age and position--without fear of others; the offence was public, therefore the rebuke was administered before all (verse 14); otherwise our Lord’s rule is imperative (Matthew 18:15-17).

III. Pointed--“thou,” a transgressor of thine own law--enlightened and accepted in Christ (verses 14, 15).

IV. Faithful--Paul indicates the greatness of the offence as a violation of Christian uprightness (verse 14)--of fidelity to Christ, inasmuch as it was a practical denial of Him and made Him the minister of sin (verses 17, 18)--of Christian doctrine (verses 19, 20)--of God’s grace (verse 21). (J. Lyth.)

Peter at Antioch

I. His fault--dissimulation--reprehensible in any, much more in the apostle Peter (Acts 10:28).

II. The occasion of it--fear of man--which ensnares even the best.

III. The effect of it--it misled others--even Barnabas.

IV. Its gravity--it was dishonest--unchristian.

V. Its reproof--dictated by love to Christ--manly and open. (J. Lyth.)


Verses 11-18

Verse 13

Galatians 2:13

And the other Jews dissembled.

Barnabas was carried away

It is not difficult to trace here the characteristic temperament of Barnabas on its weak side. He was just that kind of disposition which makes it easy to become a partisan, to flow on with the general current, to take the complexion of surrounding opinion, and to sanction by acquiescence many things which ought to be resisted. It is not pleasant for a warm-hearted and generous man to tell his neighbours that they are all wrong. Where there is ready facility for giving and receiving confidence, and for securing co-operation, there must also be the danger of easy yielding, in order to please. But we may carry this trustful and inquiring acquiescence so far that it becomes unfaithfulness; and then harm results instead of good. The desire to make everything smooth with everybody is to be most resolutely resisted. If our end is to save souls we shall often find resistance a duty; and certainly the tolerating of erroneous human admixtures with revealed truth is not the way to save souls. (Dean Howson.)

The influence of pernicious example

As it sometimes happens on the snow slopes of the Alps that one man’s slip will involve the overthrow and destruction of all his fellow-travellers, so it is in the spiritual life. Peter drags Barnabas and the rest of the Jews with him; and in our own day men too often exercise the same fatal spell on those within the region of their influence. (S. Pearson, M. A.)

Dissimulation

This is hypocrisy--not simply for a man to deceive others, knowing all the while that he is deceiving them, but to deceive himself and others at the same time; to aim at their praise by a religious profession, without perceiving that he loves their praise more than the praise of God. (J. H. Newman, D. D.)

The hypocrite sets his watch not by the sun, i.e., the Bible, but by the town clock; what most do he will do. (Gurnall.)

Influence of unfaithful leaders

When a number of ships are moored, or anchored, or buoyed in the river, all have an interest in the safety of each. If some of those that lie farther seaward break off from their moorings, and drift up with wind and tide, they will run foul of us as we lie secure in the channel farther up. The drifting ships may sink, but they will drag others down. (D. Guthrie.)

Dissimulation is

I. Sinful.

II. Infectious.

III. Totally inconsistent with Christian character, (J. Lyth.)


Verse 14-15

Galatians 2:14-15

But when I saw that they walked not uprightly.

Moral shuffling

I. Its nature.

1. Literally--not to walk on straight feet, i.e., erect, or straightforwardly.

2. Morally.

II. Its relation to the gospel. It is “not according to its truth.”

1. In the letter.

2. In the spirit.

III. Its motives.

1. Aversion to unpleasantness.

2. Desire to be agreeable all round.

3. Hope by its means to get over a temporary difficulty.

IV. Its consequences.

1. It deceives the very elect, “even Barnabas.”

2. It involves others in deplorable inconsistencies.

V. Its inexcusableness (Galatians 2:15-16).

1. Knowledge and experience are against it.

2. Spiritual privileges render it unnecessary.

3. God’s Word has condemned the doing of evil that good may come.

VI. The duty of the truth-lover with reference to it. To rebuke it in--

1. The most eminent.

2. The most esteemed.

Straightforwardness

has been defined as a mixture of sincerity and simplicity, and is well illustrated by an anecdote of Bishop Atterbury. On one occasion he was asked why he would not suffer his servants to deny him when he did not care to see company. “It is not a lie for them to say that you are not at home, for it deceives no one; every one knows that it only means that your lordship is busy.” He replied, “If it is (which I doubt) consistent with sincerity, yet I am sure it is not consistent with that simplicity which becomes a bishop.” But the fine nervous Saxon word aptly explains the virtue for which it stands. It is rectitude in motion, movement in a right direction in spite of all inducements to swerve, movement on that straight line which in morals as in mathematics is the shortest distance between two points.

The grave question at issue

There was no question of charity here, but a question of principle. To eat with the Gentiles was either right or wrong. In the light of the gospel it was right; but to shilly-shally on the matter and to let it depend on the presence or absence of certain people was clearly wrong. It was monstrous that a Gentile convert should at one time be treated as a brother, and at another shunned as though he were a Pariah. (F. H. Farrar.)

Eating with the Gentiles

This involved concessions of the nature of which it is almost impossible for us at this distance to conceive. It was to the Jew what the breaking of caste is to the Hindoo, as startling, in some respects, as though in our own country peers and working men were found to be working daily on the most friendly terms, (S. Pearson, M. A.)

Law versus gospel

Many have the gospel, but not the truth of the gospel. So Paul saith here, that Peter, Barnabas, and other of the Jews, had the gospel, but walked not uprightly according to the gospel. For, albeit they preached the gospel, yet, through their dissimulation (which could not stand with the truth of the gospel) they established the law; but the establishing of the law is the abolishing of the gospel. Whoso then can rightly judge between the law and the gospel, let him thank God, and know that he is a right divine. Now the way to discern the one from the other, is to place the gospel in heaven, and the law on earth; to call the righteousness of the gospel heavenly, and that of the law earthly; and to put as great difference between the righteousness of the gospel and of the law as God hath made between heaven and earth, light and darkness, day and night. Wherefore, if the question be concerning the matter of faith or conscience, let us utterly exclude the law, and leave it on the earth; but, if we have to do with works, then let us lighten the lantern of works and of the righteousness of the law. Wherefore, if thy conscience be terrified with the sense and feeling of sin, think thus with thyself: Thou art now remaining upon earth; there let the ass labour and travail; there let him serve and carry the burden that is laid upon him; that is to say, let the body with his members be subject to the law. But when thou mountest up into heaven, then leave the ass with his burden on the earth; for the conscience hath nothing to do with the law, or works, or with the earthly righteousness. So doth the ass remain in the valley, but the conscience ascendeth with Isaac into the mountain, knowing nothing at all of the law or works thereof, but only looking to the remission of sins and pure righteousness offered and freely given unto us in Christ. (Luther.)

Unswerving integrity

Bishop Hooper was condemned to be burned at Gloucester, in Queen Mary’s reign. A gentleman, with the view of inducing him to recant, said to him, “Life is sweet, and death is bitter.” Hooper replied, “The death to come is more bitter, and the life to come more sweet. I am come hither to end this life, and suffer death, because I will not gainsay the truth I have here formerly taught you.” When brought to the stake, a box, with a pardon from the queen in it, was set before him. The determined martyr cried out, “If you love my soul, away with it! if you love my soul, away with it!” (Foster.)

Fidelity

A man gave his two infant children in charge of a negro slave, to be by him cared for, and taken to a distant port. The ship was wrecked, and had to be abandoned. The boats were nearly full. The slave had his choice to leave the children, or himself be left. He kissed them; bade the sailors take good care of them, and tell his master of his faithfulness; and soon went bravely down with the foundering ship. (Foster.)

Swerving from the truth

1. The multitude of those who swerve from truth should not make truth seem less lovely to others, or damp their ardour in defending it against error. Though truth should be deserted by all except one only, yet is it worthy to be owned, stood to, and defended by that one, against all who oppose it.

2. It is the duty of all professors to walk so, both in the matter of opinion and practice, as is suitable to, and well agreeing with, the sincere truth of God held out in the gospel; holding nothing which is even indirectly contrary to it, and practising nothing which may reflect upon it. When they halt, or walk not with a straight foot in either of those, they are blameworthy.

3. When many are guilty of one and the same sin, the minister of Jesus Christ ought to reprove wisely and without respect of persons; making the weight of the reproof light upon them, as they have been more or less accessory to the sin.

4. Though private sins, which have not broken forth to a public scandal of many, are to be rebuked in private (Matthew 18:15), yet public sins are to receive public rebukes, that hereby the public scandal may be removed, and others may be scared from taking encouragement to do the like (1 Timothy 5:20).

5. Though the binding power of the ceremonial law was abrogated at Christ’s death, and the practice thereof, in some things at least, left as a thing lawful and in itself indifferent unto all for a time after that, yet the observance thereof, even for that time, was dispensed with more for the Jews’ sake, and was more tolerable in them who were born and educated under the binding power of that yoke, than in the Gentiles, to whom that law was never given, and so were to observe it, or any part of it, only in ease of scandalising the weak Jews by their neglect of it (Romans 14:20-21).

6. A minister must not take liberty of practice to himself in things which he condemns in others.

7. It is no small sin for superiors to bind where the Lord has left free, by urging upon their inferiors the observing of a thing, in its own nature indifferent, as necessary; except it be in those cases wherein the Lord, by those circumstances which accompany it, points it out as necessary; e.g., cases of scandal (Acts 15:28-29), and contempt (1 Corinthians 14:40).

8. In the primitive times of the Christian Church, the people of God did wonderfully subject themselves to the ministry of the Word in the head of His servants, and much more than people now do; for if the actions of the apostles compelled men to do this or that, as Peter’s action did compel the Gentiles, what then did their doctrine and heavenly exhortations? (James Fergusson.)

Inconsistency reproved

I. That the gospel supplies the rule of life.

II. To depart from the rule of gospel truth is to become inconsistent in the Christian life.

III. Such inconsistency calls for reproof.

1. That reproofs are sometimes necessary. An earthly life is ever an imperfect one, and the best men may in unguarded moments fall into grievous errors.

2. They should be given with faithfulness, yet in love. No ties of private friendship should prevent sin being reproved, and where the sin has been committed openly, it should be reproved openly--Burkitt. Yet there should be no personal reproaches, but the manifestations of brotherly love. (R. Nicholls.)


Verse 16

Galatians 2:16

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law.

Christian doctrine of justification

I. Justification is properly a word applicable to courts of justice, but is used in a similar sense in common conversation among men. An illustration will show its nature. A man is charged, e.g., with an act of trespass on his neighbour’s property. Now there are two ways which he may take to justify himself, or to meet the charge, so as to be regarded and treated as innocent. He may either

II. Charges of a very serious nature are brought against man by his Maker. It is not a charge merely affecting the external conduct, nor merely affecting the heart; it is a charge of entire alienation from God--a charge, in short, of total depravity (see especially Romans 1:1-32; Romans 2:1-29; Romans 3:1-31.). That this charge is a very serious one, no one can doubt; that it deeply affects the human character and standing, is as clear. It is a charge brought in the Bible; and God appeals, in proof of it, to the history of the world, to every man’s conscience, and to the life of every one who has lived; and on these facts, and on His own power in searching the hearts, and in knowing what is in man, He rests the proof of the charge.

III. It is impossible for man to vindicate himself from: this charge. He can neither show that the things charged have not been committed, nor that, having been committed, he had a right to do them. He cannot prove that God is not right in all the charges He has made against him in His Word; and he cannot prove that it was right for him to do as he has done. The charges against him are facts which are undeniable, and the facts are such as cannot be vindicated. But if he can do neither of these things, then he cannot be justified by the law. The law will not acquit him; it holds him guilty; it condemns him. No argument which he can use will show that he is right, and that God is wrong. No works that he can perform will be any compensation for what he has already done. No denial of the existence of the facts charged will alter the case; and he must stand condemned by the law of God. In the legal sense he cannot be justified; and justification, if it can exist at all, must be in a mode that is a departure from the regular operation of law, and in a mode which the law did not contemplate, for no law makes any provision for the pardon of those who violate it. It must be by some system which is distinct from the law, and in which man may be justified on different principles than those which the law contemplates.

IV. This other system of justification is that which is revealed in the gospel by the faith of the Lord Jesus. It does not consist in either of the following things:

1. It is not a system or plan where the Lord Jesus takes the part of the sinner against the law, or against God. He did not come to show that the sinner was right, and that God was wrong. He admitted most fully, and endeavoured constantly to show, that God was right, and that the sinner was wrong; nor can an instance be referred to where the Saviour took the part of the sinner against God, in any such sense that He endeavoured to show that the sinner had not done the things charged on him, or that he had a right to do them.

2. It is not that we either are, or are declared to he, innocent. God justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5). We are not innocent; we never have been; we never shall be; and it is not the design of the scheme to declare any such untruth as that we are not personally undeserving. It will be always true that the justified sinner has no claims to the mercy and favour of God.

3. It is not that we cease to be undeserving personally. He that is justified by faith, and that goes to heaven, will go there admitting that he deserves eternal death, and that he is saved wholly by favour, and not by desert.

4. It is not a declaration on the part of God that we have wrought out salvation, or that we have any claim for what the Lord Jesus has done. Such a declaration would not be true, and could not be made.

5. It is not that the righteousness of the Lord Jesus is transferred to His people. Moral character cannot be transferred. It adheres to the moral agent as much as colour does to the rays of light which cause it. It is not true that we died for sin, and it cannot be so reckoned or imputed. It is not true that we have any merit, or any claim, and it cannot be so reckoned or imputed. All the imputations of God are according to truth; and He will always reckon us to be personally undeserving and sinful. But if justification be none of these things, it may be asked, What is it? It is the declared purpose of God to regard and treat those sinners who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as if they had not sinned, on the ground of the merits of the Saviour. (Albert Barnes, D. D.)

Justification of sinners

Justification has been defined to be an act of God s free grace, wherein He pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His right;” or, “to declare judicially the innocence of the person justified” (see Deuteronomy 25:1; 1 Kings 8:32; Matthew 12:37; Romans 8:33). The gist of St. Paul’s argument with St. Peter is as follows: “If thou, being a Jew, livest, as thy usual habit, as a Gentile, how is it that thou art compelling the Gentiles to adopt Jewish customs as necessary to salvation? We truly are by nature Jews, and not sinners from among the Gentiles; we are not only not Gentiles but not even proselytes; we are of pure Jewish descent, and so enjoy the highest spiritual privileges; but yet, since we know that no man is justified by the works of the law, nor in any manner except through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed in Jesus Christ in order that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law; for it is a certain truth, that by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” Here we have--

I. The absolute exclusion of works from the office of justifying.

1. Heavy charges are brought against man by his Maker. He is charged

2. It is impossible for man to vindicate himself from these charges.

II. The office of justifying is ascribed to faith only.

1. The principal cause of our justification is the love of God the Father.

2. The meritorious cause is the active and passive obedience, the perfect righteousness and vicarious death, of God the Son.

3. The efficient cause is the operation of God the Holy Ghost.

4. The instrumental cause is faith in Christ. (Emilius Bayley, B. D.)

The nature of justification

1. Justification is not the Lord’s making one who was before unjust to be just by works of habitual and inherent righteousness in him. This is to confound justification with sanctification. But it is a judicial action, whereby God absolves the sinner from death and wrath, and adjudges him to life eternal: for the word expressing this grace here, is a judicial word taken from courts of justice, which being attributed to the judge, is opposed to condemn (Romans 8:33-34), and so signifies to absolve and give sentence.

2. The ground whereupon, and the cause for which sinners are thus justified or absolved from wrath, and adjudged to life eternal, is not any works which they do in obedience to the law of God, whether ceremonial or moral; for works are excluded, and faith alone established.

3. The works which are excluded from having hand in justification, are not only those which are done before conversion, but also which follow after, and flow from the working of God’s Spirit in us: even those works are imperfect (Isaiah 64:6), and so cannot make us completely righteous; and we do owe them to God in the meantime (Luke 17:10), and so they cannot satisfy Divine justice for faults in time past. They are the work of God’s Spirit in us (Philippians 2:13), and so we can merit nothing at God’s hand by them: for He excludes the works of the law in general.

4. That, through virtue whereof we are thus justified and absolved by God, is the righteousness of Jesus Christ, performed by Himself while He was here on earth, both in doing what we should have done (Matthew 3:15), and suffering what we ought to have suffered (Galatians 3:15); which righteousness is not inherent in us, but imputed to us (Romans 5:17); as the sum of money paid by the cautioner stands good in law for the debtor, so we are said to be justified by the faith of Christ, or faith in Jesus Christ, as laying hold upon His righteousness, which is imputed to us, and by which alone we are made righteous.

5. Though faith be not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, yet it is the only grace which has influence in our justification.

6. Faith has influence upon our justification, not as it is a work, or because of anyworth which is in itself more than in any other grace, but only as it lays hold on Jesus Christ, and gives us a right to His righteousness, through the merit whereof alone we are justified.

7. This way of justification by free grace accepting of us for the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and not because of our own worth, is common to all who ever were, are, or shall be justified, whether good or bad.

8. Before man be justified through virtue of this imputed righteousness, he must first be convinced of his own utter inability to satisfy Divine justice, and so to be justified by anything he himself can do.

9. He must be convinced also of the value of Christ’s merits to satisfy Divine justice.

10. Being thus convinced, he must by faith receive and rest upon Jesus Christ and that most perfect righteousness of His, by making his soul adhere and cleave to the word of promise, wherein Christ is offered (Acts 2:39; Acts 2:41), whereupon follows the real justification and absolution of him who so does. (James Fergusson.)

Self-righteousness destroyed

The squirrel in his wire cage, continually in motion but making no progress, reminds me of my own self-righteous efforts after salvation, but the little creature is never one-half so wearied by his exertions as I was by mine. The poor chiffonier in Paris trying to earn a living by picking dirty rags out of the kennel, succeeds far better than I did in my attempts to obtain comfort by my own works. Dickens’s cab-horse, which was only able to stand because it was never taken out of the shafts, was strength and beauty itself compared with my starveling hopes propped up with resolutions and regulations. Wretches condemned to the galleys of the old French kings, whose only reward for incessant toils was the lash of the keeper, were in a more happy plight than I when under legal bondage. Slavery in mines where the sun never shines must be preferable to the miseries of a soul goaded by an awakened conscience to seek salvation by its own merits. Some of the martyrs were shut up in a dungeon called Little-ease; the counterpart of that prison-house I well remember. Iron chains are painful enough, but what is the pain when the iron enters into the soul? Tell us not of the writhings of the wounded and dying on the battle-field; some of us, when our heart was riddled by the artillery of the law, would have counted wounds and death a happy exchange. O blessed Saviour, how blissful was the hour when all this horrid midnight of the soul was changed into the day-dawn of pardoning love! (C. H. Spurgeon.)

On justifying righteousness in connection with true faith

I. The doctrine of justification.

1. Guard here against two errors:

2. That we may attach distinct ideas to the word, “justification,” it is necessary for us to consider it in reference to the attributes and revealed will of the Divine Lawgiver.

3. Justification is vouchsafed to rebellious men on precisely the same ground as if they had continued steadfast and immoveable in their allegiance.

4. Justification includes pardon of sin, whether original or actual, and acceptance as righteous. Both are due to the voluntary substitution of the Son of God in our nature, who, by active obedience, fulfilled the law to the uttermost; and by penal suffering redeemed us from its curse.

II. The nature of the faith by which we are justified.

1. Its Divine origin. Like every other good gift, it comes from above; is implanted in the soul by the Holy Spirit, without whose omnipotent agency mankind are never withdrawn from a vain confidence in human deservings.

2. Its appropriating character. In the experience of the true believer, faith must attach itself to Christ as a Redeemer sufficient not only for other sinners, but all-sufficient for him; it must lay hold on His doings and sufferings, as supplying him with a sure ground of confidence.

3. The faith which is connected with justification is inseparably conjoined with all other Christian graces. Grievous mistakes have proceeded in consequence of men putting asunder things which God has joined together in the bonds of sacred union. Thus, faith has been often viewed as a simple act of the understanding conversant with certain doctrines, whilst its relation to the affections of the heart and the virtues of character has been greatly overlooked.

III. The evidences which scripture furnishes of a justified condition.

1. Indications of which we are personally conscious (Acts 24:16; 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:19; 1 Peter 3:16, etc.).

2. External manifestations which our temper, converse, and ordinary transactions supply (Philippians 4:8). (John Smyth, D. D.)

Justification and its method

I. The nature of justification. It includes--

1. The pardon of sin (Acts 13:38-39; Romans 4:5; Romans 4:8). Thus God remits the penalties of sin. “Upon this ground of a moral concurrence in the mind of the sinner with the reasons and intentions of the Redeemer’s sufferings, God is graciously willing to remit the punishment of sin, in its greatest and most awful inflictions, those which are spiritual and eternal.”

2. The enjoyment of the favour of God. God’s declaration of pardon is not in word only, but also in power. “It is not a mere judgment in words, but is also a judgment in deeds, i.e., the favour of God to any one shows itself in actual blessing.” The possession of this blessing secures a happiness that is pure, perfect, and abiding.

But to guard this doctrine from abuse it is necessary to remember--

1. That it does not mean that Christ has taken the part of the sinner against the law or against God. None ever gave such honour to the law as Christ did.

2. Those who are justified are not thereby declared to be innocent. “God justifies the ungodly.” Sin remains the same, and although its penalty has been remitted by an act of grace, the pardoned should come before Gad with the most profound humiliation (Ezekiel 16:62-63).

3. Justification depends upon personal trust. God does not save the careless or the unbelieving, or those who cease to confide in Him.

II. The method of justification. “To have a complete view of this method we must consider the originating, the meritorious, and the instrumental cause of justification.”

1. The originating cause is the love of God (John 3:16; Titus 3:4-5).

2. The meritorious cause is the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. His life was absolutely holy. In Him there was no sin. Yet He suffered, as none had ever suffered before; but He suffered for the guilty, the just for the unjust. “It is entirely agreeable to the dictates of reason and justice that the perfect righteousness of another (if such could be found) should be available, under a constitution of Divine mercy, to procure the pardon and acceptance as righteous of sinful beings, who are otherwise under an absolute incapacity of obtaining these blessings.” It is manifest that all the conditions essential to a Redeemer have been fulfilled by Christ (Romans 3:21; Romans 3:26).

3. The instrumental cause of justification is faith. “We are justified by the faith of Christ.”

The faith which justifies has been defined as including “three distinct but concurrent exertions of the mind.”

1. The assent of the understanding to the truth of the testimony of God in the gospel.

2. The consent of the wilt and affections to the plan of salvation; such an approbation and choice of it as imply a renunciation of every other refuge, and a steady and decided adherence to this.

3. Actual trust in the Saviour and personal apprehension of His merits. Faith that justifies is a “sincere, active, affectionate receiving and resting upon the testimony of the Scriptures concerning the Lord Jesus Christ as a Divine and complete Saviour.” But it must be remembered that faith is not a meritorious condition, but simply that by which the soul embraces Christ and enters into union with him.

Lessons:

1. Justification cannot be attained by any human work. The most highly-privileged have to submit to be saved by grace. The works of the law cannot justify. If obedience to moral rule cannot merit pardon, how much less can ritual or ceremony?

2. Faith in Christ is the only way of salvation of which the gospel speaks; to reject Christ therefore must leave all the burden of sin upon the individual conscience. (R. Nicholls.)

Definition of a Christian

We make this definition of a Christian: that a Christian is not he which hath no sin, but he to whom God imputeth not his sin, through faith in Christ. This doctrine bringeth great consolation to poor afflicted consciences in serious and inward terrors. It is not without good cause, therefore, that we do so often repeat and beat into your minds, the forgiveness of sins and imputation of righteousness for Christ’s sake: also that a Christian hath nothing to do with the law and sin, especially in the time of temptation. For in that he is a Christian, he is above the law and sin. For he hath Christ the Lord of the law present and enclosed in his heart, even as a ring hath a jewel or precious stone enclosed in it. Therefore, when the law accuseth and sin terrifieth him, he looketh upon Christ, and when he hath apprehended Him by faith, he hath present with him the Conqueror of the law, sin, death, and the devil; who reigneth and ruleth over them, so that they cannot hurt him. Wherefore a Christian man, if ye define him rightly, is free from all laws, and is not subject unto any creature, either within or without: in that he is a Christian, I say, and not in that he is a man or a woman; that is to say, in that he hath his conscience adorned and beautified with this faith, this great and inestimable treasure, this unspeakable gift which cannot be magnified and praised enough, for it maketh us the children and heirs of God. And by this means a Christian is greater than the whole world; for he hath such a gift, such a treasure in his heart, that although it seemeth to be but little, yet notwithstanding the smallness thereof, is greater than heaven and earth, because Christ, which is this gift, is greater. (Luther.)

The Christian’s righteousness derived from Christ

The righteousness wherein we must be found, if we will be justified, is not our own … Christ hath merited righteousness for as many as are found in Him. In Him God findeth us, if we be faithful; for by faith we are incorporated into Him. Then, although in ourselves we be altogether sinful and unrighteous, yet even the man who in himself is impious, full of iniquity, full of sin; him being found in Christ through faith, and having his sin in hatred through repentance; him God beholdeth with a gracious eye, putting away his sin by not imputing it, taketh quite away the punishment due thereunto by pardoning it; and accepteth him in Jesus Christ, as perfectly righteous, as if he had fulfilled all that is commanded him in the law: shall I say more perfectly righteous than if himself had fulfilled the whole law! I must take heed what I say: but the apostle saith, “God made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” Such we are in the sight of God the Father, as is the very Son of God Himself. Let it be counted folly, or frenzy, or fury, or whatsoever. It is our wisdom, and our comfort; we care for no knowledge in the world but this, that man hath sinned, and God hath suffered; that God hath made Himself the sin of men, and that men are made the righteousness of God. (Richard Hooker.)

Faith alone justifies

Suppose I say, “A tree cannot be struck without thunder”; that is true: for there is never destructive lightning without thunder. But again, if I say, “The tree was struck by lightning without thunder, that is true too, if mean that the lightning alone struck it without the thunder striking it. Yet read the two assertions, and they seem contradictory. So, in the same way, St. Paul says, “Faith justifies without works”; i.e., faith alone is that which justifies us, not works. But St. James says, “Not a faith which is without works.” There will be works with faith, as there is thunder with lightning; but just as it is not the thunder, but the lightning (the lightning without the thunder) that strikes the tree: so it is not the works which justify. Put it in one sentence: Faith alone justifies, but not the faith which is alone. Lightning alone strikes, but not the lightning which is alone without thunder, for that is only summer lightning, and harmless. (F. W. Robertson. , M. A.)

Faith unites to Christ

As the graft is kept in union with the stock by means of the clay which has been applied by the gardener, so is the believer united to Christ by faith, which is the gift of God. The clay cement keeps the parts together, but has no virtue in itself: so faith is the means of union with Christ; it shows that the husbandman has been there. When the clay is removed in an ordinary tree, the graft is found united to the stock; so, when faith is swallowed up in sight, then the perfect union of Christ and His people is seen. (J. H. Balfour.)

Faith an instrument

Faith is technically called the instrumental cause of our justification. It is not therefore faith that justifies, but Christ: faith is the hand that grasps Him. The trust of some is in a strong faith, of others in certain frames and feelings; but both of these err in their mode of looking at salvation. In so far as they look not to Christ, in His life and death, as the one only Justifier, they will surely suffer damage to their spiritual life. (J. G. Pilkington.)

Faith a venture

Faith is nothing else but the soul’s venture It ventures to Christ, in opposition to all legal terrors. It ventures on Christ, in opposition to our guiltiness. It ventures for Christ, in opposition to all difficulties and discouragements. (W. Bridge.)

Justification by faith

Why hath God appointed the eye to see, and not the ear? Why the hand to take our food, rather than the foot? It is easily answered: Because those members have a particular fitness for these functions, and not the other. Thus faith hath a fitness for the work of justification peculiar to itself. We are justified, not by giving anything to God--what we do--but by receiving from God, what Christ hath done for us. Now faith is the only receiving grace, and therefore only fit for this office. (W. Gurnall.)

How faith justifies

Some make works their righteousness; some make faith their righteousness; and they walk in this faith, not in Christ by faith; but it is not faith that saves merely, but Christ received by faith. As it is not the laying on the plaster that heals the sore, but the plaster itself that is laid on; so it is not our faith, or receiving of Christ, but Christ received by faith, that saves us. It is not our looking to the brazen serpent mystical, but the mystical brazen serpent looked upon by faith--Christ received by faith--that saves us. (Erskine.)

The justifying power of faith

Faith is receiving Christ into our emptiness. There is Christ like the conduit in the market-place. As the water flows from the pipes, so does grace continually flow from Him. By faith I bring my empty pitcher and hold it where the water flows, and receive of its fulness grace for grace. It is not the beauty of my pitcher, it is not even its cleanness that quenches my thirst: it is simply holding that pitcher to the place where water flows. Even so I am but the vessel, and my faith is the hand which presents the empty vessel to the flowing stream. Is it not grace, and not the qualification of the receiver which saves the soul? And though I hold that pitcher with a trembling hand, and much of that which I seek may be lost through my weakness, yet if the soul be but held to the fountain, that so much as a single drop trickle into it, my soul is saved. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

No safety in our works

In the twenty-eighth year of the Emperor Tan Kwang, the rise of the river Yangtze was higher than it had been for a hundred years or more. The loss of property was incalculable. Old Doctor Tat, who well remembers the occurrence, gave me the account. “Were there many lives lost?” I asked. “Numbers,” said he. “It was something like obtaining salvation from sin,” he continued. “The rich, who had well-built houses, trusted to them, and went to the upper story, thinking themselves safe. But the flood increased. The foundations gave away; and the house to which they trusted, fell and buried them in its ruins, or in a watery grave. But the poor, knowing that their mud-built huts could not stand the rising flood, fled in time to the neighbouring hills; and though they lost all, yet they themselves were saved.”

Faith is trusting God

Some time ago I remember reading of an incident that occurred between a prince in a foreign land and one of his subjects. This man for rebellion against the government was going to be executed. He was taken to the guillotine block. When the poor fellow reached the place of execution he was trembling with fear. The prince was present and asked him if he wished anything before judgment was carried out. The culprit replied: “A glass of water.” It was brought to him, but he was so nervous he couldn’t drink it. “Do not fear,” said the prince to him, “judgment will not be carried out till you drink that water,” and in an instant the glass was dashed to the ground and broken into a thousand pieces. He took that prince at his word.

Not justified by the works of the law

I. The means of justification here rejected.

II. The means acknowledged and exhibited. Faith--

1. In what.

2. In what sense.

3. To what extent.

Learn:

1. That guilt does not prevent justification.

2. No circumstances constitute an exception to the mode of justification.

3. Justification is within the reach of all who can believe. (S. Martin.)

I. Justification.

1. It includes--

2. It is grounded on obedience to the law--

II. The Instrument Of justification--Faith. (J. C. Jones.)

The causes of justification

I. The meritorious cause--Christ.

II. The instrumental cause--Faith. The faith of Christ.

1. The faith which Christ makes possible.

2. The faith which Christ gives.

3. The faith which Christ receives.

4. The faith through which Christ comes.

5. The faith by which Christ works.

6. The faith which Christ will crown.

The works of the law here (Romans 3:20) and elsewhere are undoubtedly the works required generally by the law of the old covenant--not ceremonial as contradistinguished from moral, nor moral as contradistinguished from ceremonial--but whatever of one kind and another it imposed in the form of precept--the law, in short, as a rule of right and wrong laid in its full compass on the consciences of men; but pre-eminently, of course, the law of the Ten Commandments, which lay at the heart of the whole, and was its pervading root and spirit. By deeds of conformity to this law they knew that they could not be justified, because they had not kept it. (Fairbairn.)

The impossibility of justification by the works of the law

Because--

I. Man is flesh.

1. Depraved by natural corruption.

2. Obnoxious by actual transgression.

II. His best obedience is necessarily imperfect.

III. All he does or can do is a due debt owing to the law.

1.

He owes all possible obedience to the law as a creature.

2. But by performing his obligation as a creature he can never pay his debts as a transgressor.

IV. Christ alone is able to justify him. (J. Vaughan.)

The law abolished

The superiority of the Judaic ritual over the heathen arose from its being the shadow of good things to come. But it had now fulfilled its task, and ought to be allowed to drop away. It is not for the sake of the calyx, but for the sake of the corolla that we cultivate the flower, and the calyx may drop away when the flower is fully blown. To cling to the shadow when it had been superseded by the substance was to reverse the order of God. (F. W. Farrar.)

In a sermon preached at York Minster shortly after the death of the late Dean (Augustus Duncombe) Canon Body said:

“A few days before his departure I was by his bedside, and in course of conversation alluded to his work for the Church, and the brave way he contended for the faith. He stopped me, saying, ‘Say nothing of that. When you are where I am now you will see nothing will bear looking at of one’s own. There is only one trust then, the infinite mercies of the Saviour: I said, True, it is peace, is it not, with you now: He replied, ‘Perfect peace, thank God, perfect peace.’”

Justification impossible by the law

I. All men have sinned-are consequently under the sentence of the law.

II. The office of the law is not to acquit the sinner--but to detect--expose--and condemn his sin.

III. The works of the law only avail for the innocent--the works of a sinner are defective in principle and extent--cannot possibly reverse or atone for the past.

IV. All a sinner can expect from the law is aggravated punishment--his sins multiply--become more sinful by the rejection of Christ. (J. Lyth.)

The end and design of the Jewish law

We may proceed to observe more particularly that the apostle, designing on one hand to magnify the gospel by setting forth its sufficiency to salvation, and on the other hand to demonstrate the insufficiency and unnecessariness of the ceremonial observances of the Jewish law, does all along make use of such terms to express the Christian and Jewish religion by, as may best serve to set forth the excellency of the one, and diminish the opinion which men had taken up of the necessity of the other. And,

1. Because the first and most fundamental duty of the gospel is believing in God, and believing that most perfect revelation of His will which He has made to mankind by our Saviour Jesus Christ; whereas, on the contrary, the principal part of that religion which the Judaizing Christians so earnestly contended for was an anxious observance of the burdensome rites of the ceremonial law; therefore the apostle calls the Christian religion “faith,” and the Jewish religion the law (Romans 3:28). Do we then, as some men object, by our preaching up the Christian religion, disannul and make void the law of God or that revelation of His will which He made to the Jews? No, we are so far from that, that by introducing Christianity we establish, confirm, and perfect the moral and immutable part of the law much more effectually than the Jewish ceremonies were able to do.

2. Because the Christian religion teaches us to expect salvation not from our own merits, but from the grace of God, that is, according to the terms of that new and gracious covenant wherein God has promised to accept of sincere repentance and amendment, instead of perfect unsinning obedience; whereas, on the contrary, the Jews depended upon their exact performance of the works of the law; therefore the apostle calls the Christian religion “grace,” and the Jewish he styles “works” (Romans 11:5-6).

3. Because the duties of the Christian religion are almost wholly moral and spiritual, respecting the inward disposition of the heart and mind; whereas on the contrary the ceremonies of the Jewish law were for the most part external; and as the Apostle to the Hebrews styles them, carnal ordinances, respecting chiefly the outward purification of the body; therefore the apostle calls the Christian religion “spirit,” and the Jewish he styles “flesh.” Thus in the Epistle to the Romans 8:3,

4. Thus also in the Epistle to the Galatians 3:3; “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” i.e., Are ye so weak as to think, that after ye have embraced the gospel of Christ, ye can become yet more perfect by observing the ceremonies of the Jewish law. First, The Jewish religion having proved insufficient to make men truly holy, as natural religion also had before done, there was therefore a necessity of setting up another institution of religion, which might be more available and effectual to that end. Now the setting up a new institution of religion, necessarily implying the abolishing of the old, it follows that Christianity was not to be added to Judaism, but that Judaism was to be changed into Christianity, i.e., that the Jewish religion was from thenceforward to cease, and the Christian religion to succeed in its room. This argument the apostle insists upon in chaps, 1., 2., 5., 6., and 7. to the Romans, and in chaps, 1. and 4. to the Galatians. The Jewish law was an institution of religion adapted by God in great condescension to the weak apprehensions of that people; but when the fulness of time was come, God sent His Son Jesus Christ to institute a more perfect form of religion, after the settlement of which in the world the former dispensation was to cease. And that it must needs do so, is evident also from the nature of the thing itself; for as after remission of sin obtained by the sufficient sacrifice of Christ, there needed no more legal sacrifices to be offered for sin; so in all other its ritual parts, the first covenant was in course taken away by establishing the second; there being necessarily a dis-annulling of the commandment going before, for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof (Hebrews 7:18). That, Secondly, The sum and essence of all religion is obedience to the moral and eternal law of God. Since therefore the ceremonies of the Jewish law were never of any esteem in the sight of God, any otherwise than as they promoted this great end, and prepared men’s hearts for the reception of that more perfect institution of religion, wherein God was to be worshipped and obeyed in spirit and in truth; ‘tis manifest that when this more perfect institution of religion was settled, the former and more imperfect one was to cease. This argument the apostle insists on in the second chapter to the Romans, and in the third to the Galatians. Thirdly, The religion of Abraham was acceptable to God, before the giving of the law; the Scripture saying expressly that the gospel was preached before unto Abraham: and consequently it could not but be acceptable likewise, after the abolishing of the law. Lastly, That by the posterity of Abraham, were not meant strictly those who descended from Abraham according to the flesh; but the children of the promise (that is, as many as are of the faith of Abraham) shall be counted for the seed. That the true religion therefore, and the service of God, was not to be confined always to the nation of the Jews, who were the posterity of Abraham according to the flesh; but the Gentiles also, which believe, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith; that is, those of all nations as well Gentiles as Jews, who embrace the gospel, which is the same with the religion of Abraham, shall be justified with faithful Abraham. And this argument the apostle insists upon in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, and in the fourth to the Galatians. And now from what has been said, I shall, in order to practice, draw two or three useful inferences; and so conclude. And,

1. From hence it appears, that though the essence of religion be eternally and immutably the same, yet the form and institution of it may be and often has been changed. The essence of all religion is obedience to that moral and eternal law, which obliges us to imitate the life of God in justice, mercy, and holiness, that is, to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. But though religion itself be thus immutably the same, yet the form and institution thereof may be different. When natural religion, because of its difficulty and obscurity in the present corrupt estate of human nature, proved ineffectual to make men truly religious; God left them no longer to the guidance of their reason only, but gave them first the Patriarchal and afterwards the Mosaic dispensation; and when this also, by reason of its being burdened with so many ritual observances, proved ineffectual to the same great end, God abolished this form of religion also, and instituted the Christian. In all which proceeding there is no reflection at all upon the immutable nature of God: for as the Divine nature is in the truest and highest sense unchangeable, so religion itself in its nature and essence is likewise unchangeable; but as the capacities, the prejudices, and the circumstances of men are different; so the institution and outward form of that religion, which in its essence is always the same, may be and hath been changed by the good pleasure of God.

2. If the whole and only design of St. Paul, in these Epistles to the Romans and Galatians, be to prove that God hath indeed made this change of the institution of religion from the Jewish to the Christian, and to vindicate His justice in so doing, then we ought never so to understand any passages in these Epistles, as if the apostles designed to magnify one Christian virtue in opposition to all or any of the rest; but only that he would set forth the perfection of the virtues of the Christian religion without the ceremonies of the Jewish. Thus when he tells us that we are justified by faith without works, we must by no means interpret it, as some have absurdly done, of the faith of the Christian religion in opposition to the works of the Christian religion; but of the faith of the gospel, in opposition to the external works of the Jewish law. But as to the works of the Christian religion, the same apostle everywhere urgeth their necessity; and particularly the five last chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, are a most earnest exhortation to be fruitful therein.

3. From hence it follows that there is no contradiction between St. Paul and St. James, when the one says that a man is justified by faith without works, and the other says that faith without works cannot justify; for the one speaks professedly of the works of the Jewish religion, and the other of the works of the Christian. Lastly, If St. Paul so severely treated the Judaizing Christians, as to call them perverters of the gospel of Christ, and esteem them as preachers of another gospel; then let us also take heed lest on the authority of men we preach or obey at any time any other gospel than what Christ and His apostles preached and obeyed. (S. Clarke, D. D.)

Justification

I. In what manner justification cannot be obtained. “We are justified not by the works of the law.” It will naturally be asked, what is meant by “the law,” as spoken of here by the apostle? To this I reply, reference is no doubt here made to the ceremonial law, and hence to circumcision, and the other rites and ceremonies enjoined by that ritual. By these things, however, a man cannot be justified. Nor can the moral law, as embodied in the Ten Commandments, do so; for the whole tenor of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, declares, with reference to man as a sinner, “We are justified not by works of the law.” As given to Adam, when a perfect creature, the moral law (comprised in one brief injunction, as the test of his obedience) was ordained unto life, and was calculated, if observed, to perpetuate life; but as given to us, who are fallen and corrupt, it is only calculated to produce death, showing us our guilt, and our consequent desert of death as the punishment of that guilt. Like the angel, then, with the flaming sword at the east of the garden of Eden, the law drives us from itself that we may seek salvation elsewhere. And whither does it drive us? This we shall see while we notice--

II. In what manner justification can be obtained. “We have believed in Jesus Christ.”

1. We are justified by believing in what Christ did. The Lord Jesus Christ, made of a woman, made under the law, obeyed the law perfectly in our behalf. But we are justified by believing, not only in what Christ did, but also--

2. In what Christ suffered.

Having thus, in accordance with the words of our text, stated in what manner we cannot, and in what manner we can, be justified before God, I now proceed to apply the subject, in the way of warning and of consolation.

1. Warning. The reason, my brethren, why St. Paul was so earnest upon this matter was, because he felt that the eternal salvation of multitudes was herein involved. I ask, if you are conscious that you are sinners against God, how are your sins to be forgiven? You reply, that “you hope your good moral character will screen your secret deficiencies.” But, brethren, trust not in such a spider’s web. Such a confidence will assuredly fail you when you most want it. You cannot have a debtor-and-creditor account with God. Perhaps you are saying, “God is merciful, and will not be extreme to mark what is done amiss.” God is merciful; but you must remember that He is at the same time just, and that He will by no means clear the guilty. Do you say, that “you will do your best, and leave Christ to make up the remainder?” In that case you make Christ a divided Saviour. If, again, you would plead “your sincere obedience,” you must remember that God is a perfect God, and can therefore accept nothing short of a perfect obedience. No, brethren; in Christ, and Christ alone, must be our confidence. I need not, however, I trust, remind those of you who profess to esteem Christ as all your salvation and all your desire, that although you hold the truth, there is danger, if you watch not, of holding that truth in unrighteousness. The sun, by his bright beams, not only expels the cold, but causes heat and fruitfulness also. So is it in the justification of a sinner. There is not only the pardon of sin, but likewise an infusion of grace and holiness. While, therefore, we profess that we are justified, not by the works of the law, but by the faith of Christ, let us also remember to go on “perfecting holiness in the fear of God. The subject, however, supplies us not only with a word of warning, but also with one of-2. Consolation. Blessed be God, “the doctrine that we are justified by faith is,” as our article expresses it, “not only a most wholesome doctrine, but also one very full of comfort.” And, brethren, it ought to be a source of the highest consolation to you to remember how complete is this gift. (C. Clayton, M. A.)


Verse 17

Galatians 2:17

But if, while we seek to be Justified by Christ.

I. The blasphemy of making Christ the minister of sin.

II. The perfect sufficiency of Christ for the justification of His people.

III. The impertinence of the doctrine of justification by works; as--

1. Impossible.

2. Needless.

IV. The motive that the justified have to live righteously. (W. Perkins.)

Justification by Christ guarded

I. A privilege.

1. Christ has done for us what we could not do for ourselves.

2. He has secured for us

II. The abuse of this privilege.

1. The legalists nullified it, and thus became sinners by

III. The logical consequences of this abuse.

1. In the case of the legalists: if Christ fails to remove sin and the works of the law are still necessary, then Christ ministers to sin by delusive offers of salvation.

2. In the case of the Antinomians: if justification is only an incentive to presumption, Christ is morally chargeable with its guilt.

IV. The apostle’s horror at this conclusion.

1. It is blasphemous.

2. It is preposterous.

Grace and Duty

Griffiths says that travellers in Turkey carry with them lozenges of opium, on which is stamped “mash Allah,” the gift of God. Too many sermons are just such lozenges. Grace is preached but duty denied. Divine predestination is cried up, but human responsibility is rejected. Such teaching ought to be shunned as poisonous, but those who by reason of use have grown accustomed to the sedative, condemn all other preaching, and cry up their opium lozenges of high doctrine as the truth, the precious gift of God. It is to be feared that this poppy-juice doctrine has sent many souls to sleep who will wake up in hell. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The wickedness of Christians no argument against Christianity

One of the greatest and most plausible objections alleged by unbelievers against the Divine institution of the christian religion, is the smallness of the influence it may seem to have upon the lives and manners of its professors. It were natural to expect, if God condescended to give men an express revealed law, and to send so extraordinary a person as His own Son to promulgate that law upon earth; it were natural to expect, it should have some very visible and remarkable effect in the world, answerable to the dignity of the thing itself, and worthy of its great Author. Are there to be met withal, in the lives and manners of Christians, any considerable marks or distinguishing characters, by which it might be judged that they are really under the influence and peculiar guidance of such a Divine director? Is there, among those who call themselves Christians, less of profaneness and impiety towards God, less of fraud, injustice, and unrighteousness toward men, than among the professors of other religions? Is there not too plainly the same boundless ambition, the same insatiable covetousness, the same voluptuousness and debauchery of manners, to be found among them, as among other men? Nay, have not moreover the pretences even of religion itself, been the immediate and direct occasion of the bitterest and most implacable animosities, of the cruellest and most bloody wars, of the most barbarous and inhumane persecutions? Have not the greatest vices and immoralities of all kinds received too plain an encouragement from the reliance upon a power of repeating continually certain regular and periodical absolutions: and, much more, from an imagination that the practices of a vicious life may be compensated before God by the observance of certain weak and ridiculous ceremonies, and made amends for by superstitious commutations? Lastly, and beyond all this, hath not even the grace of God, as the apostle expresses it, been itself too frequently turned into wantonness?

I. The wickedness of the lives of those who call themselves Christians is no argument at all against the truth and excellency of the Christian religion itself. Natural and necessary causes always and necessarily produce effects proportional to their natural powers; so that from the degree or quantity of the effect, may always certainly be judged the degree of power and efficacy in the cause. But in moral causes the case is necessarily and essentially otherwise. In these, how efficacious soever the cause be, yet the effect always depends on the will of the person upon whom the effect is to be worked, whether the cause shall at all produce its proper effect or no. For as, where no Law is, there is no transgression; so on the other side, and for the same reason, where there is law, not obeyed, that law worketh wrath; and sin, by this commandment, becomes exceeding sinful. Were therefore the effect always to be the measure, in judging of the goodness and excellency of a cause, the best and wisest laws would often, upon account of their very excellency, be the worst. And the same may, in proportion, be said concerning reason itself, even the absolute and necessary reason of things. The more we are sensible of the reasonableness and necessity of moral obligations, the worse is our condition if we act unreasonably. Yet reason is of essential excellency, eternally and immutably; being the necessary result of the nature and truth of things: and the commandments of God who cannot err, are always holy and just and good (Romans 7:12). If, therefore, it be no objection against the excellency of reason itself, that it very often is not able to make men act reasonably, and no diminution to the Divine commandments in general, that they frequently not only fail of reforming men’s manners, but even on the contrary do moreover make sin to become the more exceedingly sinful; then, for the same reason, neither against the truth and excellency of Christianity in particular can any argument be drawn from the wickedness of the lives of those who profess themselves Christians. But--

II. Though the practice of any wickedness whatsoever, affords no real argument against Christianity itself, yet it is always matter of very great and just reproach to the professors of this holy religion, as being the utmost contradiction and the highest possible inconsistency with their profession. Just as the Jews of old, who perpetually styled themselves the people of God, and yet fell into the vices of the heathen nations. But when anything which is a part of the Christian doctrine is itself in particular made a direct ground and immediate cause of wickedness, the case then is infinitely worse, and the reproach unspeakably greater. When the gospel is not only rendered ineffectual to prevent sin, but Christ (as the apostle in the text expresses it) made to be Himself the minister of sin; this is what St. Jude calls, “Turning the grace of God into lasciviousness”; or, in St. Peter’s language, it is, by means of the very “promise of liberty,” making men the “servants of corruption.” And of the same kind are those Christians at all times and in all places, who, upon any pretence whatsoever, set up any expedients, of whatever sort they be, either in point of doctrine or practice; as equivalents to be accepted of God, in the stead of virtue and true goodness.

III. The third and last thing I proposed to show, was, that from what has been said, there arises a very plain and easy rule by which we may judge of the malignity and dangerousness of any error in matters of religion. In proportion as the error tends to reconcile any vicious practice with the profession of religion, or (as the text expresses it) to make Christ the minister of sin, in the same proportion is the doctrine pernicious, and the teachers of it justly to be deemed corrupt. By their fruits ye shall know them. All other tests may possibly be deceitful. Fair speeches, great learning and abilities, fervent zeal, numbers, authority, strict observance of ceremonies, even worldly austerities, and the appearances of the most devotional piety; all these may possibly accompany a very false and very wicked religion. But the fruits of virtue and true goodness, these are marks which admit no counterfeit. (S. Clarke, D. D.)


Verse 18

Galatians 2:18

For if I build again the things which I destroyed.

I. Teachers are great offenders when good doctrine is joined to bad conversation. Good doctrine destroys the kingdom of darkness, bad doctrine builds it up again.

II. Rulers are transgressors when good counsel which beats down wickedness goes with bad example, which sets it up again.

III. Professors are great sinners when reformed religion and unreformed life are connected, for unreformed life builds again that which Christ hath destroyed. (W. Perkins.)

The sinfulness of Judaistic practices

In repairing to Christ, Peter had virtually pulled down the fabric of the law as the ground of justification (formally did so, under Divine direction, in the house of Cornelius); but in now returning to its observance as a matter of principle, he was again building it up, and in this he proved himself to be a transgressor: but how?

I. Such vacillation, playing fast and loose with the things of God, was a serious moral obliquity.

II. In the retrogression complained of there was involved a departure from the very aim of the law, which was to lead men to Christ. Peter, therefore--

III. Defeated the intention of the law, and acted toward it the part of a transgressor. (Fairbairn)
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Value of consistency

In one of the older States resided an infidel, the owner of a saw-mill, situated by the side of a highway, over which a large portion of a Christian congregation passed every Sabbath to anti from the church. This infidel, having no regard for the Sabbath, was as busy, and his mill was as noisy, on that holy day as any other. Before long it was observed, however, that a certain time before service the mill would stop, remain silent, and appear to be deserted for a few minutes; when its noise and clatter would recommence and continue till about the close of the service, when for a short time it again ceased. It was soon noticed that one of the deacons of the church passed the mill to the place of worship during the silent interval; and so punctual was he to the hour, that the infidel knew just when to stop the mill, so that it should be silent while the deacon was passing, although he paid no regard to the passing of the others. On being asked why he paid this mark of respect to the deacon, he replied, “The deacon professes just what the rest of you do; but he lives, also, such a life, that it makes me feel bad here (putting his hand upon his heart) to run my mill while he is passing.” (Elon Foster.)


Verse 19

Galatians 2:19

For I through the law am dead to the law.

Death and life

I. Those who are justified are qualified for the highest service--“living to God.”

II. Living to god is dying to sin.

1. The aim of crucifixion was the death of the body.

2. Its means: the Cross.

3. The death painful and protracted. So

(a) painful (Matthew 5:29),

(b) protracted (Romans 7:23).

As Jesus lived to God by dying on the cross, so Christians live to God by dying to sin.

III. The power by which the cross of christ is made effectual to the death of sin.

1. By faith.

2. By the indwelling of Christ.

3. By the inspiration of Christ’s love. (W. Harris.)

Death to the law

I. What it means--freedom from its dominion in respect of--

1. The accusing and condemning sentence (Romans 8:1).

2. Its power (Romans 7:8).

3. Its vigour.

4. The obligation of conscience to conform to its ceremonies.

II. The instrument--the law itself.

1. It accuses, terrifies, condemns, and thus urges us to fly Christ who is the cause of our death to the law.

2. The law goes before, and effects an entrance for law-killing grace.

III. The end--living to God (Titus 2:12), which may be urged by the facts:

1. That through Christ we belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:20);

2. That the purpose of our justification and redemption is practical godliness;

3. That heaven hereafter depends on godliness here.

4. That this is the supreme end of the ministry. (W. Perkins.)

The paralyzing power of the sense of being alive to the law

Sir Walter Raleigh to find a gold mine at Guiana for the king, went out on his last voyage under an unremitted sentence of death that had been passed upon him fifteen years before. No wonder that the magnetic consciousness of a sword dangling over him by a hair should benumb his brain, distract his faculties, and turn his enterprize into a long tangle of blunders and calamities. Pity the adventurer who goes out on an evangelistic enterprize under the unremitted sentence of the law, a preacher of Christ crucified who has himself to be crucified; alive to the law and dead to God. (C. Stanford, D. D.)

Death to the law and life to God

When he said “I died, lest any one should say, “How then dost thou live?” he subjoined also the cause of his life, and showed indeed that the law killed him when living, but that, Christ taking hold of him when dead, quickened him through death; and he exhibits a double wonder, both that Christ had recalled the dead to life, and through death had imparted life. (Chrysostom.)

The Christian dead to the law

What a collection of paradoxes might be made from St. Paul’s Epistles.

I. Let us examine the state in which the apostle describes himself to be--“I am dead to the law;” but what can he mean by this? that the moral law of God has no longer any authority over him? We dare not say so. That moral law is the law of God’s universal empire, of heaven and earth, and of all the worlds that are. The believer continues under its dominion as long as he is a creature. He must escape from existence before he can escape from the law of God. He means that he is dead to the law as a covenant between God and himself. The law in its relation to us is more than a simple authoritative declaration of God’s will Besides commands, it consists of a promise and a threatening. This gives it the character of a covenant. He is dead to all hope from the law, to all expectation of salvation from it; he has no fear of condemnation from it. A man in his grave is free from every relationship of his former life; the servant is free from his master. So the believer, dead to the legal covenant, rests from it.

II. The means whereby the apostle has been brought into the state he describes--“I through the law am dead to the law.” This excludes a great number of those who call themselves Christians; who as regards their own feelings are utterly dead to it. They are dead to the law, to God, to Christ, to everything but the petty affairs of this life. But the apostle’s deadness was brought about by the law itself. The extent of the law and its unbending denunciations render it impossible for us to make our way to God by it. It penetrates within a man; it reaches to the affections, the will, the thoughts, the whole mind and heart. You say this “is hard and unreasonable.” Holy angels do not think so; they live under this law in happiness. But who, with a law like this before him, can hope for salvation from it? But this only partially accounts for St. Paul’s deadness to the law. It explains how the law itself robbed him of all hope from it, but it does not tell us how he was saved from the fear of it. He was crucified with Christ. “I have endured in the Person of my Redeemer the curse of the law, the chastisement of my sins has been laid upon him; and now when my faith is firm I no more fear the law than a debtor fears the bond which has been cancelled.”

III. The design of this deadness to the law in the Christian’s soul--“That I might live unto God.” Naturally we know nothing of such a life as this. Through the influence of education, or the power of conscience, there may be some reference in our lives to God; it is but occasional and slight. Self is the ruling principle of our lives. This living to God dethrones self within the soul. The origin of this Divine life is that deadness to the law, which I began with describing. It is not a mere accompaniment of the deadness, but the effect of it; a life proceeding out of that death. His renunciation of his self-righteousness has gradually brought on other renunciations of self. The law driving him to Christ has been the happy means of driving him out of self altogether. It has brought him into the sphere of the gospel, and among those soul-stirring feelings connected with it. I can serve my God now, for He has set me free to serve Him. I can obey Him now and with delight, for He has brought me to love Him. It is not so much I who live this heavenly life; it is the God who dwells in heaven, who in condescension dwells in my soul. Learn:

1. to think more, in the first instance, of the law; to endeavour more to understand its character, and to be brought under its power. There is no greater mistake than to imagine that the gospel has destroyed the law; the gospel is indeed based on it; you will never rightly estimate the gospel till you have rightly understood the law, as a covenant of condemnation.

2. Are we amongst those who have taken refuge from the condemnation of the law in the blood and righteousness of Christ? Then the law has done its work in us. (C. Bradley.)

The law an obstacle in the way of salvation

Suppose a man anxious to pass from one country to another, from a dangerous and wretched country to a safe and happy one. Directly in his road stands a mountain which, it would appear, he must pass over, and which he at first imagines he can without much difficulty climb. He tries, but scarcely has he begun to breast it, when a precipice stops him. He descends and tries again in another direction. There another precipice or some other obstacle arrests his course; and still ever as he begins his ascent, he is baffled, and the little way he contrives to mount serves only to show him more and more of the prodigious height of the mountain, and its stern, rugged, impassable character. At last, wearied and worn, heart-sick with labour and disappointment, and thoroughly convinced that no efforts of his can carry him over, he lies down at the mountain’s foot in utter despair; longing still to be on the other side, but making not another movement to get there. Now ask him as he lies exhausted on the ground, what has occasioned his torpor and despair, he will say, that mountain itself; its situation between him and the land of his desires, and its inaccessible heights and magnitude. So stands the law of God between the Christian and the land he longs for. At first he thought he could obey it, so obey it as to find his way to God by it, and he made the effort, made perhaps many and long-continued efforts, but the result of them all has been disappointment and despair. The law itself has stripped him of all hope of getting to heaven by means of it. He is exactly in the situation of that traveller by the mountain’s side, whom you can no longer prevail on to move. “Of what use is it?” he says. “I will try no more. I know the difficulty of the work, and I know my own weakness too well.” Here lies the difficulty, or rather the impossibility to such creatures as we are, of making our way to God by means of the law, here in these two things--the extent of that Jaw’s requirements, and the unbending, inexorable character of its denunciations. (C. Bradley.)

Dead to the law

1. They are dead unto the law in the matter of justification, as it holdeth forth the condition of the covenant of works; in this respect they are dead unto the law (Romans 7:3; Romans 7:6), for, by obedience to the law in their own persons, they are not now to expect justification by the works of the law.

2. They are dead unto the curse and condemning power of the law, whereby it adjudgeth all that transgresseth it unto death, and the wrath of God. The law threateneth death to all that transgress it, and bindeth this wrath on all that are alive to it, and not yet delivered from it. “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them.” Hence it is, that he that “believeth not is condemned already,” and “the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:18; John 3:36). For there is now no “condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

3. They are dead unto the law, as to its libels, indictments, and accusations, tending to bring them again under the lash or curse of the law, and sentence of its condemnation; and this clearly floweth from the former; for from it they are delivered from the sentence of death in the law; they are delivered from all accusations tending thereunto (Romans 8:33).

4. They are dead to the law, as it exacteth full obedience, under pains of breach of the covenant.

5. They are dead unto the law, as it exacts full obedience in their own strength, without any help from another, in whole or in part; for, now, help for them is laid upon one who is mighty (Psalms 39:19), and God worketh all their works in them (Isaiah 26:12), and worketh in them both to will and to do (Philippians 2:13), so that in Christ that strengtheneth them, they can do all things (Philippians 4:13), and in Christ do they bring forth fruits (John 15:5).

6. They are dead to the law, as to its rigid obedience in their own persons; for the law, as such, doth not point out a contrary way; nor doth it positively admit of one, though it doth not positively exclude or refuse one. Adam, and all his posterity, were bound to personal obedience; but now the believer is freed from that rigidity, and has a cautioner, with whom he is one in law, to fulfil the law, and answer all its demands; and, by his obedience, they are made righteous, and attain to justification of life (Romans 5:15; Romans 5:19), so that they “are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10).

7. They are dead unto the law, as to its rigid exacting full and actual performance, not regarding any sincerity of intention.

8. They are dead unto the law, as to its enslaving power, keeping the soul in bondage for fear of the curse, and pressing obedience on the unwilling, with arguments only taken for fear of the curse; for, now, though all fears are not fully removed, yet are they under sweeter and milder motives and encouragements to obedience--the love of Christ now constraineth them (2 Corinthians 5:14). Thoughts of the benefits of redemption lay on strong and sweet ties, and oil the wheels of the soul; so that obedience now is sweet, filial, and kindly, not forced and constrained; for the heart is willing, and the soul delighteth in the law of the Lord after the inner man, and duties now flow out more natively.

9. They are dead to the law, in respect of its being the strength of sin, as the apostle terms it (1 Corinthians 15:36), so that they are now more free from sin than formerly, both as to its guilt and dominion; the law cannot now so charge home guilt upon them as formerly, Christ being now accepted of as cautioner (Matthew 12:18), and having made full satisfaction for the sinner of his own, the law cannot require double payment, or payment of both the cautioner and principal debtor; and therefore the believer is free of making any satisfaction to justice.

This lets us then see what a change is made on the state of believers from what it formerly was.

1. A great change, from being alive to the law and under its power, to a being dead unto the law.

2. It is a great change, and no imagined but a real change, having real effects, though it be a relative change; and this believers experience in themselves.

3. It is a necessary change, for, without it, no life nor salvation is obtained.

4. It is an honourable change. From slavery to freedom (John 8:36).

5. Therefore it is a most desirable change; for every one would desire to be free of a heavy yoke of slavery, and from under tyranny. How desirable, then, must it be to be free of this spiritual yoke, and this soul’s tyranny,

6. It is a most advantageous and profitable change: For

That I might live unto God

I. We shall show what it is to live unto God, by pointing out some principal heads of, or ingredients in, as requisite to a living to God.

1. A reconciliation with God. Enemies cannot please one another.

2. A new principle of life. A dead man, as such, cannot live to God.

3. A hearty complying with the law of God as their rule.

4. It includeth a walking by the guidance of the Spirit of God.

5. It taketh in a holy life in all manner of conversation, and the study of sanctification.

6. It taketh in a lively, holy, divine, and spiritual manner of performing commanded duties.

7. It taketh in an eying of God and His glory, with singleness of heart in what they are doing.

8. It includeth a fixed, stayed, and constant walking thus, not by fits and starts.

II. That such as are alive yet unto the law cannot thus live unto God.

1. They are yet married to their old husband, and not brought out of that state of enmity wherein they were and are (Romans 7:4).

2. They have no principle but the old principle of nature, helped a little with some education; for they are growing still upon the old stock of nature.

3. They are not subject unto the law of God, neither indeed can be (Romans 8:7), their will, ease, pleasure, etc., is all their care, with this their heart complieth.

4. Their guide is the flesh; for they walk after the flesh (Romans 8:4).

5. Instead of holiness, they are yielding themselves servants of unrighteousness unto sin, and sin is reigning in them, and being the servants of sin, they are free from righteousness (Romans 6:13-20).

6. All the service they do is in the oldness of the letter (Romans 7:6), and not in newness of the Spirit; it is carnal, vain, and selfish, every way corrupt.

7. Their ultimate end is themselves; their own peace, quiet, ease, profit, esteem, to get a name, or to make a price to buy heaven to themselves, that they may have whereof to boast.

8. Their constant trade of life, is either to serve Satan, by following vile affections, their own lusts and pleasures, or the world; and thus their days are spent. (J. Brown.)

Living unto God

“That which tells,” says Professor Henry Drummond, speaking of Mission work, “is the Shepherd’s life, his daily moving in and out amongst the people, and what is now wanted for Africa is a great many white men, with gentleness and kindness, and Christ-likeness, to simply go there and do nothing but live. If they can educate the people, so much the better.”


Verses 19-21

Verse 20-21

Galatians 2:20-21

I am crucified with Christ.

The believer’s riddle

This verse enunciates three striking paradoxes which are realized in the experience of every Christian.

I. The judicial paradox, or the mystery of the believer’s legal standing. The believer, be it remembered, is a dead man to begin with, i.e., before he becomes a believer. In his natural condition he is an unpardoned transgressor, and therefore in the law’s eye as good as dead. He is already taken, charged, tried, convicted, sentenced, shut up to the just judgment of wrath, and only waiting the hour of death to meet its execution. But now in Christ, who before the law acted as his representative, and for his sake became obedient unto death, he is executed too. So far as the claims of justice are concerned, he is crucified with Christ, i.e., Christ’s crucifixion stands for his, and he personally is free. He has died, and yet he lives!

II. The spiritual paradox, or the mystery of the believer’s inner life. The moment a man becomes a believer, he at the same time becomes the subject of an inward change, by which his old corrupt nature of sin is destroyed, and a new principle of holy life is implanted. Christ lives in him.

III. The practical paradox, or the mystery of the believer’s outer walk. While living in the body and in the world the believer is not under the dominion of either, but regulates his conduct and conversation by principles superior to both--by faith in the Son of God. Christ’s law is his rule of life; Christ’s person the object of his love. Conclusion:

1. The text examines us about our standing in the eye of the law. Are we crucified with Christ or not?

2. The character of our inner life. Are we spiritual men, or sensuous?

3. Our walk and conversation. Are we walking by faith, or by sight? (Anon.)

Christus et ego

I. The personality of the Christian religion. This verse swarms with I and me. Christianity brings out a man’s individuality, not making him selfish, but making him realize his own separate existence, and compelling him to meditate on his own sin, his own salvation, his own personal doom unless saved by grace.

1. In proportion as our piety is definitely in the first person singular, it will be strong and vigorous.

2. In proportion as we fully realize our personal responsibility to God shall we be likely to discharge it.

II. The inter-weaving of our own proper personality with that of Jesus Christ. I think I see two trees before me. They are distinct plants growing side by side, but as I follow them downward, I observe that the roots are so interlaced and intertwisted that no one can trace the separate trees and allot the members of each to its proper whole. Such are Christ and the believer.

1. Dead to the world with Christ.

2. Alive to God in Christ.

3. The link between Christ and the believer--faith.

4. A union of love.

5. A union by sacrifice.

III. The life which results from this blended personality.

1. A new life.

2. A very strange life.

3. A true life.

4. A life of self-abnegation.

5. A life of one idea.

6. The life of a man.

7. The life of heaven. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Practical faith

Faith is not a piece of confectionery to be put upon drawing-room tables, or a garment to be worn on Sundays; it is a working principle, to be used in the barn and in the field, in the shop and on the exchange; it is a grace for the housewife and the servant; it is for the House of Commons and for the poorest workshop. I would have the believing cobbler mend shoes religiously, and the tailor make garments by faith, and I would have every Christian buy and sell by faith. Whatever your trade may be, faith is to be taken into your daily calling, and that is alone the true living faith which will bear the practical test. You are not to stop at the shop door and take off your coat and say, “Farewell to Christianity till I put up the shutters again.” That is hypocrisy; but the genuine life of the Christian is the life which we live in the flesh by faith of the Son of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Christian’s life of faith

Every moment the life of the Christian is to be a life of faith. We make a mistake when we try to walk by feeling or by sight. I dreamed the other night, while musing upon the life of the believer, that I was passing along a road which a Divine call had appointed for me. The ordained pathway which I was called to traverse was amid thick darkness, unmingled with a ray of light. As I stood in the awful gloom, unable to perceive a single inch before me, I heard a voice which said, “Let thy feet go right on. Fear not, but advance in the name of God.” So on I went, putting down foot after foot with trembling. After a little while the path through the darkness became easy and smooth, from use and experience; just then I perceived that the path turned: it was of no use my endeavouring to proceed as I had done before; the way was tortuous, and the road was rough and stony; but I remembered what was said, that I was to advance as I could, and so on I went. Then there came another twist, and yet another, and another, and another, and I wondered why, till I understood that if ever the path remained long the same, I should grow accustomed to it, and so should walk by feeling; and I learned that the whole of the way would constantly be such as to compel me to depend upon the guiding voice, and exercise faith in the Unseen One who had called me. On a sudden it appeared to me as though there was nothing beneath my foot when I put it down, yet I thrust it out into the darkness in confident daring, and lo, a firm stop was reached, and another, and another, as I walked down a staircase which descended deep, down, down, down. Onward I passed, not seeing an inch before me, but believing that all was well, although I could hear around me the dash of falling men and women who had walked by the light of their own lanterns, and missed their foothold. I heard the cries and shrieks of men as they fell from this dreadful staircase; but I was commanded to go right on, and I went straight on, resolved to be obedient even if the way should descend into the nethermost hell. By and by the dreadful ladder was ended, and I found a solid rock beneath my feet, and I walked straight on upon a paved causeway, with a balustrade on either hand. I understood this to be the experience which I had gained, which now could guide and help me, and I leaned on this balustrade, and walked on right confidently till, in a moment, my causeway ended and my feet sank in the mire, and as for my other comforts I groped for them, but they were gone, for still I was to know that I must go in dependence upon my unseen Friend, and the road would always be such that no experience could serve me instead of dependence upon God. Forward I plunged through mire and filth and suffocating smoke, and a smell as of death-damp, for it was the way, and I had been commanded to walk therein. Again the pathway changed, though all was midnight still: up went the path, and up, and up, and up, with nothing upon which I could lean; I ascended wearily innumerable stairs, not one of which I could see, although the very thought of their height might make the brain to reel. On a sudden my pathway burst into light, as I woke from my reverie, and when I looked down upon it, I saw it all to be safe, but such a road that, if I had seen it, I never could have trodden it. My journey could only be accomplished in childlike confidence upon the Lord. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The life of faith

I. Death to the law is the condition of life unto God.

1. The part which the law performs in bringing about this death. By its own teaching the law proclaims its impotence, forbids our reliance on it, and prepares the way for Christ who delivers from its bondage.

2. The connection between death to the law and life unto God. Emancipation. Abject slavery exchanged for filial freedom.

II. Life unto God is a life of faith in the Son of God. It introduces the believer to

Freedom from the law through death

“I am crucified with Christ”--wondrous words! I am so identified with Him that His death is my death. When He was crucified, I was crucified with Him. I am so much one with Him under law and in suffering and death, that when He died to the law I died to the law. Through this union with Him I satisfied the law, yielded to it the obedience which it claimed, suffered its curse, died to it, and am therefore now released from it--from its accusations and its penalty, and from its claims on me to obey it as the means of winning eternal life. By means of law He died; it took Him and wrought its will on Him. As our Representative in whom we were chosen and in whom we suffered, He yielded Himself to the law, which seized Him and nailed Him to the cross. When that law seized Him, it seized at the same time all His in Him, and through the law they suffered and died to it. Thus it is that by the law taking action upon them as sinners they died to the law. (John Eadie, D. D.)

Christ the source of sanctity

What principle can tend to cherish tenderness, lowliness, modesty, recollectedness, dignity, quietness in speech and manner, devotion and the winning grace of a pervading charity, so effectually as the abiding consciousness of our Lord dwelling and walking in one’s self as a tabernacle of His own gracious election, and in others as in oneself according to the same promise? What can so sustain the soul above natural desires, in a higher sphere of life, in an ever-upward advance towards the glory of the heavenly Court, as the instinctive sense, rooted and grounded in the soul’s life, that there is a wedded union between the soul and the Lord who bought it with His own blood, and now Himself within it claims it for His own? What gives so keen a remorse at the hatefulness and horror of sin, as a conviction of its desecrating the organs, the limbs, the faculties which God inhabits and uses as the chosen vessel of His own sanctity? It is not what he himself is that forms the joy of the saint, nor the failing to be what God had willed him to be, that constitutes the remorse of the true penitent; but it is to the one the consciousness that God is in him, and he in God; and to the other the loss of a Presence in Whom alone is peace, and out of Whom is utter darkness. To realize what we are, or what we fail to be, we must appreciate what His abiding in us causes us to be. We can never truly look at ourselves separate from Him. Our power is His power in us. Our efforts are the putting forth of His strength. Our sin is, that after He had come to us, we resisted Him. (T. T. Carter, M. A.)

Christ in man

Christ liveth in the flesh still, in the body of every believer; not merely Jesus the humbled man, but Jesus the Christ of God; Jesus, who by the resurrection was declared to be the son of God with power, and proclaimed to angels and men as both Lord and Christ! Who liveth in me? Yourself! Nay, I am dead; I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I--Not thee! Ah, who then? “Christ liveth in me.” Yes, the mighty God liveth in thee, believer. Not thyself; not thy poor, weak, helpless self; but Christ by His power, the power of His Spirit liveth in thee. Ah, why then dost thou talk about impossibilities? Why say, “I cannot do this; I cannot do that; I cannot attain to this or to that; I cannot overcome this or that enemy”? Thou speakest foolishly, if thou speakest thus: and if thou now persistest in saying so, thou wilt speak falsely, aye, and blasphemously too: for not thou, but Christ liveth in thee. And who is mighty as He? Is Satan too many for Him who trampled on the power of all His enemies, who triumphed over them openly, and who led captivity captive? Ah, and is the flesh too powerful for Him? Who is the man who says, “I must sin--I must sin; while I continue in the flesh I must continue to sin”? And is sin too great, too powerful for Jesus, for Him who, when in the flesh, a Man of sorrows, encompassed with infirmities, beset by perils, a weak man, overcame it, and remained holy, harmless, undefiled? Did He, when thus weak through the flesh, put sin far away from before His face? And shall He not, now that He sits on the right hand of the Majesty on high, prevail against all your sins? O speak not so lightly of Him and of His power! (Edward Irving, M. A.)

The sinner’s Substitute

The Eternal Being gave Himself for the creature which His hands had made. He gave Himself to poverty, to toil, to humiliation, to agony, to the Cross. He gave Himself “for me,” for my benefit; but also “for me,” in my place. This substitution of Christ for the guilty sinner is the ground of the satisfaction which Christ has made upon the cross for human sin. But on what principle did the Sinless One thus take the place of the guilty? Was it, so to speak, an arbitrary arrangement, for which no other account can be given than the manifested will of the Father? No; the substitution of the suffering Christ for the perishing sinner arose directly out of the terms of the Incarnation. The human nature which our Lord assumed was none other than the very nature of the sinner, only without its sin. The Son of God took on Him human nature, not a human personality. He becomes the Redeemer of our several persons, because He is already the Redeemer of this our common nature, which He has made for ever His own (1 Corinthians 15:20). As human nature was present in Adam, when by his representative sin he ruined his posterity, So was human nature present in Christ our Lord, when by His voluntary offering of His Sinless Self, He “bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” Christ is thus the second Head of our race. Our nature is His own. He carried it with Him through life to death. He made it do and bear that which was utterly beyond its native strength. His Eternal Person gave infinite merit to its acts and its sufferings. In Him it died, rose, ascended, and was perfectly well-pleasing to the All-Holy. Thus by no forced or artificial transaction, but in virtue of His existing representative relation to the human family, He gave Himself to be a ransom for all. (Canon Liddon.)

Christ’s universal love

“He loved me and gave Himself for me.” Each sinner, each saint around His cross might have used these words of the apostle. For His blessed mother and St. John; for the Roman judge and for the Roman soldiers; for the chief priest and for the Pharisee; for the vilest and hardest of His executioners, and for the thieves who hung dying beside Him, our Lord gave Himself to death. For all who have been first and greatest, for all who have been least and last in human history, for all whom we have loved or seen, for our separate souls, He gave Himself. True, His creatures indeed are still free to accept and appropriate or to refuse His gift. But no lost soul shall murmur hereafter that the tender loving-kindness of God has not willed to save it. No saint in glory shall pretend that aught in him has been accepted and crowned save the infinite merit, the priceless gifts of his Redeemer. The dying love of Jesus embraces the race, and yet it concentrates itself with direct--as it seems to us--with exclusive intensity upon each separate soul. He dies for all, and yet he dies for each; as if each soul were the solitary object of His incarnation and of His death. (Canon Liddon.)

How Christian life is sustained

A Christian life is the living Christ manifesting Himself. It is the vital power putting forth leaves and fruits--the vine sending out its strength into the branches. It cannot be too deeply impressed upon us that Christianity is a profound connection of the soul with Christ--that it is not the imitation of a splendid model, but the indwelling of a living Person--that the Christ form is only the outward development of the Christ nature, the life manifesting itself after its kind. You all know that the various forms of vegetable creation are sustained and perfected by a secret, silent, but resistless power which we call life. It is this that lifts the oak in the forest am! spreads its mighty branches to the storm; and this that carpets the earth with verdure and decks the fields with teeming flowers. In the great and in the small, in the tree and in the herb, in the pine of the mountain and the grasses of the field, this secret but resistless principle asserts its power. Now, thus is it with us as Christian men; our Christianity is a principle of life; we are not imitations, we are alive; we are not artificial flowers, we are flowers growing in the garden, branches growing in the vine. (J. W. Boulding.)

Derived life

Christ is our life. How His life is made to be, at the same time, our own, is a mystery of grace, of which you have seen types in the garden, where just now so many millions of God’s thoughts are springing and growing into beautiful expression. You once grafted something on to a fruit tree. The process, though delicate, was most simple. You only had to be careful that there should be clean, clear, close contact between the graft and the tree. The smallest shred or filament of wrapping round the graft would have prevented the life of the tree from flowing into it. The weak, bleeding graft was fastened on to the strong stem just as it was, then in due time it struck, then gradually the tiny slip grew into the flourishing bough, and lately, as you stood looking at that miracle of tender formation and soft bright flush, you almost fancied it was conscious. It seemed to say, “I live; nevertheless not I, but the tree liveth in me; and the life I now live in the foliage, I live by faith in the shaft of the tree. I trust to the tree only; every moment I am clinging to it, and without it I can do nothing.” (Chas. Stanford, D. D.)

How Christ is appropriated by the individual soul

My conception of Christ is that He is mine: not mine in any sense which appropriates Him to me alone; but mine as really and truly as though I were the only human being in the universe. My father was absolutely mine, although my next younger brother could say the same thing, and though every brother and sister could say the same thing. I had the whole of him, and each of my brothers and sisters had the whole of him. And I have the whole of my God. The God of all the heaven, and the God of the whole earth, and of time, and of physical law and its sequence, and of all invisible laws and their sequences--He is my God. (H. W. Beecher.)

Man’s double life

We all live in the midst of two worlds--a material world and a spiritual world. The material world is visible to all. We see it, and deal with it, every moment. The spiritual world is visible only to those whose eyes have been supernaturally opened to see it. But the one is as real and as great a fact as the other. They both are close to us. And every man is a centre round which they both are circulating.

1. The material world is the world of our senses. The spiritual world is the world of our faith. We come into the first at our natural birth; we enter the second at our regeneration. When we have entered it, it is far grander than the other.

2. The material world is beautiful and pleasant, but it has its dark shadows. It is not what it was once made to be. It brings its sorrows, disappointments, and regrets. It is always passing away. And soon, very soon, it will be but as the shadow of a dream! The spiritual world remains unfallen. It is hidden. But all the elements of our immortality are there, and it can never pass away.

3. In the material world are our friendships, ambitions, businesses, professions, earthly work, bodily pleasures. In the spiritual world are the ministrations of angels; the operations of the Holy Ghost, the presence of Christ; the sweet sense of pardon; the peace and love and service of God; an eternity begun; heaven always in sight; thoughts that satisfy; occupations that will never tire; joys that cannot fade. To the man who lives in the spiritual world, the material world is becoming small. He uses it, and enjoys it; but it is not his life. It is his servant, whom he employs; not his master, whom he obeys. And of that great spiritual and eternal world, which is about us everywhere, and in the midst of which, consciously or unconsciously, we are all walking every step, the circumference is glory--the key which opens it is faith--and its centre, from which all radiates and to which all converges, is the Son of God, His person and His work. (James Vaughan, M. A.)

Life in Christ

;--Life--the higher and truer life of a man--resolves itself into one thing, viz., trust in Jesus. Expand that trust, and you will find it life--life indeed--life for ever. Consider this life. The question was, How can a sinner live at all, and not die? seeing God has said, “The soul that sinneth it shall die;” and every one of us has sinned? Can God falsify His own word?

1. When Jesus died we died. We died in Him. So we have died, and our death is passed. We can live, and God be true.

2. But what makes life? Union with life. Christ is life. We are united to Christ, as a member is united to the head. And as the member lives because the head lives, we live by and in the life of Jesus Christ. That is life.

3. Now life thus possible, and thus made--what is it? Life is to live in every part of our being--body, intellect, heart, soul. Now what can engage the whole man but religion? And what is religion? The indwelling of Christ and the service of God.

4. Then of that life what is the motive power? Love. The love of God. Who can really love God but those who are forgiven, and who therefore can feel, “God is my Father”? And who can say that out of Jesus Christ?

5. And of that life what is the root? The Exemplar, the great Exemplar--the pattern of Christ.

6. What is its aim and focus? To please and glorify Him to whom it owes itself.

7. What is its consummation and rest? The presence, and the image, and the enjoyment, and the perfect service of God throughout eternity. (James Vaughan, M. A.)

The secret of the spiritual life

The secret of this life, which alone is life, is faith. And what is faith? Trust. And what is trust? Taking God simply at His word. Now, let us see what God has said concerning this life. God has said--He has repeated it under many forms and by many images--“Believe and live.” “Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” Now you must take that without any deduction, or any qualification, or any condition whatsoever. It is for all sinners--for sinners of every dye--without one single exception! The promise is to every one who will accept it. Accept what? Accept that the Son of God (and no other but the Son of God could do it, for no other would be an equivalent) the Son of God has, by His death, paid all the penalty and cancelled all your debt to God; and so the mandate has gone forth from the throne, “Live!” “Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom.” That done, your life from that moment--if you have faith enough--may be a life without any fear. Your sins forgiven are sins buried. And buried sins have no resurrection. They shall “never be mentioned.” They are “remembered no more.” (James Vaughan, M. A.)

Self-crucifixion the source of life

I. That self-crucifixion is the source of life. This is the reason; there is an old life which must utterly perish, that by its death and out of its death the new life may arise.

1. The death of the old life. The life that must be crucified before the Divine life can rise is the self-life in all its forms. Why must man’s self-life die? It is the very ground and root of all sin. The assertion of the “I” of the self is the perpetual tendency of the flesh. “I live” is the watch-word of carnalism--there is no sin which is not an assertion of self as the principle of life. Man not always conscious of this, blinded to it. Thus the sensualist may be conscious only of the wild cravings of desire, but by yielding to them he is asserting his passion, his pleasure, to be greater than the law of God. The old self-life must die. Before the Cross, faith and love are self-crucifixion. Faith renounces self and destroys the old life. Love goes out of self to Christ.

2. The awakening of the new life. “Nevertheless I live.” This is more than being constrained by any new emotional motive of love; literally Christ was in St. Paul by His Holy Spirit. This is best understood by experience. You know that when you by faith died with Him to the flesh you felt the impulse of a life not yours possessing you, and inbreathing a Divine energy and a heavenly love. Christ living in you will consecrate all.

II. Nature of the life that springs from it.

1. Purity. The inspiration of the indwelling Christ will free from sensual and low temptation; it means perfect devotion to God.

2. Peace. Christ in us calms the troubled spirit; becomes the fulness of emotion.

3. Power. If the self-life is crucified with Christ, and Christ is dwelling in us, we have His power to overcome sin. The Cross-life is power, kingship over self. (E. L. Hull, B. A.)

The presence of Christ in the soul

Some men have called this doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the soul mystical and untrue. I only know that if it be so, the Bible is mystical and untrue, for the Saviour and His apostles assert it again and again in words which cannot be explained away. They speak little of motives or influences; they speak plainly of man being inspired by the actual contact of God, through the Eternal Spirit. It only seems mystical because we are so prone to fancy that we can explain spiritual processes by outer motives and influences. But what are the motives, what are the influences, which change a man’s nature? They are only the words by which we feebly express the great mystery of the real touch of God. All creation seems to me to confirm this spiritual truth. We are driven to believe in the present action of God in the world. We speak of law, but law is only a phrase by which we hide our ignorance. What we call law is the act of God. The seed bursts into life not by dead laws, but the Eternal finger touches it, and it lives. The stars burn, not by dead laws; God’s glory smites them, and they light the firmament. The earth moves, not by dead laws; God’s arm propels it, and it rolls on its destined path through the untravelled infinity of space. And if the eternal power of the present God thus blooms in the flower, glows in the stars, and is seen in the majestic march of worlds, shall we not much rather believe that the real Spirit of the living Christ is in actual contact with the soul when, crucified with Him, it wakes to a life of immortal beauty? This, then, is the life springing from self-crucifixion--Christ in the soul, forming it into a new creature. Until the old life has perished He cannot live there, for only when the forces of the carnal nature are destroyed can His holy presence dwell within. I cannot describe it, but you may know it. (E. L. Hull, B. A.)

The Christian’s communion with the death and life of Christ

Peculiar language. One clause seems to contradict another. Yet no real contradiction; but strikingly suitable language to express the mysteries of faith respecting Christ’s union with His people, and their consequent participation of the benefits of His sufferings and death.

I. The believer’s crucifixion with Christ, or his communion with Him in His death. The meaning is: “The ends of Christ’s crucifixion are accomplished in me.”

1. Believers are crucified with Christ, in virtue of their legal union to Him as their Head of righteousness. Christ and His people are as one body, one mass; He the Sanctifier, and they the sanctified, are all one.

2. Really and spiritually crucified with Him, through union to Him as their Head of living and quickening influence.

II. The believer’s life in Christ, or communion with Him in His life.

1. He is invested with a righteousness commensurate to all the demands of the Divine law.

2. With respect to his sanctification also, it may be said that the believer lives--yet not he, but Christ lives in Him.

3. With respect to the life of consolation and glory, it may be said that it is not the believer who lives, but Christ lives in him.

III. The influence of faith in maintaining this life.

1. Faith as the means of our union with Christ, is necessary to our communion with Him, both in His righteousness and His grace.

2. By faith our communion with Christ is carried on, in our receiving of all His benefits.

3. Faith is the means of the spiritual life, as it terminates on the promises, the apprehension of which has so powerful an influence both on our peace and our purity (2 Corinthians 7:1; Psalms 27:13-14).

4. Faith is the means of the spiritual life, as by bringing eternal things near, it counterbalances the temptations and terrors of the world (1 John 5:5; Hebrews 11:1-40.).

5. Faith is the means of the spiritual life, as it supplies from its contemplation of the love of Christ fresh motives to obedience and patience (2 Corinthians 5:14).

6. As it refers to the authority of Christ’s law, and enables the Christian to perceive the reasonableness even of the most difficult of His precepts, as well as the awful responsibility under which he lies to Christ’s judgment (2 Corinthians 5:9-11; Hebrews 11:6).

7. Faith, by making the Christian habitually conversant with spiritual objects and motives of conduct, gives a spiritual character even to the common actions and enjoyments of this natural life. (M. Willis.)

Crucified with Christ

This extremely bold, startling, and paradoxical assertion of the apostle, is a metaphorical, pictorial statement of a great spiritual truth, about all really Christian life. Every genuine Christian, who is really united to Christ by living faith, has been crucified with Christ; and since he still lives, his life thereafter is the life of Christ in him.

I. The context will furnish us with the first ray of the light we seek. St. Paul is combating an error subversive to Christianity itself, viz., ritualism. He declares that if you go back to that--to the old notion that by deeds you can be justified--you are going back again to law, and have left Christ behind,

II. What is the universal spiritual truth represented by these images--“dead with Christ,” “Christ living in us”? If you have really gone to God with the prayer and hope of faith, resting on the propitiation of Christ, you have died to sin. It is as if you had been crucified with Christ. It may be that your Christian history contains no moment of mighty conscious change; that your change took place by slow and imperceptible degrees, more like education than conversion. In that case, it would not be likely that you should feel this great truth about yourself as Paul felt it. Your death to sin may have been less like a crucifixion, a sudden, painful, yet blissful, inevitably conscious severance from it, than like a slow, lingering, almost painless process; like a disease whose stages of advance could never be marked by hours or days. But still it is true of you; if you be hoping in God through Jesus Christ our Lord, you have been crucified with Christ to that huge guilt of which law, just and holy law, convicted you; and having thus died to it, you have no more to fear from it. God has severed it and you. And it is now for you to recognize the grand truth, and rejoice in it.

III. This crucifixion has respect to something else than the previous guilt or debt to Divine law. Sin is not merely an external thing; an ever-accumulating mass of wrong deeds and words, of omissions and neglects. All these are the results of what we are. The seat of sin is in the soul. The working of the evil element has produced evil habits and tendencies. These must be eradicated. The old nature has to be mortified, crucified; and in its place Christ is to reign. (G. W. Conder.)

The old life and the new

Think of a man who is living to himself, without any thought of God, or any earnest endeavour to serve or please Him. Living to gratify only his own tastes, passions, desires, and none else’s. Self-interest his law, self-love his inspiration, self-satisfaction his end and aim, self his god. This is the man. Not the caricature of him--his faithful portrait. If he be not living unto God, he must be that; there is no alternative. Look well at him as such. Scan him closely for an instant more, a man whose whole principle, law, motive, aim, end, is self. And now, see him again, emerging, as it were, from Christ’s sepulchre with Christ, his hand in his Saviour’s, yielding to the loving entreaty of the Lord to come hopefully to God; to confess his sin, and be pardoned. How completely altered his mien! How relaxed that stiff unbending erectness which formerly marked him! How softened down that stern unlovely expression which spoke from his every feature. Surely the proud, harsh, unyielding spirit of self must have been outcast from him, left behind him in the grave of Christ. It is not the same man. God! God’s law! ,God’s favour! tits anger, His pardon, His help and guidance, that used to be nothing to him, are everything to him now. If he could, he would so grave that law in him as that its force could never depart from him. If he might, he would stay there for ever gazing on God, never to look at anything else, lest he should sin again. (G. W. Conder.)

Christ in the soul

Hear the testimony of one who has experienced this. He says to you, “You know my former life. It was I who lived then. It was my ideas, my wishes, my passions, my tastes, which moved me then. But it is not so now. I have seen Christ, I have heard Him, have begun to love Him, and He is to me, in addition to being my glorious and living Friend outside-me, with whom I can converse and to whom I can pray, also a living system of truths, a living revelation of Divine ideas. Truth has laid hold of me by Him; has entered into me; has won my approbation, my choice, aye, my intense desire. Eternity touches me by Him. Law attracts, governs me through Him. God is very near to me in Him. Man is more beautiful and great to me in Him. He is the portrait of what I may be, and desire to be. I see obstacles overcome in Him. Hope fills me from Him. Holiness begins to suffuse me from Him. He is all in all to me. And so my new life is no longer that self-prompted thing it once was. It is, though still my life, because I choose and love it, nevertheless all of it derived, drawn, inspired from Christ. ‘I live--nevertheless not I, but Christ liveth in me.’” (G. W. Conder.)

The part of faith in the new life

And now you will see what part faith plays in the matter. Obviously it is the connecting link betwixt that Incarnate Truth and my inner self. Here is a man who once did not see, and therefore could not believe it. And he had no Divine life in him--nothing but what was perishable; all of it, its joys, hopes, attainments--perishable. But, he came at last to see, aye, to believe. The record, the saying, the preaching, was fact in his esteem. And immediately--as the fluid flies along the galvanic wire when it has contact--immediately, by the contact of a living faith, a faith of the heart, the influence, the vitalizing, Divine force of that truth begins to flood his being, and he begins to live a life that shall never rile. (G. W. Conder.)

Faith and the spiritual life

I. The nature of faith

1. As described in the Bible.

2. As defined by theological writers.

3. As elucidated by familiar illustrations.

II. The relation of faith to the spiritual life.

1. It is a realizing grace.

2. It is a strengthening grace.

3. It is a receiving grace.

4. It is a uniting grace. (George Brooks.)

The spiritual life

The apostle had said before, that “we are justified by faith alone, and not by the works of the law;” and that a believer was crucified with Christ. Now, says he, this doctrine that I have preached unto you, is no way opposite unto our spiritual life, or unto our holiness; yet, now I live, or “nevertheless I live.”

I. Every true believer, every godly, gracious man, is a living man, lives a spiritual life, is in the state of life (John 6:40; John 6:47-48; John 6:54-55).

1. What is this spiritual life?

2. Whereby may it appear, that every godly, gracious man, is thus a living man, made partaker of this spiritual life, so as to be able to act, and move, and work towards God as his utmost end?

3. But how does it appear that others are not in this state of life?

(a) If we be alive indeed, and made partakers of this spiritual life, why then should we not live at a higher rate than the world do, which have none of this life?

(b) If we be alive indeed, and made partakers of this spiritual life, why should our hearts run after the things of the world, so as to feed on them as our meat, to be satisfied with them?

(c) If we be alive indeed, why is our communion and fellowship together no more living? A living coal warms.

II. Our justification by faith alone is no enemy, but a real friend to our spiritual life. How comes this to pass?

1. The more a man forsakes any good thing of his own for Christ, the more Christ is engaged to give a man His good things. There is no losing in losing for Jesus Christ.

2. God never causes any man to pass under any relation, without giving him the ability needed for its duties.

3. The more a man agrees with God and the law, the more fit he is to walk with God and observe the law.

4. Faith establishes a man in the covenant of grace. (W. Bridges.)

Fellowship with the Redeemer’s death

This must be taken in connection with two other texts in this crucifixion Epistle, viz., 5:24, and 6:14. The three together exhibit--

I. The order.

II. The characteristics.

III. The perfection of personal religion as fellowship with the Redeemer’s death.

I. The sinner, condemned by the law, makes the sacrifice of the great Substitute his own, and is, therefore, legally released from its penalty.

II. The flesh, or the old man remaining in the pardoned believer, is hanged up, and delivered to death in the same mystical fellowship.

III. The saint glorying in Christ crucified as the ground of his acceptance, and the source of his sanctification, is crucified with Rim to the world and all created things that belong not to the new creation. Let us read these words, where they were written, at the foot of the Cross. (W. B. Pope, D. D.)

The Christian’s crucifixion with Christ

I. Christ crucified.

1. A great mystery.

2. The way to glory.

3. The ground of our highest glorying.

II. Paul crucified.

1. Sin has a body (Romans 7:24; Colossians 3:5.).

2. Sin and grace cannot co-exist any more than life and death.

3. Kill your runs or they will kill you.

4. And this not only in the matter of notorious crimes, but in the whole carriage of your lives.

5. Thus to be a Christian is a serious thing.

6. Afflict not so much your bodies as your souls.

III. Paul crucified with Christ.

1. Many are crucified, but not with Christ.

2. Paul was crucified with Christ.

(a) In His agony, when we are afflicted with God’s displeasure against sin.

(b) In His scourging, when we tame our flesh with holy severity.

(c) In His crowning with thorns, when we bear reproaches for His name.

(d) In His affixion, when all our powers are fastened to his royal commandments.

(e) In His transfixion, when our hearts are branded with Divine love.

(a) As in the first Adam all lived and then died, so in the second Adam all die and are made alive.

(b) Our real union with Christ makes His Cross and Passion ours.

(c) Every believer may comfort himself that having died with Christ he shall not die again. (Bishop Hall.)

Life in Christ

I. Christ dwelling by faith in the heart becomes the principle of a new life.

II. From this life, as an inexhaustible fountain, the believer draws to the supply of his wants and fruitfulness in well doing.

III. What properly distinguishes the believer’s life in the flesh and makes it what it is, is its being kept in perpetual fellowship with Christ.

IV. The recognition of the truth that as dying and atoning Jesus becomes a source of new life runs out into appropriating confidence. (Principal Fairbairn.)

Death and life

I. Death by sin.

1. Its guilt makes us liable to condemnation.

2. Its filth, which makes us odious.

3. Its punishment, which is death eternal.

II. The tree of life affords the antidote to sin.

1. The life of justification. The righteousness of Christ, cancelling the obligations of the law, frees us from the first.

2. The life of sanctification, which is Christ in us.

3. The life of joy and cheerfulness, which makes us more than conquerors. (T. Adams.)

Christian enthusiasm

I. Christian enthusiasm is possible under great natural disadvantages.

II. This enthusiasm must be maintained by continued faith in Christ.

III. It is heightened by the consciousness of the personal love of Christ.

IV. It is gloriously aroused by thankfulness to God for His unspeakable gift.

V. The Christian feels free to serve Christ enthusiastically because Christ has borne the penalty due to sin.

VI. Christian enthusiasm, so far from crushing individuality and independence, emphasizes them.

VII. It overpowers unhealthy self-consciousness.

VIII. The source of it all is the indwelling Christ. (C. Stanford, D. D.)

Paradoxes

I. Christian existence is a death and yet a life.

II. The believer lives and yet he does not live.

III. The believer’s life is a life in the flesh, but nor according to the laws of the flesh. (T. Hamilton, A. M.)

The life of faith

may be considered with respect to--

I. Its object, the promises of the new covenant as--

1. Our justification.

2. Sanctification.

3. The supplies of the present life.

4. Everlasting blessedness.

II. Its trials, or the evils that seem to infringe the comfort of the promises.

1. Afflictions.

2. Temptations.

III. Its effects, as--

1. Holy duties and exercises of grace.

2. The ordinances by which it is fed and increased, as the Word, prayer, and sacraments.

3. The duties of charity, of public and private relations, as honouring God, in our generation and callings. (T. Hamilton, A. M.)

The faith of the Son of God

So called because--

I. He is the revealer of it (John 1:17).

II. He is the author of it (Hebrews 12:2).

III. He is the object of it. (T. Adams.)

An idyll of the Divine life

I. Its personal interest.

II. The burthen of it.

III. Its inspiring power. (A. J. Muir, M. A.)

Paul’s estimate of the religion of Christ

The living Person in whom we trust, not the system of precepts which we follow, or of dogmas which we receive, is the centre of the Christian society. The name by which religion in all subsequent times has been known is not an outward “ceremonial” ( θρήσκεια) as with the Greeks, nor an outward “restraint” (religio) as among the Romans, nor an outward “law” as among the Jews; it is by that far higher and deeper title which it first received from the mouth of St. Paul, “the faith.” (Dean Stanley.)

Lent and Easter

A Lent of mortification--“I am crucified with Christ.” An Easter of resurrection--“I live, etc.” (Bishop Hall.)

Sharing Christ’s Cross

We must have our part with Christ in every part of His Cross. In the transverse, by the ready extension of our hands to all good works of piety, justice, and charity; in the arrectary, or beam, by uninterrupted perseverance in good; in the head, by an elevated hope and looking for of glory; in the foot, by a lively and firm faith, fastening our souls upon the affiance of His free grace and mercy. And thus shall we be crucified with Christ. (Bishop Hall.)

Crucifixion with Christ

The phrase carries us back to the historical scene. There Christ was crucified with two thieves. Jesus was crucified with us, that we might be crucified with Him. He entered into our pain that we might enter into His peace. He shared the shame of the thieves, that Paul might share His glory. This double truth was manifest at the time of Christ’s suffering. You remember the penitent thief, as their crosses were lifted side by side, he saw Christ entering into his wretchedness. Before the feeble tortured breath had left the body, he had entered into Christ’s glory. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

The power of the Cross

The other night a friend of mine witnessed a drunken brawl. There was a man there who continued in the brawl, and his wife came out of the crowd and said: “I will go and fetch baby to him; that will bring him out if anything will.” Ah! she was a philosopher, though she did not know it. She wanted to get to the deepest part of the man’s nature. She did not talk of policemen and prison; she wanted to bring the innocent one before him, as much as to say, “Will you make a thorny couch for this little one to lie upon? Will you forge a dagger with which to pierce this little one’s heart?” And in a measure she came in the spirit of the gospel; for the gospel comes to make us hate sin by showing that another suffered and died for it. (C. Vince.)

Life in Christ

This is a striking” point of union,, between Paul and John; the Pauline form of “He that hath the Son hath life.” (W. B. Pope, D. D.)

As the mistletoe, having no root of its own, both grows and lives in the stock of the oak, so the apostle, having no root of his own, did live and grow in Christ. As if he had said, “I live, I keep a noble house, am given to hospitality, but at another’s cost, not at mine own. I am beholden to Christ. I have not a farthing of mine own. He carrieth the pack for me, and gives out to me according to my necessities.” (Surinnock.)

The immortality of life in Christ

The sun might say every morning in the spring, I am come that the earth may have life and have it more abundantly; I am come that the fields may grow, that the gardens and vineyards be more fruitful, that the beauty of the landscape may appear, that the dead may become alive, and the world be filled with joy. And the sun might add, I am the resurrection and the life; I raise the buried flowers and herbs from their graves, and cause them to live. But they perish in the autumn. The Christian shall never perish; never by annihilation, absorption, or eternal misery. (Thomas Jones.)

The progressiveness of the life of Christ

Man was made to grow. To stand still in the course of nature is to die. When the force that raised the mountain to its height had ceased, that moment the mountain began to sink again; when the tree stops growing it begins to decay; when the human body has attained its perfection, when the tide of growth has reached its highest mark, it begins to recede. But the life that Christ gives means everlasting progress in knowledge, love, usefulness, and bliss. (Thomas Jones.)

Paul’s flesh

It was hard for an enthusiast to live in flesh like Paul’s. He suffered so much from his eyes that the rough Galatians felt so much for him that they would have been willing to give him their own. He suffered so much from his hands, that when his great heart was full, and he longed to dash off a missionary letter, he was unable to hold a pen. He suffered so much from shattered nerves, that his first appearance among strangers was “in weakness, fear, and much trembling.” Who can always be calm and wise and bold, have a commanding presence, and secure a fascinated silence, when he always works in weakness, when pain is ever crashing through the sensibilities, when the smallest frictional touch can sting the life to agony. (Thomas Jones.)

Strong in Christ

Plant the tenderest sapling in the ground, and all the elements of nature shall minister to its wants. It shall feed upon the fatness of the earth, its leaves shall be wet with dew, it shall be refreshed with the showers of spring, and the warmth of summer shall cause it to grow. In like manner the man who is rooted in Christ, united to Him by faith and love, shall be energized and made strong for the work which he has to do. (Thomas Jones.)

The personal love and gift of Christ

All that Christ did and suffered He did for thee as thee; not only as man, but as that particular man, which bears such and such a name; and rather than any of those whom He loves should appear naked before His Father, and so discover the scars and deformities of their sins, Christ would be content to do and suffer as much as He hath done for any one particular man yet. But beyond infinite there is no degree; and His merit was infinite because both an infinite Majesty resided in His person, and because an infinite Majesty accepted His sacrifice for infinite. (John Donne, D. D.)

Life in the flesh

When Paul and his companions were shipwrecked at Melita, the apostle set to work like other people to gather fuel for the fire. Even so you and I must take our turn at the wheel. We must not think of keeping ourselves aloof from our fellow-men as though we should be degraded by mingling with them. We are men, and whatever men may lawfully do we may do; wherever they may go we may go. Our religion makes us neither more nor less than human, though it brings us into the family of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Luther’s motto

Luther’s motto was, Vivit Christus, Christ liveth. How to use life:--Two friends gathered each a rose; the one was continually smelling at it, touching its leaves, and handling it as if he could not hold it too fast; you do not wonder that it was soon withered. The other took his rose, enjoyed its perfume moderately, carried it in his hand for a while, then put it on the table in water, and hours after it was almost as fresh as when it was plucked from the bough. We may dote on our worldly gear until God becomes jealous of it and sends a blight upon it; and, on the other hand, we may, with holy moderateness, use these things as not abusing them, and get from them the utmost good they are capable of conveying to us. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Great love

We read in English history of the rare affection of Eleanor, wife of Edward

I. The king having received a wound by a poisoned dagger, she put her mouth to the wound to suck out the poison, venturing her own life to preserve her husband’s. But the love of Christ was greater than this. (R. B.)

Christ’s love is an individual love

The great trouble is that people take everything in general, and do not take it to themselves. Suppose a man should say to me: “Moody, there was a man in Europe who died last week, and left five million dollars to a certain individual.” “Well,” I say, “I don’t doubt that; it’s rather a common thing to happen,” and I don’t think anything more about it. But suppose he says: “But he left the money to you.” Then I pay attention; I say: “To me?” “Yes, he left it to you.” I become suddenly interested. I want to know all about it. So we are apt to think Christ died for sinners; He died for everybody, and for nobody in particular. But when the truth comes to me that eternal life is mine, and all the glories of heaven are mine, I begin to be interested. (Moody.)

The substitute

A negro of one of the kingdoms on the African coast who had become insolvent, surrendered himself to his creditor, who, according to the custom of the country, sold him for a slave. This affected his son so much that he came and reproached his father for not selling his children to pal his debts; and, after much entreaty, he prevailed on the captain to accept him, andliberate his father. The son was put in chains, and on the point of sailing to the West Indies, when the circumstances coming to the knowledge of the governor, he sent for the owner of the slaves, paid the money that he had given for the old man, and restored the son to his father. (Biblical Treasury.)

The life of faith

I. What is this faith? Faith is a grace, by which we believe God’s Word in general, and in a special manner do receive Christ, and rest upon Him for grace here and glory hereafter.

1. There is assent.

2. Consent.

3. Affiance. Resting on Christ.

II. How, and why, are we said to live by faith? Distinct graces have their distinct offices. In Scripture language we are said to live by faith, but to work by love. There must be life before operation. Now we are said to live by faith--

1. Because it is the grace that unites us to Christ.

2. Because all other graces are marshalled and ranked under the conduct of faith. It is the first stone in the spiritual building, to which all the rest are added. Without faith, virtue would languish, our command over our passions be weak, and the back of patience quite broken, and our care of the-knowledge of Divine things very small.

3. Because whatever is ascribed to faith, redounds to the honour of Christ. The worth lies in the object, as the ivy receives strength from the oak round which it winds. Faith does all, not from any intrinsic worth and force in itself; but all its power is in dependence upon Christ. We are said to live by faith, as we are said to be fed by the hand; it is the instrument.

4. Because faith removes obstructions, and opens the passages of grace, that it may run more freely. Expectation is the opening of the soul (Psalms 81:10).

III. Observations concerning this life.

1. Life must be extended, not only to spiritual duties and acts of immediate worship, but to all the actions of our natural and temporal life. A true believer sleeps, eats, drinks, in faith. Every action must be influenced by religion, looking to the promises.

2. We never act nobly in anything, till we live the life of faith.

3. We never” live comfortably, till we live by faith.

4. The life of faith is glory begun. First we live by faith, and then by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith now serves instead of sight and fruition (Hebrews 11:1). (T. Adams.)

Humanity in union with God

The late Bishop Ewing, writing of his friend Thomas Erskine, said, “His looks and life are better than a thousand homilies; they show you how Divine a thing humanity is, when the life we live in the flesh is that of conscious union with God.”

Real religion

Here is the whole sum of St. Paul’s experience, the heart of his heart, the gem out of which his life grew. It was this inward conviction that made him what he was. And this is the one thing the world wants. You who work for God, keep your own consciousness of His love alive; if that gets dim, your word is poverty-stricken and empty.

I. Here is real religion: the inward conviction that the son of God loved me, and gave himself for me. After seeking religion for thirty-nine years, John Wesley stands in a little room in Aldersgate-street, London, reading the Epistle to the Galatians and Luther’s notes on it; and as he reads it, he says, “I felt a strange warmth at my heart, and a blessed persuasion wrought into me, that the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me”; and up he leapt, mighty, resistless, sweeping through this land like the flame of the fire of God. What does it avail to know all about the life of Christ, if thy heart has not got hold of Him?

1. It is not knowledge that saves. A man in the desert may die for thirst, and yet he may know all about water and its properties.

2. It is not hope that saves. You must have a right foundation for your hope.

II. There are three steps up to this.

1. Here is all majesty--“He;” and utter insignificance--“me.” “He” stands over “me,” and so redeems my life from its lowliness.

2. Here is all goodness, and all unworthiness. He draws us to His heart and tells us of His love. Claim this love, rest on it, exult in it.

3. Love alone cannot save. “He” must “give Himself for me.” Here is the condemned prisoner in his cell, and there beside him is his Friend, who loves him; and the tears are flowing down His cheeks as He says, “I am so sorry for you.” But that doesn’t loosen the fetters and open the prison doors. But look! that Friend is gone, and the door is shut, and now hark! Without the prison walls is heard the shout, “Crucify Him.” What does it mean? Now steps approach the door, and it is flung open, and the chains are knocked off. “Come forth; thou art free.” How? Why? And the man is told, “Why, He who loved thee hath given Himself for thee, and hath satisfied the claims of the law.” That is our Friend, Jesus Christ. Let the hand of thy faith claim Him now. (New Outlines.)

Christ’s love for individuals

When the Prince of Wales went over to Ireland in the spring of 1885, he went about and saw with his own eyes how poor some of the people of Dublin were. He went down to the places where they lived, and into their houses, and spoke to them, and was as kind as kind could be; and they were glad of it. For a real prince--the son of a great queen, and a prince who is to be a king himself one day if God spares him--for him to go down to the poor quarter of the city and be interested in the poor people there and be friendly with them, it was just like sunshine I And that is just what it is like when a boy or girl, a man or woman, can say these words truly, “The Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” I once read of a man who was so loving, and good, and kind, that it was said he loved everybody in the “London Directory.” Now the “London Directory” is a big, big book, for there are some millions of names and addresses there, and my name is there too; and when I heard that this good man loved everybody whose name was in that directory, I supposed that he loved me too; but I confess I didn’t mind it much, for I didn’t think he could love my very self, because he didn’t know me, myself. If I had only been sure that when he saw my name he thought about me really, as any friend of mine would have done, then it would have been very different, and I would have been touched by his kindness. And that is how many people think when they say, “God so loved the world.” Of course they know He must have loved them too; but then, it is such a different thing to be loved like one in a crowd, and to be loved your very own self. Yet that is how Jesus loves us. He loves us, every one; He knows us, every one; and so we can each say truly, “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.” (J.R. Howatt.)

God’s love specific and personal

The presentation of this thought stirs up a great many doubts in those who have been exercised thereby. Men think that Paul probably was beloved, that Peter was beloved, and that many others were beloved. Men look around, and think that their mother was beloved, and that others, with superior natures and symmetrical parts, and full of moral excellences, were beloved. They can well conceive how those who draw upon their amiable feelings, might likewise excite in the Divine mind personal affection. But they say, “When men love single persons, it does not follow that they love all persons. And God loves men, doubtless; but does He love every one?” “God so loved the world,” is the comprehensive answer to that question. God loved the world, and the whole world. And the word, “world,” for its definition and boundaries, runs through all time and among all races. It included in it all individuals, from age to age. Everywhere God loved “the whole world.” “Yes,” men say, “But God loves men after He has made them loveable.” But the apostle says, “God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Love, which death tested but could not measure, was shed abroad toward each man and the whole world, without moral conditions. That is the import of what the apostle says. God’s disinterestedness is made plain, in that He loves each man, not on condition of repentance, but whether he repents or not. He loves men, not because there is that in them which has a tendency to excite complacency, but though they are sinful. He loves unlovely men. Yea, men that we could not love, God loves. And His love is not generic. It is not a part of the governmental benevolence: It is individualized both ways--in the heart of God, and in the heart of the recipients. It is God’s nature to love what His eye looks upon. Every human being, whether good or bad, God loves. I do not say that it makes no difference to God whether men are good, or whether they are bad, but I do say that the great crowning fact of Divine love has no respect of character--that it precedes character, and is not founded upon it. To be sure, the benefit of that love to us depends very largely upon our faith, and upon our repentance, but the existence of the Divine personal love does not depend on us in anywise. It is--if I may apply to God language which belongs to men--the constitutional nature of God. It is the tendency of His attributes. Love is the test of Divinity. It carries with it a great many other things. It carries with it in God the conception of purity, and of uprightness, and of integrity of disposition, and of justice, and of truth. It carries with it, also, the full idea of instrumentality--both penalty and reward, pleasure and pain. And back of all these, as the root-ground out of which they spring, as the source from which they come, as the animating influence which runs through them all, is love. And that love is personal to us. It is Divine, infinite; and yet it touches each one by name throughout the whole realm.

1. The love of God is the one truth which nature, as it is developed by matter alone, cannot teach us. It is one of the most profound pieces of speculation, how there can be a moral government, and yet so much suffering and power of evil in this world. The world has been the stumbling-block of thoughtful men from the beginning.

2. This truth of the Divine love is the one truth through which nature looks, beyond all others in our apprehension, in our systems of theology, and in our preaching. Though men speak of the love of God, there are comparatively few who have that crowning knowledge of it which indicates that it is genuine, deep, certain, abiding. We think that if we fix ourselves up a little, God will perhaps love us. A man is in deep distress, and there is a great heart in the neighbourhood, and he is told that if he will go and tell that great heart what his mistakes have been, and what his misfortunes are, that great heart will certainly relieve him. And instantly he begins to think of himself, and to fix himself to go to that great heart, covering up his rags the best way he can, and hiding his elbows so that they shall not be seen, and putting a little touch on his shoes that are clouted and ruptured; and then goes in. But do you suppose it makes any difference to that great heart to whom he goes, that his clothes are a little less dirty, or that they have a few less patches on them, or that his shoes are a little less soiled or torn? It is the man behind the clothes that the benevolent heart thinks of. It is not what the needy man is, but what the benefactor is, that determines what he will do. Why does he take that man into his compassion, and say to him, “Come again?” Does he do it because of what he sees in the man? or because of what he feels in himself? Why does a bird sing? because he thinks you would like to hear him? No; but because there is that in him which tickles him and fires him till he has to sing. He sings to bring joy out of himself. He sings because it is his nature to sing. A music-box does not play because you say, “Do play”; nor because you say, “It is exquisite and charming.” It does not care for your compliments and comments. And so it is with the Divine nature. That is the way God is made--if I may use human language in application to the Divine nature. That is being God. And yet how few there are who think of God as generously as He thinks of them! We have attempted to build a theology which shall prevent men from going wrong. But God Himself never prevented a man’s going wrong; and you will never do it. What we want in that direction is to get an influential conception of God; and our theology must bring God out in such lines, in such lineaments, and in such universal attractiveness, that men shall follow their yearnings and drawings, rather than their cold reasonings and intellections. One would think to hear theologians reasoning about God and the methods of salvation, and the motives of Divine procedure, that He was a fourth-proof lawyer judge, and that He sat surrounded by infinite volumes of statutes and laws, running back to eternity, and running forward to eternity; and that in every case of mercy He said, “Let Me consider first. Does it agree with the statute?” When a poor sinner comes to Him, undone, wretched, miserable, has He to consult His books to see whether he can be saved so as not to injure the law, saying, “Let us examine the law, to see if it will do to save him”? Oh I away with this pedantic judge. Such a judge is bad enough in the necessities of a weak earthly government, and is infinitely shameful when brought to the centre of the universe, and deified, There I behold God, flaming with love, backward and forward, either way, filling infinite space with the magnitude and blessedness of His love; and, if some questioning angel asks, “How shalt Thou save and keep the law?” I hear Him saying in reply, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, My own will, My own impulse, My own desire, My own heart--that shall guide Me. What are laws, and what are governments, and what is anything compared with a sentient Being? I am law, and I will govern.” In our preaching I think we fall just as much behind as we do in our personal experience and our theology. The influence of Divine love has not been the real central working power of the ministry. It is that which melts the heart, it is that which encourages hope, it is that which inspires courage, it is that which cleanses, that is needed. Fear does but very little. Fear may start a man on the road to conversion; but fear never converted a man. Truth does something. It shows the way, it opens a man’s eyes; but simple truth, mere intellection, never converted a man. No man’s heart ever grew rich, no man’s heart ever had a God-touch in it, until he had learned to see God as one whom he loves. (H. W. Beecher.)

The supreme faith

The great special faith is that by which a soul, beholding Christ who is altogether lovely and loving, realizes it, or takes Him home to itself, and says, “That is my God. He loves me. He gave Himself for me.” This is the supreme act of faith, and this saves. It brings the mind into such a condition that it instantly is in communication with God. A young man stands in a telegraph office, and along the line of the wires is the passage of electricity; and he hears the dumb ticks of the instrument; but they mean nothing to him. He looks on, as a child would look on; but still these various ticks signify nothing to his ear. But by and by the operator draws out from under the needle-point a long strip of printed paper; and it is a message from the man’s father, saying to him, “Come home.” Homesick he has been, and longing for permission to go. And oh! in one instant, in one flash, how that young man’s feeling is changed! A moment ago, as he looked on that dumb wire, it was nothing to him; but now he sees it as the instrument whose ticks have written that message from his father, “Come home.” (H. W. Beecher.)

Belief in God’s love

I know very little about God. The sum of my knowledge is this: I do believe in the Divine Being. My soul says, “Certainly there is a God”; and it says that God is paternal; and that the Divine government is a family government, and not a magisterial nor monarchical government; and that it is a personal government, generated in love, carried out in love, and to be consummated in love; and that behind the blackness, the tear, the pang, the wrong and the sin, there is to be evolved in the eternal ages the triumph of love. For everybody? I cannot measure. All I know is this: if there be one soul that at last comes short of eternal life, it will be because that soul has stood up in the very tropical atmosphere of Divine love, and that love has poured itself upon that soul without obstruction, and it was absolutely immedicable and unhealable. Only those will be lost whom love could not save; and if you are lost, it will not be because you missed a narrow switch, and just did not come out right; nor because you run off the track by being moved one-tenth part of an inch in the wrong direction; nor because you made mistakes in your faith; nor because you were unfortunate; nor because you did not do this, that, or the other thing which the churches prescribe; nor because you did not believe this, that, or the other doctrine held by the churches. You will never be God’s castaway until rivers of infinite love have been poured on you. And then, if you are not changed, ought you not to be a castaway? What those steps are, or how they are to be taken, I know not. Only this I know: love is a fact; and the Divine administration of love is a truth; and the ages are God’s. And I have more faith in what; Love will think it best to do, than in what theologians think it is best to do; and I believe God will take this great sinning, sorrowing, blood-shedding world up into His arms, and comfort it as a mother comforts her sorrowing children. And I believe that sighing shall flee away, that God will wipe all tears from men’s eyes, and that all the sorrows which have made the earth wretched in days gone by, He will, in His own way, and according to His own good pleasure, medicate; so that at last the universal Father, with the universal household, shall sit central in the universe, God over all, blessed and blessing for evermore. (H. W. Beecher.)

Holy inclination to Christ

We must give our understandings to know God, our wills to choose God, our imaginations to think upon God, our memories to remember God, our affections to fear, trust, love, and rejoice in God, our ears to hear God’s word, our tongues to speak God’s praise, our hands to work for God, and all our substance to the honour of God. As everything moves towards its proper centre, and is at no rest until it comes to that: so doth the sanctified soul incline and move to Christ, the true centre of the soul, and resteth not until it comes to Christ, and has the fruition of Christ. There is in a gracious soul such a principle of grace, such a communication of Christ, such a suitableness between the soul and Christ, such a fervent and operative love towards Christ, such a vehement longing after Christ, that it mightily moves to Christ as the rivers to the sea; that nothing but Christ can answer it, quiet and content it. There is in the soul such a blessed residence, such a powerful and gracious energy, and operation of the Spirit of Christ, that as the wheels in Ezekiel’s vision moved wheresoever the living creatures moved, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels: so the soul moves after Christ, because the Spirit of Christ is in the soul; this makes it pant after Christ, as the hart after the water-brooks; this makes it thirst for Christ, as the dry ground for waters; this makes it follow hard after Christ, as the child with cries and tears after the father going from it. The soul denies all, leaves all, passes through all, prostrates itself and all that it has under Christ, that it may enjoy Christ; it hates all that hinders its coming to Christ, and embraces all that may further its communion with Christ. (A. Gross, B. D.)

Care to see Christ living in us

As Christ lives in all God’s children, so let all that profess Christ, and call God Father, see and discern Christ living in them. This is the crown and comfort of a Christian--to have Christ living in him; and without this he has but the naked and empty name of a Christian, like an idol that has the name of a man, and is no man: a name that he lives, and yet is dead. Feel Christ, therefore, living in your understanding, by prizing the knowledge of Christ above all learning, by determining to know nothing in comparison of knowing Christ and Him crucified, by learning Christ as the truth is in Him, being filled-with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Feel Christ living in your will, in making your will free to choose and embrace Him and the things of God, to intend and will Him and the glory of God above everything, making His will the rule of your will, and fashioning and framing you to be a willing people in and about His work and service. Feel Him living in your imaginations, by thinking upon Him with more frequency and delight than of any other thing, by having more high, honourable, and sweet apprehensions of Christ, than of all the creatures. Feel Christ living in your affections, by being rooted in Christ by a lively faith, as a tree in the earth; by fearing Christ above all earthly powers, as the subject his sovereign, above all civil rulers; by loving Him, as the bride the bridegroom, above all other persons; by rejoicing in Him, as the rich man in his jewel, above all the residue of his substance. Feel Him living in your members, by circumcising and preparing your ears to hear with meekness and reverence, by returning to your tongues a pure language, that your speech may minister grace to the hearers, by restraining your eyes from beholding vanity, by disposing your hands to work that which is good, and by making your feet swift to every good duty. As you discern your soul living in your human body, moving all the members to human services, so discern Christ living in your bodily members, disposing and framing them to religious duties. Feel Christ living in all your services, as the chief worker of them, and enabler of you to do them, doing all in His name, by His assistance, and for His glory. Feel Christ living in the prayer which you make, praying by the Spirit of Christ, in the name of Christ, and for the honour of Christ. Feel Christ hying in the Word which you hear, making it an immortal seed to regenerate you, a sacred fire to purge you, a heavenly light to guide you, and a message of peace to comfort you. Feel Christ living in the sacrament which you receive, making it a celestial manna feeding you; a seal of righteousness, assuring you of your justification; an obligation binding you to new obedience; and a pledge of God’s unchangeable love towards you. All holy ordinances, if Christ live not in them, show not Himself powerful by them, are but an empty shell without kernel, and a dry breast without milk, ministering no nourishment. All the religious duties we perform, if Christ live not in them, are but a sacrifice without fire, a dead carcase, of no esteem with God. Our affections, if Christ live not in us, are a chariot without wheels; they sink and fall into the earth, they cannot incline nor move towards the Lord. All our best abilities, if Christ live not in them, are as standing waters without a living spring; they putrify, and rot, and prove unprofitable. If Christ live not in us, our understandings are blinded, and we cannot savingly know God; our will is enthralled, and we cannot intend God; our faith, like Jeroboam’s arm, is withered, and we cannot lay hold upon the promise of God. The whole sufficiency of a Christian is from Christ’s living in him. (A. Gross, B. D.)

The believer’s life

The Christian life is full of paradoxes. The crucified lives; and yet the life is peculiar. “Not I, but Christ liveth in me.”

I. The believer’s life is unlike what it used to be.

1. Once it was a weary captivity under sin.

2. But the changed life grew out of the altered ideas.

II. The believer’s life is still human life.

1. It has the sorrows to which flesh is heir.

2. It has the temptations to which flesh exposes.

3. It has the duties which flesh entails.

III. The believer’s life is by faith of the son of God.

1. Faith in His prevailing advocacy at the Throne.

2. Faith in His abiding sympathy in the world.

3. Faith in His directing wisdom on the soul.

4. Faith in His sustaining help under the soul.

5. Faith in His certain return for soul and body.

But if such things are, then--

(a) It will be a devoted life.

(b) It will be an imitative life.

(c) It will be an appreciative life.

(d) It will be an expectant life.

(i) There ought to be the memory of a break, with the world, into light and liberty,

(ii) There ought to be the consciousness of a union.

(a) The heart cleaving to Christ.

(b) The conscience grasping the pardon.

(c) The will choosing the service.

(d) The soul filled with the peace.

(iii) There will be acceptance of the conditions of the life.

(a) Willing to wait.

(b) Determined to testify.

(c) Prepared to follow.

(d) Meaning to triumph.

(e) Bound to love. (The Clergymans Magazine.)

To prove that faith is an excellent way of living

1. It is a singular way of living.

2. It is a substantial way of living; to live in faith is to live indeed.

3. It is a noble way of living.

4. It is a most sweet and comfortable way of living; joy and peace come in by believing.

5. It is a safe way of living; like a bird while he is in the air is safe from snares.

Use

1. To those that are yet strangers to this way of living by faith, pray to God to bring you acquainted with it. Many do live by sense, walking after their own hearts’ lusts.

2. To those that, acquainted with it, abound in it more and more. It is but a little while that we are to live by faith, then we come to vision and fruition, then we shall see Him in whom we have believed; faith and prayer shall be no more, and God shall be all in all to eternity. (Philip Henry.)

“I live; yet not!: but Christ liveth in me”

The broad leaf of the garden vegetable lifted sunward, is fed by the sun’s rays; the sun so grows into it and becomes pair of it, that the very sunlight could be chemically extracted from it in the form of carbon, and it would hardly be unscientific to say, “It lives, yet not it, but the sun liveth in it.” (Canon Wilberforce.)

Crucifixion with Christ and its results

I. The chief event and circumstance in Paul’s history. “I am (or have been) crucified with Christ.” The apostle’s reflections upon the arguments already given, threw him back upon this as the starting-point in his religious experience. In the contemplation of this he knew what had led to the death of Christ, as far as that event was determined by human purpose. Christ had assailed the traditionalism of the Jews--had exposed their hypocrisy--had exalted the spiritual law above the ceremonial. These works of His, combined with His lofty and sublime claims as the Son of God, led the Jews to resolve upon His death. This was the truth on the human side. On the Divine side, according to the revelation made to St. Paul, Christ suffers for our sins--He was delivered for our offences. But He not only dies for sins--He died to sin: “In that He died, He died unto sin once.” The conflict with sin ended upon the cross. The risen Saviour knew no temptation. Now Paul, by a union of which he afterwards speaks, felt that in Christ’s death he also died. “He has been planted--in the likeness of His death.” Thus, so profound was his fellowship with Christ--so intimate was that bond that bound him to the Saviour--that in reference to the actual sufferings and death of the Redeemer, he could say: “I am crucified with Christ.” This was the permanent thought in Paul’s mind. So in all Christian life of the same type. It has its origin in what the world regards with shame and contempt. Being dead with Christ is one of the first principles of His doctrine.

II. This “crucifixion” determined Paul’s relation to the law, and originated and directed a new life. The 19th verse has an intimate and essential connection with the first clause in the 20th verse. Hence--

1. His relationship to the law. “I through the law am dead to the law.” The law, whether regarded in its highest moral character, or in its mere ceremonial requirements, had demanded of Paul that which he could never render. None had ever tried more sincerely, more arduously, than had Paul. But at the end of all there was the most apparent failure. The law viewed in the light of the Cross had shown him the futility of his efforts. The law became his schoolmaster to lead him to Christ, but from that moment he had parted company with it as the means of justification. The law by itself, whether moral or ceremonial, had no further attraction for him; and so complete wag the separation between him and it, that he could say, that being crucified with Christ he had died to the law. His most intimate acquaintance with the law had shown him that salvation could never be obtained through it. “Through law he died to law.”

2. This crucifixion was the beginning of a new life--“Nevertheless I live.” As the Saviour’s crucifixion was followed by His entrance into a new and higher life, so was it with Paul. He had been buried with Christ, but he had also been planted in the likeness of His resurrection. This life was Christ in him--“Christ liveth in me.”

3. Paul had, through crucifixion with Christ, received direction in this new life.

It was--

1. A life unto God (verse 19). Thus was it in the resurrection of the Saviour--“In that He liveth, He liveth unto God.” So with the believer. He has died unto law and sin, that he may live unto God. This is the end and aim of the Christian life--“To know Thee, the only true God.”

2. A life of faith. Faith in the Son of God. Not belief in a law merely, but in a Person, and that Person the Divine Redeemer.

3. A life in which love and selfsacrifice are ruling principles. Paul distinctly recognizes the character and work of the Saviour--“Who loved me and gave Himself for me.” These principles are reproduced in, and are continuous with, Christian life. The surrender of Christ produces in His people a similar devotion, and the love of Christ creates an undying affection.

4. A life in which there is no condemnation. This is the meaning of the last verse--“I do not frustrate the grace of God,” etc. I have not this condemnation, but the assurance that in me the death of Christ has accomplished its purpose. Those who seek righteousness by the law treat with disrespect the provision of God, for if they could obtain justification by obedience to law, then the death of Christ was unnecessary. But the Christian believer is in no such condemnation. He has received the grace of God, not that he may continue in sin, but be separated from it, not that he may defy God, but serve Him in holiness and righteousness. (R. Nicholls.)

The Christian crucified

I. What is it to be crucified with Christ? By this terrible crucifixion Christ became insensible to surrounding objects. He ceased to feel, hear, see, He died. Though the Christian is not thus literally crucified with Christ, he is so spiritually. Hence he becomes dead to the law, world, and to sin; dead to human pride, pleasures, and degraded passions. Though Christ was in the flesh, He did not live the life of the flesh. His visible crucifixion on Calvary was only a sign of the spiritual crucifixion within.

II. How is this crucifixion effected?

1. The power. The spirit of grace in the heart is the power that effects it.

2. The instrument. Faith is the hand that grasps the hammer, drives the nails, and deals a deadly blow to the “old man.”

3. The manner. This act of spiritual crucifying is most thoroughly effected. It is a complete work. The whole man is crucified; the will, understanding, affections, desires, delights. Every prayer, tear of repentance, tells upon it.

III. What is the natural result of this crucifixion with Christ?

1. Freedom from the law (Romans 7:1). “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.”

2. Deliverance from sin.

3. Fitness for usefulness. It was by His death that Christ became the life of the world.

4. Possession of real happiness. Nothing is so destructive to our true happiness as the “life of the flesh.” (J. H. Hughes.)

Nevertheless, etc. Inward life is

I. Conscious--“I live.”

II. Distinguished from natural feeling--“yet not I.”

III. Enjoyed in Christ--“Christ liveth in me.”

IV. Controls the life in the flesh.

V. Is sustained by faith. (J. Lyth.)

Faith in Christ the source of life

The faith which is the life of the soul, is not mere belief of the existence of God, and of those great moral and religious truths which are the foundation of all religion. Nor does the faith of Christ, spoken of here, mean faith in that unseen world which Christ has revealed. Nor is the truth in question either exhausted or accurately stated by saying, the faith which has this life-giving power has the whole Word of God for its object. It is, indeed, admitted that faith has respect to the whole revelation of God. It receives all His doctrines, bows to all His commands, trembles at His threatenings, and rejoices at His promises. This, however, is not the faith by which the apostle lived; or, rather, it is not those acts of faith which have the truth of God in general for their object, which gives life to the soul. The doctrine of the text and of the whole New Testament is, that the soul is saved, that spiritual life is obtained, by those acts of faith which have Christ for their object. Other things in the Word of God we may not know, and, therefore, may not consciously believe, but Christ we must know. About other things true Christians may differ, but they must all agree as to what they believe concerning Christ. He is, in such a sense, the object of faith, that saving faith consists in receiving and resting on Him alone for salvation, as He is offered to us in the gospel, it consists in receiving Christ, i.e., in recognizing, acknowledging, accepting, and appropriating Him, as He is held forth to us in the Scripture. It includes, therefore, a resting on Him alone for salvation, i.e., for justification, sanctification, and eternal life (Romans 3:21-31; Philippians 3:1-14; 1 John 5:1, etc.). The whole scheme of redemption is founded on this truth. Men are dead in trespasses and sin. They cannot be delivered from this state by any works or efforts of their own. Neither can they come to God without a Mediator. Christ is the only medium of access; therefore faith in Him is the indispensable condition of salvation.

I. We must believe that Christ is the Son of God. This includes His Divinity and Incarnation. The faith which has power to give life has the Incarnate God for its object. It contemplates and receives that historical person, Jesus Christ, who was born in Bethlehem, who lived in Judaea, who died on Calvary, as God manifest in the flesh.

1. Any other faith than this is unbelief. To believe in Christ, is to receive Him in His true character. But to regard Him who is truly God as a mere creature, is to deny, reject, and to despise Him. It is to refuse to recognize Him in the very character in which He is presented for our acceptance.

2. A Saviour less than Divine, is no Saviour. The blood of no mere man is an adequate atonement for the justification of sinners. The assurance of the gift of eternal life is mockery from any other lips than those of God. It is only because Jesus is the Lord of glory, the Son of God, God manifest in the flesh, that His blood cleanses from all sin, that His righteousness is infinite in value, sufficient to cover the greatest guilt, to hide the greatest deformity, and to secure even for the chief of sinners admission into heaven.

3. It must also be remembered that it is to the spiritually dead that God is declared to be the author of life. But no creature is life-giving. It is only He who has life in Himself that is able to give life unto others. It is because Christ is God; because all the fulness of the Godhead dwells in Him, that He is the source of spiritual life to us.

4. Spiritual life, moreover, supposes Divine perfection in the object on which its exercises terminate. It is called the life of God in the soul, not only because God is its source, but also because He is its object. The exercises in which that life consists, or by which it is manifested, must terminate on infinite excellence. The fear, the admiration, the gratitude, the love, the submission, the devotion, which belong to spiritual life, are raised to the height of religious affections only by the infinitude of their object.

II. We must believe that Christ loves us.

1. We must not exclude ourselves from the number of those who are the objects of Christ’s love. This is really to reject Him as our Saviour, while we admit He may be the Saviour of others. A very common form of unbelief; for unbelief it is, however it may assume the specious garb of humility. God loves His enemies--the ungodly, the polluted; and by loving makes them lovely. Alas! Did He not love us until we loved Him, we should perish in our sins.

2. We must appropriate to ourselves, personally and individually, the general assurance and promise of the love of Christ.

III. We must believe that Christ gave Himself for us, i.e., that He died for us. This again includes two things--

1. Faith in His vicarious death as an atonement for sin; and--

2. Faith in His death as a propitiation for our individual or personal sins.

Conclusion: If such be the doctrine of the text and of the Scriptures, it answers two most important questions.

1. It tells the anxious inquirer definitely what he must do to be saved. His simple duty is to believe that Jesus is the Son of God; that He loved us, and died for us; and that God for His sake is reconciled to us. Let him do this, and he will find peace, love, joy, wonder, gratitude, and devotion filling his heart and controlling his life.

2. It tells how the Divine life in the soul of the believer is to be sustained and invigorated. The clearer the views we can attain of the Divine glory of the Redeemer, the deeper our sense of His love, and the stronger our assurance that He gave Himself for us, the more of spiritual life shall we have; the more of love, reverence, and zeal; the more humility, peace, and joy; and the more strength to do and suffer in the cause of Christ. (Charles Hedge, D. D.)

Faith

True, justifying faith consists in three things.

1. Self-renunciation. Repentance and faith are both humbling graces; by repentance a man abhors himself; by faith he goes out of himself.

2. Recumbency. The soul casts itself upon Jesus Christ; faith rests on His person. The promise is but the cabinet, Christ is the jewel in it which faith embraceth. The promise is but the dish, Christ is the food in it which faith feeds on. And as faith rests on Christ’s person, so on His person under this notion, as He was crucified. Faith glories in the Cross of Christ. To consider Christ as He is crowned with all manner of excellences, doth rather stir up admiration and wonder; but Christ looked upon as bleeding and dying, is the proper object of our faith; therefore let it be called “faith in His blood.”

3. Appropriation, or the applying Christ to ourselves. A medicine, though it be ever so sovereign, yet if not applied to the wound, will do no good. The hand receiving of gold is enriched; so the hand of faith receiving Christ’s golden merits with salvation, enricheth us.

Wherein lies the preciousness of faith?

1. In its being the chief gospel grace, the head of the graces; as gold among the metals, so is faith among the graces. Love is the crowning grace in heaven, but faith is the conquering grace upon earth.

2. In its having influence upon all the graces, and setting them a-work, not a grace stirs till faith set it a-work. Did not faith feed the lamp with oil, it would soon die. Faith sets love a-work, “faith which worketh by love”; believing the mercy and merit of Christ causeth a flame of love to ascend. Faith sets patience a-work, “be followers of them, who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Faith believes the glorious rewards given to suffering. Thus faith is the master-wheel, it sets all the other graces a-running.

How does faith justify?

1. Faith doth not justify, as it is a work, that were to make a Christ of our faith; but faith justifies, as it lays hold of the object, viz., Christ’s merits. Faith doth not justify as it exerciseth grace. It cannot be denied, faith doth invigorate all the graces, it puts strength and liveliness into them, but it doth not justify under this notion. Faith works by love, but it doth not justify as it works by love, but as it applies Christ’s merits. Why should faith save and justify more than any other grace?

1. Because of God’s sanction. He hath appointed this grace to be justifying: and He doth it, because faith is a grace that takes a man off himself, and gives all the honour to Christ and free grace; “strong in faith, giving glory to God.” The king’s stamp makes the coin pass for current; if he would put his stamp upon leather as well as silver, it would make it current; so God having put His sanction, the stamp of His authority end institution upon faith, this makes it to be justifying, and saving.

2. Because faith makes us one with Christ. It is the espousing, incorporating grace, it gives us coalition and union with Christ’s person: other graces make us like Christ, faith makes us members of Christ. Let us above all things labour for faith. “Above all taking the shield of faith.” Faith will be of more use to us than any grace: as an eye though dim, was of more use to an Israelite than all the other members of his body (not a strong arm, or a nimble foot), it was his eye looking on the brazen serpent that cured him. It is not knowledge, though angelical, not repentance, though we could shed rivers of tears, could justify us: only faith, whereby we look on Christ. “Without faith it is impossible to please God;” and if we do not please Him by believing, He will not please us in saving of us. Faith is the condition of the covenant of grace; without faith, without covenant: and without covenant, without hope. Let us try whether we have faith. There is something looks like faith, and is not: a Bristol-stone looks like a diamond. Some plants have the same leaf with others, but the herbalist can distinguish them by the root, and taste. Something may look like true faith, but it may be distinguished by the fruits. Well then, how shall we know it is a true faith?

By the noble effects:

1. Faith is a Christ-prizing grace, it puts a high valuation upon Him--“to you that believe, He is precious.”

2. Faith is a refining grace--“the mystery of faith in a pure conscience.” Faith is in the soul as fire among metals: it refines and purifies. Morality may wash the outside, faith washeth the inside--“having purified their hearts by faith.” Faith makes the heart a sacristy or holy of holies. Faith is a virgin-grace, though it doth not take away the life of sin, yet it takes away the love of sin. Examine if your hearts be an unclean fountain, sending out mud and dirt, pride, envy; if there be legions of lusts in thy soul, there is no faith. Faith is a heavenly plant which will not grow in an impure soil.

3. Faith is an obediential grace--“the obedience of faith.” Faith melts our will into God’s; faith runs at God’s call. Faith is not an idle grace; as it hath an eye to see Christ, so it hath a hand to work for Him. Faith doth not only believe God’s promise, but obeys His command. And the true obedience of faith is a cheerful obedience; God’s commands do not seem grievous.

4. Faith is an assimilating grace. It changeth the soul into the image of the object; it makes it like Christ. A deformed person may look on a beautiful object, but not be made beautiful; but faith looking on Christ transforms a man, and turns him into His similitude. Looking on a holy Christ causeth sanctity of heart; looking on an humble Christ makes the soul humble. As the camelion is changed into the colour of that which it looks upon; so faith looking on Christ changeth a Christian unto the similitude of Christ.

5. By the growth of it; if it be a true faith it grows; living things grow--“from faith to faith.” How may we judge of the growth of faith?

Growth of faith is judged--

1. By strength.

2.--By doing duties in a more spiritual manner, with fervency When an apple hath done growing in bigness, it grows in sweetness. But I fear I have no faith? We must distinguish between weakness of faith and nullity; a weak faith is true. A weak faith may be fruitful. Weakest things multiply most; the vine is a weak plant, but it is fruitful. Weak Christians may have strong affections. Weak faith may be growing. (T. Watson.)

The old life and the new

If you will take Jesus Christ, and plant Him in your hearts, everything will come out of that. That tree “bears twelve manner of fruits, and yields his fruit every month.” With Christ in your hearts all other fair things will be planted there; and with Him in your heart, all evil things which you may already have planted there, will be rooted out. Just as when some strong exotic is carried to some distant land and there takes root, it exterminates the feebler vegetation of the place to which it comes: so with Christ in my heart, the sins, the evil habits, the passions, the lusts, and all other foul spawn and offspring, will die and disappear. Take Him, then, dear friend, by simple faith, for your Saviour. He will plant the good seed in your spirit, and, “instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Life by Christ alone

In the early summer of 1863 Archbishop Whately delivered his last charge, and soon after entered on the painful martyrdom that only terminated with his death. “He felt as if red-hot gimlets were being put through his leg,” and the pain steadily increased. The garden-chair; then the change from room to room; then the books that he read, had to be successively dropped. He felt his uselessness. “Have you ever preached a sermon on the text, ‘Thy will be done’?” he said to a friend one day; “how did you explain it?” When he replied, “Just so,” he said, “that is the meaning;” and added, in a voice choked with tears, “but it is hard--very hard sometimes--to say it.” Though he restrained every word of impatience while the agony he suffered brought streams of perspiration down his face, he would often pray during the night, “O my God, grant me patience!” If he was betrayed into a moment’s fretfulness he would immediately beg pardon. Some one remarked that his great mind was supporting him. “No!” he emphatically cried, “it is not that which supports me. It is trust in Christ; the life I live is by Christ alone.”

Believers are dead to the world

Plutarch saith of Themistocles, that he accounted it below his state to stoop to take up the spoils (though chains of gold) which the enemy had scattered in the way, but said to one of his followers, “Thou mayest; for thou are not Themistocles.” It is for worldly spirits, it is below the state of heaven-born spirits, to stoop to worldly things: worldlings may 1 they are not Themistocles, they are not saints. (Venning.)

The Christian indeed

I. Let us attentively observe the several characters here given us of true godliness, and see whether we have anything like them in ourselves. Says Paul: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” It has then a character of mystery, of wonder, or (shall I say?) paradox. How strange it is to see “a bush burning with fire and unconsumed”! How marvellous is it to find that the poor only are rich, the sick only are well, and that a broken heart is the greatest blessing we can possess! How surprising is it to hear persons saying, We are “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; having nothing, and yet possessing all things; as dying, and, behold, we live”--to hear a man say, “I am crucified,” though he has the use of all his limbs--crucified with Christ, though. Christ had been crucified on Calvary long before--and to add, “nevertheless I live”--then with the same breath to check himself, and deny this--“yet not I”--and to crown the whole, “Christ liveth in me,” though he was then in heaven I What unintelligible jargon is all this to the carnal mind! It has a character of mortification--“I am crucified with Christ.” The grace of God has to pull up, as well as sow; to destroy, as well as build. It has a character of life--“Nevertheless I live.” And life brings evidence along with it. “I am susceptible of spiritual joys and sorrows. I live, for I breathe prayer and praise; I live, for I feel the pulse of sacred passions; I live, for I have appetites, and do hunger and thirst after righteousness; I live, for I walk and I work; and though all my efforts betray weakness, they prove life--I live.” A real Christian is not a picture--a picture may accurately resemble an original, but it wants life: it has eyes, but it sees not; lips, but it speaks mot. A Christian is not a figure: you may take materials and make up the figure of a man, and give it the various parts of the human body, and even make them move, by wires; but a Christian is not moved in religion by machinery, but life--nothing is forced and artificial. It has a character of humility--“Yet not I.” This is the unvarying strain of the apostle. “Not by fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have our conversation in the world. By the grace of God I am what I am.” Compare with this language the sentiments of the Pagan philosophers. Take one as a specimen of the rest. Cicero says, “We are justly applauded for virtue, and in virtue we rightly glory; which would not be the case if we had virtue as the gift of God, and not from ourselves. Did any person ever give thanks to God that he was a good man? No, but we thank Him that we are rich, that we are honourable, that:ye are in health and safety.” Now this argues not only the most dreadful pride, but the grossest ignorance, and it would be easy to prove that goodness is much less from ourselves than anything else. The material creation has not such degrees of dependence upon God as the animal; the animal world has not such degrees of dependence upon God as the rational; and rational beings have not such degrees of dependence upon God as pure and holy beings. Finally, it has a Christian character--“But Christ liveth in me.” This life is indeed formally in me: I am the subject of it, but not the agent. It is not self-derived, nor self-maintained; but it comes from Him, and is so perfectly sustained by Him, that it seems better to say, not “I live,” but “Christ liveth in me.” He has a sovereign empire of grace, founded in His death, and He quickens whom He will. He is our life--not only as He procures it by redemption, but also as He produces it by regeneration; and He liveth in us as the sun lives in the garden, by His influence calling forth fragrance and fruits; or as the soul lives in the body, actuating every limb, and penetrating every particle with feeling.

II. Let us consider the grand influencing principle of this religion--“It is the faith of the Son of God.” “If you ask,” says the Christian, “how it is that I live so different from others, and so different from my former self, here is the secret.” To explain this, it will be necessary to observe that the communication of grace from Christ, to maintain the Divine life, depends on union with Him, and that of this union faith is the medium. Let me make this plain. It is well known that the animal spirits and nervous juices are derived from the head to the body; but then it is only to that particular body which is united to it. And the same may be said of the vine: the vine conveys a prolific sap, but it is exclusively to its own branches. It matters not how near you place the branches to the stock; if they are not in it, they may as well be a thousand miles off: they cannot be enlivened or fructified by it. “The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine: no more can we except we abide in Him, for without Him we can do nothing.” Now He is the head, and we are the members; He is the vine, we are the branches. And this union from which this influence flows is accomplished by faith only: “He dwells in our hearts by faith.” If faith be an eye, it is only by this we can see Him; if faith be a hand, it is only by this we can lay hold of Him.

III. This brings us to notice the confidence, the appropriation, which this religion allows. But I would intimate, first, that genuine religion always produces a concern for this appropriation. It will not suffer a man to rest in distant speculations and loose generalities, but will make him anxious to bring things home to himself, and to know how they affect him. I mean also to intimate, secondly, that a Christian may attain this confidence, and draw this conclusion. Thirdly, we would intimate that nothing can exceed the blessedness which results from such an appropriation of the Saviour in His love, and in His death. (W. Jay.)

The Divine life in the souls of men considered

St. Paul relates his own case in the text, in which you may observe these truths.

1. That believers are endowed with spiritual activity; or, that they are enabled to serve God, and perform good works. This is intimated by two expressions, “I am crucified,” and “I live”; which, though they seem contradictory, do really mean the same thing. “I live” signifies spiritual activity; a vigorous, persevering serving of God; a living unto God (as it is explained verse 19, and Romans 6:11). Such a principle or power is very significantly called life, to denote its intimacy in the soul, its vivacity, and permanency.

2. We may observe that the vital principle of holiness in believers, whereby they are enabled to serve God, is communicated to them through Christ only as a Mediator. This is also asserted in the emphatical epanorthosis, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”; that is, spiritual life is formally in me, but it is not self-originated; it does not result from my natural principles (which are so essential to me, that I may represent them under the personal pronoun I), but was first implanted, and is still supported and cherished, by the power and grace of God through Christ; and it is in every respect so dependent upon Him, and His influence is so intimately diffused through my soul, that I may say, “Christ liveth in me.” A like expression is used in Colossians 3:3-4. “Christ is our life.”

3. We may take notice that believers receive supplies from Christ for the maintenance and nourishment of their spiritual life. The life which I now live (or, as it might be rendered more significantly, what I now live) “in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.” Nothing can be more profitable, nothing more necessary, than right notions about spiritual life.

I. Wherein spiritual life consists.

II. When it is communicated.

III. Whether it be instantaneously communicated, or gradually acquired by repeated acts.

IV. Who are the subjects of it, or in what extent is it communicated.

V. In what sense is it communicated and supported through Christ?

VI. How faith derives supplies from Him for its support and nourishment.

I. “Wherein does spiritual life consist?” This inquiry, though necessary both to inform your minds and to repel the charge of unintelligibleness, so frequently alleged against this doctrine, yet is exceeding difficult, both because of the mysteriousness of the thing in itself, and because of the blindness of the-minds of those that are not endowed with it. It is mysterious in itself, as every kind of life is. The effects and many of the properties of animal life are plain, but what animal life is in itself is an inquiry too sublime for the most philosophic and soaring mind. Now spiritual life still approaches nearer to the life of the Divine Being, that boundless ocean of incomprehensible mysteries, and consequently exceeds our capacity more than any other. But besides, such is the blindness of unregenerate souls, that they cannot receive or know the things of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:14), and therefore what is knowable by enlightened minds concerning spiritual life, cannot be apprehended with suitable clearness by them.

1. It supposes a living spiritual principle. There can be no life, no vital actions, without a vital principle, from whence they flow; e.g., there can be no animal life, no animal sensations and motions, without a principle of animal life. Now spiritual life must suppose a principle of holiness. A principle of life of any kind will not suffice; it must be particularly and formally a holy principle; for life and all its operations will be of the same kind with the principle from which they proceed. Now a holy principle is something distinct from and superadded to the mere natural principle of reason. To illustrate this matter, let us suppose a man deprived of the faculty of memory, and yet to continue rational (as he might in a low degree); according to this supposition, he will be always incapable of an act of memory, however strong his powers of perception, volition, etc., may be, till the power of exercising his reason in that particular way which is called remembering be conferred upon him. So let a sinner’s mere natural powers be ever so much refined and polished, yet, if there be no principle of spiritual life distinct from them infused, he will be everlastingly incapable of living religion. This gracious principle is called the seed of God (1 John 3:9), to intimate, that as the seed of vegetables is the first principle of the plant, and of its vegetative life, so is this of spiritual life, and all its vital acts.

2. Spiritual life implies a disposition to a holy operation, an inward propensity, a spontaneous inclination towards holiness, a willing that which is good (Romans 7:18). Every kind of life has some peculiar innate tendencies, sympathies, and antipathies: so animal life implies a natural inclination to food, to move at proper seasons, etc. There is a savour, a relish for Divine things, as essential to spiritual life as our natural gusts and relishes are to natural life. Hence gracious desires are often signified in Scripture under the metaphors of hungering and thirsting; and to this St. Peter expressly alludes, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). By virtue of this disposition, believers set their affections on things above (Colossians 3:2); they relish, they savour, they affect things above.

3. Spiritual life implies a power of holy operation. A heavenly vigour, a Divine activity animates the whole soul. It implies more than an inefficacious disposition, a dull, lazy velleity, productive of nothing but languid wishes. So every kind of life implies a power of operation suitable to its nature. Animal life (e.g.)
has not only an innate propensity, but also a natural power to move, to receive and digest food, etc. “They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength” (
Isaiah 40:31); that is, they have strength given them; renewed and increased by repeated acts, in the progress of sanctification. They are “strengthened with might, by the Spirit in the inner man “(Ephesians 3:16). I do not mean that spiritual life is always sensible and equally vigorous ; alas! it is subject to many languishments and indispositions; but I mean there is habitually in a spiritual man a power, an ability for serving God which, when all pre-requisites concur, and hindrances are removed, is capable of putting forth acts of holiness, and which does actually exert itself frequently. Again, I do not mean an independent power, which is so self-active as to need no quickening energy from the Divine Spirit to bring it into act, but a power capable of acting under the animating influences of grace, which, as to their reality, are common to all believers, though they are communicated in different degrees to different persons. Before we lose sight of this head, let us improve it to these purposes: Let us improve it as a caution against this common mistake, viz., that our mere natural powers, under the common aids of Divine grace, polished and refined by the institutions of the gospel, are a sufficient principle of holiness, without the addition of any new principle. You see a principle of spiritual life is supernatural; it is a Divine, heaven-born thing; it is the seed of God; a plant planted by our heavenly Father. But, alas I how many content themselves with a self-begotten holiness! Let us also improve what has been said, to remove another equally common and pernicious error, namely, that gospel-holiness consists merely in a series of acts materially good. Some imagine that all the actions they do, which are materially lawful, and a part of religion, have just so much of holiness in them; and as they multiply such actions, their sanctification increases in their imagination. But, alas! do they not know that a principle, a disposition, a power of holy acting, must precede and be the source of all holy acts? That a new heart must be given us, and a new spirit put within us, before we can “walk in God’s statutes and keep His judgments, and do them?” (Ezekiel 36:26-27.) Further, let us improve our account of spiritual life, to inform us of a very considerable difference between a mere moral and spiritual life; or evangelical holiness and morality. Spiritual life is of a Divine original; evangelical holiness flows from a supernatural principle; but mere morality is natural; it is but the refinement of our natural principles, under the aids of common grace, in the use of proper means; and consequently it is obtainable by unregenerate men. Again, we may improve what has been said to convince us that a life of formality, listlessness, and inactivity is far from being a spiritual life. We proceed to inquire--

II. When spiritual life is communicated? To this the Scriptures direct us to answer, that it is communicated in that change which is generally called regeneration, or effectual calling.

1. If spiritual life were communicated in creation, there would be no propriety or significancy in the expressions used to denote the communication of it. There would be no need of a new, a second birth, if we were spiritually alive by virtue of our first birth.

III. Whether spiritual life be instantaneously communicated? Or whether (as some allege) it be gradually acquired by repeated acts?

1. It is a contradiction that it should be originally acquired by acting, or a series of acts; for that supposes that it exists, and does not exist, at the same time: as it acts, it exists; and as it is acquired by acting, it does not exist. It will perhaps be objected, “That it may be acquired by the repeated acts of another kind of life, namely, rational; or the exercises of our rational powers about spiritual objects.” But this may be answered from what was observed under the first head, namely, that a principle of spiritual life is something distinct from and superadded to our natural powers. Principles of action may be confirmed and rendered more prompt to act by frequent exercise; but can never be originally obtained that way.

2. The terms whereby the communication of spiritual life is signified as begetting, creating, quickening, or raising the dead, etc., denote an instantaneous communication.

3. Spiritual life is represented as prior to, and the source and principle of, all acts of evangelical holiness; and consequently it cannot be gradually acquired by such acts, but must be implanted previously to the putting forth of any such acts; as reason is not acquired by reasoning, but is a pre-requisite and principle of all the acts of reason. We are created in Christ Jesus to make us capable of good works (Ephesians 2:10). Hence we may see the vanity of that religion which is gained in the same manner that a man learns a trade, or an uncultivated mind becomes knowing and learned, namely, by the repeated exercises of our natural powers in use of proper means, and under the aids of common providence. We have seen that a principle of spiritual life is not a good act, nor a series of good acts, nor anything acquirable by them, but the spring and origin of all good acts. Let us then, my brethren, try whether our religion will stand this test. Hence also we may learn a considerable difference between what is commonly called morality and gospel-holiness. The one is obtained, as other acquired habits are, by frequent and continued exercises; the other proceeds from a principle divinely implanted.

IV. Our inquiry is, Who are the subjects of spiritual life? or in what extent is it communicated?

V. Our next inquiry is, In what sense is spiritual life communicated and supported through Christ? To explain and illustrate this point, let these three things be considered.

1. That by the sin of our first parents and representatives, our principle of spiritual life was forfeited, and the forfeiture is continued, and spiritual death brought on us by our personal sin.

2. The Lord Jesus, by His sufferings, made a “complete satisfaction to Divine justice,” and thereby redeemed the blessing forfeited; and by the merit of His obedience purchased Divine influence for the extirpation of the principles of spiritual death which lurk in our natures, and the implantation of holiness. Hence the regeneration and sanctification, as well as the salvation of His people, are ascribed to His merits and death. We are “sanctified through the offering up of the body of Christ” (Hebrews 10:10).

3. Christ, the Purchaser, is appointed also “the Communicator of spiritual life” to His people. “The Son quickeneth whom He will” (John 5:21).

VI. How faith derives supplies from Christ for the support and nourishment of spiritual life? I shall proceed to the solution of this by the following gradation.

1. The communication of grace from Christ to maintain and nourish spiritual life in His people is a peculiar and distinguishing communication.

2. It is fit and necessary there should be a peculiar union between Christ and His people as the foundation of this peculiar influence.

3. It is fit that that grace which has a peculiar concurrence or instrumentality in the uniting of the soul to Christ, and in continuing of that union, should also have a peculiar concurrence or instrumentality in deriving supplies of spiritual strength from Him; for since union is the true special ground of the communication, it is fit that that which is the peculiar instrument of this union should also be the peculiar instrument of receiving, or vehicle of communicating vital influences.

4. Faith has a “peculiar concurrence” or “instrumentality in the first union” of the soul to Christ, and the consequent continuation of the union. It is the grand ligament whereby they are indissolubly conjoined. It is true the spiritual man, as well as our animal bodies, consists of several essential parts. Repentance, love, and the whole system of evangelical graces and moral virtues are as necessary, in their proper respective places, as faith. But then faith has a peculiar aptitude, above all other graces and virtues, for performing the part we now appropriate to it. So heart, lungs, bowels, etc., are essential to the human body, as well as nerves and arteries; but the nerves are the peculiar vehicles to carry the vital spirits from the brain; and the arteries are the only conveyancers of the blood from the heart, through many labyrinths, to the whole body. Faith, in a special manner, implies those things in its very nature which reason directs us to look upon as suitable pre-requisites or concomitants of deriving vital influence from Christ. For instance, it is fit that all that receive spiritual life as a blessing of the covenant of grace should submit to and acquiesce in the terms of the covenant. Now such a submission and acquiescence is faith. For the particular improvement of this head, I shall make these three remarks--

I shall conclude with a short general improvement of the whole subject in the following inferences--

1. That the reason why religion is so burdensome to many is because they are “destitute of a principle of spiritual life,” and the “quickening communications of Divine grace.” Constrained by self-love, they drudge and toil in religious duties, and cry, “What a weariness is it!”

2. Let us examine ourselves whether the evidence of spiritual life, which may be collected from what has been said, give us reason to conclude that we are possessed of it. Do we feel, or have we felt, a supernatural principle working within? Is our religion heaven-born? or is it natural and self-sprung? Do we derive our strength for obedience from Christ by faith? Is He “our life?” Are we generally crying, “Lord, we have no strength; but our eyes are unto Thee?”

3. Let those who are made spiritually alive “acknowledge and admire the distinguishing grace of God, and act as it becomes their character.” (President Davies.)

The life of faith

In the words we may consider divers things.

1. That there is another manner of life than the ordinary life of nature.

2. That it is a better and more excellent life than that he formerly lived; as if he had said, Now, since I have seen the misery of my former natural estate, and the excellency of a spiritual life by faith in the Son of God, I esteem my former life to have been wretched, not worthy of the name of life, compared with that which I live now, as being founded in a better root than the “first Adam;”

3. The spring of this life is the Son of God. God is life naturally, and we have life no otherwise than from Him who quickeneth all things.

4. The conveyance of this spiritual life is by faith. Water springs not without a conduit to marry and spread it. The sun warms not without beams, and the liver conveys not blood without veins. So faith is that vessel which conveys this spiritual life, that conduit wherein all spiritual graces run, for the framing and working of spiritual life, conveying all, to pitch upon those excellencies of the Son of God.

5. The object and root of this spiritual life is, faith in the Son of God, loving Him, and giving himself for Him. So there is a life besides the natural life, and the root of it is Christ, who is our life. Life is the best thing in the world, most esteemed of us; as the devil said concerning Job (Job 2:4). Life is the foundation of all comforts; life is the vigour proceeding from soul and body. So the spiritual life is nothing else but that excellent vigour, and strong connected strength of the soul ann body renewed, grounded on supernatural reasons, which makes it follow the directions of the Word, over-master the flesh, and so by degrees be transformed into the image of Christ, consisting in holiness-and righteousness. The first point then is, that there is a better life than a natural life, because there is somewhat in a man which aspires and looks to a better estate. That there must be a better life, which is this spiritual life; for this life which we live in the flesh is a thing of nothing. Our little life we live here, wherefore is it? To live a while, to eat and drink and enjoy our pleasures, and then fall down and die like a beast? Oh no, but to make a beginning for a better life. If this life be such a blessing, what is then that most excellent spiritual life we speak of? It holds out beyond all. By this spiritual life, when one is most sick, you shall see him most lively and spiritual. When sense, and spirit, and sight, and all fail, yet by reasons drawn from spiritual life he comforts himself in Christ, the glory to come, and what He hath done for him. When the body is weakest, the spirit is strongest. A Christian furnished with this spiritual life can see Christ and glory, beyond all the things of this life; he can look backwards, make use of all things past, see the vanity of things so admired of others; he can taste things nature doth not relish; he hath strength of reasons beyond all the apprehensions of reason; he is a man of a strong working. Therefore, unless we will be dead creatures, labour we must for a spiritual life, for there is another death which follows the first death. We consider not here of life so high, though this life must be derived from Him principally. It is so naturally. The Son is the fountain of life, because He is God, who is radically, fundamentally, and essentially life. But why is faith the grace to convey life to us?

1. We live the life of faith in our effectual calling. The Spirit works it, the Spirit is God’s hand. This makes, that our eyes are bent upwards to see a better life, to see a calling, to live holily and righteously in all things, to see what a rich means is provided to reconcile God and man, to satisfy justice, and so to draw us in a new way and course of life, to rely on God, and look unto Him in all our actions. Then the grace of union is given. God’s Spirit works our hearts by this faith, to have first union, and then communion with God.

2. We live the life of faith in justification. This is a life of sentence that the soul lives by, peace being spoken unto it by the pardon of sin; for God by His Spirit doth report so much to the soul, giving us assurance that Christ our Surety and Peace-maker is raised up again. This is it to live by faith; every day to sue out our pardon; to look unto our Advocate and Surety, who hath paid our debts, and cancelled that obligation against us, contrary to us, as the apostle speaks, daily to wash in that ever-running fountain. Now let us see how it may be known that we live the life of faith in justification.

Trial 1. By trying how it comes in the soul; as Romans 7:4.

Trial 2. Where this life of faith is, there is a wonderful high valuing and prizing of Christ, His righteousness, merits, obedience, and wisdom of God in that way of forgiveness of our sins by this God-man, the wonderful mediator; as Philippians 3:8.

Trial 3. When we have a zeal against all contrary doctrine, as St. Paul shows to the Galatians, who would have joined works to faith: “Christ is become of none effect unto you: whosoever of you are justified by the law, you are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).

Trial 4. There is peace and joy settled in the heart; as Romans 5:1-2.

3. Hence springs a vigorous life. A life of cheerfulness; when a man hath his pardon sued out, then comes life and joy, strength of holy actions well rooted and grounded. Who should joy, if a triumphant righteous person should not?

4. The life of faith in sanctification. Now being brought by faith to live in justification, we must of necessity also live by faith in sanctification. There be two parts of a holy life:

Trial 1. If it be thus with us, there will be a putting of ourselves upon Christ’s government in all duties. Faith will do all that Christ commands, depending upon Him for strength; and who so depends upon Christ for strength in one duty, will depend upon Him for strength in another. There is a harmony betwixt the soul of a Christian and the command of obedience. He hearkens to the precepts of duty, as well as to the promises of forgiveness of sins. Where this universal obedience is not, here is not the life of faith in sanctification; for faith here takes not exception at one duty more than another, but looks for all the strength of performance from Christ, who for this cause is stored with all fulness, that it may drop down upon all His members.

Trial 2. Again, there will be a wonderful care not to grieve the Spirit, in such a one.

Trial 3. There will be courage to set upon any duty, to encounter and resist any sin; upon this ground, as he should say, have not I a storehouse of strength to go to? Is not He full of grace and goodness?

Trial 4. Again, in this case, all is lively in a man. As we see a lively fountain, the water whereof will sparkle and leap, so there will be living joys, speeches, delights, exhortations, sensible of good and evil. Let the use of all be this, Upon this discovery remember to go to Christ for succour, and labour to live plentifully and abundantly in Him this life of faith. Two things are opposite to this life of faith.

The life of faith

In the last sermon we propounded many things touching the life of faith, how it lives in effectual calling, in justification and sanctification, in glorification, and in the several grand passages of this life, one of which remains yet to be unfolded, as the life of faith in glorification.

Quest. 1. But how? Vision is for glory; what hath faith to do with this, which is of things unseen?

Ans. 1. I answer, we live by faith in glorification thus, because faith lays hold on the promise, and we have the promises of glory set down in the Word, and with the promise we have the firstfruits of the Spirit, and having the earnest and first-fruits, God will surely give the harvest. We have the Spirit, and thence faith reasons, God will make good His promise, He will not take back His earnest.

Ans. 2. Again, faith lives by the life of glorification in Christ the head. There is but one life of Christ and His members, and one Spirit, one with Him in union in the first degree of life. His glory is our glory.

Ans. 3. By reason of the nature of faith, as Hebrews 11:1, which is to make things absent have a certain being. Thus it presents glory to us, as though it were present, and we in some sort live by it. How to know whether or not we live the life of faith in glorification. This, where it is in faith, makes a Christian glorious, puts him in a spirit that is glorious in all estates. There is no grace in him, but it is set a-fire by this faith of glory to come. When faith looks back on things, it hath strength, but when it looks on glory, all graces anal virtues are set a-work.

1. Hope is set on work by faith, and keeps the soul, as an anchor, stedfast against all assaults.

2. Hope doth stir up patience; for, saith the apostle, “What we hope for, we wait patiently for it.”

3. Again, it sets courage and magnanimity a-work, as Hebrews 11:1-40. What made all the patriarchs so stout to hold out and endure so many miseries, but that they had an eye to the glory to come? The like we have of Moses, who forsook Pharaoh’s court, because he saw Him who is invisible. (R. Sibbes.)

Salvation applied

Now, to come to the apostle’s particular application, which he expresseth m this word me: “Who loved me, and gave Himself for me:” wherein these points offer themselves to our consideration:

1. That Christ loves some with a special, superabundant, and peculiar love; for Christ, when He suffered upon the cross, looked with a particular eye of His love upon all that should believe in Him; as now in heaven He hath carried our names upon His breast (Exodus 28:21; Exodus 28:30). The Father sees the Church in the heart and breast of Christ.

2. That true faith doth answer this particular love and gift of Christ, by applying it to itself. True faith is an applying faith. “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.” The nature of faith is to make generals become particulars. We must know more clearly, that there is a particular faith required of us. A Christian ought to say, “Christ loved me.” And for the sacraments, what kind of faith doth baptism seal, when water is sprinkled upon the child? Doth it seal a general washing away of guilt? No; but a particular washing away of the guilt and filth of the sins of the party baptized. Wherefore are the sacraments added to the Word, but to strengthen faith in particular? Therefore every one in particular is sprinkled, to show the particular washing of our souls by the blood of Christ. What is the reason that the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is added to the Word, hut that every one may be persuaded that it is his duty to cast himself upon Christ, and to eat Christ, and to believe his own particular salvation? It overthroweth the main end of the sacraments to hold a confused faith in general. Therefore seeing it is the main end of the Word and ministry, let us labour for this particular faith, that we may say in special, “Christ loved me, and gave Himself for me.”

3. That assurance doth spring from this particular faith; so that a Christian man may be assured of the love of Christ. But here divers questions and cases must be answered and explained to clear the point, else our speech shall not be answerable to the experience of God’s people, or the truth itself. First, we must know that there is a double act of faith in the believing soul.

For it is one thing to believe and cast myself upon Christ for pardon of sins, and another thing upon that act to feel assurance and pardon. The one looks to the Word more principally; the other is founded upon experience, together with the Word. We ought to labour for both, for affiance and consent in the will, to cast ourselves upon Christ for salvation; and then upon believing we ought to find and feel this assurance. But here a question must be asked, What is the reason that, where the first act of faith is, to cast itself upon the mercy of Christ in the promises, that yet there is not the sense of pardon and reconciliation, nor that full persuasion: why is this many times suspended? Ans.

1. I answer, many causes there be of it. To name some:

Use 1. Now for the uses of this, seeing that the persuasion of Christ’s love to us in special is the spring of all holy life, this serves, in the first place, to free this doctrine of assurance from scandal. Assurance then is not the ground of presumption or security. These spring not from a particular faith; for a holy life, the clean contrary, springs from it. None can live a holy life but by a particular faith; and whosoever in particular doth believe the forgiveness of his own sins, will live a holy life, and not put himself into former bondage.

Use 2. To make another use: if particular faith and assurance be the ground of a holy life, let us labour for it by all means; and let those that are in the state of grace, let them come to this fire if they will be kindled: if they find themselves dull to holy duties, let them come to this fire.

1. Then thou hast a care to live by faith in the Son of God daily, and in all estates and conditions; and where this faith and assurance is, it is with care and conscience of duty always. Herein it is distinguished from a false conceit. Where there is no conscience of duty, there is no assurance of particular faith. This particular hath its ground from the general, from the Word of God.

2. Again, this is with conflict. You may know particular application where it is, to be good, because it is with conflict against temptations. A man never enjoys his own assurance of Christ’s particular love, But with a great deal of conflict. There are two grounds that faith lays:

3. Again, a man may know his faith to be true by his willingness to search himself, and to be searched by others. He that hath a true, sound faith, and particular assurance from thence, is willing oftentimes to search his heart.

4. Again, this particular faith it is with a high prizing and admiration of the love of God in Christ, “who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” It is a sign that he hath no interest in this love, that prizes and values other things above it. If one had any assurance of this, he would value it above all other things in the world. (R. Sibbes.)

The electing of love

Here we have to consider Christ’s own personal undertaking.

I. Speaking generally, then, and following the guidance of our text, love was the principle which caused that offering of Himself: that is to say, it was the cause of His Incarnation. And I think, my brethren, it must be quite intelligible to us that love could be the only possible reason for such a sacrifice on the part of the Son of God. We in our little world can hardly appreciate what love means in its true sense; much less the meaning of the sacrifice which springs from such a love. For in making sacrifices one of three principles must be the ruling motive; it must either be that of self-interest, or it must be dictated by a keen sense of duty, or it must be the outcome of a disinterested affection: and, rarely as we find instances of the last of these among mankind, there are instances of the two former to be met with ever and over again. But when we come to try our Lord’s conduct by any of these; when we try His self-imposed humiliation by our own standard of sacrifice; motives of self-interest no less than those of duty, are necessarily put out of court as being totally inapplicable to Him, and love is forced upon us as the only possible solution of His work of redemption.

II. Now it is this very self-evident fact which leads us to speak, first of all, of the greatness of the love of our blessed Lord. “The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Let us see at the outset the obstacles it was called upon to surmount from its very entrance into the world. And was there nothing to repel our blessed Lord when the vision of all that must come upon Him passed before His eyes, as he lay in the bosom of the eternal Father? “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men: to see if there were any that would understand and seek after God. But they are all gone out of the way, they are altogether become abominable: there is also none that doeth good, no not one.” And yet the love of Jesus broke through this opposing barrier also. Consider now that perseverance and devotion of His which proved so wonderfully superior to these obstacles. (R. H. Giles, M. A.)

Spiritual life

This spiritual life of the believer may be explained in a twofold manner. It may be explained as--

I. A life of faith. See--

1. Faith’s exercise. Without faith there is no real religion in the soul. The men of the world know practically what faith is. They have faith in their everyday transactions. They give credit to each other’s word; and conduct their business on the supposition that each man will speak truth to, and not deceive, his neighbour. The husbandman, in faith, throws away his corn, and scatters it over the ground. The man of unbelief would say--“That corn is lost; that seed will die, and come to nothing.” But the husbandman has faith--faith gathered from past experience--that that corn-seed will not be lest; that, on the contrary, it will spring up, and become first the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear; and that he will in due season reap, it may be, sixty or one-hundred-fold, for that which he has sown. So is it in spiritual things. The children of God live by faith. All your dealings, brethren, with God, are carried on by the exercise of this blessed principle. You deal with God as one who cannot lie. You take Him at His word. For now observe, not only faith’s exercise, but also--

2. Faith’s object. To a saved sinner, what is the great object of faith? Is it not the Divine Saviour? “The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.” There are some men who call themselves Christians, but in their Christianity there is no Christ. Ignoring the very existence of Christianity, they think that Lyceums, Athenaeums, Institutes, and similar instrumentalities, are to regenerate our country. Everything which stops short of Christ must prove a failure. Some men put great faith in mere education. Other men err in another direction. They put their faith in preachers, instead of in Christ. They forget that the only use of preaching is to point to Christ. And how is your faith exercised towards Christ 7 It is exercised towards Christ as a crucified Saviour. It is exercised towards Christ as your atoning Priest, as your all sufficient Surety, as your almighty Redeemer. But then you cannot view such a sacrifice for your good without the deepest feeling. And, therefore, the present life is not only a life of faith; it is also--

II. A life of gratitude. It is a life of gratitude to Christ for--

1. His unmerited love. My dear brethren, there is no motive to obedience so powerful as the motive of love--“Who loved me.” And how has this love been shown? In the most costly manner it can. And this is our next point. The believer’s present life is a life of gratitude to Christ for--

2. His precious redemption--“Who gave Himself for me.” This.is the strongest possible proof which Christ could have given of His wondrous affection. “Greater love,” He Himself tells us, “hath no man than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends.” I now add two other remarks, by way of application.

We see hence--

1. The blessed prospects of the Christian believer.

2. The true nature of spiritual life.

“I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me?” The sun in the heavens gives light, it is supposed, at least to nine hundred millions of people. But you and I have as much enjoyment of that sun as though it had been placed in the firmament for our use alone. So is it with Christ. Christ died for all; but we should see that Christ died for us in particular, and we should look to Christ as dying for ourselves, as though He died for us, and for no one else. These words, however, are not mine, but the words of a Christian prelate. You have life, spiritual life, the secret life of faith. This is well described by Bishop Reynolds--“It is a hidden life. The best of it is yet unseen: Though the cabinet which is seen be rich, yet the jewel which it conceals is much richer. This life is hidden with Christ, and so hidden that we know not where it is. It is so hidden, that no enemy can touch it. It is hidden in God. If is life in the fountain. And this is such a fountain of life as hath in it fulness without satiety, purity without defilement, perpetuity without decay, and all-sufficiency Without defect. This life is hidden, but it is not lost. It is hidden like seed in the ground. And when Christ the Sun of righteousness shall appear, this life of ours in Him will spring up and appear glorious.” This life, this hidden life, brethren, I trust, is the portion of the greater part of this assembly--a life of joy on earth, and a life of joy and glory unutterable in the heavens. (C. Clayton, M. A.)

The spiritual death and life of the believer

In discoursing on this subject, I shall direct your attention to the leading thoughts; and therefore I shall endeavour to show, Firstly, What is implied in being crucified with Christ. Secondly, What we are to understand by Christ living in the believer; and point out the great influence of faith in the Divine life. Or, in fewer words, show--how the believer dies, and how he lives.

I. Expressions similar to this, of being crucified with Christ, are more than once used in the writings of the apostle. No one will be so weak as to imagine that Paul was a sharer with Christ in the merit of His sufferings. Such a thought would be horrid and blasphemous. There is implied in being crucified with Christ--First, a refusing obedience to the ceremonial law, as being no longer necessary to salvation. Secondly, there is implied a cheerfulness it, undergoing all that scorn and contempt with which a firm adherence to the doctrine of the cross was attended. Thirdly, there is implied in this expression, a partaking of the merits of the death of Christ, and the being dead to the moral law, in the manner mentioned in the preceding verse. As in this and other places, the ceremonial law is to be understood, so the moral law is evidently to be included In the fourth place, there is implied, in being crucified with Christ, an experience of the efficacy of His death. This is no doubt an important, if not the principal idea in the words, and which we find plainly expressed in the following passages: “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts.” Thus is the believer crucified with Christ; and the death of sin in him resembles a crucifixion. It was a painful, shameful, lingering, and accursed death; and so is the death of sin. It is painful. The first entrance upon a religious course is difficult; and the more so, where sin has long had the dominion. Conversion is a strait gate through which we must pass, and holiness a narrow way, in which we must walk to eternal life. We must be denied to ourselves and to the world; difficulties are to be surmounted, temptations resisted, injuries forgiven, and reproaches endured. This is a painful work; often like to be overcome, and still renewing the combat. Again, it is shameful. When iniquities prevail, the believer is covered with shame and confusion of face. This may rise to such a degree, that he will be tempted to cease from seeking God. Again, the death of sin is very lingering. It is dying from the moment Christ is formed in the soul, till glory commences. Moreover, the death of the cross was an accursed death; inflicted on none but those guilty of the blackest crimes; such as were accursed of men, and held to be accursed of God too. From these considerations we may see the propriety and force of this expression, “crucified with Christ,” and all of the like kind in Scripture. In the last place, there is implied a self-denied temper towards this present world. Every believer, indeed, ought to be a martyr in his temper, and hang so loose to this world and its enjoyments, nay, to life itself, that he may readily part with all to win Christ. These things are implied in the crucifixion of the believer. I proceed now--

II. To consider His life. “Christ liveth in” him; and the life which he now lives in the flesh, is “by the faith of the Son of God.” This is the Divine or spiritual life which he lives in consequence of sin being mortified, and the heart renewed. As he dies to sin, so he rises to holiness. The manner in which Christ lives in the believer, is by His Holy Spirit, who begins and carries on the Divine life. We cannot make ourselves alive to God. The great instrument of this spiritual life is faith. By this they are united to the Son of God; depend upon His merits for pardon, and derive influences for sanctification. It is called “the faith of the Son of God,” because He is the great object of it, and because it is of His bestowing. Perhaps there is something in this phrase more peculiar to the time in which the apostle lived. The faith of the Son of God; that is, a firm belief that Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified on Calvary, was the true and expected Messiah; that He was no impostor, but really the Son of God; that He rose again and ascended up into heaven; and that there is forgiveness of sins through His blood. Faith in Christ, as being the Son of God, is that by which every believer lives. Allow me, in a few particulars, to point out its influence. First, faith is that act of the soul which receives and rests upon the righteousness of Christ for pardon and acceptance with God. Secondly, by faith, influences are derived for the mortification of sin and the promotion of holiness. “He that abideth in Me,” saith Christ, “and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without Me ye can do nothing.” Once more, faith influences the believer to live with regard to another world. It is described in the Epistle to the Hebrews to be “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Let us now turn our attention to some improvement of this subject. First, learn, my brethren, that the religion of Jesus leads to strict holiness of heart and life. Secondly, this subject ought to be faithfully improved for the trial of ourselves. (W. Linn, D. D.)

Who loved me and gave himself for me

In the Peninsular War our troops, borne back by the superior force of the enemy, had on one occasion to retreat, and hastened to place a river between them and the foe. The last of the men had swum the stream. The bugles were sounded, and the army was about to march over the high ground, When, looking across to the opposite bank, already occupied by the French sharp-shooters, they saw a woman. She was a common camp-follower. She had lost her way when the camp was breaking up, and had been accidentally left behind. There she stood, holding out her arms in apparent dumb entreaty, for her voice was lost in the roar of the flood and the rattle of the musketry. What was to be done? Who would venture across in the face of the enemy for a common camp-follower? Suddenly the ranks opened, and out came an officer. He rode his horse into the rushing river, one man riding back to charge an army. Many a rifle was aimed at his gallant head as he stemmed the stream, and passed over amid a very shower of bullets. He reached the farther shore, swung the woman before him on the saddle-bow, turned his horse’s head again to the river, and dashed into that ride of death. But our enemies, a gallant and generous nation, saw now what was his object--saw that he had risked his life to save a woman. Down went every musket, not a shot was fired at him, and out rang the cheers of the enemy, cheers which were caught up and echoed from the British lines as he passed over safely with that living trophy of his noble gallantry, stamped true knight of God by the manly deed that for one moment had united hostile armies in a sense of their common brotherhood. (Ellice Hopkins.)

The expiatory sacrifice of Christ

I. The sufferings of Christ were strictly expiatory. He suffered not as an example, as a substitute.

II. The love of Christ which caused Him thus to suffer. There was no other reason why our Lord should suffer but that He loved us. It was not necessary to the perfection of the Divine government; we could claim no such atonement. The sufferings furnish the measure of that love. Among our fellow-beings we measure the greatness of an affection by that which it consents to sacrifice.

III. The believer’s duty and privilege to consider himself individually as the object of that Divine sacrifice, and of that Divine love--“He loved me.” (B. W. Noel, M. A.)

Christ’s love intense

Its intensity is beyond all knowledge. He feels for His people an affection--however difficult it is for our carnal hearts to value it--an affection which infinitely surpasses all that is ever seen among the sons of men. His love, for its condescension, for its patience, for its self-denial, for its faithfulness stands perfect and alone--unrivalled by any affection ever witnessed among men, or which ever can be in heaven. It passes all power of thought, in time or in eternity, to estimate it; it passes the knowledge of men, and the knowledge of angels too; it is a fathomless ocean, and a boundless; and is so clear that we may look down with wonder into its depths; and so bright that we may gaze with ever-increasing admiration on its splendour and glory. With what feelings of gratitude to that Saviour, then, ought we to say that “He loved us, and gave Himself for us!” (B. W. Noel, M. A.)

The secret of a true life

I. Here is a glorious lover. The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me. I believe that my life is controlled and consecrated by a consciousness that somebody loves it. The greater the person, sometimes, the more highly prized the love; at least, the more worthy the person, the greater our appreciation of the love. Whose love is like the Deity, an omnipotent love, all the gates of hell cannot prevail against it: an omnipresent love, never is there a condition of life in which it does not prove itself; an omniscient love, reaching down to the unknown wants of the soul. This love fills heaven with wonder.

II. The glorious act of love. It has its reason in itself, not for the perception of that which was lovable in the soul. Every perfection is mingled with His love; it is connected with every office that Jesus has assumed; He is our Prophet, Priest, King, Shepherd, Surety, Physician.

III. Who is the loved one? “He loved me.” “Paul, who art thou?… A persecutor.” He loved angels, inanimate nature; this we might expect. Only the mouth of faith can syllable these words. Pride, unbelief, keep back the acknow-lodgment.

IV. The Love Gift--“Himself.” No constraint. (S. H. Tyng.)


Verse 21

Galatians 2:21

I do not frustrate the grace of God.

Salvation by works a criminal doctrine

1. The idea of salvation by the merit of our own works is exceedingly insinuating. When it gains the least foothold, it soon makes great advances. The only way to deal with it is to stamp it out. War to the knife. No surrender.

2. This error is exceedingly plausible. Said to encourage virtue. But where will you find a devout and upright man who glories in his own works?

3. Self-righteousness is natural to our fallen humanity. Hence it is the essence of all false religions.

4. This erroneous idea arises partly from ignorance:

5. It arises also from pride.

6. And from unbelief.

7. It is evidently evil, for it makes light of sin.

8. No comfort in it for the fallen. It gives to the elder son all that his proud heart can claim, but for the prodigal it has no welcome. What, then, is to become of the guilty? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Frustration of the grace of God

1. He that hopes to be saved by his own righteousness rejects the grace or free favour of God, regards it as useless, and in that sense frustrates it. If we can keep the law and claim to be accepted as a matter of debt, it is plain that we need not turn supplicants and crave for mercy. Grace is a superfluity where merit can be proved

2. He makes the grace of God to be at least a secondary thing. Many think they are to merit as much as they can, and that God will make up for the rest by His grace. Every man his own saviour, and Jesus Christ and His grace make-weights for our deficiences.

3. He who trusts in himself, his feelings, his works, his prayers, or in anything except the grace of God, virtually gives up trusting in the grace of God altogether. God will never share the work with man’s merit. You must either have salvation wholly because you deserve it, or wholly because God graciously bestows it though you do not deserve it.

4. This doctrine takes off the sinner from confidence in Christ. So long as a man can maintain any hope in himself, he will never look to the Redeemer.

5. This doctrine robs God of His glory. If man can save himself, then the glory is his own, not God’s. What an awful crime, then, is this doctrine of salvation by human merit. It is a sin so gross that even the heathen cannot commit it.. They have never heard of the grace of God, and therefore they cannot put a slight upon it: when they perish it will be with a far lighter doom than those who have been told that God is gracious and ready to pardon, and yet turn on their heel and wickedly boast of innocence, and pretend to be clean in the sight of God. It is a sin which devils cannot commit. With all the obstinancy of their rebellion, they can never reach to this. They have never had the sweet notes of free grace and dying love ringing in their ears, and therefore they have never refused the heavenly invitation. What has never been presented to their acceptance cannot be the object of their rejection. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. Two great crimes are contained in the doctrine of self-righteousness.

1. The frustration of the grace of God. The self-righteous

2. The making of Christ to be dead is vain.

II. The two crimes are committed by many people. By--

1. Triflers with the gospel.

2. The senseless as to guilt.

3. The despairing.

4. Those who have misgivings about the power of the gospel.

5. Apostates.

III. No true believer will be guilty of these crimes. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Folly of human righteousness

How can a man trust in his own righteousness? It is like seeking shelter under one’s own shadow. We may stoop to the very ground; and the lower we bend, we still find that our shadow is beneath us. But if a man flee to the shadow of a great rock, or of a widespreading tree, he will find abundant shelter from the rays of the noonday sun. So human merits are unavailing; and Christ alone can save. (Dr. Medhurst.)

Rejection of God’s grace

The rejection of the grace of God may take place

Righteousness

I. The insufficiency of the law to promote righteousness.

1. It was never instituted for that purpose.

2. Men have never found righteousness by the law.

3. On the assumption of its sufficiency

II. Hence the necessity of some better provision for the promotion of righteousness.

1. Men yearn after it.

2. It is God’s will that man should be righteous or He would never have made him so.

3. Righteousness is the law and harmony of the universe which sin has broken.

III. God has made this provision in the death of Christ.

1. That death has atoned for sin, and when accepted by faith past unrighteousness is remitted and man is justified (Romans 3:25).

2. By that death the Holy Spirit is secured who makes man actually righteous, and gives the power to fulfil all righteousness.

The frustration of God’s grace

If people can make themselves good by doing what is called their duty, then the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension of Jesus Christ constitute the greatest mistake that ever was made in the universe. If a man can be really good, can make himself all that God can possibly desire him to be, of his own motion and will and by the resources of his own invention and energy, then the mediation of Jesus Christ was a great and generous expenditure of pain and life and sorrow, and an expenditure that ended in nothing. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Divine grace does not dispense with conditions but with merit

While in the case of two mutinous seamen who, having long resisted every effort on the part of the captain to reform them, have at last, through their continued intemperance, fallen overboard, one grasps the rope thrown out by his master’s mercy, and is saved, while the other rejects it, or depends on his own efforts and is drowned; has the former ground to boast that he is his own saviour? There was assuredly more mad wilfulness in his hardened companion who refused the proffered aid; but the recklessness of the latter imparts no merit to the former. While the one can ascribe his deliverence to nothing in himself “moving” his captain “thereunto,” but solely to his master’s compassion, the other had equal mercy shown to him, but his destruction was entirely his own doing. When the prodigal returned would his sense of the entire freeness of his father’s goodness and of his own absolute demerit have been at all diminished by learning that another brother who had run the same course of riot as himself refused to cast himself into those arms by which he himself had been so warmly welcomed? Would the greater obduracy and infatuated perverseness of his brother extenuate, in the pardoned son’s eyes, his own guilt, or lead him less to ascribe his own forgiveness to free unmerited grace? (Principal Forbes.)

Morality not righteousness

Let the law stand for any attempt at duty doing with a view to self-salvation. I do not say that a man cannot wash his hands; I am not here to reason that it is not possible for a man to put on a good deal of external decoration. I believe that it is quite within his power to say to some of his appetites, “Now you shall be starved for six months. I will touch no intoxicant for the rest of my life, and never more go into any associations which I believe to be corrupting, and will do my best to conform to the highest moral standard. What more can you expect me to do?” Well, what have you done? Outside work; you have washed your hands, but you have not cleansed your heart. As between man and man you have done a good deal. But seeing that the question is not primarily between man and man, but between you and God, you have done nothing but confound righteousness with morality. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The moral consolation that righteousness is not of the law but through Christ

If Satan, the great Judaizer as well as antinomian, tempts us to trust in our own endeavours we fly to the cross. If conscience, the advocate of Sinai, reminds us of our multiplied offences and failures we say, “Were it ten thousand times worse there can be no condemnation.” Hardest of all, if, in times of despondency our innumerable and peculiar sins, not against the law, but against the very gospel that saves from the law, are pressed upon our spirits, we can still take refuge in the cross and think, “I have paid my own debt in Him who died not only to discharge the obligation to clerical law, but also to expiate offences against the gospel itself, who atoned for sins against the atonement, and suffered on the cross for dishonour done to the very cross on which He suffered;” and there is, or will be, a time to every one of us, when amidst the thick darkness that divides time from eternity, we shall find no greater consolation than this: I am crucified with Christ; I do not frustrate the grace of God; Christ hath not died for me in vain. (W. B. Pope, D. D.)

Grace is a free gift

A benevolent rich man had a very poor neighbour, to whom he sent this message: “I wish to make you the gift of a farm.” The poor man was pleased with the idea of having a farm, but was too proud at once to receive it as a gift. So he thought of the matter much and anxiously. His desire to have a home of his own was daily growing stronger; but his pride was great. At length, he determined to visit him who had made the offer. But a strange delusion about this time seized him; for he imagined that he had a bag of gold. So he came with his bag, and said to the rich man, “I have received your message, and have come to see you. I wish to own the farm; but I wish to pay for it. I will give you a bag of gold for it.” “Let us see your gold,” said the owner of the farm. “Look again: I donor think it is even silver.” The poor man looked, tears stood in his eyes, and his delusion seemed to be gone; and he said, “Alas! I am undone: it is not even copper; it is but ashes. How poor I am! I wish to own that farm; but I have nothing to pay. Will you give me the farm?” The rich man replied, “Yes: that was my first and only offer. Will you accept it on such terms?” With humility, but with eagerness, the poor man said, “Yes: and a thousand blessings on you for your kindness!” (W. S. Plumer, D. D.)

Grace must not be frustrated

I was once invited out to tea by a poor widow, and I took something in my pocket. But I’ll never do it again. It was two cakes; and, when I brought them out and laid them on the table, she picked them up and flung them out into the street, and said, “I asked you to tea; I didn’t ask you to provide tea for me.” And so with Christ. He asks, He provides, and He wants nothing but ourselves; and if we take aught else He’ll reject it. We can only sup with Him when we come as we are. Who will accept salvation? Who’ll say, “I take the blessing from above, And wonder at Thy boundless love”? (J. W. Ackrill.)
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Galatians 2:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/galatians-2.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 26th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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