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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Galatians 5

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

Galatians 5:1

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us freer and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

The freedom of the Christian

It is necessary that we first see generally what that “liberty” is, “wherewith Christ maketh His people free.” I cannot hold any one “free,” so long as his own conscience locks him up into the fear of death and punishment. The mind which has places which it is afraid to touch, can never expatiate every where; and the mind which cannot go anywhere, never is “free.” It is the sense of pardon which is that man’s emancipation. Have we not all felt the difference.

to work that we may be loved, and to work because we are loved; to have a motive from without, or to have a motive from within; to be guided by a fear, or to be attracted by an affection? But, again, to obey any one isolated law, however good that law may be, and however we may admire and love the Lawgiver, may still carry with it a sense of confining and contraction. To do, not this or that command, but the whole will, because it is the will of one we love--to have caught His mind, to breathe His spirit, to be bound up with His glory--that has in it no littleness; there are no circumscribing confines there; and these are the goings out of the unshackled being in the ranges which match with his own infinity. And yet once more. Such is the soul of man, that all that in his horizon falls within the compass of time, however long--or of a present life however full--that man’s circle being small, compared to his own consciousness of his own capability, through that disproportion, he feels a limitation. But let a man once look, as he may, and as he must, on that great world which lies beyond him as his scope and his home, and all that is here as only the discipline and the school-work by which he is in training, and immediately everything contains in it eternity. And very “free” will that man be “among the dead,” because his faith is going out above the smallnesses which surround him, to the great, and to the absorbing, and to the satisfying things to come. It will not be difficult to carry out these principles, and apply them to the right performance of any of the obligations of life. It needs no words to show that whatever is done in this freedom will not only be itself better done, but it takes from that freedom a character which comports well with a member of the family of God; and which at once makes it edifying to Him, and acceptable and honouring to a heavenly Father. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Spiritual freedom

What is liberty? Obedience to one’s self; obedience to a law which is written in a man’s own heart. If I obey myself, and myself is not a right self, it is, indeed, “liberty,” but being a bad liberty, it becomes “licentiousness.” It is compulsion; it is bondage. Liberty is when the outer law and the inner law are the same; and both are good.

1. Every one has a past which fetters him. The moment a man really believes, and accepts his pardon, he is cut off from all his sinful past! He is at liberty--free from his own bitter history--free from himself!

2. Now look to the “liberty” from the present. If I have received. Christ into my heart, I am a pardoned man, I am a happy man, and I know and feel that I owe all my happiness to Him--therefore I love Him; I cannot choose but love Him; and my first desire is to please Him; to follow Him; to be like Him; to be with Him. My life is to become a life of love. In obeying God, I obey myself. The new life and the new heart are in accord.

3. And what of the future? A vista running up to glory! But are there no dark places? Chiefly in the anticipation. When they come, they will bring their own escapes and their own balances. He has undertaken for me in everything. He will never leave me. So I am quite free from all my future. To die will be a very little thing. The grave cannot hold me. He has been through, and opened the door the other side. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Christian liberty

I. The liberty of the subjects that are freed. Christian liberty stands--

1. In immunity from evil.

(a) in the fault,

(b) in the punishment--whether the inward slavery of an accusing conscience or outward wrath of God, death, and damnation.

(a) burdensome traditions,

(b) the law, either ceremonial or moral, as regards either the obligation or the curse.

2. Less than this is bondage, more than this is looseness.

II. The prerogative of the King of Glory that hath freed them.

1. They could not free themselves.

2. Angels could not free them.

3. Only Christ could, whose ransom was infinite.

4. Only Christ has, whose love is infinite. How?

5. Christ has freed us from seven Egyptian masters.

III. The maintenance of the liberty which the power of that great prerogative hath achieved.

1. How strange that such an exhortation should be necessary. In the case of a liberated bird or an emancipated slave it would be superfluous.

2. Yet facts prove it necessary in the case of Christ’s freemen. (Bishop Hall.)

Christian believers exhorted to the maintenance of their spiritual liberty

I. This exhortation implies--

1. That attempts will be made to deprive us of this liberty. This is discovered soon after its first enjoyment.

2. The awful possibility of losing this liberty, as testified

3. That there is no necessity to lose this liberty. When lost it is most frequently by

4. Yet while there is no necessity to forfeit their liberty, Christians are exposed to great and peculiar dangers

II. The duties in the observance of which spiritual freedom may be maintained.

1. The devotional reading of Scripture day by day in connection with religious biography and kindred works.

2. A regular and conscientious attention to private prayer.

3. A spirit of watchfulness.

4. Constant self-denial.

5. Unceasing cultivation of holiness. In conclusion:

Remember--

1. The price paid for your redemption.

2. The wretched state of the re-enslaved believer. (H. H. Chettle.)

Christian freedom

I. In the voluntary service of God (Luke 1:74; 1 Timothy 1:9).

II. In the free use of the creatures of God (Titus 1:15; Romans 14:14).

III. To come unto God through Christ in prayer. (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 3:12).

IV. To enter heaven (Hebrews 10:19). (W. Perkins.)

Liberty not lawlessness

Liberty is harmony between the law and the nature and inclinations of its subjects. Law is essential to freedom, but freedom requires that the law shall be such as comports with the best interests and highest reason of those who have to obey it; for then their best desires will concur with their obligations, and, wishing to do only what the law requires them to do, they will be conscious of no restraint. (Newman Hall.)

Spiritual and related freedoms

Let me remind you of the arrangement of the ancient temple. In the centre was the sanctuary, with the altar of sacrifice before it, and the altar of incense within; and beyond the veil, the Holy of Holies and the mercy seat. Here worship was offered, atonement made, the presence of God manifested. Let this represent liberty-spiritual--the union of the soul with its Maker. Beyond the sanctuary and enclosing it, was the Court of the Jews, through which access was obtained to the inner shrine. Let this represent liberty-doctrinal--that revealed truth by which the soul obtains admission into the liberty of God’s children. Beyond was the Court of the Gentiles--further from the Holy of Holies--but connected with it, surrounding and defending it. Let this represent liberty-ecclesiastical, by which doctrinal truth is best conserved and thus spiritual liberty best attained. Beyond all these were the outer walls and gates, and the lofty rock on which it was upreared. Let this represent liberty national, by which ecclesiastical freedom is guaranteed. (Newman Hall.)

Freedom and slavery

Know that to be free is the same thing as to be pious, to be wise, to be temperate and fast, to be frugal and abstinent, and, lastly, to be magnanimous and brave; so to be the opposite of all these is the same as to be a slave; and it usually happens that that people who cannot govern themselves, are delivered up to the sway of those whom they abhor, and made to submit to an involuntary servitude. (Milton.)

The soul’s rebellion against its thraldom

As the lark, imprisoned since it burst its shell, though it has never sprung upward to salute the rising sun, will often manifest how cruel is its captivity by instinctively spreading its wings and darting upward, as if to soar, but only beats its head against the wires and falls back on its narrow perch; so the soul of man, designed to soar and utter its raptures in the rays of the great central sun, will sometimes, even in its cage, attempt to rise and breathe a loftier atmosphere, but falls back vainly struggling against the bars which sin and death have framed around it. (Newman Hall.)

Standing fast in liberty

The phrase alludes to the duties of soldiers on military service. When marshalled in the ranks they must stand firm, without yielding their ground, without bending their knees; when placed as sentinels they must stand upon their guard and permit no enemy to surprise them. You are soldiers of Christ, and must stand fast--be valiant for the truth--and look to yourselves. (H. H. Chettle.)

Liberty from law unconscious obedience

No man has reached liberty until he has learned to obey with such facility and perfection that he does it without knowing it, If I step upon a little bit of plank in the street I walk along over it without thinking. Although it is only four inches wide I can walk on it as well as I can on the rest of the pavement. But put that plank between two towers one hundred feet high in the air and let me be called to walk over it. I begin to think, of course, of what I am called upon to do. And the moment I begin to think I cannot do it. When you try to do a thing you cannot do it as well as when you do it without trying. (H. W. Beecher.)

Christian liberty

The apostle now enters upon the more practical part of the Epistle. Freedom is the link which connects the two parts together.

I. Christian liberty is the liberty of faith. Faith receives the truth, the whole truth, concerning sin and redemption; and it is the truth, believed, that makes men free.

II. Christian liberty is the liberty of hope.

1. A hope which maketh not ashamed, for it is based on Christ’s accomplished work.

2. A hope which patiently waits for that which it knows it will assuredly possess.

III. Christian liberty is the liberty of love. The Saviour’s love to the sinner draws the sinner’s love to Himself.

IV. Christian liberty is the liberty of holiness. The safeguards of political liberty lie not in the laws which regulate, or the armies which defend it, but in the spirit which animates a people, in their respect for law, in their mutual toleration, in their recognition of others’ rights, and, above all, in their hearty devotion to the government under which they live. Where these prevail, a nation is already free, and a liberty so founded will never degenerate into license. So also Christian liberty is best secured from abuse, not by the threat of penalties, or by an appeal to fear, but by the operation of those principles which lie at the foundation of Christian character. The gospel sets man free from a bondage beneath which a loving obedience is impossible, in order that, being free, he may serve God in the spirit of Christian liberty. (Emilius Bayley, B. D.)

Spiritual liberty

Spiritual liberty consists in freedom from the curse of the moral law; from the 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.)

Christian liberty

The liberty wherewith Christ has made men free is a deliverance from a system of rules, positive and prohibitory--a temporary and provisional system which had an educational value, training men to the full privileges of religious manhood. It is an abdication of privilege, when men fall back upon the old standpoint of Judaism, and fence themselves in by rigid rules as if of primary importance. There is a perpetual tendency to make men subject to ordinances, whose language is, “Touch not, taste not, handle not,” after the commandments and ordinances of men; and not only to adopt these precepts as useful helps for their own moral progress, but to impose them upon others, almost as if they were of Divine origin; and to make them the standard of their judgment upon the spiritual condition of their fellow men. Every school of religious thought exhibits proofs of this temptation to represent as commandments of God, precepts of man’s own devising. This Judaising temper displays itself whenever men try to narrow down eternal principles of conduct into minute rules, which can prefer no higher claim than to be deemed useful to some, whilst they may be positively injurious to others In vindicating the freedom brought to us by the gospel, we throw ourselves back on the primary truths of Christianity--the Fatherhood of God, and the reconciliation wrought out by the atoning work of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God. Fully believing that God is a righteous Judge, we shall yet not feel towards Him as if He were a hard taskmaster or rigid lawgiver, but as the Infinite Being whose love first created us, and subsequently devised our redemption; we shall exercise an unreserved faith in the completeness of the sacrifice for sin which has been made by our Saviour, and the present forgiveness which has been obtained for us; and we shall rejoice in the glorious liberty of the children of God. But this sense of liberty will not degenerate into licentiousness and unrestrained self-indulgence. Because we are not under the law, but under grace, we shall see ourselves called to a higher and nobler type of holiness. We shall certainly not be without law to God. Our religion will be displayed, not in a punctilious attention to external rules, but in a life-giving spirit, which will penetrate into every department of action in relation to others. In daily society it will impart a kindliness, a charity, a justice, in cur estimate of the words and conduct of those around us; it will teach us a Divine tolerance and a modest humility. It will make the best of both worlds, not in the low commercial sense, which tries to strike a balance between the claims of secular expediency and devotion to the service of God, but in the spirit of the apostolic exhortation which bids men “use this world as not abusing it.” Spite of all the manifold temptations on the plea of piety, or on the plea of the necessary subordination of the individual to the society, it will firmly refuse to descend to a lower level of Christianity than that which Christ its Founder intended. It will uphold the banner of freedom by maintaining, alike in theory and in practice, that Christianity is not in its essence a system of doctrine or a code of precepts, but a life and a spirit, a communion with God in Christ, manifesting itself in the power of true godliness. (Canon Ince.)

Personal liberty of the Christian

The doctrine of St. Paul is not that a Christian man has a right to liberty in conduct, thought, and speech in and of himself, without regard to external circumstances, interests, organizations, and without reference to his own condition. Paul’s conception of the rights and liberties of men stands on the philosophical ground underneath all those things. Rights and liberties belong to stages or states of condition. The inferior has not the right of the superior. A stupid man has not the right of an educated or intelligent man. He may have the legal rights; but the higher ones, that spring out of the condition of the soul, must stand on the conditions to which they belong. A. refined man has rights and joys that an unrefined man has not and cannot have, because he cannot understand them, does not want them, could not use them. Rights increase as the man increases--increases, that is, not merely in physical stature, or in skill of manual employment or material strength, but in character. So, as men work up higher and higher towards the Divine standard of character, their rights and liberties increase. The direct influence of Christ is to bring the human mind into its highest elements:. The power of the Divine nature upon the human soul is to lift it steadily away from animalism or from the flesh--the under-man--up through the realm of mere material wisdom and accomplishment, in the direction of soul-power, reason, rectitude--such reason and such rectitude as grow up under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. When love has permeated the whole man, he then has perfect liberty--liberty of thought, liberty of speech, liberty of conduct. A perfect Christian is the one and only creature that has absolute liberty unchecked by law, by institution, by foregoing thoughts of men, by public sentiment. Because a perfect man is in unison with the Divine soul, he has the whole liberty of God in himself, according to the measure of his manhood. But he has liberty to do only what he wants to do, and he wants to do nothing that is not within the bounds and benefit of a pure and true love. He becomes a law to himself; that is, he carries in himself that inspiration of love which is the mother of all good law. He is higher than any law. His will is with God’s will. He thinks what is true; he does what is benevolent. (H. W. Beecher.)

Christian liberty a trust

When a man is in slavery he is not his own master; he acts and lives under the direction of others, and the responsibility of life is in a greater or less degree shifted from him on to some one else. When a man becomes free, he assumes the duties of life, and recognizes that it rests only with himself whether those duties are performed or not. And so man living under the Christian covenant stands in a direct personal relation to God, a relation of trust. Gifted with freewill, he is answerable for his conduct; subjected no longer to the ordinances of the Mosaic Law, he claims the liberty of the gospel; but he dares not forget that there still is a law limiting and controlling the freedom which he enjoys, and that every action of his carries responsibility with it. The soul of the old law is enshrined and quickened in the body of the new. The spirit, not the letter, of Sinai is met with again in the Sermon on the Mount. All Christian duties are summed up there and enforced with the authority of One who taught not as the scribes and Pharisees, and who spake as never man spake (Matthew 22:37-40). Our liberty is a limited one. No man can do as he likes. He has a Master in heaven whom he must serve. He is indeed set free by the death of Christ from the ordinances of the old covenant, and he is no longer a slave; but he has been placed in a society which is governed by laws eternal in their force, and the measure of the liberty he enjoys is the good of his own soul and the well-being of his brother’s, for none of us liveth to him-self, and no man dieth to himself As Christian members in the commonwealth of Christ we possess, indeed, in its highest and holiest sense, the triple right of liberty, fraternity, equality; but the religion to which we belong is neither reactionary nor revolutionary, and our liberty must be controlled, our equality sanctified, and our fraternity blessed, by the Holy Spirit of God. (C. W. H. Kenrick, M. A.)

Stand fast

Brethren, I cannot be of any other faith than that which I preached nearly twenty-nine years ago on this platform. I am to-day what I was then. That which I preached here then I preach here now. You know the story of the boy who stood on the burning deck because his father said, “Stand there,” and he could not come away. Other boys, much wiser than he was, had gone and got out of the mischief. I am standing where I stood then; I cannot help it, so help me God. I know no more to-day than I knew when first I believed in Jesus as to this matter. I know by grace. Are ye saved through faith and that not of yourself--“it is the gift of God?” You shall leave this :Rock if you like; you may be able to swim; I cannot, and so I stop here; and when the crack of doom shall come I shall be here, God helping me, believing this self-same doctrine. There is something in our very adhesiveness and pertinacity which represents the spirit of the gospel. I am sure that steadfastness in these particular times has its value, and I urge you,, to it that the gospel which you have received, the gospel of the grace of God, you stand fast to as long as you live. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The secret of steadfastness

Standing on the shore of an estuary, one sees a boat riding in the tideway, when sea-weed and other things float by, over the self-same spot; and whether the tide ebbs or flows, whether it steals quietly in or comes on with the rush and roar of foaming billows, the boat always boldly shows its face to it; and turning its head to the current receives on its bows, to split them, the shock of waves. This, which to a child would seem strange, is due to the anchor that lies below the waters, and, grasping the solid ground with its iron arms, holds fast the boat. It seems no less wonderful to see a tree--no sturdy oak, but slender birch, or trembling aspen--standing erect away up on a mountain brow; where, exposed to the sweep of every storm, it has gallantly maintained its ground against the tempests that have laid in the dust the stateliest ornaments of the plain. But our wonder ceases so soon as we climb the height, and see wherein its great strength lies; how it has struck its roots down into the mountain, and wrapped them with many a strong twist and turn round and round the rock. (W. Arnot.)
.

Stand fast

1. In Christ to whom you have been brought.

2. In adherence to the doctrines which the gospel has set before you.

3. You will find your strength and dependence only in the grace of Christ.

4. In the service of your Master to the end. (J. Harding, M. A.)

The bounds of Christian freedom

When we speak of freedom, we are apt to think only of the removal of restraints. But though it is important to get rid of all needless restraints, it is much more important that we should possess and train the powers for which the absence of restraint is demanded. If there is no life, the removal of restraints will be of no use. If the life is feeble, and tied down by inward restraints like those of superstition or of fear, the removal of outward restraints will not set it free. But if there is vigorous life, it demands for its development a constantly expanding freedom: and this spiritual power has in itself both its proper energy and its proper bound. It is a tree which has an innate capacity of growth. Give it air and light; remove whatever confines and overshadows it. It may need pruning and guiding; but it can provide its own symmetry for itself. I do not propose to dwell verse by verse upon the passage (Galatians 4:1-16) which I have taken for a starting point, but to illustrate and enforce its central principle. Wherever there is a just demand for freedom, it is because there exists a living power to be liberated; and this living power, if it be kept pure, contains in itself the true limit of its exercise. First, take the revival of Christian liberty at the time of the Reformation. Luther’s first great treatise was Concerning Christian Liberty. The liberty he claims presupposes the establishment in the soul of the Divine life of faith. You do not work, he says again and again, so that you may live. Life comes first; works, afterwards. The fruit will never make the root or the sap, but the root and the sap ensure the fruit. But, since this Divine life of faith exists, he demands that it should be free from the fetters of the clerical system of the Middle Ages. But let us come to more commonplace examples of freedom; we shall still find that it is the growth of the inner life or capacity which determines and controls the external conditions. Take the familiar case of a boy who wants to leave school and go to sea. If his father is wise, he will watch carefully, and try to estimate the meaning of this wish. Is it mere unruliness or restlessness, or dislike of study? If so, he will give it no encouragement. But, if he finds the boy in his leisure moments reading about the sea, and haunting about the seashore, and studying intelligently the boats and sails and machinery, after a time he will begin to recognize in the boy such a bent as indicates a genuine call. And when this is so, he may assure himself that the freedom will not be abused. The boy will be free from the constraints of the shore life; but that very zest for seamanship which has won its freedom will be most likely to ensure the right use of that freedom. There is a fine expression in the speech in which Pericles contrasted the free system of Athenian life, “the trustful spirit of liberty,” with the narrower system of Sparta. It might be thought that, unless such constraints as those imposed at Sparta existed, each man would try to impose his own will or tastes upon others. But the contrary, Pericles declared, was the case at Athens; each man respected the feelings of his neighbour. The slavish system is that of mistrust. Mutual confidence is the offspring of freedom. We might illustrate this by the experience of two great English schools some sixty years ago. When Keate was head-master of Eton, his system of discipline was one of terrorism. He never took a boy’s word, and, on the suspicion of a fault, he flogged him. At the same period, Arnold was head-master at Rugby. He always believed a boy; and it was only on rare occasions, when the proof was indubitable, that he punished. It might have been supposed that, under the severer system, boys would be afraid to do wrong, and that they would take advantage of the more lenient system to deceive. The contrary was the case. At Eton, under Keate, it; was thought quite fair to deceive a master. At Rugby, boys said, “It is a shame to tell Arnold a lie, he always believes you.” Thus freedom and trustfulness beget the sense of responsibility. To conclude: We have spoken of freedom first as an inward and spiritual state, secondly as the removal of outward restraints. The first of these is the most important. To the attainment of this we must constantly attend, both for ourselves and for those on whom we have any influence. There are tyrannies which have nothing to do with physical restraints, and against these we must war incessantly. There is the tyranny of evil habits. How can he he thought free who is the slave of customs which he knows to be wrong? There is the tyranny of fashion and opinion, and again of prejudice and party spirit. How can he be free who acts only as others choose? There is the tyranny of ignorance. How can he be called free whose life is bounded by a narrow circle of ideas? Let us strive for the sublime liberty which belongs to those who fear God and hate evil. (Canon Fremantle.)


Verse 1

Galatians 5:1

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us freer and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

The freedom of the Christian

It is necessary that we first see generally what that “liberty” is, “wherewith Christ maketh His people free.” I cannot hold any one “free,” so long as his own conscience locks him up into the fear of death and punishment. The mind which has places which it is afraid to touch, can never expatiate every where; and the mind which cannot go anywhere, never is “free.” It is the sense of pardon which is that man’s emancipation. Have we not all felt the difference.

to work that we may be loved, and to work because we are loved; to have a motive from without, or to have a motive from within; to be guided by a fear, or to be attracted by an affection? But, again, to obey any one isolated law, however good that law may be, and however we may admire and love the Lawgiver, may still carry with it a sense of confining and contraction. To do, not this or that command, but the whole will, because it is the will of one we love--to have caught His mind, to breathe His spirit, to be bound up with His glory--that has in it no littleness; there are no circumscribing confines there; and these are the goings out of the unshackled being in the ranges which match with his own infinity. And yet once more. Such is the soul of man, that all that in his horizon falls within the compass of time, however long--or of a present life however full--that man’s circle being small, compared to his own consciousness of his own capability, through that disproportion, he feels a limitation. But let a man once look, as he may, and as he must, on that great world which lies beyond him as his scope and his home, and all that is here as only the discipline and the school-work by which he is in training, and immediately everything contains in it eternity. And very “free” will that man be “among the dead,” because his faith is going out above the smallnesses which surround him, to the great, and to the absorbing, and to the satisfying things to come. It will not be difficult to carry out these principles, and apply them to the right performance of any of the obligations of life. It needs no words to show that whatever is done in this freedom will not only be itself better done, but it takes from that freedom a character which comports well with a member of the family of God; and which at once makes it edifying to Him, and acceptable and honouring to a heavenly Father. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Spiritual freedom

What is liberty? Obedience to one’s self; obedience to a law which is written in a man’s own heart. If I obey myself, and myself is not a right self, it is, indeed, “liberty,” but being a bad liberty, it becomes “licentiousness.” It is compulsion; it is bondage. Liberty is when the outer law and the inner law are the same; and both are good.

1. Every one has a past which fetters him. The moment a man really believes, and accepts his pardon, he is cut off from all his sinful past! He is at liberty--free from his own bitter history--free from himself!

2. Now look to the “liberty” from the present. If I have received. Christ into my heart, I am a pardoned man, I am a happy man, and I know and feel that I owe all my happiness to Him--therefore I love Him; I cannot choose but love Him; and my first desire is to please Him; to follow Him; to be like Him; to be with Him. My life is to become a life of love. In obeying God, I obey myself. The new life and the new heart are in accord.

3. And what of the future? A vista running up to glory! But are there no dark places? Chiefly in the anticipation. When they come, they will bring their own escapes and their own balances. He has undertaken for me in everything. He will never leave me. So I am quite free from all my future. To die will be a very little thing. The grave cannot hold me. He has been through, and opened the door the other side. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Christian liberty

I. The liberty of the subjects that are freed. Christian liberty stands--

1. In immunity from evil.

(a) in the fault,

(b) in the punishment--whether the inward slavery of an accusing conscience or outward wrath of God, death, and damnation.

(a) burdensome traditions,

(b) the law, either ceremonial or moral, as regards either the obligation or the curse.

2. Less than this is bondage, more than this is looseness.

II. The prerogative of the King of Glory that hath freed them.

1. They could not free themselves.

2. Angels could not free them.

3. Only Christ could, whose ransom was infinite.

4. Only Christ has, whose love is infinite. How?

5. Christ has freed us from seven Egyptian masters.

III. The maintenance of the liberty which the power of that great prerogative hath achieved.

1. How strange that such an exhortation should be necessary. In the case of a liberated bird or an emancipated slave it would be superfluous.

2. Yet facts prove it necessary in the case of Christ’s freemen. (Bishop Hall.)

Christian believers exhorted to the maintenance of their spiritual liberty

I. This exhortation implies--

1. That attempts will be made to deprive us of this liberty. This is discovered soon after its first enjoyment.

2. The awful possibility of losing this liberty, as testified

3. That there is no necessity to lose this liberty. When lost it is most frequently by

4. Yet while there is no necessity to forfeit their liberty, Christians are exposed to great and peculiar dangers

II. The duties in the observance of which spiritual freedom may be maintained.

1. The devotional reading of Scripture day by day in connection with religious biography and kindred works.

2. A regular and conscientious attention to private prayer.

3. A spirit of watchfulness.

4. Constant self-denial.

5. Unceasing cultivation of holiness. In conclusion:

Remember--

1. The price paid for your redemption.

2. The wretched state of the re-enslaved believer. (H. H. Chettle.)

Christian freedom

I. In the voluntary service of God (Luke 1:74; 1 Timothy 1:9).

II. In the free use of the creatures of God (Titus 1:15; Romans 14:14).

III. To come unto God through Christ in prayer. (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 3:12).

IV. To enter heaven (Hebrews 10:19). (W. Perkins.)

Liberty not lawlessness

Liberty is harmony between the law and the nature and inclinations of its subjects. Law is essential to freedom, but freedom requires that the law shall be such as comports with the best interests and highest reason of those who have to obey it; for then their best desires will concur with their obligations, and, wishing to do only what the law requires them to do, they will be conscious of no restraint. (Newman Hall.)

Spiritual and related freedoms

Let me remind you of the arrangement of the ancient temple. In the centre was the sanctuary, with the altar of sacrifice before it, and the altar of incense within; and beyond the veil, the Holy of Holies and the mercy seat. Here worship was offered, atonement made, the presence of God manifested. Let this represent liberty-spiritual--the union of the soul with its Maker. Beyond the sanctuary and enclosing it, was the Court of the Jews, through which access was obtained to the inner shrine. Let this represent liberty-doctrinal--that revealed truth by which the soul obtains admission into the liberty of God’s children. Beyond was the Court of the Gentiles--further from the Holy of Holies--but connected with it, surrounding and defending it. Let this represent liberty-ecclesiastical, by which doctrinal truth is best conserved and thus spiritual liberty best attained. Beyond all these were the outer walls and gates, and the lofty rock on which it was upreared. Let this represent liberty national, by which ecclesiastical freedom is guaranteed. (Newman Hall.)

Freedom and slavery

Know that to be free is the same thing as to be pious, to be wise, to be temperate and fast, to be frugal and abstinent, and, lastly, to be magnanimous and brave; so to be the opposite of all these is the same as to be a slave; and it usually happens that that people who cannot govern themselves, are delivered up to the sway of those whom they abhor, and made to submit to an involuntary servitude. (Milton.)

The soul’s rebellion against its thraldom

As the lark, imprisoned since it burst its shell, though it has never sprung upward to salute the rising sun, will often manifest how cruel is its captivity by instinctively spreading its wings and darting upward, as if to soar, but only beats its head against the wires and falls back on its narrow perch; so the soul of man, designed to soar and utter its raptures in the rays of the great central sun, will sometimes, even in its cage, attempt to rise and breathe a loftier atmosphere, but falls back vainly struggling against the bars which sin and death have framed around it. (Newman Hall.)

Standing fast in liberty

The phrase alludes to the duties of soldiers on military service. When marshalled in the ranks they must stand firm, without yielding their ground, without bending their knees; when placed as sentinels they must stand upon their guard and permit no enemy to surprise them. You are soldiers of Christ, and must stand fast--be valiant for the truth--and look to yourselves. (H. H. Chettle.)

Liberty from law unconscious obedience

No man has reached liberty until he has learned to obey with such facility and perfection that he does it without knowing it, If I step upon a little bit of plank in the street I walk along over it without thinking. Although it is only four inches wide I can walk on it as well as I can on the rest of the pavement. But put that plank between two towers one hundred feet high in the air and let me be called to walk over it. I begin to think, of course, of what I am called upon to do. And the moment I begin to think I cannot do it. When you try to do a thing you cannot do it as well as when you do it without trying. (H. W. Beecher.)

Christian liberty

The apostle now enters upon the more practical part of the Epistle. Freedom is the link which connects the two parts together.

I. Christian liberty is the liberty of faith. Faith receives the truth, the whole truth, concerning sin and redemption; and it is the truth, believed, that makes men free.

II. Christian liberty is the liberty of hope.

1. A hope which maketh not ashamed, for it is based on Christ’s accomplished work.

2. A hope which patiently waits for that which it knows it will assuredly possess.

III. Christian liberty is the liberty of love. The Saviour’s love to the sinner draws the sinner’s love to Himself.

IV. Christian liberty is the liberty of holiness. The safeguards of political liberty lie not in the laws which regulate, or the armies which defend it, but in the spirit which animates a people, in their respect for law, in their mutual toleration, in their recognition of others’ rights, and, above all, in their hearty devotion to the government under which they live. Where these prevail, a nation is already free, and a liberty so founded will never degenerate into license. So also Christian liberty is best secured from abuse, not by the threat of penalties, or by an appeal to fear, but by the operation of those principles which lie at the foundation of Christian character. The gospel sets man free from a bondage beneath which a loving obedience is impossible, in order that, being free, he may serve God in the spirit of Christian liberty. (Emilius Bayley, B. D.)

Spiritual liberty

Spiritual liberty consists in freedom from the curse of the moral law; from the 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.)

Christian liberty

The liberty wherewith Christ has made men free is a deliverance from a system of rules, positive and prohibitory--a temporary and provisional system which had an educational value, training men to the full privileges of religious manhood. It is an abdication of privilege, when men fall back upon the old standpoint of Judaism, and fence themselves in by rigid rules as if of primary importance. There is a perpetual tendency to make men subject to ordinances, whose language is, “Touch not, taste not, handle not,” after the commandments and ordinances of men; and not only to adopt these precepts as useful helps for their own moral progress, but to impose them upon others, almost as if they were of Divine origin; and to make them the standard of their judgment upon the spiritual condition of their fellow men. Every school of religious thought exhibits proofs of this temptation to represent as commandments of God, precepts of man’s own devising. This Judaising temper displays itself whenever men try to narrow down eternal principles of conduct into minute rules, which can prefer no higher claim than to be deemed useful to some, whilst they may be positively injurious to others In vindicating the freedom brought to us by the gospel, we throw ourselves back on the primary truths of Christianity--the Fatherhood of God, and the reconciliation wrought out by the atoning work of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God. Fully believing that God is a righteous Judge, we shall yet not feel towards Him as if He were a hard taskmaster or rigid lawgiver, but as the Infinite Being whose love first created us, and subsequently devised our redemption; we shall exercise an unreserved faith in the completeness of the sacrifice for sin which has been made by our Saviour, and the present forgiveness which has been obtained for us; and we shall rejoice in the glorious liberty of the children of God. But this sense of liberty will not degenerate into licentiousness and unrestrained self-indulgence. Because we are not under the law, but under grace, we shall see ourselves called to a higher and nobler type of holiness. We shall certainly not be without law to God. Our religion will be displayed, not in a punctilious attention to external rules, but in a life-giving spirit, which will penetrate into every department of action in relation to others. In daily society it will impart a kindliness, a charity, a justice, in cur estimate of the words and conduct of those around us; it will teach us a Divine tolerance and a modest humility. It will make the best of both worlds, not in the low commercial sense, which tries to strike a balance between the claims of secular expediency and devotion to the service of God, but in the spirit of the apostolic exhortation which bids men “use this world as not abusing it.” Spite of all the manifold temptations on the plea of piety, or on the plea of the necessary subordination of the individual to the society, it will firmly refuse to descend to a lower level of Christianity than that which Christ its Founder intended. It will uphold the banner of freedom by maintaining, alike in theory and in practice, that Christianity is not in its essence a system of doctrine or a code of precepts, but a life and a spirit, a communion with God in Christ, manifesting itself in the power of true godliness. (Canon Ince.)

Personal liberty of the Christian

The doctrine of St. Paul is not that a Christian man has a right to liberty in conduct, thought, and speech in and of himself, without regard to external circumstances, interests, organizations, and without reference to his own condition. Paul’s conception of the rights and liberties of men stands on the philosophical ground underneath all those things. Rights and liberties belong to stages or states of condition. The inferior has not the right of the superior. A stupid man has not the right of an educated or intelligent man. He may have the legal rights; but the higher ones, that spring out of the condition of the soul, must stand on the conditions to which they belong. A. refined man has rights and joys that an unrefined man has not and cannot have, because he cannot understand them, does not want them, could not use them. Rights increase as the man increases--increases, that is, not merely in physical stature, or in skill of manual employment or material strength, but in character. So, as men work up higher and higher towards the Divine standard of character, their rights and liberties increase. The direct influence of Christ is to bring the human mind into its highest elements:. The power of the Divine nature upon the human soul is to lift it steadily away from animalism or from the flesh--the under-man--up through the realm of mere material wisdom and accomplishment, in the direction of soul-power, reason, rectitude--such reason and such rectitude as grow up under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. When love has permeated the whole man, he then has perfect liberty--liberty of thought, liberty of speech, liberty of conduct. A perfect Christian is the one and only creature that has absolute liberty unchecked by law, by institution, by foregoing thoughts of men, by public sentiment. Because a perfect man is in unison with the Divine soul, he has the whole liberty of God in himself, according to the measure of his manhood. But he has liberty to do only what he wants to do, and he wants to do nothing that is not within the bounds and benefit of a pure and true love. He becomes a law to himself; that is, he carries in himself that inspiration of love which is the mother of all good law. He is higher than any law. His will is with God’s will. He thinks what is true; he does what is benevolent. (H. W. Beecher.)

Christian liberty a trust

When a man is in slavery he is not his own master; he acts and lives under the direction of others, and the responsibility of life is in a greater or less degree shifted from him on to some one else. When a man becomes free, he assumes the duties of life, and recognizes that it rests only with himself whether those duties are performed or not. And so man living under the Christian covenant stands in a direct personal relation to God, a relation of trust. Gifted with freewill, he is answerable for his conduct; subjected no longer to the ordinances of the Mosaic Law, he claims the liberty of the gospel; but he dares not forget that there still is a law limiting and controlling the freedom which he enjoys, and that every action of his carries responsibility with it. The soul of the old law is enshrined and quickened in the body of the new. The spirit, not the letter, of Sinai is met with again in the Sermon on the Mount. All Christian duties are summed up there and enforced with the authority of One who taught not as the scribes and Pharisees, and who spake as never man spake (Matthew 22:37-40). Our liberty is a limited one. No man can do as he likes. He has a Master in heaven whom he must serve. He is indeed set free by the death of Christ from the ordinances of the old covenant, and he is no longer a slave; but he has been placed in a society which is governed by laws eternal in their force, and the measure of the liberty he enjoys is the good of his own soul and the well-being of his brother’s, for none of us liveth to him-self, and no man dieth to himself As Christian members in the commonwealth of Christ we possess, indeed, in its highest and holiest sense, the triple right of liberty, fraternity, equality; but the religion to which we belong is neither reactionary nor revolutionary, and our liberty must be controlled, our equality sanctified, and our fraternity blessed, by the Holy Spirit of God. (C. W. H. Kenrick, M. A.)

Stand fast

Brethren, I cannot be of any other faith than that which I preached nearly twenty-nine years ago on this platform. I am to-day what I was then. That which I preached here then I preach here now. You know the story of the boy who stood on the burning deck because his father said, “Stand there,” and he could not come away. Other boys, much wiser than he was, had gone and got out of the mischief. I am standing where I stood then; I cannot help it, so help me God. I know no more to-day than I knew when first I believed in Jesus as to this matter. I know by grace. Are ye saved through faith and that not of yourself--“it is the gift of God?” You shall leave this :Rock if you like; you may be able to swim; I cannot, and so I stop here; and when the crack of doom shall come I shall be here, God helping me, believing this self-same doctrine. There is something in our very adhesiveness and pertinacity which represents the spirit of the gospel. I am sure that steadfastness in these particular times has its value, and I urge you,, to it that the gospel which you have received, the gospel of the grace of God, you stand fast to as long as you live. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The secret of steadfastness

Standing on the shore of an estuary, one sees a boat riding in the tideway, when sea-weed and other things float by, over the self-same spot; and whether the tide ebbs or flows, whether it steals quietly in or comes on with the rush and roar of foaming billows, the boat always boldly shows its face to it; and turning its head to the current receives on its bows, to split them, the shock of waves. This, which to a child would seem strange, is due to the anchor that lies below the waters, and, grasping the solid ground with its iron arms, holds fast the boat. It seems no less wonderful to see a tree--no sturdy oak, but slender birch, or trembling aspen--standing erect away up on a mountain brow; where, exposed to the sweep of every storm, it has gallantly maintained its ground against the tempests that have laid in the dust the stateliest ornaments of the plain. But our wonder ceases so soon as we climb the height, and see wherein its great strength lies; how it has struck its roots down into the mountain, and wrapped them with many a strong twist and turn round and round the rock. (W. Arnot.)
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Stand fast

1. In Christ to whom you have been brought.

2. In adherence to the doctrines which the gospel has set before you.

3. You will find your strength and dependence only in the grace of Christ.

4. In the service of your Master to the end. (J. Harding, M. A.)

The bounds of Christian freedom

When we speak of freedom, we are apt to think only of the removal of restraints. But though it is important to get rid of all needless restraints, it is much more important that we should possess and train the powers for which the absence of restraint is demanded. If there is no life, the removal of restraints will be of no use. If the life is feeble, and tied down by inward restraints like those of superstition or of fear, the removal of outward restraints will not set it free. But if there is vigorous life, it demands for its development a constantly expanding freedom: and this spiritual power has in itself both its proper energy and its proper bound. It is a tree which has an innate capacity of growth. Give it air and light; remove whatever confines and overshadows it. It may need pruning and guiding; but it can provide its own symmetry for itself. I do not propose to dwell verse by verse upon the passage (Galatians 4:1-16) which I have taken for a starting point, but to illustrate and enforce its central principle. Wherever there is a just demand for freedom, it is because there exists a living power to be liberated; and this living power, if it be kept pure, contains in itself the true limit of its exercise. First, take the revival of Christian liberty at the time of the Reformation. Luther’s first great treatise was Concerning Christian Liberty. The liberty he claims presupposes the establishment in the soul of the Divine life of faith. You do not work, he says again and again, so that you may live. Life comes first; works, afterwards. The fruit will never make the root or the sap, but the root and the sap ensure the fruit. But, since this Divine life of faith exists, he demands that it should be free from the fetters of the clerical system of the Middle Ages. But let us come to more commonplace examples of freedom; we shall still find that it is the growth of the inner life or capacity which determines and controls the external conditions. Take the familiar case of a boy who wants to leave school and go to sea. If his father is wise, he will watch carefully, and try to estimate the meaning of this wish. Is it mere unruliness or restlessness, or dislike of study? If so, he will give it no encouragement. But, if he finds the boy in his leisure moments reading about the sea, and haunting about the seashore, and studying intelligently the boats and sails and machinery, after a time he will begin to recognize in the boy such a bent as indicates a genuine call. And when this is so, he may assure himself that the freedom will not be abused. The boy will be free from the constraints of the shore life; but that very zest for seamanship which has won its freedom will be most likely to ensure the right use of that freedom. There is a fine expression in the speech in which Pericles contrasted the free system of Athenian life, “the trustful spirit of liberty,” with the narrower system of Sparta. It might be thought that, unless such constraints as those imposed at Sparta existed, each man would try to impose his own will or tastes upon others. But the contrary, Pericles declared, was the case at Athens; each man respected the feelings of his neighbour. The slavish system is that of mistrust. Mutual confidence is the offspring of freedom. We might illustrate this by the experience of two great English schools some sixty years ago. When Keate was head-master of Eton, his system of discipline was one of terrorism. He never took a boy’s word, and, on the suspicion of a fault, he flogged him. At the same period, Arnold was head-master at Rugby. He always believed a boy; and it was only on rare occasions, when the proof was indubitable, that he punished. It might have been supposed that, under the severer system, boys would be afraid to do wrong, and that they would take advantage of the more lenient system to deceive. The contrary was the case. At Eton, under Keate, it; was thought quite fair to deceive a master. At Rugby, boys said, “It is a shame to tell Arnold a lie, he always believes you.” Thus freedom and trustfulness beget the sense of responsibility. To conclude: We have spoken of freedom first as an inward and spiritual state, secondly as the removal of outward restraints. The first of these is the most important. To the attainment of this we must constantly attend, both for ourselves and for those on whom we have any influence. There are tyrannies which have nothing to do with physical restraints, and against these we must war incessantly. There is the tyranny of evil habits. How can he he thought free who is the slave of customs which he knows to be wrong? There is the tyranny of fashion and opinion, and again of prejudice and party spirit. How can he be free who acts only as others choose? There is the tyranny of ignorance. How can he be called free whose life is bounded by a narrow circle of ideas? Let us strive for the sublime liberty which belongs to those who fear God and hate evil. (Canon Fremantle.)


Verse 2

Galatians 5:2

If ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.

The law and grace

I. God will deal with us either altogether by works or altogether by Christ; these things cannot be mixed.

II. To piece up therefore the righteousness of Christ by our own works, and to add anything to the passion as a meritorious cause of our justification, is to make Christ unprofitable.

III. We ought to content ourselves with Christ and His merits alone (Colossians 2:10). (T. Manton, D. D.)

Circumcision

I. The nature of sacraments in general.

1. Signs

2. Seals, to ratify and confirm

II. The nature of circumcision in particular.

1. A sign prefiguring baptism which has now taken its place

2. A seal of the covenant of grace, particularly of justification by faith. (Matthew Henry.)

The superfluousness of circumcision

Circumcision was the shadow of the substance which the Christian man already enjoyed. The law which prescribed it had already done its true work and was abolished in Christ. Where was the sense then of leaving the great liberator for one of the most grievous shackles of their old tyranny? (H. W. Beecher.)

Christianity not uniformity

It is not uniformity that we see in the works of God; but unity in variety or diversity. The tree has branches large and small, but the tree is one. Every plant, flower, or tree in the landscape has full freedom to unfold itself according to its nature; and yet the landscape is one. The many members in the human frame form one body. The many nations of the earth form one race. The twelve tribes of Israel constituted one “peculiar people.” The same law is true in relation to the Church. Christians are many, and differ in natural powers, gifts, education, and opinions; but they have all faith in Jesus Christ, worship the true God, and love their fellow men, and therefore form one spiritual brotherhood and Church. (Thomas Jones.)


Verses 2-6

Verse 3

Galatians 5:3

For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.

The great dilemma

I. Justification by the law.

1. What this means.

2. Its utter impossibility.

II. Salvation by grace.

1. This is now the only appointed way.

2. This is a perfectly possible way: what man cannot do God does for him.

3. This is a very simple way: accept by faith what God has provided.

III. To reject the latter in favour of the former, therefore, is to fall from grace. Christ is thus--

The comprehensiveness of the claims of the law

Tell me, then, ye who desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? Does it say anything to you, but “do this and thou shalt live:” Does it set before you any alternative but “cursed is he that continueth not” (Galatians 3:10)? Do this, this wrath-working law proclaims, do it all--all without exception--continue in it from first to last, and you shall live; but a curse, an everlasting curse, awaits you if you offend in one particular. Plead what you will, these denunciations are irreversible--its terms cannot be changed. You may say, “I wish to obey;” and it answers you; “tell me not of your wishes, but do it.” “I have endeavoured to obey.” “Tell me of no endeavours, but do it or you are cursed.” “I have done it in almost every particular.” “Tell me, not what you have done almost, have you obeyed it altogether? Have you obeyed it in all things; if not, you are cursed.” “I have for many years obeyed it, and but once only have I transgressed.” “Then you are cursed; if you have offended in one point you are guilty of all.” “But I am very sorry for my transgressions.” “I cannot regard your sorrow; you are under a curse.” “But I will reform, and never transgress again.” “I care nothing for your reformation; the curse remains upon you.” “But I will obey perfectly in the future, if I can find mercy for the past.” “I can have no concern with your determinations for the future; I know no such word as mercy; my terms cannot be altered for any one. If you rise to these terms you will have a right to life, and need no mercy. If you fall short in any one particular, nothing remains for you but punishment!” (C. Simeon)
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Verse 4

Galatians 5:4

Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are Justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

Is Christ preached “of no effect”

I think, the sum and substance of my text amounts simply to this: that the attempt to add anything to Christ’s perfect work in the salvation of a ruined sinner, is an entire rejection of Christ, and makes the man an infidel.

I. First of all, let us look a little to the effect. Now what effect has been produced upon your hearts by the preaching of the gospel? I will tell you three effects produced upon the hearts of many. In the first place, the preaching of Christ has produced the effect of pardon sealed upon the conscience--but not where justification is looked for from the law; in the second place, where Christ is preached and embraced by faith, reconciliation to all God’s method of saving sinners, and to all God’s dispensations, is wrought in the heart; and thirdly, the effect--and the prime effect--included in the covenant of grace, and registered in heaven to be carried into execution, is a vital oneness of soul with Jesus.

II. A few words now respecting the apostasy. “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are” seeking to be “justified by the law.” I pray you, mark what an awful extent of apostasy this one short sentence proves: that all those, who are cherishing vain hopes of justification before God, in whole or in part, from anything that the creature does, or anything proposed to the creature, have “no effect” from Christ; they are rejecting Christ. I would have you think seriously upon this. You know, we do not now dwell upon the term ,, circumcision,” nor yet the keeping of the ceremonial law: only we insist, that these are phrases, which set forth the folly and rebellion of attempting to put anything of the creature along with the perfect work of Christ. One single condition, if it be but an act of obedience, if it be but a word, “if it be but a thought--one single condition or contingency left with man, seals his damnation for ever. If the preaching of the Word of God does not give man a salvation without a contingency, it gives him none at all.

III. A word or two now, relative to the apostle’s testimony against this apostasy. Ah! I fear there are many such professors in these days; who receive the doctrines of grace as a whole in theory, but by and by abandon them for the first theory that seems more pleasing to their fleshly natures. “Fallen from grace” marks, then, a rejection of the doctrine once embraced or received--the doctrine once admitted to be correct. I think there is another class that might be included in this; and that is, the great class who hold the doctrines of grace while living in habits of sin. (J. Irons, D. D.)

Although the law cannot justify, it has a value

Money doth not justify, is it therefore unprofitable? The eyes do not justify, must they therefore be plucked out? The hands make not a man righteous, must they therefore be cut off? We must attribute to everything its proper effect and use. If the law doth not justify we have no right to condemn or destroy it; it is good, as St. Paul tells us, if a man do rightly use it; that is to say, if he use the law as law. (Luther.)

Falling from grace

If Satan cannot hinder the birth of graces, then he labours to be the death of graces. This is too ordinary, to see a Christian lose his first love, and to fall from his first works. This love that was formerly an ascending flame, always sparkling up to heaven, is now, like a little spark, almost suffocated with the earth. The godly sorrow that was once a swelling torrent, like Jordan overflowing his banks, is now like Job’s summer brook, which makes the traveller ashamed. His proceedings against sin, once furious, like the march of Jehu against Ahab; but now, like Samson, he can sleep in Delilah’s lap while she steals away his strength. Before, he could not give rest to his eyes till God had given rest to his soul; but now he can lie down with sin in his bosom, and wounds in his conscience. At first, his zeal did eat him up; but now his decayings have omen up his zeal. (Foster.)

Falling away

As leaves fall from the trees, so the grace of God decay, and drop away, in the wicked, one after another, as if there was a consumption. (Cawdray.)


Verse 5

Galatians 5:5

For we, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness by faith,

Salvation by faith and the work of the Spirit

Faith is not opposed to the spirit, but is the child of it.
Through the Spirit we wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

I. Declare the Christian’s hope.

1. Its singularity. Not founded on parentage, outward rites and ceremonies, moral virtues and spiritual excellencies; but upon Christ.

2. Its speciality. In grace alone--looking entirely to the free mercy of God. Nothing by merit. Nobody has any claim upon God. He blesses us because He is good, not because we are; He saves us because He is gracious, not because He sees any grace inherent in us.

3. Its ground. It is founded upon right--a solid base for hope. We expect to be saved by an act of justice as well as by a deed of mercy. By faith the righteousness of Christ becomes ours, so that we have a right to salvation (Romans 4:23-25; Romans 5:1-2; Romans 8:1-4; Romans 8:32-34).

4. Its substance. A triumphant death, a glorious eternity.

5. The posture which our hope takes up. Waiting. All is done; we have but to wait for the reward. To the garment which covers us we dare not think of adding a single thread. To the acceptance in which we stand before God, we cannot hope to add a single jewel. Why attempt it? Has not Jesus said, “It is finished?” Waiting implies continuance. Our faith is not for to-day and to-morrow only, but for eternity.

II. The relation of this matter to the Holy Spirit. No division in the purposes and works of the three sacred Persons in the Trinity. Their will is one. That which glorifies Jesus cannot dishonour the Holy Spirit.

1. The faith which brings this righteousness is never exercised by any but those who are born of the Spirit. The new heart which the Spirit creates is the only soil in which faith will grow.

2. Faith for righteousness is based on the testimony of the Holy Spirit.

3. Simple faith is always the work of the Spirit.

4. When a man has believed, he obtains a great increase to his faith in Jesus by the work of the Spirit.

5. It is by the Spirit that we continue to exercise faith.

III. Concluding inferences.

1. Whoever has this hope of righteousness by faith has the Spirit of God. He that believeth hath the witness in himself. He that believeth in Him is not condemned.

2. Wherever there is any other hope, or hope based upon anything else but this, the Spirit of God is not present. The Spirit will not bear witness to man’s home-born presumptuous hopes, but only to the finished work of Jesus. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Difference between faith and hope

There is so great affinity between faith and hope, that the one cannot be separate from the other. Notwithstanding, there is a difference between them, which is gathered of their several offices, diversity of working, and of their ends.

1. They differ in respect of their subject, that is, of the ground wherein they rest. For faith resteth in the understanding, hope in the will; but the one is to the other, as the two cherubim on the mercy-seat.

2. They differ in respect of their office, i.e. of their working. Faith tells what is to be done, teaches, prescribes, directs; hope stirs up the mind that it may be strong, bold, courageous, that it may suffer and endure adversity, waiting for better things.

3. They differ as touching their object, that is, the special matter whereunto they look. Faith has for her object the truth, teaching us to cleave surely thereto, and looking upon the word and promise of the thing that is promised; hope has for her object the goodness of God, and looks upon the thing which is promised in the word, that is, upon such matters as faith teaches us to hope for.

4. They differ in order. Faith is the beginning of life, before all tribulation; hope proceeds from tribulation.

5. They differ by the diversity of working. Faith is a teacher and a judge, fighting against errors and heresies, judging spirits and doctrines; hope is, as it were, the general or captain of the field, fighting against tribulation, the cross, impatience, heaviness of spirit, weakness, desperation, and blasphemy, and it waits for good things even in the midst of all evils. Therefore, when I am instructed by faith in the Word of God, and lay hold of Christ, believing in Him with my whole heart, then am I righteous by this knowledge. When I am so justified by faith, or by this knowledge, by and by cometh the devil, the father of wiles, and laboureth to extinguish my faith by wiles and subtleties; that is to say, by lies, errors, and heresies. Moreover, because he is a murderer, he goeth about also to oppress it by violence. Here hope wrestling, layeth hold on the thing revealed by faith, and overcometh the devil that warreth against faith; and after this victory followeth peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Luther.)

Faith and hope complementary of each other

In civil government, prudence and fortitude do differ, and yet these two virtues are so joined together, that they cannot easily be severed. Now, fortitude is a constancy of mind, which is not discouraged in adversity, but endureth valiantly, and waiteth for better things. But if fortitude be not guided by prudence, it is but temerity and rashness. On the other side, if fortitude be not joined with prudence, that prudence is but vain and unprofitable. Therefore, like as, in policy, prudence is but vain without fortitude; even so in divinity, faith without hope is nothing; for hope endureth adversity and is constant therein, and in the end overcometh all evils. And on the other side, like as fortitude without prudence is rashness, even so hope without faith is a presumption in spirit, and a tempting of God: for it hath no knowledge of Christ and.of the truth which faith teacheth, and therefore it is but a blind rashness and arrogancy. Wherefore, a godly man, before all things, must have a right understanding instructed by faith, according to the which the mind may be guided in afflictions, that it may hope for those good things which faith hath revealed and taught. To be short, faith is conceived by teaching; for thereby the mind is instructed what the truth is. Hope is conceived by exhortation; for by exhortation hope is stirred up in afflictions, which confirmeth him that is already justified by faith, that he be not overcome by adversities, but that he may be able more strongly to resist them. (Luther.)

Hope with faith

The heir must believe his title to an estate in reversion before he can hope for it: faith believes its title to glory, and then hope waits for it. Did not faith feed the lamp of hope with oil, it would soon die. (Ambrose.)

The believer’s treasure

1. The riches of a believer are not so much in possession as in expectation and hope.

2. None have right to heaven here, or shall enjoy it hereafter, who are wholly unrighteous.

3. No personal righteousness of our own can entitle us to this blessed hope and heavenly inheritance; but only the righteousness of Christ.

4. It is only the inward, efficacious teaching of God’s Spirit, that can sufficiently instruct us in the knowledge of this imputed righteousness by faith, and make us with security and confidence venture our eternal well-being and hope of heaven upon it. (James Fergusson.)

Faith and morality

When faith is finished a good life is made perfect in our kind: let, therefore, no man expect events for which he hath no promise; nor call for God’s fidelity without his own faithfulness; nor snatch at a promise without performing the condition; nor think faith to be a hand to apprehend Christ, and to do nothing else; for that will but deceive us, and turn religion into words, holiness into hypocrisy, the promises of God into a snare, the truth of God into a lie. When God gives us better promises, He intends that we should pay Him a better obedience; when He forgives us what is past, He intends that we should sin no more; when He offers us His graces, He would have us make use of them; when He causes us to distrust ourselves His meaning is that we should rely on Him; when He enables us to do what He commands us, He commands us to do all that we can. (Jeremy Taylor.)

Faith the only basis of righteousness and hope

Our religion is spiritual faith, which speaks after this fashion: “Believe in God; believe in Jesus Christ; believe in your own soul; believe in redemption from sin, from guilt, and from punishment; and believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.” This is our religion. Infidelity comes and unfolds its little couch and lays it on the ground, and says to my soul, “Rest there.” But I have tried, and cannot. The bed is too short for my soul to stretch itself upon it. It only reaches from the cradle there to the grave yonder, while my soul has desires that wander through eternity. No, thank God, here is room: God is, Christ is, thy soul is, redemption is, pardon is, liberty from sin is, and the glorious life eternal is! Stretch thy soul upon that couch and rest for ever. (Thomas Jones.)

Faith and hope in our Lord Jesus Christ

I. Consider faith in Christ.

1. Explain the nature of it.

2. It is our duty to believe in Christ.

1. Though it be our duty to believe in the Lord Jesus, and this should be pressed upon our consciences, yet we need the aids of Divine grace to enable us to discharge this duty; therefore we should ask them of God.

2. It is not only the duty of persons, when they are first awakened to a sense of sin, to believe in Jesus Christ; those also who have received Him should be daily exercising faith in Him.

II. Consider hope in Christ.

1. Let us consider what it is true Christians hope for in the Lord Jesus.

2. Let us inquire into the reasons of this their hope in Christ.

Concluding reflections:

1. We may hence learn that true Christians should be ready always to answer every man that asketh them a reason of the hope that is in them. Seeing it is so reasonable, so well grounded, they should never be ashamed of it, nor suffer themselves to be moved from it by the vain cavils of men.

2. Is our hope in Christ Jesus? Then it should be our great care to “glorify His name, and to adorn His doctrine in all things.” And in order hereto let us live answerably to our hope in Him.

3. It behoves us to be very solicitous that we do not take up with such a hope as shall make us ashamed. The salvation proposed by Jesus Christ to His disciples is inexpressibly great; and it should be our great concern that our expectations of it be not disappointed. “Not every one that says unto Christ, “Lord, Lord,” that pretends respect for Him, “shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21). “The hope of the hypocrite shall perish.” (S. Price.)

The Spirit inclining us to seek after righteousness

In these words observe--

1. The end, scope, and blessedness of a Christian in the word “hope.”

2. The firm ground of it--“The righteousness of faith.”

3. The carriage of Christians--“We wait.”

4. The inward moving cause of waiting for this hope in this way--

“Through the Spirit.” They are taught by Him, inclined by Him, so to do.

1. The blessedness of a Christian is implied in the word “hope.” For hope is taken two ways in Scripture--for the thing hoped for, and for the affection or act of him that hopeth. Here it is taken in the first sense, for the thing hoped for. As also Titus 2:13, “Looking for the blessed hope.” So Colossians 1:5, “For the hope which is laid up for us in heaven.”

2. The ground and foundation of this hope, “The righteousness of faith.” What it is I will show you by and by. Only here it is opposed, partly to the covenant of works, which could not give life; partly to the legal observances; for it presently followeth, “Neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision,” etc. But by no means is it opposed to evangelical obedience; for the whole New Testament obedience is comprised in this term, “The righteousness of faith; “ as appeareth by the apostle’s explication in the next verse, “But faith, which works by love.”

3. The duty of a Christian--“We wait.” All true Christians wait for the mercy of God and life everlasting. And he calleth in waiting, because a believer hath not so much in possession as in expectation. And this waiting is not a devout sloth, but implieth diligence in the use of all means whereby we may obtain this hope.

4. The inward efficient cause--“Through the Spirit.” We are taught by the Spirit, inclined by the Spirit so to do. That by the Spirit all true Christians are inclined to pursue after the hope built upon the righteousness of faith.

I. What is the righteousness of faith? We told you before it is opposed either to the law of works or the ceremonial observances of the law of Moses. But more particularly it may be determined--

II. What is the hope built upon it, or the things hoped for by virtue of this righteousness? and they are pardon and life.

1. Certainly pardon of sins is intended in the righteousness of faith, as appeareth by that of the apostle (Romans 4:6-8).

2. There is also in it salvation, or eternal life (Titus 3:7). These two benefits give us the greatest support and comfort against all kind of troubles.

III. What is the work of the Spirit in this business in urging believers to wait for the hope of righteousness by faith? The work of the Spirit doth either concern the duties of the new covenant or the privileges of the new covenant, or what is common to them both. I begin with the latter.

1. What is common to them both. He doth convince us- of the truth of the gospel, both of means and end; that there is such a hope, and the righteousness of faith is the only way to obtain it. Now this he doth externally and internally.

2. The work of the Spirit as to the duties of the new covenant. He doth not only convince us of the reality and the necessity of Christ’s obedience and our holiness, but by His powerful operation frameth and inclineth our hearts to the duties required of us. Faith itself is wrought in us by this holy Spirit, for it is “the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8); and so is repentance and obedience: Hebrews 8:10, “I will write My laws upon their hearts, and put them into their minds.” Moses’ law was written on tables of stone, as a rule without them; but Christ’s law on the heart and mind, as drawing and inclining them to obey it. The renewing grace of the Spirit of God doth prepare us and fit us, and His exciting grace doth quicken us, that we may do what is pleasing in His sight.

3. The work of the Spirit as to the privileges of the new covenant, which are pardon and life.

(a) He prepareth us and fitteth us for it (2 Corinthians 5:5).

(b) He assureth us of it (2 Corinthians 1:22).

(c) He comforteth us and raiseth, our longing after this blessed estate, for the beginnings we have here are called also the first-fruits (Romans 8:23). The beginnings are sweet; what will the completion be? Application:

1. Here you see your scope, what you should look for and hope for--the forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among the sanctified.

2. Here you see your work, and what you should now seek after--“The righteousness of faith.”

3. Here you see your help, and what will enable you to obtain--“Through the Spirit.” Oh! let these things be more in your thoughts.

(i) The forgiveness of sins. The sin be forgiven you can never have found peace within yourselves, but still God will be matter of fear and terror to you.

(ii) By waiting on the duties of the gospel, this comfort is more and more settled in the heart.

To enforce this consider--

1. There is no appearing before God without some righteousness of one sort or another. Why? Because it is an holy and just God before whom we appear; and “shall not the Judge of all the earth do right” (Genesis 18:25); and 1 Samuel 6:20, “Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?” If not now in the time of His patience, how, then, in the time of His recompense? His holiness inclineth Him to hate sin, and His justice to punish it. “Thy law is exceeding pure” (Psalms 19:14). The gospel abateth nothing of the purity of it. Now when we appear before an holy God, and must he judged by an holy law, surely we must have holiness and righteousness answerable, or how can we stand in the judgment?

2. No ether righteousness will serve the turn but the righteousness of faith; and therefore, till we submit to the new covenant, we are in a woeful case. Now the righteousness of the new covenant is supreme or subordinate; the supreme by way of merit and satisfaction, the subordinate by way of application and qualification on our parts.

The hope of righteousness reasonable

How foolish and ignorant we should esteem an artificer, who, having taken a piece of iron, should melt and mould, file and polish it, and then imagine that it has become gold! It shines, it is true; but is its brilliancy a proof that it is no longer iron? And does not God require pure and refined gold; that is to say, a perfect righteousness and a perfect holiness? (Malan.)

Righteousness by faith

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 to 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.)


Verse 6

Galatians 5:6

For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

The order of gracious exercises in the renewed heart

All evangelical writers and preachers maintain that none can be real Christians without exercising faith, repentance, and love; but they differ widely in respect to the proper order of these gracious affections. Some place faith before love and repentance, and some place love before repentance and faith.

I. Let us consider the order in which holy exercises take place in a renewed sinner. The Spirit of God in renewing, sanctifying, or converting a sinner, does not give him any new natural power, faculty, or principle of action; but only gives him new affections or exercises of heart. It is true, indeed, the Holy Spirit commonly awakens and convinces a sinner, before He converts him. But as both sin and holiness consist in free, voluntary exercises, so the Divine Spirit, in converting sinner, only turns him from sinful to holy exercises. Having premised this, I proceed to consider the order in which the Spirit produces the first gracious affections. If love be distinct from repentance, and repentance distinct from faith, which cannot be reasonably denied, then one of these affections must be exercised before another, in a certain order. They cannot all be exercised together.

1. And here it is easy to see that love must be before either repentance or faith. Pure, holy, disinterested love, which is diametrically opposite to all selfishness, is the essence of all true holiness; and, of consequence, there can be no holy affection prior to the love of God being shed abroad in the heart.

2. The next fruit of the Spirit is repentance. As soon as the renewed sinner loves God supremely, he must loathe and abhor himself for hating, opposing, and dishonouring such a holy and amiable Being. As repentance follows love, so faith follows both love and repentance. When the sinner loves, he will repent; and when he repents, he will exercise not merely a speculative, but a saving faith. It is morally impossible that he should feel his need of a Saviour, until he sees and feels that God would be righteous and amiable in sending men to destruction.

II. The importance of representing these first exercises of the renewed heart in the order i have mentioned.

1. Unless we place love before faith and repentance, we cannot reconcile regeneration with the Divine law, which requires all men to love God immediately and supremely. If we say that faith is the first gracious exercise, then we virtually say that men ought to believe the gospel before they love God; which is the same as to say that it is not the duty of sinners to obey the, first and great command, until they become true believers in Christ.

2. It is of importance to represent love as before repentance and faith, in order to make it appear that sanctification is before justification and the only proper evidence of it. Those who place faith before love and repentance, suppose that men are justified before they are renewed or sanctified. They suppose that saving faith consists in a man’s believing that he is justified and entitled to eternal life without any evidence from Scripture, sense, or reason.

3. It is absolutely necessary to place love before repentance and faith, in order to distinguish true religion from false. All true religion essentially consists in pure, holy, disinterested love; and all false religion essentially consists in interested, mercenary, selfish love. Now those who place faith before love and repentance, make all religion selfish; because, upon their supposition, all religious affections flow from a belief of their being elected and entitled to eternal life. But if we place supreme love to God, for what He is in Himself, before faith, then all the gracious exercises which flow from it will be holy and disinterested affections.

Conclusion:

1. If the first exercises of renewed sinners always take place in the same order, then all real saints have always had precisely the same kind of religious experience.

2. If the Holy Spirit, in converting sinners, always produces love to God before faith in Christ, then it is extremely erroneous to represent faith as previous to love in the renewed heart. This is the greatest and most prevailing error among those who believe in expert-mental religion.

3. If there can be no true experimental religion but what originates from that supreme love to God which is before faith in Christ, then there is ground to fear that there is a great deal of false religion among all denominations of Christians. Finally, this subject teaches all who have entertained a hope of having experienced a saving change, the great importance of examining themselves, whether they have ever exercised that precious faith which flows from supreme love to God, (N. Emmons, D. D.)

Prevailing faith

I. What is this faith?

1. It is not a mere creed-holding. Though the creed be true, it may not be true to you, if you just repeat it and put it away like a paper in a pigeon-hole. No use if it does not influence your heart and affect your life.

2. It is trust. As creatures we look up to the great Father of spirits; as sinners we trust for the pardon of our sins to the atonement of Christ; as being weak and feeble we trust to the power of the Holy Spirit to make us holy and to keep us so; we venture our eternal interests in the vessel of free grace, content to sink or swim with it. We rely upon God in Christ. We hang upon Christ as the vessel hangs upon the nail.

II. Why is faith selected as the way of salvation?

1. No other way is possible. The road of good works is blocked up by our past sins, and it is sure to be further blocked up by future sins: we ought, therefore, to rejoice that God has commended to us the open road of faith.

2. God has chosen the way of faith, that salvation might be by grace. All idea of our own merit is thus shut out.

3. That there may be no boasting.

4. It is a way open to the most unlearned. However little you may know, you know that you have sinned; know, then, that Jesus has come to put away sin, and that there is life in a look at the crucified One.

III. How does faith operate?

1. It touches the mainspring of our nature by creating love within the soul.

2. It puts us into a new relation. No longer servants, but sons.

3. It creates agreement with the Divine will. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

What makes a Christian: circumcision or faith

Mistake to suppose the Primitive Church can be regarded as a pattern. Apostolic teaching they had; -yet they were only beginners. Just rescued from heathenism, no wonder their spirits long bore the scars of their former bondage. To know what they were like, we must look at the communities gathered by modern missionaries. The same infantile simplicity, the same partial apprehensions of the truth, the same danger of being led astray by the low morality of their heathen kindred, the same openness to strange heresy, the same danger of blending the old with the new, in opinion and practice, beset both. The first theological difference in the early Church illustrates this. It was an attempt to put new wine into old bottles. The Jewish and the Gentile elements did not coalesce. The point round which the strife was waged was not whether Gentiles might come into the Church. That was conceded by the fiercest Judaisers. But it was whether they could come in as Gentiles, without being first incorporated into the Jewish nation by circumcision, and whether they could remain in as Gentiles, without conforming to Jewish ceremonial and law. Those who said “no” were members of the Christian communities, and, being so, they still iasisted that Judaism was to be eternal. Those who said “yes” were mostly Gentiles, headed and inspired by St. Paul, a Hebrew of the Hebrews. They believed that Judaism was preparatory, and that its work was done. This Epistle is the memorial of that feud. It is of perennial use, as the tendencies against which it is directed are constant in human nature. The text contains St. Paul’s condensed statement of his whole position in the controversy.

I. The first grand principle contained in these words is that faith working by love makes a Christian (Comp. 1 Corinthians 7:19; Galatians 6:15.)

1. Religion is the harmony of the soul with God, and the conformity of the life to His law. Obedience must be the obedience of a man, and not of his deeds only; it must include the submission of the will and the prostration of the whole nature before God. To be godly is to be godlike. As two stringed instruments may be so tuned to one keynote that, if you strike the one, a faint ethereal echo is heard from the other, which blends undistinguishably with its parent sound; so, drawing near to God, and brought into unison with His mind and will, our responsive spirits vibrate in accord with His, and give forth tones, low and thin indeed, but still repeating the mighty music of heaven.

2. This harmony with God results from love becoming the ruling power of our lives. Love to God is no idle emotion or lazy rapture, no vague sentiment, but the root of all practical goodness, of all strenuous effort, of all virtue, of all praise. That strong tide is meant to drive the busy wheels of life, and to bear precious freightage on its bosom; not to flow away in profitless foam. All the virtues and graces will dwell in our hearts, if Love, their mighty mother, be there.

3. The dominion of love to God in our hearts arises from faith. How can we love Him so long as we are in doubt of His heart, or misconceive His character, as if it were only Power and Wisdom, or awful Severity? Men cannot love an unseen person at all without some very special token of his personal affection for them. It is only when we know and believe the love that God has to us, that we come to cherish any corresponding emotion to Him. Heaven must bend to earth, before earth can rise to heaven. The skies must open and drop down love, ere love can spring in the fruitful fields. And it is only when we look with true trust to that great unveiling of the heart of God which is in Jesus Christ, that our hearts are melted, and all their snows are dissolved into sweet waters, which, freed from their icy chains, can flow with music in their ripple, and fruitfulness along their course, through our otherwise silent and barren lives.

II. But we have to consider also the negative side of the apostle’s words. They affirm that in comparison with the essential--faith, all externals are infinitely unimportant. A general principle. Rites, sacraments, etc., may be helps: nothing more. If religion be the loving devotion of the soul to God, resting upon reasonable faith, then all besides is, at the most, a means which may further it. The test of all acts and forms of Christian worship is, Do they help men to know and feel Christ and His truth? They are but fuel; the flame is loving faith. The only worth of the fuel is to feed the flame. We are joined to God by faith. Whatever strengthens that is precious as a help, but worthless as a substitute.

III. there is a constant tendency to exalt these unimportant externals into the place of faith. So long as men have bodily organizations, there will be need for outward helps. Forms are sure to encroach, to overlay the truth that lies at their root, to become dimly intelligible, or quite unmeaning, and to constitute at last the end instead of the means. Necessary to remember, in using them, that a minute quantity may strengthen, but an overdose will kill. Even freedom from forms may be turned into a bondage.

IV. When an indifferent thing is made into an essential, it ceases to be indifferent, and must be fought against. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The office and operation of faith

The peculiar character of the gospel is, that it shows how a sinner may be justified before God. Yet the generality of Christians are far from entertaining just views of this most fundamental point. They confound the different offices of faith and works. But St. Paul distinguishes them with much accuracy and precision. He invariably declares that our justification is by faith. Yet, though he denies to works the office of justifying, he invariably insists on them as the fruits and evidence of our faith. Nothing can be more decisive than the declaration in the text.

I. We shall explain it.

1. Man is prone to trust in outward rites and[ ceremonies. The Jews trusted in the ordinance of circumcision; some among ourselves think it sufficient Chat they have been baptized, or are communicants.

2. But no outward observances can avail for our salvation.

(a) to obtain man’s applause;

(b) to establish a righteousness of our own;

(a) evil tempers;

(b) vicious appetites.

It cannot, therefore, of itself characterize the true Christian. Nor can it avail anything towards procuring the Divine favour; though, if it proceed from faith and love, it will doubtless be rewarded.

3. That which alone can avail for our acceptance with God is faith. It is by faith that all the saints of old obtained salvation (Romans 4:3; Romans 4:6-7). All the promises of God are made to faith (Mark 16:16; Acts 10:43).

4. Yet this faith must be productive of good works. It is not a mere notional assent to certain doctrines; nor a confident assurance respecting the safety of our own state; but a living, operative principle in the heart.

5. It is, on our part, the bond of union between Christ and our souls; and it cannot but discover itself by works of love.

II. Improve it (2 Timothy 3:16).

1. For the establishment of true doctrine. Let us renounce all confidence in our own works, and rely wholly on the blood and righteousness of Christ.

2. For reproof, i.e., refutation of false doctrine. We are not justified by faith as an operative principle, but simply as uniting us with Christ. Our works do not make our faith to be good or saving, but only prove it to be so.

3. For correction of unrighteous conduct. Let unrighteous Christians put away either their profession or their sins.

4. For instruction in righteousness. Love should operate uniformly, and respect both the bodies and souls of men. Let us abound in it more and more. (Theological Sketch-book.)

Faith

Faith is the foundation of the whole spiritual building, whereby we are built on Christ Jesus. It is the root of the whole spiritual life of grace, the ground whereon the soul rests securely, the beginning of our spiritual existence. The cross is not far off, not over the seas, in the Holy Land, nor removed by length of time. Faith sees it close at hand, and clasps it and loves it, and is crucified on it with Him, dying to itself with its Lord, nailed to it, motionless to its own desires, dead to the world, and living to Him. Nor is heaven far off to faith. For where its Lord is, there is heaven. Faith is with Him, present with Him in spirit, though absent in the body; a penitent amid those who, around the Throne, sing “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Faith, in one sense, goes before love, because, unless we believed, we should have none to love. Faith is Divine knowledge. As in human love we cannot love unless we have seen, heard, or in some way known, so, without faith, we cannot know aught of God, or know that there is a God whom to love. Yet in act, faith cannot be without love. “The just,’ says Scripture, ‘shall live by his faith,’ but by a faith which lives. A dead faith cannot give life.” Faith without love is the devils’ faith. For they believe, and tremble. Hearing must come before faith, for “faith cometh by hearing.” But faith cannot for an instant be separated from love. Who is the object of faith? God the Father, who created us, and gave His Son to die for us; God the Son, who became one of us, and by dying, redeemed us; God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth us, and “pours forth love,” which He is, “abroad in our hearts.” We were as stocks and stones without faith; but He died, even “of these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” Are we stocks or stones now, that, having faith, we can believe without loving? Which of His acts of boundless love should we believe without loving? Were it not enough to bear us out of ourselves for love, to transport us, to make us give up our lives for love, to carry us away out of ourselves and of all that we are, to think that for us, earth-worms and defiled, Jesus died? Does not the very name of Jesus make the heart beat, and tremble, and thrill with love? Could a criminal really believe that he had received a full pardon from his injured king, or that the king’s son had suffered to obtain his pardon, and was come to tell it him and forgive him, and not love? Well might he doubt such love. But he could not believe it and not love. Faith and love would enter his soul together. Love is in all true faith, as light and warmth are in the ray of the sun. Light and warmth are in the sun’s ray, and the sun’s ray brings with it light and warmth; not, light and warmth; the sun’s ray: yet, where the sun’s ray is, there are light and warmth, nor can that ray be anywhere without giving light and warmth. Even so, faith it is which brings love, not love, faith; yet faith cannot come into the heart, without bringing with it the glow of love, yea, and the light wherewith we see things Divine. So soon as faith is kindled in the heart, there is the glow of love; and both come from the same Sun of Righteousness, pouring in faith and love together into the heart, and “there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.” In winter, fewer rays come upon any spot of this land from the sun; whence there is then less brightness of light and less glow of heat than in summer; and so the surface of the earth is chilled; and though for a time the frost be melted by that fainter sun, this warmth, coming upon it only for a short time, soon passes away. Even so, there are degrees of faith and love. Yet they may be real faith and love, even when the power of both is lessened, in that the soul does not keep itself or live in the full presence of God. Or, as through a closed window, more light comes than heat, so in some hearts, there may be more of knowledge than of love. And again, as on a cold misty day, when the sun is hidden from our eyes, we are so oppressed by the clamminess of the chill damp upon the surface of our bodies, and by the heavy gloom around, that we scarcely feel the presence of the light and heat; and yet the light and heat are there, else we should be in utter darkness, and our bodies would die; even so, many hearts, at many times, when some mist hides from them the presence of their Lord, feel nothing but their own coldness and numbness, and all seems dark around them, and yet in their very inmost selves they believe and love, else their souls would be dead, and they would be “past feeling,” and they would not pine for more light and love. A dead body is in darkness, and seeth not the light of this world, and has an awful coldness to the touch; yet itself feels not its own coldness, nor knows its own darkness. Even so, the dead soul, being without the life of God, feels not its own death, craves not to love more. For He who is love hath left it, and it hath no power wherewith to desire to love, unless or until the voice of Christ raises it from the dead and awakens it and it hears His voice, and lives. Or think on the great instances of faith in Holy Scripture. Think you not that Abraham loved, as well as believed, when God first spake to him, and called him to give up his country, and his kindred, and his father’s house, and instead of all, God said, “I will bless thee,” and he took God for his all, and “went out, not knowing whither he went,” save that he was following God? And of that great penitent, St. Mary Magdalene, our Lord bears witness that in her there were together love and faith; and for both together, a loving faith, or a “faith working by love,” our Lord tells her, “Thy sins are forgiven.” Or was there not love in the faith of the penitent thief, when he discerned his Saviour by his side, in that marred form, which “had no beauty or comeliness,” “His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men,” and he said, “Lord, remember me in Thy kingdom.” There was humility, which owned that it deserved to be forgotten, and wondrous faith which owned in Him, “the rejected of men,” his Lord and King and God. But there was love too. For love only craves to be remembered. Or think you not that, when God “opened the heart of Lydia, to attend unto the things spoken by Paul,” He poured into her heart which He had opened, love with faith? Faith which loves not, is not faith; it is dead. And what is dead, hath ceased to be. A “dead faith” is a “faith without love.” A dead body is, for the time, until it wholly decays in outward form, like a living body or a body asleep; a dead faith has an outward likeness to a living faith. But as a dead body has no warmth nor power of motion, nor feeling, nor can use any of the powers it once had, nor has them any longer, it can neither taste, nor see, nor hear; so a dead faith is that which has no love, no power to do good works. It perceives not, hears not, tastes not, feels not, the things of God. As love is the life of faith, so with the increase of love, faith increaseth. Even from man towards man, faith and love grow together. The more we love, the more we understand and the more we trust one another. We trust, because we love, and by loving, know God, We can only know God, by loving Him. St. Paul says, “I know in whom I have believed.” Want of love is the cause of all want of faith. Did we fully love God, who could for a moment doubt of Him? But love liveth by good works. Love cannot live torpid. Even in human love, love which never did deeds of love would grow chill and die. We love those most, to whom we do most good. Love is perhaps increased more by doing than by receiving good; at least, by doing good out of the love of God. Acts of love do not prove only that we have a living faith they increase it. But it has been thought, “if faith, on which God holds us righteous, or justifying faith, have love in it, are we not accounted righteous for something m ourselves?” We are justified, or accounted righteous before God, neither for faith nor love, but for the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ alone. And faith and love alike, although in us, are not of us; both are alike the gift of God. But this gift, whether of faith or love, is so given, that it is with us to receive it. We come to God by faith and love. But “no man cometh unto Me,” saith our Lord, “except the Father, which hath sent Me, draw him.” “Believe, and thou comest; love and thou art drawn.” The drawing of grace changes nature, and strengthens nature, reforms nature, subdues nature, but only if we be willing to be changed, reformed, subdued, strengthened. How then may we know if we have this faith? How may it grow and be strengthened in us? How do we know that our bodies live? “As,” says a holy man, “we discern the life of this body by its motion, so also the life of faith by good works. The life of the body is the soul, whereby it is moved and feels; the life of faith is love; because by it, it worketh, as thou readest in the apostle, “faith which worketh by love: Whence also when charity waxeth cold, faith dies; as the body, when the soul departeth.” (E. B. Pusey, D. D.)

The grandeur of faith

I. View, then, the grandeur of faith as the great collective act, in which all the powers of the soul are alike embarked. If God, in the beginning, by the constitution which He gave to man, made him a creature of law, if it can be shown that man fell from his original holiness in the free exercise of all the powers by which he was characterized a responsible being, then it follows that the gospel, as a remedy, must, in all its provisions, recognize this fundamental fact. The whole work of salvation has been already achieved by One from the bosom of the Father, acting as our substitute under the law, satisfying the claims of justice, and rendering obedience to the precepts. Where, then, if we do not work out the righteousness by which we are saved, comes into play our agency? What has man to do in this matter of personal salvation? Where does God place the test of our responsibility and freedom? Exactly at this point: Not in working out a righteousness, not in making atonement for sin, but in accepting the righteousness which is already provided--by cleaving to the Saviour whom the gospel presents to us as our Redeemer. Therefore, with the highest philosophy, do the Scriptures say, “He that believeth shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned.” I ask you, now, to notice how completely, in the simplest exercise of faith, every faculty of the human soul is brought into action. There is the understanding, which must employ itself upon the propositions of Scripture in order to perceive what they say. There is the judgment and reason, which must meditate upon what is contained in these statements, in order to see whether they constitute a sound basis for a sinner’s hope. Here are the affections, all brought into exercise when we behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and feel that He is, to us, “the chiefest among ten thousand and the one altogether lovely.” Here is the will, putting forth its determinate act of choice when it accepts the Lord Jesus Christ, and accepts His work; and, in this very act of acceptance, distinctly and consciously repudiates every other ground of trust-exclaiming, with the apostle, “I desire to be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Nay, even the subordinate faculties of the human soul, such as the imagination, and the fancy, and the taste, all are brought into exercise in order that the great facts of the gospel may be presented before the mind as realities which it can touch and apprehend. Even the faith which is but as a grain of mustard seed, over which you and I weep in the closet because it is so feeble, when you come to analyze it in its constituent parts, is found to have drawn upon the whole contents of your spiritual being. It has occupied the understanding, it has employed the conscience, it has drawn out the affections, it has exercised the will; so that not one single power in man has remained dormant in that faith by which we cling to the Lord Jesus Christ. We hear the eulogy pronounced every day upon the achievements of intellect. Men spread out their philosophies before us, and we follow the painful steps with which they have proceeded from the first premise to the most distant conclusion. We walk with the scientists, who seem to have wrested from the hand of the Creator the keys of His own universe, and with bold adventure have roamed through its wide domains, opening its secret cabinets and unlocking their treasures to our gaze. And as these high achievements of science and of philosophy are held up before us, we are filled with astonishment and pride. God forbid that I should lack in sympathy with these grand movements of the human mind! But they are the exercise of only one power of our nature, even at the best. They reveal man in the towering reach of his intellect, which is bound to expand throughout the eternal ages, growing larger in its grasp and holding within its embrace the great truths of eternity and of God. By so much as I hope hereafter to see in heaven the boundless glory of Jehovah, and to spread out all my intellect in the contemplation of what is sublime and beautiful in God, am I forbidden this day to utter one word of disparagement upon the proofs of man’s gigantic understanding. But I turn to faith, which equally exercises this intellect, which draws out all the affections of the soul and the immense power of the will; which presents man before me in the full complement of his powers; which reveals me to myself in the superb integrity of my nature--and I feel that if, through grace, I have been able to exercise this faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, I have put forth an act which has brought out the totality of my being, which has expressed all the constituents of my nature, and which, therefore, in its essential glory, immeasurably transcends all other acts within the compass of the human soul. Under this aspect of it, then, I ask you to look at faith--as the great collective act of the soul, in which a man embarks all the constituent faculties of his being.

II. Faith is the full and final conveyance of the soul to the Lord Jesus as His possession for ever. So that the first act of faith, by which we cleave to Jesus Christ, contains potentially within itself every subsequent act. Just as the seed implicitly contains the whole plant which is evolved from it, so all other acts of faith, until the hour when faith shall lose itself in sight, are contained within this first conveyance of the soul over to the Lord Jesus Christ. For, my hearer--God help you to understand it! ten myriads of times, in sins of desire and of thought and of deed, you have, with your own signature, endorsed the original apostasy in the garden of Eden and underwritten it for yourself. All your days, by personal transgression, you have assumed that guilt as your own. But now comes the hour when the connection with the first Adam is to be broken, when, as far as in us lies, we openly and publicly recant all our sin, and say to the second Adam, who stands upon the ruins of the first covenant and fulfils all of its forfeited conditions, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” My hearer! is there no power in such an act? and must there not be a Divine virtue in the principle which enables you to perform it--when you can thus cut the connection with all preceding sin, and with him who by his fall precipitated you beneath the curse, disavowing all the transactions of the past, and giving yourselves over in an everlasting covenant to Him who is your Redeemer?

III. View faith as the germinal grace, out of which the whole experience of the Christian is developed--the root of all repentance, obedience, love, and worship. Thus I meet the shallow criticism which men sometimes make against the gospel, when they say, “We turn to one Scripture which declares, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved;’ and we turn to another Scripture which proclaims, ‘Repent and be converted for the remission of sins.’” They ask of what value is that system which, in the very terms of salvation, is found so contradictory? Faith and repentance are but the two poles of one and the same truth. As there can be no faith which does not involve repentance as its immediate consequence, so there can be no repentance which has not been preceded by the faith of which it was born: and the difference between the two is simply in the order of thought in which you choose to contemplate them. When you shall presently go out of this building, every step down those aisles toward the door carries you just so much away from your pew: but as egress from the building is before the mind as the object to be attained, the motion toward the door, in the order of thought, precedes the motion from the pew; yet every inch that lessens the distance from the one increases just so much the distance from the other. The two are necessarily reciprocal. Then the faith which accepts the Lord Jesus Christ, accepts Him in all of His offices. Thus, faith is seen to be the germ, first of our repentance, then of our obedience, and then of that supreme love which we have to God when we love Him with all the heart and with all the soul and with all the strength and with all the mind. And if faith be, as I have sought to represent, the full conveyance of the soul to Christ as His possession, then is it in itself a complete and sublime devotion; and becomes the germ of that positive worship which we render to God upon His throne here upon earth and hereafter in heaven.

IV. See the grandeur of faith as it is the human correlative, and the human measure, of the atonement of Jesus Christ. Here, again, as I put into these cold words a thought that burns like fire, I tremble at the presumption. The obedience of Jesus Christ is the measure of God’s holiness. And you find that there is a human measure and a human correspondent to this atonement of the Redeemer itself. For when our faith embraces it--when our faith looks upon the blood of Christ, and upon the obedience of Christ, and upon the sufferings and upon the cross of Christ--when, with all the power that belongs to thought, with all the pathos that belongs to feeling, with all the energy that belongs to will, man brings out his whole nature and grasps that atonement, and draws it up to him, and lays it over against his own guilty conscience, and rests in life and in eternity upon its blessed provisions--you have the best expression that earth can give of its estimate of the glory that lies in obedience to the law. I cannot afford to disparage that faith which thus, in its excursions, travels over the atonement of the adorable Redeemer; which is itself the measure of the infinite justice of God, and takes the dimensions of the boundless glory of Jehovah.

V. In the last place, I signalize the grandeur of faith, in that it is the perfection of reason. Philosophers are wont to glory in the prowess of human reason. Let me illustrate this, most simply, from the science of mathematics. If I say that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right-angles, I by no means state a truth that is intuitive, but one that is demonstrable. But, then, how do I demonstrate it? By proving that the things which are equal to the same thing are equal to one another. Through the demonstration I carry the mind back, step by step, until it is landed in one of those original and necessary cognitions. And yet the mathematician will smile, with the most self-complacent disdain, upon the very principle which gives him the postulate upon which his reasoning depends. Now, consistency is a jewel; and when you undertake to flout faith, you must go clean through and strike at all these beliefs. When a man tramples upon this principle of faith, which demands the acceptance of the Saviour, I debar him from the possibility of reasoning on any subject under the sun. If the human reason starts from what it is obliged to accept; if, in all the after process, it is obliged to remand its conclusions to that elementary trust from which it in the first instance departed, in order to verify them--if you are obliged, for example, to believe in the principle of causality; if you are obliged to believe in the fact of your personal indentity; if you are obliged, by the necessity of your mental constitution, to believe in the reality of the external world, and to rely upon the evidence and the testimony of sense which underlies all the demonstrations of our proud physical science; if you are compelled, by the same necessity, to rely upon memory, which hangs together all the links of every chain of reasoning through which you are carried--I say, just in proportion as you reason with power to conclusions that are satisfactory, the verification of those conclusions is found in the elementary beliefs which you accept simply and alone with the trust of faith; and I interdict you, by this known fact, from undertaking to despise or contemn it. The man of intellect, who is proud of his power of thought, is the very last under the broad heavens to despise the principle of faith, which gives him his postulates, and the tests by which his conclusions are verified. One other suggestion, and then I am done with this point; which is, that if we start from faith, and if all the time we are going back to faith to verify every course of reasoning, it would seem that when we have accomplished the grand circuit, and know all things that are knowable, and have proved all things that are demonstrable--it seems to me in perfect analogy with man’s mental constitution and with God’s high prerogatives, that He should open to us the infinite beyond the finite; that we should rise at last beyond nature up to God; that we should ascend, at last, above these mortal shores to the immortal; that we should have power, by this principle of faith, to take possession of another world, grander, larger, more glorious than all these myriads of worlds which dot the immensity of space; and that, by and by, when we shall have illustrated all the triumphs of science, we shall be able to put the climax upon all this by the higher triumphs of a grander faith. God is infinite, lying beyond the sphere of human thought. Can He ever be known except through revelation? Could we ever understand Him, except by the power of faith? (B. M. Palmer, D. D.)

Faith working by love

I. Faith always produces love.

1. By a necessity of faith’s own nature.

2. By the discoveries of beauty in Christ which faith is sure to make.

3. By its appropriation of the love of Christ.

4. By its enjoyment of mercy, leading the heart to a grateful acknowledgment of the source of mercy.

5. By the familiarity with God and the congeniality of disposition which it breeds in the heart.

II. Love is entirely dependent on faith.

1. No man loves a Saviour in whom he reposes no confidence.

2. Love cannot flourish except as faith flourishes.

3. Love cannot work without faith.

III. Faith displays its power by love. Compare faith to an artificer in metals.

1. Love is faith’s arm.

2. Faith’s tools.

3. Faith’s furnace.

4. Faith’s mould.

5. Faith’s metal, for into the mould of love faith pours love itself.

6. Faith’s burnisher.

IV. Love reacts on faith and perfects it.

1. Love leads the soul into admiration and so increases faith.

2. Love forbids unbelief.

3. Perfect love casts out fear.

In conclusion

That salvation is conditional does not affect its gratuitousness

A nobleman might declare his intention of giving a purse of money to all who would walk to his castle, knock at his door, and ask for the treasure. The walking, the knocking, the asking, would be the conditions of bestowment; but certainly the conditions, when fulfilled, would leave untouched the gratuitousness; and no one who walked, knocked, and asked, and obtained the purse would regard it as wages due for what had been done. The case is precisely the same when the proposed benefit is salvation, and the prescribed conditions repentance, faith, and works. (H. MeIvill, B. D.)

Uncircumcision availeth nothing

There may be as much formalism in protesting against forms as in using them. Extremes meet; and an unspiritual Quaker is at bottom of the same way of thinking as an unspiritual Roman Catholic. They agree in their belief that certain outward acts are essential to worship, and even to religion. They only differ as to what those acts are. The Judaizer who says, “you must be circumcised,” and his antagonist who says, “you must be uncircumcised,” are really in the same boat. Neither rejection of forms nor formalism, neither negations nor affirmations, make a Christian. One thing alone does that, faith which worketh by love, against which sense ever wars, both by tempting some of us to place religion in outward acts and ceremonies, and by tempting others of us to place it in rejecting the forms which our brethren abuse. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The relations between faith and love

The two graces are inseparable. Like Mary and Martha they are sisters, and abide in one house. Faith, like Mary, sits at Jesus’ feet and hears His words, and then love, like Martha, diligently goes about the house and rejoices to honour the Divine Lord. Faith is light, while love is heat, and in every beam of grace from the Sun of Righteousness you will find a measure of each. True faith in God cannot exist without love to Him, nor sincere love without faith. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Faith and love are the brain and heart of the soul, so knit together in a mutual harmony and correspondence, that without their perfect union the whole Christian man cannot move with power, nor feel with tenderness, nor breathe with true life. (T. Adams.)

Faith and love

Judith goes in alone, and by her own hand delivers Israel; the waiting woman hath not a stroke in it (Judith 13:1-20.). Faith is this great lady, and charity her handmaid; through all the actions of goodness she attends on her mistress; when faith sets down the objects of her beneficence, love is her secretary; when she disposeth her good deeds, love is her almoner; when she treats a league of peace, love is her ambassador; what work soever she undertaketh, charity is her instrument. But when it comes to a point of justification to enter the presence chamber of the Great King, to procure remission and peace, charity leaves her to herself. Thus is it now. But hereafter these two shall change places; charity shall be the lady, and faith the waiting-woman. When the soul is to be discharged out of prison and moves to the high court of heaven, faith waits upon her all the way; but at the presence-chamber of glory, faith stays without and love only enters. Yet though faith at last perish in the act, it shall never perish in the effect; for we shall enjoy what we have believed. (T. Adams.)

The relation of faith and love to spiritual life

We may compare the infusion of spiritual life by God to His importation of vegetable life to a tree; faith and love, considered as organs of the inner life, we may compare to the roots of the tree which cleave to the soil for nourishment and support, and to the sap which is propelled through the trunk to every branch and fibre; and finally, we may compare good works, which are the products and manifestations of the vital energies, to the leaves and blossoms with which the tree is adorned, and to its fruits, which are pleasant to the eye and grateful to the palate. No one of these is to be overlooked, nor are they to be confounded with each other. (T. MacNeece, D. D.)

Faith, a power

Whenever the things believed are fitted to awaken any emotion or other active principle of our nature, belief becomes a power. Such it is in all matters respecting man’s life, his interests, and his passions. Let a geologist tell a man that there is coal on his property; if he believe him, be assured his faith will not be long inoperative. (T. MacNeece, D. D.)

Love impossible without faith

You cannot love by mere trying. Trial is the first stage in Christian development, but do not call yourself an expert Christian until the distinguishing Christian graces come to you in ways that are spontaneous, automatic, overflowing, consentaneous, symmetrical, and brood as the stream of life--until every thought and feeling has been subdued to the supreme will of God, which is love. When you have reached that condition, then you may call yourself an expert Christian. (H. W. Beecher.)

Faith working by and not by love

Faith is one of the mightiest powers that the world contains. It is like the central fire of the earth, it is like the fountain of the great deep. But whether it be a power for good or evil depends entirely on the objects to which it is directed, or the way in which it “works.” It may be a volcano scattering ruin and desolation around it, or it may be the genial heat and warmth which fuses together the granite foundations of the globe, and sustains the life of every human being on its surface. It may be a torrent tearing and rending everything before it; it may be diverted into a hundred insignificant streams; or it may be a calm and mighty river, fertilizing and civilizing the world. There is a faith which justifies and a faith which condemns. Faith which worketh by love justifies, sanctifies, elevates, strengthens, purifies Faith which worketh not by love, condemns, hardens, weakens, destroys. The ordinary means and ways by which the faith of a Brahmin, e.g., works are not love, and truth, and justice; but meats, and drinks, and washings. To eat the flesh of a cow is the most enormous wickedness of which a Hindoo can be guilty, and one for which there is no forgiveness in this world or the world to come. To bathe in the waters of the sacred river, is a passport to heaven which will avail though every moral virtue he cast aside. On the avoidance of this sin and the preservation of this virtue the Hindoo expends an energy, a courage, a faith, which would be sufficient to convert a kingdom, and the consequence is that the wilder passions of his nature are left either altogether unrestrained, or are actual]y stimulated and aggravated by the faculty which was meant to purify and elevate them. It is like any other power of the human mind, which, if fed on useless or poisonous substances, becomes unable to attend to what is useful and wholesome. There may be a gigantic memory, which lays up the most trifling details, and forgets the most important events. There may be a gigantic intellect, which wastes itself away in subtlety, or degrades itself in fraud and treachery. There may be also a gigantic faith, which squanders its powers on things without profit, which works by blindness of heart, vainglory, and hypocrisy, by envy, malice, hatred, and all uncharitableness. But Christian faith worketh always and everywhere by love. In this one broad channel, faith may work as it will; it will find enough to fill, enough to fertilize, many rough corners to be rounded off, many intervening obstacles to be washed away, many winding tracks to be followed. Do not divert the faith of Christ our Saviour, that world-controlling, world-conquering faith, from its proper functions; we cannot afford to lose its aid, we want the whole volume of its waters, the undivided strength of its stream, to moisten the dry soil of our hardened hearts, to feed and cleanse our dark habitations, to turn the vast wheels of our complex social system, to deepen our shallow thoughts, to widen our narrow sympathies, to sweeten our bitter controversies, to freshen our stagnant indolence. “Faith working by love,” can do this, and nothing else can; and we can neither with safety spare its motive power, nor yet without danger open another path for its energies. (Dean Stanley.)

Faith working by love the only genuine faith

That only is faith that makes us to love God, to do His will, to suffer His impositions, to trust His promises, to see through a cloud, to overcome the world, to resist the devil, to stand in the day of trial, and to be comforted in all our sorrows. (Jeremy Taylor.)

Faith working by love

Faith is able to justify of itself, not to work of itself. The hand alone can receive an alms, but cannot cut a piece of wood without an axe or some instrument. Faith is the Christian’s hand, and can without help receive God’s given grace into the heart; but to produce the fruits of obedience, and to work the actual duties required, it must have an instrument: add love to it, and it worketh by love. So that the one is our justification before God, and the other our testification before man. (T. Adams.)

Faith when once it lives in the soul is all Christian practice in the germ. (Canon Liddon.)

How to estimate the strength of faith

Faith works by love, and therefore its strength or weakness may be discovered by the strength or weakness of the love it puts forth in the Christian’s actings. The strength of a man’s arm that draws a bow is seen by the force the arrow which he shoots flies with. And, certainly, the strength of our faith may be known by the force that our love mounts to God with. It is impossible that weak faith, which is unable to draw the promise as a strong faith can, should leave such a forcible impression on the heart to love God as the stronger faith does. If, therefore, thy heart be strongly carried out from love to God, to abandon sin, perform duty, and exert acts of obedience to His command, know thy place, and take it with humble thankfulness; thou art a graduate in the art of believing. (W. Gurnall.)

Faith and love intimately connected

Faith without love is, as it were, a dream, an image of faith; just as the appearance of a face in a glass is not a real face. (Luther.)

Flatter not thyself in thy faith to God, if thou wantest charity for thy neighbour; and think not thou hast charity for thy neighbour, if thou wantest faith to God: where they are not both together, they are both wanting; they are both dead if once divided. (F. Quarles.)

Faith is the source; charity, that is, the whole Christian life, is the stream from it. It is quite childish to talk of faith being imperfect without charity; as wisely might you say that a fire, however bright and strong, was imperfect with heat; or that the sun, however cloudless, is imperfect without beams. The true answer would be, it is not faith, but utter reprobate faithlessness. (S. T. Coleridge.)

Faith is that nail which fastens the soul to Christ; and love is the grace which drives the nail to the head. Faith takes hold of Him, and love helps to keep the grip. Christ dwells in the heart by faith, and He burns in the heart by love, like a fire melting the breast. Faith casts the knot, and love draws it fast. (Erskine.)

Faith’s evidences

Consider the character and the position of a man of simple faith. That man walks this earth, and with every step he feels and realizes that he is in another world of unseen things, greater and far more real to him than what he can see about him. Now let us see what some of the consequences of that faith are--its results, and its evidences. It is quite evident that such a man is, and must be, at peace, for he possesses every element of peace. The past pardoned; the present furnished and supplied; the future secure. Now that rest makes composure, and composure is strength. Faith, and faith only makes strength. Faith is strength. Or look at him again in another of the consequences of faith; “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Then you say, charity--that is, love--is greater than faith? Yes, greater as a tree is greater than its root, or as a river is greater than its spring; but the faith makes the charity. It is an indispensable ingredient and representation of all charity. I must believe before I can love; I must believe in God before I can love God. Now we are all kind in proportion as we are happy. Who has not found it so? Why do we feel kind on a birthday, or at a marriage, or when we receive some very good news? Why are we kind at Christmas? Because we are happy. For to be happy, we must have no bitter past; we must have no dreaded future; but there must be in the future hope which casts back its happiness upon the passing hour. To make happiness there must be a happy to-day, and a happier to-morrow; without a happier to-morrow, no day will be perfectly happy. This again, is just what faith gives. What is bad in the past is cancelled. The future is bright; and the bright future brightens the passing hour. Faith makes hope, hope makes happiness, and happiness makes love. The next thing is union with Christ. It is a new creation, and faith, faith has done it. “Faith has worked by love,” and made the union. That union is heaven; it is heaven begun upon earth. Let us follow that man now that he is united. See him at his prayers. O, so different to what he used to call “saying his prayers.” It is a child speaking to a Father; and he goes boldly. “Faith worketh by love.” Observe the relationship. Faith is mistress, love is the handmaid. “Faith worketh by love.” Love subordinate to faith. If love is not subordinate to faith, love becomes misplaced. Love subordinate to faith. Faith has to do with the unseen, and makes it seen, and then the love clasps the seen and makes it his own. We begin by believing the great Unseen; we go on to believe that is love; we apply that love to ourselves, and so that is faith. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Faith working by love

Now observe, this “love” has nothing to do with saving you. You were saved before the “love” began. It owes its existence to the fact of your being saved. It is no cause, it is an effect--an invariable effect--an effect which loves the presence of the cause. “We love Him because He first loved us.” And now you come to the second stage. You “love:” deeply, gratefully, irrepressibly, you “love.” What comes next? “Love” is a feeling which always looks about to find, or make for itself language. If it do not this, it may be a passion, but it is not “love.” The language of love is action. We all wish to please where we feel affection. Therefore, by a necessary law, the forgiven soul--happy and attached--looks at lovingly--to see how it can testify its gratitude to the God of its salvation. In God’s great scheme, every Christian is working under constraint of the most powerful impulse that ever animates the breast of man. It is a spring strong enough for the machine, the great machine which it has to move; but all the while he works happily because he works under the smile of God, who has forgiven him, and who loves him with an everlasting love: sure, because it is free, and certain to continue on to the end, because it was all Christ at the beginning. In this little ladder of three steps which goes up from sin to peace, and from peace to glory--the only point that unites the two worlds: faith resting on Christ, love springing out of faith, and good works crowning love--I do desire to trace with you, for a minute, how they act and re-act one upon the other, interweaving themselves endlessly, into greater and greater unity and strength. “Faith” is the only basis of “love.” You cannot really “love” God until you believe that He has forgiven you. You cannot “love” an angry God you cannot “love” an object of fear--such as God must be to every man who does not feel that he is pardoned. Well, now, see the return. Every good work re-acts to feed the “love” from which it sprang. Do not you know how, by doing something for any person, you may make yourself, at last, begin to “love” that person? Do not you know still more how, by every act of self-denying affection to those you love, you increase the feeling, and deepen the tendency of the attachment? So that the rule is good in the heavenly code, every good action, done for Christ’s sake, increases spiritual affection, and enhances the desire to love--just as the dropping of the fruit strengthens the roots for the next autumn’s harvest. It is a blessed thing to have a religion which I ‘am now endeavouring to shew in its whole nature is a “faith which worketh by love.” (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Faith worketh

I have read that a bishop of the Episcopal Church said, “When I was about entering the ministry, I was one day in conversation with an old Christian friend, who said, ‘You are to be ordained: when you are ordained, preach to sinners as you find them; tell them to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and they shall be as safe as if they were in heaven; and then tell them to work like horses.’”

Christian enthusiasm

I. Define enthusiasm.

1. Origin of the word, and its uses at that time.

2. Etymology: marking changes in meaning.

3. Emphasize present use--Christian enthusiasm.

II. Enthusiasm subjectively considered. God in. Love dwelling in the Christian’s heart.

1. Crystalized energy; energy taking form; efficiency.

2. Concentrated earnestness; sincerity and singleness of purpose.

3. Unwavering perseverance; continuity.

4. Indomitable courage; bravery.

III. Objectively considered. Love at work. Love gives faith its life, and causes it to glow with fervency, but it does more: it gives action. Faith worketh by love. This action depends upon two conditions, viz.:

1. A correct ideal. Love reveals Christ as the One altogether lovely.

(a) In His character.

(b) In His work.

2. A worthy cause. Love seeks the best time, place, subject. What can be more worthy to engage the Christian’s powers than the gospel? When once at work, what will net a Christian endure? (Hebrews 11:1-40.) (Missionaries.) Faith may subdue kingdoms, may overcome worlds, but first of all it must be inspired by love. Faith worketh by love. (American Homiletic Review.)

Doctrine

1. That the grace of faith is a working grace if it be of a right kind.

2. That if faith be right and true it worketh by love. First.

That faith is a working grace: we have many Scriptures that prove this (2 Thessalonians 1:11). If faith be living it works. Show

I.--What the work is that faith doth. Answer--It is that which nothing else can do. If we ask faith, as Christ did His disciples, What do ye more than others? Faith might say, Yes, I do.

1. It doth more than sight or sense can do. Faith can make that which is far off to be near (Hebrews 11:1).

2. It will do that which reason cannot.

[1.] In reference to doctrinal revelation, as--

(1.) The doctrine of the Trinity.

(2.) Of the creation.

(3.) The doctrine of the resurrection.

[2.] In reference to providential dispensations. God told Abraham that he should have a child, though he were an hundred, and Sarah fourscore and ten; and Abraham believed it, and it was so.

3. It can do that which no other grace can do. Faith doth all things well. This will appear by three things--

II.--How it comes to pass that faith doth all these things? Answer--Not by its own power. Whence then is it?

1. It is from the supplies of the Spirit of God; the Spirit of God works in every act of believing (Colossians 1:29). Faith of itself can do nothing.

2. As it hath Christ for the object of it (John 14:1; Philippians 4:13).

3. By applying the promises, which are the food of faith (Psalms 60:6). Secondly.--Faith works by love. Question--What are we to understand by love? Answer--There is a two-fold love.

1. Passively. Faith is accepted by love.

[1.] Leaving his kindred and country to follow God, he knew not where.

[2.] When God told him that he should have a son, which was greater than the former.

[3.] The offering of this son, which was the greatest trial of all to him.

2. Actually.

Show

I.--How faith in God doth produce love to God.

1. By acquainting the soul with His most excellent perfections.

2. By acquainting the soul with the great love of God to us.

3. In revealing this to us in the gospel, by inviting us; when the soul sees this great love of God, saith, How can I choose but love Him again? (Psalms 31:19; Psalms 31:23).

II. Where this love is, it works desire of obedience to the command of God. Where love is, obedience is.

Answer--If it doth work.

1. If it sets the Lord always before us.

2. It sets the things of the other world before us.

3. It purifies the heart.

4. It overcomes the world.

5. It overcomes the fiery darts of the devil.

Thou hast faith, but it hath these characters:--

[1.] If faith be weak, it will work but weakly. When faith is weak, it will look upon that to be a discouragement that is indeed an encouragement.

[2.] If it be weak, it will not work alone, it must have company.

[3.] If faith be weak, it will not work in the dark. (Philip Henry.)


Verse 7

Galatians 5:7

Ye did run well; who did hinder you, that ye should not obey the truth.

I. The concession--“Ye did run well.”

1. Christianity is like a race.

2. Christianity differs from a race.

II. The expostulation--“Who did hinder you?”

1. Satan (1 Thessalonians 2:18; Zechariah 3:1).

2. Heretical teachers.

3. Worldly influences. (T. Adams.)

Running

I. Christian people must be runners in the race of God, which teaches us--

1. That we must make haste without delay to keep God’s commandments (Psalms 119:32; Psalms 119:60).

2. That we must increase in all good duties.

3. That we must look neither right nor left, but forward (Philippians 3:1; Luke 9:62).

4. That we must allow no man to hinder our course.

II. Christian people must not only run, but run well.

1. The two feet by which we run are faith and a good conscience.

2. Some men are lame in one or other of their feet, and are therefore hindered.

III. Christian people must run from the beginning to the end, and finish their course so as to obtain life everlasting (1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 4:7; 1 Corinthians 9:24). For which cause they must

1. Cherish a fervent desire of eternal life.

2. Maintain a daily purpose of not sinning. (W. Perkins.)

Hindrances

I. The truth demands unhindered obedience.

II. Hindrances to obedience to the truth are always to be expected. The Galatians were too hot to last. Hindrances raise from--

1. The discovery that Christianity is a daily, practical, quiet conformity to the will of Christ, arising out of steady love to Him.

2. The use of extraordinary means to revive the pleasure of spiritual sensation or sentimentality.

3. Revived zeal for the mere external performances of religion.

4. Worldly longings and sinful habits.

5. Listening to others sneering at religion.

III. The most disastrous consequences follow upon giving way to spiritual hindrances.

1. We lose our hold on saving truth.

2. Hindrances lead to the ruin of the soul.

IV. Incessant watchfulness is necessary against such hindrances. They may come--

1. Suddenly.

2. Insidiously.

3. Therefore be always on guard. (Hadji.)

Christian advancement

He only is advancing in life whose heart is getting softer, whose blood is getting warmer and brain quicker, and whose spirit is entering into living peace. (Ruskin.)

Hindrances--Riches

Atlanta, according to fable, was an athletic yet charming maiden, who challenged all her suitors to run with her in the race. She offered to become the wife of the conqueror, but attached death as a penalty to failure. Many competed with her, and lost their lives. At last Hippomenes, the judge, Overcome by her charms, offered himself for the contest. Unseen, he took three golden apples, and they sprang forth from the goal, and skimmed along the sand. Hippomenes felt himself failing, and threw down one of the golden apples to detain the virgin. She, amazed, stopped to pick it up, while he shot ahead. She soon overtook him, when he threw another apple, which she stopped to get. Again she shot by him. One apple remained, which he threw to one side; and she, selfconfident or undecided, turned aside for it; and he reached the goal, and won the prize. The golden apples defeated her, as they have many others, in the race of life.

Hindrances--Novel reading

At a prayer-meeting on March 9th Mr. J. M. Scroggie said:--“At the close of an evangelistic meeting in Inverness I saw a young lady at the church door looking very sad. I spoke to her, and she told me she was a backslider. She said she was converted ten years before, and for many years enjoyed fellowship with Christ; but she began novel-reading. For awhile she read novels and the Bible side by side, but in the end the novels had the best of it, and she laid aside the Bible. She had then no desire for private prayer, and grew cold in her Christian life. She moved from the part where she was then living, and went and sat under the preaching of Dr. Black, whose earnest words showed to her that she must either give up the novels or her hope of salvation. She added, ‘For some weeks I have been wretched: I pointed out to her suitable portions of God’s Word, and soon the light began to dawn upon her darkened soul. She went home, fell upon her knees, and after lengthened prayer, between two anti three o’clock in the morning, she was able to thank God for restoration and joy and peace in Christ.”

Hindered Christians

In the heathery turf you will often find a plant chiefly remarkable for its peculiar roots; from the main stem down to the minutest fibre, you will find them all abruptly terminate, as if shorn or bitten off, and the quaint superstition of the country people alleges, that once on a time it was a plant of singular potency for healing all sorts of maladies, and therefore the great enemy of man in his malignity bit off the roots, in which its virtues resided. The plant with this odd history is a very good emblem of many well-meaning but little-effecting people. They might be defined as radicibus praemorsis, or rather inceptis succisis. The efficacy of every good work lies in its completion, and all their good works terminate abruptly, and are left off unfinished. The devil frustrates their efficacy by cutting off their ends; their unprofitable history is made up of plans and projects, schemes of usefulness that were never gone about, and magnificent undertakings that were never carried forward; societies that were set ageing, then left to shift for themselves, and forlorn beings who for a time were taken up and instructed, and just when they were beginning to show symptoms of improvement were cast on the world again. (James Hamilton, D. D.)

Spiritual declension

When visiting a gentleman in England, I observed a fine canary. Admiring his beauty, the gentleman replied, “Yes, he is beautiful, but he has lost; his voice. He used to be a fine singer, but I was in the habit of hanging his cage out of the window, the sparrows came around him with their incessant chirping, gradually he ceased to sing and learned their twitter, and now all that he can do is to twitter, twitter.” Oh! how truly does this represent the case of many Christians; they used to delight to sing the songs of Zion, but they came into close association with those whose notes never rise so high, until at last, like the canary, they can do nothing but twitter, twitter. (D. L. Moody.)

Religious decline

This disease is one which, like that fatal malady which leaves the cheek beautiful and the eye brilliant whilst it rapidly undermines the strength, may allow external appearances to continue specious and flattering, though the work of death is fast going on within.

I. Signs of spiritual decline.

1. Remissness in spiritual exercises.

2. Want of interest in the conversion of others.

3. Worldliness.

4. Laxness in creed.

II. The dangers of this state.

1. Difficult to restore decayed affection. If the fire be once out, almost impossible to rekindle the embers.

2. The longer any one goes on in this state, the less likely he is to retrace his steps. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Spiritual declension insidious

It is the insidiousness of the disease which makes it so difficult to cope with, and so likely to be fatal. The resemblance is continually forced upon us, between what our medical men call consumption, and what our theologians call spiritual declension. You know very well that the presence of consumption is often scarcely suspected, till the patient is indeed past recovery. The worm has been eating out the Core of life, and yet its ravages have been overlooked, for the victim has hardly seemed to languish, and if the hectic flush may have occasionally excited a parent’s fears, they have been quickly allayed by the assurance that no pain was felt, and by the smile that seemed prophetic of life And even when no doubt could exist in the minds of others as to the presence and progress of the malady, it is, we might almost say, one symptom of the complaint, that it flatters the patient, so that often he may be expecting recovery even on the day of his death. Now this disease, so insidious, so flattering, so fatal, is the exact picture of spiritual decline. There is, indeed, one point of difference; but that only makes the moral malady the more formidable of the two. It may be hard to make the consumptive patient see his danger, but that disease is apparent enough to others; friends and neighbours, however unsuspicious at the first, become well aware of the painful truth, as disease is more and more confirmed. But where there is spiritual decline, it may be unsuspected to the last. Ministers and kinsmen may perceive no difference in the man; equally regular in the public duties of religion, equally large in his charities, equally honourable in his dealings, equally pure in his morals. The fatal symptoms may be all internal; and because they are not such as to draw observation, there may be no warning given by ethers; and the sick man, not examining himself, and not finding that his religious friends suppose his health to be on the decline, will be all the more likely to be persuaded of his safety, and to learn his disease, alas! only from his death. See to it, then, whether or not there be amongst you this spiritual cankerworm. You may find out by the symptoms already indicated, whether or not you are in any measure ceasing to “run well.” But you must be honest and bold with yourselves. The case is not one for trifling. You are not to shrink from proving yourselves diseased. Go down into your hearts; try the pulse there; use the thermometer there. Stay not upon the surface, where a thousand things may preserve the appearance of animation, and induce what may pass for the glow of life and health; but descend into yourselves, search into yourselves, and be content with no evidence but that of an increasing love of God and an increasing hatred of sin. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Hindrances to a godly life

Christian life fitly compared to a race: soon over, and followed by a prize to the winner: a hard struggle while it lasts. But how often does one who began by running well relax his efforts and fall back! What are the causes of this--the obstacles that come in the way of Christian endeavour?

I. Corrupt heart. This remains even in the best. It inclines us to sin; and unless we resist the inclination, sin gets the mastery over us, and we are slaves. One bad habit, thus contracted, is enough to ruin the soul. Our only safety lies in the help of God, He “will give His Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.”

II. Bad example. We are greatly influenced by -what we see in others. Sometimes an influence is exerted purposely to corrupt us. At school. At home. Be careful in the choice of companions. Be stedfast in doing the right, even if alone.

III. Want of good guidance in youth. An un-favourable start is a terrible obstacle. But God will bestow His blessing on those “who love and fear Him, wherever their lot has cast them. (R. D. B. Rawnsley, M. A.)

Warning against defection

1. A Christian life is like a course or race from earth to heaven by the way of holiness and all commanded duties, especially the exercise of faith and love; therefore we ought to carry, ourselves as those who run in a race.

2. It is very ordinary for new converts to be carried on with a greater measure of affection and zeal, and to make swifter progress than others, or they themselves afterwards, when they are of older standing; the newness of the thing, the first edge which is upon their affections, not yet blunted by change of cases and multiplicity of duties, and God’s restraining for a time the violent assault of multiplied furious temptations until they be a little confirmed and engaged in His way, together with His affording a more plentiful measure of His sensible presence at first than afterwards, all contribute to this.

3. As those who once made good progress in the ways of God may afterwards sit up, their after-carriage proving no ways answerable to their promising beginnings; so, when it thus happens, it is matter of sad regret to beholders, and of deserved reproof to the persons themselves.

4. No satisfactory reason can be given for which any, who has once entered the way of truth and holiness, should alter his course, halt in it, or make defection from it, and thereby cause the ways of God to be evil spoken of (2 Peter 2:2).

5. When people fall remiss and lazy in giving obedience to known truth, they are upon the very brink and precipice of defection into contrary error, and of apostasy from the very profession of truth.

6. The serious consideration of a man’s former forwardness in the ways of God, and how little reason can be given for his present backsliding and remissness, is a strong incitement to do the first works, and by future diligence to regain “what he has lost by his former negligence. (James Fergusson.)

Obstructions to spiritual progress

What are the conditions which alone could frustrate the progress upon a river of a strong man and an expert rower, placed in a good and swift boat, and furnished with oars? Such an one might either not use the oars at all, or use only one of them; the result in each case would be practically much the same. In both cases the boat would drift with the stream; the only difference would be that, when one oar was vigorously applied, the boat, in addition to drifting, would move round and round in a circle, and might perhaps for a while mock the rower by the semblance of progress. In spiritual things there are those who are utterly careless and godless--dead alike to the claims of religion and to its hopes. These are they who, launched upon the stream of life, quietly drift down it, giving no thought to the life which is to come after, and seeking only to gather the few perishable flowers which grow upon the brink. And, among persons of more serious mind, there are those who are willing indeed that Christ should do all for them, but have never surrendered themselves to Him to be and do all that He requires. And there are those, on the other hand, who have surrendered the will to Christ, and are making efforts to obey Him; but because they perceive not this simple truth, that they cannot sanctify themselves, that sanctification from first to last, like justification, must be wrought for us by Him,--are constantly met by failures and disappointments, which a simple trust in Him to do all for them can alone remedy. Both these last are they who are rowing with one oar, moving indeed, but moving in a circle, and coming round always to the same point from which they started--deluding themselves for a while by the very fact of their motion with the idea that they are progressing, and often bitterly complaining, as soon as they are undeceived, that they are making no way. And, finally, there are those who are equally well contented to give all to Christ which they have to give (that is, their will), and to take all from Him which He has to give--sanctification and wisdom, as well as righteousness--who in one and the same act of faith have renounced both self-will and self-distrust. These are they who are rowing with two oars, and so realizing a true progress towards that haven where they would be. Show me a man who is both giving to Christ all he has to give, i.e., his will, and at the same time taking from Christ all Christ has to give, which is a perfect salvation from Sin’s guilt, power, and consequences; and I will show you a man who is growing in grace, and advancing daily in meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light. And if we find ourselves not thus growing and advancing, and yet are certainly well-disposed persons of some seriousness of mind, it is, no doubt, that we are endeavouring to push the boat forward with only one of the oars, to reach that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord, with trust in Christ alone, or with self-surrender alone. Apply the other oar simultaneously, and the bark shall at once begin to cleave the water, as an arrow cleaves the air, straight forward. (Dean Goulburn.)

Want of perseverance

The leopard does not run after his prey like other beasts, but pursues it by leaping; and if at three or four jumps he cannot seize it, for very indignation he gives over the chase. They are some who, if they cannot leap into heaven by a few good works, will even let it alone; as if it were to be ascended by leaping, not by climbing. But they are most unwise, who, having got up many rounds of Jacob’s ladder, and finding difficulties in some of the uppermost--whether a-wrestling with assaults and troubles, or looking down upon their old allurements--even fairly descend with Demas, and allow others to take heaven. (T. Adams.)

Fickleness

Many are soon engaged in holy duties, easily persuaded to take up a profession of religion--and as easily persuaded to lay it down: like the new moon which shines a little in the first part of the night, but is down before half the night be gone; lightsome professors in their youth, whose old age is wrapped up in thick darkness of sin and wickedness. (W. Gurnall.)

What congregation cannot show some who have outlived their profession? Not unlike the silkworm which, they say, after all her spinning, works herself out of her bottom, and becomes a common fly. As the disciples said of the literal temple, “See what manner of stones are here,” so we once said of the spiritual temple; but now, not one stone upon another. (W. Gurnall.)

The nature of backsliding

Backsliding is the act of turning from the path of duty. It may be considered as--

1. Partial, when applied to true believers, who do not backslide with the whole bent of their will.

2. Voluntary, when applied to those who, after professing to know the truth, wilfully turn from it and live in the practice of sin.

3. Final, when the mind is given up to judicial hardness. Partial backsliding must be distinguished from hypocrisy, as the former may exist when there are gracious intentions on the whole; but the latter is a studied profession of appearing to be what we are not. (C. Buck.)

Signs of backsliding

Among the evidences of backsliding are these--

1. Indifference to prayer and self-examination.

2. Trifling or unprofitable conversation.

3. Neglect of public ordinances.

4. Shunning the people of God.

5. Associating with the world.

6. Neglect of the Bible.

7. Gross immorality. (C. Buck.)

Gradual back-sliding

We warn you against little concessions, little acquiescences, little indulgences, little conformities. Each may only destroy the millionth part of the velocity; but this destruction of a millionth has only to be perpetually repeated, and the planet’s march is arrested, and its lustre is quenched. If vital religion be driven out of the soul, it will be as the Canaanites were to be driven before the Israelites, “by little and little.” (H. Melvill, B. D.)

At Preston, at Malines, at many such places, the lines go gently asunder; so fine is the angle, that at first the paths are almost parallel, and it seems of small moment which you select. But a little farther one turns a corner, or dives into a tunnel; and, now that the speed is full, the angle opens up, and, at the rate of a mile a minute, the divided convoy flies asunder; one passenger is on the way to Italy, another to the swamps of Holland; one will step out in London, the other in the Irish Channel. It is not enough that you look for the better country; you must keep the way; and a small deviation may send you entirely wrong. (J. Hamilton, D. D.)

Spasmodic religion

Nay, sometimes those motions in natural men under the gospel may be more quick, and warm, and violent for a time than the natural motion of this habit; as the motion of a stone out of a sling is quicker than that of life, but faints by degrees, because it is from a source impressed, not implanted and inherent in the nature. They are just like water heated by the fire, which has a fit of warmth, and may heat other things; but though you should heat it a thousand times, the quality not being natural, will vanish, and the water return to its former coldness. But the new heart being in the new creature causes him to walk in the statutes of God, not by fits and starts, but with an uniform and harmonious motion. (S. Charnock.)

Hindrances

Various hindrances

Never censure indiscriminately; admit and praise that which is good, that you may the more effectually rebuke the evil. Paul did not hesitate to praise the Galatians, and say, “Ye did run well.” It is a source of much pleasure to see saints running well. To do this they must run in the right road, straight forward, perseveringly, at the top of their pace, with their eye on Christ, etc. It is a great grief when such are hindered or put off the road. The way is the truth, and the running is obedience; men are hindered when they cease to obey the truth. It may be helpful to try and find out who has hindered us in our race.

1. We shall use the text in reference to hindered believers.

I. You are evidently hindered.

2. Who has hindered you?

(a) Did you not overload yourself with worldly care?

(b) did you not indulge carnal ease?

(c) Did you not by pride become self-satisfied?

(d) Did you not neglect prayer, Bible reading, the public means of grace, the Lord’s Table, etc.? Mend your ways, and do not hinder your own soul.

(e) Did not false teachers do it, as in the case of the Galatians? If so, quit them at once, and listen only to the gospel of Christ.

3. You must look to it, and mend your pace.

II. We shall use the text in reference to delaying sinners.

1. You have sometimes been set a-running.

2. What has hindered you?

3. The worst evils will come of being hindered.

Conclusion:

1. God have mercy on hinderers. We must rebuke them.

2. God have mercy on the hindered. We would arouse them. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

A wrong maxim

Cecil says that some adopt the Indian maxim, that it is better to walk than to run, and better to stand than to walk, and better to sit than to stand, and better to lie than to sit. Such is not the teaching of the gospel. It is a good thing to be walking in the ways of God, but it is better to be running--making real and visible progress, day by day advancing in experience and attainments. David likens the sun to a strong man rejoicing to run a race; not dreading it and shrinking back from it, but delighting in the opportunity of putting forth all his powers. Who so runs, runs well. (The Christian.)

A difficult race

The Christian race is by no means easy. We are so let and hindered in running “the race that is set before us,” because of--

1. Our sinful nature still remaining in the holiest saints.

2. Some easily-besetting sin (Hebrews 12:1).

3. The entanglements of the world, like heavy and close-fitting garments, impeding the racer’s speed.

4. Our weakness and infirmity, soon tired and exhausted, when the race is long or the road is rough. (G. S. Bowes.)

Hinderers

It is possible that fellow-professors may hinder. We are often obliged to accommodate our pace to that of our fellow-travellers. If they are laggards we are very likely to be so too. We are apt to sleep as do others. We are stimulated or depressed, urged on or held back, by those with whom we are associated in Christian fellowship. There is still greater reason to fear that in many eases worldly friends and companions are the hinderers. Indeed, they can be nothing else. None can help us in the race but those who are themselves running it; all others must hinder. Let a Christian form an intimate friendship with an ungodly person, and from that moment all progress is stayed; he must go back; for when his companion is going in the opposite direction, how can he walk with him except by turning his back upon the path which he has formerly trodden? (P.)

A sailor remarks

“Sailing from Cuba, we thought we had gained sixty miles one day in our course; but at the next observation we found we had lost more than thirty. It was an under-current. The ship had been going forward by the wind, but going back by the current.” So a man’s course in religion may often seem to be right and progressive, but the under-current of his besetting sins is driving him the very contrary way to what he thinks. (Cheever.)

Hindrances to religious life

I propose to discuss some of those causes which prevent growth and development of religious life. I shall not stop to illustrate the evil influences of overt and known wickedness. I shall select, therefore, only some less apparent, but nevertheless influential causes which produce barrenness in Christian life. Let me say, preliminarily, that there are a great many persons who seem to need no special religious teachings, for one of two opposite reasons. There is one class who are so evenly adjusted in their faculties, so well balanced in mind constitutionally, and who from birth are so Christianly educated, and who are so genially affected by parents, friends, and social connections, and who have all the appointments of society so fitted round about them, that when they become Christians their life seems to be a tranquil and almost unresisting progress. Then there is another large class to whom I do not speak particularly, namely, those persons who have--I know not how, and they know not how--made a profession of religion;--I know not why, and they know not why;--but still they have done it, and are in the Church; and that is about the whole of it. Other people have their difficulties about prayer; they have none, for they do not pray. Other people have their difficulties about the sacred Scriptures; they do not read the Scriptures enough to be troubled by them. The Bible seldom troubles people who do not meddle with it. Other people have their temptations; they have none that they recognize as such. They have temptations, but they yield so easily to them that they are not disturbed by them. Those who have no religious conscience, and whose life is one of quiet compliance with circumstances as they are--it is not particularly to such that I speak to-day. The third class--which is the great middle class--consists of persons who are professedly Christian people, but who have great and almost unceasing religious difficulties.

I. The want of general technical religious culture is one obvious cause of confusion and distress. Men may enjoy little for the very same reason that some farmers reap little--because they sow little and till little. This is the natural poverty which comes from the want of religious thrift. The tendency of our age and nation is particularly to external activity, not to internal meditations. This excessive activity carries us away, and exhausts our susceptibility. How can it be-but that Christians should be weak, when there is so much to stimulate, and so little to feed them?

II. But, secondly, the endeavours which men are continually making to live a religious life while using only a part of their natures, will explain a great many difficulties which Christians experience. It is to be assumed that man is a symmetrical being in his Divinely created nature; that every part of that nature was needed, or God would not have given it, and that no man can become what God meant, who does not develop every part of himself according to the spirit of Christianity. To take every faculty or power God has given you, and bring it under Divine influences, and make it act right--that is being a Christian; and all partialisms, by just so much as they are partialisms, are, therefore, misunderstandings or misappropriations of Christian truth. Let us specify a few. First, our religion must always aim at a good and healthy condition of the body. Health is a Christian grace. It is the mother of almost all the Christian graces; so much so that in respect of multitudes, although it is not difficult for them to exercise Christian graces when they are perfectly healthy, it is almost impossible for them to do it when they are not healthy. What they supposed to be an infernal temptation was the protest of nature in themselves. Our appetites and passions are all of them to be controlled, used, sanctified--not killed. So all our social affections must be used, Christianized, and made to be a part of our Christian life. They are not to be regarded as alternatives, but as parts of true Christian experience. It is sometimes said that we are to distinguish between the natural affections and the gracious ones. I do not know of any gracious affections that are not natural ones. Natural affections, rightly directed, become, by that very rectitude, gracious. Your store, your office, your shop, your family, your neighbourhood, the street--these are not so many things that you must resist for the sake of grace. On the contrary, you must deal with them as the means of grace.

III. Thirdly, men are left in an ungrowing and barren state from an ignorance of the various influences or instruments by which religious feeling may be cultivated. Let me mention a few of those things which observation and experience have taught me to be instrumental in promoting religious feeling. I have mentioned already, and shall mention again only for the sake of completeness, secret religious exercise, as one of the things that promote Christian feeling. I will mention, next, sympathy with other minds. I have never seen a tree whose leaves sung, unless, somehow, the wind was caused to play among them; but the leaves of any tree will sing when the wind does play through them. And there are a great many hearts that do not sing because nothing moves them to sing. Then there are some persons who seem so constituted that their religious feelings almost never flow so readily as when they act for other people. They are persons of great constitutional benevolence. They make benevolence their conscience. When they go forth into life, benevolence is their guiding principle. Such persons oftentimes say, “I never can have deep religious feelings by ordinary means; but when such a man was in trouble, and told me of the wants of his family--his wife and children--and I took my hat and went home with him, and mingled my tears with theirs, it did seem as if I was not a hand-breadth from heaven. I never had such a sense of the goodness of God as I had then.” Probably you were never so near like God as you were then. No wonder you felt near Him. You are not far from Him when you get so near Him as to give your time and energies for the good of His needy creatures. There are many persons who are very little affected by social sympathy, or music, or art, or any of the other influences to which I have referred, but who would be amazingly lifted up if they could have certain doubts which they have concerning their religious safety purged away. Oh, how many different ways there are by which God comes into the soul! The great God, so prolific of thought, so endless in diversity of function, has a million ways by which to express Himself. He, in His power, works on the soul, not through one thing alone--not alone through steeple, nor meetinghouse, nor lecture-room, nor closet, though often and much through these; but through all things--through the heavenly bodies, and animals, and insects, and worms, and clouds, and mountains, and oceans, and rivers, and the productions of the earth; and not by these only, but by everything that affects man’s comfort and happiness in this life--by store and anvil, and plane and saw, and hospital and poor-house, and music and forms of beauty, and sweet feelings and trials, and sufferings and victories over temptation, and light and darkness, and joy and sorrow, and ten thousand unnameable subtle influences that touch the human soul; by all these God reveals His greatness and goodness to us, that He may win us to Himself, and make us heirs of immortality; and, blessed be His name, not to us alone who are here, but to every one, everywhere! (H. W. Beecher.)

Obeying the truth

To obey the truth is to feel and act agreeably to it. It implies such a state of the heart, and such a comformation of conduct, as comports with the nature of the things revealed and believed. As, for example, the truth relates in part to the character of God, which it represents to be infinitely excellent and amiable. To obey that truth is to admire and love the Divine character, for those are the feelings appropriate to it. Is it the greatness of God that is the object of contemplation? The duty is veneration. Is it His sovereignty? The duty is submission. Is it His law? The duty is compliance with all its requisitions. Does the truth relate to the subject of sin? Then the duty is repentance. Does it relate to the Saviour? The duty is faith and trust in Him. We may learn hence the high importance, yea, necessity of apprehending and believing the truth. It cannot otherwise be obeyed. Obedience to truth not known or not credited is impossible. We may learn also the insignificance and worthlessness of mere faith and knowledge. To believe there is a God and not love Him; to have a knowledge of Christ, without trust in Him, or of sin without repenting of it, what is that worth? The obedience of the truth is religion. There can be no better definition of it, unless it be one which we find in Scriptures, viz., this “faith that worketh by love.” There is no other religion worth anything, or availing aught,but that which answers to this description. The obedience of error is not religion, nor is the belief of truth religion. Sincerity is not religion, nor is orthodoxy, but the obedience of the truth. To obey the truth is not anything that can be done at once, or that requires to be done only at stated periods. Religion is not a job, which, being done, there is an end of it; not a mere arrears to be paid up, or a mere score to be wiped off. The truth must be perseveringly obeyed. There is such a thing (would there were not) as declension in religion. The Galatians declined. Paul heard of it, and wrote to them on the subject. How melancholy it is that men should turn away from God, that they should grow worse, as they get nearer the grave and the judgment! If we see no indications of declension in you, yet He who sees not as man sees may. In some of you, however, even we do see them. There is a visible diminution of interest in the things of religion. And I ask you, professor of religion, what it was that hindered you. What first drew you away; how did this declension commence; and where did it commence, and how did it first manifest itself? What sin did you fall into, what duty omit, what was it that you suffered yourself to become inordinately attached to? And you who neither profess nor possess religion, I ask you what hindered you from becoming a penitent disciple of Christ at that time to which I have alluded. Although the hindrance in every case is not precisely the same, yet there is a passage of Scripture which is applicable to every case. “A deceived heart hath turned him aside.” Whenever one either totally or partially departs from the living God, it is because of an evil heart of unbelief that is in him. And there is another passage which applies perhaps to every case of defection. “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.” That phrase, the “world,” is a very comprehensive one. It includes everything which may be preferred to God. It includes persons and things. It comprehends profit, pleasure, and honour; your business, your profession, your family. One loves the world in this aspect of it, another in that. In what shape or phase of it, it drew away and destroyed Demas, I do not know. By what one of its many chains it binds you, I cannot tell; perhaps by one of such delicate materials, and so finely drawn, that it is scarcely, if at all, perceptible. (W. Nevins, D. D.)


Verses 7-12

Verse 8

Galatians 5:8

This persuasion cometh not of Him that calleth you.

This persuasion

“We learn--

I. That the cause of religious declension is unbelief in God’s Word, and surrender to plausible persuasions. Thus--

1. Eve, by the persuasion of the devil.

2. Papists, by persuasion that the Church cannot err.

3. Common people, by persuasion that God is all mercy.

4. Tradesmen, that they have a family to keep.

5. Moralists, that honesty and temperance are sufficient for salvation.

II. That our duty and safety lie in following absolutely the calling of God.

1. Thus Abraham.

2. Thus Paul.

III. That doctrines are to be tested by their conformity or nonconformity to the calling of God.

1. God calls us to liberty; hence the yoke of ordinances is wrong.

2. God calls us to justification by the merits of Christ; hence justification by works is wrong.

3. God calls us to self-denial and service; hence self-indulgence even in religious privileges is wrong.

4. God calls us absolutely to and for Himself; hence the sin of conformity to the world.

IV. That God calls even backsliders; which shows--

1. God’s patience.

2. The possibility of restoration.

V. That our life and conversation must be suitable to the high calling of God. (W. Perkins.)


Verse 9

Galatians 5:9

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

Leaven as a symbol of evil

I. Leaven corrupts: evil corrupts.

II. Leaven infects: evil infects.

III. Leaves is subtle and secret in its movements: So is evil. It is a virus whose antecedents and consequents it is impossible to trace.

IV. Leaven is not restricted to one mode of reaching the mass upon which it superinduces its own chemical conditions. It may be inserted by the hand of another, or it may be wafted by a breeze, and fall by its own gravity. So evil works--

1. Through systems and organizations.

So now there is the leaven of--

2. Through the Zeit-Geist, the spirit of the age.

IV. The resultant duties.

1. Indignation. To prevent fermentation, the chemist passes the air which contains the sporules through a hot platinum tube, which destroys the germs. A mild apologetic mood will not do for evil.

2. Separation. Living organisms will not grow energetically until brought in contact with substances having an affinity with them. So evil must be “cut off” by caution.

V. The chief instrument in the war against evil is the Cross of Christ. (J. Clifford, D. D.)

The power of example

Just as the leaven, by its mere presence, changes the particles of meal in which it is hid, so does each human being, by his mere presence, affect for good or evil those with whom he associates. (H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

Scripture use of leaven

I suppose we are most of us rather surprised that “leaven” is generally used in a bad sense in Holy Scripture. Not, indeed, always; because the kingdom of heaven itself is likened to leaven; but generally. In the New Testament leaven is mentioned on five distinct occasions, and on four of these as a type of something very evil, as a symbol of a thoroughly mischievous activity. In the Old Testament, the prohibition of leaven in all the offerings made to God occurs to us at once. It must, however, be allowed that this prohibition has two distinct origins, the one of which (and the earlier and most important) is purely historical, and carries with it no notion of good or evil. The total avoidance of leaven during the annual solemnity of the Passover, although it afterwards acquired a moral significance, was simply ordained in memory of their hasty flight from Egypt (Exodus 12:1-51.). The other prohibition, however, is of a moral and typical character: the exclusion of leaven from the sacrifices of God distinctly gave a moral character and meaning to its absence (Leviticus 2:11) Now let us ask what leaven is, and whether there is anything in its own nature to explain the evil significance which Holy Scripture has attached to it. Leaven, then, is simply so much dough in a state of fermentation. When the last “lump” had been leavened, and was ready for baking, a portion was set aside to act as leaven for the next “lump.” Now the process of fermentation is one of the most curious, and (until lately) most obscure among the commoner operations of nature. It is now known to be due to the rapid--often inconceivably rapid--development of vegetable (fungoid) growth, which has the power of disengaging a quantity of free acid, and of changing the chemical character of the substance on which it acts. It is believed that most, if not all, contagious diseases are due to fermentation imported into the blood; and the terrible danger of these diseases is only a striking proof of the extreme facility with which fermentation spreads. This is, indeed, its one great characteristic--a characteristic which governs at once many of the most ordinary and useful operations of life, and many of its most deadly and widespread evils. Fermentation may, indeed, be conveyed by one substance into another, as in the common case of dough “raised” by means of yeast. But the ordinary and typical method is that of leaven, which is itself fermented dough, introduced into the midst of other unfermented dough. The invariable consequence is, that the fermented portion has the power of superinducing its own chemical condition upon the mass with which it is placed in contact: being itself in a state of violent chemical change, it has the power of setting on the same change all around it; nor will this action cease until that of which it is a part has entirely succumbed to its influence. But this change is, in its entirety, a change for the worst: it may, indeed, be checked (as in bread by baking, in wine by adding spirit, or by other means); but unless stopped at an early stage it is hurtful; and when it cannot be checked, as in decaying substances and in fatal diseases, it is simply destructive. Thus fermentation does, as it were, spring from evil and end in evil; it originates in that which is corrupt and hastening towards dissolution, and it ever tends to reproduce the same. Only when carefully watched, and mastered, and held in check, does it lend itself to real usefulness. And even so it retains some reminder of its evil origin. Yeast may be tasteless and harmless enough; but leaven is fermented, i.e., “sour,” dough, and always imparts a certain sourness to the bread which is made with it. It is in the nature of all complex organic substances to be subject to a destructive fermentation; they are only kept from it, only preserve their delicate chemical balance, by the principle of life (whatever it may be) within them The very law of leaven and its power stands in the fact of like to like; and even so false teaching can only act with rapidity and certainty when it comes to minds disposed to receive it--when it jumps, i.e., with the popular errors and exaggerations of the day. But with moral evil it is different, because that evil is always in us more or less, and therefore the leaven always finds something apt to work on if it be admitted. There is in most of us, at any rate, a large body of imaginations which are ready to swell, to work, to become turbid, to disengage a quantity of evil temper and evil feeling, and to ruin the proper sweetness and savour of our Christianity, if once we have opened our hearts to the contagion of malice and wickedness. In 1 Corinthians

5. St. Paul passes, by an easy transition, from the natural to the historical associations of leaven. As sedulously as all ferment was banished from the houses of the Israelites, so sedulously should the moral ferment be banished from the hearts of Christians. (R. Winterbotham, B. Sc.)

Infectious nature of evil

The least particle of evil infects; a single spark kindles a forest. Away with it! But O ye careless! is it a small thing to you, to be corrupted through idle talk and accompanyings, through poison of lies against Christ? (Hedinger.)

The lost hammer

A relief lifeboat was built at New London thirteen years ago. While the workmen were busy over it, one man lost his hammer. Whether he knew it or not, it was nailed up in the bottom of the boat. Perhaps if he found it out, he thought the only harm done was the loss of one hammer. The boat was put to service, and every time it rocked on the waves that hammer was tossed to and fro. Little by little it wore for itself a track, until it had worn through planking and keel, down to the very copper plating, before it was found out. Only that plate of copper kept the vessel from sinking. It seemed a very little thing in the start, but see what mischief it wrought. So with a little sin in the heart. It may break through all the restraints that surround us, and but for God’s great mercy, sink our souls in endless ruin. A few evil words in a child’s ear have rung in his soul for twenty years, and brought untold harm. It is the sir hidden in the heart that we should most fear. There are none who do not need to pray, “Cleanse Thou me from secret faults.”

Little faults

The least unfaithfulness may bring a curse upon us, as the foot of the chamois on the snowy mountains, or the breath of a traveller who sings or shouts on his snowy road, may cause an avalanche which shall entomb the village now full of life and gaiety at the mountain’s base.

“It is the little rift within the lute,

That by-and-by will make the music mute,

And, ever widening, slowly silence all:

The little rift within the lover’s lute,

Or little pitted speck in garnered fruit,

That rotting inwards slowly moulders all.”

One wilful sin enough to ruin

The effect of one wilfully committed vicious action on the inner life of a man may be like the effect produced by allowing a single drop of ink to fall into a glass of pure water, which surely, though perhaps imperceptibly, permeates and contaminates the whole.

Danger of little sins

A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump; a little staff may kill one; a little leak in a ship sinks it; a little flaw in a good cause mars it--so a little sin may at once bar the door of heaven and open the gates of hell: though the scorpion he little, yet it will sting a lion to death: and so will the least sin, if not pardoned by the death of Christ. (T. Brooks.)

You need not break the glasses of a telescope, or coat them over with paint, in order to prevent you from seeing through them. Just breathe upon them, and the dew of your breath will shut out all the stars. So it does not require great crimes to hide the light of God’s countenance. Little faults can do iV just as well. (H. W. Beecher.)

Believe it, these little sins do arm God’s terrible power and vengeance against you: and as a page may carry the sword of a great warrior after him, so your little sins do, as it were, bear the sword of God’s justice, and put it into His hands against you. (Bishop Hopkins.)

A company was walking in Sudbrook Park, when Dr. Ellis drew attention to a large sycamore tree decayed to the core. “That fine tree,” said he, was killed by a single worm. Two years previously, the tree was as healthy as any in the park, when a woodworm, about three inches long, was observed to be forcing its way under the bark Of the trunk. It then caught the eye of a naturalist who was staying there; and he remarked, “.Let that worm alone, and it will kill the tree.” This seemed very improbable; but it was agreed that the black-headed worm should not be disturbed after a time it was discovered that the worm had tunnelled its way a considerable distance under the bark. The leaves, next summer, dropped off very early; and, in the succeeding year, it was a dead, rotten thing, and the hole made by the worm might be seen in the heart of the once noble trunk.” “Ah,” said one who was present, “let us learn a lesson from that single tree. How many who once promised fair for usefulness in the world and the Church have been ruined by a single sin!”

Little sins lead to greater

It is Satan’s custom by small sins to draw us to greater, as the little sticks set the great ones on fire, and a wisp of straw enkindles a block of wood. (T. Manton, D. D.)

A spark is the beginning of a flame, and a small disease may bring a greater. (R. Baxter.)

Sin encroacheth by degrees upon the soul

; if it can get but one of its claws into us, it will quickly follow with its head and whole body. Unfaithfulness to God is first discovered in the smallest matters, then it proceeds to greater things. As the decay of a tree is first visible in its twigs, but by degrees it goeth on the bigger arms, and from them to the main body. As it is the nature of a cancer or gangrene to run from one joint or part of the body to another, from the toe to the foot, from the foot to the leg, from the leg to the thigh, and thence to the vital parts. Do we not sometimes see a whole arm imposthumated with the prick of a little finger; and have we not sometimes heard of a great city betrayed by the opening of a little postern? These little sins will grow to great ones if let alone. Time will turn small dust into stone. The poisonous cockatrice at first was but an egg. Small twigs will prove thorny bushes if not timely stubbed up. (G. Swinnock.)

Deteriorating influence of little sins

The little transgressions in which men indulge, though they have no power upon the settled course of human affairs, even if they are swept out into a current of public sentiment that carries them down, as leaves are carried by the Amazon, are not harmless nor indifferent, because, aside from the influence of minor delinquencies upon the sum of affairs outwardly, there is another history and record, namely, their influence upon the actor. They deteriorate conscience. You can by a blow crush and destroy the conscience, or you can nibble and gnaw it to pieces. There is one way in which a lion strikes down his prey, and there is another way in which a rat comes at his prey; and in time the gnawing of vermin is as fatal to beauty and life itself as the stroke of the lion’s paw. These little infidelities to duty, truth, rectitude, lower the moral tone, limit its range, destroy its sensibility; in short, they put out its light. It is recorded of a lighthouse erected on a tropical shore, that it was like to have failed for the most unlooked-for reason. When first kindled, the brilliant light drew about it such clouds of insects, which populate the evening and night of equatorial lands, that they covered and fairly darkened the glass. There was a noble light that shone out into the darkness and vanquished night, that all the winds could not disturb, nor all the clouds and storms hide; but the soft wings and gauzy bodies of myriads of insects, each one of which was insignificant, effectually veiled the light, and came near defeating the proposed gift to mariners. And so it is in respect to conscience. There may be a power in it to resist great assault, to overcome strong temptations, and to avoid fearful dangers; but there may be a million little venomous insect habits, unimportant in themselves, taken individually, but fearful in their results collectively. (H. W. Beecher.)

Insidiousness of little sins

Men, in their property, are afraid of conflagrations and lightning strokes; but if they were building a wharf in Panama, a million madrepores, so small that only the microscope could detect them, would begin to bore the piles down under the water. There would be neither noise nor foam; but in a little while, if a child did but touch the post, over it would fall as if a saw had cut it through. Now men think, with regard to their conduct, that if they were to lift themselves up gigantically and commit some crashing sin, they should never he able to hold up their heads; but they will harbour in their souls little sins, which are piercing and eating them away to inevitable ruin. (H. W. Beecher.)

The bad leaven; or, the contagion of sin

There is a thing active, “leaven;” a thing factive, “soureth;” a thing passive, “the lump.”

I. But because the whole speech is allegorical, let us first open the metaphor with the key of proper analogy,

1. First, taking leaven for false doctrine, so we find in the New Testament four sorts of leavens: Matthew 16:6, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees; “ there be two of them, the Pharisaical and the Sadducean leavens. Mark 8:15, “Beware of the leaven of Herod;” there is the third. The fourth is my text, the leaven of mingling Mosaical ordinances with Christ’s institutions.

2. Now to the second way of considering these words, taking leaven personally for leaveners, false teachers, indeed heretics.

3. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” Now let us resolve this allegory another way, and conceive by leaven, sin; by lump, man; by leavening, infection. In effect, a little sin makes the whole man, in body and soul, unsavoury to the Lord. Sin and leaven are fitly compared for their sourness. There is a leaven sharp and sour, but sanative. But this leaven is far sourer, yet hath nothing but death in it. It is soar to God, sour to angels, sour to saints, sour to the sinner. Sin is sourer than any leaven.

II. The allegory thus opened, the special treasure or instruction remains yet to be drawn out. We perceive what the leaven signifies, and what the lump. Now we must consider the relation betwixt a little leaven, and the whole lump. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” A little sin infecteth a great deal of righteousness. “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). And upon good reason; for there is a universal corruption, therefore should be a universal sanctification. In that young man that professed himself to have kept the commandments, and Christ began to love him, yet there was a little leaven spoiled all--covetousness. In Herod, though he heard many sermons of John’s preached gladly (and it is some good thing to hear sermons with joy), yet the leaven of Herodias marred all.

1. Even the least offence is mortal in its own nature, capable of transgression, and liable to malediction.

2. Sins less heinous, are the most numerous. Many littles make a mickle. Small drops of rain commonly cause the greatest floods. The less violence, the longer continuance. The drizzling sleet, that falls as it were in a mist, fills the channels, they swell the rivers, the overcharged rivers send forth their superfluous waters over the containing banks; now the meadows are polluted, the corn-fields spoiled, the cattle drowned; yea, even houses, and towns, and inhabitants are endangered, and firm continents buried under a deluge of waters. Many little sands, gathered to a heap, fail not to swallow a great vessel. You have eagles, hawks, kites, and such great fowls of rapine, flying always alone; but the sparrows and pigeons, that devour the grain, by innumerable troops. A pace is but a little space of ground; yet a thousand paces make a mile, and many miles bring to hell. If they be not the worst, they are the most; and is it not all to one purpose whether one Goliath or a thousand Philistines overcome thee? The bird brings so many little straws as make up her nest: the reprobate so many little sticks as make up his own burning pile. Augustine saith there is in sin both weight and number. Judge them by tale, and not by weight. Put a wanton speech, a loose gesture into the balance, though Christ found it heavy, and every soul shall for whom he did not bear it, yet it is censured, a little faulting, a little failing: so little, that were it less, it were nothing.

3. These little sins are not so easily felt, therefore most pernicious. If a man hath dyed his hand in blood, a peaceless conscience haunts him with incessant vexation: let him hate his brother, this little murder he feels not. The devil, like a roaring lion, is soon heard: forming himself to a fox, his insinuation is not perceived. Doubtless there be some that would shudder at the temptation to perjury; yet, by insensible steps they arrive at it: by lying they come to swearing, by swearing to forswearing.

4. Little sins are the materials of great sins. The seeds of all sins are naturally in us: not so much as treason, homicide, perjury, but there is in our nature a proclivity to them. Sin seems at first like a little cloud, but it prognosticates a deluge of ensuing wickedness.

5. A little sin infects a great deal of righteousness. The leprosy infected the garments, and the very walls of the house; but sin hath infected wood, and wool, and walls, earth, air, beasts, plants, and planets; and stuck a scar on the crystal brow of nature itself: “For we know the whole creation groaneth, and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22). If the great world groan for man’s sin, shall not the little world, man, groan for his own sin? When one commended Alexander for his noble acts and famous achievements, another objected against him that he killed Callisthenes. He was valiant and successful in the wars; true, but he killed Callisthenes. He overcame the great Darius; so, but he killed Callisthenes. He made himself master of the world; grant it, but still he killed Callisthenes. His meaning was, that this one unjust fact poisoned all his valorous deeds. Beware of sin, which may thus leaven the whole lump of our soul. Indeed we must all sin, and every sin sours; but to the faithful and repentent Christian it shall not be damnable: “There is no damnation to them that are in Jesus Christ,” (Romans 8:1). There is in all corruption, to most affliction, to none damnation, that are in Christ. Our leaven hath soured us, but we are made sweet again by the all-perfuming blood of our blessed Saviour.

6. The least sins are the most fatal to men’s destruction. There is death in it and for it. A dram of poison diffuseth itself to all parts, till it strangle the vital spirits, and turn out the soul from the tenement. (T. Adams.)

A little leaven

It is needful to remember what leaven represented under the Mosaic ritual. It typified the unrenewed degenerate nature. Though its component ingredients were the same as sweet dough, through fermentation it was liable to corruption and acidity. Thus it is opposed to the oil of the meat offering which symbolized the Spirit of God. In the latter case the meal was made palatable by a mild and penetrating process, while leaven caused a fermenting disturbance of the mass. (Kurtz.)


Verse 10

Galatians 5:10

I have confidence in you through the Lord that ye will be none otherwise minded--(Comp, Galatians 4:11-20).

The troubled Church and its troublers

I. Paul’s treatment of the Galatian Church shows us--

1. To hope the best of men so long as they are curable.

2. How are we to be hopeful of men?

3. Not to excommunicate them unless they are incurable. So long as they are curable we must use means to cure them.

II. Paul’s treatment of the troubles of this church shows us--

1. That God watches over the Church by a special providence.

2. That the apostle’s doctrine is an infallible certainty.

3. That the troublers of Churches shall be plagued by the just judgment of God. (W. Perkins.)

Bearing the judgment

The consul Q.S. Caepio had taken the city of Toulouse by an act of more than common perfidy and treachery, and possessed himself of the immense hoards of wealth stored in the temples of the Gaulish deities. From this day forth, he was so hunted by calamity, all extremest evils and disasters, all shame and dishonour, fell so thick on himself and all who were his, and were so traced up by the moral instinct of mankind to this accursed thing which he had made his own, that any wicked gains fatal to their possessor acquired this name; and of such a one it would be said, “He has gold of Toulouse.” (Trench.)


Verse 11

Galatians 5:11

And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution?
then is the offence of the Cross ceased.

The perversion of apostolic preaching

There are two attempts or resolves in constant operation as to the Cross. One is man’s, to accommodate it to human liking and taste: the second is God’s, to raise human liking and taste to it.

I. The aim of man. “Then is the offence of the Cross ceased.” And in such case, there must be its depreciation. It is brought down from its proper excellency. What is to be understood by the Cross? Not the wood. How should we be the better did we possess the very tree on which the Saviour hung and died? The true Cross consists in a fact, the crucifixion of the Son of God: in a doctrine, salvation by atonement: in an influence and moral power, a hatred to sin, a weanedness from the world, a penitential devotedness to the Saviour. The Cross is preached when the sinner is taught how he may be justified, and how he must be born again. In what lies its scandalising property, its offence? It was early declared that Christ should be a sign spoken against, and that in connection with his death, when the sword should pierce through her soul who held the Holy Child. This obnoxious sign was therefore the spectacle of a crucified Messiah. Now the following may be named as the principal exceptions taken to it by those who rejected it.

1. It was an improbable medium of revelation. For man can talk loudly how God should manifest Himself and His purposes toward us. He is fond of anticipating the Father of lights, would teach Him the path of judgment and show to Him the way of understanding. Is it morally probable that all His dispensations should revolve upon the Cross for their pivot?

2. It was a stigma on this religion which set it in disadvantageous contrast with every other. It was unheard of that the vilest of all deaths should give its absolute character to a religion, and that this religion of the Cross should triumph over all. Yet this was avowed.

3. It was a violent disappointment of a general hope.

4. It was a humiliating test. Ambition, selfishness, insincerity, licentiousness, ferocity, pride, felt that it was encircled with an atmosphere in which they were instantly interrupted and condemned. In what manner did the first preachers of the Cross exhibit it? So ingenuous, so unvarnished, was that manner, that it always prejudiced them: “to the Jews a stumbling-block and to the Greeks foolishness.” They preached it not only in its integrity of truths, but without gloss and concealment. They refined not on it. But man is desirous of doing this away as a wrongful and unnecessary impression. He would make the offence of the Cross to cease.

It is not to be viewed as naked and detached, it is a centre to which all that is great and serious spreads out as circumference. While it is alone and single in its incomparableness, it is full of relations and consequences. It declares the righteousness of God. It is the basis of mercy to sinners. It is intended to sanctify as well as to expiate.

II. The procedure of God. We have seen that the Cross, the true type and pledge of Christianity, may be placed in suck factitious lights and may be contemplated through such false mediums, may be so distorted from its real excellence, and so polished of its real reproach, may be so illustrated and decked, that, instead of offending, it shall be taken into favour. Yet, this is no just reading of Christianity, it is only a fiction, a tale that is told. It evades the actual import of it. It offers nothing of its actual efficacy. It is a god which cannot save. God’s way is therefore to frustrate all these miserable perversions--to set them all aside--to honour the Cross as He knows and unfolds it--to bring the sinner into direct contact with it--to suffer him to interpose nothing--to add nothing of his own--to subtract nothing however offensive to him--that he may be brought under its original power and receive its complete impression. The method is conducted after this sort.

1. It is necessary, if we would receive the proper influence of the Cross, that we be prepared to hail it as a distinct revelation. It is not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world. It is not some conclusion that the wise, the prudent, the disputer of this world, have reached. It is no gathering up of certain prepossessions and analogies. It is no happy venture in the large field of discovery and experiment. It is the immediate ray from heaven. It is a great declarative act.

2. When we rightly appreciate the Cross, when it has its full effect upon us, we recognize it as the instrument of redemption. This is not an expedient among many expedients, a safe remedy among remedies equally safe. It stands apart. This is the one vent and vehicle for mercy.

3. When our mind approves this method of salvation, it finds in it the principle of sanctification. We reverse all our aims and desires. We are called unto holiness. What shall work it in us? Gratitude for the Saviour’s love, common cause with His mission, sympathy with His design.

The offence of the Cross

I. Wherein lies the offence of the cross?

1. Its doctrine of atonement offends man’s pride.

2. Its simple teaching offends man’s wisdom, and artificial taste.

3. Its being a remedy for man’s ruin offends his fancied power to save himself.

4. Its addressing all as sinners offends the dignity of Pharisees.

5. Its coming as a revelation offends “modern thought.”

6. Its lofty holiness offends man’s love of sin.

II. How is this offence shown?

1. Frequently by the actual persecution of believers.

2. More often by slandering believers, and sneering at them as old-fashioned, foolish, weak-minded, morose, self-conceited, etc.

3. Often by omitting to preach the Cross. Many nowadays preach a Christless, bloodless gospel.

4. Or by importing new meanings into orthodox terms.

5. Or by mixing the truth of Christ with errors.

6. Or by openly denying the Deity of Him who died on the cross, and the substitutionary character of His sufferings.

Indeed, there are a thousand ways of showing that the Cross offends us in one respect or another.

III. What then?

1. Herein is folly, that men are offended with that which God ordains; with that which must win the day; with the only thing which can save them; with that which is full of wisdom and beauty.

2. Herein is grace, that we who once were offended by the Cross, now find it to be

3. Herein is heart-searching.

Many professed Christians never cause offence to the most godless.

(a) Is this because they bear no testimony to the Cross?

(b) Is this because they are not crucified to the world?

(c) Is this because there is no real trust in the Cross, and no true knowledge of Christ? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The slandered apostle

I. The report spread about Paul.

1. What it was--that he preached circumcision: from whence we see that ministers are subject to defamation, not only in respect of their lives but of their doctrine.

2. How it came about. Probably by the circumcision of Timothy. Hence we see the fashion of the world to raise reports on light occasions.

II. Paul’s defence.

1. AS it was more than a mere personal matter, and one that affected the purity and success of the gospel, he was obliged to notice it.

2. Paul disproves the charge from the fact that he is persecuted for not doing what he is charged with doing. Hence we see

3. Paul proves his innocence by the fact that the offence of the Cross was not abolished. It still offended the lapsed Galatians and their teachers. Hence this charge. (W. Perkins.)

Preach the Cross

Let others hold forth the terrors of hell and the joys of heaven. Let others drench their congregations with teachings about the sacraments and the Church. Give me the Cross of Christ. This is the only lever which has ever turned the world upside down hitherto, and made men forsake their sins. And, if this will not, nothing will. A man may begin preaching with a perfect knowledge of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew; but he will do little or no good among his hearers unless he knows something of the Cross. Never was there a minister, who did much for the conversion of souls, who did not dwell much on Christ crucified. Luther, Rutherford, Whitefield, M’Cheyne, were all most eminent preachers of the Cross. This is the preaching that the Holy Ghost delights to bless. He loves to honour those who honour the Cross. (Bishop Ryle.)

The offence of the Cross

Luther was offered to be made a cardinal if be would be quiet. He answered, “No, not if I might be pope,” and defends himself thus against those that thought him haply a proud fool for his pains: “Let me be counted fool, or anything, so I be not found guilty of cowardly silence.” The Papists, when they could not rule him, railed at him, and called him an apostate. He confesseth the action, and saith, “I am indeed an apostate, but a blessed and holy apostate--one that hath fallen off from the devil.” Then they called him devil; but what saith he? “Luther is a devil; be it so: but Christ liveth and reigneth; that’s enough for Luther: so be it.” Nay, such was the activity of Luther’s spirit, that, when Erasmus was asked by the Elector of Saxony why the pope and his clergy could so little abide Luther, he answered, “For two great offences--meddling with the pope’s triple crown and the monk’s fat paunches.” And hence was all the hatred. (Spencer.)


Verse 12

Galatians 5:12

I would they were even cut off that trouble you.

Reasons for Paul’s indignation

Not content with argument he charges the Judaizers with what is base, cowardly, and corrupt. They are mean and time-serving, and dread the loss of caste among their fellow-countrymen. His whole being at last becomes excited with indignation; his brow darkens; his feelings explode; and the flash and the thunderbolt leap forth in an anathema. Only something very serious could justify even an apostle in such a mode of conducting religious controversy. What was it? The error he denounced was--

1. A species of blasphemy against the Divine fact which constituted God’s method of reconciliation, and, as such, it shocked Paul’s love and reverence for the Christ it dishonoured (Galatians 2:21).

2. A species of apostasy from Christ, whatever might be their verbal profession of belief, and thus it shocked and was resented by his love for man (Galatians 5:2-5).

3. A thing absurd in itself, and, as such, it shocked his understanding (Galatians 2:16-18).

4. It opposed the idea of progress, intellectually considered, and it was thus inconsistent with Paul’s hope for humanity (Galatians 4:9).

5. It was a yoke put on the neck of the Gentiles, and, as such, it shocked the apostle’s respect for liberty, and offended and aroused his spirit of independence (Galatians 5:1).

6. It was an attempt to perpetuate a national distinction, and to keep up the supremacy of a particular people, and, as such, it offended St. Paul’s philanthropy and ran counter to his conviction of the design of the gospel, the oneness of the race, and the equality of the nations (Galatians 3:26-28).

7. It interfered with the bestowal of the gifts of the Spirit, and, as such, it grieved the apostle on account of his anxiety for the holiness of the Church (Galatians 3:2-3). (T. Binney.)

Church troublers

The Church is troubled--

I. By false doctrine; thus Ahab troubled Israel (1 Kings 18:18), and false apostles the Galatians.

II. By wicked example; thus Achan troubled Israel (Joshua 7:15).

III. By force and cruelty; thus tyrants and persecutors trouble the Church (Acts 12:1). (W. Perkins.)


Verse 13

Galatians 5:13

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

Christian liberty

I. The nature of that liberty of which the apostle here speaks. There is a charm in the very sound of liberty; it awakens many grateful recollections. But the word is employed in various acceptations. Civil liberty is that freedom which is our birthright as men. Spiritual liberty is that freedom, which belongs to us, not as men, but as Christians.

II. The great value of that spiritual liberty to which all believers of gospel truth are called. Political freedom, important as it is, may be overrated. It is highly advantageous to a nation, but not essential to the happiness of individuals. Good men have been happy in exile or in prison, and bad men cannot be so under any circumstances however favourable; the cause of the difference is to be referred to the state of the mind.

1. The measure of spiritual liberty, which a Christian even now attains, removes or alleviates some of the keenest and heaviest sorrows to which man is subject.

2. The measure of spiritual liberty, which a Christian now possesses, greatly heightens and refines all his enjoyments. Countermanding the original curse, it brings back some of the productions of paradise. It opens the noblest faculties and animates the best feelings of the mind.

3. It is but the beginning and pledge of that complete deliverance from all sin and sorrow, to which he is looking with lively hope. The best state on earth bears the marks of imperfection. Even where grace reigns, sin, like a rebel dethroned but not destroyed, is too near to leave any long interval of peace. In that kingdom to which we are hastening, no tumults or temptations will rise; no sickness or sighing, death or danger, will be known. No law in the members will be found warring against the law of the mind, or bringing us into captivity to sin. Even creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God (Romans 8:21).

III. The way in which the liberty to which the believer is called may be duly improved. All the principles of our holy religion have a practical bearing. We see a beautiful harmony in its doctrines and precepts. This is one of the great excellencies of Christianity. Paul was a wise master-builder, equally concerned to lay a good foundation, and to carry up the superstructure.

1. He gives a word of salutary warning--“Use not liberty,” etc. There is hardly any good but is liable to abuse. Every sacred privilege has been and may be perverted. We must be on our guard against this. To use Christian liberty for an occasion to indulge the flesh is the best thing in the world turned to the worst purpose.

2. The apostle, in our text, gives a suitable word of direction--“By love serve one another.” Love is the first and best of all the Christian graces. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, etc. Love finds out many means of serving our brethren. It prompts and animates the mind-it makes us cheerful, active, tender, kind, forbearing. (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

By love serve one another--Christianity a system of love

Look at the operations of charity, or the love of benevolence. It was this which existed in the mind of Deity from eternity, and in the exercise of which He so loved our guilty world as to give His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. It was on the wings of charity that the Son of God flew from heaven to earth, on an errand of mercy to our lost world; it was charity that moved in the minds and hearts of the apostles, and urged them with the glad tidings of salvation, from country to country. The whole missionary enterprise is founded, not of course on the basis of brotherly kindness, but on that of charity. All those splendid instances that have been presented to us of the exercise of philanthropy are the operations of this Divine charity. See Howard, leaving the seclusion of a country gentleman, giving up his elegant retreat and all its luxurious gratifications, pacing to and fro through Europe, plunging into dungeons, battling with pestilence, weighing the fetters of the prisoner, gauging the disease of the pest-house--all under the influence of heavenly charity. See Wilberforce, through twenty years of his eventful life, lifting up his unwearied voice, and employing his fascinating eloquence against the biggest outrage that ever trampled on the rights of humanity. What formed his character, sketched his plan, inspired his zeal, but charity? See that illustrious woman, lately departed, so ripe for glory and so richly invested with it, who interested herself amidst the prisoners of Newgate--to chain their passions, to reclaim their vices, and to render them more meet for society, which had condemned them as its outcasts. What was it that gave to Mrs. Fry her principle of action, what indeed was the principle itself, but charity? (J. Angell James.)

One another

I. What is a Christian Church?

1. Not a club, an association of persons belonging to the same rank in life, but a Divine society embracing all classes.

2. Not a republic where majorities rule, but a society where the will of the Divine Head is the governing power.

3. Two or three, met in Christ’s name, and loyal to His will, are sufficient to constitute a Christian Church.

II. What are the conditions of happy Church life?

1. The root of all is obedience to the law. “Love one another.”

2. Love gives rise to mutuality in everything.

3. Mutual feeling branches out in various ways.

4. From the whole proceeds the Christian law of courtesy and etiquette--“Be subject to one another,” “In honour prefering one another,” “In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than himself.” (E. Johnson, M. A.)

Law and liberty

There is a great mistake about liberty from law. Some religious persons think it means free, so that though you sin, the law will not punish. This is the liberty of devils: free to do as much evil as you will, and yet not suffer. True Christian liberty is this, self-command; to have been brought to Christ; to do right and to love right without a law of compulsion to school you into doing it. If we have not got so far, the law has all its power hanging over us still. (F. W. Robertson.)

To preach justification by the law as a covenant is legal, and makes void the death and merits of Jesus Christ. But to preach obedience to the law as a rule is evangelical; and it savours as much of a New Testament spirit to urge the commands of the law as to display the promises of the gospel. (Bishop Hopkins.)

True liberty is only realized in obedience. The abuse of freedom is bondage, from which there is no self-deliverance. (T. T. Lynch.)

The joy of liberty

Dr. Fletcher was passing the Old Bailey one day, and saw a couple of boys turning somersaults, standing on their heads, making wheels of themselves, and all sorts of things; and he stopped, and said, “Why, boys, whatever are you at? You seem to be delighted;” to which one of them replied, “Ah! and you would be delighted, too, if you had been locked up in that jail three months. You would jump when you came out.” And the good old doctor said he thought it was very likely he should. And the man who has been called unto liberty by Christ, knows the sweets of freedom, because aforetime the iron had entered his soul. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Loving service

A train from the Far West of America was once passing through Saratoga, having among other passengers a man with an infant child. The man’s garments showed him to be poor, and the crape on his hat showed the child to be motherless. The infant was restless, and the father handled it clumsily; with all his efforts he could not quiet it. He wiped the tears from its eyes, and then from his own. All who saw him pitied him. At length a richly-dressed lady, whose infant lay in the arms of its nurse, said, with motherly tenderness in her tone, “Give me the child.” The poor man gave her his boy, whose coarse and soiled robes rested for once on costly silk; his head disappeared under her shawl, and all was still. She held him mile after mile, and did not relinquish him until her own child required attention. (Biblical Treasury.)

Liberty through love

I. The nature of this liberty.

1. This liberty is freedom from the burden of a religion of ordinances.

2. It is liberty from the moral law as the awakener of sin, and from the fear of its punishment, which is death.

II. To keep this liberty pure, we should know its dangers, and avoid them.

1. It may be so used as, to allow the lower nature to rule--as “an occasion to the flesh.”

2. Our liberty from coercive law is produced in us by a love which obeys the law. If we do not love to obey, we are not in Christian liberty at all. St. Paul calls such despisers of law the servants of sin.

3. The use of freedom must be in subordination to love. It is the habit of many to placard their freedom; to violate the scruples of others. What sort of Christianity is that which uses the freedom of Christ to do violence to the love of Christ? The rule is--Use your liberty, not for your own gratification, but for the good of others. Liberty is not a principle of action; it is a mode of action. Love is its principle, and love is the test which tells whether we are free or enslaved. (S. A. Brooke, M. A.)


Verses 13-15

Verse 14

Galatians 5:14

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

The fulfilling of the law

I. Love is of perpetual obligation.

II. A true response to the obligation of neighbourly love will ensure the faithful discharge of every other obligation.

III. Therefore love is the fulfilliing of the law. For--

1. The law is the interpretation of love, and the definition and prescription of that which the infinite intelligence knows that love demands. But--

2. There is also the underlying assumption that in the absence of love the law cannot be truly fulfilled. Therefore--

3. When the principle of love, recognizing the authority of the teaching and guiding law, has restrained from every act of injury to its neighbour, and prompted to all sorts of kindly service for that neighbour’s good, then has the law been truly fulfilled. (W. Tyson.)

Love of our neighbour

I. Love is--

II. It exists as being--

1. Cherished in the heart.

2. Exhibited in the life.

III. The term neighbour is applicable and includes all men. All are God’s offspring.

IV. The degree of love here necessary.

1. As truly as thyself.

2. With the same love in kind and degree. (T. Robinson.)

I. The duty--Love.

1. The word.

2. The deed.

3. The truth.

II. Its object--Our neighbour.

1. Friend or foe.

2. At home or abroad.

III. Its measure--As thyself; therefore--

1. Sincerely.

2. Constantly.

3. Devotedly.

IV. Its excellence.

1. It fulfils the whole law.

2. Promotes universal happiness and peace. (J. Lyth. , D. D.)

Self-love

Contracted affections, like self-love, may oppose their own end--private good. The supposed contrariety between benevolence and self-love may be only apparent.

I. Self-love as distinguished from other passions.

1. Self-love has an internal, other affections an external, object.

2. Such affections are distinct; from self-love, though part of ourselves.

3. All language recognizes this distinction. Self-love produces interested actions; particular affections, actions which are friendly.

4. Happiness does not consist in self-love, but in the wise gratification of all our affections.

5. Self-love often fails to produce happiness; it often produces anxiety, ands when in excess, misery. Thus self-love is distinct from particular affections, and so far from being our only rule, it often disappoints itself, especially when made one solitary principle.

II. Self-love as distinguished from benevolence. These are distinguished but not necessarily opposed.

1. From the nature of the affections themselves; self-love does not exclude particular affections, nor does benevolence.

2. From the course of action suggested by them.

3. From the temper of mind produced by them.

4. From Scripture, which inculcates benevolence, and yet recognizes self-love and appeals to it. (Bishop Butler.)

The love of our neighbour

I. The object of this affection. Love of our neighbour or benevolence seeks the good of others, and in its noblest form it is the perfection of God.

II. The proper extent of this affection. As ourselves: which implies--

1. That this love is to be of the same kind.

2. That our love for others is to bear a certain proportion to our love for ourselves.

3. That our love for others is equal to our love for ourselves, no ill consequences can ensue, for

III. The influence of this affection on our general temper. Its effect is--

1. To produce all charitableness.

2. To fit men for every relation and duty.

3. To moderate party feeling.

4. To prevent; or heal all strife.

IV. This affection includes all virtue.

1. Love prompts men to seek the greatest happiness of all, which is itself a discharge of all obligations.

2. Love even prompts to the practice of personal virtues (temperance, etc.); and certainly the neglect of these virtues implies a deficiency of love to others.

3. Apart from particular natures and circumstances, love includes all goodness; and--

4. Piety itself is the love of God, as an infinitely good Being. (Bishop Butler.)

We may love man because of what he is as man

God has stamped beauty on his material body, and given an higher grandeur to his mysterious mind. But there is a deeper and diviner reason for love. It is this: To love a man because he is a brother in Christ; because he is to some extent like Christ, and reflects His image upon those who come in contact with him. Here the grounds of love are moral, spiritual, and internal. (Thomas Jones.)
.

Neighbourly love

Thomas Samson was a working miner, and working hard for his bread. The captain of the mine said to him on one occasion, “Thomas, I’ve got an easier berth for you, where there is comparatively little to do, and where you can earn more money: will you accept it?” What do you think he said? Captain, there’s our poor brother Tregony. He has a sick body, and he is not able to work as hard as I am. I fear his toil will shorten his useful life. Will you let him have the berth?” The captain, pleased with his generosity, sent for Tregony, and gave him the berth, which he is now enjoying. Thomas was gratified, and added, “I can work a little longer yet.” (Sunday Magazine.)

Caring for others

The intensity of maternal affection was illustrated in the observation of a little boy, who, after reading Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress,” asked his mother which of the characters she liked best. She replied, “Christian, of course: he is the hero of the story.” The dear child responded, “Mother, I like Christiana best, because when Christian set out on his pilgrimage, he went alone; but, when Christiana started, she took the children with her.” Great love:--Edward I. of England having received a wound from a poisoned dagger, his wife Eleanor sucked out the poison, venturing her own life to save her husband’s.


Verse 15

Galatians 5:15

But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

Uncharitable contentions in the Church of God

I. There ever were, are, and will be, differences among God’s own people in the matters of religion. Even amongst the Jews, who had such punctual rules prescribed before them, yet the school of Hillel went one way, and the school of Shammai went another; and their contentions sometimes were sprinkled with the blood one of another. And no sooner was the gospel planted, but the professors of it fell at variance about matters of religion: this is plain in the controversies about circumcision, for the quieting whereof that famous council met at Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-41.). And the causes hereof are evident:--

1. Our general imperfection in this life. As the best men are imperfect in their holiness, so are they in their knowledge; there will be defects in our understanding, as well as in our will. So that it is scarce possible to prevent all diversity of opinions in religion.

2. Men’s education contributes much hereunto. It is manifest how strong an influence this hath upon all people’s understandings.

3. Men’s capacities are different. Some have a greater sagacity to penetrate into things than others; some have a clearer judgment to weigh and determine of things than others; some have more solid learning by far than others; and these, doubtless, will attain to a higher form and class than others can.

4. Men’s natural tempers are different. Some more airy and mercurial, some more stiff and melancholy.

5. Men’s interests are different. Not that any good man doth wittingly calculate his profession for his baser ends; but yet they may secretly bias him, especially in more minute and dubious matters belonging to religion.

II. These differences may and should be managed with charity. “Better to have truth without public peace, than peace without saving truth:” so Dr. Gauden. “We must not sail for the commodity of peace beyond the line of truth; we must break the peace in truth’s quarrel:” so another learned man. But this is to be understood of necessary and essential truths; in which case, “that man little consults the will and honour of God, who will expose the truth, to obtain,” as saith Nazianzen, “the repute of an easy mildness.” But when, after all such endeavours have been used as are within the reach of a man’s parts and calling, still differences do remain in smaller matters, these ought to be managed with all charity; that is, with true love.

III. These dissensions are uncharitable, when persons bite and devour one another. The spring of all this poison is in the heart; for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” and the hand acts. There is a defect of real and fervent love, and an excess of selfishness within; self-opinion, self-will, and self-interest: and this arrogance breeds insolence, and all the “biting and devouring” mentioned in this place. Now if these two expressions do bear a distinct signification, then--

1. Men do “bite” one another by keen and venomous words.

2. Men “devour” one another by actual endeavours to injure and hurt one another.

IV. These uncharitable contentions do prepare for utter destruction.

1. So saith Scripture (Hosea 10:2.; Matthew 12:25).

2. “Histories and experience do attest the same. For contentions in general: it is evident that the divisions which were among the Trojans made way for their overthrow by the Greeks; the like animosities among the Greeks brought them under the slavery of Philip. The feuds that were among the Assyrians, brought in the Persians; and the like among the Persians subjected them to the Macedonians; and the contentions among Alexander’s successors rendered them up to be swallowed by the Romans, one after another. Yea, the Roman Empire itself, near the tinge when the western and the eastern branches of it were hottest in contention about the supremacy of their bishops and about images,--behold, the Goths and Vandals destroyed the one, and the Saracens and Turks ruined the other. The scandalous discords among the Jews exposed Jerusalem at length to that dreadful desolation by Titus Vespasian. And for this island, it has been still accounted like some great animal, that can only be ruined by its own strength. The contentions of the Britons made the Romans conquerors. Afterwards the Saxons came in upon the divisions of the natives; and the contentions of the Saxons prepared the way for the Normans. And for religious differences: it is known how Julian the Apostate cherished those between the Catholics and the Donatists; saying, that no savage beasts were so cruel against one another as the Christians; so that he expected thereby to ruin them all. It is notorious what famous and numerous churches were once in Africa; but, by the contentions of the Manichees, then of the Donatists, they are now extinguished. The contentions among the Protestants in King Edward the Sixth’s reign ended in the persecution by Queen Mary: and if ever the Romans ruin us again, it will be procured by our contentions among ourselves.

3. There is too much reason for it.

(a) They weaken that confidence that is necessary for the preservation of a people.

(b) They destroy that love which is the cement of all societies. As they proceed from a defect of love, so they quite ruin the remainders of it. Now, this love unites, and so strengthens: but when men’s hearts are once divided from each other, what care I what becomes of them whom I hate?

(c) They prepare for the most desperate actions. For when there is a dislike settled within, and that men’s spirits are exasperated by provoking words and actions, there wants nothing but opportunity to produce the most violent effects.

(a) They provoke the wrath of God.

(b) They consume the power and life of godliness. God’s grace never thrives in an unquiet spirit. Application:

1. Union is the true means of our preservation. Let us consider

2. If uncharitable contentions do prepare for utter destruction, then woe be to the instruments and bellows of our contentions!

These are many in number, and generally most conceited and contemptuous. Of such good old Mr. Greenham is to be understood, when, being asked by the lord-treasurer Cecil, where the blame of that great rent lay between the bishops of those times and others, “The fault,” said he, “is on both sides, and on neither side: for the godly-wise on both sides bear with each other, and concur in the main; but there be some selfish, peevish spirits on both sides, and these make the quarrel.”

3. If these prepare for destruction, then we in this sinful nation are in the ready way to misery. For,

4. Let us all, then, be entreated, conjured, and persuaded to forbear biting and devouring one another. Leave off this brutish behaviour toward one another. To which end consider--

(a) You break the great commandment of God’s law, which is love.

(b) You trample upon the great precept of the gospel, which is love.

(c) These contentions bring great dishonour to Jesus Christ.

(d) They grieve the Holy Spirit of God.

(e) They stir up much corruption, both in the aggressor and in the defendant.

(f) They greatly hinder the conversion of the ungodly, and the progress in holiness of the godly.

(g) These contentions in religion tempt men to be atheists.

(h) These biting and devouring contentions are uncivil, inhuman, and barbarous.

(a) It includes the ruin of our outward comforts.

(b) It threatens the ruin of our religion.

(c) This destruction infers the ruin of our posterity.

(a) Lament your own and others’ sin in this particular.

(b) Learn Christian wisdom.

(c) Endeavour for a catholic spirit.

(d) Be clothed with humility. It is pride that begins and maintains our quarrels.

(e) Apply yourselves to the practice of real piety.

(f) Follow after charity. This is the healing grace; and if this be not applied to our bleeding wounds, they will never be cured. It were better, as one says, that Caesar should break all Pollio’s curious glasses, than that they should break the bond of charity, or that the breach of them should be the occasion of so much inhumanity of brethren one against another.

(g) Avoid extremes. Do not labour to screw-up one another to the utmost.

(h) Mind every one his own business.

(i) Observe that good old rule, of doing to others as you would be done to. You would have others to bear with you; and why will not you bear with others?

(j) My last advice is, to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” This every one may do, and this every one ought to do: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces” (Psalms 122:6-7). (R. Steele, M. A.)

Dissensions in the Church

1. Are often due to trivial causes.

2. Are always unreasonable.

3. Are a hindrance to the progress of the gospel.

4. Enfeeble and imperil the Church.

5. Are a cause of rejoicing to the enemies of the truth.

6. Are offensive to God. (R. A. Bertram.)

Good results from cessation of party strife

A wall having become very feeble by age, a portion of it one day fell down. Great consequences followed the Falling of the piece of the old wall.

1. The sun was able to pour more light into the gardens on either side, which the height of the wall had obstructed, so that the flowers looked to greater advantage; and, owing to their having more air and sunshine, became really more beautiful.

2. The perfume was borne across the breach; so that the gardens were the, sweeter. “What a pity that piece of old wall had not fallen down before,” said the flowers.

3. The shrubs looked over to one another, and got into friendly talk; and so they said, “What a good thing that piece of old wall fell down; it is a pity it stood so high so long.”

4. The flowers and shrubs of each garden discovered that members of their own families had been living on the other side, and therefore really near to each other, though they had had no communion, owing to the wall between.

5. Finally, so many benefits were seen to be the result of the occurrence that, instead of rebuilding the fallen part, the remainder was pulled down to a low level, that air and sunshine might have freer course, and the gardens a free communication. And not a few afterwards acknowledged that a real good and blessing was the consequence to all parties, by the opportunely falling down of that old dividing wall Party spirit is a wall of separation which the coming and the work of Christ was intended to remove. “For He is our peace, who hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” Let none now seek to divide Christians by building up a wall of party spirit between them; for, “behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” (G. Bowden.)

Satanic origin of quarrels among Christians

You all profess to have been baptized into the spirit of the gospel; but you do not show it when you bite and snarl at one another. The gospel, which makes wolves and lambs agree, does not teach the lambs to turn wolves and devour each the other. The gospel will not allow us to pay our enemies in their own coin, and give them wrath for wrath; much less will it suffer brethren to spit fire at one another’s face. No, when any such embers of contention begin to smoke among Christians, we may know who left the spark; no other but Satan, he is the great kindle-coal of all their contentions. If there be tempest (not in the air) in the spirits of Christians, and the wind of their passions be high and loud, it is easy to tell who is the conjuror; it is the devil that is practising his black art upon their lusts, which yet are so much unmortified, as gives him too great an advantage of raising many times sad storms of division and strife amongst them. There is nothing (next Christ and heaven) that the devil grudges believers more than their peace and mutual love; if he cannot rend them from Christ, or stop them from getting heaven, yet he takes some pleasure to see them go thither in a storm; like a shattered fleet severed one from another, that they may have no assistance from, nor comfort of, each other’s company all the way; though, where he can divide, he hopes to ruin also, well knowing this to be the most probable means to effect it; one ship is easier taken than a squadron. A town, if it can be but set on fire, the enemy may hope to take it with more ease. Let it, therefore, be your great care to keep the devil’s spark from your powder. (W. Gurnall.)

Consumed one of another: Strife in the fold

Two friends met the other day. One inquired of the other how his Church was prospering. “Not at roll, I am sorry to say,” was the answer; “our numbers are diminishing weekly.” “Why, how is that? Has the wolf got into the fold?” “Worse than that, I fear. If it was only the wolf that was worrying the flock, we might cherish the hope that we could get him driven out. The fact is, the sheep have taken to worrying each other, and our condition, therefore, could not be worse.”

The ideal brotherhood

A little boy, seeing two nestling birds pecking at each other, inquired of his elder brother what they were doing. “They are quarrelling,” was the answer. “No,” replied the child, “that cannot be, for they are brothers.” Would that this true and simple and natural logic were always borne in mind; then might the Christian nest be more peaceful, more like a family Divine!

Unity among Christians to be sought after

Melancthon mourned in his day the divisions among Christians, and sought to bring them together by the parable of the war between the wolves and the dogs. The wolves were somewhat afraid, for the dogs were many and strong, and therefore they sent out a spy to observe them. On his return the scout said, “It is true the dogs are many, but there are not many mastiffs among them. There are dogs of so many sorts one can hardly count, them; and as for the worst of them,” said he, “they are little dogs, which bark loudly, but cannot bite. However, this did not cheer me so much,” continued the wolf, “as this, that as they came marching on, I observed they were all snapping right and left at one another, and I could see clearly that though they all hate the wolf, yet each dog hates every other dog with all his heart.” Is not this still true--that many professed Christians snap right and left at their own brethren, when they had better save their teeth for the wolves?

Evils of strife

They say of bees, that, when they strive among themselves, it is a sign that the queen is about to leave the hive. When the sheep of Christ are malignant one against another, it is a fearful presage of ensuing ruin; when there are tumults in the Church, it may justly be feared that God is about to remove from us. (Spencer.)

Wranglings destroy Churches

Jars and divisions, wranglings and prejudices, eat out the growth, if not the life, of religion. These are those waters of Marah that embitter our spirits, and quench the Spirit of God. Unity and peace are said to be like the dew of Hermon, that descended upon Sion, where the Lord promised His blessing. Divisions run religions into briars and thorns, contention and parties. Divisions are to Churches like wars in countries; where war is, the ground lieth waste and untilled; none takes care of it. It is love that edifieth, but division pulleth down. Divisions are as the north-east wind to the fruits, which causeth them to dwindle away to nothing; but when the storms are over, everything begins to grow. When men are divided, they seldom speak the truth in love; and then, no marvel, they grow not up to Him in all things which is the Head. It is a sad presage of an approaching famine (as one well observes)--not of bread, nor of water, but of hearing the Word of God--when the thin ears of corn devour the plump full ones; when our controversies about doubtful things, and things of less moment, eat up our zeal for the more indisputable and practical things in religion. (American.)

How to defeat strife

A young fox asked his father if he could not teach him some trick to defeat the dogs, if he should fall in with them. The father had grown grey in a long life of depredation and danger, and his scars bore witness to his narrow escapes in the chase, or his less honourable encounters with the faithful guardians of the hen roost. He replied with a sigh, “After all my experience, I am forced to confess that the best trick is, to keep out of their way.” The safest mode of dealing with a quarrelsome person is to keep out of his way. (Persian Fables.)

How to end bickerings

The following incident, respecting two philosophers of old, may well put to the blush Christians who are unwilling to be reconciled, and who consequently have their intercourse with heaven hindered (Matthew 5:24). We are told that, Aristippus and AEschines having differed, the former came to the latter and said--“AEschines, shall we be friends?” “Yes,” he replied, “with all my heart.” “But, remember,” said Aristippus, “that I, being older than you, do make the first motion.” “Yes,” replied AEschines, “and therefore I conclude that you are the worthiest man: for I began the strife, and you began the peace.” (C. Neil.)

The evil of dissensions

The English ambassador, some years since, prevailed so far with the Turkish emperor as to persuade him to hear some of our English music, from which (as from other liberal sciences) both he and his nation were naturally averse. But it happened that the musicians were so long in tuning their instruments that the great Turk, distasting their tediousness, went away in discontent before the music began. I am afraid that the dissensions betwixt Christian Churches (being so long in reconciling their discords) will breed in pagans such a disrelish of our religion, as they will not be invited to attend thereunto. (T. Fuller, D. D.)


Verse 16

Galatians 5:16

Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Flesh versus Spirit

A Galatian Christian might argue that the religion of Christ had not wrought for him the deliverance which he had expected; that whereas he had been taught to believe in the Almighty power of Christ, and of Christ’s grace, he found that there yet abode within him another power of a wholly different kind, a power antagonistic to the grace of Christ, a power constantly inclining him to evil. How was he to account for this state of things? was it that Christ’s gospel was ineffectual; or that he had not rightly apprehended it?

I. The abiding presence of the law of sin in the believer’s soul. Scripture everywhere assumes and asserts this (James 3:2; 1 John 1:8).

II. Its hostility to good. Compromise is impossible. If sin be false to everything else, it must be true to its own nature; it must be hostile to that principle which aims at its destruction.

III. Note certain features in the action of sin.

1. It is secret.

2. It is constant.

3. It is subtle.

Seeks to discover the weakest parts in the soul’s defences; to deceive and beguile the soul, and so lead it captive.

IV. The maintenance of the spiritual life.

Twofold nature of man

Man’s nature presents two sides. On the one hand the body, with all its physical needs, desires, impulses; on the other hand that spiritual nature which distinguishes him from the animal creation. These two sides are often found in collision, warring against each other; the question is, how shall they be adjusted, and which ought to rule? The two extremes of crushing out one or the other entirely, are both wrong. The Christian method does no violence to any true part of human nature. It respects all parts; but gives special emphasis to the highest, not by crushing out the lower, but by bringing it into proper subordination, so that there shall be harmony, due proportion, and complete unity.

I. The spiritual nature must have the first place. It is the most noble, and therefore the most worthy of attention.

II. The spirit is to be the directing and ruling element. It is to sway the body, not the body to sway it.

III. The physical nature is to be allowed to exercise its natural rights, but under the guidance and control of the spiritual. How practical is all this! St. Paul does not content himself with taking up a merely negative attitude. To have simply forbidden this or that, or to have told his readers that they were to exercise a restraint upon their passions, would have been at best only a partial and an unsatisfactory way of dealing with their danger. He was far too true a master of the human heart to fall into the error that nothing more than prohibition was needed. If man is to be saved from evil thoughts, habits, passions, he must be given definite and positive duties to fulfil. This is true both of

(a) the body, and

(b) the mind, as well as

(c) the soul.

Be up and doing. Don’t be idle. Let your life have definite aims; your heart and mind definite impulses, desires, principles. In this way will you be better able not only to resist what is evil but to grow in what is best. (A. Boyd Carpenter, M. A.)

The appeal to the spiritual nature

Such is St. Paul’s method, and it is the one which treats man with the greatest respect, and is calculated to effect the desired end most completely. Man is not a machine to be regulated only by external influences. He has reason, will, conscience, love; in a word, a spiritual nature. To appeal to this spiritual nature, to place it in its proper position of authority and rule, is to treat man as man, and to do so with the greatest hope of success. Law alone will not succeed unless there is a response from within. Self-restraint will not be sufficient. What is needed is the creation of an inward power of good; a self-acting principle that shall love and will and strive after what is highest and best, and from the innermost citadel of the spirit rule every thought, word, act. This is what St. Paul advocates when he says, “Walk in the Spirit.” He contends for voluntary service as against enforced; for spiritual obedience as against the mere living by rule. It is the life of love and purity and wisdom that he advocates as the life, as against the impulses, desires, passions of the physical nature. And in doing this he not merely respects man as spiritual, he not merely points out the superiority of the spiritual, but he seeks to base thought and word and deed, and the whole tenor of the life, upon a heart loving what is good and hating what is evil. Service, with St. Paul, is spiritual, free, spontaneous, high-minded. The higher desires and spiritual forces for what is good not only check what is baser, but, influencing the whole manhood, lift up every faculty, power, impulse into a purer atmosphere. (A. Boyd Carpenter, M. A.)

The spiritual walk

In these words observe--

1. The duty is to walk in the Spirit, which is the sum of all Christian piety.

2. The motive is taken from the consequent and fruit of it: “and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Let us fix the sense.

1. For the duty, “to walk in the Spirit.” Walking implieth the tenor and course of our actions, in all which we should follow the direction and inclination of the Spirit. Therefore by flesh and spirit is meant the old man and the new, and so by spirit is meant the renewed part, or the new man of grace in the heart (John 3:6, “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit”); that is, there is a work of saving grace wrought in our hearts by the Spirit of God, which new nature hath its motions and inclinations which must be obeyed and followed by us. And by flesh, is meant inbred corruption, or the old man, which is “corrupt, with his deceivable lusts” (Ephesians 4:22). Now, then, you see what it is to walk after the Spirit, to direct and order our actions according to the inclinations of the new nature.

2. For the consequent fruit of it: “and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Here two things must be explained:--

1. “The lust of the flesh.” By it is meant the inordinate motions of corrupt nature. The flesh doth not consider what is right and good, but what is pleasing to the senses, and craveth their satisfaction with much importunity and earnestness, to the wrong of God and our own souls; especially in youth, when the senses are in vigour, and lust and appetite in their strength and fury.

2. Ye shall not fulfil; that is, accomplish and bring into complete act, especially with deliberation and consent. Mark, he cloth not say that the lusting of corrupt nature shall be totally suppressed, but it shall not be fulfilled. The best of God’s children feel the motions of the flesh, but they do not cherish and obey them. The lusts of the flesh may be said to be fulfilled two ways--

To understand this point, let me lay down these propositions.

1. That there is a diversity of principles in a Christian--flesh and spirit.

2. That there is a liberty in a Christian of walking according to each principle, either the spirit or the flesh.

Application:

1. It showeth what necessity there is that we should look after conversion to God, or a work of grace wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, for the apostle supposeth they had the Spirit. There is no walking without living, for otherwise our motions are but the motions of puppets, not proceeding from internal life, but acted from springs and engines; no subduing the flesh without setting up an opposite principle.

2. Being renewed by the Holy Ghost, that is, having our minds enlightened and hearts inclined, we must obey this inclination; for life is not given us that we may have it, but that we may act by it, and do things suitable to that life which we have. Grace is not a sluggish, idle quality, but is always working and warring on the opposite principle.

3. Though at first we are pestered and encountered with the lusts of the flesh, which divert us from God and heavenly things, yet we should not be discouraged by every difficulty; for difficulties do but inflame a resolved spirit, as stirring doth the fire.

4. The carnal life is not of one sort. Some wallow in sensual pleasures, others have head and heart altogether taken up with the world and worldly things. Now if God hath put a new bias upon our wills and affections, we must show it forth by a heavenly conversation; for they that mind earthly things are carnal, and the great inclination of the new nature is to carry us unto God and the things of another world (2 Corinthians 5:5).

5. They are much to blame that complain of sin, and will not take the course to get rid of it by obeying the instincts of the Holy Ghost, or the motions of the new nature. The Lord’s spirit is a “free spirit” (Psalms 51:12.), and His “truth maketh us free” (John 8:32).

6. How much we are concerned in all conflicts, especially in those which allow deliberation, to take part with the Spirit, and obey His motions rather than to fulfil the lusts of the flesh: otherwise, by consent and upon deliberation, you are unfaithful to Christ and your own souls. Your business is not to gratify the flesh, but to crucify it, to overrule sense and appetite, and cherish the life of grace (Galatians 5:24).

7. It is of great use and profit to us to observe which principle decayeth, the flesh or the Spirit; for thereby we judge of our condition, both in order to mortification and comfort.

The increase of the flesh may be known--

1. By your backwardness to God. Grace is clogged when you cannot serve Him with sweetness and delight (Romans 7:18).

2. When the heart groweth careless of heaven, and your life and love is more taken up about things present than things to come.

On the other hand, the prevalency and increase of the Spirit is known--

1. By a humble contentedness and indifference to plenty, pleasures, and honours.

2. When your delight in God, heaven, and holiness is still kept up.

3. When the heart is kept in a preparation for the duties of your heavenly calling. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Walking in the Spirit, the preservative from the lusts of the flesh

I. We are to inquire what it is to walk in the Spirit. I scarcely need to observe, that the Spirit of God is always represented in the New Testament as the Author of all holiness in the hearts of Christians; whence the Christian dispensation is eminently styled “the ministration of the Spirit.”

1. And first I imagine, that a regard to all the great evangelical principles is implied in the words, “walk in the Spirit.” In the Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians, in which the phrases of walking “in the Spirit” or “after the Spirit” are chiefly used, the apostle takes much pains to wean the Judaizing converts from a servile spirit of dependence upon the law, and to instil into them a spirit of liberty in Christ Jesus. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.

2. By walking in the Spirit may be also implied habitual dependence upon His help. To walk in the Spirit, therefore, is to acknowledge with the heart our own weakness and inability to serve God; to expect victory over sin only by the gracious operation of His Spirit.

3. To walk in the Spirit implies also, that we use the means by which the Spirit has promised to convey His influence, in the humble hope of thus receiving it. Bible-reading, attendance on the preaching of the gospel, reception of the Holy Communion, and especially prayer.

4. I observe, further, that to walk in the Spirit implies the exercise of a holy fear of Him; which will manifest itself by avoiding those things which would grieve Him, and by complying with His holy motions.

II. If we thus walk in the Spirit, we shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. This is the second point which I proposed to illustrate. There is a certain degree to which victory over the sinful desires of the flesh is obtained by every real Christian; and this degree is, perhaps, proportioned to that in which he walks in the Spirit. (J. Venn, M. A.)

How may we be so spiritual as to check sin in the first risings of it

I. The principle and root of sin and evil--the flesh with its lusts.

II. The opposite principle and root of life and righteousness--the Divine Spirit.

III. The terms and bounds of a Christian’s conquest, how far he may hope for victory--“Ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.”

IV. The method and way of conquering--“Walk in the Spirit.” The best expedient in the world not to fulfil the lusts of the flesh, is to walk in the Spirit; which what it imports, I come now to show.

1. “Walk in the Spirit;” that is, in obedience to God’s commandments, which are the oracles of the Spirit (see Psalms 119:1-3).

2. “Walk in the Spirit;” that is, as becometh those in whom God’s Spirit dwells. As if the apostle had said, “The part which ye are now to act, O ye Christian Galatians, it is that of new creatures--see that ye keep the decorum. Demean yourselves like the children of God who are led of the Spirit of God” (Romans 8:14).

3. “Walk in the Spirit;” that is, Fulfil the counsels and advices of the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. But if these three rules are too general and remote, I shall now lay down some more particular and exact directions for checking the beginnings of sin.

Rule

I.

Before the paroxysm cometh, prepare and antidote thy soul against these lusts of the flesh, by observing these advices.

1. That notable counsel of Eliphaz to Job: “Acquaint now thyself with God, and be at peace” (Job 22:21).

2. Stir up spiritual and holy lastings in thy soul after the love and favour, the grace and image, of thy God; and thou shalt not fulfil the lastings of the flesh.

Rule

II.--Study thoroughly the unchangeable natures, the eternal laws and differences, of moral good and evil. The sum of this rule then is: Deeply possess and dye thy soul all over with the representation of that everlasting beauty and amiableness that are in holiness, and of’ that horror, and ugliness, and deformity that eternally dwell on the forehead of all iniquity. Be under the awe and majesty of such clear convictions all day long, and “thou shalt not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.”

Rule

III.--Understand thyself; be no stranger to thy own breast; know the frame, and temper, and constitution of thy mind. See what grace is principally wanting in thee, which is weakest, in what instances thy greatest failure betrays itself, in which of thy passions and affections thou art most peccable, and what lastings of the flesh they are which give thee the frequentest alarms, and threaten the greatest dangers.

Rule

IV.--Get and keep a tender, conscience. Be sensible of the least sin. The most tender-hearted Christian--he is the stoutest and most valiant Christian. “Happy is the man that feareth always: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.”

Rule

V.--Keep an exact guard upon thy heart (Proverbs 4:23). Let the eyes of thy soul be open and awake, upon all the stirrings of thy thoughts and affections.

Rule

VI.--Be daily training and exercising all thy graces. Have them always in battle-array.

Rule

VII.--Be well-skilled in the clenchs of temptation. I mean, in unmasking the sophistry and mystery of iniquity, in defeating the wiles and stratagems of the tempter, and in detecting and frustrating the cheats and finesses of the flesh with its deceitful lusts (Ephesians 4:22; 2 Corinthians 2:11). No small part of spiritual wisdom lies in the blessed art of discovering and refuting sin’s fallacies and impostures.

Rule

VIII.--Withdraw thyself, if possible, from the occasions of sin. Be thou as the deaf adder to that great charmer: the best entertainment thou canst give him is, “Get thee behind me, Satan!”

Rule

IX.--Bind thyself beforehand With the severest of thy resolutions, not to trust thy judgment, when the temptation begins to get within thee. “A man in passion is not himself.”

Rule

X.--Awe them with the authority of thy reason and understanding. It is infinitely unbeseeming a man, that his lower appetites should grow mutinous and untractable, that “the inferior and brutish faculties of our soul,” should rebel against “that sovereign faculty of reason.” How soon doth the presence of a grave magistrate allay a popular tumult, if he comes in soon enough, in the beginning of the riot? God hath made reason the magistrate of the little world; He hath given it a commission to keep the peace in our souls.

Rule

XI.--If thy distempered affections and lusts slight the authority of thy reason, as thou art a man; bid thy conscience do its office, as thou art a Christian. Try to awe them with God’s written Word. Bring out of the register of conscience the laws of Him that made thee; oppose some clear text of Holy Writ, that comes into thy mind against that very lust that is now rising.

Rule

XII.--If all this effect nothing, then draw the curtain, take off the veil from before thy heart, and let it behold the God that searcheth it (Jeremiah 17:10; Hebrews 4:13). Show it the majesty of the Lord; see how that is described (Isaiah 6:1-3).

Rule

XIII.--If these great real arguments be slighted, try whether an argument, ad hominem, drawn from sense, will prevail. Awe thy lusts with the bitterness of thine own experience. Consider how often thou hast rues their disorders; what dismal consequences have followed upon their transports, and how dearly thou hast paid heretofore for thy connivance at them.

Rule

XIV.--Labour to cure thy justings and affections in the first beginning of their disorders, by revulsion, by drawing the stream and tide another way. As physicians stop an hemorrhage, or bleeding at the nose, by breathing the basilic vein in the arm, or opening the saphaena in the foot; so may we check our carnal affections, by turning them into spiritual ones: and those either--

1. Of the same nature. For example: catch thy worldly sorrow at the rise, and turn thy mourning into godly sorrow. If thou must needs weep, weep for something that deserves it.

2. Turn thy carnal affections into spiritual ones of a contrary nature. For example: allay thy worldly sorrow by spiritual joy. Try whether there be not enough in all-sufficiency itself to compensate the loss of any outward enjoyment; whether there will be any great miss or want of a broken cistern, when thou art at the fountain-head of living waters; whether the light of the sun cannot make amends for the expiring of a candle. Chastise thy carnal fears by hope in God. Set on work the grace contrary to the lust that is stilting; if it be pride and vain-glory in the applause of men, think how ridiculous it were for a criminal to please himself in the esteem and honour his fellow-prisoners render him, forgetting how guilty he is before his judge. If thou beginnest to be poured loosely out, and as it were dissolved in frolic, mirth, and joviality, correct that vainness and gaiety of spirit by the grave and sober thoughts of death, and judgment, and eternity.

Rule

XV.--If this avail not, fall instantly to prayer.

Rule

XVI.--When thou hast done this, rise up, and buckle on the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16). Go forth in the name and strength of the Lord, to do battle with thy lusts. Conclusion: Let me now persuade the practice of these holy rules. Let us resolve, in the strength of Christ, to resist these lustings of the flesh. Let me press this with a few considerations.

1. The more thou yieldest, the more thou mayest. Sin is insatiable; it will never say”enough.” Give it an inch, it will take an ell.

2. It is the quarrel of the Lord of hosts in which thou tightest. A cowardly soldier is the reproach of his commanders. Thou hast a noble General, O Christian, that hath done and finished perfectly whatever concerns thy redemption from the powers of darkness.

3. The lusts of the flesh are thy greatest enemies, as well as God’s. “They war against thy soul” (1 Peter 2:11). To resist them feebly, is to do not only the work of the Lord, but of thy soul, negligently.

4. It is easy vanquishing at first in comparison. A fire newly-kindled is soon quenched, and a young thorn or bramble easily pulled up.

5. If thou resistest the victory is thine (James 4:7). Temptation puts on its strength, as the will is. Cease but to love the sin, and the temptation is answered.

6. Consider what thou doest. If thou fulfillest the lusts of the flesh, thou provokest thy heavenly Father, rebellest against Him (and “rebellion is as witchcraft, and stubbornness as idolatry”), thou “crucifiest Jesus Christ afresh, and puttest Him to an open shame.” Is this thy love and thanks to thy Lord, to whom thou art so infinitely beholden? Canst thou find in thy heart to put thy spear again in His side? Hath He not suffered yet enough? Is His bloody passion nothing? Must He bleed again? Ah, monster of ingratitude! Ah, perfidious traitor as thou art, thus to requite thy Master! Again, thou grievest thy Comforter: and is that wisely clone? Who shall comfort thee, ii He depart? (John Gibbon, B. D.)

The renewed man

If, therefore, you would judge of the life in the soul by the command which is exercised over the body, you must bring into account the agency employed, as well as the result effected. You must calculate whether the non-fulfilment of the lust of the flesh be in consequence of a radical change of the heart, or nothing more than the proud device of a weak, and self-sufficient nature.

1. It is not necessary that a man should be what Scripture calls a renewed man in order to his effecting a vast reformation in his ordinary conduct. Reformation, indeed, will unavoidably follow on renewal; and when thus produced, will be far more vigorous and decided than when traced to any other origin. But Satan, yea, oven Satan, can busy himself with the reforming of a man; for has the devil nothing to do with self-righteousness? has he nothing to do with the substitution of morality for faith? There will, indeed, have been all this outward change if an individual has been renewed by God’s Spirit; but, alas! it is not true, that because there is a change there must have been renewal! For you should remember that there follows, in the chapter from which our text is taken, a catalogue of the works of the body; and this catalogue contains “emulations, wrath, strife”--though these may have seemed to be mental rather than bodily actions. We are bound, therefore, to set down as works of the body many works which are not wrought by the agency of our corporeal members. Pride, for example, is classed as a work of the flesh, though it passes ordinarily as a disease of the mind. We argue, therefore, that since a man may gratify his pride by the higher discipline which he exercises over appetite and passion, he may be fulfilling, in one sense, “the lust of the flesh,” whilst to others he may seem to be mortifying that lust. Pride is emphatically a sin of the devil, and, therefore, to trace the action of pride is to trace it to the devil. Thus, we think our first proposition sufficiently established. There may be a struggle with “the lust of the flesh” where there is no “walking in the Spirit,” and, therefore, well might the apostle fix our thoughts on the agency as well as on the result.--“This I say, then”--oh! be not content with the appearance of resistance to the corruption of nature without searching into the origin of that resistances “this I say, then, Walk in the Spirit,” then, and then only, shall you really and actually “not fulfil the lust of the flesh.”

2. We proceed to set more definitely before you our second position, that there can be no effectual non-fulfilment of the lust of the flesh--none such as shall prove spiritual--unless there be “walking in the Spirit.” It is unquestionable, as we have already admitted, that a man may mortify many deeds of the body. He may climb the mountains, and there, far away from all companionship with his fellows, the rock for his couch, and the wild fruits for his sustenance, he may live down the fierceness of passion, and win over carnal desires so effective a sovereignty, that though they have heretofore been most imperious in their cravings, they shall ever after yield obedience to the severer calls of the Divine law. We know of nothing that may more confound those who have embraced true religion--who prefer deliverance through the satisfaction of Christ--than the ready submission to every kind of toil and privation which is presented by the votaries of false systems of theology. But, whatever the appearance, there is no thorough mortification of “the lust of the flesh” unless it be with the heart that the mortification begins. Yes, when the flesh is covered with the ashes and torn with the stripes, may pride be abroad in its strength, and man be regarded by the Holy Spirit of God as cherishing that self-sufficiency which it is the first object of the gospel to eject, and which must be subdued ere there can be admission to the kingdom of heaven. And if it be thus true that “the lust of the flesh Scannel be thoroughly unfulfilled unless the heart be overcome and brought into subjection, then no withstanding of the lusts can be that which proves a man quickened from the death of “trespasses and sins,” unless effected by the Spirit of God. As to outward conduct, a man may change it for himself, and, even as we have shown you, be assisted by Satan; but an internal change, the bringing order and harmony out of confusion and discord in the human soul, the crucifixion of the flesh, the renewal of the heart, can only be brought about by the Holy Ghost. See, then, whither you must turn for instruction and strength if you would live and not die. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” Oh I not to be Christ’s, after Christ has taken flesh, and sorrowed, and suffered, and died in order to make us His! Oh! not to be Christ’s, though redeemed by Christ at the untold cost of His agony and His blood! And what is wanting to make us Christ’s? Just that we have His Spirit, that Spirit which is freely promised to all by whom it is earnestly sought. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Walking in the Spirit

As having a steady forward movement, as requiring not only an action of the will, but purpose, strength, and circumspection, the Christian life is very well conceived in figure as walking. Now, there are two ways or roads on either of which we may be walking--a way of life and a way or death. And the way of life is not easy to find. It is full of questions. The paths divide and diverge at all angles. We do not travel by trains. The apostle uses the more accurate word. It is a “walk”--step by step--an individual, personal thing, with free choice, continual effort, and an onward movement. If it is to be worth anything, if it is to come to anything noble here, or immortal hereafter, life is costly. We must pay; we must think; we must watch and work, and perhaps suffer. We are equal to it, not in our own strength, but by a Power given us from above. What is the Power? Where is the Guide? To have the life that is glorious and eternal--all its failures forgiven, and its end perfect--perfect victory and perfect peace--we must “walk”--in that way? We come back to St. Paul He answers, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit.” He is positive and peremptory. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit.” There is one way to take and follow. There is a guide for this life. Walking is living; it is our life’s movement forward in this world. But how that shall be “in the Spirit” is what we want to know more perfectly. And here, as often happens, we are helped by contrasts. Throughout all this writing to the Galatians, and through all his preaching of the gospel of Christ, we find this grand expounder of it pointing out two opposite forces in the nature of every man. He has various names for them--“the law of the members and the law of the mind”--“the old man and the new man”--but oftenest “the flesh and the spirit.” It is popular language: we all know well enough what he means, not because the terms are precise, but because we are all conscious of having in ourselves the two things--if not always at work or at war, yet always there, ready to start up at any time and renew their battle. Take notice, the New Testament never says that the worse force of the two is wholly evil, or the better one wholly good. The gospel does teach everywhere that the spirit in man is the natural organ of what is highest and best in him, while the flesh is the natural organ of what is lower--the one connecting with the spiritual world above us, the other with the world below. St. Paul does preach, plainly and with all his might, that there is a struggle of each of these two forces for the mastery, and that it is a desperate fight till the right one gets the upper hand and rules. There are only two ways anywhere. It is one thing or the other. If we are not living in the spirit, we are living as part and parcel of a material world, which then overgrows and stifles the spirit, absorbs all interests into its outside show and passional comforts, then runs down, perishes, and has no immortality but the lingering one of the second death. If it is inquired then, What is our spiritual life? it is that within us which feels God to be a Father, which seeks and follows what is good in itself, which chooses what is lovely in conduct and generous in judgment, which tests friendships by their purity, and pursuits by their righteousness, which has faith in the unseen, which worships, which is touched and sometimes enraptured by the beauty of holiness. The spirit is that in us which would rather suffer than do wrong, and rather be crucified than mistake Caesar for the Saviour or Mammon for its maker. It would choose truth before falsehood: no matter what bribe is put into the balance with the lie. It is that by which we forgive injuries, and confess our own sins, and are willing to be made poorer for the kingdom of heaven’s sake, and take in the glorious sense of the encomium on charity in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. There is another contrast still. St. Paul, through all this passage, has in mind not only a comparison of the spiritual mind with the sensual and selfish mind, but of the life lived in the spirit and a life which looks somewhat like it, but at heart, under the surface, is a very different thing:--i.e., a life lived under a set of rules formed by external regulations, fashioned, pieced together, cut and dried by the law. You know how determined his assaults were always, in every sermon and every epistle, from his conversion at Damascus up to his martyrdom at Rome, on the system which sees nothing in religion but rule. The reason is that in a character shaped by outside rules you will never have anything deeper than an outside piety. It will not be character at all, but only the shell of it. The heart of love has not begun to beat, the Spirit of Christ has not begun to breathe in them. Whoever would be a Christian must be one heartily and cheerfully, not grudgingly or of necessity. The Christian life must spring and bubble up from within, not be fitted on from without. (Bishop F. D. Huntington.)

The positiveness of the Divine life

There are two ways of dealing with every vice that troubles us, in either ourselves or others. One is to set to work directly to destroy the vice; that is the negative way. The other is to bring in as overwhelmingly as possible the opposite virtue, and so to crowd and stifle and drown out the vice; that is the positive way. Now there can be no doubt about St. Paul. Here comes his poor Gatatian fighting with his lust of the flesh. How shall he kill it? St. Paul says not, “Do as few fleshly things as you can,” setting him out on a course of repression; but, “Do just as may spiritual things as you can, opening before him the broad gates of a life of positive endeavour. And when we have thoroughly comprehended the difference of these two methods, and seen how distinctly St. Paul chose one instead of the other, we have laid hold on one of the noblest characteristics of his treatment of humanity, one that he had gained most directly from his Lord. I should despair of making any one see the distinction who did not know it in his own experience. Everywhere the negative and the positive methods of treatment stand over against each other, and men choose between them. Here is a man who is beset by doubts, perhaps, about the very fundamental truths of Christianity. He may attack all the objections in turn, and at last succeed in proving that Christianity is not false. That is negative. Or he may gather about him the assurance of all that his religion has done, and sweep away all his doubts with the complete conviction that Christianity is true. That is positive, and that is better. We see the same principle, the superiority of the positive to the negative, constantly illustrated in matters of opinion. How is it that people change their opinions, give up what they have steadfastly believed, and come to believe something very different, perhaps its very opposite? I think we all have been surprised, if we have thought about it, by the very small number of cases in which men deliberately abandon positions because those positions have been disproved and seem to them no longer tenable. And even when such cases do occur, the effect is apt to be not good, but bad. The man abandons his disproved idea, but takes no other in its stead; until, in spite of their better judgment, many good men have been brought to feel that, rather than use the power of mere negation, and turn the believer in an error into a believer in nothing, they would let their friend go on believing his falsehood, since it was better to believe something, however stupidly, than to disbelieve everything, however shrewdly. But what then? How do men change their opinions? Have you not seen? Holding still their old belief, they come somehow into the atmosphere of a clearer and a richer faith. That better faith surrounds them, fills them, presses off them with its own convincingness. They learn to love it, long to receive it, try to open their hands and hearts just enough to take it in and hold it along with the old doctrine which they have no idea of giving up. They think that they are holding both. They persuade themselves that they have found a way of reconciling the old and the new, which have been thought unreconcilable. Perhaps they go on thinking so all their lives. But perhaps some day something startles them, and they awake to find that the old is gone, and that the new opinion has become their opinion by its own positive convincing power. There has been no violence in the process, nor any melancholy gap of infidelity between. It seems to me that there is something so sublimely positive in Nature. She never kills for the mere sake of killing, but every death is but one step in the vast weaving of the web of life. She has no process of destruction which, as you turn it to the other side and took at it in what you know to be its truer light, you do not see to be a process of construction. She gets rid of her wastes by ever new plans of nutrition. This is what gives her such a courageous, hopeful, and enthusiastic look, and makes men love her as a mother and not fear her as a tyrant. They see by small signs, and dimly feel, this positiveness of her workings which it is the glory of natural science to reveal more and more. We find the same thing in the New Testament. The God there revealed to us is not a God of repression, or restraint, but a God whose symbols should be the sun, the light, the wind, the fire--everything that is stimulating, everything that fosters and encourages and helps. Such is the God whose glory we see in the face of Jesus Christ. The distinction is everywhere. Not by merely trying not to sin, but by entering farther and farther into the new life, in which, when it is completed, sin becomes impossible; not’ by merely weeding out wickedness, but by a new and supernatural culture of holiness, does the saint of the New Testament walk on the ever-ascending pathway of growing Christliness, and come at last perfectly to Christ. This is the true difference between law and grace, add the New Testament is the book of grace. And this character of the New Testament must be at the bottom in conformity with human nature. The Bible and its Christianity are not in contradiction against the nature of the man they try to save. Let us never believe they are. They are at war with all his corruptions, and, in his own interest, though against his stubborn will, they are for ever labouring to assert and re-establish his true self. And in this fundamental character of the New Testament, by which it is a book not of prohibitions but of eager inspirations, there comes out a deep harmony between it and the heart of man. For man’s heart is always rebelling against repression as a continuous and regular thing. Man is willing to make self-sacrifices for a certain temporary purpose. The merchant will give up his home, the student shut his books, the mother leave her household for a time, to do some certain work. The world is full of self-sacrifice, of the suppression of desires, the forcing of natural inclinations; but all the while under this crust the fire is burning; all the time, under this self-sacrifice, there is a restless, hungry sense that it is not right, that it cannot be final; there is a crying out for self-indulgence. All the time there is a great human sense that not suppression but expression is the true life. And what has Christ to say to one, who, acting on this prompting of his nature, gives up restraint and tries indulgence? My brother, I can hear him say, you are not wholly wrong. Nay, at the bottom, you are right. Self-mortification, self-sacrifice, is not the first or final law of life. You are right when you think that these appetites and passions were not put into you merely to be killed, and that the virtue which only comes by their restraint is a poor, colour-less, and feeble thing. You are right in thinking that not to restrain yourself and to refrain from doing, but to utter yourself, to act, to do, is the purpose of your being in the world. Only, my brother, this is not the self you are to utter, these are not the acts you are to do. There is a part in you made to think deeply, made to feel nobly, made to be charitable and chivalric, made to worship, to pity, and to love. You are not uttering yourself while you keep that better self in chains, and only let these lower passions free. Let me renew those nobler powers, and then believe with all your heart and might that to send out those powers into the intensest exercise is the one worthy purpose of your life. Then these passions, which you are indulging because you cannot believe that you were meant to give your whole life up to bridling them, will need no forcible bridling, and yet, owning their masters in the higher powers which come out to act, they will be content to serve them. You will not fulfil your passions any longer, but the reason will not be that you have resumed the weary guard over your passions which you tried to keep of old. It will be that you have given yourself up so utterly to the seeking after holiness, that these lower passions have lost their hold upon you. You will not so much have crushed the carnal as embraced the spiritual. I shall have made you free. You will be walking in the Spirit, and so will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. Is not this Christ’s method? Is not this the tone of His encouraging voice? “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin,” but “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” It is the positive attainment and not the negative surrender. It is the self-indulgence of the highest, and not the self-surrender of the lowest, that is the great end of the gospel. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

The spiritual walk

I. The point from which we have to start--“Walk in the Spirit.” In every walk there is a place from which we first proceed. The starting-point for every man in the spiritual walk is a state of unrenewed nature, an unconverted, unregenerated condition.

II. Let us now proceed to our second part: “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” We have seen the point from which, we now consider the course by which we are to walk--“Walk in the Spirit.” But here there must first of all be life in order to our obeying this exhortation. A dead man walks not, moves not, from whence he is. But to walk not only requires life, there must be strength, and willingness to exert strength. The sick man often cannot walk, the slothful man often will not; the spiritually diseased and slothful walk not in the Spirit; but the Holy Ghost infuses an energy into the soul of man. But in walking beside life, strength, and willingness, there must likewise be a constraining motive to induce man to walk in the road marked out for his path. The constraining motive in the spiritual walk is the love of the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Redeemer. But still there must be a road marked out for walking. There is one marked out for each of you by the Holy Spirit; there is a way, little trodden indeed by the multitude, but well known to all who have gone, and who are going to heaven. It is a straight and a narrow way; it has its difficulties.

III. Our third part yet waits. A walk, we have seen, has a point whence, a way by which, and now a place whither men are walking. The point to which the spiritual walk is intended to lead is perfect holiness, meetness for heaven, yea, heaven itself. (J. Hambleton.)

The spirit and the flesh

When St. Paul talks of man’s flesh, he means by it man’s body, man’s heart and brain, and all his bodily appetites and powers--what we call a man’s constitution; in a word, the animal part of man, just what a man has in common with the beasts who perish. To understand what I mean, consider any animal--a dog, for instance--how much every animal has in it what men have,--a body, and brain, and heart; it hungers and thirsts as we do; it can feel pleasure and pain, anger and loneliness, and fear and madness: it likes freedom, company, and exercise, praise and petting, play and ease; it uses a great deal of cunning, and thought, and courage, to get itself food and shelter, just as human beings do; in short, it has a fleshly nature, just as we have, and yet, after all, it is but an animal, and so, in one sense, we are all animals, only more delicately made than the other animals; but we are something more--we have a spirit as well as a flesh, an immortal soul. If any one asks, what is a man? the true answer is, an animal with an immortal spirit in it; and this spirit can feel more than pleasure and pain, which are mere carnal, that is, fleshly things; it can feel trust, and hope, and peace, and love, and purity, and nobleness, and independence, and, above all, it can feel right and wrong. There is the infinite difference between an animal and a ,,nan, between our flesh and our spirit; aa animal has no sense of right and wrong; a dog who has done wrong is often terrified, but not because he feels it wrong and wicked, but because he knows from experience that he will be punished for doing it: just so with a man’s fleshly nature;--a carnal, fleshly man, a man whose spirit is dead within him, whose spiritual sense of right and wrong, and honour and purity, is gone, when he has done a wrong thing is often enough afraid; but why? Not for any spiritual reason, not because he feels it a wicked and abominable thing, a sin, hut because he is afraid of being punished for it. Now, in every man, the flesh and the spirit, the body and the soul, are at war. We stand between heaven and earth. Above us, I say, is God’s Spirit speaking to our spirits; below us is this world speaking to our flesh, as it spoke to Eve’s, saying to us, “This thing is pleasant to the eyes--this thing is good for food--that thing is to be desired to make you wise, and to flatter your vanity and self-conceit.” And where man’s flesh gets the upper hand, and takes possession of him, 1t can do nothing but evil--not that it is evil in itself, but that it has no rule, no law to go by; it does not know right from wrong; and therefore it does simply what it likes, as a dumb beast or an idiot might; and therefore the works of the flesh are--adulteries, drunkenness, murders, fornications, envyings, backbitings, strife. When a man’s body, which God intended to be the servant of his spirit, has become the tyrant of his spirit, it is like an idiot on a king’s throne, doing all manner of harm and folly without knowing that it is harm and folly. This is not its fault. Whose fault is is it, then? Our fault,--the fault of our wills and our souls. (C. Kingsley, M. A.)

Walking in the Spirit

I. We are to walk in the spirit of God.

II. How are we to know that we have the Spirit?

1. Not simply by natural conscience.

2. By the effect of the Spirit on the Christian life.

3. By a life that has an uniform God-ward tendency.

III. The Spirit must influence our daily life and actions.

1. The Spirit comes to young and old.

2. The Spirit influences in different ways.

3. His operation is necessary.

4. His operation must be deep and permanent. (Canon Tristram.)

The life and warfare of the Spirit in the soul

I. The work of the Spirit in the believer.

1. We live in the Spirit.

2. We walk in the Spirit. Activity the first symptom of life. This

3. We are led by the Spirit.

II. The reasons why the believer should be urged to maintain it.

1. We shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.

2. We are not under law. Freedom from

3. We shall be victorious in the great battle between the flesh and the Spirit.

The marks of a Christian

I. He “walks in” and is “led by the Spirit,” i.e., he has--

1. A heart always open to Divine influence.

2. A life subordinate to Divine rule.

II. He conquers the flesh.

1. In the inward strife described here, and in Romans 7:1-25., the Christian is not under the law of the flesh, but subdues the corrupt nature and brings it into subjection to the Spirit.

2. He does this daily.

III. He brings forth the fruits of the Spirit. Examine yourself by the list (verses 22, 23).

The principles and method of Christian life

I. The practical principles of the Christian life.

1. The virtues which are God-derived and God-ward.

2. Those which refer to our fellow-men--“longsuffering meekness.”

3. These belonging to the general disposition and habit of the soul, “Faith temperance.”

II. The method by which we appropriate these principles and make them effective in our character.

1. Negatively: the apostle does not

2. Positively: he tells us to “walk in the Spirit.”

III. Remember the true order of Christian life as here unfolded.

1. The bad is not overcome by mere abstinence from evil.

2. Be filled with the Spirit and evil will be overcome. (S. Pearson, M. A.)

The non-fulfilment of the lust of the flesh without the Spirit

I. When man trusts in anything he has done it cannot be God’s Spirit who leads to the doing of it.

II. No non-fulfilment of the lust of the flesh, which is not the result of walking in the Spirit, affords any proof of life in the soul.

III. The operations of grace may be closely imitated, though no change may have passed over the heart.

IV. In his endeavour to destroy men the devil may employ morality as well as villainy.

V. It is not enough for the mortification of the deeds of the body that the lusts of the flesh should appear unfulfilled.

VI. If, therefore, you would judge of the life in the soul by the command which is exercised over the body, you must bring into account the agency employed as well as the result effected. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Flesh and Spirit

Thou hast a double nature. Choose between the worst and the better that is within thee. Thou hast it in thy power to become the slave of passion, the slave of luxury, the slave of sensual power, the slave of corruption. Thou hast it also in thy power to become the free master of thyself, to become the everlasting benefactor of thy country, and the unfailing champion of thy God. (Dean Stanley.)

The Divine rule

Keep the spiritual nature uppermost. Give the spiritual man the advantage. Settle every account in the Spirit’s favour. It will not make everything convenient, or merry, or prosperous. There may be mistakes of judgment; life may seem like a strain of bad music pitched to a minor key; your ideals may not be attained. Never mind that. The voice rings out over all the contradictions and ruins, “This I say then, walk in the Spirit.” “To be spiritually minded is life and peace”--life now and peace at last. (Bp. Huntington.)

The Pauline ethics

are as stern and strict as those of any system which has ever been promulgated. The liberty on which he insisted was no cover, no apology, no defence for licence, for those wild and profligate excesses which the fanatics’ faith has sometimes permitted. The extravagances of the Adamites, of the Cathari, of the Anabaptists, have been quoted as a reproach on the genius of Christianity. In reality they are a homage to it. The claim of Christianity on the allegiance of men has been so strong that they who have repudiated its spirit have affected to call themselves by its name. The Israelites often fell into that idolatry which the law donounced, condemned, chastised. But there is no reason to think that they forgot their nationality in their sin. (Paul of Tarsus.)

Value of spirituality of mind

A beautiful flower--the wood sorrel--grows among the trees in some parts of England. It has shining green leaves, and transparent bells with white veins. When it is gathered roughly, or the evening dew falls, or the clouds begin to rain, the flower closes and droops; but when the air is bright and calm, it unfolds all its loveliness. Like this sensitive flower, spirituality of mind, when touched by the rough hand of sin, or the cold dews of worldliness, or the noisy rain of strife, hides itself in the quietude of devout meditation; but when it feels the influence of sunny and serene piety, it expands in the beauty of holiness, the moral image of God. (S. J. Wright.)

Entire consecration necessary

Suppose you were to buy a ouse and lot and an elegant residence, pay the money and get the deeds, and the day you were to go in the gentleman said, “Here’s the key to eight rooms, I have reserved two rooms.” “Didn’t I buy the house?” “Yes” “Well, what do you mean?” “I want to keep four tigers in one room, and the other I want to fill with reptiles. I want them to stay here.” You say, “Well, my friend, if you mean what you say I would not have your house as a gracious gift. You want me to move my family into a house where one room is full of tigers and the other full of snakes.” Many a time we turn over our whole heart to God, and when He comes in we have reserved some rooms for the wild beasts of pride and the hissing serpents of iniquity. Let me tell you, brethren, I won’t ask God to come and live in a house that I won’t let my family live in. Empty every room in the house, and then the heart is the centre of gravity to Jesus Christ, and He will come in and live with you. (S. Jones.)

How to overcome temptation

“Flee youthful lusts.” Fight not, but flee; or if fight you must, copy the old Parthians, who, seated on fleet coursers and armed with bow and arrows, shot from the saddle, flying as they fought. If you cannot flee, then in Christ’s name and strength face round on the foe, and make a bold stand for God; and the virtues of youth shall rebuke the vices of age, and hoary sin shall go down before you armed with God’s word, as did the Philistine before the young shepherd and his sling. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

How to vanquish sin

Prudence: “Can you remember by what means you find your annoyances at times as if they were vanquished? “Christian: “Yes, when I think what I saw at the cross, that will do it; and when I look upon my broidered coat, that will do it; also when I look into the roll that I carry in my bosom, that will do it; and when my thoughts wax warm about whither I am going, that will do it.” (John Bunyan.)


Verses 16-26

Verse 17

Galatians 5:17

For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.

Contest between flesh and spirit

Here is a battle--a struggle--described: one in which we must all fight. Our own corrupt and wilful hearts, and the Holy Spirit of God, are ever drawing us different ways; and we have to choose between them. This is the work of the will. God leaves us free. The Spirit draws, but does not drive: invites, not compels. There are four states in which we may be.

1. Before the struggle begins. The soul living utterly regardless of any will but his own, any law but his own desires; sin slumbering within him, lying hid and unknown; at peace with himself, and having no idea of his danger. Terrible condition; yet, alas! how many baptized Christians are in it.

2. The struggle going on. The sinner sees what God commands, and tries to obey. Then comes the difficulty. The mind approves one thing, but the flesh strives after another; and alas! how often the flesh comes off victorious.

3. The spirit subduing the flesh. Still a struggle, but by God’s grace the good is now conquering the evil, the Holy Spirit dwelling in the heart and making the will strong to persist in following the law of God. Oh, how happy, how blessed a state is this!

4. The struggle over. In the first state there was no struggle, because the evil held undisputed sway. In the second state there was a struggle, but it was the helplessness of the natural man striving in vain to fulfil the law of God. In the third state there is a struggle too, but now it is the grace and power of God striving in us against the rebellious nature which before held us captive, and that grace and power gain the victory. In the fourth state there is again no struggle. But it is because the battle has been fought, and the victory gained for ever. No more foes to oppose, no sins to do battle with. A state we may not look for in this life; but it shall be reached by all who persevere. A little while, and the last struggle will be over; and then--rest, peace, joy, glory, victory! (Bishop Walsham How.)

So that ye cannot do the things that ye would: The wrestle of humanity

The translation is wrong. The R.V. gives it correctly: “that ye may not do the things that ye would.” Here you have the flesh and the spirit personified: each has given to it intelligence, aim, purpose. Here is the man, the individual, the moral and spiritual personality--man with his moral capacity and power of volition, but volition is modified by influences from without. Here are two integral powers, standing on each side of the personality, and each of them is watching the action of the other as it may be, operating upon the human volition; when the spirit with its elevating thoughts, its intense desire, its strong aspirations, is operating upon the feeling and the soul, and when a man would act under that influence, then the flesh, watching its opportunity, comes with all its force and power, and endeavours to prevent it, so that “the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, that the man may not do the things he would.” What is the remedy for that? Why, you, the central personality, take sides with one, that there may be two against one. Throw your moral power and affections upon one side, walk in the spirit, yield to the spirit, hold to the spirit, and then you will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. You will then do the things that you would, under the spiritual influence of this gracious Agent. Hold, pray, strive, depend, look up with religious faith, and seek to have within you, strengthened continually, an intense repugnance to everything evil--to the influences and lusts operating upon you--and you will conquer. The flesh will be defeated, you will gain victory after victory; there will be sympathy after sympathy, strength after strength; and then it will come to pass that the flesh, and the devil in the flesh, will pass by you. (T. Binney.)

Self versus self

The Christian life is one of conflict between opposing forces designated respectively, the flesh and the spirit, i.e., between the old nature and the new; between Christians themselves usually so called, and that which is higher, stronger, holier, than themselves. It is a conflict, we may say, between Christ and anti-Christ: for the soul, on the battlefield of the soul. The old nature is strong and very active, and loses no opportunity of plying all the weapons of its deadly armoury against the new-born grace: the new nature, on the other hand, is ever on the watch to resist and destroy its enemy. Grace within us employs prayer and faith and hope to cast out evil All growing Christians are like men working under difficulties; like racers who must carry weights; like men rowing against wind and tide, yet compelled for dear life to row. This is not the popular conception of a Christian’s career. With some religious teachers Christianity is a mere sentiment; a given idea as to moral accountability, and as to escape through Jesus Christ, has to be fixed in the mind, and Presto! a man is “fully saved.” Such teaching is void of danger only when explained to mean that he who has seen his sinfulness, and rested upon his Saviour, has passed the strait gate and entered upon the narrow way. Men need salvation from their all but infinite conceits. There can be no salvation “unto the uttermost “ apart from character. Faith as a disposition must follow faith as an act.

1. A Christian’s life must be a battle from the nature of the case. Flesh and spirit are contrary as water and oil, as light and darkness, as good and evil; and so, to do the things they would and ought, Christians have to fight.

2. Because we gain immensely from fighting. All valuable discipline comes of difficulties faced and overcome. Better to fight and win than to obtain moral mastery without fighting. (J. S. Swan.)

Sins of infirmity

True faith is not shown here below in peace, but rather in conflict; and it is no proof that a man is not in a state of grace that he continually sins, provided such sins do not remain on him as permanent results, but are ever passing on into something beyond and unlike themselves, into truth and righteousness, As we gain happiness through suffering, so do we arrive at holiness through infirmity, because man’s very condition is a fallen one, and in passing out of the country of sin, he necessarily passes through it. This prevents holy men from regarding themselves with satisfaction, or resting in anything but Christ’s death as their ground of confidence. The following are some of the infirmities which, while they certainly beset those who are outcasts from God’s grace, are also possible in a state of acceptance, and do not necessarily imply absence of true faith.

1. Original sin. An evil principle within, dishonouring our best service. The old Adam, pride, profaneness, deceit, unbelief, selfishness, greediness, the inheritance of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; sin which the words of the serpent sowed in the hearts of our first parents, which sprang up and bore fruit, some thirty fold, some sixty, some an hundred, and which have been by carnal descent transmitted to us.

2. Sins arising from former evil habits, now abandoned. Sin once committed retains power over our souls; it has given a colour to our thoughts, words, works; and though, with many efforts, we would wash it out from us, yet this is not possible except gradually. Sloth, self-conceit, self-will, impurity, worldly-mindedness; sins such as these, though cast off, cling like a poisoned garment to the soul.

3. Sins arising from went of self-command; the conscience informed, but the governing principle weak. Difficult to do as one would wish--to govern the feelings, the tongue, the thoughts.

4. Sins which we fall into from being taken unawares.

5. Sins which rise from the devil’s temptations, inflaming the wounds and scars of past sins healed, or nearly so; exciting the memory, and hurrying us away; and thus making use of our former selves against our present selves contrary to our will.

6. Sins which rise from a deficiency of practical experience, or from ignorance how to perform duties which we set about. Men attempt to be munificent, and their acts are prodigal; they wish to be firm and zealous, and their acts are cruel; they wish to be benevolent, and are indulgent and weak; they do harm when they mean to do good; they engage in undertakings, or promote designs, or put forth opinions, or set a pattern, of which evil comes; they mistake falsehood for truth; they are zealous for false doctrines; they oppose the cause of God.

7. Unworthy motives, low views, mistakes in principle, false maxims.

8. Negligences and ignorances. Forgetfulness, heedlessness, want of seriousness, frivolity. All these infirmities may be and are found in persons living consciously sinful lives, and in them of course they only serve to heighten transgression and hasten judgment; but they are also to be found in persons free from wilful sin, and such persons need not despond, or be miserable on account of failings which in them are not destructive of faith or incompatible with grace. Who these are is only known for certain by God. He is able, amid the maze of contending motives and principles within us, to trace out the perfect work of righteousness steadily going on there, and the rudiments of a new world rising from out the chaos. He can discriminate between what is habitual and what is accidental; what is on the growth and what is in decay; what is a result and what is indeterminate; what is of us and what is in us. He estimates the difference between a will that is honestly devoted to Him, and one that is insincere. And where there is a willing mind He accepts it, “according to that a man hath, and net according to that he hath not.” In those whose wills are holy He is present for sanctification and acceptance; and, like the sun’s beams in some cave of the earth, His grace sheds light on every side, and consumes all mists and vapours as they rise. (J. H. Newman, D. D.)

Involuntary transgression

The soul of man is intended to be a well-ordered polity, in which there are many powers and faculties, and each has its due place; and for these to exceed their limits is sin; yet they cannot he kept within them except by being governed, and we are unequal to this task of governing ourselves except after long habit. While we are learning to govern ourselves we are constantly exposed to the risk, or rather to the occurrence of numberless failures. We have failures by the “way though we triumph in the end; and thus the process of learning to obey God is, in one sense, a process of sinning, from the nature of the case. We are feeble-minded, excitable, effeminate, wayward, irritable, changeable, miserable. We have no lord over us, because we are but partially subject to the dominion of the true King of saints. Let us try to do right as much as we will, let us pray as earnestly, yet we do not, in a time of trial, come up even to our own notions of perfection, or rather we fall quite short of them, and do, perhaps, just the reverse of what we had hoped to do. While there is no external temptation present, our passions sleep, and we think all is well. Then we think and reflect and resolve what we will do; and we anticipate no difficulty in doing it. But when the temptation is come, where are we then? We are like Daniel in the lion’s den; and our passions are the lions; except that we have not Daniel’s grace to prevail with God for the shutting of the lions’ mouths lest they devour us. Then our reason is but like the miserable keeper of wild beasts, who in ordinary seasons is equal to them, but not when they are excited. Alas! Whatever the affection of mind may be, how miserable it is! It may be a dull, heavy sloth, or cowardice, which throws its huge limbs around us, binds us close, oppresses our breath, and makes us despise ourselves, while we are impotent to resist it; or it may be anger, or other baser passion, which, for the moment, escapes from our control after its prey, to our horror and our disgrace; but anyhow, what a miserable den of brute creatures does the soul then become, and we at the moment literally unable to help it! I am not, of course, speaking of deeds of evil, the fruits of wilfulness, malice, or revenge, or uncleanness, or intemperance, or violence, or robbery, or fraud; alas! the sinful heart often goes on to commit sins which hide from it at once the light of God’s countenance; but I am supposing what was Eve’s case, when she looked at the tree and saw that the fruit was good, but before she plucked it, when lust had conceived and was bringing forth sin, but ere sin was finished and had brought forth death. I am supposing that we do not exceed so far as to estrange God from us; that He mercifully, chains the lions at our cry, before they do more than frighten us by their moanings or their roar, before they fall on us to destroy us: yet at best, what misery, what pollution, what sacrilege, what a chaos is there then in that consecrated spot which is the temple of the Holy Ghost! How is it that the lamp of God does not go out in it at once, when the whole soul seems tending to hell, and hope is almost gone? Wonderful mercy indeed it is which bears so much! Incomprehensible patience in the Holy One, so to dwell, in such a wilderness, with the wild beasts! Exceeding and Divine virtue in the grace given us, that it is not stifled! Yet such is the promise, not to those who sin contentedly after they have received grace; there is no hope while they so sin; but where sin is not part of a course, while it is still sin, whether sin of our birth, or of habit’s formed long ago, or of want of self-command, which we are trying to gain, God mercifully allows and pardons it, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from it all … To know thus much, that infirmities are no necessary mark of reprobation, that God’s elect have infirmities, and that our own sins may possibly be no more than infirmities, this, surely, by itself, is a consolation. And to reflect that at least God continues us visibly in His Church; that He does not withdraw from us the ordinances of grace; that He gives us means of instruction, patterns of holiness, religious guidance, good books; that He allows us to frequent His house, and to present ourselves before Him in prayer and Holy Communion; that He gives us opportunities of private prayer; that He has given us a care for our souls; an anxiety to secure their salvation; a desire to be more strict and conscientious, more simple in faith, more full of love than we are; all this will tend to soothe and encourage, us when the sense of our infirmities makes us afraid. (J. H. Newman, D. D.)

The traitor within

A garrison is not free from danger while it has an enemy lodged within. You may bolt all your doors and fasten all your windows; but if the thieves have placed even a little child within doors, who can draw the bolts for them, the house is still unprotected. All the sea outside a ship cannot do it damage till the water enters within and fills the hold. Hence, it is clear, our greatest danger is from within. All the devils in hell and tempters on earth could do us no injury if there were no corruption in our nature. The sparks will fall harmlessly if there is no tinder. Alas, our heart is our greatest enemy: this is the little home-born thief. Lord, save me from that evil man, myself. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Continuance of natural depravity in Christians

In material fruit-trees the sour nature of the wild plants that are grafted upon still continues in the stock or root, and is not taken away by ingrafting; it is only restrained and kept under by the graft. The nature of the graft is predominant in the tree, and overrules in bringing forth fruits according to its own kind (although with some small degree of the sour nature of the stock mixed with it), and the two natures of the graft and stock continue mixed together as long as the tree lives. This is a similitude of the state of mystical fruit-trees, and shadows forth to us this proposition: That corrupt nature abides in believers as long as they live, and is but in part subdued by grace. We find by experience that after plant is ingrafted, both the graft and the stock will shoot forth, and if the graft grow vigorously and strongly, then the shoots of the stock are but weak; but if the shoots of the stock break out strongly then the graft grows but weakly; therefore the husbandman takes pains often to cut off the shoots that grow upon the stock, so that the graft may grow the better. This is another similitude of the state of mystical fruit-trees, and shadows forth to us this proposition: That while the spiritual part in us acts and grows strongly, the fleshly part acts but weakly; so also, if the flesh be strong, the spirit is weak. This should teach us often to take notice of the actings of our spirits, whether the stock or the graft bud the faster. If we were watchful daily, and took pains with our spirits to keep them up in a spiritual frame in communion with God, then (by degrees) the shoots and growths of the spiritual part would become strong, and the shoots of the flesh weak and feeble. (Austen.)

The Christian’s conflicts

The conflicts of the Christian, “the flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh,” continue to the end of life, and may be compared to a conflagration which is opposed by engines, where the supply of water is scarcely equal to the demand, and not incessantly followed up. Sometimes the fire yields to the well-directed stream, and at other times it breaks forth with renewed fury, and seems to defy the efforts of those who would arrest its progress. (H. G. Salter.)

The believer’s struggle

The spirit and the flesh, grace and nature, heavenly and earthly influences, are sometimes so fairly balanced, that, like a ship with wind and tide acting on her with equal power but in opposite directions, the believer makes no progress in the Divine life. He loses headway. He does not become worse, but he grows no better; and it is all he can do to hold his own. Sometimes, indeed, he loses ground, falling into old sins. Temptation comes like a roaring sea-squall, and, finding him asleep at his post, drives him backward on his course; and, further now from heaven than once he was, he has to pray: Heal my backsliding, renew me graciously, love me freely. For Thy name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity, for it is great. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Conflict and conquest

I. The Fact Stated. “The flesh,” etc. Remnants of indwelling sin remain. “Flesh” does not mean “sinews,” “fibres,” etc., but carnal propensities. Fact stated shared by apostles. They no exception to general rule. Not by nature more saintly than ourselves. Indwelling sin affects all. Sinners not perfected in holiness here. Why?

1. To make us watchful. Common idea, “way to heaven easy.” Nature of sin misunderstood, so that men fly to it as moths to candle. But saints are taught another lesson. Sin is a deadly enemy. Truth is known, “flesh lusteth,” etc. This keeps them alive, watchful, safe. Sleep is fatal. The story is told that Satan once summoned his angels to inquire what they had been doing. One said, “ I saw a company of Christians crossing the desert, and I let loose the winds of heaven, and their bones are bleaching in the sun.” “What of that?” said Satan; “perhaps their souls are saved.” Another said, I saw a ship with missionaries on board, going to a heathen land, and I raised a storm and drowned them all.” “What of that?” said Satan; “perhaps their souls are saved.” And then came forward a subtle spirit, who said, “For fifteen years I have been trying to lull an old Christian to sleep, and I have just succeeded.” Whereupon there arose a shout of triumph, the bells of hell rang for joy, and Satan spoke approvingly. So the old nature is never made better, but a new one added. Always an enemy within.

2. That we may never mistake the grounds of our salvation. Works have no meritorious part. All of grace. Beginning (1 Corinthians 15:8-9), ending (Philippians 1:6). But only failures teach this. Past sins like past gales to the seaman--forgotten. Present sickness, distress, make us cling to friends. So indwelling sin and conflict bring the saint close to Christ.

II. The attitude of indwelling sin. Not dead or restful, quiet or submissive. Romans 7:23-24, describes a deadly feud, very unlike common idea of personal depravity. Never feud more deadly, not even the Wars of the Roses or the Indian Mutiny. Its nearness makes it so. If distant, less painful, less distressing. Near. I would press this. Saints contest every step. Bunyan’s description of Apollyon’s conflict with Christian graphically describes the state. Weapons vary, but enemy never. Pride, anger, lust, sloth, despair (Ephesians 6:11) “lusteth.”

III. The conquest. “So that ye,” etc. Not the flesh hindering grace. Vice versa. What a mercy! Shout of victory always follows cry of battle. Gospel purposes not accomplished when men, even Christians, are stationary. More glorious. Rich become liberal, godless godly, etc. (1 Corinthians 6:11). Not preach defeat. “Greater is He that is,” etc. Are you ready to despair? Think of the issue. Not always slaves or prisoners. Deliverance. Wait as Wellington behind the lines of Tortes Vedras. So you behind the grace of God. Then go forth to victory. (H. T. Cavell.)

The struggle of the flesh and the spirit

It is on this passage we offer the following reflections:--

1. Paul regards all the events that constitute the general course of the world, whether of private history or of public affairs, as the works of the flesh. As water cannot rise beyond its spring, so neither can life rise beyond its origin and inspiration. The natural life of man is “ animal.” The awful catalogue which is given of the “works of the flesh” (verse 19) is a condensed history of the weed of mankind in all latitudes and in all ages. There is a close alliance between man and the animal races. In this state the gospel finds mankind.

2. They that lead this animal life, under whatever form of civilization or barbarism, “cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8).

3. But God, in His mercy, has provided redemption for man from his fleshly or animal condition--from sin and its consequences--by the Incarnation of the Divine Word, by the sacrifice of the Cross, by the Resurrection of Christ, and by His new creating Spirit. Christ is the new Head of life for mankind--the second Adam. Those who are not born twice will die twice.

4. But God affords His Spirit of renovation to dwell with all believers. The Spirit originates a struggle of forces within the nature of a Christian, the issue of which, as with the unborn Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:22-23), is that the elder serves the younger, the newer vanquishes the older man--the wild and shaggy animal Nature is subdued in the Israel of God by the civilizing power of Divine grace. We are surrounded on all sides in the creation by the struggle of rival forces; gravitation and muscular power; the vital powers and the chemical laws; the opposing forces which combine to send the earth along its nearly circular orbit. But there is no struggle in physical nature half so interesting or half so glorious as this inward contest between the flesh and the spirit. It is emphatically a war between heaven and earth in the body and soul of man. The condition of the contest is that God by His Spirit supplies a new power in supplying a new life. It is the part of man, as a living and intelligent will, to yield to the inspirations of the new power and life, and so to overcome the works of the flesh. God does not operate irresistibly, as upon dead matter, but intellectually and spiritually, as upon honest mind. He “worketh in us to will and to do,” but we must “work out our own salvation.”

5. How does the Holy Spirit accomplish the work of renewal in the Divine image? As it were by infusing a new blood into the system--a new life. What is this life-blood? It is the truth of Christ. “Sanctify them by Thy truth” The old corrupt humanity is cut down. The new vine now bears fruit unto God, the “fruit of the spirit” of life in Christ Jesus. There is a new motive in life. God has become real, and near, and dear in Jesus Christ. Here are revealed the secrets of power, the mystery of that supernatural “life in Christ Jesus “ which begins in the gift of God, and repentance from dead works is strengthened by the assurance of salvation from sin already visible, and will be perfected in the resurrection. (Edward White.)

The conflict in man’s nature

The flesh represents, in St. Paul’s terminology, the whole brood of lower faculties, or that part of our nature which constitutes us animals; and the spirit represents manhood, or that whole class of faculties by which we are exalted into the higher sphere, by which we become sons of God. In a figurative way, he represents these two as in conflict. It is as if there were two bands of soldiers quartered in one tenement, having an upper and a lower storey. On the ground-floor is a company of brawling, drunken, unruly, brutal, cruel men; and in the story above them is a company of soldiers that are gentlemanly, and courteous, and humane, and well disciplined. And there are three states of affairs which may exist. The brawling soldiers below may govern the house; and then they will have hard times upstairs, for their supplies will be cut off, and they will starve. Or, a part of the time the gentlemen upstairs may govern the house, and part of the time the coarse brutal fellows downstairs may govern it; and then there will be a terrible conflict. And between the attempts of those upstairs to maintain discipline, and the attempts of those below stairs to break down discipline, the place will be a perfect pandemonium. There will be no peace there. They will be quarrelling perpetually. And so the animal nature and the manhood, in man, quarrel. Sometimes it is the lower nature that is in the ascendency; and then whatever things are above it--conscience, faith, hope, all spiritual tendencies, and all supernal tendencies--are at a discount. The upper part of the mind is starved out because of the absolute ascendency of the appetites and passions--of pride and selfishness, and envy and lusts, and all manner of evil feelings. Then, by and by, there is the second state--the state of resistance and conflict. The spirit wars against the flesh, and refuses to be in subjection to it. And while this war continues, sometimes one predominates and sometimes the other. The men upstairs to-day have the best of it, and the men downstairs tomorrow have the best of it. Nothing is settled, nothing is continuous; all is subject to chance. There is many a half-formed man who has no fixed habits of life, and in whom sometimes one part of his nature gets momentum and comes into the ascendency, and sometimes the other part. Sometimes those faculties which are seeking to do good govern, and sometimes those which are seeking to do evil govern. And to a greater or less extent there is a state of conflict between the upper and the lower nature, between the manhood and the animal, in everyone of us. Then comes that state in which, by the power of God’s Spirit, and by the discipline of life, complete ascendency is gained by our supersensuous nature. And all the other parts of our being “are brought into obedience,” as it is said, “to the Lord Jesus Christ.” Or, if you choose to follow out the psychological figure, the superior faculties in our souls assume control. And then there is peace. Then there is rest. (H. W. Beecher.)

Opposite tendencies of flesh and spirit

As a fair and gentle wife, starlike and dovelike, is given to the guardianship of some rude, coarse, uncultured nature, who treads among her sweet feelings as the hoof and the snout deal with flowers in the garden, so it is in this strange husband and wife, the body and the soul; the soul full of sweetness and gentleness, purity and delicacy, and the coarse animal body full of despotism, and swayings and conflicts of cruel passions; and they fare but ill in their wedded life on earth. The body looks down and searches the ground for its delights; the soul looks up, and, like an astronomer, culls treasures from among the stars, and beyond. The body eats and drinks; the soul thinks and feels. The body lives in the world, for the world, and with the world; the soul reaches far away to some higher life whose need it feels--but all is vague, but the wish, but the need. Strange visions rise; but neither to-day does the soul know its origin, nor to-morrow. The picture of beauty and of purity that rose bright in the morning has faded out before night. To-morrow mocks the expectation of to-day. The soul is like a bird caged from the nest, that yet remembers something of its fellows in the forest of green leaves, and in summer days hears snatches of song from far-off fields, and yearns, with all its little life, for that liberty which it has never proved, for that companionship which it so early missed, and for those songs which it never learned to utter, though it strives in broken notes for them-. Once some adventurous hunters, from a ledge of rocks, robbed an eagle’s nest of an eaglet. Brought home, he was reared among fowls, that he might perform domestic duty. As he grew, he grew apart from the children of the dunghill, and sat moody in sullen dignity. As his wings secretly grew strong, they were clipped. When on a summer’s day, wild in the heaven the hawk screamed, every fowl in the yard ran cowering to shelter; he, with flashing eye and discordant scream, reared himself to fly, but alas! he could not rise. He fell sick. He would have died, if he might. They let him alone. His pinions grew again. They forgot him. He forgot not. The sky was his. The great round of air, without line or bound, was his. And when, one neglectful summer day, all were dozing, from afar up in the sky--so far that none could see, or see only a floating speck--there came down a cry so faint that no ear might hear it-none but an eagle’s. Then, with sudden force, all its life beating in its breast, it sprang up. Away from the yard, its fowls, its owners, over the rick and over the barn, over the trees and over the hills, round and round in growing circles, beaten with growing power of wing, the freed eagle sought its fellow, and found its liberty right under the sun! And such, of many and many a soul, sad in bondage, valiant in liberty, has been the history. (H. W. Beecher.)

The two natures in a Christian

A Christian lives in two worlds at one and the same time--the world of flesh, and the world of spirit. It is possible to do both. There are certain dangerous gases, which from their weight fall to the lower part of the place where they are, making it destructive for a dog to enter, but safe for a man who holds his head erect. A Christian, as living in the world of flesh, is constantly passing through these. Let him keep his head erect in the spiritual world, and he is safe. He does this so long as the Son of God is the fountain whence he draws his inspiration, his motives, encouragement, and strength. (George Philip.)

Spiritual conflict

This is one of those many passages in the Bible which, from some causes or other, men have taken away from their first and proper and comforting sense, and invested with a dark and stern meaning. For most men, when they read these words--understand them to mean that, by reason of indwelling sin, “we cannot do the good things which we desire to do.” Whereas, the real intention of it is exactly the reverse--that by reason of “the good,” that is in us, “we cannot do the bad things,” which, nevertheless, we wish to do. That this is the chief and true signification, the whole line of thought proves. No one who knows anything of human nature, or of his own heart, can doubt, for a moment, that the ninth article of our Church is thoroughly and literally true, and that “the infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in the Greek, phronema sarkos, which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh, is not subject to the law of God.” Nay, many could give painful testimony that the more they have striven to do what is right, the more they have been dragged back again! that the stronger the light, the deeper has been the shadow! that the presence of God in them seemed to serve only to stir up the violence of the wicked one! The fact is that the process of sanctification, in a man, is not exactly what almost all of us beforehand thought it would be. It is not in the main that evil gradually ceases, and good gradually takes its place. It is not the extirpation of sin at all--but it is the subjugation of sin. The Philistines are yet in the land, in their strongholds, though the land belong to the people of God. I am not sure that what is wrong in a man is at all diminished by his sanctification. It is rather (if I may so call it) the increase of grace than the decrease of nature. Imaginations--the wicked desires--are all there; and there they are in their strength, their tremendous strength! Do not doubt it. They are there to the very end! Witness the falls, the awful falls of Christian men--long after their conversion! Witness the fearful struggles which we all have passed through sometimes! Sin lives a subject, a slave, a rebel--but Christ reigns! Ah! brethren, what if there were not something by reason of which “we could not do the things that we would?” This, then, brings us to the immediate force of St. Paul’s words. The way to subdue sin is to introduce a master-power. You will never actually destroy the wrong will; but you must neutralize it by another will. You must bring in, and cultivate, and enlarge the prohibitive and preventive forces of the heart, till at last you have come to the state that “you cannot do the things that you would.” Let us look at this a little in detail. I will take one of you who is still much too fond of the world. The world exercises a particular fascination over that man. He is probably ashamed of the influence; and yet he is unable to resist it. At last, the fact is certain, that he goes more into the world than is good for his soul; and he knows that he does. Now, what shall we say to that man? No man can really and honestly live higher than his level. While the level of your heart--its tastes, and pleasures, and ideas--is the level of the world, into the world, of course, you will go. It would not do much good--it would not make you a better Christian--if you kept out of it. What you want is to raise your level. You want to taste pure pleasures--to have a higher ambition--to pursue more satisfying objects to live in a holier atmosphere--to get into an upper range. How shall you do this? You must accept the love of God--you must have more peace--you must have more real communion with God--more of the spiritual life, with all its deep, absorbing influences--more of the fellowship with God’s people--more work done for usefulness, and for the Church, and for Christ. As soon as ever you reach that point, those lesser things will descend in the scale; they will not be congenial to the new life; they will become insipid; they will be actually distasteful. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The conflict of the Christian life

I. Its feature.

1. The flesh has its desires, so has the spirit as acted upon by the Spirit of God; and both are strong, contradictory, and antagonistic.

2. The struggle between the two is a matter of the commonest Christian experience.

3. The Divine nature is imparted to us with all its love and longing that the flesh with its lusts may be overcome.

4. The nobler shall be victor over the meaner.

II. Its purpose.

1. That the antagonism of righteousness and unrighteousness may work out the highest good and accomplish the destiny of the faithful.

2. To prevent the Christian life becoming one of impulse, merely the doing simply as we would because we will it.

3. To force on us the task of deliberation and wise resolve; to make us choose as well as will, and determine as well as choose, and thus--

4. To add the steadfastness of Christian purpose to the eagerness of Christian passion. (A. Mackennal, B. A.)

I. The flesh desires ease, and thus comes into collision with the spirit, which requires us to fight the good fight of faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).

II. The flesh desires excitement, whereas the spirit requires us to deny ourselves and take up our cross.

III. The flesh desires distinction, whereas the spirit’s injunction is to humility (Philippians 2:3-4; Matthew 20:26; Romans 12:10).

IV. The flesh desires to make self supreme, whereas the spirit desires to make God supreme. (W. Landells, D. D.)

There are eight main incom-modities which the soul hath cause to complain of in her conjunction with the body.

1. The defilement of original sin.

2. A proneness to actual sin.

3. The difficulty of doing well.

4. The dulness of our understanding in the things of God.

5. Perpetual self-conflict.

6. Racking solicitude of cares.

7. Multiplicity of passions.

8. Retardation of our glory. (Bishop Hall.)

We must fight the flesh

You that carry flesh and blood about with you, and sinful natures, and do perceive the conflicts of the flesh against the spirit, weigh with yourselves what it is the flesh conflicts with you for: it is no less than for the immortal soul, as the Apostle Peter tells you, “I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” The flesh aims to damn the soul. It is in this con, flict, as Caesar said in the battle he had once in Africa with the children and partakers of Pompey, that, in other battles, he was wont to fight for glory, but there and then he was obliged to fight for his life. Remember thy precious soul lies at stake in this conflict. (Christopher Lowe.)

Evil thoughts perilous

A gossamer thread is attached to an arrow, and shot through the air unseen, over an impassable chasm. Fixed on the other side it is sufficient to draw over a cord. The cord draws over a rope, the rope draws over a bridge, by which a highway is opened to all comers. Thus is the gulf passed that lies between the goodly character of a youth fresh from his father’s family, and the daring heights of iniquity on which veteran libertines stand. “Out of the heart,” said He who knows it, “proceed evil thoughts.” Yes, but what come out next? “Murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” A horrible gang. How quickly they come on. Once the fountain were cleansed, the streams of life would be pure. So thought David, when, in an agony of grief, he cried, “ Create in me a clean heart, O God.” (W. Arnot, D. D.)


Verse 18

Galatians 5:18

But if ye be led of the Spirit ye are not under the law.

The guidance of the Spirit

1. The Spirit is a person. The personality of the Spirit is a doctrine freely confessed by us in our creed, but often denied by us in thought, converse, prayers. He comes to have with us only the indefiniteness of an impulse and the impersonalness of an influence, with none of that substantive being, intelligence, and will that constitutes the Holy Spirit a true and complete personality.

2. The Spirit is in some way the continuance to us, under altered conditions, of that same Jesus, who once walked among men in visible form, and in the utterance of tones that were audible. In a way He is the Son’s messenger; and so, in letting ourselves be actuated by the Spirit, we are living still under the same personal regime as did the disciples who walked in the companionship of Jesus. (Chas. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

Christian freedom

The text has its affirmative and also its negative element. In neglecting the latter, and addressing ourselves (as is more satisfactory) only to its affirmative and constructive aspect, it needs to be accepted as our basal principle, that through whatever stages God’s government passes, God’s government never ceases, and that changes of dispensation are not breaks in Divine authority, but alterations simply in God’s method of administering His authority. This principle is distinctly implied in the text. The Jew as such is under the law, amenable to God’s authority as exercised through Moses: the Christian as a Christian is also under a kind of law, amenable to God’s authority as exercised through the Son, the Holy Spirit--sovereignty, Divine sovereignty, carrying its exercise through both dispensations in one uninterrupted continuity without hint of break or interregnum. Now the conception we are likely to have of Christianity is of a system under which there is larger liberty enjoyed than under the system of Moses; and this conception, provided only we associate with the word “liberty” its true notion, is justified, and justified by the Scripture (John 8:32-33; John 8:36; 1 Corinthians 7:22; 2 Corinthians 3:17). But I question if we are all of us, or even most of us, quite careful or accurate in the notion we have of the thing called “freedom.” Freedom is not exemption from government; rather is freedom a form of government. Anarchy, lawlessness, is the opposite of government; freedom is a special variety of government. Political freedom is civil authority vested in a particular way. Christian freedom is Divine authority vested in a particular way; so that in coming out from the bondage of a Jew into the freedom of a Christian, there is no inquiry to be had respecting the abatement of authority, but only respecting the new point at which authority is vested and the new manner in which it is exercised. (Chas. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

Freedom only for the spiritual

If”… A man may live in an age of gospel, but it does not follow from that that he lives under the administration of the gospel. Christ has come into the world, but it does not follow that He has come into my heart and set up His throne there. The Holy Spirit is abroad in society, and there are thousands and hundreds of thousands that are being led by that Spirit. It does not follow from that, that I am being led by it. If I am led by it, I am not under the law; if I am not led by it, of course I am under the law. I have not escaped the pressure of Divine authority at one point until I have first put myself under the pressure of Divine authority at another point. We read in the Book of Numbers that a man gathered sticks on the Sabbath, and he was stoned at the Lord’s command; and our thought perhaps is that God used to be very particular. We read in the book of Joshua that Achan, the son of Zerah, was guilty of embezzlement, and that at the Lord’s command he and his sons and his daughters were stoned with stones and burned with fire; and our thought perhaps is that the Lord used to be very particular. He used to be particular to be obeyed. There is so much in the New Testament respecting love, liberty, and the abolition of old ordinances, that we allow ourselves sometimes to be betrayed into supposing that the old dispensation was the dispensation of man’s submission to God, and that the new dispensation is the dispensation of God’s submission to man; that the gospel is a kind of giving up on God’s part, a sort of confession that He is not disposed to be particular about little things any more, and that it hardly avails Him to attempt to be particular about little things. Now, this conception of the gospel as an economy of Divine “relaxation,” Divine “letting down,” Divine “giving up,” is one that yields bitter fruit; it makes the gospel contemptible by making it irresolute … Calvary proves that the truth is exactly the opposite of such a notion as this--that God thinks so much of His own sovereignty that He would rather have Divine blood shed than not have you and me respect that sovereignty and come into terms of gentle allegiance to it …. The man who discards the punctilious observance of God’s outward statutes because he lives in an age of gospel, without having first submitted himself to the governance of an inward Christ, and to the laws written by the Spirit upon the fleshly tables of the heart, has detached himself from God at one point, without having first attached himself to God at another point. (Chas. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

Superiority of spiritual to legal guidance

The old administration was an administration of exterior lines that men could see: the new administration is an administration of interior personal impulses that men can feel. God drew the lines: God gives the impulses. Moses was the agency then: Christ is the agency now; one government underlying both, one sovereign administrative in both. In one case it was government by communicated statute; in the other it is government by immanent leadings. In one the law was a thing distinct from us, and laid down for us to run upon, like railroad-irons spiked and bedded before a locomotive; in the other the impulse is a thing inwardly contained and inseparable from us, in a certain way like the instinct of a bird guiding it southward at the approach of winter. In various ways might this distinction between government by applied constraint and government by contained motive be illustrated to us. Any bar of wood or metal you can balance upon a pivot and constrain into a north and south direction; a magnetic needle delicately suspended in the same way will constantly constrain itself into a north and south direction. An applied constraint in one instance, an immanent tendency in the other. Although it will occur to you, I hope, that even this immanent tendency of the magnetized needle becomes operative only as celestial polarity makes itself in a delicate way inwardly felt. The needle would not move only as the heavens move in it. Or again--one pupil solves a problem according to the rule stated in his arithmetic; another pupil solves the same problem purely at the direction of his own mathematical insight. The result may be the same--the steps by which the result is reached may be the same; but in the latter instance the process will be purely intellectual, and in the former to a considerable degree mechanical; for between such constrained operations of mind and the operations of a Babbage’s calculating machine the points of resemblance are obvious and striking. This contrast, however, must not betray us into supposing that our gifted problem-worker is not as amenable, quite as amenable, to authority, as the boy who ciphers with his finger on the rule. When a man becomes a genius, a mathematical genius if you please, he passes out from under the constraints of his book, but not from under the supremacy of his science. There is no caprice about genius. Genius does not care much for a set of explicit regulations, but that does not mean that genius is lawless; in fact no mind comes so close to, and into such loyal intimacy with, the very substance of mathematical law as the free and the gifted mathematician. So far from genius discarding law, rather is it the supreme joy of genius to re-enact the eternal and unwritten law in the chamber of its own intellect. And however the Christian, the moral genius, may discard systems of detailed ordainment suited to a slow-paced Hebrew, so far from a Christian’s denying the great supremacy beneath which he stands, rather is it his sovereign joy to re-enact in the senate-chamber of his own conscience the unwritten law that abides eternal in the bosom of his Lord. (Chas. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

The Spirit’s leading

We cannot put one foot before another in religion, except as we are led; and if there be difficulty of a more than common order, it is that which encounters the man who takes upon himself to be his own guide in seeking salvation. We are not, indeed, machines; we are not to be the subjects of an uncontrollable impulse, or a rigid compulsion, destroying free will, and forcing us into righteousness; but if we be not, drawn, we must be led; if there be no bending of the will which would destroy our moral responsibility, there must be a bending of the will which would incline us to godliness. Helpless and hopeless is man’s natural estate: born in sin, cradled in sorrow. The Spirit of the living God enters into this alienated creature, lifts him from the dust, urges him with vigour, and introduces him into the circle of the celestial family, leading him to the knowledge of all that is most blessed and to the love of all that is most beautiful, leading him from ruin to triumph, from the wreck of all that Adam was to the fulness of all that Christ Jesus is. Whom else, then, shall I take as my guide? Shall I be led by reason? Meteor of a day, I cannot trust thee. Shall I be led by philosophy? Device of man, thou canst not bring me to God. Oh, Spirit of light, Spirit of truth, enter Thou into our souls, and go Thou before us, as went the fiery cloudy pillar before Israel of old; and we will follow Thee, and we will obey Thee; making it our confidence, that, if we are led of Thee, we are sons of God and heirs of immortality. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

A disposition to follow the guide needed

The case is not merely that the man has lost his way. The traveller who is conscious that he has wandered from the road is uneasy at advancing, so that he will climb every little eminence as that from which he may hope to catch some landmark; and if none be around him, he will look up to the stars, and seek to learn from the constellations the direction he should take; and all his actions will betray his anxiety. If he hear but the barking of a shepherd’s dog, or discern a glimmering light amongst distant trees, there will be an eagerness in endeavouring to procure intelligence, and to seek guidance. But there is nothing of all this in the moral traveller. He will follow with obstinate determination the path upon which he has entered. And though there be much to assure him of his error--the rugged rocks, and deep mountains, and tangled forests--he will nevertheless push desperately on, pausing now and then for a moment, as though half conscious that all is not right, and then with a more dogged resolution hurrying forward in the same hopeless course. Thus he requires something more than a guide; he must be furnished with a disposition to follow. And when we say that the Spirit of God leads the true Christian, we do not mean that it merely goes before him as a guide and a director to the city of refuge. Nay, but that it takes hold on him, as did the angel when he brought Lot out of Sodom. We rather mean that the Spirit literally leads him by dwelling in him, residing in him as a quickening and actuating principle. (Chas. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

The leading of the Spirit

These words have before now been must mischievously mistaken by ignorant persons who were glad enough to suppose that by Christian privilege they were put out of the reach of the law. The meaning is as follows:--The Holy Spirit of God puts into the heart of man the Spirit of Christ, and this is the Spirit to think and do “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report.” Now if a man have in himself the spirit for a thing, what needs he any outward ordinance to compel him to it? To the man who is led by the Spirit the works of the law of God are the natural outward, working of his spirit, as natural to him as the very motion of his limbs; he does not want them to be written down, any more than he requires to be told that he must move his arms and legs, and they can neither condemn him nor justify him; he is what he is without them, before he comes to them; and, as St. Paul says, he, “through the Spirit, waits for the hope of righteousness by faith;” so independent is he of them. Is it not manifest, then, that he who is led by the Spirit is not, under the law? Let us go on, then, to know more concerning this Spirit, in which we are called into such glorious liberty. It is, as I have said, the Spirit of Christ within a man, formed there by the renewing power of the Holy Spirit; it is the new, the inner, the spiritual man, and the walk of this man is, of course, a following of Christ, a continual working out of that which he believes; for instance, he believes that Christ was crucified, therefore he crucifies the flesh with the affections and lusts; he believes that Christ died, therefore he reckons himself dead unto sin; he believes that Christ rose again, therefore he reckons himself alive unto God through Him; he believes that Christ ascended into heaven, therefore he sets his affections on things above; he believes that Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, administering His kingdom and interceding for His people, therefore he does all that His kingdom may come and His will be done, and is instant in prayer; he believes that Christ will come again to judge the quick and the dead, therefore he does the part of a faithful servant in watching and waiting for his Lord. Our notion of perfect liberty in the flesh is to do everything that we like; but experience soon tells us that the notion is impossible. But the true Christian does everything that he likes, for he does everything from the heart, because of the spirit which is within him. This it is to be led by the Spirit; this is the liberty wherewith Christ hath made His people free. Shall we not desire to stand fast in it? Shall we surrender ourselves to the bondage of the law? Let us only consider a little farther the difference of these two states.

1. To be under the bondage of the law, is either to take merit to ourselves for obeying it, or to bring its vengeance upon us by disobeying it; in either ease it is a hard master indeed.

2. Surely, then, there is no real liberty but that wherewith the gospel of Christ makes us free. Let me state a few particulars of this also. The man of God, continuing in the word of Christ, and led by the Spirit, uses the law as he does a road; he is not guided by it, any more than a man perfectly acquainted with a country is guided by it, but he uses it to travel along through this world, and he delights in it, as in a road to a better place, and as in the exercise of his spirit. As for the commandments of God, he loves them, and in His statutes he meditates. The word of God is a lamp unto his feet and a light unto his path. He feels no unwillingness; he has no mind for pleading excuses and making delays; but he deplores the weakness of the flesh, which in this body of sin cannot follow up the willingness of the spirit, and he strives to put to full account all the means which God hath so graciously given in Jesus Christ our Lord for enabling him to keep the precepts and testimonies of the Lord. He takes to himself no merit for keeping them, any more than for eating or drinking, or satisfying any craving of his nature; the leading of the Spirit makes the will of God his will, and therefore doing the will of God is doing his own will, so that while he keeps the law he is not subject to it. (R. W. Evans, B. D.)

Beside the spirit of our mind (Ephesians 4:23) every man is led by some spirit or other.

1. One is led by the spirit of error (1 Timothy 4:1).

2. Another by the spirit of giddiness (Isaiah 19:14).

3. Another by the spirit of bondage (verse 1; Romans 8:15).

4. Another by the spirit of the world (1 Corinthians 2:12).

5. The regenerate by the Spirit of God.

I. How may a man know that he is truly led by the Spirit? The Spirit leads--

1. In a right way: the way of God’s commandment.

2. By a just rule: the word of truth.

3. Sweetly and justly.

4. In a constant way of progression, from grace to grace.

5. In a way opposed to the flesh.

II. Who are those who are not led by the Spirit?

1. Those who go in a known evil way.

2. Those who are led by their own imaginations without any warrant from the Word of God.

3. Those who are carried by passions and distempers even in a good way.

4. Those who make no progress.

5. Those who fulfil the lust of the flesh. (Bishop Hall.)

I. The need of guidance and help.

1. We are ignorant of the road.

2. Have defective vision and cannot see our way.

3. Are lame and impotent.

II. We should seek for this guidance and help. This is what a lost, benighted, or disabled traveller does. Man, however, does the opposite, and pursues his journey perversely, blindly, helplessly.

III. We must be provided spiritually with what an ordinary traveller has mentally,

1. A disposition to seek the right way.

2. A willingness to receive every help in the pursuit of it.

IV. This is supplied by the Spirit of God.

1. He leads by dwelling in the believer as a quickening and actuating principle ever aspiring after knowledge and holiness.

2. Under His guidance the believer advances--

(a) of the person and work of Christ;

(b) of the issues of obedience and suffering;

(c) of Christ’s spiritual kingdom.

(a) In inward graces;

(b) in outward deportment.

V. This leading is not driving.

1. The free will is not destroyed by uncontrollable impulses or rigid compulsion.

2. The will is so influenced as to be inclined to holiness. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

The spiritually guided not under the law

I. Negatively. I am not under the law--of picking pockets. If the law were abolished to-morrow, I would not pick anybody’s pocket. I am not under the law of murder; for if there were no gallows, nor officer, nor judge, nor court, I would not murder. I am not under the law to drunkenness. I can go by a whole regiment of shops and never think of turning in. I am above it. I have the law within me. I do not abstain from gambling because gambling is disreputable, and I fear losses. I do not gamble because I do not want to. I do not avoid bad company because I should lose respectability; but for the same reason that musicians do not sit down and work out discords, and who keep to harmony because harmony is so sweet, and discord so painful. And so in regard to spiritual things, we are led by the Divine Spirit into such a state of approbation and satisfaction in the higher things, that we do not want the inferior, the antagonistic, the antithetic.

II. Positively. There is not in all the statute books in the world one single word saying to the mother, “Thou shalt love thy babe.” There is not a Church or creed which says, “Thou shalt feed thy babe.” But see the mother as the twilight darkens, sitting with her child as it draws sustenance from her own bosom, and singing sweet carols, and counting it the proudest of all the hours of the day. She has the love of the mother in her, and does the things that ought to be done, because she loves to do them--it is automatic. So if ye be led of the Spirit ye do the things by the law that is in you, and by your spiritual preferences and loves and likes, which otherwise are commandments. (H. W. Beecher.)

From bondage to liberty by obedience

Consider how many laws there are which affect a man’s body--the laws of light, of heat, of gravitation, of sleep, of digestion, of exercise, dec., etc. When men are young and inexperienced, and have no one to teach them they get into trouble by violating these laws. They have no mind to keep them, and they suffer in consequence. They are in bondage respecting these laws. But as they learn more perfectly, so that they use their eyes according to the law of light, and their ears according to the law of sound, and their mouth according to the law of health; selecting this thing because the law requires, rejecting that because the law forbids it--then they are set free from these trials, and pass out of a state of bondage into a state of liberty. The little child when it begins to walk has to think where it shall put this foot and where it shall put that, and has to poise itself carefully, and use its mind as well as its body. But a man walks without thinking. What is the difference? One is under the law--has not learned it--is yet subject to it; the other has learned it so perfectly that he is emancipated from it. The man does automatically, what it requires an effort on the part of the child to do. The child is in bondage and the man is free, because the child does not keep the law, and the man does. (H. W. Beecher.)

The Holy Spirit our light

A man has lost his way in a dark and dreary mine. By the light of one candle, which he carries in his hand, he is groping for the road to sunshine and to home. That light is essential to his safety. The mine has many winding passages, in which he may be hopelessly bewildered. Here and there marks have been made on the rocks to point out the true path, but he cannot see them without that light. There are many deep pits into which, if unwary, he may suddenly fall; but he cannot avoid the danger without that. Should it go out, that mine will be his tomb. How carefully he carries it! How anxiously he shields it from sudden gusts of air, from water dropping on it, from everything that might quench it! The case described is our own. (Newman Hall.)


Verse 19

Galatians 5:19; Galatians 5:21

Now the works of the flesh are manifest.

The works of the flesh our own

It is the same with all the passions and appetites. No one of them ever leaves a man, who indulges them, just where he was before. No one of them is a mere dry, isolated fact, that drops into his record and stops there. If a bank-clerk steals his employer’s money, we do not put our funds in his hands, as if that were a simple fact, and he the same as before. If a woman loses her purity by a single act, no sensible man seeks her in marriage, on any theory that he can afford to condone the fall. Such is the nature of the soul that it lives in its own issues, or dies in its own empoisoned evil deeds. They are all our works--ours only. God has no part in them; good angels have no part in them; yea, that thing in us, which is truest self, the conscience, resists and struggles against them. As the eye weeps and inflames at the irritation of a grain of sand, so the conscience resists and inflames before the works of the flesh--before “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, and such like.” I do not wonder at the despair, the black despair, which, like a dark night in winter of clouds and sleet and chill, settles down on such souls as are victims to bodily lusts, namely, hatred, envyings, murders, drunkenness, and such like; and men hear the howling of fiends, and see lurid lights, and moan of a hell of fears, horrible to think of, as yawning before them. These things are the inheritance of their election. (C. H. Hall, D. D.)

The works of the flesh

I. What is flesh? It is taken for--

1. The whole man (Genesis 6:3).

2. The mortal body (2 Corinthians 7:1; Galatians 2:20).

3. The ceremonies of the law (Galatians 3:3; Galatians 6:12; Philippians 3:3), because performed by the body.

4. The human nature of Christ (Romans 1:3; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 4:1) as spirit for the Divine (Romans 1:4).

5. All mankind (Genesis 6:12; Isaiah 40:6).

6. The human nature, as corrupt, or a state of sin (Ephesians 2:3; Romans 7:5). This denotes the corruption of soul as well as body (Romans 8:6, Colossians 2:18).

7. The unregenerate part in the regenerate man (Romans 7:18).

II. What are works? Whatsoever proceeds from the body of death.

III. How are they manifest?

1. By the light of nature.

2. They cannot be hid (Hebrews 4:13).

Conclusion:

1. Take notice of them.

2. Labour against them. They are

Though some have all flesh and no spirit, none have all spirit and no flesh. (Bishop Beveridge.)

Adultery

I. Its nature. It is a vice opposed to chastity, and may be committed--

1. In the heart (Matthew 5:28); and therefore

2. In the act.

II. its greatness as a sin.

1. It is frequently forbidden.

2. It is destructive to self and others.

3. It is the occasion of many sins.

4. It is a punishment as well as a sin (Proverbs 22:14; Romans 1:24).

5. It consumes a man’s estate (Proverbs 5:10; Proverbs 6:26; Job 31:12).

6. The body also (Proverbs 5:11).

7. It defiles the body (1 Corinthians 6:18).

8. It darkens a man’s judgment and understanding Hosea 4:11).

9. It destroys the whole soul (Proverbs 6:32).

10. It brings irreparable is grace (Proverbs 6:33).

11. Ordinarily it is punished in this life (Numbers 25:6; 1 Corinthians 10:8).

12. Certainly in the life to come (Hebrews 13:4; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

III. Its prevention.

1. Avoid the occasions.

2. Make a covenant with thine eyes (Job 31:1).

3. Watch over thy thoughts (Malachi 2:16),

4. Keep in with God (Proverbs 22:14).

5. Delight in the Word of God (Proverbs 2:10-16).

6. Be much in prayer and meditation (Psalms 119:37). (Bishop Beveridge.)

Fornication

I. What It Is. When two single persons come together out of the state of matrimony (Deuteronomy 22:28).

II. Its Sinfulness.

1. Contrary to God’s command (1 Corinthians 6:18; Ephesians 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:3).

2. Provokes God’s anger (Colossians 3:5-6; Jeremiah 5:7; Hosea 4:14).

3. God will judge it (Hebrews 13:4; 1 Corinthians 3:9). (Bishop Beveridge.)

Uncleanness

I. Inward.

1. The desire of strange flesh, with a resolution to enjoy it if he could (Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:5).

2. Sinful lusts and affections (James 1:15).

3. Unclean thoughts.

II. Outward. Adultery, fornication, incest or nameless infamies. (Bishop Beveridge.)

Lasciviousness

Wantonness, whereby the soul is inflamed to the other sins, expressed:

I. In apparel.

1. Excess.

2. Lightness (Proverbs 7:10).

3. Singularity (2 Samuel 13:18).

4. Of a contrary sex,

II. Gestures.

1. Wanton looks, etc. (2 Peter 2:14; Job 31:1).

2. Wanton walking, etc. (Isaiah 3:16).

III. Meat and drink.

1. The quantity (Ezekiel 16:49).

2. The quality (Luke 16:19).

IV. Words.

1. Foolish (Ephesians 5:3-4).

2. Obscene talking (1 Corinthians 15:33). (Bishop Beveridge.)

Idolatry

I. Its nature. The worshipping of anything besides God, so as--

1. To pray to them (Isaiah 44:17),

2. To sacrifice to them (2 Kings 17:35).

3. To build temples and altars to them (Hosea 12:11).

4. Asking counsel of them (Hosea 4:12).

5. Thanking them ( 16:23-24; Daniel 5:4).

II. Those who are guilty of it.

1. Heathens, who worship--

2. Christians.

III. the greatness of the sin.

1. It is frequently forbidden (Exodus 20:3-4).

2. Severely punished (Exodus 22:20 : Deuteronomy 17:3-5).

3. No sin can bring greater dishonour to God (Jeremiah 2:13).

4. It will certainly bring thee to hell (Revelation 21:8; Revelation 22:15).

Witchcraft

I. The biblical estimate of it.

1. As a stern and diabolical reality (Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:19).

2. As unlawful trafficking with the unseen world (Leviticus 19:31; Isaiah 8:19).

3. As sometimes trickery and imposture (Isaiah 8:19).

4. As filthy defilement (Leviticus 19:31).

5. As deserving death (Leviticus 20:6; Exodus 22:18).

6. As one of the crimes for which the Canaanites were destroyed.

7. As inconsistent with a trust in God (Isaiah 8:19).

8. As frustrated by God (Isaiah 44:25).

9. As a power from which the godly have nothing to fear.

II. Its prevalence.

1. Amongst the heathen. Pythagoras, Plutarch, Pompey, Croesus, Caesar, were all under its spell.

2. The progress of modern civilization has not exterminated it.

3. But whilst it assumes the form of astrology, with its star-gazing; palmistry, with its handwriting; or spiritualism, with its media and trances and dark seances; it is the same abomination reprobated in the Word of God.

Hatred (of God)

I. What is this? (Romans 1:30).

1. God is the chiefest good (Luke 18:19): the essential, original, universal, infinite, satisfying, necessary, and eternal good.

2. Therefore He ought to be loved supremely.

3. The want of this love is accounted as hatred.

II. Who are guilty of it.

1. Those who wish there were no God (Psalms 14:1).

2. “Who hate the knowledge of Him (Psalms 50:17; Job 21:14; Proverbs 8:36).

3. Who hate His ways and ordinances.

4. Who love other things more than God (2 Timothy 3:4).

5. Who love sin.

6. Who break His commandments (Exodus 20:5-6; John 14:15). (Bishop Beveridge.)

Hatred (of man)

I. Its nature: the transgression of the commandment to love our neighbours as ourselves.

II. Its sinfulness.

1. It is contrary to the law.

2. It is the cause of many sins, as--

3. It is the breaking of the whole law (Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14).

III. Who are guilty of it? All who--

1. Wish their neighbours evil, or not good.

2. Who do not what good they can.

3. Who do not reprove of sin and excite to good (Leviticus 19:17; Hebrews 10:24).

4. Who bear any secret grudge and malice. (Bishop Beveridge.)

Variance

I. Its nature. A sin opposed to amity.

1. In opinion (Ephesians 4:13).

2. Affection (Ephesians 4:3).

II. Its sinfulness.

1. It is contrary to God’s law.

2. It springs from--

3. Its effects are sinful.

III. Those guilty of it.

1. Infidels.

2. Such as fall out for trifles.

3. Such as being fallen out refuse to be reconciled. (Bishop Beveridge.)

Emulation

I. What is it? Twofold.

1. Good (Galatians 4:18).

2. Evil.

II. IT IS A SIN.

1. It proceeds from an evil root.

2. It brings forth sinful fruit.

III. Who are guilty of it.

1. Such as are zealous in a bad cause.

2. In a good cause in a bad manner (Romans 10:2).

3. More for themselves than God.

4. Such as love to see nobody above them. (Bishop Beveridge.)

Anger

It is sinful when with--

1. The providence of God.

2. The laws of God.

3. The doctrines of the gospel.

4. The good we see in others.

5. Those who differ from us in religious sentiments.

6. Reproof.

7. Our reprover, wishing him evil.

8. When we use unlawful means to avenge ourselves. (J. Beaumont, M. D.)

I. What is it? A passion raised up in the mind against some present evil that cannot easily be removed.

II. Whether a man may be ever lawfully angry? Yes (Ephesians 4:26).

1. When it proceeds from a lawful cause (Mark 3:5).

2. When it is placed on a lawful object (Exodus 11:8; Exodus 32:19; Leviticus 10:16-17).

3. In a lawful manner (Matthew 8:22).

4. To a lawful end.

III. Who sin in their anger? Such as are angry--

1. Not so much at the offence as the offender.

2. At anything rather because it dishonours them than God.

3. Without a cause (Matthew 5:22).

4. Excessively, though in a good cause (Genesis 49:7).

5. And hateful.

6. And curse (Psalms 106:33).

7. And therefore indisposed to duties.

8. From sinful causes.

9. For a wrong end.

10. And continue long in their auger (Ephesians 4:26).

IV. Motives against it.

1. God forbids it (Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8).

2. It disturbs soul and body.

3. It is not only a sin but a folly (Ecclesiastes 7:9; Proverbs 14:17; Proverbs 14:29).

4. It may prove thy ruin.

5. It may keep thee out of heaven. (Bishop Beveridge.)

Strife

I. Lawful.

1. Which should bring the most glory to God’s name.

2. Perform the exactest obedience to His precepts (Philippians 3:10-13).

3. Believe the firmest in His Son.

4. Grow the fastest in His grace (2 Peter 3:18).

5. Make our calling and election surest (2 Peter 1:10).

II. Sinful.

1. When proceeding from anger and malice.

2. About trifles.

3. In opprobrious terms.

4. Ending in hatred and revenge. (Bishop Beveridge.)

Seditions

I. To oppose lawful governors (Romans 13:1).

II. To consent to and connive at those who do it.

III. To raise tumults in a kingdom, commonwealth, or parish. (Bishop Beveridge.)

Heresies

There is no heresy in the long list of heresies which have invaded the Church, like the heresy of negativeness, of inaction, of death. The dead man is the great heresiarch. (H. W. Beecher.)

Envyings

I. In what consists the sinfulness of envy.

1. It is contrary to God’s command (Romans 13:13; 1 Peter 2:1).

2. Repining at God’s providence and goodness.

3. The fruit of pride.

4. The root of confusion and evil (James 3:16).

5. The cause of hatred.

II. Have a care of it.

1. Thou art never the worse for others being better.

2. Envy makes him never the worse, nor thee the better.

3. Thou hast more cause to rejoice than to be troubled at another’s goodness.

4. Thy envying God’s goodness to others may hinder it to thyself. (Bishop Beveridge.)

I. Its nature.

1. Its object is something good, natural, or acquired, even religious excellence.

2. Something in the possession of another which is grudged and desired,

3. Something not altogether unattainable.

II. Its properties.

1. It is common.

2. Odious.

3. Destructive.

III. Its cure.

1. A scriptural estimate of the objects which excite envy. They are not so valuable as they appear to be.

2. A just opinion of ourselves. We do not deserve as much as we imagine.

3. An entire change of heart.

Application:

1. Do not needlessly provoke envy.

2. Do not wickedly indulge it.

3. Do net basely fear it.

4. Do not angrily resent it. (G. Brooks.)

Envy is the daughter of pride, the author of revenge and murder, the beginning of sedition and the perpetual tormentor of virtue. (Socrates.)

Murders

Life is threefold of the body, mind, and spirit; and murder against each may be deliberate or careless, resulting from action or inaction.

1. Deliberate murder is life taken by malice aforethought.

2. Careless murder, resulting from careless or culpable ignorance; e.g., the builder who neglects the drains; the parent who spreads an infectious disorder through sending his children to school while tainted with it.

3. Inactive murder (James 4:17), e.g., a man who allows another to commit murder, or who neglects to save life physical or moral. (C. A. Goodheart.)

Murder is not mere blood-shedding.

1. Anger without cause is murder.

2. So is oppression of the weak.

3. So is depriving a man of the means of getting his livelihood to gratify revenge.

4. Whosoever hateth his brother in his heart is a murderer. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Drunkenness

I. What is it? An immoderate use of any liquor (Ephesians 5:18).

II. Its sinfulness.

1. It transgresses the law (Ephesians 5:18; Romans 13:13).

2. Abuses the creature.

3. Destroys the body (Proverbs 23:29).

4. Disturbs the soul (Hosea 4:11).

5. Spends time.

6. Unfits for employment (Luke 21:34).

7. Entails woe (Isaiah 5:11). (Bishop Beveridge.)

Evil of hatred

If you hate your enemies, you will contract such a vicious habit of mind as by degrees will break out upon those who are your friends, or those who are indifferent to you. (Plutarch.)

All sin is seen by God

In Mr. Ralph Wells’s school the other day, the lesson was about God’s all-seeing eye. On the blackboard, Mr. Wells placed the words, “Thou God seest me.” He then held up a vase of water, in which a gold-fish was swimming about. “Now, children,” said Mr. Wells, “see this fish hide. Do you see him now?” “Yes, sir,” the children shouted. “Do you see him now?” “Yes, sir.” “Now do you see him?” “Yes, sir: yes, sir,” they all said. “Can’t he hide from you? No, sir.” “Why?” “Because we see right through the glass.” “So,” said Mr. Wells, “God sees right through our hearts. We cannot hide from Him.” (Picture Paper.)

Fleshly sins

The list of fleshly sins here given is not an exhaustive one; merely samples. Seventeen distinct sins are specified, which may be roughly grouped in four classes.

1. Sensuality--viz., “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, wantonness.”

2. Idolatry, or unlawful dealing in things spiritual; consisting of “idolatry,” or the open recognition of false gods, and “sorcery or witchcraft,” the secret tampering with the powers of evil.

3. Malice, or violation of the principle of brotherly love; such as “hatreds, strife, rivalry, outbursts of wrath, cabals, dissensions, heretical factions, envyings, murders.”

4. Intemperance--viz., “drunkenness and riotous revelry.” These vices are probably named by St. Paul as being those to which the Galatians had been specially addicted, and to which they might now be tempted. From early habit a Gentile Church would be exposed to sins of the first two classes, sensuality and idolatry. Sins of the third class, consisting of breaches of brotherly love, would be a probable consequence of their religious dissensions. Vices of the fourth class, when once established, are not easily shaken off, and, as we know from the example of the Corinthian Church, may even find their way into the holiest services of the Christian religion. But we must not confine this catalogue of sins to the Galatians, as though it had no application to ourselves (1 Corinthians 10:11-12). (Emilius Bayley, B. D.)

The old life

As St. Paul looks back at that bad life out of which he had snatched the souls of his Gentile converts, it is its bitter brutality that he most vividly remembers and recalls. It was a jarring life, in which there was no tenderness, no courtesy, no kindliness, no peace. It was full of collisions, of frictions, of wounds, of sores. It was a loud and violent life, in which men fought, and hit, and swore. As he runs over his list of old habits once familiar to them, his picture is as of some back alley in our crowded towns, in which all is shrill, rough, boisterous, with women screaming, with children shrieking, a nest of noises, a swarm of jangling cries. This is what they have left behind, this which had made life one long quarrel, pitiless and brutal. They had left it, mastered and enthralled by the sweet vision of Him, the Man of peace, and meekness, and lowliness, who had been led, quiet and patient, as a lamb to the slaughter, and, as a sheep before its shearers, had never opened His mouth; who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; and when He was threatened, threatened not; One who never gave back railing for railing, but only blessing. “You all remember it”, he keeps crying to them, “those old days, so merciless, so angry, so cruel; how you grated on one another, how you rasped one another, how you bit and devoured one another like snarling dogs.” It had been one long quarrel, a life of wrath, “full of bitterness, clamour, evil speaking”; they knew it all but too well what he meant, for “the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these--hatred,” etc. “Works of the flesh,” he calls them His keen eye sweeps over the whole range of this loud quarrelling; to him, it is no senseless storm that rages on without rhyme or reason. Nay! it has, all of it, a story and a cause; it is the witness, on the surface of life, to inner disorder. These rough oaths, these venomous taunts, this bitter tumult--these are the natural issues of the root from which they spring. They are “works”--normal, and anticipated, and legitimate deeds, which appear in obedience to a law of rational production. They are “fruits”--results that grow out of certain creative activities, as accurately and inevitably as grapes from vines and figs from fig-trees. And what is this root which so legitimately flowers into these uncomfortable blossoms? “The flesh,” St. Paul names it; the flesh is as much the seat and home of this passionate violence as it is of those other passions and appetites with which we commonly identify it. This petulance, this savagery, this hail of malice, this outcry of rage, this havoc of revenge, this recklessness of cruelty--all this finds its principle, its origin, its motive-cause in that same activity of the flesh. Set the law of the flesh in action, and you must have quarrels. Out of the flesh they fly, these oaths and screams, just as sparks out of a smitten flint. It would be a miracle if men who lived after the methods of the flesh failed to envy and to hate one another. (Canon Scott Holland.)

St. Paul’s conception of “the flesh”

Try to enter into the solid and broad meaning which St. Paul attaches to this, his favourite term for the root-principle of human sin--“the flesh.” Obviously, it is much more to him than the mere matter of animal passions. It expresses to him the typical nature, the essential form, of all that can be set in antithesis to spirit. It includes the pride and the falsity of intellect. It embraces the disorder and stubbornness of the will. What, then, is this “flesh?” How can we describe and define it?… “The flesh” represents all that a man is, when he is his own aim, his own end. His power of self-observation, that Divine gift, in possessing which he is the image of his God, has about its use this terrible risk--that he may cease to observe himself as he is in God, as he is in God’s ordered world, set to fulfil an office in combination with his fellows, the member of a vast body, pledged to a peculiar or disciplined service; he may forget all this, and only observe himself, himself just as he stands, with his own private appetites, likes, gifts, feelings. And, so observing, he may separate himself off from all else, hold himself up before his own eyes, and fasten upon himself all his interest, all his thought, and his imagination, and his pains; and may spend his every effort in scheming how best to serve, in richness of pleasurable experience, this self, who has become his idol, and before which he bows himself to minister as to a god. This he may do; and that which a man has then in front of him as his aim or end whether it be low and gross, or whether it be delicate and intellectual--that is “the flesh.” And the life that he lives in obeying its behest, that is “the life after the flesh”; that is “minding the things of the flesh”; that is “walking after the flesh.” And the end of that walk is Death. (Canon Scott Holland.)

Result of walking after the flesh

We can easily understand why life in the flesh is a life of jars and quarrels, as much as a life of passion and lust. The man who walks after the flesh is absorbed in self-interests. He has dropped his eyes from their outward gaze at that busy and social world which encompasses him. That world is calling to him with all its voices, but he hears them no longer; it is appealing to him to act, to hope, to aspire, to give, but he pays no heed to its invocations. He has forgotten its wants and its movements; he is dead to its touch and to its cry. His brothers look to him for help, but they have ceased to interest him: his sisters turn to him for tenderness, but he is chill as a blind stone. All this crowded scene of our human story has lost for him its charm, its colour, its warmth, its neighbourly friendliness. He has turned his eyes within; he has bent all his gaze in upon himself; it is his own feelings that alone have an interest to him, his own needs that alone entice. He is busy night and day in considering himself; he is picturing his own success; he is planning his own pleasures; he is brooding over his own possibilities; he is filled with his own imaginations. Round and round himself he is always weaving the ever-thickening web of his own fancies, and his own schemes; and fainter and more distant grows the sound of outward things. He walks abroad, brimming with self-interests; and he is bent on things fulfilling themselves according to his fostered expectations; and so, walking, he must of necessity jar at once against a world that he has not taken the pains to study, or understand, or revere. He clashes against it, as against a wall; he is pushed and squeezed by the crowd of bustling men, who have no time to give to his breedings, and are at variance with his designs, and upset his favourite plans, and traverse his ambitions. He is disappointed, as he must be; for this earth demands of us a social temper,.and he is hopelessly and helplessly individual; it asks us to give, and he is proposing only to take. He is wholly out of tune with a world that exists only through self-sacrifice, and is bonded together by the grace of humility; he must be repudiated by it, he must be disregarded, he is bound to be checked at every turn, and he gets cross, angry, bitter. The world ignores him, laughs at him, brushes him aside, bowls him over. And the man, so treated, grows more and more wounded, hurt, indignant. Perhaps he rails and storms at the world that he finds so hard, at the men whom he thinks so unsympathetic and so cruel. Perhaps he retreats into sulky silence, and shuts himself up in clouds of vaporous passion, and fumes out his angry soul in secret breedings, and hugs himself the closer, and vents his grudge against life in spite, and scorn, and uncomfortable depression. (Canon Scott Holland.)

Remedy for selfishness

Self-pre-occupation, self-breedings, self.interest, self-love--these are the reasons why you go jarring against your fellows. Turn your eyes off yourself; forget your own pet schemes, the hopes you are always nursing to yourself, the self-importance that you hug. Forget them, throw them aside, push through them. Look up, and out! There is a larger world outside you, brimming over with far other hopes than yours, illumined by a vaster sun, travelling to some far historic goal. Look up, and out upon it! It has its interests, its purposes, its ends, which it is your glad privilege to learn, and, by learning, to obey and follow. Give it your heart, and it will show you its own. Take its road, and it will, then, take yours. Look up, and out! There are men, your brothers, and women, your sisters; they have needs that you can aid. Listen for their confidences; keep your heart wide open to their calls, and your hands alert for their service. Learn to give, and not to take; to drown your own hungry wants in the happiness of lending yourself to fulfil the interests of those nearest or dearest. Break through your own moody musings, and run out abroad, from these closed and darkened chambers of self-consideration--out into the wide and teeming earth, where not your scheme, but God’s great hope, is working out its world-wide triumph. Look up and out, from this narrow, cabined self of yours, and you will jar no longer, you will fret no more, you will provoke no more, you will quarrel no more; but you will, to your own glad surprise, find the secret of “the meekness and the gentleness of Jesus”; and “the peace of God which passeth all understanding” will drop down like dew upon your happy-hearted days; and the fruits of the Spirit will all bud and blossom from out of your life--“love, joy, peace, gentleness, meekness, goodness, long-suffering, faith, temperance.” (Canon Scott Holland.)

The spirit above nature

I. Natural desires are never to rule, always to be ruled.

II. By the help of the Spirit of God they are kept in subjections.

III. Unrestrained, they produce all kinds of wickedness.

IV. Present goodness and happiness are the fruit of the Spirit of God.

V. Self-denial and suffering are requisite for the highest good.

VI. By faith in Christ men follow Him and become like Him. (J. H. Godwin.)

Drunkenness, revellings

The apostle is not speaking merely of the habit and custom of drinking; therefore it is a false excuse if any one thinks that a debauch is no sin if one does not make a business of it. The devil invented this excuse. When any one so overfills himself that he is unfit for prayer and the business of his calling, that is drunkenness. What, then, are we to think of the respectable world with its sinful and damnable Christian drinking bouts? and what, too, of this continual drinking of healths, but as of a temptation to swill down liquor? (Starke.)

The list of vices

These works of the flesh have often been divided into four classes. Any classification or system, however, is scarcely to be expected; but each term of the catalogue may have been suggested by some law of association, especially as some of the terms are similarly arranged in other places. In the first class are sensual sins--fornication, impurity, wantonness; in the second class are sins of superstition--idolatry and sorcery; in the third class, sins of malice and social disorder--hatred, strife, jealousy, wraths, caballing, divisions, heresies, envying, murders; and in the fourth class-are sins of personal excess--drunkenness and revellings. In the first class, the first term, which has a distinct meaning, may have suggested the other and allied vices--miscellaneous and grosser aspects of forbidden indulgence. The two terms of the second class are somewhat similar--the first more precise in meaning, and the second more comprehensive--all occult dealings with the powers of evil. In the third class there is a climatic enumeration--hatreds ripening into strife; jealousy venting itself in passionate outbursts; cabals yet darker and more selfish; divisions, the result of deepening hostility; envyings quite fiendish in nature; and murders--the extreme result, and no uncommon thing in such countries, to obtain an end and consummate an intrigue by the removal of a rival. In the fourth class are first the simple term drunkenness, and the more inclusive term after it, referring either to scenes of dissipation so gay and wanton, or to orgies so gross and sensual, that they may not be described. (John Eadie, D. D.)


Verses 19-21

Verse 21

Galatians 5:21

That they which do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Sin’s dominion fatal to the soul

It is not said: They that do such things daily; for even though one does any such thing only now and then, on certain occasions, yea even only once, but voluntarily, he forfeits the Kingdom of God, so long as he remains under the dominion of this work of the flesh. Nor is it said: They that do all this. It is not needful for a man to do all these sins, or many such, to fall under the penalty; it is enough if he lets one single sin rule over him, let it be what it will. Now it rules over him, not only while he is committing it, but so long as the purpose never to commit it again is not fully fixed They shall not only not procure eternal life by their works of the flesh (as may well be supposed), but, if they set their hopes, not upon earning eternal life by their works, but receiving it as a gift to be received by faith, they will not, leading a dissolute life, inherit it any more than earn it. Such a man inherits not the kingdom of grace, still less the kingdom of glory, even though his funeral sermon extols him as blessed. (Starke.)

Shall not inherit the Kingdom of God

I. What is the Kingdom of God? Twofold.

1. Of grace (Matthew 5:19-20).

2. Glory (Matthew 18:1; Matthew 18:3; Matthew 19:23). Where

II. How it appears that the vicious cannot inherit it.

1. From the Word of God (Ephesians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Hebrews 12:14).

2. The rules of justice.

3. The conclusions of reason; because not capable. (Bishop Beveridge.)

Heaven will be inherited by every man who has heaven in his soul: it is equally true that there are materials enough in every man’s mind to make a hell. (H. W. Beecher.)

Sin cuts men off from God

Were a cup of pleasant wine put into your hands, and you knew for certain that a deadly poison was mixed up with the wine, which would rack you with the fiercest pains, and ere long tear soul and body in sunder, who would drink it?--who would not dash it from him forthwith? Yet, if we had but faith, we should know and feel that sin is deadlier than the deadliest poison, that it racks us with fiercer pains, and gives us over to a more terrible dissolution; for it cuts us off from God--from Him who is the only source of all blessing and peace. (Hare.)

Sin and death

The tale of the goblet, which the genius of a heathen fashioned, was true; and taught a moral of which many a death-bed furnishes the melancholy illustration. Having made the model of a serpent, he fixed it in the bottom of a cup. Coiled for the spring, a pair of gleaming eyes in its head, and in its open mouth fangs raised to strike, it lay beneath the ruby wine. Nor did he who raised that golden cup to quench his thirst, and quaff the delicious draught, suspect what lay below, till, as he reached the dregs, that dreadful head rose up and glistened before his eyes. So, when life’s cup is nearly emptied, and sin’s last pleasure quaffed, and unwilling lips are draining the bitter dregs, shall rise the ghastly terrors of remorse, and death, and judgment, upon the despairing soul. Be assured, a serpent lurks at the bottom of guilt’s sweetest pleasure. To this awful truth may God, by His Word and Holy Spirit, open your eyes! (T. Guthrie, D. D.)


Verse 22

Galatians 5:22

But the fruit of the Spirit is love.

The spiritual life

The works of the flesh are manifest, known and plain to all. But the fruit of the Spirit is not so manifest: the life of God in the soul is a hidden life: still it is a real life, producing genuine fruit; cherish therefore and cultivate it.

I. The Spirit Himself is the source of all spiritual fruit. Ii. The nature of this fruit. The list here given is not exhaustive. Nor does it admit of very definite classification. The following three groups of three each have been suggested.

1. Christian states of mind in their more general aspect.

2. Those special qualities which affect a man’s intercourse with his neighbours.

3. Certain general principles which guide a Christian man’s conduct.

III. The connection between, and mutual dependence upon each other, of the fruits of the Spirit.

1. They are all from one and the same source.

2. They all conform to one rule, the law of God.

3. Each Christian must possess them all, at least in germ. Grace in the soul is the reflection of Christ’s glory (2 Corinthians 3:12); but that can be no true reflection which lacks any leading features of the moral glory of the Saviour.

IV. Practical inferences.

1. Be careful to cultivate all the graces of the Christian character. Without this there can be no symmetry and harmony.

2. Growth in grace is the best security for the crucifixion of the flesh.

3. Be filled with the Spirit. Avoid whatever grieves and tempts Him to withdraw His presence. Yield readily to His godly motions, His guidance, His teaching.

4. Pray for increase of grace. The daily life must be lived, whether we will or no. It rests with us whether it shall be lived in the power and under the influence of the Spirit. (Emilius Bayley, B. D.)

Spiritual fertility

See the fertility and fruitfulness of the soul that is in a state of grace and therefore in the love of God. First of all, here is the relation of the soul with God Himself: Love is that which unites us with God; joy, which means the thanksgiving and the consciousness of God’s infinite goodness, in which we live and mote; peace, whereby we are at rest with God, and in ourselves, and with all mankind. Then there are the fruits which have relation to our neighbour; and the first is patience. Do we bear with our neighbours? Are we irritable, revengeful, resentful, malicious? If so, the fruits of the Holy Ghost are not in us, because the benignity of God is not in us. Long-suffering is another name for patience. Just as equity is the most delicate form of justice, long-suffering is the most perfect form of charity, the perpetual radiance of a loving heart, which, in its dealings with all around, looks kindly upon them and judges kindly of their faults. It means also perseverance, the not being wearied in well-doing, not throwing up and saying, “I have tried to do good for such a one, I have tried to correct his faults. I have tried to win him; but he is ungrateful, incorrigible, and I will have no more to do with him.” Our Lord does not so deal with us. Long-suffering means an unwearied perseverance in doing good. Gentleness means kindness and forbearance, the dissembling of wrong, the absence of the fire of resentment and of the smouldering of ill-will. Next comes goodness; as a fountain pours out pure water, so the good heart is perpetually pouring out goodness and diffusing goodness on all around. Faith means veracity, so that a man’s word is as good as an oath. And then, lastly, there are certain fruits which have relation to ourselves. They are, first, modesty, (=meekness?) which is both within and without--modesty of bearing, modesty of conduct, of dress, of demeanour, a chastened and sensitive regard for others, in all that is due from us to them, which keeps us from obtrusiveness, and from transgressing the delicate consideration which is their right. Temperance or continence means most especially the repressing of passions--the passion of anger, the inclination to pleasure, to honour, to wealth; it is the transparent purity of the soul, and the custody Of the senses, because they are the avenues to the soul by which sin enters. Such, then, are the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Every soul that is in the grace of God has in it this fertility. It may not bear them all in equal measure, but it bears them all in some proportion. (H. E. Manning.)

Spiritual fruit in the Church

Look at the world before the Son of God came into it. Find one institute of mercy in it. Find a hospital, or an asylum for the widow or for the orphan. Find a home for those who were bereft of reason. Find a ministry of charity to the sick. The culture of classical nations was as cold as the ice, as hard as a stone. The sacred heart of the Incarnate Son of God cast fire upon the earth. And the Christian world kindled and broke forth into all the works of charity. As soon as the widows and the orphans among those who believed were known to be destitute, the apostles set apart a special order--the sacred order of Deacons--to be the ministers of the charity of Jesus Christ to His poor. The law of alms came in, which had no existence in the heathen world. The life of community--not the communism of those that do not believe in Jesus Christ, but the community of all things among those who, being members of His Body, hate a sympathy one with another, and share in each other’s sorrows, and joys, and in their hunger, and thirst, and nakedness. The miseries of mankind as they were seen by the Son of God Himself are before the eyes of His Church. All the miseries of mankind, of body and soul, are open to the heart that is illuminated and kindled with the love of God and our neighbour. The Church from the beginning has shown an inventiveness of charity, in finding out how it may apply the help of the love and of the mercies of God to every form of human suffering. And what the Church does as a body the saints of the Church have done one by one. The life of St. Charles, the great pastor of Milan, was inexhaustible in compassion. St. Vincent of Paul, who did not commence his works of mercy until he was forty years of age, has filled the whole world with the exercise of the most various forms of Christian love, ministering to every form of disease and suffering. And what there is in the lives of saints there ought to be in its measure in every one of you. Do not say, “I have a preference for this or/or that kind of charity, and I am not called to other things.” You are called to show all these fruits of the Holy Ghost on every occasion in which it is possible, at least in some measure or in some degree, and that to all. (H. E. Manning.)

Man’s productive capabilities

Fruit, regarded in the light of the orchard, the garden, or the vineyard, is the most perfect form of development to which a tree or plant can come. Fruit is the thing for which all the enginery of roots and branches and leaves was appointed. All these are servants. They toil and wait. The fruit only sits regent; it is the final result--the perfect; thing. The tree can never go a step further than its fruit. It can stop, and go back and begin again; but it goes only to that limit; and when it has reached that, it has reached perfection. The fruit is the measure of the tree’s possibility. So when we speak of man as a tree, or a vine, and when we speak of the fruit of that tree or vine, we refer to that Divine summer which quickens man, and renders him productive, and brings forth in him the highest results of which he is capable. When a man comes to that which is called “the fruit of the Spirit,” he reaches his full limit as a creature of time. When the fruit of the Spirit in man is spoken of, that which is meant is the fairest, the noblest, the best thing that he can be brought to, by the brooding of the Divine mind. It is the final result which is wrought out by all the influences for good which are brought to bear upon him. It is that which his higher nature ultimates in …. Here is the ideal of a perfect manhood. It must have these marks--love, joy, peace, etc. It must be characterized by these qualities. A man may be resplendent; he may dramatise as Shakespeare; he may paint as Raphael; he may carve as Michael Angelo; he may colour as Titian; he may build as Bramante; he may subdue the material globe, and conquer by physical forces; but these things do not represent manhood. A man may think till his thoughts shoot as far as the starlight shoots; a man may speak with an eloquence which is transcendent; a man may be endowed with all conceivable intellectual endowments; but these do not represent manhood. That which distinguishes the true man is not the capacity to command physical substances. It is not the power to analyse and use things created out of material. It is not any of the lower forms of power; nor even the influence of mental strength. None of these things constitute the truest manhood. It is the fruit of the Spirit--man being the stalk on which that fruit is growing, and out of which it is to be developed. (H. W. Beecher.)

Fruit of the Spirit

This is a rich coronet of graces, with which the apostle decks the character of the Christian believer. He tells us here what a spiritual life in Christ means, a life that has its ripe fruit in these real virtues of the man. It is no exact classification of the religious graces, but we may find an inward harmony, as if he thought of them as following a law of personal growth. Love, joy, and peace are the inmost dispositions of the heart, flowing from communion with the heart of Christ; long-suffering, gentleness, goodness are social dispositions toward others; and faith, meekness, temperance (or self-restraint) are qualities of conduct. (E. A. Washburn, D. D.)

Spiritual tests

We believe that we pass from sin to holiness, not of ourselves, but by the grace of God working in us. How, then, do we recognize the reality of such a Divine life? It must be by the real dispositions and the real graces that are in us. There is no other possible way. What is the grace of the Spirit? If a spiritual grace be a mysterious something, which has no test save our individual feeling, it may be an imagination. If a man should say, I see the grass to be red: it may be so to his eyes, but it only shows his eyes to be in a diseased state. So with our spiritual perceptions. If a man should say, The spirit has revealed to me that Christ shall appear next week on the earth: we should reply, What proof do you bring that you are not an enthusiast? And so if any one say, I am assured that at a certain time I was convicted of sin, and passed from death to life; we have still to ask, How do you know that this is not a fancy, a will o’ the wisp, shining out of the swamp of a morbid feeling. It is not enough to say, I have an extraordinary peace of conscience, a sense of pardon and joy; for any one who knows human nature and his own, knows that we can be more readily cheated by our religious emotions than all else, and may mistake the spirit of self-conceit for the Spirit of God. It must be a test beyond our inner feeling. It must be a test seen and known by others. It must be a test of a permanent kind. What is it? There can be only one answer. We know the Divine Spirit by the likeness of our characters to His, as we know the sun in his beams, the plant in its blossom. The Spirit of Christ is of love and peace; it shows itself in the conquest of our unloving, warring passions. It is of long-suffering and goodness; it is known in our unselfish goodness toward our fellowmen. It is of meekness and temperance; it is known in our self-restraint. This is reality. There is no outward surface morality in it; but the genuine morality of heart and life. If we have these positive graces, if our religion create this true joy of a cheerful, happy spirit; this peace not of a self-satisfied conscience, but of one void of offence; this gentleness, this goodness which prompts our action in daily life; this temperance, which keeps us from all unholy appetites of wealth or selfish pleasure; if it be this in the household, in the social circle, in the calling of business--then we have the only assurance we can have of the presence of the Holy Spirit. “There can be no mistake about it. And so as to others. If I recognize these genuine graces in any, whether his religious experiences tally with mine or no, I know that he is a living disciple of Christ, as I know the flavour of a peach, although it may not be of my garden. (E. A. Washburn, D. D.)

Danger of substituting any other test for this

“There is a religion calling itself spiritual, which substitutes a vague notion of the Divine grace for the plain rule of the apostle. Let such a notion enter, and what more sure to make the doctrine of the Holy Spirit the apology for every morbid mistake! What strange doubts in regard to the plainest duty, what vagaries in feeling, what contradictions between faith and life? You meet one class of sincere Christians, who make religion an inward self-torment; always asking whether they can find signs of their conversion, distressed about their states of mind, instead of testing the grace of God by their simple acceptance of His promises and daily growth in duty. It is the saddest of inversions. As well dig up the roots of the rose bush every hour to know if it have life, when you should see it in the fragrance and bloom of the rose. You meet others, who believe that some strong conviction is the assurance of the Spirit. I know nothing more unreal than that. In proportion as we believe in this assurance of our own unchanging state, we lose our humble sense of our weakness. The assurance we have is in God. But there is none that we have that life in us, unless we keep it by our growth. I have even known those, who hold this notion of religion, speak very doubtfully of the moral virtues, of integrity, honour, purity, benevolence, as a “mere morality” which might be without any spiritual piety at all. Let us beware of such conceits. When men indulge in this theory, it often ends in machinery, in the mechanical exercise of feeling, and leaves the real life barren. Try the spirits by the rule of Christ; and when you see that the figs do not grow on the thistles, that the spiritual experience is one thing, and the real man another; a lofty faith here, and a selfish conduct there; grace that has no graces; a change within that makes no change without--then learn the difference between the subtleties of men and the plain Word of God. (E. A. Washburn, D. D.)

New leaves pushing off the old

“Old leaves, if they remain upon the trees through the autumn and the winter, fall off in the spring.” We have seen a hedge all thick with dry leaves throughout the winter, and neither frost nor wind has removed the withered foliage, but the spring has soon made a clearance. The new life dislodges the old, pushing it away as unsuitable to it. So our old corruptions are best removed by the growth of new graces. “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” It is as the new life buds and opens that the old worn-out things of our former state are compelled to quit their hold of us, Our wisdom lies in living near to God, that by the power of His Holy Spirit all our graces may be vigorous, and may exercise a sin-expelling power over our lives: the new leaves of grace pushing off our old sere affections and habits of sin. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The fruit of the Spirit visible

If the sun is sparkling on the healthy leaves of a fruit-tree, and heavenly airs are fanning them, and the good soil lies below, we do not try to prove by abstract rules that probably the fruit will somehow drop down of a sudden on the twigs. The eye sees the work going on, and doubts about contingencies and dangers seldom disturb the husbandman. If there is a work of grace now stirring, if the Christ-thoughts become more and more our thoughts, if the world below sinks in value, and the character deepens on sound things, on truer judgments, on simpler goodness and wisdom, we need not to look to some far-off future to find hope. (C. H. Hall, D. D.)

Symmetrical fertility

“The fruits of the Spirit” do not always appear, even in every true Christian, in their Divine order and symmetrical proportion. Grace works on very different natures, and is subject to an endless variety of conditions and modifying influences; so that while the great change has been wrought, the seeds of the new life have taken root in the heart, the form and degree of development will greatly vary in different persons, and different conditions and surroundings. In one, faith predominates, in another, love, in another, charity, etc. Seldom do we see in this world a perfectly rounded symmetrical Christian character. Grace has not its perfect work here: and yet the conversion may be genuine. The believer should not despair, if he fails to discover in his heart and daily life, at one and the same time, all the fruits of grace here enumerated. (American Homeletic Review.)

Catechism of religion

When I ask you, “Do you believe in religion?” I do not mean to ask you whether you believe in creeds, and ordinances, and Church organisations. When I want to know whether a man believes in religion or not, I do not ask, “Do you believe in Sunday, and in ministers, and in the Bible” For a man may believe in all these things, and not believe in religion. And a man might not believe in any of them, and yet believe in religion. If I were going to question you to ascertain whether you were a Christian or not, I would say, “Do you, sir, believe in love, as the transcendent element of manhood?” Where is the man who would say “No” to that? Where, in the whole round of creation, would be found a man who, if the question were put to him, “Do you believe in the validity, and authority, and divinity of love?” I would not say, “I believe?” That is the first question in the catechism. The second is, “Do you believe in joy, supernal, ineffable, Divine, bred in the soul of man, and in the highest realm of the soul? Do you believe that all the faculties of man, like the pipes of an organ, conspire in ringing out sweet symphonies?” If the question were asked, “Do you believe in joy?” where is the man who would not say, “I believe?” “Do you believe in peace?” “I believe.” “Do you believe in long-suffering?” “I believe.” “Do you believe in gentleness?” “I believe.” “Do you believe in goodness?” “I believe.” “Do you believe in faith?” “I believe.” “Do you believe in meekness and temperance?” “I believe.” Answer me, hungry heart--you that have wandered from church to church, and have not been fed; you that have tried pleasure, and aspiration, and ambition, without being satisfied, and have become wearied and discouraged; you that have listened to discourse on discourse, and enigma on enigma, and had spectacular views which purported to be religion, and have fallen off, wearily saying, “Ah, there is no religion in these things!”--is there no religion? Do not you believe in religion? If you were to see a man filled with the fruit of the Spirit, would you not believe in that man? “Yes,” you say, “but there is no such man.” But is not that an ambition which every man may most worthily set before him, and press toward with all the power that is in him? Is not that worth living for? And if men come together, and say, “We will bear with each other, and will uphold each other, and together we will press toward that high conception of manhood,” is not that a worthy reason for coming together? Is there anything in pleasure, or business, or citizenship which is comparable in dignity and worth to coming together earnestly bent on having the fruit of the Spirit as it is here depicted?… I spread before you this reality of love, and joy, and peace, and long-suffering, and gentleness, and goodness, and faith, and meekness, and temperance, and say, “This is what you are to be and to do. And you can help each other to be and to do that. Take hold of hands. Avail yourselves of what advantage there may be in social power. If you are wanderers and discouraged, join one with another that you may inspire each other with hope and find rest.” This is the whole economy of religion. It is the whole philosophy of the Church. (H. W. Beecher.)

The influence of the Holy Spirit perceptible

When the rays of the sun fall on the surface of a material object, part of those rays are absorbed; part of them are reflected back in straight lines; and part of them refracted this way and that in various directions. When the Holy Ghost shines upon our souls, part of the grace He inspires is absorbed to our own particular comforts; part of it is reflected back in acts of love, joy, prayer, praise; and part of it is refracted every way in acts of benevolence, beneficency, and all moral and social duty. (A. M. Toplady.)

The fruit of the Spirit is love: Love an abiding quality

Not love like a June day breaking out in March, and everybody saying, “Was there ever such a beautiful day? But you mustn’t expect more such days.” There are a good ‘many people who have love like that. It is a rare thing with them. But the quality is to be permanent, pervading, atmospheric, automatic, spontaneous. You are to be clothed with it, and it is to abide with you. What if men had to run to an air reservoir every time they wanted any atmosphere--taking a breath, then going as long as they could, and then going back to get another breath! But in this world of hurlyburly, strifes, conflicts, envyings, jealousies, selfishness, and various attrition, a sweet, universal, unvarying, atmospheric love is almost as rare as the illustration would indicate. Yet we are brought into circumstances where every vengeful passion plays, and threatens to supersede all our grace. We have to get up our grace. It is as if a man, having laid aside his armour in time of warfare, and hearing some warning bell strike, and being in his house, should spring up and cry, “Where is my spear, my arrow, my armour? I must get on my things, and go out to fight.” That may do for warfare; but so sharp are our appetites and temptations, that we have no time to put on our armour. Circumstances require us to wear it all the time. “Put on the whole armour of God.” If you leave off any piece at any time, that is the point where death will enter. Love, automatic, continuous. You see it now and then. You will see it in a greatsouled man. He never moves from the stability of that state of mind; or if he moves, it is only as an overfull vessel sometimes spills herself on one side and on the other. Now and then you see it in a great-souled and saintly woman, not only where she makes herself radiant, but where the whole household is filled with the atmosphere of her graciousness and her goodness. This is what you see in the Indian summer of life in the aged often--namely, that they have worn out, as it were burned out, the passions, and have been released little by little from the temptations of the aggressive life. They have brought themselves into a continued exercise of the higher Christian states of mind, until, as they sit waiting for their sun to go down, that it may rise again and never set, they are luminous and are clothed, and in their right mind. (H. W. Beecher.)

The fruit of the Spirit is love: The Christian the only true lover of mankind

Is it not the fact, that religion unlocks the closest bosoms, softens the most rugged nature, touches the heart of stone, and melts it into tenderness and love? I have lately been called to watch the last years of an individual, who, during a life of more than eighty years, barred out every feeling of compassion and generosity; but no sooner did the beams of the blessed gospel pierce his heart, than I myself saw every sterner quality at once subdued, and all that was large and generous and sympathizing occupy the vacant place; no sooner did he learn his own condition, as a sinner redeemed with the precious blood of Christ--no sooner had he been taught that, if saved at all, he must be saved by an act of sovereign and unmerited grace and compassion, than the frost of his soul seemed dissolved, his heart expanded, his affections were new-born, he looked over the world with a new eye, and literally drained himself to supply the spiritual and temporal necessities of those around him. And he is not, by any means, an isolated instance; but simply a sample of the Spirit’s work in the souls of the regenerate. Who, I ask, was Howard--and who are the men that tread in his steps, and dive into the depths of the dungeon, and take the guage of misery in all nations of the world? Who was Wilberforce--and who are those upon whom his mantle has fallen, the men that give tyranny no rest, and count no sacrifice too great “to break the staff of the oppressor, and let the prisoner go free?” In all cases the answer is the same. These are the men who look to the Spirit of God only, as the source of all that is good and great as the living fountain of love, as their only stay and prop, as the Author and Finisher of all real schemes of benevolence; they are men, in short, whose help and trust are placed in God alone. (J. W. Cunningham, M. A.)

The voice of love

Oh! there is a voice in love; it speaks a language which is its own; it has an idiom and a brogue which none can mimic; wisdom cannot imitate it; oratory cannot attain unto it; it is love alone which can reach the mourning heart; love is the only handkerchief which can wipe the mourner’s tears away. And is not the Holy Ghost a loving Comforter? Dost thou know, O saint, how much the Holy Spirit loves thee? Canst thou measure the love of the Spirit? Dost thou know how great is the affection of His soul towards thee? Go, measure heaven with thy span; go, weigh the mountains in scales; go, take the ocean’s water, and tell each drop; go, count the sand upon the sea’s wide shore; and when thou hast accomplished this, thou may’st tell how much He loveth thee! He has loved thee long, He has loved thee well; He loved thee ever, and He still shall love thee; surely He is the person to comfort thee, because He loves. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The harmony of manhood

Oh, what a grand thing human nature is when it is working smoothly! There is the will sitting supreme, informed from above, through channels and means, by all the grace of God which the Spirit supplies. There is conscience, its spiritual assessor, waiting and warning and testing with unerring accuracy. There is the inner circle of the intellect, presenting to it all that is good, noble, or useful. Memory, bringing in its treasures from the past. Imagination, bringing in ornament and beauty from the present, and even from the future. There is the body beneath, with its active slaves ceaselessly conveying materials through the senses. There are the passions and the emotions, with their hidden fires, all ministering to the great work which is going on within. And surely it is worth the effort to be all that is meant by spiritual, to set ourselves to work in the best way. And to this end it will be helpful to consider those virtues which the apostle tells us are the “fruit of the Spirit”--those fruits and productions which spring up within us out of the harmomous working of our being--working, that is, as God means it to work, with all its several parts acting according to the will of God concerning us. It may be that we have not as yet learnt to use the machine aright; perhaps we have shrunk from, it, and God drives us in upon ourselves by the admonition of adversity or the reproofs of conscience. Perhaps, it may be, there is a large piece of this world’s grit sticking somewhere within which needs to come away. Perhaps there may be a sense that we are, after all, our own masters, instead of workers for God, which hinders our perfection. If so, let us try to think what we might be if all these parts of our being were “entire,” if we were working smoothly for Him. (W. C. E. Newbolt.)

The right use of human capabilities

Now it is obvious that this human nature, if rightly used, is a machine of delicate and wonderful powers, only some employ it as they might use some beautiful musical instrument, using but a part of it, with no combination of stops, no intricacies of effect, or concentration of action; while some maim it as they use it, and spoil it altogether. What a frightful perversion, for instance, is the man who is, as it were all body!--in whom the governing power has passed over to the lower senses, who perverts his mental faculties to the procuring of mere animal gratification, who stifles out all the spiritual yearnings and pleadings within him that he may be more and mere carnal and sensual. And if this be so, it is also true that there may be an intellectual deformity as well, higher and nobler if you will, but still a deformity, where the body is despised or dishonoured, where the spirit has been shut off in its higher regions, and is to all intents and purposes without any influence upon life. The first perversion is obvious; we may see it any day at almost any tavern door. But the other may also be traced in many an impartial biography, where on a review of the whole life before us, it cannot be said that the spirit, soul, and body have been preserved “entire” ( ὁλόκληρα), that the owners might be presented “whole” ( ὁλοτελεῖς) before God. (W. C. E. Newbolt.)

The fruits of the spirit

A hard thing it is, to bring an overweening hypocrite to a true understanding of himself; for pride and hypocrisy are two such things as few men are willing to own. That they might therefore with better certainty be able to discern whether they were indeed spiritual, or but yet carnal, the apostle proceedeth to describe the flesh and the Spirit by their different effects. The thing we are to take notice of now is the differences that may be observed between the titles under which St. Paul hath entered the several particulars of both sorts. “The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery,” etc., the other in the beginning of Galatians 5:22 : “But the fruit of the Spirit is love,” etc.

1. The first difference, which ariseth from the nature of things themselves, as they relate to their several proper causes, is of the four the most obvious and important: and it is this: that whereas the vicious habits and sinful actions catalogued in the former verses are the production of the flesh, the graces and virtues specified in the text are ascribed to’ the Spirit, as to their proper and original cause. They are not the works of the flesh, as the former, but the fruit of the Spirit. First, clear it is, that all the wicked practices recited and condemned in the foregoing verses, with all ether of like quality, do proceed merely from the corruption that is in us, from our own depraved minds and wills, without any the least co-operation of the Holy Spirit of God therein. It cannot stand with the goodness of God to be the principal; and neither with His goodness nor greatness to be an accessory, in any sinful action. He cannot be either the author or the abettor of anything that is evil. Secondly, it is clear also that all the holy affections and performances here mentioned, with all other Christian virtues and graces accompanying salvation, not here mentioned, though performed immediately by us, and with the free consent of cur own wills, are yet the fruit of God’s Spirit working in us. All those very many passages in the New Testament, which either set forth the unframeableness of our nature to the doing of anything that is good--“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think a good thought”; “In me, that is in my flesh, there dwelleth no good thing,” and the like: or else ascribe our best performances to the glory of the grace of God--“Without me you can do nothing”; “All our sufficiency is of God”; “Not of yourselves, it is the gift of God”; “It is God that worketh in you both the will and the deed,” and the like, are so many clear confirmations of the truth.

2. The evil effects proceeding from the flesh are called by the name of “works”; and the good effects proceeding from the Spirit are called by the name of “fruits.” The query is, why, being both effects alike, they are not either both alike called works, or both alike called fruits; but the one works, the other fruit--the works of the flesh there, here, the fruit of the Spirit? For answer whereunto, I shall propose to your choice two conjectures. The one more theological, or rather metaphysical, which is almost as new to me as perhaps it will seem to you (for it came not into my thoughts till I was upon it); the other more moral and popular. For the former, take it thus. Where the immediate agent produceth a work or effect, virtute propria, by his own power, and not in the virtue of a superior agent, both the work itself produced, and the efficacy of the operation whereby it is produced, are to be ascribed to him alone; so as it may be said properly and precisely to be his work. But where the immediate agent operateth virtute aliena, in the strength and virtue of some higher agent, without which he were not able to produce the effect, though the work done may even there also be attributed in some sort to the inferior and subordinate agent, as the immediate cause, yet the efficacy whereby it was wrought cannot be so properly imputed to him, but ought rather to be ascribed to that higher agent in whose virtue he did operate. If this seem but a subtlety and satisfy not, let it go; the other, I presume, will, seeing it is so plain and popular. The word “fruit” mostly relates to some labour going before. The reason is, because no man would willingly undergo any toil or labour to no end; he would have something or other in his eye that might in some measure recompence his pains; and that is called “the fruit of his labour.” Where the flesh ruleth all, the work exceedeth the fruit; and therefore, without ever mentioning the fruit, they are called “the works of the flesh.” But where the Spirit of God ruleth, the fruit exceedeth the work; and therefore, without ever mentioning the work, it is called “the fruit of the Spirit.”

3. The works of the flesh are spoken of as many, “works,” in the plural: but the fruit of the Spirit is spoken of as one, “fruit,” in the singular. Many works, but one fruit. There is such a connection of virtues and graces, that albeit they differ in their objects and natures, yet they are inseparable in the subject. As when many links make up one chain, pull one, and pull all: so he that hath any one spiritual grace in any degree of truth and eminency, cannot be utterly destitute of any other. But as for sins and vices, it is not so with them: they are not only distinct in their hinds, natures, and definitions (for so are virtues too), but they may also be divided from one another, and parted asunder in respect of the subject wherein they are we are told (and if we were not told it, we could not but see reason enough in these times to believe it) that a man may hate idolatry, a work of the flesh; and yet love sacrilege well enough, a work of the flesh too. There is no necessity that a swearer should be an adulterer, or an adulterer a slanderer, or a slanderer an oppressor, or an oppressor a drunkard, or a drunkard a seditious person; and so of many other. The reason of the difference is, because all spiritual graces look one way: they all run to the same indivisible point, wherein they concentre; to wit, almighty God, who is unchangeable and one: even as all moral virtues concentre in the same common point of right reason. But sins, which turn from God to follow the creature; and vices, which are so many deviations from the rule of right reason, do not all necessarily run towards the same point, but may have their several tendencies different one from another. Because though God be one, yet the creatures are manifold; and although the straight way from one place to another can be but one, yet there may be many crooked turnings, by-paths, and deviations. Even as truth is but one and certain, but errors are manifold and endless.

4. The last difference is, that the works of the flesh are expressly said “to be manifest”; but no such thing is affirmed of the fruit of the Spirit. The most probable reasons of which difference are, to my seeming, one of these two following.

On the influence of the Holy Spirit

I. The reality of the Spirit’s influence upon the mind. That it is possible, must surely be admitted by all. It is the highest reach of presumption to deny that God can, in a manner far beyond our comprehension, direct and control all the secret springs and movements of the human soul. The only question then is, whether He will, in this way, exert His power and communicate His grace. Scripture leaves us in no doubt as to this. See especially 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 6:19.

II. The nature of the Spirit’s influence upon the mind.

1. To lighten the understanding, and rectify the judgment (2 Corinthians 4:6; John 16:13-14.)

2. To awaken the slumbering conscience, and to subdue the obstinate, rebellious will. Sin is a fatal opiate, by which the soul is intoxicated, and bewildered with visionary pleasures, and rendered insensible to its danger.

III. The absolute necessity of the Divine Spirit’s influence. The perfect purity of heaven forbids us to indulge the thought that either sin, or those who are infected with it, can have admission there. O, let it never be forgotten that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. So great is the change that must pass upon us, before we can be made truly happy, that nothing short of the Holy Spirit can produce it. This change, in the Scriptures, is called a new birth, a resurrection from the dead, and a new creature.

1. It is sometimes called a new birth (John 1:12-13; John 3:3.)

2. Sometimes the change that must pass upon us before we can be fitted for heaven is called a resurrection from the dead.

3. Sometimes this great change is called a new creation.

IV. The evidence of the Holy Spirit’s influence on the mind.

1. One evidence of the Holy Spirit’s special influence is a strong, prevailing, and permanent aversion to sin, in all its kinds and degrees. The nature of the cause is known by the quality of the effects produced by it.

2. Another evidence of these heavenly influences on the mind is a spirit of humble, unfeigned, and animated devotion.

3. Another evidence of the Holy Spirit’s influence is a supreme regard to the Word of God as our rule, the glory of God as our end, and the immediate presence of God as our ultimate and complete happiness.

4. An other evidence of the Spirit’s influence is a sweet persuasion of our acceptance with God, and adoption into the household of “faith. “It is,” says Bishop Hopkins, “but an airy assurance, a void evidence, an insignificant charter for heaven, which hath not on it the print of the Spirit’s seal. Now the impress of this seal is the very image and superscription of God, which, when the heart is, like wax, made soft and pliable, is, in a man’s regeneration, enstamped upon it.”

V. I shall now answer some objections which are usually urged against this doctrine.

1. It has been boldly asserted, that none were ever endowed with the Holy Spirit, but prophets, spastics, and evangelists. But shall we then deny that gracious, though ordinary influence, which renovates the mind, and which was evidently bestowed upon common believers as well as apostles?

2. It is said, the influence of the Spirit on the mind is too mysterious to be comprehended, and therefore the doctrine which teaches it is unworthy to be believed. Who then will dare, in the fulness of his self-conceit, to deny a doctrine of Divine revelation, which has been the comfort of good men in every age, because it surpasses his comprehension?

3. It is objected, that the doctrine of the Spirit’s influence has a bad tendency, opening a door to licentiousness, opposing the liberty of the human will, and discouraging our honest endeavours. The whole of this objection is founded on a mistake. The same Scriptures which authorize us to expect the Divine influence, require us to honour God in the use of His own appointed means. (John Thornton.)

The transition from the works of the flesh to the fruit of the spirit

Have you ever heard a clever organist undertaking to show what can be done in the gymnastics of music? He goes screwing his way up through all the chromatic scale with all sorts of thunderous conjunction of sound until he has shown that the organ is devilish, or you feel so, but at last he modulates and gives out some rare strain such as Beethoven and Mozart has given birth to. So out from the cacophony of harsh and ugly affections and passions the text modulates into the very melody and music of religion. (H. W. Beecher.)

The fruit of the Spirit

I. Contrasts with the produce of the sinful nature.

II. Can only be accounted for by the new life and the new influences of the Spirit.

III. Is sweet, serviceable, and acceptable, not only to God but to man. (Family Churchman.)

I. The soil is prepared by the Spirit of God.

II. He quickens the seed--the truth which is instinct with a Divine vitality.

III. He fosters the life: like sunshine and showers on the seed sown.

IV. He matures the fruit: creating for it a congenial climate. (Family Churchman.)

I. We have here the inspired definition of Christianity.

1. A great many men have religion who have no Christianity.

2. Christianity is a life of liberty, spirituality, and joyous love.

II. This representation of Christianity is eminently fitted for the young, who are repelled by many representations.

III. The inspiration of the ministry is the practical experience of the Spirit and the development of His fruits.

IV. The fruit of the Spirit is the antidote to infidelity.

1. Men may question the doctrines of Christianity.

2. They cannot deny its practical effect. (H. W. Beecher.)

Hindering Christianity

1. The secret of Christ’s power was the goodness of God as manifested in His character and life, raising up a permanent moral influence and capable of remoulding the character and life of man.

2. Why, then, has Christianity made so little advance after nineteen centuries of history? For remember that the growth of Christianity does not consist in the diffusion of the knowledge of it or the extension of its organizations, but in the development of the fruits of the Spirit of Christ. Those who have set forward Christianity have--

I. Adopted a coercive policy. But--

1. You cannot coerce men into loyalty in the State.

2. You cannot coerce the growths of nature.

3. Much less can men be coerced into love, joy, peace, etc.

II. Formulated theological and ecclesiastical systems, and endeavoured to extend them, critically, controversially, and in an anathematizing spirit. But it is just as reasonable as placing violets and roses in an atmosphere of biting frost or consuming fire and expect them to grow, as for the fruits of the Spirit to develop in these ways.

III. Aimed at knowledge, not charity. Knowledge can only puff a man up; charity will build him up. The knowledge of love may deceive a man that he has it, but will not make him loveable; and, the disunited state of Christendom being witness, has not.

IV. Placed organic Christianity in the room of personal Christianity Physical life may be left to organize itself, which it does perfectly. In Christian life the loving, joyous, peaceful, etc., will make the most harmonious and orderly Church.

V. Hidden the character of Christ, and misrepresented the character of God. (H. W. Beecher.)

The fruit of the Spirit an element of Christian assurance

The last witness is the comfort and contentment the conscience takes in doing good works, and bringing forth the fruits of the new obedience; that though he knows his best doings are straitened with corruptions and imperfections, yet because they are the end of his vocation and the justifiers of his faith; because the gospel thereby is graced, wicked men amazed, some of them converted, the rest confounded, weak Christians confirmed, the poor relieved, devils repining at them, angels rejoicing for them, God Himself glorified by them; I say because of these and other reasons he doeth good deeds with humility and cheerfulness, and findeth a singular joy in his soul resulting therefrom. (T. Fuller, D. D.)

The ultimatum of Christian life

The ultimatum of all vegetation is matured fruit. You take that oak tree; a few months ago it budded and blossomed, and now you see the matured acorn upon it. Since the appearance of the little acorn, the tree has bent all its energies towards furnishing it nutriment; it draws food from its roots, and drinks in from the atmosphere all the vital forces, and pours its life into the little acorn. I see that little acorn growing and developing and extending until, by and by, there is a well-rounded, ripe, symmetrical acorn; and then the tree goes back into its winter quarters. So with all vegetation. Now, I grant that there are many intervening difficulties between the bud and the ripe fruit. There are worms that gnaw at the vitals of the tree; there are the cold winds and the frosts; but the tree is only valuable as it overleaps them all and matures the fruit. Just so the ultimatum of Christian life is the maturing of Christian fruitage. (Samuel P. Jones.)

The analysis of grace

Dr. J. Hamilton says: “The chemist who can analyse the fruit of the vine finds many ingredients there. Of these no single one nor any two together would form the juice of the grape, but the combination of all yields the polished and delicious berry which everyone knows so well. In the best specimens nine ingredients are found, but that is not a good cluster where any is wanting.” The application is easy.

Love.

Love, the fruit of the Spirit

The fruit of the Spirit is love. You know what the fruit as it hangs on the tree is. It is the result of many causes. Look at the apple as it hangs ripe and ready for the mouth, on the bough. What a wonderful production! How symmetrical its shape! How beautiful its colour! How mellow its substance! How pure and gracious to the palate is its juice! Whence came it? It came from below and from above. The earth owns part of it; the sun owns part of it; the dews have a claim--even the wind and the stars have done something to make it what it is. A dozen ministries--angels of the earth and the air, ingenious and active, have joined hands in its manufacture. Fruit, then, is the last result--the ultimate product of many forces acting conjunctively. Fruit is not crude; it is finished. It is not a process; it is the end of a process; the end of many processes; the consummation to which time and cause have alike tended. Now there is one result in character which has the Divine Spirit for its cause; it is love. It may be in embryo; it may be in maturity; it may be weak or strong. It may rule the life wholly; it may rule it only in part. But in whatever degree of growth it may be--to whatever point it may have been carried forward and upward, the element and principle of affection in human nature never happens by chance, never occurs by accident. To understand the works of the Spirit, and how its fruits are generated and ripened, you must understand the nature on which it works and the forces in connection with which its potency is rendered efficient. I say forces, for human nature is a forceful nature. It is a co-operative nature. It is not played on like an instrument of music that has only a responsive power; it is powerful itself; it is acted upon and re-acts. It has its own capabilities. It is strong enough to be resistful, and is essentially independent. A great many think of God only as outside of themselves--think of the Spirit as coming down upon them as winds come upon the sea, being blown from afar. The action of the Spirit is thus made to seem instantaneous, and the changes wrought arbitrary. Many even think that it would in some sort disparage the work of the Spirit if its actions were made in any sense dependent on the human will, or to any considerable extent co-operative with human faculties. But, friends, he who exalteth his own power exalteth God; for is not God the maker of his power? The father is honoured in the honour of his son, and the whole family becomes distinguished through the glory of one. Let it be known, then, to all of you, that the work of the Spirit is a co-operative work. He works in alliance with our own natural capacity. Alas! that He is often compelled to work in resistance to it. Nor is the saving work of God sudden. It is a peculiarity of destruction that it is always swift. God kills in an instant, but He grows things slowly. The lightning smites the tree in a flash, which a hundred years with laborious chemistry have grown. Is it less honourable to God that He works through method and climbs to His consummations through spiritual processes? After our way of thinking, the Spirit’s work in man is a slow work. Exceptions there may be, but swiftness of operation is not the law. Human nature never blooms suddenly. Some are born blossoms, but those that are born in the bud, as most of us were, sweeten, colour, and unfold slowly. The work of the Spirit is to bring back and reinstate in its original regnancy the Divine characteristic of loving. This is what it is striving to do in your bosom, fellow Christian. Faith in the Christ is valuable, because it is the means, the great and glorious means, of this reinstatement. By faith we perceive the loveliness of this principle; by faith we are made appreciative of it and are filled with longing that we may overflow with it; by faith we are thus quickened into this new life of concord and amiability and good-will toward men, and hearty affection toward God. Now, to start with in life, love is selfish. The love of the child, how unlike the love of the mother! Hence, we all say that we love mother better as we grow older. And why is this true? Because the selfishness which was in our early loving is eliminated. To start with, we loved our mothers with our bodies, so to speak. We have grown to love them with our minds and our spirits. Some of us have had them taken from us. In their love for us they have passed out of the body; and we, too, in our love for them have passed out of the body. They are spirits, and we love them with our spirit. And thus has love been perfected in us. The best love is never perfect until it becomes thus unselfish. And the work of the Spirit, as I understand it, is operating in human hearts to this end. When it is made perfect in Christ, or after the manner of Christ’s love, what will it not do? what will it not bear? what will it not give? And one thing, especially, is worthy of note in respect to this love which is the fruit of the Spirit in the human heart: that it not only prompts them and enables them to die for the Christ, and that truth, wide as the world of being and deep as the nature of things of which He was the embodiment, and is and will be for ever the cardinal illustration: but it qualifies them to die for it as men receive a favour. It was not a task for men and women to give up their mortal lives in evidence of their faith. They counted it joy so to do. They were in love with the immortality which waits upon such sacrifice, and death was to them the happy ministry which wedded them to it for ever. What power is this, that charges into human nature such sublime courage; gives to human minds such forecast of wisdom; and lifts human souls so high that they forget the earth and are mindful only of heaven? What power is this that renews the mind, transforms the spirit, and gives to us inhabitants of the earth the sensation of angels and the serenity of the skies? It is the Spirit. It is the glory of the Christian character that in it, through the work of the Spirit, is generated strength to bear all things and hope all things. The courage that you need is the courage to live--the courage to bear yet a while and faint not; to do this hopefully, patiently; to find happiness amid your tears; to so order your sorrows that they shall bloom; to look at emptiness as if it were fulness, and at poverty as if it were wealth--this can only come as the fruit of the Spirit. The love which enables you to do this must be the love of right things; the love of truth; the love of God. They who have this love have a new sight come to their eyes. They see things far off and far up and far ahead. (W. H. Murray, D. D.)

Love produced by the Spirit in regeneration

I. I am to show that the Spirit of God, in regeneration, produces nothing but love. He does, indeed, often strive with sinners, and sometimes very powerfully, without softening or subduing their hearts in the least degree. He commonly alarms the fears and awakens the consciences of those sinners whom He intends to renew, some time before He effectually changes their hearts. This He does to prepare them for regeneration, in which He forms them vessels of mercy. The only question now before us is, whether, in the act of regeneration, He produces anything besides love. And here we may safely say that He does not produce anything besides love in regeneration, because there is no need of His producing any other effect in that saving change. Sinners possess all the natural powers and faculties which belong to human nature, and which are necessary to, constitute them moral agents, before they are made the subjects of grace. Manasseh was as capable of doing good as of doing evil, before he was renewed; and Paul was as capable of promoting as of opposing the cause of Christ, before he was converted. This is true of all sinners, who are as much moral agents, and as proper subjects of moral government, before as after regeneration. Whenever, therefore, the Divine Spirit renews, regenerates, or sanctifies them, He has no occasion of producing anything in their minds besides love.

II. That love is the effect which He actually does produce in regeneration. “The fruit of the Spirit is love,” says the apostle in the text. His words are very plain and emphatical. He does not say that the fruit of the Spirit is a new taste, or relish, or disposition, or principle; but is love, and nothing which is previous to it, or the foundation of it.

III. That love, which the Holy Spirit produces in regeneration, is the essence and source of all holy or gracious affections. It is generally supposed that regeneration lays the foundation of all the exercises of grace. Benevolent love is the root from which all holy feelings and conduct naturally spring. It produces everything which the law requires, and which is necessary to perfect obedience. When the Holy Spirit produces love in the soul in which there was nothing before but selfishness, he effects an essential change in the heart, and forms the subject of grace after the moral image of God, and prepares him for the kingdom of heaven. And this is as great and as good a change as can be produced in the human heart. Conclusion:

1. If the Spirit of God produces nothing but love in regeneration, then there is no ground for the distinction which is often made between regeneration, conversion, and sanctification. They are, in nature and kind, precisely the same fruits of the Spirit.

2. If the Spirit of God in regeneration produces nothing but love, then men are no more passive in regeneration than in conversion or sanctification.

3. If the Holy Spirit, in regeneration, produces nothing but love, or holy exercises, then the regenerate are as dependent upon Him for their future, as for their first, exercises of grace.

4. If the Spirit of God produces nothing but love in regeneration, then it is no more a supernatural work on the part of God than any other Divine operation upon the minds of men.

5. If the Spirit of God produces nothing but love in regeneration, then sinners have no more excuse for not beginning to love God, than saints have for not continuing to love Him. (N. Emmons, D. D.)

On holy love

There can scarcely be a more gross abuse of language, than to call that rational religion in which the affections have no share. It is clear, from the Scriptures, that the heart is the seat of true religion. The sincere Christian is animated and distinguished by the grace of holy love.

I. The objects of this love.

1. God as the source of all being, and the centre of all perfection and excellency, claims the chief place in our affection. The Christian, being renewed in the spirit of his mind, feels his heart pant after God. He views the Lord as his portion, and sets his affections on things above.

2. As God is the supreme object on which holy love fixes, so creatures ought to have a subordinate measure of love, according to the degree in which they bear His image.

3. There is a clear distinction between a love of complacence and a love of benevolence. By the former, we delight in God and what resembles Him; by the latter, we show a regard for the welfare of bad men, though we detest their ways. In this sense, the worst enemies must not be shut out of our affections.

II. The leading properties of this love.

1. Love is the purest principle of obedience. How many appear actuated in all they do by the hateful principle of pride. Surely it is plain, without bringing arguments to establish the point, that no works can be acceptable in the sight of God, but such as spring from a principle of love, and are directed to promote His glory. Wherever this noble motive habitually prevails, it will in a good degree harmonize the passions, bring the scattered thoughts and purposes into subserviency to one grand end, and produce a simplicity of intention, and uniformity of character, which peculiarly distinguish the consistent Christian.

2. Holy love is the strongest principle of obedience. Love invigorates and animates the soul. Many obstacles cannot destroy its force; many waters cannot quench its fire.

3. Holy love is the most permanent principle of obedience. All kinds of religious affection are not lasting. The fire on God’s altar was kept alive by being constantly fed; but the strange fire of Nadab and Abihu was but for a moment. Cold chills not unfrequently follow feverish heats. But the love which the true Christian feels to his God, and all that bears the stamp of His authority or likeness, is not a vapour in the brain, or a vision in the fancy, but a deep-rooted principle in the heart. He knows the solid excellency of Divine realities. “His faith is not grounded on slippery deductions of reason, or slender conjectures of fancy, or on musty traditions, or popular stories; but on the sure testimonies of God.”

III. The origin of this love, and the way in which it may be increased.

1. It is by the eyes of the understanding being enlightened to see the perfections of God, the excellencies of Christ, and the unspeakable value of eternal realities, that Divine love is kindled in the soul.

2. It is by the exercise of living faith that the flame of holy love is enkindled and preserved in the heart. The objects which most men love are such as strike the senses, or in some way relate to their present interests.

3. It is by communion with God, and one another, that holy love is promoted and increased.

Concluding reflections:

1. How awful is the state of those who are destitute of this love!

2. How happy is their state, who live under the habitual and powerful influence of Divine love! Love, in the heart, melts the stubborn will to sweet submission, consumes, the dross of sin, and fits the believer as a vessel of honour for the Master’s use. (John Thornton.)

Love

I. The source of love. “Love is of God.” “God is love.”

II. Its excellence.

1. It is the life of the soul and of the moral universe.

2. It is the bond that unites all holy intelligences.

3. It is the supreme grace.

4. Its production is the end of Christ’s mission and of all religious ordinances.

5. It renders all our services acceptable.

6. Its excellence is manifest in its influence on the heart and life.

III. Characteristics of true love.

1. It is practical.

2. It embraces God and man.

IV. Love to God.

1. God must be loved for His own sake:

2. God must Himself kindle our love to Him.

3. It is capable of being cultivated.

4. It leads to trust in God.

V. Love to the brethren.

1. The badge of Christ’s disciples.

2. Our love must be like Christ’s.

3. We must love what is Christlike in them.

4. We must love them on account of what they are to be. (R. A. Bertram.)

Love

I. The nature of this love.

II. The objects on which it is exercised.

III. The marks of it.

I. The love which stands first in the apostle’s catalogue stands first also in the estimate of God. Our Lord says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Romans 13:10). This is the grace of which so beautiful a description is given in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. It is set forth as a privilege, without which all gifts are worthless. This love is no natural product of the human heart; on the contrary (Romans 8:7; 1 John 4:7).

II. The objects on which this love is exercised. These are three principally--

1. The Father.

2. Christ the Son.

3. Our brother.

III. Some marks of this love.

1. As regards God.

2. As regards Christ. Love shows itself--

3. As regards the saints, love shows itself especially.

The Divine source of love

As one familiar with the sonatas and the symphonies of Beethoven, while passing along the street in summer, gets from out of the open window a snatch of a song or of a piece that is being played, catching a strain here and another there, and says to himself, “Ah, that is Beethoven! I recognize that; it is from such and such a movement of the Pastoral,” or whatever it may be; so men in life catch strains of God in the mother’s disinterested and self-denying love; in the lover’s glow; in the little child’s innocent affections. Where did this thing come from? No plant ever brought out such fruit as this. Nature, dumb and blind, with her lizards, and stones, and thousand accumulations of matter, never thought anything like that. This and that harmony of light, the few hints which we see here and there--these have been sprinkled into life, dropping from above. And there is a fountain where exist elements and attributes of which these are but the souvenirs. And to me they all point back to something which we have not seen. As birds, when after moulting they begin to sing, break down in mid-song, and give only a snatch here and a snatch there of the full volume of their summer strains; so these hints, these little tinkling notes of love on earth, beautiful as they are in themselves, are not perfect, and are not understood until we trace them back, and feel that there is above somewhere One whose nature epitomises all these things. Go and look on the south side of the Highlands. You shall see that, detached from the rocks there, and lying in a long trail, for miles and miles, are blocks of syenite, or of trap, or of granite, as the case may be. And there is many a block which, if you choose, you can trace back to the very spot where the ice pried it out, or from which the flood or the iceberg drifted it along the mountain side. Now, as it is with those blocks of stone, so it is with these scattered elements and traits that have drifted out, as it were, from the mountain of God, and sweetened the household, and refined civilized life. They are, after all, but the outflowing, the drift, as it were, of the great Divine Soul, in this world. (H. W. Beecher.)

Love, the heat of the universe

It is the heat of the universe. Philosophers tell us that without heat the universe would die. And love in the moral universe is what heat is in the natural world. It is the great germinating power. It is the ripening influence. It is the power by which all things are brought steadily up from lower to higher forms. (H. W. Beecher.)

Love casts out fear

Love and fear are like the sun and moon, seldom seen together. (Newton.)

Love lightens duty

Love to God would make duties of religion facile and pleasant. I confess to him that hath no love to God, religion must needs be a burden; and I wonder not to hear him say, “What a weariness is it to serve the Lord.” It is like rowing against the tide. But love oils the wheels; it makes duty a pleasure. Why are the angels so swift and winged in God’s service, but because they love Him? Jacob thought seven years but little for the love he did bear to Rachel. Love is never weary; he who loves money is not weary of toiling for it; and he who loves God is not weary of serving Him. (T. Watson.)

Nothing is difficult to love: it will make a man cross his own inclinations to pleasure those whom he loves. (Archbishop Tillotson.)

Labours of love light

It is of the utmost importance to keep up our interest in the holy work in which we are engaged, for the moment our interest flags, the work will become wearisome. Humboldt says that the copper-coloured native of Central America, far more accustomed than the European traveller to the burning heat of the climate, yet complains more when upon a journey, because he is stimulated by no interest. The same Indian who would complain, when in botanizing he was loaded with a box full of plants, would row his canoe fourteen or fifteen hours together against the current without a murmur, because he wished to return to his family. Labours of love are light. Routine is a bad master. Love much, and you can do much. Impossibilities disappear when zeal is fervent. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Love ennobles

True love alone can awaken and evoke all the nobility and grandeur of human nature. Then we are like musical instruments touched by a master’s hand. That organ yonder, many fingers have moved over its keys and drawn out its stops; but the harmonies have not surprised us, our listening has not even deepened into interest. But one day a stranger came and sat before it, and presently rich, exquisite melodies began to pour forth, new and wondrous depths and changes of tone trembled in the air and thrilled our souls. It seemed like a living thing interpreting the secrets of our hearts, so that we hardly dared to breathe lest we should destroy the charm. What a revelation that was! We never dreamed that the old instrument could discourse such marvellous strains. But the capacity was there, only the soul of the musician was needed to inspire it. Thus too can love elicit in answer to its skilful touch the grandest responsive harmonies from the lowliest human heart. And it is by love--God’s love--that our great nature shall reveal all its greatness. (W. Braden.)

Test of love

A loving wife, when her husband returns home from a far country, as soon as she is sensible of his approach or hears his voice, although she be ever so much engaged in business, or forcibly detained from him in the midst of a crowd, yet her heart is not withheld from him, but leaps over all other thoughts to think on her husband who is returned. It is the same with souls that love God; let them be ever so busy, when the remembrance of God comes near them, they lose almost the thought of all things else, for joy to see that this dear remembrance is returned; and this is an extremely good sign. (Francis de Sales.)

Love, the test of discipleship

So peculiar is this blessing to the gospel, that Christ appoints it for the badge and cognisance by which they should not only know one another, but even strangers should be able to know them from any other sect and sort of men in the world. A nobleman’s servant is known, as far as he can well be seen, by the coat on his back, whose man he is; so, says Christ, shall all men know you, by your mutual love that you retain to Me and My gospel. (W. Gurnall.)

A sermon to wives

I. Love your husband, he can beat you in argument and stubbornness, but you can beat him in love.

II. Make your homes joyous, and you will keep your husbands at home.

III. Be peaceable and there will be no domestic jangles. Let others do all the quarrelling.

IV. Bear with your household and you will conquer if you suffer long enough.

V. Be gentle, and like the gentle horse all work will be easy.

VI. Be temperate, and do not live beyond your means. (Samuel P. Jones.)

Love first

Love is the fruitful mother of bright children. “A multitude of babes around her hung, Playing their sport that joyed her to behold.” Her sons are Strength, and Justice, and Self-control, and Firmness, and Courage, and Patience, and many more besides; and her daughters are Pity with her sad eyes, and Gentleness with her silvery voice, and Mercy whose sweet face makes sunshine in the shade of death, and Humility all unconscious of her loveliness; and linked hand in hand with these, all the radiant band of sisters that men call Virtues and Graces. These will dwell in our hearts, if Love, their mighty mother, be there. If we are without her we shall be without them. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Nature is love

And all things are possessed with the spirit of giving, Flowers spend their strength that they may make the air fragrant; fountains become streams, that they may water the valleys; trees give us foliage, blossom, fruit, and beauty; the clouds weep over us, swell, dissolve, and give themselves away; the distant heavens send down their light; the universe is instinct with the free, generous, glowing spirit of love. (Thomas Jones.)

Love

There is the great machine of life, standing ready in all its beauty and power, with its wide open senses, its advising mind, its warning conscience, its governing will; with the mighty flood of spiritual power pouring into it from above; and its first fruit, the subtle influence which pervades it, the direction given to it, is love. For that Holy Spirit of order, as He pours His influence into us, has a definite work for our energy to spend itself upon, amidst all the vast and complicated machinery of the world; and love is the initial, the foundation motive, which is to start our force, our passions, our motives, our imagination, our intellect, our strength, into their proper groove amidst the great labyrinth-scheme of the Providential working of God. For love means, without any attempt at a definition, a giving out of self to God, to Man, to Nature.

“We live by admiration, hope, and love.”

And love secures that all this splendid machinery and endowment of strength shall be used for the right objects; not for self-advantage or self-display, not for rivalry, or in the interests of pride; but that it shall be at the disposal of God, the disposal of man, and of the world, for good; and this not by an effort, not by a forced resolution of surly resignation, but in a bright spirit of instinctive willingness. Yes, there is no doubt about it; if we are spiritual; the first fruit of the Spirit will be love. One glance will be sufficient to show us the importance of love as a motive principle, the strength of this loving nature becoming fulfilled with the growing fruit of the Spirit. It is very hard to do God’s will: it is harder still sometimes to love it. We talk in a helpless way of resignation, as we feel ourselves tossed up and down, and whirled hither and thither in the irresistible currents of uncontrollable force. But the spiritual man wants something more than resignation to circumstances which he cannot control; he wants love, not to wish them otherwise--a far higher step. Love is just that spirit in which a man offers himself entirely to God. “O God, I offer myself wholly to Thee, and then to whatsoever work Thou givest me to do.” And equally true is it if we look towards our fellow-men, that love is a foundation virtue. Ah! love throws open wide all those points of contact with our friend and our neighbour, that is with the world: and does it not need love? “Nothing but the infinite pity is sufficient for the infinite pathos of human life.” And the Spirit pours into the great machinery of our being, which finds it only too easy to be rough and hard, the germ of that “infinite pity” in His gift of love. “Love your enemies.” Love is not a weak word, or a weak emotion, and never can be. Love knows how to send for its two body-guards, resentment and justice, and to prevent any enfeebling of its strength or diminishing of its power. There is no doubt whatever that love of our enemies, and nothing short of it, is required of us. And further, perhaps we may believe that this Love will develop itself within us, when our powers are working rightly under the influence of the Holy Spirit. And perhaps this principle of love should be carried further still. Perhaps our Master would have us feel that we ought to move amidst what we call Nature with a loving tread, as a mediator between Him and the lower creation, to discover, to develop, and mature all the varied resources of the world, and to try, as much as in us lies, to roll away some of that failure ( ματαιότης), which has passed through from us to them, who share in the sorrows of the Fall, as they also share in the hope of Redemption. Yes; surely this love, this fruit of the Spirit, will carry us as far as this. Let us try now and see one or two characteristics of love, one or two signs of its indwelling, abiding presence. First of all love will be thoughtful. “If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” How much thoughtfulness may we.trace in the love of God! “God so loved us.” There is all the thoughtfulness which lies around our creation, the beauty of the world we live in, the wonderful adaptation of our life, the daily tenderness and forethought of God, who clothes the lily, who feeds the ravens, and marks the fall of the sparrow to the ground, who bids us cast out our cares and lay aside anxiety, for He is caring for us, and marking all our needs and wants. Or, look again, if we may say so with reverence, at all the thoughtfulness which lies around our Redemption. Or look once more at the thoughtfulness which surrounds our sanctification. And so, must not our love be equally thoughtful? Must we not try to do all we can to open up life to our fellow-men? Ought we not to be thoughtful in trying to help on all those special works of thoughtful love which are in the world, such as schools, and penitentiaries, and hospitals, and the like? And a second characteristic of love will be sacrifice. Love is ready at any moment to sacrifice itself. Think how our Divine Lord and Master gave up His quiet and His retirement, His food and His sleep, at the calls of love. Think how patient He was with the misconception, the ignorance, and the unbelief which He encountered t Ah, yes! It is good for us to think of all the work done out of sight for this hungry, selfish world. It is good for us to think of those who labour in the deep mines of life, that we may be wanned and enlightened, of those who work the hidden machinery, that we may cut the waves more freely, and barter and exchange in the community of social commerce. It is good for us to think of the missionary toiling under the burning sun of Africa, leaving home and kindred and advancement, that he may spread among the heathen “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Wherever we see it, wherever we find it, self-surrender is a beautiful thing; it is the second characteristic of that fruit of the Spirit growing within, which is love. And a third characteristic is surely unweariedness. “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.” Ah, yes! That continual uninterrupted love is hard and difficult to maintain when the child of our love ceases to be interesting; when it is rough and uncouth, and as yet unable to come back to us with any return in its hands. It is difficult to love on in disappointment after disappointment. (W. C. E. Newbolt.)

Joy.--

Joy, a fruit of the Spirit

It is a very fortunate thing that the assertion that the fruit of the Spirit is joy is in the Bible: for if it were not, it is the last thing that many people would associate with the Spirit. To many the Spirit has very little ministry on the earth save to convict sinners of their sins and sanctify saints. They conceive of Him as a peripatetic that travels around among the churches producing what is known as revivals. His chief work seems to these people to be among the sinners, or the saints that have fallen from grace. To startle these from their lethargy, to strike them through and through with remorse, to fill their eyes with tears and their mouths with groanings, is the work of the Spirit. That the work of the Spirit is to make a person happy--actually and positively light-hearted:--that His aim is to add to the laughter of the world, to its pleasures and its enjoyments, has never occurred to these people as among the possibilities. Religion to them means a certain strict, decorous, and godly way of living; but that it means a happy way of living--if to happiness you give the same significance that other people give it--has never occurred to them. In the first place, it is impossible that the Holy Spirit should produce or seek to produce in human nature any result that is not in entire harmony with the Divine Nature. The Spirit; seeks to make man like God--to bring the human nature into nearer and nearer similitude with the Divine. If we are made joyous by the Spirit, then is it certain that God Himself is a joyous Being. There is one conclusion, the proof of which runs like a cord spun from wool of gold through the entire woof of things, and the entire woof of time; and which, therefore, no one who discerns the true nature of things and reads aright the lessons of time, can deny; and this conclusion is, that the aim and object of all God’s creation is for His own happiness, through the happiness of the creatures He has made. And this makes His own happiness self-receiving indeed, but most royally unselfish. For he who labours for self only in labours for others, treads that broad mosaic of right-doing, or righteousness, whose pavement is finer than if inlaid with stars; and which stretches in beauty through the eternity of things as to their extent, and the eternity of time as to its duration. But one might say, “If God created the world and man for happiness, how is it that misery has come upon the earth; and sorrows, from which there is no deliverance as yet, have come upon man?” I answer: These miseries are the result of sin which has broken in upon and disrupted the state of peace which was, and is still, the normal state of things. If you say farther: “But how could sin come into the world if God is all-powerful and all-wise, and its coming brought interruption to His plan, and hence disappointment to Himself?” I answer frankly: Of this I know nothing; and furthermore it is safe to say, that of this no one knows anything. Conjectures have been made and may be made. But in respect to deep spiritual truth conjecture availeth nothing. The fruit of the Spirit, it is said, is joy; but the results of God as wrought in nature and man, are not arbitrarily bestowed: they come in the way of a process and spring from a cause. The Christ could say, “My peace I leave with you,” because the causes that made His bosom peaceful He had implanted in their bosoms. If I should collect seeds of all the flowers in my garden and give them into a neighbour’s hand, or go down and plant them in that neighbour’s garden, I could go to him and say, “Neighbour, my flowers I have given unto you.” So the results of the Spirit’s work in human nature are results, not gifts. And the joy which the Spirit gives to us comes as the outgrowth of a cause or causes that He has implanted within our bosoms. If you sing, is it not because you have the capacity and the desire of song? If you laugh, is it not because your mouth is framed for laughter, and your spirit capable of delight? If you have joy, is it not because the cause or causes of joy have been born within you? Yea, is it not because the well-spring of gladness itself has been opened and set flowing in your hearts? Happiness is not given to us; we grow up into it. Misery is not an infliction; it is a self-generated state. The Christ said, in speaking to His followers, “The kingdom of God is within you;” and thereby did He teach us that the happiness of the heavenly state comes through interior development. Now, among the causes of joy which result from the Spirit’s work within us, is, first of all, perhaps, an increase of spiritual discernment. What a pleasure it is to grow in mental vision I--to feel that you are able to look deeper and deeper into the heart of things. Now, the Spirit makes man wise. It co-operates with the natural faculties and gives them that instruction in observation and discernment that they need. Did you ever think that most of the misery of life can be traced to this lack of right vision in people--this lack of accurate discernment as to the value of things? One man looks to the wine.cup and sees happiness in it. Oh, if he could see the snake that is in it I II he could see the torture and the torment that are in it; the ruin it will bring to his reputation; the woe it shall work to his family; the overthrow which it shall bring to his honour; the disgrace and the beggary that lurk in that cup, do you think he would drink? And this is why the Spirit of God is so efficacious in its work of reforming drunkards. It brings a revelation to them--a revelation which they need and which they had not; and which having, compels them to reform. It gives unto him the sight to see the loveliness and the nobleness of a wise ordering of his habits; it takes deceit out of temptation, and causes him to perceive the danger of yielding thereto. (W. H. Murray, D. D.)

The Christian’s joy

I. The grounds and reasons of the Christian’s joy, and the way in which it springs from the influence of the Holy Spirit.

1. He has access to all the blessings of the great salvation procured by Christ.

2. The Christian has cause to rejoice in the warrant which he possesses of claiming God as his portion. It is by the influence of the Holy Spirit that we are enabled to claim God as our God. It is the very nature of Divine grace to inspire a humble and holy confidence. “Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”

II. The qualities of that joy which is the fruit of the Spirit.

1. This joy is sincere and refined. Much of what is called joy in the world is little better than an illusive show. Pleasure is the profligate’s great Diana. To this gay goddess he sacrifices his health, property, time, talents, comfort, credit, present peace, and future happiness. The joy of the believer, issuing from the purest springs, is suited to the noble faculties and sublime hopes of the heaven-born soul: it is what the understanding approves, and the conscience allows.

2. That joy which is the fruit of the Spirit, is refreshing and invigorating. We are passing through a wilderness, to “seek a city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God: As sojourners, we are therefore subject to many toils, dangers, and trials. “Without are fightings, within are fears.” Yet we are not left destitute and comfortless. God has both a kingdom for them that love Him, and many rich blessings to cheer us while we are in the way to it. With a cordial composed of ingredients brought from the celestial country, and mingled with consummate wisdom, the languid, drooping spirit is quickened and filled with holy resolution and ardour. The Christian traveller never makes so much progress, as when he goes on his way rejoicing.

3. That joy, which is the fruit of the Spirit, is solid and lasting. Dion Pruseus tells us, that when the Persians had got a victory, they would pick out the noblest slave, make him a king for; three days, clothe him with royal robes, and feast him with all kinds of dainties and, at last, put him to death as a sacrifice to folly. Such is the fate of the gay profligate. He has, at most but a short season of mirth and mock majesty, accompanied with the terrors of a guilty conscience, anticipating his final doom. But the Christian has joy in review, joy in possession, and still brighter joy in prospect.

III. Answers to objections.

1. Nathanael exclaimed, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” And too many seem to think, neither profit nor pleasure can come from the religion of the despised Nazarene. Let the reader be on his guard against misapprehensions and misrepresentations of religion. Gross ignorance and slavish fear produce many false notions and absurd practices.

2. But perhaps the objector may ask, Do not the Scriptures require us to take up the cross daily, etc.? Can the deeps of humiliation, the tears of penitence, and the toils of zealous, unabated exertion, be consistent with comfort and joy? Certainly they are. The design of those precepts which call us to subdue pride, restrain corrupt passions, and root out evil habits is to conform us to the Divine will, and fit us for the kingdom of heaven.

3. Some persons, from a natural debility, have their trembling nerves exceedingly shaken, and their spirits greatly depressed, by the slightest accidents. When symptoms of this unhappy weakness appear in pious people, many cry out, “These are the fruits of religion. Their prayers have brought them into a sad state of moping melancholy.” But the truth is, many of the depressions and fears which are imputed to religion as the cause, have no connection with it. They have their seat in the body, rather than in the soul.

I shall conclude with an exhortation addressed to three classes of persons.

1. I shall address those who neither possess, nor desire, that joy which is the fruit of the Spirit.

2. I shall address those who possess not, but desire that joy which is the fruit of the Spirit.

3. I shall address those who possess that joy which is the fruit of the Spirit, but have to lament that it is so much deadened and interrupted.

That you may have this blessing in a richer measure, let me exhort you to--

1. Exercise yourselves daily, to keep a conscience void of offence, both towards God and man.

2. Employ all your time, your talents, and privileges, in zealous endeavours to do good, and promote the Divine glory.

3. Be often renewing your covenant engagements with God. (John Thornton.)

Joy in Jesus

Three hundred years ago, a martyr was burned for his religion in the city of Rome. He must have felt the truth of the words just quoted; for the last letter that he wrote to his friends, just before his death, he dated, not from prison, but “from the most delightful pleasure-garden.” In that letter he wrote thus: “Who will believe that which I now state? In a dark hole, I have found cheerfulness; in a place of bitterness and death, I have found rest, and the hope of salvation. Where others weep, I have found laughter; where others fear, I have found strength. Who will believe that in a state of misery I have had great pleasure; that in a lonely corner I have had glorious company, and in the hardest bonds, perfect repose? All these things Jesus, my Saviour, has granted me. He is with me; He comforts me; He fills me with joy; He drives bitterness from me, and gives me strength and consolation.” (Dr. Newton.)

Christians a joyful people

There is a room in Rome that is filled with the busts of the emperors. I have looked at their heads; they look like a collection of prize-fighters and murderers. Brutal passions and cruel thoughts deprived the lords of Rome of all chance of joy. Turn now to the poor hunted Christians, and read the inscriptions left by them in the catacombs; they are so calm and peaceful that they say instinctively, “A joyous people were went to gather here.” (C.H. Spurgeon.)

Benefits of joy

“Why should Christians be such a happy people? Why, it is good in all ways. It is good for our God; it gives Him honour among the sons of men when we are glad. It is good for us; it makes us strong. “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” It is good for the ungodly; for when they see Christians glad, they long to be believers themselves. It is good for our fellow Christians; it comforts them and tends to cheer them. Whereas, if we look gloomy we shall spread the disease, and others will be wretched and gloomy too. For all these reasons, and for many more that can be given, it is a good and pleasant thing that a believer should delight himself in God. (C.H. Spurgeon.)

Joy

is the response of each of the higher faculties of a man’s soul when it is brought up to concert pitch. (H. W. Beecher.)

Can you give any special directions how we are to get a joy when we have not one? We reply, no man can make the sun rise, but he can go into the sunshine; we can make our dark room bright by opening the shutters and letting in the day. We often think of a state we want to remove, and not of those things that will remove it. (T. T. Lynch.)

The joy of the Christian man in the darksome time is that, like the lark, he sings in the rain as well as in the sunshine. (T. T. Lynch.)

The relation of joy to love

In the Supreme Nature the two capacities of perfect love and perfect joy are indivisible. Holiness and happiness, says an old divine, are two several notions of one thing. Equally inseparable are the notions of opposition to love and opposition to bliss. Unless, therefore, the heart of a created being is at one with the heart of God, it cannot but be miserable. (A. H. Hollam.)

Christian joy

The farthest that any of the philosophers went in the discovery of blessedness was but to come to that--to pronounce that no man could be called blessed before his death; not that they had found what kind of better blessedness they went to after death, but that still, till death, they were sure every man was subject to new miseries, and interruptions of anything which they could call blessedness. The Christian philosophy goes farther: it shows us a perfecter blessedness than any conceived for the next life also. The pure in heart are blessed already, not only comparatively, that they are in a better way of blessedness than others are, but actually, in a present possession of it; for this world and the next world are not, to the pure in heart, two houses, but two rooms, a gallery to pass through and a lodging to rest in, in the same house, which are both under one roof, Christ Jesus. So the joy and the sense of salvation which the pure in heart have here is not a joy severed from the joy of heaven, but a joy that begins in us here, and continues, and accompanies us thither, and there flows on, and dilates itself to an infinite expansion. (John Donne, D. D.)

There is a great difference between the joy of the Christian and the joy of the worldling

The one is quick and violent, like a flash of lightning; the other is steady and abiding, as the light of a fixed star. The Christian’s joy is like the sea shells in the depths of ocean, which lie undisturbed by the violence of the waves. There reigns within a holy calm which comes from Christ. (J. G. Pilkington.)

Duty of joy

Christians, it is your duty not only to be good, but to shine; and, of all the lights which you kindle on the face, joy will reach farthest out to sea, where troubled mariners are seeking the shore. Even in your deepest griefs, rejoice in God. As waves phosphoresce, let joys flash from the swing of the sorrows of your souls. (H. W. Beecher.)

Of joy

1. It is a delightful passion. Joy is a sweet and pleasant affection, which eases the mind, exhilarates and comforts the spirits.

2. It ariseth from the feeling of some good. Joy is not a fancy, or bred of conceit; but is rational, and ariseth from the feeling of some good, viz., the sense of God’s love and favour. Joy is so real a thing that it makes a sudden change in a person; it turns mourning into melody. As in the spring-time, when the sun comes to our horizon, it makes a sudden alteration in the face of the universe; the birds sing, the flowers appear, the fig-tree puts forth her green figs, everything seems to rejoice and put off its mourning, as being revived by the sweet influence of the sun: so, when the Sun of Righteousness ariseth on the soul, it makes a sudden alteration, and the soul is infinitely rejoiced with the golden beams of God’s love.

3. By it the soul is supported under present troubles. Joy stupefies and swallows up troubles; it carries the heart above them, as the oil swims above the water.

4. The heart is fenced against future fear. Joy is both a cordial and an antidote; it is a cordial which gives present relief to the spirits when they are sad; and an antidote, it fenceth off fear of approaching danger: “I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me, Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me” (Psalms 23:4).

How is this joy wrought?

1. It ariseth partly from the promise; as the bee lies at the breast of the flower, and sucks out the sweetness from it, so faith lies at the breast of a promise, and sucks out the quintessence of joy: “Thy comforts delight my soul “ (Psalms 114:19) that is, the comforts which distil from the limbec of the promises.

2. The Spirit of God, who is called the “Comforter” (John 14:26), doth sometimes drop in this golden oil of joy into the soul. What are the seasons when God doth usually give His people these Divine joys?

Five seasons:

1. Sometimes at the blessed Supper; the soul oft comes weeping after Christ in the sacrament, and God sends it away weeping for joy.

2. Before God calls His people to suffering: “Be of good cheer, Paul” (Acts 23:11). God candies our wormwood with sugar.

3. After sore conflicts with Satan. Now, when the soul hath been bruised with temptations, God will comfort this bruised reed: He now gives joy to confirm a Christian’s title to heaven.

4. After desertion: God keeps His cordials for a time of fainting. Joy after desertion is like a resurrection from the dead.

5. At the hour of death, such as have no joy in their lifetime, God puts in this sugar in the bottom of the cup, to make their death sweet. What are the differences between worldly joys and spiritual.

The gleanings of the one are better than the vintage of the other.

1. Spiritual joys help to make us better, worldly joys do often make us worse: but spiritual joy makes one better; it is like cordial water, which, as physicians say, doth not only cheer the heart, but purges out the noxious humours; so Divine joy is a cordial water, which doth not only comfort but cleanse. As some colours do not only delight the eye, but strengthen the sight, so the joys of God do not only refresh the soul, but strengthen it. “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

2. Spiritual joys are inward, they are heart joys: “your heart shall rejoice” (John 16:22). Seneca saith, true joy is hidden within; worldly joy lies on the outside, like the dew that wets the leaf, who “glory in appearance” (2 Corinthians 5:12), in the Greek, in the face. It goes no farther than the face, it is not within, in “laughter the heart is sad.” Like a house which hath a gilded frontispiece, but all the rooms within are hung in mourning. But spiritual joy lies most within: “your heart shall rejoice.” Divine joy is like a spring of water which runs underground.

3. Spiritual joys are sweeter than others, better than wine (Song of Solomon 1:2). Divine joys are so delicious and ravishing, that they do very much put our mouth out of taste to earthly delights; as he who hath been drinking spirits of alkermes, tastes little sweetness in water.

4. Spiritual joys are more pure, they are not tempered with any bitter ingredients; a sinner’s joy is mixed with dregs, it is imbittered with fear and guilt; spiritual joy is not muddied with guilt, but like a crystal stream, runs pure; it is all spirits and quintessence, it is joy and nothing but joy, it is a rose without prickles, it is honey without the wax.

5. These are satisfying and filling joys: “ask, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). Worldly joys can no more fill the heart, than a drop can fill a cistern.

5. These are stronger joys than worldly: “strong consolation” (Hebrews 6:18).

7. These are unwearied joys: other joys, when in excess, oft cause a loathing, we are apt to surfeit on them, too much honey nauseates, one may be tired with pleasure as well as labour: Xerxes offered a reward to him who could find out a new pleasure: but the joys of God, though they satisfy, yet they never surfeit; a drop of joy is sweet, but the more of this wine the better; such as drink of the joys of heaven are never cloyed; the satiety is without loathing, because they still desire the joy wherewith they are satiated.

8. These are more abiding joys; yet these joys which seem to be sweet are swift, like meteors, they give a bright and sudden flash, and then disappear.

Why is this joy to be laboured for?

1. Because this joy is self-existent, it can subsist in the want of all other carnal joy.

2. Because spiritual joy carries the soul through duty cheerfully; the Sabbath is a delight, religion is a recreation. The oil of joy makes the wheels of obedience move faster.

3. It is called the kingdom of God (Romans 14:17), because it is a taste of that which the saints have in the kingdom of God. What shall we do to obtain this spiritual joy? Walk accurately and heavenly; God gives it after a long and close walking with Him. Then see that religion is no melancholy thing; it brings icy; the fruit of the Spirit is joy--it is changed, but not taken away. If God gives His people such joy in this life; O then, what glorious joy will He give them in heaven! “Enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21). Here joy begins to enter into us, there we shall enter into joy; God keeps His best wine till last (T. Watson.)

The method and variety of spiritual joy

It is, therefore, the use that we make of Divine truth, the reception we give to it, the obedience we pay to it, the taking it up into our life, that constitutes the possibility and makes the variety of such experience. Our hearts and minds are like an organ that God is willing to play upon, sends His heavenly organists to play upon, with the very music of heaven; but if the organ itself is out of tune, what becomes of the melody? If we have let the chords be broken, if we have suffered the instrument to get out of order, if the dust of the earth, the defilement of sin, and sinful affections, and the discord of a rebellious, selfish will are there, the master melodist of the choirs of heaven could not breathe harmony through it, nor could the angels sing with it. But when it is in tune by God’s Spirit, and God breathes upon it, strike but the keynote of one of the great anthems, and the whole being is a spontaneous living utterance and pursuit of the strain. But there is great variety in the music, as there is in the instrument. All hearts and minds are not organs; and God will not have a monotony in His praises. There is great variety in Christian experience, even when it is all taught and inspired by God’s Spirit and grace. Some hearts are like an Eolian harp, always an undertone of sadness, sometimes from some peculiarity of organization or of temperament, sometimes from the effect of a long and saddening discipline. But if such a harp is kept in tune, if it is strung for the love of Jesus, open the windows of Divine truth anywhere, and set it in the breeze of heaven, and it will breathe forth exquisite melody. But it would not do this if the chords were rusted, neglected, loosened. Then the sadness, that even in a perfect harp might be most musical, most melancholy, almost drawing tears by its pathos, would be jarring with despair, would converse of guilt and misery. We must keep our hearts with all diligence, in order to bear a part without discord, without jarring, in the full harmony of God’s grace. The state of the affections has everything to do with it, and the manner in which they are disciplined, the habits in which they are trained. God does not make extempore melodies in hearts habitually set upon other things; neither, even by regeneration, does He create a perfect instrument, and develope all its powers at once. There is a constant gradual training, a training to the sentiments, capacities, experiences, of happiness and joy as a permanent fulness of life. The growth of love, joy, faith, hope, every grace, is like the growth of the foliage of a tree in nature. The law of life works, and works well; but God does not create the trees full blossomed, full leaved, any more than He does the grain full ripened; but it is first the blade, peeping out of the ground, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. But all this is the work of growth and gradualism, and just so it is with our Christian affections and habits. Some Christians are like a tree covered with foliage; every leaf is sensitive to the light, and rejoices in it; the branches dance in the wind; the birds nestle and sing among the branches; the cattle repose under the cool shade. Other Christians again seem like a tree in winter; no sensitive, sympathizing, playful affections, to tremble in the wind, reflect the light, perform the ministry of life, joy, and love. There may be life, but it is too exclusively in the roots, a life so hidden, that indeed it is not only out of sight, but out of office, so that it is an uninviting rather than a joyful spectacle. (George Cheever, D. D.)

Joy

I. The nature of this joy. It is spiritual joy, “joy in the Lord,” and “in the Holy Ghost.” The Holy Ghost is its author. Sometimes He produces this joy by showing the soul its interest in Christ, and thus it is essentially a “joy of faith.” It is peculiar to faith or to believers, for it springs from believing “the record that God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 St. John 5:11); from believing that “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Indeed, it is inseparable from faith, it is joy in believing--in the very act. (Romans 15:13; Acts 8:37; Acts 16:34.)

II. Some grounds of our joy.

1. Bear in mind it is a joy of faith, which appropriates to itself all God is as its own. God’s wisdom, power, truth, faithfulness, goodness, grace, mercy, on all matters of joy.

2. His election in Christ is matter of joy to the believer (St. Luke 10:17-20). S. The covenant of grace is another ground of joy.

4. Again, salvation is a ground of joy (Psalms 20:5). Again, the hope of glory is a privilege which believers rejoice in.

III. Some properties of this joy.

1. It is a holy joy.

2. An elevating joy. It lifts the heart above the world.

3. A self-denying joy. Nothing so shrivels up self as joy in Christ.

4. A satisfying joy.

5. It is a joy a stranger intermeddleth not with.

6. It is independent of circumstances.

7. “The icy of the Lord is our strength.”

Let me close with a word of caution how you should preserve the sense of it in your heart.

1. Beware of sin and worldliness.

2. Keep close to a throne of grace and the study of the Scriptures.

3. Beware of grieving the Holy Spirit. (J. Reeve, M. A.)

Joy

And what is joy? Equally with love it seems to elude and escape definition, and in some sense to baffle an intelligible description of its nature. But possibly joy may be something like this, an outward expression of a happiness which is absorbing and real. There is, for example, the genuine joy of a little child shouting in his games, absorbed in the pursuit of the moment; there is the deeper joy penetrating even to the face of an intellectual man, as he is “enjoying” some scientific pursuit; and there is a joy, the peculiar property of the soul, which hangs with a pervading fragrance round the writings of the saints and their books of devotion, so much so, that sometimes their words seem strange and unreal to our colder hearts; a joy which indicates a satisfaction which the world can neither give nor take away. So that we might further describe joy as the radiant atmosphere which plays around pleasure; and if pleasure is, roughly speaking, satisfaction, and the highest pleasure the highest satisfaction, joy will be the illumination, half conscious, half unconscious, which plays about the life of true pleasure. Sometimes we may fancy that even an inanimate machine, with its beautiful adjustments and nice mechanism, seems to work with a smoothness which is almost joy; but in this great engine of life it is no fancy; its harmonious working is joy, and joy gives it strength to cut and carve the various materials, rough and smooth, which come before it. And icy gives it strength, so that there shall be no slurred or jagged or twisted or perverted work. “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” “The excellence of the work is, caeteris paribus, in proportion to the joy of the workman.” And it has been pointed out in a recent sermon that this was the dominant note which rang through the first proclamations of Christianity--joy. “Sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing,” is the very watchword of The Christian. It is joy which is in the very front of our Saviour’s teaching in the Beatitudes: it is His last legacy before His Passion, “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” “Your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” “Your joy no man taketh from you.” “Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” It is the peculiar province of the Church, that it is fulfilled with a ministration of joy. And the simple “power of being pleased” is in itself not to be despised. We mistake sometimes our coldness and sternness, and that dignified nil admirari, for something else than it really is. There is such a thing as rust, and the dust of long work, and the wearing out of unrenewed strength, over which the oil of gladness has no power. Remember that man alone can laugh, and delight in the deeper joys of nature and the glories of art. Ah, there are innumerable little ducts and channels through which it seems meant that the “oil of gladness” should be poured into our life. “Consider the lillies,” says our blessed Lord, as if parts of nature were designed expressly to give us delight, in the unfolding beauty and splendour displayed before our eyes! What fields of wonder and enchantment open upon us through the imaginative faculty! What subtile and pure pleasures art and music conjure up before us! What force there is in such words as “recreation” and “amusement”! Nothing short of a complete renewal of our jaded nature, or the very enchanting us away by the thraldom of an engrossing delight. Are all these things to be lightly set aside or “despised”? Is companionship nothing, or the society of books which brings us into contact with the great minds of all ages? And joy has its distinguishing marks and characteristics, as well as “love,” the freshness and verdure which mark out its course. And one of these surely will be hopefulness: “joyful through hope,” is what we pray that every baptized person may be, as he passes through the difficulties of the world. It is a characteristic of joy that makes us so hopeful; so that in the warm rush of delight a man does not even know when he is beaten, but presses on to victory, through failure and defeat which had otherwise crushed him. How many a man has surmounted apparently insuperable obstacles, because joy has whispered to hope, and hope has said, “It can be done.” And a second characteristic will be brightness. It makes all the difference to life if joy is shining within. It sheds a rainbow light across the darkest storm. And brightness not only makes a difference to our own lives, but also to the lives of other people, if instead of the creaking, groaning machinery, they have in its place the smooth, easy, joyous life before their eyes.. Benevolent people talk of brightening the homes of the poor, and it is a blessed work to attempt; but bright lives do a great deal to cheer and help all around them. Perhaps others are bearing their cross better, or doing their work with greater ease, because they can walk in our brightness; whereas gloom and melancholy, and “the indolent rebellion of complaint,” would cause them to loosen their hold from very weariness, and then to fall crushed and broken below. And a third characteristic of joy may well be evenness. A life in which there is nothing of those alternations of depression and excitement, of exultation and despair, which cause it to expand and contract with a suddenness which well-nigh cracks it in two; a variableness so wearisome to the man himself, so painful to his friends. Instead of this, joy sheds abroad a quiet, even glow, all over work, just as God Himself, in His wondrous love, has an evenness of beauty in all forms of His working. There is the beauty of the spring life and the beauty of the autumn decay, the beauty of-the summer sun and the beauty of the winter cloud. So with us, however varied and diversified the work of our life may be in its vicissitudes and changes, still the evenness of joy with which we work may be uniform, until death itself comes as only one more day’s experience “with God onwards.” “Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, rejoice.” (W. C. E. Newbolt.)

Peace.--

Peace, a fruit of the spirit

The earth is full of war. Nor is it a new thing; it is an old thing. Since brother smote brother, fighting has been popular. Race has contended with race, nation with nation. One island of the sea, century after century, has carried arms against a neighbouring island. The warlike element is strong in human nature. Read history. Its letters are all red. History tells little of the triumphs of peace. Seventeen-twentieths of her pages are crowded from top to bottom, to tell the student of the triumphs of war. Triumphs of war! War has no triumphs. War is all disaster, all calamity, all ruin. There is in the universe a Spirit of right, a Spirit of goodness, a Spirit of love, and this we call God. This Spirit is an energetic Spirit. Its object is to have everybody to do right--to have everybody good, and to establish the reign of universal love--love towards Himself as the beautiful embodiment of these sweet and sublime principles, and love to all lesser ones whose nature and condition make them the object of benevolent designs and the recipient of benevolent efforts. This great Spirit, whose characteristics are what we have suggested, has within His bosom these benevolent wishes, and His wishes when expressed become law unto us and unto every order of being. Man contends against them; man rejects them. In so doing man declares war against God. And this God, against whom man is at war, is not a Being disconnected from us, whose Spirit is separate from our spirit; but He is a Being associated with us, and whose Spirit is mingled with our spirit. He is not a power that is remote, foreign, arbitrary; He is a power that is nigh, that is native, and whose workings are co-operative with our faculties. It is the Father’s Spirit lovingly contending with the child’s spirit, striving to bring it into sympathetic alliance with that which is good. The war, therefore, on the part of man with God, is a war within his own members; a war between that which is right and wrong in tendency and principle, between that which is pure and impure in passion, between that which is holy and unholy in deed. The evil in man contends with that which is good in him. The war is the war with nature. The fight is spiritual. The Waterloo is the Waterloo of the soul. Indeed, man might be likened to a globe composed of two hemispheres, whereof the one is black, the other white. Over civilized people the evil does not hold dominion; it seeks dominion and fights for it. In civilized classes men are not possessed of the devil; the devil striveth to possess them. This is the cause of the war, then. The elements in him are of opposite character and in actual contention. And only when the evil in him is eradicated, and the good in him is not only thoroughly rooted in him, but moves upward and develops in the course of its growth unmolested, will the war within him cease, and his nature find its original but long-lost heritage of peace. The text says that the fruit of the Spirit is peace. The ultimate result of those Divine operations which work their change in men is peacefulness; and this word “peacefulness” is one of those mirror-like words which are framed into every language, because of its fine capacity to receive and reflect happy impressions. “Home” is one of these words. “Mother” is another, and “peace” is a third. Looking into its reflected depths you behold a sky without a cloud; a sun whose rays are genial without being fierce; fields waving with abundant harvests; broad stretches of territory on which no armies manoeuvre. In the plains no battles smoke; in the cities no sack nor pillage; in the hamlets no blazing cottage; on the sea no hostile armaments. These are the scenes, the lovely scenes, the charming scenes which the word reflects in reference to material interests and prosperity. But other and more lovely images are in it. Men and women find therein reflection--men and women with happy faces, with countenances that glow in innocent pleasure; men and women with no war within their natures; whose passions are orderly and under correct government; whose feelings are pure, whose emotions are all noble, whose aspirations are heavenly, whose consciences are undisturbed; men and women at peace with themselves, with surrounding nature, and with God. The earth shall come to such a day. Its mountains shall behold the rising of its sun. The hills shall clap their hands at its coming, and its fields through all their bounteous growth shall laugh as they receive of the benevolence of its quickening beam. The golden age of which the ancient poets sang, the old star-gazing dreamers dreamed, and the prophets who saw with eyes that looked not out of mortal sockets, predicted; when the swords shall be beaten into ploughshares, and the spears be turned into pruning-hooks; when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and a little child shall lead them--this age, I say, shall come. And the human race, which has been like a ship long tossed on stormy waves, and which many times has come nigh unto utter wreck, shall sail in toward a coast whose winds blow fair, and be wafted by favouring and fragrant gales into the wished-for harbour of repose. But how shall the race come to such a time? you ask; and by what power shall man be changed--as he must be--or ever he can stand like a perfect note in this sweet psalm? By the Spirit of God, I answer. Ay, the work of the Spirit shall bring it about, and by the operations of the Spirit shall it be caused. The Spirit that is mighty; that is pure; that is peace-working; that bloweth like the wind whose home is all lands, and which moveth its salutary influences through all climes;--the Spirit of God shall bring it about. Here we see the philosophy of that peace which is the fruit of the Spirit. Its causes are found in the enlightenment of the understanding and the regeneration of the soul, by which men are made to see what is for their true and lasting happiness, and to seek after it with all the energy of their natural powers, reinforced with other and superior energies imparted to them by the Author of their souls. And when this twofold work is accomplished, the nature of a man cometh unto peace, because out of it have been eradicated the causes that produce war. The sons of God are, therefore, with peculiar aptness, called the sons of peace. They are peaceful in their disposition; peaceful in their conduct; peaceful in their lives, and peaceful in their resignation when they come to die. (W. H. Murray, D. D.)

On spiritual peace

I. Show wherein spiritual peace consists.

1. Spiritual peace consists in that sweet and calm serenity of conscience, which arises from a well-grounded persuasion of our reconciliation to God.

2. Spiritual peace consists in that amiable frame of mind which disposes a believer to live in harmony, concord, and quietness with his fellow-men. This is called the fruit of the Spirit, in opposition to hatred, variance, emulations, wraths, strifes, etc., which are reckoned among the works of the flesh. The amiable temper which religion inspires, sheds its tranquilizing influence over all the relations of life. It has a tendency to produce

II. Point out the means by which peace is enjoyed and preserved.

I. Let us show by what means peace is enjoyed and preserved in the conscience.

2. I shall now show by what means we may promote peace among our fellow-men, and Christian brethren.

2. It will have a useful tendency to promote peace among Christian brethren, if we seriously consider the unhappy consequences that attend the want of it. Where envying and strife are, there are confusion and every evil work. To promote peace among Christian brethren, cultivate a charitable and forbearing temper. Never conclude that all must be fatally wrong, who do not think just as you think. We cannot find two faces exactly alike; why then should we expect to meet many minds that in every respect correspond with our own? If you really love and pursue peace, you must judge favourably and speak candidly of others. When a breach is made, you must try to close, rather than widen it. (John Thornton.)

Peace, a treasure

Peace is greater than all other treasures, but no philosophy can bestow it; for how can philosophy cleanse from sin? Nor can works; for how are they able to justify Descend into whatever mine, shake whatever tree, knock at whatever door in the world thou wilt, the poor world cannot offer it thee. Peace is but one: One only has peace; One only can give it--“the Prince of Peace.” (Krummacher.)

Peace in poverty

I have seen the Christian man in the depths of poverty, when he lived from hand to mouth, and scarcely knew where he should find the next meal, still with his mind unruffled, calm, and quiet. If he had been as rich as an Indian prince, yet could he not have had less care. If he had been told that his bread should always come to his door, and the stream which ran hard by should never dry; if he had been quite sure that ravens would bring him bread and meat in the morning, and again in the evening--he would not have been one whit more calm. There is his neighbour on the other side of the street not half so poor, but wearied from morning till night, bringing himself to the grave with anxiety. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Armour of peace

He that hath peace with God, is armed cap-a-pi: he is covered from head to foot in a panoply. The arrow may fly against it, but cannot pierce it; for peace with God is a mail so strong, that the broadsword of Satan himself may be broken in twain ere it can pierce the flesh. Oh, take care that you are at peace with God; for if you are not, you ride forth to to-morrow’s fight unarmed, naked; and God help the man who is unarmed when he has to fight with hell and earth. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Peace

When the soul in every part of itself is stayed upon some good centre, upon God and Christ in the love of God--when every part of the soul ceases to be hungry, when it has no clamour, no sorrow, but is restful, glad, and perfectly composed in a sweet harmony with itself, that is peace. (H. W. Beecher.)

Christian peace

The peace which Christ gives, the peace which He sheds abroad in the heart, is it aught else than such a glorified harmony--the expelling from man’s life of all that was causing disturbance there, all that was hindering him from chiming in with the music of heaven, all that would have made him a jarring and dissonant note, left out from the great dance and minstrelsy of the spheres, in which now shall mingle for ever the consenting songs of redeemed men and elect angels? (Abp. Trench.)

Peace is love reposing

It is love on the green pastures, and beside the still waters. It is that great calm which comes over the conscience when it sees the atonement sufficient and the Saviour willing. It is unclouded azure in a lake of glass. It is the soul which Christ has pacified, spread out in serenity and simple faith, and the Lord God, merciful and gracious, smiling over it. (J. Hamilton, D. D.)

Peace

We now reach the third note of the spiritual life, a third fruit of the Spirit, which is peace. That peace which is “the tranquility of order,” which, like the other fruit, joy, settles down in a blessed calm over the steady working of our being when all its different parts are moving harmoniously. Now peace is not an ordinary nor a common fruit; rather it is terribly rare Men are rifling the earth of its treasures and secrets, its beauties and pleasures, but peace does not seem to brood over their efforts. But, so it is, the fruit of the Spirit is peace: not the ἀπάθεια, the calmness of the Stoics, to be won by a deliberate crushing out of feeling; not the mere Hedonism of the Epicureans, which cannot allow even a painful thought; but with every sensitive nerve finely strung, with passion, feeling, and affection all alive and warm within us, the pursuing our way in tranquility, calm and unruffled, protected by an influence which is nothing else than an armed escort--the peace of God. Now there would seem to be two great counter influences to jar and disturb and throw out this peace. The one is a godlessness, of which we are oftentimes unconscious; the other is the presence of Satan, molesting, harassing, disturbing, even where he fails to kill. “Neither is God in all his thoughts.” Here is the description of that first adverse influence. Why is it that, in the face of God’s promises, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee;” “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,” that yet, as far as we are concerned, He is absent from large portions of our life? There is that anxiety which divides up our life and maims our energies, which burns deep into the channels of our activity, and sometimes impairs us altogether. Is anxiety sent from God? Has he not said, “Take no anxious thought,” “casting (down) all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.” It is we who drop the hand of God and try to walk alone. We do not believe that God, who governs the world, can remove a petty trouble from our clouded life. “We use the realm of the possible, which was given for man to hope, only to fear in.” So again it is with depression, which weighs our footsteps to the earth. We walk and are sad, because our eyes are holden so that we do not know the Companion who wishes to cheer us, and resolve the doubts and fears which harass us. And this is what we need to alter, if this fruit of the Spirit is to grow within us. We must secure the abiding presence of God, not only when we are in His house or on our knees, and in times of our better moments, but always, everywhere, and in all circumstances. The second disturbing influence which is hostile to the tranquility of peace is the adverse presence of Satan to tempt, to harass, and, if possible, to destroy. Temptation, as we commonly call it, is one of the most serious troubles which can beset the life of man. And we are by nature terribly exposed to its influence. There are great tracts of our being which are being constantly swept by its fury and malignity, and we are day by day and hour by hour assaulted and shaken by it. First of all there is the vast region of thought. It is Satan’s purpose, if possible, to get the command of this instrument, to feed it with what is evil, and to produce out of it sin. He bribes the senses with pleasures, he dazzles the imagination with fascinating pictures, he plies the memory with scenes of past iniquity. If facts fail his purpose, he knows where to find poisonous fiction: he can employ music and painting, and art of all kinds; he even knows how to manipulate religion to his purpose; he labours hard, and out of the heart proceeds an evil thought. And then this quickly spreads, and the senses are ever ready for a mutiny. We know what it means; but is there any reason why this should disturb our peace? Most surely not. We have learnt at least these two great facts.

1. That every one is tempted, and that not even the holiness of the Son of God was exempted from it.

2. That temptation is not sin, but rather the material out of which vice and virtue is formed. What a call to that which we are so apt to forget--watchfulness, and self-discipline, and self-distrust! And then it does us a still further service--it drives the soul back on its supports in prayer, and, like a frightened child in its mother’s embrace, feels a sense of safety; so confidence returns to us as we feel the pressure of the everlasting arms. Further, it makes the soul feel its own strength and security by God’s help; for just as we never value so much the shelter of a good roof and stout walls as when the wind is howling and whistling and battling with its storm-blasts against the house, so the storm of temptation may but intensify the peace within. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect, peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” Peace may come in the very midst of temptation, the peace of a well-ordered security. (W. C. E. Newbolt.)

Peace

I. The nature of this peace.

1. It is an inward spiritual peace--peace of soul.

2. There is a peace arising from easy circumstances, from good health, position, friends, relatives, happy families, tender affections, prosperous affairs. This is not the peace of God; for these things make to themselves wings and fly away.

3. Then there is the peace of the world, though but few seriously call it so.

4. Again, there is a peace which may be aptly called the peace of the devil. The strong man, armed, keeps his goods in peace.

II. The source of this peace.

1. A clear sense of the favour of God.

2. Submissiveness to the will of God. There can be no peace without this.

3. Power to appropriate the promises of God, so as to be able to say, “They are mine.”

III. How it is seen.

1. In the disposition and temper. It makes a man, if not bright and cheerful, at least calm and quietly happy.

2. In the circumstances. When prosperity is gone, the peace of God still remains.

3. In the hour of temptation (Philippians 4:7).

4. In spirituality of mind. “To be spiritually-minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

It is worth keeping.

1. Pray against unbelief.

2. Pray against disobedience.

3. Pray against levity. Nothing sooner destroys peace than a trifling spirit.

4. Pray against fretful and murmuring tempers.

5. Pray against self-righteousness. (J. Reeve, M. A.)

Long-suffering.--

Long-suffering, a fruit of the Spirit

You all know what long-suffering means. It means the power to bear up under a burden--a power to endure--a power to resist pressure--the capacity to stand a tremendous strain. The idea of endurance is that which gives emphasis to the word. The ancients realized both the desirableness and the nobility of the quality, and the noblest among them set themselves to the task of acquiring it. They said, “Weakness is unmanly; it is ignoble. Strength is magnificent--is godlike. We will be strong. We will he braced so as to resist all pressures. Though an avalanche fall on us, though we stand in the very path of it, yet we will not be moved from our foundations.” They said, “Pain shall not make us groan. Danger shall not appal. Peril shall not intimidate. The shocks and ills of life shall not disturb our equanimity. Bereavement and loss may come; but they shall not jostle us from the fine poise of perfect self-control.” The extent of their success showed what human will can do. Men called them Stoics. They called themselves Stoics. The philosopher Zeno was the master of this school. To him many disciples flocked. They were blown to the stern severity of his presence by the ills and adversities of life, as ships are blown by tempests into harbours encircled by mountains, and whose narrow entrances are guarded by immovable cliffs. He taught them that men should be free from passion; unmoved by joy or grief; and that they should submit without complaint to the unavoidable necessities by which, as he supposed, all things were governed. This, I believe, was the nearest approach to what is known in Christian ethics as long-suffering, that the ancients made. It is easy to discern how far they climbed, and yet how near the base of the majestic pyramid of Christian serenity, amid the storms of trouble, they remained. They had the right idea, hut they did not have the Divine help. They relied on themselves, and hence their inspiration was insufficient. Their stoicism was not the upspringing of a Divine patience in their soul, or the light of a Divine illumination shining into their minds, but was only the result of human determination. Their long-suffering was only the discipline of the nerves and the muscles. To endure when one has lost his sensibility, is taking the very virtue from endurance; but to bear up against trouble to which one is keenly sensitive; to be resigned to losses that divide the very life, so to speak, and rend it asunder; to be patient in the face of provocation strongly felt; to endure what taxes the highest forces in one’s life--not because of a sullen faith that you cannot escape them if you would, but because of a sublime trust which supplies you with a feeling that you would not escape them if you could--this is the triumph of Christian teaching. Herein is the Christ seen superior to Zeno, and the marvellous beauty of the work of the Spirit apprehended. The question, therefore, naturally at this point arises: How does the Spirit accomplish this work? By what process of development is this effect produced? Is it of the mind? Is it of the soul? Or is it of both conjoined? I find God everywhere--in the works of nature, etc. But, beyond what I find Him in the works of Nature, I find Him in myself; not in that part of myself which is material, which the trees on the hills outlive, and on the grave of which the sun will some day look and the stars will some night shine; but in that part of me which is immaterial, beside whose life the life of the tree is as nothing, and which shall live on and on when the sun, which now wheels his sure course above us, shall have set for ever; and when, for aught I know, the stars themselves, which now make the heavens glorious by night, shall be quenched in their every beam. I find Him most, I say, within my soul; yea, in the works of that Spirit of whose fruit I am speaking; in the energies of its puissant action; in the conservative pressure of its guidance; in the fine enlightenment of its illumination; in the life-giving quickening of its vitalising touch, and in the sanctifying influence of its presence. I find Him, I say, most of all in my spirit; and because of the benevolence of His operation, my spirit loveth the Spirit that moveth it aright, and worships at the throne which is white because it symbolizes a power which is innocent. And to those who tell me that the works of the Spirit are mysterious, I say: Not so. They are plain as the work of the day when the flowers open on the hills; plain as the movement of the white clouds when the force which eye cannot see rolls their snowy formation upward; plain as the power of love which gives, when it is apprehended by the love which receives. Let us answer, then, the interrogation as to how the Spirit develops the capacity of long-suffering in the soul? How does He make man able to bear losses, disappointments, vexations, bereavements, and all the ills that flesh is heir to? We answer, that the Spirit accomplishes this effect by teaching us the relative value of things; and this I will illustrate. Take, e.g., the matter of wealth. Who of you that are wealthy could see your wealth pass from your hands without a murmur? Who of you could endure the loss of your gains--the gains of honourable and lifelong toil--with patience? And who of you could see the noble properties which you have inherited from the industry and affection of the past taken from your control, and pass from the ownership of your name with equanimity? In how many Gases do cheerfulness and patience decline with the decline of profits! In how many cases have men who were rich in this world’s goods, when their riches have suddenly vanished, committed suicide, as if all that made life desirable had gone with their treasures! But if the Spirit of God, dear friends, has brought true enlightenment to the mind; has given it discernment as to the comparative value of things; has brought the next world into conjunction with this, and made one to see the lasting glory of the one and the evanescent splendour of the other; the man, I say, in whom this blessed work has been wrought out can see his wealth depart without loss of courage, of patience, or of hope. For he knows that what is taken, looked at in the large way and viewed in the light of eternity, was not essential to his nature. He knows that his character is independent of it. He knows that it was but an accident, collateral to his life, and not the true life itself. And he realizes the affirmation contained in the question of the Saviour when He exclaimed: “Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment?” And thus were they enabled to endure the deprivation without murmuring. Thus was the sublime element of long-suffering developed in them, and the fruit of the Spirit amply realized. I might illustrate farther. I have seen those to whom health was most desirable, lose it, and yet through all their sickness be upheld by the thought implanted in their minds, and ripened into a conviction by the Spirit, that they would soon enter into a realm where sickness is unknown, into which pain never enters, and where health is the only expression of existence. We have seen the beautiful lose their beauty; and yet, though they knew that the loveliness of the flesh had left form and feature for ever, they bore their loss with sweetest patience--with cheerfulness, even, as if they had lost but a trifle, because that within them was being born a loveliness that should never fade, and beauty which once possessed in the heavens would never depart. Ay, and we have seen men and women stand over coffins, in which lay the form once inhabited by their darling, without a tear. We have seen them stand on the edge of the grave and look into the darkness of death, as into a great sunrise, because they knew by discernment between the mortal and the immortal that their loved ones had only passed on and gone up, and that their feet as they climbed the sky-tending path had left the radiance of their ascension to light them upward to a happy and endless reunion when they should be called to go Thus do we see how it is by enlightenment of the mind and the soul as to the comparative value of things, that the Spirit worketh as one of its fruits the capacity of long-suffering, the capacity to bear without murmuring, to endure without complaint, and in the midst of grief live sustained by consolations. (W. H. Murray, D. D.)

Long-suffering, a patience

In every station, and through every stage of life, we are involved in troubles. So necessary is self-possession, that a man without it resembles a ship without a rudder, left to the mercy of the winds, over which the pilot has no command. Yet we cannot possess or govern our own minds in times of trouble, except we possess patience.

I. I shall define Christian patience, or show what it is. That patience which is the fruit of the Spirit stands opposed to irritability of temper, undue eagerness of expectation, fretfulness under sufferings, and weariness in well-doing. Christian patience must he distinguished from constitutional fortitude and stoical apathy. Some, as if formed of tougher materials, are much more capable of enduring sufferings than others. But there is nothing to be commended in that sort of hardihood which is the effect of callousness or insensibility: for where there is no feeling, there is no patience. Dr. Barrow ingeniously calls Christianity, the special academy of patience; wherein we are informed, are inured, are trained up, and tried to bear all things. In this academy, the Holy Spirit is the Great Teacher, by whose gracious influence we become conformed to the will of God. How poor and contemptible were the best lessons of the school of Zeno, compared with those taught in the school of Christi How empty and vapid were the choicest products of pagan philosophy, contrasted with the rich fruit of the Spirit!

II. I shall now point out the happy effects of patience. A celebrated modern writer asserts, that “philosophy overcomes past and future ills; but present ills easily overcome philosophy.” If it be so, philosophy itself is not worth pursuing. Who would seek such a miserable comforter? It is when the wound smarts, that we need the healing balm; when the fainting fit comes on, that we want the reviving cordial. Religion does not merely follow our path, or come forth to meet us; but goes with us to lighten our burdens, to relieve our wants, and redress our griefs.

1. Patience in affliction is profitable to ourselves. We are naturally impetuous and self-willed. We wish to wear the crown without bearing the cross; and to find some shorter and smoother road to the heavenly kingdom than that which leads us through the perilous and tedious wilderness. It is.not without repeated trials, sanctified by Divine grace, that we are brought to a more submissive spirit. There are lessons to be learned, and duties to be performed, for which patience is an indispensable preparation.

2. Patience in affliction is advantageous to others. It- excites mutual sympathy, and imparts much encouragement.

3. Patience in suffering gives honour to God.

III. I shall endeavour to show how the grace of patience may be cultivated.

1. Let us seek a larger measure of the Holy Spirit, and take heed that we do not provoke Him to withdraw His influences from us.

2. To cultivate the grace of patience, let us seriously consider our afflictions, in their short continuance, and glorious issue.

3. To cultivate the grace of patience, it will be useful to have a special regard to the promises which belong to a state of trial. A good man put this among his daily prayers: “Lord, teach me the art of patience while I am well, and the use of it when I am sick. In that day, either lighten my burden, or give me strength to bear it.”

4. To cultivate patience, set before you the brightest examples of His grace. (John Thornton.)

Long-suffering

Look at that matron who through the years of early life inherited bereavement and sorrows, the thinning out of the precious flock, the dishonoured names of the husband, the death, the rolling upon her of the responsibility of rearing the whole flock, the unwearied fidelity, the inexhaustible patience, furrow after furrow that experience is ploughing upon her brow; at last the children had come to ripeness, and they in their turn are lifting her out of trouble, and she sits down serene at the close of life more beautiful than the going down of the sun. Is there any object in life that a man can look upon that is more beautiful than long-suffering. (H. W. Beecher.)

Long-suffering

A fourth mark of the spiritual life, a fourth fruit of the Spirit, is long-suffering. And long-suffering is perhaps that power which enables us to suffer on, which will not let us become ruffled, or put back, or paralyzed, or overwhelmed by difficulties as they come upon us. And we do well to realize that we have to exercise long-suffering quite early in our spiritual life, in our very dealings with the great and good God Himself. We remember how in His mercy He is ever urging us to be strong. Sometimes we ourselves have wondered why in God’s good providence we are given a work to do which is a special temptation to us. And at last the truth becomes apparent that God has some signal favour to bestow upon us; that He wishes us to recover, by using it, the power in some maimed limb, to make whole by painful exercise some impaired faculty. To walk upon it, to stretch it, to move it, with many a cry of anguish and many a secret groan, and then at last to feel a new strength in an unlooked-for department of life. Or further, it may be some distinguished grace, some pre-eminent honour, that He is waiting to bestow upon us; but He has to delay until He can see whether we can bear the preliminary cutting and carving which is to prepare our souls to receive it. Vae his qui perdiderunt sustinentiam: [“Woe to them that have lost the power of bearing!] and what will ye do when the Lord shall visit you?” (Sirach 2:14.) And it is just the same with God’s methods of working, which He consigns to our care, and puts as instruments into our hands. His methods seem terribly slow to our impatience, We have to deal with a system of work which of necessity demands much time, where planting and watering and maturing all must have their ordered course, where the bud precedes the flower and the flower the fruit, and forming has to develop into ripening, and ripening into full maturity. Roots are ugly things, and when they are buried the garden looks very bare. Sometimes it is covered with snow, or dried up with the frost, or pulverised with the east wind, or the growing plants are scorched by the sun or dashed with the wet. What a temptation it is to try and plant the bed with forced flowers, just to make a show while we are here; or to damage the tree that we may hasten its untimely fruit. Is it not a characteristic of the present day that we are all very impatient in our work? It is so in politics, everything must be done at once; it is so in religion, method after method is attempted and cast away, as if it were a worn-out garment almost before it has been used; it is so in education, give us results at any cost, and let competitive examinations settle everything. But if we are to work together with God, we shall need a great deal of patience. “You can hurry man,” said Bishop Milman, “but you cannot hurry God.” And if we are tempted to be impatient with God’s methods of working, are we not equally tempted to grow out of heart, to be sullen and displeased with the character of the actual portion of work which is assigned to us? Truly it requires some degree of long-suffering if we aspire in any way, within or without, to work together with God. But this is not all. We shall need long-suffering also in our intercourse with our fellow-men. There is a want of refinement very often, as well as misunderstanding, which we have to deal with, coupled with injustice, misrepresentation, imputation of motives, or ingratitude. Ah! yes: there is no strain so continuous as that of helping the weak friend to climb. Every footstep has to be steadied as he laboriously ascends; he gets fatigued, he gets giddy, he disdains the use of the rope; perhaps he slips and falls; his constant stumbles seem to imperil our very existence. Shall we leave him? He keeps us back, he makes our progress slow; we cannot enjoy the prospect by the way, nor the delight of climbing; but yet it is a trust which we may not betray. He is given to us; we are, indeed, before God and angels and men, our brother’s keeper. Alas! we are always trying to push away from us the responsibilities of this mediator-life. The priest, the man of wealth, the man of science, the politician--all are sometimes tempted to forget it. But this was the glory of the early Christian Church; it waited for the little children, the old, the helpless, the infirm, all which the busy empire would spurn from its hurried path. Do not let us think that we shall reach greater heights by neglecting those who, from the realms of duty or affection or simple circumstance, are crying out, “Wait for me.” But all this will require the development within us of long-suffering. And yet further still, beside God and our neighbour, who each in their mysterious way demand the exercise of this virtue, there is self. We must learn to bear long with ourselves. (W. C. E. Newbolt.)

Long-suffering--meekness

I. The graces themselves. By “long-suffering” we should understand a frame of mind which would endure, with manly firmness and resignation, the various trials of life in the service of God.

II. How they are exhibited.

1. Long-suffering sees God’s hand in afflictive dispensations, and so is quieted under them. (Psalms 39:9; 2 Samuel 16:11; Job 1:21.)

2. In respect to the fulfilment of God’s promises (Romans 4:19).

3. In respect of patient perseverance in well-doing.

4. In bearing the infirmities of the brethren (Romans 15:1).

5. To bear, moreover, the unjust suspicion of others.

6. To receive reproof.

Thus far I have spoken of the passive grace of “long-suffering,” let us look now at the active grace of meekness.

1. In bearing injuries, and putting up with affronts.

2. In forgiving injuries.

3. In recompensing good for evil.

4. In not fretting against evil-doers. (J. Reeve, M. A.)

Gentleness.--

Gentleness, a fruit of the Spirit

Gentleness is derived from gentle, and hence we must find the meaning of the word gentle, or ever we can understand what the work of the Spirit, as it relates to gentleness, is. In the first place, we find that gentle does not primarily refer to manners. It is often used, and properly too, as descriptive of manners, but when so used the root idea is not brought out. Gentle primarily refers to disposition, and disposition relates to the structure of one’s nature--it refers to the way in which a man is put together morally. A man with an evil disposition is a man whose moral structure inclines him toward evil; a man with a good disposition, on the other hand, is one whose moral structure inclines him toward good. Gentleness primarily, therefore, is descriptive of the nature and not to manners; descriptive of the soil in its chemical qualities, and not in respect to its colour; descriptive of the character of the seed, and not of the shape of the blade or of the tree that grows up from it. A gentle person, therefore, is one whoso nature is so constructed that it works itself out naturally in sweet and benevolent action. We can get a better idea of it, perhaps, by looking at it in contrast with its opposite; even as we get a better idea of light when contrasted with darkness. The opposite of gentleness is rudeness, boisterousness, coarseness. A gentle person is just the opposite of a rude person, or a coarse person. You know there are rude dispositions. We say of a man, “He has a coarse nature,” or “He has a very rude disposition,” and such persons are the moral opposite of a gentle person. The first fact brought out, therefore, by the text, when analyzed, is the peculiar character of the Spirit’s work; and it may be summed up in the assertion that the Spirit of God operates on the disposition. This is a most important fact, and one that we all should fully realize, because it proves what the Spirit’s work is, and whom He represents. It shows that His work is a Divine work, and that He represents God. Who knows when the work of the Spirit begins in the formation of life--in the perfection of what would otherwise be imperfect results? Do we not know that the sweetness of the apple comes from the sweetness of the root--that the bloom is only the expression of the floral and fragrant element in the stalk? There are streams whose waters are pure; and why are they pure? Because the springs from whence they flow are pure, and the channel-beds over which they glide are clean and white. I have no doubt but that innocence in motherhood and fatherhood would invariably mean innocence in the child. It did in the case of Jesus-begotten of the Spirit, and born of a virgin. Well might the wise men bring their gifts of gold and myrrh and frankincense to the manger cradle I Wise were they in seeing the innocence of Nature. And when the same innocence came in human shape, the sweet old men knew it at a glance, and bowed down and worshipped. Yes, there are some that are born gentle; or so nearly so that our eyes cannot see wherein they fail. I have known a few such, so have you. God took some of them, out of Fatherly fear, perhaps, that the earth might soil them. God let some stay awhile, out of his love for the earth and we imperfect ones who live on it, that we might have a better Bible than words can frame, and a stronger inspiration to be gentle ourselves, than we might through invisible channels receive. I had a dovecote once on my farm, full of white doves. They were bred to a feather, and white as snow. And I have seen them on a clear, crystal, sunny day spread their white wings and sail up and up until they actually disappeared from my eyes, vainly shaded to follow them, in the glory of the sun. And I have seen dove-like spirits sail up at death just so. For death to them was not night: it was broad noon--the broad noon of life everlasting--and God shone in the dome of it brighter than ten thousand suns. And their white spirits flew into His presence; and His glory hid them from the earthly eyes that strained their vision in vain to fellow them in their ascension. Yes, I can well believe that some are born gentle; but their gentleness is not by accident. It floweth out from a crystalline cause. The cause is the same as in the case of those who become gentle in death, only the operation is reversed. They receive in being born what most, who receive it at all, receive when they come to die. Their spiritual and their natural birth are contemporaneous. Indeed, there is a deal of unrecognized piety in the world. There is a moral sweetness that is not known as such. It is called natural sweetness; and so it is. But it is a sweetness of grace, nevertheless. Nothing is more false in conception than to suppose that grace is something opposite from Nature. Grace is the highest phase of Nature, or Nature in her finest mood. God is natural; Jesus was natural; the angels are all natural; and so are saints if they be perfect enough. Sin is Nature in discord. Piety is Nature keyed and tuned for perfect harmony. How many amiable people there are, kindly and gentle-hearted, that never know they are saints. Some receive the Spirit as the bud receives the sunshine: slowly, subtilely, and in ways peculiar to its own composition and order of growth. Some take the Spirit as they take medicine; it creates a disturbance in order to cure. Others take it as the mouth takes cream; it is rich and delicious, and they are happy in receiving. They eat of it secretly, as it were. And we should not know they had eaten, were it not for the way they grow! That reveals at what table and of what food they have eaten. I love to think of the sweet flowers that are unnamed. I find them in the fields; I take them home and say to my friends, “Do any of you know what the name of this flower is?” And no one can tell. I find them in the hedgerows and down in the damp places, and even in the foul places. Most of them are small; they hide easily. Some have a strong fragrance. Some are so rich in aroma that they scent the air. Others are so faint in their odour that you must breathe long to scent them at all; but when you breathe long and gently, your sense interprets them, and their sweetness is so fine, so delicate, so satisfyingly exquisite, that you wish you could breathe it for ever! So God has saints--has morally sweet ones scattered all up and down through the world. In the fields and the hedgerows, ay, and in the damp and foul places of life you will find them. But you will not find them unless you look closely. Nor will you know their sweetness unless you come nigh to them. And should you take them into your churches and say, “Will this Church please tell me by what name to call this exquisite life?” the Church will look it over and say, “This does not look like a Calvinistic plant.” And another will say, “This did not sprout from a Presbyterian seed.” And another will say, “I don’t think this belongs to any of our Unitarian gardens “ And so you may go the whole rounds and not a Church will know by what name to call the sweet life you have brought to them--unless it be the Quakers. I think the Quakers might know, for they have a sense to know piety without form, and which has never been classified or catalogued in the herbarium of the Church. But the Spirit knows, and the angels in heaven know, and God who giveth the angels wisdom knows, that all sweetness, whether found in field or hedgerows or down in the swamps of human life, is His, and He calls it by its name. And there is not on all the face of the globe a life that is being lived in gentleness, however small it be, or however evilly placed, that is not known of God, and has not the name by which He knows it written in letters of light on its forehead. And this leads me to remark that much of the really best evidence of piety is not regarded as such in the churches. You can think about God as much as you please, and commune with Him as you say--that is, silently; but if you talk your thoughts out to Him as you would to an earthly being, they will call you insane. But, friends, cannot the reverential and loving soul have daily companionship with God? Cannot gentle spirits confide their thoughts to Him and hold converse with the Supreme Spirit from whom they have caught their gentleness, and into whose gentleness they grow as boys grow into the likeness of their father? Then do not all natures as they age and are spiritualized into this gentleness find God more and more companionable to them? I think I have seen this in old folks as they come to what we call the second childhood. We make it the period of weakness because we measure it by the body. Should we not regard it as the beginning of immortal strength if we forgot the body and measured it by the growing state of the soul’? Let me teach you that the finest evidence of piety is that gentle appropriation of God which childlike trust makes of Him. Let me teach you that among the fruits of the Spirit you should set in the front rank the increasing gentleness of your nature. The stream is noisy amid the hills, for there it runs swift and sends the murmur of its roar far out on the air; but when it reaches the level meadow and widens out for entrance into the great sea, it flows with smooth surface, so that the stars come and bathe in it. It makes no noise. It disturbs not itself or others; but it reflects the whole sky and receives for its own ornament all the glory that is domed above it. And so lives are noisy at first; for they flow swift. They turn many wheels, and keep many industries in motion; but when they have flowed on and[ have come nigh to the magic line where the here and the hereafter touch, where the seen and the unseen join, they widen out, move easily--so gently that you can scarcely say where the stream ended and the sea began; scarcely say where the earthly passed into the heavenly, And so, friends, we will say in the language of the text: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness.” By-and-by, perhaps, we shall all become gentle. By-and-by we shall have done with economic industries and the friction they put upon our tempers, and enter into eternal entertainment. By-and-by we shall talk without harshness and live in neighbourhoods of peacefulness, unvexed by jealousy and unflushed with the inflammation of hate. Nor will we, even now, forget the example of the incarnated Gentleness that took human shape for our instruction. (W. H. Murray, D. D.)

Gentleness

Real gentleness is the subjugation, or rather the right use and government of strong feelings. The word “gentle” has a Latin root, and means literally that which suits or belongs to a high race, a good family. And if we take it so, what ought not our “gentleness” to be who belong, or profess to belong, to the race of the Holy One--to the generation of saints--to the family of God? Let me consider with you, for a few minutes, how “gentleness” is to be attained and cultivated. First, let me advise you, by looking back and looking into yourself, to get a more accurate and definite knowledge where your want of gentleness chiefly lies; with whom, and on what occasions, you have been most ungentle. Ask forgiveness of anybody in the world to whom you feel you have been ungentle; and let the facts remain to be your beacons. Get more general self-knowledge, and trace the steps which have led you down. Find the roots, try to eradicate those roots which have led to ungentleness--selfishness, temper, jealousy, the neglect of watchfulness, want of prayer at the right moment. Then lay down yourself some strong rules upon the subject, and pray that you may remember those rules and keep them. Tune your heart to gentleness before you leave your room in the morning. Want of health has a great deal to do with ungentleness. Put on a double match when you fee! poorly. Do not be discouraged by failures; only humble yourself and watch and pray the more. Be very gentle to those who are below you in social rank--especially to your servants. I would say to men--if you are young--be like a son or a brother to those you meet; if you are old, be as a father to those you meet. I would say to women--if you are young--be like a daughter or sister to any one; if you are old, be as a mother to every one. There are some persons with whom you feel it particularly difficult to be gentle. You can scarcely say why, but so it is. They are specially provoking to us, perhaps even in their look. Or perhaps that which would not provoke you in others, irritates you in that person. Put on a double guard when you are with that person. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Gentleness and goodness

I. The graces themselves.

1. Gentleness has reference to the demeanour of a Christian. Gentleness is not mere polish and politeness. It shows itself in a desire to please others for Christ’s sake, because it would please God and commend His gospel. Gentleness has nothing to do with indecision and vacillation, so that it may be turned this way and that without regard to principles.

2. By “goodness” we may understand not only goodness in general (“for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness”), but here especially benevolence and munificence.

II. How these graces are exhibited.

1. Of gentleness.

2. Of goofiness. (J. Reeve, M. A.)

Gentleness

The greatest results are accomplished by gentle, quiet influences. Not long ago, I saw a man mounted on a dray, very heavily loaded, beating his poor half-starved horse most cruelly, because the wheels had got stuck fast in the mud, and the beast was too feeble to pull them out. The more the man whipped, and swore, and wished the horse might go to the bad place, the more frightened the animal became, and the less able to perform what was so unreasonably demanded. As I witnessed the painful sight, I could not but hope that Mr. Rarey, the horse-tamer, might some time come along, and teach the cruel driver that kind and cheering words would prove much more effectual in making the horse do as he desired. You may ask me, perhaps, whether one who is born cross, and crabbed, and cruel, can ever hope to become gentle. He can. Just listen to the text. “The fruit of the Spirit is gentleness.” The Spirit here spoken of is God the Holy Ghost, who teaches, and guides, and blesses us. He it is who helps to make us gentle. The word gentleness (which is one of the virtues which the Holy Spirit helps us to cultivate) means, in the text, goodness and kindness. It is the opposite of a harsh, crooked, and crabbed temper. It is a disposition easy to be pleased, and in our idea of this Christian gentleness we must include mildness and politeness. The power of gentleness is really irresistible. The blustering wind could not make the traveller take off his cloak, but the only effect was that he wrapped himself up the more tightly in it. When, however, the gentle sunbeams shined softly and steadily on him, he was glad to remove it. Gentleness must not be confounded with cowardice, and with a mean, truckling spirit. No one would doubt General Washington’s courage; and yet he could practise gentleness. After the Revolution was well over, and the country had become settled and quiet, he was making a long journey in his carriage, attended by several gentlemen who travelled in a conveyance of their own. One afternoon, as night was fast approaching, and they were all anxious to reach the neighbouring town before dark, they found the road almost blocked up by a large wagon drawn by four horses, proceeding at a snail’s pace. Wishing to go faster than this wagon, a gentleman in the foremost carriage called out to the teamster, with a lordly air, to turn out and let them pass. As might be supposed, the man merely looked angry, and refused to budge. Seeing how matters were, General Washington spoke politely to the driver, and explaining why they wished to hasten forward, asked him to allow the carriages to go by. The power of gentleness prevailed in a moment; and the weary travellers were soon enjoying a good supper at the village inn. Two little boys were once rolling a hoop over the frozen ground, and, in running carelessly after it, Gerald, the younger, being behind, came in contact with his brother Thomas, and both fell down with violence, the younger on top of the elder. Thomas was severely bruised, and rose up in a terrible passion. He scolded Gerald, in the most offensive words he could think of, and then began to beat him. Instead of crying out, or striking back, the little fellow put his hand into his pocket hurriedly, fumbled about among his treasures, and drawing out a stick of candy, thrust it into Thomas’s mouth, even while he was scolding and beating him. Thomas instantly stopped, and looked confused and ashamed. And thus his wrath was turned aside by the spirit of gentleness which his younger brother manifested. I ought to say for your comfort and encouragement, that such a spirit is not natural to us, nor easy to acquire; and yet, the Holy Spirit will help us to gain it, whenever we show a real desire to do so. The Holy Spirit, gentle and loving Himself, is the best teacher we can have. (J. N. Norton, D. D.)

Gentleness

I. I shall describe the nature of that gentleness which is the fruit of the Spirit. It has its seat in the heart, and pervades all the faculties and powers of the man. It consists in humility, candour, sweetness of temper, and tenderness of feeling.

II. Let us specify some cases in which gentleness appears to be particularly necessary.

1. Gentleness is required in the exercise of authority. While Nero remained a subject, he was noted for condescending manners; but after he was made Emperor of Rome, he became a monster of cruelty. Now, as there can be nothing more odious and injurious than authority exerted with fierce unrelenting severity--so there can be nothing more amiable and beneficial, than authority exercised with firmness and lenity. When true religion sways the heart it teaches kings to sway the sceptre and rulers to use their power with moderation and justice. Nor is it less necessary that authority should be exercised with gentleness by the head of a single family, than by the chief of a province or the head of a nation.

2. Gentleness is required in a suitable manner, to give warnings and administer reproofs.

3. Gentleness is necessary in attempting to allay animosities.

4. Gentleness is necessary in the treatment of strangers,

5. Gentleness is necessary to preserve, uninterrupted, the endearments of friendships. Without genuine tenderness there can be no union of hearts.

III. I shall endeavour to point out some causes which impair Christian gentleness, and recommend the means adapted to promote it.

1. Nothing more directly tends to impair gentleness than eagerly grasping at the things of the world. Though Christians are in the world they ought not to be of the world. It is remarked of some insects that they resemble the colour of the plants on which they live and feed. Those who wholly mind earthly things are of a low, grovelling spirit. By plunging into the cares of this life they are continually ruffled and distracted. “They are linked so closely to the world; by so many sides they touch every object and every person around them, that they are perpetually hurt and hurting others. The spirit of true religion removes us to a proper distance from the grating objects of worldly contention.”

2. Taking an eager part in political disputes tends to impair the gentleness of The Christian.

I shall now recommend some means adapted to promote gentleness.

1. Retire often into the calm, undisturbed region of solitude.

2. Set constantly before you the perfect example of our Lord Jesus Christ. Scipio declared that he was inflamed with a virtuous and heroic spirit, by viewing the statues of his ancestors. And for what end have we exhibited before us the matchless excellence of Jesus Christ? Is it not that we may imitate it? The fairest characters we can find have some blots and stains. Here we have a pure unblemished pattern. He was meek and lowly in heart; amiable and unassuming in conduct. How condescendingly did He instruct His disciples! How faithfully, yet gently, did He reprove their faults l

3. Pray for more abundant communications of the Holy Spirit. Every other means must derive efficacy from the Divine Spirit, or we shall gain no real profit. Reading, prayer, retirement, and reflection are all in vain, unless His gracious influence open the mind, and animate the heart. (John Thornton.)

Gentleness: its strength

I’ve noticed often that the strong, skilful men are oftenest the gentlest to women and children; and it’s pretty to see ‘em carrying the little babies as if they were no heavier than birds, and the babies often seem to like the strong arms best. (George Eliot.)

Description of gentleness

Gentleness is love in society. It is love holding intercourse with those around it. It is that cordiality of aspect, and that soul of speech, which assure us that kind and earnest hearts may still be met with here below. It is that quiet influence, which, like the scented flame of an alabaster lamp, fills many a home with light, and warmth, and fragrance altogether. It is the carpet soft and deep, which, whilst it diffuses a look of ample comfort, deadens many a creaking sound. It is the curtain which, from many a beloved form, wards off at once the summer’s glow and the winter’s wind. It is the pillow on which sickness lays its head and forgets half its misery, and to which death comes in a balmier dream. It is considerateness. It is tenderness of feeling. It is warmth of affection. It is promptitude of sympathy. It is love in all its depths, and all its delicacy. It is everything included in that matchless grace, the gentleness of Christ. (J. Hamilton, D. D.)

Power of gentleness

By invincible, self-controlling gentleness, the mother at last wins back to virtue the son whom no threats, no severities, no storms and upbraidings of passion could subdue. Geologists tell us that the calm and silent influence of the atmosphere is a power mightier than all the noisier forces of nature. Rocks and mountains are worn down and subdued by it. (Anon.)

Need of gentleness

Wishing to seal a letter, Gotthold called for a lighted candle. The maid obeyed his orders; but, proceeding too hastily, the flame, which had not yet gathered sufficient strength, went out. “Here,” said Gotthold, “we have that which may well remind us of the gentleness and moderation to be observed in our comportment towards weak and erring brethren. Had this candle when first lighted been carried slowly, and shaded by the hand from the air, it would not have been extinguished, but would soon have burned with vigour. In like manner, many a weak brother might be set right, if we only came to his help in the right way and with kindly advice.

Gentleness

And we ought, it may be, always to move with great gentleness amidst the handiwork of God; with a feeling of reverence amidst the order, life, and beauty of this world; with some of that holy reserve, which the builders of our great Gothic cathedrals understood when they reared the tong mysterious aisles, and veiled in retiring beauty the glories of the sanctuary; or such reserve as the early Christians displayed in the allegory of the fresco, or the secrecy of their worship, or the shutting off of the sacred truths of God from all danger of heathen pollution; or such a holy retirement, again, as belonged to the religious life of men fifty years ago more perhaps than it does now. With some such feeling we should move in a world where all breathing life is yet warm with the impress of God. And with reverence will mingle a feeling of responsibility; the lilies, and the ravens, and the waving corn, and the growing tares, are all speaking to us, and proclaiming, “So they are without excuse: if when they know God, they glorify Him not as God, neither are thankful.” And with reverence and responsibility will mingle a feeling of awe; what is the destiny of the creatures around me? What mean the mysteries which throng my path? And more especially when we look at man, at ourselves--the work, the purchase, and the temple of God--there is still greater need of that gentleness, χρηστότης, benignitas, which makes us move amidst all these wonders with something of the manners and the refinement of one who is of the race of heaven. It is written that the Creator of all things beheld them, not in that they were beautiful, but in that they were good. This gentle goodness, benignitas, is a true mark of a heavenly life. So we shall guard against an overweening confidence, or a roughness and impatience which thinks that the minute splendour and wondrous works of God can be seen at a hurried and unloving glance, ending either in a dogmatism or a scepticism which a wider and a deeper view would have dissipated. So we shall guard equally against self-assertion; how often comes that command in the midst of wonders, accompanied sometimes with actual sternness, “See thou tell no man?” How silently, how quietly God works! You cannot ever quite catch a glimpse of His hand. Man is sometimes so loud, so self-asserting, even when doing good and serving God, that he seems to have forgotten his gentleness, or that he is a fellow-servant with the angels, and a fellow-worker even with God. Above all, we shall guard against flippancy, the coarsest form of the ungentle spirit; that flippancy which displays itself in an irreverent treatment of Revelation in the hasty criticism, or cheap jest; in the light handling of history, which parodies great scenes of national calamity or great moments of political life; in the vulgar profanity which insults nature, or degrades self. “Such as are gentle, them shall He learn His way.” Gentleness will teach us more especially the way of God. Is it creative work? Whatever it may be, in all such things we shall need gentleness; not the imperiousness of Moses, or the vengeance of Boanerges, or the stern persecution of Saul; these are but rough ways of dealing with error and human infirmities; and the rough hand often does a great deal of harm; it engrains the dust and smears it, where a gentle hand would have brushed it off. Christian hands must not wield the sword of vengeance and anger. Granted that people are very provoking, and circumstances distorted. Just as Baxter said when his friends told him that he was going where the wicked cease from troubling--“Yes, and where the good cease from troubling too.” Redemptive work also requires a gentle hand; there must be no breaking of the bruised reed, no quenching of the smoking flax. Think of His gentle words and actions. “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” spoken amidst all the pain and derision of Calvary. And yet gentleness means equableness, a firm hand; not at one time hardly to be felt, at another time rough and severe; and means also tenderness. Where God and His holy angels are dealing with the man; who am I that I should despise him? And gentleness, again, means a good kind of self-consciousness. We ourselves are owing to our Master ten thousand talents, which He has freely forgiven us, while we are dealing with a man who owes us only a hundred pence, in injury, or insult, or violation of human laws. We can only say with ourselves, “If thou, Lord, will be extreme to mark what is done amiss: O Lord, who may abide it?” Conscious to ourselves of God’s manifold gentleness, we must needs be gentle too. “His way!” Sanctifying work equally requires a gentle hand. We need to be gentle even with ourselves. “The wind bloweth where it listeth;” let us think of the manifold ways in which grace comes to us. And, so doing, we shall learn to work quietly. We are not working to secure some brilliant effect. Why should we finish up work hastily to make a display before its time, rather than labour at detail? Oh, what a temptation it is! Results, anyhow, by any means, at any cost! It is the temptation which besets the clergy, who shall boast of the largest congregation? It is the temptation of great restitutions for good, to make a show, to rival one another in hurried emulation; and when this reaches the region of our soul, it is doubly dangerous. Publicity is always dazzling, sometimes it is fatal. “All this power will I give thee,” whispers Satan, “if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” Give up the Cross: give up the old methods; give up thoroughness; give up the unseen work; brush away the failures! Anything for brilliancy! Brilliancy dazzles, but it does not last, and it burns deep down into the socket. Have we then this gentleness? It grows upon us, it develops within us, as the mighty machine of life goes working on, habitually in the presence of God; as we realize that all our work, whatsoever we do, is done for God, and in His sight. (W. C. E. Newbolt.)

Goodness.--

Goodness, a fruit of the Spirit

Goodness embraces so much and suggests so much that it is hard to circumscribe its radiating significance within a definition. And this will be seen when our theme of to-day is placed in contrast with the themes we have already treated. Love, for instance, refers to one class of emotions, and is therefore definable. Joy is one phase of the emotions. Peace is a particular state of being. Long-suffering is an element of character. Gentleness is a habit of the disposition. These characteristics are, you see, definable. Their significance has its limitations, and the boundaries of our treatment were therefore clearly marked. But goodness is not one emotion, nor a single element of character, nor a particular state of being, nor any one habit of disposition. Goodness is larger than either of these excellences--larger than they all. These, and many other virtues of equal fervency, are only the rays which goodness, like a solar orb, sends forth through the moral atmosphere as it rolls forward in its beneficent career, enlightening the darkness and quickening the otherwise dormant life of the world. A good man! Who shall describe him, or with what language shall we depict him? In his heart is love. In his bosom is joy. The atmosphere of his nature is peace. Enthroned within him is divinest patience. Gentleness spreads its mild light over his countenance, and falls in charming language from his lips. But in him, too, is courage; courage to do and die. Strength also braces him like a girdle. Temperance orders his life with discretion. Purity keeps his record stainless. Faith steadies his footsteps as he walks the high level of his aspirations. And Hope, ever by his side, points him to a fairer world and a nobler destiny beyond the grave. In short, can we say less than this, that goodness implies perfection of moral being, perfection of spiritual state, perfection of manhood, in all things which adorn the same, and move it upward in that amplifying growth which the ordering of a good God has provided as the destiny for good beings. The fruit of the Spirit, therefore--its object and aim--is to produce a good man--a perfect man by that standard of measurement which God Himself, in His infinite wisdom and Fatherly ambition, applies to the character of His children. Goodness is a thing that must be born; and the query therefore comes, whence this birth? With the exception of Jesus, who was a gift from above, there has been no perfect man on the earth. Human power has never produced one. The good man or the good men that are to be must be born, not after the birth of the flesh, but after the birth of the Spirit. We assume that this birth of goodness does occur in human nature; nor should it surprise one, at least into incredulity, for God is a Spirit, and hence it is only natural for Him to operate in and upon spirit. With my hands it is natural for me to mould plastic matter, because it is subject to pressure, and my power is sufficient. But it is as natural--why should it not be?--for the great Almighty Spirit to mould spirits that are plastic as for me to mould clay. Not only so, but I can produce life. That is, I can take a seed, plant it in the earth, and from it a tree shall spring. Why strange, then, that God should take a principle germinant with virtues and plant it in man’s understanding--in man’s consciousness--in man’s affections--and from it goodness should spring up? The moment that God is acknowledged in the understanding as the Author of life--the moment that this power is accredited to Him--that moment faith in the new birth--the birth of goodness in the depraved, unfortunate or lacking soul--springs up. We take it for granted, therefore, we say, that the life of goodness, even in its largest definition, can begin in the soul. And what a perspective of possibility is opened up to him who accepts this sublime and most encouraging view! How silly and untruthful even seem the words of those who are ever degrading man in their descriptions of him morally! For when you contemplate man from this point of view, the vast expenditure of forces which Heaven has put forth for man’s salvation appears accountable. Knowing now, through the revelations that come to us in Jesus, what we can be--knowing that goodness is both the highest ornament and noblest object of living, the question recurs to each one in the Divine presence here, “What am I doing to be good? Have I taken the first step?” If you should ask me, “What is the first step?” I should reply, Spiritual connection with God’s Spirit. If you say, “I don’t understand it,” I respond, You do understand it, or you can understand it. If you should ask me, “What is the first step to take in order that I may love people?” I should reply, Put yourself on amiable relations with lovable people; and the reply would cover the whole ground. For in your mood of desiring to love, you could not be a single week in the company of those that were lovable, and not find your heart going out towards them. And this result would not be dependent upon any decision of your will, but would be the natural result arising from the workings of your nature. If you say, therefore, “ What is the first step in being good?” I should say, Put yourself in connection with God’s Spirit. And you perceive that my answer is the right one. If you say, “But how am I to find this connection? How can my spirit come under the influence of the Divine Spirit?” I reply, There are many ways, all plain; and perhaps the best one is the plainest one--prayer. Pray to the Spirit. Say, “Spirit of Good, come and influence my spirit that I may be good.” Yes, some men are changing for the worse. They are growing into badness, and badness is growing into them--the black branches of conduct stretching outward, and the blacker roots of desire striking deeper and deeper into them. But if you make this spiritual connection, as I have pointed out, you will find yourselves, “the moment it is made, beginning to change for the better, and to grow sweeter. And from this thought comes such happiness as comes from no other source, for man must be happy in himself if he is happy at all. Others may minister greatly to him, but unless he is great enough to receive the ministry, it shall be barren of joy unto his soul. And what other inward happiness is there so fine and helpful as that which springs from the thought--from the consciousness, rather--that you are growing better. The highest expression of manhood is Goodness; before its expression men bow in acknowledgment, and lifting their heads pronounce their applause. It is a law of our nature to abhor villainy; to despise the sneak and avoid a scamp. This is Nature’s tribute to honesty, and frankness, and uprightness. There is no weakness in Goodness, for it symbolises the strength of Heaven. (W. H. Murray, D. D.)

Goodness

The production of a strawberry-wine, or of an orange-tree, is pleasant and palatable, while the fruit of a crab-tree is sour and disagreeable. One might fasten the most delicious, rosy-checked peaches or apricots, by strings or bits of wire, to the limbs of a poplar, but these would not be the fruit of it. The whole thing would be a sham. In the text, goodness is described as the fruit of something. Of what? Why, of the Holy Spirit of God. The Blessed Spirit is God, and He can do all things. He is spoken of in the Creed, as “The Lord and Giver of Life.” A skilful gardener can take a most unsightly, stony waste, and by bestowing much care and culture on it, he can change it into a spot covered with luxuriance and beauty. So the Holy Spirit accomplishes His wonderful work in our hard and stony hearts. During the autumn of 1799, the retreating French army left three hundred wounded men at Bobbio, the capital of Piedmont. Although the soldiers were enemies both to the religion and the country of the Waldenses, yet they received the kindest treatment at their hands. The people of Piedmont were extremely poor, but they cheerfully shared their scanty provisions with the strangers, bound up their wounds, and nursed them as carefully as if they had been near friends. At length provisions became still more scarce, and finding that if they kept the French soldiers during the winter all must starve together, the good Waldenses performed the wonderful and dangerous feat of carrying them across one of the most difficult of the Alpine ranges, then covered with ice and snow, and leaving them safe within the borders of their own land. The meaning of God is the Good One, and they who are like Him abound in acts of goodness. That you may the better understand this, I shall go on to tell you some things which goodness prompts people to do.

I. Goodness makes them willing to forgive wrongs, A gentleman once came to Sir Eardley Wilmot in great anger at an injury which he had suffered from a person of high rank, and on whom he wished to be avenged. “Would it be manly to resent it?” “Yes,” answered Sir Eardley, “but God-like to forgive it.”

II. Goodness teaches people to be considerate and generous. Joseph William Turner, one of the greatest of English landscape painters, was one of the committee whose business it was to arrange about hanging the pictures sent for exhibition to the Royal Academy. The walls were already crowded, when his attention was attracted by one which had been painted by an unknown artist from some distant town, and who had no friend to advance his interest. “A good picture,” exclaimed Turner, as soon as his critical eye rested on it: “it must be hung up, and exhibited.” “Impossible!” replied the other members of the committee, with one voice. “The arrangement cannot be disturbed. Quite impossible!” “A good picture,” persisted the generous Turner; “it must be hung up;” and, so saying, he took down one of his own pictures, and put the unknown Mr. Bird’s in its place.

III. Goodness prompts people to be conscientious and enduring. There lived in a Scotch village a very little boy, Jamie by name, who set his heart on being a sailor. His mother loved him very dearly, and the thought of giving him up grieved her exceedingly, but he showed such an anxiety to go and see the distant countries which he had read about, that she finally consented. As the boy left home, the good woman said to him, “Wherever you are, Jamie, whether on sea or land, never forget to acknowledge your God. Promise me that you will kneel down, every night and morning, and say your prayers, no matter whether the sailors laugh at you or not.” “Mother, I promise you I will,” said Jamie; and soon he was on shipboard bound for India. They had a good captain, and as several of the sailors were religious men, no one laughed at the boy when he kneeled down to pray. On the return voyage things were not quite so pleasant. Some of the sailors having run away, their places were supplied by others, and one of these proved to be a very bad fellow. When he saw little Jamie kneeling down to say his prayers, this wicked sailor went up to him, and giving him a sound box on the ear, said in a very decided tone, “None of that here, sir.” Another seaman who saw this, although he swore sometimes, was indignant that the child should be so cruelly treated, and told the bully to come up on deck, and he would give him a thrashing. The challenge was accepted, and the well-deserved beating was duly bestowed. Both then returned to the cabin, and the swearing man said, “Now, Jamie, say your prayers, and if he dares to touch you, I will give him another dressing.” The next night the devil tempted Jamie to do a very foolish thing. He does not like to have any one say his prayers, or do right in any way, and so he put it into the little boy’s mind that it was quite unnecessary for him to be creating such a disturbance in the ship, when it could easily be avoided, if he would only say his prayers very quietly in his hammock, so that nobody would observe it. Now, see how little he gained by this cowardly proceeding. The moment that the friendly sailor saw Jamie get into the hammock, without first kneeling down to pray, he hurried to the spot, and dragging him out by the neck, he said, “Kneel down at once, sir! do you think I am going to fight for you, and you not say your prayers, you young rascal?” During the whole voyage back to London, this reckless, profane sailor watched over the boy as if he had been his father, and every night saw that he knelt down and said his prayers. Jamie soon began to be industrious, and during his spare time studied his books. He learned all about ropes and rigging, and when he became old enough, about taking latitude and longitude. Several years afterwards, the largest steamer ever built--the Great Eastern--was launched on the ocean, and carried the famous cable across the Atlantic. A very reliable, experienced captain was required for this important undertaking, and who should be chosen but the little Jamie of whom I have been telling you! When the Great Eastern returned to England, after this successful voyage, Queen Victoria bestowed on him the honour of knighthood, and the world now knows him as Sir James Anderson.

IV. Goodness makes people heroic. Two houses were once wrapped in flames, at Auch, in France, and from one of them was heard the piteous cry, “Save my child!” The archbishop came hurrying to the place, and worked as long as his strength would allow, in helping to put out the fire, when he said, “I will give twenty-five louis d’or to the man who will save this woman and her child.” At this appeal several of the crowd came a few steps nearer to the burning building, but the heat was so great that they as quickly retreated from the danger. “Fifty louis d’or to the man who will save the mother and the child!” shouted the archbishop, still louder than before, but no one moved. Now, by the lurid light of the fire, the archbishop himself was seen to take a cloth, and having flipped it in a bucket of water, to wrap it round his body, and then to mount the ladder which had been placed against the shaking wall. Soon he reached a window, which he bravely entered, and, in a few moments more, a group was seen at this window--the archbishop, the mother, and the little child. The good man had scarcely reached the ground, before he sank on his knees, to bless God for His protecting care, and then, rising, he said to the poor mother, who had lost everything by the fire except her precious child--“My good woman, I offered fifty louis d’ors to the man who would save you. I have won the sum, and now I present it to you.” See that English clergyman, Mr. Ancient, venturing out in his little cockle-shell boat, to rescue those who are holding fast to the shattered remnant of the proud steamer Atlantic, wrecked on the treacherous coast of Nova Scotia! He has been living for years in that little hamlet with a few fishermen and wreckers as parishioners--ruling and civilizing them by love; and now, in this awful moment, when so many lives are in peril, he is proving himself a hero. (J. N. Norton, D. D.)

Goodness is

I. The necessary and indispensable corrective of self-culture, and completes the education of the whole man.

II. The principal test of piety.

III. The corrective of the harsher forms of theology.

IV. The destroyer of all church exclusiveness.

V. The only and universal antidote to scepticism (H. W. Beecher)

Youthful goodness

I remember once on the deck of an Atlantic steamer, one wild autumn night, how a little child, overwhelmed with a violent illness through the heaving sea, was just beginning, so to speak, to get her feet under her. A friend who was by took the child something to relieve the sense of utter sickness, and I remember as we stood by the little one trying to say some kind things to encourage her, as she received the gift from the stranger, how she suddenly sprang to her feet and said, “Let me take it to my father, he is worse than I am.” And we watched the little creature for a moment tottering along the deck eager, bright-eyed, determined, while the ship reeled, and my friend turning to me said, “There is the making of a glorious character there.” That is what I call goodness. (Canon Knox-Little.)

On goodness, or benevolence

I. Let us contemplate the excellency of Christian benevolence: it is the most amiable and noble part of charity.

1. It must be acknowledged by all, that there is something peculiarly amiable in that goodness which springs from the influence of the Holy Spirit. It wears a mild and winning aspect. It possesses a powerful and prevailing charm. It brings forth abundant fruit, at once pleasant to the eye and wholesome to the taste. This grace has something in it peculiarly amiable and attractive. Goodness is a God-like attribute, that finds pleasure m diffusing happiness. It is the gospel embodied.

2. That goodness which is the fruit of the Spirit, is a most noble and exalted grace. It is genuine, disinterested, cheerful, and unostentatious benevolence.

II. Let us point out the field which opens for the exercise of Christian benevolence.

1. We must exert ourselves to do good in the world.

2. We must exert ourselves to do good in the Church.

III. I shall adduce some considerations as motives to the exercise of benevolence.

1. Consider that the express commands of God require you to be active in doing good.

2. As another motive to do good, consider the bright examples of benevolence set before you.

3. As another motive to do good, consider the present pleasure there is in all the exercises of benevolence.

4. As a motive to do good, consider the amazing love and condescension of our Lord Jesus Christ.

5. As another motive to do good, consider that your continuance on earth is both short and uncertain. Opportunity has been called the flower of time; let it not bloom and wither neglected. Be on the watch, to seize every occasion that offers for doing good. There are favourable circumstances which ought to be instantly improved. While the soil is soft, let the seed be cast in; while the sun shines, defer not to secure the precious harvest. (John Thornton.)

Value of goodness

The homage which the bad give to the principle of goodness is seen in this, that bad men almost always wish their children to be good. (Dr. J. Duncan.)

Perseverance in goodness

We live in the fall of the leaf; divers trees did put forth fair blossoms, but their flattering spring is turned into an unfruitful winter; and their clear mornings have been overcast with the thickest clouds. The corn which promised a large harvest in the blade of profession, is blasted in the ear. The light remains no longer than while the sun shines. The flowers of Paradise would quickly wither on earth, if they were not watered with drops from heaven. To see a ship sink in the harbour of profession, is more grievous than if it had perished in the open sea of profaneness. (Archbishop Seeker.)

True goodness

True goodness is like the glow-worm in this, that it shines most when no eyes, except those of heaven are upon it. (A. W. Hare.)

Goodness

Goodness is love in action, love with its hand at the plough, love with the burden on its back. It is love carrying medicine to the sick, and food to the famished. It is love reading the Bible to the blind, and explaining the gospel to the felon in his cell. It is love at the Sunday-class, or in the ragged-school. It is love at the hovel-door, or sailing far away in the missionary ship. But, whatever task i undertakes, it is still the same,--love following His footsteps, “who went about continually doing good.” (Dr. J. Hamilton.)

Goodness

Our spiritual life, our love, joy, peace, long-suffering, and gentleness, all set us free for this--to do good. Just as we read in those mysterious words how our Blessed Lord said, “For their sakes I sanctify Myself.” What a world it is, With all its myriad woes and troubles! He who would do good seems, as he steps into it, to be swept away by the very multitude and persistency of the calls upon him, like a man who goes down with a basket of food into a hungry crowd. To do good is to do something in the great work of putting the world right And then there comes the further question, how to do good? How are we to set to work to make our influence felt, and to cause our good desires to take effect? “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth that which is good” (Luke 6:45). If any asks how to do good, the answer surely will be this, “be good.” “A letter was once written to an old clergyman whose ministry had been greatly blessed. ‘My people,’ said the writer, ‘are cold and heartless. Tell me how I can effect a revival of religion in my parish’: The answer was very brief. ‘My brother,’ he said, ‘revive thyself’ “Are we the right people to do good? Are we trying to be perfect? Jesus Christ was perfect, and told us to be perfect also. No one could have met Him, even in the ordinary walks of life, without experiencing some electric shock of goodness, as it were, of that virtue which went out of Him. Are we, again, in sympathy with all the world? Does that invitation, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men,” find a response in our hearts? Not in interesting cases merely, or among the intelligent and hopeful, but to all men; to the uninteresting, the unintelligent, the brutal, the selfish, the contemptible. There will after this arise the third question, Where can I do good? What is my mission? What am I called to do? What am I fitted for? There is the priesthood, the medical profession, the masters of education, the missionaries, the superintendents of homes, penitentiaries, religious bodies, and the like. These are our representatives in the manifold work of “goodness.” Do we recognize this? Do we recognize that here comes in the solemn obligation of alms giving? And what a blessed thing it is, this goodness, this αγαθωσύνη, this Bonitas. Think of the gratitude, therefore, the prayers which follow the path of the good man. And yet it is a virtue so delicate, a fruit with such a tender bloom, a spring so very delicate, that it soon becomes injured. “A good man is a popular character, and a good man has dangers to contend with which we must never lose sight of while we gaze at the beauty of the character. St. Barnabas, the good man of Holy Scripture, failed from good-nature in a matter involving important doctrinal issues: he failed, also from good-nature, in a difficult matter which concerned his friend and kinsman St. Mark. (W. C. E. Newbolt.)

Faith.--

Faith, a fruit of the Spirit

We are in a world, the fashion of which--to us at least--is passing away. I cannot believe that annihilation can be asserted of any creation of God; for annihilation means the destruction of the substance of things; and the substance of things, whatever change may come to their outward embodiments or their visible expression, eternally endures. But while the substance of things may remain, yet the fashion of things is continually passing away. With the lower which is passing, and the upper which is abiding, man alike lives in copartnership. In his body he is connected with that which is transient. He knows that his life, measured by his earthly connections, is as a vapour--a cloud of the morning--and happy is the thought that it is a cloud of the morning and not of the night; that, when it disappears, it disappears not because darkness has swallowed it up, but because a greater splendour has captured it with its own nature and given it its own sublimity. It is one thing to disappear into the night. It is another thing to be mingled with and be made a part of the morning. It is one of the most satisfactory reflections which the mind of man can entertain, that this faith in his inherent indestructibility is race-wide and race-deep. It is native to every clime and coexistent with every age. Even grossness has been unable to conceal the lustrous evidence of this pure and exalted instinct. However deep and black the alluvia, still mingled with the foulness were grains of purest gold, so that it might almost be said that the very flats of humanity are full of this priceless evidence, as if the shining proofs had been sown broadcast from the hand of God. It can be said that a dim instinct, at least, of immortality is a part of the inevitable bestowment made by God to the human being in his very inception. Indeed, I cannot conceive of God as creating one in His image devoid of this instinct. It seems to me to constitute the essential characteristic of the resemblance. It is enough to satisfy the longing of legitimate pride to reflect that by nature, at least, we are children of God. And I envy no man his way of looking at himself, if he look at himself along any lower level. My self-respect roots itself in the remembrance of my parentage. I am myself--in the endlessness of my existence--in the progressiveness of my vitality--in the capacities which I express--a fruit of the Spirit; a ripe result of operations which culminated in the birth of my being. Whence came we then?--There is but one answer: we came out of God. By nature we are His children. Being thus born, we came into the world organized for a sublime faith. Being thus born, we cannot mistrust ourselves so far as to think of ourselves as being only creatures of a day. Out of our very structure proceeds a voice of prophecy. And in ourselves is written, as ineraseable letters on an indestructible tablet, the predictions of a dignified and exalted destiny. The present is not our home; it is only the vestibule through which we are passing in order that we may come and enter into our everlasting home. It was for the enlargement of your faith that history was called into existence to record the birth of the world and the creation of man. It was for the confirmation of your faith that men with eyes to look into eternity were ever and anon, as the centuries passed, born of women, who spoke as they were moved by the sublime visions that they saw, and whose fervent testimony, flaming into lyric splendour, lighted up the darkness of ignorance, and made the heavenly city stand out to sight as if a supernatural sunrise had poured its light through time into eternity. It was for the enlargement of your faith in yourself, as well as in God, that heaven loaned its central Life to the earth for the space of a generation, and put so much of its sweet wisdom into human speech, and so much of its loving into human affection, that they who heard the heavenly speech grew wise as the angels, and they who felt through Him the heavenly love, had born within their breasts an answering affection. It was for the education of your faith that this wonderful Being not only condescended to be born of woman, but to live a life which subjected Him to base reproach, and finally to endure the pangs--the pangs such as only the noblest nature might feel--of a shameful and cruel death, in the which, although pure in His nature and stainless in record as snow, He nevertheless was made an exhibition of as if He had been evil born and lived a life of evil deeds. And this was done that you might have faith in God--not as existent in the far-off heavens, above cloud, and star, and the blue rim of eight--but as existing in innocent manhood just such as yours ought to be--yes, that you might have faith in God in man, or as the Scripture phrases it, “Immanuel, God with us.” I have called your attention to three sources of this faith: birth or nature; history; the teachings, life, and death of Jesus. There is one more for us to consider: the present work of the Spirit, as an enlightening and sanctifying influence in our faculties as they are momentarily exercised, by which we are enabled to see things rightly and incline to do only right things. And he who is enabled to see things rightly is sure to have a faith which is correct in its nature and abundant in its strength. And this we will illustrate. You may take this matter of worldliness, or of loving overmuch this world, its pursuits and its gains. It is a common mistake, and yet it is a mistake that could not occur if we had been enlightened of the Spirit to see things rightly. For when you look at this world rightly you see first that it is only a temporary residence--and that is a truth which none of you can deny. We see--

1. That it is only a temporary residence;

2. That its pursuits are chiefly valuable because they educate us. (W. H. Murray, D. D.)

On faith, or fidelity

I. Let us show wherein consists that fidelity which is an effect of the Holy Spirit. It will be better understood from a view of its relative bearings, than from an abstract definition.

1. We must be faithful to God.

2. We must be faithful to men.

II. Let us prove the vast importance of faithfulness.

1. This grace is absolutely necessary to give value to every other branch of religion. What is a lofty, widespreading tree, with a rotten trunk? What is a spacious and beautiful house built on the sand, which must be sapped by the rising flood, or overthrown by the wintry storm? And what are the gifts, talents, and attainments of one who is destitute of faith and sincerity? We condemn, in strong language, the man who basely betrays his friend; the subject who traitorously lays schemes for the life of his lawful sovereign; or the prince, who sells the liberties and lives of his people to gratify a boundless ambition. But what shall we say of the man, who denies his God, crucifies the Saviour afresh, and trucks away the gem of truth for the poor glittering baubles of the world?

2. The importance of faithfulness is obvious, as it is necessary to our own comfort. Though a person could wrap himself so closely in the cloak of hypocrisy, and so artfully manage his vizard, as never to be detected by his fellow-creatures, would he thus make sure of happiness? No; in the path of deceit there is no peace. Conscience will renew, from time to time, her troublesome accusations.

3. The importance of faithfulness is obvious, as it is necessary to the credit of religion and the honour of Christ. Nothing has brought so much scandal on the gospel as the conduct of hypocrites and apostates. The men of the world are always on the watch to spy defects in professing Christians.

III. Let us inquire what are the leading marks, or signs, by which this faithfulness may be known.

1. A faithful man is willing impartially to examine his own state.

2. A faithful Christian has a deep sense of the deceitfulness and danger of sin.

3. A faithful Christian fixes his whole dependence on Divine grace. (John Thornton.)

Faith

is sanctified imagination; it is having the horizon above the world; it is believing that there are things that have no mortal forms, in a future, in a whole assembly of intelligence above your head; it is having a life hereafter, a greater life than this. Ah! the man who sits in his house all day knows exactly what he knows--that is the fireplace, that is the rug, that is the fender, that is the door. That is what is called a practical person, who knows what he does know. But out of doors the whole heaven is above his head, night and day, filled with inestimable treasures. (H. W. Beecher.)

Faith is the fullest and completest exercise of reason. It is the conscious trusty dependence of our whole nature upon God. It will not make the sun rise sooner, but it will make the night seem shorter. (T. T. Lynch.)

Faith

The balance of probability and authority would lead us to regard that πίστις which is the fruit of the Spirit, as faithfulness. The spiritual man is faithful--faithful to his God, to his work, to himself. The life of faithfulness is a life of truth. And we remember again how, in earthly matters at all events, we pride ourselves on keeping our word. We recall the glow of splendour which lingers still around famous scenes in history, where men have risked anything and everything to keep a trust. We trace its magic power still, where the historian ascribes the influence of Livingstone over the affections and sympathies of the savage African tribes to that moment of noble faithfulness when he gave up the gratification of an earnest longing for home, and rest, and distinction, which bewitchingly offered itself to him at the end of his weary march, that he might keep faith with the natives who trusted to him for guidance, albeit that faith meant disappointment, weariness, wandering, and perhaps death. And although we might well recall ourselves by the thought, “Who art thou that repliest against God?” still it is not hard to see, not the reasonableness only, but the strength of the vow, and the great part which faith or faithfulness has to play in the spiritual life. In the baptismal vow there is the promise to renounce, the promise to believe, and the promise to do certain things. The child starts out into the foggy night, where there are the dazzling lights of the streets, the confusion of the cross-ways, the seductions of evil, the perplexity of the path; and it is no slight strength to such a child to say to him, “Promise to go straight on; if any one asks you to turn into that brilliant tavern, say, I have promised not to do so: if any one says, This is not the way, turn down that broader street, and more attractive path, say, I have promised to keep straight on: if any one says, Come with me and enjoy yourself first, say, No, I am intrusted with a trust, I must do my bidding and discharge my obligation. All this is a strength and support to him in the conflict of seduction with duty. And further still, the vow is reciprocal. “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.” The renunciation of evil is to clear the way for the advent of good; the belief in God and His truth is the prelude to the influx of that glorious tide of mercy; the doing His will is to tread in those paths where we most certainly shall meet Him and be cheered by Him. His ways are ways of pleasantness, and all His paths are peace. And the life of fidelity is doubtless a hard one. Faith is nothing else than a fruit of the Spirit. The renunciation is severe: to give up, and have nothing whatever to do with, the devil, the world, and the flesh. And here we remember that the fruit of the Spirit is faith or faithfulness; it is a gift of God. It is possible now, by God’s mercy, to be faithful; it is possible to pay our vows. (W. C. E. Newbolt.)

Meekness.--

Meekness, a fruit of the Spirit

The popular definition or conception of meekness is not the scriptural one in two particulars; for, in the first place, the popular conception of meekness pictures it as a state of mind or mood of spirit in one man toward another man; whereas the scriptural idea makes it appear as a state of mind or mood of soul which a man has toward his God. I can be a meek man, for instance, and not be meek toward man at all; meekness relates to God. In ether words, whatever definition you put upon meekness, it does not describe my feelings toward or for others; it simply describes the attitude of my mind and soul towards the Deity. And this distinction, you can see, is of a character to change the entire line of thought running through the discourse. If meekness were a term descriptive of a state of a man’s feelings toward his fellow-men, the line of thought would be in one direction; but if meekness be a term descriptive of a man’s feelings toward his God, then the line of thought would run in altogether a different direction. To illustrate: When the Bible speaks of Moses as being the meekest man, does it describe the state of his disposition or the mannerism of his bearing toward his fellows; or does it describe the state of his disposition and the mannerism of his bearing toward the Deity? The apprehension of this distinction shed the first light my mind received on this subject: and I said, Very well; if meekness has nothing to do with one’s attitude toward his fellow-men, but is strictly and beautifully descriptive of the soul’s feeling toward God, I know which way the path of my examination lies. This is the first difference I discerned between the popular and the scriptural conception of meekness. The second difference is as to the quality of meekness, or its character as a feeling. What is the feeling that we call meekness? We have found out what the proper object of it is; now let us discover, if we may, what the feeling is. In the first place, mark what it is not: it is not weak. Many a man and many a woman who has been filled with meekness toward God, has at the same time stood up in the might of a majestic strength and defied the power of man, even when that power appeared in the terrible guise of cruellest death. Then again, here is another characteristic of meekness. The Saviour said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” In other words, a man in whose soul is developed the filial fear of God-in whose soul is this inner strength which enables him in the face of all human opposition to do right even at the cost of his life--is a man fitted to possess the whole earth. Pile all the treasures of the world into one heap; bring together its gems, its precious metals, its priceless ores, its beauties that grow out of the earth and hang pendant from the skies--bring these all together, I say, and over against them place the man who fears God and does not fear man, and he is worthy to possess them, is fit to use them, is great and noble enough to own and handle them. Not only so; but the soul that has in it this feeling toward God has in it also a sensing power to receive the richness of all this accumulated wealth. Nothing but love can appreciate the gifts of love; and love does appreciate such gifts invariably. So then, we conclude that meekness is--

1. Descriptive of a state of mind and soul toward God and not man;

2. Is strong and not weak;

3. Is expressive of a disposition that can receive of the beauty of the Lord as it stands revealed in the earth, and hence might truly be said to inherit it. It is not the kings of the earth, not its warriors, not those who are mighty in their command of material forces, and who are only thus mighty, that shall inherit the earth; not those who are proud in the sufficiency of their self-conceit, that shall own the earth; but those who have within them this spiritual enlightenment to apprehend the spirit that is hidden from eyes not thus enlightened, those who are humble before God, those who are meek, and therefore fully and sweetly receptive in their spirits, that shall possess the untold treasures which God bestows upon those that love Him. And if this were the day and the hour of Divine inspection and decision, if this were the moment for us all to be judged as to our inward state and ripeness of capacity, should we be of the number of those who are meek--should we be of the number of those within whom and upon whom the Divine Spirit has moved with its enlightening and refining influence? In thinking of this trait being fostered in your disposition, do not think of it as you stand related to men; but think of it as if you were not connected with men at all--as if there were no men living, if that will help your imagination, and you stood connected with God only. This brings out the blessed ministry of meekness. It connects us with God. And this makes it priceless to the soul; for what is so priceless as that which binds us so closely and happily to Him? (W. H. Murray, D. D.)

Meekness an evidence of connection with God

Are there any here who are absent from home? Are there any of you here who, being thus absent, have a picture of a loved one with you, a picture that you often look at--look at when alone by yourself, and suddenly hide if you hear one coming, not because you are ashamed of being seen looking at the picture, but because the picture is too sacred to be seen by another? Have any of you your mother’s picture--the picture of a mother who is away from you, divided by a distance on the earth, or perhaps divided not by any distance, but because your eyes cannot see into the heaven that holds its atmosphere for ever around you, as sunshine is around the blind? Have any of you in your houses at home, hanging somewhere in the wall, the picture of the house in which you were born; of the dear old place where you began to live, which to-day stands associated with mother and father, with brother and sister and youthful companions--the old place, known in every curve of the banks, in every slope of the hills, in every rock by the roadside, in every footpath and every stone in the footpath; known as you know no other spot on earth, not even the house in which you used to live--have any of you, I say, any such picture? If you have, they will serve as an illustration. Just as these pictures bind you to mother, father, loved one, and the dear old home of your earlier days and perhaps your happiest--as these pictures, when you look at them, bring back the faces and scenes that you once saw so vividly that you realize them as you might not otherwise do--realize them so that your heart grows warm and the eye perhaps yields the mist of affectionate remembrance; so in the face of this heaven-born meekness, when once it has become a trait of your disposition, you can see the evidence of your connection with God, the proof that you are His--His in a sense and a way that no distance can separate you, and no passage of time can sever the connection. (W. H. Murray, D. D.)

On meekness

Patience keeps the mind firm and unshaken under sufferings; meekness renders it calm and unruffled amidst provocations. These kindred graces may be easily distinguished, but cannot be separated.

I. Here i shalt point out the nature and exercise of Christian meekness. Meekness is a disposition which keeps the mind from aspiring after things too high for us. Being fixed in our proper place, it makes us easy there. Meekness is opposed to all those troublesome passions, which, when an extravagant self-estimation is cherished, the thwarting opinions and vexatious humours of other men never fail to excite. Meekness is the growth of pure religion, cherished in the heart, and displaying its fruits in the life.

1. Christian meekness fits the mind to receive or impart spiritual instruction. Pride blocks up the passage through which truth enters the heart. “Receiving in meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save our souls.”

2. Meekness disposes a Christian to refrain from stirring up angry passions in others, and renders him calm under their provocations. A meek man will not rekindle the dying embers of resentment, by lending his breath to blow them, much less add fuel to heighten the flame. He feels it his duty to guard his heart against the tumults of impetuous passions.

3. Meekness disposes the mind to forgive injuries.

4. Meekness will dispose the Christian to suppress the first risings of a murmuring spirit, and to live contented with the allotments of Providence.

II. I shall adduce a few considerations to recommend the cultivation of meekness.

1. Meekness is one of the clearest evidences of personal religion.

2. Meekness is one of the brightest ornaments, as well as one of the clearest evidences of personal religion. Think of its permanence. Meekness makes no ostentatious display to the eyes; but investing the hidden man of the heart, it will wear well. It is said, like the soul itself, to be incorruptible. When all the beauties of the visible creation are faded, and all its glories extinguished, this fair ornament will shine with untarnished and evergrowing lustre. Think of its unspeakable value. Some things are fondly admired by children, which are despised by men, and those things which are highly prized and eagerly sought by men, appear but worthless toys to angels. But a meek and quiet spirit, in the view of all good men, in the eyes of holy angels, and in the sight of God, is of great price.

3. Meekness will enable you to achieve the noblest victories. Have you with well-doing put to silence the ignorance of foolish men? you have gained a greater trophy, than if, like Brutus, with a vengeful hand you had stabbed a tyrant to the heart. Have you by mild forbearance or winning kindness, conciliated an enemy, or brought a profane hardened scoffer to weep and pray? you have obtained a nobler victory than if you had subdued an empire. The honour which arises from overcoming evil with good, will be read in the book of God’s remembrance, when time shall be no longer!

III. I shall offer some directions that may be useful in promoting Christian meekness.

1. Set a watchful guard over your tempers and passions. The tradesman must keep his shop, or he cannot prosper; the cultivator must keep his vineyard, or it will not be fruitful; and the Christian must keep his heart, or he cannot be safe. Better were it to admit a thief into your house, than this incendiary into the soul. Shut every gate, bar every door, and block up every avenue where it is wont to gain success.

2. Avoid, as much as possible, all occasions which excite and nourish pride and passion. The remains of corruption in them are like sediment at the bottom of a pool which rises when the water is troubled. Let it, then, be your care to avoid those causes, which stir up your proud and angry passions.

3. Place before you the brightest examples of meekness.

4. Seek meekness by meditation and prayer. (John Thornton.)

Definition of meekness

Meekness is a mild and placid disposition of mind, which subdues and restrains our angry passions; which gives sweetness to our tempers, dignity and kindness to our words and actions. Free from censoriousness, and reluctant to offend, it is not easily ruffled by provocation. It blends the harmlessness of the dove with the gentleness of the lamb; it bears injury without resentment, or a disposition to revenge. It covers the faults of others with the mantle of love, and while it is censured and reviled, it remains undisturbed as the island amid the raging of the stormy waves around. (W. H. Elliott, M. A.)

Meekness is love at school--the Saviour’s school

It is Christian lowlihood. It is the disciple learning to know himself; learning to fear, and distrust, and abhor himself. It is the disciple practising the sweet but self-emptying lesson of putting on the Lord Jesus, and finding all his righteousness in that righteous other. It is the disciple learning the defects of his own character, and taking hints from hostile as well as friendly monitors. It is the disciple praying and watching for the improvement of his talents, the mellowing of his temper, and the amelioration of his character. It is the loving Christian at the Saviour’s feet, learning of Him who is meek and lowly, and finding rest for his own soul. (J. Hamilton, D. D.)

Power of meekness

One day, as he strolled along a river, Gotthold came to a straight and stately alder tree, growing upon the bank, and said to himself: This kind of timber is the softest, and can without difficulty be split, cut, and wrought; and yet experience proves the fact that it does not rot in water. In fact, the greater part of the city of Venice stands upon piles of alder, which sunk in the sea, forms the foundations of great massive buildings. It is the same with meek hearts. There is no better basis for important undertakings of public or private utility, than that intelligent modesty, which is gentle indeed, and ready to yield as far as a good conscience will allow, but which nevertheless lasts and continues stable in the flood of contradiction.

Meekness

This Christian grace is universal in its operation--submission Godward, meekness manward, which seems to be its special reference. The meek man bears himself mildly; submissively; in all things, “like a weaned child;” neither arraigns God, nor avenges himself on man. (J. Eadie, D. D.)

Advantage of meekness

There is nothing lost by meekness and yielding. Abraham yields over his right of choice: Lot taketh it. And, behold! Lot is crossed in that which he chose; Abraham blest in that which was left him. As heaven is taken by violence, so is earth with meekness. And God (the true proprietor) loves no tenants better, nor grants larger leases to any, than to the meek. (John Trapp.)

Test of meekness

As we do not keep tinder in every box in the house, so we do not keep the sense of anger in every faculty. When one comes against the door of some faculties with an injury, we look over the railing, and say, “I’ll forgive you for that; for you did not get in.” But by-and-by, when the faculty where we are sensitive is entered, then we grind our teeth, and say, “I could have forgiven him for anything but that!” We must not arrogate to ourselves a spirit of forgiveness, until we have been touched to the quick where we are sensitive, and borne it meekly: and meekness is not mere white-facedness, a mere contemplative virtue; it is maintaining peace and patience in the midst of provocations. (H. W. Beecher)

Example of meekness

When Sir Matthew Hale dismissed a jury because he was convinced that it had been illegally chosen to favour the Protector, the latter was highly displeased with him; and when Sir Matthew returned from the circuit, Cromwell told him in anger that he was not fit to be a judge; to which all the answer he made was, “that that was very true.”

Meekness and forgiveness

Joseph Bradford was for some years the travelling companion of Mr. Wesley, for whom he would have sacrificed health and even life, but to whom his will would never bend, except in meekness. “Joseph,” said Mr. Wesley, one day, “take these letters to the post.” B. “I will take them after preaching, sir.” W. “Take them now, Joseph.” B. “I wish to hear you preach, sir; and there will be sufficient time for the post, after service.” W. “I insist upon your going now, Joseph.” B. “I will not go at present.” W. “You won’t?” B. “No, sir.” W. “Then you and I must part.” B. “Very good, sir.” The good men slept over it. Both were early risers. At four o’clock the next morning, the refractory helper was accosted with, “Joseph, have you considered what I said--that we must part?” B. “Yes, sir.” W. “And must we part?” B. “Please yourself, sir.” W. “Will you ask my pardon Joseph?” B. “No, sir.” W. “You won’t?” B. “No, sir.” W. “Then I will ask yours, Joseph.” Poor Joseph was instantly melted; smitten as by the word of Moses; when forth gushed the tears, like the water from the rock. He had a tender soul; and it was soon observed, when the appeal was made to the heart, instead of the head. (Anecdotes of the Wesleys.)

The secret of Christian fruitfulness

Plutarch asks how it is that the fig-tree, whose root, stem, branches, and leaves are so extremely bitter, should bear such sweet and pleasant fruit. It may also be asked how the sweet fruits of the Spirit can grow on the bitter stock of nature. Not otherwise but by faith and repentance being grafted into the stock of Christ Jesus. (Spencer.)

Meekness

A pushing man in a crowd does not push himself very far after all--he knocks down a few children, or thrusts aside a few women; but the broad shoulders and strong arms make themselves broader and stronger and sterner, where perhaps they would relax, yield, and give way to a child or to a weak woman, or to one who was gentle. But after all that can be said, meekness is a difficult virtue. There is something in that “impassiveness,” ( ἀοργησὶα)to which Aristotle opposed it, which has a real existence still as a spiritual counterfeit. Meekness is rare; it is unpopular. Pride is a sin which especially fastens on the good; and meekness suffers from spurious imitations of some of its accidents, and we know, only to despise, such tares among the wheat as little-mindedness, affectation, or that which we style in contemptuous pity, an amiable weakness. How then is this grace, so tender, so delicate, yet so beautiful, to be encouraged within our hearts, without any of that false admixture of mock humility, which is only pride in another form? The first step surely will be to keep out pride; and, in order to effect this, resolutely to stop all the avenues through which it comes, that pride which feeds upon us as a parasite upon a tree. Seeking for praise, is such an avenue, wherein pride fastens upon us with a restless hunger, snatching surreptitious crumbs of comfort even from the ruin of another’s credit, or picking them up out of his depreciation. Putting one’s self forward, is another avenue by which pride, entering m, makes us think that we are necessary to the very well-being of society. Want of simplicity, is a very wide avenue; so are self-gratification, criticism, comparison, talking of self--all these are inlets through which it enters with a full stream--rising up through vanity, conceit, and self-love, with a polluting, stifling flood, until it annihilates the love of God on the high places of our soul, carrying away with it mercy, truth, charity, and meekness, the very charter of our inheritance as sons. And individuality as such is never a pleasing trait; the maker of the shield who so worked in his name that you could not destroy it without destroying the shield, is not a noble conception; it contrasts harshly with true artistic greatness, and is like “the memorial stone” of some modern ecclesiastical building glaring out of She wall, as compared with the foundation-stone of some grand old cathedral buried deep in the ground, unknown and forgotten as the very builders themselves, who were contented if they had but raised a building in which posterity might worship God. Good work is often spoilt by the affectation of the workman. Yes, apart from any higher motives, if we are to possess the earth, let us stop these avenues through which that deadly satisfaction comes, which ends in pride, and the fatal assertion of a disproportionate self. And, after all, what is self? Is not this another way in which to kill pride--to know ourselves? What class am I in, as it were? It is no credit to a schoolboy to remain high up in the second class, if that only means that if he were removed he would be at the bottom of the first. And taking all our life with all its mistakes, is it so very wonderful? Just as children sometimes amuse themselves with painting, and some kind friend tells them that the result is good, meaning that it is good for them--so is all our work, only good for us; before it can be ]presented, it will need to be touched anew and remodelled by a Higher hand, and what is crowned will not be our merits but His gifts: And if all our life were known, all our thoughts, our meanness, our pettiness, our narrowness, where would satisfaction be? Ah! if only we knew ourselves, this knowledge would keep us humble! If only we had before our eyes the rough, dirty, unkempt, ragged figure which we presented before God took us in hand, and clothed us and taught us, and made us what we are! And another way still, is surely to try and know other people as well as to know ourselves. Perhaps the person about whom we have roughly followed the general classification in placing him among “publicans and sinners,” will stand out an apostle; while the apostle who, as we thought, was busied in actions of mercy to the poor, will turn out a traitor; and the publicans and harlots will be stepping into heaven before those who coarsely taunted them with their sins. Oh! how much good there is in the world! Let us remember this. It was said in one of those revolutionary disturbances which from time to time have broken over Paris that when “the party of order” had the courage to take to the streets, they were surprised to find how many they were; if we could see the good that is going on all around us, it would not only cheer us, but make us humble. Those who are moving up and down among the wounded in life’s conflict, to heal, to cheer, and to soothe, are not so conspicuous as the glitter and glare of arms and accoutrements, and the flash and gleam of battle. The grand ship cuts her way through the waves with swift and powerful motion, and we do not stop to think of those who are working out of sight to secure that motion. The strength and beauty of life around us is owing, it may be, to those whose left hand does not know what their right hand is doing. Where God, who “is provoked every day,” is so meek and gentle with us, we, at all events, cannot afford to be proud, and rough, and harsh with others. And yet another way still to this end, is to accept humiliation. It is said that when Louis XVI. of France, previously to his execution, was about to be bound, he showed signs of resistance; but that upon his confessor (the Abbe Edgeworth) reminding him that our Lord submitted to be bound, the king immediately acquiesced with a remark to this effect; “assuredly it needed nothing less than His example to induce me to undergo so great an indignity.” We read in the Life of the Pere Lacordaire of the austerities which he practised to crush in himself all feeling of self-satisfaction after his splendid conferences in Notre Dame. God has plenty of these wholesome humiliations in store for us; there are those, certainly, which follow hard upon most of our active work for Him: criticism, which scourges our self-complacency; rejection, which wounds our self-love; and defeat, which shatters our self-superiority. And we are the servants of a God who works by defeat. All such things are an excellent corrective to pride; to be superseded by some one who does the duty so much better than we did; to be withdrawn, in all the healing bitterness of the feeling “ I am not needed;” to have to recognize a superior hand, just to miss the going into the premised land, and to hand it over to Joshua. And then further, we are in the presence of perfect goodness. If we say a prayer, think whither our prayers have to penetrate, and who it is who presents them! How can an inferior singer venture on some well-known song in the presence of any great or illustrious performer, who has made that song his own! And then further still, we are in the presence of the Giver, it is all His. His grace, His strength, His body, His soul, His spirit; “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?” Therefore, perhaps, we have come to this. Humility and meekness are a sign of greatness; they show that we have at least an ideal. “Alas, I am satisfied!” this was the lament of a great sculptor who feared in this thought a sign of the decadence of his art. (W. C. E. Newbolt.)

Temperance.--

Temperance, a fruit of the Spirit

Order has been called the first law of God. And order implies perfect control on the part of intelligence over all things within its domain. And we know--slight as our real knowledge is of the natural forces that are around us in the earth and air and waters under the earth--how essential that the bond which binds all forces together in orderly connection should not be cut or weakened in a single strand. The nobility of self-control, as well as the absolute necessity of it, is perceived in the study of the nature and the administration of God. It can also be seen as we study the nature and doings of man. Now, man has his realm, In it he is sovereign; and his realm is first his own nature, and secondly the space circumscribed within the influences which that nature exerts. In the first place, I say, man must have control over himself. He must treat himself as a force that needs control, as a collection of energies that need restraint and direction, as a being of emotions that must not rise save in certain directions, as a creature of appetite which must be kept subordinate; and by appetite we mean any strong desire, any urgent craving after a thing. In looking into the matter of human appetites, perhaps the most prominent fact you discover is that they are natural. They are found imbedded in the organic structure of man. The physical appetites reveal themselves first; but the mind has its native cravings as truly as the body. The spirit also--by which we mean that faculty in us which holds relations to the moral realm--has its natural characteristics. Neroes and Caligulas are born. Their gratification in cruelty made them monsters. Even time, that rounds off so many angles and mellows so much that is garish, refuses to soften a single line of their harsh vices, or soften the fierce and baleful expression of their career. Bonapartes and Caesars are born as truly as drunkards--born with the appetite for fame, for glory, for power. History tells us to what excesses these mental appetites can carry persons, and into what miseries they can plunge mankind. These men and their like were born with violent appetites, unruly desires, an inordinate craving after prominence, power, and the splendour of a great career. What to them were sacked cities, burning villages, and blazing hamlets? What to them the dying agonies of slaughtered troops, the widow’s wail, the orphan’s cry, the imprecations of men and the indignation of God? These men knew no moderation. Their appetites, uncontrolled and perhaps uncontrollable by mortal power, urged them into such excesses that Justice, forgetting her function in her righteous rage, smote their memories with her scales as if she would not deign to weigh them in her balances; and Mercy herself refused to champion their cause, being utterly alienated in her sympathy by the number and magnitude of their dreadful crimes. Observe, now, the actions of physical appetites. How gross the spectacle of the animal exhibition we behold! In our country gluttony is not in vogue; but the time has been when it flourished in nations of highest civilization, and I think it may be said, as a natural adjunct of the civilization. In our age intemperance crops out not in eating but in drinking. We stimulate the nerves instead of gorging the stomach. We sin against the mind more directly than against the body. The sin of intemperance springs from two causes: a physical appetite and a mental habit. The mental habit is acquired, and is especially acquired by brain-workers. But the question may be asked--and I have often asked it myself--why did the Creator make us so? Why did He who designed our structure and mingled the elements of our nature, not make us more moderate, self-contained, and less impulsive? Why did He kindle in us such fiery heats, or build, as it were, into the very walls of the edifice such combustible material? In reply. Our creation, as it seems to me, is as it is because it is one of power and dignity. Greatness is great because of the strength of its tendencies, the warmth of its emotions, and its liabilities to overdo and go astray. We could have been made more moderate if we had been made weaker; but we could not have been made more moderate and possessed the strength, the force, the impulsive and emotional energies that we do. Now and then you come across a man who is all moderation; not because of any masterly control he has over himself whereby he holds the outgoing forces of his nature back with benevolent restraint; but because he lacks the force and energy. What small sinners some people are! They sin weakly. Their morality is limp. It takes a great angel to make a great devil. It takes great strength to be monumentally virtuous or monumentally wicked. It seems to me, then, that we were made as we are in order that we might become truly great. And how do men and women become great? They become great through great resistances, great struggles, and great victories. One must wrestle with the angels of light and the angels of darkness both, if he would be thewed and corded with spiritual power. Therefore, temperance, or a wise and noble control of one’s nature touching every outgoing of one’s power, does not imply negation, but the strongest kind of affirmation. And again: Self-control is the only kind that really covers the whole man. Laws control the actions; but actions are only the results of emotional causes. And while the actions can be dictated to by law, can be checked--yet the emotional causes strike their roots deeper into the nature than the hand of law can reach. You may arrest a thief and put him into the prison cell, and thereby restrain his thievish actions; but his thievish instincts remain untouched, remain in all their force laughing from the depths in which they are imbedded at your attempts to reach them, when you only pass your hand, as it were, over the surface far beneath which they lurk. Nothing short of, nothing less penetrative, nothing less potent or radical than, the Spirit of God can put its arrest upon the instincts of man. The central idea of the word temperance, which in our text is named as one of the fruits of the Spirit, is self-control. And this self-mastery relates first and with greatest emphasis to ourselves. It is the foundation on which all nobility of nature must be builded. Without it, character is essentially unsound and likely to become corrupt. For your own selves, therefore, for your peace of mind, for your self-esteem, for that satisfaction in living which comes from the consciousness that you are living rightly, we should all alike make it the first object of our endeavours. To be able to stand up against the pressure of any current, from whatever direction it may come, and with whatever force it may strike us--to be able to bit and bridle our passions and control the otherwise wild and runaway forces of our nature--is a consummation so devoutly to be wished that all others may be regarded as subordinate. Nor should we fail to put ourselves in connection with any helpful agencies. If Christianity can help us, then we should avail ourselves of the teachings, and above all of the spirit, of Christianity. If the power needed for such a sublime service can only be received from heavenly bestowment, then heaven should not go unbesought of us. If the Father can help us, then the Father’s aid should be invoked. This is a conclusion in respect to which I feel confident, whatever may be our views and opinions touching subsidiary questions, we can unite in common and hearty agreement. But we cannot and we do not live alone. The social structure of the world, based upon our social natures common to all men, makes isolation impossible to us. We are knitted and knotted together. We are interwoven as threads when they have been, by the skill of men and the pressure of machinery, incorporated into one fabric. We cannot help influencing others, nor can we protect ourselves from that interaction of influences which, as we affect others, causes others to affect us. We mar or make the happiness of many. The joy of many lives holds to us the same relation that the flowers in spring-time hold to the sun. From us they receive those warm and vivifying influences which, and which alone, make them floral. We can be the sun or we can be the frost unto thousands. We are strong enough in our capacities of imparting pleasure to make them happy. We are strong enough in our capacity to impart pain to make them wretched. If we hold ourselves in such control that the going forth of our natures is salutary and blessed to them, then do we indeed make their lives, If, lacking this self-control, the forces of our natures go forth lawlessly, then it is not only their happiness, but even the existence of their virtue, put in peril. How solemn, therefore, is the exhortation which comes to us from these grave and tender considerations that we become temperate in our lives; that we surrender our natures to the influences of that Spirit that worketh out in them so desirable a result! For what is the use of living unless we can make some one happy? Why do we draw breath? Why do we toil? Why do we pile our backs with burdens? Why do we fill our mouth with laughter, and yield our eyes to tears, unless in so doing we supply our own souls with their natural food for good, and give unto others the support, the pleasure, and the consolation that they need? (W. H. Murray, D. D.)

On temperance

I. A brief outline of temperance.

1. To be temperate we must use with moderation the common comforts that Providence bestows for the support of nature. The Christian must neither insult the God of providence by despising His gifts, nor provoke Him by wasting and abusing them.

2. To be temperate we must possess that chastity which is opposed to lascivious passions.

II. It will be necessary to assign some reasons why temperance is called the fruit of the Spirit.

1. Nothing can be justly denominated a virtue, but that which is produced by a proper motive, and referred to a proper end. A principle of rectitude, or purity, must influence the heart. Now nothing can change and effectually renew the heart, but Divine grace. The operations of the Divine Spirit only can produce that which strictly deserves the name of temperance.

2. The operations of the Holy Spirit, applying Divine truth to the heart, have recovered many from the most fixed and inveterate habits of gross sensuality, to a life of sobriety and purity. To confirm this observation, we need only refer to the first fruits of their ministry, whom Christ first employed to preach the gospel. But such instances were not confined to that age: in every age, some have been brought, by the power of Divine grace, from the vilest intemperance to a life of sobriety and chastity. Colonel Gardiner, who before his conversion, was so much given up to profligacy, particularly to lewdness, that he used to say, “God Himself could not reform him without giving him a new constitution,” declared that “afterwards he felt no temptation from what had once been his besetting sin.” Mr. Brainerd, whose labours were so eminently blessed to the conversion of many American Indians, after that remarkable outpouring of the Spirit, which attended the preaching of Christ, and Him crucified, among them, observes, that a very visible and happy change immediately followed in their conduct. “Numbers,” says he, “of these people are brought to a strict compliance with the rules of morality and sobriety, and to a conscientious performance of the external duties of Christianity, without their having been frequently inculcated upon them, and the contrary vices particularly exposed. When the great truths of the gospel were felt at heart, there was no vice unreformed, no external duty neglected. Drunkenness, their darling vice, was broken off, and scarcely an instance known of it for months together. The practice of husbands and wives in putting away each other, and taking others in their stead, was quickly reformed. The same might be said of all other vicious practices: the reformation was general, and all springing from the internal influence of Divine truth upon their hearts.”

3. The operations of the Holy Spirit, applying the word of truth to the heart, subdue those strong propensities to intemperance, which would break out and gather strength by indulgence, if not prevented by a powerful counteracting cause. Spiritual-mindedness cannot consist with the sickening scenes of riot and lewdness. They that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

III. We shall mention some of the advantages of temperance.

1. There is a noble kind of freedom invariably attending Christian temperance. The believer is not only free from the curse, but also from the reigning power of sin. The senses, appetites and passions, become subject to the enlightened understanding and renewed will. The inferior powers of our nature are brought to obey, rather than rule, the higher faculties of the soul. This is justly styled, “The glorious liberty of the children of God.”

2. Temperance ensures the best enjoyment of those comforts which the God of providence imparts. “Meat kills more than muskets; and the board destroys more than the sword.” I have read of a very extraordinary mode of executing capital offenders practised in some heathen country. “There is an engine shaped like a beautiful lady, which the criminal salutes, and afterwards retires. He returns again to salute the fatal machine: the figure opens its arms, and cuts him through the heart!” Whether such a custom now actually prevails in any place, I cannot engage to affirm. I quote the story for the sake of the allusion it supplies: it presents us with a true image of that flattering but cruel goddess, sensual pleasure. Those who eagerly press into her arms, are sure to fall and perish at the last. But the temperate man enjoys the benefit designed in earthly things, while he still looks for something higher and better.

3. Temperance assists the exercise of benevolence. Temperance, by moderating our passions, and lessening, rather than multiplying our wants, puts us in circumstances capable of benefiting our fellow-creatures. Some Christians of no great wealth, have been remarkably useful in society.

4. Temperance prepares us to engage in the various duties of religion.

IV. Specify some means which may be useful in the cultivation of temperance.

1. Consider all the blessings you enjoy as talents, which you are solemnly called to use and improve.

2. Take heed what company you keep.

3. Let your attention be chiefly directed to the attainment of spiritual and Divine blessings.

4. Seek a larger measure of the Holy Spirit’s influence. Rules of discipline alone will prove insufficient to govern and purify the mind. If we are not taught by Divine grace, we shall learn nothing aright. The fruit of the Spirit was never yet produced on the stock of unrenewed nature. Let, then, your eyes be daily lifted up to that Being, who is the Fountain of all purity and bliss. (John Thornton.)

Definition of temperance

Temperance is love taking exercise, love enduring hardness, love seeking to become healthful and athletic, love striving for the mastery in all things, and bringing the body under. It is superiority to sensual delights, and it is the power of applying resolutely to irksome duties for the Master’s sake. It is self-denial and self-control. Fearful lest it should subside into gross carnality, or waste away into shadowy and hectic sentiment, temperance is love alert, and timeously astir; sometimes rising before day for prayer, sometimes spending that day on tasks which laziness or daintiness declines. It is love with girt loins, and dusty feet, and blistered hands. It is love with the empty scrip, but the glowing cheek; love subsisting on pulse and water, but grown so healthful and hardy that it beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. (J. Hamilton, D. D.)

Temperance

I. Under any circumstances is self-mastery.

II. With respect to the senses, self-control.

III. In relation to food, moderation; to drink, soberness; to both, abstemiousness.

IV. In relation to the sexes, continence.

V. In anger, forbearance; in temper, self-control.

VI. In action, modesty; in success, humility; in defeat, hopefulness.

VII. In desire, self-restraint;

VIII. in pleasure, self-denial. (Orby Shipley.)

God hath made several objects pleasing to man’s senses. The affections of the soul are apt to follow the senses of the body. Hence sensual pleasures are apt to draw us into vice. It is therefore our great duty and interest to moderate our affections to sensual pleasures.

I. In keeping our affections subject to reason and religion, and so denying them what is unlawful (Titus 2:12).

II. In abstaining especially from such lusts, as by our calling, condition, or constitution we are most subject to (1 Peter 4:2-4).

III. In abstaining from the inward desires as well as the outward act of intemperance (Colossians 3:5; Romans 8:13; Matthew 5:28).

IV. In not being too much lifted up with the increase, nor cast down with the loss of sensual pleasures (1 Corinthians 7:29-31; 2 Corinthians 6:10). (Bp. Beveridge.)

Temperance is the right handling of one’s soul. (H. W. Beecher.)

Temperance keeps the senses clear and unembarrassed, and makes them seize the object with more keenness and satisfaction. It appears with life in the face, and decorum in the person; it gives you the command of your head, secures your health, and preserves you in a condition for business. (Jeremy Collier.)

Temperance is corporeal piety; it is the preservation of the Divine order of the body. (Theodore Parker.)

Temperance

Temperance ( εγκράτεια) seems to be the last, the crowning fruit of the Spirit, as if the very greatness of the riches which await the perfect man needed a regulating and discriminating power. There is a phrase in St. Peter’s writings which is eloquent with the same warning, ἐν δὲ τῇ γνώσει τὴν ἐγκρατέιαν, “and to knowledge temperance”; as if each sense, each feeling, each power, when it has aroused its dormant energies, were moving amidst fresh possibilities of wealth and satisfaction, which needed regulating. And so there grows up this splendid ἐγκράτεια, temperance, as a regulating principle, showing us the when, the how, the how much, and the how long, with undeviating instinct. In the spirit of those grand lines--

“Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control,

These three alone lead life to sovereign power;

Yet not for power (power of herself

Would come uncalled for), but to live by law,

Acting the law we live by without fear;

And because right is right, to follow right

Were wisdom, in the scorn of consequence.”

Is not this true temperance, the moderating, the regulating, the due admixture, as time and season require, of all that goes to make up life; so much pleasure, so much pain, so much work, so much recreation; memory, imagination, body, soul, and spirit--all contributing, and nothing in excess, μηδὲν ἄγαν And the words quoted above may surely give us a good analysis of the formation of temperance, “self-reverence,” this may well be the first element; reverence even for the less comely parts of our nature. “Self-knowledge,” again; how necessary this is as a constituent part! Each knows for himself what he can do; each knows for himself what he is bound to avoid. Some can make good use even of poisons in their skilful mingling, while to others the most wholesome meat is to them the veriest poison. Self-knowledge is all-essential, as showing US what we can do and what we cannot do, and in helping us to gauge all those delicate tendencies which are latent in us from heredity, or pass into us from environment and which in themselves go to make or mar the man. And then as a third element we have “self-control”--that master-spirit which has all its slaves under its dominion, obedient to the nod of the will, which in itself can submit to the Master’s call, which has learnt to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. There are two stages in the development of this temperance which we may do well to consider. First of all, as a preliminary step, we may place what we call “self-denial”--that sort of learning not to touch--the free, detached mode of walking through the world. And the uses of self-denial are obvious; it makes us more prepared for the assaults of the devil. Being indifferent in things lawful, we are not likely to be tempted in things unlawful. Our appetites are all under guard; the circle of the wails is vigilantly patrolled; the watchword is passed on from tower to tower of prayer; and all the bush of pride and luxury has been cut down. So self-denial cuts off occasion; while as a further stage still, it makes us more fit for God’s work. And self-denial will make us more continent, so to speak, amidst all the allurements of the world; where one less braced would become enervated and lifeless. We have become mortified, dead to the world; all the channels of evil have been stopped and cut off. And now, if we have secured this great principle of self-denial, we shall be daily and hourly called upon to practise self-restraint--a higher stage still; and this in the most far-reaching, the most comprehensive manner. There are, for instance, the eyes, the ears, the thoughts, the imagination, the understanding, which all need restraining, just as we restrain the lower appetites themselves. Modesty we all feel the need of; vigilance we know is of the utmost importance; but recollectedness, perhaps, we are not so careful to cultivate as we ought to be. What a force it is, in its simple concentration of powers, whether at study, or in prayer, or when simply alone. “How we grow unable to commune silently and seriously with our own souls, because we have shrunk from the discipline of solitude when it was offered for our acceptance.” And self-restraint does not stop here, it goes higher and it goes lower. It goes higher, up to that self-will, in all its unteachable obstinacy, fancies, and dislikes. It goes lower, to that self-indulgence, which, to say the least of it, is taking off the hardness which it was the object of self-denial to produce. It is required for the tongue, to stop its misuse, and misdirection. It is required for the actions, to stop hastiness, imprudence, unsteadiness, or self-abandonment out of the due proportion of life. It is required even for the soul, to bring it back from its favourite doctrines to “the proportion of faith,” to drive it into the wilderness, after scenes of holy peace at Jordan; to stop untaught enthusiasm and uninstructed zeal; landing the life at last in that perfect temperance, where all things mingle in their due proportion in that perfect man, where each part rejoices in the excellence of each, for the excellence of each part is the joy of the whole. Above all things let us be spiritual. Spirituality is a power in the world, quite separate and distinct by itself; some are as ignorant of it as our forefathers were of electricity; but there is no power like it; and this power may be ours. (W. C. E. Newbolt.)

Against such there is no law.--

The spirit’s relation to law

The object of law is education. There is no law made for any other use, so far as law applies to human beings. God never rested a law of His on force. Every law He has made rests on love. No law was ever passed in order to punish people, but to save people from punishment. Looked at in this light the value of, law cannot be over-estimated. It might be called the free, the impartial, the universal educator of men. Into the realm of human rights which for ages lingered in prolonged night--a night without a star--it rises like a sun, and the realm of darkness becomes illuminated. Nothing is more unfortunate than to have people suppose that love is one thing and law is another, even its opposite. If it were so, then is my mind one thing and my arm another when, in obedience to my will, it makes a movement. For law is only the armed extension of love; doing its wish, serving its purpose, and therefore one with itself. To deify force, even non-intelligent force--force governed in no other law in its outgoings than the law of change--is sad enough; but to deify force that is not only intelligent, but is so cruel that it delights in the suffering it can inflict, is infamous. Such a theology, or such a travesty on theology, is but a mockery of the Christian religion. Now, then, we have come to the understanding of the use of law and its relation to love. We have ascertained that law, in its use, is education as it relates to man; and as it relates to God it is only a servant to love--a means of wisely expressing unto mortals His affection for them. We now come to the further statement, that while law is valuable both as a method of education and as a means of expressing His love, yet in relation to both of these objects it has its strict limitations; that is, it can only carry the moral education of man up to a certain point, which point is by no means sufficiently high to meet the necessities of the soul; and that it can only in a very imperfect manner proclaim to the universe the Divine affections. Now, the necessities of the soul are the necessities of our whole being. For the word soul is an all-including word, and within its significance every faculty, power, and sense are embraced. But the necessities of our whole being can never be met by mere knowledge, which is all that law can give. Nor can it reveal unto us the nature of God in any such degree as we crave to know it. For law can only reveal to us the conscience of God, while His affections, His mercies, His sympathies are not directly expressed by it. And while God is the highest embodiment of conscience that we can imagine; while He is the superlative expression of moral sense, He is more than this. There is another thought in this connection that may help some of you, that not only is law unable to express God, but God’s design aims at a finer expression of Himself than law can give. The master recognizes the inability of his servant, and therefore calls upon other assistance. And this is seen if you will ask and answer this question: What is God’s design as it stands related to moral beings? Is it to make fashionable a class of conduct or a class of character? A class of character, assuredly. In this connection the interrogation might not be amiss, nor lacking just application to us all, What sort of a character under our profession of piety are we growing, granted that the outward conduct is in strict conformance with religious requirements? What is the actual inner state? Are we in our natures as good as we are in our behaviour? Are we as faultless in our dispositions as God’s eye sees them as we are in that deportment which men’s eyes see? These are questions that penetrate us, friends. God grant they do not carry fire on their point as they enter into us. One other thought touching this matter of law as it relates to the fruits of the Spirit. Let me ask you this question: What is the highest form of law? Don’t think of the legislature, of the statute book, of the Decalogue, no, nor of the Sermon on the Mount; for in none of these will you find Jaw expressed in its highest form. Where then? In man, if he be good enough, in God always. The highest form of law is impersonated law, law that has been translated out of statute into character; out of the enactment into the act, and out of the act into the spirit. Enshrined in that spirit like a pure element in a transparent substance, the law shines forth with an expression so fine that the obedience of earth and the piety of heaven alike take it as their guiding star. This was precisely the condition of things in the case of Jesus of Nazareth. In Him the spirit of all good law found embodiment. He was, as it were, the breathing, living, walking genius of justice; that justice which was utterly just because it kept its own alliance with the love, the mercy, and the pity of the skies. They who heard Him speak heard the law speak; hence the people recognized that He spake as one having authority--a crude, popular way of expressing a sublime perception only dimly sensed. One thing I cannot refrain from suggesting: never think that the object of the Spirit’s work is to deliver you from penalty. Heaven is something more and finer than an escape from hell. No one ever shuns hell; he grows up above it. Heaven is character; and he whose character is being grown daily by the culture of the Spirit is growing daily into the heavenly state. Ah, it is not what the Spirit mercifully holds me back from, but what it graciously leads me unto, that makes me love Him. He has led me to knowledge without which I should not have had the powers and pleasures of intelligence. He has led me into sensitiveness touching my own rights and the rights of others, and thereby has given me self-dignity, and with it humanity. He has brought me into emotional neighbourhood with God; so that I live in the same city with Him--His own city--and am one of His subjects, and have the honour of serving Him day and night. Not only so, but this blessed Spirit has utilized the subtle forces of my own mind and nature in my behalf--forces which lurk in nerves of feeling that the anatomist has never found, and which move in strong currents through channels of my soul that psychologists have never discovered. (W. H. Murray, D. D.)

No law against the spir