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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Galatians 6

 

 

Verse 1

Galatians 6:1

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness.

I. The nature of the fault. Overtaken in it, not overtaking it.

II. The duty of the friend. The allusion is to the surgeons who set bones out of joint, although they put their patients to pain.

III. The method of service. Swine may be driven violently; brethren must be drawn gently. (G. Swinnock.)

A triple duty

I. An act of charity; support of the weak (Galatians 6:1-2).

II. An act of integrity: proof of ourselves (Galatians 6:3-4).

III. An act of equity; support of ministers (Galatians 6:6). (T. Adams.)

Christian helpfulness and personal independence

I. The motive to mutual helpfulness drawn from self-knowledge. Apply to--

1. Infirmities.

2. Matters of opinion.

3. Sins.

4. Unfaithfulness to Church obligations.

II. The power of mutual helpfulness arising from the endeavour after Christian integrity.

1. The simple unsophisticated conscience never finds consolation in others’ sins.

2. The moral power of sympathy is in proportion to the sincerity of our Christian character.

3. That was the secret of Christ’s moral power among men.

III. The limits of mutual helpfulness imposed by personal independence.

1. We cannot stand in another’s place to answer for his sin.

2. We cannot put ourselves within his being so as to compel his judgment, command his feeling, “restrain his choice.

IV. Practical lessons.

1. To call our thoughts from vain longings after the impossible to do what is given us to do.

2. Not to burden with our follies and sins those already bearing burdens of their own.

3. The proper, burden for the Galatians and all who seek a burden is “the law of Christ.” (A. Mackennal, B. A.)

Other men’s failings

I. These things are to be done because they are commanded.

II. Christlike piety may be known by its gentleness and helpfulness towards them that Are evil.

III. A profound sense of weakness and sinfulness is indispensible to any intelligent charity.

IV. The grace of God serves instrumentally by man’s love.

V. The curative sympathy of men does not lead them to look lightly on transgression. Conclusion:

1. No man has a right to be absorbed in his own piety: we were born to live together, and no man has a right to shirk the duties he owes to his brother.

2. The bearing of burdens is a duty

The sins of others

Consider--

I. The effect produced by the falls of others.

1. Here is a worldly company. A scandal is disclosed; what malignant joy it occasions.

2. But what shall we say when that detestable joy is shared by Christians?

3. Who are we to condemn the fallen?

4. Thus a brother’s fall should produce in us, not censure, but self-examination and humiliation.

II. What are we to do is order to wise them?

1. The nearer a being lives to God the more deeply it feels compassion and mercy.

2. The least that we can do is to give our fallen brother our sympathy.

3. But this is not enough.

III. Conclusion:

1. What an honour to raise a fallen soul.

2. Christ the Raiser has called you to this.

3. Have you not lost some soul? (E. Bersier, D. D.)

The restoration of the erring

I. The Christian view of other men’s sin.

1. The apostle regards it as if it might be the result of a surprise.

(a) A question may be hurriedly put concerning a secret; not having presence of mind to turn it adroitly, a lie is told. So Peter.

(b) Inexperience, a hasty promise, excess of trust, and even generous devotion may have the same effect.

2. The apostle considers it a fault which has left a burden on the erring spirit.

(a) by a mysterious necessity to tell it under the personality of another;

(b) by profuse general acknowledgment of guilt;

(c) by the longing for confession.

II. The Christian power of restoration.

1. Restoration is possible.

2. Restoration is accomplished by men as instruments.

3. The mode in which it is done;

4. The motive--“considering thyself,” etc. (J. W. Robertson.)

The duty of brotherly admonition and reproof

I. What that duty is.

1. We are members one of another.

2. It is our interest to keep our members together, and in good health.

3. A means of doing this is timely admonition.

II. Rules for its effective discharge.

1. It does not follow that where-ever a man sees vice he is bound to rebuke it. Reproof may exasperate.

2. Regard must be had to the circumstances of the offending party.

3. An exact proportion should be preserved between the offence and the rebuke; failings are not necessarily sins.

4. The rebuke should be given privately.

5. Take care not to be chargeable with the same fault yourself.

6. The end in view must not be the gratification of a private pique, but restoration.

III. The evil of neglecting it.

1. Evil is encouraged by neglect.

2. The good are lost for the want of timely interference. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Motives to charity

“Considering thyself.”

1. Thine abundance may become poverty; therefore, O man of wealth, “consider the poor.”

2. Thy happiness may be blighted; therefore, O man on whom all things smile, raise up the mourners.

3. Thou mayest be sick; therefore, O man of health, give aid to the diseased.

4. Thou, too, must die; therefore, O living man, do not forget the bereaved.

5. Thou mayest be deprived of the means of grace, therefore, frequenter of the house of God, succour those to whom the gospel does not come. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Self-knowledge is the knowledge and love of God

There are many ways of selfconsideration.

I. Self-love, when right and when wrong.

II. Self-ignorance.

III. Self-knowledge.

IV. The knowledge of God’s love in Christ, on which the noblest self-knowledge rests. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

The occasion for the injunction

The fervour and pathos of this appeal are perhaps to be explained by certain circumstances which engaged St. Paul’s attention at this time. A grave offence had been committed in the Church of Corinth. St. Paul had called upon the brethren to punish the offender, and his appeal had been answered with so much promptness that it was necessary to intercede for the guilty one. He commended their indignation, their zeal, their revenge; they had approved themselves clear in the matter (2 Corinthians 7:11); and now they must comfort and forgive their erring brother, lest he be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow (see the striking resemblance in tone of 2 Corinthians 2:6-8, and the text). It was the recollection of this circumstance that dictated this injunction. The Galatians were proverbially passionate and fickle. If a reaction came it might be attended, as at Corinth, with undue severity towards the delinquents. The Epistle, therefore, was probably written while the event was fresh, and perhaps after he had witnessed too evident signs of over severity. (Bishop Lightfoot.)

The restoration of the lapsed

In the Pauline hypothesis of a perfect society, the rectification of a wrong is not due to the clamour or plaint of that which is immediately distressed, but to the sympathy felt by the whole of the society towards the suffering or injured part. From St. Paul’s point of view, a social evil sends a pang through the whole body, urging it to take note of the disease, and to discover the remedy. That the remedy can be found and the disease subdued he did not for a moment doubt. Conceive, if you can, a public conscience so keen and tender as to be instantly alive to the moral evils which corrupt, enfeeble, and blemish it, and so wise as to be constantly busying itself with their cure. Imagine men comprehending that the corrective forces of public morality are concerned principally with the purification of mankind from evils which it has contracted. Picture a society employed in finding out the means by which poverty, ignorance, vice, selfishness, can be chastened or healed because itself is degraded and dishonored, and is restless till it has found a cure. Well would it have been if the reformation of man had been continued on these lines laid down by St. Paul; but the utmost that men have done as yet, is to concede a right, perhaps no more than a right, of complaint to the sufferer. (“Paul of Tarsus.”)

Methods of restoration

Saints, like clocks, made up of curious wheels and engines, are soon discomposed, and therefore often want some workman to set them in order again. A good man, if his friend follow virtue, will be a father to encourage him; if he be full of doubts, he will be a minister to direct him; if he follow vice, will be a magisstrate to correct him. Christians must allow one another for their infirmities, but not in them. (G. Swinnock.)

Compassion the law of Christ

Compassion is the law of Christ, not because He laid it down in words, but because it was His life. He who left us an example that we should follow His steps, showed that with Him no condition of life was too low for His esteem, no sinner too guilty for His assistance, no enemy too fierce or cruel for His good will. And Christ is the law of His people, not His words alone, but the life He lived and the Person He showed Himself to be. (Archbishop Thomson.)

Our duty to the erring

The soul which sin has overtaken is like the bruised reed. It must be raised up gently that it may once more aspire heavenwards. (E. Bersier, D. D.)

The graceful vase that stands in the drawing-room under a glass shade and never goes to the well, has no great right to despise the rough pitcher that often goes and is broken at last. (A. K. H. B.)

Brotherly reproof

I. The case which the text describes. Wrong-doing under the influence of sudden temptation.

II. Let us endeavour to ascertain the conduct to be persued in such a case. Ye which are spiritual, restore such an one, considering thyself, etc. This applies not simply to such persons as are endowed with spiritual gifts; but to those Christians who are more than ordinarily devoted to religion. A spiritual man is one whom the Holy Ghost hath enlightened and changed. It does not belong to every one in the Church to assume this office. To restore, is a general term, admitting of a variety of applications. It often signifies to amend. In a moral sense, it means to restore the faulty person to the moral feeling which he has lost. He who thus restores, becomes the healer of disease.

1. The text intimates that the reproof is to be faithfully administered. To tell another of a fault, even if it be done in the mildest manner, constitutes reproof. Faults are not confined to practical matters, but extend also to doctrinal. Christians are exposed to both, and both are equally dangerous.

2. It is to be done in the spirit of meekness. This is eminently necessary; because we undertake to restore our brother, we assume superior ground. He who inflicts pain willingly and intentionally is a monster. The skilful practitioner will probe the wound to the bottom, but he will do it as gently as possible. A spirit of kindness pervaded the corrections which the Saviour so faithfully applied. It must be obvious, from what has been already said, that if we see a brother overtaken in a fault, and leave him, without an attempt to restore him, we are guilty of serious neglect of a known Christian duty. This will appear even more forcibly, if you consider what was enjoined under the Jewish economy, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart, nor suffer his sin upon him, but rebuke him.” (R. Hall.)

Faults and burdens

I. The possibility of being morally overcome.

II. The duty of restoration. This includes--

1. A proper sense of the value of individuals--a man.

2. An intense sympathy with Jesus Christ in His saving work.

3. A practical knowledge of human nature.

III. The work of restoration is to be done in a proper spirit. Dislocated limbs should be handled skilfully. What is involved in restoring a man?

1. A proper sense of sin.

2. A wise excitement of hope.

3. A deep conception of Christ’s work in relation to fallen men. Beware of encouraging false peace. It is possible to bandage a limb without setting it. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The spirit in which restoration should be taken

1. In a spirit of faith.

2. Meekness.

3. Considerateness.

4. Humility. (Clergyman’s Magazine.)

Christian reformation

Let us begin this consideration with its proper beginning--the first detection--the first moment that constitutes what society knows as a criminal. The first detection may have followed on a trifling fault, or a mere inadvertence; but once past, the barrier is past with it--the badge is irremovably attached; the words “convicted criminal” are the strokes of a knell which tolls the man to his grave, be he scores of years from it: we are so determined to be in outward appearance separate from sinners, that we draw the line bold and dark which shall mark the distinction: there shall be no penumbra to that eclipse. Exiles and outcasts, whether their fault has been great or small, from the society of the virtuous or of the undetected--every influence is arrayed, many influences perhaps not unjustly arrayed, against their return to the place whence they have fallen. First of all, in speaking of this duty, let me say something of the spirit in which it is to be performed. “Restore such an one in the spirit of meekness--considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Surely this is the very opposite of the spirit of the world, of which we have been speaking. That spirit refuses to consider the possibility of ourselves being tempted: parades a challenge in the face of the world to question our own purity and inviolability, and declares that we are determined never to admit the hypothesis of our becoming like them. Well then, it is here as so often: I have to ask you to put on a spirit directly contrary to that which you find around you in the world: to sit at the feet of a far different Teacher, and learn of Him. We have spoken of Him who came to seek and to save that which was lost. And this is the very thing which we ask you to do likewise. Our blessed Lord spent His life and shed His blood, in devising means whereby His lost ones might be recovered to Him. And every follower of His--every one who is under the discipline of that great Reformatory which He has founded--is expected not to look only on his own things, but also on the things of others. These criminals are your brethren; your fellow-Christians by profession. And it is only His preventing and upholding grace, which keeps from falling any of us who thinketh he standeth in uprightness. Bearing their burdens, instead of disclaiming them and letting them sink under their weight; and so fulfilling the law of Christ. We may ask, what law? And the answer is very simple. There was one law in which our blessed Lord summed up His social and practical precepts; one, which peculiarly belongs to Him: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do unto them.” This is emphatically the law of Christ. (Dean Alford.)

On restoring a sinner

This restoring of sinners is the primary duty of the members of the brotherhood of Christ. Is it not, too, the great problem of society? It lies as near to the heart of the welfare of homes, of kingdoms, as of Churches. Restore the sinners and you save the State.

I. The man overtaken in a fault. It is literally the man “even caught in a sin.” Putting the case most strongly, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one, despite the open scandal and shame. The sense of our translation, “overtaken in a fault,” suggesting, I think, the idea of surprise by the sin as well as in the sin, though not the literal sense of the original, is, perhaps, spiritually, not far from the truth. The word for “sin,” the word for “restore,” and the allusion to temptation, seem all to point to the case of a man overtaken and snared by a sin. There are those who overtake sin; who seem to catch sins as easily as the vapour of naphtha catches fire. It is not to them that the apostle is here referring. But there are others whom sin overtakes. It is out of the course of their most earnest purpose. It comes as a perversion. It twists, if it does not break, the unity of their lives. David’s deadly sin was of this character. Sin has caught him, and holds him as a captive. But there is an uprightness there which it has bent but has not prostrated, a love for truth and honour which it has blighted but has not killed. Brethren, take him by the hand and clasp him. Throw the cords of your love around him, and stay him in his mad career.

II. Ye which are spiritual. Who are the spiritual? Who knows the secret of this Divine art of restoring souls? The spiritual--those who know that they are the spiritual, and who are the qualified teachers, correctors, and exemplars to their fellow-men. I am not sure that this is the class which is meant by the term, when we hear it on an apostle’s lips--indeed, I am quite sure that it is not. I am quite sure that Paul speaks of a class of much simpler and humbler men. Men who are not at all sure that they are the spiritual; men who are only sure that sin is a great sorrow to the sinner, a great sorrow to the Saviour, a crushing burden on the spirit, which so fills them with distress and pity, that they can take no rest and know no joy until they have lifted it and borne it away.

III. Restore such an one. Restore him. There is but one way. Restore him to God, and you restore him to his brother, to the Church, and to himself. Do not imagine that you can restore him. Man can do just one essential service to his brother: he can bring him to Jesus, and leave him with Him. (J. B. Brown, B. A.)

Turning the icy end to our fellows

One day, when I was serving my apprenticeship in a factory on the banks of the Marrimac River (says the Hon. N. P. Banks, late Governor of Massachusetts), a party of the hands saw a man a quarter of a mile down tile river struggling among the broken cakes of ice. We could none of us for the moment determine his political complexion or bodily colour, but he proved, in the end, to be a negro in the water. Of course the first care was to rescue him; but twice the victim slipped from the plank that was thrown him. The third time it was evident to our inner hearts that it was the negro’s last chance, and so he evidently thought; but as he again slipped from the board, he shouted, “For the love of God, gentle men, give me hold of the wooden end of the plank this time.” We had been holding him the icy end! How often do Christians make the same mistake. We turn the icy end of the plank to our fellows; and then wonder why they do not hold on, and why our efforts do not save them. (Preacher’s Lantern.)

Duty of the Church to the over-tempted

The exercise of discipline is ever a delicate and dangerous work. Those who have not themselves fallen are apt to be a little puffed up by the sense of their superior purity, and so to neglect to treat outcasts with true Christian considerateness.

I. The duty of Christens to seek to reclaim the over-tempted.

1. The light in which many sins are to be viewed--a slip into a pit. Sin not indulged in because loved, but because the sinning one has been surprised, overtaken, entrapped by it.

2. The difficulty of rising after such a fall. Despair settles down on the soul; disgrace; self-reproach. Souls that are in the wild, wide forest of sin, with night coming down, are not likely to find their way out when the notches on the trees--such as the Indians make for guidance--have grown over or been obliterated. Souls that have lost their balance on the narrow ledge of the lofty mountain path, are very likely to fall into the abysmal gorge at their side. Then is the time for Christians to step in and take the erring one by the hand, bestowing interest, affection, fellowship.

II. The manner and spirit in which this is to be performed. The spiritual must act in a spiritual manner.

1. Setting an example in all good. No moderate indulgence in sin, no laxity, no half-measures.

2. The spirit of meekness. This gives us a fellow-feeling, and makes us act as brothers.

3. Consideration for ourselves. We may one day need the helping hand we are now extending to another. Let us, then, do as we would be done by. No boastful, self-sufficient spirit becomes those who are themselves within reach of temptation. (F. Hastings.)

Comprehensiveness of Christ’s law

The law of Christ is the law of universal love; and it requires every man to be interested in every man and in his difficulties; to be in sympathy with him and in all the spirit of helpfulness, although the act may be beyond our power. It requires us also to be in sympathy with men, not only when they are doing right, but when they are doing wrong. A fault is anything inconsistent with the rule of life or duty. In common usage it is a minor transgression, but here undoubtedly it is comprehensive; it includes whatever a man does aside from the rule of rectitude, or aside from any law, ideal, or measure in life by which men are accustomed to be judged. It may respect the man’s person, his body, health, his strength, or it may respect a man’s mind, his judgment, temper, disposition generally. It may have respect to a man’s social connections, neighbourhood; his relations to the family, and to all the collected families. It may have relation to his religious connection; what as a churchman, what as a professing Christian, his faults, feelings, and transgressions. It may have relation to his civil and business duties, commercial or political … Nobody can free himself from the subtle and perpetual influences that work upon the intelligence, the conscience, the ideals of life. We are members of a complex body in family relations or in civil relations; and, as the foot cannot ache without having the whole body ache, and the hand cannot suffer and the whole body not suffer, so every man more or less is so connected by vital nerves with the whole community in which he is, that he comes up with them and goes down with them, and he commits faults simply because he cannot separate and disentangle himself quick enough not to go as the multitude are going. We are all of us in a drove. We are all of us of one nature in the one world, under the one system; and there is not a man living who does not commit faults every day of his life. They may not be of the severest kind. They may not be the faults you dislike the most. You commit them--not as your neighbour does, but in your own way. Everybody does, and everybody, therefore, is dependent upon the charity and the goodwill of his neighbour for himself; and the command is, “return that goodwill and that charity, since you yourself are liable to suffer in this very way, and are suffering all the time. Treat every man as you would wish him to treat you.”… A brave man would not know that a companion was in captivity among the Indians, and not venture something for him. What if he did caution him not to ride out unattended? What if he did warn him? If the man was careless and heedless, and was snatched up, bound, and hidden away for to-morrow’s torment, he would creep on his belly until the moon went down, and steal in and cut the man’s cords and withs, and snake him out, and put himself behind him to defend him if they were discovered, and work him back again into liberty and the settlements …. The scope and the sweep of faults is so great, that you may just as well sit yourself down to this thing, that universal human nature is so poor and so weak and so liable to temptation, and to failure under temptation, that you must have compassion upon all men, or, as it is expressed in Hebrews, you must “have compassion on the ignorant and on them that are out of the way”--compassion universal, continuous, adequate, vital, and active. (H. W. Beecher.)

The Christians duty to an erring brother

We have here--

I. Christian fallibility.

II. The duty of those who stand towards those who fall.

III. The reason why we should so act. (A. F. Barfield.)

Magnanimous conduct

When Conkling precipitated himself from the Senate, it was very much against General Grant’s judgment, and that was known, and yet he attempted in every way to befriend Mr. Conkling, and shield him; so much so that everybody thought he had gone over to his side, and a man expostulated with him, saying, “General Grant, how is this You don’t believe that he did right, do you?” “No, sir; I don’t.” “How is it, then, that you are on his side now?” His reply was worthy to be written in letters of gold. “When is the time to show a man’s self friendly, except when his friend has made a mistake? That is not the time to leave a man--when he has made a blunder or a mistake.” That is one of those unimpeachable moral principles which appeal to the universal conscience. Stand by a man who is your friend. Stand by him in his adversity, if you don’t stand by him at any other time. (H. W. Beecher.)

Discretion in censure

It is true, open sinners deserve open censures; but private admonitions will best suit private offences. While we seek to heal a wound in our brother’s actions, we should be careful not to leave a sear upon his person. We give grains of allowance in all current coin. That is a choice friend who conceals our faults from the view of others, and yet discovers them to our own. That medicine which rouses the evil humours of the body, and does not carry them off, only leaves it in a worse condition than it found it. (Archbishop Seeker.)

Test of friendship

It is one of the severests tests of friendship to tell your friend of his faults. If you are angry with a man, or hate him, it is not hard to go to him and stab him with words: but so to love a man that you cannot bear to see the stain of sin upon him, and to speak painful truth through loving words--that is friendship. (H. W. Beecher.)

Tenderness in reproof

There is much discretion to be observed in reprehension: a word will do more with some than a blow with others. A Venice glass is not to be rubbed so hard as a brazen kettle. The tender reed is more easily bowed than the sturdy oak. Christ’s warfare requires no carnal weapons. Dashing storms do but destroy the seed, while gentle showers nourish it. Chariots too furiously driven may be overturned by their own violence. The word “restore” in this verse signifies, to set in joint again; and to set a dislocated bone requires the lady’s hand: tenderness, as well as skill. Reprehension is not an act of butchery, but of surgery. Take heed of blunting the instrument, by putting too keen an edge upon it. (Archbishop Secker.)

Suitable times for reproving

Discretion in the choice of seasons for reproving, is no less necessary than zeal and faithfulness in reproving. Good physicians use not to evacuate the body, in the extremities of heat and cold. Good mariners do not hoist up sail in every wind. (John Trapp.)

Reproof begins with self

If we would reprove others wisely, we must understand our own hearts. If we give ourselves to the healing of others, and take no remedy for our own mortal disease, we must expect the scorn of men. He would be an ill pastor who busied himself about another’s parish and neglected his own. (J. G. Pilkington.)

Benefit of reproof

To reprove a brother is like as, when he has fallen, to help him up again; when he is wounded, to help to cure him; when he has broken a bone, to help to set it; when he is out of the way, to put him into it; when he is fallen into the fire, to pluck him out; when he has contracted defilement, to cleanse him. (Philip Henry.)

Considering thyself:--The motive for Christian tenderness

What an amount of motive is gathered into these simple words! It has been one of the natural, we might almost say necessary, consequences of the combination of men into societies, possessing all possible variety of condition and circumstance, that there has been a comparative losing sight of the equal liability of all to the several ills to which flesh is heir. In an early stage of society, when men are nearly on a level, and every one is in a measure dependent on his own strivings for the means of subsistence, there is, evidently, much the same exposure to misfortune; and none can be fancied secure against calamities by which others have been or may be overtaken. But the case alters as society is wrought into a finished structure and form, and through the accumulation of capital, certain of its ranks are placed beyond the need of labouring for a livelihood. Then in all the security with which property is fenced, and the ready supplies which it commands, there is something which looks like, and which passes for, evidence that a measure of independence is reached, and that some are in the enjoyment of certainty, whilst others are still within the reach of accident. It is very difficult not to fancy, that the man of large ancestral revenues, inhabiting the baronial hall which proudly surmounts the domain which owns him for its lord, has an exemption from the contingencies and chances of want, which beset the poor peasant who tills one of his fields. And that noble, surrounded by everything which luxury can either invent or desire, might look upon us coldly, and even angrily, if we backed our appeal to him on behalf of some starving cottager, by simply telling him to “consider himself, lest he should be similarly tried.” It might sound to him as a threat, whether of ignorance or insolence, that it should thus be implied that, notwithstanding all his state, and all his abundance, he might come to want the morsel which we ask him to bestow; and, if he complied with the petition, he would probably spurn the motive by which it had been urged. And, of course, it does need a very thorough and practical recognition of the truth that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof,” to be able to put aside all the appearances of security and independence, which hoarded wealth furnishes, and to view in every man, whatsoever his circumstances, a pensioner on the bounty of that Omnipotent Parent who “openeth His hand, and satisfieth the desire of every living thing.” It is not to be wondered at if the beggar be commonly thought to have to live from day to day on the providence of God, whilst the man of accumulated stores is considered as having provision in hand for his every future necessity. But what actual infidelity--what virtual atheism--may be detected in every such notion. It is a substitution of money for God. I would rather have the security against want, which the meanest of our villagers enjoys, whose daily bread is the subject of daily care and daily toil, than that of the foremost of our capitalists who in any way gives indulgence to the sentiment, “Soul, thou hast goods laid up for many years.” The one, indeed, has a security--the security of a prayerful dependence on God; the other has no security whatever, but lies exposed to the peril of being punished for presumption. It matters nothing to us, what may be the worldly circumstances of any one, nor how far they may seem to remove him from liability to poverty. If he be a man, he may come to be a starving man; and that, too, without any of these inexplicable occurrences and variations which seem to mark God’s special interference to bring round the unlooked-for catastrophe. There ought, therefore, to be to him, as much cogency as to the man whose property seems jeopardized, in the words “lest thou also be tempted,” when it is for the relief of the actually destitute that we appeal to his bounty. And this is, perhaps, the only case in which there is even the appearance of exemption from liability to misfortunes with which we see others oppressed. In every other case we may contend, that even the appearances are wanting; so that there cannot be the shadow of an excuse for denying to the apostle’s motive the greatest possible force. It cannot be said that any one form of sorrow is appropriated to this class of men, and warded off from that; all are accessible through the same channels, and all are capable of the same wounds. Rank gives no exemption from misfortune. The great and the mean bow beneath the same sorrows, and die of the same sicknesses. Is there not, in consequence, the greatest cogency, whosoever be the party addressed, and whatsoever the affliction, in the words of the apostle, “considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted!” It is the enlisting of selfishness on the side of the afflicted, and the calling upon us to be merciful, if we would have mercy ourselves. The thing assumed--and it is not a thing to be disputed--is, that God’s moral government is eminently and avowedly a retributive government. And if, moreover, we live beneath a retributive government, and lie ourselves exposed to all the afflictions with which we see others are visited, then, if only on the principle of self-preservation, we are bound to be merciful to the suffering, lest being brought into similar circumstances ourselves, we find our neglect and churlishness returned to us in kind. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Spirituality of mind possible

If you will go to the banks of a little stream, and watch the flies that come to bathe in it, you will notice that, while they plunge their bodies in the water, they keep their wings high out of the water; and, after swimming about a little while, they fly away with their wings unwet through the sunny air. Now, that is a lesson for us. Here we are immersed in the cares and business of the world; but let us keep the wings of our soul, our faith, and our love, out of the world, that, with these unclogged, we may be ready to take our flight to heaven. (J. Inglis.)

Meditation promotes spirituality

A beautiful flower, the wood-sorrel, grows among the trees in the sylvan scenes 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, its foliage closes and droops; but, when the sir 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 dew 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. (P. J. Wright.)

The spirit of meekness

Meekness is Christian lowlihood. It is the disciple learning to know himself: learning to fear and distrust and abhor himself. 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 watching and praying 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. 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. (Dr. T. Hamilton.)


Verses 1-5

Verse 2

Galatians 6:2

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

Burden-bearing

These two principles are:--

I. The brotherhood of souls--“Bear ye one another’s burdens.”

II. The responsibility of the individual soul--“Every man shall bear his own burden.” Now these two principles are not really opposed to each other, and neither are the precepts of the text. For if you think of it, you will find it is impossible to obey one part of this law without obeying the other; that it is impossible to bear one, your own burden, without at the same time bearing the burden of others; that it is impossible to realize the awful responsibilities of your being without at the same time realizing the claims of your brothers; impossible to find your own true life without giving up your individual will, without “merging your personal interests in those of the human brotherhood, and those of the human brotherhood in the light of the life of God.” Take one side of the idea first. “Every man shall bear his own burden.” There is certainly a very real sense in which this is true, and perhaps no truth has impressed itself more deeply upon the mind of man. Strangest of all things in this wondrous universe is the loneliness of man. Lonely in his birth, lonely in all the great movements of his life, lonely in his death, he comes, he passes, he disappears. Enthroned on the citadel of being, each soul is like a star, and dwells apart. There, in the solitary circuit of its own being, it must patiently revolve, for no star can move in the orbit of another star; it cannot pass the silent deep that lies between; it is alone, and shines in solitary beauty. How then, you ask, is it possible to obey the command of the apostle: “Bear ye one another’s burdens”? My only answer is that which is implied in the words of the text, that it is only by bearing one another’s burdens that we can really bear our own. Does that seem to be a paradox? If you consider deeply you will not think so, you will see that it is really the law of Christ--the highest phase of that law which rules the rhythmic harmony of the universe--that the true life of man is something higher than a life of individual isolation or of personal interest, and that to attain this you must give up your individual will, you must rise into a life which is your own, and yet not your own, and of which the highest expression must always be, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”

1. Take first the illustration which Christ Himself gave in the simplest phase of growing life, the living unity of the tree: “I am the Vine, ye are the branches.” In the economy of a tree you know there is a function which every member must perform, and without which the vigour of life cannot be maintained. If any part should, so to speak, refuse to exercise its function and to bear the burden of the others, itself must pass away. Give it a separate existence, give it the individuality to which it aspires, and what is the result? When it formed a part of the tree joyfully bearing its own burden, and so also bearing the burden of the others, it shared the glory and the freshness of its life, and all its bloom and beauty.

2. The same principle which is thus exemplified in the tree is seen also in the phenomena of sentient life. It is true that the same law holds throughout the realm of our inorganic life, and even in the subtler relations of organisms as collections of modified cells, with unity of origin and coordination of function, it is clearly shown that life cannot be sustained without that mutual burden-bearing which is part of the very law of God. While each individual member has its part to play, its burden to bear, there is a life of the organism to which it must contribute. The members are not independent of each other, but linked together and mutually helpful. “The eye cannot say to the hand I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have need of you.” Each member must bear its own burden, and in so doing it will bear the burdens of the others.

3. You have seen the principle illustrated in the life of the body. In the structure as it rises from base to summit each stone bears its own burden, and from foundation to cope stone there is none which is useless, all alike sustaining and sustained, rising in gradual ascent according to the plan in the mind of the architect, and growing up into that ideal of beauty and of serviceableness after which he strove, exemplifying in the simplest as well as in the most elaborate form the same principle, and showing that the law which gives its nameless grace to the tiny arch gives also its imposing grandeur to the great cathedral, rising as it does, in ever ascending glory, from its pillars of over-vaulted gloom, with architraves and arches of majestic beauty, “like a primeval forest,” till all the building fitly framed together grows into a holy temple, meet for the worship of God.

4. And if we pass from these suggestive illustrations we shall also find in the life of man and in the arrangement of society equally forcible illustrations of the same principle; a principle which is indeed the very law of society, and without which society could not cohere. Take, for instance, the very common principle of the division of labour, a principle which was slowly adopted, but which is now one of the axioms of economic science. It is not only of direct utility in increasing the power of labour, justifying the saying of the preacher, “Two are better than one,” because they have a good reward for their labours. But there is also a higher principle involved. For it is thus by their lower necessities that men are led to see that they have need of each other, and that each and all have their place. I might go on to speak of the basis that has been laid for the law of mutual burden-bearing in the natural constitution of man, in the power of sympathy and natural affection, in the love that binds parent to child, and friend to friend in the sweet charities of human life. There is a similar illustration which may be given in what is called the body politic. What is a State? The true idea of a State is not that of an unconnected collection of individuals, but rather that of an organism, with an organic life and an economy of members, each of which has its own part to play, its own burden to bear, and if it honestly bears that burden, it is also bearing the burdens of the others. For you cannot say that in making the demand Christ makes a demand which is contrary to the nature of things. He merely demands that you should submit yourself to a law which is the expression of God’s will, and which is the very law of life. He shows that which is the very glory of the Christian faith, that it does not stand in antagonism with any true principle of our nature. We are, as it were, a great army under marching orders. Day by day we are marching onwards. Each of us has his own burden to bear. Each of us must carry his own knapsack, and shoulder his own musket. And as our comrades fall beside us shall we not pause, and carry them to the rear? Would you call that man a true soldier who could see his fellow soldier fall and not seek to relieve him, who would quail before the shot of the enemy and run to save himself when his wounded brother fell? To this it is, my brethren, that the law of Christ calls you. You must renounce your own will, and bow to the will of God. You must give up your own freedom, and find it in a greater and nobler freedom. You must bear the burdens of others or you cannot bear your own. (A. W. Williamson, M. A.)

Bearing one another’s burdens

I. Enumerate some of the burdens of the Christian life.

1. The greatest of all burdens which the Christian feels is sin. It is this which makes the whole creation groan, and causes an apostle to cry out, “Oh wretched man that I am; who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). David also complains and says, “Mine iniquities are gone over my head; as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me” (Psalms 38:4).

2. Bodily infirmities and diseases are in themselves a burden, however providence may intend them for our good, and finally overrule them for our spiritual advantage.

3. Worldly losses, trials and difficulties, are the burden which some are called to bear, and of these there is a heavy load. The unkindness and ingratitude, the malice and opposition of enemies, press heavily on some: the undutifulness of children, and the breaches made by death, on others: and an endless train of disappointed hopes and expectations attend on all.

4. A state of distance from God, and the hidings of His face, are a great grief and burden to the believing soul. “Thou hidest Thy face,” says David, “and I am troubled.”

II. Our obligations to sympathise with one another, under the various ills and evils of the present life. We cannot so “bear each other’s burdens” as to transfer them to ourselves, or suffer in another’s stead. In this sense Christ bore our griefs, and carried our sorrows, and at length bore our sins in His own body on the tree; and He alone was able to do it.

1. Let us bear one another’s burdens by tenderly sympathising with those who are afflicted. Let us make their griefs, as well as their joys, our own.

2. We are to bear one another’s burdens by endeavouring to alleviate the afflicted, and comforting them under all their sorrows.

3. The motive by which this duty is enforced is, that in so doing we “fulfil the law of Christ.” It is according to the new commandment which He has given us, that we should love one another; and according to the old commandment that we should love God, and our neighbour as ourselves. (B. Beddome, M. A.)

Mutual burdens

I. We must take this text into the sphere of realism. Trouble is not to be treated sentimentally, curiously, inquisitively, but practically Reach out a heart of love and a hand of help to your brother man, not only touching his burden, but bearing it, so that it becomes a matter of prayerful thought, tender remembrance, and gracious kindness.

II. This is to be done with great tact and delicacy of feeling. Seek never to lower a brother’s honour, while helping his need.

III. We must do this as the law of life. There is nothing “occasional” in the Christen spirit. Separate actions do not make good men.

IV. We must look at this great teaching along the line of true social economy. Help those who are trying to help themselves.

V. Cultivate a tender sense of brotherhood. In sympathising with, and bearing one another’s burdens, we realize the great fact that we shall have burdens to bear ourselves. So we shall. Those who have most, often say least about them. But God intends these trials to prepare us for Christian service. Every experience brings with it the power of bearing a burden. (W. M. Statham.)

Christian generosity

So deceitful is the heart, it must be constantly watched, lest under the semblance of piety and religious zeal, we should be led to indulge rancorous and unholy passions. This the apostle seems to have felt; hence the caution (Galatians 5:13-16), the exposure of the fruits both of the flesh and the spirit (verses 19-23), and the exhortation which concludes with the text.

I. The duty enjoined. The term “burden” denotes something which, by uneasy pressure, exhausts the strength and spirits of the person oppressed by it. It may apply to--

1. A weight of labour or bodily toil. This is the effect of the original transgression (Genesis 3:19). We may lighten it by manual assistance, by procuring the requisite help, or pecuniary, which would render the excess of labour unnecessary.

2. A weight of personal affliction (Job 7:20). The pressure of this may be relieved by medical aid, kind attendance, the soothing, sympathising language of friendship, or the considerations which religion affords.

3. Domestic affliction and cares.

4. Providential losses, poverty, embarrassment, oppression, etc.

5. Guilt and corruption. In this case especially, is Christian sympathy demanded.

6. Temptation (Ecclesiastes 4:9; Romans 15:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:14).

7. Infirmities, whether of body or mind. Pity rather than upbraid a weak brother. Help his infirmities, instead of exposing them to others.

II. The enforcing motive.

1. This is worthy of the character of Christ, inasmuch as it is

2. It is congenial with the Spirit of Christ (Philippians 2:5; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Colossians 3:12-13.)

3. It is agreeable with the example of Christ (John 13:13; Philippians 2:6-9; Hebrews 2:14-16).

4. It is deducible from the precepts of Christ (John 13:33-34; John 15:12; John 15:17).

5. It has, and shall have, the approbation of Christ (Matthew 5:7; Matthew 25:34-40). Concluding inferences:

(a) ourselves;

(b) our brethren;

(c) our Saviour, who regards what is done to His followers as done to Himself;

(d) our God, who expects such return for His love (1 John 4:9-11). (Theological Sketch-book.)

Bearing one another’s burdens

This world is full of burden-bearers. We cannot pass through it without taking a load. Nor can we help fulfilling the injunction of the text in some sense. We do, naturally and inevitably, bear one another’s burdens. Life is such that every man must take some share of the life of those around. To be in relationships means this; to be in a family as head or member, to be in business, to be one of a social and civilized community, implies it. The text is needed, then, to make that Christian which is simply natural, to change hard necessity into holy duty. Christianity speaks to men who are all struggling and suffering together, and says not, “Throw off the burden, deny the mutual claim, restrain the hand of help,” but, “What you must do, do willingly; what you might leave undone, do more willingly still.”

I. Some of the burdens we may help others to bear.

1. Poverty. Answers to objections--

2. Infirmity. Weak goodness needs encouragement. Many who fall often are struggling hard all the time. Be willing and ready to hold out a helping hand. Suffer the hasty word to pass in silence, without answering again. Check the ungenerous judgment in your heart. Watch for the best opportunity of suggesting a more excellent way.

3. Trouble. To “weep with them that weep” is a ministration of love far more intense than to “rejoice with them that do rejoice.” A friendship of fellowship cemented by sorrow is often both more profitable and more lasting than the fellowship of health, and laughter, and mutual success. Christ’s fellowship with men is enduring and valuable because it includes all imaginable sympathy. You must fill your own heart with the trouble you would lessen. This is “Christ in you,” and is probably the presage of Christ in your suffering friend, with increase of soul-strength, and abundance of consolation.

II. Motives or inducements.

1. The frailty of human nature, and the uncertainties of human life.

2. It is the way to fulfil the law of Christ. And to fulfil that law is to fulfil all laws. More than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices, more than all ceremonial and observance, more than all philosophy, more than all morality, more than all religion besides. The keeping of it is the completeness of duty, the substance of goodness, the secret of happiness, and the best preparation for the ineffable glories and joys of heaven. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

Poverty is the load of some, and wealth is the load of others, perhaps the greater load of the two. It may weigh thee down to perdition. Bear the load of thy neighbour’s poverty, and let him bear with thee the load of thy wealth. Thou lightenest thy load by lightening his. (Bp. Chris. Wordsworth.)

What is our whole religion but a burden-bearing? We have our own and also others’ burdens to bear. We are all on a journey; if one is like to give way, the other must refresh him; if one is likely to fall, the other must help him up. (Starke.)

Christian sympathy

The individual conscience, if sufficiently sensitive, and alive to its responsibilities, will daily find for itself manifold occasions of bearing others’ burdens. We may show our sympathy, for instance, with sickness and suffering, in our liberal support of hospitals and similar appliances for bringing excellent medical skill within reach of those who most need and can least afford it. Those who have leisure to do so, may show it by visiting the sick and afflicted, and alleviating, by gentle acts and kindly attentions, the suffering they find around them. We may sympathise with poverty, either by actual relief of want and destitution, or by the better method, where it is possible, of procuring for them the means of earning an honest livelihood. And our sympathy with such may be most clearly expressed by the delicacy with which the help is tendered, a matter which many benevolent people are apt to forget, and so mar the good they would otherwise do. We may sympathise with age and its attendant evils, by cheerfully tendering the deference and consideration which the better portion of mankind has always combined to accord to increasing years: we may show it, too, by patience of its tediousness, and querulousness, and by diverting attention from failing faculties and enfeebled powers of mind and body. We may sympathise with infirmities of temper in those with whom we may be thrown in contact, by tact and temper, and forbearance on our part, endeavouring to hit the due medium between an undue complaisance, which is no true kindness to the wayward, and a needless and irritating opposition. We may sympathise with ignorance, by excusing it where it is unavoidable and not culpable, by seeking to remedy it in every way that lies in our power, and by readiness to impart whatever knowledge we possess, at whatever cost of time or trouble. We may sympathise with the penitent sinner, if the providence of God has placed us in such a position as to minister to the wounds of a stricken conscience, by encouraging the confidence of those who would repose it in us, by hearing their griefs and troubles and by leading them to Him who alone can heal the ravages of sin and speak peace to the troubled spirit. We may sympathise with distracting doubts and difficulties, whether as to faith or conduct, by patiently hearing all the doubter’s perplexity, by offering in all humility solutions which have satisfied the minds of others, or, if it be so, by showing how we ourselves have groped our way amid such clouds of the mind from darkness to partial light: or at least we may do so by secret prayer, that God in His own good time will lead all who err or waver into the narrow path which struggles upward towards the truth. (Bishop Mitchinson.)

Lightening others’ burdens

The application of this law are manifold. Yonder is a poor woman who has more children than she can feed. Take one of them to your own house. Give employment to another of them in your store. That will lift up the load from her, and it will send you to your family altar with a new cause for thanksgiving and praise. Do you not know that in life, sometimes, the breadth of one inch in a railway truck determines whether the cars shall go over the embankment or on the straight track--just the pull of a switch one inch. I know some large-hearted, godly men, who stand by young men when they come to London or New York, and give them the helping hand of sympathy and prayerful support; and that act just pulls the switch one inch, and puts them on the road to success, to happiness, and to God’s blessing. We have in America our William E. Dodges who are the Lord’s switch-tenders. I am thankful that in London you have your Samuel Morley, and other faithful servants of the Lord, who rejoice to be God’s switch-tenders, to turn the needy, and the tempted, and the young into paths of sobriety, prosperity, and blessing. Do you not know that sometimes a very small lift is very timely? A word, an old familiar word--it is like a medicine. A kind word to your neighbour in trouble, an inquiry at the door when crape hangs there, the pressure of the hand: there is not a man in England so high that he is above the reach of the need of sympathy. One of our noblest women, Fidelia Fisk, tells us that when she was in Syria one day, preaching to the native women, she found herself very tired. Here are her own words--“I had worked hard all day, and I had a prayer-meeting yet to attend that night, and I felt very weary. I longed for a little rest. Just then, as I was sitting on the floor, one of the native Christian women took hold of me, and pulled me over against her and said, ‘Are you tired? Just lean against me; and if you love me, lean hard--lean hard.’ I did lean against her, and I found myself wonderfully rested. I attended the women’s prayer-meeting, and I went home that night scarcely tired at all; and oh, how often the words of that woman came to me, ‘If you love me, lean hard--lean hard.’ And then I thought how the Blessed Saviour says, ‘If you love Me, lean hard.’” And mothers, mothers, do you not remember how, when you carried that burden of the dying child, pale, feeble, and the breath almost gone, you felt, “Oh, if it loves me, let it lean hard.” You man, remember you not the time when, night after night, you took up your beloved wife and carried her to her couch, sad at the thought that the load was becoming lighter every moment, and you were ready to say to her, “My darling, if you love me, lean hard and close.” Oh, blessed Jesus, teach us how to rest our weakness on Thee, and lean hard on the burden-bearer of our sorrows and our weaknesses! (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

The Church a reliever, of burdens

In this work of supplying the conditions of human progress, the State has found from time to time its most powerful helper and its most eloquent teacher in the Church of Christ. And in proportion as the State has realized more and more its true idea it has seemed to some to trench upon the work of its best friends. The relief of poverty for instance, the guarantee, that is, of the conditions of life in its lowest form, was long the work of the religious orders. The poor law of Elizabeth was the direct outcome of the suppression of the monasteries. So, too, the education of the people. The Church made manful efforts to supply the defects which the State ignored by its system of parochial schools, and it was not till our own time that the truth came home to men, that national education is a matter of national interest, and can be guaranteed only by the nation itself. So, too, in earlier times the freedom and the sanctity of the individual person were recognized by the Church long before they became embodied in legislation, and in our own time it was the religious instinct of the nation which drove Parliament to sweep away the last trace of slavery. Are we then peevishly to complain of the growth of the responsibility, and activity of the State? Are we to look upon each fresh duty which it undertakes as an invasion of individual rights, or a sort of trespass upon what is the peculiar province of the Church? Shall we not rather see in every successive advance a fresh victory for the Church of Christ? for it shows that the Church has been true to its mission, and has taught its lesson to the world, and has made men feel the truth and the power of the words, “Bear ye one another’s burdens”, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (L. R. Phelps.)

Burden-bearing

I. Different kinds of burdens.

1. Those that are necessary.

2. Those that are superfluous.

3. Those that are imaginary,

II. What shall we do with them?

1. Reduce their number to the limits of necessity.

2. Some of these we are expected to carry ourselves. (American Homiletic Review.)

I. Bear ye one another’s burdens. The late George Moore was accustomed to say that sympathy was the grandest word in the English language. Sympathy overcomes evil and strengthens good, it lies at the root of all religion. The late Mr. Justice Talfourd lamented the lack of it. He said, “If I were asked what is the great lack of human society, I should say that need is sympathy.” Selfishness is said to be the very root of original sin, and it is the duty of Christianity to break down this selfishness. We have all burdens to bear, but not all equally, and it is the privilege of those who are less burdened than their fellows to minister to the relief of those by whom they are surrounded. Sometimes, under an apparently rough exterior, there is a gentle spirit and genuine kindness. But in offering to these the ministry of Christian love we should avoid everything that is likely to hurt their sensibilities. An air of condescension and a lofty tone of patronage are out of place in Christian service. Genuine Christlike sympathy must be practical. The shedding of sentimental tears will not suffice. It is a mockery and an insult to go to a man and offer him a tract when he wants a loaf, if you have a loaf to spare. Sympathy must be personal. In this age of societies and committees we are in danger of delegating our duty to other people. Real beneficence is simple prudence--to do good is to get good. Be the almoners of your own bounty. This ministry is to be mutual. Human life is very changeful, the picture is constantly being replaced. A man rejoicing to-day may be smitten down by a fell disease tomorrow. The hand that is now ministering to others may sorely need ministration itself. By observing the principles of the text we fulfil the law of Christ. There is a moral power in the human nature of the Lord Jesus Christ which is second only to His Divinity. It fitted Him for the ministry of solace. But we are to bear one another’s burdens in order to fulfil the law of Christ. We fulfil the law of Christ’s example, as witnessed in the incident at Nain, and at the grave of Lazarus. There Jesus wept in sympathy with Mary and Martha. We fulfil the law of Christ’s teaching, and that of His apostles. “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love another, as I have loved you.” We fulfil the law of Christ’s administration. It is a law of the kingdom that all His people shall be mutually dependent. Society is bound together by mysterious but mighty ties.

II. Every man shall bear his own burden. The two statements of my text are perfectly consistent. There are burdens which we can help other people to bear. But there are others which neither they nor we can bear for purposes of mutual help. There is the burden of responsibility. Life is a magnificent thing. Life in this world may lead to life eternal in the world to come. Then there is the burden of guilt. This is a personal matter. Again, there is the burden of remorse. We all possess a faculty of conscience. Lastly, we have each a burden to bear in the hour of death. (M. C. Osborn.)

Fellowship in suffering

The apostle here goes even beyond what he has laid down in another very large and comprehensive precept, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” He requires something more than sympathy--more at least than sympathy as commonly understood, though not perhaps more than sympathy in its strict literal import. One man is generally said to sympathize with another, who is pained, when and because that other is pained; and sympathy, as thus understood, is little more than pity or commiseration. But to suffer with another--which is actually to sympathize--this goes much beyond the weeping with another. It is the making the griefs of that other mine own; so that the blow is on me as well as on him, and the wound is in my heart as well as in his. The members of one family accurately sympathize, or suffer together, when death has come in, and snatched one from their circle. The loss is a common loss, affecting all equally, and the sorrow of each is literally the sorrow of every other. A Christian friend or minister may visit the disconsolate household, animated by the kindliest feelings, and sincerely desirous to afford them a measure of consolation, through the manifest interest which he takes in their grief; and he may succeed; for exhibitions of kindliness have the great faculty of going like balm to the heart. The tears which friendship sheds in our woe, possess the wonderful property of staunching our own. But nevertheless, this comforting visitor may rather feel for than with the afflicted. They have lost a brother or a sister, but he does not necessarily feel as though he had lost a brother or a sister. The blow has made them orphans, but he does not necessarily feel as though it had made him an orphan. And thus, whilst he may literally and thoroughly obey the injunction which requires of him that he “weep with them that weep,” he may yet be far off from that actual sympathy--that suffering with them that suffer--which is described in the text; where you are not only enjoined to commiserate with the oppressed, but so to put yourselves into their position as to bear their burdens. And yet it is evident that so far as Christianity succeeds in restoring the brotherhood which sin has infringed, it will substitute sympathy thus strictly understood, for that which in our present broken state has usurped the definition. It is only needful that I come to regard any one of you as a brother; and when he loses a kinsman, I shall lose a kinsman. I shall not merely be sorry for his bereavement, but I shall feel that the bereavement is my own. So far as two families can be made one, the sorrows of either are the sorrows of both; and if there were but one vast family on the face of the earth, whatsoever afflicted the individual would afflict the mass … Who can tell us what Christian philanthropy would be, if the law of membership were felt and obeyed. You ought--this is what St. Paul seems to enjoin and exhort in the text--you ought to remember the imprisoned and burdened, not merely as being your fellow creatures, but rather as being, in a certain sense, yourselves. What a motive to exertion on their behalf! How earnest, how unremitting, would be that exertion, if that motive were indeed in full force. You tell me, for instance, of unfortunate captives who have fallen into the hands of cruel taskmasters. They are shut out from the cheerful light of day; they eat their bread in bitterness of soul, and almost long for death; and you say to me, Remember them, Remember them! Why, you have told me of myself! It is my own captivity which you have described; it is the clanking of my own chains which you have made me hear; and I must struggle for their emancipation, that my limbs may be free, and that I may breathe the fresh air of heaven. O Christians 1 what would be your benevolence, if you felt that they were your own members which you were invited to succour? And it is quite evident from the text, that nothing less is expected of you as professed disciples of Christ. The apostle introduces the principle of membership, just as he might the simplest and most elementary of truths. He is not proposing any rule or standard to which men were unaccustomed, but, on the contrary, one which, as being generally acknowledged, needed only to be indicated by a passing remark. And yet it is possible enough, that the doctrine which we have now endeavoured to lay down, will appear to many of you to have the air of a new and far-fetched speculation. “Give us,” you are ready to say, “pictures or descriptions of distress; expatiate upon the miseries by which numbers are oppressed; and move our feelings by a touching tale of human grief; but as to wishing us to make the wretchedness our own--that we should labour for its alleviation, just as though it were pressing upon ourselves--that is altogether beyond nature, and its possibility is but the fiction of an exaggerated theology!” Beyond nature, we confess it; but not beyond grace. The Christian is not to be content until, in relieving the distressed, he can feel that he acts upon the great principle of membership. It must not be enough for him that his heart yearns at the tale of calamity, and that he is ready to employ his money and his time in lightening the pressure of which he has been told; he must see to it that he have part in the bearing, as well as in the relieving of the calamity. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Helping men to bear their own burdens

Many persons are caught with the most superficial contradiction. Here St. Paul says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens”; and in the fifth verse of this same chapter, be says, “Every man shall bear his own burden.” As if both of the statements could not be true! As if a man carrying a burden for which he is especially responsible, might not have it lightened somewhat by one who walked by his side and helped him! As if a little child carrying a heavily-laden basket--which it was his task and business to carry, and which he had to take care of--might not be helped by another child walking by his side and taking hold of the handle! so that it might be said to one of them, “This is your burden, and you must see to it,” and to the other, “Help him with his burden.” And yet, persons suppose, because here it is said, “Bear ye one another’s burdens,” and further on, “Every man shall bear his own burden,” there is some contradiction. No; there is co-operation. The reponsibility is on each man to carry himself and his trials and troubles through life. All the more, therefore, as far as in us lies, we should help each other. For, to “bear one another’s burdens,” does not mean to take them off from one another’s shoulders, but to help each other to carry them. We are to assist others in bearing their own burdens. We are to contribute to their strength and to their courage. We are to render them as much help as, by sympathy or otherwise, we may. Taken in connection with the preceding verse this precept means: Whatever thing tends to bend a man, to warp him in his habit of thought, in the conduct of his moral feelings, in the administration of his affections, in the whole range of his social life; whatever may be a man’s imperfection, or misdemeanour, or fault, or failing, the command is--“Help him.” (H. W. Beecher.)

Helpfulness

To bear the burden of a person who has a heavy load of laborious duty, is either to assist him directly in the performance of it, or to act towards him in such a manner as shall make the performance of it more easy; to bear the burden of a person who is oppressed with affliction, is to commiserate him, and do what we can to relieve and comfort him; to bear the burden of one who is encumbered with mistaken views, mental weakness, strong prejudices, and bad temper, is patiently to bear the annoyance which these unavoidably occasion; at the same time employing all proper means for correcting these intellectual and moral obliquities, weaknesses, and faults To bear the mistakes and faults of our fellow Christians does not by any means imply that we flatter them in their erroneous opinions or improper habits: but it does imply that we, cherishing a deep-felt sense of our own intellectual and moral deficiencies and improprieties, bear patiently the inconveniences which their mistakes and faults occasion to us, and in a truly friendly disposition do everything in our power to remove these mistakes and faults. Chrysostom well says on this point--“He who is quick and irritable, let him bear with the slow and sluggish; and let the slow, in his turn, bear with the impetuosity of his fiery brother; each knowing that the burden is heavier to him who bears it than to him who bears with it.” When a Christian brother under his burden stumbles and falls, we are not to let him lie on the ground and recover his feet the best way he may; far less are we to insult him as he lies prostrate, and point him out to the scorn and derision of the world. We are to take him by the hand and raise him up; and as we have all our burdens, we are to journey on, hand in hand, endeavouring to keep one another from falling, and to press in a body forward along the prescribed course, that we may all obtain the prize of our high calling, in that better country, where we shall be relieved from all our burdens at once and for ever. (John Brown, D. D.)

The spirit that restores a fallen brother should pervade ordinary Christian relations

The “burdens” have been unduly narrowed in the definition of them. They are not weaknesses simply, as in Romans 15:1, but also errors, trials, sorrows, sins, without any distinct specification. And they are not merely to be tolerated; they are to be taken up as burdens (Matthew 20:12; Acts 15:10). Whatever forms a burden to our brethren we are to take upon ourselves, and carry it for them or with them, in the spirit of Him who “bore our sins and carried our sorrows.” The emphasis is on “one another’s,” giving distinctness to the duty as a mutual duty. Mutual interposition in sympathy and for succour in any emergency--fellow-feeling and fellow-helping--is the duty inculcated, as opposed to that selfish isolation which stands aloof, or contents itself with a cheap expression of commiseration, or an offer of assistance so framed as to be worthless in the time or the shape of it (2 Corinthians 11:29). (John Eadie, D. D.)

The best burden and the highest law

“If you must needs impose burdens on yourselves, let them be the burdens of mutual sympathy. If you must needs observe a law, let it be the law of Christ.” (Bishop Lightfoot.)

Christian socialism

No other law but the law of Christ ever taught this maxim; the proper discharge of social duties is regulated nowhere but in the law of Christ, which is the law of love, “for love worketh no ill to his neighbour, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” All those social symptoms which rise like the foam out of the agitated elements of the present generation, disappear in rapid succession, because they have no other foundation than the wave which cannot rest; and they are at best but mere spurious imitations of that fraternity which was founded by Jesus Christ. It is some tribute to the origin of our holy religion, that men in their most extravagant aberrations, and amidst the wildest theories for promoting the happiness of the many, should appeal to the Divine founder of Christianity, as having first introduced the system which they are seeking to propagate; but, inasmuch as they know nothing of the law of love, which He taught us the moving spring of every good word and work, they do but wander on the outside of the Christian system …. In the general history of mankind, the maxim of the text, so far from being acted out, has been reversed; instead of men sharing or bearing one another’s burdens, they appear to act upon the rule of laying them on each other’s shoulders, with the view of getting rid of their portion of the weight. In the times of classical antiquity, which our youth are taught to hold in admiration; in the days of heroism and splendid war, which poets have sung and historians have embellished, there were the degraded classes of the community, made to bear the burdens of the rest. The helots of Sparta, and the slaves of Greece, the gladiators of Rome, and the captives of barbarian invaders, were but the beasts of burden for the more favoured portion of the community. What cared the Roman citizen for the slave that went his round of ceaseless toil? What thought had the feudal lord for the drudge that wore out his brief existence in subterranean damps to do his master’s pleasure? Who, even in our Christian land for many generations, heeded the heavy burdens laid upon the negro slave, or the tender females working in our mines, or the helpless children in our factories? What thought or care among hundreds and thousands now, who refuse to give to the man who has done his six days’ labour, the day of rest which is his due, because they will not forego one single particle of their ordinary luxury, nor bear any portion of their brother’s burden? St. Paul here appears to take it for granted that every man has a burden; and shortly afterwards he says that “every man shall bear his own burden.” There must be no such shifting away of the trial or hardship, which, in the course of providence, he has to bear, as will exempt him from the ordinary lot of humanity. It is not at all a question of getting everything done for us, so that we may have a smooth and easy path at others’ expense and toil; but it is just that there may be a mutual succour, which will help every man to “bear his own burden,” such, e.g., as the burdens of poverty, affliction, excessive labour, etc. (R. Burgess, B. D.)

Loving ministrations

There lay recently, in an infirmary in New York, in a darkened room, helpless and sightless, a man made blind by cataract. He had crossed half a continent in the faint hope of finding a relief or cure. Beside him, when I saw him, sat his daughter, who, as I learned afterwards, had taken up his work--a work involving long and exposed journeys through a wild and thinly settled country on our western frontier, and who left it, now, only to minister to this helpless and suffering parent while he lay shrinking and quivering under the surgeon’s knife. It seemed doubtful whether the operation would be successful, and equally doubtful whether all this filial devotion would not be wasted time and worthless endeavour. But, as one looked at that woman’s face of heroic sacrifice and utter self-abnegation, one read in it how out of love’s Divine unselfishness there comes a sweeter and nobler fruitage than any that could be garnered without it, even though to-morrow all sorrow and pain and helplessness should be swept out of the world for ever. (Bishop H. C. Potter.)

Sympathy aided by sight

Consider how you would act if these vices and monstrous passions, instead of being a part of the machinery of rational, intelligent, and responsible agents, were transformed in the actual forms of wild beasts. Is it intemperance? suppose you figure to yourself a lion in ambush springing out upon a man; suppose you saw the man trembling under the lion’s paw, how would you feel? But suppose, instead of being a lion, it was Satan in the form of an intemperate appetite, worse a thousand times to the man than any real lion of the desert? You would run to rescue a man from an outside lion: will you not do anything for a man who has one inside? What if it were sickness? What if it were a man swollen with dropsy? What if it were a man crying out for water, with lips parched by merciless fever? Would you not moisten his tongue and his brow, and fan the fever away? But is any fever of the body so pitiable as the fevers which come upon the soul? Would you have compassion upon a man who was attacked by an outward disease, and none for a man whose soul was diseased Are there no bearers of men’s inward burdens? Are not these burdens to be borne, even though men may have brought them upon themselves? Are not bad men punished by what they suffer from their transgressions? Is it not enough that such men have to live with themselves, and take the consequences of their own actions? And is not a man, the consequences of whose conduct are going on, working, and laying up wrath against the day of wrath, to be pitied? Is not he to be pitied who for his transgression has to bear the infliction of law, of public sentiment, and of his own nature? In all ways of looking at it, he is most to be pitied who is most variously and most hopelessly wicked. (H. W. Beecher.)

Sympathy not separation

But it will be objected, “Are we not commanded to abhor that which is evil, and to cleave to that which is good?” Certainly; but are we anywhere commanded to abhor sinners because we abhor sin? What is it to abhor evil? Is it the sudden disgust which arises, which ought to be momentary, and which is designed to put us upon our guard, and to inspire us with self-defensory power, till we have time to lay our course more deliberately? Every man ought at the first impulse of the evil to feel repugnance at it; but that is not the higher kind of abhorrence of evil. It is an inspiration of a lower kind. He hates evil most who hates it so that he will annihilate it. There is animal hatred, and there is Divine hatred. Two men hate malaria. One says, “I will not settle here; I will pack up my things, and clear out.” The other says, “I hate it; but I am going to work to morrow morning, with my whole force, to drain that marsh.” He goes to work and digs a ditch through it, risking his health, and removes the stagnant water. Who hated the malaria most, the one who ran away from it, or the one who cured it? Is not a cure a witness of dislike more than neglect? A mother hates the disease that is in her child; but does she abandon the child, saying, “I hate morbid conditions of every kind,” and let the child die, as a testimony to her dislike of violations of natural law? Is it not a better testimony to her hatred of disease, that night and day she lingers over the little sufferer till she brings it back to good health? Is not that a better way of hating disease than the other would be? That is the true hatred of sin which kills it by kindness. (H. W. Beecher.)

Open hearts and ready hands

One day a teacher said to his class, “Boys, you can all be useful if you will. If you cannot do good by great deeds you can by little ones.” These boys said nothing, but the teacher saw by their looks that they thought he was mistaken. They did not believe that they could be of any use. So he continued: “You think it is not so; but suppose you just try it for a week.” “How shall we try it?” asked one of them. “Just keep your eyes open and your hands ready to do anything good that comes in your way this week, and tell me next Sabbath if you have not managed to be useful in some way or other,” said the teacher. “Agreed,” said the lads; and so they parted. The next Sabbath those boys gathered round the teacher with smiling lips and eyes so full of light that they fairly twinkled like the stars. “Ah, lads, I see by your looks that you have something to tell me.” “We have, sir; we have!” they said all together. Then each told his story. “I,” said one, “thought of going to the well for a pail of water every morning to save mother the trouble and time. She thanked me so much, was so greatly pleased, that I mean to keep on doing it for her.” “And I,” said another boy, “thought of a poor old woman, whose eyes were too dim to read. I went to her house every day and read a chapter to her from the Bible. It seems to give her a great deal of comfort. I cannot tell how she thanked me.” “I was walking with my eyes open and my hands ready, as you told us,” said the fourth boy, “when I saw a little fellow crying because he had lost some pennies. I found them, and he dried his tears, and ran off feeling very happy.” A fifth boy said: “I saw my mother was very tired one day. The baby was cross, and mother looked sick and sad. I asked mother to put baby into my little waggon. She did so, and I gave him a grand ride round the garden. If you had only heard him crow, and seen him clap his hands, it would have done you good; and oh! how much brighter mother looked when I took the baby indoors again!”

The value of sympathy

An eminent clergyman sat in his study, busily engaged in preparing his Sunday sermon, when his little boy toddled into the room, and holding up his pinched finger, said, with an expression of suffering, “Look, pa, how I hurt it!” The father, interrupted in the middle of a sentence, glanced hastily at him, and with just the slightest tone of impatience, said, “I can’t help it.” The little fellow’s eyes grew bigger, and as he turned to go out, he said in a low voice, “Yes, you could; you might have said ‘Oh!’” Alas! how many of us “children of a larger growth” have gone away hugging our hurt, with a sadder hurt in our hearts for lack of one little sympathizing word. To most of us, in the great trials of life, sympathy comes freely enough; but for the small aches and hurts, the daily smarts and bruises, how many a heart hungers in vain for the meagrest dole! “It is such a briery world!” said a little girl one day, while making her way through a blackberry thicket. The briers meet us at every turn, and there is nothing like sympathy to ease their pricks and stings. (Christian Age.)

The power of a kind word

There are no readier or sweeter sympathizers in the world than little children, and they seem to know intuitively when sympathy is needed. A friend of ours had the misfortune to break a valuable dish not long ago, and naturally enough was inclined to blame herself for her carelessness. A little four-year-old girl looked up from her play as the dish fell to the floor, and touched by the mother’s troubled face she stole to her side, and softly stroking her hand, whispered, “Nice mamma.” Blessed little comforter! What mother would not cheerfully have given the price of a dozen dishes for the sake of such sweet sympathy? And what mother in the world would have the heart to reprove such a child for a similar mishap?--for to reprove when the little one is already quivering with dismay at the mischief it has wrought, is sheer cruelty. It is a wise mother who at such a time folds the darling in her arms with a gentle, “Never mind.” (Mary B. Sleight.)

Fulfil the law of Christ--not “fulfil,” but “complete”

He says not “fulfil,” but “complete;” i.e., make it up all of you in common by the things wherein ye bear with one another. This man is irascible, thou art dull-tempered; bear therefore with his vehemence, that he in turn may bear with thy sluggishness; and thus neither will he, through thy support, transgress, nor wilt thou offend in the points where thy defects lie, through thy brother’s forbearance. So do ye reach forth a hand one to another when about to fall, and one with another fulfil the law in common, each completing what is wanting in his neighbour by his own endurance. (Chrysostom.)

The bearing of burdens

These passages seem to be contradictory; but the opposition is only apparent, not real. One asserts a Christian obligation, the other states a solemn fact.

I. There are burdens to be shared. Our relationship to each other, and our possession of advantages and talents, involve us in manifold responsibilities.

1. Burdens of ignorance. It is our duty to diffuse the knowledge of God, and to attempt to remove the evils of darkness and superstition.

2. Burdens of sorrow. Calamities, distress, bereavement, appeal for sympathy and ministry; and we cannot escape the demands upon us for consideration and help.

3. Burdens of infirmity. All are in jeopardy. The strongest are not always strong. Christians are not to rejoice in iniquity, or affect a disdainful sanctity, but to seek with Christlike gentleness and grace the recovery of the erring one (James 5:19-20). The Christian has two noble attitudes or possibillties--he can look up, and he can lift up. Think of the animating motive, “and so fulfil,” etc. Christ taught the law of action by

(a) His precepts,

(b) His life,

(c) His death.

II. There are burdens which cannot be shared.

1. The burden of personal duty.

2. The burden of sinful character.

3. The burden of individual responsibility.

4. The burden of death.

Conclusion: Do you carry an anxious heart, or a weary soul, or a guilty conscience? Get rid of the heavy burden. Carry the load not a moment longer (Psalms 55:22). (M. Braithwaite.)

Mutual help in burden-bearing

You have often noticed, if you have any special disease or malady, how strangely you begin to learn of others who have the same. There is this sympathetic instinct in our mental and spiritual maladies It is when we have learned in our own personal experience the struggles of mind and heart, the manifold bonds of human life, that we have gained the only power to help our fellow-men. It may be said most truly that it is only the man or woman who has suffered, who has any real feeling of kindred with the heart of man. The child is often cruel to the child, the young are impatient of the sight of sorrow, because they do not know the reality of it. The deepest cause of our uncharitableness is our ignorance. Who of us has ever known the weary burden of doubt, the earnest craving for a truth to rest on amidst the chaos of opinion, who that has at last found it does not know how many there are like himself who only need a word of wise counsel, a ray of kindly light, to lead them into the path? It is that spirit the Christian believer must cherish. And who, again, has felt the hard struggles of his conscience in this daily life, the temptations that have met him, the weakness of his own will, and yet through God’s grace has kept his purity, does not know somewhat of the burdens that crush others less happy than himself in the results of the trial? Yes, this is the lesson we all need We cannot change all the inequalities of the world, or heal all its diseases. But we can do much to help it by the spirit in which we strive to understand and reach human need. It is not our wealth or our cold, condescending pity men and women need; it is the Christian fellowship that makes them feel that “we have all of us one human heart,” that sees in every class or lot creatures of “like passions” with us, the same infirmities, and the same redeeming graces. It is this gospel which teaches no envy of the rich and no scorn of the poor, but that all these differences of lot, to the believer in Christ, are not barriers to sever, but bonds to bind us in one. And as we have so learned it in our personal experience, we have found happiness in this joy of human sympathy. Our grief is healed as we go out of our own cell of brooding thought to find our fellow-sufferers. It is the only antidote. For then we learn always that there are sadder hearts to be healed, and we feel ashamed of our own trouble in the presence of a greater, and as we minister to them the mercy of our God steals into our own souls, and brings the consolation we never knew before. And so our happiness is enlarged only as it enters into the enlarged heart. If we have brought our sunshine into the life of others, if we have given of our comfort to those whose lot is less fortunate, we can enjoy the wealth with a new sense of His goodness who has made us stewards. I have read of a Christian man, who, to know the reality of poverty, put on the dress of a beggar, and went into the hard lodging-house, where the poor outcasts have a comfortless pallet of straw and a ration of bad food, and after a week of experience gave this evidence, that it was worth to him ten years of study, and the source of the most intense pleasure in his lifetime. Such a voluntary exile is not often sought or found by most of us. But each in his degree, if he have come face to face with human wretchedness, has learned the meaning of this Christian experience. Each has found the recompense of the reward; as we have borne the burden of others, we have borne our own more bravely. (E. A. Washburn, D. D.)

Burden-bearing

Galatians apparently fond of the law and its burdens: at least, they appeared to be ready to load themselves with ceremonies, and so fulfil the law of Moses. Paul would have them think of other burdens, by the bearing of which they would fulfil the law of Christ.

I. Community. “Bear ye one another’s burdens.”

1. Negatively. It tacitly forbids certain modes of action. We are not to burden others. We are not to spy out others’ burdens, and report thereon. We are not to despise them for having such loads to bear. We are not to go through the world oblivious of the sorrows of others.

2. Positively. We are to share the burdens of others. By compassion bear with their former sins (verse 1). By patience bear with their infirmities, and even with their conceit (verse 3). By sympathy bear their sorrows (verses 2, 3). By assistance bear their wants (verses 6, 10). By communion, in love and comfort, bear their struggles. By prayer and practical help bear the burden of their labours, and thus lighten it (verse 6).

3. Specially: We ought to consider--The erring brother. Referred to in verse 1 as “overtaken in a fault.” We must tenderly restore him. The provoking brother, who thinks himself to be something (see verse 3). Bear with him: his mistake will bring him many a burden before he has done with it. The brother who is peculiarly trying is to be borne with to seventy times seven, even to the measure of the law of Christ. The greatly tried is to have our greatest sympathy. The minister of Christ should be released from temporal burdens, that he may give himself wholly to the burden of the Lord.

II. Immunity. “For every man shall bear his own burden.” We shall not bear all the burdens of others. We are not so bound to each other that we are partakers in wilful transgression, or negligence, or rebellion.

1. Each must bear his own sin if he persists in it.

2. Each must bear his own shame, which results from his sin.

3. Each must bear his own responsibility in his own sphere.

4. Each must bear his own judgment at the last.

III. Personality. “Every man … his own burden.” True godliness is a personal affair, and we cannot cast off our individuality: therefore, let us ask for grace to look well to ourselves in the following matters:--

1. Personal religion. The new birth, repentance, faith, love, holiness, fellowship with God, etc., are all personal.

2. Personal self-examination. We cannot leave the question of our soul’s condition to the judgment of others.

3. Personal service. We have to do what no one else can do.

4. Personal responsibility. Obligations cannot be transferred.

5. Personal effort. Nothing can be a substitute for this.

6. Personal sorrow. “The heart knoweth its own bitterness.”

7. Personal comfort. We need the Comforter for ourselves, and we must personally look up to the Lord for His operations. All this belongs to the Christian, and we may judge ourselves by it. So bear your own burden as not to forget others. So live as not to come under the guilt of other men’s sins. So help others as not to destroy their self-reliance. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Secret burdens

There is a gateway at the entrance of a narrow passage in London, over which is written, “No burdens allowed to pass through.” “And yet we do pass constantly with ours,” said one friend to another, as they turned up this passage out of a more frequented and broader thoroughfare. They carried no visible burdens, but they were like many who, although they have no outward pack upon their shoulders, often stoop inwardly beneath the pressure of a heavy load upon the heart. The worst burdens are those which never meet the eye. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Sympathy curative

When the child was dead, and the prophet came to heal it, he stretched himself out on the child, and put his lips to the child’s lips, and his hand on the child’s hand, and his heart to the child’s heart. Then it was that the breath came back, and the child, sneezing, showed that life was returning to it. And I do not believe that there is anything which cures hearts in this world besides other hearts laid upon them, brooding them, and imparting to them something of their own sympathy and goodness. If a heart cannot be cured by a loving heart, it is incurable. (H. W. Beecher.)

What is included in the term Burden?

Whatever makes right living, according to the law of God, difficult to a sincere man--that is a burden. It may be in his mental constitution; it may be in his bodily health; it may be in the habits of his education; it may be in his relation to worldly affairs; it may be in his domestic circumstances; it may be in his peculiar liabilities to temptation and sin. It includes the whole catalogue of conditions, and influences, and causes, that weigh men down, and hinder them, when they are endeavouring sincerely to live lives of rectitude. What is the meaning, then, of Bearing? It is, generally, such a course of conduct towards our fellow-men, as shall enable them more easily to carry and manage their infirmities and troubles. It is a spirit of compassion and hopefulness excited in view of men’s failures and moral obliquities, rather than a spirit of fault-finding and criticism.

I. Negatively.

2. Positively. We are commanded to sympathize with men though sinful; and to have patience with them on account of their sins. We make up our minds to treat babes tenderly, because they are babes. We treat sick people with greater forbearance than we do the sound and healthy. We put ourselves out of the way for the sake of those that are blind and deaf. By as much as men are defrauded of any sense, or weakened in any power, we afford them protection. By as much as men are physically unfortunate, we have learned how to show them consideration and kindness. The same spirit must be enlarged in our treatment of men in respect to their interior state. We must expand this same rule of judgment, and apply it to men’s characters.

If a man’s understanding is darkened, and his conscience is perverted, we are to judge him accordingly.

1. Of course this passage inculcates the largest spirit of sympathy towards all men in trouble. If any trouble befalls those within the circuit of our affections, we need no exhortation on this point. Nature teaches us to bear the burdens of those we love. But this spirit should go out, quickened by the spirit of Christianity, beyond our own household. Every human being brought to our hands in trouble is a messenger of God. His trouble is a letter of introduction, his nature is a declaration of brotherhood, and his destiny links him to us with an irrefragable chain!

2. This sympathy and helpfulness should not be confined to troubles of “bereavement”--to trouble occasioned by “disasters,” so-called; but should include all the affairs of life. And the lowest should be helped first, and the most needy should be helped most.

3. But I go further: for these are things more frequently preached, and more obvious to your understanding. I remark, therefore, in the third place, that the spirit of our text requires that, in judging of men, and dealing with them, we should recognize the constitutional differences of mind which exist among them, and should not seek to compel all minds as if they were like our own. When, therefore, you go to a man, as a Christian and a benefactor, to bear his burdens, you must take into consideration what his nature and circumstances have been. If he has sunk low in the scale of being, you must ask, “How came he here? Has he not been subjected to a power of down-pulling, such as I can scarcely form any conception of?” I think the bitterest reprehensions of evil which we hear, would be spared, if men would only reflect upon these things.

4. We need only to vary this thought a little to make it apply to our requisitions in social intercourse. Much domestic unhappiness comes from the fact that people do not know, or do not enough recognize, the peculiarities of each other’s natures. They expect impossible things of each other. If a flaming, demonstrative nature, and a cool, undemonstrative nature, come together, neither of them understanding or making allowance for the peculiarities of the other, there can scarcely fail of being unhappiness.

5. We are to have a nice and tender regard to the peculiar circumstances of men--their external conditions. The health of men, and its relation to their disposition, strength, fidelity, and efficiency, is seldom enough pondered. Still less is education taken into account,

6. We must guard against a judgment formed of men from the effect of their mind-action upon us, rather than from a consideration of their real moral character. A man may make you feel happy, and yet be a bad man. A man may leave you unhappy, and yet be a good man. Your sensations of pain or pleasure are not to measure your fellow-men’s character. Selfishness may gild you like sunshine. Vanity may court you, and pride may patronize you. But so, too, conscience in a good man may leave you stirred up. Truth may put you to discontent.

7. The spirit of this teaching forbids us to employ our rights of pleasure in such a way as to harm men.

8. The spirit of this passage forbids that we should make the failings of other men a source of amusement to ourselves. To watch to see what is awkward in others; to search out the infirmities of men; to go out like a street-sweeper, or a universal scavenger, to collect the faults and failings of people; to carry these things about as if they were cherries or flowers; to throw them out of your bag or pouch, and make them an evening repast, or a noonday meal, or the amusement of a social hour, enlivened by unfeeling criticism, heartless jests, and cutting sarcasms; to take a man up as you would a chicken, and gnaw his flesh from his very bones, and then lay him down, saying with fiendish exultation, “There is his skeleton,”--this is devilish!

Concluding remarks:

1. No man can fulfil the spirit of this Divine command, who does not dwell in the spirit of love. A momentary flush, kindled for the occasion, will not do. It must pervade all parts of the heart. It must have long dwelt with you, until your habits of thought, your instinctive judgments, the expression of your face, the outlook of your eyes, and your very tones, gestures, and attitudes, are animated with it--yea, till it is the spontaneous and inevitable outburst of life in you. Then you will be able to look at men in the right way. When you have this abiding spirit of love, so that all your faculties live in it, and have been drilled in it, then, no matter how large a duty seems to be, your performance of it will be just as easy.

2. When men are so pervaded, it is not hard, but easy, for them to bear other men’s burdens--to be unselfish and unselfishly benevolent. When we speak of things being easy in Christian life, we always imply the presence in the soul of true love. Take an old gambler--or a young one, it makes no difference which; for they are both alike. With him cheating is inevitable. Gambling and cheating are only interchangeable terms. No man gambles that does not cheat. After such a man has gone through years and years and years, practising his various tricks and sleights of dexterity, if you talk in his presence of a man being honest, he will laugh at you. He will not believe that a man can be honest; or, if he does believe it, he will say to himself, “What a power a man must require to enable him to be honest. Why, there was a man who was so situated that he could have possessed himself of a hundred thousand dollars, by just signing his name, and he did not do it I He must have had an almost omnipotent power, or he could not have resisted that temptation.” And if you go to the man who did that thing, and ask him if he did not find it hard to refuse the money, he will say, “It would have required omnipotence to make me take it. I could not do such a thing. I could not live with myself after committing a deed like that.” Why? Because he has been trained to the very heroism of honesty. It is as inevitable for him to be honest as it was for the other man to be dishonest. It is not hard for a really refined man to be refined. It is the easiest thing he can do. If a man’s heart is pervaded by Christian love, it is not hard for him to perform the deeds and works of Christian love. And Christian graces, as set forth in the New Testament, imply this atmosphere of love in the soul. If you read gardening books, they direct you how to raise flowers and plants; but it is not necessary for you to read to find out that certain plants require a certain kind of climate. The nature of each plant implies the particular kind of climate which is adapted to its growth. You do not need to be told that a warm climate is indispensable to the production of pomegranate and olive-trees. Now when God says “Christian graces,” he means climate also; and love is that climate. And when a man possesses the spirit of Christian love, it is not hard for him to live the life of a Christian.

3. When we are addicted to this love, we every day become more and more like God. (H. W. Beecher.)

Bearing one another’s burdens

If a company of travellers were journeying towards the same place, some heavily, and others more lightly laden, they could render the way less tedious and endear themselves to each other by mutual assistance, in bearing their burdens.

1. We are to do this, first with regard to the spiritual trials and difficulties of our brethren.

2. In the second place, the command of our text should be especially heeded in the family relation.

3. It is a rule, also, very applicable to Christian Churches. (W. H. Lewis, D. D.)

Individuality and brotherhood

Consider--

I. The soul’s individuality (verse 5).

1. This is one of the first facts of which our opening intelligence informs us.

2. We carry it with us everywhere.

3. It becomes more marked, and the consciousness of it more painful, through the action of sin and suffering.

4. It is taught by our life work.

5. It is brought home most emphatically in the hour of death.

II. Individuality tends to despair.

1. Life itself becomes bearing a burden when man has to bear it alone.

2. So with the sense of sin.

3. So with our life work.

III. The soul’s well-being is secured by ministering to the brotherhood.

(a) to lighten our own burdens and

(b) to lighten others, so that they may fulfil the law of Christ. (S. Pearson, M. A.)

The law of Christ

I. Every man has a burden of his own.

1. All are burdened.

2. But all are not burdened alike.

3. Our estimate of human burdens is often false,

4. Every man has a burden distinctly his own.

5. His burden is not necessarily a calamity.

II. Each is to bear the other’s burden.

1. This presumes that he is able to do so. Our individual burdens are not so heavy but we have some strength left to give away.

2. The requirement fits in to the general constitution of things, which is based on giving and receiving.

3. It has its reason and authority in our mental constitution, which is formed to pity.

4. Pity to others is kindness to ourselves.

III. To bear one another’s burdens is to fulfil the law of Christ.

1. The law of love.

2. This law is emphatically the law of Christ--“as I have loved you.”

Our individual burden often not the heaviest

An old fable tells us that Jupiter, finding that each man thought his lot the hardest, caused all men to be brought together for a mutual exchange of burdens. Promptly they came together, hoping that the exchange would lighten the burdens of life. Each man proceeded to display his sorrow. One had a concealed ulcer; another a sightless eye; another a besetting sin; another an intolerable debt; another a fearful recollection; another an awful apprehension; and when all the burdens were exposed to view, and each man bidden to make his own selection, every man preferred his own. (W. K. Marshall.)

Charity organization

Let us organize against professional beggars and impostors, but let us not organize almsgiving out of the Church as if the whole question were to be solved by the workhouse. Our workhouses, like our hospitals, may be due to Christianity, and standing evidences of that care for the poor which Christianity after the example of its Divine Founder enjoins. But the Christian Church is not to relegate all her poor to the workhouse; nor is the relieving officer the substitute for the Christian pastor and his Christian flock. (Canon Miller.)

The blessedness of sympathy and the vice of selfishness

Amid all the profuse waste of the means of happiness which men commit, there is no imprudence more flagrant than that of selfishness. The selfish man misses the sense of elevation and enlargement given by wide interests: he misses the secure and serene satisfaction that attends continually on activities directed towards ends more stable and permanent than one’s own happiness can be; he misses the peculiar, rich sweetness, depending upon a sort of complex reverberation of sympathy, which is always found in services rendered to those whom we love, and who are grateful. He is made to feel in a thousand various ways, according to the degree of refinement which his nature has attained, the discord between the slightness of his own life and of that larger life of which his own is but an insignificant fraction. (A. Sedgwick.)

The difficulty of helpfulness arising from the suspicion of others

Just imagine a weary, footsore traveller tugging along with his pack on a hot summer’s day. A waggon comes up, and the kind-hearted owner calls out, “Friend, you look tired. Toss that pack into my waggon; I am going your way.” But the wayfarer, eyeing him suspiciously, mutters to himself, “He wants to steal it;” or else obstinately replies, “I am obliged to you, sir, but I can carry my own luggage.” (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

The blessedness of burden bearing

How few know the mystery that shadowed Lamb’s life! We are told that one day, in a fit of insanity, his sister killed a member of their family. The affair was hushed up, and things went on to outward seeming very much as before. The insane fury recurred but seldom, and was unsuspected by many intimate friends. But all the same it was there, a latent possibility, and it marked out a narrow pathway in which she would have to go softly to the end of her days. Charles, with opportunities of social advancement and domestic happiness possessed by few within easy reach of him if he chose, preferred the “better part,” and resolutely shutting out the bright future that might have been his, sacrificed himself to his sister. He never married, but spent his life in an affectionate guardianship of the dear one whose misfortune he made his own. Shall such renunciation go unrewarded? Nay, are they not their own exceeding great reward. (F. Hastings.)

Sympathy for others

Though the lower animals have feeling, they have no fellow-feeling. Have not I seen the horse enjoy his feed of corn when his yoke-fellow lay a-dying in the neighbouring stall, and never turn an eye of pity on the sufferer? They have strong passions, but no sympathy. It is said that the wounded deer sheds tears, but it belongs to man only to “weep with them that weep,” and by sympathy to divide another’s sorrows, and double another’s joys. When thunder, following the dazzling flash, has burst among our hills, when the horn of the Switzer has rung in his glorious valleys, when the boatman has shouted from the bosom of a rock-girt loch, wonderful were the echoes I have heard them make; but there is no echo so fine or wonderful as that, which, in the sympathy of human hearts, repeats the cry of another’s sorrow, and makes me feel his pain almost as if it were my own. They say, that if a piano is struck in a room where another stands unopened and untouched, who lays his ear to that will hear a string within, as if touched by the hand of a shadowy spirit, sound the same note; but more strange how the strings of one heart vibrate to those of another; how woe wakens woe: how your grief infects me with sadness; how the shadow of a passing funeral and nodding hearse casts a cloud on the mirth of a marriage-party; how sympathy may be so delicate and acute as to become a pain. There is, for example, the well-authenticated case of a lady who could not even hear the description of a severe surgical operation, but she felt all the agonies of the patient, grew paler and paler, and shrieked and fainted under the horrible imagination. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Real burden-bearing

A poor woman was reduced to extreme poverty by the loss of her cow, her only means of support. A neighbour, who was unable to give aid, personally went round to different friends to solicit money to buy another one. He went from one to another, and told the pitiful tale. Each offered sorrow and regret, but none practical assistance. He became impatient after being answered as usual by a plentiful shower of feeling, and exclaimed, “Oh, yes, I don’t doubt your feeling; but you don’t feel in the right place.” “Oh!” said he, “I feel with all my heart and soul.” “Yes, yes,” replied the solicitor, “I don’t doubt that either; but I want you to feel in your pocket.” (Foster.)


Verse 3

Galatians 6:3

For if a man think himself to be something, when he Is nothing, he deceiveth himself.

Caution against over self-estimation

These words admit of two different interpretations, according as you connect the middle with the first or with the last clause.

1. If we connect the middle clause with the first one, as our translators have done, the meaning is, If a man think himself to be a Christian of a high order, while he either is not a Christian at all, or, at any rate, a Christian of a very inferior order, he commits an important mistake and falls into a hazardous error. The man who supposes himself arrived at the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, when in reality only a babe in Christ, deceives himself, and throws important obstacles in the way of his own improvement. In their own estimation they have little to learn, while the truth is, they have learned but little. But the mistake is much more deplorable when a man flatters himself into the belief that he is a Christian, perhaps a Christian of the first order, while in reality he is not a Christian at all. The thing is quite possible--I fear not uncommon. We pity the poor maniac mendicant who thinks himself a king; we pity the man who has persuaded himself he is a man of wealth, while in reality he is in immediate hazard of bankruptcy; we pity the man who is assuring himself of long life, when he is tottering on the brink of the grave; but how much more to be pitied is the man who thinks himself secure of the favour of God, and of eternal happiness, while in reality the wrath of God is abiding on him, and a miserable eternity lies before him! No kinder office can be done to such a person than to arouse him from his state of carnal security, to undeceive him, to convince him of his wants while they may be supplied, of his danger while it may be averted. A woe is denounced against such as are thus at ease in Zion.

2. Perhaps, however, the apostle’s meaning is, “If any man think he is something, he deceiveth himself, for he is nothing.” The apostle is cautioning the Galatians against a vainglorious disposition; and in this verse I apprehend he means that the habitual indulgence of vainglory is utterly inconsistent with the possession of genuine Christianity. Humility is a leading trait in the character of every genuine Christian. He knows and believes that he is guilty before the God of heaven exceedingly, and he feels that he is an ignorant, foolish, depraved creature, that of himself he is nothing, less than nothing, and vanity. Feeling thus his insignificance as a creature, and his demerit and depravity as a sinner, he is not--he cannot be--vainglorlous. Whatever he is that is good, he knows God has made him to be. Whatever he has that is good, he knows God has given him. The falls of others excite in him not self-glorification, but gratitude. (John Brown, D. D.)

Self-magnifiers

A friend had fitted two glasses into a little ivory tube in such a way that any small object, like a midge or other insect, when put into it, and viewed through the smaller and upper glass, seemed of enormous magnitude, with all its parts, however diminutive, distinctly visible. If, however, the tube was reversed, and the objects contemplated through the larger glass, they then appeared to shrink below the usual size. Gotthold looked upon the contrivance with no ordinary pleasure, and said: “I know not what better name to give this instrument than ‘the magnifier.’” In my opinion, however, the hearts of the proud and of the hypocritical are of the same construction. When they contemplate what is their own--their virtues and talents--they see through a glass which self-love has so artfully prepared that all seems of vast dimensions, and they imagine that they have good reason to boast and congratulate themselves upon their gifts. If, however, they have occasion to look at their neighbour and his good points, they turn the instrument upside down, and then all seems small and commonplace. In like manner, their own faults and vices they observe through the diminishing glass, and reckon them very inconsiderable; while they contemplate their neighbour’s from the opposite side, and so convert a midge into an elephant: The greatest of all delusions in the world is that which man voluntarily practises upon himself, and which betrays him, with his eyes open, into pride, self-esteem, and contempt of others. You will own that the heart of the Pharisee, who looked upon himself as a mighty saint, and upon the publican as a brand fit for the burning, was of this description. That Pharisee, however, has left behind him a numerous breed, and spread his line over the whole earth. In fact, I do not believe there exists a man who has not sometimes used such an instrument in the way we have described. (Scriver.)

Self-deception

Boswell relates that Dr. Johnson told him that when his father’s workshop, which was a detached building, had partly fallen down for want of being repaired, he was no less diligent to lock the door every night, though he saw that anybody might walk in at the back. Even so do many persons, guarding themselves against one approach of sin only, while they are exposed to danger from some other point, vainly suppose themselves safe from their spiritual foes. (R. Brewin.)

I. Men are nothing of themselves.

1. The gifts of God, whether of nature or grace, are not ours, but God’s.

2. In the use of these gifts the best fall far short of what they ought to be (1 Corinthians 15:10; 1 Corinthians 8:2).

II. Though men are nothing, yet they seem to be something, and that of themselves. This arises from--

III. In so doing, men deceive themselves. Self-deception is

IV. The remedies against the overweening of ourselves.

1. To look ourselves in the glass of the law (1 Corinthians 3:18).

2. To remember that the gifts on which we pride ourselves are ours only for a time (Luke 16:2), and for the use of them we shall be held responsible.

3. To compare ourselves with God’s majesty (Psalms 8:4). (R. Cudworth.)

Self-complacency

One day Narcissus, who had resisted all the charms of others, came to an open fountain of silvery clearness. He stooped down to drink, and saw his own image, and thought it some beautiful water-spirit living in the fountain. He gazed, and admired the eyes, the neck, the hair, the lips. He fell in love with himself. In vain he sought a kiss and an embrace. He talked to the charmer, but received no response. He could not break the fascination, and so he pined away and died. The moral is, Think not too much nor too highly of yourself.

A man’s talk better than himself

A hungry man once caught and killed a nightingale that filled a grove with its song. A bird that makes so much noise, thought he, must be something. So he plucked it. And lo! it was no bigger than a sparrow. “Ah!” said the man, “I see what you are. You are voice and nothing else.” So it is with not a few. They are full of vauntings, they talk of their goodness, their liberality the whole parish rings with the praises of themselves, which they warble so well. But pluck them, strip them of all appearances, and you will find them “voice and nothing else.” A great deal of talk, and very little action. (S. Baring-Gould, M. A.)


Verse 4

Galatians 6:4

But let every man prove his own work.

Faithful self-examination

Let us be careful to get the true balance to weigh ourselves. There are the scales in which the world weighs men and things, and decides their amount of good or evil. But these, or the like balance, are so appended to the beam as to favour one scale more than the other. They will therefore deceive us in forming our estimate of things; for sin, when put into them, and love for God, and devotedness to Him, like two feathers east into the scale, will weigh so light that they will kick the beam when the meanest worldly trifle is weighed against them, while the scale in which the world weighs their virtues will have a vast preponderance in their favour. There is also the balance of conscience, and this is more false and deceitful (if possible) than the other. The conscience of the natural man is like a fraudulent man with false weights and measures, from whom we shall be sure to have no just weight. We must therefore take the golden balance of the sanctuary. Here, indeed, even our best services, when weighed with the law of God, will be found wanting; but the fulness of the redemption in the blood of Jesus, the freeness of His promises to every repenting sinner, the merit of His sinless obedience--these, on which the believer builds his hopes, however nicely weighed in the balance of truth, will want nothing of that true weight which the justice of God will demand at our hands. (H. G. Salter.)

Necessity of self-examination

The reason why there is so little self-condemnation is because there is so little self-examination. For want of this many persons are like travellers, skilled in other countries, but ignorant of their own. (Archbishop Seeker.)

True self-examination

Around the masterpieces in the galleries of Europe artists are always congregated. You may see them standing before Raphael’s transfiguration, copying with the nicest care every line and tint of that matchless work, glancing constantly from their canvas to the picture, that, even in the minutest parts, they may reproduce the original. But if, at one side, you saw an artist who only looked up occasionally from his work and drew a line, but filled in there a tree or a waterfall, and there a deer or a cottage, just as his fancy suggested, what kind of a copyist would you call him? Now, true self-examination lies in ascertaining how nearly we are reproducing Christ. He has painted for us in no gallery; but His life glows fourfold in the Gospels, and our hearts are the canvas upon which we are to copy it. Let us not take occasional glimpses, and work meanwhile upon earthly designs; but let us look long and earnestly till our lives reflect the whole Divine image. (H. W. Beecher.)

Dread of self-examination

As it is an evidence that those tradesmen are embarrassed in their estates, who are afraid to look into their books, so it is plain that there is something wrong within, among all those who are afraid to look within He that buys a jewel in a case deserves to be cozened with a Bristol stone. (Archbishop Seeker.)

Urgency of self-examination

Remember that the time you have for self-examination is, after all, very short. Soon thou wilt know the great secret. I may not say words rough enough to rend off the mask which thou hast now upon thee; but there is one called Death who will stand no compliment. You may masquerade it out to-day in the dress of a saint; but Death will soon strip you, and you must stand before the judgment-seat after Death has discovered you in all your nakedness, be that naked innocence or naked guilt. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

True and false standards of character

I. The false standard of character. There is a very common mode of judging of ourselves and our friends which is in itself utterly false and unsatisfactory; I mean that mode of estimating character and works, not by what these are in themselves, but by what they are in comparison with the life of others. “I may not be what I ought to be,” a man says; “but, side by side with my neighbour, I have no cause to be ashamed.” The picture seems fairer if it has a dark background; and we fall into the habit of measuring our own goodness by other men’s want of goodness. Instead of making conscience the standard of duty, they practically make other men’s want of conscience the standard. They have no sorrow or compunction for anything they have done or left undone, so long as they can point to others who are more to blame than themselves--as if health were to be measured, not by the pulse and vigour of the patient, but by the feverishness and insensibility of another patient lying at his side!

II. The true standard of character. Let every man prove his own work; let him test it on its own merits and for its own sake; and let it be judged, not by the indolence and failures of others, but by its own character and worth. This method of judgment, whereby every man must; prove his own work, is in accordance with facts of the spiritual world; for “every man must bear his own burden.” The character is the outcome of a man’s life and labours. What the man is, is really the fruit of what he does, and of what he thinks and speaks day by day. The character of every man is the measure of his works. The character will continue to tell what a man’s life has been, and what in its inmost nature it continues to be. And in this matter each man bears his own burden--a burden in which others may sympathize, but which no human sympathy can relieve him of. God has made visible in man His eternal law, that every man’s own work is proved, so as to give him rejoicing or sorrow, as the case may be, in himself, and not in another. And there is all the more need to test and prove our own work, that the time for doing our work is fast passing away. Our influence is gradually, and in modes unnoticed and unseen, pervading all around us; and that influence for good and evil is what we are responsible for. (A. Watson, D. D.)

Self-examination

Mind is the principal distinguishing attribute of man. This undying principle enables us to reflect on our condition as accountable creatures, and on the connection between our present state and final destiny. It is to man, thus constituted, that Divine revelation is addressed. It regards him as capable of reasoning as well as feeling. Every man is required to prove his own work. Those who most need this counsel will probably least feel their need of it, which is the strongest argument for attempting to enforce it. The text prescribes an important measure, and enforces it by weighty considerations. Let us advert--

I. To the measure which it prescribes. “Let every man prove his own work.” This seems to imply that every man should be seriously concerned to ascertain his own real character and condition before God; and that in order to this he should carefully examine both his principles and practice, his heart and life, and thus prove his own work. Probably there is in these words an allusion to the process of proving the genuineness of metals, by putting them to the test.

1. The text supposes the existence of an authorized test. In the absence of a test the process of proof is impracticable. Every man must have some rule by which to try his work, or he cannot prove his own work. The Word of God, and nothing but the Word of God, is the authorized test of Christian character.

2. It requires the application of this test by every man to himself. The application of this test includes two things, namely, the examination of the Scriptures, and the examination of ourselves by the Scriptures. If either of these is neglected, the examination is but partial.

II. The motives by which this measure is enforced. Beyond the obvious importance and necessity of this self-scrutiny, the apostle adduces two considerations to prompt every man to the adoption of the measure.

1. He adduces the advantage that may arise from it at present. “Then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.” The apostle supposes a favourable result of the investigation, and in this case he affirms it would yield peculiar satisfaction and joy. He whose own work is thus proved to be genuine has just ground for rejoicing.

2. He adduces the nature of the proceedings of the last great day. “For every man shall bear his own burden.”

Having endeavoured to explain the measure which the text prescribes, and the motives by which it enforces this measure, I shall close by--

1. Urging its immediate adoption.

2. By attempting to obviate sonic difficulties attending it.

In undertaking and prosecuting an examination of ourselves, we shall probably discover many and great defects. If the trial be impartial, this will certainly be the case. (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

Self-proving

I. A duty. Our work is good, and approved by God, if it have--

1. A good ground, viz., the will and Word of God, and not will-worship and human invention.

2. A good performance. Sincere, as in the presence of God, and with an honest heart.

3. A good end.

II. A privilege.

1. Independence of men.

2. The blessed testimony of a good conscience (2 Corinthians 1:12). Hence learn--

(a) who rejoice in the opinions of others;

(b) in the fact that they have not been open offenders;

(c) in the virtue of their ancestors (John 8:33; Matthew 3:9);

(d) in that others are worse than themselves. (R. Cudworth.)


Verse 5

Galatians 6:5

For every man shall bear his own burden.

Here are some of the burdens which each man must bear for himself alone

1. The burden of personality. Each individual is open to manifold influence--may be impressed, drawn, turned, melted, inflamed, according to the powers that play upon him; but he is himself in all. He abides in the eye of God a separate, complete, individual soul for ever.

2. The burden of responsibility. This arises of necessity out of the personality. Man is moral, therefore responsible. The separate threads of each one’s life are singled out by God for judgment.

3. The burden of guilt. Where guilt gathers, there guilt must rest until God shall remove it. And what a load it is. ‘Tis this which turns the moisture into the drought of summer, which breaks the bones, drinks up the spirit, weakens strength by the way, quenches the light of hope, and cleaves and clings to the soul a burden of present judgment, and daily foretelling of doom.

4. Immortality is a man’s own burden. Each is to live for ever--his own life and not another’s: carrying forward with him through eternity its accumulating elements of happiness or woe. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

The individual burden

A man often ceases to feel it for a while. He mingles in some great and gay assemblage, and for the time feels as though his personality were gone, or in suspense. He is not as a separate drop, he is lost in an ocean of life. But in a little while the great assemblage melts all away--only the individuals are left; that which they constituted when they were together has gone for ever; and the man whose life seemed to be almost absorbed and lost in an ocean of multitudinous existence--where is he now? He is going home there pensively under the shadow of the trees, and deeply conscious of himself; with his own joys and sorrows, with his own thoughts and plans, with his soul in all its powers and affections untouched. He is bearing his own burden. Or, in a time of sorrow, other souls come around with watchful yearning love. He has letters breathing the intensest sympathy. He has visits of sincere and sorrowing affection, or he has in the house with him those who feel so deeply and truly with himself that they hardly seem to be divided in the grief. But, the letters are read, the visits are paid, the tears are shed, and then--he retires into his personality, and feels that his sorrow is his own, that none can tell the loss to him, that none can feel as he feels, that he possesses his sorrow because he possesses his soul, and that he, as every man, shall bear his own burden. A man is born alone--has his being moulded with God’s plastic hand, has all his powers implanted, and the awful image of God impressed, to be carried in glory or in ruin for ever. In all the stages really, and in all the critical and important times of his life consciously, he is alone, as distinct as a tree in the forest, separate as a star in the sky. And in death he leaveth all his friends, and goeth out along the darksome valley without a hand to help, without a voice to cheer--when the dying really comes. He goeth out bearing his own burden of life from one world into another--from the things which are seen to the things which are not seen, from those which are temporal to those which are eternal …. We must think of this if we wish to be faithful and true men. It may be to some the taking up of the cross; but it must be done. Let a man examine himself. Let him sit down to weigh his burden and think: “I am one--personal, complete. I cannot mingle my being in a general tide. I cannot lose one atom of my personality. I must be myself for ever!” (A. Raleigh, D. D.)

The believer’s freight

The Greek word ( φροτίον) is different from the word translated “burden” ( βάρος) in Galatians 6:2; and signifies “a burden or load, especially a ship’s freight or lading.” Paul was a native of Tarsus, which was situated on the Cydnus, about twenty miles from the sea; and, in Paul’s time, was in the Eastern basin of the Mediterranean almost what Marseilles was in the Western. It was a place of much commerce; and St. Basil describes it as a point of union for Syrians Cilicians, Isaurians, and Cappadocians. Such was the city in which Paul was born and brought up, and from which he must have repeatedly sailed as a passenger in merchant ships going from one port to another to take in or unlade their freight ( φορτίον). And thus, from his very childhood, Paul must have been quite familiar with this word as signifying a ship’s freight, and he could scarcely ever have connected it with any other idea than that of something precious and valuable. This is the only place in his writings in which he uses the word. May we not suppose that he here compares believers to vessels carrying off their respective freights, varying in value; and that he means, by this nautical phrase, that each one will receive his due reward at the last day? Elsewhere he speaks of the believer’s receiving a “burden ( βάρος) of glory,” which is a somewhat similar figure, and certainly not less harsh to our ears than the one here used (2 Corinthians 4:17). Thus translated, the connection is clear. Let each one take care to have his ground of rejoicing in his own consistent life, and not in the falls of others; and this is the reason why he should do so--viz., that each one will have a reward according to what his own life has been, without reference to what the lives of his brethren were. (John Venn, M. A.)

The separate burden of each soul

I hope you will not associate with burden-bearing anything menial or degraded. Remember that our Blessed Saviour consecrated labour with the axe and the adze and the mallet at Nazareth; and labour is a crown of glory, never of degradation. Everybody, high or humble, ought to have some work to do. I remember how, in the days of the old dispensation in America, before slavery committed suicide, I was once the guest of a hospitable planter, and I stood by the river bank and watched the long line of negro men and women carrying bags of rice on their heads to load a vessel, and chanting the rich melodious song with which Africa’s daughters seem to have cheered themselves in the hours of their bondage. They were carrying their burdens. I went into the house, and the head of the family said to me, very thoughtfully; “Sir, it is a tremendous thing to be the owner of a hundred immortal beings.” That was his burden then. The burden in the one case was physical, and in the other mental, moral, spiritual. Well, in the same way, everybody has his own burden. Bear that in mind. The merchant goes to-morrow to his warehouse, and he says, “What an easy time my porter has! He has nothing to do but to load up the dray. He has no care. What an easy time my clerk has--my book-keeper. He has nothing to do but to perform my work and receive his salary, and I have the care of the whole establishment.” But, on the other hand, says the workman: “What an easy time my master has. He has nothing to do but to ride here in his carriage, and sign cheques, and go home to his country seat.” Ah, and the brain of the employer is the bread of the workman, and the toil of the workman is the prosperity of the master. Capital and labour God has joined together, and what God has joined together let no agrarian or communist ever tear asunder. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

Our burden our blessing

Here is a man, who has “come in” for a good fortune and a good business. He has not made either the one or the ether. Those who did make the business, who watched and nurtured it from a tiny seed to a great tree with many branches, nourished and organized it so wisely that, even after they are gone, it continues, at least for a time, to grow and thrive and bring forth fruit well-nigh of itself. The man has no serious difficulties to encounter, no rubs, no hardships, no heart-tormenting cares. He lives at his ease, carelessly, luxuriously--drives down to his counting-house now and then, but gives most of his time to pleasure or to self-pleasing pursuits. Is he likely to be either a good man or a good man of business? It is nothing short of a miracle if he is. How should he feel the gravity of life, its solemn responsibilities, or even its true joys? For want of a burden he is only too likely to leave the straight path. With nothing to bear, nothing to conquer, and not much to do, he grows indolent, self-indulgent, fastidious, perhaps hypochondriacal; and, because he has no other burden, becomes a burden to himself. But here is another man who has had to “begin life for himself.” Under the pressure of necessity, he has been industrious, frugal, temperate, contriving; he knows all the ins and outs of his work; he has mastered the secrets of his craft, studied his markets, adapted himself to the time, won a good name, inspired his neighbours with respect for his ability, with confidence in his trustworthiness. In short, his burdens have made a man of him, and a true man of business. He is likely to succeed, and to be happy in his success. Up to a certain point, let us say, he has succeeded. He has a good and growing business, a considerable capital embarked in it, a comfortable home, a family trained in habits similar to his own. If you set such an one talking of his past career, you soon find that he sees how much he owes to his burdens. He will tell you himself that he thanks God for the very difficulties he once found it so hard to bear; for the obstacles which stood in his way, but which he has surmounted. If he is a thoughtful Christian man, he will also acknowledge that he has gained in character, in judgment, in patience, in energy of will, in faith in God, in charity with his neighbours, by the very trials and hardships he has had to endure. Nothing, indeed, is more common than to hear “a self-made man” refer boastfully, or thankfully, to the disadvantages, the unfavourable conditions, which he has overcome, and confess that but for these, and his resolute struggle with them, he would never have been the man he is. Whatever else, or more, a family may be, no one will deny that it is a burden. The father’s broad shoulders take a new weight with every child that is born to him. He must work harder; he must think and plan, and strive not for himself alone, but that he may feed, clothe, and educate his children. Most of you fathers have, no doubt, felt at times how heavy this load is; how sharp and painful is the pressure of the anxieties it entails. But you have also felt how this burden is your help and blessing. For your children’s sake you rule and deny yourselves. You know very well that if you would have them grow up with good habits, your habits must be good; that you cannot expect them to be punctual, orderly, temperate, industrious, considerate, kind, if you are unkind, thoughtless, indolent, passionate, disorderly, irregular. That you may train them in the way they should go, you try to keep the right way, to set them a good example. And thus they help you to acquire the very habits which make your own life sweet and pure, to keep the only course which leads to peace on earth or in heaven. Your burden is your benediction. Despite your good example and careful training, some of your children (let us suppose so cruel a case) do not turn out what you wish them to be: they are lazy, though you have tried to make them industrious; self-pleasing, though you have taught them self-denial; passionate and ungovernable, though you have striven to make them temperate and obedient; or even vicious, though you have done your utmost to keep them pure. And as the sad conviction grows on you that your labour has been lost, that they are settling into the very habits from which you would have made any sacrifice to preserve them, your heart fails you, and you almost give up the hope of reclaiming them. This new burden is, you say, heavier than you can bear. Oh, weak and faithless that we are! Oh, thankless and inobservant! Though every past burden has helped us, no sooner is a new and strange burden laid on us than we declare it beyond our strength. How does God prove Himself the perfect Father? What is it that we most admire in His paternal goodness? Is it that He sits among His unfallen children, shedding a heavenly bliss into their pure obedient hearts? Is it not, rather, that He comes into this fallen world to dwell with us--His prodigal and unthankful children--to suffer in and for our sins, to bear our sorrows, to pursue us with His lovingkindness and tender mercy? Is it not, rather, that He will not cease to hope for us, however hopeless and wicked we may be; that He lavishes His love upon us, even when we do not love Him, and saves and conquers us at last by a goodness which has no limit, and will not be repelled? And how shall we be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, unless we, too, bear the burdens of the weak and erring, patiently endure the ingratitude of the thankless, and overcome the evil of the wicked with our good? How shall you, fathers and mothers, become, and prove yourselves, perfect parents if you can only love the children that love you, if you cannot be patient with the disobedient, if you cannot take thought and pains to bring back those who have gone astray? This new terrible burden of sorrow and care is a new honour which God has put upon you, a new call to perfection. It is because you are strong that He asks you to bear the infirmities of the weak. It is because you are capable of the most heroic tasks of love that he taxes your love, and, by taxing, strengthens and deepens it. But take, for one example, the burden of mystery which lies on the sacred page. Most thoughtful men have felt its weight; in these days, indeed, it is hardly possible to escape its pressure. When we seek to acquaint ourselves with the truth, which is one, lo! we find it manifold; the simple and sincere Word bristles with paradox and contradiction; it opens up depths we cannot fathom, and suggests problems we cannot solve. Yet is not this burden a veritable blessing? If the inspired Word were simple and plain through-out--if it were level to the meanest understanding, and disclosed its inmost secrets to the most cursory and fugitive attention, could we study and love it as we do? (S. Cox, D. D.)

Burden-bearing strengthens

The Christian gets stronger for his load, or he ought to. Train up your boy indoors; give him as much spending money as he wants; never put the boy to any work; and the poor little flabby creature will get to be mere pulp. But turn him out to work for himself, load on him study, toil, the necessity of supporting himself, and you graduate him to manhood. That man, at whose departure a world is mourning, fought his way up from poverty by hard struggle, until he attained that place which he filled in the eyes of the country and of the world. Now, that is the way God deals with His children. He burdens them to make them strong. He says to one of His spiritual children, “Every man shall bear his own burden; carry that;” and to another, “Every man to his work; do that:” and to another, “Every man his own cross; carry that.” Between here and heaven lies many a Hill of Difficulty, as Bunyan describes it, where you and I have got to give over running for walking, and to give over walking for climbing on the knees. I have lived long enough to thank God for difficulties. They make you strong, they sinew your heart; they enlarge your faith; they bring you near to God. Burden-bearing strengthens; grappling with difficulties gives us what we so much need, and that is force; and in God’s school some hard lessons have to be learnt. I think we learn our most precious lessons when we look at them through tears which make a lens for the eye. I have found the hardest lesson in this world is--what? It is to let God have His way; and the man or woman who has learnt how to let God have His way has attained the higher life--the highest on earth. (S. Cox, D. D.)

Religion must be personal

A little girl, whom we will call Ellen, was some time ago helping to nurse a sick gentleman whom she loved very dearly. One day he said to her, “Ellen, it is time for me to take my medicine, I think. Will you pour it out for me? You must measure just a table-spoonful, and then put it in that wine-glass close by.” Ellen quickly did so, and brought it to his bedside; but, instead of taking it in his own hand, he quietly said, “Now, dear, will you drink it for me?” “Will I drink it? What do you mean? I am sure I would, in a minute, if it would cure you all the same; but you know it won’t do you any good, unless you take it yourself.” “Won’t it, really?” the gentleman replied. “No, I suppose it will not. But Ellen, if you can’t take my medicine for me, I can’t take your salvation for you. You must go to Jesus, and believe in Him for yourself.” In this way he tried to teach his little friend that each human being must seek salvation for him-self--repent, believe, obey, for himself: that this is a burden which no man can bear for his brother.

Doing duty by proxy

Bishop Burnet, in his charges to the clergy of his diocese, used to be extremely vehement in his declamations against pluralities. In his first visitation to Salisbury he urged the authority of St. Bernard; who being consulted by one of his followers, whether he might accept of two benefices, replied, “And how will, you be able to serve them both?” “I intend,” answered the priest, “to officiate in one of them by a deputy.” “will your deputy suffer eternal punishment for you too?” asked the saint. “Believe me, you may serve your cure by proxy, but you must suffer the penalty in person.” This anecdote made such an impression on Mr. Kelsey, a pious and wealthy clergyman then present, that he immediately resigned the rectory of Bernerton, in Berkshire, worth two hundred a year, which he then held with one of great value.

Burden-bearing

I. Self-help.

1. This is inevitable. Each has his burden of

2. This is salutary.

II. Brotherly help (Galatians 6:2). The carrying of our own load gives strength to carry the burden of others.

III. Divine help (Psalms 55:22).

I. Man is independent, φορτίον, one’s own proper burden, a packman’s bag, a soldier’s kit. Responsibilities of life, of parents, masters, teachers, is not a curse but a privilege, which is thrown away when we endeavour to throw it on others.

2. Fruits of past conduct.

II. Men are interdependent (Galatians 6:2), βαρη, burdens which may be shifted or borne by another.

1. A man’s infirmities, temptations, poverty, stumblings (Galatians 6:1).

2. The mutual blessedness of this interdependence.

III. Men are absolutely dependent. (Psalms 55:22): burdens sent as a portion from God.

1. Affliction.

2. Consciousness of guilt. (D. A. Taylor, M. A.)

Burdens

I. Our own.

II. Our brother’s (Galatians 6:2).

III. Our Lord’s (Galatians 6:17) By bearing the first we relieve our Lord’s trouble: if every man bore his own burden, instead of shirking it, the will of God would be done on earth as it is in heaven. By bearing the second we relieve our brother’s trouble. Either by sympathy or substitution. By bearing the third we relieve our own: the trouble of doubt, of sin, of controversy.

IV. Personality an awful gift. This short verse--

I. Singles us out from all the multitude around us.

II. Bids us remember, what the world would hide from us, that we are each of us one.

1. This is a great thought.

2. An awful thought.

3. A thought we cannot shake off.

III. Ordinary life witnesses to this truth.

1. All deep thinking people live apart from others.

2. Sympathy may lighten their burden, but still it is their own.

3. Pain and death prove this.

IV. The present life cannot explain all this. We must go to Revelation: there we find--

1. That this great mystery is the gift of individual being from God (Genesis 2:7).

2. That we have a will that can resist the almighty will of God.

3. That the whole volume is a history of the conflict of the human will with the Divine, and of God’s endeavour to win the human will by redemption.

4. That every healed will owes its healing to Divine grace.

V. Hence the unspeakable worth of every life.

1. The will is either hardening itself against God, or--

2. is being drawn into harmonious action with the will of God.

VI. Practical lessons.

1. The great importance of acting in the remembrance of our responsibility.

2. The necessity of securing times for self-examination and prayer.

3. The need of claiming our place in Christ the new and living man. (Bishop Samuel Wilberforce.)

How to bear our burden

The world proposes rest by the removal of a burden. The Redeemer gives rest by giving us the spirit and power to bear the burden. (F. W. Robertson.)

Burden-bearing

I. This, then, is my first proposition, namely, that every one must bear the burden of his own sins, both as concerns this life and the next. The results of sin are strictly individual. It is with the soul as with the body, with the spirit as with the flesh. If you thrust a knife into your arm, it does not affect me. You yourself feel the pain; you yourself must endure the agony. I may sympathize, I may pity, I may bandage the gash, but the severed flesh, and the lacerated fibres are yours, and along your nerves nature telegraphs the pain. So it is with the soul. A man who stabs himself with a bad habit, who opens the arteries of his higher life with the lancet of his passions, and drains them of the vital fluid, who inserts his head within the noose of appetite and swings himself off from the pedestal of his self-control, must endure the suffering, the weakness, and the loss which are the issue of his insane conduct. In morals there is no copartnership, no pro rata division of profit and loss. Each man receives according to the summation of his own account.

II. I have alluded to the individuality of moral responsibility. I have striven to show you that each one must endure his own sufferings, and abide the result of his own actions, and that in this no one can share with him. Not only is this true in respect to moral responsibility, but it is equally true in respect to moral growth. You may place two trees side by side, so that their branches shall interlace, and the fragrance of their blossoms intermingle, and yet in their growth each is separate. Covered by the same soil, moistened by the same drop, warmed by the same ray, the roots of either collect and reinforce the trunks of each, with their respective nourishment. Each tree grows by a law of its own growth, and the law of its own effort. The sap of one, in its upward or downward flow, cannot desert its own channels and feed the fibres of the other. So it is with two Christians. Planted in the same soil, drawing their sustenance from the same source, they, nevertheless, extract it through individual processes of thought and life. In daily contact and communion, whether in floral or fruitful states intermingling, equal in girth and height, equal in the results of their growth, the spiritualized currents of the one mind cannot become the property of the other. They cannot exchange duties. They cannot exchange hopes. I cannot think for you, or you for me. We cannot meditate for one another. Soul-food, like bodily food, is assimilated by each man for himself. See what determination the world manifests in pursuit of carnal things; over what sharp obstacles men mount to honour and wealth. A worldly man asks no help from another. He plays the game of life boldly, asking no odds. When he comes to an obstruction, he puts his shoulder bravely against it, and rolls it aside or climbs over it. Nay, more, out of the very fragments of a previous overthrow he erects a triumph. Nothing overawes him nor discourages him. He asks no one to bear his burden. He bears it himself, and finds it to be a source of strength and power. And shall a Christian shrink from what a worldling bravely attempts? Shall we unto whom the heavens minister, faint when those to whom the gates of power are shut persevere? These things ought not so to be. What is a slip? What is a scar? What is a fall? They will all testify to the perils you endured, and the heroism of your perseverance, at the Last Day. Think not of these. Write on your banner, where, living or dying, your eyes shall behold them, these words: “He who endureth unto the end shall be saved. (W. H. H. Murray.)


Verse 6

Galatians 6:6

Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.

The duty of ministerial support

It is one of the tricks of Satan to defraud godly ministers of support, that the Church may be deprived of their services. Paul’s recommendation arose from a desire to preserve a gospel ministry. (Calvin.)

I do not love to expound such sentences which speak for us that are ministers of the Word; moreover, it may look, if one is zealous to treat such texts before the people, as if he did it on account of avarice. But one must nevertheless instruct the people thereabout, that they may know what degree of honour and support they owe to their teachers. This is also good for us, that are in the ministry, to know that we may not take our deserved recompense with uneasy conscience, as if we had no right to it. (Luther.)

A fair exchange

Between teachers and hearers there should be a lovely exchange and joyful barter. A hearer needs not to complain as though he suffered disadvantage in this exchange. Whoever will not give our Lord God a penny, gets his due when he is forced to give the devil a dollar. (Starke.)

The support of the ministry

I. A children are bound to maintain their parents (1 Timothy 5:4), so believers their spiritual parents (Galatians 4:19; 1 Corinthians 4:15).

II. The Old Testament enjoins this (Deuteronomy 12:19), much more the New.

III. Every calling maintains those who live therein: the highest calling should do no less.

IV. Ministers are God’s soldiers, and should not go a warfare at their own cost; the Lord’s labourers, and therefore worthy of their hire; the Lord’s shepherds, and thereforeworthy the milk of the flock (see also Deuteronomy 25:4; cf. 1 Corinthians 9:9-10; 1 Timothy 5:17).

V. Ministers are to give themselves wholly to their work (2 Timothy 4:13-16), and therefore must not be entangled in the affairs of this life (2 Timothy 2:4).

VI. It is the ordinance of God that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14). (R. Cudworth.)

Material aids needful

Some people give as though they only half believed that Christ has ordained the money power as one of the powers of His cause; as if in travelling from place to place the missionary cost no more than the flight of an angel; as if the Philip of to-day might be “caught away by the Spirit,” and then suddenly be “found at Azotus “; as if bills could be paid by devout emotions or declaratory words; as if lives could be sustained on mere air; as if ravens might be expected to bring food to fainting prophets; as if miracles of providence would provide for ministers of grace. But this is not God’s method of working now. You must furnish material supplies for material apparatus. (C. Stanford, D. D.)

Paying the minister

In 1662, the town of Eastham agreed that a part of every whale cast on shore be appropriated for the support of the ministry. The ministers must have sat on the cliffs in every storm, and watched the shore with anxiety. And for my part, if I were a minister, I would rather trust to the bowels of the billows to cast up a whale for me than to the generosity of many a country parish that I know. (Thoreau.)

Liberality to ministers

The people of one of the out parishes of Virginia wrote to Dr. Rice, then at the Theological Seminary in Prince Edward, for a minister. They wanted a man of first-rate talents, for they had run down considerably, and needed building up. They wanted one who could write well, for some of the young people were nice about that matter. They wanted one who could visit a good deal, for their former minister had neglected that, and they wanted to bring that up. They wanted a man of very gentlemanly depoitment, for some thought a great deal of that, and so they went on describing a perfect minister. The last thing mentioned was that they gave their last minister £70, but if the Doctor would send them such a man as they described, they would raise another £10, making it £80. The Doctor sat down and wrote them a reply, telling them they had better, forthwith make out a call for old Doctor Dwight in heaven, for he did not know of any one in this world who answered the description; and as Dr. Dwight had been living so long on spiritual food, he might not need so much for the body, and possibly he might live on £80. (Dr. Haven.)

It is my intention to expound and to defend this financial law of the Christian Church: “Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.”

I. Let us expound this financial law of the Christian Church. The phrase “in all good things” may be connected either with the words “him that teacheth;” or with the words “him that communicateth.” It may mean either, first, “Let him who is instructed in all good things communicate to him who thus instructs him;” or, secondly, “Let him who is instructed communicate all good things to him who instructs him.” The necessity of a distinct order of men for the purpose of Christian instruction might be easily rested on rational principles. But I choose rather now to appeal to the will of the great Legislator” I appeal to that passage contained in Ephesians 4:1-32.: “When He ascended up on high He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men;” and among these gifts he gave “pastors and teachers.” It is plain, from Scripture, that there ought to be an order of men devoted to this work. It is evident, also, that they should devote their whole time and attention to its duties: this might be grounded on rational principles, arising from the nature and number of the subjects which must necessarily be included in such instructions; but here, again, I shall refer to the will of the great Lawgiver. His determination is, that those who minister should “wait on their ministering, and he that teacheth, on teaching;” that such should “give attendance to reading and exhortation;” that they should “meditate upon these things,” and “give themselves wholly to them.” We are not to look at this subject as we look at our Missionary Societies, and Bible and Educational Societies: these are human institutions, and we may support them by human plans; but the Christian ministry is a divinely appointed means for a divinely appointed end; and the means of its support are divinely appointed too. We may as much err by using means different from those which Christ has instituted, as if we lost sight of the end itself.

II. Let us defend this financial law of the Christian Church. Like all the other laws of Christ it is “holy, just, and good.” It is an arrangement which is alike just, generous, and useful.

1. It is a just arrangement.

2. This is a generous as well as a just principle. Men who thus believe are brought under the influence of the love of Christ; and on this principle Christ secures the maintenance of His ministers in Christian Churches to the end of time.

3. This is a useful arrangement also. But objections have been made. First, it is said, “Such an arrangement has a great tendency to degrade the Christian ministry.” In one sense we may ask, Do such persons expect the Christian minister to be altogether independent? We are all dependent, and must necessarily be so. And who applies this mode of reasoning to other professions? Who would think of saying of a lawyer, or of a medical man, that they are low-spirited, time-serving, dependent men, because the one is dependent on his clients, and the other on his patients, for subsistence. Are they degraded by such dependence as this? Is the minister of Christ to be degraded, because he is supported by the same means by which Christ his Master was supported? It may seem strange that those who are to be accounted “worthy of double honour,” should be dependent for their support on the bounty of others. But when it is founded on such a principle as Christian love, I know not of a more honourable way than to be dependent on the will and love of others. Secondly, as to the objection that “this arrangement throws difficulties in the way of the minister, by making it necessary for him to submit to much in order to cultivate the good-will of those to whom he preaches.” But let them continue a Christian people, and then tell me how such a man should please such a people but by doing his duty towards them as a Christian minister. Thirdly, it is objected that “it makes the subsistence of Christian ministers uncertain; and that it endangers the existence of the Christian ministry, and by this means, Christianity itself.” I might say here, that all below is insecure; but I would say also, it does not appear that the subsistence of the Christian minister is more uncertain than that of other men. (J. Brown, M. A.)


Verses 6-10

Verse 7-8

Galatians 6:7-8

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

The present seed-sowing, decisive of the future harvest

And I suppose, that nature is full of spiritual instruction, in all its subdivisions and departments, if we had but an eye to see it. And for anything I know, it may be as much the purpose and design of God, to teach us by all the objects and operations in His world and in His works round about us, as it was the object and design of God to teach us by the furniture and all the preparations of the Hebrew sanctuary. Our Lord frequently adverted to the harvest.

I. And first, then, for the sentiment and doctrine, which the text contains. I think that the text necessarily carries out our thoughts to the future life. If we sow to the Spirit, we shall “of the Spirit reap life everlasting;” which can, as it seems to me, have no reference to the existing economy of things, where every object around us is transient and perishing and passes away. And if “sowing to the Spirit,” leading to a harvest of “life everlasting,” directs our view to the future world, then “sowing to the flesh,” involving in it “corruption,” must also necessarily relate to the future life; the two being parallel to each other, both must have reference to the result of good and evil actions in the world to come. What is “sowing to the flesh?” By “the flesh” understand, not the body as in contradistinction to the mind; but understand depravity as in opposition to holiness. They will “reap corruption.” That which is defiled, that which is worthless, that which is filthy, that which is abominable--corrupted in body, corrupted in mind, corrupted in associates--all the corrupt deeds of the guilty past, of the unforgiven, unrenovated, human population, concentrated, amassed for them. A harvest of corruption. Let me turn, therefore, to the other question, respecting “sowing to the Spirit.” And the “sowing to the Spirit,” again, here, is the same thing with bringing forth “the fruits of the Spirit,” of which we read in the foregoing chapter. But of the principle, of the fact, of the truth, we have the deepest certainty--that as we “sow to the Spirit,” we shall “reap life everlasting.” And this notwithstanding the time, be it what it may, longer or shorter, more or less, which may intervene between the period of the sowing and the period of the reaping. In the ease of the natural harvest, as you are aware, there is a considerable period intervening. But I think that time has respect purely and exclusively to man, and not to God at all. Neither does it matter how entirely the sowing of the seed may have been forgotten. It does not appear that the memory of the husbandman has any influence whatever upon the seed sown. There it is; it takes root, germinates, buds, comes to perfection, whether he remembers and thinks of it or does not. Now we know nothing of man’s memory. We cannot explain what man’s memory is; we do not know how it was created, or in what manner it acts; we can give no explanation of the diversities of memory--why is it that one man’s memory retains clearly all things, and another man’s memory is like a sieve which lets all things through; we cannot tell how this is, or why this is. But in the future life memory may be a perfected capacity; so that, as I have intimated, all things may be as fresh and vivid, as powerful and direct upon the spirit, as if no time had intervened whatever. Therefore, though there maybe a non-recollection now, an utter forgetfulness of what kind and manner of seed we may have sown for the last seven years, or the last twenty years, this is no proof whatever against the principle of the text--that the seed has been sown, and that the harvest will be reaped, and that when the harvest is reaped, either for good or for evil, we may have brought powerfully to our recollection the seed that has been sown. Neither is it of any consequence, that we cannot understand the nature of the connection between the process of the sowing of the seed and the coming of the harvest. If you saw a man casting seed into the soil, and were not perfectly acquainted with the probable result--if you or I were not acquainted with the fact, that the seed-time always precedes the harvest, we should think the man was throwing the seed away; we should ask--“What is he doing? he is casting his bread into the ground.” But we know what he is doing. Yet we do not understand any one of the principles, which bring to pass the harvest in connection with the seed sowing; we only know the fact. And exactly in the same manner, though I cannot explain what is the nature of the thing, or what are the manifold causes which are at work and in operation so as eventually to evolve a harvest of glory or of corruption, yet as I see the close connection subsisting in the one case in nature, why should I doubt an equally close or a stronger connection in morals, when I have reason on my side and God’s Word declares it? And I think, the principle to which I have now adverted, which is the resurrection of character, the re-appearance of our moral actions, stands in close connection with the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. I believe, as I have said, from Scripture, that there is to be a resurrection of man’s body; but that is comparatively a mere small matter. Suppose it be a resurrection of the body in glory; well, let the body in glory stand by itself, alone in its glory, what is it?--(I mean, without its mind, and without its character and these transactions.) What is it? A statue, that shines and glitters; that is all. A statue; nothing but a statue., You must have the mind; not the mere intellect--you must have the moral state and condition; you must have the virtues, with which the mind is endued and ingrained; you must have the achievements, if there are any--or the softer and milder emanations of moral beauty, if there is nothing that is great and grand.

II. Now I have to state, secondly and more briefly, the evidence and authority by which it is sustained. And I might remark, it is God’s ordinance--God’s constitution. It is His arrangement and His pleasure; and we can even see wisdom and reason in it. The connection between seed time and harvest is of Divine constitution. All that we see in the processes of nature round about us, from the one period to the other, is of Divine arrangement and according to the will of heaven, The elements work, all the agencies and causes are in action, under the presidency and direction of the unerring and infinite Mind. The connection by man cannot be destroyed. God’s ordinance by God will be carried into effect. So it is in morals. It is certain; it is irresistible; it will be triumphant. The sower to the flesh shall reap his corruption; the sower to the Spirit shall reap life everlasting. Secondly, this is plainly revealed to us in Scripture. We have it in various other forms, besides that of the passage which is now before us. There is the parable of the talents. And, thirdly, I observe, that it is sustained by the justice and fidelity of God. Without this, there is no explanation of the exceeding mysteries of the Divine providence. Hereafter good is to have its day--justice its day. It is the day of God. Now, he says, “they call the proud happy;” now they say that those who blaspheme God are in honour; then--hereafter--“shall ye discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not.” There are various kinds and degrees of vice and virtue, According to the kind and according to the degree, whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Not only according to the quality and the degree, but the quantity. And I think the text implies the principle of reproduction. The seed produces itself over and over again. And the principle of multiplication is seen in a vicious action or in a vicious principle. It existed and was manifested in you; it may be copied--re-produced--in your sons and in your daughters; and it may go on from them illimitably. Or it went forth from you and took root in society; and it went on, and reproduced itself in its own unslightliness and enormity over and over again. Or take the other view of it. There is a virtue and an excellency in you; it reproduces itself; it is seen in your family, it shines in your sons and your daughters; it is copied; it reproduces itself in your circle; it goes on to posterity; no man can tell where it goes, any more than a man can tell what will be the result and produce of a handful of corn planted upon the top of the mountains. And this principle of reproduction I hold to be one of the greatest importance, and consolatory in the highest degree to good men. It is what is intended in Scripture by “the dead yet speaking;” because their thoughts and their actions go on. Especially note the influence of it in the compositions of wise and holy men--such men as Owen, and Howe, and Baxter, and Jeremy Taylor, and Bishop Hall; view their thoughts, their character, their writings, re-produced over and over again, till nobody knows to what extent they scatter the principles of truth. And on the other hand, the principle is terrific in respect to vice. Take up such a writer as Hobbes, Voltaire, Hume, Lord Byron; think of the mischief done by such men, the evil which comes over and over again--the seeds of pestilential doctrine, the mischief of bad and malign passions, over and over again. Yes; reproduction--multiplication--again and again. A harvest of evil, a harvest of corruption--a harvest of good, a harvest of glory--in the life that is for ever and ever. So it will be.

III. The danger of our being deceived. “Be not deceived.” What is the danger? Why, the heart is very deceitful, “deceitful above all things;” and there may be reasoning, very acceptable but very delusive, that men may indulge in sin and yet escape any punishment--that they may not serve God and yet arrive in heaven. I find Scripture, in several emphatic places, giving this caution--the caution “not to be deceived” in connection with the indulgence of sin. If this be true, what importance attaches itself to our dally life! You rise in the morning, and go through the day; you are sowing seed of some kind or other. You rise without God, live without Christ, go up and down among men unjust, a thundercloud, hating, angry, backbiting; what are you sowing? You rise in the morning; your first thoughts consecrated to God; you come into your family, meek, gentle, bland; among men, just, upright, good, generous; what seed are you sowing? See; the harvest you shall reap in the world to come. (J. Stratten, M. A.)

Christian liberality

The metaphor of seedtime and harvest, although capable of an almost universal application, is primarily applicable to the principle of Christian liberality, and the earnestness of St. Paul’s admonition finds its probable explanation in an allusion in 1 Corinthians 16:1 : “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given Order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.” He had at his former visit urged them to contribute to the support of their suffering brethren of Judea; but Gallic avarice was proverbial. And is it not reasonable to suppose that the messenger who had brought the apostle word of their defection from the faith, reported also unfavourably of their liberality? Hence his strong statement concerning sowing and reaping; hence his earnest exhortation to support their teachers, to do good unto all men. And surely, brethren, the money test is one of the truest tests by which the genuineness of a man’s religion can be tried. It was the money test which our Lord applied to the rich young ruler, and from which he shrank; it was the money test which proved too much for Achan and Gehazi in the Old Testament, for the Apostle Judas, and for Ananiss and Sapphira in the New. And the money test has not, I believe, lost its practical value now. The love of money is the root of as much evil in England as it was in Gallatia or Judea; it is equally now as then a lust of the flesh which needs greatly to be crucified. Show me a liberal and large-hearted man--one whose delight it is to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked; a generous, ungrudging, cheerful giver. His creed may possibly be defective, his knowledge limited; yet surely it may be said of such an one, that he is not far from the kingdom of heaven; for is it not promised that “if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul, then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday.” But let a man be close and miserly in his habits--more ready to hoard than to give--one that knoweth to do good, but doeth it not--then, however accurate his creed, however strict and orthodox his profession, he lacks surely the vitality of grace; he has a name to live, but is dead. All separation between knowledge and action is ruinous and enfeebling, and faith in Christ as dying for us is worth little, unless there be also faith in Christ as living in us … There is no alternative between sowing to the spirit and sowing to the flesh. No middle course is possible. The policy of inaction, whilst the great contest between good and evil is raging around us, is nothing else than the policy of selfishness, and many a life, which drifts along in amiable, aimless inactivity, is just as truly a sowing to the flesh as is the life of the most abandoned. According to the context, the man who soweth to his flesh is he who spends upon himself that which he ought to spend upon others--the niggardly Galatian who neglects his Christian teacher, or the poor saints at Jerusalem, that he may hoard or squander his gains--the professing Christian of every age who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God. It is in such things that self-deception is so easy. The profligate, the drunkard, or the murderer cannot doubt for a moment how he is sowing: his works of the flesh are manifest. But the man of Christian profession may conceal his selfishness beneath such a veil of devout behaviour as to deceive others, and perhaps himself. Hence the warning of the apostle--“Be not deceived; God is not mocked.” If Christ would have His followers count the cost of becoming His disciples, He would have all men count the cost of serving sin, whether in its grosser or in its more polished form; He would have no man cheat himself into believing that a life of self-indulgence, however amiable and engaging it may be, can issue in aught but ruin. (Emilius Bayley, B. D.)

The danger of self-deception

Man is both deceitful and deceived; and being so, it is difficult to undeceive him. We have also to do with a deceitful enemy. Moreover, everything around us is deceitful. Riches are so. Favour is deceitful. The heart also is deceitful. Sin also is said to be deceitful; and there is therefore great need of the caution in the text--“Be not deceived.”

I. Consider some of the instances in which we are liable to be deceived. Men in general have mistaken apprehensions of the character of God. We are also much deceived about our fellow-creatures. We call the proud happy, and regard the poor as miserable: we despise those whom God honours, and applaud those whom He condemns. But, above all, we are in danger of being deceived about ourselves.

1. Those are certainly deceived who entertain lessening apprehensions of the evil of sin, saying of this and the other transgression of God’s holy law, as Lot did of Zoar, “Is it not a little one? and my soul shall live.”

2. Those are deceived who think that the wrath of God against sin is represented in too strong a light.

3. Those who amuse themselves with the hope of a death-bed repentance, are in danger of being deceived.

4. Those who flatter themselves with the idea of safety, while they continually expose themselves to danger, are under great deception.

5. Those are awfully deceived who think their state to be good when it is really otherwise. Many imagine that they are justified and pardoned when they are in a state of wrath and condemnation.

II. Consider the evil and danger of self-deception.

1. It leaves us in a state of painful uncertainty. Those who are under the power of it will still be in suspense, and never attain to full satisfaction: they will be continually fluctuating between hope and fear, neither enjoying the pleasures of sin nor the contentments of piety.

2. Remember, God cannot be deceived. He knoweth them that are His, and them that are not so.

3. Those who are deceived will one day be undeceived, and that perhaps when it will be too late.

4. Self-deception discourages from the use of means. Those who fancy themselves safe and right, though they have the greatest need of a Saviour, are not likely to apply to Him.

5. Present deception will aggravate future misery. None sink so deep in hell as hypocrites and self-deceivers.

Hence we may learn--

1. The necessity of self-examination.

2. The advantage of a soul-searching ministry.

3. When we have examined ourselves, and have been tried by others to the utmost, still there is a need to prostrate ourselves before the throne, and to pray with the Psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts!” (Psalms 139:23-24). (B. Beddome, M. A.)

The reward of the work

“Whatsoever”--both in kind and in degree. The law runs through all creation, from the natural up to the supernatural life--from the world of sensation to the world of spirits--from this earthly existence to life eternal. The what and the how much are proportionate. The wheat-seed comes not up as barley, and the scanty sowing sends not forth an abundant harvest. The acorn comes not up as the sycamore, nor does the orange seed produce the fig-tree. Each has its own crop. What we put into the earth, that we know will come back to us after many days. Or rise into the world of man. Here the same law obtains. What man labours for, that he for the most part achieves. What man labours for, that he achieves, and in proportion to his labour. The years given to intellectual study do not produce the athletic champion of his country. These form the student. The keen politician does not find his meed in the peace and retirement of a learned leisure. Each man works to an end; and the appropriate end for which he works, that he obtains. He gets his own reward, and not another’s. Now let us go a step further. We have found this great law of God pervading physical and intellectual life--does it extend into the spiritual life? The text gives us the answer--“God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” The law of the natural harvest, of the intellectual harvest, of the spiritual harvest, is one; and that law is the law, so universal, so all-encircling, that the heathen in their blindness supposed it a Deity--Retribution.

I. The life of the flesh. There is a gross sowing to the flesh in the indulgence of the carnal desires of the flesh in their coarsest form. Not only is there retribution here, but retribution in its most evident form. The man who lives for the purpose of indulging his passions does so with effect. He makes a science of sinning. The whole powers of his mind are bent upon compassing his desires, and by the great law of life, he succeeds beyond other men. Occasions of evil, by an inscrutable mystery, present themselves to him beyond others. Success attends his efforts in evil, as we see in the luck which attends the incipient gamester. He has good fortunes (as another nation terms such offences) in his iniquity. He reaps the meed of the care, and thought, and time, and money he has expended upon his favourite faults. But this very harvest is--corruption. The very success is ruin. Linked as cause and effect with the fortunate perpetration of sin comes the destruction of all the aspiring part of man. And what is the condition of things when this fearful degeneracy has budded and flowered and brought forth its fruit in the world to come? What a sight will it be in the sunlight of the new creation to behold the haggard, scowling, bloated features of the victim of past sin; how fearful will it be to fix our eyes upon those hardened and deformed lineaments in which weakness and brutality, coarseness and emaciate sickliness in marvellous combination, alike have their part and portion. But what will this be to the state of their souls? The measure of iniquity has been fulfilled; not one unit from the full sum of absolute degradation is wanting,--the natural powers have been perverted--the spiritual ones are lost, gone for ever, or only exist in the increased responsibility which attends them, and nought remains but the full measure of the fruits of sin--the pain of the loss of God’s presence--the agony of the undying worm, inextinguishable despair, and absolute hatred of God.

II. The life of the Spirit. He that sows to the Spirit shall also reap, both in degree and in kind. In degree he will reap in proportion. He that soweth sparingly, shall reap sparingly; and he that soweth plentifully shall reap plentifully. A scanty obedience will produce a scanty reward: scanty, both here and hereafter; scanty in the graces and comforts accorded by the blessed Spirit of God as the consolation of our pilgrimage here below; scanty, alas! also in the jewels of our eternal crown. A plentiful sowing on the other hand will produce its proportionate harvest. For everything done for Christ we shall have our own reward; and in the degree that we work for Him so shall that reward be. The same law of retribution will run through the apportionment of every seat in heaven. Everything in the way of faithful obedience done here below will determine and establish its own peculiar glory and bliss in the world to come. (Bishop A. P. Forbes.)

Sowing and reaping

I. God is not to be trifled with.

1. Either by the notion that there will be no rewards and punishments.

2. Or by the idea that a bare profession will suffice to save us.

3. Or by the fancy that we shall escape in the crowd.

4. Or by the superstitious supposition that certain rites will set all straight at last, whatever our lives may be.

5. Or by a reliance upon an orthodox creed, a supposed conversion, a presumptuous faith, and a little almsgiving.

II. The laws of His government cannot be set aside.

1. It is so in nature. Law is inexorable. Gravitation crushes the man who opposes it.

2. It is so in providence. Evil results surely follow social wrong.

3. Conscience tells us it must be so. Sin must be punished.

4. The Word of God is very clear upon this point.

5. To alter laws would disarrange the universe, and remove the foundation of the hopes of the righteous.

III. Evil sowing wilt bring evil reaping.

1. This is seen in the present result of certain sins. Sins of lust bring disease into the bodily frame. Sins of idolatry have led men to cruel and degrading practices. Sins of temper have caused murders, wars, strifes, and misery. Sins of appetite, especially drunkenness, cause want, misery, delirium, etc.

2. This is seen in the minds becoming more and more corrupt, and less able to see the evil of sin, or to resist temptation.

3. This is seen when the man becomes evidently obnoxious to God and man, so as to need restraint, and invite punishment.

4. This is seen when the sinner becomes himself disappointed in the result of his conduct. His malice eats his heart; his greed devours his soul; his infidelity destroys his comfort; his raging passions agitate his spirit.

5. This is seen when the impenitent is confirmed in evil, and eternally punished with remorse. Hell will be the harvest of a man’s own sin. Conscience is the worm which gnaws him.

IV. Good sowing will bring good reaping. The rule holds good both ways. Let us, therefore, inquire as to this good sowing.

1. In what power is it to be done?

2. In what manner and spirit shall we set about it?

3. What are its seeds?

4. What is the reaping of the Spirit? Life everlasting, dwelling within us and abiding there for ever.

Conclusion:

1. Let us sow good seed always.

2. Let us sow it plentifully, that we may reap in proportion.

3. Let us begin to sow it at once. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

No loss from sowing good seed

Doth any think he shall lose by his charity? No worldling, when he sows his seed, thinks he shall lose his seed; he hopes for increase at harvest. Darest thou trust the ground, and not God? Sure, God is a better paymaster than the earth; grace doth give a larger recompense than nature. Below, thou mayest receive forty grains for one; but in heaven (by the promise of Christ) a hundred-fold: a measure heapen, and shaken, and thrust together, and yet running over. “Blessed is he that considereth the poor”; there is the seeding: “The Lord shall deliver him in the time of trouble” (Psalms 41:1); there is the harvest. Is that all? No; Matthew 25:35 : “Ye fed him when I was hungry, and gave Me drink when thirsty”--comforted Me in misery; there is the sowing. Venite, beati. “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you”; there is the harvest. (Thomas Adams.)

Christian diligence

The days and hours of this present state, which often flit by so little heeded, are of immense consequence to us all. They contain the seeds, the concentrated germs, of an endless future life. As the seed enwraps the plant that shall be, so the thought, the word, the act of time, enwraps the expansion of the man in eternity. Now, what does the Christian sow? and what shall he reap? In the answer to this question, comes in a deep and most important truth, to which I will beg your earnest attention. When the husbandman has sown, and tended the seed, and waited the appointed months till the harvest come, what,--of what kind, is his reward? It is not a bestowal of something different, and from without, as a recompense for his labours; but the fruit and expansion of those labours themselves; that which he has sown, the same does he reap, not, it is true, as it was sown, but enriched with God’s abundant blessing, increased thirty and sixty and an hundred fold, still, however, the same; the very thing which he deposited, so unpromising itself, in ground so unpromising, does he now gather into his bosom, a full and rich reward, satisfying him and gladdening him, and filling his heart with praise. Again then, what does the Christian sow? for that also, not a reward or recompense external to and separate from that, shall he reap; that same, but blessed and expanded and glorified, and become his exceeding great reward. The Christian, brethren, sows to the Spirit, not to the flesh. Let us try to give a plain practical interpretation to these words. The sowing being interpreted to mean the thoughts, words, and acts of this present life--the Christian thinks, speaks, and acts with reference to the Spirit--to his higher, his Divine part; to that part of him which being dwelt in by God’s Holy Spirit, aims at God’s glory; loves Him, serves Him, converges to Him in its desires and motions. His Spirit, the abode of the Divine witness within him--the highest part, which aspires after God and His glory--this deserves especial culture of its own, but not exclusive culture. It must reign in him, not by sitting on a height apart, not by dignified slumber only broken on solemn occasions, but by watchful and constant rule, by claiming fur itself and for God the subordinate thoughts and plans and desires. And it is among these that the Christian’s sowing for eternity will most commonly and most busily take place. Educate for God by drawing forth, and as you draw them forth, balancing with love and with wisdom those mental and bodily capacities, and the several parts of that spiritual character, which God has entrusted to your care. But do not educate for self and for the world, for the display of person and of attainment; for this is sowing to the flesh, and the harvest shall be accordingly. (Dean Alford.)

Men reap as they sow

Human actions draw after them consequences corresponding with the nature of those actions. I shall begin with offering a few familiar illustrations of this principle as witnessed in the common affairs of life, in the hope that I shall thus be able to show more clearly and usefully its bearing on the higher interest of the soul and eternity. I remark then--

1. The assertion of our text is literally true. Whenever the husbandman goes forth and sows his prepared acres, or the reaper gathers in the harvest, or the passer-by surveys the crop as he looks abroad upon the fields, waving with the ripening grain, and fruits of various kind, a voice continually sounds in the ears of each, “Whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap.” It is the voice of nature repeating the voice of revelation.

2. We see the principle of our text illustrated in the culture of the mind. Here it holds true that whatsoever a man soweth, that he also reaps.

3. The same truth is illustrated in all the various occupations and pursuits of life. The lawyer, who sets his mark high in his profession and pursues his object with earnest, persevering application, is sure to acquire a reputation and an influence corresponding with his efforts. The physician, who gives himself to his calling, and is judicious and thorough in his practice, draws around him, if not suddenly, yet certainly, the confidence and patronage of the community, and in the end reaps the rewards of his diligence and skill, while the pretender and the quack are of ephemeral reputation, and soon pass away and are forgotten. The master mechanic and the merchant, and men of business of every name, know well how universally applicable to their respective callings is the principle we are considering. They know that success depends on diligence, industry, perseverance, and that to expect to rise to eminence or to wealth without corresponding efforts, would be as vain as to expect to reap a harvest without the previous labours of sowing and cultivation.

4. Apply this principle to another case: the acquisition and use of property. The moral law of accumulation is but little understood. We are not our own masters, but God’s stewards. So long as we plan and toil on this principle, we act in accordance with the will of God and for our own best and highest interests. We are sowing our seed well, and we shall reap a plentiful harvest both here and hereafter. But when the law here referred to is transgressed, and the just limits of accumulation are disregarded; when a man comes to feel that he is his own master, and gives himself up to the getting and laying up money for his own selfish purposes, to gratify his worldliness and love of gain, or to heap up treasures for his children, he just as surely sows to the flesh, and of the flesh shall reap corruption, as that he is a living man.

5. The truth of the maxim declared in our text is also strikingly illustrated in the training of families. The family state, the first ordained of God in Paradise was expressly appointed, as He tells us in His Word, “that He might seek a godly seed,” in other words, to spread and perpetuate truth and piety in the world, and no institution can be conceived more wisely adapted to this end. There is no so hopeful a vineyard for cultivation as a young, rising family. The soil is rich and mellow, as yet unoccupied by noxious plants, and ready to receive whatever seed may be cast into it.

6. The principle of our text holds true in regard to the attainment and growth of personal religion, Every man, while life lasts, may be regarded as entrusted with the care of a moral vineyard, which he is required to cultivate, and the harvest he reaps is sure to correspond with the seed he sows in it. A part of this vineyard, if I may so speak, lies in his own bosom. It is his mind, his heart, his conscience, his affections, his character.

7. The principle we are considering will be fully illustrated in the retributions of eternity. Men are now forming the characters in which they are to appear before the judgment seat of Christ. (J. Hawes, D. D.)

It is impossible for a man continuously and successfully to practise a fraud.

I. Upon his own immortality.

II. Upon his neighbour.

III. Upon his God. (Samuel P. Jones.)

The double harvest

I. Our present life is a moral trial for another to come.

II. Human life has one or other of two great characters, and will issue in one or other of two great results.

III. We are liable to delusions with respect to these great verities. (J. B. Geden, D. D.)

The principle of the spiritual harvest

I. The principle.

1. There are two kinds of good possible to man; the one enjoyed by our animal being, the other by our spirits. There are two kinds of harvest, and the labour which procures the one has no tendency to produce the other.

2. Everything has its price, and the price buys that and nothing else: the soldier pays his price for glory and gets it: the recluse does not.

3. The mistake men make is that they sow for earth and expect to win spiritual blessings, and vice versa. Christian men complain that the unprincipled get on in life, and that the saints are kept back. But the saints must pay the price: “they have as their reward something better for which they do pay. No man can have two harvests for one sowing.

II. The application of the principle.

1. Sowing to the flesh includes

2. Sowing to the spirit, which is “well doing,” the harvest of which is

Man’s seed time and harvest

I. A caution which is--

1. Dissuasive--“Be not deceived” (Ephesians 5:6). To prevent the deceivings of sin (Hebrews 3:13.) The pretexts for sin are--

2. Persuasive--God is not mocked (2 Chronicles 6:30; Acts 1:24). Hypocrisy and gold can cozen men, but not God.

II. The reason. “Whatsoever,” be it good or evil, blessing or cursing, truth or hypocrisy, “a man,” Jew, Turk, heathen or Christian, prince or subject, rich or poor, “soweth,” etc.

1. To begin with the wicked. They shall reap what they have sown.

2. The godly. They sow

Sowing and Reaping

I. The solemnity of the apostle’s warning.

1. The nature of self-deception. It is sad to be deceived in

2. Its cause.

3. Its futility. While you deceive yourselves God is not mocked.

II. The importance of the apostle’s statement.

1. Flesh includes all desires whether sensual or refined that does not lead us to God: the Spirit those desires which spring from His inspiration and find in Him their response and their joy.

2. The underlying principle here is that we have largely the making and marring of our own future.

3. The marring is when by sowing to the flesh in, e.g., pride, covetousness, ungodliness, a man reaps corruption, i.e., desolation and decay; the making when by sowing to the Spirit we reap everlasting life, something that shall not pass away. (W. M. Punshon, LL. D.)

I. A man expects to reap that which he sows.

II. He expects to reap a crop of the same kind that he has sown.

III. He expects to reap more than he sows.

IV. Ignorance of the kind of seed sown well make no difference to the crop. (D. L. Moody.)

I. Righteousness and sin always yield their harvests: the moral results of our actions are determined by definite and irresistible laws.

II. Yet in the lower provinces of life there is a good deal of sowing that is followed by no reaping.

1. In business;

2. Politics;

3. Science;

4. Home and society.

III. The disappointments in these lower provinces make us cynical, but God permits them in order to warn us against sowing too much seed where it may be blighted.

IV. God is the only master who always gives His servants the wages they work for. Serve Him--

1. In business, and whether you make money or not, you will increase your treasure in heaven.

2. In the service of the public, and whether you have your reward or not you will have honorable distinction in the kingdom of God.

V. The harvest may not be tomorrow or the day after, but in due season we shall reap.

VI. Enough, however, is reaped now to save men from despair. Work done for God is never wasted.

1. Take the social and political improvements of recent years.

2. The advance of the kingdom of God. (R. W. Dale, D. D.)

Man’s work and his certain reward

1. A timely caution: God’s omniscience renders it impossible that He should be mocked.

2. A great principle stated: what is true in nature is true in morals.

3. This great principle in its application to man’s probation. The work of man is--

I. That of sowing to the flesh.

1. Pleasure seeking.

2. Money making.

3. Knowledge acquiring. This must reap corruption, because

II. That of sowing to the spirit.

1. Those who yield their heart a willing sacrifice to God.

2. Who consecrate their substance to God.

3. Who devote all their energies to the service of God, sow to the Spirit;

Retribution and grace

I. The preacher of justification by faith lays down the principle of retribution.

1. This principle is of universal application.

2. It is applied to man not only as the agent but as the one on whom it is to operate.

3. In virtue of it we can be prophets of our future.

II. The laws of grace and retribution are perfectly harmonious.

1. Salvation is a gift.

2. But we have to take advantage of this gift.

3. This is accomplished by faith.

4. But faith is a continuous act, and involves obedience as well as trust. (S. Pearson, M. A.)

Three dualities

I. A duality of nature.

1. “Flesh,” representing that which connects man with time and sense.

2. “Spirit,” that which connects man with the immutable and the Divine.

II. A duality of procedure.

1. Sowing to the flesh: cultivating the animal powers and propensities.

2. Sowing to the Spirit: cultivating the spiritual powers and propensities.

III. A duality of result.

1. Corruption.

2. Everlasting life. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

True moral culture

I. The spirituality of the work.

1. The spirit requires moral cultivation. In its unregenerate state its ground is fallen; it is a wilderness, full of the germs of evil.

2. The spirit is capable of moral cultivation. Facts show this: what moral changes have taken place in human nature: read the history of Paul.

II. The eternity of the work.

1. The soil is everlasting.

2. The seed is everlasting: we are sowing for eternity.

3. The uniformity of the work.

God is not mocked

I could both sigh and smile at the simplicity of a native American, sent by a Spaniard, his master, with a basket of figs, and a letter wherein the figs were mentioned, to carry them both to one of his master’s friends. By the way this messenger eat up the figs, but delivered the letter, whereby his deed was discovered, and he soundly punished. Being sent a second time on the like message, he first took the letter, which he conceived had eyes as well as a tongue, and hid it in the ground, sitting himself on the place where he had put it; and then securely fell to feed on his figs, presuming that that paper which saw nothing, could tell nothing. Then taking it again out of the ground, he delivered it to his master’s friend, whereby his fault was perceived, and he worse beaten than before. Men conceive they can manage their sins with secrecy, but they carry about them a letter, or a book rather, written by God’s finger, their conscience bearing witness to all their actions. But sinners, being often detected and accused, hereby grow wary at last, and to prevent this speaking paper from telling tales, do smother, stifle, and suppress it, when they go about the committing of any wickedness. Yet conscience (though buried for a time in silence) hath afterwards a resurrection, and discovers all, to their greater shame and heavier punishment. (T. Fuller.)

The folly of sowing to the flesh

If you saw a man with a seed basket on his shoulder, who had a field which by proper cultivation would yield a plentiful crop and profit, and there he was with his basket filled with thistles and nettles, and all noxious weeds that he could lay his hand on, and he was sowing that field with these from morning to night and on Sunday too--you would say, “I doubt yon man is spoiling that field, sowing it with that stuff;” and if you saw him sowing still all day long, and on Sunday more than any day, you would say, “I think it is time yon man was stopped, he must be a madman,” and suppose you talked with a person that saw it too, and he said to you, “Do you know what the end will be?” “Why,” you would say, “he is ruining his field, it must be all undone before any crop can be got from it again.” “Ah! but (says the other) do you know these seeds that he is sowing will rise and prove to be a plentiful harvest, and they will touch the clouds, and then afterwards the field is to be cleared of them, and there is to be a fire made of them in which the man himself will be consumed?” “Do you say so?” “That is the truth.” “Why then, surely he must be undeceived; let us try to undeceive him.” Ah, friends, I am afraid that there are many such madmen here to night. (William Dawson.)

Self-deceived

A Neapolitan shepherd came in great anguish to his priest. “Father, have mercy on a miserable sinner! It is the holy season of Lent, and, while I was busy at work, some whey, spurting from the cheese-press, flew into my mouth, and wretched man! I swallowed it. Free my distressed conscience from its agonies by absolving me from my guilt!” “Have you no other sin to confess?” said his spiritual guide. “No; I do not know that I have committed any other.” “There are,” said the priest, “many robberies and murders from time to time committed on your mountains, and I have reason to believe you are one of the persons concerned in them.” “Yes,” he replied, “I am; but these are never accounted a crime; it is a thing practised by us all, and there needs no confession on that account.” (Bagley’s Family Biblical Instructor.)

Sowing and reaping

An American minister, towards the close of his sermon, introduced a very powerful and dramatic illustration in allusion to some well-known place where certain blasting was to be carried out. “The rock is tunnelled, and deep under the solid masses over which men walk with such careless security, there are now laid trains of explosive powder. All seems so safe and firm outwardly, it is hardly possible to imagine that those solid masses will ever be shaken; but the time will come when a tiny spark will fire the whole train, and the mountain will be in a moment rent in the air, and torn to atoms.” “There are men,” he said, looking round, “there are men here who are tunnelled, mined; their time will come, not to-day or tomorrow, not for months or years, perhaps, but it will come in a moment, from an unforseen quarter, a trifling incident, their reputations will be blown to atoms, and what they have sown they will reap. There is no dynamite like men’s lusts and passions.”

Sowing and reaping

One day as Felix Neff was walking in the city of Lausanne, he saw a man whom he took for one of his intimate friends. He ran up behind him, tapped him on the shoulder, and asked, “What is the state of your soul, my friend? “The stranger turned; Neff perceived his mistake, apologized, and went away. A few years after a stranger came to Neff, saying he was greatly indebted to him. Neff did not recognize the man, and begged him to explain. The stranger replied, “Have you forgotten an unknown person whose shoulder you touched in the street in Lausanne, and asked, ‘What is the state of your soul?’ It was I your question led me to serious reflection, and now I trust it is well with my soul.”

Deception in spiritual things

There are four subjects which the apostle would have us particularly guard against being deceived in.

I. Be not deceived in the character of the being and perfections of God.

1. He is omnipresent.

2. He is omniscient. There are no secrets on earth to Him--no secrets in hell: hell is naked before Him, and destruction has no covering; much more the hearts of the children of men.

II. Be not deceived regarding your own character as rational and redeemed creatures. You are a probationer for eternity. What infinite importance, then, is stamped on every thought, word, action; they will all spring up again, multiplied a hundredfold at the world’s great harvest.

III. Be not deceived concerning the evil nature and dreadful end of a life of sin. Whenever a man is living according to the principles, appetites, propensities, and passions of his fallen nature, he is sowing to the flesh, and the crop that he must reap is eternal perdition. He can’t have anything else.

IV. Be not deceived concerning the nature and excellency of a life of holiness. “Sowing to the Spirit” is yielding to the illuminating and quickening energies of the Holy Ghost, living according to the light of the Spirit of God within and without us. Surely this is better than sowing to the flesh. A man who is sowing to the flesh has to labour; and sowing to the Spirit is no more laborious than sowing to the flesh, nor yet so much. The exercises of holiness are no greater than the exercises of sin: so that even in that view the saint has no loss. But then there is the harvest to come; and what a difference then. (W. Dawson.)

Deception in matters of religion

It is above all things important that in the great and momentous matters of religion we should not be mistaken or deceived, but should have the most correct, exact, and vivid impressions and opinions; because religion deals with such momentous subjects as God, the soul, eternity; and if in these momentous interests we are deceived, and our conduct in consequence be mistaken, the consequences must be to us lamentably and eternally fatal. No other way of acceptance with God, no other refuge from the wrath to come; nor can we offer acceptable worship and service to the Most High, if our impressions of His character be false and incorrect. For, remember, God cannot be deceived.

I. Consider our liability to deception.

1. Our ignorance.

2. Our natural selfishness. For the most part, men are fearfully inert, awfully indifferent, strangely unconcerned about religion. They won’t take the trouble to ascertain the truth,

3. Our natural warmth. Susceptible of impressions; easily moved--first one way, then another. Like the chameleon, men are ever shifting the hue of their religious character. The misfortune is, that those who try everything, generally hold fast nothing.

II. Some of the ways in which delusion in religion operates.

1. It produces satisfaction in externals, and the deluded sinner rests there.

2. It fills the mind with false, distorted views of religion. Eve actually believed Satan when he gave the lie direct to God! Men will rather receive a pleasing error than embrace a self-denying truth.

3. It substitutes mere animal excitement for practical godliness.

III. The consequences of such deception.

1. Criminality. It is the sinner’s own fault. No excuse for ignorance or apology for error, because he ought to have sought the truth, which whosoever seeks, shall surely find.

2. Eternal ruin. The mistake is final and fatal Repair it while there is time. (T. Raffles, D. D.)

Fallacies in religion

If anything is important, religion is all-important. It may be undervalued in health and prosperity; but in sickness and trouble we feel its necessity. When the ship is overtaken by the storm it must have not only a good anchor, but a strong cable. Here are some of the fallacies with which men deceive themselves.

I. Ample time in the future for attending to the concerns of the soul. What a mistake! You cannot tell what a moment may bring forth. By delay the heart gets harder. The unwillingness of to-day becomes still deeper to-morrow (2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 3:7-8; Hebrews 3:15; Hebrews 4:7; Ecclesiastes 9:10).

II. If elected, we shall be saved; if not elected, we must be lost. But, observe, election is the result of foreknowledge on God’s part (Romans 8:29). It is our own fault, and only ours, if we are not elected. The gospel has been preached to us, and the offer of salvation extended.

III. It will be all the same a hundred years hence. No: it will not, it cannot be. The present is seed-time; the harvest is to come (Galatians 6:7). Our destiny hereafter depends upon our conduct now.

IV. Great men have held that there is no future punishment; So we need not fear. A bold assertion, but no proof. Butler’s argument is unanswerable: that, inasmuch as the visitation of our acts by rewards and punishments takes place in this life, rewards and punishments must be consistent with the attributes of God, and therefore may go on as long as the mind endures. The soul that dies in love with sin and sinful pleasures, may only have that love intensified in the future state. Change of residence brings about no change of moral character.

V. We are to be saved by doing the best we can. Nay; but by taking hold on Christ by the hand of faith, and walking with Him in newness of life. (Alex. Brunton.)

Be not deceived

--Futility of delayed repentance

If any of you rely upon the hope or the chance or the possibility of a deathbed repentance as an excuse for sin; if any of you are secretly saying to yourselves, I will go on stoning now; I will repent before or when I die,”--I would say to you briefly and most solemnly, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked,” but when you wickedly think thus you are mocking, you are insulting, you are defying God, you are, as it were, insolently bidding God to wait your leisure; you are bidding Him to be content with the ragged and bitter lees of life after you have drained to the dregs what should have been its bright libation. You are flinging to Him, as it were, the shrivelled and withered leaves in which you have yourself cherished a canker in the worthless flower. There is an awful truth, if there be also quaintness, in the language of one who said, “My Lord, heaven is not to be won by short hard work at the last, as some of us take a degree at the university after much irregularity and negligence. I have known,” he says, “many old playfellows of the devil spring up suddenly from their deathbeds, and strike at him treacherously, while he, without returning the blow, only laughed and made grimaces in the corner of the room.” If you rely on deathbed repentance, you are, believe me, relying on a bruised and broken reed, which will break beneath you and run into your hand. I have seen deathbeds not a few, and I know that he who thinks he can make sure of deathbed repentance, or even a mere semblance of it, is hanging his whole weight upon the thread of a gossamer over a deep and dark abyss. (Archdeacon Farrar.)

The law of sowing and reaping

No analogy is more easily understood than this. A certain point of resemblance between the thoughts, wishes, affections, purposes of the mind, and the seed-corn cast into the earth at one season of the year; and another between the gathering of the harvest, and the result in our own minds of the thoughts and affections we have cherished during our life. “Culture” and “cultivation,” e.g.,--terms originally denoting the tillage of the earth, have been transferred, by the hint of analogy, to the soul.

I. Sowing and reaping as an illustration of spiritual law.

1. In reference to labour and reward, we cannot reap without previous sowing; we cannot reap where we have not sown; inferior seed will yield a poor return. And we must patiently wait for our crop till “due season.”

2. In reference to Divine will and operation. God is faithful; He will not fail those who sow in dependence on Him.

II. The application of this law to the personal and the social life.

1. The life for self distinguished from the life for others. The cultivation of the lower mind and nature in us. There are men who hunt after sensualities as if they were digging for hid treasures, or pressing after the discovery of truth that would bless mankind; they cultivate their propensities as if they were talents that ought to be increased by use, and faculties that might be improved by constant exercise. How they are deceived! They reap the quality of their sowing; and it is a harvest of corruption. A soil that has been forced, and whose virtue has been used up, is the image of their souls.

2. The life for self united with the life for others. “Flesh”--the ordinary uninspired life of man; “Spirit”--the inspired life of those who have come under a higher influence. Slavery to custom is life after the flesh, the origin of a thousand corruptions in the whole system of our social life. The ideal of the Christian is the inspired life, sowing to, walking in, being led by the Spirit--the promotion of truth, justice, love, between man and man.

III. The application of this law to the present and the future life.

1. The present life as a sowing incomplete. To follow the inspiration of God, to live the truly elevated and conscientious life is too hard and fatiguing for many; and the few who do persevere are exposed to terrible temptations to doubt of themselves, and to suspect they would have done better to have walked in the beaten track of the world’s use and wont. This life does not afford materials for the complete solution of the problem; it leaves room for a multitude of doubts which only the strongest illumination and faith can overcome.

2. Indications of future completeness. Traits of character so Divine, promises of youth cut off by untimely death, loftinesses of the human spirit, buds not yet unfolded, aspirations only starved here--what of these? Surely their harvest is to come.

3. The hope of future perfection and glory. Life will then be rounded and made whole, moving on from true beginnings to worthy ends. Death is not the end of our being, but rather the moment for putting in the sickle, and reaping that fulness and completeness, that purity and intensity of all intellectual and social joy, that glorious revelation of the truth of the spiritual nature, which is included in the great word “Life Eternal.” (R. Johnson, M. A.)

Sowing and reaping

I. The sowing. That is a description of our life--a description which very few people, old or young, seem to think of. Our present life is our sowing-time for eternity. You may have been in the country in spring, when the frost and snow have disappeared, and preparations are being made for the work of the coming year. The ground has been ploughed and manured and made ready for receiving the seed, and you may have seen sacks of seed-corn standing all over the field, and men walking up and down the furrows, with bags tied round their waist or slung across their breast, throwing out their arms in a peculiar way. Those of you who have been brought up in towns, may have thought they were taking exercise on a cold spring morning, or were amusing themselves. But if you had asked them, “What are you doing?” you would have got the answer, “We are sowing.” If you had stood in their way, or done anything to interrupt them, or put off their time, they would have called out to you, “Keep out of our way, we are sowing; this is seed-time. After a long winter, we must make the most of spring, for all the rest of the year depends on what we make of it. If we lose the spring, we lose the harvest; and so we want to make the most of every hour. We have not a minute to spare.” Or you have seen in the garden, at the same season of the year, the gardener busy at work. Everybody wanted to have him, and so he was hurrying through with his work, in one garden after another, late and early. If you had asked him, “What are you doing, gardener?” he would have said, “I am sowing--pease, and turnips, and lettuce, and carrots, and spinach; or mignonette, and sweet pea, and candytuft, and saponaria, and asters, and marigolds, and wallflower, and stock. If we miss these weeks--if we were not to sow, as we are doing, you would have no vegetables and no flowers. And what would you say to that? All depends on what we are now doing. It is the most important work of the year.” Now, suppose some mischievous boy were to take up a handful of vegetable seeds and to scatter peas and beans and potatoes over the flower-beds; or a handful of flower-seeds, and were to scatter Indian cress, and wallflower, and Virginian stock, and Venus’ looking-glass, and Love-lies-bleeding over the vegetable-beds, the gardener would call to him, “Stop, boy! do you know what you are doing?” “Getting a little fun,” he might say. “Fun is all very good in its own place,” says the gardener, “but you are sowing. It is not as if you were scattering clay, or stones, or bits of wood. These are seeds, and they will grow; they will spring up again; and what a strange sight the garden will be!” Now your life is just like that. It may seem mere amusement to some; but it is a sowing--a scattering of seed.

1. The sowers--who are they? All of you. Every one who lives sows, and sows until he dies.

2. The seed--what is it? Everything that you do. There has never been a day or an hour in which you have not been sowing. You have never done anything else. Your work, your play, your lessons at home or at school during the week or on the Lord’s Day, when you were at your games, when you were reading some story or other book, when you were amusing yourself or other people--it was a seed which you were sowing--sowing, indeed, for this life, but sowing also for the life to come--for eternity. Some of us have the field or garden of our life well filled up--some have it almost full, almost all sown over. Some have only a tenth of the field filled, and some an eighth, and some a fifth, and some a quarter, and some a half; and by the time we come to die, it will be filled altogether; it will be like a field in which every corner is sown with seed. Have you ever thought of this? Do you ever think of it? No action of your life is done with. It may be out of sight. It may be out of mind. It may have troubled you for a while, and you said, “I wish I could forget it.” And you have forgotten it. Or you have never thought about it. It has never troubled you. And yet it is no more done with than the seed that is buried in the ground, and that will spring up by and by. “Whatsoever a man soweth,” is just the same as saying, “Whatsoever a man does.”

3. The character or kind of the sowing--what is it? All the sowing must be one or other of two kinds. There is an endless variety of seed. If you were to take a seedsman’s catalogue, you would find an almost endless list of seeds and roots. And so there is no limit to the number and variety of actions which you do. But they may all be divided into two classes. They may all be arranged under two heads. The verse that follows our text tells what these are. The one is “Sowing to the flesh;” the other, “Sowing to the Spirit.” Take anything you have done during the past week--anything you are about to do now, and ask yourselves: Is this sowing “to the flesh, or to the Spirit?” Is it only to please myself, or is it to please God?

II. The reaping. Wherever there has been a sowing, people expect a reaping. The harvest follows the spring. It is God’s arrangement in the world of nature everywhere, and so it is in the moral and spiritual world.

1. The reapers--who are they? All of you. As you are all sowers, so you shall all be reapers, every one of you. Every sower shall be a reaper, and he shall reap what he sowed. “That shall he also reap.” He must do it himself. No one can do it for him. He cannot hand it over to another.

2. The kind of reaping--what shall it be? Of the same kind as the sowing. It must be so. Every kind of seed has fruit of its own kind. Everybody knows to expect this. If a farmer sowed oats, he would not expect to reap wheat or barley. If he sowed turnips, he would not expect to gather potatoes. And just so with your actions, your conduct, your life. You cannot do one kind of action, and expect fruit of a different kind. You cannot have an evil sowing, and expect to reap what is good. You cannot sow to the flesh, and reap what is of the Spirit. And as we saw there are but two kinds of sowing, so there will be but two kinds of reaping--the one, in each case, corresponding to the other. It is not merely that if we do what is wrong, we shall be punished for it. But if we sow evil, we shall reap evil. The one grows out of the other. If you sow nettle seed, the nettle with its sting will come of it. If you sow the thistle, the thistle with its prickles will spring up. And so with sin. And so, also, with good.

3. The measure of the reaping--what shall it be? What is the measure of other reaping, as compared with the sowing? Plant a single grain of corn in the ground, and from the one grain you have several stalks, and each head has many grains. Plant a pea or a potatoe, and how many you get for the one. Some people think sin a very small thing, to have such consequences coming of it. But if it is a seed, and if there is a harvest, must not the increase be as with every other kind of sowing and reaping?

4. The certainty of the reaping. Other harvests sometimes fail. Too dry or too rainy a season, a strong wind brushing off the flower when it is in bloom, or a storm when the corn is all but ripe, may deprive the husbandman of his harvest. In some cases, in a bad season, you will see sowing that has had little or no reaping. The straw is uncut. It was not worth cutting. It is left to rot on the ground. But in regard to the sowing to the flesh and to the Spirit, God says “we shall reap.” “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” The seed may lie a long time in the ground, but it is still there, it is not dead, And when it does grow, its growth is sometimes very slow and gradual. “First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” It sometimes looks as if it would never come to anything. But God’s word stands pledged, alike as regards the good and the evil, that failure there shall be none: “Shall reap.” (J. H. Wilson, D. D.)

Sowing and reaping

I. Sowing and reaping is an example of a principle seen everywhere in the government of God. An act performed at one time leads to products at a future time. See this exemplified in nature and also in human character.

II. Consider the application of the principle to corrupt human nature: “He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption.” Man, when he comes into the world, has seeds in his very nature, tendencies to act for good and for evil. The tendency to evil grows unless it is restrained. The roots strike themselves deeper into the soil, and the seeds of evil develop in the course of years. See this exemplified in intemperance, in pride, in all temptations and lusts.

III. The application to regenerated nature: “He that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” We have seen that in our nature evil propagates itself. But it is equally true that good does so, good purposes, good dispositions, good acts. It increases at compound interest. Every temptation promptly resisted strengthens the will. Every step we take on the ladder upwards helps up to a higher. The new nature is in the form of seeds. Grace grows upon grace. In the same way the Church as a whole grows and increases. (J. McCosh, D. D.)

The certainty of a harvest

So it is with all temptations and lusts. They are ever scattering seeds--as weeds do. What a power there is in seeds! How long-lived they are!--as we see in the mummies of Egypt, where they may have lain for thousands of years in darkness, but now come forth to grow. What contrivances they have to continue and to propagate themselves! They have wings, and they fly for miles. They may float over wide oceans, and rest themselves in foreign countries. They have hooks and attach themselves to objects. Often they are taken up by birds, which transport them to distant places. As it is with the seeds of weeds, so it is with every evil propensity and habit. It propagates itself and spreads over the whole soul, and goes down from generation to generation. (J. McCosh, D. D.)

Two kinds of harvest

God leaves us free to sow what sort of seed we will, and no one can blame the Almighty, that having chosen our own course, we reap our own harvests. The individual who indulges in one known sin is planting a seed, which will be sure to spring up, and grow, and, perhaps, prepare the way for a wider departure from duty. A second and third temptation, will prove more irresistible and dangerous than the first. Every careful farmer will look after his fences, lest his own cattle make their escape, or his neighbour’s break in. “Set double guard upon that point to-night,” was the command of a prudent officer, when an attack was expected. Our whole life is nothing but a seed-time, and the present and the future already stand facing each other. “Corruption” is the harvest of “sowing to the flesh,” and “life everlasting,” the harvest of “sowing to the Spirit.” If we desire a fruit, in eternity, to please us, the seed must be sown which will bring it. A philosopher once said to his friend, “Which of the two would you rather be, Croesus, the wealthiest, but one of the worst men of his day; or Socrates, who was the poorest of the poor, but distinguished for many virtues?” The answer was, that he would rather be Croesus in this life, and Socrates in the next! A Christian woman was one day visiting an aged man, who, in years gone by, had been associated with her own father in business. Although differing widely in their opinions on various subjects, the two old men still felt a deep interest in each other. The good woman had answered a hundred questions, which her father’s former partner had asked concerning him, and, as he listened to the story of his friend’s patience in suffering and poverty, and the unflagging cheerfulness with which he could look forward, either to a longer continuance of his pilgrimage in this world, or to a speedy departure to a better one, his conscience applied the unuttered reproach, and he cried out, in a tone of hopeless despair, “Yes, yes: you wonder I cannot be as quiet and happy too: but think of the difference: he is going to his treasure, and I--I must leave mine!” Such is the condition of every possessor of worldly wealth, who sows only for the ingathering of a temporal harvest. (J. N. Norton, D. D.)

Like produces like

The warning implies a liability to deception or error: in this case the deception appears to be, that a man may be sowing to the flesh, and yet be hoping to reap of the Spirit, or that for him might be changed the unchangeable order which God has ordained--“like seed, like harvest.” But, he says, “there’s no such thing as mocking God.” The expression is a strong one, taken from that organ of the face by which we express careless contempt. The verb μυτκηρίξω, from μυτκήρ, is to turn up the nose at, to sneer at, to mock. Men may we imposed on by a show of virtue on the part of one who all the while scorns their weakness; but God cannot be so mocked. Let him sow what he likes, that and that only, that and nothing else, shall he also reap. The reaping is not only the effect of the sowing, but is necessarily of the same nature with it. He that sows cockles, cockles shall he also reap; he that soweth wheat, wheat also shall he reap. It is the law of God in the natural world--the harvest is but the growth of the sowing; and it illustrates the uniform sequences of the spiritual world. The nature of conduct is not changed by its development and final ripening for Divine sentence; nay, its nature is by the process only opened out into full and self-displayed reality. The blade and the ear may be hardly recognized and distinguished as to species, but the full corn in the ear is the certain result and unmistakeable proof of what was sown. And the sowing leads certainly, and not as if by accident, to the reaping; the connection cannot be severed--it lies deep in man’s personal identity and responsibility. (John Eadie, D. D.)

The law of retribution

The Bible everywhere describes men as reaping what they sow, and as receiving again, not the bare seed sown, but the harvest of their actions. And, when we test this common and pervading metaphor by our experience, we find it true. Our actions are fertile, and we do have to eat the fruit they yield. Every time we take a decisive and deliberate step, we set forces in motion which soon slip from our control. But it is we who have set them going, and we are held responsible for whatever effects they produce. If you throw a stone into the air, you may mean no harm, or only a little harm; but you may do a great injury. And when the harm is done, you cannot turn lightly away and say, “It was none of my doing.” It was your doing, even if it went beyond your intention, and you have to pay the penalty of it; you have to eat she fruit of your deed. If in the charm of bright social intercourse, or to relieve the gloom of depression, you take too much wine, you may have had no distinctly bad motive for it; your motive may have been nothing more than a friendly wish to share and promote the hilarity of the hour, or to free yourself from the disabling effects of a transient incapacity for a task you felt bound to do: but if that indulgence should excite a growing craving for similar indulgences, as in some natures it will, and you sink into a sot, and your health flies, and your business goes to rack, and your domestic peace is broken up, you cannot plead, “I did not do it.” You did do it, and the world fairly holds you responsible for all that has come of it. Or, to take a still sadder and more perilous instance, if, out of mere thoughtless hospitality, you press a man to drink with you, and he sets out by your prompting on the perilous and slippery path which leads him to a madhouse or to a dishonoured grave, you cannot escape the consequences of your own act; you have to bear all the misery of witnessing his downfall, and of the heartrending fear that, but for you, he might never have fallen. Do you not see, then, how the results of our bad, and even of our thoughtless, actions accumulate upon us, multiplying sometimes in a geometrical ratio, and landing us in the most awful responsibilities? And can you doubt that, in like manner, the results of our good deeds multiply and accumulate? If a man cultivate any faculty, that of learning languages, for example, or of written composition, or of public speaking, who can say whereunto it will grow, what nutriment it will meet from the most unexpected quarters, how one opportunity will open the door for another, and one success pave the way for a dozen more? If you once brace yourself for a good deed which involves thought and labour and self-sacrifice, do not all similar deeds become easier to you? Does not even one good deed induce your neighbours to ask your help in other good deeds, and thus furnish you with ever new opportunities of service? Does not your example stimulate and encourage them in the good works they have in hand, or now and then even rouse the indolent and indifferent to interest and activity? Do not those who benefit by your kindness at least sometimes remember and imitate it? Have you yourselves never been constrained to help a neighbour by a recollection of how, when you once needed similar help, some good man or woman came to your assistance? A good deed shines, we are told, “like a candle in this naughty world.” And how many solitary and forlorn wayfarers, stumbling in the dark, may even one such candle, shining through a cottage casement, serve to guide, to stimulate, to console! We do get according to our deeds, then, and, through the mercy of God, we get, in addition, all the fruit our deeds bring forth. And if, in the world to come, the consequences of our deeds, even to the last, should more largely come upon us, we cannot deny that this, too, will be just. But in the future at all events, and far more largely than in the present, the law of retribution will work, the consequences of our actions will come home to us, according to the infinite wisdom and compassion of God. Then, if not now, God will deal with us, not according to the outward form and appearance of our conduct, but according to those inward springs of thought, will, emotion, purpose, of which our life is at best but a poor and inadequate outcome, a pale and distorted reflection. He will search the inmost fibres of our hearts in order that He may mete out to us the recompense we deserve, the discipline we require; in order that, to the last fibre of our hearts, we may be satisfied with the justice and the love of His award. (Samuel Cox, D. D.)

The spiritual law

“What? You hold back? Nay, do not deceive yourselves. Your niggardliness will find you out. You cannot cheat God by your fair professions. You cannot mock Him. According as you sow, thus will you reap. If you plant the seed of your own selfish desires, if you sow the field of the flesh, then when you gather in your harvest, you will find the ears blighted and rotten. But if you sow the good ground of the spirit, you will of that good ground gather the golden grain of life eternal.” (Bishop Lightfoot.)

Seed-time and harvest

What is the seed? Our thoughts, our feelings, our purposes, our plans, our words, our actions; and, as we are always thinking, feeling, purposing, planning, speaking, or acting, except when under the power of sleep, so we are always sowing for eternity, which is the harvest-time of the soul. What millions of thoughts, and feelings, and words, and actions, enter into the history of a single year! And all these have moral character, a moral bearing, and are being “sown” for eternity. It is not only to religious matters that this observation applies, but to the transactions of the world. There is a moral character belonging to our everyday conduct. The man in the shop, the man in the bargain, the man in the transaction, is acting under a moral influence: there is a motive in his mind influencing him for good or for evil; there is seed being sown. The moral character does not belong merely to the greater actions and transactions of life, but equally to the lesser. There may be as much moral character in a pecuniary transaction over a shilling, as in one over a thousand pounds. So that there is a moral character stamped upon all that we are engaged in doing; and consequently there is a “sowing” in many actions that we think little about; there is that attending each, which makes it a moral and eternal agent. (J. Angell James.)

Relation of human actions to the other world

I. Our connection with the invisible and eternal world is more close and intimate than we generally feel. Everything connects us with eternity; we are not only travelling to it, but are already on its confines.

II. Our misery and happiness proceed not merely from Divine appointment, but from ourselves.

III. There must be different degrees of glory in heaven. (J. Angell James.)

Retribution

The fact of retribution is necessarily a very serious one to all who are not “past feeling.” We find the law of retribution working here in our life. It cannot be denied. The natural inference is that a law here indicates a similar law beyond the period and condition we call temporal. It is wiser and better always to face facts, never to ignore them, never to close our eyes to them. Interrogate them. Let us have the courage resolutely to stand by the laws and facts which are revealed. We recognize in ourselves, and so in other men, a sense of a righteousness which ought to be obeyed and maintained; and we recognize also a condition of feeling, mind, will, life, that is not according to righteousness. All our efforts to make righteousness and unrighteousness the same, or the one a modification of the other, are failures. We recognize also that unrighteousness brings penalty. Righteousness and unrighteousness, happiness and misery, are not expressible in terms of material gifts. The kingdom of God is within you, saith the Lord; so is the kingdom of the devil. Thus, it is evident that in considering this theme of retribution, we have to look below the surface. We have to school ourselves into the recognition that a man is rich or poor really not according to what he has but according to what he is. Let us never lose sight of this fact that union with God in Christ is heaven, for the soul of man was made for that; separation from God in Christ is hell, the soul of man was never made for that. Whatever brings us nearer to God brings us into the sphere of ineffable reward, such as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man to conceive; whatever separates us from Him brings us into that sphere of retribution into which we cannot look far, where the selfish and the loveless find those of their own order and hind.

1. That the Eternal One can make no compromise with sin. “If God were not sure to punish the evil, and to make it bear, so far as it remains evil, the weight of his condemnation, the good would lose for us its reality.”

2. As to duration, that as long as the sin lasts, so long will its appropriate punishment last.

3. That no punishment will be inflicted which will throw the Divine Character as revealed in Christ into discord with itself.

4. That, as there is no malice in the Divine nature and no cruelty, all punishment will have as its purpose an end worthy of the Divine nature.

5. That future punishment will be to present sin as consequence to cause.

6. That it will be inevitable and not arbitrary.

7. That it will be of such a nature, that no enlightened mind in the universe of God can offer any objection to it that shall not be unreasonable. (Reuben Thomas.)

That every man shall finally receive according to his works

I. Here is laid down the general and fundamental doctrine of true religion; that every man shall finally receive of God, according to what he has done. This maxim is the reason and end of all laws, the maintenance and support of all government, the foundation and ground-work of all religion. By the disposition and appointment of the same Author and Ruler of the universe, the moral consequences and connections of things do, in their proper manner, and at their proper seasons, take place likewise in the world. And could our faculties extend themselves, to take in at one view those larger periods of the Divine dispensations, on which depends the harmony and beauty of the moral world; in like manner as our experience enables us to contemplate the yearly products of nature; we should then probably be no more struck with wonder, at the seeming forbearing of providence to interpose at present in the ordering of the moral state of the world, than we are now surprised, in the regular course of nature, to see grain lie as it were dead in the earth in winter, and seemingly dissolving into corruption; and yet, without fail, at the return of its proper season, bringing forth the certain particular fruit, of which it was the seed.

II. Here is a declaration, that every opinion or practice, that subverts this great and fundamental doctrine; is, in reality and in true consequence, a mocking of God: “God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” The word, “mock” (which in the New Testament is in the original expressed by two or three synonymous terms), in its literal and most proper sense, signifies, deceiving any person, deluding him, or disappointing his expectation. Thus Matthew 2:16. At other times, it signifies affronting or abusing any person by open violence. Thus Matthew 20:18. By way of derision, in a scornful, insulting, and despiteful manner. Thus Matthew 27:29. Now in the literal and proper sense of the phrase, ‘tis impossible in the nature of things that God should in any of these ways be mocked. But figuratively, consequentially, and in true reality of guilt and folly, all wicked men, who set themselves to oppose God’s kingdom of righteousness; who, without repentance, amendment, and obedience to God’s commands, expect to escape, and teach others that they may escape, His righteous judgment; are, in the apostle’s estimation, mockers of God. And the grounds or reasons upon which they are justly so esteemed are very evident. For--

1. Such persons, as far as in them lies, confound the necessary reasons and proportions of things, and endeavour to take away the eternal and unchangeable differences of good and evil; which are the original order and rule of God’s creation, and the very foundation of His government over the universe.

2. But also further, because ‘tis an entertaining of very dishonourable and very injurious apprehensions, concerning the perfections and attributes of God Himself.

3. As such persons are, in true estimation of things, mockers of God, upon account of their confounding those essential differences of good and evil, which are the foundation of God’s government over rational creatures; and upon account of their entertaining dishonourable and very injurious apprehensions concerning the perfections and attributes of God Himself: so they are still further guilty of the same charge, in perverting the plain revelation of Christ, and overthrowing the whole design of His religion (see Matthew 16:27; Revelation 22:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). The doctrine itself; that every man shall finally receive of God, according to what he has done, whether it be good, or whether it be evil; that, “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap;” is undeniably proved by all the principles of reason, and expressly confirmed by all the notices of revelation. Yet so manifold and various are the delusions of sin, and such a mist of darkness do the passions and appetites of men continually cast before their eyes; that the apostle thought it necessary to add, with great affection and earnestness, the caution in the text; and to repeat it frequently elsewhere, upon the like occasion (1 Corinthians 3:17-18; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Ephesians 5:5, etc.). And here, that which first and most obviously offers itself, in our view of mankind, is the deceit men put upon themselves by a general carelessness and inattention. They pursue the ends of ambition and covetousness; they labour continually to gratify their passions and appetites; and consider not at all, that the most High regardeth, and that for all these things God will bring them into judgment. Some judge of God by themselves; not according to the reason of things, but by their own disposition and temper. And because they themselves are not apt to be displeased, unless at things directly injurious to themselves; therefore they flatter themselves that God, who can no way be injured by the sins of men, will not be severe in punishing them; and particularly, that His anger will not be so highly provoked by sins of debauchery or injustice, as by irreligion or profaneness. In which matter they deceive themselves for want of considering, that God is not a party, but the Judge and Governor of the universe; who punishes wickedness, not that He himself suffers anything by it, but as being repugnant to the nature and reason of things, to the eternal laws of His righteous government, to the welfare and happiness of the whole creation. Others there are, who deceive themselves by imagining that God is pleased or displeased with little things, instead of judging of men according to the whole course and tenor of a virtuous or vicious life. Another sort of men there are, who seem to content themselves with a loose and general expectation that they shall fare upon the whole as well as others; and that the multitude of those who live in the same sensual way with themselves cannot be all of them in a state liable to God’s severe displeasure. They hope, therefore, that the debaucheries they are guilty of will be put to the account of natural infirmities, and excused as the weaknesses of human nature in general. And here they deceive themselves by not considering, that the very end and design of Christ’s religion, was, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, and purchase to Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works; that we might not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our mind; that we might prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. There are still others, who speak peace to themselves in a vicious course of life, upon the mere general notion of the mercy and patience and goodness of God; without at all considering whether they themselves be proper and capable objects of His mercy and compassion. And these deceive themselves, by fixing their attention wholly upon one single attribute of the Divine nature; and consider not God as indued with all those perfections together, which complete the character of an all-wise and righteous governor of the universe. They consider not, that as power, though infinite, is still confined to what is the object of power, and extends not at all to the working of contradictions; so mercy likewise, however infinite, is still limited to the things which are in their nature the objects of mercy. But the frequentest, and, of all others, the most extensive deceits; are the two following.

I. A careless misunderstanding of certain texts of Scripture, wherein salvation may seem to be promised upon other terms, than the practice of virtue and true righteousness.

II. An imaginary design of future repentance. (S. Clarke, D. D.)

Self-deceit and future retribution

One of the mighty blessings bestowed upon us by the Christian revelation, is, that we have now a certain knowledge of a future state, and of the rewards and punishments that await us after death, and will be adjusted according to our conduct in this world.

I. The sinner’s self-deceit. Of self-deceit, in the great business of our lives, there are various modes. The far greater part of mankind deceive themselves, by willing negligence, by refusing to think on their real state, lest such thoughts should trouble their quiet, or interrupt their pursuits. He that is willing to forget religion may quickly lose it; and that most men are willing to forget it, experience informs us. Others there are, who, without attending to the written revelation of God’s will, form to themselves a scheme of conduct in which vice is mingled with virtue, and who cover from themselves, and hope to cover from God, the indulgence of some criminal desire, or the continuance of some vicious habit, by a few splendid instances of public spirit, or some few effusions of occasional bounty. The mode of self-deception which prevails most in the world, and by which the greatest number of souls is at last betrayed to destruction, is the art which we are all too apt to practise, of putting far from us the evil day, of setting the hour of death, and the day of account, at a great distance.

II. God is not mocked. God is not mocked in any sense. He will not be mocked with counterfeit piety, He will not be mocked with idle resolutions; but the sense in which the text declares that God is not mocked, seems to be, that God will not suffer His decrees to be invalidated; He will not leave His promises unfulfilled, nor His threats unexecuted. And this will easily appear, if we consider, that promises and threats can only become ineffectual by change of mind, or want of power. God cannot change His will; He is not a man that He should repent; what He has spoken will surely come to pass. Neither can He want power to execute His purposes; He who spoke, and the world was made, can speak again, and it will perish.

III. In what sense it is to be understood, that whatsoever a man sows, that shall he reap. (S. Johnson, LL. D.)

The moral harvest

Is it not strange that the apostle should have thought it necessary to draw out into a formal proposition a truth so obvious and admitted as that whatsoever a man soweth, that and not something of a different kind he shall also reap? Is it not universally understood that the product of a field will be according to the nature of the seed sown in it? The contrary proposition involves an absurdity. Why, then, does Paul so solemnly introduce and so formally express this truth, or truism, as I may call it? Because, though this proposition is assented to as expressing a truth in agriculture, it is denied or disregarded as expressing a principle in morals.

1. It is a most interesting view to take of human conduct, that it is a sowing; that all our acts and exercises are as if they were planted in a rich soil, and to produce many fold; that we are to eat of the fruit of our doings, of whatever kind they are. If every act expired in its performance, and every exercise of mind and heart terminated with itself, it would not be of so much importance to attend to the nature of our acts and the character of our exercises. But it is not so. They are seeds sown and abundantly producing each after its kind. How important how I spend this day! centuries answer to it.

2. The seed we sow consists not merely of overt acts, but comprehends whatever goes to constitute or to manifest character. We must beware of our words. We must take heed to our spirits. We must keep our hearts with all diligence. We must not only consider what we are doing, but from what motive, and with what aim we are doing it.

3. How much seed every man sows even in a short life, seed of some sort or other! How many acts, words, thoughts, and feelings enter into the record of every day, and each is a productive seed! Now let these be multiplied by the days of the life of man, and what an aggregate they make!

4. Nothing which is sown is so productive as human conduct; nothing so fertile in its consequences; so abundant in results.

5. The season of sowing precedes that of reaping. Yes, my friends, be not deceived. It does. You may wonder that I so gravely assert this. The reason is, that some deny it. They make sowing and reaping, probation and retribution, contemporaneous. They say we reap while we sow. Every farmer knows better; and every, sinner ought to know better.

6. As it regards the duration of the reaping, we have nothing to rely on but the declaration of Holy Writ.

We may learn some things from this subject.

1. Some suppose that, if a man is only sincere, all will be well with him, however erroneous his views may be, and however wrong his conduct. But can sincerity arrest and alter the tendencies of conduct? If a man, verily thinking he is sowing wheat, sow tares, will he reap wheat?

2. We may learn the importance of beginning right; that the first seeds we sow should be good, because they are the first; they sink deepest. And the first may be the only seeds we shall sow. If you begin not early to sow to the Spirit, you may never sow to it. (W. Nevins, D. D.)

The method of penalty

As we look at retribution in the mingled light of revelation and reason, we can understand why it is that some sins are punished in this world, while other sins await punishment in a future world. If we were to classify the sins that reap their painful consequences here, and those that do not, we would find that the former are offences that pertain to the body, and the order of this world; and that the latter pertain more directly to the spiritual nature. The classification is not sharp; the parts shade into one another; but it is as accurate as is the distinction between the two departments of our nature. In his physical and social nature man was made under the laws of this world. If he breaks these laws, the penalty is inflicted here. It may continue hereafter, for the grave feature of penalty is that it does not tend to end, but continues to act, like force imparted to an object in a vacuum, until arrested by some outside power. But man is also under spiritual laws--reverence, humility, love, self-denial, purity, and all that are commonly known as moral duties. If he offends against these, he may incur but little of painful consequence. There may be much of evil consequence, but the phase of suffering lies farther on. The soil and atmosphere of this world are not adapted to bring it to full fruitage. We constantly see men going through life with little pain or misfortune, perhaps with less than the ordinary share of human suffering, yet we term them sinners. They do not love nor fear God; they have no true love for man; they reject the law of self-denial and the duty of ministration; they stand off from any direct relations to God; they do not pray; their motives are selfish; their temper is worldly; they are devoid of what are called graces, except as mere germs or chance outgrowths, and make no recognition of them as forming the substance of true character. These men seem to be sinning without punishment, and often infer that they do not deserve it. The reason is plain. They keep the laws that pertain to this world, and so do not come in the way of their penalties. They are temperate, and are blessed with health. They are shrewd and economical, and amass wealth. They are prudent, and avoid calamities. They are worldly wise, and thus secure worldly advantages. Courteous in manners, understanding well the intricacies of life, careful in device and action, they secure the good and avoid the evil of the world. If there were no other world, they would be the wisest men, because they best obey the laws of their condition. But man covers two worlds, and he must settle with each before his destiny is decided: he may pass the judgment seat of one acquitted, but stand convicted before the other. It is as truly a law of our nature that we shall worship, as that we shalt eat. If one starves his body, he reaps the fruit of emaciation and disease. But one may starve his soul and none remark it. This world is not the background upon which such processes appear, or they appear but dimly; but when the spiritual world is reached, this spiritual crime will show itself … It is not strange that the world of thinking men reject the doctrine of punishment of sin when it is taught as some far off, arbitrary, outside infliction by God in vindication of His government, the issue of some special sentence after special inquisition. This is unlike God, it has no analogy, no vindication in the Scriptures; it is artificial, coarse, unreasonable. But carry the subject over into the field of cause and effect, and we find it irradiated by the double light of reason and revelation. It takes on a necessary aspect. Penalty is seen to be a natural thing, like the growing of seed. It is not a matter that God, in His sovereignty, will take up after a time, but is a part of His ever-acting law. (T. T. Munger.)

Sowing for eternity

In the stirring history of English martyrology we read of an eminent victim that on one occasion he was taken from his dungeon to a chamber which was hung round with tapestry; that there he was being gradually drawn into a conversation regarding himself and his companions, when in a moment of quietness he heard the sound of a nib of a pen moving upon paper, as if some one were writing behind the arras; and that immediately thereupon he became silent, for well he knew that by a thoughtless word he might bring upon both himself and his brethren the severest suffering. The actions in which now we engage are seeds whose fruit shall be eternal, and when we know and believe that, shall we be less careful of them than he was of his speech? It is told of a famous painter that he was remarkable for the careful manner in which he went about his work, and when one asked him “why he took such pains?” his answer was, “Because I paint for eternity.” Shall this be so in the case of one who is trying to secure a lasting earthly fame, and shall we not be considerate in all our ways, knowing that what we are doing now shall have an eternal effect upon our character and condition? (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

The seed contains the germ of the harvest

The pea contains the vine and the flower and the pod in embryo; and I am sure, when I plant it, that it will produce them, and nothing else. Now, every action of our lives is embryonic, and, according as it is right or wrong, it will surely bring forth the sweet flowers of icy, or the poison fruits of sorrow. Such is the constitution of this world; and the Bible assures us that the next world only carries it forward. (H. W. Beecher.)

Reproduction in kind

I call my child to my knee in anger; I strike him a hasty blow that carries with it the peculiar sting of anger; I speak a loud reproof that bears with it the spirit of anger; and I look in vain for any relenting in his flashing eyes, flushed face, and compressed lips. I have made my child angry, and my uncontrolled passion has produced after its kind. I have sown anger, and I have reaped anger instantaneously. Perhaps I become still more angry, in consequence of the passion manifested by my child, and I speak and strike again. He is weak and I am strong; but, though he bow his head, crushed into silence, I may be sure that there is a sullen heart in the little bosom, and anger the more bitter because it is impotent. I put the child away from me, and think of what I have done. I am full of relentings. I long to ask his pardon, for I know I have offended and deeply injured one of Christ’s little ones. I call him to me again, press his head to my breast, kiss him, and weep. No word is spoken, but the little bosom heaves, the little heart softens, the little eyes grow tenderly penitent, the little hands come up and clasp my neck, and my relentings and my sorrow have produced after their kind. The child is conquered, and so am I. (Pulpit Analyst.)

Harvest in proportion to sowing

There shall be degrees in retribution and reward. The ragged urchin in our city streets, who has not had the opportunities of a Christian household, will not have to gather such a harvest of suffering from his sowing to the flesh as will he who has sinned against light and privilege of the highest order. The heathen, who have not heard of Christ, will not have the same future as those who, having had the Saviour preached to them, have defiantly rejected Him. The condition of each will be proportioned to his guilt. He who creeps in at last to the kingdom through the fast closing gate, and by a deathbed repentance becomes regenerated, shall not have a place like that of the man whose entire life has been devoted to the Lord Jesus. He who made the one pound into ten received in the parable authority over ten cities. He who from the one gained as much as made it five, was set over five cities. All this goes to show that while it is wholly of grace that reward is granted to any believer, yet the reward itself is graduated for each according to the magnitude of the service. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Harvest an increase on sowing

The harvest is always an increase on that which was sown. From the seed of the flesh the ripened result is corruption, which is flesh in its most revolting state. From the seed of the spirit the full ear is life everlasting, which is eternal holiness with its concomitent of endless happiness. And what can I say to make these ideas more clear and forcible that this simple presentation of them is? Corruption! The delirium tremens of the drunkard, and the living death of the sensualist whose sin has found him out here on earth, may help us to understand something of what that must mean in eternity, and for the rest I must ask Byron to help me out:

“It is as if the dead could feel

The icy worm around them steal,

And shudder, as the reptiles creep

To revel o’er their rotting sleep,

Without the power to scare away

The cold consumers of their clay.”

But enough of that! I turn rather to the other side, and bid you remember that the highest happiness of the Christian’s experience on earth will be but like as the faint light of early dawn is to the meridian day, when it is compared with the blessedness of heaven. The harvest is always an increase. We plant a single grain, we pluck a full ear; we sow in handfuls, we reap in bosomfuls; we scatter bushels, but we gather in rich granary stores. The remorse of earth is but the germ of the despair of hell. The holiness of the present is only the bud from which will blossom that vision of God which is the full-flowered beatitude of heaven. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Importance of this life in the light of the future

It used to be said by the apostles of infidelity, under the name of secularism, that belief in a future state unfits men for the performance of the duties of this life by fixing their minds on that which is as yet in the distance. It were as rational to allege that the husbandman by looking forward to the harvest incapacitates himself for the work of the spring-time; or that the youth by setting his ambition on after success is thereby disqualified for the prosecution of his early education. Faith in the future life intensifies the importance of the present by focussing upon it the issues of eternity. It makes us all the more careful to do the work that lies at our hands, not in the fleshly manner of the unrenewed man, but after the spiritual method of the regenerated soul. Every thought we think, every word we speak, every action we perform, every opportunity of service neglected or improved, is a seed sown by us, the fruit of which shall multiply either into untold miseries or myriad blessings in the eternity into which we go. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

The moral harvest

Liability to imposture is perhaps inseparable from human frailty; the best of men have been numbered with its victims. Upon no subject is deception more common--upon none more fatal than that of our accountableness to God.

I. Life is a sowing time. This view of life exhibits it as--

1. A season of mercy. Seed-time is the gracious, the covenant boon of Heaven: forfeited by man’s original transgression, it was restored in virtue of that dispensation of mercy disclosed in the first promise to the fallen; again held in abeyance, whilst the waters of the deluge covered a polluted world, the sacrifice of faith availed to the renewal of the benefaction in terms more distinct, and ratified by a sign, visible to all the nations and coeval with all the successive generations of man.

2. A season of anxious toil. It imposes upon the husbandman the necessity of diligent and laborious exertion; nothing must discourage him from his occupation. Such a season is human life. Idleness, either in respect to temporal or spiritual things, is utterly incompatible with the circumstances or the destiny of our race.

3. A season of limited duration. The seed-time occupies but a comparatively small portion of the year; it is soon over and gone. “And what is your life?” (James 4:14.) The comparison reminds us that life is--

4. A season of immense importance. The sowing season neglected would entail upon the husbandman, and all dependent upon his exertions, certain ruin. Life is the only time wherein the seeds of immortal bliss can be deposited, and the soul prepared for heaven.

II. All men are sowers. Men are active and voluntary agents. Their minds are active. Their passions are active. Their bodies are active. Their influence is active. Men are accountable creatures--necessarily so. Universally so. Consciously so.

III. The seed is of different kinds. NOW all those actions must be denominated fleshly seed, which are the natural produce or fruit of the flesh (Romans 7:5). “The old man,” our carnal nature, “is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,” and “that which is born of the flesh is flesh.” The seed may be attractive in its colour; it may appear clean and free from admixture; but whilst it can boast no higher origin than the natural stock, it is to all intents and purposes fleshly seed. “Marvel not that I said unto you, Ye must be born again.” Again; all those actions demand this appellation, which are intended to realize carnal satisfaction. Hence it will appear, that those actions only deserve to be classed as spiritual seed, that proceed from the regenerating influences of the Holy Spirit upon the heart, and that are performed with a sincere desire to please and to glorify God. Some of these exercises of mind are delineated in Galatians 5:22; Colossians 3:12.

IV. Every man must reap. He cannot employ a substitute, or devolve the consequencies of his actions upon others. He cannot evade or refuse the task. Self-annihilation is impossible, and the field will present itself in every part of the man. Self-oblivion will be impossible, and memory will yield a prolific harvest.

V. The crop will bear a close relation to the seed sown. As to its nature or quality. “He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption,” disappointment, shame, misery, eternal death (Job 4:8; Hosea 8:7; Matthew 7:18-19; Revelation 21:8); “He that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting,” a life of perfect purity, celestial peace, exalted intelligence, immortal joy (Psalms 17:15; 1 John 3:2; Revelation 7:14, etc.). As to its extent. The subject impresses the necessity of regeneration. “They that are in the flesh cannot please God. (J. Broad.)

The spiritual harvest

I. That every man, in his earthly condition, is to be regarded as a sower.

II. That the kind of seed sown depends on every man’s choice.

III. That the sower shall at length become the reaper.

IV. That the character of the harvest will exactly correspond with the kind of seed. (J. Davies, M. A.)

Sowing to the flesh

Not so much the act of indulging in irregular passions, as the providing for their indulgence. The daughter who engages in a ceaseless round of gaieties, who hastens from one scene of amusement to another, whose attention is wholly directed to the frivolities of dissipation, and from whose course of life nothing can be more diverse than preparation for eternity; it is not so much she who can be said to “sow to the flesh,” as her father, who provides all the means of enjoyment in which she indulges, although perhaps he has himself no taste for such delights, although perhaps with brow wrinkled by care he has no desires beyond his counting-house; he whose whole attention is absorbed in the pursuit of gain, and as utterly regardless of a preparation for eternity as his daughter--he it is who “sows to the flesh.” Both are hastening to the same end, but by different ways; she “sows the whirlwind,” while he “reaps the storm.”

I. The brevity of all the objects of this world’s ambition. Suppose a man who has been engaged in the pursuit of wealth to attain the summit of his ambition. He may, indeed, enjoy a brief hour of delight, but that hour will soon be past. The wealth he has acquired may not be taken from him; but he will, sooner or later, be taken from it. The splendid mansion he has reared may stand in castellated pride for many generations, and his domain may smile for ages in undiminished beauty; but in less, perhaps, than half a generation, death will shoot his unbidden way into the inner apartment, and without despoiling the lord of his possessions, will despoil the possessions of their lord! It is not his way to tear the parchments and rights of investiture from the hand of the proprietor, but he paralyzes and unlocks the hand, and they fall like useless and forgotten things away from him. Thus death smiles in ghastly contempt on all human aggrandisement; he meddles not with the things that are occupied, but lays hold of the occupier; he does not seize on the wealth, but lays his arrest on the owner! he forces away his body to the grave, where it crumbles into dust; and in turning the soul out of its warm and well-favoured tenement, he turns it adrift on the cheerless waste of a desolate and neglected eternity.

II. The unprovided state, with respect to eternity, in which all are living who sow to the flesh. This world is between heaven and hell; but the existence of such a middle region, where the creature may enjoy himself amid the Creator’s gifts, and care not for the Giver, cannot long be tolerated. According to the natural course of things, it will come to an end. He who chooses this world for his portion may have his “good things” here, but leaves his eternity a blank. His desires being earthly, his reward is perishable. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)

Retribution, though delayed, comes at last

Penalties are often so long delayed that men think they shall escape them; but some time or other they are certain to follow. When the whirlwind sweeps through the forest, at its first breath, or almost as if the fearful stillness that precedes had crushed it, the giant tree with all its boughs falls crashing to the ground. But it had been preparing to fall for twenty years. Twenty years before it received a gash. Twenty years before the water commenced to settle in at some crotch, and from thence decay began to reach in with its silent fingers towards the heart of the tree. Every year the work of death progressed, till at length it stood, all rottenness, only clasped about by the bark with a semblance of life, and the first gale felled it to the ground. Now there are men who for twenty years have shamed the day and wearied the night with their debaucheries, but who yet seem strong and vigorous, and exclaim. “You need not talk of penalties. Look at me! I have revelled in pleasure for twenty years, and I am as hale and hearty to-day as ever.” But in reality they are full of weakness and decay. They have been preparing to fall for twenty years, and the first disease strikes them down in a moment. Ascending from the physical nature of man to the mind and character, we find the same laws prevail. People sometimes say, “Dishonesty is as good as honesty, for aught I see. There are such and such men who have pursued for years the most corrupt courses in their business, and yet they prosper, and are geting rich every day.” Wait till you see their end. Every year how many such men are overtaken with sudden destruction, and swept for ever out of sight and remembrance? Many a man has gone on in sin, practising secret frauds and villainies, yet trusted and honoured, till at length, in some unsuspected hour, he is detected, and, denounced by the world, he fails item his high estate as if a cannon-ball had struck him--for there is no cannon that can strike more fatally than outraged public sentiment--and flies over the mountains, or across the sea, to escape the odium of his life. He believed that his evil course was building him up in fame and fortune; but financiering is the devil’s forge, and his every act was a blow upon the anvil shaping the dagger that should one day strike home to his heart, and make him a suicide. (H. W. Beecher.)

Reproduction in kind

1. The first law which invites our attention in the field of reproduction is, that like produces like. The seed of a fig never can be made to produce a thistle, nor the thistle-seed a fig. The corn, concealed for three thousand years in the hand of an Egyptian mummy, and last year discovered and planted in the earth, produced precisely the same sort of grain which grew so many centuries ago from similar seed. The same law is equally imperative as relates to every variety of the animal species. Sheep and goats, though mingling for centuries in flocks cared for by the same shepherd, never confuse their distinctive features. The ant which to-day runs athwart our path is the same insect, in kind, to which Solomon directed the sluggard, to learn a lesson of wisdom in industry. The lark which now rises upon the wing of song to meet the early morning rays is the same songster, in kind, which regaled the ears of Adam in Eden’s bowers. Like produces like; and whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. Words, thoughts, desires, are seeds; eye-glances, and ear-attentions, and hand operations, and feet movements are seeds; habits are seeds. The lives of others are gardens; so likewise the home circle, the social assembly, the church, the congregation, the office, the warehouse, the public conveyance--ay, every child or adult--the very laws and elements of nature are gardens in which we are sowing these seeds; and “whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” God has so ordered the vast machinery of our earthly habitation that we shall be paid in the harvest that which we have scattered in the seeding-time. It is the law in individual sympathies. Love begets love, and hate excites hate, and anger arouses anger, and the results of our mental dispositions return into our own bosoms. Impatience provokes impatience, and violence awakens violence, and we reap the harvests of our own moods and humours. But that like produces like is most clearly evinced in this: that that state and temper which we cultivate assumes a more intensified form. The man who once gives way to forbidden pleasure reaps the harvest of a stronger and stronger desire, till, upon further indulgence, the desire is followed by a craving, which, in turn, is succeeded by insatiable rage. A moderate heat is agreeable, but a burning fire is torture. So the early indulgence of unlawful passion (though for a season it be pleasurable), the harvest of misery and corruption will but too quickly and surely succeed. What is the consuming thirst of the inebriate but the harvest of a once manageable but indulged desire! What is the wasting passion of the debauchee but the harvest of those urgencies which could once have been controlled! What is the maddening passion of the gambler but the harvest of that seed which was scattered in the earlier indulgence of the spirit of venture! What is the idolatry of the covetous man but the reaping of those habits which were sown in the cultivation of desires for gain forbidden by the Tenth Commandment! What is that dolorous and destructive emulation of the ambitious man but the returning into his own bosom of the harvest which was sown by the indulgence of vanity and pride! What is that outward and ragged filth of the blear-eyed and staggering prodigal, but the harvest of indulged inward impurity! Can a more terrible harvest be reaped than that self-consuming, ever-increasing intensity of passion which is the necessary result of indulged and unlawful desire? Like produces like, and we cannot sow vice and reap the reward of virtue. Idleness can never rise to gather in the rewards of industry. Unbelief never can be followed by the golden harvest of faith. The acceptance of error never can be made to produce the good effects of truth, nor can truth ever he made to damage the soul, like its opposite. The only possible way in which we can reap good is to sow good; for an unchangeable law of God it is, that like must produce its like.

2. A second law of reproduction is, that the harvest multiplies upon the sowing. One grain may produce a hundred. This is true of good seed, and likewise of the bad. One thistle-down, which blew from the deck of a vessel, is said to have covered with full-grown thistles the entire surface of a South Sea island. A single error or sin of youth may overspread our whole life with misery; and a life spent in impenitency here will be followed by an eternity of regret hereafter.

3. A third law of reproduction is, that the bad is voluntary and the good is involuntary. Marvellous it is to behold how prolific the earth is of the useless and the vile. The ground owes the weeds to itself, and the corn to the hands of the husbandman. The seeds of evil lie deep and lie long, and are instantly responsive to circumstances favourable to their growth. For sin we are indebted to ourselves; for righteousness to the gracious purpose and intervening hand of God. In the kingdom of grace there may be examples--like Samuel and John the Baptist--who display the fruits of the Spirit at the early dawn of life; still, it is none the less true, in these cases as in others, the fear of God is planted by the agency of the Holy Ghost. In a tropical latitude the fields may be waving their golden grain when, further from the equator, the mantle of winter is still enshrouding the earth. But at the South the ground, covered with fruit, is as much indebted to the hand of the husbandman as, at a later period, the northern fields are dependent upon the seed of the sower, and the care of the labourer. So, whether piety be exhibited earlier or later in life, we are equally indebted to the gracious and merciful intervention of the Divine Husbandman. (A. McElroy Wylie.)


Verse 9

Galatians 6:9

And let us not be weary in well doing.

Perserverance in religious duties

The path of duty is often found to be the path of difficulty and discouragement. Efforts to do good are often misunderstood and ill-requited; benevolent plans are ridiculed, motives misrepresented, kindness of heart abused, hopes of success treated as visionary and absurd. Still the conscientious, right-minded, true servant of God is a man of determination; he acts from principle, not impulse; his heart is in the work, therefore he proceeds in it, doing his utmost to discharge the duties God has laid on him.

I. The duty. To do what is just and approved in God’s sight. This refers--

1. To ourselves.

2. To our fellow-men.

II. The manner of performing it. Unweariedly. Much need for this admonition. We often feel our unfitness and unworthiness to be employed in doing good. Let us take heed lest our supposed humility and self-depreciation proceed really from coldness of heart, apathy, selfishness, deadness of spirit. Great need for diligence, patience, and heartfelt earnestness.

III. The motive. “In due season we shall reap,” etc. Encouraging to know this. God’s service is not labour without return. He gives to every man according to his work--exactly what he deserves. (George Weight, M. A.)

The importance of well-doing

The interest of this world arises from the fact that here we lay the foundation of our character for eternity.

I. Consider the Christian man’s vocation in the present world. “Well-doing.” While other men are setting before themselves, as objects of ultimate attainment, the possession of wealth, of worldly aggrandisement, of luxurious ease, he is to be emulating the example of Him of whom it was said, “He went about doing good.”

1. This life is not merely for contemplation.

2. Nor is it merely for projecting schemes--religious castle-building. We are placed here to do, not to plan or talk.

3. The believer is endowed by God with the capacity for imparting blessing to his fellow-men.

II. An incentive to perseverance.

1. The fulfilment of the Christian vocation is connected with certain reward in the future. All works done for God are the sowing of seed, the fruits of which will be reaped another day. The earnest prayer, the sympathizing or reproving word, the self-denying and laborious effort--little accounted of here, and perhaps unassociated with any thought of future recompense--are all helping to form the material out of which will be woven the robe of unfading brightness and beauty which the Lord Himself shall cast upon His own, in the great harvest-time to come.

2. This reward will be bestowed at an appropriate period. “In due season.” God does not act without a deliberate plan of His own, and amid all the apparent conflict and confusion of human events, that plan is being wrought out, and at the proper time appointed by Him will be accomplished. This intimation is admirably calculated to correct our misapprehensions, and evoke our confidence.

3. The assurance of certain reward is a sufficient motive to perseverance under every temptation to weariness. Just as, under the influence of some mighty exciting cause, the human frame can bear an amount of toil, or lift burdens, under which at ordinary times it would utterly bow down; so we, inspirited by the prospect of our glorious future, animated by foretastes of heavenly joy, would be transformed, each one into a spiritual Hercules, equal to all toil, affrighted at no difficulties, ready for all labours, exultant over all opposition. (C. M. Merry.)

Exhortation and assistance

Our great want is confessedly staying power. Impulse and spasm are common; not so permanence in character and conduct. The wheels of Christian energy begin rolling gaily enough; but are soon checked by weariness, depression, disappointment; and the result, too often, is failure. Against this weariness St. Paul here warns us, and he unfolds his thought in a parable. The husbandman sows his seed, which, in the act of sowing, passes out of sight. He waits with long patience for it to sprout and come forth; but he faints not, knowing that harvest as well as seed-time is an ordinance of God and cannot fail. So, after we have sown the seeds of effort and endeavour, we must not faint if the harvest does not follow on the heel of seed-time.

I. The admonition.

1. We are sowers.

2. In our sowing, an absence of apparent results will beget weariness. Even Christ grew weary in His work, never of His work. Let us take care that our weariness is like His.

3. Our weariness, unlike Christ’s, may arise from misunderstanding of the ways of God. His ways are hidden. Results do not appear at once. Slowly He works, but surely, and fast enough. Let us not be in greater haste.

II. The assurance. “Due season” is God’s time, not ours. For us, it may not even be in this world at all; we may be only sowers here; still we shall reap one day--Christ will be no man’s debtor. (William Scott.)

The commandment against weariness

Why is weariness deprecated?

1. It invites failure. The task set us is listlessly performed; interest flags; no great results are expected; mechanical routine gradually steals into the holiest service. Our attitude conveys no inspiration, but rather depresses,

2. It may forfeit the reward. Only by waiting and persevering to the end does the toiler secure his harvest.

3. It dishonours Christ. (St. John A. Frere, M. A.)

Well-doing

Paul himself often weary (2 Corinthians 11:23-28), but he never loses heart. As a minister of the glad tidings, he maintains a cheerful serenity amid discouragements, and exhorts his converts to cultivate the same spirit.

I. The Christian’s duty. “Well-doing.” Practical religion. Sin is wrong-doing. The faith that saves impels to the opposite.

1. Duty to God.

2. Duty to self.

3. Duty to one’s neighbour.

II. The Christian’s danger in duty. Weariness of spirit may arise from--

1. Physical exhaustion.

2. Spiritual exhaustion--worry.

3. Fruitless toil.

4. Opposition from those who should help.

5. Oppression from the sense of responsibility.

III. The Christian’s encouragement in duty.

1. The present is sowing-time.

2. The time of reaping is certain.

3. There is a right time for such reaping; “in due season.”

4. Each shall gather for himself of his own sowing. (J. E. Flower, M. A.)

Reward of perseverance

A German musician whose sense of sound was remarkably acute, tells us that a day or two after he landed, he entered one of our churches. The music happened to be most discordant, and his first impulse was to rush out again. “But this,” said he, “I feared to do, lest offence might be given; so I resolved to endure the torture with the best fortitude I could assume, when lo! I distinguished, amid the din, the soft, clear voice of a woman, singing in perfect tune. She made no effort to drown the voice of her companions, neither was she disturbed by their noisy discord; but patiently and sweetly she sang in full rich tones; one after another yielded to the gentle influence, and before the tune was finished all were in perfect harmony.” I have often thought of this story, as conveying an instructive lesson to the Christian. The spirit that can thus sing patiently and sweetly in a world of discord, must, indeed, be of the purest kind. The Christian sometimes scarce can hear his own voice amid the multitude; and ever and anon comes the temptation to sing louder than they, and drown the voices that cannot be forced into perfect tune. But the melodious tones, cracked into shrillness, would only increase the tumult. And more frequently comes the temptation to stop singing, and let discord do its own wild work. But blessed are they that endure to the end--singing patiently and sweetly, till all join in with loving acquiescence, and universal harmony prevails without forcing into submission the free discord of a single voice. (Illustrations of Truth.)

The way to success

It is the old route of labour, along which are many landmarks and many wrecks. It is lesson after lesson with the scholar, blow after blow with the labourer, crop after crop with the farmer, picture after picture with the painter, step after step, and mile after mile with the traveller, that secures what all desire--success. Alexander desired his preceptor to prepare for him some easier and shorter way to learn geometey; but he was told that he must be content to travel the same road as others.

Encouragement to steadfastness in religious duties

1. The way of duty is difficult; that of sin easy.

2. After we have received grace, we are still prone to depart from God.

3. The prospect of a happy issue of our labours is a strong support.

4. The gospel encourages us to expect a certain and seasonable recompense.

I. When we may be said to be weary in well-doing.

1. Well-doing respects every part of a Christian’s duty.

2. We may apprehend ourselves weary in it when we are not really so.

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

II. The argument used to dissuade us from it.

1. The hope only of a harvest is enough to stimulate the husbandman to his labours. But the Christian is sure of a harvest in due time if he faint not.

2. Let this consideration animate us.to steadfastness. The harvest will amply repay the labour. (C. Simeon, M. A.)

Necessity of perseverance

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.)

Reward of perseverance

An old man in Walton, whom Mr. Thornton had in vain urged to come to church, was taken ill and confined to his bed. Mr. Thornton went to the cottage, and asked to see him. The old man, hearing his voice below, answered in no very courteous tone, “I don’t want you here; you may go away.” The following day he returned to the charge. “Well, my friend, may I come up to-day and sit beside you?” Again he received the same reply, “I don’t want you here.” Twenty-one days successively Mr. Thornton paid his visit to thee cottage, and on the twenty-second his perseverance was rewarded. He was permitted to enter the room of the aged sufferer, to read the Bible, and pray by his bedside. The poor man recovered and became one of the most regular attendants at the House of God.

Little efforts, if continuous, produce great results

A poor woman had a supply of coal laid at her door by a charitable neighbour. A very little girl came out with a small fire-shovel, and began to take up a shovelful at a time, and carry it to a sort of bin in the cellar. I said to the child, “Do you expect to get all that coal in with that little shovel?” She was quite confused at my question, but her answer was very striking: “Yes, sir, if I work long enough.” So it is with everything in life. Humble worker, make up for your want of ability by continuous effort, and your lifework will not be trivial.

Sowing and reaping

Mr. Garrison’s last recorded public utterances in England closed with these memorable words:--“I began my advocacy of the anti-slavery cause in the Northern States of America, in the midst of brickbats and rotten eggs, and ended it on the soil of South Carolina, almost literally buried beneath the wreaths and flowers which were heaped upon me by her liberated bondmen.”

Reaping in due season

We must not look to sow and to reap in a day, as he saith of the people far north that they sow shortly after the sun rises with them, and reap before it sets, that is, because the whole half year is one continued day with them. (Trapp.)

The harvest delayed, but sure

Many years ago, in England, a lad heard Mr. Flavel preach from the text: “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha.” Years passed on. The lad became a man. He came to this country. He lived to be a hundred years old and yet had not found the Lord. Standing at that age in the field one day, he bethought himself of a sermon which he had heard eighty-five years before, and of the fact that when Mr. Flavel had finished the discourse and came to the close of the service, he said, “I shall not pronounce the benediction. I cannot pronounce it when there may be in this audience those who love not the Lord Jesus Christ and are anathema maranatha.” The memory of that old scene came over him, and then and there he gave his heart to God--the old sermon eighty-five years before preached coming to resurrection in the man’s salvation. Would God that those of us who now preach the gospel of Jesus Christ might utter some word that will resound in helpfulness and in redemption long after we are dead! (Dr. Talmage.)

We’ll doing, good doing

But more than this. I must be “well-doing.” The Greek word expresses beauty, and this enters into the apostolic thought. True piety is lovely. Just so far as it comes short in the beautiful, it becomes monstrous. But as used by Paul it goes far beyond this, and signifies all moral excellence. Activity is not enough; for activity the intensest may be evil. Lucifer is as active, as constantly and earnestly, as Gabriel. But the one is a fiend and the other a seraph. Any activity that is not good is a curse always and only. Better be dead, inert matter--a stone, a clod--than a stinging reptile, or a destroying demon. And herein lies the great practical change in regeneration. It transforms the mere doer into a well-doer. It is not so much a change in the energy as in the direction. “We must be doing good.” (C. Wadsworth, D. D.)

Constancy in well-doing

I. The engagement referred to. “Well-doing.” What is well-doing?

1. Well-doing must respect ourselves. And this supposes that we have been converted from the evil of our ways, for we cannot do well in the ways of depravity and practical evil.

2. Well-doing must respect the Church. Our first concern must be our personal salvation and happiness, then the mystical body of Christ, the Church. We must be eyes to see, ears to harken, mouths to plead, hands to labour, feet to walk, or shoulders to bear for the body the Church (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 4:11-13).

3. Well-doing must respect the world. Believers are not of it, or conformed to it; but they are in it, and they must live to promote its welfare.

II. The exhortation given.

1. The text supposes that there is danger of wearying. This may arise from various causes.

2. Constancy and perseverance.

III. The motive the text assigns. “We shall reap if we faint not.” “We shall reap.”

1. The first-fruits here. In doing good we obtain good.

2. The full harvest hereafter. “In due season.”

Application:

1. Evil-doers shall also reap--wretchedness and anxiety here, and eternal woe hereafter.

2. Those who cease well-doing cannot obtain the promised reward. (J. Burns, D. D.)

Weariness in well-doing

Well-doing may be of two kinds--subjective, the doing well to ourselves simply; objective, the doing well towards others. It is quite true that we cannot very well separate these, for, as Seneca says, “He that does good to another man does good also unto himself, not only in the consequences, but in the very act of doing it, for the conscience of well-doing is an ample reward.” If a man should set himself to improve his mind and manners simply out of a desire to be something better than he had been, he would still, in the doing, be helping others, for he would become a more valuable member of society. And, on the other hand, no man can set himself to do good to others without receiving good himself. Hence, it must appear to us that God, in His providence, has so ordered it that well-doing is neeessary to well-being. It is assumed, however, that there is a strong temptation to grow weary in well-doing, to cease from good activities. And this for three reasons.

1. On account of the indolence of our nature.

2. On account of not seeing adequate results to our efforts. We are constantly hearing of the disappointments which come to all Christian workers; indeed of the discouragements which come to all benevolent helpers of all kinds. I grant you that large results are often given. But the word “results” is a very indefinite kind of word. It may be that the results which God can give are not the results which you mean. “Only one soul brought to Christ by all my efforts,” says a discouraged Sunday School teacher. Let us look at that expression a moment. Supposing that Sunday School teacher had built the pyramids, it would have been undeniably a great result of persistent labour, but it would have been such labour as would last at the longest for a limited time, and its use would be problematical, for we are not very sure why and for what the pyramids were built. Supposing one soul is brought to Christ, and permanently united to Christ by the love and faith of the heart, so united that that soul becomes a faithful Christian soul, living a life of love and faith, doing good to others, and those others doing good to a wider circle still, and so from generation to generation the influence broadens, how can you calculate the result?

3. And this brings me to a third source of weariness and discouragement in well-doing--our narrow and inadequate views of life. We constantly forget that this life of ours is, as to everything mental and spiritual, the sowing time, not the time of reaping. “For, in due season, ye shall reap if ye faint not.” And as the farmer has long patience, so ought we to have long patience. Our narrow views of life account for much of our weariness in well-doing. Practically, we plan for this life and this only. Our sentiments may embrace the beyond, our opinions, actions, plans, purposes are too much controlled by the example set us by the men whose creed is “let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” And so we sow only that which we can reap now--or that which the children in our households can reap here on earth. Not entirely of course, but too much. I might appeal on the ground of self-interest--only in well-doing can we develop our own natures into the fulness of their powers. To enkindle the mind, to enlarge the heart, to awake the imagination, these will be spiritual results to ourselves, worth while surely. Even here on earth, says Lord Jeffrey, “he will always see the most beauty in things whose affections are warmest and most exercised, whose imagination is the most powerful, and who has most accustomed himself to attend to the objects by which he is surrounded.” How are we to get that competence to feel the invisible in the visible which a Wordsworth possessed so royally, which makes Ruskin the high-priest of the beautiful to the age in which he lives? Only by well-doing, not spasmodically and occasionally, but of set intent and purpose. We may, like the caterpillar, spin a very beautiful cocoon and call it our home, but even the caterpillar will teach us, if we will listen, that if he were to remain satisfied in that silken ball which he has woven, it would become not his home, but his tomb. Forcing a way through it, and not resting in it, he finds sunshine and air and life more abundantly. Man says--here will I rest. I will make my home in these pleasant surroundings. I will shut out the sob of sorrow, the wail of the woe-worn, the sigh of the suffering, the baying and babblement of the crowd; here, spending my sympathies on myself, I will enjoy all that is enjoyable. Ah! that silken cocoon!--fastened in it you are dead while you live. No, says God, that is not what I mean for you. And He calls to His aid His angels, clothes them in funeral robes, and they call themselves Pain, Disease, Death; and they stir up the intellect, the heart, the imagination, compel men to think and to feel about eternity, and then, when it is all over, these disguised angels throw aside the masks they have worn and strip off the sable garb, and lo! underneath is the pure white of immortality. We are sowers of seed here. Let us not forget that “he that soweth to the flesh,” etc. And, “let us not be weary,” etc. (Reuen Thomas.)

The reward of unwearied diligence in the work of the Lord

1. The first principle of stedfast and abounding righteousness is a constant sense of the obligation of the Divine law. Thus, the Christian, in all his conduct, acts agreeably to the dictates of religion.

2. The second principle of standing fast and growing in righteousness, so as not to weary in well-doing, is that of love. Love is the sovereign attribute of God in relation to man. Was it not love, to fill the universe with animated beings, and to pour the riches of beauty and happiness over creation? Was it not love, to form man after the image of God, and to breathe into him a thinking, reasonable, immortal spirit? And is it not love, that at this moment we think, and feel, and hear, and see, amidst the enjoyment of the light of the sun, all the means of temporal being, and everything that sweetens life? Now, from the sense of all this goodness, will not the man, who is not dead to every generous feeling in human nature, love the Lord his Maker and Saviour with all his heart, and soul, and strength? Will not the love of Christ constrain him?

3. The third principle of unwearied stedfastness and increase in the work of the Lord, is a conviction of the evil of sin. In this respect a good man partakes of the Spirit of that holy and righteous Being who hateth the workers of iniquity, and with whom evil cannot dwell. He despises what is mean, and abhors what is impure, with every false and wicked way. The sentiment we describe is, moreover, quickened by fellow-feeling with the Saviour of man, who, laying aside the form of God, gave Himself up to sorrow, and suffering, and death, for sin. Now in all cases sympathy is a powerful spring of action; it interests the heart and raises every power of the soul.

4. Another principle of unwearied well-doing and increasing righteousness, is the conviction that holiness is necessary as a qualification of the Christian fellowship. The great law of communion with Christ is that of light, purity, and righteousness, in opposition to the spiritual darkness of corruption and sin. If, then, we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, that is sin, “we deceive ourselves,” says the apostle. But if we walk in light, or righteousness, then we have communion with the Father and His Son; and, cherished by the rays of Divine light from the Sun of Righteousness, graces spring up, and virtues flourish in our lives, as the tender herb with the fostering warmth and dew of heaven.

5. The last principle of holding fast our integrity, so as not to weary in well-doing, is a firm confidence in the declaration that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord; that if we faint not in well-doing, we shall reap through Jesus Christ the fruit of eternal life and peace. It is the prospect of this that purifies the heart, and exalts the affections beyond the earth to things above. How animating the motive to perseverance and progress in grace, that the fruit of these things shall be peace and joy unspeakable for evermore! (R. Macknight, D. D.)

A caution against declension in the ways of practical piety

I. Let us inquire, what is the nature of the evil against which we are guarded in the text. “Be not weary in well-doing.” And for this purpose it is not improper we should briefly touch upon the nature of the well-doing here intended, that we may be enabled the more easily to understand what it is to be weary of it. By well-doing here we are to understand, in general, the duties we owe to God, our neighbour, and ourselves. These are of great extent; they are many in number, and important in their nature. There is not a single relation we sustain to God, or to each other, but what is fruitful of a variety of these duties. They include all that the sacred oracles mean by piety towards God; by justice, benevolence and humanity towards our neighbour, and by sobriety and temperance in our conduce towards ourselves. These duties are called well-doing, because in a conscientious observance of them we do well; we comply with the approving will of God. The weariness in well-doing, against which we are here guarded, ordinarily begins in the less of that relish for Divine things, and that pleasure in the ways of God, which the person may have had in days past.

II. Why we should guard against being thus weary in well-doing, and pursue the contrary line of conduct.

1. Because this evil, as described, is a fatal symtom of an unregenerate state. True grace is a living principle, and wherever it is found in the heart, it always tends towards perfection.

2. Those who grow weary in well-doing, so as to forsake the ways of practical godliness, lose all their former labour and pains in religion. It is not enough that we being in the ways of God, that we set out in the paths of piety, but we must persevere in them; we must endure to the end; for he alone “that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.”

3. We ought not to grow weary in well-doing, for God is not weary in doing good to us. He not only gave us our being, but He holds our souls in life. By His visitation alone we are preserved.

4. We have many bright examples of patience and perseverence in well-doing, to encourage us not to be weary in it.

5. There is a glorious reward before us, if we do not grow weary in well-doing. This is the argument urged by the apostle in our text: “for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Again: It will be a full reward. Never did the most plenteous harvest reward the labours of the husbandman more certainly or fully, than the joys and glories of the future world shall reward the faithful, persevering, and diligent disciples of Jesus. They shall enter into the joy of their Lord. Once more: This reward will bear some proportion to our faithfulness and diligence in our Lord’s service here.

Concluding admonitions:

1. As ever you would desire not to be weary in well-doing, beware of sloth in the ways of God. This is a sin natural to us; but there are few greater enemies to vital godliness than it is.

2. Beware of venturing on known sin, especially the sin to which you are most inclined. (John Rodgers, D. D.)

A dissuasive from weariness in well-doing

I. Well-doing is an important feature of the Christian character. If it be a true and an approved maxim in common things--to be ever active in laudable pursuits is the distinguishing characteristic of a man of merit--in a high and peculiar sense may it be asserted of real Christians, that they “cease from evil, and learn to do well.”

II. The evil to which the Christian is exposed, and against which he is cautioned--weariness in well-doing.

III. The powerful antidote to the threatening evil--“for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.” In conclusion:

1. It may perhaps be thought necessary that some guard be put to the doctrine, lest grace be dishonoured, and the worthless idol of human merit be exalted. Be it then observed, as Scripture teacheth, that the work is of grace, and the reward of grace. In every duty done for God, grace calls to the work, aids in the discharge of it, makes meet for and finally bestows the promised inheritance.

2. It must be remembered, that celestial honours await only the faithful unto death. Death alone must terminate exertion and fidelity.

3. What encouragement does the service of God yield, to make us valiant for the truth and patient in well-doing? “The work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever.” Polycarp could say, when commanded to deny Christ, “I have served Him these six and eighty years, and He has never hurt me, and shall I deny Him now?” Go and do likewise. (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

Perseverence in well-doing--

I. Our duty. There are two things in connection with duty which it will be well for us to remember--well-doing, and constancy in well-doing. Action is at once the destiny and the lot of man. All the conditions of his existence are training for his activity. The text contains special exhortation to constancy in well-doing. He was thinking not only of the fickleness of the Galatian Church, but upon the general possibility of paralysis common to the whole family of man. The wants of the world and the wants of the Church demand action. The same motives enforce constancy. If we weary in well-doing, we shall be the only recreants from duty. Does the Spirit tire of striving? Is there any pause in the intercession of the Son? Are the ranks of evil weary? Does not death still stalk, sword in hand, over the great battle-field of life?

II. The special encouragement which the apostle presents. There is a reward promised by Him who cannot lie, and preserved by Him who cannot be turned from His purpose. The moral harvest comes all to perfection; not a grain is lost. Surely you will not be weary, when your salvation is so much nearer than when you first believed? (W. M. Punshon, D. D.)

Be not weary

I. The causes of weariness in well-doing.

1. The difficulty of the work. Well-doing from right motives is the most difficult of all works. It is purely a spiritual work; and no man can enter upon it, and do it aright, unless he be a spiritual man. When a Christian first enters upon this work, he thinks that all is easy; that to convert souls is no great difficulty: to draw other minds into the state in which he is, is but simply a pleasant exercise. And sometimes God favours those, who thus enter upon the work zealously and affectionately, in their first efforts, with remarkable success. But after a little while, difficulties begin to spring up, which they had never before seen; difficulties, which appear to them to be insurmountable. For see what the individual who has to instruct the human mind, has to contend with. First there are the strongholds of prejudice, which guard all the avenues to that mind; and these are found in the child often, as well as in the man. Then there are the gates of unbelief, thicker and stronger than the gates of Gaza; which only the spiritual Samson can carry away. Then there is the ancient wall of old educational prejudices and feelings, against submission to Christ and His gospel, which has to be thrown down, before you can go up and take the city. No doubt the work is hard; yet you should not despair. Every good work is difficult; never was there a good work very easily done. It is always associated with great difficulty. And difficulties always rouse a generous mind. The soldier--it is natural to him to be amongst bullets, and to mount up cliffs, in order to plant his standard upon castles and difficult places. The sailor thinks it a tame voyage if he never has a storm; it is the storm that rouses him to action; and the battle that brings out the soldier’s energies. Besides, difficulties are just nothing to Omnipotence. It is nothing for Him to speak to that child that you cannot affect, and the work is done. You are but a channel; His is the power; and that power can be communicated through you.

2. Then, secondly, this weariness often arises from a sense of our own insufficiency. As, when God called Moses to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt, he said--“O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore nor since Thou hast spoken unto Thy servant, but I am slow of speech and of a slow tongue;” just so does a Sunday School teacher often speak. “Send any one to this work,” says Moses, “only send not me.” And the teacher, when he sees, as he carries on this work, his own knowledge so imperfect, his own faith so weak, his own love so cold, his own zeal so dying, exclaims--“What can I do?” And then Satan rushes in, while the mind is thus exercised; and he says--“What can such a wretch as you effect? how can you expect to be blessed? Go, learn yourself, before you teach others; how can you place yourself in such a position, to teach others the way to heaven?” Sometimes, to humble the individual, and to show that individual that the work is wholly of God, He lets us see how helpless and how weak we are. But this, instead of discouraging us, should only make us cling closer to Him.

3. Then, thirdly, this weariness springs from the trials, to which “well-doing” frequently exposes individuals.

4. Another cause of this weariness is the want of success.

5. The want of love to Christ.

6. The want of spirituality of mind.

7. The want of faith.

II. The necessity of perseverance in well-doing. Should it not excite us to perseverance, when we think that Christ our Master has entrusted His cause in our hands? Who are we, that the Lord of all should let us labour for Him? Then the brevity of our time is another reason for perseverance. “Brethren, the time is short.” Opportunities are few; and if we would do good, they must be seized. The waterman seizes the tide, the moment it turns; the sailor seizes the breeze, the moment it springs up; Christ, the day in which the Father sent Him to execute His will. “I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work/’ So said He, who could do more work in a minute, than we can do in a whole life. Then there is another reason which ought to excite us to perseverance: the account we must render. “Give an account of thy stewardship: for thou mayest be no longer steward.”

III. The certainty of success in well-doing. “We shall reap.” About that there is no doubt. God has by this promise connected our diligence in well-doing with a harvest of blessedness and of honour. Do you ask me, then, what kind of reaping you shall have? Think of these three things. First, you shall reap spiritual advantage. “He that watereth shall be watered also himself.” And it is no small mercy, to reap a lively heart, and a generous soul, and an affectionate spirit, and a willingness to labour in Christ’s cause, as a reward for any little acts we perform for Him. Relative usefulness shall be another portion of your reaping: “we shall reap, if we faint not.” “Everything is beautiful in its season.” Good harvest time, then, has not yet arrived. Some are later, too, than others; but the promise is sure, stable as the everlasting hills; sowing the seed, which “is the Word,” will naturally produce all its legitimate effects. Then I add, you shall reap Divine approbation. And surely that is not a small thing. Oh I to hear my Master “say in that day, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” And to address it to me, who felt so often tired, and yet by His grace was enabled to persevere! To see Him rise from His seat, and stretch out His hand, and say, “Come, thou blessed child of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (James Sherman.)

The weary well-doers

In such a complicated social state as ours, those who do not know how to do good probably outnumber those who do not care. The weary and hopeless outnumber the careless, if one may judge by the eager throng which presses into the field when some direct, immediate good is set before them as capable of being done. The difficulty of the problem depresses and disheartens us.

I. Well-doing is is the broad evidence of the Christian calling. The word here employed does not bear on beneficence exclusively. Love of truth, honour, goodness, are contained in it, as well as (v. 10) help to humanity around. I do not say that this help is the one evidence of a Christian calling, but it is essential, and never more so than in these days. In a broad view of the Christian profession, it is a volunteer service for the help of Christ in lifting the burden of the sin and misery of mankind. The Church is His body; His eye to see, His voice to cheer, His hand to lift and to heal the weakness and the misery of mankind. It is not only for Christ’s sake that it toils, but in Christ’s spirit. It has learnt from Christ the lesson, caught the habit. To the perfect Christian, Christ is not so much the motive as the spring: a fountain springing up to all beautiful, joyful, and blessed work for mankind.

II. Be not weary in well-doing.

1. The causes of weariness.

2. The reasons which should move us to endure.

Soul culture

I. Is well-doing.

1. It is something more than attention to our personal condition.

2. The man who labours most for the good of others is most effectively employed in training his own soul.

3. Well-doing is not the doing of the superstitious, the formalist, the exclusive, the recluse, nor the training of any peculiar faculty of the soul, but the training of the entire man under the master impulse of love. This work is well-doing, because--

II. Has its difficulties.

1. These should not dishearten.

2. Everything worth having requires a struggle.

III. Will meet with its reward.

1. The conditions.

2. The certainty.

3. The seasonableness of the reward. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

I. There is well-doing or goodness that is incumbent on us, viz., sowing to the Spirit. In order to do this--

1. I must deny myself.

2. Bow to a higher will.

3. Live in unseen communings.

II. Well-doing implies fixedness of will and character. This is needed--

1. To form new habits.

2. To restrain natural passions and propensities.

3. To resist the evil world.

III. Well-doing is possible through aids offered in the gospel. Christ has become the power of God to us.

1. By his conquest of temptation.

2. By receiving the residue of the Spirit.

3. By bearing the Cross.

IV. True well-doing brings with it appropriate results.

1. In growth of character.

2. In usefulness to others.

3. In acceptance with God.

V. The result of well-doing will come in the proper time.

1. Not ours, but

2. God’s. (J. F. Stevenson.)

I. Well-doing. In order to do good it is necessary--

1. To have generous minds.

2. To fully realize our obligation to do good.

II. Unweariness in well-doing.

1. There is much need of untiring effort to do good.

2. There are abundant opportunities for everybody.

3. The necessary power Will be given to all who attempt it.

III. A motive to well-doing. Good accomplished--

1. Increases our power for well-doing.

2. Strengthens our faith in the power of well-doing.

3. Is a source of genuine joy. (D. Rhys Jenkins.)

Weariness

I. Its nature.

1. Simple fatigue.

2. Discouragement.

3. Disgust.

II. Its spheres.

1. Such necessary business in life as does not minister pleasure.

2. The struggle after a better Christian life.

3. Social duties and relationships.

4. The promotion of the public good in Sunday Schools, mission work, etc.

5. Early pastoral experiences.

III. Its occasions.

1. In judicious labour.

2. Attempts to do too much.

3. Unreasonable expectations of an immediate harvest.

4. Diverse dispositions in those with and for whom we work.

5. Working from wrong impulses.

These will engender disappointment and therefore weariness.

IV. Its cure.

1. Take the most disagreeable task first: don’t leave it until it becomes more burdensome than it is.

2. Cultivate the grace of forbearance.

3. Remember the evil one never gets discouraged or weary.

4. Recollect that the time is short, and that you cannot afford to be weary.

5. Recollect that you are working together with a God who is unweariable.

6. Reflect that the work and weariness will soon be over in that land of rest where we shall be burdened no more. (H. W. Beecher.)

The cause and cure of weariness in Sabbath School teacher

s:--

I. Your work is well described in the text.

1. Sunday School teaching is well-doing, because--

1. It is an act of obedience.

2. It brings glory to God.

3. It is well-doing towards man.

(a) Highest form of charity is to teach the gospel.

(b) Particularly to children, for prevention is better than cure.

(c) You strike at the root of sin in seeking the regeneration of a child.

2. Sunday School teaching is sowing.

II. You will meet with evils in your service, and be liable to weariness and faintness.

1. You will be tempted to grow weary.

2. But don’t be “disheartened” (see Greek).

3. The text speaks of “fainting.” The original means “loosened.” Some teachers get unstrung, and thus get into a slip-shod way.

III. We have abundant encouragement in the prospect of reward.

1. The reaping time will come.

2. We, not our successors, will reap.

3. The harvest will come in due season.

4. When it comes it will abundantly repay us.

The present reward is--

The difficulty of well-doing

When I dug my well, I knew that there were rocks below, and when I had thrust down the pick and spade through the easily yielding earth until they struck the rock I found no water. It was necessary to drill and blast a foot, two feet, six, ten, eighteen, twenty feet, and then I struck a spring. While I was doing it it was not pleasant, but after I had got through it was permanent refreshment. It is hard to deal with hard cases; but when we have struck the water of life in any one, after that we have overflowing remuneration even here. (H. W. Beecher.)

Christian endurance

In the earlier days of Christianity, when it had to contend against the prejudices and intolerance of ages; when the bigotry of the Jew fiercely opposed it, and the philosophy of the Greek and Roman despised it, and when the bitterness of persecution grew up into greater fierceness, it was then that the earlier and devoted Christians, exposed to all manner of trial and death on all sides, had need of encouragement.

I. The charge of the apostle,.

1. The apostle means by this charge that we are not to allow any kind of weariness in right doing to arrest us in the discharge of duty, or to force us away from its path. Weariness of mind and of body is common to most men. The traveller gets weary on his journey, whether by sea or land; the student bending over his studies through a long period, cannot escape that fatigue which attends a close and intense application of thought; the labourer, when his day’s work is done, often turns to his home with a tired look and a faltering step; the sick man upon his couch feels the passing hours to be weary as they creep through the darkness of the night or the light of day, bringing no ease to his pains nor strength to his weakness; the watcher by the bedside grows faint with watching, and the overtasked eyes grapple with the slumber that steals upon them in vain. No; weariness in some form or other is the result of our infirmities, and as long as human nature remains what it is, the mind and the body will sink under its pressure. What, however, we have to do is to be faithful, to endure patiently our burdens, and to press onward in the strength of faith and hope.

2. Now, the duty of “well-doing” embraces much of inner thought and of outward action; it embraces every Christian virtue that can be mentioned--every good work that is worthy of the name; and among the many good things it includes, it most assuredly numbers among them the duty of supporting, of advancing the interests of “the house of God,” as a means to an end, as an agency which the Almighty is pleased to adopt for the accomplishment of His own Divine ends, whether in the way of His Spirit or of His providence. His house is not confined to any one particular spot; it may be found on the broad ocean, in the midst of the desert waters, where the ship is turned into a sanctuary, and the incense of prayer and praise be made to ascend from her cabin or her decks. It may be found in the wide waste of sands, in the vast wilderness, where the tent of the pilgrims is erected, and from beneath the spread of its canvas may be heard the earnest breathings of a humble and contrite spirit. It may be found upon the mountain’s top, amid the sweep of winds and the wrapt curtain of clouds; where two or three are met together in the name of Christ to worship God, and to believe in the work of His redemption. It may be found in the depths of the valley, amid streams and rocks, or in the city, amid lofty towers, temples, and palaces, where the “Te Deums” of thankful hearts may meet and swell into one of earth’s loudest anthems before the throne of heaven.

3. One of the great objects of religious buildings is, that we should gather together within their walls for public worship; that on the Sabbath, as a day of rest from the toils of labour, the mind should seek for strength and solace in the ministrations of united devotion and of Christian fellowship.

II. The encouraging prospect annexed to the charge--“For in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” True, the prospect may appear to us far off, though to some it may be nearer than they think. (W. D. Horwood.)

Against weariness in well-doing

It is the part of religion to teach man to do well. Do--he must and will. He does not always, alas, do right; but it is the object of religion--of revelation--to induce him to do so. Weariness. How much is there to induce this spirit, and to render the exhortation against it appropriate. How soon does a spirit of weariness creep over us in our spiritual career. Does any one ask, “Why is this--what are its causes?” I reply--something is to be attributed in this tendency to the love which the human mind has for novelty. We all desire change, Monotony is irksome. The absence of variety is painful, and transforms the period over which it extends into a desert--a sandy plain; while, were there to be the entire negation of variety, life would be insupportable, and, like solitary confinement would soon become the harbinger of death. God knows this tendency of man’s mind, and has provided for it--for what is there that does not change? The seasons revolve, and each appears clad in a different garb. Man’s life progresses, and each age has its character. Not only is a desire for novelty sometimes the occasion of weariness in well-doing--something is to be attributed to the influence of sloth. An active creature as man is, there is still in him a love of ease, of repose, of luxurious rest. Nor is this all--there is the spirit of self-complacency. I have done so much that at least I may be satisfied. One more occasion of inconstancy in well.doing may be adverted to, and that is the most powerful of all--the natural disinclination of the mind to doing well at any time.

1. “Be not weary,” for the motives to continuance in the right course are as powerful as the motives to commencement. I say there is no change in the motives to diligence and duty, which abide as at first; and if, after having gone a little way, or a long way, in the course of well-doing, whatever its peculiar form, you have become weary, it is you who have altered, and not the course. The path is as much the king’s highway as ever; its banks as green, its turns as beautiful, its trees as picturesque: but you have become weary, and your footsteps have flagged. What you want is, to get fresh impulse by a reconsideration of the motives by which at first you were impelled.

2. Let me say to you, “Be not weary in well-doing,” because you have the most noble examples to constancy and diligence. Study the history of Jesus of Nazareth. Place yourself amid its events. Observe the spirit by which those events were vitalized. Seek to understand the hidden laws of that outward and inward life. Was there any symptom of yielding, of inconstancy there?

3. “Be not weary in well-doing,” because an unfinished enterprise, or a work incomplete through inconstancy is both a distress and a disgrace. There may be, of course, work left unfinished through necessity. The sculptor may die, and his bust half finished be his most significant monument. The painter may be paralyzed, and his unfinished canvas be the best expositor of his malady. In these cases there is distress, indeed, but no disgrace; pity, but not scorn: but let a work be begun, and left through vacillation of purpose--a great work be undertaken, and be unfulfilled through childish waywardness, and no wonder if they that go by “begin to mock,” while the artificer is ashamed and distressed. And surely there is disgrace. Do the men of the world even respect a backslider? Then I might urge the exhortation by a reference to the self-discipline which is secured by perseverence--especially perseverence in a course of self-denial.

4. Direct you to the motive adverted to by the apostle. The prospect of reward. “In due season ye shall reap if ye faint not.” The bestowment of rewards is a feature of God’s government, as the doctrine which teaches it is a doctrine both of Scripture and of providence. (J. Viney, D. D.)

The danger signal

I. Some places where we are liable to grow weary.

1. We grow weary when the work seems too large and we try to take it all in at once. One morning a man found the snow all piled up before his door. He began to shovel it away, but there seemed to be such a mountain of it he threw down his shovel in despair saying: “I can never clear away all that snow.” Then he picked up his shovel, and marked off a square, and began to see how long it would take him to cast that aside; then another and another, until the whole was cleared away. So the girl looks at that great pile of music, as she begins her first lessons, and says: “Oh, I can never learn all that music.” And the boy looks from the beginning of his arithmetic through to the last page, and says: “I shall never get through that.”

2. We become discouraged and weary when we do not see immediate fruits of our labour. My little nephew was out in the garden one evening with his father sowing peas; next morning he took a basket and was going out to gather the crop, and was greatly disappointed when told the peas were not yet grown. Sunday-school teachers may appropriate this.

3. Ye grow weary and give up sometimes on the eve of reaping, and lose the harvest. Two men were digging for gold in California once. They toiled a good while and got nothing. At last one threw down his tools and said: “I will leave here before we starve,” and he did leave. The next day his comrade that remained found a nugget of gold that supported him until he made a fortune. One of my Sunday-school teachers came to me to resign her class, because she said she was doing them no good. They were less thoughtful than when she took charge of them. I encouraged her to “labour and to wait.” Only a few weeks elapsed when ten of the twelve young ladies openly professed faith in Christ.

4. We grow languid sometimes in prosperity. Christian slept in the arbour after ascending the hill Difficulty.

II. How to prevent weariness in well-doing.

1. Keep near to the Master. It was when Peter followed from afar that he denied Him. Keep Christ in full view. It was when Peter looked on the waves that he began to sink.

2. Have strong faith in the promises: “My word shall not return unto Me void--it shall prosper” (Isaiah 55:11). “We shall reap,” and reap in the best time, God’s time, “in due season.” Perseverence will bring success, success will inspire courage, courage will bring victory, and victory will be followed by glory.

3. Often pray to God. “Even the youths shall faint and be weary--but they that wait on God shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31).

4. Help others. This is the health-lift of the soul. Two travellers crossing the Alps were freezing to death. One lay down to die; the ether, seeing his awful condition, began to rub, chafe, and rouse him. He suc-ceeded, and the exertion of helping to save his friend, kindled a glow of warmth in himself. They started off arm in arm, and were saved. (George H. Smyth.)

Perseverance in well-doing

I. I will call your attention, in the first place, to the speaker, or rather the writer. The language was written, as we find, under inspiration, by Paul to the Church at Galatia. It is very important when we hear an exhortation to consider the character of the person who gives it. And here we see the importance, if we first consider what was the issue of the apostle’s labours. What was the issue of his labours amongst the Gentiles and Jews? Yet he was not weary in well-doing.

II. As to the “well-doings” of the apostle, scarcely any doubt can be left on the mind with reference to these, if we attentively peruse the records of his commission. His well-doings were not to make himself a name or a praise in the earth; he was no mountebank, who for a season sought to attract the gaze and admiration of men, in order that upon the pinnacle they should raise for him he might stand and enjoy his transient life of honour and worldly reputation. No; his desire was to do that which Christ did; he desired so to follow Christ as he himself exhorts others to follow Christ.

III. What the apostle means by his expression, “due season.” It is evident the apostle referred not first to his labours. The apostle doubtless understood that while the end is the first in God’s purpose, it is the last in manifestation. He could see that his own season might not be God’s season. And therefore he was content to say, “And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” The expression “due season,” then, I conceive refers to a time which is known only to the Father, who hath put the times and seasons in His own power. The expression “due,” is a word which is elsewhere translated “own.” It is a pronominal adjective, which signifies possession; which signifies a peculiar appropriateness when it is joined with any particular substantive. To give you an instance of the use which is always made of it, I may mention the place where we are told that the Jews found fault with Christ because He made Himself equal with God, saying that God was His Father: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” The expression there is the same that is found here; His own Father; God was His own Father. So in His “own season”--that is, the season which is peculiarly adapted for the purpose; the season which God knows to be the most appropriate; the season that shall best fit in to all the other declarations which God shall make of His majesty, His justice, and His power, as well as His love, His mercy, and His grace: at that time “we shall reap, if we faint not.” That season may not be ours, as, doubtless, many times it is not: that season may not be ours, not the one which we, in our fleshly wisdom, should choose; but it is the season which God chooses, the season which is best adapted, which is most peculiarly suited for the purpose of mercy and truth meeting together, and righteousness and peace kissing each other. Paul was thus content to look forward to the time when he should reap the reward of his labours, The husbandman was first to endure toil, that afterwards he might receive the joy of the harvest. (J. L. Galton, M. A.)

Unweariedness in well-doing

Let us not be weary in well-doing in consequence of--

I. The rivalry of other workers.

II. The mighty name by which we are called.

III. The insidious character of our temptations to weariness.

IV. The reward promised to patient labour. First, the rivalry of other workers forbids weariness.

1. The undying activity of the world. In this busy working world, the inactive, the disappointed, the weary, are soon trodden down and destroyed.

2. If we turn from the unwearying work of the busy world to contemplate the great power of evil, if we try to realize its presence, to separate it in thought from the world which it defiles and seeks to ruin, we are appalled by its ceaseless efforts to accomplish its deadly purpose. Whatever power can afford to rest, the power of evil never grows weary.

3. The energies of goodness never rest nor take their ease.

II. The mighty name of “Christian” combines many of the strongest arguments to unwearying service.

1. The Christian owes his own salvation to unwearied love and infinite sacrifice.

2. Christians are the pledged disciples of the Great Worker in this field of holy exertion. “I must work, said Jesus, the works of Him that sent Me while it is day. My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.”

3. Christ Himself lives and works within the Christian by the power of His Spirit.

III. Further incentives to perseverance may be found in the peculiar and insidious character of the temptations to which well-doing is exposed.

1. The man who is resolved to ruin himself has the evil propensities of his fallen nature to help him. On the other hand, “well-doing” exacts a perpetual conflict with the evil tendencies of our nature. The Christian has a persevering enemy to slay.

2. Another of the hindrances to which “well-doing” of this kind is exposed, is the tendency of our machinery to wear out, and our own disposition not unfrequently to hurry it off the field. Our ways of doing good may often be antiquated and cumbrous. A mass of useless lumber, in the shape of old instruments, may infest the Church of God, and we perhaps often feel that nothing can be done without removing such incumbrances.

3. There is temptation to weariness in “well-doing” from the very number of methods by which it may be persued.

IV. Let us, in conclusion, consider the reason which the apostle urges for our observance of this injunction. In all the well-doing of the Christian, in all the toil of the earnest worker for God, there is alliance with the power of the Holy Spirit, and with the purposes of God; and it would seem that the sovereignty of God has included the labours of man in its own far-reaching penetration. The months before the ingathering may often seem long and wearisome, and verily be heart-breaking things, but God’s “seasons” are not always measurable by our forecastings, even though the harvest is pledged by His oath and His promise. We shall reap the growth effectuated by His Holy Spirit, though we may not always understand the nature of the gracious sheaves that we are bringing in our bosom. We cannot calculate the hour nor the nature of our triumph, but we know that the Word of God standeth sure, and that the due season draweth nigh. (H. R. Reynolds, B. A.)

Unwearied in error

Consider the victims of falsehood and idolatry. Learn from the devotee of many a false god; from the worshipper of Siva, who, drunk with opium, swings on the flesh-hook at some horrid festival, or prostrates himself before the advancing car of Juggernaut, making this revolting self-sacrifice to pacify the raging of a guilty conscience, or to gain the ephemeral applause of an ignorant mob; even he is not weary with his work. (H. R. Reynolds, B. A.)

Perseverence in religious duties enforced

I. In the first place, your duty is, to be engaged “in well-doing;” that is to say, in doing well, in doing good, in doing that which is just and approved in the sight of God. But this is not the meaning of the word in the common and popular sense of it. If you say a man is doing well, you mean to say that a man is increasing in his wealth, his influence, or his connections. Brethren, it is true with regard to the world, “so long as thou doest well to thyself, men will speak good of thee;” it is true with regard to God, so long as you do well in His sight, shall you have His sanction and His smile.

1. In the first place, it refers individually to ourselves--doing well, or doing good, with regard to ourselves. Now mark, brethren, what the text says,--“Let us not be weary in well-doing.” Then the assumption is, that we have begun “well-doing,” because he who has not begun to do well, can never be said to be in any risk or danger of being weary in it.

2. Having, then, assumed this, that we have learned to care for our own souls, and to regard our own immortal interests, the next point to be considered is, that we are bound to engage in “well-doing” for our fellow-creatures; for it is especially to this that the text refers.

II. The second thing to regard is, the manner in which this duty is to be performed; that is to say, unweariedly: “Let us not be weary in well-doing.” There is good and solid reason why we should be so admonished. We often feel our unfitness and our unworthiness to be employed in doing good. We are too ready to suppose that our exertions for the present and future benefit of our fellow-creatures are utterly without success, because we do not see the success. Zeal is sometimes without knowledge, and zeal is often without patience; we look for the oak, without giving the acorn time to germinate; we desire to gather the cool and delicious fruit, forgetful of the preliminary processes of vegetation. We are too ready to be “weary in well-doing,” because we observe the apathy, the obstinacy, the carelessness, the ingratitude of those whom we seek to benefit.

III. In the third place, the text furnishes us with most encouraging motives for perseverence: “In due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” We know from experience, that perseverance, either with respect to earthly or heavenly things, is scarcely ever without success. Patience, industry, and perseverance: are the three great elements of success in life. We find Jacob wrestling with the wondrous angel of God’s covenant through the entire night, and prevailing not till the morning began to break. We find St. Paul praying thrice that the thorn in the flesh might be extracted, before he received that answer which caused his soul to thrill with holy joy. We find Daniel, in the reign of Cyrus, saying--“In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks; I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” At length his faith, his patience, and his submission received their rich reward: “behold, a certain man clothed in linen” appeared to him and said.

“Fear not, Daniel; for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard.” Again: unwearied continuance in “well-doing” has the distinct promise of success. (G. Weight, M. A.)

Be not weary

I. The Christian man’s vocation in the present world, II, the motive to perseverance in it, arising from the assurance of final reward.

I. The text may be regarded, in the first place, as marking out the Christian man’s vocation in the present world. It is well-doing. This is what he is specially called to--the business of his life--his “being’s end and aim.”

1. The first thought which claims our attention here, is this: That the present life is not designed to be a merely contemplative thing.

2. A second thought which the text suggests is that the Christian vocation comprehends something more than the mere purpose, or project of good. You must observe that it does not enjoin upon us well-scheming, but well-doing--not the design, but the deed. A day is hastening on, when works, and not wishes, or projects, will determine your eternal reward. In that day, the least thing done will secure you a revenue of unspeakable glory; whilst the greatest thing talked of and planned only will bring you nought but disappointment and shame.

3. A third thought suggested by the view given us in the text of the Christian’s vocation is--that the believer is endowed, by God, with the capacity for imparting blessing to his fellow-men. “Do well,” is the command; and the command obviously implies that those to whom it is addressed have the power to do well--are, in other words, invested with an ability to benefit and bless others. There is infinite goodness in this arrangement, inasmuch as it opens to us one of the richest sources of happiness; for what joy is comparable to that of bringing joy to others?

II. Let us consider it, secondly, As urging him to perseverance in that vocation by the promise of ultimate reward. “Let us not be weary--for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Now there seem to be three important particulars suggested to us here.

1. First, that the fulfilment of the Christian vocation is connected with certain reward in the future. “We shall reap, if we faint not.”

2. And this brings me to the second thought suggested by this part of our text, namely: That the reward connected with the fulfilment of the Christian vocation awaits its bestowment at an appropriate period. “In due season, we shall reap if we faint not.” God acts not without a plan.

3. And now let me request your attention to the last suggestion derivable from this text: That the assurance of certain reward, in connection with the fulfilment of the Christian vocation, is a sufficient motive to perseverance therein under every temptation to weariness. (C. M. Merry.)

The beauty of a Christian is to hold on in piety

It is a beautiful sight to see silver hairs crowned with golden virtue. The beauty of a thing is when it comes to be finished; the beauty of a picture is, when it is drawn out in its full lineaments, and laid in its orient colours; the beauty of a Christian is, when he hath finished his faith. (T. Watson.)

Motives to perseverance

It is a strange sight, to see a busy devil, and an idle Christian.

2. If we would not grow weary, let us pray for persevering grace. It was David’s prayer, “hold Thou me up and I shall be safe;” and it was Beza’s prayer, “Lord, perfect what Thou hast begun in me.” That we may hold on a Christian course, let us labour for three persevering graces. Faith keeps from fainting; faith gives a substance to things not seen, and makes them to be as it were present, As a perspective glass makes those things which are at a distance near to the eye, so doth faith: heaven and glory seem near. A Christian will not be weary of service, that hath the crown in his eye. The second persevering grace is hope. Hope animates the spirits: it is to the soul as cork to the net, which keeps it from sinking. Hope breeds patience, and patience breeds perseverance. The third persevering grace is love. Love makes a man that he is never weary. Love may be compared to the rod of myrtle in the traveller’s hand, which refresheth him, and keeps him from being weary in his journey. He who loves the world, is never weary of following the world; he who loves God will never be weary of serving Him” that is the reason why the saints and angels in heaven are never weary of praising and worshipping God; because their love to God is perfect, and love turns service into delight. Get the love of God in your hearts, and you will run in His ways, and not be weary. (T. Watson.)

Reaping in due season

The husbandman doth not desire to reap till the season; he will not reap his corn while it is green, but when it is ripe; so we shall reap the reward of glory in due season; when our work is done, when our sins are purged out, when our graces are come to their full growth; then is the season of reaping; therefore let us not be weary of well-doing, but hold on in prayer, reading, and all the exercises of religion; we shall “reap in due season, if we faint not.” (T. Watson.)


Verse 10

Galatians 6:10

As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men.

Opportunity, man’s treasure

If time be as “the grass,” fading and fleeting, opportunity is as “the flower of the grass,” more fading, as it is more beautiful and valuable. In the ordinary transactions and affairs of life, as well as in natural things, of how much importance is that juncture of concurrent circumstances which we style opportunity. Opportunity, even in natural things, when once lost, can never be recalled. The spark, that one single drop would have quenched in the outset, may, if neglected, spread fire around till it wraps a whole city in one wasting conflagration. The garment, spotted with the plague, that might have been destroyed with the least possible effort, may, if it lie unheeded and neglected, communicate the fearful infection, and the pestilence may spread its frightful ravages far and wide through a desolated nation. In the course of nature, God has been pleased to “furnish opportunity” to every man, to awake the diligence and keep alive the watchfulness of His dependent creatures. If the husbandman passes by the season of spring, that precious season returns not again to him; and if he delay but a little space, watching the wind and waiting for the clouds, he shall not reap. And in the ordinary transactions of mankind one with another, how much depends upon seizing the passing and present opportunity! Many a man, by missing the “tide in the affairs of life,” has missed the highroad to fame and fortune, and whatever this world could give to make him illustrious and distinguished. How many gray-headed and aged men look back upon the squandered opportunities of early life with bitter regret and unavailing sighs? They can now see where they turned down the wrong pathway, and where they missed the golden and precious season, which, had they employed it well, would have brought them to far different results. (Hugh Stowell, M. A.)

Universal beneficence the duty of Christians

The law of Jesus Christ lays Christians under obligations to the whole human race. This is at once its triumph and its difficulty: its triumph as it stands contrasted with moral codes of narrower scope, whether national or religious; its difficulty, when we look upon it as having to be put in practice. “While we have time, let us do good unto all men.” The race which our Lord and Redeemer has honoured by taking its nature upon Him appeals to the thought and energies of all the redeemed. Whether civilized or barbarous, whether European or African, whether Christian or pagan, man, as man, has claims upon the servants of Christ; it is their business and their privilege to do him any good they can: the highest good, before all else--the communication of the True Faith, the bringing him into living contact with the Divine Redeemer, His Person, His Cross, His Spirit, His Word, His Sacraments; and then lesser forms of good, all that we commonly mean by civilization and useful knowledge--alms, advice, medicine, service, means of education, helps to material happiness and progress, as opportunities for doing so may present themselves. (Canon Liddon.)

Benevolence never kills

Said a speaker at a missionary meeting: I have often heard of congregations starving through niggardliness, but never of one laid on its deathbed through benevolence. If I could find one that had thus suffered by overgiving, I would make a pilgrimage to that church, and pronounce over it this requiem, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.”

The beauty of beneficence

An Eastern legend tells us how Abraham wore round his neck a jewel whose light healed the sick and raised up those who were bowed down, and that when he died it was placed amongst the stars. You may see it now among the stars in all holy lives; but, more than that, if such be your desire, your Saviour will grant it to you also, to wear it. No diamond can shine so gloriously on the white neck of beauty, no order blaze so worthily on the breast of noble manhood. It becomes even the sceptred monarch better than his crown. It is the diamond of pure sympathy with your fellow-men. In one word, it is charity. Usually she is painted as nursing young children, and giving dolls to paupers, but with a far greater insight Giotto represents her as a fair matron with her eyes uplifted, trampling on bags of gold, while coming out of heaven an angel from the Lord Christ gives her human heart. Yes, it is the human heart by which we live--the heart at leisure with itself to soothe and sympathize; the heart which can be as hard as adamant against vice and corruption, but as tender as a mother towards all that suffers and can be healed. (Archdeacon Farrar.)

Opportunity

A sculptor once showed a visitor his studio. It was full of gods. One was very curious. The face was concealed by being covered with hair, and there were wings to each foot. “What is its name?” asked the spectator. “Opportunity,” was the reply. “Why is his face hidden?” “Because men seldom know him when he comes to them.” “Why has he wings upon his feet?” “Because he is soon gone, and once gone he cannot be overtaken.”

Transient nature of opportunity

Opportunity is like a favouring breeze springing up around a sailing-vessel. If the sails be all set, the ship is wafted onwards to its port; if the sailors are asleep or ashore, the breeze may die again, and when they would go on they cannot: their vessel stands as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean. (Union Magazine.)

Opportunity is like a strip of sand which stretches around a seaside cove. The greedy tide is lapping up the sand. The narrow strip will quickly become impassable; and then how sad the fate of the thoughtless children who are now playing and gathering shells and seaweed inside the cove! (Union Magazine.)

Seizing opportunities

Coming once down the Ohio River when the water was low, we saw just before us several small boats aground on a sandbar. We knew the channel was where they were not, and, shaping our course accordingly, we went safely by. They saw our intention; and, taking advantage of the light swell we created in passing them, the nearest ones crowded on all steam, and were lifted off the bar. Now, when in life’s stream you are stranded on some bar of temptation, no matter what it is that makes a swell, if it is only an inch under your keel, put on all steam, and swing off into the current. (H. W. Beecher.)

Prepare for opportunities

Once upon a time, a wild boar of a jungle was whetting his tusks against the trunk of a tree. A fox passing by, asked him why he did this, seeing that neither hunter nor hound was near. “True,” said the boar, “but when danger does arise, I shall have something else to do than to sharpen my weapons!”

The more limited sphere of beneficence

Humanitarian aspirations, as they are termed, are exhilarating, especially to noble matures: but we cannot all of us do everything. And there is some danger in dreaming of doing it; the danger of ending by doing nothing, on the ground that to do everything is plainly impossible. Schemes which embrace the human race are apt to fade away into vague unattainable outlines, instead of leading to practical and specific results. And, therefore, while our duties towards humanity at large are to be kept in view, as the real measure of our obligation, and as a valuable incentive to generous efforts, our actual enterprises are necessarily restricted to this or that portion of the great human family, Which, for us, and for the time being, represents the whole. Hence it is that St. Paul adds to his general exhortation to do good unto all men a specific limitation, “especially unto them that are of the household of faith.” The household of faith! There is no doubt as to the sense of the expression. As the whole human race is one vast family banded together by the indestructable tie of blood, so within this family the possession of a common faith creates another and a selected household, whose members are bound to each other by a yet closer and more sacred bond. Of the natural human family Adam is the departed head and father: the family of faith is grouped around the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, as its ever-living and present Parent. To all members of this family He has given a new and common nature; He has clothed each and all in that sacred Manhood which, after God, “is created in righteousness and true holiness,” whether that precious gift have been forfeited or not. By faith each member of the family understands his relationship, first to the common life-giving Parent, and next to those who are his brethren in virtue of this new and sacred tie. (Calvin Liddon.)

Doing good in trifles

There is a story of a man living on the borders of an African desert, who carried daily a pitcher of cold water to the dusty thoroughfare, and left it for any thirsty traveller who might pass that way.

Doing good by a child

“Children, I want each of you to bring a new scholar to the school with you next Sunday,” said the superintendent of a Sunday-school to his scholars one day. “I can’t get any new scholars,” said several of the children to themselves. “I’ll try what I can do,” was the whispered response of a few others. One of the latter class went home to his father, and said, “Father, will you go to the Sunday-school with me?” “I can’t read, my son,” replied the father, with a look of shame. “Our teacher will teach you,” answered the boy, with respect and feeling in his tones. “Well, I’ll go,” said the father. He went, learned to read, sought and found the Saviour, and at length became a colporteur. Years passed on, and that man had established four hundred Sunday-schools, into which thirty-five thousand children were gathered! Thus you see what trying did. That boy’s effort was like a tiny rill, which soon swells into a brook, and at length becomes a river. His efforts, by God’s grace, saved his father, and his father, being saved, led thirty-five thousand children to the Sunday-school.

Doing good by little means

See that well on the mountain-side--a small, rude, rocky cup full of crystal water, and that tiny rill flowing through a breach in its brim. The vessel is so diminutive that it could not contain a supply of water for a single family in a single day. But, ever getting through secret channels, and ever giving by an open overflow, day and night, summer and winter, from year to year, it discharges in the aggregate a volume to which its own capacity bears no appreciable proportion. The flow from that diminutive cup might, in a drought or war, become life to all the inhabitants of a city. It is thus that a Christian, if he is full of mercy and good fruits, is a greater blessing to the world than either himself or his neighbours deem. Let no disciple of Christ either think himself excused, or permit himself to be discouraged from doing good, because his talents and opportunities are few. Your capacity is small, it is true, but if you are in Christ it is the capacity of a well. Although it does not contain much at any moment, so as to attract attention to you for your gifts, it will give forth a great deal in a lifetime, and many will be refreshed. (W. Arnot, M. A.)

The Christian’s duty

Now let us consider--

1. The solemn exhortation or advice given here by the apostle, that is, “Let us do good.” Notwithstanding all the sin and misery that are to be found in the world, yet the world would not be so bad after all, were it not for our own selves. That is, it is we, through our conceit, pride, and unfriendly behaviour to one another, that really constitute and render this world so unpleasant as it is! And if you admit the truth of this statement, then it is obvious that it is the duty of all of us, as true Christians, to endeavour to reform ourselves in the first place, and then try to spread this reformation amongst others by our own good examples. There are some people to be found who will only do good at times, and upon some extraordinary occasions, and then only when they are really ashamed to withhold their hands.

2. The extent of this duty, “Unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith!” You may recollect that when Joseph made himself known unto his brethren in Egypt, and entertained them at a sumptuous dinner, that “Benjamin’s mess was five times as much as any of the others;” and do you recollect the reason of that strange proceeding of his? I will tell you, Joseph and Benjamin were the only sons of Rachel by Jacob, their father, and so they were two brothers by the same father and the same mother, and therefore were more nearly allied to one another than all the rest. And we read that when Joseph first saw his brother Benjamin, “his bowels did yearn upon him, and he sought where to weep.” And so I would have you, my brethren, to follow Joseph’s good example, if ever you shall meet with any member of “the household of faith,” “who in this transitory life is in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness, or any other adversity”; then give him more readily and more abundantly than to any one else, for he is more nearly related to you by the Spirit, if not by the flesh, for he is a member of the same Catholic Church as yourself.

3. The time that we are to attend to this most important duty--“As we have an opportunity,” or, “whilst we have the opportunity of this life and as occasions present themselves.” No one offers a word of advice, nor an alms, nor a dose of physic, nor anything else to a dead man. Oh, no! for the time for these things and the like is gone by for ever with regard to him. And so I would have you to bear in mind that it is not after a poor fellow-creature has been left to starve to death with cold and hunger; that it is not after a long “hope deferred” had broken his tender heart in twain, and caused it to cease to beat for ever, that you are to take pity and compassion upon him. Oh, no! but you should do so now while you have him with you, while you can relieve him, and while he can appreciate your good attention, your sympathy and kindness. Some are in the habit of putting poor people off indefinitely when they ask assistance, though perhaps the favour they ask for will be hardly worth receiving, and so the time is lost when it can be of any value to the recipient. For my own part, if I do not get a favour when I beg for it and when I want it, I would not care for it, if the opportunity, or “the time of need” is gone. (H. H. Davies, M. A.)

The Church household an especial scene of kind deeds

Every one entering a Church has a right to feel that he is going into a higher atmosphere than that in which he has been accustomed to move. Every one has a right to feel that when he goes into the Church of Christ he goes into an association, a brotherhood, where the principle of gentleness and kindness is carried on to a higher degree than it is outside the Church. I know that it is not so. I know that the Church is keyed, often, very low in the matter of sympathy. I know that too frequently persons who go into the Church are like those who go at night to a hotel. Each lodger has his own room, and calls for what he himself needs, and does not feel bound to take care of any of the other lodgers. And a Church, frequently, is nothing but a spiritual boarding-house, where the members are not acquainted with each other, and where there is but very little sympathy. Now, every Church should be under the inspiration of such large sympathy and benevolence as to make every one of its members the object of kindly thought and feeling. There should be a public sentiment and an atmosphere of brotherhood in every Church. (H. W. Beecher.)

Kind deeds to go beyond the Church

And here I may say, in carrying out this work, beware, while you do not neglect home, that you do not confine the disclosure of yourself to your own household. It is right for a bird to make herself a nest, and put the finest moss and softest feathers in that nest, and it is right that she should sit upon it. It is right that she should have but one chamber--for birds never build for more than themselves and their own. But they are only bird, and do not know any better. It is for us to build a broad nest. To build it so that nobody can get into it but ourselves, to line it with our own prosperity, and so selfishly fill it with everything that is sweet and soft--that is not right. I think that a man’s house ought to be a magazine of kindness. Its windows ought to send out light. I like, when I go by a house at night, to see the window-shutters open, so that the light shines forth from inside. A person says, “I will put this clump of flowers under the parlour window.” No, no; put them by the gate. A thousand will see them there, where one would see them in that other place. A person says, “I will put this plant where nobody can reach it.” Well, do; but put two close to the fence, where they can be reached. I like to see little hands go through the pickets and pluck off flowers. And if you say, “That is stealing,” then let it be understood through all the neighbourhood that it is not stealing. There are some who seem to have such a sense of property that if they had a hundred magnolia trees in full blossom on their premises, they would want the wind to blow from the north, and south, and east, and west, so that all the fragrance would come into their own house; whereas the true spirit would be a desire that a thousand others should be blessed by these bounties as well as themselves. Make your dwelling beautiful; but not for your own eyes alone. Fill it sumptuously, if you have the grace to rightly use that sumptuosity. Let the feet of the poor step on your plushy carpet. Let their eyes behold the rich furniture of your apartments. Would it make their home less to them? Not necessarily. If you take a child by the hand--you, whose name is great in the town; you, who tower up in power above all your neighbours; if you lay your hand on his head, and call him “Sonny;” if you bring him into your house; if you go to the cupboard and take out the unfamiliar cake, or what not, that children so much like (for the senses must be appealed to in childhood before the spirit can be reached; and by feeding the mouth of a child you come to his affections and feelings); if you show him your rooms, and give him something in his pocket to carry home and show his aunt or sister, do you suppose that child ever thinks you are stuck up, or looks on you with an unkindly eye? When he comes into the neighbourhood again, and your house dawns upon him, he remembers, the moment he sees it, how happy you made him there. And that house of yours can be made to bless generation after generation. (H. W. Beecher.)

Doing good according to opportunity

I. There is good which Christians can do. This is a common thing to notice, and you may think it is not likely to be overlooked. Perhaps not, as far as the eyes are concerned, but certainly liable to be overlooked so far as the heart and the hand are concerned. To do good (as we all should say if we were asked to define it), is to secure by our own efforts the welfare of others. The doing good to human nature, as it is made up of body and spirit, is required of us by our God, but beside this we are all required to do good to others in all the variety of condition in which they are found. Hence we have such particular directions as, to doing good to them that hate us, giving meat and drink and raiment to the poor, visiting the sick and the prisoner, the widow and the fatherless, holding forth the word of life, and distributing to the necessity of saints. What a wide and life-long service do these two words cover, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good.

II. To do good there must be both intention and exertion, aim and effort. Benefits sometimes accrue to men from their fellow-men without any intention or effort on the part of those who are the channels of good; but being the channel of good or the occasion of doing good, and the willing and active agent, are widely different things. It is one thing to lose a piece of money, which is picked up by a beggar, and by which he supplies his wants, and another thing to give that beggar money for the purchase of food. The man is fed in both eases, but the ministering is only in the one case. It is one thing to utter words at random by which bystanders are instructed, and another thing to endeavour, as in the case of our devoted Sabbath school and ragged school teachers, steadily and perseveringly to impart instruction to the ignorant. The difference here is as broad and as clear and as palpable as that between the stone head of a fountain through which the water flows, and from which you drink, and the loving hand which brings you a cup of water that has been intentionally, thoughtfully, and sympathetically filled for you at that fountain. Doing good partially, if self-originated and self-willed, is easy; but to do good fully we must overcome much within ourselves. Then we must do it as servants--not when and as we like, but when and as the great Master bids us.. Moreover, real good is not done except by labour of some sort. In the sweat of the brow we not only eat bread, but we cast bread on the waters.

III. The kind of good done and the amount must both be governed by what Paul here calls “opportunity.” Circumstances being suitable for a particular ministration, we must minister; and circumstances fix the time and place, and the means, and the powers of the individual. They say to him, Thou art the man to do this thing here, and to do this thing now. “Opportunity” is that season in which we can minister to the benefit of others. Our opportunities test us. You will always see that a man is just what he is to his opportunities. You will find this in every walk of life. Opportunities test us Christians. Some opportunities are rare, ethers are common; some are fleeting, others abide. “The poor,” said Jesus, “are always with you, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good;” here is the permanent, abiding opportunity. “But Me ye have not always;” here is the fleeting, passing opportunity. Doing good, dear brethren, if men be faithful to their trust, never can be monotonous. (S. Martin.)

On doing good

I. Illustrate the duty in the text,

1. The duty inculcated is goodness. Now this necessarily supposes that we are renewed in our mind. In our natural state, we cannot do good. We must first be made partakers of Divine goodness before we can diffuse it abroad. The Christian may do good--

2. The extent of the goodness we are to exercise--“To all men.”

3. The seasonableness and constancy of our goodness--“As we have opportunity.”

4. The preference appointed--“Especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

II. Enforce the duty is the text.

1. The commands of God require it. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” etc., (Psalms 37:3; 1 Timothy 6:18).

2. Our resemblance to God requires it. If we are His spiritual offspring, then we must be followers of God as dear children.

3. The example of Christ requires it. “He went about doing good.”

4. The Spirit of God within us requires it. “The fruit of the Spirit is … goodness.”

5. Our own happiness requires it. It enlarges the mind, expands the heart, elevates to the most heavenly dignities and enjoyments.

6. Our acquittal at the last day requires it (Matthew 25:34, etc.).

Application:

1. Does not the subject condemn most of the professed disciples of Christ? How few have their hearts set upon doing good! How few do all the good they can!

2. Let it lead us to a closer acquaintance with the Lord’s will, and provoke us to love and good works.

3. A religion without goodness is not of God, and shall not receive a reward at the last day. (J. Burns, D. D.)

The witness to the ennobling principle

Life is a work. The best efforts of the human spirit spring from the energy of an artist toiling at himself. And just as Van Eyck, or Metaling, or Durer, each possessed “the sacred science of colour,” each noted faithfully the teachings of experience, each rose into some vision of a better country, drew down the results of that vision to the practical purposes of daily life; and neither neglected the claims of the present nor forgot the solemn certainties of another world; so the human spirit, alive to its responsibility, and therefore to the need of sorrowful toil here, without the reminding of the preacher, hears voices like passing bells, now loud, now dying; sounds tossed up in sorrowing cadence, surging and solemn, mystical and threatening, like the roll of the Atlantic in the caves of Cornwall; or tender and saddening, like the water of the spreading surf on the sands of the Adrian Sea; and the voices, whether loud or soft, whether threatening or tender, are chanting an unchanging story: “Death is coming, diligence and fortitude; life is passing, use it while you may.” Listening to these the human spirit works in the vision, with the sense of eternity; unites the ideal and the practical, strives to make idealism into realised result, does not merely travel a destitute journey, nor work a work fruitless to others as well as self, but exercises in the highest of a!l subjects, with the possibility of the most lasting results, exercises an artist’s powers.

I. Let us note swiftly some of the characteristic features of the self-sacrificing temper, the productive principle of a noble life.

1. First we may note what is negative. In a really self-sacrificing temper there is the absence of that miserable taint and bane of rich and gifted natures which the Greeks would describe as a withering ὕβρις--an insolent scorn. The self sacrificing spirit, believe me, will not lose faith in human nature; will learn for itself simple-hearted sincerity; will not demand too much from others; will “possess” itself “in patience,” and thus lay a stern arrest upon the too natural encroachments of ὕβρις--of insolent scorn.

2. Another mark of a self-sacrificing temper is a sincere, a supernatural, a gentle yet chastened sorrow. “Sorrow!” you say; “why, that is nothing so strikingly exceptional.” A short experience of the most shallow observer says “there is plenty of sorrow! It requires no special gaze on eternity, it demands no yearning desire for a higher life, to find one’s self plunged in the mystery of sorrow.” Quite so; but stay. There are violets and violets. The violet of the bleak hedge-side on the edge of the windy common, cramped with the crisping frost and shrivelled by the withering storm, is generically the same, but in individual fact how different from those rich masses of unfathomable colour which carpet the ruined pavement of Hadrian’s Villa. So there is sorrow and sorrow. There is the sorrow of a broken life, the sorrow of a greedy, unsatisfied desire, the sorrow of a degraded moral purpose, and the sorrow of a brave and tender soul, which sees the beauty of the ideal and the sadness of partial failure, and yet, though sorrowing, does not faint or grow weary; which realizes the possibility of human progress, and is heartstricken at the spectacle of men with gifts of noble nature living for the changeful and passing, when they might live for what can never die. This sorrow is an outcome of the self-sacrificing temper. Is it yours? Are you sorry when wrong is done? sorry at the record of wretchedness and the chronicle of crime; sorry at lives with possibilities of glory falling into the depths, missing the standard, the example of Christ? Is yours such sorrow as stimulates you to read and obey the secret of this unearthly loveliness? Is your soul’s life touched into activity by the tragedy of human misery and the tragedy of the cross? Blessed are ye if it be so. Then it is the principal anxiety of your life to enrich the lives of others. This is the witness of self-sacrifice.

3. And a third feature of such a temper is.a sunny earnestness. What is earnestness? It is not gloom, it is not grim determination, it is not dogged persistence, it is not revolting narrowness, or wearying one-sidedness, or stupid and tormenting fanaticism. What is earnestness? Earnestness is that temper of mind, that habit of thought which comes of taking, of habitually taking, the truths of eternity as realities, as in fact they are.

II. Let us ask, then, what ground can be shown for cultivating a spirit of self-sacrifice?

1. My brothers, first, unquestionably first, a loving gratitude. Christ died for you. If you have a grain of gratitude in you for the highest blessings, act by grace towards Him in the spirit in which He has acted towards you.

2. And another ground is a wise and gracious estimate of the dignity of man. Man is an animal; yes, but man is also a spirit; mysterious instincts within him--despite the passing crotchets of sciolists and dreamers--witness to him his immortality.

III. And now for the result. Self-sacrifice is the ennobling principle. It ennobles the world; it fertilizes the soul. How? For all man it leaves behind rich memories and great examples; it shows thus what man can, and therefore what man ought, to do, and encourages to use the strength God gives to do it. And again, it enriches the individual soul. It is strange, yet it is true, that to give in love increases the store of love within us; strange, but true, that self-love weakens the moral fibre and impoverishes life; strange, but true, that self-sacrifice stores moral treasures, and produces moral power.

IV. “While we have time let us do good.” What is life then but a severe probation to test the metal of our souls, and prove their value? “While we have time let us do good.” Nay, what is life then but a careful education, wherein stern circumstances and trials--the calls of duty, and the sharp assaults of sorrow combine, or may combine with inward principle, to train the soul, to “try us and turn us forth sufficiently impressed.” “While we have time.” Nay, what is life but a great opportunity, though an opportunity not perhaps to leave behind the rich results of patient and daring investigation, or the astounding stores of accumulated knowledge, yet something better? While you have time! The days are travelling on, the night is coming, let us bestir ourselves to assist in the triumph of goodness, let us act in self-sacrifice, and so let us advance--oh! blessed opportunity--advance the kingdom of Christ. (Canon Knox-Little.)

Christian beneficence

I. The principle of Christian beneficence. The excellence of any action in the sight of a heart-searching and holy God, depends entirely on the motive from whence it proceeds, and on the spirit with which it is performed. Christian beneficence is founded in the noblest of principles--love to our God and Redeemer.

II. The objects of Christian beneficence. True believers are united to each other by the most sacred and indissoluble bonds.

III. The qualities of Christian beneficence.

1. Active in its nature.

2. Constant and unwearied in its operations.

IV. The value of Christian beneficence. (John Hunter, D. D.)

Doing good

I. The nature.

1. Preserving goodness.

2. Uniting goodness.

3. Communicating goodness.

II. The rules. We must do good--

1. With that which is our own (1 Chronicles 21:24).

2. With cheerfulness and alacrity (2 Corinthians 9:1-15.).

3. So that we do not disable ourselves from doing good (Psalms 90:14; Psalms 112:5; 2 Corinthians 3:1-18; 2 Corinthians 8:13).

III. The reasons.

1. From the grounds of love and beneficence, which are in all men.

2. From the example of God Himself (Matthew 5:44-45).

3. The testimony of Christ (Acts 20:35). (R. Cudworth.)

I. God made all things to do good.

II. Christ saves men in order that they may do good.

III. Do good because--

1. God commands it.

2. It will overcome evil.

3. It will make you happy.

4. It will make others happy.

5. Others will then do good to us. (W. Newton.)

The occasion for the injunction

The admonition is thrown into a general form, but it has evidently a special application in the apostle’s own mind (see 1 Corinthians 16:1). He had solicited their alms for the suffering brethren of Judaea. The messenger who had brought him word of the spread of Judaism among the Galatians had also, I suppose, reported unfavourably of their liberality. They had not responded heartily to the appeal. He reproves them in consequence for their backwardness; but he wishes to give them more time, and therefore refrains from prejudging the case. (Bp. Lightfoot.)

Beneficence

Give what you have. To some it may be better than you dare to think. (Longfellow.)

There may be a furlough from our customary work; there can be none from doing good. There may be change of scene and place and fellowship; there must be none in the spirit of self-sacrificing beneficence. (A. L. Stone.)

The danger of selfishness

Let us proportion our alms to our ability, lest we provoke God to proportion His blessings to our alms. (Bp. Beveridge.)

Seizing opportunities

A lady once writing to a young man in the navy, who was almost a stranger, thought, “Shall I close this as anybody would, or shall I say a word for my Master?” and lifting up her heart for a moment, she wrote, telling him that his constant change of scene and place was an apt illustration of the word, “Here we have no continuing city,” and asked if he could say, “I seek one to come.” Trembling she folded it, and sent it off. Back came the answer: “Thank you so much for those kind words. I am an orphan, and no one has spoken to me like that since my mother died, long years ago.” The arrow, shot at a venture, hit home, and the young man shortly afterward rejoiced in the fulness of the gospel of peace. How often do we, as Christians, close a letter to those we know have no hope “as anybody would,” when we might say a word for Jesus! Shall we not embrace each opportunity in the future?

Do good to all men

Some years ago a society was formed in London which called itself the “Titus Society.” It took its name from Titus, the Roman Emperor, who counted a day lost in which he had not done some act for the good of others. The members of this society bound themselves to act on this benevolent principle. In this they did well; but their obligation lay back of their pledge, inasmuch as the voice of God in Scripture and in the love He pours into every regenerate heart is constantly saying, “Do good! Do good!” There is no need of looking far to find the opportunity, since sorrow, suffering, ignorance, poverty, and sin are everywhere. No one who walks the streets with his eyes open can fail to find some one to whom a kind word, a pleasant smile, a small gift, a few words of instruction or of exhortation, or even a cordial grasp of the hand, would be a benediction. To encourage such effort the God of love has ordained that the satisfaction of doing good is greater than that of receiving a favour. In the laws of the kingdom of Christ, is it not written that “it is more blessed to give than to receive?”

American. Lost opportunities

A poor fellow in connection with a Liverpool mission lay dying the other day, and, as his mother stood by his side, he said, “Mother, I shall soon be with Christ, but it makes me miserable to think that I have never done aught for Him.” Yes, it will make you miserable when you come to die, if you have done nothing for Christ. I charge you to go away and consecrate yourselves to this work. Listen to the cries of the heathen world--“What must we do to be saved?”


Verse 11

Galatians 6:11

Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.

The personal element in Christian power

It has been supposed that some disorder of the eyes made it painful for the apostle to write. Earlier in this Epistle, where he tries to gain these childish Galatians by a recital of his own sorrows for them, he praises their affection by saying, “I bear you record that if it had been possible ye would have plucked out your own eyes and have given them to me.” In the adjoining sentence he speaks of the “temptation in his flesh,” for which they neither despised nor rejected him, but entertained him “as an angel of God.” Doubtless the use of the pen or style was costly to his comfort. All the better if it only helps in the least degree to draw them, through his Christlike sacrifice in their behalf, nearer to Christ Himself. Suppose he had not been so thoughtful; suppose he had just followed the custom and had dictated his letter to an amanuensis--every truth recorded, every appeal for fidelity, every part of the intellectual demonstration of the doctrine would have stood there just as it stands now. Nothing of the literal contents of the message he was bidden to deliver would have been lost. And yet one thing would not have been there. The Galatian reader, and we here, would have missed the sign-manual of personal interest and personal sympathy so vividly and yet so delicately stamped on the whole face of the manuscript in the painstaking writing of his “own hand.” There is the additional power of personal feeling and personal character. The secret value is not what we say in words; it is not in our specific actions, much less in our professions. Terms are not competent to define it. Science has never analyzed it. Yet there it is--the personal quality, a power that is perpetually and mightily at work wherever men are, for or against the Love and Truth of God. It is the thing, too, which more than all else makes people love one another, unites them in companionships, and colours society. Mere abstract truth is not sufficient to change men’s motives, to rouse their hearts or to save their souls. The gospel is not delivered to us as a mere string of propositions, however striking, however true, however inspired--and we may be thankful it is not. For no such treatise, law-book, moral philosophy, “Aids to Reflection,” or “Whole Duty of Man,” call it a gospel or by any other name--would ever have led the race from darkness to light, or lifted it up from death to life. As a matter of history, that never happened. True enough, we have our gospel, our Christianity through a book. It is a “Word of Life,” but it is more. The Word is “made flesh” in the Person Christ. He is the gospel. It was not Christianity that regenerated mankind and changed the face of the earth; it was Christ. We have much more than a Book. We have even that through living men; it brings before us living characters--men whose personality was taken up by the Holy Ghost and made part of the vehicle of Revelation. I take it that what was personal to each one of the twelve men that were grouped about our Lord was put there in order to give the glad tidings of His life to mankind in a twelvefold shape, so that it would be “twelve manner of fruits” for the healing of many nations. Peter’s impulsiveness, John’s ardour, Philip’s curiosity, Matthew the publican’s sagacity, the square-dealing of James, every peculiarity amongst them all was just as much a part of the apparatus of Revelation as the words of the Beatitudes, or the stone tables of the law. The Bible, all through it, is quick and brilliant with these personal tokens. There were occasions, too, in Christ’s intercourse with His followers when, beyond anything that could be described in words, His personal soul went into His manner, motions, glances, yielding marvellous effects. His “Follow Me,” His “Daughter, be of good cheer,” His look at Peter, His woes upon the Pharisees, His aspect before the trained soldiers of the imperial army, sent out to arrest Him, are instances. Since His ascension, in every land and period, Christian piety has been vigorous in preportion to the attachment and devotion to the Saviour’s person. It is the vital aroma of the best hymns of the ages. It sheds the holiest unction into the most memorable sermons. If there is a personal power like this in the faith of Christ at all, we are not Christ’s true followers till we have it and use it. Which of us has come in and goes out in a personal communion, face to face, with God, holding the promises, doing the service, with his own hand? Which of us will return this week, to business, to study, to housework, to society, with new personal purposes, more truly Christ’s follower, more thoroughly in earnest in keeping this world under foot, and so using it for God as to mount up by it to heavenly places? (Bishop F. D. Huntington.)


Verses 11-14

Verse 12

Galatians 6:12

As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.

The history and odium of Christ’s Cross

The Cross of Christ demands notice, calls for Christian feeling, sets before us a glorious object of contemplation.

I. the Cross of Christ in the history connected with it. A very affecting and astonishing history; the very angels bestow on it their attention and admiration.

1. A history of suffering;

2. A history of sin.

II. The odium connected with the Cross. If any man will live godly in Christ Jesus, leading a holy life, manifesting and setting forth Christian principle instead of depending on morality, avowing his conviction that there is no salvation but in the Cross of Christ--then shalt reproach, if not persecution fall upon him--hatred, ill-will, sarcasm, wit, ridicule, obloquy. (T. Mortimer, B. D.)

The impossibility of a divided service

The difficulties of the Church and the Christian life are much the same in all ages. Clothed in different forms, they embody the same spirit. The text speaks of those who seek to please God and the world at the same time; to secure for themselves the safety which Christ offers, without losing the ease and social comfort which they imagine to to be found in the world.

1. This is a temptation from which none are wholly free. When in the society of careless persons, how hard to maintain a high standard of life and conversation! How difficult to see where the line between what is and what is not consistent with a Christian’s position is to be drawn! How easy to let slip the opportunity of speaking for the right. How impossible to recover it when let slip! How easy to assent to the low tone around us; how hard to have to appear disagreeable if we feel compelled to protest against it!

2. To yield to this temptation is the symptom of a half-conversion. If any man is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature. Where is the new creature in us, if we so easily forget Him, and fail to confess Him?

3. Consider how cowardly and cruel it is to allow Him to be insulted without a word spoken in His defence. Could we sit still and hear a friend abused, his dearest wishes ridiculed? Is not the least sin a direct insult to Jesus? Has He not entrusted His honour to our keeping? Are we not members of a thorn-crowned head? Shall we, then, leave Him to suffer alone?

4. Consider the harm which such an apparent acquiescence in evil may do to others.

5. The attempt to serve God and mammon will fail. Sooner or later the choice between the two must be made. The longer we delay choosing for God the more difficult we shall find it to do so even when we would.

6. How to meet the temptation. In the power of Christ all temptation maybe vanquished. In Him you are a new creature. (Canon Vernon Hutton.)

Shams

What multitudes of mahogany-handled drawers there are to be met with in daily life, labelled in black on a gold ground, with swelling and mysterious names of precious healing drugs; but alas! they are handles which do not pull out, or drawers that are full of nothing. What myriads of empty bottles make up yonder “enormous stock” in the universal emporium so largely advertised! What a noble army of canisters filled with air stand marshalled in shining ranks, as if they were fresh from China, and brimming with the fragrant leaf! Now in mere business such things may answer well enough; but bring them into your moral dealings, and you shall soon become contemptible. One smiles at the busy tradesman arranging the shams in his window, but we are indignant with men who exhibit unreal virtues and excellences; he thinks that he makes a fair show in the flesh, but when we have found him out once, even what may be genuine in him is subjected to suspicion, and the man’s honour is hopelessly gone. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Persecution a benefit to the Church

The cold water of persecution is often thrown on the Church’s face to fetch her to herself when she is in a swoon of indolence or pride. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Persecution not to be feared

Do not fear the frown of the world. When a blind man comes against you in the street you are not angry at him; you say, “He is blind, poor man, or he would not have hurt me.” So you may say of the poor worldlings when they speak evil of Christians--they are blind. (McCheyne.)

The exposure of the tactics of the Judaizers

I. Their dogmatic attitude.

II. Their urgent zeal.

III. The true motive of their conduct.

1. Their conduct was cowardly.

2. Hypocritical.

3. Self-interested.

IV. It was just and necessary that the apostle should expose a policy so mean, so mercenary, so insincere. (Prof. Crosskery.)


Verse 14

Galatians 6:14

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

The glory of the Cross

The Cross of Christ is the key to St. Paul’s life; and that life is itself the best human exponent of the Cross of Christ. He saw no ground for boasting, or rejoicing, or living, save in that. By “the Cross” is to be understood the atoning death of which it was the instrumental cause. It stands for “Christ crucified.”

I. The Cross of Christ the highest exhibition of the glory of God.

1. It exhibits in a special manner the justice of God.

2. It exhibits in a special manner the love of God.

3. It reveals in perfect harmony the justice and the love of God.

The pardon which God has provided for sinners is a propitiated pardon--a pardon for which a price has been paid, even the blood of the Son of God. Justice is thus upheld in its integrity: mercy is shielded from the charge of conniving at unrighteousness (Romans 3:21-26).

II. The Cross of Christ the best security for the happiness of man.

1. It secures pardon and reconciliation for the sinner. Nothing to be done, but to believe the overture of mercy, and become reconciled to God. Man has nothing to bring of his own, and nothing is asked for. The Cross provides a present salvation for all who believe in the crucified Son of God.

2. It supplies the believer with a two-fold power;

Henceforth the love of Christ constrains him; the law of the Spirit of life has made him free from the law of sin and death, and the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in him who walks not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

III. Concluding inferences. The Cross of Christ may further be viewed--

1. As supplying the only safe rule for faith and practice.

2. As demanding courage in confession.

3. As securing grace for action. (Emilius Bayley, B. D.)

The Cross of Christ the Christian’s glory

I. What is it to glory in any object, and what are the objects in which the apostle would not glory?

1. To glory in an object implies--

2. The objects in which the apostle would not glory.

II. The object in which he determined to glory. The Cross.

III. His reasons for thus glorying.

1. Because it gives a full and copious description of the Redeemer’s person.

2. Because it gives an ample relation of the blessings procured for man, by the life and death of Jesus Christ. Reconciliation with God; pardon, holiness, joy, victory over the world, eternal life.

3. Because it gives a glorious display of the Divine perfections. Divine love; infinite mercy; resistless power; incomprehensible wisdom; inflexible justice; spotless purity.

4. Because it gives a grand manifestation of the Divine Persons in the Godhead.

5. Because it gives a brilliant exhibition of the Redeemer’s conquest.

6. Because it procured the glories of heaven. (Robert Bond.)

The Cross our only boast

Strong language--the result of strong emotion. Used by St. Paul on hearing that the Galatians, among whom he had planted the standard of the Cross, were now trying to conceal its odium if not to abandon it altogether.

I. The meaning of the terms he employs.

1. The sacrificial, meritorious, victorious “Cross.”

2. “Glorying.” Not mere acquaintance, approbation, or cordial attachment; something higher than all this--exultation, boasting, rejoicing. “Call me madman,” he says, “despise me, mock me, because I make my boast in the Crucified! seize me by the hand of violence, drag me to your dungeons, load me with chains, lead me to the stake: still I will rejoice. Among friends or foes, in liberty and in bonds, in life and in death, I will glory still in the Cross of Christ.”

3. “Only” in the Cross will he glory. Not in his lineal descent, or his affinity to the Jewish Church; not in his literary attainments or learning: these are insufficient for the hope and salvation of guilty man.

When he glories in infirmities, tribulations, etc., it is because Christ is glorified in and by them. So also he would glory in the Advent of Christ, when He came to destroy the works of the devil; in the life of Christ, so immaculate, benevolent, useful; in the teaching of Christ, so wise, important, Divine; in the splendour of the miracles of Christ; in the triumphant resurrection of Christ; in the ascension of Christ, when He took human nature with Him into heaven; but only in so far as these looked forward or back to the sacrificial death of Christ, without which they would all have been in vain.

II. Reasons for this resolution.

1. The Cross is the grand consummation of all the preceding dispensations of God to man.

2. The splendid scene of a decisive victory over the Lord’s enemies and ours.

3. The meritorious, procuring cause of every blessing to Adam’s fallen race.

4. The most powerful and only effectual incentive to all moral goodness.

The Cross a glorious spectacle

Behold our Divine High Priest, offering up the great sacrifice required for the redemption of the souls of men; the very Son of God pouring forth His own blood upon the altar, an atonement for the sins of the whole world. Behold this, and you will acknowledge that though there was never any spectacle so sad, yet never was there any so glorious, so worthy of contemplation by men and angels. And consider to what mighty results that dark hour of His humiliation and anguish is giving birth; and despise the vain pomp of the world in comparison of the splendour of His sufferings. For there, as He hangs on the accursed tree, is the great Captain of our salvation fighting our battles and vanquishing our enemies; there is He, for us, bruising the head of Satan, taking the sting from death, robbing the grave of victory, disarming hell of its terrors. Surely the vain glories of earth, when in contrast with those real triumphs of the Saviour’s Cross, must lose their attraction in the view of every Christian; can we look on Him whom we have pierced and see Him stretched on His Cross, for us enduring the pain, despising the shame of it, and yet regard with satisfaction that scene of vanity and sin which occasioned Him thus to suffer? Can we love the world and the things that are in the world, while our view is fixed on Him who gave Himself expressly that He might deliver us from this present evil world; that He might see us free from the enchantment, the enslavement, of its false allurements and hollow delights? (Bishop Atterbury.)

The Cross reveals God’s heart

The real glory of the Cross, for a deep soul like that of Paul, consists in this--that it is the best revelation of the heart of God. It often seems much easier to get at the mind of God than at His heart. His mind is “writ large” for most of us in the nightly majesty and order of the starry heavens; but for His heart we search vainly in the bewildering labyrinths of external nature. As the intellect spells out each single word that tells it of the thoughts of God, the heart remains too often unsatisfied, and cries aloud with bewildered Job, “Oh that I knew where I might find Him!” Like some fainting and forlorn wanderer in a parched and arid desert, the heart still yearns for “the fountain of living waters,” still cries aloud, “I thirst, I thirst.” Unable to recognize its true God, its real Father, in those hard, unpitying laws which science reveals, the heart of man cries despairingly, like its great Lord on Calvary, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” Now the teaching of Christ’s life and death is that God has a heart as well as a mind; that, notwithstanding all appearances to the contrary, love is the source and root of all things--stronger than hate, mightier than sin, more enduring than hell. Christianity dares to go down into the lowest hell of degradation, and preach the everlasting gospel to souls fast bound in the misery and iron of inveterate evil. In order to meet our very sorest needs, our religion reveals a Being who, needing nothing Himself, finds His deepest happiness in perpetually giving. Christianity boldly declares the naturalness of self-sacrifice in God; for this, surely, is the meaning of the declaration that “God is love.” And thus entrenched for ever in the very heart of God, the Christian spirit is not dismayed either at the stony-hearted apathy of nature or the manifold activity of the powers of evil. Even as the Christian pilgrim sinks down fainting in some cheerless wilderness, he is for ever heard exclaiming with one of old, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Alex. H. Craufurd, M. A.)

Self-renouncement through the Cross

I. The nature of his glorying. And the word itself is for most of us, at first thought, of evil odour and association. For where men and women have been given to boast and glory, it has ordinarily been assumed to be the outworking of personal pride or the dictate of personal vanity, a pretension to greatness or an aping of superiority that most men and moralists have resented as offensive and loved to discipline with contempt and humiliation. Now, I do not deny that there is a kind (I will not say a degree) of that self-appreciation, right and proper, not to be repressed in ourselves or censured in our neighbours; but in practice about one of the best safeguards in young or old, for nobility and purity of character. A man should always have so high an opinion of his own honour that he would not stoop to dishonour; and so good an estimate of his own worth that he will scorn to degrade himself by a mean or vulgar or discreditable action. But that opinion we all have a right to form of ourselves, simply as men, apart from any circumstances peculiar to us personally. Now, that is what we call the self-conscious type of glorying, which you know is very common, and is not by any means an insignificant force and factor in society, and among the ordinary working motives of men. And there are at least two natural checks to it which we must mention, though only incidentally and on our path to higher truths. First, consider the inconceivable littleness of the very best that you or I can be or do, compared with the immensities around us, in which we are less than a speck upon the mountain. “What impression do I make in Europe?” inquired a petty chief in the centre of Africa, from a daring traveller who visited his hut. Surrounded by barbaric honours, he little thought that two hundred miles away they had never heard his name. But, again, remember that what distinguishing qualities may be yours admit of two interpretations. Either you may regard them as lifting you up to superior honour, in which case of course you glory; or you may think of them as burdening you with unusual responsibility, which aspect of the matter can surely only work humility. For if God Almighty has given you peculiar endowments of mind or property, or appointed you a place where in some measure you will be the light and leader of men, ah! my friend, let others think it a glorious thing to be the pilot of a vessel amid the cruel rocks and breakers, where the safety of five hundred lives may depend upon your skill; or the captain of an army, where the destruction of tens of thousands may result from one trivial blunder. But for you, if in society you are in any sense a pilot or a captain, to strut in conscious self-appreciation, is to show yourself unworthy of the trust, incapable of realizing the responsibility, and self-condemned of moral inferiority before the eye of men. God forbid that in aught pertaining to myself I should glory. However, I find there is a saving clause in our text--“Save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ”--which redeems the matter of glorying from unqualified condemnation. Glorying, when selfish or in the least tainted with selfishness, is contemptible; when it is unselfish, it may simply be sublime. To take a simple example. Have you never known some leal-hearted old nurse, for instance, who in the days of her infancy attended some little boy for pay, and gave him besides a true affection that could not be rewarded by the gold she got then or ever for her services. He grew up in her hands, and passed out to a brilliant career at school, in college, and in the world. Those old affectionate eyes followed his bright course day by day. He was no child of hers. He was never likely to lift her from her lowly station. She had no claim or hope to share his renown. But every hour his name was on her lips; every paper was searched with eager hope to find some mention of his praise; and when it comes on to the hour of her sickness and pain and death (I am not imagining a story), the message from the far-away place of his fame will strengthen her heart for the last struggle, and the thought that he will come to follow her hearse forecasts a brightness on her grave. The old creature unselfishly glories in him who was her charge, and that boasting is not despicable, but humanly beautiful and even grand. So, who does not know that “the poor swearing soldier” may come so to glory in his country’s flag, and his regiment’s honour, and his captain’s renown, that he will step forward to be shot down into the ditch, that unpraised and unnoticed there his body may support the feet of gallant comrades on their way to victory. His glorying is unselfish, and for that reason not despicable, but sublime. And I am deeply convinced, brethren, that no life of yours or mine can ever be so fine and potent as it is capable of becoming, so long as it contents itself by merely restraining this Galatian vanity, and does not go on to replace it by apostolic enthusiasm. In other words, to make the best of our lives, they must be utterly consecrated to some cause outside themselves.

II. We pass on to consider the basis or subject of the apostle’s glorying. “I glory in nothing but a cross.” But this paradox, though at the time a” stumbling-block” and “foolishness,” is by no means a permanent difficulty of the gospel. For often and often throughout the course of history you find things that visibly were weak and contemptible transfigured by splendid principles behind them into a glory that has burned their image on the minds of men for ever. A simple example will serve. One of the notable traditions of the world is that of the gallant burgher of Flensburg, who, on his way to have his battle-wounds dressed, paused, with Sidney’s very exclamation, “Thy need is greater than mine,” to empty the contents of his own flask into the lips of a dying enemy. But perhaps you have heard how, when his noble offer of help was replied to only by a desperate wound from the hand of him whom he was denying himself to befriend, he still persisted in his mercy; and just muttering, “Rascal, I would have given you the whole bottle, but now you shall only have the half,” drained off a part himself, and with the rest still eased the thirst of his unworthy foe. The wooden bottle, pierced with an arrow, which his king, on making him a noble, gave him as his armorial bearings, was itself of no great concern. But behind that trifle, you see, there lay a deed and a principle which have lifted it among the noblest emblems of chivalry, and made it a thing in which the hero’s sons might “glory,” while a whisper of his deed lingered in tradition or a tinge of his blood was in the veins of men. But what are those transfiguring principles behind the symbol? Of these two principles, love and sacrifice, the Cross is the external token, and from them, for the apostle and all men, it derived its meaning and its glory.

1. Love.

2. Sacrifice.

III. But now, in what sense was the world crucified to the apostle, and he to the world, by devotion to the Cross of the Saviour? What is the meaning of this language? Well, I fancy we have all seen, in common life, something very like it; and borrowing an illustration, it may be possible to paint the truth in other colours than its own. Perhaps you have known some young neighbour of yours very fond of singing, very fond of reading, very fond of drawing and sketching, and passionately fond of society. She is now only a few years older, nothing more. But how comes it that the only songs she cares for now are simple lullabies; and all the pictures she makes are little rapid ones, to be crushed the next hour by baby fingers; and tales of half a page are her only literature? Besides, she does does not now much care for society. There is a transformation, and by that infant life given in charge to her the world that once was hers is become dead to her and she dead to the world. Is not this something akin to the great apostle’s transformation? I repeat that the problem of the Christian life for you and me is likely somewhat different to what it was for this first great missionary. Him the Cross of Christ severed off entirely from the world’s pleasures and business. You and me it sends back with purified motives to the world’s pleasures and business. The question is, In what way should I be dead to the world, and the world dead to me? One often wonders why it is that men and women, capable of such high and varied enjoyments and with things so beautiful and good around them, are yet able on the whole to enjoy life so little, and in grasping natural good, find it become ashes in their hands; and the glory of what they coveted, when they have got it, becomes darkness to their eyes. I do not believe there are half the men of your acquaintance who have tried hard to make the most of the world, and have succeeded splendidly, who, if asked in private conference seriously, will not answer that substantial happiness rarely advanced with upward movement; and that their outward triumphs have very largely been inner disappointment. What is the meaning of that old lament on the folly of the sons of men? Is it God’s way of commentary on what apparently is the sentiment of our text, namely, that every man’s good consists in dying to the ordinary affairs of time? I was just thinking over these commonplace matters last night, brethren, when, looking out of my own window, I saw a dark crescent creeping over the surface of our lovely full moon; on and on it spread, till it blotted out her whole mild light, leaving her a big ashy ball hanging out from the sky, and the earth in comparative darkness. The fault of last night’s eclipse is not altogether to be charged upon the beautiful moon. It was our own earth that swung itself in between her and the sun, preventing the solar rays from getting at our attendant, and then, of course, she had a natural revenge upon us, in not being able to reflect them back upon ourselves again. But the darkness of the moon was just our own shadow falling upon her surface, and blotting out her beauty. Brethren, I could not help feeling it was a symbol of what often happens in my own life and that of thousands about me. This belief of my heart never wavers, that God Almighty has made all things of which the world is composed to bless and please and gladden the lives of His dear children. His love is reflected from every one of them. But we fling upon them the shadow of our own selfishness and vices, and then, in return, they throw back upon our hearts the dark eclipse-shade of sorrow and disappointment. For instance, we win wealth: and if we got it righteously, and used it nobly and usefully, let us not talk the common cant about its powerlessness to yield a pleasure that will not cloy, and afford a true and solid satisfaction. But we get it by “shady dealing,” or we use it selfishly, to the hardening of our own hearts, or cruelly, to the injury instead of the blessing of others; and is it wonderful that God’s love is not reflected in the glitter of our gold, and that the light of our prosperity is darkness? How much of the eclipse of our lawful joy is the shadow of our own guilt and selfishness? But I repeat again, it is not necessary, or even probable, that your call, like that of Saul of Tarsus, is to become, as if crucified by Christ’s Cross, dead to secular aims, common pleasures, and domestic comforts and attachments. Your vocation may be to live in and enjoy these for your own good and the benefit of men. And I know of no lawful business, the lowliest, that cannot be so administered as to do essential service to that gospel cause which is wide enough (if we were wide enough to understand it) to embrace all tendencies of good to the souls or the bodies of men; whose Author not merely taught the consciences, but fed the hunger of His followers, and to which every part of man is redeemed and precious. (John Irwin, M. A.)

False grounds of boasting

Putting out of sight their special reference, it will be a legitimate use of these words to regard them, in a general view, as condemnatory of all vainglory, as conveying to all persons who would boast themselves in things unworthy to be made ground of exultation. It is natural to man, in entire accordance with the law of his corrupt nature, thus to glory. He will pride himself on something that he has, or does, or is, too often unduly valuing himself on the score of it. Each human excellence, each worldly advantage, will, in turn, serve to elate the mind of its possessor. One man will esteem himself on account of his personal qualities, moral or intellectual; another will regard with complacency his rank and influence, his wealth, or other favourable outward circumstance. All which various things, unsuitable wherein to glory, are briefly summed up in the words of the prophet Jeremiah, and at the same time contrasted with that which is the one good and lawful ground of all human boasting: “Thus saith the Lord: let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth” (9:23, 24). Thus, no human worth or greatness, no earthly satisfaction or comforts, nothing in the shape of good, that our present mortal life can yield, may be acquiesced in as an end, and rejoiced in for its own sake; on the contrary, man’s real satisfaction and rejoicing must be in his God. As a sinner, more especially, his joy will consist herein, that he has “seen the salvation of God” as revealed in the gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ; and the language of exultation most becoming to him will be that uttered of old by the blessed Virgin: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” But, although the talents, of whatever kind, which God has given to each of us, do not afford ground or excuse for self-complacency, still, rightly used, there is a lawful satisfaction in their possession. Recognized as from the hand of God, enjoyed in His fear and love, and diligently improved to His honour and glory, they may well be rejoiced in as the instruments of our happiness. It is only when they are thanklessly received, or used without reference to the purpose of Him who bestowed them, that they lose their value to us, or become worse than valueless. And the guilt of such ingratitude is only equalled by the folly of men’s priding and vaunting themselves in the possession of that of which they have no certain tenure, and which, at any moment, may, in just judgment, be withdrawn from them. (John Bulmer, B. D. , Mus. Bac.)

No Christianity without the Cross

That celebrated divine, Jonathan Edwards, in giving his interesting diary of the life of Brainerd, the great American apostle, who was the means of converting thousands of the wild Indians, records that for some time poor Brainerd, in simplicity and not in guile, thought that the best way to make men sober was by preaching to them the attributes of God, laying hold of the functions of conscience, and keeping the Cross in the background. It is a remarkable fact that he found the whole system a failure; he could not produce one sober man. “Then,” he says, “I bethought me that I would go and preach Jesus Christ; and many a hard face relaxed, many an eye shed tears that had never wept before, and I found that the best way to make men sober was to make them spiritual;” and from henceforth he gloried in and held forth nothing but the Cross.

Mistaken concealment of the Cross

It is recorded of some of the Romish missionaries, that in their endeavours to bring over the heathen to Christianity, they scrupulously kept the crucifixion out of sight, considering.that such a topic would create prejudices with those whom they wished to convince; and it is well known that the Moravian missionaries--men of extraordinary piety and zeal--laboured for a long time in Greenland without at least giving prominence to the doctrine of the Atonement, believing it necessary to clear the way, and prepare men’s minds, before they advanced the truth of Christ’s death--a truth so likely, as they thought, to give fatal offence, even to the most degraded and barbarous. In each case the same feeling was at work--the feeling that there is something very humiliating in the Cross, and that human reason, and yet more, human pride must recoil from the thought of being saved by One who died as a malefactor; and you must all be aware that this doctrine is not one which commends itself at once to those whom it promises to rescue; on the contrary, it almost invariably excites opposition, because instead of flattering any one passion it demands the subjugation of all. Yet Christianity is valuable and glorious on those very accounts on which, in common estimation, it must move the antipathies of its hearers. He who keeps back the doctrine of the Cross, is all the while withholding that which gives its majesty to the Christian religion, and is striving to apologise for its noblest distinction. Instead of admitting what may be styled “the shame of the Cross,” we should boldly affirm and exhibit its glory. The doctrine has only to be fairly exhibited and fully expanded, in order to its attracting the warmest admiration. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Meanness of self-boasting

If I were a pupil of Titian, and he should design my picture, and sketch it for me, and look over my work every day, and make suggestions, and then, when I had exhausted my skill, he should take the brush and give the finishing touches, bringing out a part here and there, and making the whole glow with beauty, and then I should hang it upon the wall, and call it mine, what a meanness it would be! When life is the picture, and Christ is the Designer and Master, what unutterable meanness it is to allow all the excellences to be attributed to ourselves! (H. W. Beecher.)

Christ crucified the preacher’s theme

The pulpit is intended to be a pedestal for the cross, though, alas! even the cross itself, it is to be feared, is sometimes used as a mere pedestal for the preacher’s fame. We may roll the thunders of eloquence, we may dart the coruscations of genius, we may scatter the flowers of poetry, we may diffuse the light of science, we may enforce the precepts of morality, from the pulpit; but if we do not make Christ the great subject of our preaching, we have forgotten our errand, and shall do no good. Satan trembles at nothing but the Cross: at this he does tremble; and if we would destroy his power, and extend that holy and benevolent kingdom, which is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, it must be by means of the Cross. (J. A. James.)

Glorying in the Cross

The doctrine of the text is, that the death of Christ, as an expiatory sacrifice, is the glory of the true Christian. This is that great truth which there have been so many strenuous efforts in all ages to subvert. At first it was opposed by Jewish zealots, and by Gentile philosophers; and at present it is equally opposed by pharisaic speculatists in religion, who have no adequate views of the evil of sin, and the rights and honour of the Divine government. It is, however, the key-stone of the Christian arch; and it therefore becomes us to hold it in its place.

I. Reasons for glorying in the Cross.

1. We glory in the doctrine of the Cross--the justification of guilty men through a propitiatory sacrifice--because of its antiquity. Antiquity is no excuse for error. Its hoariness, like that of age, cannot of itself claim reverence. The oldness of an opinion is no proof of its truth. No opinion which affects the foundations of a religion, or stands connected with a sinner’s acceptance with God, can be true, if it be new; if it be not as old as the human race itself, considered as fallen creatures. We glory in the antiquity of this doctrine. It was taught by patriarchs and prophets; the law of ceremonies was its grand hieroglyphical record; the first sacrifices were its types; the first awakened sinner, with his load of guilt, fell upon this rock, and was supported; and by the sacrifice of Christ shall the last saved sinner be raised to glory.

2. We glory in the doctrine of the Cross, because it forms an important part of the revelation of the New Testament. This is indeed our principal reason for boasting in it; for that which is revealed by God must be truth and goodness.

3. We glory in the Cross of Christ as affording the only sure ground of confidence to a penitent sinner. When preached to the broken in spirit it strikes hope into the deepest darkness of despair. It is life to the dead.

4. We glory in the Cross because of its moral effects.

II. Let us attempt to derive some improvement from the whole.

1. Is there any person here, who, allured by the infidelity or semi-infidelity of the age, has denied or derided this doctrine? You are ashamed of the faith of your forefathers; and what do you glory in now? In your new rational discoveries?

2. But I address more who hold and respect this doctrine. But do you still cherish the love of sin, and live under its power? O the intolerable hell of the reflection, that you have slighted a Redeemer!

3. I grant that practically the doctrine of the Cross is too often made to encourage indifference to religion.

4. Lastly, I recommend you to consider, that the grand practical effect we are to expect from the death of Christ, after we have received remission of sins through His blood, is to become crucified to the world; and that the world should be crucified to us. Happy state of those who yield to the full influence of the Cross! (Richard Watson.)

The Cross a reality in our faith

Outwardly we make much of the cross; we place it, and we rightly place it (for we are not ashamed of the symbol of our salvation), over the sacred table of our Lord, remembering the sacrifice of His death. We carve it, in polished marble or beautiful stone, for the gables of our churches or the graves which contain the blessed dead. We emboss it in wood or ivory on our prayer-books. We wear it, in gold, or silver, or jet, or bronze, on our breast. The Victoria Cross is our most prized decoration. The Geneva Cross protects our ambulances. The Church of England Temperance Society adopts the cross as its badge. A combination of three crosses makes up the Union Jack, our national standard, our prints are set in cross frames. All sorts of notices have the cross for their border. Very many, following the early Christians, use the sign of the cross, in the midst of the congregation. Lovely flowers and ripened corn are put together into this shape for the harvest ornamentation of the sanctuary; and pictures of our dying Lord, as He hung for us upon the tree of shame, are common things in our homes. Yet, after all, do we, as a nation, do we, as a Church, do we, as individual Christians, really glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ?

I. Is faith in an unseen Saviour influencing thoroughly, or at least more and more, your daily life and conversation? The fact that Christ died for us--for you, for me--is just as true and certain for us as it was for St. Paul. But do we, as he did, make Christ the great reality of the spiritual world, and determine thankfully to live and die for Him?

II. Does the Cross become the true measure for our self-congratulation? How could we plume ourselves on our cleverness, or our quick progress, or our skill in music, or our power of language, or the influence which we have gained by money, or by eloquence, or by social talents, if we did but recollect that the triumph of the Son of God was won by His emptying Himself of His glory and bending to the lowest place--the death of the slave and the malefactor, apparently smitten of God and afflicted by the hiding away of His face? Truly, the higher we are, the more we are to humble ourselves, in order to grow like unto Him.

III. Is the Cross abasing us, specially in the place where God’s honour dwelleth, and wherein the presence of our once crucified, now glorious Lord, does chiefly manifest itself?

IV. Is the Cross my secret joy? Does it really represent the attitude of my soul towards God? How deeply many of us must feel, that we want less of the Cross on the heart, and more of it in the heart! We want, not so much the display of the form, as the proof that we are not ashamed of the thing, when we are with the men and women of the world.

V. Is the Cross our chief help in trouble--that whereon we can stay ourselves when all our earthly friends are taken away--because it invites us in our sorrow to “the fellowship of His sufferings”? (Canon G. E. Jelf.)

Three crucifixions

I. Christ crucified. In this Paul gloried so as to glory in nothing else, for he viewed it--

1. As a display of the Divine character (2 Corinthians 5:19).

2. As the manifestation of the Saviour’s love (John 15:13).

3. As the putting away of sin by atonement (Hebrews 9:26).

4. As the breathing of hope, peace, and joy to the desponding soul.

5. As the great means of touching hearts and changing lives.

6. As depriving death of terror, seeing Jesus died.

7. As ensuring heaven to all believers. In any one of these points of view, the Cross is a pillar of light, flaming with unutterable glory.

II. The world crucified. As the result of seeing all things in the light of the Cross, he saw the world to be like a felon executed upon a cross.

1. Its character condemned (John 12:31).

2. Its judgment, contemned. Who cares for the opinion of a gibbeted felon?

3. Its teachings despised. What authority can it have?

4. Its pleasures, honours, treasures rejected.

5. Its pursuits, maxims, and spirit east out.

6. Its threatenings and blandishments made nothing of.

7. Itself soon to pass away, its glory and its fashion fading.

III. The believer crucified. To the world, Paul was no better than a man crucified. If faithful, a Christian may expect to be treated as only fit to be put to a shameful death. He will probably find--

1. Himself at first bullied, threatened, and ridiculed.

2. His name and honour held in small repute because of his association with the godly poor.

3. His actions and motives misrepresented.

4. Himself despised as a sort of madman, or of doubtful intellect.

5. His teaching described as exploded, dying out, etc.

6. His way and habits reckoned to be puritanic and hypocritical.

7. Himself given up as irreclaimable, and therefore dead to society.

Conclusion:

1. Let us glory in the Cross, because it gibbets the world’s glory, and honour, and power.

2. Let us glory in the Cross, when men take from us all other glory. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Reasons for glorying in the Cross

It is a subject of rejoicing and glorying that we have such a Saviour. The world looked upon Him with contempt; and the Cross was a stumbling-block to the Jew, and folly to the Greek. But to the Christian this Cross is the subject of glorying. It is so because--

The Cross the foundation of the Bible

If you have not yet found out that Christ crucified is the foundation of the whole volume, you have hitherto read your Bible to very little profit. Your religion is a heaven without a sun, an arch without a keystone, a compass without a needle, a clock without spring or weights, a lamp without oil. It will not comfort you; it will not deliver your soul from hell. (Bishop Ryle.)

The glory of the Cross

Do not be satisfied with so many others only to know the Cross in its power to atone. The glory of the Cross is, that it was not only to Jesus the path to life, but that each moment it can become to us the power that destroys sin and death, and keeps us in the power of the eternal life. Learn from your Saviour the holy art of using it for this. Faith in the power of the Cross and its victory will day by day make dead the deeds of the body, the lusts of the flesh. This faith will teach you to count the Cross, with its continual death to self, all your glory. Because you regard the Cross not as one who is still on the way to crucifixion, with the prospect of a painful death, but as one to whom the crucifixion is past, who already lives in Christ, and now only bears the Cross as the blessed instrument through which the body of sin is done away (Romans 6:6, R.V.). The banner under which complete victory over sin and the world is to be won is the Cross. (Andrew Murray.)

The Cross of Christ

And we reckon it of importance, that we should occasionally shift the ground of debate: and that thus, in the place of admitting what may be styled, “the shame of the Cross,” we should boldly affirm and exhibit its glory. With all our admissions, that at the first hearing there would be something repulsive in the doctrine of Christ crucified; we believe that this doctrine has only to be fairly exhibited and fully expanded, in order to its attracting the warmest admiration.

I. The reasons why we should glory in the Cross of Christ.

II. The strength of the particular reason by which St. Paul justifies his boasting. Now we need hardly observe to you, that so far as Christ Jesus Himself was concerned, it is not possible to compute what may be called the humiliation, or the shame of the Cross. It is altogether beyond our power to form any adequate conception of the degree in which the Mediator humbled Himself when born of a woman, and taking part of flesh and blood. We read nothing of shame in His becoming a man; but we do read of His shame as dying as a malefactor. Indeed, we are not so to exult as to lose those feelings of godly contrition which a sight of the cross should always produce. But, nevertheless, though of all men perhaps St. Paul was the least likely to forget or underrate the cause of sorrow presented by the Cross, this great apostle could speak of glorying in the Cross--yea, could shun as a great sin, the glorying in anything beside. Why think ye was this? We would first observe, that the greater the humiliation to which the Son of God submitted, the greater is the demonstration of the Divine love towards man. We show you, then, the Cross! Aye, the blazing of the sun, or the milder shinings of the moon, or the processes of vegetation, or the seatings of mind, are not a thousandth part so demonstrative of the love in which sinners are beheld as this emblem of shame, this memento of ignominy. We proceed to observe to you, that although to the eyes of sense there be nothing but shame about the Cross, yet spiritual discernment proves it to be hung with the very richest triumphs. It is necessary to be admitted, that in one point of view there was shame, degradation, and ignominy in Christ dying on the cross; but it is equally certain that in another there was honour, victory, and triumph. We are told that “through death Jesus Christ destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil,” and that “He made peace by the blood of the Cross.” We know that in dying the Redeemer broke off the yoke from the neck of the human population, wrenched from Satan the sceptre which he had long wielded as the god of this world, and scattered the seeds of immortality amid the dust of the sepulchres. Indeed, I know you may tell me, that the result may be glorious, and yet the means through which it is effected degraded and ignoble; and we can well- believe, that had the Redeemer appeared at the head of the heavenly hosts; had He come the first time as He shall the second, with a thousand times ten thousand of ministering spirits; and had He met Satan and his angels with all the retinue of evil, and overthrown them in some such battle as that of Armageddon in the last day; we can well believe that those who now see little but shame in the Cross would have exulted in the victory of the Cross. Yet what is called shame is one great element of glory. It would have been comparatively nothing, that as the leader of the celestial army Christ should have overthrown the enemies of God and man. The splendid thing is, that He trod the wine-press alone, and that of the people there was with Him none. To have destroyed death by living would have been wonderful; but to have destroyed it by dying--oh, this is the prodigy of prodigies, the glory of glories! But hitherto we have spoken only comparatively: we have rather shown that we can have no such great cause for glorying as the Cross, than that we should glory in nothing but the Cross. It is to the latter extent that the apostle carries his determination. It is a truth which we have frequently laboured to set plainly before you, that we are indebted to the mediation of Jesus for all we have in the present life, as well as for all we hope for in the next. Yes, man of science, thine intellect was saved for thee through the Cross! Yes, father of a family, the endearments of home were rescued by the Cross! Yes, admirer of nature, the glorious things in the mighty panorama retain their place through the erection of the Cross! Yes, ruler of an empire, the subordination of the different classes, the links of society, the energies of government, are all owing to the Cross! And when the mind passes on to the consideration of spiritual benefits, where can you find one not connected with the Cross? If we can affirm all this of the Cross (and there is no exaggeration, for every blessing we have, and every hope we possess, is derived to us through the sacrifice of the Mediator), then to glory in the Cross is to glory that God giveth us all things richly to enjoy; that He heareth our prayers; and that to understand, to know Him aright, is to love Him. It is to glory that there is yet fertility in the soil, yet strength in the intellect, that grace is bestowed on us here, and that a kingdom is ready for us hereafter. I observe in the last place, that there is a special reason given by the apostle for his glorying in the Cross; and which, though perhaps included in those which have been advanced, yet demands from its importance, a brief and separate consideration. St. Paul gloried in the Cross, because by it “the world was crucified unto him, and he unto the world.” What are we to understand by this two-fold crucifixion? The world was to St. Paul as a crucified thing, and St. Paul was to the world as a crucified thing. They were dead one to the other. The apostle regarded the world, with its pomps, its shows, its pleasures, its riches, its honours, with no other feelings than those with which he would have regarded a malefactor fastened to a cross, and whose condition could present no desire for participation; or the world appeared no more glorious, no more attractive to Paul than it would to a man in the agony of dissolution, who, suspended on the cross, would look down with a kind of insensibility on objects which before were precious in his sight. Thus the world was to the apostle as a crucified thing; or, to express the same idea somewhat differently, the apostle was to the world as a crucified man: so that if we put away the metaphor, the thing affirmed is, that St. Paul was completely a new creature, with affections detached from things below, and fixed on things above; and he ascribes to the virtues of the Cross this change in himself, and then considers the change as a sufficient vindication of his resolution, that he would glory in nothing but the Cross. For a moment let us examine these points; they are full of interesting instruction. It is one of the great fruits of Christ’s passion and death, that the life-giving influences of the Holy Ghost are shed on us abundantly. It is, therefore, through the Cross that we become new creatures, crucified to the world, and the world crucified unto us; and it is through the sacrifice presented on the cross that those influences are derived to us, without which they could do nothing for our moral renovation. There is more to be said than this. Would you learn to despise the pomps and vanities of earth, to hate sin and to withstand evil lusts? Then must you be much on the mount of crucifixion; much with Jesus in His last struggle with evil. Who would yield to a corrupt passion, who would indulge himself in unlawful gratification, who would hearken to base temptations if his eye were on Christ, “wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities”? The sight of Jesus pierced by and for our sins is the great preservative against our yielding to the pleadings of corrupt nature. So true is it, that by the Cross of Christ the world is crucified to us, and we unto the world. Can a stronger reason be assigned why we should glory in the Cross of the Redeemer? By nature we are prisoners--we would glory in being free; we are powerless--we would glory in being mighty; we are doomed to eternal misery--we would glory in being heirs of happiness. Liberty, strength, immortality, all flow out of the crucifixion of the world to man, and of man to the world. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

The Cross of Jesus Christ

;--To glory is one of the most characteristic propensities of our nature. It is seen in every class of society, and in every portion of the human race. From the highest dignitary to the lowest beggar, from the enlightened and refined citizen to the savage in whose mind scarcely a spark of reason appears, all discover something in which they think they can glory. And in what do they glory? In foolish toys, of which they should rather be ashamed than proud. God designed to give man something in which he could reasonably glory: He gave him “the Cross of Jesus Christ.” This meditation will be devoted to the examination of the new right of glorying which has been granted to man. On this subject there are two opinions: one is the apostle’s opinion, which we shall sustain. The other is the opinion of the world, which we shall refute.

I. The apostle’s opinion.

1. The first reason which led him to glory in the Cross was because he saw the character and glory of God fully displayed in it.

2. But if St. Paul gloried in the Cross of Christ because it revealed to him all the glory of God, he gloried in it quite as much because it taught him his own wretchedness. Let the proudest of men draw near; let him stand at the foot of that cross erected for his salvation, and what will become of his pride? The Cross destroys that deceiving glass which magnifies us in our own eyes.

3. He glories in it especially because it raises him to the level of true greatness.

4. But notice the motive which the apostle himself assigns. “God forbid,” he says, “that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” This, my brethren, is indeed a glorious advantage of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Yes, my brethren, the death of the Redeemer is the only thing that can make you hate your own evil nature. It is the true remedy for your disease. But the Cross of Christ will also crucify the world to you; that is, it will destroy in you all the attractions of the vanities of this world. You cannot love both the Cross and the world. But the last motive which induced St. Paul to exclaim, as he was advancing into Asia, Greece, or Italy, or crossing the sea, that he desired no other glory, was his conception of the power of that Cross, and of the triumphs which await it. The great apostle knew that it was all-sufficient to give immortality to those who had fallen into the deepest misery. He knew that it had redeemed a great people, both in the cities of Galatia, to which he wrote, and in Greece, Rome, and Jerusalem. He knew its future destiny, that kings and nations would come and prostrate themselves before it, that “the people would bring their sons and their arms;” and that it had received the ends of the earth for an inheritance.

II. The opinion of the world. Is this your language? If such was St. Paul’s opinion, what is yours? There is perhaps no truth which encounters so much opposition from the world as this. How many there are who say, on the contrary, I will glory in anything rather than the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! And why is it thus? Perhaps you ask, “Is it necessary to think so much of the Cross, when there are so many other subjects in religion of more importance than this?” Of more importance than the Cross! We might here remind you of what we have just said, but we prefer to refute you by your own words. You wish to set aside the Cross as a thing of little importance; and yet you exclaim, “We cannot conceive of such a thing as that Cross, that expiatory death of God’s only Son; it is too much for our reason.” How can such decisions be made to agree? How can the Cross be at once so contemptible and so astonishing? If it so greatly surpasses your comprehension, why do you esteem it so lightly? “But,” you will say, “it is this that perplexes us. If the Cross be true, then it is certain that the foundation of all our pretensions must give way, and that we must glory in it alone. But is it true?” But, without seeking a witness in heaven, is not earth itself sufficient? Think of the most striking events of antiquity; not a vestige of them remains, and it is only through the ancient chronicles which have been handed down to us that we are acquainted with their existence. But it is not so with the expiatory death of Christ; this fact is living in the world. The present state of the world bears testimony concerning it. It is from the blood which flowed from that cross that all those nations have sprung which have unfurled the sacred banner over the globe which they rule. Among them everything speaks of it. Shall we tell you why you will not know it? Because you do not feel the need of it. This is the point to which the whole case refers. We seize with eagerness the aid which we think to be necessary, but we despise it if we think it superfluous. The Cross of Jesus Christ is designed to purchase eternal happiness for you; but you would fain purchase it for yourselves. The Cross of Jesus Christ is designed to procure sanctification; but you would fain procure it yourselves. But perhaps you say--as some may say with truth--“I do not deny the Cross of Christ.” That is true; you believe it, but partially. You do not deny the fact, but you evade it. You dare not believe, fully and openly, that the Son of God was nailed to the cross for your sake; and therefore, so far as its influence on your heart is concerned, it is a fact of no importance. Forsake this ruinous semi-Christianity. Any form of Christianity of which Christ crucified is not the centre to which everything tends and from which everything proceeds is a false Christianity. Why should you not believe what St. Paul believed? (J. H. M. D’Aubigne, D. D.)

The methods of glorying in the Cross of Christ

I. First, I am to show that whatever excellencies, outward advantages, or privileges it may be our lot to enjoy, yet it misbecomes us, as we are Christians, to glory in them. I do not say that we are to be insensible of such advantages, to have no relish of them, no complacence in them; for neither reason nor religion require such a conduct from us. They are the good things of life, given us by the Author of all good, on purpose that we should, in due measure and season, enjoy them. They may be used, if they are not over-valued; if we do not suffer our affections to cleave too closely to them, and our minds to be in any degree elated and swelled by a reflection upon them. The Christian religion, by the tendency of all its doctrines (particularly that of Christ crucified), by the manner of its progress, and the mean characters of those who first promulgated and embraced it, seems to have been so throughout contrived as effectually to mortify and beat down any undue complacence we may have in ourselves on such occasions.

II. Secondly, it highly becomes us to glory in the Cross of Christ, as I proposed in the second place to show; for since by the alone merits of His Cross we gain all the advantages of the Christian dispensation, are reconciled to God, and made capable of heaven and happiness, we cannot but glory in that Cross, if indeed we value ourselves upon our being Christians.

III. Thirdly, by what methods, and in opposition to what enemies of the Cross of Christ, we are obliged to glory in it.

1. Now, the first step requisite towards our complying with this obligation is, frequently to meditate on the sufferings and death of Christ. We glory in nothing but what we esteem and value; and what we value much we shall be apt often and attentively to consider (1 Timothy 3:16). We should turn it on all sides, and consider it as the proper subject of our awe and wonder, our joy and pleasure, our gratitude and love, till we have warmed our hearts with a lively sense of the inestimable benefits conferred on us by the means of it.

2. A second step towards fulfilling our obligation to glory in the Cross of Christ is, if we endeavour to imitate the perfect example He hath set us, and to form in our minds some faint resemblances of those meek graces and virtues which adorn the character of our suffering Saviour. And this step is a natural consequence of the former; for imitation will in some degree spring from attention.

3. A third instance and proof of our glorying as becomes us in the Cross of Christ is, if we frequently and worthily celebrate the memorial of His death, the blessed sacrament of His body and blood.

4. In the fourth place, we may be said, very properly said, to glory in the Cross of Christ, when we zealously assert and vindicate the true doctrine of His satisfaction against all the enemies and opposers of it; against the false notions of the Jews, and the false religion of the Mahometans; against the mischievous opinions of some deceived or deceiving Christians; against the vain pretences of reason and philosophy; and against the proud insults and blasphemies of atheists and infidels. (Bishop Atterbury.)

The Surety’s Cross

The death of the cross has always been, above every other, reckoned the death of shame. The fire, the sword, the axe, the stone, the hemlock, have in their turns been used by law as its executioners; but these have, in so many cases, been associated with honour, that death by means of them has not been reckoned either cursed or shameful. Not so the cross. Not till more than four thousand years had gone by did it begin to be rumoured that the cross was not what men thought it, the place of the curse and shame, but of strength and honour and life and blessing. Then it was that there burst upon the astonished world the bold announcement, “God forbid,” etc. From that day the Cross became “a power” in the earth; a power which went forth, like the light, noiselessly yet irresistibly, smiting down all religions alike, all shrines alike, all altars alike; sparing no superstition nor philosophy; neither flattering priesthood nor succumbing to statesmanship; tolerating no error, yet refusing to draw the sword for truth; a power superhuman, yet wielded by human, not angelic, hands; “the power of God unto salvation.” Let us look at the Cross as the Divine proclamation and interpretation of the things of God; the key to His character, His word, His ways, His purposes; the clue to the intricacies of the world’s and the Church’s history.

I. It is the interpreter of man. By means of it God has brought out to view what is in man. In the Cross man has spoken out. He has exhibited himself, and made unconscious confession of his feelings, especially in reference to God--to His Being, His authority, His character, His law, His love. The Cross was the public declaration of man’s hatred of God, man’s rejection of His Son, and man’s avowal of his belief that he needs no Saviour. If any one, then, denies the ungodliness of humanity, and pleads for the native goodness of the race, I ask, What means yon Cross?

II. It is the interpreter of God. It is as the God of grace that the Cross reveals Him. It is love, free love, that shines out in its fulness there (1 John 3:16). Nor could any demonstration of the sincerity of the Divine love equal this. It is love stronger than shame, and suffering, and death; love immeasurable, love unquenchable. Truly, “God is love.” But righteousness as well as grace is here. We learn God’s righteous character in many ways. We learn it from its dealings with righteousness, as in the case of all unfallen ones; we learn it still more fully from its dealings with sin, as in our fallen world; but we learn it, most of all, from its dealings with both of these at once, and in the same person, on the Cross of Christ; for here is the righteous Son of God bearing the unrighteousness of men.

III. It is the interpreter of law. It tells us that the law is holy, and just, and good; that not one jot or tittle of it can pass away. The perfection of the law is the message from Calvary, even more awfully than from Sinai. The power of law, the vengeance of law, the inexorable tenacity of law, the grandeur of law, the unchangeable and infrangible sternness of law--these are the announcements of the Cross.

IV. It interprets sin. The Cross took up the ten commandments, and on each of their “Thou shalts” and “Thou shalt nots,” flung such a new and Divine light, that sin, in all its hideousness of nature and minuteness of detail, stood out to view, as it never did before, “the abominable thing” which Jehovah hates. It showed that sin was no trifle which God would overlook; that the curse was no mere threat which God could depart from when it suited Him. It showed that the standard of sin was no sliding scale, to be raised or lowered at pleasure; that the punishment of sin was no arbitrary infliction; and that its pardon was not the expression of Divine indifference to its evil.

V. It interprets the gospel That good news were on their way to us was evident from the moment that Mary brought forth her first-born, and, by Divine premonition, called His name “Jesus.” Goodwill to men was then proclaimed. But not till the Cross is erected, and the blood is shed, and the life is taken, do we fully learn how it is that His work is so precious, and that the tidings concerning it furnish so glorious a gospel.

VI. It interprets service. We are redeemed that we may obey. We are set free that we may serve--even as God spoke to Pharaoh, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.” But the Cross defines the service, and shows us its nature. It is the service of love and liberty; yet it is also the service of reproach, and shame, and tribulation. We are crucified with Christ. It is not His cross we bear. None but He could bear it. It is a cross of our own; calling us to self-denial, flesh-denial, and world-denial; pointing out to us a path of humiliation, trial, toil, weakness, reproach, such as our Master trod. (H. Bonar, D. D.)

Glorying in the Cross

Let us look for a very little to the expression, “the Cross of Christ.” This, my brethren, has different meanings in Scripture. Sometimes it signifies simply the wooden cross to which our Saviour was nailed--the accursed tree on which He hung; sometimes, again, it is used in a figurative sense, to signify those sufferings which our Saviour endured on the cross--the death which He died on it. In a wider sense still, it is employed to designate the whole of His sufferings both of His life and death, of which sufferings His death was the consummation. Lastly, the expression is not unfrequently used to denote the doctrine of Christ’s Cross; in other words, the way of salvation through a crucified Saviour; and it is in this sense chiefly that we are to understand it in the verse before us.

I. Let us consider the nature and description of Paul’s feelings towards the Cress of Christ. “God forbid,” he says, “that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” You all know, my brethren, what it is to glory in any object. It is just to have a very high esteem for it. For example, if we speak of a man glorying in his good name, his riches, or his friends, we just mean that he esteems these things very highly, that he sets a great value upon them. The consequence is that he thinks and talks continually about them, and nothing sooner excites his indignation than to hear them undervalued or dispraised. When Paul says, then, that he gloried in the Cross of Christ, you are simply to understand him as meaning that he placed a high value upon it, that he prized it greatly. The consequence was, that that Cross was the all-engrossing theme of his meditation, his conversation, and his preaching. Observe, however, more closely the nature of the apostle’s glorying, as described in the text: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. This shows his glorying in the Cross to have been an exclusive glorying. The Cross not only appeared to him as an object worthy of esteem, but it appeared to him as the only such object. We often see men taken up with several objects at once. No doubt there cannot well be more than one object on which the mind is supremely set, but there may be others on which a considerable share of attention is at the same time bestowed, and for which a strong attachment is also conceived. It filled his whole soul; it displaced and shut out every lesser object. Some of the Judaizing teachers among the Galatians, while professing Christianity, were yet glorying more in some of the institutions of the law and in the proselytes they made than in the grand doctrines of the Cross; and Paul, with special reference to these, says in the text, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross.” The glory of the Cross appeared to him so great as to eclipse every other object. Although, as the Scriptures say, there is one glory in the sun, and another glory in the moon, and another glory in the stars, for one star differeth from another star in glory, yet such is the superlative glory of the sun, that when once it has risen and attained its meridian splendour all those lesser lights disappear.

II. Let us now point out some of the grounds of the apostle’s glorying, especially the one stated in the text. Notwithstanding the ignominy usually attached to the death of the cross, there was something transcendently glorious in the death of Christ. Never were the Divine perfections so conspicuously displayed as in that event. The mighty changes which the preaching of that Cross had produced, the wonderful effects which it had wrought on a dark and benighted world, might well have made him glory in its behalf. Was it not a glorious sight to see the wilderness and solitary place made glad, and the desert rejoicing and blossoming as the rose? to see the parched ground becoming a pool, and the thirsty land turned into springs of water? But while the apostle thus gloried in the effects produced by the Cross upon others, his glorying as mentioned in the text seems to have had especial reference to the effects it produced upon himself. “By which,” he says, “the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” But what was it that produced such a change as this upon the aspect of the world to him? It was just, my brethren, the Cross of Christ. No sooner was it beheld by him than the world lost its charms. The light which shone from the Cross at once revealed to him the true nature of all earthly things; it showed him a hideousness and ugliness in them that he had never discerned before. Many things, you know, appear smooth and beautiful in the dark but once let in the light upon them, and they immediately wear a very different aspect. So it was in the case of Paul. He thought at one time that the world was all fair and lovely, because he viewed it through a thick and darkening medium, the veil of unbelief. But when that veil was taken away, and when the flood of light which streams from Calvary’s Cross was let in upon his soul, what a changed aspect did the once lovely scene begin to wear! But this was not the only effect which the Cross of Christ produced on him. It not only made the world dead to him, but him likewise dead to the world: “by which the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world.” Not only did the world become changed to him, but he became changed towards it. Not only did it lose its charms, but he lost his desires after it. He now viewed its pleasures, its joys, its amusements, with as little relish and delight as a man hanging on a cross would view the richest delicacies and most inviting fruits that might be spread out before him. The current of his affections was completely changed, and the direction they had taken was just the very reverse of that in which they had formerly been flowing. (J. Philip.)

The glory of the Cross

This is the keynote of the Epistle, so that it may be called the “Crucifixion Epistle.” It reflects the glory of the Cross as presented in this chosen champion of the Cross. And how?

1. In Paul’s conversion.

2. The preaching of Paul reflects the glory of the Cross. This is the centre and circumference of his thought.

3. The sufferings of Paul. He died daily.

4. The triumphs of Paul reflect the glory of the Cross. (W. H. Wardwell.)

The Cross of Christ: the highest object of glorying and the mightiest instrument of power

Every man has an object of glory--the avaricious, wealth; the vain, distinction; the ambitious, power; the self-righteous, virtue; the philosophical, wisdom; the Christian, his Lord.

I. The Cross is the highest object of human glory. Glorying implies--

1. The highest appreciation of it. Paul valued it more than talents, learning, connections, influence, life. He looked upon it--

2. A personal interest in it.

3. A delight in professing it.

II. The Cross is the mightiest instrument of human power.

1. What world it does not crucify.

2. What world it does crucify--the corrupt moral world as animated by the spirit of--

The glories of the Cross

I. We have no occasion to glory in anything without this.

1. All men are naturally apt to glory in something.

2. There is nothing on earth but some one glories in it.

3. Many glory in wisdom, power, and riches (Jeremiah 9:23-24); but

4. Some glory in their good works, but these are nought save as wrought by the strength of the Cross, which, therefore, is the proper object of our glory through them.

II. What infinite cause we have to glory in the Cross, and in that only.

1. Its glory in itself consists in--

2. Its glory in relation to us. Hereby--

Glorying in the Cross

I. Paul gloried in the Cross as a man glories in a great and wide-reaching truth.

1. There were truths in Judaism in which Paul once gloried, which possessed vast breadth and stimulating power.

2. But they all paled before this.

II. Paul gloried in the Cross as a man glories in a great truth which he has made his own.

1. Paul not merely possessed the truth.

2. It possessed him.

III. Paul gloried in the Cross because it was a great paradox.

1. He had a peculiar affinity for paradoxes (2 Corinthians 6:9; 2 Corinthians 12:10; 2 Corinthians 4:8).

2. This being Paul’s tendency, the central paradox of Christianity was the very thing for him.

In conclusion:

1. There are four stages of assent which we can give to any truth like that of Christ’s Cross.

2. Ii is impossible to understand the cross fully until we glory in it.

3. It is impossible to glory in it unless we are willing that the world should be crucified to us and we to the world. (A. F. Ewing.)

It is not safe to judge by first appearances, otherwise we shall deem the Cross repulsive.

I. St. Paul’s judgment on the Cross.

1. The Cross was not a thing to be tolerated, but to be exulted in.

2. The Cross exceeded all things within his knowledge.

3. He chose the Cross in preference to them all.

II. The grounds on which it rested.

1. Not merely the supernatural manifestations which invested it with grandeur.

2. But mainly its spiritual significance.

(a) in His righteousness;

(b) His love. The Cross sets this forth.

(a) Guilt;

(b) the need of a redeeming fact;

(c) the need of fellowship with a living person.

(a) Its first function in the apostolic age.

(b) Its ameliorating influence on the race at large. (J. C. Galloway, M. A.)

I. Almost all men have something wherein to glory.

1. Men glory so as to become boastful and full of vainglory.

2. Men are ruined by their glory.

3. Men glory in their shame.

4. Some glory--

5. Men rob God of His glory.

II. Paul had a rich choice of things in which he could have gloried.

1. Amongst the Jews he

2. As a Christian he might have gloried in

III. Paul gloried in the Cross of Christ. He does not here say he gloried in Christ, though he did with all his heart. He might have gloried in--

1. The Incarnation.

2. Life.

3. Ascension.

4. Second advent.

Yet he selected the Cross as the centre of the Christian system. Learn:

1. The highest glory of our religion is the Cross.

2. To think of it till by the power of the Spirit we can say, “God forbid,” etc. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. The Cross is the true symbol of the Christian religion.

1. What it seemed to the Jew. A symbol

2. What is it to the Christian?

II. Glorying in the Cross is a sign of true religion. It is--

1. To believe that religion centres round a person.

2. To feel that Christ has entirely changed our relations to God.

III. Glorying in the Cross is an evidence of practical religion.

1. By it the Christian is crucified to the world and the world to the Christian.

2. By it the believer obtains deep and lasting satisfaction.

3. By it is evolved the love which is the inspiration of self-sacrifice. (S. Pearson, M. A.)

The Cross

I. Justifies the fact of the incarnation to the reason and commends it to the heart.

II. Contains the highest and fullest revelation God has made of Himself to man.

III. Is the only fountain whence flows a supply adequate for the deepest needs of humanity.

IV. Is the mightiest instrument in the hands of man for the uplifting of his brother. (W. Jackson.)

Christ the means of self-crucifixion

I. By his mighty working within us.

II. By looking upon him as an effectual engaging example.

III. By beholding in Him infinitely more and better things than the world can afford.

IV. By pondering that it was our sinful living in the world for which Christ was crucified.

V. By accepting Christ as our surety, who died for us to the world, undertaking that we should die in Him. (D. Clarkson.)

Moral crucifixion

I. Of the world.

II. To the world. (Owen.)

The double sacrifice

“The Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” refers to His vicarious sacrifice. “By which the world is crucified unto me,” etc., refers to his own interior crucifixion in the fellowship of Christ to all things outside the new creation. But the two are now one; and the sanctified apostle glories in the Cross because, through its virtue, condemnation is gone and sin destroyed in the unity of his Christian experience This is the pith and heart of this grand apostrophe, too often forgotten by those who fail to mark that it is the conclusion of the whole matter. Some there were who despised the vicarious death of Christ, and made it of none effect; some there were who, unduly trusting in that, explained away the necessity of an interior passion. Against both this apostle of the Cross protests with holy vehemence. And the force of this protest is this--that the one without the other is not enough: that each is the complement of the other, and that their union is their perfection. (W. B. Pope, D. D.)

Our Cross

The Cross of Christ is divided through the world. To each his portion ever comes. Thou, therefore, O my soul, cast not thy portion from thee, but rather take it to thee as thy most precious relic, and lay it up, not in a gold or silver shrine, but in a golden heart--a heart clothed with gentle charity, with patience, and suffering submission. (Luther.)

Salvation at the Cross

I have read how, in the burning desert, the skeletons of unhappy travellers, all withered and white, are found, not only on the way to the fountain, but lying grim and ghastly on its banks, with their skulls stretched over its very margin. Punting, faint, their tongue cleaving to the roof of their mouth, ready to fill a cup with gold for its fill of water, they press on to the well, steering their course by the tall palms that stand full of hope above the glaring sands. Already, in fond anticipation, they drink where others had been saved. They reach it. Alas! sad sight for the dim eyes of fainting men, the well is dry. With stony horror in their looks, how they gaze into the empty basin, or fight with man and beast for some muddy drops that but exasperate their thirst. The desert reels around them. Hope expires. Some cursing, some praying, they sink, and themselves expire. And by and by the sky darkens, lightnings flash, loud thunders roll, the rain pours down, and, fed by the showers, the treacherous waters rise to play in mockery with long fair tresses, and kiss the pale lips of death. But yonder, where the cross stands up high to mark the fountain of the Saviour’s blood, and heaven’s sanctifying grace, no dead souls lie. Once a Golgotha, Calvary has ceased to be a place of skulls. Where men went once to die, they go now to live; and to none that ever went there to seek pardon, and peace, and holiness, did God ever say, Seek ye Me in vain. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)


Verse 15

Galatians 6:15

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

A new creature

I. What the apostle here means by the new creature. It is not a mere reformation, but a creation--not a partial, but a complete, entire, and radical change. This new creation is of God. It is--

1. Divine in its origin. Its commencement, its progress, its consummation, belong to God.

2. God has various methods in effecting this change. Here we might mention the afflictive dispensations of Providence; the admonitions and expostulations of friends.

3. It is a total and universal change. It is complete in its purpose.

II. In what ways this important change is discovered and manifested. It is the new world of grace, springing into existence with all its rich furniture, and increasing in beauty. The subject of this glorious change is led to the adoption--

1. Of new views. No new faculties are bestowed. There is what is called the eye of the mind, which is the faculty by which the mind views the objects presented to its notice.

2. In the new creation there is a change in the affections. These, it is true, existed before, but now they flow in a new channel, and are directed to other objects.

3. In the new creation new principles are implanted. The new creature is governed by the principles of the Christian religion. Love and gratitude to God, and benevolence to mankind at large. The principles of the new creature are gathered from his relation to eternity.

4. In the new creation there will be a new and holy life. There the change will be visible. “By their fruits ye shall know them” (see Ezekiel 36:25-27; 1 John 3:9-10). (Essex Congregational Remembrancer.)

The recreation of the soul

This world was created beautiful, and holy, and good. To understand, therefore, in any degree what this moral creation of holiness and God-life is, we must study the characteristics of the first material creation of this world. And that must be in a great degree its type and model. Now the first thing which we may notice in the creation of our system, as recorded in Genesis, is that the Three Persons in the Holy Trinity were all separately and collectively engaged. As then the first creation was the work of each Person in the blessed Trinity, so we are led to believe and feel sure that the moral and spiritual creation of any one soul must be by the whole Trinity. If we may say it reverentially, and venture into those deep mysteries, the Father wills, and plans, and ordains; the Son executes; the Holy Ghost applies and appropriates the restoration, the re-formation of the body and soul. Therefore in Trinity you receive it. Another feature which we may observe in primeval creation is that it was gradual and progressive. Six days it took, which some understand to be six years of time. First the inanimate, then the animate, then the rational, then the spiritual and immortal. Just so we must expect it to be in that new creation for which we look. We must, therefore, have patience. It is a gradual, a slow process. But, remember, it is a sure one. The selfish man will be full of sympathy and energy in good work with all around him. He who thought himself the first will be content always to be the last. The miser will be the generous man. He who seldom had God in his thoughts, and perhaps really never said a prayer, will be in constant communion with God, either silent or expressed. Where the world was once, holy things will be. Heaven and earth will change their places,--heaven being the substance, and earth the shadow. A new creature will testify to “a new creation,” and the Creator will be glorified. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The new creature

The particle “but,” in the front of my text, is exclusive and restrictive; it excludes everything in the world from pretending to avail anything, from being believed to do us any good. The substance of all the apostle’s discourse, and the groundwork of mine, shall be this one aphorism--Nothing is efficaciously available to salvation but a renewed, regenerated heart.

I. It is observable, that our state of nature and sin is in Scripture expressed ordinarily by old age, the natural sinful man; that is, all our natural affections that are born and grow up with us, are called “the old man,” as if, since Adam’s fall, we were decrepit and feeble, and aged as soon as born; as a child begotten by a man in a consumption never comes to the strength of a man, is always weak, and crazy, and puling, hath all the imperfections and corporal infirmities of age before he is out of his infancy. Now, the new principle, by which not the man, but the new man, the Christian lives, is, in a word, the Spirit of God; which unites itself to the regenerate heart, so that now he is said to be a godly man, a spiritual man, from the God, from the Spirit; as before a living reasonable man, from the soul, from the reason that informed and ruled in him; which is noted by that distinction in Scripture betwixt the regenerate and unregenerate, expressed by a natural, or animal, and a spiritual man.

1. Whence comes the new creature? From above. Since Christ’s ascension, the Holy Ghost, of all the Persons in the Trinity, is most frequently employed in the work of descending from heaven; and that by way of mission from the Father and the Son, according to the promise of Christ, “The Comforter whom I will send from the Father.”

2. Where does the new creature lodge? In the heart of man, in the whole soul, ruling and guiding it in all its actions, enabling it to understand and will spiritually. As the soul of man sees in the eye, hears in the ear, understands in the brain, chooses and desires in the heart; and, being but one soul, yet works in every room, every shop of the body, in a several trade, as it were, and is accordingly called a seeing, a hearing, a willing, or understanding soul; thus doth the habit of grace, seated in the whole, express and evidence itself peculiarly in every act of it, and is called by as several names as the reasonable soul hath distinct acts or objects. In the understanding it is, first, spiritual wisdom, and discretion in holy things; opposite to which is νοῦς ἀδόκιμος, an unapproving, as well as unapproved or reprobate mind, and frequently in Scripture spiritual blindness. Then, as a branch of this, it is belief or assent to the truth of the promises, and the like. In the practical judgment it is spiritual prudence in ordering all our holy knowledge to holy practice; in the will it is a regular choice of whatsoever may prove available to salvation, a holy love of the end, and embracing of the means with courage and zeal. Lastly, in the outward man, it is an ordering of all our actions to a blessed conformity with a sanctified soul. In brief, it is one principle within us doth everything that is holy--believes, repents, hopes, loves, obeys. And, consequently, is effectually in every part of body and soul, sanctifying it to work spiritually, as a holy instrument of a Divine invisible cause; that is, the Holy Ghost that is in us and throughout us.

3. When does this new principle enter? It comes into the heart in a threefold condition.

II. And for the necessity of renewedness of heart; to demonstrate that, I will only crave of you to grant me that the performance of any one duty towards God is necessary, and then it will prove itself; for it is certain no duty to God can be performed without it. For it is not a fair outside, a slight performance, a bare work done, that is accepted by God: if it were, Cain would deserve as much thanks for his sacrifice as his brother Abel; for in the outside of them there was no difference, unless perhaps on Cain’s side, that he was forwardest in the duty, and offered first. But it is the inside of the action, the marrow and bowels of it, that God judges by. Be the bulk and skin of the work never so large and beautiful to the eye, if it come not from a sanctified, renewed, gracious heart, it will find no acceptance, but that in the prophet, “Who hath required it at your hands?” In brief, the fairest part of a natural man, that which is least counterfeit, his desire and good affections to spiritual things (which we call favourably, natural desires of spiritual obedience), these, I say, are but false desires, false affections.

1. They have no solidity or permanency in the will, are only fluid and transitory; some slight sudden wishes, tempests and storms of a troubled mind, soon blown over; the least temptation will be sure to do it. They are like those wavering prayers without any stay of faith; “like a wave of the sea driven by the wind and tossed.”

2. That being which they have is counterfeit; they are not that which they are taken for. We are wont to say that acts are distinguished by their objects: he sees truly which judges the thing to be that that it is. It is true, indeed, that another man sees that he takes blue for green, but he does not see truly; so also he only willeth a good thing that wills that in it which is truly good. Now the natural man, when he is said to choose spiritual things, as heaven, happiness, and the like, desires not a spiritual but a carnal thing: in desiring heaven, he desires somewhat that would free him from misery in happiness, a natural or moral good, that would be acceptable to any creature under heaven: and so a Turk will desire paradise, and that very impatiently, in hope that he shall have his fill of lust there. (Dr. Hammond.)

The new creature

I. Let us examine what is implied in “a new creature.” Four explanatory questions may, be asked upon this subject.

1. In what sense is a Christian a new creature? Is it a physical or a moral one? It is only a moral one. New faculties are not given him; but his faculties have new qualities and applications. Compare Paul after his conversion with Paul before his conversion: his body and soul, his learning and abilities, and the ardour of his disposition, continued the same; and yet, was there ever a being so different?

2. How far does this change extend? A new creed, or a new denomination, does not make a man a new creature. The new creation is not a change from vicious to virtuous only; but from natural to spiritual, from earthly to heavenly, from walking by sight to walking by faith.

3. Is this work produced instantaneously, or is it gradually advanced to perfection? Scripture describes Christians as going “from strength to strength:” as “renewed day by day:” as “changed into the same image, from glory to glory.”

4. Who is the Author of this new creation? Creation is a work of omnipotence, and belongs exclusively to God.

II. Observe what is to be inferred from its unrivalled importance. And, “if in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature,” this should regulate your inquiries--your prayers--your praise--your esteem, and your zeal. (W. Jay.)

The family title

The great difference between the bulk of professors and real Christians is this, the former are patched, and mended, and decorated, and ornamented, and transformed; nay, not transformed, but rather changed, or metamorphosed into the appearance of something that they are not. Will you bear with a familiar simile before I enter immediately on my text? Suppose that in some of our Sunday Schools the children had a doll that they had nursed and dressed very prettily, after their own fashion, and some one had beaten it, and bruised it, and torn its dress, and then painted it again, and put it on a new dress, they could not say it was a new doll, it would only be a mended one. This is just the character of religion in our day--it has no new life. What, then, does avail? “A new creature.”

I. The title of a real Christian. A new creature--a new creation--the workmanship of God. The prominent characteristic of this new creature is spirituality. It is the reigning principle, and it will manifest itself wherever he goes, whatever he does.

II. The household which all such new creatures constitute. The living Church of the living God. The Temple of Jehovah. The Body of Christ.

III. Their employments and their destiny. Now if God has made you a new creature, the first end and employment He has in view, is the glory of His own name. Ye are not your own, says the apostle, but ye are bought with a price--wherefore, glorify God in your bodies, and in your spirits, which are God’s.” Again, “Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God, giving thanks to His name.” Look again, for a moment, at the very salvation of the soul itself. More ought to be said and taught about the perfections of Deity being glorified when I get home, than the mere fact of my escaping hell and getting into rest. The latter is glorious to me, but the former is glorious to Him. Moreover, among the employments, and the end of God’s new creation, is the obtaining of spiritual blessings. Are you, a new creature, employed thus in God’s vineyard? Then do you ask how every day is employed for such a purpose? One thing more, and I close--the destiny. I dwell upon that with especial delight, and it fires my soul with sacred joy. What is it? Why just to dwell with my God. I do not want any other explanation. I know I must enter heaven to understand it. (Joseph Irons, D. D.)

New creation alters the whole man

“A new creature” does not mean that one clothes himself differently, and puts on a different air from before; but it means the renewal of the mind which is brought about by the Holy Ghost. From that there follows an alteration of the outer life. For where the heart through the gospel obtains a new light, there it never fails that the outward senses also are altered. The ears have there no longer pleasure in hearing human dreams and fools’ tidings, but God’s Word alone. The mouth no longer boasts of a man’s own works and righteousness, but of God’s compassion in Christ Jesus. This, then, is an alteration, which consists not in words, but in work and in power. (Luther.)

Source and result of new creation

This spiritual renewal springs out of living union to Christ, and it is everything. For it re-enstamps the image of God on the soul, and restores it to its pristine felicity and fellowship. It is not external--neither a change of opinion, party, or outer life. Nor is it a change in the essence or organization of the soul, but in its inner being--in its springs of thought and feeling, in its powers and motives--by the Spirit of God and the influence of the truth (2 Corinthians 5:17). This creation is “new”--new in its themes of thought, in its susceptibilities of enjoyment, and in its spheres of energy; it finds itself in a new world, into which it is ushered by a new birth. (John Eadie, D. D.)

A new creature.

Re-creation not merely reformation

There is such a thing as what we call reformation. This necessarily presupposes the indulgence in some bad habit, or the following in some wicked course of life. When it is said a man has reformed, it is well understood that he has abandoned his previous evil habits, and become a different man. And you may suppose this reformation to be so complete and radical, that the man may be regarded as being a new creature as touching all his relations to human society. He will, if he is thoroughly reformed, be a different husband, a different father, a different friend, a different member of society; and his influence, in all these relationships of life, will be for good. In this sense we understand what reformation is. He may be all this without becoming a religious man. He may be all this, and yet remain an absolute stranger to the renewing power of that Divine grace which alone constitutes him a Christian, and places him in a condition of safety before God. If we were to trace the origin of this reformation, we should see that it sprang from some prudential policy; we should see that the man had been influenced by the power of external relationships, or that such influences were brought to bear upon him, that he was enabled to realize the terrible end to which the course of life he was pursuing must inevitably lead. Or he may have felt the growing effects of these vicious habits, and that they were taking away even the power of self-indulgence, and the capacity for relishing forbidden pleasures. And so he changes his course of life. But that does not constitute him a religious man. Many mistake reformation for reformation, a new creation; but there is a great difference between the two. The change of which we have spoken does not constitute a man a new creature. It merely affects his relations with his fellow-men; it does not produce the slightest change in his relationship to God. He is no safer in his virtue than he was in his viciousness. If he is to be saved, he must be made a partaker of God’s renewing grace. (Wm. Y. Rooker, M. A.)

The non-essential and the necessary in genuine Christianity

I. The non-essential.

1. No ritualism is of any avail.

2. Not that ritualism is to be wholly condemned; but that it is of minor importance.

3. The same applies to the isms of men. Neither Catholicism nor Protestantism, Conformity nor Nonconformity, availeth anything. Christianity is

II. The necessary.

1. Unless a man is a new creation it matters not

2. Every man who is in Christ Jesus is a new creation.

(a) He is no longer materialistic but spiritual.

(b) Even the material in him is full of spiritual significance.

(c) He walks after the Spirit.

(d) His citizenship is in heaven. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The new creation

is--

I. God’s work and therefore--

1. Complete as being by the activity of the undivided Trinity,

2. Present (John 11:25-26).

3. Glorious.

II. Effected by union with christ.

1. This is not--

2. But by faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26).

III. Not perfect, but is the beginning of a new life which is to grow to perfection. (J. R. Macduff, D. D.)

I. Negatively.

1. It is not a common work, but a creation.

2. No innovating humour.

3. Not the restraint of the old man, but something new.

4. Not moral virtue, and what we call good nature.

5. Not outward conformity to the law of God, but something inward.

6. Not a partial change of the inward man.

II. Positively.

1. A new mind--

2. A new will.

3. A new heart, affections, etc. (D. Clarkson, B.D.)

I. The efficient cause of it--God (Ephesians 2:10).

II. The act--creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

III. The effect.

1. New qualities (2 Corinthians 4:17; Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:23-24).

2. Gracious qualities.

IV. The subject--the whole soul, not one part or faculty (1 Thessalonians 5:23). (D. Clarkson, B. D.)

New creations

I. Christ himself, a new Person: His Being and character were unique.

II. The world, by Christ’s advent: a new era: new thoughts, hopes, aspirations, possibilities, institutions, for the race.

III. The christian: the new man through Christ’s crucifixion: a new heart, view, purpose, interest, and attainment in life. (Dean Stanley.)

The Christian a new creature

There is a churchyard where the passenger who reads the inscriptions on the tombs, that stand up amid the long rank grass beneath the shadow of waving elms and an old gray steeple, will find one to surprise him; which, though quaint in form, I doubt not is true in substance. Here no angel flying through the heavens sounds a trumpet; no figure of old Time, with bald head, shoulders a scythe or shakes an hour-glass; no crossbones rudely carved, nor sexton’s spade, nor grinning skull, give point to the trite “Memento Mori.” Stranger still, the monument which is raised to the memory and virtues of one person bears the date of more than one birth: with long years between, it says, speaking in name of the dead, I was born the first time on such a day, and born the second time on such another day of another year. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Conversion more than restraint

A vicious horse is none the better tempered because the kicking straps prevent his dashing the carriage to atoms; and so a man is none the better really because the restraints of custom and providence may prevent his following that course of life which he would prefer. Poor fallen human nature behind the bars of laws, and in the cage of fear of punishment, is none the less a sad creature; should its Master unlock the door we should soon see what it would be and do. A young leopard which had been domesticated, and treated as a pet, licked its master’s hand while he slept, and it so happened that it drew blood from a recent wound; the first taste of blood transformed the gentle creature into a raging wild beast; yet it wrought no real change, it only awakened the natural ferocity which had always been there. A change of nature is required for our salvation--mere restraints are of small value. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 15-16

Verse 16

Galatians 6:16

And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

The Christian’s walk and rule

1. Christianity is a walk; a free and voluntary motion, an uniform and even motion, a progressive motion, a constant motion.

2. This walk is a walk by rule. A Christian is not a lawless person to range up and down as fancy leads him.

3. The rule is the law of the new creature. The new creature, in the principles and workings of it, is made the ground, the pattern and direction of our obedience, and we frame and square all the actions of our lives according thereunto.

4. The blessed privileges belonging to those who thus walk--peace and mercy.

5. Such are the true Israel: a thousand times greater privilege than to be the children of Abraham’s flesh. (W. Burkitt.)

The true canon of Christianity

This “rule”--

I. Does not consist in party watchwords.

II. Does consist in a spiritual change of the inner man (2 Corinthians 5:17).

III. Practically followed brings blessing. “Peace and mercy.’’ (Canon Vernon Hutton.)

Canonical obedience

I. The rule.

1. Glorying in the Cross.

2. The new life.

3. Called a rule of faith and practice because by it all doctrines and acts are to be examined.

4. We are to walk by it warily, circumspectly, in order and measure, without swerving, but making straight steps to our feet.

II. The blessedness of walking by this rule.

1. Peace.

2. Mercy--all spiritual blessings flowing from the love and favour of God in Christ. (R. Cudworth.)

Peace and righteousness

Peace may be sought two ways. One way is as Gideon sought it when he built his altar in Ophrah, naming it “God send peace,” yet sought this peace that he loved as he was ordered to seek it, and the peace was sent, in God’s way: “The country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon.” And the other way of seeking peace is as Menahem sought it when he gave the king of Assyria a thousand talents of silver, that “his hand might be with him.” That is, you may either win your peace or buy it--win it by resistance to evil; buy it by compromise with evil. You may buy your peace with silenced consciences; you may buy it with broken vows; buy it with lying words; buy it with base connivances; buy it with the blood of the slain, and the cry of the captive, and the silence of lost souls. (Ruskin.)

Christianity a rule of life

I. That Christianity is a rule of life. “And as many as walk according to this rule.”

1. Christianity is a Divine rule. Christianity is of God.

2. Christianity is a perfect rule. “The law of the Lord is perfect.”

3. Christianity is an unchangeable rule. “The word of the Lord standeth for ever.”

4. Christianity is a precious rule. “The law of Thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.”

5. Christianity is an influential rule. “Converting the soul.”

II. That conformity to Christianity as a rule of life imparts great blessings.

1. Harmony of soul. “Peace be on them.”

2. The favour of God. “And mercy”

3. Relation to the children of God. “And upon the Israel of God.” (J. O. Griffiths.)


Verse 17

Galatians 6:17

From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.

Freedom from human criticism

A man who is growing old claims for himself in these words the freedom and responsibility of his own life. He asks that he may work out his own career uninterfered with by the criticism of his brethren. He bids them stand aside and leave him to the Master whom he serves, and by whom he must be judged. How natural that demand is I How we all long at times to make it! How every man, even if he dare not claim it now, looks forward to some time when it must be made. He knows the time will come when, educated perhaps for that moment by what his brethren’s criticism has done for him, he will be ready, and it will be his duty to turn aside and leave that criticism unlistened to and say: “From henceforth let no man trouble me. Now I must live my own life. I understand it best. You must stand aside and let me go the way where God is leading me.” When a man is heard saying that, his fellow-men look at him and they can see how he is saying it. They know the difference between a wilful and selfish independence, and a sober, earnest sense of responsibility. They can tell when the man really has a right to claim his life; and if he has, they will give it to him. They will stand aside and not dare to interfere while he works it out with God. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

The cry of absolute self-devotion

Magnificent outburst of a heart filled to the overflow with the spirit of impassioned consecration. The man who utters it has made up his mind so firmly that he is conscious there is not the faintest possible chance of his ever changing his determination. He has come to so certain and final a conclusion that he tells those around: “You may as well save yourselves the trouble of ever arguing with me or seeking to alter me. I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. And these marks are only so many seals upon a resolution deliberately taken, and so awfully intense in its nature, that you may as well argue with a rock, and expect to move it by force of your logic, as anticipate effecting the slightest alteration in my determined purpose.” It is the language of a wholly consecrated man. He has now given himself up to his Master without reserve. All in Paul belongs to Christ. There is not an atom of his manhood now which he feels he can claim as his own. It is lost time, lost trouble, and lost energy, for any to attempt to change his decision, or make him swerve to the right hand or to the left. “Let no man trouble me. I am given, up to Christ, and I bear His brand upon me.” The word he uses is “stigmata.” “I bear the stigmata of the Lord Jesus.” This was the brand the slave used to wear, to show he was the property of his master. If you look at the context, you will see how magnificent a climax this verse forms. Throughout the Epistle St. Paul had been arguing with a Church that had yielded him but little joy. He seems now virtually to say, “I have taught you the gospel, I have preached Christ to you. Yea, I have so preached Him that He has been evidently set forth crucified before your eyes. I have denounced the folly of circumcision in the flesh. I have used every possible means to lead you wholly, solely, to Christ. Now you must take your own way. I cannot do more. I cannot say more. But be it known unto you, O Galatians, whichever way you may go, I cannot follow you if you go adrift from the gospel; for God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The text is the language of a man who has not only hoisted his colours, but also deliberately nailed them to the mast. He has driven the nails right through. Pulled down those colours never can be. Displayed on any other masthead, never. “Christ is my Master, and Christ alone. For Him I live; for Him, if necessary, I will die. Let none attempt to make me swerve. I am past hope of change.” (A. G. Brown.)

The marks of the Lord Jesus.

Explanation of the figure

It was the custom, in those days of darkness and cruelty, to prick or brand upon the body of a slave some distinctive letter or other mark of ownership, by which he might be deterred from attempting flight, or quickly traced and reclaimed in the event of his escape. More especially was this brand used in eases of theft or crime; as a mark of disgrace, a perpetual badge of degradation and contempt. In either case it stamped a poor, fallen, outcast creature as what he was; a slave at least--a man who through the misfortune of his birth or his country had never possessed, or had forfeited, the right of free will and free agency; perhaps one who through his own fault had sunk lower still, and had added to the involuntary misery of servitude the culpable appendage of crime and ignominy. To “bear in his body the marks” of any one, was to carry about with him everywhere one or both of the two reproaches. This man is a slave, and, This man is a convict. And was St. Paul then not ashamed to apply to himself such a figure? Was St. Paul some poor degraded being, who cared not whether he was a slave or a freeman, an innocent man or a criminal? We must draw a distinction here. The essence of slavery is to have no free will; to be the possession, the property, of another; to enjoy nothing, to have nothing, to do nothing, and to be nothing, save at the beck, command, will, of another. A dreadful state, if that other be a man like myself. But suppose my master be my Creator, Redeemer, Lord, and God. Suppose me His by a right antecedent to my being, a right only to be set aside by my self-abandonment and self-ruin. Will it then be any disgrace to bear His mark in my body, or to be incapable of severing myself from His all-watchful and all-beneficent ownership? St. Paul thought not. (Dean Vaughan.)

I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.--The stigmata

He was growing an old man. Anybody who looked at him saw his body covered with the signs of pain and care. The haggard, wrinkled face, the bent figure, the trembling hands; the scars which he had worn since the day when they beat him at Philippi, since the day when they stoned him at Lystra, since the day when he was shipwrecked at Melita; all these had robbed him for ever of the fresh, bright beauty which he had had once when he sat, a boy, at the feet of old Gamaliel. He was stamped and marked by life. The wounds of his conflicts, the furrows of his years, were on him. And all these wounds and furrows had come to him since the great change of his life. They were closely bound up with the service of his Master, to whom he had given himself at Damascus. Every scar must have still quivered with the earnestness of the words of Christian loyalty which brought the blow that made it. See what he calls these scars, then. “The marks of the Lord Jesus.” He had a figure in his mind. He was thinking of the way in which a master branded his slaves. Burnt into their very flesh they carried the initial of their master’s name, or some other sign that they belonged to him, that they were not their own. That mark on the slave’s body forbade any other but his own master to touch him or compel his labour. It was the sign at once of his servitude to one master, and of his freedom from all others. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

The marks of the Lord Jesus

I. The text is an expression of that rest in love which those alone can have whose “life is hid with Christ in God.” The immediate motive of its utterance here is a certain sense of powerlessness in swaying the minds of others. What is argument to him? What is the judgment of man? What is any outward evidence? Has he not within the surest of all proof, the experience of the highest faith? “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

II. What are the “marks” here signified? Whatever they are, no doubt they are proofs that he is Christ’s, and Christ is his. But what are they? Elsewhere, he speaks of his labours and sufferings in the cause of Christ; and that too on an occasion like the present, when some were disparaging him, and making invidious comparisons between himself and the earlier apostles. He is obliged to say in his own cause, “I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.” Then he speaks of his severe sufferings as signs of his apostleship. Are these uppermost in his mind now? I think not. Again, he speaks to the Corinthians of the vision vouch-safed to him--“How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” And he concludes, “In nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” Is it to the same that he is referring now? Or, once more, does he allude to the many converts whom he had made, signs, if there be any, that Christ is with him? Well might his heart rest in thoughts like this, as when he wrote to the Church at Corinth--“Though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel;” “And the seal of my apostleship are ye in the Lord.” Or when he calls the Philippians “my brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown.” Is this the mark of the Lord Jesus which he looks at, and takes comfort at the sight? No. I think not. It is something closer to him than this. Sufferings may find a man and leave a man separate from Christ: “Though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it is nothing.” Of visions he says, “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory;” and lest he should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given unto him a thorn in the flesh. Of miracles and mighty works, One greater than Paul said--“Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” And as to making converts, here is his own solemn caution, “Lest when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” What are these marks? They are the stigmata, the marks (as the Greeks would say, whose word it was), burnt into a slave, the brand set on a runaway slave: a sign graven upon the very body, as inseparable as a birth-mark; one that has indeed been imposed in after years, and by another hand, but now become part and parcel of the man himself, as his own flesh and bone. They are the stigmata, the marks (as Christians would say, in memory of Him who bore them on Himself), of Christ their Master: His marks on their body, as signs that they are members of His Body, in all purity and chastity and holiness, as being “temples of the Holy Ghost;” His marks on their temper, as those who have taken up their cross and borne it after Him in self-denial and mortification, in patience, in forgiveness, in humility, in cheerfulness; His marks on their soul, as being set free from condemnation by the atoning mercy of the Saviour, as being made partakers of the precious fruits of His sacrifice upon the cross--the mark of justification, and the mark of sanctification--the imputed righteousness of Christ, the imparted and inherent righteousness wrought in them by the Holy Ghost: His marks on their spirit, being full of all spiritual affections--love, joy, peace, patience, amid the trials of earth, longing for the security of heaven, the present enjoyment of an almost perfect rest in the arms of God; in short, “a life hid with Christ in God.”

III. In the next place observe, that this is not an unusual thought with St. Paul, and will not admit of being explained away as a momentary instance of highly-wrought enthusiasm. It was his life! Did it seem to any a mischievous intrusion of imagination into holy things, to speak of love imagining the Saviour’s wounds to be traced in the Christian’s heart? Then how do you read St. Paul’s words to the Colossians--“I, Paul, who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh;” or these to the Philippians--“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death;” and again to the Galatians--“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ that liveth in me”? These are the marks branded by the fire of God’s love upon his heart. “What marks have I of the Lord Jesus?” and again, “Without these marks will Christ know me for His own?” They are brands burnt into the very body, so no outward thing will satisfy; nothing that your hands have done, nothing that the world can measure, for it is beneath all the dress and apparel of a so-called religious life, of which the world takes cognizance. They are part and parcel of yourself, so they can be nothing which can be taken up and laid down at will. Think how great is the risk of self-deceit; because that mark is not genuine unless it be found in the very inmost circle of your life. (G. W. Furse, M. A.)

A branded body

What a testimony does the outward man give to the inner life--the body becomes the tell-tale of the soul! We bear in our body the brand of the master whom we serve. The horny hand of the labourer tells that he is the slave of unceasing, unpitying toil. The dinted brow of the merchant declares what master it is that sits over him in the counting-house as he pores over his ledger, and anxiously balances his gains and losses. The thoughtful features of the student reveal his servitude to a higher master--the love of knowledge and truth. The sailor’s weather-beaten brow, the soldier’s scars or dismembered frame, tell of a more arduous service; and a grateful country can confer on them no decoration more honourable than those which they have already themselves acquired. On many a once robust and comely frame sickness and pain, or grief or anxiety, have wrought their work, have set their seal, too deeply as we are apt to think. In others the wrinkled countenance, the trembling hands, the whitening hair, the dim eye, the dull ear, are signs of the submission that we must all make to the universal law of God, the law of Nature--not to be repined at, not to be evaded, however heavily it may weigh upon us. But there are disfigurements of the poor body which betoken no such honourable or natural servitude. There are marks to be seen deeply stamped on cheek and lip and eye, signs of sottishness and sensuality, signs that the body, which was formed to be a temple of the Holy Spirit, is given over to be the slave of selfish indulgence, of appetites and passions that are meant to serve, not to rule. If the life has been given to God’s service, and the soul has been filled with the love of Christ, our will subjected to His will, our spirit pervaded by His Spirit, intent on the fulfilment of His gracious purposes towards ourselves and all mankind, there will scarcely fail to be some outward signs, in the meek and chastened deportment, in the melting voice and kindling eye--the doors and windows of the soul--through which even the careless observer may become aware of the purity of the spirit that dwells within, of the Master who rules it, and who in return for the service which He asks gives peace and joy, and the sense of perfect freedom. And we may be sure, however they may be overlooked or looked down upon by us, these ornaments of the outer man are in the sight of God of great price. They are in part a fulfilment of the command which the apostle gives us, that we should endeavour to glorify God in our body as well as our spirit, for both are God’s, created by Him for His glory, owned by Him now in their low estate, to be hereafter blessed and purified by Him, so as to partake of His glory. And they whose spirits are now increasing in grace and holiness, which shine through their earthly tabernacle, they make the poor body, be it ever so much a wreck from age, from sickness, or from pain--they make it more beautiful before God than the most perfect youthful form, marred as yet by no suffering, chastened by no trials, not convinced of sin, of righteousness, or of the judgment to come. (Prebendary Humphrey.)

Marks of the Lord Jesus

I. The word-picture here presented.

1. The figure, “slave brands.”

2. The facts (1 Corinthians 4:9; 1 Corinthians 4:15; 2 Corinthians 11:23; 2 Corinthians 11:30).

3. The challenge.

II. The suggestion the picture makes.

1. He who follows the Lord Jesus must expect that some will try to “trouble” him.

2. He whose “marks” are most conspicuous will be troubled the least.

3. He who has “marks” may take comfort in knowing how much his Master paid for him.

4. He who is owned may remember that his Master owns and recognizes the “marks” also.

5. He that has no “marks” is either a better or a poorer Christian than St. Paul.

6. Satan outwits himself when he gives a believer more “marks.”

7. A sure day is coming when the “marks” will be honourable. (American Homiletic Review.)

Signs of struggle in life

Here is a man whose body shows the signs of toil and care. I will not read the long, familiar catalogue. The whitened hair, the cautious step, the dulness in the eye, the forehead seamed with thought; you know them all, you watch their coming in your friend, you feel their coming in yourself. What do they mean? In the first and largest way they mean life. The difference between this man and the baby, in whose soft flesh there are no branded marks like these, is that this man has lived. But then they mean also all that life has meant; and life, below its special circumstances, always means the mastery in obedience to which all the actions have been done and all the character has taken shape. For instance, here among the white careworn features there are certain lines which tell, beyond all misunderstanding, that this man has struggled and has had to yield. Somewhere or other, sometime or other, he has tried to do something which he very much wanted to do, and failed. As clear as the scratches on the rock which make us sure that the glacier has ground its way along its face, so clearly this man lets us know that he has been pressed and crushed and broken by a weight which was too strong for him. What was that weight? If it were only disappointment, then these marks are the marks of simple failure. If the weight were laid on him as punishment, then these marks are marks of sin. If it were a weight of culture, then the marks are marks of education. If the weight was the personal hand of the Lord Jesus Christ teaching the man that his own will must be surrendered to the will of a Lord to whom he belonged; if the Lord Jesus Christ has been drawing him away from every other obedience to His obedience; then these marks which he bears in his body are the marks of the Lord Jesus. It is as if a master, seeking for his sheep, found him all snarled and tangled in a thicket, clinging to and clung to by the thorns and cruel branches. He unsnarls him with all tenderness, but the poor captive cannot escape without wounds. He even clings himself to the thorns that hold him, and so is wounded all the more. When the rescue is complete and the master stands with his sheep in safety, he looks down on him and says, “I need not brand you more. These wounds which have come in your rescue will be for ever signs that you belong to me. No other sheep will carry scars just like them, for every sheep’s wanderings, and so every sheep’s wounds, are different from every other’s. Their pain will pass away, but the tokens of the trials through which I brought you to my service will remain. They shall declare that you are mine. You shall bear in your body my marks for ever.” (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

Marks of ownership

These “brands” were used--

1. In the case of domestic slaves. With these, however, branding was not usual, at least among the Greeks and Romans, except to mark such as had attempted to escape, or had otherwise misconducted themselves, and such brands were held a badge of disgrace.

2. Slaves attached to some temple, or persons devoted to the service of some deity were so branded.

3. Captives were so treated in very rare eases.

4. Soldiers sometimes branded the name of their commander on some part of their body. The metaphor here is most appropriate, if referred to the second of these classes. Such a practice at all events cannot have been unknown in a country which was the home of the worship of Cybele. (Bishop Lightfoot.)

The language of a true-hearted veteran

Although the first and the chief meaning of “stigmata” is the brand the slave bore to show that he was the property of another, yet the word also meant any scar, and I am inclined to think that the apostle had this also in his mind when he said, “Don’t you trouble me. I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus.” There were the weals--the red lines-through the scourgings. There were the bruises through the stonings. I think Paul says to all, “It is no use your trying to turn me back. You are not talking to any young recruit. I have fought in the battle. I have been wounded in the conflict. I have tried and tested my Captain in actual war. Look at the scars I have on me.” And methinks his eyes would flash as he would say, “Yes, I have scars already, and I am willing to have a great many more. Why, look at what I have suffered for Him. Do you think I am going to give Him up now? Look at what I have endured for Him. Do you think that, after bearing all the scourgings and buffetings and loneliness that I have, I am likely to be turned on one side now?” He was proud of his scars. Do you see what a beautiful expression it is--“the marks of the Lord Jesus”? We may say, “Paul, it is a most disgraceful thing to be whipped. Why, you have on your back the brand of infamy.” He only smiles and says, “No, I have on my back the marks of the Lord Jesus.” “Why, Paul, look at your wrist; there is a deep, blue line round it where the manacle has been. You have the mark of the fetter on you.” Says the apostle: “You mistake it; I have the mark of the Lord Jesus.” He looked upon these scars as so many badges of honour. Go, walk through Greenwich Hospital tomorrow, or go down to Chelsea and talk to some of the old pensioners. Are they ashamed of their scars? Why, I remember how a few months back we had, at one of our meetings, a brother who had served in the Crimean war, and he showed me how a bayonet had gone in here and come out there; how there was a mark in his arm where a ball had gone right through, and a scar in his face where the sword had cut. I think he told me that he had about twenty scars on him, and his eyes flashed fire as he told the story. And have not you, brethren, some marks of the Lord Jesus of this sort? Have not you been wounded in conflicts willingly endured for the Master’s sake? Have not you known what it is to be jeered at for Christ’s sake? Have you not had to stand a rattling artillery of scoffs in your workshop? Have not some of you deep scars now through being cruelly misrepresented, and you knew it was for Christ’s sake? I will say to you as Paul said to the Church at Galatia, “Have you suffered so many things in vain, if it be yet in vain?” Oh, by the scars of the past, I pray you be heroes in the present. I demand of you a complete consecration. Will you yield to the demand which He here makes by me? If some of us have had to say, “Lord, I am afraid that the mark is not as clear as it used to be,” then I will tell you what we had better do. We had better go and kneel down at His feet, and say, “Lord Jesus, brand us anew. Put Thy mark on us again. Thine we are, and on Thy side. Brand us. Put the iron upon us, though it burn us. Oh, do not listen to our cries, but put a deep indelible mark, so that in business life, in home life, in church life, men and women shall say, ‘Lo, there are men who carry the stigmata of their Lord upon them.’“ May God fill us with this holy impassioned earnestness--this sense of having taken an irretrievable step, which shall lead us to say to all about us, “From henceforth let no man trouble me. From henceforth clear the road, for I bear in my body the brand of the Lord Jesus.” The Lord put His brand on us afresh for His name’s sake. Amen. (A. G. Brown.)

Marks of servitude

A slave once carried a message written in punctures on the skin of his head, which had been previously shaved bare to receive the writing. When his hair was grown so as to hide the letter, he went unsuspected; and the person to whom the message was sent, having shaved the letter-carrier’s head, read the message. The slave in old times often carried in his body (as the poor slave does still where slavery is rampant) the marks of his master, just as the sailor in our own time loves to have printed on his arm the initials of his own name and ship, the figure of his crucified Redeemer, or the anchor and cable. St. Paul carried in his body the marks of the master to whom he belonged. The weals made by the Roman lictor’s rods, with which he was thrice beaten; the red lines of those two hundred stripes which had been laid on him in the Jewish synagogues; the scars left by the stones which had bruised and beaten him down, so that he was left for dead,--these “marks of the Lord Jesus he carried with him, the proofs as to whose he was and whom he served.”

Legend of St. Francis

The biographer of St. Francis of Assisi says, that after having fasted for forty days in his solitary cell, and passed the time in a fervour of prayer and ecstatic contemplation, transported almost to heaven by the ardour of his desires--then he beheld, as it were, a seraph with six shining wings, bearing down upon him from above, and between his wings was the form of a man crucified. By this he understood to be figured a heavenly and immortal intelligence, subject to death and humiliation. And it was manifested to him that he was to be transformed into a resemblance to Christ, not by the martyrdom of the flesh, but by the might and fire of Divine love. When the vision had disappeared, and he had recovered a little from its effects, it was seen that in his hands, feet, and side, he carried the wounds of the Saviour.

Service the road to honour

When the Spartan king advanced against the enemy, he had always with him some one that had been crowned in the public games of Greece. And they tell us that a Lacedaemonian, when large sums were offered him on condition that he would not enter the Olympic lists, refused them. Having with much difficulty thrown his antagonists in wrestling, one put this question to him, “Spartan, what will you get by this victory?” He answered with a smile, “I shall have the honour to fight foremost in the ranks of my prince.” The honour which appertains to office in the Church of God lies mainly in this--that the man who is set apart for such service has the privilege of being first in holiness of example, abundance of liberality, patience of long-suffering, zeal in effort, and self-sacrifice in service. ( C. H. Spurgeon.)

The marks of the Lord Jesus

I. The marks--slave brands.

1. The body of the Christian is itself a badge of servitude to Christ.

2. Baptism is another.

3. So is bodily persecution and mental.

II. The inference to be drawn.

1. No man can legitimately doubt our Christianity and therefore need not be told about it.

2. We need not trouble ourselves, we ever bear the incontestible evidences of being Christ’s.

In conclusion:

1. Let no man infer that singularity makes a Christian.

2. The reward of bearing the marks.

Every believing Christian hath these

1. The crown of thorns pierces his head when his sinful conceits are mortified.

2. His lips are drenched with vinegar and gall, when sharp and severe restraints are given to his tongue.

3. His hands and feet are nailed when he is, by the power of God’s Spirit, disabled to the wonted courses of sin.

4. His body is stripped when all colour and pretences are taken away from him.

5. His heart is pierced when the life-blood of his formerly reigning corruptions is let out. (Bishop Hall.)

The broad-arrow of service

When North America was merely an English colony the very timber of the country was sorted out, and wherever a valiant pine or noble oak, fit for the masts or for the ribs of ships was found, the arrow--the Broad Arrow as it was called--was stamped upon it. The tree was in no respect different, dendrologically speaking, after the arrow was put on from what it was before; but when people saw the Broad Arrow on the tree they said, “That is the king’s”; or, “It does not belong to us: it belongs to the king”; and it had attached to it a sense of royalty, a sense of appropriation; and it took to itself something of the dignity which belongs to real royalty. Now it is not an arrow; it is a cross that is stamped on us--the sign and symbol of the purchase of suffering, by which we are Christ’s and manifest it to the world. (H. W. Beecher.)

The glory of the marks of the Lord Jesus

As it is a glory to a soldier to have received many wounds and to have many scars in his prince’s quarrel, and for the defence of his country; so it is a glory for the Christian soldier to have the marks of the Lord Jesus in his body, as of wounds, scourges, and imprisonments for the truth. But if these be the glory of Christ’s servants, what shall we say of those who not only have their consciences seared as with a hot iron, but have the marks of Bacchus and Venus in their bodies. (R. Cudworth.)

Entire consecration best

The well-defined spiritual life is not only the highest life, but it is also the most easily lived. The whole cross is more easily carried than the half. It is the man who tries to make the best of both worlds who makes nothing of either. And he who seeks to serve two masters misses the benediction of both. But he who takes his stand, who has drawn a boundary line, sharp and deep, about his religious life, who has marked off all beyond as for ever forbidden ground to him, finds the yoke easy and the burden light. So even here to die is gain. (H. Drummond, M. A.)

Honourable marks

John Clark, of Meldon, in France, being for Christ’s sake whipped three several days, and afterwards having a mark set in his forehead, as a note of infamy, his mother beholding it, encouraged her son, crying with a loud voice, Vivet Christus ajusque insignia, “Blessed be Christ, and welcome be these prints and marks of Christ.” I conclude this discourse with that saying of Pericles, “It is not gold, precious stones, statues, that adorn a soldier, but a torn buckler, a cracked helmet, a blunt sword, a scarred face.” Sceva is renowned for this, that at the siege of Dyrrachium he so long alone resisted Pompey’s army that he had two hundred and twenty darts sticking in his shield, and lost one of his eyes, and yet gave not over till Caesar came to his rescue. (Trapp.)


Verse 17-18

Verse 18

Galatians 6:18

Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Amen.

The apostolic benediction

By this last word he seals all that precedes it. He says not merely “with you” as elsewhere; but, “with your spirit,” thus withdrawing them from carnal things, and displaying throughout the beneficence of God, and reminding them of the grace which they enjoyed, whereby he was able to recall them from all their Judaizing errors. For to have received the Spirit came not of the law’s penury, but of the righteousness which is by faith, and to preserve it when obtained came not from circumcision but from grace. Farther, he concludes his exhortation with a prayer, and makes mention of grace and the Spirit on this account, namely, both as addressing himself to the brethren, and as supplicating God that they might continue to enjoy these blessings, thus providing for them a twofold security. For this very thing, namely, both prayer and complete teaching, became to them as a double wall. For teaching, reminding them of what benefits they enjoyed, they rather kept them in the doctrine of the Church, and prayer, invoking grace, and exhorting to an enduring constancy, permitted not the Spirit to depart from them. And He abiding in them, all the error of such doctrines as they held was shaken off like dust, in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Chrysostom.)

The blessing of Christ’s grace

Dwell as we will on the brighter side of things, life is very hard, and men and women are hard on one another, and we ourselves are growing hard, and that is the worst of all. We need something to soften, in no enfeebling way, the hardness of life, and of men, and of our own heart. And most of the blessings we seek of our own will, weaken our souls; and in the weakening, make us harder in the future. But the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, if we could win it and take it, softens all things by making us stronger towards goodness and truth and righteousness and love. What is it? What is His grace?

I. Whatever this grace is, it does not come from one who is ignorant of all we need.

1. He has known to the full the weight of human suffering, and the blessing of His grace that is with us is brought home to us by that knowledge. He can comfort because He knows. He has known what temptation is, and can feel with the agony of our resistance, and through that with our weakness. He has not known remorse or the loss of good, but, through His infinite pain in contact with sin, and His infinite pity for those enthralled by it, He can understand our unhappiness in guilt. By knowledge of sorrow He can bring blessing to sorrow.

2. Nor has He known joy less. In early life, as boy and youth, He knew all our simple and pure joys. In manhood, when He first went out to the world, we have often traced the joy of enthusiasm in His work. In later days these only lived in memory, but another joy took their place--the mighty joy of universal love, the joy of giving up all things for all men--that wonderful and mystic joy which we faintly realize whenever out of the depths of personal suffering we rise into the glorious life of self-surrender because we love.

II. Christ’s fitness to give comes not only of knowledge of our need, but also of His victory over all that is evil and weak in our need. It is the Victor who can give grace and strength to those whom the same foes attack. In order to conquer, win His grace who has conquered, and who will give it to you.

1. Kindness, the goodwill of love. The first meaning of the invocation in the text is: “The loving kindness which belonged to Christ, which formed part of His character, be with you, and form part of yours.” Filial tenderness. Penetrating love and insight. Nay, more than this: to be perfect, it ought to reach, through frank forgiveness, those who injure us; through interest in the interests, ideas, and movements of human progress, those who are beyond our own circle, in our nation, nay, even in the world; and finally all men, those even who are our bitterest foes, through desire that they should have good and be good.

2. The kind of beauty we express by the word charm. “The beautiful charm of Christ be with you all”--the charm of harmony of character, the musical subordination and accord of all the qualities and powers of His nature, so that the whole impression made was one of exquisite and various order in lovely and living movement. Sensitiveness to the feelings of others, and to all that is beautiful. An eye to see traces of the Divine loveliness everywhere; faith to believe in it; power to draw it forth. Conclusion: Pray for this grace. It will make you at one with all that is tender, pitiful, dear, and sweet in human lovingkindness, and with all that is sensitive and delicate and graceful in manner and speech, and will create in you an harmonious soul. It will make you at one with moral good, just and true and pure. It will take all that is living in humanity, all that is fair, all that is moral, and link them to and complete them by uniting them to the love of God, and to God’s love for all men; so that to human love and moral love and imaginative love will be added the spiritual love which gathers them all into perfection. (Stopford A. Brooke, M. A.)

The apostle’s farewell wish

The apostle concludes the Epistle with his ordinary farewell wish; wherein, having designated them by the name of “brethren,” he wishes that God’s grace and favour, with all spiritual benefits flowing from it, and purchased and conveyed to them through Jesus Christ, might reside, both in the effects and sense of it, in their spirits and whole soul; and he affixes his “Amen,” as an evidence of fervency, and confidence in his wish, and as a confirmation of the whole doctrine delivered by him in this Epistle.

1. The more of prejudice a minister apprehends to exist in a people or person against himself and his doctrine, the more ought he to endeavour by affectionate insinuations, and by frequent and seasonable reiterations of loving force, to root out those prejudices.

2. The main thing in people for which ministers ought to care, is the spirit and inward man, as that for which God mainly calls (Proverbs 23:26), and being kept right, will command the outward man and keep it right also (Proverbs 4:23). (James Fergusson.)

Parting words

This is his last farewell. He ends the Epistle with the same words wherewith he began. As if he said: “I have taught you Christ purely, I have entreated you, I have chidden you, and I have let pass nothing which I thought profitable for you. I can say no more, but that I heartily pray that our Lord Jesus Christ would bless and increase my labour, and govern you with His Holy Spirit for ever.” (Luther.)

Grace

I. Grace is the sum of all other blessings.

II. Grace is obtained through Christ.

III. Grace is the greatest happiness we can desire for others. (J. Lyth. , D. D.)

Grace for all

I. Grace is needed by all.

II. Grace is provided for all.

III. Grace is offered to all.

IV. Grace is supplicated for all.

V. Grace may be enjoyed by all. (J. Lyth, D. D.)

The grace of Christ

It is of little moment whether by this “grace” we understand that free love and favour which He always bears in His heart to all that believe in His name, or all that kindness--all those heavenly and spiritual blessings--in the communication of which He manifests this love, this free favour. In any case, to possess His grace is an inconceivable blessing. To be the objects of the kind regards of one so excellent, so amiable, so kind, so wise, so faithful, who can estimate the value of this? It was the apostle’s wish that the Galatian Christians might every day enjoy new proofs of this unaltered, unalterable lore. He does not pray simply that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ may be with them, but that it may be with their spirit. The leading object of the whole Epistle is to withdraw them more from external things, and fix them on things spiritual; and such a prayer is a most appropriate conclusion. (John Brown, D. D.)

Grace through Christ alone

Here is the concluding wish of Paul for the Galatians, and it is quite in harmony with the teaching of the Epistle. In opposition to all that the false teachers would have the teachers believe respecting righteousness through the sacrifices of the law and obedience to its precepts, Paul had set before them Christ crucified as the sole foundation of all their hopes for eternity, and proved to them that by faith, and by faith alone, all the benefits of Christ’s death are to be obtained and appropriated. And now he concludes with the affectionate wish that they might constantly and richly experience in their own souls the truth of the gospel, through “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” dwelling in their hearts. May every true believer, both with respect to himself and to the whole Church of Christ, say with the apostle, “Amen!” (John Venn, M. A.)

It is much to be observed that in the original the word “Brethren” stands at the end of the sentence in a very unusual and emphatic position. After all the severity and strength of the Epistle, he concludes with this word of tenderness and affection. (Bishop Moberly.)

After all his sorrow, amazement, censure, and despondency, he parts with them in kindness; after all the pain they had cost him, yet were they dear to him; and ere he lifts his hand from the parchment, it writes as a parting love-token--Brethren. (John Eadie, D. D.)

The benediction

As the apostle began with grace (chap. 1:3), so he ends with grace, to teach us--

I. That our salvation is placed in it alone for the beginning, progress, and accomplishment thereof. For--

1. Election is of grace (Romans 11:5).

2. Vocation (2 Timothy 1:9).

3. Justification (Romans 4:24).

4. Glorification (Romans 6:23).

II. That Christ is to have all the glory of this grace.

III. That all our salutations and greetings, adieus and farewells, ought to be founded in the grace of Christ.

The conclusion: It is an epitome of the Epistle.

I. Christ “the Lord” of the house is opposed to Moses who was but a servant.

II. The “grace” of Christ is opposed to the merit of works.

III. The “spirit,” the true seat of grace, is opposed to the flesh in which the false apostles gloried so much.

IV. “brethren” denotes the affection which is opposed to the lordly carriage of the false apostles and to the strife which they endeavoured to foment. (R. Cudworth.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Galatians 6:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/galatians-6.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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