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confessedly of divine institution; and our Saviour and his apostles, and all the first converts to Christianity, having kept it with great regard. Consider also, that on the question, whether it was to be kept still, the practice, not only of that, but of every succeeding age, greatly depended. For even we of this must have borne the yoke of all the Jewish ceremonies, and retained all the statutes of the Jewish commonwealth, had it been at first decided, that they continued obligatory. Nay, in a yet more important respect must the temper and spirit of our religion have been different from what it is; had we either expected to be justified by the works of our own righteousness in fulfilling God's law, as most of the Jews did; which must have nourished within us a Pharisaical pride, instead of Christian humility: or had we been convinced, as we easily might, that our best works cannot endure the severity of God's judgment *; and yet had been left to look for eternal life from precepts, which we obeyed so imperfectly, that they could only condemn us, instead of resting our hopes on Him alone, who came to save us. You will easily infer that our mistake would be equally fatal, were we now to trust solely to our Christian good deeds, as if we had trusted in the Jewish. It was therefore with great reason, and great benefit to the faithful of all times, that St. Paul dwelt so much on these points, in so many of his Epistles, as he did. For in most he hath inculcated them more or less; though in none so earnestly throughout, as in that before us.
But then, as the law of Moses consisted not only of religious ceremonies, and rules of civil government, but moral duties likewise; and all these had been * Art. xii.
observed together on the same footing: to convince men, that the two former were designed to subsist no longer, and yet preserve a due regard to the last, was an affair of the utmost difficulty, but notwithstanding of absolute necessity. And therefore as soon as ever he had asserted to the Galatians the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free, and exhorted them, in the beginning of this chapter, to stand fast in it; he quickly proceeds to confine it, ver. 13, within its proper bounds, by subjoining, only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh: that is, to any wicked purpose. For our propensities to sin are frequently expressed in Scripture by the word flesh, because they arise from our present fallen state in this mortal body: as, on the contrary, our dispositions to good are distinguished by the name spirit, because they proceed from the Spirit of God; and perhaps in part also, because they are approved by the spirit or reason of our own minds. Thus he opposes them in two verses after: walk in the spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.
But such general terms, though very useful on account of their comprehensiveness, are liable to be misapplied, or passed over with too little attention. And therefore, that no one might be ignorant of his own state, since every thing is best known by what it doth and produces, he lays before them a catalogue first, of works of the flesh, then, in the text, of fruits of the spirit: for he will not honour with the latter name the unfruitful works of darkness*. The former, he saith, are manifest: it being easy for persons themselves, and all about them, to see if they are grossly wicked. But whether indeed we are truly good, is a matter much less obvious; but of too great conse* Eph. v. 11.
quence, both to our direction and our comfort, not to be examined with the most accurate care.
For this purpose then I shall at present endeavour, I. To explain, as far as is necessary, the nature of the several virtues, mentioned in the text:
II. To shew in what sense, and how far, they are the fruits of the spirit:
III. To lay before you the meaning and importance of that expression, that against such there is no law.
I. To explain the nature of the several virtues mentioned in the text: where probably the Apostle did not intend to make out a complete list of Christian graces; but to specify those only, on which it was most necessary to fix the minds of the persons, to whom he wrote. The rest would be understood by parity of reason, or further instruction, if they were not already: and had they been all crowded together, the multiplicity would have distracted their thoughts too much.
Now the duties, of which mankind in general want to be reminded the oftenest, and of which the Galatians particularly wanted to be reminded then, were those of kind and charitable dispositions and behaviour one towards another. They were engaged in a warm dispute upon the question, which I began with mentioning. Each side would be in danger, as is always the case, of using the opposite ill: the Judaizing, which was the major part, of treating the advocates for liberty, as profane enemies to the law of Moses; these, of treating them in return, as tyrants, and imposers of a yoke unnecessary and hurtful. But Christianity requires meekness towards all men; especially to such as do wrong through error of judgment, be it ever so greatly. And there
fore St. Paul, after charging as many, as were persuaded of their liberty, so to stand fast in it, as not to abuse it, points out in the very next words, that abuse, against which it was most needful to guard : But by love serve one another.
Suitably to this, the same virtue stands first in the catalogue, with which the text presents us: where it might indeed comprehend love to God, the first and great commandment*; but, by what precedes and follows, appears rather to signify love to our fellowcreatures. Now this duty needs but little explanation. We all know it consists in good-will to every one, to be shewn, so far as we have opportunity, by every method which is consistent with other obligations; and in good opinion and esteem of every one, so far as they give us a just ground for it; which virtues would so effectually direct us right in the whole of our mutual behaviour, that the Apostle hath, with very good reason, assured us, but a few verses before, that all the law, meaning all which relates to social conduct, is fulfilled in one word, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself †.
However, placing the same object in various lights gives a fuller view of each part of it: this therefore he proceeds to do. And the first view, in which he represents love, is expressed by the word joy. Now if the former be understood to comprehend love to God; the latter will very naturally signify (as it elsewhere doth,) taking pleasure in the persuasion of his present and future favour. But if the one be confined to our fellow creatures, the other must also: and then it will mean, delighting in their good, spiritual and temporal; suitably to the character, given in another Epistle, of charity, the same word with + Gal. v. 14.
* Matt. xxii. 38.
love in the original, that it rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth *; and to that description of the kingdom of God, as ruling in the heart, which a third Epistle exhibits to us, that it consists in righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost; that is, in the communications, which he hath made of his gifts and graces, to others as well as to ourselves: the very opposite temper to those envyings, that are enumerated, just before the text, amongst the works of the flesh.
The word peace, also, which follows next, may signify peace with God, and consequently within our own breasts: but is determined by the others on each side, rather to signify, principally if not solely, a peaceable temper and conduct towards all around us. Long-suffering too, sometimes means patience under afflictions: but here, more especially under provocations and injuries. Gentleness, goodness and meekness, are virtues, which men, how little soever they practise them, understand very well, and therefore need not have explained to them.
Faith indeed is a more ambiguous term. Most commonly it denotes a persuasion, speculative or practical, of divine truths: the latter of which is the foundation, both of our obedience to God, and of our acceptance with him. But sometimes it relates to what passes among men in society: and thus it signifies faithfulness; or such a principle, as we may securely have faith in, and dependance upon: which it may very well signify here; for nothing is of greater importance in human affairs. And yet, as the Apostle seems intent on recounting the goodnatured, rather than the merely useful virtues, faith, or belief, may mean in the text, if ever it doth any + Rom. xiv. 17.
* 1 Cor. xiii. 6.