Galatians 6The first exhortation here given, is, how they should carry themselves one towards another, upon supposition of their scandalous falling either into error, or into sin, namely, not with rigour and severity, but with mildness and lenity; If any be overtaken in a fault, &c.
Here note, 1. An evil supposed, namely, that the wisest, the holiest, and the best of men, may be overtaken in a fault, and surprised by a temptation: If any man be overtaken: implying that any man may be so: that sin, or that misery, which befalls some men, may befall others, any others, yea, all others; for all are partakers of the same frail nature, subject to the working of the same corruption, and liable to the danger of the same temptation.
Note, 2. The duty directed to, with relation to these persons, who trip and fall either into sin, or into error; Restore him, set him right, put him in joint again; a metaphor taken from bone-setters, who place dislocated bones, and set broken bones with great tenderness.
Those three things, which we say are necessary in a bone-setter, are absolutely needful in a repriver: namely, an eagle's eye, to discern where the fault lies; a lion's heart, to deal faithfully and freely with the faults; and a lady's hand to use them gently and tenderly.
Note, 3. The persons particularly named, who are and ought to manage this duty of brotherly reproof, Ye that are spiritual: you that are the governors of the church, say some; you that are endowed with spiritual gifts, say others; the prophets among you, who perform all spiritual offices for you, let them rebuke offenders.
Others, by spiritual, understand such as had received larger measures of the gifts and graces of the Spirit than others: Let such as are strong bear with the infirmities of the weak.
Note, 4. The manner how this duty of fraternal correction, or brotherly reproof, is and ought to be managed, namely, with patience and meekness, not with severity and roughness: Ye that are spiritual, restore him in the spirit of meekness; if the reproofs you give others be imbittered with your own passions, they will spit them out of their mouths; yea, spit them back upon your very faces.
Note, 5. The argument to excite to all this namely, the consideration of our own personal frailty, and great liableness to fall into temptation ourselves, Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Who knows what a feather the strongest saint and stoutest Christian may prove in the wind of temptation? Therefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall, and exercise great candour and Christian tenderness towards them that are fallen before him. Hodie mihi, cras tibi.
From the whole learn, 1. That fraternal correction, or brotherly reproof, is a great duty which Christians mutually owe one to another, when they either run into error, or fall into sin: If any of you be overtaken, restore him.
Learn, 2. That although it be the duty of private Christians to admonish and reprove one another, as being members one of another, yet those that are spiritual, Christ's ministers, the guides of his church, the stewards of his household, ought in special to look upon it as their obliged duty to reprove and rebuke with all long-suffering and gentleness.
Learn, 3. That rigour and severity, expressed towards the failings and escapes of others, will rather exasperate than reclaim them: we must deal as gently with a fallen brother as with a broken bone; if we do not temper our reproofs with meekness, they will certainly prove successless.
Learn, 4. That the holiest saint or most spiritual man here on earth, is within the reach of temptation, and may possibly fall himself; therefore he ought to treat a fallen brother with great tenderness and regard.
This is a general precept, and requires us to sympathize with our brethren in all thier sorrows and sufferings, and to bear a part with them under the load and burden of oppressive wants and necessities; particularly, bearing with the weaknesses and infirmities of our brethren, seems here to be recommended to our care and practice in this apostolical injunction, Bear ye one another's burdens. The encouragement to which duty follows, So shall we fulfil the law of Christ; that is, the law of love, the moral law which enjoins us to love our neighbour as ourselves.
But why is this called the law of Christ, when it was long before Christ; yea, before Moses, and as old as Adam himself, being part of the law of nature, which was written in Adam's heart before there was any written Bible?
I answer, the law of love is very properly called the law of Christ; because he revived it, rescued it, recommended and enforced it, frequently urged it upon his followers, and exemplified it in his own life and conversation, therefore called a new commandment, and his commandment: This is my commandment, &c. A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another, Joh 13:34 (see note)
Learn hence, 1. That to have our ear, our heart, and our hand, open to our brethren in distress, is a necessary Christian duty: our ear open to their mournful complaints, our heart open to sympathize with and mourn over them, our hand open to the relief of their necessities and wants. This is a burden which the law of Christ has laid upon us; Bear ye one another's burdens.
Learn, 2. To bear a part of our brethren's burdens with a compassionate heart and helping hand, is a fulfilling of the law of Christ; because much love, which is the fulfilling of the law, goes out, and is acted in the bearing of it; so fulfil the law of Christ.
The apostle is still directing the Galatians, and enforcing them to express great lenity and tenderness towards such of their brethren as had fallen into sin and error, and particularly cautions them,
1. To beware of the sin of pride and self-conceit, and to abound in the grace of humility and modesty; intimating to us, that pride, and an high opinion of ourselves, are the certain cause of censoriousness and rash judging of others, and the true reason why we despise and glory over an offending brother, instead of pitying of him, sympathizing with him, and endeavouring to restore him.
He that thinks himself to be something here, is the man that hath proud thoughts of himself, who thinks himself more righteous and holy, more steady and steadfast, than his fallen brother; and conceits he has more power to preserve himself than others: such an one thinks himself to be some great thing; when, alas! every man is nothing; and the best of men having nothing but what the grace of God confers upon them, 2Cor 12:11
Observe, 2. How the apostle strikes at the root of the fore-mentioned sin of pride and self-conceit; namely, the comparing of themselves with those who are worse than themselves, which is very apt to stir up pride and arrogancy: to cure which, he directs them to compare themselves with those who are better than themselves, and to try and prove their own works by the rule of the word of God, and not by the example and practice of others; and so shall they find matter of rejoicing in themselves, in the testimony of God, and the silent applause of their own consciences, without borrowing matter of rejoicing from the failings and infirmities of other persons.
Observe, 3. The argument or motive used by the apostle to enforce upon every man the duty of trying his own work, rather than to be prying into the infirmities of others; because when he cometh to judgment, every man must bear his own burden, or give an account of himself and his own actions to God; who will then absolve or condemn men, not as they have done better or worse than others, but as they shall be then found in themselves, absolutely considered. It is a great error for any man to measure himself by the measure of other men, either by their perfections, or by their imperfections.
To conclude our estate safe, because we are not so bad as others, or unsafe, because we have not attained to the perfections of others, is alike dangerous: God will not proceed by this rule, no more should we; every man that appears before him, shall bear his own burden, and answer for his own sins.
Here note, 1. That how light soever men make of sin in the commission of it, it will be found heavy and burdensome when they come before God to account for it; He shall bear his own burden.
Note, 2. That the righteous God, in the great judgment, will call no man to account for the sins of others, unless he has some ways been accessary to them; but every man shall bear his own burden both of guilt and punishment.
In this and the following verses our apostle enters upon a new exhortation, and that is, to stir up the Galatians to liberality and beneficence; upon every fitting occasion, to be ready to distribute, willing to communicate, and to do good unto all men. And because it is highly probable, that by reason of the prevalency of error amongst them, and the number of false teachers found with them, the Galatians' love to the word, and to the ministers and dispensers of it, was grown cold: he first begins to stir up their liberality towards their teachers, saying, Let him that is taught in the word of the gospel, communicate unto him that teacheth in all such good things as he stands in need of.
Learn hence, 1. That the wisdom of God hath seen it fit to teach men by the ministry of man, not by his own immediate voice, this we cannot bear; nor by the glorious angels, these would rather terrify than teach us; but by men like ourselves, doth the great God instruct us. He has appointed some to teach, and obliged others to be taught; but the pride of man is grown to that pitch in our days, that almost every one thinks himself sufficient to teach, and few have humility enough to be taught.
Learn, 2. That it is the special duty of ministers, not only to teach, but to teach the word: Let him that is taught in the word, that is, the written word, as dictated by the Holy Ghost, communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Our business is not to go into the pulpit and read a lecture to our people out of Aristotle's Ethics, or Seneca's Morals, much less to load them with the burden of unwritten traditions; but to make known a crucified Saviour to them, and the way to eternal salvation by him.
Learn, 3. That seeing the ministers of Christ are to give themselves wholly to the work of teaching, &c. without being entangled with the affairs of this life; the people whom they teach, and amongst whom they spend their time and strength, are obliged by common equity, as well as by the command of God, to allow them a comfortable subsistence; and, if able, an honourable maintenance: Let him that is taught communicate to him that teacheth in all good things.
Learn, 4. That the church's maintenance is only due to such ministers as are apt to teach, that labour in the word themselves: none have a right to the church's salary, which do not perform the church's service. Let such laymen as by the impropriations take away the vicar's bread, and such clergy men as eat the sweat of their curates' brow, consider how they will answer it at the bar of God.
Here the apostle offers several arguments to consideration, for exciting them to the fore-mentioned duty of liberality and Christian beneficence in general, and to the ministers of the word in particular; and the first of them is taken from God's omnisciency, who takes notice of all the petty and pitiful pretences, pleas, and excuses, which men make, why they cannot be so kind as they should be to the ministers and members of Jesus Christ.
Alas! their own wants are many, (but it is their lusts that make them so;) their burdens are great upon them, and they must provide and take care for themselves: but, says the apostle, though you may with these lying pretences cheat yourselves, and mock your ministers and poor neighbours, yet God is not, will not, cannot be mocked. There is no juggling with God, no deceiving of his eye; man never deceives himself so much, as when he thinks to deceive God in the least: man may be mocked and deceived by man, but God can never be mocked by man.
Observe, 2. St. Paul compares charity and Christian bounty to seed sown, and assures us, that the crop we reap shall be answerable, both in quality and kind, and also in measure and degree, to the seed we now sow; Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
Learn, That every man's harvest hereafter shall be according to his seed-time here. The actions of this life are as seed sown for the life to come; if the husbandman sow tares, he must not expect to reap wheat. For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
Observe, 3. How the apostle doth amplify in particular, what he had before asserted in general; namely, that such as the seed is, such will the harvest be. He that soweth to the flesh, that is plainly, he that spends his substance upon his lusts, seeking no more than the gratification of his sensual desires, shall reap corruption: that is, a perishing satisfaction only at present, and eternal perdition afterwards; but he that sows to the Spirit, he that improves his estate for God, for the support of the gospel, for the sustenance of its members, Shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. The spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead, will also raise us up at the great day, and reward our present parting with the things of this world which we cannot keep, with eternal life which we shall never lose.
The holy apostle, in these words, exhorts the Galatians, and in them all Christians, to the practice of one of the most important parts and duties of the Christian religion, namely, that of doing good one to another: and he doth not barely excite us to the duty, but he exhorts us also to an unwearied diligence in the doing of it, according to our ability and opportunity.
In the exhortation before us, observe, 1. The grand comprehensive duty we are exhorted to: well-doing, and an unwearied diligence therein. This comprehends all those ways and means whereby we may be beneficial and useful one to another, both to soul and body, in spiritual and temporal good things, and promote both the present comfort and future happiness of each other.
Observe, 2. The extent and latitude of the duty, with respect to its object, which is all mankind: Let us do good unto all. The Galatians were in danger of judaizing in their practice, as well as in their doctrines; that is, of loving none but themselves and their own countrymen. For the Jews were grown so sour and churlish in their temper, that they would not do the least office of kindness to any that was not of their own nation: therefore St. Paul here exhorts them to extend their charity universally to all and every one that is of the same nature with themselves.
Observe, 3. The special and particular objects of our charity: the household of faith. Do good to all, but especially to them. By the household of faith, as appears by the context, ver. 6. are primarily meant the ministers of God, the teachers of his word; these are God's domestic servants. Wherever there has been a people, there has been a religion professed, such as it was; wherever there has been a religion professed, there have been persons consecrated and set apart to attend the service of that religion, and a maintenance provided for those attendants; it was so by God's appointment under the law, and by Christ's under the gospel, 1Cor 9:14.
But farther, by the household of faith, we are to understand the whole collective body of believing Christians, all the members of Christ's mystical body; such are very dear to God, and ought to be so to us.
Observe, 4. The subject of this duty, or whom it doth eminently concern, all Christians: As we have opportunity, let us do good; that is, every one of us; for verily there is no condition in the world so mean and despicable, but it yields persons an opportunity one way or other of doing good, if not by their purse, yet at least by their prayers and by their example.
Observe, 5. The frequency of the duty: As we have opportunity; that is, as often as the occasions of doing good are presented to us, and as long as ability for doing good is found with us. Some men defer doing good till they come to die, till they come to make their will; that unwilling will in which they give God a small pittance of his own, because they can keep it no longer; they will repent when they are dying, and be charitable after they are dead.
Good God! how unwilling are men to part with either their money or their sins, as long as they can keep them! But verily a death-bed charity may be as unavailable as a death-bed repentance. The rule is, As we have opportunity, that is, as often as an opportunity is offered. Let us decline no opportunity by getting out of the way, with some, when a work of charity presents itself unto us.
Observe, 6. The measure of this duty; as we have ability, let us do good unto all; that is, proportionably to what God hath given us, let us be willing to give to others: God could easily level the world, and give every man alike; but he is pleased to give some more than others, on purpose to try their graces, the charity and bounty of the rich, the faith and patience of the poor. And verily an estate above what sufficeth our occasions and necessities, is no farther a blessing to us, than as it puts an opportunity into our hands of doing more good than others.
Observe, 7. An unwearied perseverance in doing good required at our hands: Let us not be weary in well-doing. Though we have done much good, there is room for more; new objects will appear, new occasions will arise, new opportunities will present themselves unto us. Let us never think we can do enough, much less too much good; the best of beings are most unwearied in well-doing. God, Christ, the holy angels, are never weary of this blessed work; let us never be weary in imitating them in that which is their highest and chiefest excellency and perfection.
Observe, 8. The argument and encouragement to the cheerful discharge of this duty: In due season we shall reap, if we faint not; that is, sooner or later, either in this world, or in the next, or in both, we shall certainly receive the reward of well-doing.
We shall reap; but what? Answer, We shall reap the blessing of God upon all we have, are, and do; we shall reap the benefit and blessings of their prayers, to whom we extend our charity; we shall reap the highest pleasure and satisfaction in our own minds of doing good, with which no sensual pleasure can be compared. The reflections upon any good we have done, is a perpetual spring of peace and pleasure to us; the thoughts of it lie even and easy in our minds, and the remembrance of it refreshes the soul with a strange kind of delight and joy.
But, Lord; what tongue can utter, or what heart conceive, that vast and unspeakable reward, which an unwearied diligence in well-doing will meet with in the world? It will plead for us at the day of judgment, and procure at the hands of a merciful God, for the rich merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, a glorious recompence at the resurrection of the just: and proportionable to the degrees of our charity, will be the dispensations of this reward.
From the whole learn, That great are the obligations which all Christians do lie under of doing good one to another, according to their abilities and opportunities.
Learn, 2. That great is the reward of well-doing; which Christians may eye as a motive to an unwearied diligence, and unfainting perseverance in well-doing.
It is very probable that St. Paul ordinarily did only dictate, and that some other person wrote his epistles, as that to the Romans Rom 16:22, wrote by Tertius. Sometimes he only wrote the salutation, and subscribed the epistle with his own hand, 1Cor 16:21 but here he tells the Galatians that he wrote this epistle to them all with his own hand, having never wrote so large an epistle wholly with his own hand to any church as he did to them.
This he did for two reasons, 1. To testify the fervency of his affection towards them, and to insinuate how much he loved them.
2. To evidence the sincerity of his endeavours for their present and future happiness: to accomplish these ends, he judged no pains too great.
From whence learn, 1. That the faithful ministers of Christ will stick at no pains, but encounter with all difficulties, to advance the good of souls in general, and to reduce an erroneous and wandering people in particular, to the obedience of the gospel.
Thus this great apostle, though he had upon him the care of all the churches, and consequently a multiplicity of business, many avocations, and a multitude of distractions; yet, in order to the reclaiming of these Galatians, who were deeply tinctured with error, as well as dangerously tainted with sin, he redeems time for, and undergoes the fatigue and trouble of, writing this whole epistle to them with his own hand: You see how large a letter I have written with mine own hand.
Learn, 2. That it neither savours of pride nor vain-glory in the ministers of the gospel, if upon occasion, though sparingly, they make known to the world the great pains they have taken for promoting the good of their people, that so they may be excited the more to bring forth fruit answerable to the cost and culture which the ministers of Christ have expended upon them. St. Paul here sticks not to tell the Galatians, and the whole world, the pains he had been at in writing this large epistle with his own hand to them; yet it was not to commend himself, but to excite and encourage them.
Here our apostle returns to the description which he had before given of the false apostles, who, though they urged the necessity of circumcision, yet it was not with any sincerity of intention: it was first to make a fair shew in the flesh; that is, to make a fair outward show of religion, an high pretence to holiness, by observing circumcision, and the other abrogated rites of the ceremonial law.
And secondly, this pretended zeal of theirs proceeded from cowardliness and fear, lest they should suffer persecution from the Jews for preaching the doctrine of the gospel, called here the cross of Christ, because it treats of a crucified Christ. Now the fury of these persecutors was abated towards those that preached up circumcision, but enraged abundantly against those who preached circumcision down.
Observe farther, How well the apostle makes good his charge against these false apostles, the judaizing doctors, that they urged the necessity of circumcision insincerely, and for base ends; namely, because they made no conscience to keep the law themselves, but could dispense with circumcision well enough, if they were amongst their friends, but pleaded for it when in fear of their persecuting enemies; thus they became all things to all men, but it was to save themselves.
And, lastly, he assures them that they urged circumcision upon them, that they might glory in their flesh; that is, might pride themselves that you were become their converts, by being circumcised at their persuasion, and be able to boast of the multitudes of their proselytes, who received circumcision at their instigation, and carried it as a mark of their instruction.
Learn hence, 1. That designing hypocrites do constantly pretend high to religion, but they evermore seek themselves, under a pretence of acting for God and his glory; they that constrain you to be circumcised, make a fair shew in the flesh.
Learn, 2. That though it is our duty to eschew persecution when we can fairly avoid it, yet we must not part with the least iota of truth, or espouse the smallest error, to avoid the sharpest persecution; They constrain you to be circumcised lest they should suffer persecution.
Learn, 3. That men who talk loud of religion, and pretend high to it, who preach it to and press it upon others, but do not conscientiously practice it themselves, it is an evident demonstration, that they are men of corrupt minds, of profligate consciences, that do not believe themselves; for he only believes what he says, that lives as he doth believe: Neither they themselves who are circumcised, says the apostle, keep the law.
Learn, 4. That there is nothing which false teachers and erroneous seducers do so much glory of, magnify themselves by, and pride themselves in, as in the number of their proselytes and converts, which they look upon as so many trophies of their victory, and speaking proofs of their unparalleled abilities; They constrain men to be circumcised, that they may glory in their flesh.
Having shown what it was that the false apostles gloried in, he next shows what it was that he himself gloried in; namely, in the cross of Christ; that is, in his preaching Christ crucified, and the necessity of faith in him who died as a sacrifice upon the cross. The cross of Christ is taken three ways in scripture, materially, metaphorically, and metonymically.
The material cross of Christ is that which he died upon at Jerusalem: this the church of Rome glories in greatly, but not the apostle.
The metaphorical cross of Christ, is afflictions, Luke 9:28. Let him take up the cross; that is, submit to any afflictions. God oft-times sanctifies this cross, for the crucifying the hearts of his people to the world.
But the cross of Christ is taken metonymically for the gospel, the doctrine of the gospel, or of him that died upon the cross.
Now Christianity, or the doctrine of the gospel, crucifies us to the world: first, by discovering to us the great vanity and emptiness of the world and all the perishing satisfactions of it; secondly, by propounding such arguments to crucify the world, as were never heard of from all the philosophers and wise men that ever lived in the world; namely, arguments taken from the glory of God, from the death of Christ, from the dignity of the soul, &c.
Learn hence, That such a Christian as doth experimentally find his heart and affections daily more and more crucified to the world, by the cross of Christ, has unspeakable cause and reason sufficient for spiritual glorying and rejoicing.
Question, Wherein consists not our crucifixion to the world?
Answer, It consists not in a vile esteem of the world, as useless or hurtful; or in casting off all care and concern for the things of the world, as sinful and unnecessary; nor is every degree of desire after, love unto, or delight in, the things of the world, inconsistent with our being crucified to it: nor doth it consist in, or oblige us to, the withdrawing ourselves from all society and conversation with the men of the world.
But, positively, crucifixion to the world consists in a crucified judgment and opinion of the world; in crucifying our love and affections to the world; in crucifying our hopes and expectations from the world; in crucifying our care and concern for the world; in crucifying our delight in, and our endeavour after, the world.
Question. How doth a Christian's being crucified to the world, afford him cause for unspeakable rejoicings?
Answer. Thus: We may, and ought to, glory in the blessed effect and fruit of Christ's death in re-stamping the image of God upon the soul, in the certain tokens of the love of God: we may glory in the death of Christ's enemy, and our soul's enemy: we may glory in that wherein God is glorified, and in that which is the earnest of our own glorification. Now crucifixion to the world, by the cross of Christ, is this, all this, and therefore warrantably to be boasted of, and gloried in.
Here the apostle subjoins a reason why he gloried only in the cross of Christ, and not in those carnal ordinances and fleshly privileges of circumcision, &c. which the false apostles so much gloried in: namely, because circumcision, nor uncircumcision, neither the presence of that ordinance, nor the want of it, availeth any thing, as to our acceptance with Christ, and interest in him: but the new creature is all in all; a circumcised heart, not a circumcised foreskin, a renewed nature, a divine temper of mind, rendering us like to Christ; this will enable us to love him, and qualify us for living with him now in Christ Jesus.
That is, now under the Christian dispensation, under the economy of the gospel, neither the presence nor absence of this outward badge of circumcision will avail any thing to our justification before God: but that which was signified by circumcision, is the thing that pleased God; namely, the renovation of our nature, and becoming new creatures both in heart and life.
Learn hence, That according to the terms of the gospel covenant, or Christian religion, nothing will avail to our acceptance with God, but the real renovation of our hearts and lives: Neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
Observe here, 1. The nature of Christianity described: it is a walk. Now a walk is a motion, a free and voluntary motion, an uniform and even motion: it is a progressive motion, and a constant motion.
Observe, 2. The condition of this walk, and that is regularity: it is a walk by rule; a Christian is not a lawless person, to range and ramble, and run up and down, as fancy leads him: but he walks by rule, by the rule of scripture, by the rule of charity.
Observe, 3. The determination of that rule which a Christian is to walk by: it must be according to this rule. What rule? The foregoing verse declares it is regeneration, and the law of the new creature. As many as walk according to that rule; when 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.
Observe, 4. The blessed privileges belonging to them that thus walk: Peace be into them, and mercy: that is, there shall be peace and mercy to them; these shall be their portion; nay, they shall be upon them; that is, in a large and plentiful manner vouchsafed to them.
Observe lastly, The honourable mention which the apostle makes of them that thus walk by scripture rule, according to the law of the new creature, written in the heart: he calls them the true Israel of God, the spiritual seed of Abraham, the children of his faith; which was a thousand times greater privilege than to be the children of his flesh: these are the persons interested in his blessings.
Learn hence, That true and inward peace, great and lasting peace, peace with God, and peace with conscience, is the assured portion, and shall be the possession, of all and only those who walk according to the law of God, the rule of the creature. As many as walk according to this rule.
The apostle having thus fully declared the mind of God in the matter controverted betwixt himself and the false apostles, touching the necessity of circumcision; he now makes use of his apostolic authority, and charges his adversaries to give him no farther trouble or disturbance, either by gainsaying his doctrine, or detracting from his authority; because he bare in his body the marks of his sufferings for Christ Jesus; namely, the stripes and wounds which he patiently received for the name of Christ, and his holy religion, 2Cor 11:23.
Learn hence, That whatever hard measure we meet with for the sake of Christ, what wounds and marks we receive for professing faith in him, and persevering in obedience to him, he will own them for his own, and give us leave to look upon them as our own; yea, to call them his own, as our apostle did here: I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
Here our apostle closes his epistle with his accustomed valediction, most affectionately praying that the grace and favour of Christ, in the sweet effects of it, and in the sensible apprehension of it, might remain in their souls, to enlighten, sanctify, comfort, and quicken them more and more, that from thence they may derive and draw abiding consolation both in life and death. Amen.
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