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General Editor 




The Epistle of St Paul 
to the Galatians 








THIS series of Expositions is intended to be of 
service to the general reader in the practical and 
devotional study of Holy Scripture. The Editors 
of the several Books, while taking into account the 
latest results of critical research, will make it their 
main endeavour to exhibit and emphasise the 
permanent truths and principles underlying the 
Sacred Text, and to indicate the bearing of these 
truths and principles on the spiritual, the moral, 
and the social life of the present day. 

Each Book is prefaced by a full and clear 
Introductory Section, setting forth what is known, 
or may be reasonably conjectured, respecting the 
date and occasion of the composition of the Book, 
and any other particulars that may help to eluci 
date its meaning as a whole. The Exposition 
proper is divided into short paragraphs, which are 
grouped together in larger sections corresponding 
as far as possible with the divisions of the Church 
Lectionary, and a Table is given shewing the days 
on which the different sections are appointed to 
be read at Morning and Evening Prayer. The 
translation of the Authorised Version is printed in 
full, such corrections as are deemed necessary to 
bring out the sense being placed in footnotes. 



i. Why the Epistle is not a favourite . 3 

ii. The occasion which called it forth . 8 
in. Why St Paul felt as he did about 

the matter . ... 12 
iv. The general lines of his treatment 

of it 16 

v. Why his words are of value for us . 22 


1. Chapter i. . 29 

2. Chapter ii. . ... 39 

3. Chapter iii. . . 51 

4. Chapter iv. i 21 . . . 63 

5. Chapter iv. 21 to v. 13 . . . 72 

6. Chapter v. 13 to end . . .80 

7. Chapter vi. . . . . .89 


PRIVILEGE: A Survey . . .100 


CHARACTER : A Study . . , ,112 





T T would probably not be easy to name a part 
* of the New Testament which is less gener 
ally appreciated by the ordinary reader than the 
Epistle to the Galatians. Most persons seem to 
think of it as extremely dogmatic and highly con 
troversial in its character ; and most English people 
just now are in a mood to dislike dogmatics; partly, 
it is to be feared, because they are indisposed to 
take the trouble required by accurate thought and 
statement, and partly on account of the weariness 
with which practical minds are wont to turn from 
religious controversy, the more so when it is con 
troversy which was waged in a now long-distant 
past. We are certainly little attracted to the task 
of raking over what we imagine to be the cinders 
of burnt-out disputes, on the chance that we 
may possibly discover something in them that 
will repay us for our pains. 

We are aware, of course, that the greatest 
importance was attached to this Epistle by those 
who threw themselves most eagerly into the 
revolt against traditional Christianity, as it had 
come to be in the sixteenth century; and we 


know that, since that time, it has been regarded 
by many as a very Gibraltar of Protestantism : 
but it is not unlikely that, for this very reason, 
we have been only the more ready to conclude 
that it is in other directions that we shall most 
hopefully look for the guidance which is needed 
to help us in dealing with the questions and 
problems which beset us at the present day. 

And yet, if we allow ourselves to reflect upon 
the matter, we must see that to acquiesce in 
such a conclusion would be unsatisfactory, and 
even worse. Whatever we may think or feel, 
the fact remains that the deeper consciousness of 
early Christianity did recognise in this Epistle to 
the Galatians the signs of an inspired work, and 
that the Catholic Church has from the first given 
to it unhesitatingly a place amongst those of its 
writings which are not to pass away. 

This being so, it must surely be our duty and 
our wisdom to make an effort to put from us all 
mere prejudice and misgiving, in order that we 
may apply ourselves heartily and intelligently to 
the consideration probably to some of us, it 
may be the discovery of the message which is 
waiting here to deliver itself anew to open and 
earnest minds. 

It may even be that there are some among us 
who will be glad to render some reparation for 
their past neglect, and will welcome an opportunity 
of trying to get down beneath the surface of the 


old words and technical phrases, to the essential 
meaning of great and unchanging principles. 

It is for such, more especially, that this attempt 
at interpretation is intended, and it will certainly 
fail of its aim if it does not succeed in convincing 
them that the old Epistle is full of most vivid 
and vital interest, and that it has a great deal to 
say about some of the most important of the 
great questions which can never long be absent 
from the thoughts of seriously-minded people in 
this or any other age. 

That the task, if it is to be accomplished, will 
demand a certain amount of labour from us, had 
better be recognised at the outset. It has been 
asserted that St Paul is perhaps of all writers, 
ancient and modern, the most difficult to under 
stand. Certainly it is true to say that, even 
apart from his lofty spiritual imagination and 
daring originality which call for more than ordinary 
sympathy and insight on the part of his would- 
be interpreters, there are characteristics of his 
style and treatment which in themselves add con 
siderably to the amount of exertion required from 
those who are to get at his meaning. 

There have not been many writers whose sen 
tences have been packed so full with thought and 
feeling as are those of St Paul. Into a few lines he 
often condenses an argument which would require 
as many pages for its adequate expansion and 
expression. Then, too, he loves to employ illus- 


trations, and is continually making allusions which, 
for obvious reasons, are less likely to be familiar 
and intelligible to us at this distance of time than 
they were to the readers to whom they were 
originally addressed. And it is probably no 
exaggeration to assert that there is not one of all 
his writings of which all this can be said more 
accurately than this very Epistle to the Galatians. 

However, we need not be afraid that the task 
will prove insuperable, nor indeed that it will 
demand more from us than any persons of 
ordinary thoughtfulness may fairly be expected 
to give. So many workers have, at different 
times, been engaged on the field, that there is 
scarcely a point of difficulty upon which it is 
not possible to bring to bear an immense amount 
of knowledge, gathered in the course of long 
and most careful investigation. In truth, it not 
seldom happens that we are in danger of finding 
ourselves bewildered amid the masses of material 
and the variety of the opinions which are so 
readily accessible to us. Our aim will be to 
resist the temptations to turn aside from the 
main issues, and to endeavour, while paying all 
due respect to the judgment of recognised authori 
ties, to see as far as we can, with fresh eyes, and 
for ourselves, the broad outlines and general bear 
ings of this part of the New Testament teaching. 

We can have no doubt as to the way by which 
we must approach the consideration of the 


Epistle. The advantages of the historical method 
have for so many years been so constantly and 
deeply impressed upon our minds that it would not 
be at all natural for us, perhaps it would be 
scarcely possible for us, to adopt any other. An 
instinct seems to tell us that we must begin by 
endeavouring to put ourselves, as far as we can, 
in the position of the writer, and of the persons 
whom he was in the first instance addressing. We 
must ask ourselves, * What were the circumstances 
which led St Paul to address the Galatians at all, 
and led him to address them as he did? Only 
in this way can we hope to get a satisfactory 
insight into his actual intention and meaning; 
and not until we have done this can we form any 
reasonable opinion as to how far the things which 
he had to say to them have any real significance 
and value for ourselves under the obviously altered 
conditions in which we have to live our lives at 
the present time. 

Let us then, by way of preparation for a more 
detailed study, do our best to give answers to 
such simple inquiries as these : 

a. What was it that had happened among the 

Galatian Christians which led St Paul to 
write to them ? 

b. Why was it that in writing he took so extremely 

serious a view of the situation that had 
arisen ? 


c. How was it that, speaking quite generally, he 
set himself to deal with it ? 

By the time that we have answered these ques 
tions, we ought to have a very fair idea of what 
we may expect to meet with, if we are disposed 
to make a further and closer acquaintance" with 
the Epistle. 


The story of the Galatians, so far as we know 
it, can be quickly told. They were a people 
living in the centre of Asia Minor. Whether 
they were the direct descendants of the Celts 
who had invaded the country, coming from the 
westward, rather less than three centuries before, 
to whom the term Galatae more properly applied ; 
or whether, as has been maintained, they were a 
part of the mixed populations who inhabited the 
more southerly districts of the more inclusive 
Roman province which bore the name of Galatia, 
is, and is likely to remain, a debatable matter. 1 

1 The advantage of understanding Galatia in the wider 
political sense (as comprising Lycaonia, Isauria, and portions 
of Phrygia and Pisidia), would be that we should thus be 
enabled to include Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, 
all of which we know to have been visited by St Paul (Acts 
xiii. xiv. ) ; whereas, if we confine the term to its narrower 
meaning, we are left without any detailed knowledge of what 
the actual places were to which the Apostle went. Against 
such an obvious attraction to this view (maintained with 
ardour by Renan, and more recently advocated in England 


St Paul had preached the Gospel to them in 
the first instance ; and his preaching had been 
attended with the most clearly-marked success. 
His stay among them had, it would seem, been 
occasioned by an illness, but this, so far from 
proving a hindrance, had rather helped him to 
win his way to their hearts. Nothing could have 
exceeded the enthusiasm with which he had been 
received. The -people had vied with one another 
in their efforts to express the warmth, the almost 
extravagance, of their affection. When he left them, 
their souls were willing over with thankfulness and 

For a while all had continued to go most pros 
perously ; but it was only for a while. Ere long 
there came about the most extraordinary change. 
It was not merely that the first ardour of early 
enthusiasm had begun to decline there would 

by Prof. W. M. Ramsay) has to be set the fact that St 
Luke distinctly describes Lystra and Derbe as " cities of 
Lycaonia" (Acts xiv. 6), and assigns Antioch to Pisidia 
(xiii. 14). When further he speaks of Galatia, or of "the 
Phrygian and Galatian country v (xvi. 6), it seems almost 
certain that he intended to employ the word Galatia in its 
narrowQr and more popular sense. A yet stronger argument 
to determine St Paul s reference in this Epistle may be 
drawn from his exclamation " O foolish Galatians ! " (iii. l). 
It is scarcely possible to suppose that in an impassioned 
outburst of personal appeal he would use what was merely 
an official designation under which were grouped various 
peoples of different nationalities. 


have been nothing so very unusual in that. Their 
ardour had not only declined, it had disappeared 
to make way for feelings of a wholly different kind. 
And it had all come about so rapidly. 

The Galatians were evidently a mercurial and 
inconstant people ; but even St Paul, who knew 
them so well, was not prepared for the suddenness 
and the violence of this transformation. 

With the report of it, however, there had come 
to him also the explanation of what had occurred. 
It had not been simply the effect of reaction. 
Had it been only this, there might have come in 
time perhaps a reaction from the reaction. But 
other influences had been at work. Teachers had 
appeared upon the scene who only too well under 
stood the state of affairs, and were only too well 
pleased to make the most of the opportunity 
afforded to them by the coolness and depression 
of the once fervid converts of St Paul. 

These persons were the bitter foes of the 
Apostle of the Gentiles, and they had systematic 
ally made it their business to follow in his steps, 
in order that they might neutralise his influence 
and destroy his work. It was not often that they 
found an opening so entirely favourable for their 
purpose, and they had evidently lost no time in 
availing themselves of it. Under the guise of 
friendship and sympathy, they had offered their 
counsel and their help. They addressed them 
selves to those who, as it would seem, had at last 


been awakened as if from a dream, to realise that 
the emotions and resolutions of a period of great 
spiritual excitement could scarcely be taken to 
be the normal experience of average people at 
ordinary times. 

Their advice to the Galatians was that they 
should be less ambitious and more practical in 
their aims ; and, above all, that they should learn 
from the experience of the past to be careful as 
to the choice of those to whom they gave their 
confidence in future. They did not scruple to 
assure them that they had been cruelly misled. 

They spoke of St Paul as a discredited indivi 
dual, no real apostle at all, but a vague visionary 
who had set before himself and before others a quite 
unattainable ideal. They denied that he had any 
proper authority for what he said or did, and 
they denounced his teaching as bad in every 
respect. They declared that it was new, unauthor 
ised, unscriptural, and extremely dangerous in its 

For their part, they counselled the Galatians 
to be content with the time-honoured ways of 
religion which had satisfied, and were satisfying, 
multitudes of others. In these, so they assured 
them, they would find the fullest employment for 
their activities, while, at the same time, they would 
be saved from the exhaustion which followed in 
definite attempts to reach impossible standards. 
Nor did they give them this advice in a merely 


abstract shape. They put before them a regular 
system of exercises and observances; things 
actually to be accomplished and done, in the doing 
of which progress might be marked and the mind 
might find repose. 

It was evident that the counsel of these teachers 
had commended itself to very many as timely and 
wise. More or less generally, the methods pre 
scribed were being adopted, with the result that, 
so far as outward appearances went, there were 
all the indications of a vigorous and energetic 
religious condition. 

This, in short, was the state of affairs as it had 
been reported to St Paul. 


We have but to glance at the Epistle to see 
that to St Paul the report occasioned the acutest 
distress and dismay. He writes off at once in a 
very anguish of alarm. Nowhere in any other of 
his letters that have come down to us does he 
express himself with so much warmth and 

He tells the Galatians that they have been 
guilty of an almost incredible folly ; and he warns 
them that, if they go on as they are going, they 
will find that they have deserted from the Gospel 
and have fallen from grace. He says that he is 


afraid that the efforts which he has bestowed upon 
them have been entirely thrown away. 

And why this serious view of the matter ? Is it 
merely, or chiefly, that he feels aggrieved by the 
injury which has been inflicted upon his own repu 
tation ; and that he is indignant, as he naturally 
might be, at the fickleness of those whom he 
had counted as his friends ? Or is it for reasons 
which move him much more deeply than any 
considerations of personal injustice and loss ? 

We are sure beforehand that it is not for him 
self that he is trembling, but for them. And in 
truth he very soon makes it clear that both he and 
they had good cause to be afraid. 

He knew these false teachers well, and he knew 
what came of their influence. He perceived, as 
probably no other man then living perceived, the 
real issues which were at stake; and, as he saw 
the matter, it was simply a question of life and 
death. The change through which his former 
disciples were passing was in his view an altogether 
disastrous decline. 

They were going down to a condition in which 
their entire attention was devoted to what they 
were being taught to regard as meritorious acts of 
compliance with an elaborated system of external 
religious observances. It was the thought of this 
that filled him with dread. 

And why ? Did St Paul mean them to under 
stand that no value is to be attached to religious 


observances ? Assuredly, he did not. He under 
stood human nature well enough to know that, 
even in its highest endeavours, it is unable to 
dispense with the help and the support of the 
outward and the material; that, in fact, religion 
simply could not continue to exist among a people 
without a due conservation of its external forms. 1 
In one passage of this Epistle he speaks in the 
strongest language of the benefit received 
through the sacrament of Holy Baptism, and 
elsewhere he shews us how decisively he could 
deal with any who thought, of their own private 
judgment and selfwill, to devise practices or 
institute customs which were unknown to the 
Church at large. 2 

St Paul most certainly did not mean to say what 
he would quickly have had to unsay again. He 
did not mean to say that religious acts and exer 
cises have no real value, and ought to have no 
place in the life of a Christian. What he did mean 
to say, and to say with all his might, was this: 
that religious acts and exercises are dangerous, and 
may become destructive, when they are deliber 
ately adopted as substitutes for spiritual character. 
When men have come to a state of mind in which 

1 f The form of religion may indeed be where there is little 
of the thing itself, but the thing itself cannot be preserved 
amongst mankind without the form. (Bp. Butler, Charge 
to Clergy of Durham, 1751). 

2 I Cor. xi. 1 6, xiv. 36. 


they allow themselves to say we cannot rise to 
that, let us be content with this ; when the inward 
is abandoned and the outward is accepted in its 
stead, then a compromise has been made which 
can only be fatal. 

He meant, and he asserts it again and again in 
different ways, that doing is a deadly thing when 
doing takes the place of being. 

With St Paul, spiritual attainment, Christian 
character, was the principal thing. It was for this 
that Christ had come, and had died, and had risen 
again. It was for this that His Spirit was ever 
striving within them. To repudiate and abandon 
the desire for this, and to be willing instead to 
find satisfaction in a prescribed routine of ordered 
observances, persuading themselves that these could 
avail to secure or to retain the favour of God, this 
was, indeed, after they had "begun in the Spirit," 
to seek to be " made perfect in the flesh." This 
was a course which could only result in the darken 
ing and the deadening of their souls. 

It was to persons who were taking this down 
ward step that the Apostle uttered the warning, 
appealing cry of the Epistle ; and it is we need 
not hesitate to say it at once because this Epistle 
is addressed to those who are exposed to the stress 
of this terrible temptation that it has had in the 
past, and will continue to have in the future, a 
most powerful and never outworn message to the 
minds and the consciences of men. 


We have spoken then of the situation with 
which St Paul found himself suddenly called upon 
to deal, and of the reasons which might rightly 
lead him to look upon it as being critical in the 
last degree. We have now to ask further how it 
was that the Apostle set about to discharge the 
very painful and anxious duty which had thus been 
forced upon him. 

The task before St Paul was by no means a 
slight one. He had to make an Apologia for 
himself and his doctrine. His right to teach at 
all had been defiantly challenged, and his teaching 
had been denounced as not only unauthorised, but 
false and pernicious. 

Plainly, therefore, it was necessary that he 
should face the assertions of his detractors on 
these issues before he could hope to offer counsel 
with any effect to persons whose confidence in 
himself had been so severely shaken. This con 
sequently is the course he adopts. He begins by 
asserting and proving his right to be heard. 

St Paul vindicates his Apostleship on the ground 
that the call to it had come to him direct from 
Christ. In this respect, his position was equal to 
that of any other of the Apostles. He had not 
derived his authority from them, nor indeed had 
his doctrine been delivered to him by them. His 
relations with them had at the first been restricted 


to the briefest interviews; and there had been 
occasions on which he had found it needful to 
maintain before them, and even against them, the 
truths with which he had been entrusted. At the 
same time he is able to shew that, so far from 
there having been any disapproval of himself on 
the part of the elder Apostles, they had fully ad 
mitted that he had received a Divine commission 
in no way inferior to their own. 

Having thus established his right to be re 
garded as an authoritative exponent of the 
Christian faith, he proceeds after an outburst 
of astonishment at the unreasonableness of those 
whose personal experience had afforded them 
such convincing evidence of the character of 
his teaching to meet in order the charges which 
had been so confidently made against it. 

It had been urged that his doctrine was new. 
He had admitted already that in some sense 
it was. It was new, that is to say, in the sense 
that it had come to him newly and afresh, and 
not at second-hand. He had not learned it in 
any of the schools, whether Jewish or Christian. 
He had received it independently of intervention 
on the part of man. But new in any other sense 
it most certainly was not. It was old ; old as the 
earliest records of the religious life on the first 
pages of the Bible. 

His antagonists had appealed to the Scriptures ; 
to the Scriptures by all means let them go. They 


would not deny that Abraham was the great head 
of the Jewish race; the man who beyond all 
others had been eulogised and beatified by the 
Divine approval, and set forth as the pattern and 
type for those who should come after. 

On what ground, then, had this most honoured 
saint found favour with God? It had been un 
mistakably declared that Abraham was accepted 
on account of his Faith of that which was inward, 
and of all things most unlike an outward act or 
work. It was by reason of his Faith that most 
elementary and yet most deep movement of the 
soul by which it is drawn upward and Godward : 
it was by Faith by that which is the first 
evidence as it is also the most indispensable 
condition of spiritual character that Abraham 
was what he was. 

In the simplest and most natural way Abraham 
had believed in and trusted himself to God ; and 
had in consequence been blessed with a promise 
of good which, by the very terms of it, was 
pledged not to himself alone, but to a spiritual 
offspring, who were not to be restricted to any 
particular family or race. 

St Paul, laying hold of this ancient testimony, 
claimed that in it is to be found the anticipation, 
nay more, the very promulgation of the Gospel; 
and this, of course, at a date wholly anterior to 
the Law. By a carefully elaborated argument he 
works out the thought that the Law, coming as it 


did so much later and being of an entirely 
different nature, could not possibly have been 
intended to set aside the earlier provisions of the 
pre-established order of Grace. That the Law 
had its purpose to serve he fully allows, and he 
enters at some length into the explanation of 
what that purpose was. But it was a purpose 
which could be carried out with advantage only 
in the case of those who were in a state of re 
ligious infancy. For others, who ought to have 
got beyond it, to return to the conditions of 
pupilage and bondage was to renounce the very 
ends which the Law itself had in view, and to 
turn their backs upon the hopes of a Christian. 

If they did this, they might indeed make out 
that they were the descendants of Abraham ; but 
it would be by the wholly inferior line of Ishmael 
the child of the bondwoman, and not according 
to the true succession of Isaac the son of the 

Rather than that, let them stand by their 
liberty, and follow the Scriptural precedent by 
chasing away into the wilderness the offspring 
of Hagar who had come to disturb their peace. 

So much for the appeal to Scripture, and the 
conclusions to which alone it could legitimately 

But the doctrine of St Paul had been de 
nounced as unsafe as well as unsound; and the 
mention of Freedom forms the point of transi- 


tion at which he could pass on to say what he felt 
it necessary to say on this head. His enemies 
had made the accusation which is ever ready to 
hand, when for other reasons religious teaching 
is to be condemned. It is always so easy to 
give logical proof to shew that the tendencies of 
certain doctrines must necessarily be mischievous ; 
and in the case of St Paul s teaching the task was 
more than commonly easy. Take away re 
strictions that is what he did and the results 
must be obvious enough ! 

Now, St Paul was the very last man to shrink 
from the application of the moral test ; and in 
this matter he has not the smallest misgiving as 
to what the effect of such a test would be. Only 
he not unnaturally insists that it is his own 
teaching that must be put to trial, and not a 
perversion of it. It is a teaching of Freedom, 
but what does that mean? Does it mean that 
permission is to be granted to the lower part of 
human nature to do what it pleases? That is 
not liberty, but license. 

What "the works of the flesh" are, when the 
flesh is left free, that everyone knows ; and if 
religion aims at nothing more than to keep the 
evil that is in us within bounds, then indeed it 
must be most dangerous to think of removing 
restraints. But if on the other hand religion has 
the power to quicken and strengthen the good, 
to give new life to the spiritual part of our 


nature ; then the best hope of highest attainment 
will lie in the free and unhindered development 
of the "fruit of the Spirit." 

For the results of such liberty the only liberty 
worthy of the name St Paul has no fear at all. 
In words which glow yet with the light of inspira 
tion he sets forth to view an enumeration of the 
characteristics of such a life, as he had often 
beheld them ; and we may readily imagine the 
look of triumphant assurance in his face as he 
penned his conclusion, "against such there is 
no law!" Away then, he would say, with all 
hesitation as to the practical outcome of my 
doctrine. In results such as these there is 
nothing to fear and nothing to condemn. 

Defence was never more bold or more complete. 
And there is more than defence. At every step 
of the argument we are made to realise that the 
Apostle is thinking not only of a victory which 
has to be gained over dangerous foes, but far 
more anxiously of those for whose well-being he 
yearns with an affection as tender as his attitude 
on their behalf is courageous. 

The Pastor is never for a moment lost in the 
Controversialist. Never are we allowed to forget 
that, over and beyond every other aim and desire, 
his chief hope and ambition is that he may be 
permitted to minister to the necessities of souls. 
The Epistle abounds in flashes of rapid practical 
insight, anticipations of doubts, suggestions of 


help drawn from the most various quarters; 
and these are accompanied by encouragements 
to press forward bravely and perseveringly, with 
earnest pleadings for that support which one may 
render to another at times when the way is steep 
and the burden presses. 

The final chapter is mainly concerned with 
considerations of practical duty; but before it 
closes the tone once more becomes that of warning. 
There is a last protest ; and then a final aspiration 
for the peace which is at once the crown of 
Christian endeavour and the end of Christian 

We have now accomplished what we set out 
to do in this Introduction. We have tried to 
indicate something at all events of the needs 
which the Epistle was at first intended to meet. 
It is to be hoped that what has been said has 
increased the expectation with which we shall 
turn again to the venerable document. It is 
to be hoped that it may have done more. Is it 
possible that we can follow, even in such briefest 
outline, a story like this of the Galatians, and not 
feel that very much of what was addressed to 
them is, after all these years, just as truly applic 
able to ourselves? 


The temptation before which they faltered in 
their hour of trial is as strong as ever to-day. 
Endeavour after the highest in character is hard 
and exhausting. Reliance upon the support 
of supernatural Power makes a continuous 
demand for faith and self-abandonment. It is 
so easy to sink into self-consciousness, and to 
become dismayed at the thought of a task which 
is so evidently beyond the attainment of our 
unaided strength. The failures are so frequent, 
and the progress seems so slow. And the sug 
gestion is ever at hand, Would it not be wiser, 
even humbler, to abandon the struggle after the 
unattainable, and to be content with some more 
satisfactory, because more possible, aim? And 
how subtle are the arguments which are always 
ready to pour in to complete the discomfiture of 
the already despairing will ! x 

It may be everything to us, when the crisis 
comes, that we have been at the pains to master 

1 It is, in my mind, impossible to ignore that there 
are in several directions grave dangers of what under the 
guise of most religion becomes least religious of lowering, 
of materialising, of making religion lull the conscience 
instead of awaken and strengthen the conscience, of making 
the way of God seem an elaborately technical thing, instead 
of the old way of the conscience and of simple faith, 
going out towards the fulfilment of itself and its needs 
in Christ Jesus and the work of His Spirit. (Bishop 
Talbot, Address to Rochester Diocesan Conference. June 


the meaning of the brief treatise in which the 
greatest of Christian writers has given to the 
Church of all time such instruction and guidance 
about the whole matter as he believed to be in 
accordance with the mind of our Master. 


Shewing the days on which the several sections of this 
Epistle are appointed to be read in the Lessons at Morning 
and Evening Prayer. 

Section Chapter Morning Prayer 

Evening Prayer 

i. I. September 22. 

April 10. 

2. II. ,, 23. 


3. III. 24. 


4. IV. I 21 ,, 25. 


5. IV. 21 V. 13 26. 

J 4- 

6. V. 13 end. ,, 27. 


7. VI. 28. 


Chapter V. i 16 may also be read at Evening Prayer 
on Whitsunday. 








TN the closer examination of the Epistle upon 
which we now enter, we shall not attempt any 
thing like a microscopic inquiry into the sense of 
every word. This has been done again and again, 
with results which may be found in the larger 
Commentaries. Our aim will rather be to get 
a strong grasp upon the meaning of the letter as 
a whole, and we shall concern ourselves with the 
particular verses and expressions only so far as 
the accurate understanding of these is directly 
useful for the accomplishment of this purpose. 

We shall take the text in short sections, and 
it will be observed by those who are accustomed 
to follow the order of reading prescribed in our 
Church s Lectionary, that the larger divisions, 
according to which these sections are grouped, 
will correspond with its arrangement. 

The translation adopted is that of the Author 
ised Version. Where in any instances it has been 


thought necessary that this should be altered, the 
words to be changed will be indicated by numerals, 
and the suggested alterations will be given im 
mediately after the text. 

1 Paul, an apostle (not of men, neither by man, but 
by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised 

2 him from the dead ;) and all the brethren which 

3 are with me, unto the churches of Galatia : Grace 
be to you and peace from God the Father, and 

4 from our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for 

our sins, that he might deliver us from this present 
evil world, according to the will of God and our 

5 Father : to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 

At the outset St Paul asserts his claim to be 
heard in the most unmistakable terms. He is 
an Apostle, deriving his authority from no source 
less than divine, through no other instrumentality 
than the commission of our Lord Himself. Though 
he had not known Christ after the flesh, he was 
compensated, perhaps more than compensated, 
by the fact that he had known Him as "raised 
from the dead." The reference to "all the 
brethren " who are with him may be intended 
to indicate that he was not, after all, quite so 
isolated a teacher as his opponents had wished 
to represent. 

The salutation is his ordinary one, combining 
"grace," the greeting of the new Dispensation, 
with " peace " the watchword of the old. It is 
given as with Apostolic authority, and conveys 


the assurance not only of his own personal good 
feeling, but of the Divine love and good purpose 
towards them; a love which had stayed at no 
sacrifice in the past, and a purpose which could 
never be satisfied until those for whom Christ 
died should have been set free from the bondage 
of the lower life of sense. As a true Apostle, his 
desire is not to sound his own praises, but simply 
to further the glory of God. 

After this brief introduction of himself and his 
motive, he passes at once to speak of his particular 
reasons for writing. 

6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed l from him 
that called you into 2 the grace of Christ unto 

7 another 3 gospel: which is not another; but 4 there 
be some that trouble you, and would pervert the 

8 gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel 
from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you 
than that which we have preached unto you, let 

9 him be accursed. As we said before, so say I 
now again, If any man preach any other gospel 
unto you than that ye have received, let him be 

1 removing 2 in 3 a different 4 only 

In every other Epistle but this, St Paul, when he 
has given his salutation, proceeds to express his 
thankfulness for what he has known or heard of the 
state and progress of those to whom he is writing. 
He does so even when, later on in the course of 
the letter, he has to use language of disapprobation 
and censure. The entire absence of commenda- 


tion here is therefore most significant. So filled is 
he with distress at the condition of the Galatian 
Churches, that he cannot keep back even for a 
moment his feelings of sorrow and amazement. 
The change since his last visit, or even if the time 
were reckoned since the date of their first con 
version, had come with such extraordinary rapidity. 
It is true that the Authorised Version exaggerates 
somewhat by its rendering in the past tense. 
What St Paul says is that they were " so quickly 
removing." He does not imply that the defection 
was absolutely complete, but that it had gone far 
enough to justify the most serious apprehen 

His wonder is that they do not see matters as 
he sees them. Their disloyalty and desertion 
were not merely sins against their Apostle, but 
against the God Who had sent him. They were 
rejecting His goodness and refusing to hear His 
voice. In taking to a different Gospel they were 
taking to what was in reality no Gospel at all. It 
was only a Gospel if the perversion of a Gospel had 
any right to be described by that name. Those 
who had come to disturb them were in simple 
fact turning the Gospel upside down. This is 
the force of St Paul s expression, " perverting the 
Gospel of Christ." What he means by it we shall 
see more clearly later, in Chapter iii. 3. Now the 
Gospel of Christ was a thing which no created 
being might dare to change. The most fearful 


condemnation that could be pronounced would 
not be too severe for anyone, be he who he 
might, man or angel, who should presume to 
tamper with it. From the words "as we said 
before" we gather that the Apostle and his 
companions had, when with them, in a measure 
foreseen and forewarned them of the peril that 
might beset them. It was the more inexcusable, 
therefore, that they should have been so readily 
led astray. 

It gives him no pleasure to speak as he does ; 
nothing but the most urgent sense of his duty 
would induce him to do so : 

10 For do I now persuade men, or God ? or do I seek 
to please men? for 1 if I yet pleased men, I should 

1 1 not be the 2 servant of Christ. But I certify you, 
brethren, that the gospel which was preached of 

12 me is not after man. For I neither received it of 
man, neither was I taught //, but by the revelation 

13 of Jesus Christ. For ye have heard of my con 
versation 3 in time past in the Jews religion, how 
that beyond measure I persecuted the church of 

14 God, and wasted it : and profited 4 in the Jews 
religion above many my equals 5 in mine own 
nation, being more exceedingly zealous of 6 the 
traditions of my fathers. 

1 omit for 2 a 3 manner of life 

4 I advanced 5 beyond many of my age 6 for 

St Paul is determined to allow no room for 
compromise. His natural disposition inclined him 
to win his way by conciliatory methods; and 


possibly the turn of his expression here implies 
that, in the representations of his enemies, this 
willingness to make concessions to be "all things 
to all men" had been brought as a charge 
against him. All the more need therefore to shew 
that, whatever line he may have taken on other 
occasions, only one attitude could be possible for 
him now, if he were to maintain his loyalty to the 
Master Who was far more to him than all earthly 
friends and foes. 

The strength of his language is to be regarded 
as the measure of his conviction. He was certain 
that the message which he had delivered was not 
devised by man, and could not be altered by man. 
Ordinary earthly knowledge is acquired by painful 
efforts of teaching and understanding, processes 
which leave room for numberless possibilities of 
misconception and mistake. It was far otherwise 
with the heavenly knowledge which had come to 
him. That had not been given and received in 
the way of instruction to the intellect, but had 
been flashed upon him as a revelation from above, 
carrying with it to his inmost intuition its own 
evidence of truth. 

And indeed nothing short of a Divine inter 
position could have availed to convince him. All 
his previous sympathies and antipathies would 
have disposed him towards quite other conclusions. 
His previous manner of life had certainly given no 
hint of what he was subsequently to become. No 


fanatical adherent to Judaism could be more 
hostile than he had once been ; no Rabbinical 
student more zealous for the venerated traditions 
of the schools. Never did man seem less likely 
to ally himself to a cause than he to that which 
he had once so cordially hated. 

15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from 
my mother s womb, and called me by his grace, 

1 6 to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach 
him among the heathen j 1 immediately I conferred 

17 not with flesh and blood : neither went I up to 
Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me ; 
but I went 2 into Arabia, and returned again unto 

1 Gentiles ; 2 went away 

St Paul had gloried in his old title of Pharisee, 
the original meaning of which was separated, 
little imagining all the while that one day he would 
discover that he had been set apart in the purposes 
of God by a far nobler separation from his very 
birth. He had thought it his mission to build 
higher the dividing barriers of Judaism : it was 
shewn to him that it was to be the work of his life 
to evangelise the Gentiles. The revelation when 
it came was so direct, and its meaning so self- 
evident, that external corroboration seemed at the 
time to be wholly superfluous. He needed but to 
withdraw that he might ponder it and realise it in 
stillness, that 

Separate from the world, his breast 


Might duly take and strongly keep 
The print of Heaven. 1 

Most assuredly it was not "flesh and blood" 
that had revealed to him his message at the 
beginning. True it was that later on, as he pro 
ceeds to tell, he had some intercourse as was 
fitting with the Apostles at Jerusalem ; but this 
had been of the briefest character, and had left 
him still a stranger to the great majority of those 
who were Christians before him. 

1 8 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to 

19 see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But 
other of the apostles saw I none, save James the 

20 Lord s brother. Now the things which I write 

21 unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. After 
wards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia ; 

22 and was unknown by face unto the churches of 

23 Judaea which were in Christ : but they had heard 
only, That he which persecuted us in times past 

1 Christian Year for I3th Sunday after Trinity (of Moses). 

The question as to the place to which St Paul went 
for this retreat has been much discussed. It is difficult, 
however, to think that he used the term "Arabia" here in 
a different sense from that which he gives to it later in the 
Epistle (iv. 25), where it can only stand for the Sinaitic 
peninsula. Nor can we fail to see how fitting it would have 
been that at such a time he should have felt drawn to tread 
in the footsteps of Moses and Elijah. There, where the 
Jewish Law had been given at the first, he might hope to be 
taught what it really meant. To him also "the still, small 
voice" might come with the revelation and the strength 
which were needed for the work of a new prophetic mission. 


now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. 
24 And they glorified God in me. 

When St Paul speaks of going to " see Peter," 
he employs a term which, as St Chrysostom 
remarks, is used by those who go to see great 
and famous cities. The visit was one which was 
prompted by a feeling of unusual interest. It was 
natural that he should desire to become closely 
acquainted with one who held so prominent a 
position in the Christian community. 

The stay lasted about a fortnight. It included 
also interviews with St James, the Bishop of 
Jerusalem, as he is styled by later writers. The 
other Apostles were evidently absent, engaged it may 
be in some such work as that which had formerly 
taken St Peter and St John to Samaria (Acts viii.). 

That St Paul should lay such stress upon these 
particulars is doubtless to be accounted for by 
the fact that his foes had represented him as 
having spent much more time with the leaders 
at Jerusalem, and as having derived his informa 
tion from them; in which case he might rightly 
have been regarded as entirely subordinate to 
them. The truth was, as he says, that he had 
remained for many years almost unknown to them, 
and a stranger to the Churches in Judaea. These 
knew of him by report as a preacher of the Faith, 
and as a most remarkable instance of the trans 
forming power of Grace. They knew enough, 
however, to have no doubt that the change in 


him was God s doing; and it was marvellous in 
their eyes. 

So much then for the circumstances which 
preceded and immediately followed the great 
crisis of the Apostle s life. They were such 
as rendered any ordinary explanation of his call 
to Apostleship out of the question. Neither then, 
nor indeed since, 1 have any attempts at such an 
explanation been able to stand in the light of the 
simple facts. Never had teacher better right to 
feel confidence in his vocation, or to expect that it 
should be recognised by others. In so far as 
authority was required in order to carry conviction 
of religious faith, St Paul could fearlessly maintain 
that his own was inferior to that of no other man. 

1 Even Baur, at the end of his life (1860), confessed that 
* no psychological nor dialectical analysis could explain 
the extraordinary transformation of the most vehement 
adversary into the most resolute herald of Christianity ; 
and that he felt constrained to call it a miracle, notwith 
standing his philosophical aversion to miracles. (Schaff, 
Galatians, p. 17.) 


C T PAUL S intercourse with his fellow- Apostles, 
^ so far as it had gone, had been of the most 
friendly character. Although he had not derived 
his principles from them, he had been received 
by their representatives, and had been generally 
honoured in the Churches of Judaea. So much 
he has been able to allege in support of his 
contention that he was entitled to speak with 
all the authority which belonged to a Christian 

But he has yet stronger evidence to adduce. 
He proceeds to describe another visit which he 
had made to Jerusalem, when a considerable 
interval had passed. For some time he had 
been engaged in missionary efforts to reach the 
Gentiles, and it was in order that he might 
secure the uninterrupted success of these efforts 
that he gladly welcomed the opportunity which 
arose of holding a conference with those whose 
influence was so far-reaching as was that of the 
elder Apostles in the original home of Christianity. 
What befell him in this important and delicate 
negotiation he now goes on to narrate with con 
siderable care. 


1 Then fourteen years after I went up again to 
Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me 

2 also. And I went up by revelation, and com 
municated unto them that gospel which I preach 
among the Gentiles, but privately to them which 
were of reputation, lest by any means I should 

3 run, 1 or had run, in vain. But neither 2 Titus, who 
was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be 

4 circumcised : and that because of false brethren 
unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy 
out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that 

5 they might bring us into bondage : to whom we 
gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour ; that 
the truth of the gospel might continue with you. 

1 be running 2 not even 

This was the visit described in Acts xv. when 
St Paul and St Barnabas were sent from the 
Church of Antioch expressly for the purpose of 
coming to an understanding with the authorities 
at Jerusalem in regard to the action of certain 
men who had been disturbing the minds and 
consciences of Christians, by urging upon them 
the necessity of submitting to the requirements 
of the Jewish ceremonial laws. 

St Paul was determined to raise the questions 
at issue in the most unmistakable way, and 
accordingly took with him as one of his com 
panions Titus, a Christian Greek, who had never 
conformed to the most elementary of those 

There were public conferences and private con 
sultations. These latter were held with persons 


of position, in order, no doubt, to facilitate the 
progress of the more general discussions. 

St Paul s earnest desire was to gain an approval 
of the line of action which he had adopted, and 
so to secure that his Gentile converts should not 
be interfered with. We observe that he is careful 
to say "the Gospel which I preach," thereby 
making it clear that he had made no subsequent 
change in his position. 

It is plainly evident, both from the account 
here given, and from the narrative in the Acts, 
that the Apostle s principles were only accepted 
in the face of a strong opposition. There were 
those who would have used almost any means 
to bring about a decision unfavourable to his 
teaching. And indeed, as we shall see, his 
language even in regard to his fellow-Apostles, is 
undoubtedly intended to imply that the sanction 
which they gave and gave ultimately with every 
sign of good fellowship would not have been 
given had not the case been set before them 
with a completeness of evidence and argument 
which they found it impossible to resist. 

6 But of these who seemed 1 to be somewhat, (what 
soever they were, it maketh no matter to me : God 
accepteth no man s person :) for they who seemed 
to be somewhat* in conference added 3 nothing to 

7 me : But contrariwise, when they saw that the 
gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto 
me, as the gospel of the circumcision ivas unto 

1 were reputed 2 were of repute 3 imparted 


8 Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in 4 Peter 
to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same 

9 was mighty in 5 me toward the Gentiles :) And 
when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed 6 to 
be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto 
me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands 
of fellowship ; that we should go unto the heathen, 7 

10 and they unto the circumcision. Only they would 
that we should remember the poor ; the same 
which I also 8 was forward to do. 

4 for 5 for 6 were reputed 7 Gentiles 8 the very thing I 

The broken sentences tell plainly enough how 
difficult St Paul found it to say what he felt 
bound to say about the elder Apostles, who were 
appealed to as the paramount authorities by the 
Judaic teachers of the Galatians. While desiring 
to speak of them with all possible respect, he 
was constrained, in order to vindicate his own 
independence and to correct an extravagant over 
estimate of their influence and position, to make 
it clear that they had contributed nothing that 
was new to him of any kind. What he had 
received from them was a public recognition that 
he had his own work to do, in a sphere distinct 
from theirs ; a work with which he had been 
directly entrusted, and for which he had been 
specially fitted by the Grace of God. In giving 
him their pledges of friendship and loyalty, they 
had only stipulated that he should think of the 
needs of the poor in Judaea, as doubtless the 
simplest and most efficacious way of proving that 
the Gentile Christians were, in heart and sympathy, 


one with those from whom they were parted by 
so many external differences. To this St Paul 
needed no urging. He had, on a previous 
occasion, come to Jerusalem as the almoner of 
the Church of Antioch, and in later years he was 
eager to shew that he held it to be a sacred duty 
to fulfil the promise which he had so willingly 

Thus the great controversy upon which so 
much depended, and in which so firm a stand 
had to be made, ended happily with signs of 
mutual regard and counsels of practical charity. 
But although the controversy had been closed 
at Jerusalem, it was soon to be re-opened under 
circumstances which rendered it necessary that 
St Paul should do even more than maintain his 
assertions of equality and independence. 1 

n But when Peter 1 was come to Antioch, I withstood 
him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 2 

12 For before that certain came from James, he did 
eat with the Gentiles : but when they were come, 
he withdrew ancl separated himself, fearing them 

13 which were of the circumcision. And the other 
Jews dissembled likewise with him ; insomuch 
that Barnabas also 3 was carried away with their 

1 Cephas 2 stood condemned. 3 even Barnabas 

1 Nothing, we may be sure, but the conviction that the 
whole future of the Gentile Ecclesiae was bound up in the 
vindication of his own authentic Apostleship would have 
induced St Paul to commit to paper the sad story of his 
conflict with St Peter. (Dr Hort, The Christian Ecclesia, 
P- 73-) 


14 dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked 
not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, 
I said unto Peter 4 before them all, If thou, being 
a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not 
as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles 
to live as do the Jews ? 

4 Cephas 

As at the time of St Peter s visit St Paul and 
St Barnabas were at Antioch together, it follows 
that the incident here described must have 
occurred soon after the apostolic conference at 

St Peter, it would appear, had gone even further 
in the direction of compliance than had been 
definitely contemplated in the terms of the arrange 
ment that had then been agreed upon (see Acts 
xv. 29). Not only had he consented to see the 
Gentile Christians use their liberty in the matter 
of ceremonial enactments, but he himself bear 
ing in mind no doubt the teaching of the vision 
in which he had been shewn that it was not un 
lawful to go in to men uncircumcised and eat with 
them had not scrupled to join them in common 
meals. And this he had continued to do until 
the arrival of certain rigorists from Jerusalem ; 
when, with a timidity which had on more than one 
occasion previously succeeded an outburst of his 
natural impetuosity, he lost the courage of his 
convictions and began to withdraw from the posi 
tion which he had assumed. The result was that 
the rest of the Jewish Christians, and even Bar- 


nabas, who had so thoroughly identified himself 
with the cause of the Gentiles, were for the 
moment swept away by the power of example and 
the fear of hostile criticism ; while the impression 
left on the minds of the non-Jewish converts would 
naturally be that they could only hope to become 
fully approved Christians by conforming them 
selves in all respects to strictly Jewish ways. 

That St Paul was left alone made it but the 
more necessary that he should raise his voice in 
protest against such manifest inconsistency and 
abandonment of principle. Had it been merely 
a question of personal inconsistency, we may be 
sure that we should never have heard of the 
matter. The issues involved were wider and more 
far-reaching. For St Paul, everything that was 
most vitally essential to Christianity was at stake. 
How intensely he realised this we can feel as we 
try to follow the closely-packed sentences which 
are poured forth in quick succession, as if from a 
mind and heart too fully charged and too deeply 
stirred for easy and ordered utterance. 

It is difficult to determine how far these sen 
tences were intended to recall the lines of reason 
ing actually adopted at Antioch, and how far the 
Apostle may have allowed himself to be carried 
on and away from the thought of the particular 
argument in order to justify, perhaps as much to 
himself as to the Galatians, the ardour and energy 
with which he had conducted it. 


15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the 

16 Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by 
the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus 
Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, 
that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, 
and not by the works of the law : for by the works 
of the law shall no flesh be justified. 

These words may very well have formed part of 
the address to St Peter, and they lift the discussion 
at once to the highest level. It is now no ques 
tion as to how their actions are likely to be re 
garded by a section of their fellow-countrymen, but 
of what really constituted their standing in the 
sight of God. No one had taught more clearly than 
St Peter that there was but one Name given under 
heaven whereby men must be saved (Acts iv. 12). 
Their only hope of acceptance lay, not in merits 
acquired by the fulfilment of legal enactments, 
but in an absolute reliance upon the Person of the 
Saviour. Such a faith was equally possible for 
Jew and for Gentile ; and indeed it could only be 
possessed by the Jew in so far as he was prepared 
to confess that his need of the Divine mercy and 
forgiveness was not less than that of all others. 
Upon this conviction they had been content to 
act; had they done wrongly? 

17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we 
ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ 

1 8 the minister of sin? God forbid. 1 For if I build 
again the things which I destroyed, I make myself 2 
a transgressor. 

1 Far from it. 2 make myself out 


Must they admit that Christ had led them 
astray in leading them to abandon the hope of 
obtaining God s favour by means of the Law? 
Such a thought could not be entertained for an 
instant. Condemnation must rather fall upon the 
one who was guilty as St Peter had been of 
the inconsistency of re-erecting a structure which 
he had previously demolished. With a delicacy 
that was characteristic of him, St Paul uses the 
first person instead of the third, thus transferring 
to himself, as on a subsequent occasion (i Cor. 
iv. 6), what strictly speaking applied to another. 
After having thus introduced the mention of 
himself, it became natural to proceed with what 
was in reality a personal experience. 

19 For I through the law am dead 1 to the law, that I 

20 might live unto God. I am 2 crucified with Christ : 
nevertheless I live ; yet not I, 3 but Christ liveth in 
me : and the life which I now live in the flesh I 
live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, 

21 and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate 4 the 
grace of God : for if righteousness come by the law, 
then Christ is dead in vain. 5 

1 died 2 have been 3 and I no longer live, 
4 set at nought 8 died without cause. 

Speaking for himself, he was conscious that 
whatever service the Law could render him was 
over for ever. His connection with it had come 
to a natural end. He had passed beyond it. 
The Law had made him conscious of his need 
of that which the Law was itself impotent to 


bestow, of a life far higher and holier than any 
which consisted in a mere conformity to the re 
quirements of a system of conduct. That higher 
life of direct relationship with God had been 
opened to him through the sacrifice of Christ; 
and had actually begun to be realised in him as, 
ceasing from independent efforts of his own, he 
had simply yielded himself in utter confidence 
and devotion to the Person and to the influence 
of the Son of God. To look for the perfecting 
of human nature from any other source, was surely 
to proclaim that God s grace and Christ s death 
were alike unneeded and uncalled for. 

In a later part of the Epistle we shall meet 
again the thoughts which are here presented rather 
as an outburst from the heart, than as the fully 
reasoned conclusions of the intellect. For the 
present the Apostle restrains himself in order 
that he may continue to deal in an orderly way 
with the situation as it has been brought before 
him in the reports which have come to him. 

Hitherto to sum up very briefly the contents 
of these first two chapters he has been refuting 
the allegations and insinuations of those who were 
seeking to belittle his authority in the eyes of the 

They had represented that he held a position 
decidedly inferior to that of the Apostles at 
Jerusalem, who had received their training and 
their commission directly from the Lord Himself; 


and they had maintained that his special doctrines 
were either developed from notions of his own, 
or else were distorted versions of teachings which 
he had derived from others, and in either case 
were entirely at variance with the views in regard 
to the permanence of the Jewish law which were 
held at the place from which Christianity had 
gone forth to the world. 

We can well imagine with what telling force 
point after point of the reply must have appealed 
to those who originally read or listened to the 
Epistle. There is indignation in the tone, but 
what is far more noticeable is the unhesitating 
strength of assurance such as ever results from 
the settled conviction that the speaker has truth 
on his side. With the greatest dignity St Paul 
asserts that his apostleship had been given him 
from heaven, that his doctrine had not come 
to him from his own past training, either before 
or since his conversion; that he had received 
it in the crisis of his life by the revelation of 
our Lord Himself. He is able to prove that 
his intercourse with his fellow -Apostles had not 
begun until some years after the substance of his 
teaching had taken shape in his mind ; and that 
when he did meet them it was to discuss on 
equal terms the practical difficulties which had 
arisen, and would arise, as he endeavoured to 
fulfil the special ministry to which he had been 
appointed by God. The fact of his independence 


he further illustrates by reference to an occasion 
on which he had felt himself compelled to 
administer a public rebuke to no less a person 
than St Peter, for a course of action into which he 
had allowed himself to be drawn, against his own 
openly expressed convictions, by just such persons 
as those who were now disturbing the Churches 
of Galatia. Then, as ever, he was convinced 
that in making such a protest he was contending 
not merely for his own rights, but for principles 
which bore most directly upon all that was most 
sacred in Christian faith and life. 

So far then the discussion has turned upon 
matters chiefly personal to St Paul. These 
having been considered, the way is now cleared, 
and the Apostle can proceed to deal with the 
erroneous doctrinal reasonings which had so 
powerfully influenced the Galatians. 


TN the words which immediately followed the 
opening salutation of the Epistle, St Paul 
had expressed his pained astonishment at the 
distressing change which had come over his 
converts in Galatia. For a while he had said no 
more about this feeling, having been compelled 
to enter upon a somewhat lengthened defence 
of his right to speak at all. Now, with all the 
added force which this argument has brought to 
his authority, he returns to the standpoint of 
that first personal appeal. Again he tells them 
of his amazement at the strange effects that had 
been produced in them. It really seemed as if 
some dark spell of enchantment had been cast 
upon them. How else could it have happened 
that they had been turned away from truths which 
had once shone out so brightly, and had more 
over been verified with such unmistakable force 
in their own actual experience? They had 
made the change too at the bidding of men who 
had never yet helped them to any real good of 
any kind. 

i O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that 
ye should not obey the truth, 1 before whose eyes 

1 omit that ye should not obey the truth, 


Jesus Christ hath been 2 evidently set forth, crucified 

2 among you? 3 This only would I learn of you, 
Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or 

3 by the hearing of faith ? Are ye so foolish ? having 
begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by 4 

4 the flesh? Have ye suffered 5 so many things in 
vain ? if it be yet in vain. 

2 was 3 omit among you 4 being made perfect in 

5 Did ye experience 

The conduct of these Galatians seemed to 
defy all attempts at reasonable explanation. 
They had been brought face to face with the 
most vivid presentation of the Cross of Christ; 
they had received abundantly the quickening 
and renewing of their inward spiritual life, when 
they had yielded themselves to become disciples 
of Christ; and now they seemed to expect 
to continue their progress by reversing their 
direction, and turning their backs upon the 
whole of their previous experience. It could 
only be described as an incredible folly. 

If they had not entirely lost the ability to 
recognise the plainest facts, let them answer a 
simple question. From whence had come that 
new and wonderful power which had made all 
the difference to their lives? 

5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, 
and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by 
the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith ? 

To that challenge there was but one possible 


reply. Those who aimed at re-enforcing the 
yoke of legal ordinances had no results to shew 
which could be compared for a moment with the 
effects which were constantly being produced by 
the ministry which the Apostle had left to con 
tinue the teaching which he had given. 

And now, what of that teaching in itself, and 
of the objections which had been brought against 
it? Twice has St Paul set over against one 
another the watchwords of the rival positions, 
"works of the law," and "hearing of faith." He 
must now address himself seriously to the task 
of vindicating his doctrine, as he had already 
vindicated his authority. 

And in the first instance the battle must be 
waged on the ground of the Old Testament. His 
opponents had been wont to entrench themselves 
behind the sanction which Scripture appeared to 
give to their exaltation of the Mosaic law. They 
could quote text after text, and display what 
might easily pass for a profound understanding 
of the deeper senses of the sacred writings. But 
they were to find that they had more than a 
match in the theologian and dialectician who was 
opposed to them. 

In the great passage which is to follow, we 
have presented to us the line of argument which 
was the means of repelling a most dangerous 
assault upon Christianity, delivered as it were 


from behind. And we have in it yet more than 
this. Seldom have victories in controversy left 
such permanent fruits. It is not too much to 
say that in St Paul s reasonings are contained the 
first indications of that religious philosophy of the 
Old Testament which has furnished us with the 
most satisfying clue we possess to the meaning of 
the Divine purpose in the education of mankind. 

The sentences are compressed to the utmost, 
and it will be necessary to follow them with more 
than ordinary attention. It is probable that to 
the Galatians they served to recall previous teach 
ings which would render them more easily in 
telligible to them than they are to us. We need, 
however, find no very great difficulty in tracing 
the general course of the thought. 

His enemies had appealed to the Scriptures; 
to the Scriptures let them go. And let them 
begin at the beginning, with the recognised father 
of the Jewish race. They prided themselves that 
they were the children of Abraham. Well then 
how fared it with Abraham? let them read: 

6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was 

7 accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye 
therefore that they which are of faith, the same are 

8 the children of Abraham. And the scripture fore 
seeing that God would justify the heathen l through 2 
faith, preached before 3 the gospel unto Abraham, 

9 saying^ In thee shall all nations be blessed. So 
then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful 

1 Gentiles 2 by 3 beforehand 


There could be no question about the ground 
of Abraham s standing in the sight of God as 
it was set forth in the Scriptures. "Abraham 
believed God, and it was accounted to him for 
righteousness " (Gen. xv. 6). Righteousness before 
God, that was what the Jewish teachers were above 
all else anxious to attain to : they sought it, and 
would have all men seek it, through conformity 
to the requirements of the Levitical Law. But 
here it is credited to Abraham before ever there 
was a Law ; and for quite other reasons than any 
exertions of his own on account of the faith, the 
trust, and confidence which he had placed in the 
word, and character, and ability of Another. It 
looked therefore as if the true sons of Abraham 
must be those who most resembled him in his 
capacity for faith. And indeed the language of 
Scripture seemed designed to warrant such an 
expectation, for it had been especially declared 
that in Abraham " all the nations," that is to say, 
all the Gentiles, should be blessed (Gen. xii. 3, 
xviii. 1 8). Here then was a proclamation of 
the Gospel before the giving of the Law, an 
anticipation of the wider order in which the 
blessing granted to Abraham was to be shared 
by all who shared his qualification to receive 

Moreover, to say this was only to assert what 
Scripture had expressed in other ways : 
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are 


under the 1 curse : for it is written, Cursed is every 
one that continueth not in all things which are 

1 1 written in the book of the law to do them. But 
that no man is justified by the law in the sight of 
God, it is evident : for, The just shall live by faith. 

12 And the law is not of faith : but, The man that 
doeth them shall live in them. 

1 a 

Could words be plainer? The Law brought 
not a blessing but a curse. It had itself declared 
(Deut. xxvii. 26) a curse to be the portion of those 
who transgressed its provisions in any particular. 
Was it in the power of any who sought to achieve 
righteousness by the Law to escape that penalty ? 
Then again, in a later passage (Hab. ii. 4), the 
blessing of Life is distinctly promised to him who 
has faith; whereas the Law (Lev. xviii. 5) knew 
nothing of faith, and rested its requirements upon 
an entirely different principle. 

Is it asked, how then can anyone who has ever 
been under the Law hope to escape from its curse, 
and receive God s blessing at all? St Paul might 
no doubt have replied in part by referring to the 
intimations and foreshadowings of atonement for 
sin furnished by the sacrifices which existed under 
the Law, and indeed also before it; but he pre 
ferred to proceed at once to the only complete 
account of the matter. 

13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, 
being made a curse for us : for it is written, Cursed 

14 is every one that hangeth on a tree : that the 


blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles 
through 1 Jesus Christ ; that we might receive the 
promise of the Spirit through faith. 

Christ by dying had discharged the claims of 
the violated law. In the very manner of His 
suffering He had brought Himself under the 
terms (Deut. xxi. 23) of its most extreme male 
diction. He did it in order that there might 
come to the whole human race, unhindered by 
any obstacle, the blessing of Abraham ; in order 
that Jews and Gentiles might together receive the 
new life which is now again granted to faith. 

Here St Paul has touched the great conclusion 
towards which the whole of his argument has 
been perpetually tending ; but before he could rest 
in it, and expound it fully in all its bearings, it 
was necessary that he should deal with certain 
difficulties which were sure to arise in the minds 
of his readers. They, or at all events their 
Jewish advisers, would not be content to allow 
that the whole question of the Law could be 
settled so summarily. After all, they might well 
urge, there is the existence of the Law to be 
accounted for: it was Divinely appointed, had it 
no use? had God two contradictory methods? 
and so on. 

St Paul was fully aware of the existence and 
the force of objections like these, and accordingly 


he applies himself to their consideration with the 
utmost sympathy and skill. 

The Promise, several times repeated to Abraham, 
was a covenant Divinely granted and confirmed. 
Such a covenant, even amongst men, when once 
definitely established and duly ratified, cannot be 
arbitrarily set aside; nor may it be subsequently 
invalidated by the addition of new and contra 
dictory clauses. How much more unchangeable 
then must be the covenant made by God. 

15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; 
Though it be but a man s covenant, yet if it be 
confirmed, no man disannulled, or addeth thereto. 

1 6 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises 
made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many ; 
but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. 

17 And 1 this I say, that the covenant, that was con 
firmed before of God in Christ, 2 the law, which 
was 3 four hundred and thirty years after, cannot 
disannul, that it should make the promise of none 

1 8 effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no 
more of promise : but God gave it to Abraham by 

1 Now 2 omit in Christ 3 came 

The covenant made with Abraham looked far 
beyond him to a Person in the distant future in 
Whom it was to be fulfilled. Accordingly the 
point to be observed is this, that, as the Law 
did not come until centuries after the covenant 
of Promise, it is not to be imagined that the Law 
had any power to cancel what had been firmly 
established and accepted so long before it appeared. 


And this clearly would have been its effect if 
obedience to it had been enforced as a condition 
of the fulfilment of the Promise. A promise to 
which such a condition had been added would 
cease to be a promise at all. The Law then, 
whatever its uses might be, could certainly never 
have been intended to interfere with the ante 
cedent covenant of Promise. 

Well then, if the Law was so distinct and so 
different, what was it for? what purpose did it 
serve? This is the question which must force 
itself to the surface, and has to be met and 

19 Wherefore then serve th the law? It was added 
because of transgressions, till the seed should come 
to whom the promise was made ; and it was 
ordained by 1 angels in the hand of a mediator. 

20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God 
is one. 

1 through 

The Law had its purpose, important but sub 
ordinate. Its purpose was to reveal to men the 
sinfulness of their hearts (see Rom. iii. 20, iv. 15, 
v. 20). It was a moral discipline intended to 
occupy the interval, until the Promise could be 
fulfilled. That the Law bore the stamp of in 
feriority was to be gathered from the further fact 
that, while the Promise had been directly imparted 
by God Himself, the Law was communicated 
through the instrumentality of angels. The 
intervention of Moses too gave a distinctive 


character and status to the Law. Mediation 
implies arrangement between contracting parties, 
whereas in the case of a promise the giver stands 
apart, single and alone. 1 

21 Is the law then against the promises of God ? God 
forbid : l for if there had been a law given which 
could have given life, verily righteousness should 2 

22 have been by 3 the law. But the scripture hath 
concluded 4 all under sin, that the promise by faith 
of 5 Jesus Christ might be given to them that 

1 Far from it ! 2 would 3 of 4 shut up 5 in 

The essential difference between the Law and 
the Promise being thus as great as it well could 
be, are we therefore to conclude that there is 
any necessary antagonism between them ? By no 
means. If the Law had had for its purpose to 
produce holiness of life, instead of leading merely 
to a consciousness of sin, then conceivably the 
two might have been rivals; but as a matter of 
fact, the effect of the Law had been, as passages 
previously quoted had shewn, to force men to 
realise that there was but one way of escape for 
them, and that the way of Faith and the accept 
ance of the Promise in Christ 

23 But before faith came, we were kept 1 under the 
law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards 

1 kept in ward 

1 This would seem to be the simple, and indeed almost 
obvious, explanation of ver. 20 ; a verse of which a quite 
extraordinary number of interpretations have been offered. 


24 be revealed. Wherefore 2 the law was our school 
master 3 to bring us unto Christ, that we might be 
justified by faith. 

2 So that 3 became our tutor 

In Greek and Roman families of rank the 
moral supervision of younger children was en 
trusted to a paedagogus or tutor, often a superior 
slave, a sort of nursery-governor. Just such an 
office as this was discharged by the Law ; by it, 
those who were subjected to its rigorous constraint 
v, r ere being prepared for the fuller privileges and 
larger liberty which were to be given them through 
Christ. The Law then had a work to do for a 
time : 

25 But after 1 that faith is come, we are no longer 

26 under a schoolmaster. 2 For ye are all the children 3 

27 of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of 
you as have been baptized into Christ have put 

28 on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there 
is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor 
female : for ye are all one 4 in Christ Jesus. 

Clearly, when the time for the new state of 
things had at last arrived, the work of the 
subordinate supervisor had come to an end. 
For "we," yes and "ye" too, says the Apostle 
all, that is to say, whether their past had been 
Jewish or Gentile have been raised to the 
dignity of fullgrown sons in consequence of the 
new order of faith (literally "the faith") through 


incorporation with Christ. This change had 
come to pass when they were baptized. In the 
act of baptism they had been invested with all 
the privileges which can result from identifica 
tion with Him. Previous barriers of disability 
whether they arose from difference of religion, or 
alienation of race, or the constitution of society, 
or even from a distinction so primeval and natural 
as that of the sexes must disappear ; for all have 
common interests and share a common life, as of 
a single person, when once they have been ad 
mitted into the fellowship of Christ. 

And certainly, not further to insist upon other 
consequences, there was one consequence which 
ought to be evident to all : 

29 And if ye be Christ s, then are ye Abraham s seed, 
and heirs according to the promise. 

To be part of Christ was whatever their ante 
cedents may have been to be part of Abraham s 
seed, with all that this involved, in the fullest, 
proudest sense in which the words could be used. 
In short, there was no position, no privilege, that 
any one could offer them which was not already 
theirs as united to Christ, and that let them 
realise it clearly quite independently of any ad 
vantages which it might be imagined could be 
conferred by the Law. 


OT PAUL had been using language in regard 
^ to the Jewish law which must have contrasted 
in the most startling way with the claims made on 
its behalf by the Judaizing teachers in Galatia. 
According to their view of it, the Jewish legal 
system was nothing less than the ideal goal 
towards which the providentially guided history 
of the highest religious life of the world had been 
steadily moving, as to its final and complete 
expression : Christianity could do no more than 
help men to reach it. According to St Paul, on 
the other hand, subjection to the Law, instead of 
being in itself an end, was but a subordinate 
and temporary means to an end ; so far from 
representing the state of spiritual maturity at 
which men might hope eventually to arrive, it 
was in reality only a stage of tuition in which 
they were detained during the years of their 

The two views were irreconcilably opposed ; 
and it is not therefore hard to understand the 
intensity of dislike and suspicion with which not 
only Jews but Judaizing Christians regarded the 
name and the teaching of this Apostle. 


He on his part felt it to be his solemn duty, 
at whatever cost, to make clear the truth as it 
had been revealed and entrusted to him ; and 
he was determined to do it in such a way that 
there should be no room left for mistake or 

Not content therefore with what he has already 
said, he returns again to the illustration which he 
has been employing, and takes up for the second 
time the comparison of the religious progress of 
the world to the epochs of development in the 
life of a child, in order that he may still more 
markedly emphasise the inferiority of the con 
dition of those who are subjected to the 
limitations and regulations of law, and may 
prove yet more irresistibly the utter unreason 
ableness of going back to these when once the 
time of emancipation has arrived. 

1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, 
differeth nothing from a servant, though he be 

2 lord of all ; but is under tutors and governors until 

3 the time appointed of the father. Even so we, 
when we were children, were in bondage under the 

4 elements 1 of the world : but when the fulness of 
the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made 

5 of a woman, made under the 2 law, to redeem them 
that were under the 3 law, that we might receive the 
adoption of sons. 

1 rudiments 2 omit the 3 omit the 

The position of an heir in his infancy, though 
he is prospectively lord of all, is yet for all 

CHAPTER IV. 121 65 

practical purposes that of a slave. He is under 
orders, subjected to others who control both his 
person and his property. This condition of things 
continues until he attains his majority, that is 
according to Hebrew custom until he reaches 
the age of thirteen years and one day ; or accord 
ing to Roman, which it is more likely the Apostle 
had in his mind, until he has entered upon his 
twenty-fifth year. In just such a position of 
disability were those who were held bound under 
systems which confined them to the rudiments, 
the very alphabet, of what from the spiritual stand 
point was itself but the most elementary sort of 

It is certainly startling to find St Paul drawing 
no essential distinction between the Law imposed 
upon the Jews and the kind of discipline, in many 
ways of course so inferior, which was provided 
under paganism. Both were in their degrees pre 
paratory, and both were temporary. When they 
had served their purpose, and when God s time 
was ripe, there was given to the world the revela 
tion and the offer of sonship. The Son of God 
became Man and was made subject to the Law, 
in order that He might liberate men from bondage 
to law whether it were Jewish or any other and 
enable them to enter upon a sonship which could 
not otherwise have been theirs. Adoption is the 
granting by an act of favour of a sonship which 
could not have been claimed as a matter of right. 


Nothing moreover was lacking which could 
make the evidence of this sonship complete. 

6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the 
Spirit of his Son into your 1 hearts, crying, Abba, 

7 Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, 
but a son ; and if a son, then an heir of God 
through Christ. 2 

1 our 2 an heir through God. 

The presence of the Spirit the power of a new 
and divine life speaking in the mother tongues 
of Jew and Greek, witnessed from the depths of 
their hearts to the reality of their sonship to 
God. If that was so, bondage had come to an 
end : as sons they had entered upon the inherit 
ance which had come to them, not indeed by any 
efforts or deservings of their own, but solely 
through a gracious provision on the part of 

The least that could be required from them was 
that they should avail themselves of the freedom 
which had been granted to them. Whatever they 
might have been content to do while the old life 
lasted, now their aims and their interests ought to 
correspond with their altered position. 

8 Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did 
service 1 unto them which by nature are no gods. 

9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather 
are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak 

1 were in bondage 

CHAPTER IV. 121 67 

and beggarly elements, 2 whereunto ye desire again 

10 to be in bondage ? Ye observe days, and months, 

1 1 and times, 3 and years. I am afraid of you, lest I 
have bestowed upon you labour in vain. 

2 rudiments, 3 seasons, 

There was a time when, through ignorance of 
the true God, they as Gentiles had lived in a 
condition of fearful subjection to things which at 
best were semblances of the divine, no real gods 
at all. That time was now past. They had been 
brought to recognise God, or, as it were better to 
say, they had been owned and recognised by God. 
On what principle then were they turning back 
to the old outworn childish stage, and wishing 
to condemn themselves to undergo it all over 
again? True, it was towards a Jewish and not 
a Gentile form of it that they were inclining ; but 
when compared with the privileges and experiences 
to which they had advanced, it was weak and poor 
enough, most unhelpful and utterly unsatisfying. 

What with their anxious and slavish observance 
of sabbaths, new moons, Jewish festivals, and 
sacred years, it really looked as if the labour spent 
in making them Christians had been labour thrown 
away. St Paul evidently did not think that it was 
worth while to have toiled as he had done merely 
for the sake of turning people from heathens into 
Jews. It was in his opinion quite too absurd 
that grown men should wish to be sent back again 
to the sing-song alphabet of the infant class. 


The Apostle has not yet concluded his dis 
cussion of the doctrinal question, but for a 
moment or two he pauses in his argument, as was 
constantly his habit, in order that he may find 
room for some words of the nature of a personal 
appeal. He realises no doubt that his rebuke of 
the folly of the Galatians may read somewhat 
sternly; and the reference to his labours among 
them has called up memories which would strongly 
dispose him to write very differently if only he 
dared. At all events, they must understand that 
his severity does not arise from any sense of 
personal ill-treatment, but simply and solely from 
a most tender concern for their well-being. 

12 Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am ; for I am as 

13 ye are : ye have not injured me at all. Ye know 
how through 1 infirmity of the flesh I preached the 

14 gospel unto you at the first. And my 2 temptation 
which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected ; 
but received me as an angel of God, eve?i as Christ 

1 on account of 2 your 

Whether they are prepared to take their place 
as Sons or not, he at all events will claim them 
as Brothers. His dearest wish, for the further 
ance of which he has already made the greatest 
sacrifices, is that no sort of difference or distinction 
should exist between him and them. Certainly they 
had never given him any cause to complain of their 
conduct in the past. Their treatment of him had, 

CHAPTER IV. 121 69 

on the contrary, been extraordinarily generous. 
When he stayed with them on the first occasion 
that he visited them, he had been forced to do so 
by a serious and distressing illness; and yet, so 
far from regarding him with indifference or 
aversion on account of his infirmity, as they might 
naturally have been tempted to do, they had 
received him with the utmost love and veneration. 1 
No one could possibly have been more honoured 
than he had been by them. Why then this 
change that had come over their feelings towards 

15 Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for 
I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye 
would have plucked out your own eyes, and have 

1 6 given them to me. Am I therefore become your 
enemy, because I tell you the truth ? 

They had risen up and called him blessed. No 
words that they could use were too strong to 
express their gratitude. And there was literally 
nothing that they would not have done to relieve 
his sufferings or to attest their devotion. Could 
it be that all this had utterly vanished simply 

1 Compare the well-known scene in the history of the 
ancestors of these very Galatians, when in the sack of Rome 
the Gauls had first regarded the Roman senators in the Forum 
as something more than human, and then, the moment that 
the spell of reverence was broken, put them all to death 
primo ut deos venerati, deinde ut homines despicati inter- 
fecere. (Stanley, Sermons and Essays on the Apostolic 
Age, p. 210.) 


because he had told them and was telling them 
the truth? 

He knew that others were endeavouring to 
supplant him in their affections ; and he knew also 
that their show of interest was utterly insincere. 

17 They zealously affect 1 you, but not well ; yea, they 
would exclude you, that ye might affect 2 them. 

1 8 But 3 it is good to be zealously affected always in a 
good thing? and not only when I am present 

19 with you. My little children, of whom I travail in 

20 birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire 
to be present with you now, and to change my 
voice ; for I stand in doubt of you. 

1 earnestly desire 2 earnestly desire 3 Now 

4 to be earnestly desired in a good cause always, 

The Galatians were being courted by men whose 
aim was not really to serve them, but rather to 
bring about a situation in which court should be 
paid to themselves. Not that St Paul would find 
fault with zealous attentions from any quarter, 
provided only the motive were an honourable one ; 
nor did he wish to complain of their receiving 
such from others than himself in his absence, 
although indeed he could not forget that he stood 
to them in a relationship very different from that 
which any new friends could possibly aspire to 
hold. He had addressed them as his Brothers, 
but in truth they were far more to him than 
brothers; they were his Children towards whom 
he had felt, and was even yet feeling, what could 
only be likened to a mother s pangs. 

CHAPTER IV. 121 7* 

There was nothing that he had undergone for 
them that he would not undergo again, if only he 
might see, not the formalities of ceremonialism, 
but the character of Christ developing and in 
creasing among them. Would that he were not 
so far away, for then perhaps he might be able to 
change the tone of severity which in his uncertainty 
and perplexity he had found it impossible to avoid. 

CHAPTER IV. 21 V. 13 

T F St Paul had his doubts of the Galatians, he 
*- is determined that they shall have no doubts 
whatever as to himself or his meaning. He has 
been setting before them a great argument from 
history. They may have found it somewhat 
difficult reading. He will give them now what 
will perhaps more readily appeal to their imagina 
tions. Let them listen then to an illustration 
of the matter such as their Judaistic teachers 
loved to extract from the Scriptures. 

21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye 

22 not hear the law ? For it is written, that Abraham 
had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the 

23 other by a freewoman. But he who was of the 
bondwoman was born after the flesh ; but he of 

24 the freewoman was by promise. Which things 
are an allegory : for these 1 are the two covenants ; 
the one from the Mount Sinai, which gendereth 2 

25 to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is 
Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem 
which now is, and 3 is in bondage with her children. 

26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the 

27 mother of us all. 4 For it is written, Rejoice, thou 
barren that bearest not ; break forth and cry, thou 
that trayailest not : for the desolate hath many 
more children than she which hath an husband. 

1 these women 2 bearing children 3 for she 
4 our mother. 


CHAPTER IV. 21 V. 13 73 

As at the beginning of his doctrinal argument, so 
now again at the close of it, St Paul directs atten 
tion to Abraham. Their new instructors would 
have them to become children of Abraham ; but 
let them not forget that, according to the sacred 
narrative, Abraham had two sorts of children, 
differing very widely in regard both to position 
and character. 

There was the child of Hagar the bondmaid, 
which was born in the ordinary course of nature ; 
and there was the child of Sarah the true wife, the 
free woman, bom in fulfilment of the promise. 

Now all this had been and might well be re 
garded as containing an allegory. For just as 
there were these two mothers of old, so were there 
two Covenants now. One of these Covenants 
was given, not in the land of promise but far 
outside it in Arabia, from Mount Sinai, where 
Hagar s descendants live, and which is actually 
called by her name. 1 This Hagar-like Covenant 

1 This seems to be implied by the reading of the generally 
received text. The problem of interpretation would be 
considerably simplified if we might, with several ancient 
authorities, omit the word " Hagar" altogether from ver. 25 
and read, " For Sinai is a mountain in Arabia." 

In support of the supposition that Hagar was a name for 
Mt. Sinai we have only testimonies to this effect by 
Chrysostom in the fourth century, and by a Bohemian 
traveller Haraut at the end of the sixteenth. There is an 
Arabic word of somewhat similar sound but different ety 
mology, which signifies a stone, and of course it is just 


belongs to the same order of things and is repre 
sented by the present earthly Jerusalem which is 
in bondage both politically and spiritually. 

But there is also another Covenant. In one 
sense it was a later Covenant, though in reality 
a much older one, inasmuch as the Promise had 
been given many years before the child of the 
bondmaid was born. As Hagar is Sinai and the 
material Jerusalem, so Sarah is the ideal and 
heavenly Jerusalem emancipated from all worldly 
limitations, a free mother of the free. 

Her children, like Isaac, may be long in coming, 
but indeed they will come as the prophet foretold 
(Is. liv. i.). And just as the name Isaac meant 
"laughter," even so shall there be joy at their 
birth ; nor would it be long before they far out 
numbered their rivals. 

However, it ought not to be surprising if in the 
meantime they found themselves regarded and 
treated with considerable jealousy and arrogance : 

28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children 

29 of promise. But as then he that was born after 
the flesh persecuted him that was born after the 
Spirit, even so it is now. 

The children of promise must expect very much 
the same kind of treatment in any age. It was 
scarcely to be hoped that they should be left to 
possible that St Paul might have heard it applied to the 
rocks of Sinai by the Arabs during his sojourn in the 

CHAPTER IV. 21 V. 13 75 

enjoy their inheritance in peace. Hagar s son in 
the eld time vexed the true seed, and her children 
would not do otherwise now. But this only means 
that now as then a strong and determined course 
must be taken. 

30 Nevertheless 1 what saith the scripture? Cast out 
the bondwoman and her son : for the son of the 
bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the 

1 But 

The instinct of Sarah was a true one, and was 
approved by God (Gen. xxi. 10, 12). There 
could be no compromise then ; there ought to be 
no compromise now. The Law must disappear 
to make room for the Gospel. 

It is scarcely possible, wrote Bishop Lightfoot, 
to estimate the strength of conviction and depth 
of prophetic insight which this declaration implies. 
The Apostle thus confidently sounds the death- 
knell of Judaism at a time when one half of 
Christendom clung to the Mosaic law with a 
jealous affection little short of frenzy, and while 
the Judaic party seemed to be growing in influ 
ence, and was strong enough, even in the Gentile 
churches of his own founding, to undermine his 
influence and endanger his life. 1 

So far from shrinking from the application of 
his conclusion, the Apostle only longs to impart 

1 Galatians, p. 181. 


something of his own conviction and courage to 
his converts. 

30 So then, brethren, we are not children of the 

1 bondwoman but of the free. 1 Stand fast therefore 
in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, 
and be not entangled again with the 2 yoke of 

1 free woman. 2 a 

As they were not children of a bondmaid of 
any form, that is, of bondage, whether Jewish or 
Gentile so must they stand erect and refuse 
to bend their necks to any yoke of slavery. They 
were bound to use their liberty as a duty which 
they owed to Christ. 1 

St Paul is prepared to stake his authority and 
his reputation upon this single issue. There is 
nothing which he would affirm with more absolute 
assurance than the impossibility of combining 
Judaism with Christianity. 

2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circum- 

3 cised Christ shall 1 profit you nothing. For I testify 
again to every man that is circumcised, that he is 

4 a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of 
no effect unto you, 2 whosoever of you are 3 justified 
by the law ; ye are fallen from grace. 

1 will 2 lit. Ye are brought to nought from Christ, 
3 are being 

1 The Greek text of ver. I is a matter of considerable 
uncertainty. The earlier part of the verse is noted in the 
critical edition of Westcott and Hort as incapable of being 
rectified without the aid of conjecture. There can be no 
question that the A. V. gives us the general meaning correctly. 

CHAPTER IV. 21 V. 13 77 

Deliberately to adopt ceremonial Judaism could 
only be to abandon Christianity. Anyone who 
suffered himself to be circumcised must be given 
to understand that he was taking upon himself 
the obligation to do all that the Law required. 
And let them remember that if they did under 
take this, they could look for no benefit or help 
from Christ, for in the act by which they thus 
bound themselves to seek their salvation by Law 
they would have renounced their connection with 
Him, and would have lapsed from dependence 
on Grace. 

The Christian hope looks in a wholly different 

5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of 

6 righteousness by faith. 1 For in Jesus Christ 
neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncir- 
cumcision ; but faith which worketh by 2 love. 

1 by faith wait for the hope of righteousness. 
2 working through 

Christians are expectantly looking for righteous 
ness, not from any imagined fleshly advantages 
but through a change wrought upon the spirit; 
not by merits which they themselves may acquire, 
but by faith in the goodness and grace of God in 
Christ. They need, therefore, never fear that 
in coming to Christ as Gentiles they had missed 
anything that could have been theirs had they 
been originally Jews. Once united to Christ the 
former outward condition could signify nothing, 


the one thing of importance then being that their 
faith should evidence its vitality by deeds of love. 

Faith, and Hope, and Love : that is the path 
of the Christian. And they had been going so 
bravely : 

7 Ye did run well ; who did hinder you that ye 

8 should not obey the truth ? This persuasion 

9 cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven 
leaveneth the whole lump. 

Certainly the change was no work of God 
Who was ever calling them onward. It could only 
be the result of an evil influence gradually spread 
ing among them, against the mischievous effects of 
which they had not been, and still were not, 
sufficiently on their guard. 

St Paul would have little anxiety about them 
if only they could be left undisturbed. 

10 I have confidence in you through 1 the Lord, that 
ye will be none otherwise minded : but he that 
troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever 

11 he be. And I, brethren, if I yet preach circum 
cision, why do I yet suffer persecution ? then is the 

12 offence of the cross ceased. I would they were 
even cut off 2 which trouble 3 you. 

1 with regard to you in 
2 would even mutilate themselves 3 unsettle 

The author of all the trouble, the ringleader in 
the disturbance, would most certainly meet with his 
punishment, whatever might be his position in 
the Church. 

Had he ventured to insinuate that sometimes 

CHAPTER IV. 21 V. 13 79 

St Paul could, when it suited his purpose, make 
a point of circumcision, relying perhaps on the 
case of Timothy, whose circumcision as the son 
of a Jewish mother had been judged to be 
expedient under very exceptional circumstances? 
There was a very practical answer to any such 

If circumcision were a part of his Gospel, why 
should he be continually followed and vexed by 
these people? If he were really a preacher of 
circumcision, if, that is to say, he made it under 
all circumstances an essential of salvation, then 
surely the main objection which they had to 
the doctrine of Christ crucified would have 

No, it was utterly false and wrong; patience 
failed in speaking of such men. He could wish 
that these disturbers of others would practise 
on themselves ; would that they were excised (this 
is his terrible play upon the words) as well as 
circumcised. If only they could be got to imitate 
those emasculated priests of Cybele whom the 
Galatians knew so well, there might be an end 
to their mischief. Then, at all events, they would 
be seen to be the pagans that they were. 


CT PAUL has been meeting one by one the 
^ charges of his opponents. They had denied 
his Apostolic authority; and he has shewn most 
conclusively the grounds on which it rested. They 
had denounced his doctrine as new, which on 
their lips meant that it was false. He has allowed 
that it was new in the sense that it had come to 
him newly, by a direct revelation from heaven, 
and not at second hand from other men; but in 
no other sense than that. He has maintained that 
it was to be found in the earliest chapters of the 
Scriptures, and that it was moreover the only true 
key to the understanding of the meaning of God s 
dealings with man. 

So far then it had been a question mainly of 
his right to teach, and of the truth of his teaching ; 
but even now the controversy could not be regarded 
as ended. There still remained the further insinu 
ation as to the practical effects of the teaching upon 
actual life. The discussion therefore must now 
pass out from the study and the lecture-room into 
the arena of ordinary experience. 

St Paul s enemies had been bold to assert that 
his doctrines were as unsafe in practice as they 
were in principle unsound. And here no doubt 



they imagined that they occupied a position from 
which it would not be easy to dislodge them. Had 
not the Lord laid it down that " a good tree cannot 
bring forth evil fruit," and that " by their fruits ye 
shall know them " ? What, they would con 
fidently demand, was likely to follow from telling 
men that they might ignore the restrictions and 
dispense with the safeguards of the Moral Law? 
Could there be a second opinion as to what the 
inevitable effects of such preaching must be ? 

If ever teacher refused to face the practical 
outcome of his teaching, that teacher was certainly 
not St Paul. We know well how constantly it 
was his habit in his Epistles to pass from doctrinal 
statement and exposition to consider in the most 
thorough manner the bearing of what had been 
said upon the minutest details of everyday conduct. 
No one could realise more strongly than he did 
that the whole issue in this dispute was ultimately 
a practical one : no one could have been more 
determined to make it such. He writes under 
the deep conviction that upon the decision which 
the Galatians arrived at must depend the whole 
direction and character of their lives. And having 
this in view, his protest is unhesitatingly for faith 
and for freedom. 

The Judaizers were all for a policy of safety. 
To tell men that they might, from the very outset 
of their religious career, rejoice in the assurance 
of their acceptance by God and rely for their 


direction upon the inner movements of His Grace, 
was to their minds exceedingly dangerous. They 
would have men kept in doubt and held in lead 
ing-strings. It was the policy of those who had 
no real trust in God or hope for human nature ; 
of those in whose own souls the life of the Spirit 
was at the lowest ebb. 

Against such a policy St Paul declared the most 
uncompromising warfare. Away with doubt, 
he cries (unless indeed we have wholly mis 
conceived his meaning) ; It is neither fair to 
God nor man. You need not be afraid of Faith. 
It is Doubt that is deadly and dangerous. By 
faith the soul is strengthened and inspired. And 
away with leading-strings : to hold men in these 
is to condemn them to a perpetual infancy. The 
strong new life which comes through Christ may 
be trusted to take care of itself. 

They were for the timid course ; he was for the 
bold. They were for trying to make the best 
of the old nature ; he was for relying upon the 
growth and development of the new. Beyond 
all else he was fighting for Liberty. He has used 
the word already, and he will use it again. He 
has no fear at all of what will follow from the true 
freedom of the Spirit. 

Accordingly he proceeds to recommend and 
explain it. 

13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty ; 
only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, 


14 but by love serve one another. For all the law is 
fulfilled in one word, even in this ; Thou shalt love 

1 5 thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour 
one another, take heed that ye be not consumed 
one of another. 

They were intended for liberty ; but not of 
course liberty of the flesh. It was here that the 
false teachers, whose conceptions of life were so 
limited and materialised, had always failed to 
make the true distinction. Liberty is not to be 
confounded with license. License is allowing 
free play to the worst. Liberty is the predom 
inance of the best. Hence it is that Liberty, 
paradoxical as it may sound, is the complete 
fulfilling of Law; for Liberty is the service of 
Love. Without love as perhaps it would be well 
for those who were splitting themselves into such 
violent factions in defence of law to remember 
men might very easily sink to the condition of wild 
beasts, hateful and destructive. 

1 6 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall 
not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth 
against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh : 
and 1 these are contrary the one to the other : so 
that ye cannot 2 do the things that ye would. But 
if ye be led of 3 the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 

1 for 2 may not 3 by 

Let them fearlessly follow the higher, and they 
will be released from the tyranny of the lower. 
The lower appetite and the higher aspiration are 
in active opposition the one against the other, 


with the result that each tends to paralyse the 
working of the other, whether it be inclined 
towards the evil or towards the good. What was 
needed was the strengthening of the spiritual. 
They had but to secure this, and then yield 
themselves freely to its influence, and they would 
find that they had attained the very object of the 
Law, and had at the same time been lifted above 
the necessity for it. The strengthening of the 
good would do more for them than any mere 
battling with the bad. 

Did any still say, But tell us exactly what 
the life would be like that is lived under the 
influence of the Spirit ? They had better think 
first what the life is like when the flesh is left 
free to do as it pleases. In this way they will 
more thoroughly realise the greatness of the 
contrast. The results of the unchecked action 
of the flesh are unhappily but too evident and 

19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are 
these-, Adultery, 1 fornication, uncleanness,lascivious- 

20 ness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emula- 

21 tions, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, 
murders, ^ drunkenness, revellings, and such like : 
of the which I tell you before, as I have also told 
you in time past, that they which do such things 
shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 

1 omit Adultery, 2 omit murders, 

Such are the products of the lower nature when 
left to itself. The horrid enumeration follows a 


natural order. The list begins with sins against 
self (see i Cor. vi. 18), sins of impurity increasing 
in wantonness ; sins so universal among the 
heathen that no ancient moralist ever thought 
of pronouncing an absolute condemnation against 
them. Then come what were more directly sins 
against God; idolatry, the open recognition of 
false gods, and sorcery, the secret tampering with 
the powers of evil. Finally, there are the sins 
against society, beginning with hatreds cherished in 
the heart, leading on to rivalries and contentions 
and the indulgence of passions which destroy all 
proper bonds of union among men, and substitut 
ing for them forms of fellowship which are even 
yet more fatal than the divisions. 

Of such things a Christian Apostle can but 
declare that the practice of them must shut men 
out from any share in the blessings of God s true 
order, here or hereafter. 

Over against such dreadful deeds let them now 
set the natural effect, the ripening result, of the 
unhindered life of the Spirit. 

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long- 

23 suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, 
temperance : against such there is no law. 

It will be best to defer the detailed study of the 

parts which constitute this wondrous whole until 

we are able to consider them more fully in a 

section by themselves. 1 Enough for the present 

1 See pp. 112133. 


to say that here too as in the former list, the 
arrangement has its method. As then, so now 
also, the division will be found to be threefold, 
corresponding again to the same three great 
aspects of life, but with a significant change in 
the order. 

We shall shew that there is good reason for 
thinking that the words, " Love, Joy, Peace," have 
reference to the life of a Christian in his inter 
course with God. 

The four next, " Longsuffering, Gentleness, 
Goodness, Faith," plainly describe the qualities 
which should characterise him in his bearing 
towards his fellow-men. By " Faith " appears to 
be meant, not the theological virtue which occupies 
a very different position in the spiritual develop 
ment, being of the root rather than of the fruit ; 
not, that is to say, faith towards God, but faith 
in the other sense in which St Paul employs the 
term, as trust, belief, reliance shewn towards men. 1 

Then, finally, we have the description of the life 
in respect of self. While in the account of "the 
works of the flesh " considerations of self came 

1 e.g. in Eph. i. 15 (if the strongly-supported reading 
adopted in the R. V. be correct) : and possibly in Philemon 5. 
Compare also I Cor. xiii. 7. 

If "faith" be not thus interpreted here, the alternative 
would be to render the word (TTIO-TIS) so translated in the 
A.V. by faithfulness or fidelity. Instances in which 
it has this meaning are frequent in the LXX. In the N.T. it 
occurs in this sense in Tit. ii. 10, and perhaps in St Matt, 
xxiii. 23. 


first, here they occupy the last place. Two words 
contain all that needs to be said. The really 
free life of the Spirit will culminate in " Meek 
ness," by which is meant a due estimate of the 
place which self ought to hold; and "Temper 
ance " (in its widest meaning of self-control), 
which is the rigorous determination to see to 
it that self is kept in its place. 

Such is the rich cluster which St Paul holds 
up to view. He might confidently have 
challenged all the moralities and all the religions 
to produce the like, or even to shew that they 
had so much as contemplated such an ideal as 
in the very least degree possible of attainment. 

His actual conclusion is a much more modest 
one. He is content to remark not without a 
touch of irony in his tone that these things do 
not seem to call for the interference of legislation ! 

If such are the effects of Liberty, the Galatians 
need not have any misgivings as to what would 
result from boldly obeying the impulses and 
dictates of their spiritual nature. There was, 
moreover, a yet further reason pointing in the 
same direction : 

24 And they that are Christ s 1 have crucified the flesh 
with the affections and lusts. 

1 of Christ Jesus 

In the case of those who have been brought into 
union with Christ, not only has the good in them 


been renewed and strengthened, but the evil has 
received its death-sentence and indeed its death 
blow. In the very act through which they were 
joined to Christ there was a participation in His 
death. The crucifixion of the flesh is not the 
work of a moment ; but the evil element in those 
who have received the new life is dying, and will 
die with all its energies. 

Here, then, is the only true and safe conclusion 
of the matter : 

25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the 

26 Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vainglory, 1 pro 
voking one another, envying one another. 

1 vainglorious, 

The one aim of Christians must be to advance 
in the life of the Spirit. In this heavenly rivalry 
they may freely engage with each other, but in 
no lower forms of less honourable competition. 


~PHE Epistle has reached its climax, and pre- 
pares to draw to its close. What is to 
follow is very largely of the nature of a postscript. 
St Paul naturally desires to leave the main 
thoughts of his letter as the last impression on 
the mind. To do this with the greatest possible 
emphasis he will take the pen from the amanuensis 
and write the final message with his own hand. 

But before he does so he has an appeal to 
make, in regard to their personal relations one 
with another. He introduces it by the word 
"Brothers!" As Bengel truly says, A whole 
argument lies hidden under this one word. 

It was a word very specially dear to St Paul, 
as is strikingly shewn by a reference in one of 
his speeches recorded in the Acts. He was 
describing the circumstances of his conversion. 
More than twenty years had passed, but the 
facts stood out in vivid detail before his mind. 
And among the memories of that wonderful time 
was one which had a peculiar tenderness of its 
own. Never could he forget the first welcome 
addressed to him by a Christian man. " He came 
unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother " 


(compare Acts xxii. 13 with ix. 17). In that 
single word was gathered up a whole revelation of 
newly found sympathy and helpfulness. We need 
not wonder therefore that he uses it now when 
he is pleading for the exercise of just these 
qualities, the need for which was by no means 
confined to the outset of a Christian career. 

i Brethren, if a man be 1 overtaken in a fault, ye 
which are spiritual, restore such an one in the 
spirit of meekness ; considering thyself, lest thou 
also be tempted. Bear ye one another s burdens, 
and so fulfil the law of Christ. 

1 should be 

St Paul s appeal is to those who claimed to 
have made most progress in the life of sanctification. 
He calls upon such to aid their brethren who 
may be lagging behind. Possibly, when he uses 
the expression, " Ye that are spiritual," he has in 
view some of his converts who may have stood 
firm to their old allegiance, and may have been 
disposed to congratulate themselves that they at 
all events had not been carried away into the 
errors which he had so sharply condemned. If 
so, he would have them evidence their spirituality 
by shewing a more than ordinary degree of meek 
ness and love. 

However flagrant the offence, those who were 
really living a higher life must help and reinstate 
the guilty one : not proudly, with any conscious 
ness of their own superiority, but rather as 


remembering that at any moment any one of 
them might be tempted, and might be in no less 
need of forgiveness and loving restoration. 

Some among them desired did they ? to have 
burdens imposed upon them, and to obey a law. 
Here then was their opportunity; let them be 
burdens of sympathy, in the bearing of which 
they would be fulfilling the most perfect of all 
laws, "the law " not of Moses but " of Christ. 

3 For if a man think himself to be something, when 

4 he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every 
man prove his own work, and then shall he have 
rejoicing 1 in himself alone, and not in another. 

5 For every man shall bear his own burden. 

1 his glorying 

The poorest of all sources of satisfaction is 
that of the man who comforts himself by con 
trasting his own imagined superiority with the 
faults which he perceives in his neighbour. If 
a man wishes to boast, let his boasting be at least 
for some merit of his own. Let him not think 
to excuse himself by dwelling upon the weaknesses 
of others. The load of personal responsibility is 
one which can never be shifted. Each man will 
be called upon to answer directly to God for 
what he has done. 

But sympathy and helpfulness are not to be 
confined to spiritual things. They may well begin 
with these, but they must not end with them. 
And so there follow some very earnest and 


practical exhortations as to certain forms of duty 
which might easily be overlooked. 

6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate 

7 unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not 
deceived ; God is not mocked : for whatsoever a 

8 man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that 
soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption ; 
but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit 

9 reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in 
well doing : for in due season we shall reap, if we 

10 faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let 
us do good unto all ;<?, especially unto them who 
are of the household of faith. 

It looks as if the Galatians had been remiss in 
this matter of liberality. They had been asked 
to make contribution for the brethren of Judaea 
(i Cor. xvi. i), but we do not know that they did 
so. It is clear that St Paul felt it necessary to 
speak very strongly to them about the dangers of 
niggardliness. It had evidently come to his ears 
that they had not treated those who were their 
appointed ministers with a proper generosity. 

In writing to the Corinthians about almsgiving 
(2 Cor. ix. 6), St Paul says, "He that soweth 
sparingly shall reap also sparingly." Here he 
employs the same illustration, but he enforces it 
much more strongly. He bids the Galatians 
recollect that though they might deceive them 
selves, there was One Who could not be cheated 
by fair professions. There was no favouritism 
in God s dealings. It would be with Christian 
men just as with any others. What men sowed 


in this world that they reaped. If they sowed 
the sort of seed which was calculated to grow in 
the low part of their nature, it would grow there, 
and end in rottenness ; only if they sowed in the 
spiritual soil could they reap the reward of Life. 
In their own interests, then, let them never lose 
heart in doing right, or grow tired of honourable 
deeds : the recompense might seem to be long 
in coming, but it would come like the harvest 
at its proper time. Life is the chance of doing 
good. Let them do it on as large a scale as 
possible, but let their well-doing begin at home 
with the Family of the Faith. 

Had the condition of the Galatian Church 
been at all an ordinary one, St Paul might have 
ended this Epistle in what would have been for 
him the ordinary way. In this case we should 
have had little further than a commendation of 
himself to the prayers of his readers, and a bene 
diction of farewell. 

But such an ending in the present case might, 
and probably would, have conveyed an erroneous 
impression. It might have led to the inference 
that the mind of the writer was more at ease than 
it really was. It might even have seemed as if 
something of the heat of the earlier parts of the 
letter had been kindled to meet the requirements 
of controversy, and had begun to abate as these 
had given way before the practical conclusions of 


the calmer judgment. The Apostle is determined 
yet once again to make misunderstanding impos 
sible. In his own handwriting they shall have the 
proof that his attitude is never in the very least de 
gree likely to change. His earnestness is the result 
of settled conviction and unwavering devotion. 
He knows these men as the Galatians do not 
their aims and their insincerity. And he knows 
also that the things which they disparage and de 
nounce are the things which are the most sacred 
realities of life. There can be no truce between 
him and them. The Galatians must take their 
own line. He can only tell them that he has for 
ever taken his. 

1 1 Ye see how large a letter 1 I have written 2 unto you 

12 with mine own hand. As many as desire to make 
a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be 
circumcised ; only lest they should suffer perse- 

13 cution for the cross of Christ. For neither they 
themselves who are circumcised keep the law ; but 
desire to have you circumcised, that they may 

14 glory in your flesh. But God forbid 3 that I should 
glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
by whom 4 the world is crucified unto me, and I 

15 unto the world. For in Christ Jesus 5 neither cir 
cumcision availeth 6 anything, nor uncircumcision, 

1 6 but a new creature. And as many as walk 7 
according to this rule, peace be on them, and 

17 mercy, and upon the Israel of God. From hence 
forth let no man trouble me : for I bear in my 
body the marks of the Lord 8 Jesus. 

1 in what large letters 2 write 

3 far be it from me 4 through which 

5 omit in Christ Jesus 6 is 

7 shall walk 8 omit the Lord 


The boldness of the hand-writing is to be 
regarded as indicative of the force of his con 
viction. Let them take it from him, these zealous 
proselytizers had their own interests to serve. 
They did not sincerely believe in the value of 
circumcision : they were not themselves consistent 
observers of the Law (compare St John vii. 19). 
Their objects were selfish and worldly. They 
wanted to avoid being hated as those were hated 
who proclaimed a crucified Messiah. They 
wished to obtain the credit which would be 
obtained if they could point to a large following 
of outward adherents. 

For himself, he had no care to boast but in the 
Cross of his Lord, through which worldliness and 
selfishness had alike received their death-blow for 
him. He lightly esteemed the tokens of visible 
success, for he had learnt that the true criterion 
by which to judge in religion was, not any old- 
world form of distinction which was outward in 
the flesh, but the deep inward evidence of the 
presence of the new-creating Spirit of God. The 
Cross through which the old nature should be 
put to death, and the Power which could lead 
to newness of life these and these only were of 
the essence of Christianity. 

Against those who refused such a ruling there 
could only be war without quarter, but upon all 
who were prepared to adhere to it and in 
them the true Israel would be found he invoked 


the Peace and the Mercy which were the portion 
of the People of God. 

As for himself, it ought to be plain what he 
was. If men must judge by outward tokens, they 
might observe that he carried on his body the 
scars, the brands of his Master. For them 
and once more he claims them as "Brothers" 
he can only pray with all his heart that they 
may be drawn into ever closer and more vital 
union and fellowship with his Lord and theirs. 

1 8 Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be 
with your spirit. Amen. 

Here, then, we take our leave of the Epistle as a 
whole. We shall enter somewhat further into the 
consideration of some particular expressions which 
seem to call for a rather fuller treatment than has 
been possible in the course of a general exposition ; 
but it will not be necessary to go back upon the 
general argument again. We have tried to trace 
its outlines, and to form some conception of its 
power and its scope. 

How far it availed for its immediate purpose, 
our knowledge does not enable us to say. We 
have no idea in what spirit the letter was received, 
or what lasting impression it made upon those for 
whose sake it was written. Perhaps we might be 
justified in concluding, from the mere fact of its 
preservation, that it did meet with respectful atten 
tion and was looked upon as a possession of 
permanent worth. 


In regard to the influence which it has exerted 
upon the Church at large, there can be no question 
at all. That the young life of Christianity was not 
stifled in the swaddling-clothes of a narrow and 
rigid Judaism was, humanly speaking, due to St 
Paul. The literature which has come down to us 
from the age immediately succeeding that of the 
Apostles is comparatively scanty, but yet it amply 
suffices to shew that the results of the teaching 
of which at one time St Paul was the single 
exponent, had been loyally accepted by those 
who were regarded by the Church as the truest 
representatives of the Apostolic tradition. 

Do we not catch an echo of our Epistle in 
words like these from the lips of the martyr 
Ignatius ? If any one propound Judaism to 
you, hear him not : for it is better to hear 
Christianity from a man who is circumcised, than 
Judaism from one uncircumcised. If we live 
after the manner of Judaism, we avow that we have 
not received grace. 1 Utterances such as these 
written in the early years of the second century 
and it would be easy to multiply quotations 2 
prove clearly enough how victorious had been the 
issue of that struggle for liberty which had seemed 
at its crisis to depend upon the strength and 

1 Ep. to the Philadelphia, 6. Ep. to the Magnesians, 8. 

2 e.g. Ep. of Barnabas, 9. The circumcision, in which 
they have confidence, is abolished ; for He hath said that a 
circumcision not of the flesh should be practised. 


courage of an individual man battling against the 
most tremendous odds. 

We can then estimate in part the effect which 
has been produced by the protest of St Paul ; but 
only in part. Its influence was not exhausted, nor 
was its work completed, in the earliest centuries 
of which Church history tells. Again and again it 
has made itself heard, sometimes to unwilling ears, 
sometimes to eager hearts. The thought of St 
Paul was the inspiring force in the souls of those 
who felt that they were fighting over again his 
battle at the time of the Reformation; and no 
extravagance into which some of them may have 
been betrayed can make us shut our eyes to the 
immense value of the service which they rendered 
to the great common cause of faith and intel 

Nor can we imagine that truth, which has been 
so potent in the past, is to be without its effects in 
the present and the future. Such teachings as 
those we have been endeavouring to re-learn have a 
permanent office to fulfil, and that can be no healthy 
stage in the life of the Church in which they are 
allowed to remain for long forgotten or unheeded. 
Our study of them will not have been without its 
reward if it has helped us, even a little more 
clearly, to catch the notes of the strong trumpet 
call which reaches us coming across the long 
centuries shall we not rather say, coming down 
from the height far above us? bidding us to 


press onward and strive upward, in the humble 
yet confident hope that at length we may attain, 
through Faith and Patience, to that which God 
in His goodness would have each one of us 
to be. 



A GAIN and again in reading this Epistle as 
*** indeed in reading any of his Epistles we 
are struck by the force and the frequency with 
which St Paul accentuates the importance of a 
right understanding of the Privileges of the 
Christian s Position in the sight of God. He is 
perpetually impressing upon his readers the great 
principle that it could only be as they attained to 
a clear and thankful sense of what God had done 
for them, that they could even begin to think as 
they should about that which they on their part 
were bound to do for God. 

We shall best be able to gain a true idea of 
what St Paul intended to convey in these chapters 
if we review the expressions which he employs, 
and then try to get some conception of their 
meaning and relation one to another. In the 
list which follows, we have but arranged these 
expressions in the order in which they occur. It 
will be seen at a glance that the order is in itself 
a most suggestive one. 



IN CHRIST, i. 22. 


JUSTIFIED by the faith of Jesus Christ, ii. i6a. 

JUSTIFIED by the faith of Christ, ii. 166. 

JUSTIFIED by Christ, ii. 17. 

CRUCIFIED with Christ, ii. 20. 

REDEEMED from the curse, iii. 13. 

JUSTIFIED by faith, iii. 24. 

SONS OF GOD by faith in Christ Jesus, iii. 26. 


PUT ON CHRIST, iii. 27^. 

IN CHRIST JESUS, iii. 28. 

CHRIST S, iii. 29. 


SONS. iv. 6. 

A SON. iv. 7. 

A SON. iv. 7& 

AN HEIR through God. iv. jf. 


Children of the FREE. iv. 31. 
FREE. v. i. 



CHRIST S, v. 24. 

OF THE HOUSEHOLD of faith, vi. 10. 


Broadly speaking then, the sequence is that 
with which our own Church Catechism has made 
us so familiar Members of Christ, Children of 
God, Inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven. 

The general doctrine may be stated thus : 

i. In Christ Christians are Justified, having 
been made partakers of His Death and His 

ii. The justified life of those who have been 
united to Christ is a life of Adoption to Sonship. 

iii. As Sons they are heirs to a spiritual Inherit 
ance, freed from the bondage of this world, and 
admitted already into the new order of the family 
of Heaven. 

Until these privileges had been grasped, and 
in some measure realised by individual faith, men 
and women in St Paul s view had not yet 
learned the very elements of what is implied in the 
name of Christian ; and only in proportion as this 
position was understood and accepted could they 
be enabled to face their difficulties and do their 
work in the world. 

But if we are to do justice to the meaning of 
St Paul we must examine his language more 
closely, and in somewhat further detail. 

We shall find that everything which follows it 
is but an expansion of the great watchword, 


" IN CHRIST." This is St Paul s favourite expres 
sion, and it continually recurs in his writings. The 
first dawning of all that it subsequently signified 
to him came, no doubt, when there was revealed 
to him on the Damascus road how vital and 
intimate was the union between the glorified 
Christ in heaven and His suffering members on 
earth (Acts ix. 4). The illustration of this union 
which was most frequently before his mind was 
that of the "Body"; an illustration used by 
himself alone in the New Testament. He loved 
to think that the Christ Who was Incarnate by 
union with manhood had become Incorporate by 
union with men. It is remarkable that the illustra 
tion of the "Body" is not to be found in this 
Epistle : unless, indeed, it underlies the statement 
in iii. 28, "Ye are all one (man) in Christ Jesus." 
Other metaphors are used, however, to describe 
the status of those who in their Baptism have been 
admitted "into Christ" (iii. 27). 

In the first place, they are said to be "JUSTIFIED." 
The word is most familiar to all readers of St 
Paul. It is a word which carries us at once to 
the very heart of his conception of the Gospel. 
The Gospel, as he conceives it, is a unique 
declaration of the Love of God. We may think 
of Divine Love as manifesting itself in either of 
two great ways which correspond to the two 
revelations of Nature and of Grace. In Nature 
we are surrounded by the hints of God s 


Beneficence : in Grace we are made conscious of 
God s Approbation. Beneficence is the general 
disposition to shew kindness and to promote well- 
being. Approbation is much more than this. 
Approbation is acceptance to particular and 
personal favour. It is for God s Approbation 
that the spirit of man has yearned as for nothing 
else in all the universe. The provision to meet 
and satisfy this deep desire of the soul is ex 
pressed by St Paul by the term Justification. 

He did not originate the use of the word 
"Justify" to denote the standing of a man before 
God. He borrowed it from the Old Testament. 
In this Epistle he first introduces it (ii. 16) with 
a quotation from the i43rd Psalm. And he goes 
back further still to find the essential thought of 
it in the account of God s dealings with Abraham 
(iii. 6, 8). 

In the Greek version of the Old Testament 
the word "justify" is constantly employed as 
meaning to pronounce and treat as righteous, 1 
as for example in the following passages : 

"He that justifieth the wicked and he that 
condemneth the just, even they both are abom 
ination unto the Lord" (Prov. xvii. 15). 

"Hear Thou in heaven . . . and judge Thy 
servants, condemning the wicked . . . and justi- 

1 For a critical discussion of SIKCUOVV and SiKatcoons see 

Sanday and Headlam, Romans, pp. 30, 31. 


fying the righteous, to give him according to his 
righteousness" (i Kings viii. 32). 

It is as we read such a phrase as the one which 
concludes this last quotation that we feel how 
great an advance had to be made before it became 
possible to speak, as did our Lord (St Luke xviii. 
14) and St Paul, of a Divine Justification of those 
who had no righteousness of their own upon 
which they could hope to take their stand. To 
St Paul this deeper knowledge came slowly, but 
in the end unmistakably, by means of a profound 
spiritual experience. 

The problem of his earlier life had been to 
find the answer to the old question, "How can 
man be justified with God?" He had longed 
for the Divine Approbation. He had struggled 
hard to win the sense of it by obedience to con 
science and the moral law. At last he became 
convinced that it was a vain and hopeless task. 
Sinful men could by no means in their power 
attain to righteousness of their own. Indeed, 
strange as it might sound to say so, he came to 
see that it was in a large measure their effort to 
do this which constituted their sinfulness. The 
going about to establish a righteousness of their 
own was merely the establishing of themselves 
in a wrong attitude towards God. When they 
altogether ceased to think of doing this, and 
looked to God to do for them, not simply what 
they could not do for themselves, but something 


far greater and better when they believed that it 
was His will to make them sharers of His own 
righteousness in Christ then at once their attitude 
became a true one and such as God might accept 
and bless. This one only true attitude for man 
was an attitude of Faith. 

To state these conclusions exactly as St Paul 
stated them : 

"They being ignorant of God s righteousness, 
and going about to establish their own righteous 
ness, have not submitted themselves unto the 
righteousness of God" (Rom. x. 3). 

"That I may win Christ, and be found in Him, 
not having a righteousness of mine own, which 
is of the law, but that which is through faith in 
Christ, the righteousness which is of God by 
faith " (Phil. iii. 8, 9). 

Justification then, in its complete New Testa 
ment sense, is the Divine Approbation which 
rests upon those who have renounced the hope 
and even the wish that they may acquire a 
goodness of their own, and are relying upon the 
promise of pardon and grace through Christ. 

Justification includes and goes beyond forgive 
ness. Forgiveness looks mainly to the past; 
Justification embraces the present and the future. 
Forgiveness as it has been happily expressed 
seems to say, * You may go : Justification says, 
* You may come ! Justification is the welcome 
to a life of fullest and freest fellowship with God. 



What has been said should enable us to under 
stand how fitting it was that St Paul should pass 
at once from the use of the term "justified" to 
speak of ADOPTION and Sonship. The justified 
member of Christ is not kept waiting, even as 
one acquitted, before the bar of the Judge : he is 
received immediately into the gracious atmosphere 
of the Home. 

The use of the metaphor of Adoption is peculiar 
to St Paul among the writers of the Bible. His 
Roman citizenship had brought him within the 
circle of ideas which made such an illustration 
natural. There was no legal adoption among the 
Jews, just as there is none amongst ourselves. 

Under Roman law, which would be familiar 
to those who like the Galatians were living in a 
Roman Province, adoption was a process of the 
most ordinary occurrence. By the ancient 
Civil law adoption created the relation of father 
and son for all practical purposes, just as if the 
adopted son were born of the blood of the 
adoptive father in lawful marriage. The adopted 
child entirely quitted his own family and entered 
the family of his adopter, passing under the 
paternal power of his new father and acquiring 
the capacity to inherit through him. * 

The common form of adoption was most 
1 Lord Mackenzie, Roman Law, p. 137. 


dramatic. It consisted of an ancient ceremonial 
conveyance in the presence of seven witnesses. 
The would-be father used the formula, I claim 
this man as my son. After the formal convey 
ance there followed a fictitious lawsuit. The 
adopted son gave evidence as to what had 
happened at, and after, the time of his adoption. 
Speaking of the father, who is supposed to have 
died, he said : The deceased claimed me by the 
name of son. He took me to his home. I called 
him father and he allowed it. I sat at his table 
where the slaves never sat. He told me the in 
heritance was mine. The ceremony was com 
pleted by the summoning of one of the witnesses 
to corroborate this evidence. 1 

Adoption was the admission by an act of grace 
to a position to which no claim could be made 
solely on the ground of nature. It is to be ob 
served that St Paul is careful not to use language 
which would deny that all men are in some true 
sense children of God. Jews and pagans were 
infants under a Divine Discipline (iv. 2). But it 
was not until the revelation of the Son of God had 
been given in the Incarnation that the possibilities 
of the higher, nobler Sonship could be realised 
(iv. 4-6). 

1 See a most interesting article on St Paul and Roman 
Law, by W. E. Ball, LL.D., in Contemporary Review, 
August 1891. 



He told me the inheritance was mine. The 
Member of Christ, accepted in the court of 
law, admitted into the home, is introduced to 
the Estate. He becomes an "HEIR THROUGH 
Goo": 1 an heir, that is to say, not by virtue of 
birth or for any merit of his own, but " through " 
the act of " God," Who adopted him. 

Again we may feel sure that St Paul is referring 
to the condition of things as they existed under the 
Roman law. And indeed the Roman law of 
inheritance afforded a much more true illustration 
of the privileges of a Christian than did the 
Jewish. According to Roman law, unless it were 
otherwise provided by a definite will to the con 
trary, all the children, whether sons or daughters, 
inherited alike : whereas by Jewish law the sons 
inherited unequally, and the daughters, except in 
cases where there were no sons, were entirely 
excluded. The adoption of a child, according to 
Roman law was sufficient to revoke any testament 
which had been previously made by the father. 2 

The question has been raised whether St Paul, 
in his illustration in iv. 1-7, thought of the 
"father" as being dead or alive. Doubtless the 

1 This is unquestionably the correct reading in iv. 7. That 
of the text of the A.V. was clearly influenced by the corre 
sponding passage in Rom. viii. 17. 

2 Mackenzie, Roman Law, p. 301. 


"heir" might even in the father s lifetime, be 
rightly described as prospectively "lord of all"; 
but the reference to guardians and "a time ap 
pointed of the father," seem plainly to shew that, 
in the case of the earthly analogy, St Paul imagined 
that the death of the father had taken place. 

It is therefore of little utility to endeavour to 
prove that under the Roman law there was a 
species of co-partnership in the family property 
between a father and his children. The evidence 
for this is far from convincing, and has to be 
gathered from a time a good deal later than that 
in which the Epistle was written. It is better to 
admit freely that, as all metaphors must cease to 
apply at some point, so here the comparison 
between the earthly father and the Eternal Father 
breaks down, as it must of necessity break down, 
when duration of life is in question. St Paul s 
point is to insist in the strongest possible way 
that the Christian under the provisions of God s 
grace, does actually enter upon his privileges as 
heir quite as fully and indisputably as does any 
successor to any ordinary estate. 1 

1 It is most interesting to note the reply given by the 
bishops at the Savoy Conference to those who wished the 
word Inheritor at the beginning of the Catechism to be 
altered to Heir. We conceive this expression as safe 
as that which they desire, and more fully expressing the 
efficacy of the Sacrament, according to St Paul in Gal. iii. 
26, 27, where St Paul proves them all to be children of God, 
because they were baptised, and in their baptism had put 


Such then is the position of surpassing dignity 
and splendour which St Paul maintained to be 
the spiritual birthright of the Christian ; a position 
not to be reached at last and as the reward of 
long striving by those only who had made great 
efforts to win it, but rather to be accepted thank 
fully as the very starting-point of a true and humble 
and Christ-like life. 

Little marvel that he was startled at the thought 
that any who had ever in the least understood 
what the position meant should desire to ex 
change it for anything lower, and should even 
think it a gain to go back to a condition in which 
they would live not as sons but as slaves. Little 
marvel, too, that his whole being should burn 
with indignation against those who would deliber 
ately rob men of the hopes and blessings which 
had been gained at such an infinite cost, and 
without which Righteousness the outcome of a 
right relation with God must for ever have 
remained an unattainable dream. 

on Christ : "if children, then, heirs," or, which is all one, 
"inheritors," Rom. viii. 17. (Cardwell, Conferences, ch. vii. 
P- 357-) 



n^HOSE who would give us real and lasting 
* help towards the attainment of Christian 
character must not be content to deal in generali 
ties. It is well of course that the utmost stress 
should be laid upon the broad fact that Character 
is the all-important thing to aim at. We need to 
have it constantly impressed upon us that, in the 
highest sense in which the words can be used, 
To Be or not to Be, that is the question. 

The formation of character is beyond question 
the ultimate purpose of education and govern 
ment ; the final test of efficiency in Church and 
State. Character is the principal thing; the one 
true standard of worth, and the one sure measure 
of influence. The world is manifestly designed to 
produce character. As we find it constituted, 
it is evident that all cannot do great things, or get 
great things, but that all may be great if they will. 
In this happy rivalry of most holy competition 
the success of one does not endanger, but rather 
ensures the success of another. 



He who will urge all this upon us, and make 
us believe it, has rendered us no small service. 
But he must go further and do more, if his service 
is to be of much permanent value. 

As soon as we seriously attempt to give effect 
to such counsels in practice, we begin to discover 
the need of more and more definite directions. 
There are questions that rise to be answered, and 
difficulties that have to be met. It is not enough 
to say in a general sort of way, Keep a lofty ideal 
before you, aim at the highest you know, try to be 
noble and good, strain every nerve and never 
abandon the task. All this may be urged upon 
us with the most persuasive eloquence, but a very 
short experience of actual endeavour will suffice 
to convince us that unless we can be taught more 
than this we shall not for long retain our hold on 
so much. 

We need to have it made clear to us where we 
are to begin, and how we are to go on, and how 
at last we may hope to end. The goal must be 
shewn to us, and the path that is to lead to it. 
And then too something must be said that may 
enable us to face and surmount the obstacles that 
will meet us on the way. What are we to do in 
the days when the task is difficult and the pro 
gress seems so slow ? 

It may seem ungracious to find fault with the 
teaching about Character which is so generally 
given to us at the present time. There is in it 


so much that is true, so much that is stimulating. 
And yet it will scarcely be denied that it is open 
to the charge of insufficiency on several grounds. 
Its most obvious defect is its vagueness. Then 
again, it does not make allowance enough for the 
difficulties of the task which it, often so lightly, 
enjoins. Moreover, it fails as a rule to provide 
against the inevitable depression which overtakes 
those who discover that what they have attempted 
is not to be accomplished as rapidly as they had 
been led to imagine. 

Let us hope that the result of our study of the 
teaching of St Paul will convince us that he 
at all events is not to be charged with the like 
shortcomings, but that on the contrary we may 
find his teaching to be exactly such as will enable 
us to supply them, whether for ourselves or for 

If we have at all rightly interpreted the meaning 
of St Paul in this Epistle, he intended his words 
to be taken as a protest, a warning, and an appeal. 
We have seen how earnestly he inveighs against 
the folly of those who could allow themselves 
to be persuaded to accept any aim less than the 
highest ; how with all the force of his nature he 
sets before them the perils of the downward 
course, and how he pleads with them to follow 
strongly and bravely after the loftiest spiritual 


And yet, if this were all, we might indeed com 
plain that here again we were in danger of being 
put off with generalities ; and we need not scruple 
to say that the Epistle would not have been what 
it has been to the Church, had it contained this 
and nothing besides. The greatness of the Epistle 
is surely to be seen in the fact that it not only 
deals with large and general principles, but so 
deals with them as to bring the truth of them 
to bear most directly and with the greatest tact 
and tenderness upon the actual misgivings and 
weaknesses of the men and women whom, from 
the very depths of his soul, the Apostle is longing 
to guide and to encourage to the utmost of his 

For a detailed proof that this is no exaggerated 
account of the matter we should have to recall 
passage after passage, and indeed to repeat a good 
deal that has already been said in this Com 
mentary. That of course we cannot attempt to 
do. What we shall attempt is to strengthen the 
impressions which we may have gathered from 
our reading of the Epistle, by fixing our thoughts 
with some considerable care upon a particular 
instance, which might fairly be taken to illustrate 
the teaching of the Apostle as a whole. The 
particular instance is one which may most fitly 
be selected as representative, inasmuch as it 
consists of the sentence in which St Paul seems 
intentionally to have brought to a climax all 


the best thought and deepest feeling of his 
preceding argument. 





We have already attempted some interpretation 
of this wonderful utterance. The old words will 
perhaps mean more than they have meant to us 
if we study them afresh in view of the very real 
practical needs of which we have been speaking : 
needs which are often felt, but are not in our 
ordinary experience as often provided for. 

We have spoken of the vagueness of the 
exhortations which we not unfrequently receive. 
The advice is admirable, but its indefiniteness 
daunts us. We say, Tell us exactly what it 
is that we are to strive after. What are the 
steps, and what are the stages, and to what 
may we expect that they will lead us in the 
end ? Now, it must be allowed that these are 
hard questions. The analysis of character 
demands a moral insight, a power of spiritual 
penetration, far beyond the ordinary. But here, 
of course, is just a case in which we might 


reasonably look to Inspiration to aid us. What 
ever else Inspiration is or is not, it is, we are 
sure, the quickening of faculty to discover arid 
discern the truths of the Spirit. 

We turn then to St Paul with expectation; 
and indeed we shall not be disappointed. In 
the fewest possible words he exhibits to us just 
what we so greatly desire to see. To our inquiry, 
What is Christian Character? Shew it to us 
in its growth and in its development : this is his 
reply ; let us repeat it again 

" The fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, 
Longsujfering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meek 
ness, Temperance" 

Here is the answer to our question. We shall 
find that it is extraordinarily complete. 

Let us study the description as it falls into its 
successive divisions. 

a. " LOVE, JOY, PEACE." The best commentary 
upon the position and significance of these is 
contained in those divinest expositions of the 
spiritual life which are recorded for us by St 
John in the latter part of his Gospel. In those 
great discourses our Lord is seeking to give 
to His disciples some conception of the kind 
of life which He while on earth had been 
living with His Father in heaven, and which 
He desired that they should also live. In order 
that they may understand what that life is, He 
reduces it, as it were, to its elements. He 


speaks of its "Love," of its "Joy," and of its 
"Peace." 1 

We cannot be wrong then in taking these to 
represent the side of character which is the 
immediate outcome and the direct evidence of 
the life as it is lived with God. 

Again and again in this Epistle St Paul had 
taught that the foundation of all true thinking 
and doing must be laid deep down in Faith 
towards God. How naturally then it follows 
that Love, which is the ripening of confidence 
and trust, should be the first outcome and sign 
of a living faith. And where there is Love there 
will be Joy, the pleasure, the rapture which is 
felt at the thought, in the presence and on 
each new revelation of that which is loved. And 
once more, where Love and Joy are there must 
also be Peace the sequel, the abiding effect of 
both the deep calm, the utter repose, the 
inexpressible sense of well-being which fills the 
heart and keeps the mind when they are resting 
in conscious dependence upon the source of 
fullest bliss. Peace after Joy, because 

Peace is something more than Joy, 
Even the Joys above ; 
For Peace of all created things 
Is likest Him we love. 

This then is the first answer to our questions. 
We ask Where are we to begin in our efforts 

1 St John xiv. 31 ; xv. II ; xvi. 33. 


after Character? The reply tells us that the 
beginning of all true Character must be sought 
in a right attitude towards God. 

We do well to lay the truth of it most seriously 
to heart in a time like ours, when we are all of us 
in such haste to be philanthropic. Let us under 
stand that if a life is not right in its highest relation 
ship, it must of necessity be wrong in every other ; 
that what a man is in secret, in his private prayers, 
in his Communions this, and no more than this, 
he really is and will be proved to be in his inter 
course and dealings with his fellow-men. So long 
as he finds no interest, no pleasure, no refreshment 
in communing with the Divine ; so long must he 
expect to fail when called upon to meet the 
incessant and exhausting demands which must be 
made upon him in his everyday contact with the 

b. It is of the response which should be made 
to these demands that St Paul would have us to 
think next. 

None knew better than he did the truth of that 
which our Lord, after speaking of the heavenly 
life, had gone on to tell His disciples in regard to 
the kind of life they might expect to meet with 
in their dealings with men upon earth. He 
had warned them that it would be a very different 
kind of life. There would be not love, but 
" hate " ; not joy, but " sorrow." In the world, 


He had said, they should have, not peace but 
"tribulation." 1 

St Paul had experienced it all to the full, and 
he knew also full well in what spirit the Christian 
ought to prepare himself to correspond to the 
requirements of such an environment 

When a man lives with God, wrote a philo 
sopher of our own time, his voice shall be as 
sweet as the murmur of the brook and the 
rustle of the corn. 2 That was beautifully 
expressed, but St Paul speaks yet more truly 
and more beautifully, because in terms not simply 
of Nature but of Human Nature. 


FAITH." It is not difficult to understand the 
meaning of these. Longsuffering is patient 
endurance under injuries inflicted by others. 
Gentleness is the kindliness and sweetness of 
disposition which cannot be satisfied merely to 
suppress the outward indications of anger, but 
will allow no hidden thought of bitterness or scorn. 
Goodness goes yet further, and is the active benefi 
cence which suffers no opportunity of rendering 
a service to pass unused. And once more Faith, 
which is the strong belief in the goodness, or at 
least the possibility of goodness, in others. Such 
belief is the very opposite of miserable suspicion 
and cynical mistrust. Even when it has been 

1 St John xv. 19, xvi. 20, 33. 

2 Emerson. 


most pitifully disappointed it stubbornly refuses 
to despair, and trusts on until at last it triumphs, 
as it so constantly does, in the upraising of the 
trusted. This is a quality which is an unfailing 
mark of the purest goodness, a most sure sign of 

Simple noble natures, credulous 

Of what they long for, good in friend or foe, 

And most in those who most have done them ill. 1 

c. We might not have thought it possible to add 
any further touches to such a portraiture of spiritual 
perfection ; and yet we can see that without 
some addition the description could not really 
be regarded as complete. For there is yet a 
third relation of life the relation to Self. Two 
words tell us all we need to learn about it: 
" MEEKNESS, TEMPERANCE." Meekness is the due 
estimate of the place which self is entitled to hold ; 
Tem-perance (or self-control, as the word might 
rightly be rendered) is the resolute determination 
to see to it that self is kept in its proper place. 
In other words, there are to be no high notions or 
vain conceits, no airs of fancied superiority, and no 
concessions to a weak self-indulgence ; but rather 
the ever advancing likeness to Him Who is 
represented as beyond all else our pattern in 
this, that He took upon Him the yoke of a 
perfect submission, and was " meek and lowly 
in heart." 

1 Lord Tennyson, Geraint and Enid. 


Goodness, it has been finely said, is admired 
and taught in all religions. But to be good and 
feel that your goodness is nothing; to ripen all 
excellence and, like corn, to bend the head 
when full of ripe and bursting grain that is 
Christianity. l 

"The Fruit of the Spirit" is then only fully 
ripe, when to all other graces has been added 
the delicate bloom of a genuine humility. 

That then is the Christian character as painted 
by St Paul. It is the delineation of human life 
as seen in all its bearings ; in relation to God, 
in respect to our neighbour, and in regard to 
self. It is the * godly, righteous, and sober life ; 
the life in which God is first and foremost, and 
in which self is last and least. 

No standard could be loftier, no ideal more 
glorious. And yet who would venture to assert 
that there is any sort of vagueness in the presenta 
tion ? No, that difficulty at all events need exist 
for us no longer. 


Because one difficulty has been removed, it by 
no means follows, however, that others must 
vanish also, nor indeed that they will be in any 
way lessened. It may prove, on the contrary, 

1 F. W. Robertson. 


that they have been actually increased and 

You have done something no doubt for a man 
when you have put your glass to his eye and 
have shewn him the outline of the mountain ridge 
above the cloud, clear cut against the sky; but 
you have not done everything. As a matter of 
fact you have not set him one foot nearer to the 
summit. The way is as long and as steep as 
ever it was, and it is quite possible that it may 
appear to him even longer and more arduous than 
he had previously thought it. Similarly, when a 
man has been shewn quite definitely the true 
ideal of character, he may not unreasonably turn 
round and say, You have helped me in one 
respect, but you have done not a little to dis 
hearten me also. The life as you shew it to me 
is very wonderful. I can admire it, as I look at 
it far off in the distance above me, but how can 
I hope that I can ever attain to it ? 

How very hard it is to be a Christian ! 1 so 
speaks one of our modern poets, who has read 
very thoroughly and expressed very forcibly much 
of the deeper thought and feeling of the men 
about him. It was hard centuries ago. It is 
hard still. Time has brought no lessening of 
the difficulty. 

Let us turn then again to the words which St 
Paul wrote to see whether they will contribute 
1 R. Browning, Easter Day. 


anything towards the removal of this our second 
great difficulty. 

It has been wisely remarked that while argu 
ments are the pillars of the Temple of Truth, 
illustrations are the windows which let in the light. 
There are both arguments and illustrations in the 
Epistle to the Galatians. We have an illustration 
in this sentence which we are considering. We 
shall find that it does let in a good deal of light. 

The first thing that strikes us about the illustra 
tion as we look at it is, that it is not the illustration 
which seems to us to come most naturally when 
we are trying to describe the Christian life. To 
most of us it probably seems most natural to think 
of the Christian life as a journey ; a way to be 
travelled, a height to be gained. Nor of course 
are we wrong in thinking and speaking thus. 
Such an illustration is a very right and true one. 
It is constantly occurring in the Bible. In this 
Epistle, and in the immediate context, it is used 
by St Paul when he speaks of " walking " and of 
being "led by the Spirit." It is all the more 
noticeable therefore that in this particular place 
he exchanges it for another and a more excellent 
illustration ; an illustration which has been made 
peculiarly sacred to Christians, by the fact that 
it was so frequently employed by our Lord. It 
was almost His favourite illustration the illustra 
tion of Growth. 

Certainly the thoughts and associations sug- 


gested by this second illustration differ greatly 
from those suggested by the first. Climbing 
is one thing, growing is quite another. In the 
one case the idea conveyed is that of toiling and 
striving amid heat, and dust, and obstacles, with 
painful steps and slow : in the other the picture 
presented is of all that is gentle and gracious, a 
progress peaceful, and measured, and sure. The 
illustration from growth is a more attractive 
illustration, and that not merely to the fancy. 
The more we ponder it the more we shall feel that 
it is dear also to the deeper sense. It really 
helps us and does us good. And why? The 
reason is not hard to find. 

Our daily experience teaches us that we are 
weak or strong according as we set out to attempt 
any task from the thought of ourselves or from 
the thought of God. When we have made self 
the starting-point we have found that energy and 
resolution have quickly failed us ; but when, on 
the contrary, we have thought first of the Divine 
purpose and power, we have been steadied and 
strengthened, and have felt that we could not 
despair. Now the pre-eminence of the illustration 
of Growth consists in this, that it directs us in 
the first instance to the thought of the place 
held by the Divine activity in the formation of 

In climbing, the idea of help may, of course, 
come in, but only as of something which in its 


nature is external and secondary ; as when some 
one guides, or upholds us, or supplies us with 
food. In growing the power is within; essential 
and original. Character is thus represented as a 
vital product; the outcome, the expression of an 
inward force, of that something not ourselves 
which makes for righteousness. In St Paul s 
very simple language it is " the fruit of the Spirit " ; 
the effect, that is to say, of the Divine Spirit 
mysteriously blending with and transforming the 
human spirit. 

To some minds possibly it might appear that 
the very emphasis with which this aspect of the 
matter is represented is calculated to detract from 
the value of the illustration when considered as 
a complete picture of the development of Christian 
experience. The Divine side, they might be 
disposed to say, is made so prominent that the 
human is excluded altogether. No room is left 
for it. If that were really so, the illustration 
might indeed fail to satisfy us : but is it so ? 

Is there really no room for human endeavour 
in the process of growth? Have we really no 
share, no responsibility in regard, for example, 
to the growth of our bodies or of our minds? 
Of course we have a great deal to do with it in 
both these cases ; and so also a great deal must 
depend upon ourselves in respect to the develop 
ment of the highest side of our nature. Indeed, 
so clearly did the German poet see this that, 


when he specially desired to point out the part 
that human endeavour must play in the formation 
of character, he actually said : 

If thou would st attain thy highest, go look on a flower : 
c What it does will-lessly, do thou willingly. 1 

What is it then that the flower does, is ever 
doing? It is ever turning towards the sunlight, 
drinking in the dew and rain, gathering nourish 
ment from all the elements within its reach, tending 
upwards, yielding to the law of its being. And 
the man must do the like. He must use all means 
of advance, directing each power of mind and soul 
towards the recognised goal of attainment, in glad 
obedience to the movements of the power within. 
He differs from the flower in that he must do it 
all consciously and willingly. 

Our wills are ours we know not how, 
Our wills are ours to make them Thine. 

It is the mystery and the majesty of a man that he 
is free. 

It cannot be objected therefore that the 
illustration leaves no room for human effort. 
What it does is to refuse to give it the first place, 
and to reveal to us the difference between the 
sphere of the Divine action and of the human in 
the formation and development of Character. It 
is God s to create, it is man s to co-operate. 

Does not this shed light upon the problem? 
1 Schiller. 


Will it not be in proportion as we recognise the 
truth of this view of the matter that our sense 
of the difficulty of progress will be relieved ? 

It will still be our duty to labour and strive, 
but our labouring and striving will have changed 
its nature when once we realise that it is to be 
"according to His working that worketh in us 
mightily " (Col. i. 29). 

If we find it hard, it will be because it is hard to 
be simple and trustful and obedient : but even so 
the hardship will be of a kind very different from 
that which we must feel as long as we forget that 
the life which we are to live is, in the strictest 
sense, not our own, but an outflowing of the full 
and abounding life of Christ which has been given 
to us, and is ever seeking to manifest itself in us. 

If we could but receive it, it is really harder 
to resist than to yield to the grace of God : harder 
not to be, than to be a Christian. "It is hard 
for thee to kick against the pricks." 


And now perhaps we shall see our way to that 
which will enable us to deal with the difficulties 
which arise out of the feeling that progress in 
character (the third difficulty of which we spoke) 
seems to be often so slow. That was a difficulty 
to which, as we have seen, the Galatians with their 


quick impulsive temperaments were peculiarly 
sensitive. We also, though possibly for other 
reasons, are not less liable to be discouraged by 
it than they were. 

The note of our age is pace. The demand on 
all sides is for rapid results and quick returns. 
We are idolaters of the immediate. We find 
it so hard to wait. The people in Norway say 
that there is one word of their language which 
every Englishman knows. It is the word strax, 
which means quick. It seems to them that our 
one desire is to get over the ground ! Slowness 
in anybody or anything is, to most of us to-day, 
a very considerable trial. 

This characteristic tendency of our time must 
not be overlooked by those who would minister 
to its necessities. It calls for strong and 
sympathetic treatment now, as much as it did 
in the first century of our era. How natural 
then that we should look once more to the teacher 
who spoke in that far-distant past. 

What would St Paul have to say to us were 
he with us to-day? Would he tell us that the 
slowness of development is our own fault; that 
if we had more faith, offered less resistance to 
Grace, and gave ourselves more freely to obey 
it, our progress would be more rapid than it is? 
We cannot doubt that he would say all this, and 
say it most earnestly. But, at the same time, we 
may be equally sure that this would not be all 


that he would think it needful to say. He had 
more to tell the Galatians, and we may be certain 
that he would feel that what he taught then was 
no less applicable now. Let us turn to his words 

We have spoken a good deal already of the 
illustration which he uses, but we have by no 
means exhausted its teaching. Let us listen to the 
Apostle once more, as he is speaking to the 
Galatians. Look, he seems to say, at the tree 
there on yonder wall, and learn yet another lesson 
that it has to teach you. It has not grown to be 
what it is in a moment. Assuredly its fruit has not 
been the result of a day. It has been the work 
of many days and many sorts of days, dull days 
as well as bright; yes, and of dark cold nights 
too. It is strange, slow work, this ripening of 
fruit. And remember, that is what Character is 

Lest it should be imagined that we are laying 
an undue stress upon the intention of St Paul, 
in using this illustration, it is worth while to re 
collect that he returns to it again in his concluding 
chapter, and draws from it inferences of the very 
kind which we have been drawing. Go, he says, 
and see that harvest field with its various yield. 
It too was long in coming; it sprang from the 
smallest beginnings, it needed perpetual attention. 
That again is a picture of our life and work. We 
also must sow, and we must reap, and we must not 


be weary. " In due season we shall reap, if we 
faint not" (vi. 7-9). 

St Paul then would certainly impress upon us 
that slowness of development is not entirely due 
to our fault, but is, to a large extent, inevitable 
from the nature of the case. Slowness is an in 
dispensable condition of the highest develop 
ment. The best things come slowest. The 
mushroom may spring up in a night, but the 
heart of oak needs the centuries to mature it. 

Nowhere is the law more apparent than in our 
own individual constitution. The growth of the 
body is comparatively rapid : the growth of the 
mind is not so quick, as those know well who 
have been engaged in the work of education. 
Why, then, should it offend us to find that the 
growth of the Spirit the Eternal part is even 
slower still? 

How often the discouragement caused by the 
difficulty of which we are now thinking would 
disappear if the matter were reasonably considered 
in this light. When persons complain that whereas 
at one time, in the beginning of their religious 
life, the signs of progress were unmistakably 
apparent ; but that now they are often unable to 
detect any sort of difference in their condition 
from day to day, or even from month to month : 
might it not help them if they were to reflect 
upon these simple facts of growth ? Would they 
not find that the explanation of their experience 


was often this? At the beginning of which they 
speak the changes were for the most part changes 
of practice and habit; changes, that is to say, 
in the outward and physical sphere. Then followed 
changes which were for the most part intellectual, 
altered views of doctrines of the Faith, clearer 
apprehensions of great religious principles. In all 
these the difference made was clear to see, and 
could be consciously recognised. But when it 
came, later on, to changes not so much in the 
physical or the intellectual as in the spiritual 
sphere; when it became a question of their 
becoming a little more devout, or a little more 
gentle, or a little more humble, was it to be 
wondered at that the advances then should be 
less obviously noticeable? 

The finer touches require time, and we dare not 
hurry the work. 

A child had been playing in the garden. The 
mother said, What have you been doing, my 
child? Helping God, mother, was the quick 
reply. And how have you been helping God? 
I saw a flower going to blossom, and I blossomed 

That is a parable of much that we are doing 
to-day. We are eager to witness the ripening of 
character in others and in ourselves. We long to 
accelerate the process, and we are only too ready 
to employ our rude and hasty fingers in the 
attempt. But it will not do ; and why ? We may 


get the blossom, but we may spoil the fruit. And 
the Heavenly Husbandman is working for fruit. 
We are little men, and we are in a hurry. God 
is great and He is in no hurry. If we are to work 
with the Eternal, we must needs learn patience; 
patience with others, and what is harder still, 
so St Francis de Sales used to say, patience with 

All this, though it takes us many words to 
express it, lies wrapped in St Paul s one word 
"Fruit." The more we grasp its meaning, the 
more shall we appreciate that sentence of this 
Epistle, "We through the Spirit by faith wait for 
the hope of righteousness " (v. 5). 

Let us have no uncertainty then about St Paul s 
teaching in regard to Christian character. He 
sets before us the ideal in clear and unmistakable 
terms. He would have us know that our hope 
of attaining it depends upon our faithfully co 
operating with the Power that is working in us. 
And for the rest, he would bid us be patient, and 
never presume to despair, inasmuch as nothing 
can be really impossible for which men have been 
made and redeemed, and to which they have been 
called by God. 


The Churchman s Bible 



THIS Series of Expositions on the Books of the Bible is intended 
to be of service to the general reader in the practical and 
devotional study of the Sacred Text. 

Each Book will be provided with a full and clear Introductory section, 
in which will be stated what is known or conjectured respecting the 
date and occasion of the composition of the Book, and any other 
particulars that may help to elucidate its meaning as a whole. The 
Exposition will be divided into sections of a convenient length, corre 
sponding as far as possible with the divisions of the Church Lectionary. 
The Translation of the Authorised Version will be printed in full, such 
corrections as are deemed necessary being placed in footnotes. 

Job . . . C. J. BALL, M.A. 

EcclesiastCS . . A. W. STREANE, D.D. 

Isaiah . . . . W. E. BARNES, D.D. 

Jeremiah . . . G. HARFORD-BATTERSBY, M.A. 

Ezekiel . . . W. BENHAM, D.D. 

Minor Prophets . . R. WINTERBOTHAM, M.A..LL.B. 

St Matthew . . J. B. SEATON, M.A. 

St Mark . . . K. LAKE, M.A. 

St Lllke . . H. C. SHUTTLEWORTH, M.A. 

St John . . J. O. F. MURRAY, M.A. 

ActS . . . . W. E. COLLINS, M.A. 

Romans . . . W. O. BURROWS, M.A. 

I and 2 Corinthians . J. H. KENNEDY, D.D. 

. . . A. W. ROBINSON, B.D. 

. . G. H. WHITAKER, M.A. 

Philippians . . . c. R. D. BIGGS, E.D. 
Colossians and Philemon H. j. c. KNIGHT, M.A. 

Pastoral Epistles . J. F. BETHUNE-BAKER, M.A. 

St James . . . H. W. FULFORD, M.A. 

St Peter and St Jude . F. RELTON, A.K.C. 

St John s Epistles . J. M. DANSON, D.D. 

Revelation . . . E. c. s. GIBSON, D.D.