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fought to bring them back to the antiquated Rites and Ceremonies of the Jewish Worship.
The Epistle begins with these words; Te see howo large a Letter I have written unto you withi mine opn Hand. The large Letter here intended, is this Epistle to the Galatians, wherein he enlarg'd himself on this point, to confirm them in the Principles of Christianity, which some endeavour'd to subvert, by preaching up the perpetual Obligation of Moses's Law. And tho other of his Epistles were written by an Amanuensis, and only the Salutation with his own Hand, that they might be known to be his, yet this he tells them was all written by himself with his own Hand, that they might give the greater heed to it.
Theophyla&t's Conjecture on this place is, that St. Paul was accus'd for preaching elsewhere for the Observation of the Old Law, contrary to what is containd in this Epistle, and therefore was forc'd to write a large Letter with his own Hand, for his own Vindication in this matter. This Conjecture, I say, is wholly precarious and without ground; for we find no where any mention of such an Accufationg and therefore there could be no need of any such Vindication. But the Conjecture of some is yet more vain, vizi that St. Paul in these words endeavour'd to excuse the Badness of his Writing, the Largeness of the Letters, or Illness of the Characters used in it; that whereas his other Epistles, written by an Amanuensis, were in a fairer and better Hand, this of his own writing was more rough and unpolish's. But this was too mean a matter for the Confideration of an Apostle, whom we cannot fuppose to have condescended to so trilling an Apology. In short then,
The plain Sense of these words is, that the Apostle being inform’d of some false Teachers crept into the Churches of Galatia, who preach'd up Circumcision, and other Mofaical Rites, he wrote this large Letter or Epistle with his own Hand, to warn them against them, and to prevent their being seduc'd by them. To which end, he proceeds in the next words to describe these false Teachers,
14, By their plausible Behaviour, or making a fair Shero in the Flesh.
2dly, By the Badness of their Doctrine ; They constrain you to be circumcis'd.
3dly, By their evil End and Design, which was to avoid Perfecution for the Cross of Chrift.
14, For the Plausibleness of their Behaviour, 'tis express'd in these words; As many as desire to make a fair Shew in the Flesh. 'Tis the Guise and Practice of false Teachers, to put fair, tho false Colours upon what they say or do ; to make use of Disguises, to hide the Evil and Mischief they intend, and to make the fairest Show and Appearance they can. Our Saviour tells us, that the false Prophets came in Sheeps-Clothing ; that is, with soft and smooth Pretences, tho® inwardly they were ravenous Wolves, that came not but to devour and destroy. The Apostle tells us of others, that with good Words and fair Speeches deceive the Hearts of the Simple. Of all such we are bid to berpare, as those that come with all the Deceivableness of Unrighteousness, able if it were possible to deceive the very Elečt. Of this kind were the false Teachers in this Chapter, who defir'd to make a fair Show in the Flesh, that is, would be thought the most zealous and conscientious of all the Jews. And such are the Diffenting False Teachers in our days, who by feign’d Shews of Zeal and Reformation, delude the Ignorant into Schism and Sedition. Of all such we cannot be too cautious, by giving no heed to their Words, and funning their Ways and their Example. But to the Plausibleness of their Behaviour, the Apostle adds,
2dly, The Unsoundness of their Doctrine, in these words ; They conftrain you to be circumcis'd:
meaning, that they urg'd upon these Galatians the Neceflity of Circumcision, tho that painful Rite was done away, and exchang’d, for the easier Rite of Baptism by our Blessed Saviour : yet to make the fairer Shew in the Flesh, they press them to take this Mark of Circumcision in their Flesh, being the Seal of the Covenant made to Abraham and his Seed. For this they urg'd the Institution of God himself, who laid this Ordinance of Circumcision in charge on Abraham and his Posterity for ever, Gen. 17. For which reason they pretended it to carry an eternal Obligation, being call'd therefore the Covenant of Circumcision, Acts 7. 8. This shak'd the Faith of many, and begat that first and great Controversy in the Christian Church, about the Conti-, nuance of the Rites and Ceremonies of Moses's Law ; which our Apostle, in this and fundry other of his Epistles, hath fully decided for us, having by many Arguments prov'd and determind for the Abrogation of them: for Christ the Substance being come, in whom all those typical Rites and Shadows were fulfillid, they all yanilh'd and were Vol. IV. Part 2.
dispellid by the Brightness of his Coming, as Mists and Vapors are scatter'd by the Approach of the Sun. So that to continue those Rites, is a virtual Denial of Christ's coming in the Flesh : and therefore St. Paul testifies and declares unto them, that if ye be circumcis'd, Christ can profit you nothing ; Gal.5. 2. And ver. 3. I testify again (faith he) to every Man that is circumcis'd, that he is a Debtor to keep the whole Law; and so can have no Justification thence. Christ is become of no effect to them, being fallen from the Grace and Favour of the Gospel. The sense of all which is, that by sticking to the old Covenant of Circumcision, they deprive themselves of all the benefit of the new Covenant, into which we are now initiated by Baptism.
But, 3dly, why did these Teachers, who were in a great measure brought over to Christianity, so far comply with the Jews, as to preach and press Circumcision on the Gentile Converts? Why that, the Apostle tells us, was only left they mould suffer Persecution for the Cross' of Chrift. There was at that time a great Persecution rais'd against the Christians : the Jews, out of their great Zeal to the old Law, would not hear of a new Gospel; the Doctrine of Christ crucify'd was to the Jews a Stumbling-block, and to the Greeks Foolisliness : which made them perfecute this Way even to the Death. Hence some for fear of Punishment, and others for the reproach of the Cross, revolted froni Christianity, and fell back to the old Law : and we are told of these in our Text, that they adher'd to Circumcifion merely to avoid Perfecution. 'Twas not any conscientious Persuasion of the Obligation of the Law, that mov'd them thus to keep to it: for the next Verse tells us, that they themselves that are circumcis’d, do not keep the Law in other matters, yea, fometimes can dispense with that too, when it may be done with safety. But they desire to have you circumcis'd (faith he) only that they may glory in your Fleh: meaning, that the true Reason of all this was their own Advantage, and their own Glory; partly to avoid the Fury and Trouble of the Jewish Zealots, and partly that they might be able to boast of the many Profelytes they had made to the Judaical Law. This is that fair Shem in the Fleshi, mention'd before, and their glorying in your Flesh, mention'd here; both which fignify, their getting some Glory and Interest to themselves, by having you circumcis'do
But these Mens seeking for Glory by such sinister and indirect ways, and shrinking from the Doctrine of the Cross for fear of Persecution, made St. Paul let them know, that all true Glory lies in other things; namely, in a firm Constancy of Mind, and a fteddy Adherence to the Doctrine of Christ against all Opposition: And therefore he speaks in his own Name in the following Verse; saying, God forbid that I jould glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jefusz by whom the World is crucify'd to me, and I unto the World. That is, all Glorying in the Flesh is vain, and all Boasting of worldly Wealth and Honour is fruitless and insignificant; such idle Vaunts and Vain-glorying as this, proceed only from the fond Suggestions and Compliances of false Teachers, who make merchandize of you : but God forbid (faith the Apostle) that I should ever make use of these or any other like Arts to beguile you, or to draw Disciples into fuch pernicious Errors and Delusions. The only true matter of Boasting is in the Cross of Christ, which they would make you either afraid or asham'd.of. For my own part (faith he) I know nothing worthy to be glory'd of or rejoic'd in, fave that only: and accordingly all ny Joy and Rejoicing is in my Constancy to my Saviour, and the Sufferings i have undergone for his fake; which have made the Pleasures, Honours, and Riches of the World altogether lifeless and untempting to me, and likewise me as dead and mortify'd to any inordinate Love or Desire of them. Hence we find him declaring to the Romans, that he was not asham'd of the Gospel of Christ, which is the Power of God unto Salvation, to every one that believeth; Rom. 1. 16. Whatever mean Thoughts others might have of it, or whatever Reflections they might cast upon it, he was so far from being asham'd, that he made it the Object of his greatest Glory and Rejoicing, knowing it to be the only Way and Means of obtaining Life and Salvation.
Again, He told the Corinthians, that he determind to know nothing among them but Jesus Christ and him crucijy'd; I Cor. 2. 2. And to the Philippians ne affirm'd, that he counted all other Knowledg but as Loss and Dung, in сотраrison of the Excellency of the Knowledg of Christ, for whom he had suffer'd the Loss of all, and counted it as nothing, that he might win Chrift, Phil. 3.8. He had been before mentioning the Privileges of Circumcision, in which he could pretend as great a share as any : for he was circumcis'd the eighth Day, according to the Law given to Abraham ; he
was of the Stock of Israel, of the Tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews, and as touching the Law a Pharisee; ver. 5. And yet all' these Privileges he reckon'd of no worth or value to him without an Interest in Christ, which was infinitely above them all. And therefore he here tells the Galatians, that all insisting on these Privileges, and all other Contests about the Law are frivolous and to no purpose; For in Chrift Jesus neither Circumcision availeth any thing, nor Uncircumcision, but a new Creature. Now under the Gospel 'tis not material whether a Man be circumcis'd or no, for he can be the better for neither : that which is now requir'd, is to be regenerate by Baptism, to be born again of Water and the Holy Ghoft, and thereby to be. come new Creatures : and such must all be that come to Christ; For if any Man be in Chrift (faith the Apostle) bę is a new Creature z old things are paft away, behold all things are become new. 2 Cor.5.17. The old linful Practices are to be laid aside, and the antiquated Rites of the Law to be done away, and we enter upon a new State that obliges to Newness of Life : For the Gospel brings a Change of Things and Persons from what they were before ; there is more Grace, better Promises, greater Aslistances, and ampler Encouragements than were made known before; all which call upon us to lead better Lives, and so to become new Creatures.
And as many as walk according to this Rule, Peace be on them and Mercy, and upon the whole Israel of God. Which words may be understood either as a Wish, that all who lead their Lives by these measures, and walk as becometh the Gospel of Christ, may have all Peace and Mercy maltiply'd upon them or else as a Promise, that they who do so, shall certainly find all that
Peace and Happiness, which the Gospel exhibits and holds forth to them. Both which Prayer and Promise is here made, not only for those who newly embrac'd the Faith of the Gospel, but for the whole Ifrael of God, that believe on him, whether they be Jew or Gentile, Bond or Free, for they are all one in Christ Jesus.
Having said this to them, he adds in the following words, From henceforth let no Man trouble me, for I bear in my Body the Marks of the Lord Jesus: that is, for the future I defire that none would give me any farther trouble in this matter, for I have other work to do, which by my Office I am bound to attend and discharge. And there can be no rea