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necessary to salvation: and that if Paul taught differently from them, it might be presumed, either that he did not rightly understand their doctrine, or that he did not faithfully interpret it. They even went so far as to affirm, that Paul himself had now changed his doctrine, and preached the necessity of circumcision, chap. v. 11.
To these calumnies the Galatians gave the more heed, as Paul's apostleship was not generally known in the church at that time. And as a few were already drawn away, and others were in danger of following, it is not improbable that some of the faithful among them judged it necessary to give the apostle an account of the Galatian churches, in a letter, which, as was formerly observed, he may have received at Antioch, before he went to the council of Jerusalem. Or, the matter may have been discovered to him in Jerusalem, by some of the brethren who had lately come from Galatia. For soon after his return from the council, to Antioch, he wrote, as I suppose, this letter, in which he rebuked the churches of Galatia, with that authority and sharpness which, as their spiritual father, he was entitled to use in correcting their errors. In this letter also, by appealing to the reception which he met with from the apostles in Jerusalem, and to a variety of other facts, but especially by relating how he withstood Peter publicly at Antioch, for separating himself from the converted Gentiles, on account of their not being circumcised, (all which facts, the brethren at Antioch who joined him in this letter, attested,) he effectually overturned the calumnies of his enemies, and established his own apostolical authority, in the clearest manner. Then, by a variety of arguments taken from the Jewish scriptures, he completely confuted the error of the Judaizers who inculcated circumcision, that is, obedience to the law of Moses, as necessary to salvation.
Here it may be proper to observe, that although the subject. treated of in the epistles to the Romans, and to the Galatians, be the doctrine of justification by faith, the two epistles differ materially in this respect, that the epistle to the Romans was written to prove the justification of men by faith, without works of law, that is, without a perfect obedience to the law of God written on men's hearts. Whereas, the epistle to the Galatians, was designed to prove that men are justified by faith, without the works of the law of Moses. This appears from the following, among other passages, Gal. iii. 2. This only would I learn from you: By the works of the law received ye the Spirit?
or by the obedience of faith? that is, by performing the rites of the law of Moses, or by obeying the gospel, which requires faith in order to justification? 3. Are ye so senseless, that having begun in the Spirit, ye now make yourselves perfect by the flesh ? 5. He then who supplied to you the Spirit, and wrought miracles among you, did he these on account of the works of the law, or on account of the obedience of faith? Here the opposition stated, between the works of the law, and the obedience of faith, and between the Spirit and the flesh, plainly sheweth, that by the law in this discourse, the apostle means the law of Moses. Or if any doubt remains on the subject, it will be removed by attending to the apostle's reasoning in the following part of the chapter: where having proved that the justification of sinners by faith, was established in the covenant with Abraham, he told the Judaizers, ver. 17. that the law which was given long after the promise, could not annul the promise, by introducing a method of justification different from that established by the promise. The following passages, in like manner shew, that in this epistle the law, means the law of Moses. Gal. iv. 21. Tell me ye who wish to be under the law, why do ye not understand the law. Gal. v. 1. Stand fast therefore in the freedom wherewith Christ hath freed us. And be not again held fast in the yoke of bondage. 2. Behold, I Paul, say to you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3. And I testify, moreover, to every circumcised person, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4. Ye are separated from Christ who are justified by the law: yê are fallen from grace. In short the whole strain of the reasoning in the epistle to the Galatians, sheweth plainly, that the apostle's design in writing it, was to prove against the Jews, that none of them could be justified by the works of the law of Moses. That law required perfect obedience to all its precepts moral and ceremonial, under the penalty of the curse, from which the atonements and purifications prescribed by Moses, had no influence to deliver the sinner. Whereas in his epistle to the Romans, the apostle treats of justification on a more enlarged plan: his design being to prove against both Jews and Gentiles, that neither the one nor the other can be justified meritoriously by performing works of law, that is, the works which the law of God written on men's hearts, enjoins; but all must be justified gratuitously by faith, through the obedience of Christ. See Ess. vi. sect. 1. Wherefore, the two epistles taken together, form a complete proof, that justification is not to be obtained merito
riously, either by works of morality, or by rites and ceremonies, though of divine appointment; but is a free gift, proceeding entirely from the mercy of God, to those who are qualified by 'faith to receive it.
In writing on these subjects to the Galatians, it must be confessed the apostle shewed great anxiety and earnestness, and even a considerable degree of displeasure with his adversaries, But in so doing, he is by no means blameable. For if he had not vindicated himself from the calumnies propagated by his enemies, where would have been the authority of his discourses and writings? And what use could they have been of to the world as a rule of faith? And with respect to circumcision, and obedience to the law of Moses, if the Judaizers had been allowed to establish these as necessary to salvation, Judaism, as was observed in the preface to the Romans, page 150. would have been the religion of the world, to the utter subversion of Christianity. In a word, of all the questions respecting religion which were agitated in the first age, this concerning the justification of sinners by faith, without the works of the law of Moses, was the most interesting. By the establishment of that doctrine, a bulwark was raised against the re-entering of those superstitions, which disfigured the preceding forms of religion. For if the sacrifices and ceremonies of the law of Moses, which were all of divine appointment, had no efficacy in procuring the pardon of sin, none of the rites of men's invention, on which the superstitious set such a value, can have any influence in procuring that blessing.— Besides, on the right determination of this question, the comfort of the Gentile converts in the first age, and their hope of salvation, hanged. No wonder then, that Paul, to whom Christ had committed the conversion and instruction of the Gentiles, was zealous in teaching the doctrine of justification, without the works of the law of Moses; and in boldly reproving, and even threatening those who taught the contrary doctrine, agreeably to the injunction which he afterwards gave to Titus in a similar case, Tit. i. 13. Rebuke them sharply, that they may be healthy in the faith.
Thé erroneous doctrines of the Judaizing teachers, and the calumnies which they spread for the purpose of discrediting Paul as an apostle, no doubt occasioned reat uneasiness of mind, to him and to the faithful in that age; least for a while, among the Galatians. evils have proved of no small service to the church in general.
and did much hurt, at But in the issue, these
For by obliging the apostle to produce the evidences of his apostleship, and to relate the history of his life, especially after his conversion, we have obtained the fullest assurance of his being a real apostle, called to the office by Jesus Christ himself, and acknowledged to be an apostle by them who were apostles before him; consequently we are assured that our faith in the doctrines of the gospel, as taught by him, (and it is he who hath taught the peculiar doctrines of the gospel most fully,) is not built on the credit of men, but on the authority of the Spirit of God, by whom Paul was inspired in the whole of the doctrine which he hath delivered to the world. See Pref. to 2 Corinthians, sect. ii. page 302.
This letter being directed to the churches of Galatia, it was
be read publicly in them all. We may therefore suppose, that it was sent first to the brethren in Ancyra, the chief city of · Galatia, with an order to them to communicate it to the other churches in the same manner as the first epistle to the Thessalonians was appointed to be read to all the holy brethren in that city, and in the province of Macedonia. See Prelim. Ess. ii. page 63.
I have hinted above, that Titus was the bearer of the epistle to the Galatians. My reasons for that conjecture are, 1. That Titus being a Greek, was greatly interested in the doctrine which this epistle was written to establish, and would willingly undertake the office of carrying it to the Galatians; more especially as he was mentioned in it by name. 2. Having been present in Jerusalem with Paul at the council, he could by word of mouth attest the things which happened in Jerusalem, to which the apostle appealed in proof of his own apostleship, and in proof of the doctrine which he uniformly taught. And that doctrine Titus no doubt confirmed, by relating to the Galatians, that Paul resisted the Judaizers in Jerusalem, when they attempted to have Titus himself circumcised. However, if the reader thinks Titus was not the bearer of this letter, he may suppose it was sent by the person who brought the apostle word of the defection of the Galatian brethren, which occasioned its being written.
Of Paul and Barnabas's journey to Jerusalem, mentioned Gal. ii. 1. and of the Decree passed by the Council of Jerusalem respecting the converted Gentiles.
According to the general opinion, the occasion of the apostle's journey to Jerusalem, mentioned Gal. ii. 1. is related, Acts xv. 1. as follows: And certain men who came down from Judea, taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. 2. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissention and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. Some of the things which happened to these messengers in Jerusalem after their arrival, Paul mentioned to the Galatians, chap. ii. 2.-10. But he said nothing of the decision which the apostles and elders gave concerning the matter referred to them by the brethren of Antioch. Our knowledge of that decision, and of the deliberation which preceded it, we owe to Luke, who tells us, their decision was directed to the brethren of the Gentiles who were in Antioch, and Syria, and Cilicia; and that it was expressed in the following terms, Acts xv. 28. It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29. That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which, if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. This decision or decree hath given rise to much controversy. For according to many, the brethren of the Gentiles, to whom the apostles directed their decree, were the whole Gentile converts without distinction. But others contend, that they were the converts from that class of Gentiles, who were called proselytes by the Jews. The determination of this point involves some important consequences, and merits to be examined with care.
And first of all, the account which Moses hath given of the character and obligations of the different sorts of persons who lived with the Jews in the land of Canaan, must be considered. He hath mentioned them under the denominations of, The cir cumcised stranger; The sojourning stranger; and The alien or foreigner. The circumcised stranger was in every respect a Jew. For it is declared, Exod xii. 48, 49. and elsewhere, that to the home born, and to the circumcised stranger, there is one law. Hence