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Galatians 4:6-11

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

6. Quoniam autem estis filii, misit Deus Spiritum Filii sui in corda vestra, clamantem, Abba, Pater.

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

7. Itaque non amplius es servus, sed filius; si antem filius, etiam haeres Dei per Christum.

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

8. At tunc quum nondum cognoveratis Deum, serviebatis eis qui natura non sunt dii.

9. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?

9. Nunc autem postquam cognovistis Deum, vel potius cogniti fuistis a Deo; quomode convertimini rursus ad infirma et egena elementa, quibus rursus Deuteronomy integro servire vultis?

10. Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.

10. Dies observatis, et menses, et tempera, et annos.

11. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

11. Timeo Deuteronomy vobis, ne forte in vobis frustra laboraverim.

 

6. And because ye are sons. The adoption which he had mentioned, is proved to belong to the Galatians by the following argument. This adoption must have preceded the testimony of adoption given by the Holy Spirit; but the effect is the sign of the cause. In venturing, he says, to call God your Father, you have the advice and direction of the Spirit of Christ; therefore it is certain that you are the sons of God. This agrees with what is elsewhere taught by him, that the Spirit is the earnest and pledge of our adoption, and gives to us a well-founded belief that God regards us with a father’s love.

“Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit
in our hearts.” (2 Corinthians 1:22.)

“Now he that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God,
who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.”
(2 Corinthians 5:5.)

But it will be objected, do not wicked men, too, carry their rashness so far as to proclaim that God is their Father? Do they not frequently, with greater confidence than others, utter their false boasts? I reply, Paul’s language does not relate to idle boasting, or to the proud opinion of himself which any man may entertain, but to the testimony of a pious conscience which accompanies the new birth. This argument can have no weight but in the case of believers, for ungodly men have no experience of this certainty; as our Lord himself declares.

“The Spirit of truth,” says he, “whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him.”
(John 14:17.)

This is implied in Paul’s words, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts. It is not what the persons themselves, in the foolish judgment of the flesh, may venture to believe, but what God declares in their hearts by his Spirit. The Spirit of his Son is a title more strictly adapted to the present occasion than any other that could have been employed. We are the sons of God, because we have received the same Spirit as his only Son.

Let it be observed, that Paul ascribes this universally to all Christians; for where this pledge of the Divine love towards us is wanting, there is assuredly no faith. Hence it is evident what sort of Christianity belongs to Popery, since any man who says, that he has the Spirit of God, is charged by them with impious presumption. Neither the Spirit of God, nor certainty, belongs to their notion of faith. This single tenet held by them is a remarkable proof that, in all the schools of the Papists, the devil, the father of unbelief, reigns. I acknowledge, indeed, that the scholastic divines, when they enjoin upon the consciences of men the agitation of perpetual doubt, are in perfect agreement with what the natural feelings of mankind would dictate. It is the more necessary to fix in our minds this doctrine of Paul, that no man is a Christian who has not learned, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, to call God his Father.

Crying. This participle, I think, is used in order to express greater boldness. Hesitation does not allow us to speak freely, but keeps the mouth nearly shut, while the half-broken words can hardly escape from a stammering tongue. “Crying,” on the other hand, expresses firmness and unwavering confidence.

“For we have not received again the spirit of bondage to fear,
but of freedom to full confidence.” (Romans 8:15.)

Abba, Father. The meaning of these words, I have no doubt, is, that calling upon God is common to all languages. It is a fact which bears directly on the present subject, that the name Father is given to God both by the Hebrews and by the Greeks; as had been predicted by Isaiah,

“Every tongue shall make confession to my name.”
(Isaiah 45:23.)

The whole of this subject is handled by the apostle at greater length in his Epistle to the Romans. I judge it unnecessary to repeat here observations which I have already made in the exposition of that Epistle, and which the reader may consult. Since, therefore, Gentiles are reckoned among the sons of God, it is evident that adoption comes not by the merit of the law, but by the grace of faith.

7. Wherefore thou art no more a servant. In the Christian Church slavery no longer exists, but the condition of the children is free. In what respect the fathers under the law were slaves, we have already inquired; for their freedom was not yet revealed, but was hidden under the coverings and yoke of the law. Our attention is again directed to the distinction between the Old and New Testaments. The ancients were also sons of God, and heirs through Christ, but we hold the same character in a different manner; for we have Christ present with us, and in that manner enjoy his blessings.

8. But when ye as yet knew not God. This is not intended as an additional argument; and indeed he had already proved his point so fully, that no doubt remained, and the rebuke which was now to be administered could not be evaded. His object is to make their fall appear more criminal, by comparing it with past events. It is not wonderful, he says, that formerly ye did service to them which by nature are no gods; for, wherever ignorance of God exists, there must be dreadful blindness. You were then wandering in darkness, but how disgraceful is it that in the midst of light you should fall into such gross errors! The main inference is, that the Galatians were less excusable for corrupting the gospel than they had formerly been for idolatry. But here it ought to be observed, that, till we have been enlightened in the true knowledge of one God, we always serve idols, whatever pretext we may throw over the false religion. The lawful worship of God, therefore, must be preceded by just views of his character. By nature, that is, in reality, they are no gods. Every object of worship which men contrive is a creature of their own imagination. In the opinion of men idols may be gods, but in reality they are nothing.

9. But now, 6767     Μᾶλλον δὲ “The Greek writers make use of these two particles for the purpose of correcting what they have already said, and, as if it had not been enough, of adding something more. Thus, Romans 8:34, and in Polybius. Χρήσιμον εἴη μᾶλλον δ ᾿ αηναγκαῖον. “It would be useful, it would even be necessary.” Καὶ γὰρ ἄτοπον μᾶλλον δ ᾿ ὡς εἰπεῖν ἀδύνατον, αδυνατον. “It would be absurd; it would even be impossible.” — Raphelius. after that ye have known God. No language can express the base ingratitude of departing from God, when he has once been known. What is it but to forsake, of our own accord, the light, the life, the fountain of all benefits, — “to forsake,” as Jeremiah complains,

“the fountain of living waters, and hew out cisterns,
broken cisterns, that can hold no water!” (Jeremiah 2:13.)

Still farther to heighten the blame, he corrects his language, and says, or rather have been, known by God; for the greater the grace of God is towards us, our guilt in despising it must be the heavier. Paul reminds the Galatians whence they had derived the knowledge of God. He affirms that they did not obtain it by their own exertions, by the acuteness or industry of their own minds, but because, when they were at the farthest possible remove from thinking of him, God visited them in his mercy. What is said of the Galatians may be extended to all; for in all are fulfilled the words of Isaiah,

“I am sought by them that asked not for me:
I am found by them that sought me not.” (Isaiah 65:1.)

The origin of our calling is the free election of God, which predestinates us to life before we are born. On this depends our calling, our faith, our whole salvation.

How turn ye again? They could not turn again to ceremonies which they had never practiced. The expression is figurative, and merely denotes, that to fall again into wicked superstition, as if they had never received the truth of God, was the height of folly. When he calls the ceremonies beggarly elements, he views them as out of Christ, and, what is more, as opposed to Christ. To the fathers they were not only profitable exercises and aids to piety, but efficacious means of grace. But then their whole value lay in Christ, and in the appointment of God. The false apostles, on the other hand, neglecting the promises, endeavored to oppose the ceremonies to Christ, as if Christ alone were not sufficient. That they should be regarded by Paul as worthless trifles, cannot excite surprise; but of this I have already spoken. The word bondage conveys a reproof for submitting to be slaves. 6868     “Par ce mot de Servir, il reprend la necessity, a laquelle ils s’astraignoyent d’observer les ceremonies.” “By the word ‘bondage,’ he reproves them for the necessity to which they had reduced themselves to observe ceremonies.”

10. Ye observe days. He adduces as an instance one description of “elements,” the observance of days. No condemnation is here given to the observance of dates in the arrangements of civil society. The order of nature out of which this arises, is fixed and constant. How are months and years computed, but by the revolution of the sun and moon? What distinguishes summer from winter, or spring from harvest, but the appointment of God, — an appointment which was promised to continue to the end of the world? (Genesis 8:22.) The civil observation of days contributes not only to agriculture and to matters of politics, and ordinary life, but is even extended to the government of the church. Of what nature, then, was the observation which Paul reproves? It was that which would bind the conscience, by religious considerations, as if it were necessary to the worship of God, and which, as he expresses it in the Epistle to the Romans, would make a distinction between one day and another. (Romans 14:5.)

When certain days are represented as holy in themselves, when one day is distinguished from another on religious grounds, when holy days are reckoned a part of divine worship, then days are improperly observed. The Jewish Sabbath, new moons, and other festivals, were earnestly pressed by the false apostles, because they had been appointed by the law. When we, in the present age, intake a distinction of days, we do not represent them as necessary, and thus lay a snare for the conscience; we do not reckon one day to be more holy than another; we do not make days to be the same thing with religion and the worship of God; but merely attend to the preservation of order and harmony. The observance of days among us is a free service, and void of all superstition.

11. Lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain. The expression is harsh, and must have filled the Galatians with alarm; for what hope was left to them, if Paul’s labor had been in vain? Some have expressed astonishment that Paul should be so powerfully affected by the observance of days, as almost to designate it a subversion of the whole gospel. But if we carefully weigh the whole, we shall see that there was just reason; and that the false apostles not only attempted to lay the yoke of Jewish bondage on the neck of the church, but filled their minds with wicked superstitions. To bring back Christianity to Judaism, was in itself no light evil; but far more serious mischief was done, when, in opposition to the grace of Christ, they set up holidays as meritorious performances, and pretended that this mode of worship would propitiate the divine favor. When such doctrines were received, the worship of God was corrupted, the grace of Christ made void, and the freedom of conscience oppressed.

Do we wonder that Paul should be afraid that he had labored in vain, that the gospel would henceforth be of no service? And since that very description of impiety is now supported by Popery, what sort of Christ or what sort of gospel does it retain? So far as respects the binding of consciences, they enforce the observance of days with not less severity than was done by Moses. They consider holidays, not less than the false apostles did, to be a part of the worship of God, and even connect with them the diabolical notion of merit. The Papists must therefore be held equally censurable with the false apostles; and with this addition in aggravation, that, while the former proposed to keep those days which had been appointed by the law of God, the latter enjoin days, rashly stamped with their own seal, to be observed as most holy.


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