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4. Concern for the Galatians

1But I say that so long as the heir is a child, he differeth nothing from a bondservant though he is lord of all; 2but is under guardians and stewards until the day appointed of the father. 3So we also, when we were children, were held in bondage under the rudiments of the world: 4but when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7So that thou art no longer a bondservant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. 8Howbeit at that time, not knowing God, ye were in bondage to them that by nature are no gods: 9but now that ye have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how turn ye back again to the weak and beggarly rudiments, whereunto ye desire to be in bondage over again? 10Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years. 11I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labor upon you in vain. 12I beseech you, brethren, become as I am, for I also am become as ye are. Ye did me no wrong: 13but ye know that because of an infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you the first time: 14and that which was a temptation to you in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but ye received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. 15Where then is that gratulation of yourselves? for I bear you witness, that, if possible, ye would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. 16So then am I become your enemy, by telling you the truth? 17They zealously seek you in no good way; nay, they desire to shut you out, that ye may seek them. 18But it is good to be zealously sought in a good matter at all times, and not only when I am present with you. 19My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you-- 20but I could wish to be present with you now, and to change my tone; for I am perplexed about you. 21Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? 22For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the freewoman. 23Howbeit the son by the handmaid is born after the flesh; but the son by the freewoman is born through promise. 24Which things contain an allegory: for these women are two covenants; one from mount Sinai, bearing children unto bondage, which is Hagar. 25Now this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia and answereth to the Jerusalem that now is: for she is in bondage with her children. 26But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother. 27For it is written,

Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not;

Break forth and cry, thou that travailest not:

For more are the children of the desolate than of her that hath the husband.

28Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. 29But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, so also it is now. 30Howbeit what saith the scripture? Cast out the handmaid and her son: for the son of the handmaid shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman. 31Wherefore, brethren, we are not children of a handmaid, but of the freewoman.

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Affectionate Remonstrance. (a. d. 56.)

8 Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service 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 and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?   10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.   11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

In these verses the apostle puts them in mind of what they were before their conversion to the faith of Christ, and what a blessed change their conversion had made upon them; and thence endeavours to convince them of their great weakness in hearkening to those who would bring them under the bondage of the law of Moses.

I. He reminds them of their past state and behaviour, and what they were before the gospel was preached to them. Then they knew not God; they were grossly ignorant of the true God, and the way wherein he is to be worshipped: and at that time they were under the worst of slaveries, for they did service to those which by nature were no gods, they were employed in a great number of superstitious and idolatrous services to those who, though they were accounted gods, were yet really no gods, but mere creatures, and perhaps of their own making, and therefore were utterly unable to hear and help them. Note, 1. Those who are ignorant of the true God cannot but be inclined to false gods. Those who forsook the God who made the world, rather than be without gods, worshipped such as they themselves made. 2. Religious worship is due to none but to him who is by nature God; for, when the apostle blames the doing service to such as by nature were no gods, he plainly shows that he only who is by nature God is the proper object of our religious worship.

II. He calls upon them to consider the happy change that was made in them by the preaching of the gospel among them. Now they had known God (they were brought to the knowledge of the true God and of his Son Jesus Christ, whereby they were recovered out of the ignorance and bondage under which they before lay) or rather were known of God; this happy change in their state, whereby they were turned from idols to the living God, and through Christ had received the adoption of sons, was not owing to themselves, but to him; it was the effect of his free and rich grace towards them, and as such they ought to account it; and therefore hereby they were laid under the greater obligation to adhere to the liberty wherewith he had made them free. Note, All our acquaintance with God begins with him; we know him, because we are known of him.

III. Hence he infers the unreasonableness and madness of their suffering themselves to be brought again into a state of bondage. He speaks of it with surprise and deep concern of mind that such as they should do so: How turn you again, &c., says he, v. 9. "How is it that you, who have been taught to worship God in the gospel way, should not be persuaded to comply with the ceremonial way of worship? that you, who have been acquainted with a dispensation of light, liberty, and love, as that of the gospel is, should now submit to a dispensation of darkness, and bondage, and terror, as that of the law is?" This they had the less reason for, since they had never been under the law of Moses, as the Jews had been; and therefore on this account they were more inexcusable than the Jews themselves, who might be supposed to have some fondness for that which had been of such long standing among them. Besides, what they suffered themselves to be brought into bondage to were but weak and beggarly elements, such things as had no power in them to cleanse the soul, nor to afford any solid satisfaction to the mind, and which were only designed for that state of pupillage under which the church had been, but which had now come to a period; and therefore their weakness and folly were the more aggravated, in submitting to them, and in symbolizing with the Jews in observing their various festivals, here signified by days, and months, and times, and years. Here note, 1. It is possible for those who have made great professions of religion to be afterwards drawn into very great defections from the purity and simplicity of it, for this was the case of these Christians. And, 2. The more mercy God has shown to any, in bringing them into an acquaintance with the gospel, and the liberties and privileges of it, the greater are their sin and folly in suffering themselves to be deprived of them; for this the apostle lays a special stress upon, that after they had known God, or rather were known of him, they desired to be in bondage under the weak and beggarly elements of the law.

IV. Hereupon he expresses his fears concerning them, lest he had bestowed on them labour in vain. He had been at a great deal of pains about them, in preaching the gospel to them, and endeavouring to confirm them in the faith and liberty of it; but now they were giving up these, and thereby rendering his labour among them fruitless and ineffectual, and with the thoughts of this he could not but be deeply affected. Note, 1. A great deal of the labour of faithful ministers is labour in vain; and, when it is so, it cannot but be a great grief to those who desire the salvation of souls. Note, 2. The labour of ministers is in vain upon those who begin in the Spirit and end in the flesh, who, though they seem to set out well, yet afterwards turn aside from the way of the gospel. Note, 3. Those will have a great deal to answer for upon whom the faithful ministers of Jesus Christ bestow labour in vain.




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