19. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
19. Quid igitur Lex? transgressionum causa adjuneta fuit, donee veniret semen, cui promissum fuerat, ordinata per angelos in manu mediatoris.
20. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.
20. Porro mediator unius non est; Deus autem unus est.
21. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
21. Lexne igitur adversus promissiones Dei? absit; nam si data esset Lex, quae posset vivificare, vere ex Lege esset justitia.
22. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
22. Sed conclusit Scriptura omnia sub peccatum, ut promissio ex fide Iesu Christi daretur credentibus.
When we are told that the law has no influence in obtaining justification, various suggestions immediately arise, that it must be either useless, or opposed to God's covenant, or something of that sort. Nay, it might occur, why should we not say of the law, what Jeremiah says of the New Testament, (Jeremiah 31:31,) that it was given at a later period, in order to supply the weakness of the former doctrine? Objections of this kind must be answered, if Paul wished to satisfy the Galatians. First, then, he inquires, -- what is the use of the law? Having come after the promise, it appears to have been intended to supply its defects; and there was room at least for doubting, whether the promise would have been effectual, if it had not been aided by the law. Let it be observed, that Paul does not speak of the moral law only, but of everything connected with the office held by Moses. That office, which was peculiar to Moses, consisted in laying down a rule of life and ceremonies to be observed in the worship of God, and in afterwards adding promises and threatenings. Many promises, no doubt, relating to the free mercy of God and to Christ, are to be found in his writings; and these promises belong to faith. But this must be viewed as accidental, and altogether foreign to the inquiry, so far as a comparison is made between the law and the doctrine of grace. Let it be remembered, that the amount of the question is this: When a promise had been made, why did Moses afterwards add that new condition, "If a man do, he shall live in them;" and, "Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them?" (Leviticus 18:5; Deuteronomy 27:26.) Was it to produce something better and more perfect?
"Until the law," says Paul, "sin was in the world:
but sin is not imputed where there is no law." (Romans 5:13.)
The law came and roused the sleepers, for this is the true preparation for Christ. "By the law is the knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:20.) Why?
"That Sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful." (Romans 7:13.)
Thus, "the law was added because of transgressions," in order to reveal their true character, or, as he tells the Romans, that it might make them to abound. (Romans 5:20.)
This passage has tortured the ingenuity of Origen, but to no purpose. If God summon consciences to his tribunal, that those qualities in their transgression, which would otherwise give them pleasure, may humble them by a conviction of guilt, -- if he shake off the listlessness which overwhelmed all dread of his judgment-seat, -- if he drag to light; sin, which lurked like a thief in the den of hypocrisy, -- what is there in all this that can be reckoned absurd? But it may be objected: "As the law is the rule of a devout and holy life, why is it said to be added 'because of transgressions,' rather than 'because of obedience?'" I answer, however much it may point out true righteousness, yet, owing to the corruption of our nature, its instruction tends only to increase transgressions, until the Spirit of regeneration come, who writes it on the heart; and that Spirit is not given by the law, but is received by faith. This saying of Paul, let the reader remember, is not of a philosophical or political character, but expresses a purpose of the law, with which the world had been always unacquainted.
"There is one Mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus," (1 Timothy 2:5,)
-- but an ambassador employed in promulgating a law.
We are thus to understand, that, since the beginning of the world, God has held no intercourse with men, but through the agency of his eternal Wisdom or Son. Hence Peter says, that the holy prophets spake by the "Spirit of Christ," (1 Peter 1:11,) and Paul makes him the leader of the people in the wilderness. (1 Corinthians 10:4.) And certainly the Angel who appeared to Moses, (Exodus 3:2,) can be no other person; for he claims to himself the peculiar and essential name of God, which is never applied to creatures. As he is the Mediator of reconciliation, by whom we are accepted of God, -- the Mediator of intercession, who opens up for us a way to "call on the Father," (1 Peter 1:17,) -- so he has always been the Mediator of all doctrine, because by him God has always revealed himself to men. And this he intended to state expressly, for the purpose of informing the Galatians, that he who is the foundation of the covenant of grace, held also the highest rank in the giving of the law.
But when I take a closer view of the whole subject, I rather think that it marks a difference between Jews and Gentiles. Christ is not the Mediator of one, because, in respect of outward character, there is a diversity of condition among those with whom, through his mediation, God enters into covenant. But Paul asserts that we have no right to judge in this manner of the covenant of God, as if it contradicted itself, or varied according to the diversities of men. The words are now clear. As Christ formerly reconciled God to the Jews in making a covenant, so now he is the Mediator of the Gentiles. The Jews differ widely from the Gentiles; for circumcision and ceremonies have erected "the middle wall of partition between them." (Ephesians 2:14.) They were "nigh" to God, (Ephesians 2:13,) while the Gentiles were "afar off;" but still God is consistent with himself. This becomes evident, when Christ brings those who formerly differed among themselves to one God, and makes them unite in one body.
Before answering the question, he expresses, in his usual manner, a high disdain of such folly; thus intimating the strong abhorrence with which pious men must regard whatever brings reproach on the Divine character. But another instance of high address, which claims our notice, is found in this turn of expression. He charges his adversaries with the offense of making God contradict himself. For from him the Law and the promises have evidently proceeded: whoever then alleges any contradiction between them blasphemes against God: but they do contradict each other, if the Law justifies. Thus does Paul most dexterously retort upon his adversaries the charge which they falsely and calumniously brought against him.
"He who shall do these things, shall live in them." (Leviticus 18:5.)
Shut out by it, says he, from life through guilt, in vain should we seek salvation by the law. -- The word translated all (
2 "Though some learned men have been of opinion that the mediator here mentioned is the Son of God, yet I think no reasonable doubt can be entertained as to its denoting Moses. Strictly speaking, Aaron, or rather the priesthood, was the mediator of the old covenant. It answers to the Great High-Priest, (ajrciereu>v,) Mediator, (mesi>thv,) and Surety, (e]gguov,) of the new covenant. But the reference seems here to the giving of the law: that was by Moses. 'The law was given by Moses.' (John 1:17.) God speaks to Moses, and Moses speaks to the people; and this arrangement was entered into by the express request of the people themselves. Moses himself says, 'I stood between the Lord and you at that time. (Deuteronomy 5:5.) Philo calls Moses mesi>thv." -- Brown.
3 "This is confessedly one of the most obscure passages in the New Testament, and, perhaps, above all others, '