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hoped that Christ would profit them some, be of some effect, and they had some dependence on grace, as is implied in the apostle's manner of reasoning in Gal. v. 2, 3, 4. As to their notions of the law of Moses, by which they expected justification, it seems they considered it, not at all as a dispensation preparatory to Christianity, suited to show them their need of Christ, and to lead them to faith in him by types and shadows; but only as a rule of life, to which, if they conformed, they should be saved. And it seems they did not doubt, but that such a conformity to it as they were capable of, would answer the end. Little considering, that if they depended upon their eircumcision, and their other works for life, they were obliged to keep the whole law. Just as, now-adays, there are those who ignorantly imagine, that if they endeavour to do as well as they can, they shall be saved ; little thinking, that if they depend upon their own righteousness for salvation, they ought to yield a perfect obedience, as they would not finally be disappointed.
Had they viewed the law of Moses as a dispensation preparatory to Christianity, they might more readily have seen the propriety of its being abolished, and giving place to the Gospel of Christ; but while they considered it, with all its rites and ceremonies, only as a rule to which they were to conform, as a condition of salvation, Christ only making up for their deficiencies, it was natural to think it of perpetual obligation; and that not only to themselves, but also to the Gentile converts. When therefore they observed St. Paul constantly preaching justification by faith alone without the deeds of the law, and the Gentile .converts received and embraced as good Christians, without their paying any regard to the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic law, they were chagrined, and set up themselves to oppose St. Paul, affirning, o that unless the Gentile converts were circumcised and kept the law of Moses, they could not be saved.” Acts xv. 1. 5.
And as the Jews were, in those early times, the greatest enemies Christianity had, and the most bitter persecutors, enraged to see the rites of Moses' law neglected ; so these Pharisuical Christians, by their zeal for Moses' law, ingratiated themselves very much in the favour of these bitter enemies of Christianity, which made them the more zealous in their way, that they might not only avoid persecution from
, the unbelieving Jews, but also have it to glory in, that they had proselyted so many Gentiles to be circumcised. Gal. vi. 12, 13. So that they were not only bigoted to their scheme by their education while Jews, and attached to it, as it suited their self-righteous temper; but also proud of it, as it freed them from the chief odium of Christianity, and screened them from the malice of its bitterest enemies. And they were in some places more than a match for St. Paul, with all his extraordinary gifts. They raised such a dust at Antioch, as that Paul and Barnabas could not settle the point; but were obliged to refer it to the apostles at Jerusalem. And they made such sad work in the churches in Galatia, that although the converts there once could have even plucked out their eyes, and given to St. Paul, yet they were now much disaffected towards him, and even become his enemies. And these seducers were in eminent danger of even overthrowing Christianity in all that country; which at last obliged St. Paul to write this Epistle to the several churches in Galatia.
II. Now, these were the men the apostle had to deal with; and the method he took, which was wisely adapted to let in light upon their minds and thoroughly convince their judgments, may be fully seen, if we carefully read through this epistle : but I may now only give you a brief and cursory view of some parts of it, just to let you see his manner of address, and his way of reasoning, and how our text is introduced in the thread of the apostle's argument. Which take as follows:
“ This epistle is sent to the churches of Galatia, from Paul, an apostle, who received his mission not of men, neither by men, but immediately from Jesus Christ. ; and it is approved by all the brethren with him, and it comes wishing you all blessings. But I am astonished and greatly marvel, after all the pains I have taken with you to instruct you into the true nature of Christianity, to see you so soon drawn away by these seducers, to quite another kind of a Gospel ; which indeed is no Gospel ; but is a most dangerous scheme.
These seducers, how plausible soever they appear, ought not to be regarded. Yea, if an angel from heaven should preach any other Gospel, than that I have preached, let him be acCURSED. I speak plainly ; for I am no TRIMMER. I do not make it my ultimate end to please man; but inean, in the uprightness of my beart, to be faithful to Jesus Christ. And I know I received the Gospel I preached to you by immediate revelation from God, after, as it was publicly known, I had been exceedingly zealous in the Pharisaical scheme ; being met with in a very extraordinary manner, as I was going to Damascus. Ever since which time I have constantly preached this Gospel ; being instructed not even by any of the Apostles, but by immediate revelation. And I I have constantly maintained, that the Gentiles need not be circumcised, or keep the law of Moses ; and that no man is justified by the deeds of the law, but only by faith in Christ, &c. Chapters i. and ii.
“ Not that I countenance licentiousness. For at the same time, that I through the law am dead to all hopes of justification by the law, I am but hereby prepared to live with a single eye to the glory of God : still having all my hopes of acceptance founded on Christ. And indeed I could not consistently preach up justification by the law. For if I did, I should quite overthrow the Gospel. For if righteousness and justification come by the law, and is to be obtained by our own works, then there was no need of Christ. But he is dead in vain." Chap. ix. 17. 21.
“O foolish, infatuated Galatians, may I not appeal even to your own experience ? Cannot you recollect that an extraordinary out-pouring of the Spirit, in his miraculous gifts, has attended the preaching of the doctrines of grace, and not of the Pharisaical scheme, as in all the churches, so also among you? And is not this a sufficient confirmation that they are from God? And were not even you yourselves, converted to Christianity by these doctrines, attended with a divine ipfiuence? And can you think to perfect yourselves now by going off from this spiritual, divine scheme, to one so mean and low? Chap. iii. 1-5.
“ And this indeed is not any new doctrine. It is the old way of justification. Your father Abraham was, two thousand' years ago, justified in this way. And in this
all his children are justified.” Ver. 6-9.
Besides, you cannot be justified by the law, if you are ever so desirous of it. All your hopes are built upon ignorant and mistaken notions. For it is evident that the law requires sinless perfection under the severest penalty. Therefore, so far from being justified will you be, if you adhere to this way of justification, that every man of you, who does so, will inevitably fall under the curse. For it is expressly written, cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. Ver. 10. And therefore see you remember, that if you are circumcised, and intend to be saved by the law, that you yield a sinless perfection. For I, Paul, assure every man of you that is circumcised under that notion, that he is a debtor to keep the whole law; he is bound to yield a perfect obedience, as he hopes to be saved. For if you go this way to obtain justification, I assure you, whatever you think, Christ will profit you nothing. You shall, however, you may flatter yourselves, have no benefit from him. But must stand, or fall, as yon yield a perfect obedience, or not." Chap. v. 2, 3, 4a.
a An Arminian might justly query_Why did not the Galatians reply to St. Paul, and say, “Sir, you quite abuse us, we have no notion of being justified by law in your sense. We only depend upon our sincere obedience, and hope and expect to receive some benefit from Christ, and free grace, as you are sensible. We are, in the main, exactly of your mind. The dispute is only about words. We mean the same thing you do. For when you say, that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law, you only mean that he is justified by sincere obedience, and not by perfect. And this is just the thing we would. And you yourself know we do not pretend to perfect obedience. Why then do you bear down so very hard upon us ? And even pronounce the man ACCURSED, that teaches our scheme? Pretending that it is so essentially different from yours. We think we obey God in being circumcised, and observing the rites of Moses' law. And you think you obey God in not doing these things. We own we have been too uncharitable in thinking none could be saved, unless they were eircumcised and kept the law of Moses. But if this is all the error we are in, you are fall as uncharitable towards us, to doom us to destruction for such a nistake. Therefore, being now willing to give up this one point as for all the rest, we think your own words will equally suit us both. Roin. xiv. 3, 4. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not. And let not him that eateth not judge him that eateth. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant ? For as to the terms of justification, that one mistake excepted, we are exactly of your miud.”
“ And if to all this you should object, and say, And what was the law given for, if we are not to be justifed by it? I reply, it was given to answer mạny wise ends; as for instance, to check and restrain vice. Chap. iii. 19. But especially to be a school-master, to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. For by the law all sin was forbid under the highest penalty. And so by it we were shut up under sin and condemnation, and shut up to the faith. There was no way to escape the curse, but by faith. All other ways were shut up. And thus the law was to leach us our need of Christ and free grace, and to bring us to look this way for justification and eterual life.” Ver. 22, 23, 24. And thus we see the occasion of the words, and how they were introduced in the thread of the apostle's argument.
111. And now, that we may more fully understand them, let us turn back to the sacred books of Moses, and take a view of the law given on Mount Sinai, that we may see what foundation there was in that dispensation, for this observation of the inspired apostle.
Let us begin with the 19th Chapter of Exodus, and see the particular steps divine wisdom took to introduce that dispensation, after that God had already in general prepared the way for it, by redeeming the children of Israel out of Egypt, by an out-stretched hand, by signs and wonders, and led them through the Red sea. Two months they had now been in
And had St. Paul been in the same scheme with our modern Arminians, I do not see how he could have answered them : being obliged to own, as he would have been, that their notions about justification were right in the main, although he had condemned them by wholesale.
But if St. Paul denied justification by any kind of obedience short of abso. lute perfection, how sincere soever it might be, as it is plain he did ; then there was no room for the Galatians to make this reply to his manner of arguing. Nor is there any more room for the Arminian way of justification by sincere obedience, consistent with the apostle's way of reasoning-For if they will be justified by their obedience, Christ will profit them pothing, will make up for none of their defects. They therefore must yield a perfect obedience, or fall under the curse; but they do not yield a perfect obedience. As many therefore as are not only in head, but in heart, in the Arminian scheme, are under the curse, according to St. Paul. Gal. üi. 10.