תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

haps, like Milton's fallen angel, “all is false and low,” though the "tongue drops manna.” But the apostle spurns all such sophistry, and simply, but sublimely asks, -and would have us ask,—“Do I now seek to please men, or God ?"

In asserting his own freedom from selfish considerations, St. Paul incidentally taxes the false apostles with being governed by these debasing characteristics, their motives being notoriously too corrupt to bear the light. By becoming Jews in external observances, they were able to avoid persecution as Christians, as the Roman emperors had given liberty to the Hebrew people to live according to their own laws, without molestation or disturbance. But this privilege did not extend to the Christians, who were liable to persecution, and often from the Jews themselves, who aroused against them the quickly kindled suspicion of the proconsular governments in Asia. See 1 Thessalonians ii. 14, 15. The whole scheme, therefore, of the judaizing teachers involved a worldly compromise, as well as a perversion of Christian doctrine, and was on both accounts indignantly reprobated. In every age some are to be found who are prepared to go any lengths in the way of compliance rather than endanger their worldly interests; and who can coolly sacrifice to SELF Christ Jesus the Lord! They would be with him upon Mount Tabor, crowned with glory; but not upon Mount Calvary, crowned with thorns. From men like these Paul solemnly separates himself, and shakes them from him, as he once did the viper into the fire, “For we are not as many who corrupt the word of God, but as of sincerity; but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ."

A supreme concern for the favour and friendship of God, as it is the governing principle of the religious life, has always distinguished the favoured servants of Christ. It was this principle of love and loyalty to heaven that induced Moses to relinquish the fleeting honours of a court, and to set at nought alike the treasures of Egypt and the frown of kings; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. This led the fathers of the Reformation, the Waldenses of the Continent, and the Puritans of a succeeding age, to endure obloquy, persecution, and martyrdom itself, rather than surrender the claims of conscience, or renounce their allegiance to the King of kings. And as the same causes must produce the same effects, this principle will induce us to take a decided part in the contest always going on between truth and error, holiness and sin, and to subordinate, whenever the interests of the two come into competition, time to eternity, and earth to heaven. We learn next,

II.—THE SOURCE WHENCE ALL TRUE KNOWLEDGE OF THE GOS

PEL IS TO BE DERIVED, WHETHER AS A MATTER OF DOCTRINE OR AS A MATTER OF EXPERIENCE.

Ver. 11.—“I certify to you, brethren, that the gospel which

was preached of me was not after man, for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

The statement of the apostle is a very comprehensive one; and it is brought forward in such a manner as materially to advance the leading object of the Epistle. He first declares that the gospel is in its own nature divine, “not after man,”—that is, not framed upon the scale and measure of human wisdom; and next, that he received it by direct communication from heaven: not mediately through the hands of erring and fallible men, but immediately from the great Head of the evangelical economy, Jesus Christ himself. This statement obviously serves also to strengthen his argument with the Galatian people; for if the religion itself were from God, this was a fearful aggravation of their sin in perverting it; and, if his own commission were from heaven, which the facts he was about to state confirmed, it added weight and solemnity to the doom he pronounced upon the enemies of Christ in that province. Had he been asked by what authority he used such extreme language, since none but the Sovereign of the universe had either the prerogative to denounce, or the power to inflict, so tremendous a judgment—the answer was at hand. He did it on the same authority by which he proclaimed and published the gospel,—that is, by His express appointment who hath the keys of hell and of death; and he did

no more, as an instrument, than his Master had done before; who, when he gave his apostles the command to go and preach the gospel to every creature, furnished them also with this sanc. tion : “He that believeth shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned. *

But, waving these considerations, observe particularly the great earnestness of St. Paul in establishing the fact of the divine authority of the gospel, and learn from it the high advantage of coming to a settled conviction that the religion we profess is not of man, but of God. This is necessary in a three-fold point of

view:

1. To satisfy our reason as men. -We have great interests suspended upon the credibility of divine revelation ;-our immortal all is at stake, and, consequently, in proportion to the largeness of our hopes must be the vividness of our solicitude that those hopes should be well founded. It is a great thing to know that God has spoken to men, and to know what he has spoken. It is a great thing for nature's darkness to be illuminated with heavenly light-for nature's weakness to be underpropped by heavenly strength-for nature's moral wants to be supplied from a heavenly and inexhaustible fulness. And it were a fearful thing if, as we were lifting the cup of salvation to our lips, our hand should be palsied with doubt, and our hopes should prove like those of the enemies of Zion, as described by the prophet, as a dream or a night vision : “ It shall even be as when a hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty; or, as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite.”

To guard against such uncertainty, the writers of Scripture largely exhibit their credentials, and furnish us, as we have before proved, with the most abundant evidence of the truth of

* "Not after men.” Non est, inquit kat' av@pwaov, hoc est, humano more, vel humano spiritu a me prædicatum evangelium, verum divino more, ac divino Spiritu.. . Hinc sequitur non abs re et immerito denunciatum esse anathema adversus eos qui evangelizent, præter id quod ipse evangelizavit.”

Rollock in loc.

our religion, and the consequent stability of all the hopes that are grounded upon it. St. Paul would have those to whom he wrote take nothing upon trust, but impartially investigate the character and claims of that gospel which was presented to their acceptance. He would have them hold up the pearl to the light before they sought to possess it; and try, by the most rigid tests, the strength of the foundation laid in Zion, before they proceeded to erect upon it the stupendous structure of their eternal salvation. “I speak,” he says, to the members of the church at Corinth, as unto wise men; JUDGE YE what I

say.”

felt peace.

2. To relieve our fears as sinners.-When once we are awakened to a sense of the evil and wretchedness of a sinful course, and begin to feel our own exposure to the threatened displeasure of heaven, it is found to be a much more difficult thing than many imagine, to bring the mind to a sure and heart“To give rest to a troubled conscience,” says

Luther, “is work for him that made the world.” It is well for us, therefore, that in the economy of his grace, God has given to us, not only assurances, but demonstrations, of his ability and willingness to save. He has not left to circuitous induction a doctrine upon which so much depends, as that of our justification and acceptance in his sight; but has substantiated to us, by all the weight of evidence on which the volume of inspiration rests, that it is both “a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." They who are in the habit of attending sick and dying beds, know how difficult it is to bring the mind which had been buoyed up with presumption through life, from sinking into despondency at last. We then find the vast importance of the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, in connexion with the efficacy of the atonement, as illustrating his ability and willingness to save. We shall not easily forget the impression produced upon a much beloved friend, in the closing hours of life, whose mind had been much depressed and agitated respecting the ground of her hope for eternity, by the contemplation of that passage, Isaiah xlv. 22, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else.” And the thought that conveyed the consolation to her mind, was connected not only with the conviction of the heavenly origin of the religion itself, but also of the divinity of the Being who had accomplished and wrought out the salvation promised. “Oh!" she exclaimed, " There is GOD IN IT, that is enough! Nothing less than this would support me now; but this is all-sufficient.” Similar processes of thought and feeling were evidently going on in the apostle's own mind; when, with the terrors of martyrdom before him, he exclaimed, “Nevertheless, I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him, against that day."

3. To promote our usefulness as Christians.-The apostle derived great advantage, both in preaching the word and in the controversies in which he was compelled to engage, from his firm and unwavering faith in the truth of the gospel. He could not but know that he had received this gospel from the highest authority in the universe, and this gave him a confidence in supporting it which nothing else could impart, We may possess, in our own case, a similar satisfaction, if we use diligence in investigating the evidences of our religious principles, and are faithful to the convictions they inspire. This will largely increase our usefulness in the performance of the great Christian duty of communicating those principles to others.

The subject we have contemplated suggests important hints of improvement. It furnishes, for instance, an important test of character, and draws a broad line of distinction between the Christian and the hypocrite. The one seeks to commend himself to man, the other to God. The nominal Christian is satisfied to have the word of God in his hand, the true Christian possesses the love of Christ enthroned in his heart. There is as much difference between a painted flower and a real one, or between a statue and life, as between a man who has experienced the power of godliness, and him who rests contented with its delusive form. The same actions may be performed by the one as by the other, but with aims, and motives, and ends, widely dis

« הקודםהמשך »