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THE FIFTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER
THE CROSS OF CHRIST.
Galatians vi. 14.
But GOD FORBID THAT I SHOULD GLORY,
SAVE IN THE CROSS OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, BY WHOM THE WORLD IS CRUCIFIED UNTO ME, AND I UNTO THE WORLD.
In the Epistle for this day, the apostle Paul sums up the whole argument of his epistle to the Galatians. He had written to them for the purpose of warning the Christian church against certain men which came down from Judea, and taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. These men endeavoured to graft Judaism upon Christianity, in order to gain to themselves credit among their countrymen by their zeal for the law of Moses. But while they did this, they subverted the souls of those who had received the
gospel of Christ. The apostle shows the great concern that he felt for the persons to whom his ministry had been useful, his anxiety to prevent them from being deceived by false teachers to the disquietude of their minds, and the hindrance of their salvation. He therefore took the trouble of writing to them a long letter with his own hand. Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand. This appears to have been a considerable undertaking for him, as he usually employed some other person to write what he dictated, and merely wrote with his own hand the salutation at the end of it, as a token of its genuineness. He concludes the second epistle to the Thessalonians with this statement: The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle; so I write. His salutation consisted in the words, The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.17 With a prayer for this best of blessings to be vouchsafed to the church of Christ, St. Paul always concluded his epistles. The person whom he employed to write the epistle to the Romans, makes mention of himself as having been engaged in the work. 1, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.18 It seems as if none of those who were accustomed to write for the apostle were then with him; and therefore he wrote himself, with his own hand; and gave thereby a great proof of his anxiety for the spiritual welfare of the church in Galatia.
17 2 Thess. iii. 17, 18.
18 Rom. xvi. 22.
19 Gal. v. 3.
Having thus shown his affectionate concern for them, he again warns them against the false teachers, who were not only endeavouring to undermine his credit with them, but, what was of infinitely greater consequence, were putting a stumbling block in their way for the subversion of their souls. He exposes the base motives which actuated the conduct of these men. As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. These men seem to have been convinced of the truth of Christianity, but they wished to avoid the persecution which in those days followed the open profession of it. They were desirous of appearing in the eyes of their countrymen as persons who were anxious to make proselytes to Judaism; that they might be honoured by them, instead of suffering reproach as Christians. The apostle shows that these men who were so zealous for the law, or in the cause of circumcision, were not themselves the better for having been brought under its yoke; for neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; although by submitting to that ordinance, they were debtors to do the whole law.19 This being the case, they were exposed to its curse for disobedience, by the engagement into which they had entered, instead of deriving any benefit from it. Their own glory was all their end and aim in preaching up circumcision. They desire to have you
circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. They wished to boast of having persuaded a number of Gentiles to embrace the Jewish religion, and submit to its initiatory rite.
This leads the apostle to make a noble confession of his faith and his only ground of glorying, in the text, to which our attention is to be more particularly directed. He gloried in the cross of Christ alone, in salvation through the crucified Redeemer. For the sake of proclaiming throughout the world pardon and salvation through the blood of the Lamb of God, he was willing to labour and suffer reproach.20 While these men were anxious only to obtain the applause of their countrymen, he was contented to meet the scorn and obloquy of the world, as a follower of Christ. While their object was to gain proselytes for their own honour, his was to gain souls for the honour of his Lord and Master. They desired to make men change their outward profession of religion; he was anxious for them to become new creatures. If this took place, if their hearts were changed, and their lives testified it by a consistency of conduct accompanying that change, it was no matter to him whether they were circumcised or not. For in Christ Jesus neither
circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. If they were new creatures in Christ Jesus, if old things were passed away and all things had become new; and all things were of God, who had reconciled them to Himself by Jesus Christ, 21 this was the change that was most needful to take place. Circumcision could then do them no good, and uncircumcision would do them no harm. Jews and Gentiles were equally welcome to receive from Jesus Christ the blessings which He freely bestows upon all that truly turn to Him.
And therefore the apostle prayed for all such persons, As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and
the Israel of God. The rule of the word of God was that which he was desirous to have followed; and this is, that those who believe in Christ should be new creatures, and as such, careful to maintain good works, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things ,le that as those who are not their own, but are bought with a price, that of the precious blood of Christ, they may glorify God in their body and in their spirit, which are God's.23 That these persons might enjoy peace with God in their consciences, through the peacespeaking blood of Jesus Christ; and have a continual sense of His pardoning mercy, and their reconciliation to Him, was the subject of the
20] Tim.iv.10. 21 2 Cor.v.17,18. 22 Titus iii. 8; ii. 10. 231Cor.vi.20.