on Galatians 6 :18
The grace - Favor, benevolence, and continual influence of the Lord Jesus, be with your spirit - may it live in your heart, enlighten and change your souls, and be conspicuous in your life!
Amen - So let it be; and the prayer which I offer up for you on earth, may it be registered in heaven!
Unto the Galatians, written from Rome - This, or the major part of it, is wanting in the best and most ancient MSS. Written from Rome is wanting in ACDEFG, and others. Claudius Antissiodor, has εγραφη απ' Εφεσου· Written from Ephesus. Some add, by the hands of Paul, others, by Titus. The Syriac has, The end of the Epistle to the Galatians, which was written from the city of Rome. The Aethiopic, To the Galatians. The Coptic, Written from Rome. The Vulgate, nothing. The Arabic, Written from the city of Rome by Titus and Luke.
Little respect is to be paid to these subscriptions. The epistle was written by Paul himself, not Titus, Luke nor Tychicus; and there is no evidence that it was written from Rome, but rather from Corinth or Ephesus. See the preface.
The great similarity between the Epistle to the Romans and that to the Galatians has been remarked by many; and indeed it is so obvious, that the same mode of interpretation may be safely pursued in the elucidation of both; as not only the great subject, but the phraseology, in many respects, is the same. The design of the apostle is to show that God has called the Gentiles to equal privileges with the Jews, pulling down the partition wall that had separated them and the Gentiles, calling all to believe in Christ Jesus, and forming out of the believers of both people one holy and pure Church, of which, equally, himself was the head; none of either people having any preference to another, except what he might derive from his personal sanctity and superior usefulness. The calling of the Gentiles to this state of salvation was the mystery which had been hidden from all ages, and concerning which the apostle has entered into such a laborious discussion in the Epistle to the Romans; justifying the reprobation as well as the election of the Jews, and vindicating both the justice and mercy of God in the election of the Gentiles. The same subjects are referred to in this epistle, but not in that detail of argumentation as in the former. In both, the national privileges of the Jews are a frequent subject of consideration; and, as these national privileges were intended to point out spiritual advantages, the terms which express them are used frequently in both these senses with no change; and it requires an attentive mind, and a proper knowledge of the analogy of faith, to discern when and where they are to be restricted exclusively to one or the other meaning, as well as where the one is intended to shadow forth the other; and where it is used as expressing what they ought to be, according to the spirit and tenor of their original calling.
Multitudes of interpreters of different sects and parties have strangely mistaken both epistles, by not attending to these most necessary, and to the unprejudiced, most obvious, distinctions and principles. Expressions which point out national privileges have been used by them to point out those which were spiritual; and merely temporal advantages or disadvantages have been used in the sense of eternal blessings or miseries. Hence, what has been spoken of the Jews in their national capacity has been applied to the Church of God in respect to its future destiny; and thus, out of the temporal election and reprobation of the Jews, the doctrine of the irrespective and eternal election of a small part of mankind, and the unconditional and eternal reprobation of the far greater part of the human race, has been formed. The contentions produced by these misapprehensions among Christians have been uncharitable and destructive. In snatching at the shadow of religion in a great variety of metaphors and figures, the substance of Christianity has been lost: and the man who endeavors to draw the contending parties to a consistent and rational interpretation of those expressions, by showing the grand nature and design of these epistles, becomes a prey to the zealots of both parties! Where is truth in the mean time? It is fallen in the streets, and equity is gone backwards; for the most sinister designs and most heterodox opinions have been attributed to those who, regarding the words of God only, have refused to swim with either torrent; and, without even consulting their own peculiar creed, have sought to find out the meaning of the inspired writers, and with simplicity of heart, and purity of conscience, to lay that meaning before mankind.
The Israelites were denominated a peculiar treasure unto God, above all people; a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation, Exodus 19:5, Exodus 19:6. A holy people whom he had chosen to be a special people unto himself, above all the people who were upon the face of the earth, Deuteronomy 7:6. This was their calling, this was their profession, and this was their denomination; but how far they fell practically short of this character their history most painfully proves. Yet still they were called a holy people, because called to holiness, (Leviticus 11:44; Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:7), and separated from the impure and degrading idolatries of the neighboring nations.
Under the New Testament, all those who believe in Christ Jesus are called to holiness - to have their fruit unto holiness, that their end may be eternal life; and hence they are called saints or holy persons. And the same epithets are applied to them as to the Israelites of old; they are lively stones, built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ; they are also called a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that should show forth the praises of him who had called them from darkness into his marvelous light, 1 Peter 2:5, 1 Peter 2:9. All this they were called to, all this was their profession, and to have all these excellences was their indisputable privilege.
As they professed to be what God had called them to be, they are often denominated by their profession; and this denomination is given frequently to those who, in experience and practice, fall far short of the blessings and privileges of the Gospel. The Church of Corinth, which was in many respects the most imperfect, as well as the most impure, of all the apostolic Churches, is nevertheless denominated the Church of God, sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called to be saints, 1 Corinthians 1:2. That there were many saints in the Corinthian Church, and many sanctified in Christ Jesus both in it and in the Churches of Galatia, the slightest perusal of the epistles to those Churches will prove: but that there were many, and in the Galatian Churches the majority, of a different character, none can doubt; yet they are all indiscriminately called the Churches of God, saints, etc. And, even in those early times, saint appears to have been as general an appellative for a person professing faith in Christ Jesus, as the term Christian is at the present day, which is given to all who profess the Christian religion; and yet these terms, taken in their strict and proper sense, signify, a holy person, and one who has the Spirit and mind of Christ.
In my notes on the Epistle to the Romans I have entered at large into a discussion of the subjects to which I have referred in these observations; and, to set the subject in a clear point of view, I have made a copious extract from Dr. Taylor's Key to that epistle; and I have stated, that a consistent exposition of that epistle cannot be given but upon that plan. I am still of the same opinion. It is by attending to the above distinctions, which are most obvious to all unprejudiced persons, that we plainly see that the doctrines of eternal, unconditional reprobation and election, and the impossibility of falling finally from the grace of God, have no foundation in the Epistle to the Romans. Dr. Taylor has shown that the phrases and expressions on which these doctrines are founded refer to national privileges, and those exclusive advantages which the Jews, as God's peculiar people, enjoyed during the time in which that peculiarity was designed to last; and that it is doing violence to the sense in which those expressions are generally used, to apply them to the support of such doctrines. In reference to this, I have quoted Dr. Taylor; and those illustrations of his which I have adopted, I have adopted on this ground, taking care never to pledge myself to any peculiar or heterodox opinions, by whomsoever held; and, where I thought an expression might be misunderstood, I took care to guard it by a note or observation.
Now I say that it is in this sense I understand the quotations I have made, and in this sense alone these quotations ought to be understood; and my whole work sufficiently shows that neither Dr. Taylor's nor any person's peculiar theological system makes any part of mine; that, on the doctrine of the fall of man or original sin, the doctrine of the eternal deity of Jesus Christ, the doctrine of justification by faith in the atoning blood, and the doctrine of the inspiration and regenerating influence of the Holy Ghost, I stand on the pure orthodox creed, diametrically opposite to that of the Arians and Socinians. Yet this most distinguishing difference cannot blind me against the excellences I find in any of their works, nor can I meanly borrow from Dr. Taylor, or any other author, without acknowledging my obligation; nor could I suppress a name, however obnoxious that might be, as associated with any heterodox system, when I could mention it with deference and respect. Let this be my apology for quoting Dr. Taylor, and for the frequent use I have made of his industry and learning in my exposition of the Epistle to the Romans. If I have quoted, to illustrate the sacred writings, passages almost innumerable from Greek and Roman heathens; from Jewish Talmudists and rabbinical expositors; from the Koran; from Mohammedan writers, both Arabic and Persian; and from Brahminical polytheists; and these illustrations have been well received by the Christian public; surely I may have liberty to use, in the same way, the works of a very learned man, and a most conscientious believer in the books of Divine revelation, however erroneous he may appear to be in certain doctrines which I myself deem of vital importance to the creed of an experimental Christian. Let it not be said that, by thus largely quoting from his work, I tacitly recommend an Arian creed, or any part of that system of theology peculiar to him and his party; I no more do so than the Indian matron who, while she gives the nourishing farina of the cassava to her household, recommends them to drink the poisonous juice which she has previously expressed from it.
After this declaration, it will be as disingenuous as unchristian for either friends or foes to attribute to me opinions which I never held, or an indifference to those doctrines which (I speak as a fool) stand in no work of the kind, in any language, so fully explained, fortified, and demonstrated, as they do in that before the reader. On such a mode of judgment and condemnation as that to which some resort in matters of this kind, I might have long ago been reputed a Pagan or a Mohammedan, because I have quoted heathen writers and the Koran. And, by the same mode of argumentation, St. Paul might be convicted of having abandoned his Jewish creed and Christian faith, because he had quoted the heathen poets Aratus and Cleanthes. The man is entitled to my pity who refuses to take advantage of useful discoveries in the philosophical researches of Dr. Priestley, because Dr. Priestley, as a theologian, was not sound in the faith.
I have made that use of Dr. Taylor which I have done of others; and have reason to thank God that his Key, passing through several wards of a lock which appeared to me inextricable, has enabled me to bring forth and exhibit, in a fair and luminous point of view, objects and meanings in the Epistle to the Romans which, without this assistance, I had perhaps been unable to discover.
I may add, farther, that I have made that use of Dr. Taylor which himself has recommended to his readers: some of his censors will perhaps scarcely believe that the four following articles constitute the charge with which this learned man commences his theological lectures: -
on Galatians 6 :18
Brethren, the grace ... - See the note at Romans 16:20.
on Galatians 6 :18