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There is also a principle in the human mind which induces mankind to endeavour to expiate their sins by outward observances. From the mixture of light and darkness in fallen man, he is in some measure aware of the demerit of sin, and endeavours by various devices to deliver himself from its consequences.
Hence the self-inflicted torments of the Hindoos; hence the offering of their children to avert the anger of their gods; and hence, also, the confidence which Roman Catholics place in the efficacy of penance.
But the blindness of fallen man may be traced, not only in the torments of the Hindoos, or the lighter penances of Popery, but in the conduct of Protestants; many of whom suppose that the application of a little water to the face of an infant can affect the eternal state of a rational creature ; or that the eating of a consecrated wafer, or a bit of consecrated bread, can recommend a sinner to the favour of God; in short, that any external appliances can make a difference in the matter of our acceptance with God. The observances to which we have referred, are a parody on the ordinances of Christ. The baptism enjoined by the Lord is a reasonable service; it is the profession of our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as our Substitute. In this ordinance the believer puts on Christ. He professes that he is dead, but that his life is hid with Christ in God, and that he is begotten to a lively hope of having fellowship with Christ in his resurrection.
The Lord's-supper exhibits the separation of believers from the world, and their union in Christ their Lord, by their partaking of the same bread. Thus, too, their eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of man is symbolized. As the body is nourished by bread, so the life of God in the soul
1 Gal. iii. 27.
2 Col. iii. 3.
3 1 Cor. x, 17.
implanted in the day of regeneration—is maintained by the doctrine of the incarnation and death of Christ. All Christ's ordinances are calculatedto streng then the faith of his people; but when viewed as efficacious, merely as external rites,—separated, as they frequently are, from the great truths of the atonement, and of the believer living by faith in Christ,—so far from being subservient, they are diametrically opposed to the truth of the Gospel, and give a completely false view of the way of salvation.
There is nothing which more clearly manifests the utter blindness and ignorance of fallen man, than his proneness to have recourse to outward ceremonies, in order to acceptance with God. God is a Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth; but the blindness of men's minds leads them to trust in forms and ceremonies, and to suppose that turning their face towards the east or the west, is of much avail in addressing Him who filleth all in all. The beauty of the ordinances of Christ can only be perceived through the influence of the Spirit, and all who have not the Spirit, pervert them, by making a righteousness of an empty form.
There is one very important matter which is more fully illustrated in the epistle to the Galatians than in any other part of the New Testament, namely, the covenant with Abraham. Here we are taught that, when we read of the promises made to Abraham and his seed, we are not to understand his posterity, but Christ, who was to spring from him. Accordingly, we find that the carnal or external accomplishment of the promises was confined to that branch of Abraham's family from which Christ was to spring. His other seven sons had no more interest in the promises than the rest of the world. They might become the children of Abraham by faith, but their carnal relation to him gave
them no pre-eminence over the Gentiles, to which class, although Abraham's children, they actually belonged. In exact correspondence with this, the spiritual accomplishment of the promises, adoption into God's family, and the heavenly inheritance, are confined to those in whose heart Christ dwells by faith, who are one with Him, members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones, and likewise one Spirit with Him."
We are also indebted to this Epistle for the interpretation of that beautiful allegory contained in the history of Sarah and Hagar. Their differences were not, as we might suppose, merely the effect of jealousy, from the peculiar circumstances in which they stood, but a prophetic intimation of Israel after the flesh being cast out of the household of God, and of the covenant on which all their privileges were founded, waxing old and vanishing away, so that God de-. clared, ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.”
This Epistle, and that to the Hebrews, contain a full exposition of the Mosaic dispensation, and its relation to the kingdom of Christ. Had these espistles been understood, the corruption of the Gospel, and the ordinances of Christ, would not have taken place; but in them and the rest of the New Testament, a high way is prepared for the followers of Jesus to retrace their steps, and to be guided by “the pattern showed to them in the mount," where the voice from the excellent glory proclaimed, " This is my beloved Son, HEAR HIM !” Straightway the representatives of the old dispensation vanished. Moses and Elias had served their generation, by the will of God; they were the heralds of Christ's approach ; and when he was declared to be the Son of God, they were no more to be seen; while He alone
1 Eph. v. 30.; I Cor. vi. 17.
2 Hos. i. 9.
remained, the Prophet, Priest, and King of his Church, to whom the disciples were commanded to yield implicit obedience.
In the following remarks on this Epistle, the Author has not confined himself to a bare Exposition of the text. He has dwelt upon such subjects as he thought might be generally useful. He has said nothing of the time when the Epistle was written, being satisfied that no more than an approximation to the truth respecting the dates of the Epistles can be obtained, and being also assured, that, had it been necessary for the edification of the people of God, positive information would have been given on the subject.
Should what he has written prove useful in leading any of the Lord's people to a more diligent study of the Scriptures, and to a clearer understanding of the relation of the old and new covenants, his object will be attained.
EDINBURGH, April 1848.