Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The apostle teaches them to be tender and affectionate towards any who, through surprise and the violence of temptation, had fallen into sin; and to bear each other's burdens, Gal 6:1, Gal 6:2. To think humbly of themselves, and to conclude concerning their own character rather from the evidence of their works than from any thing else, Gal 6:3-5. To minister to the support of those who instruct them in righteousness, Gal 6:6. He warns them against self-deception, because whatever a man soweth that he shall reap, Gal 6:7, Gal 6:8. Exhorts them not to be weary in well doing, and to embrace every opportunity to do good, Gal 6:9, Gal 6:10. Intimates that his love to them led him to write this whole epistle with his own hand, Gal 6:11. Points out the object that those had in view who wished them to be circumcised, Gal 6:12, Gal 6:13. He exults in the cross of Christ, and asserts that a new creation of the soul is essential to its salvation; and wishes peace to them who act on this plan, Gal 6:14-16. States that he bears in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus, Gal 6:17. And concludes with his apostolical benediction, Gal 6:18.
Brethren, if a man be overtaken - Εαν προληφθη· If he be surprised, seized on without warning, suddenly invaded, taken before he is aware: all these meanings the word has in connections similar to this. Strabo, lib. xvi., page 1120, applies it to the rhinoceros, in its contests with the elephant: he suddenly rips up the belly of the elephant, αν μη προληφθη τῃ προβοσκιδι, that he may not be surprised with his trunk. For, should the elephant seize him with his trunk first, all resistance would be afterwards in vain; therefore he endeavors to rip up the elephant's belly with the horn which is on his nose, in order to prevent this. It is used also by Arrian, in Peripl. Mar. Eryth., page 164, and page 168, to signify a vessel being suddenly agitated and whirled by the waves, and then dashed on the rocks. See Kypke.
Ye which are spiritual - Ye who still retain the grace of the Gospel, and have wisdom and experience in Divine things;
Restore such a one - Καταρτιζετε τον τοιουτον· Bring the man back into his place. It is a metaphor taken from a dislocated limb, brought back by the hand of a skillful and tender surgeon into its place.
In the spirit of meekness - Use no severity nor haughty carriage towards him; as the man was suddenly overtaken, he is already deeply humbled and distressed, and needs much encouragement and lenient usage. There is a great difference between a man who being suddenly assailed falls into sin, and the man who transgressed in consequence of having Walked in the counsel of the Ungodly, or Stood in the way of Sinners.
Considering thyself - Σκοπων σεαυτον· Looking to thyself; as he fell through a moment of unwatchfulness, look about, that thou be not surprised; As he fell, so mayest thou: thou art now warned at his expense; therefore keep a good look out.
Lest thou also be tempted - And having had this warning, thou wilt have less to plead in extenuation of thy offense. It is no wonder if a harsh and cruel censurer of a weak, backsliding brother, should be taught moderation and mercy by an awful proof of his own frailty. Such a one may justly dread the most violent attacks from the arch enemy; he will disgrace him if he can, and if he can overtake him he will have no small triumph. Consider the possibility of such a case, and show the mercy and feeling which thou wouldst then wish to receive from another. From the consideration of what we are, what we have been, or what we may be, we should learn to be compassionate. The poet Mantuanus has set this in a fine light in his Eclogue, De honesto Amore: -
Id commune malum; semel insanivimus omnes:
Aut sumus, aut fuimus, aut possemus omne quod hic est.
"This is a common evil; at one time or other we have all done wrong.
Either we are, or have been, or may be, as bad as he whom we condemn."
Bear ye one another's burdens - Have sympathy; feel for each other; and consider the case of a distressed brother as your own.
And so fulfill the law of Christ - That law or commandment, Ye shall love one another; or that, Do unto all men as ye would they should do unto you. We should be as indulgent to the infirmities of others, as we can be consistently with truth and righteousness: our brother's infirmity may be his burden; and if we do not choose to help him to bear it, let us not reproach him because he is obliged to carry the load.
If a man think himself to be something - i.e. To be a proper Christian man; when he is nothing; being destitute of that charity which beareth, hopeth, and endureth all things. See Co1 13:1, etc. Those who suppose themselves to excel all others in piety, understanding, etc., while they are harsh, censorious, and overbearing, prove that they have not the charity that thinketh no evil; and in the sight of God are only as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. There are no people more censorious or uncharitable than those among some religious people who pretend to more light and a deeper communion with God. They are generally carried away with a sort of sublime, high sounding phraseology, which seems to argue a wonderfully deep acquaintance with Divine things; stripped of this, many of them are like Samson without his hair.
Prove his own work - Let him examine himself and his conduct by the words and example of Christ; and if he find that they bear this touchstone, then he shall have rejoicing in himself alone, feeling that he resembles his Lord and Master, and not in another - not derive his consolation from comparing himself with another who may be weaker, or less instructed than himself. The only rule for a Christian is the word of Christ; the only pattern for his imitation is the example of Christ. He should not compare himself with others; they are not his standard. Christ hath left us an example that we should follow his steps.
Every man shall bear his own burden - All must answer for themselves, not for their neighbors. And every man must expect to be dealt with by the Divine Judge, as his character and conduct have been. The greater offenses of another will not excuse thy smaller crimes. Every man must give account of himself to God.
Let him that is taught in the word - He who receives instructions in Christianity by the public preaching of the word;
Communicate unto him that teacheth - Contribute to the support of the man who has dedicated himself to the work of the ministry, and who gives up his time and his life to preach the Gospel. It appears that some of the believers in Galatia could receive the Christian ministry without contributing to its support. This is both ungrateful and base. We do not expect that a common schoolmaster will give up his time to teach our children their alphabet without being paid for it; and can we suppose that it is just for any person to sit under the preaching of the Gospel in order to grow wise unto salvation by it, and not contribute to the support of the spiritual teacher? It is unjust.
Be not deceived - Neither deceive yourselves, nor permit yourselves to be deceived by others. He seems to refer to the Judaizing teachers.
God is not mocked - Ye cannot deceive him, and he will not permit you to mock him with pretended instead of real services.
Whatsoever a man soweth - Whatsoever kind of grain a man sows in his field, of that shall he reap; for no other species of grain can proceed from that which is sown. Darnel will not produce wheat, nor wheat, darnel.
He that soweth to his flesh - In like manner, he that sows to the flesh - who indulges his sensual and animal appetites, shall have corruption as the crop: you cannot expect to lead a bad life and go to heaven at last. According as your present life is, so will be your eternal life whether your sowing be to the flesh or to the Spirit, so will your eternal reaping be. To sow, here, means transacting the concerns of a man's natural life. To reap, signifies his enjoyment or punishment in another world. Probably by flesh and Spirit the apostle means Judaism and Christianity. Circumcision of the flesh was the principal rite of the former; circumcision in the heart, by the Spirit, the chief rite of the latter; hence the one may have been called flesh, the other, Spirit. He who rejects the Gospel, and trusts only in the rites and ceremonies of the law for salvation, will reap endless disappointment and misery. He who trusts in Christ, and receives the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, shall reap life everlasting.
Let us not be weary - Well-doing is easier in itself than ill-doing; and the danger of growing weary in the former arises only from the opposition to good in our own nature, or the outward hinderances we may meet with from a gainsaying and persecuting world.
In due season we shall reap - As the husbandman, in ploughing, sowing, and variously laboring in his fields, is supported by the hope of a plentiful harvest, which he cannot expect before the right and appointed time; so every follower of God may be persuaded that he shall not be permitted to pray, weep, deny himself, and live in a conformity to his Maker's will, without reaping the fruit of it in eternal glory. And although no man obtains glory because he has prayed, etc., yet none can expect glory who do not seek it in this way. This is sowing to the Spirit; and the Spirit and the grace are furnished by Christ Jesus, and by him the kingdom of heaven is opened to all believers; but only those who believe, love, and obey, shall enter into it.
As we have - opportunity - While it is the time of sowing let us sow the good seed; and let our love be, as the love of Christ is, free, manifested to all. Let us help all who need help according to the uttermost of our power; but let the first objects of our regards be those who are of the household of faith - the members of the Church of Christ, who form one family, of which Jesus Christ is the head. Those have the first claims on our attention, but all others have their claims also, and therefore we should do good unto all.
Ye see how large a letter - There is a strange diversity of opinions concerning the apostle's meaning in this place. Some think he refers to the length of the epistle, others to the largeness of the letters in which this epistle is written, others to the inadequacy of the apostle's writing. It appears plain that most of his epistles were written by an amanuensis, and simply subscribed by himself; but the whole of the Epistle to the Galatians was written by his own hand. To say that the apostle was unskilled in Greek, and especially in the Greek characters, is in my opinion absurd. He was born in Tarsus, a city which, according to Strabo, rivaled both Athens and Alexandria in philosophy, and in arts and sciences; and therefore he could not be ignorant of a tongue which must have been the very means of conveying all this instruction. As to writing it, there was in his time nothing difficult, because the uncial character was that which was alone in use in those days, and this character is as easily made as the capitals in the Roman alphabet, which have been taken from it. I conclude, therefore, that what the apostle says must be understood of the length of the epistle, in all probability the largest he had ever written with his own hand; though several, much larger, have been dictated by him, but they were written by his scribe or amanuensis.
A fair show in the flesh - The Jewish religion was general in the region of Galatia, and it was respectable, as it appears that the principal inhabitants were either Jews or proselytes. As it was then professed and practiced among the Jews, this religion had nothing very grievous to the old man; an unrenewed nature might go through all its observances with little pain or cross-bearing. On the other hand, Christianity could not be very popular; it was too strict. A Jew made a fair show there, according to his carnal system, and it was a temptation to a weak Christian to swerve into Judaism, that he might be exempted from persecution, and be creditable among his countrymen. This is what the apostle intimates: "They constrain you to be circumcised, lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ."
Neither they themselves who are circumcised - They receive circumcision and profess Judaism, not from a desire to be conformed to the will of God; but Judaism was popular, and the more converts the false teachers could make; the more occasion of glorying they had, and they wished to get those Christian converts, who had been before proselytes of the gate, to receive circumcision, that they might glory in their flesh. Behold my converts! Thus they gloried, or boasted, not that the people were converted to God, hut that they were circumcised.
But God forbid that I should glory - Whatever others may do, or whatever they may exult or glory in, God forbid that I should exult, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; in the grand doctrine, that justification and salvation are only through Christ crucified, he having made an atonement for the sin of the world by his passion and death. And I glory, also, in the disgrace and persecution which I experience through my attachment to this crucified Christ.
By whom the world is crucified unto me - Jewish rites and Gentile vanities are equally insipid to me; I know them to be empty and worthless. If Jews and Gentiles despise me, I despise that in which they trust; through Jesus, all are crucified to me - their objects of dependence are as vile and execrable to me, as I am to them, in whose sight these things are of great account.
In Christ Jesus - Under the dispensation of the Gospel, of which he is head and supreme, neither circumcision - nothing that the Jew can boast of, nothing that the Gentile can call excellent, availeth any thing - can in the least contribute to the salvation of the soul.
But a new creature - Αλλα καινη κτισις· But a new creation; not a new creature merely, (for this might be restrained to any new power or faculty), but a total renewal of the whole man, of all the powers and passions of the soul; and as creation could not be effected but by the power of the Almighty, so this change cannot be effected but by the same energy; no circumcision can do this; only the power that made the man at first can new make him. See the note on Co1 7:19, and on Co2 5:17 (note).
As many as walk according to this rule - Τῳ κανονι τουτῳ· This canon; viz. what is laid down in the preceding verses, that redemption is through the sacrifice of Christ; that circumcision and uncircumcision are equally unavailable; and that none can be saved without being created anew. This is the grand canon or rule in Christianity.
Peace be on them - Those who act from this conviction will have the peace and mercy of God; for it is in this way that mercy is communicated and peace obtained.
The Israel of God - The true Christians, called here the Israel of God, to distinguish them from Israel according to the flesh. See the notes on Rom 2:29; Rom 4:12 (note).
From henceforth let no man trouble me - Put an end to your contentions among yourselves; return to the pure doctrine of the Gospel; abandon those who are leading you astray; separate from the Church those who corrupt and disturb it; and let me be grieved no longer with your defections from the truth.
I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus - The στιγματα, stigmata, of which the apostle speaks here, may be understood as implying the scars of the wounds which he had received in the work of the ministry; and that he had such scars, we may well conceive, when we know that he had been scourged, stoned, and maltreated in a variety of ways. The writer could show such scars himself, received in the same way. Or, the apostle may allude to the stigmata or marks with which servants and slaves were often impressed, in order to ascertain whose property they were. A Burman servant often has indelible marks on his thighs and elsewhere, which ascertain to whose service he belongs. "Do not trouble me; I bear the marks of my Lord and Master, Jesus; I am his, and will remain so. You glory in your mark of circumcision; I glory in the marks which I bear in my body for the testimony of the Lord; I am an open, professed Christian, and have given full proof of my attachment to the cause of Christianity."
The first sense appears to be the best: "I have suffered already sufficiently; I am suffering still; do not add any more to my afflictions."
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, Exo 19:5, Exo 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, Deu 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, (Lev 11:44; Lev 19:2; Lev 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, Pe1 2:5, Pe1 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, Co1 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: -
I. "I do solemnly charge you, in the name of the God of truth, and of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life, and before whose judgment seat you must in no long time appear, that, in all your studies and inquiries of a religious nature, present or future, you do constantly, carefully, impartially, and conscientiously attend to evidence, as it lies in the Holy Scriptures, or in the nature of things and the dictates of reason, cautiously guarding against the sallies of imagination, and the fallacy of ill-grounded conjecture.
II. "That you admit, embrace, or assent to no principle or sentiment, by me taught or advanced, but only so far as it shall appear to you to be justified by proper evidence from revelation, or the reason of things.
III. "That if at any time hereafter any principle or sentiment by me taught or advanced, or by you admitted or embraced, shall, upon impartial and faithful examination, appear to you to be dubious or false, you either suspect or totally reject such principle or sentiment.
IV. "That you keep your mind always open to evidence; that you labor to banish from your breast all prejudice, prepossession, and party zeal; that you study to live in peace and love with all your fellow Christians; and that you steadily assert for yourself, and freely allow to others, the unalienable rights of judgment and conscience." - Taylor's Scheme of Scripture Divinity, preface, page vi.
Thus I have done with Dr. Taylor's works; and thus I desire every intelligent reader to do with my own.
When I was a child I had for a lesson the following words: Despise not advice, even from the meanest; the cackling of geese once preserved the Roman state. And since I became a man, I have learned wisdom from that saying: Blessed are ye who sow beside All Waters; that send forth thither the feet of the Ox and the Ass. May He, who is the way, the truth, and the life, lead the reader into all truth, and bring him to life everlasting! Amen.
Finished the correction for a new edition, Dec. 14th, 1831. - A. C.