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Christ died for us. For when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son.: With what heartfelt gratitude to our Divine Redeemer ought the consideration of this subject to inspire us, and how powerfully ought it to influence us to render a willing obedience to all that is required of us in return for such unmerited and unparalleled kindness and love.
Upon this consideration the apostle founds his exhortation in the text, to which our attention is to be directed in the
Last place: Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children, and walk in love. When we speak of a child following the steps of his parent, we mean that he imitates the example which had been set before him. This is the idea here introduced. If we are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, God for Christ's sake hath forgiven us our trespasses, and hath adopted us into His family, and is to us the God of love and mercy. If this unspeakable blessedness be our portion, it becomes us to act towards our fellow- . creatures as God has acted to us, to be followers or imitators of Him, as His dear or beloved children ought to be. We are to be kind and tenderhearted towards each other, and ready to forgive those who may have offended us, and to walk in love towards all mankind; not in that spurious love which falsely bears the name, and displays itself in fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the
mind; but in that which consists in universal goodwill and benevolence, a readiness to do good both to the souls and bodies of all around us as we may have opportunity. That is the greatest love which has respect to the souls of our fellowcreatures, and evinces a desire for their eternal welfare and salvation. This is a feeling which should not be confined to the ministers of the gospel of Christ, but should be manifested by all who have tasted that the Lord is gracious ; they should be anxious that all with whom they are connected in life, may be made partakers of the same blessedness which has been vouchsafed to their own souls; that those who are asleep in sin may be awakened, that those who are dead to God may be quickened by His almighty power and grace. They should be ready to address all such in the language of the word of God, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. He will enlighten you by His grace. He will quicken you by His Spirit. Go to Christ, and He will bless you. May the exhortations of the holy scriptures sink deep into our minds, that we may comply with them, and thus manifest ourselves to be the children of our Father which is in heaven; and that living to His glory and showing forth His praise, we may be blessed by Him in this life and in that which is to come.
THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT.
Galatians iv. 31.
SO THEN, BRETHREN, WE ARE NOT CHILDREN
OF THE BONDWOMAN, BUT OF THE FREE.
The Epistle to the Galatians was written by the apostle Paul, for the purpose of warning those who had embraced the doctrines of Christianity by his instrumentality, to beware of false teachers, who had gone among them while he went to other regions, and had endeavoured to undermine his character, and to persuade them that it was necessary for believers in Christ to be circumcised and to keep the law of Moses. It appears that the faith of many persons had been subverted by means of these false teachers; and even some of those who had previously expressed the strongest attachment to the apostle and to the
doctrines which he taught. So great had been the regard which they professed to feel for him, that he says, I bear you record that if it had been possible ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.9 In return the apostle shows them the interest which he took in their spiritual welfare. He addresses them, My little · children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you. But he intimates that the alteration which had taken place in their conduct, had somewhat weakened this bond of tender and warm affection. I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you. He was anxious to visit them again, that he might ascertain the truth of the , reports which he had heard respecting them, and might reprove or admonish them accordingly.
But in the mean time he shows them, in the Epistle for this day, the difference between the Jewish and the Christian dispensations, by referring to a circumstance in the history of the patriarch Abraham, which was recorded in the first book of Moses. This he calls an allegory, or a representation which had a typical meaning, from which it was to be inferred that under the patriarchal dispensation the blessings of the Christian covenant were historically represented; and that an intimation had been given that the
9 Galatians iv. 15, 19, 20.
Mosaical or Levitical dispensation, which was about to be introduced, was one of bondage, which would afterwards be set aside, when the promise made to Abraham should be accomplished by the coming of the Deliverer, in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed.10
This being the case, the apostle calls upon them, Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law ? You profess to be devotedly attached to the law of Moses, listen then to what he says. You may learn from him, that his dispensation was to be superseded by a better covenant. For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a free woman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh, but he of the freewoman was by promise. This is a matter of historical record, brought forward for the purpose of affording an illustration of the subject. Not that such conduct would be justifiable now, under the Christian dispensation, whether it was then correct or not. The apostle, having related this fact, calls it an allegory, into the explanation of which he then enters, and makes an application of it in the text, for the purpose of enforcing the exhortation with which the next chapter commences, but which ought to have been the conclusion of this, as it is the inference drawn from the allegory.
10 Genesis xxii. 18. Galatians jii. 8.