1 He moveth them to stand in their liberty, 3 and not to observe circumcision: 13 but rather love, which is the sum of the law. 19 He reckoneth up the works of the flesh, 22 and the fruits of the Spirit, 25 and exhorteth to walk in the Spirit.
TAND fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Douay Rheims Version
He exhorts them to stand to their Christian liberty. Of the fruits of the flesh and of the spirit.
TAND fast and be not held again under the yoke of bondage.
2. Behold, I Paul tell you, that if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
3. And I testify again to every man circumcising himself that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
6. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing nor uncircumcision: but faith that worketh by Charity.
7. You did run well. What hath hindered you, that you should not obey the truth?
i. S. Paul proceeds to urge the Galatians not to submit to the yoke of the Old Law, lest they be deprived of the fruits of Christ’s righteousness, since in Him neither circumcision nor uncircumcision will avail anything, but only faith which worketh by love.
ii. He invites them (ver. 13) to Christian liberty, and shows that it is based on charity, which causes him to pass from the dogmatic to the ethical portion of the Epistle.
iii. He points out (ver. 17) how the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and then he enumerates the works of each respectively.
Ver. 1.—Be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. You once served idols and devils: why do you now wish to serve the shadows and burdensome ceremonies of the Mosaic law? The Greek for entangled is rendered by the Vulgate contained, by Vatablus implicated, by Erasmus ensnared. The Judaisers, says S. Paul, are enticing you to their law as into a net, in which, if you are once entangled, you will be unable to escape from its legal windings and toils.
Ver. 2.—If ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. If you trust to circumcision as necessary to salvation, Christ and His religion will be of no avail to you; but you seem to be putting your trust in this under the tuition of the Judaisers, although you were Gentiles, and baptized as such. Why do you tack on circumcision to baptism now? There can be no other reason for this proceeding except your belief that baptism by itself is insufficient, and needs to be supplemented by circumcision. Certainly you have not the Jews’ pretext that they use circumcision in deference to their law. This may be good excuse for them; it is none for you.
Ver. 3.—I testify. He who is circumcised thereby proclaims his allegiance to the Jewish Church, its laws and its obligations, just as one who is baptized does with regard to the Christian Church. The Apostle is seeking to dissuade the Galatians by a reason drawn from the burdensome character of the yoke of the Mosaic law.
Ver. 4.—Christ is become of no effect unto you. You are outside the redemption wrought by Christ, deprived of His merits, and void of His grace.
Whosoever of you are justified by the law. Who seek for righteousness from circumcision and other legal rites. By distrusting the grace of Christ and preferring the law, you have treated Christ with ingratitude, and in consequence He has withdrawn His grace from you. The Galatians, says S. Paul, were once filled with the grace of Christ, like a well with water; but they have now emptied it all out, and so lost the fruits of His Passion. Or, to put it in another way, Christ has emptied His Church of them, because of their want of faith. [Note.—The Vulgate rendering here is evacuati estis.]
Vatablus [as A.V.] interprets the term to mean that Christ had become of no effect, His labour had been thrown away, His Passion made fruitless by the withdrawal of His grace. The very name of Christian was no longer due to them, and should be dropped; or if they wished to retain it, they must say farewell to the law. Cf. a similar expression in Rom. vii. 6.
Ver. 5.—For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. This is to prove that the Judaisers, in seeking to be justified by the law, are no longer Christians; for we, he says, who are Christians indeed look for the promised righteousness, not from the law, but from the Spirit, through faith in Christ.
It is faith which excites hope, and so causes a man to pray for that grace by which we are justified. Some take the hope of righteousness here for eternal glory, which we hope to obtain through righteousness. Others, and better, take it to be that righteousness which we all pray and sigh for, which the Jews seek through their law, and Christians from Christ.
Ver. 6.—For in Christ Jesus, &c. In the Church neither Judaism nor Gentilism is of any avail towards the life of holiness and bliss. Judaism is depreciated here by being classed with Gentilism. The only effectual power is faith—not a faith that is barren of works, but that which worketh by love, and manifests itself in works of charity. Such a faith was that of the Magdalene when she bathed Christ’s feet with her tears. But a faith which shows no works of charity is, as Anselm says, the faith, not of Christians, but of devils. The Protestants who attribute justification to faith alone should remark this. Our brother Campian, the martyr of England, when in prison and disputing with the Lutherans, refuted them by this syllogism: That faith which avails before God to justify is, as the Apostle testifies, a faith which worketh by love; therefore it is obvious that it is united to charity. But the justifying faith of the Lutherans is not a faith that worketh by love, for it is, they say, alone, and hence is not accompanied by charity; therefore, the faith which they lay down is not a faith that justifies before God. To say, then, that faith is alone, and that such a faith justifies, is a contradiction. If faith is to justify, it must be accompanied by charity; and when it is so accompanied it is no longer alone.
It should be remarked that faith does not work by means of charity as an efficient cause works by its instrument, but in the way that beat in the form of fire kindles wood. Faith through charity does good works, by performing acts of charity towards God and our neighbour, and by determining, the nature of acts of other virtues. For charity is not an essential but an accidental form, which gives to faith and all good works their life, validity, and merit, in due relation to their ultimate end. It gives to faith and all other virtues (1.) their character of virtue. Where charity is, vice cannot be; but virtue reigns enthroned as queen by charity, which ennobles also every act, so that the man under its sway may be called absolutely virtuous, righteous, and holy. (2.) Charity also gives the acts of virtue their dignity and power of winning merit, for it makes a man the friend and son of God, and so dignifies his works that God promises them eternal rewards. (3.) Charity also determines the relation of the various acts of virtue to their ultimate end, inasmuch as it directs to God the whole man, and all that he does, says, or thinks. So S. Thomas.
The Greek word for worketh denotes internal efficacy, hidden power. Faith informed by charity, having charity as its soul, by its inward and spiritual power, worketh the living works of virtue.
Ver. 7.—Ye did run well. In the teaching of Christ, as in an arena a runner strives to win the appointed prize.
Who did hinder you? Or, as S. Anselm renders it, Who did bewitch you, to start aside from your Christian course, and to run after Judaism?
Ver. 8.—This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. The counsel given you by the Jews, that the ceremonies of the law are necessary to salvation, cometh not from God the Father, who hath called you through Christ, but from the devil and his angels. So Anselm.
Ver. 9.—A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. A little leaven communicates its bitterness to the whole mass of meal. This is a maxim describing the way that a vicious part spoils the whole, and of course is capable of general application. In 1 Cor. v. 6 it is applied to the fornicator who was corrupting the whole Corinthian Church, and here it is applied to the Judaisers, who are being dealt with throughout this chapter, and declares that they are corrupting the whole of the Galatian Church. Jerome says: “Arius in Alexandria was but a single spark, but not being at once extinguished, he grew to a flame, and devastated the whole world. For their word eateth the body as a canker, and the rot in a single sheep infects the whole flock.”
The maxim may be yet more fitly applied to the doctrine itself of the Judaisers, in the sense that a single error in the faith, such as that about the necessity of the law, overturns the whole faith. Chrysostom and Theophylact apply it, yet more particularly, to circumcision, the receipt of which acts like leaven, and corrupts the whole lump. Their application is supported by the fact that the Apostle, in vers. 2, 4, and 6, is treating of circumcision, and declares that he who is circumcised is debtor to the whole law. The Judaisers, however, seem to have persuaded the Galatians that circumcision was not a matter of great moment, and to have passed lightly over the onerous character of the burdens to which those who were circumcised subjected themselves. On the contrary, Paul here lays bare their artifice, and declares circumcision to denote a profession of the whole of the Jewish law, and to be a corruption of Christianity as a whole, on the ground that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
Ver. 10.—I have confidence in you. I trust the Lord to stablish you in the faith you have received, and to save you from believing aught save what I have taught you, and from following these new teachers and their novel doctrines.
But he that troubleth you. He who is stirring up this strife, and tending the whole Church, shall bear the punishment which God in His wrath shall inflict on those who teach heresy. By metonymy, judgment is put for punishment.
Ver. 11.—And I, brethren, if I yet preach. This is a reply to the calumny of the Judaisers, that Paul Judaised among the Jews, and opposed Judaism among the Gentiles. He asks, if this be so, why the Jews should so persecute him, and implies that the real reason is that he publicly opposes them, and condemns circumcision, so as to establish the Gospel.
Then is the offence of the cross ceased. If what they say of me is true, then they are not offended at the Cross which I preach, for they themselves wish to seem Christians, provided only that the Mosaic law may be taken into partnership with the Cross. Nay, the stricter Jews, whose only concern is for Judaism, oppose the preaching of the Cross only because it overturns their law, so much so that they would cease to persecute me if I would combine the law and the Cross. But since, as a matter of fact, they are offended at my preaching, it is obvious that I openly preach the abolition of the law by the Gospel, and the sole sufficiency of the Cross for salvation.
Ver. 12.—I would that they were even cut off which trouble you. Cut off from the Church and your fellowship, lest they corrupt the whole. Cf. 1 Cor, v. 3. This is the obvious meaning, and one befitting the dignity of an apostolic writer. However, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Jerome, Augustine, and others understand it of the total deprivation of the organ to which circumcision is applied, so as to bring it more closely within the scope of the whole passage, in which circumcision is the main topic.
It may be asked how the Apostle can rightly imprecate a curse on the Judaisers, since this is opposed to charity, and is a mark of impatience and of a revengeful temper. “So detestable,” says Jerome, “is the act of castration, that whoever inflicts it on a man against his will, or on himself, ought to be accounted infamous.”
1. Jerome replies that the Apostle said this as a man and in passion; but God forbid that an Apostle, and one especially who was moved by the Holy Spirit, should so speak. Accordingly, Jerome gives another answer, according to which, like Peter to Simon Magus (Acts viii. 20), and Elisha to the children who mocked him (2 Kings ii. 24), he spoke, not in anger, but partly in zeal for righteousness, partly in love, and entreated that they might be punished through their sin, i.e., through circumcision, and so, when punished, be purged of their shame.
2. Chrysostom and Theophylact say that the Apostle is not imprecating a curse, but speaking jestingly, as much as to say, If they insist on it, let them be not only circumcised, but wholly cut off.
3. S. Augustine and Anselm think that there is no curse here but a blessing, as if he were to say, Would that the Jews would become spiritual eunuchs by chastity for the kingdom of heaven’s sake, and cease to preach Jewish circumcision, fixing their thoughts instead on heavenly things, and on the law of Christ, as the way to attain them. Of these three explanations the second of Jerome’s is the best.
Origen castrated himself to prevent the motions of lust disturbing his chastity, but, as Chrysostom rightly says, wrongly; for this is not taught by the Apostle, nor is it the members of the body but our vices that are to be cut off, otherwise it would be lawful to destroy our eyes, ears, and tongue. Moreover, castration does not destroy lust, but sometimes increases it, as S. Basil says in his treatise on Virginity. Cf. Ecclus. xx. 2, and xxx. 21.
Which trouble you. Who would rob you of your evangelical liberty.
Ver. 13.—Ye have been called unto liberty. Liberty from the burden of so many useless ceremonies of the law. Christian liberty throughout the Epistle is contrasted with Jewish slavery.
It is obvious, therefore, how grossly the Protestants pervert the Apostle’s words, when they argue from this that Christians are free from all positive law, and owe no obedience to prelates, to magistrates, or to parents. This is contrary to the law of nature and the Decalogue, subversive of all civil government, of all ecclesiastical order, of all human society. There has never been a nation, however barbarous, without its magistrates and laws, nor without them could the peace be kept, nor any nation continue, as all nations have clearly seen. If once men are persuaded that the civil or the ecclesiastical law does not oblige in conscience, but only as its sanctions constrain our fears, they will violate the law without any scruple, whenever they think it safe to do so. Accordingly, Christ, Paul, and the Apostles in general frequently order Christians to obey Cæsar and other unbelieving magistrates, not only for wrath’s sake, but also for conscience’s sake. Cf. Rom. xiii.
It may be objected that at all events, by parity of reasoning, Christians, since they live under a law of liberty, ought to be free from subjection to so many canons and rules, the burden of which is equal to that imposed by the older law. I answer that no just comparison can be drawn—(1.) Because the laws of the Church, so far as they concern the laity, are much fewer in number, and are all reducible to the five precepts of the Church. The canons, it is true, which deal with the clergy, are more numerous, but no one is obliged by them unless he, of his own tree will, chooses to become a clerk. Moreover, it is the duty of the Pope and the Bishops to see that the number of canons and censures be reduced rather than added to. Many men of unquestioned piety are anxious lest too heavy a burden of rules be laid on the clergy, and so become a snare to them. (2.) Because the older laws were more burdensome and more difficult of observance, as may be seen in the number of sacrifices and lustrations. (3.) Because they were shadows of the laws of the New Testament. These latter, therefore, as being of easier observance, succeed to the former; and, surely, it is better to serve the reality than to serve shadows. (4.) The older laws were unable to excite internal piety, and could only keep the people from idolatry, as the Fathers lay down unanimously; but the laws of the Church are ordained for the special purpose of exciting piety, as is clearly shown by the laws about fasting, hearing Mass, confessing, and communicating.
Only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh. Do not (as the Protestants in our time are doing) use your freedom from Jewish ceremonies as an excuse for rushing into the lusts of the flesh. Do not let the flesh take what the Jew has been forced to give up.
But by love serve one another. As Chrysostom says: “Having removed one yoke, he, lest they should wax wanton, imposes another, the yoke of charity, so much the more strong as it is more light and pleasant.” Do not, says the Apostle, serve ceremonies, nor yet the flesh; I would have you free from both, and subject to one another through the spirit of love. The love of the Spirit is opposed to that love of the flesh so much boasted of by Adamites and other obscene sectaries.
1. The Apostle, as Chrysostom says, here cuts at the root of the evil, viz., the heresy and schism which induced some of the Galatians to try and draw others away to Judaism, and declares it to be pride and the love of power. He then applies the remedy, viz., charity.
“Since you have been torn asunder, while you were trying to get the mastery one over the other, now serve one another and return to unity. As fire melts wax, so does love more readily disperse all pride and arrogance” (Chrysostom in loco).
2. Chrysostom does not here say love one another, but serve one another, because charity makes men servants, not by compulsion, but by glad choice, even to the extent of performing the meanest services for the poor and the afflicted. This holy and free service is not bondage, but a noble freedom, to be sought for by all Christians.
3. From the liberty of the law and the liberty of the flesh the Apostle now passes, by an easy transition, to the second part of the Epistle. From doctrine he proceeds to morals, with the view of improving the conduct of the Galatians.
Ver. 14.—For all the law is fulfilled in one word. That is, the whole law so far as it concerns our neighbour, or according to what was said in the preceding verse, as we serve one another. Cf. Rom. xiii. 8. S. Augustine (de Trin. lib. viii.), S. Thomas, Anselm, however, say that the whole law rests on the love of God or of our neighbour, but that the latter presupposes the former, inasmuch as our neighbour is to be loved for the sake of God. Therefore he who loves his neighbour both fulfils the law, which says, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and also loves God and fulfils the law, which says, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.
Ver. 15.—But if ye bite and devour one another. Beware, if you attack one another with calumnies, lest you be mutually consumed. Two men calumniating and enviously pursuing each other are like two dogs fighting, and biting each other. They consume each other, nay, they devour themselves. Well said the poet: “Than envy nothing is more just, for it forthwith bites and tortures its author.” And therefore: “Than envy not even Sicilian tyrants have found a greater torment.” See my notes on Phil. i. 18, where I enumerate the properties of envy. Wisely and piously said S. Augustine (Sent. 179): “To a religious man it ought to be little not to excite enmities, or to excite them only by awkward speech; he ought to strive to extinguish them by seasonable discourse.”
Ver. 16.—I say then, Walk in the Spirit. The summary, the one aim of the whole of this Epistle, is this: Walk not in the law, not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. The root of all your trouble is want of the Spirit: if you had Him, you would shut out as well the legal as the carnal life.
To walk in the Spirit is to order our whole life after the impulse of the Spirit, who inspired us to works of piety, to prayer, faith, charity, and works of mercy. This Spirit the Apostles received abundantly at Pentecost, as did the first Christians, and they added to the gift they then received by loyally following His workings, by labouring and suffering everything, if only they might bring others to Christ, by fiery charity and burning zeal. Whither has fled that Spirit now? Lord Jesus, kindle in us that fire which Thou camest to send on earth, and which Thou didst will to burn vehemently.
Ver. 17.—The flesh lusteth against the Spirit. From this the Manichæans inferred that man has two souls—one spiritual, which is good and the gift of a good god, and another carnal, which is evil and the gift of an evil god. Some philosophers, too, hold that man has two souls—one sensational, by which he feels, eats, and generates as do the beasts; and another rational, by which he reasons and understands as do the angels; and they depend for this conclusion on the contrary appetites and mental operations found in the same individual.
1. But it is certain that in man there is but one soul, and that a rational one, but which also in a special degree embraces vegetative and sensational powers. Hence, as man has in him both sets of powers, it is no wonder if he experiences contrary appetites, carrying him to diverse objects, and exciting him to action when they are present. In its powers the soul of man is twofold or rather threefold.
2. The word flesh stands by metonymy for that concupiscence which is in the flesh, impressing on it its own ideas and desires.
3. This concupiscence resides not only in the sensitive appetite, but also in the rational, as S. Augustine points out (Conf. viii. 5); for as in the domain of desire, it excites the appetites of hunger and procreation, in the domain of self-protective instinct the passions of envy and hatred, so in the domain of reason it arouses the desire to excel and the spirit of curiosity. All our mental powers are infected by the leaven of original sin, but they are described as the flesh, because the desires of the flesh are those that are most frequently and most violently aroused, and so are the principal part of our desires, and give their name to the whole. Hence the Apostle uses the phrase “works of the flesh,” i.e., of concupiscence, not only for fornication, drunkenness, and revellings, which are strictly fleshly sins, but also for such things as the service of idols and envy, which are strictly sins of the rational part of our nature.
4. The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, because it lusteth for carnal things, and the Spirit against the flesh, because it desires spiritual goods. This warfare is carried on within between the flesh and the Spirit; their forces are marshalled by the Apostle when he says, on the one side, The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, &c., and on the other, But the fruit of the Spirit is love joy, &c. Prudentius gives a vivid description of this warfare in his Psychomachia, and S. Augustine in his “Confessions” (viii. 11). Cassian (Collat. iv. 11) describes it as follows: “The flesh delights in lust and lasciviousness; the spirit can hardly be brought to acknowledge the existence of these natural desires. The flesh seeks for sleep and food; the spirit is so engaged in fasting and watching that with difficulty it brings itself to consent to the necessities of nature. The flesh would abound in this world’s goods; the spirit is content with the slenderest provision of daily bread. The flesh loves the baths, and troops of flatterers; the spirit rejoices in squalor, and in the silence of the desert. The flesh is fed on honours and praises; the spirit joys in the persecutions and injuries inflicted on it.” See to the motives of grace and of nature depicted by Thomas à Kempis in his “Imitation of Christ” (lib. iii. c. 59), in his own simple but vigorous style.
The Abbot Pamenius, in his “Lives of the Fathers” (vii. 27), rightly describes concupiscence as an evil will, a devil attacking us; or, as Abbot Achilles in the same passage puts it, as a handle of the devil.
Augustine at one time thought that this warfare was waged in a sinner under the law, not in one living under grace; but he afterwards modified this opinion (Retract. i. 24). It is beyond question that it is found in the Saints, nay, is the more fierce in proportion as they strive to live more spiritually. Accordingly, S. Augustine says (Serm. 43 de Verbis Domini): “The Spirit lusteth against the flesh in good men, not in evil men, who have not the spirit of God for the flesh to lust against.”
Again, commenting on Ps. lxxvi. 2. (A.V.), S. Augustine says: “You have to meet an attack not only from the wiles of the devil, but also from within yourself—against your bad habits, against your old evil life, which is ever drawing you to its wonted courses. On the other hand you are held back by the new life, while you still belong to the old. Hence you are lifted up by the joy of the new, you are weighed down by the burden of the old. The war is against yourself; but just where it is irksome to yourself it is pleasing to God, and where it is pleasing to God you gain power to conquer, for He is with you who overcometh all things. Hear what the Apostle saith: ‘With my mind I serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.’ How with the mind? Because your evil life is hateful to you. How with the flesh? Bemuse you are beset by evil suggestions and delights. But from union with God comes victory. In part you go before; in part you follow after. Betake yourself to Him who will lift you up. Being weighed down with the burden of the old man, cry aloud and say: ‘0 wretched man that I am; who shall deliver me from the body of this death, from the burden which is weighing me down’—for the body which is corrupted weigheth down the soul. But why is this warfare permitted to last so long, even till all evil lusts are swallowed up? It is that you may understand that the punishment is in yourself. Your scourge is in yourself, and proceeds from yourself, and therefore your quarrel is against yourself. This is the penalty imposed on any one who rebels against God, that as he would not have peace with God he shall have war within himself. But do you hold your members bound against your evil lusts. If anger, for example, is roused, remain close to God and hold your hand. It will not do more than rise if it finds no weapons. The attack is on the side of anger; the arms, however, are with you; let the attacking force find no arms, and he will soon learn not to rise if he finds that his rising is to no purpose.” Cf. my comments on Rom. vii. in fine.
These are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. You would wish to be free from the feelings of lust, anger, and gluttony, so as not to be hindered from charity, temperance, chastity, and prayer; and yet you are not free, nor can be free in this life. Or, on the other hand, you would wish to do cheerfully heroic deeds of virtue, but often you cannot, because the flesh is contrary. Anselm well says: “Your lusts do not allow you to do what you wish; do not permit them to do what they wish, and then neither you nor they will attain your ends. Although lusts rise in you, yet they are not consummated if you withhold your consent. In the same way, though there may be in you good works of the Spirit, yet they are not consummated either, because you cannot do them cheerfully and perfectly, while you have the pain of resisting your lusts.”
Ver. 18.—But if ye are led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. This anticipates a possible objection of the Galatians that they had apparently only exchanged one yoke for another heavier one, under which they had constantly to fight a tedious and irksome battle. The Apostle replies to this that if they were led by the Spirit they were not the slaves of concupiscence but its masters, and so were not under the law, inasmuch as they kept its provisions not from fear, but by spontaneously doing what it bade, and restraining the motions of concupiscence forbidden by it.
The Galatians were not, says S. Paul, under the law as a compelling force, still less under it as accusing and condemning, but they were under it as binding the conscience. Even so, however, they kept the law of their own accord, and so might be said to be outside the law, or above the law; not under it, but rather under the Spirit. This is why, after enumerating the fruits of the Spirit, he adds, Against such there is no law.
Ver. 19.—The works of the flesh are manifest. The works that spring from the flesh, i.e., from concupiscence, as I said in the note to ver. 17.
Fornication. On the works of the flesh in detail, see Jerome, Anselm, and S. Thomas.
Uncleanness. Effeminacy. The effeminate are guilty of mutual pollution, contrary to the instincts of nature.
Lasciviousness. Any wanton, and, according to Jerome, extraordinary form of lust. He adds: “The works of the married even, if not done with delicacy and modesty, as in the sight of God, and if merely for the procreation of children, come under the Apostle’s description of uncleanness and lasciviousness.” This, of course, must be understood of mortal sin; cf., e.g., the act of matrimony is performed otherwise than nature dictates, or if its consummation is purposely prevented; for then both are guilty of mortal sin, excluding them from the Kingdom of heaven. Otherwise lust in the married is only venial.
Ver. 20.—Wrath. Anger is the desire for revenge, and is a deadly sin when a bitter revenge is sought, or an object on which to bestow the angry feelings. It is venial only when it is instinctive, or when it aims at some slight revenge. The Apostle, therefore, is dealing here with the various sins enumerated in their highest and extremest form, for it is then only that they exclude from the Kingdom of heaven (ver. 21).
Heresies. Acts of private judgment against the teaching of the Church. These evince great temerity and presumption.
Ver. 21.—Revellings. This seems to teach that immoderate indulgence in the pleasures of the table is a mortal sin, as it excludes from the Kingdom of heaven. On this I remark that some Theologians hold from this verse that gluttony and lust are mortal sins, not only if they impair the use of reason, but if they be excessive. They rely on the case of the rich man in the parable, who was condemned, not because he was a drunkard, but because he fared sumptuously every day; on the words of Isaiah (v. 22), where woe, i.e., eternal damnation, is threatened against those who are mighty to drink strong drink; on the fact that excess in eating may be more than bestial; and they ask why should gluttony, so degrading to reason as it is, not be a mortal sin, if pollution is.
But the common opinion of doctors is in favour of a milder view, viz., that excess in eating is not a deadly sin, except when it seriously impairs the health, or causes some disease; or when a man eats with the object of vomiting, so as to commence again—and even this some hold to be not a deadly sin.
1. Note that revelings represents the Greek word κω̃μοι, which stands for the lascivious words and actions of drunkards, for obscene songs, dances, and kisses. Hence Bacchus is called Comus, and κωμάζειν is to revel, or to be wanton. Cf. notes to Rom. xiii. 13.
2. If the word is to be understood of banquetings, then it must be also understood of them in their most extreme and finished form, when men sit at table till they are overcome with excess. Cf. Isa. xxviii. 8. As in the preceding words the Apostle subjoins variance to wrath, and heresies to seditions, and murders to envyings, so here he subjoins revellings to drunkenness, the second member in each case showing what the first tends to end in. Cf. Prov. xxiii. 20.
1. As to the opinions referred to above, I remark as follows. (a) to fare sumptuously is by itself a venial sin, and becomes mortal only when it leads to vomiting and similar excesses. (b) It also becomes a mortal sinner per accidens, i.e., when it is united to drunkenness, lust, slander, cruelty, and contempt for the poor. This last was the sin of Dives.
2. The denunciation of Isa. V. 22 is directed against those who mix their drinks so as to make them more intoxicating, and who make a point of making themselves and their guests drunken, and think their hospitality disgraced if they fail in this.
3. Undoubtedly gluttony is a base thing in itself, but so are all our bodily functions; but they are not entirely contrary to right reason, unless indeed they deprive reason of its power to act. The case is different with aberrations of the generative powers. The act of copulation is ordained for a special end, and in its proper method. To defeat this, or to elude the end, is to go contrary to the workings of God, and is therefore a deadly sin.
Ver. 22.—But the fruit of the Spirit is love. The works of the Spirit are opposed to the works of the flesh, i.e., those works which are performed through the influence of the Holy Spirit, by which we merit that kingdom from which the works of the flesh exclude those who do them.
Observe that these fruits are different dispositions, or rather acts, of the different virtues—the acts that the virtues beget in the soul, such as joy and peace. Observe, too, that the Apostle does not give a complete catalogue of all these fruits, but only of the more conspicuous ones, and of such as are opposed to the works of the flesh just specified. And in the third place, notice that the first fruit of the Spirit is charity, it being the parent of all the rest.
Joy. The joy which springs from a clear conscience, one free from guilt and from mental disturbances. A contented mind is a perpetual feast. Cyprian (lib. de Disciplinâ et Bono Pudicitiæ) says “The greatest pleasure is to have conquered pleasure; and there is no greater victory than that that is obtained over our lusts.” On the other hand, the fruit of concupiscence is grief and sorrow. As Chrysostom says (Hom. 13 in Acts), “impure pleasure is like that obtained by a scrofulous man when he scratches himself. For to this pleasure, so short-lived, there succeeds a more enduring pain.”
Peace. The peace, says Jerome, enjoyed by the mind that is free from all passions. The pure mind, undisturbed by fear of punishments, or remorse for past sins, is in friendship with God, enjoys a wonderful calmness, and inspires its tranquillity into others, so that, as much as possible, it lives at peace with all men. This is a peace that passeth all understanding (Phil. iv. 7); and even if holy living brought no other reward than this, it yet would be quite sufficient of itself to stir us up to endure all sufferings, and undergo all labours.
Longsuffering. To have peace with ourselves and with others, we have need of patience to bear cheerfully every ill, especially those arising from the rough, haughty, or peevish tempers of others.
Gentleness. A man may be good and generous, and yet lack that courtesy and gentleness in word and deed which is one token of holiness. Cf. Wisd. vii. 22. Hence the common people are wont to gauge a man’s holiness by his gentle courtesy, and to suffer themselves to be guided in their actions by one who shows this fruit of the Spirit.
Goodness. A disposition to do kindnesses to others, goodness being much the same as beneficence. Jerome says that Zeno defines this latter thus: “Goodness is a virtue which does good to others, or a virtue from which usefulness to others springs, or a disposition which makes a man the benefactor of his fellows.” This is an evident token of the Holy Spirit, and was most manifest in Christ. Cf. Acts x. 38: If you have His Spirit, do harm to no one, do good to all.
Meekness. One, says Anselm, that is tractable, versatile, not self-opinionated; as opposed to one who is headstrong, who will bear no yoke, who is prompt to revenge an injury, and give blow for blow.
Faith. This, says Jerome, is a theological virtue, opposed to heresy, which makes us believe all that we ought to believe, even when opposed to nature, sense, and reason. But this faith is not so much a fruit of spiritual grace as its root and beginning. Accordingly, Anselm’s explanation is better, who says that faith is loyal adherence to our promises, as opposed to dishonesty and lying. As the Holy Spirit is steadfast, certain, sure [Wisd. vii. 23], He makes His followers, like Himself, faithful and true. Or, thirdly, faith here may be taken for the disposition to believe what others say, for the spirit that is free from suspicion and distrust, for that charity which believeth all things, for the candid, open, and receptive mind.
Modesty. Modesty is the virtue which imposes a mode or rule to all external actions, and controls our speech, laughter, sport. It proceeds from the inward power we have to control our passions. Ambrose (0ffic. i. 18) says. “According to our external actions the hidden man of the heart is judged. From them he is declared to be light, or boastful, or heady, or earnest, or firm, or pure, or of good judgment.” Cf. also Ecclus. xix. 27. Hence S. Augustine’s counsel (Reg. 3): “In all your actions let there be nothing to offend the eyes of any one, but only what becometh holiness.”
Temperance. Abstinence, says Vatablus, from food and drink, or, as Anselm says, continence, i.e., abstinence from lust. Continence differs from chastity, as war differs from peace. Hence continence is in the militant stage, and is but chastity inchoate. But it would be better to take temperance, with Aristotle, as a general virtuous habit of the soul, restraining man from all lusts and passions. S. Jerome says: “Temperance has to do not only with sexual appetite, but also with food and drink, with anger, and menial disturbance, and the love of detraction. There is this difference between modesty and temperance, that the former is found in the perfect, of whom the Saviour says, ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,’ just as He says of Himself’, ‘Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart.’ But temperance is found in those that are in the way of virtue, who have not yet arrived at the goal; in whose minds impure thought and desires arise, but only to be checked; whose souls are polluted, but not overcome; in whom act does not follow evil suggestion. It is not enough, however, that the desires should be under the power of temperance; it must rule also over the three other emotions of sorrow, joy, and fear.”
N.B.—The Greek MSS. here are imperfect, and want the word for modesty, and hence give only nine fruits of the Spirit, in which they are followed by Augustine and Jerome. On these fruits of the Spirit, see the remarks of S. Thomas in the Secunda Secundæ, of his Summa, where he deals with them in detail.
Against such there is no law. There is no law to condemn those who show these fruits of the Spirit, and accordingly those who are led by the Spirit are not under the law, as was said in ver. 18.
Ver. 24.—They that are Christ’s, &c. This sets out the preceding antithesis between the works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit. Two armies are ranged in battle array; but Christ’s soldier crucifies his flesh with its affections and lusts, and not only these, but by fastings, hair-shirts, labours, and penances, he crucifies the corrupt flesh itself, as being the seed-ground of lust. So Anselm; but it is, better to take flesh, not properly, but as standing for the concupiscence residing in the flesh, as in ver. 17. Those who are led by the Spirit of Christ have crucified their lust, their corrupt nature with its vicious tendencies and actual vices. “They have subdued it,” says S. Augustine, “out of that holy fear which abideth for ever, which makes us afraid of offending Him whom we love with all our heart and soul and mind.”
Note that concupiscence here is, as it were, a soul: its affections are its faculties; its lusts are its acts. Christians crucify these, i.e., crush them with such pain as that endured by Christ when He was crucified. This they do (a) by the fear of hell and of God; (b) by reason, and a constant will, and a firm purpose of pleasing God; (c) by a vigilant watch over their eyes and their senses; (d) by prayer; and (e) by fastings, watchings, and other acts of austerity.
Ver. 25.—If we live in the Spirit. Ifwe have this inward life of grace, let us live outwardly as the Spirit dictates. The Greek word used here denotes to follow a settled plan or order. Cf. notes to chap iv. 25. But according to Chrysostom and Theophylact, it is an exhortation to follow the rule of the Spirit of Christ, and not deviate into the ways of Judaism.
Ver. 26.—Let us not be desirous of vain-glory. Whoever seeks the praises of men seeks a vain thing. He pursues a bubble, swollen by wind, but void of all substance. The only true and lasting glory which alone can satisfy the mind, is with God. S. Jerome says: “They are desirous of solid glory who seek the approval of God, and that praise which is due to virtue.”
Provoking one another. To broils, lawsuits, and other contests. The thirst for praise and eminence gives birth to these rivalries and to envy: while Pompey will not brook an equal, nor Caesar a superior.
1 He moveth them to deal mildly with a brother that had slipped, 2 and to bear one another’s burden: 6 to be liberal to their teachers, 9 and not weary of well doing. 12 He sheweth what they intend that preach circumcision. 14 He glorieth in nothing, save in the cross of Christ.
RETHREN, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
Douay Rheims Version
He exhorts to charity, humility and all virtue. He glories in nothing but in the cross of Christ.
RETHREN, and if a man be overtaken in any fault, you, who are spiritual, instruct such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
i. He exhorts the Galatians to good works, especially works of mercy towards Christians, particularly doctors and catechists. He bids them not to seek for the praise of men, but to study to sow seeds of good works, from which they may reap eternal life.
ii. He opposes (ver. 12) his own glorying in the Cross of Christ to that of the Jews in circumcision.
Ver. 1.—Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, &c. The Apostle enjoins here the brotherly correction of any fault, but with a special reference to sins committed through the eyes, as Jerome correctly observes—the sin of Judaism, against which the whole Epistle is directed, being of that character. He bids them correct the Judaisers, but in a brotherly manner. There is a parallel to this passage in Rom. xiv. 1, where a man overtaken in a fault isdescribed as weak in the faith. There he is to be received, here he is to be instructed. This is another instance of the close connection between these two Epistles, which I have so often pointed out. In the earlier chapters of both Epistles he vigorously attacks the tenets of the Judaisers, and in the latter he moderates his tone.
S. Paul is not speaking here of those who are obstinate in their evil doing. These, as S. Gregory insists, because they sin deliberately, are to be rebuked sternly. Their hard hearts, as Tertullian says, must be broken, not soothed. S. Paul is referring to those who, being weak in the faith, have been seduced into Judaism, have been overtaken before they could resist. The Greek word rendered fault denotes an accidental fall, as when one through inadvertence stumbles over a stone, or falls into a ditch.
Restore. Ephrem renders this raise; the Vulgate, instruct; and Vatablus [with the A.V.], restore. Erasmus, indeed, but wrongly, thinks the instruite of the Vulgate is a copyist’s error for instaurate. The texts, however, are against this. The difference in meaning, in any case, is not important. The restoring of a man in faith and morals is the same as the instructing him in them.
In the spirit of meekness. Gently, tenderly, kindly. Spirit here is used to denote the gift of the Spirit, as Chrysostom observes. The Spirit, by the words of admonishment He inspires men to use, breathes into him who uses them His own mildness and benignity. Rebuke is like a bitter medicine, bearing away the disease; hence it is to be sugared over with mild words and sympathetic temper, that its bitterness may not be tasted.
S. Chrysostom (Hom. 52 ad. Populum) says, with equal truth and beauty, that our speech becomes the speech of Christ, if, throughout it all, we imitate His benignity. S. Dionysius (Ep. 8 ad Demophilum) says that it was the meekness of Moses which won for him his special intimacy with God, and says that if pastors feed Christ’s flock with similar meekness, they will show thereby that they love Christ above all things, and will be so accepted by Him. Towards the end of the letter, S. Dionysius relates a striking proof of this, drawn from a vision, vouchsafed to S. Carpus, when he was bitterly enraged against some heathen who had seduced two Christians from the faith. Christ, chiding him, said: “Strike Me, for I am ready to suffer again for man’s salvation, and to suffer gladly, if only other men do not sin.”
Hence, too, S. Augustine lays down the mode in which correction should be ministered: “The task of rebuking others’ sins is never to be undertaken, except when after self-examination our conscience assures us in the presence of God that we do it simply out of love of the offender. Love, and then say what you will. In no way will that which sounds like a curse be a curse indeed, if you recollect and feel throughout that your only wish in using the sword of the word of the Lord is to be the deliverer of your brother from the snares of sin.” If, however, any feeling of impatience or anger do assail us while we are administering our rebuke, let us, he says, bear in mind, “that we ought not to be rigid towards sinners, since we ourselves sin even while rebuking sin, inasmuch as we feel angry with the sinner more readily than we feel pity for his misery.” So too S. Basil (Reg. 51), urges that Superiors, and all who engage in the work of healing spiritual diseases, should take a lesson from physicians, and not be angry with the patient, but attack his disease.
Considering thyself, lest Thou also be tempted. S. Paul passes from the distributive plural to each individual—from brethren to thou. It would have been offensive to address the whole community, and to insinuate that it might as a whole be tempted and fall. His appeal was likely to be more effectual if addressed to any individual member, to remind him that God suffers those to fall who are hard towards others. Often, in the “Lives of the Fathers,” we read that older men, who had reproved with excessive severity their juniors for lust or other sin, were themselves smitten with the same passion, that they might learn to have mercy on others.
Cassian relates (de Instit. lib. v.) the saying of an abbot, that in three things he had judged his brethren, and through the same three things he had fallen, in order that the heathen might know themselves to be but men. Another of the Fathers was wont to exclaim, weeping, whenever he heard of any one falling: “He today, and I tomorrow.” In the same way, whenever we hear of the fall of any neighbour, let us each say: “I am a man, and nothing that is human is foreign to me.” As S. Gregory says (Hom. 34 in Evang.), “True righteousness is merciful, false is unforgiving.” Cassian relates (Collat. ii. c. 13) that a certain young monk, who was grievously assaulted by the desire of fornication, went to an older monk, who was uncouth and void of discretion, and who forthwith scolded him bitterly for his impure imaginings. On this the young monk lost heart, and determined to return to the world, and to marry. Abbot Apollo, however, perceived what was amiss, and with gentle words induced him to remain true to his vow. Then going to the cell of the older monk, he prayed that God would subject him to the same temptation as that of the younger man. Soon the prayer was granted, and the older man became as one distracted. On perceiving this, Apollo went to the old man, and told him that God had sent him that temptation that he might learn to feel for those who were younger, so as not to drive them to despair, as he had recently done in the case of the younger monk who came to him. Cf. Isa. 1. 4; xlii. 3; S. Matt. xii. 20.
S. Augustine (Serm. Dom. in Monte., lib. ii. c. 20) has these three excellent rules for the correction of our neighbour: “Great care must be taken that, when duty compels us to correct any one, we think—(1.) whether the fault is such as we have never committed in the past, nor are subject to at the moment. (2.) If we have been addicted to it, and now are not, let some thought of human weakness touch the mind, so that our reproaches may spring not from hatred but from pity; and, whether our efforts succeed in reforming the offender, or only avail to confirm him in evil (for the issue is uncertain), in either case we may be certain that our own eye is single. (3.) If, however, we find on reflection that we ourselves are guilty of the same fault as he whom we undertake to correct, let us not rebuke him nor scold him, but only mourn together, and invite him not to obey us, but to unite with us in guarding against the common enemy.”
Ver. 2.—Bear ye one another’s burdens. 1. Let each bear with the weaknesses of others. Do you bear another’s irritability and hasty words, and let him put up with your moroseness and sluggish temperament. Reflect that your neighbour’s failings are a greater trouble to himself than they are to you, and sympathise with him accordingly.
2. A better interpretation, and as being more general, is that burdens stands for whatever oppresses our neighbour—his illnesses, his cares, his vices—which call for compassion, help, and comfort. Be a foot to the lame, eye to the blind, staff to the aged. Cf. S. Augustine (Enarr. in Ps. lxxvi.).
3. S. Basil’s interpretation (Reg. Brev. reg. 278) is still more to the point: “Sin is a burden pressing on the soul, nay, weighing it down, and dragging it down to hell.” As a beast sinks under a burden too heavy for him, so does the soul, burdened with sin, sink down to hell, without power of itself to raise itself. The fault of the preceding verse shows the nature of the burden here referred to, as does verse 5, following.
Although every sin is here called a burden, yet the Apostle specially refers to that of Judaism, which was called a yoke of bondage in chap. v. 1. Hence the exhortation, strictly speaking, is that if any one be found sinking under the burden of Judaising ceremonies, he is not to be harshly censured, but gently and sympathetically lifted up, and restored to the Church. Just as an ass that has fallen under its load is able to rise when the load is taken from its back, so the sinner is able to rise from his sin when another, by his gentleness and kindness, shares the burden with him, and so removes it from him. So says S. Basil: “We remove this burden one from another as often as we take the trouble to bring to a better mind those who have sinned and fallen.” Cf. Isa. liii. 4.
We bear our neighbour’s burden then—(1.) by sympathetic correction of him; (2.) by prayer that God will take it from him; (3.) and most completely by penances, when, after Christ’s example, we bear others’ sins by undergoing in expiation of them voluntary fasts and hair-shirts, and other modes of discipline.
1. Sin is the heaviest burden man can be called on to bear. S. Augustine (Hom. 22 in, Loco) says: “See the man laden with the burden of avarice; see him sweating under it, gasping, thirsty, and making his load the heavier. What do you look for, 0 miser, as the reward for this so great labour of yours? Why do you toil thus? What do you long for? Merely to satisfy your avarice. It can oppress you, but you cannot satisfy it. Is it by any chance not grievous? So much so that you have even lost the power of feeling? Is not avarice grievous? If not, why is it that it wakes you from sleep, and sometimes prevents you from sleeping at all? Perhaps too with it you have a second load of indolence, and so two most evil burdens pulling you in different directions. They do not give you the same orders. Indolence says, ‘Sleep;’ avarice says, ‘Rise.’ Indolence says, ‘Avoid the cold;’ avarice says, ‘Bear even the storms of the sea.’ The one says, ‘Rest;’ the other, so far from allowing rest, bids you cross the sea, and venture on unknown lands.” S. Augustine adds that Christ takes away this burden of lust, and puts in its place His own yoke of charity, which does not weigh down, but, like wings added to a bird, enables its possessor to rise.
2. It is the proper office of charity to teach us how to bear these burdens in turn, as S. Augustine points out from the beautiful image of stags (Hom. 21 in Eadem Verba) “It is the office of love to bear others’ burdens in turns. It has been said that stags when crossing water are accustomed to help each other, by those in front carrying the weight of the heads of those behind. The foremost stag, having, no one on whom to rest his head, is relieved in turns by some stag who is less fatigued. Bearing one another’s burdens, in this way they cross over the water, and so reach dry land once more. Perhaps Solomon was alluding to this peculiarity of stag life when he said, ‘Let the friendly stag, and the young of thy thanksgiving, speak with thee; for nothing is such a test of a friend as his willingness to bear his friend’s burdens.’ You will bear your friend’s bad temper by being not angry with him; and then when you are in your turn vexed, he will remain undisturbed. So too if one has mastered his own loquacity but not his obstinacy, while another on the other hand has overcome his own obstinacy but not his loquacity, let each bear the other’s burdens until both be healed. So too did S. Paul write: ‘Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others, adding: ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,’ meaning that, as the Word became incarnate and took our sins upon Him, so should we, like Him, bear the burdens of others. Let us then show to those who are in trouble what we should wish shown to us, if our positions were reversed. ‘I am made all things to all men, that I might gain all,’ says S. Paul. He was made all things to all men by regarding it as possible that he himself might have been in the position of the man he was anxious to set free.”
Those who support the weaknesses and burdens of others are happily compared to bones by S. Basil, when explaining the words of Ps. xxxiv. 20: “He keepeth all His bones:” “Just as bones are given us to support the weakness of the flesh, so in the Church there are some whose functions it is by their fortitude to strengthen the weaker brethren. And as the bones are fitly jointed, and formed into a unity by nerves and ligaments, so in the Church of God does charity bind all together into a perfect whole. It is of the solution of this continuity that the Prophet speaks when he cries, ‘All my bones are out of joint.’ And again it is of some internal weakness that he complains when he prays, ‘Heal me, 0 Lord; for my bones, are sore troubled.’ And it is of their preservation that he says, ‘Not one of them shall be broken.’ And when they are worthy to give honour and praise to Gad, he exclaims, ‘All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto Thee?’ ”
3. From this it follows that those who feel for others’ woes are strong in virtue, like bones, and have, therefore, the tokens of a perfect Christian, while, on the contrary, those who are devoid of sympathy are self-convicted of some concealed viciousness of character. This is what Cassian says (Collat. xi. c. 11): “It is an evident mark of a soul not yet freed from the dregs of wickedness that it does not compassionate the sinner, but judges him harshly. For how can he be perfect who wants that which fulfils the law, which bears others’ burdens, which is not wrathful, is not puffed up, which thinketh no evil, which beareth all things, believeth all things, endureth all things? The righteous man hath regard for the life of his beasts, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. Therefore it is certain that the monk who judges others harsher is himself under the power of the same sins as the man he condemns.” For other illustrations of this subject, see the notes to Num. xi. 12.
And so fulfil the law of Christ. The law of Christ is love. Cf. S. John xxiv. 35; xv. 12. The most difficult act of love, and the one most expected by Christ, is that we bear one another’s burdens. If we do this, we do our duty to our neighbour, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Again, we fulfil this law when we supply by charity others’ breaches of the law. If one breaks the law by the use of angry words, let another supply his defects, and keep the law in his stead, by patience and sympathy. Or, what is more to the immediate purpose of the Apostle, if any bear with a Judaiser and bring him to a better mind, he supplies what the latter lacks, and so fulfils the law of Christ. S. Bernard (de Præcept. et Dispens.) says that a man who has sinned and then repented, and prayed for forgiveness, fulfils the law which he had previously broken.
Ver. 3.—For if a man think himself to be something., &c. If a man is proud of his superior spirituality, and despises his brother, and treats him harshly for sinning—especially for Judaising—he is nothing, and so he deceiveth himself.
Ver-4.—But let every man prove his own work. Let no one treat his neighbour as the Pharisee the publican, but rather take heed to his own works, and see whether the motive of them be pure. He will probably find many faults, and so will not think himself to be something. But even if he finds none, or very few, then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone—that is, in his own conscience—and this will be in the Lord, who gave him the power to do all his good deeds. He will not rejoice because he finds himself good by comparison with others, i.e., he will not have rejoicing in another, as S. Paul expresses it. So Chrysostom, Theophylact, Anselm.
S. Jerome says well: “The meaning is this: You who think yourself spiritual, and superior to another’s weakness, ought to consider, not his weakness, but your own strength; for he does not make you a perfect Christian by any inability of his to pass from Judaism to Christianity. If indeed your own conscience does not reprove you, you have whereof to glory in yourself, but not in comparison with him. An athlete is not necessarily strong because he has overcome a competitor who was feeble. If he really is strong, he rejoices in his strength, not in his rival’s weakness. Or we may understand the Apostle’s words as meaning: If a man on due consideration finds nothing to reproach himself with, he is not to go and trumpet the fact abroad, that he may win the applause of men, but keep his knowledge to himself, and say, ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But the first interpretation is closer to the text.
Ver. 5.—For every man shall bear his own burden. This seems primâ facie in conflict with ver. 2. Jerome harmonises the two by referring ver. 2 to the present, and ver. 5 to the future, i.e., to the day of judgment. In the world we can help each other, but at the dread Tribunal neither Job, Daniel, nor Noah can free the souls of their own sons even, but each shall bear his own iniquities. Cf. Ezek. xiv. 14. Christ will examine us, not as to the doings of others, but as to our own. Let us prove our own doings, therefore, to make sure that they will be able to stand the last great trial.
The Protestants therefore are wrong in twisting these words into an argument against purgatory, and against the prayers we offer for souls there. The Apostle is not speaking of purgatory, but of the day of judgment, and then he says each shall bear his own burden. Before that day, however, we can, as required by the article of the Communion of Saints, help one another, whether those we help be living or in purgatory.
Observe that each of us, as he leaves this life, takes with him nothing but his own works. These works are, as it were, burdens that we carry as we travel towards the judgment-seat of Christ, which, when examined, will show whether our destiny is heaven or hell. As is the burden, so will the bearer be declared, and so will be the burden of reward or punishment.
Ver. 6.—Let him that is taught in the word, &c. S. Ambrose understands this to refer to him who is taught through the word of a teacher or catechist. S. Jerome agrees with him in referring the duty of communicating good to the catechumen, who is to assist his benefactor, the catechist. Marcion, according to S. Jerome, explained these words to order the former to communicate with the latter in prayer, holy living, and all good spiritual things.
The word rendered him that is taught shows the antiquity of catechising. In the earliest days indeed it was regarded as impious to divulge Christian mysteries, and all teaching was accordingly oral. S. Paul refers to the practice in 1 Cor. xiv. 19. The Apostles were followed by the Fathers, witness the catechetical lectures of S. Cyril of Jerusalem, the Liber de Catechizandis Rudibus of S. Augustine, and the great Catechetical Oration of Gregory of Nyssa. John Gerson, Chancellor of Paris, following this primitive custom, took delight in teaching the young and in hearing their confessions, as many men of religion, and many doctors, still do, to the great profit of the Church. While so many unlettered and ignorant men are in the Church, who do not know anything of the mysteries of the Holy Trinity, of the Incarnation, and of the redemption wrought by Christ, and who repeat their Creed like a parrot his “Good morning,” the work of catechising will never be obsolete. See the decree on this point drawn up by the Council of Trent. Session xxiv. c. 4 and 7.
John Gerson wrote a tract in praise of the custom and in defence of his practice. “It seems to many a work so unworthy of a doctor and a famous man of letters, or a dignitary of the Church, to catechise the young, that it has been made a reproach even against me that I have engaged in it. But they should be convicted of their error by the words of Christ, who said, ‘Suffer little children to come unto Me.’ 0 most holy Jesu, who after this can be ashamed of his condescension to children, when Thou, who art God, stoopest to receive their embraces? Give me a man who is spiritual, who seeks not his own but the things of Christ Jesus, who is filled with charity and humility, in whom is no place for vanity or covetousness, whose conversation is in heaven, who is as an angel of God, moved by neither blessing or cursing, whom no bodily delight can goad or entice, who dwells in the highest citadel of contemplation, and is learned in the science of souls. Such a man will understand what I mean. But people say that my position as Chancellor calls me to higher tasks. I do not know what can be a higher work than to snatch souls from hell, and to plant them and tend them as good plants in the fair garden of the Church. They retort that I should do this better by public preaching. This may indeed be a more imposing work, but in any judgment not so fruitful. The cask will long retain the perfume that it once acquired in its early days. Come then to me, children; I will teach you what is true: you shall repay me with your prayers. So shall we in turns rejoice our guardian angels.”
Ver. 7.—Be not deceived. Do not, says Anselm, excuse yourselves from the duty of helping your catechists on the plea of poverty or family calls. This may deceive men; it cannot deceive God. So Jerome and Theophylact.
These words, however, may perhaps be better referred to ver. 4 Let every man prove his works honestly before God. In this let him not err. He may throw dust in the eyes of men; he will not elude the vigilance of God. The words that follow show that this clause is to be taken in the wider sense.
God is not mocked. The Greek word here is very vivid. It denotes the action of those who turn their back on a person, and then put out the tongue or point the finger at him.
Whatsoever a man soweth. Our life is the seed-time; the future life is the harvest. What we sow now we shall reap then in blessing or in cursing.
Ver. 8.—For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption. He who does carnal works, and casts them as it were seed into his flesh, shall of this carnal seed reap death now and hereafter. The reference is chiefly to sins of gluttony and impurity. On the other hand, those who sow spiritual things strengthen the spirit within, and shall reap life everlasting.
But although the phrase is couched in general terms, the Apostle’s immediate reference is to the works of beneficence done by catechumens for their teachers. In either case the meaning is the same.
Ver. 9.—In due season we shall reap if we faint not. The “due season” is the Day of Judgment. If we are not tired here of doing well, we shall attain that perfect peace where fatigue cannot come.
Ver. 10-—Let us do good unto all men. While the time of sowing lasts, let us do good to all—not only to catechists, but to all—even to the heathen, though specially to our fellow-Christians, who are members of the same household of God. S. Jerome relates a beautiful example of this in the Apostle S. John: “When he was living at Ephesus in his extreme old age, and was with difficulty carried into the Church in the arms of his disciples, nor could find breath for many words, he would say nothing time after time but, ‘Little children, love one another.’ At length, his hearers being tired of hearing nothing else, asked him, ‘Master, why do you always repeat the same exhortation?’ He replied in a sentence worthy of him: ‘Because it is the Lord’s command; and if this be done all is done.’ ” To this Jerome adds: “Brief is the course of this world. Titus, the son of Vespasian, was wont to say at evening, if he could recollect no good action during the day, ‘I have lost a day.’ We do not reflect that we lose an hour, a day, a moment, time, eternity, whenever we speak an idle word, for which we shall have one day to give an account.”
Posidippus, and, following him, Blessed Thomas More and Giraldus (Syntag. 1), happily describe this opportunity (καιρός): “‘Who art thou?—‘I am time, who destroys all things.’—‘Why do you hasten by so quickly?’—‘I am always in motion.’—‘Why with wings on your feet?’—‘I travel as does the light breeze.’—‘Why carry razors in your hand?’—‘To show that nothing is keener than I.’—‘Why does a lock hang over your forehead?’—‘That you may lay hold of me as I approach.’—‘Why bald behind?’—‘To show that when I have once flown by no one can bring me back, however much he may wish it.’ ”
Would that we would reflect how short is the time of our trial, how time flies never to return, how on each moment hangs eternity! How zealous should we then be in all good works. What we now neglect, we shall never regain; for in a short time all opportunity for living, acting, meriting, will vanish away. Cf. Rev. x. 6. When time shall be no more, eternity will be with us. “Short is the time given us in this present life. Unless we employ it on needful things, what shall we do when we pass into the next world?” (S. Chrysostom, Hom. 17 in Joan.). The pagan Seneca (Ep. i.) can say the same: “It is a disgrace to lose time through mere carelessness; and if you will notice it, you will see that a great part of life glides by with those who do evil, the greatest part with those who do nothing, and the whole with those who do anything else.”
S. Gregory Nazianzen says, in his Iambics, that life is a market in which we can procure all wealth, i.e., all virtues; but when it is closed, there remains no more chance of buying. The time for buying is short, nay, it is a single day, when compared with eternity.
Ver. 11.—Ye see how large a letter. S. Chrysostom and Theophylact understand this to mean: You see what misshapen letters I have formed, but your love for me will excuse their imperfections. S. Augustine: Ye see how freely and openly I have written, without any fear of the Judaisers. S. Hilary, and others following him: Ye see what lofty ideas I have put before you. S. Jerome, however, thinks that the words show that up to this point S. Paul had used an amanuensis, but that from here to the end he wrote himself, to prevent any one from objecting to the genuineness of the Epistle. The best explanation is that which sees an allusion to the length of the letter, and a reference to S. Paul’s affection for the Galatians, which had made him dispense with his usual amanuensis, and write a long letter with his own hand.
Ver. 12.—As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh. This is a reference to the Judaisers, and their desire to commend themselves to their kinsmen after the flesh. Or the meaning may be that they desired to please by the observance of carnal circumcision. This latter is supported by the use of the term flesh in the next verse
They constrain you to be circumcised. Because they hope to be secure from the persecutions of the Jews, who were bitterly hostile to the Cross of Christ, and all who preached it.
Ver. 13.—For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law. They do not proselytise from zeal for the law, for they do not themselves observe it, but to obtain the praise of the Jews for having converted you to Judaism. Many other religious teachers unhappily pursue the same policy, and strive for their own glory, and gamble for others’ skins, nay, rather for their very souls.
Ver. 14.—But God forbid that I should glory, &c. The adversative but marks a contrast between the glory of the Judaisers in circumcision and the glorying of S. Paul in the Cross. The Cross of course stands for itself and all the redemptive benefits it bestows, and in it is shown the greatness of man’s sin and the depth of God’s love. S. Augustine (Serm. 20 de Verbis Apost.) says: “The Apostle might well have gloried in the wisdom of Christ, or His majesty, or His power; but it was the Cross he specified. The philosopher’s shame is the Apostle’s boast. He glories in his Lord. What Lord? Christ crucified. In Him are conjoined humility and majesty, weakness and power, life and death. Would you come to Him? Despise not these; be not ashamed; you have received the sign of the Cross on your forehead as on the seat of shame.”
S. Bernard (Serm. 25 in Cant.) says: “He thinks nothing more glorious than to bear the reproach of Christ. The shame of the Cross is pleasing to him who is not unpleasing to the Crucified.”
And again he writes (Serm. 1 de S. Andrea): “The Cross is precious, capable of being loved, and is a cause of exultation. The wood of the Cross puts forth blossoms, bears pleasant fruit, drops the oil of gladness, exudes the balsam of temporal gifts. It is no woodland tree, but a tree of life, to those who lay hold of it. It bears life-giving fruits, else how should it occupy the Lord’s land, that most precious soil, to which it was affixed by nails which were, as it were, its roots?”
So (in Ep. 190 ad Innocent. Pont.) he says: “I see three principal things in this work of our salvation: the form of humility, in which Christ emptied Himself; the measure of charity, which stretched itself even to death, and that the death of the Cross ; the sacrament of redemption, whereby He bore that death He vouchsafed to take upon Him.”
By whom the world is crucified unto me. As the world shrinks from the Cross or any crucified corpse, so do I shrink from the pomps and vanity of the world. Whatever, as S. Bernard says, the world thinks of the Cross, that do I think of worldly pleasures; and whatever the world thinks of pleasure, that do I think of the Cross.
A simpler explanation, however, is to take crucified in the general meaning of death, that being the consequence of crucifixion. The Apostle used the term crucified to maintain the continuity of his subject. Being crucified with Christ, he says, I am a new creature, and breathe a new life. I am dead to the worldly things clung to by the Jews (he still has these in his mind); I am not held by them or by the opinions, applause, or hatred of anybody whatsoever, as the Judaisers are. And by consequence all worldly things are, so far as I am concerned, dead—they have no power to affect me. The world is crucified to me; it cannot hold me. I am crucified to the world; I do not regard it. The world cannot hurt me, nor do I desire anything from it. S. Ignatius, writing to the Romans, said: “My love is crucified, and hence corruptible food and worldly pleasure delight me not. I long for the bread of God, that bread which cometh down from heaven, which is the Flesh of Christ. With Him I am crucified.”
Cassian (de Institut. Renunt. iv. 34, 35) relates the beautiful description of the monastic ideal given to a novice by Abbot Pinusius. He put before him Christ crucified: “Renunciation of the world is nothing but the choice of the Cross and the mortified life. You know, therefore, that this day you have done with the world its activity and its delights, and that, as the Apostle says, you are crucified to the world, and the world to you. Consider, then, the conditions of life under the Cross, under the shadow of which you are henceforth to dwell. For it is no longer you that live, but He liveth in you who was crucified for you. As He hung on the Cross, so must we be in this life, mortifying our flesh in the fear of the Lord, with all its affections and lusts; not serving our own wills, but nailing them to His Cross. So shall we fulfil the Lord’s command, ‘He that taketh not up his cross and followeth not after Me is not worthy of Me.’ ” He then describes in detail the way we should be crucified with Christ: “If it be asked, How can a man take up his cross and be crucified while still living, I reply: Our cross is the fear of the Lord; as the crucified man has no power over his own members, so are we to order our wills, not after our own desires, but according to the fear of the Lord, which constraineth us. And just as the man fastened to a cross regards not things present, studies not his own feelings, is not anxious about the morrow, is stimulated by no worldly desires, grieves not over present injuries, thinks not of the past, and, while still breathing, holds that he has done with the elements of this world, sending on his spirit whither where he will soon be, so must we be crucified by the fear of the Lord to all these things, not only to sins of the flesh, but to all earthly things, keeping our eyes intent on the land to which we hope every moment to travel.”
The Apostle here is speaking not only to religious, but to all Christians, who by baptism have renounced the world, with its conventional ideals and low code of honour. The world may say: “Go to market—adapt yourself to everybody; be a heretic with heretics, a politician with politicians; and when you dine with them, eat flesh as they do, even on a fast day.” But the Christian will reply that he is dead to a life of this sort, and is bound to live the Christ life. Though he be called Papist, hypocrite, Jesuit, he will care nothing. The world scorns a man who refuses to fight a duel when challenged. The Christian will be content to know that duelling is forbidden by the law of Christ, and will despise the stupid opinions of a stupid world, preferring to follow the wisdom of Christ, which condemns all duelling as wicked and foolish. He will recollect that Christian fortitude is seen in bearing injuries in the defence of our country or ourselves, not in the retaliation of insults and injuries.
S. Bernard (Serm. 7 in Quadrag.) says that there are three steps in the way of perfection through crucifixion to the world. “The first is to bear ourselves as pilgrims who, if they see men quarrelling, give no heed; if they see men marrying, or making merry, pass by as pilgrims who are longing to reach their country, and who, therefore, decline to trouble themselves with anything but food and raiment. The second is to bear ourselves as though we were dead, void of feeling, knowing no difference between praise or blame, between flattery or calumny, nay, deaf to everything, even as a dead man. Happy is the death which thus keeps us spotless, nay, which makes us wholly foreigners to this world. But as the Apostle says, he who lives not in himself, must have Christ living in him. All else must find him dead; the things of Christ alone must find him living. The third is that He be not merely dead but crucified. Sensual pleasure, honours, riches, fame—all that the world delights in must be a cross to us. All that the world regards as painful must be gladly chosen by us and clung to.”
S. Bernard then adds a figurative explanation of this passage: “The Apostle might not improperly be understood to mean that the world was crucified to him so far as its character was concerned, it being bound by the chains of its vines, and that he was crucified to the world by the pity he felt for its condition.”
And I unto the world. Blessed Dorotheus (Biblioth. SS. Patrum, vol. iii.) asks: “How is the world crucified to any one? When he renounces it and lives a life of solitude, having left father and mother and all earthly possessions. How is a man crucified to the world? Again, by renunciation; when any one, after retiring from the world, strives against his own lusts and his own will, and subdues the motions of the flesh within. We religious seem to ourselves to have crucified the world, because we have left it and retired to our monasteries; but we are unwilling to crucify ourselves to the world. Its blandishments still have power over us; we have still a lurking love for it; we hanker after its glory, its pleasures, its gaiety, and for these vile things cherish the passions which once swayed us. What madness is this to leave what is precious and worry ourselves over what is despicable. If we have renounced the world, we ought also to have renounced all worldly desires as well.”
This explanation is, however, too narrow. The Apostle is speaking to all, and not to religious alone. Moreover, crucifixion to the world and crucifixion of the world are not two distinct things, as Dorotheus seems to think, but two sides of the same thing.
Ver. 15.—In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything. Whether you be Jew or Gentile matters nothing; neither brings you nearer Christ. What is of importance is a new creature, i.e., a soul regenerated in baptism, and fortified by grace to walk in newness of life. Cf. Rev. iii. 14, where Christ is called “the beginning of the creation of God,” and Isa. ix. 6, where He is called “the Father of the world that is to be ” (Vulg.), for from Him began a new creation. Cf. too Virgil (Ecl. iv. 8), where Virgil transfers to Salonius, the newly born son of Asinius Pollio, Roman Consul, the predictions by the Cumæan Sibyl of the birth of Christ, in which the Christian era is described as a golden age.
Ver. 16.—And as many as walk according to this rule. The rule laid down by S. Paul as to justification, and the relation of Judaism to Christianity.
Peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. On Jews and Gentiles alike who believe on Christ, according to Ambrose; but comparing this verse with Eph. i. 1 and Col. ii. 8, it is better to explain the Israel of God as those who are Israelites indeed, i.e., who have embraced Christianity and renounced whether Gentilism or Judaism. Not those who are descended from Jacob according to the flesh are the Israel of God, but those who have embraced his faith. These find peace within, and on them God plentifully bestows His grace.
There may be a reference to the meaning of Israel, i.e., he who sees God, says Theophylact. They who see Him by faith here will see Him under a fitting image in heaven. Or Israel may mean “he who has power with God,” according to Gen. xxxii. 28. As Jacob by his prayers obtained success against Esau, so the people of God are by His grace masters over the world and all its lusts, and over Judaism. So S. Thomas and Haymo.
Ver. 17.—From henceforth let no man trouble me. Let no Jew trouble me in future by asking whose servant I am. He bears the marks of circumcision, I the marks of Christ. Maldonatus takes the words as a defence of his apostleship.
For I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. The Greek word used here denotes marks burnt in, like those impressed on slaves. It also stands for the scars left by wounds. S. Paul gives reasons for believing that he bore these latter in 2 Cor. xi. 23. As soldiers are proud of their scars gained in honourable warfare, so does S. Paul point with pride to those he had gained in the service of Christ.
S. Ambrose (in Ps. cxix. 120) writes: “That man is pierced with the nails of God’s fear who bears in his body the mortification of Jesus. He merits to hear his Lord saying: ‘Set Me as a seal upon thy hears, as a seal upon thine arm.’ Place then on thy breast and on thy heart the seal of the Crucified; place it too an thy arm, that thy works may be dead unto sin. Perchance not only fear but love also will pierce thee with its nails, for love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave. May our souls be wounded by these nails of charity, that they may cry out: ‘We bear the wounds of charity.’ ”
In the same way did Blessed Theodorus Studita rejoice in the wounds he received in defence of the sacred images when they were assailed by Leo the Armenian, in A.D. 824. Baring his body to the scourge, he said: “Delightful to me is the scourging of this vile body, and delightful will it be to lay it aside altogether, that my liberated soul may flee to Him whom it thirsts for.” And when the scourging was over, he wrote joyfully to Naucratius: “Is it not more glorious to bear the marks of Christ, than to wear earthly crowns?” See Baronius, Annals for that year.
They bear the marks of Christ, says S. Jerome, who for love of Christ afflict their bodies, or who are afflicted with illness. S. Francis of Assissi, as S. Bonaventura relates in his Life of him (c. 13), received from a seraph nails in his hands and feet, out of his intense love of Christ crucified. These nails were not of iron but of hard, dead flesh, having their heads projecting, and the sharp end turned inwards, so that it was with pain and difficulty that he could walk. Pope Alexander IV testified that he saw these nails himself with his own eyes after the death of S. Francis, and from him S. Bonaventura learnt the fact.
Let the impious blasphemy of Beza then do its worst, which speaks of this as a “stigmatic idol,” fondly and fraudulently fashioned. S. Paul, however, is not claiming here such marks for himself, nor do the oldest likenesses of him show any of the sort. Indeed Sixtus IV., in a Bull quoted by Henry Sedulius, in his “Notes to the Life of S. Francis,” forbade, under pain of excommunication, any other saint but S. Francis to be so painted. The Dominicans, who have lately depicted S. Catherine of Sienna in this way, claim a special privilege given them for the purpose by Pius V.
GOD FORBID THAT I SHOULD GLORY SAVE IN THE CROSS OF JESUS CHRIST.
THE CROSS IS THE LADDER OF BLESSED ETERNITY.
O LONG AND BLESSED ETERNITY!
Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSOM & Co
Edinburgh & London