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O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not

obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you ?

IF, on the one hand, it be a rule of common sense that we should not speak a language which our hearers do not understand, yet it is a rule of common sense no less, that, in speaking to a mixed body of hearers, we should not omit what is useful to those who can and will understand, because of those who cannot, chiefly because they will not. Nay, farther, if the want of understanding be no fault, yet unless it is accompanied with an earnest wish to understand, and is therefore as it were calling out for help, it is entitled to less consideration than the state of those who, having learned something, are able and willing to learn something more.

I do not think it wrong, therefore, sometimes to choose a subject for my sermon which I know that the very careless and the very ignorant will learn nothing from, if it be of a sort such as to be useful to those who are not careless and ignorant. To try to preach always for the lowest portion of our congregation, is a practice commended neither by reason nor by the highest example; it is a practice from which our more advanced hearers would lose far more certainly than our most ignorant ones would gain.

And when the Scriptures, ordered by authority to be read in the church, are themselves hard to be understood, are we to leave them altogether untouched, so that they will perhaps edify no one, or shall we not try so to explain them, as that many of our hearers may find in them a living word of truth, though to some they may still say nothing? The Epistle to the Galatians is ordered to be read over in the service of the church three

Shall we always allow it to be read unexplained, because it is possible, or, if you will, even certain, that our attempts to explain it will be to many uninteresting, and therefore for the most part unintelligible? I do not think that we ought at any time so to neglect it.

But if not generally, much less should we neglect it now, when the truths which it teaches are

times a-year.

vehemently assailed, and the very principles against which it was originally directed, are again striving for the mastery. If we now are deterred by the difficulty of certain parts of Scripture from endeavouring to explain them, we serve the purposes of those to whom these very parts of Scripture are most unwelcome, and we encourage that notion of the difficulty of Scripture altogether, which leads immediately to that other notion, that therefore we had much better despair of explaining it for ourselves, and listen to a supposed infallible interpreter of it. Something, it is evident, the Galatian Christians had done or believed to which St. Paul strongly objected. Thus much appears from the text, and from the verses which immediately follow it; it appears no less from several passages of the fourth and fifth chapters, in one of which he says plainly, “I am afraid of you, lest I


I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.” We cannot think, therefore, that the evil which he combats was any thing trifling; it is certain at least that he did not so regard it. But if he did not so regard it, much less can we regard it as trifling now. I confess that if we can carry ourselves back in thought to St. Paul's time, and observe the strength of his language, and then see what it was which he was so condemning, we may find it hard, looking at the question as it appeared on the surface of it to the men of that generation,


to explain the earnestness of his censure. But with the history of eighteen hundred years to enlighten us, his language does indeed seem to have divinely anticipated the wants of coming generations; he seems rather to have had his eye fixed in vision on the full grown evil of later times, than on the first imperfect show of it in his own. That other Gospel, as he calls it, which yet was not another; that other scheme of Christianity, which rather is a subversion of Christianity; then as it seems giving only faint indications of its character, undiscerned and unsuspected by common eyes, has since been put forth to the sight of all the world in its full developement, speaking to the most careless in the language of its practical results. Christ's honour obscured, his law corrupted, his church utterly destroyed, so that now, eighteen hundred years and more after his resurrection, its very foundations, as it were, are to be laid afresh ; these are the fruits of that system ripened which St. Paul saw only in the bud, but which in the bud as it was then, he was yet directed with such earnestness of language to condemn : “O foolish Galatians! who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth?”

Explain the Epistle historically, and how inadequate do the facts at first sight appear to justify the strong condemnation of the Apostle. The Galatian Christians, so the historical commentator would say, had been persuaded to continue the practices enjoined by the law of Moses, practices not necessary for Christians, so the Apostles had decided, yet ancient, striking in themselves, commanded by God himself to the fathers, and which, if adopted by the Gentile churches, would have the effect of uniting God's ancient people with his newly chosen, all visibly bearing the same seal, and walking in the same ordinances. Historically, this is what the Galatians did, and no more.

How is this reverent, this devout, this catholic spirit deserving of the name of the subversion of Christ's Gospel ? Yet what does St. Paul say?

“ Behold I, Paul, say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.” What! the reverent use of God's appointed ordinance, in order to a greater conformity with his ancient church, cause them to lose the benefit of Christ's salvation; and this too, when Paul himself circumcised Timotheus, whose father was a Gentile, when he first took him out as his companion on his journeys ? Surely there is something extraordinary in all this, which needs, which calls aloud for our careful attention, that we may be able to comprehend it.

But let us see what follows the words which I have just quoted, for it may be that the Apostle will explain himself. “Behold I, Paul, say unto you that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you

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