Ver. 11, 12. "See with how large letters I have written
unto you with mine own hand. As many as desire to make a fair show in the
flesh, they compel you to be circumcised."
Observe what grief possesses his blessed soul. As those who are oppressed
with some sorrow, who have lost one of their own kindred, and suffered
an unexpected calamity, rest neither by night nor day, because their grief
besieges their soul, so the blessed Paul, after a short moral discourse,
returns again to that former subject which chiefly disturbed his mind,
saying as follows: "see with how large letters I have written unto you
with mine own hand." By this he signifies that he had written the whole
letter himself, which was a proof of great sincerity. In his other Epistles
he himself only dictated, another wrote, as is plain from the Epistle to
the Romans, for at its close it is said, "I Tertius, who write the Epistle,
salute you;" (Rom. xvi: 22.) but in this instance he wrote the whole himself.
And this he did by necessity, not from affection merely, but in order to
remove an injurious suspicion. Being charged with acts wherein he had no
part, and being reported to preach Circumcision yet to pretend to preach
it not, he was compelled to write the Epistle with his own hand, thus laying
up beforehand a written testimony. By the expression "what sized," he appears
to me to signify, not the magnitude, but, the misshapen appearance of the
letters, as if he had said, "Although not well skilled in writing, I have
been compelled to write with my own hand to stop the mouth of these traducers."
Ver. 12, 13. "As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh,
they compel you to be circumcised; only that they may not be persecuted
for the cross of Christ. For not even they who receive circumcision do
themselves keep the Law; but they desire to have you circumcised, that
they may glory in your flesh."
Here he shows that they suffered this, not willingly but of necessity,
and affords them an opportunity of retreat, almost speaking in their defence,
and exhorting them to abandon their teachers with all speed. What is the
meaning of "to make a fair show in the flesh?" it means, to be esteemed
by men. As they were reviled by the Jews for deserting the customs of their
fathers, they desire, says he, to injure you, that they may not have this
charged against them, but vindicate themselves by means of your flesh.
His object here is to show that they did not so act from respect to God;
it is as if he said, This procedure is not founded in piety, all this is
done through human ambition; in order that the unbelievers may be gratified
by the mutilation of the faithful, they choose to offend God that they
may please men; for this is the meaning of, "to make a fair show in the
flesh." Then, as a proof that for another reason too they are unpardonable,
he again convinces them that, not only in order to please others, but for
their own vain glory, they had enjoined this. Wherefore he adds, "that
they may glory in your flesh," as if they had disciples, and were teachers.
And what is the proof of this? "For not even they themselves," he says,
"keep the Law;" even if they did keep it, they would incur grave censure,
but now their very purpose is corrupt.
Ver. 14. "But far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our
Lord Jesus Christ."
Truly this symbol is thought despicable; but it is so in the world's
reckoning, and among men; in Heaven and among the faithful it is the highest
glory. Poverty too is despicable, but it is our boast; and to be cheaply
thought of by the public is a matter of laughter to them, but we are elated
by it. So too is the Cross our boast. He does not say, "I boast not," nor,
"I will not boast," but, "Far be it from me that I should," as if he abominated
it as absurd, and invoked the aid of God in order to his success therein.
And what is the boast of the Cross? That Christ for my sake took on Him
the form of a slave, and bore His sufferings for me the slave, the enemy,
the unfeeling one; yea He so loved me as to give Himself up to a curse
for me. What can be comparable to this! If servants who only receive praise
from their masters, to whom they are akin by nature, are elated thereby,
how must we not boast when the Master who is very God is not ashamed of
the Cross which was endured for us. Let us then not be ashamed of His unspeakable
tenderness; He was not ashamed of being crucified for thy sake, and wilt
thou be ashamed to confess His infinite solicitude? It is as if a prisoner
who had not been ashamed of his King, should, after that King had come
to the prison and himself loosed the chains, become ashamed of him on that
account. Yet this would be the height of madness, for this very fact would
be an especial ground for boasting.
Ver. 14. "Through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and
I unto the world."
What he here calls the world is not the heaven nor the earth, but the
affairs of life, the praise of men, retinues, glory, wealth, and all such
things as have a show of splendor. To me these things are dead. Such an
one it behooves a Christian to be, and always to use this language. Nor
was he content with the former putting to death, but added another, saying,
"and I unto the world," thus implying a double putting to death, and saying,
They are dead to me, and I to them, neither can they captivate and overcome
me, for they are dead once for all, nor can I desire them, for I too am
dead to them. Nothing can be more blessed than this putting to death, for
it is the foundation of the blessed life.
Ver. 15, 16. "For neither is circumcision any thing, nor uncircumcision,
but a new creature. And as many as shall walk by this rule, peace be upon
them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God."
Observe the power of the Cross, to what a pitch it hath raised him!
not only hath it put to death for him all mundane affairs, but hath set
him far above the Old Dispensation. What can be comparable to this power?
for the Cross hath persuaded him, who was willing to be slain and to slay
others for the sake of circumcision, to leave it on a level with uncircumcision,
and to seek for things strange and marvellous and above the heavens. This
our rule of life he calls "a new creature," both on account of what is
past, and of what is to come; of what is past, because our soul, which
had grown old with the oldness of sin, hath been all at once renewed by
baptism, as if it had been created again. Wherefore we require a new and
heavenly rule of life. And of things to come, because both the heaven and
the earth, and all the creation, shall with our bodies be translated into
incorruption. Tell me not then, he says, of circumcision, which now availeth
nothing; (for how shall it appear, when all things have undergone such
a change?) but seek the new things of grace. For they who pursue these
things shall enjoy peace and amity, and may properly be called by the name
of" Israel." While they who hold contrary sentiments, although they be
descended from him (Israel) and bear his appellation, have yet fallen away
from all these things, both the relationship and the name itself. But it
is in their power to be true Israelites, who keep this rule, who desist
from the old ways, and follow after grace.
Ver. 17. "From henceforth let no man trouble me."
This he says not as though he were wearied or overpowered; he who chose
to do and suffer all for his disciples' sake; he who said, "Be instant
in season, out of season;" (2 Tim. iv: 2.) he who said, "If peradventure
God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth, and they
may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil;" (2 Tim. ii: 25,
2 Tim. ii: 26.) how shall he now become relaxed and fall back? Wherefore
does he say this? it is to gird up their slothful mind, and to impress
them with deeper fear, and to ratify the laws enacted by himself, and to
restrain their perpetual fluctuations.
Ver. 17. "For I bear branded on my body the marks of Jesus."
He says not, "I have," but, "I bear," like a man priding himself on
trophies and royal ensigns. Although on a second thought it seems a disgrace,
yet does this man vaunt of his wounds, and like military standard-bearers,
so does he exult in bearing about these wounds. And why does he say this?
"More clearly by those wounds than by any argument, than by any language,
do I vindicate myself," says he. For these wounds utter a voice louder
than a trumpet against my opponents, and against those who say that I play
the hypocrite in my teaching, and speak what may please men. For no one
who saw a soldier retiring from the battle bathed in blood and with a thousand
wounds, would dare to accuse him of cowardice and treachery, seeing that
he bears on his body the proofs of his valor, and so ought ye, he says,
to judge of me. And if any one desire to hear my defence, and to learn
my sentiments, let him consider my wounds, which afford a stronger proof
than these words and letters. At the outset of his Epistle he evinced his
sincerity by the suddenness of his conversion, at its close he proves it
by the perils which attended his conversion. That it might not be objected
that he had changed his course with upright intentions, but that he had
not continued in the same purpose, he produces his trials, his dangers,
his stripes as witnesses that he had so continued.
Then having clearly justified himself in every particular, and proved
that he had spoken nothing from anger or malevolence, but had preserved
his affection towards them unimpaired, he again establishes this same point
by concluding his discourse with a prayer teeming with a thousand blessings,
in these words;
Ver. 18. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit,
By this last word he hath sealed all that preceded it. He says not merely,
"with you," as elsewhere, but, "with your spirit," thus withdrawing them
from carnal things, and displaying throughout the beneficence of God, and
reminding them of the grace which they enjoyed, whereby he was able to
recall them from all their judaizing errors. For to have received the Spirit
came not of the poverty of the Law, but of the righteousness which is by
Faith, and to preserve it when obtained came not from Circumcision but
from Grace. On this account he concluded his exhoration with a prayer,
reminding them of grace and the Spirit, and at the same time addressing
them as brethren, and supplicating God that they might continue to enjoy
these blessings, thus providing for them a twofold security. For both prayer
and teaching, tended to the same thing and together became to them as a
double wall. For teaching, reminding them of what benefits they enjoyed,
the rather kept them in the doctrine of the Church; and prayer, invoking
grace, and exhorting to an enduring constancy, permitted not the Spirit
to depart from them. And He abiding in them, all the error of such doctrines
as they held was shaken off like dust.