Page images

1. The earnestness with which Paul established his apostlefhip, in the first and second chapters of this epistle, and the things which he advanced for that purpose, shew that the Judaizers, who urged the Galatians to receive circumcision, denied his apostleship; and in support of their denial, alleged that he was made an apostle, only by the church at Antioch, and that he had received all his knowledge of the gospel from the apostles. This the Judaizers might alledge with some plaufibility, before Paul's apostleship was recognised at Jerusalem. But after Peter, James and John, in the time of the council, gave him the right hands of fellowship, as an apostle of equal authority with themselves, and agreed that he should go among the Gentiles, and they among the Jews, his apostleship could be called in question no longer in any church, than while the brethren of that church were ignorant of what had happened at Jerusalem. We may therefore believe, that immediately after the council, the apostle would write his epistle to the Galatians, in which he not only gave

them an account of his having been acknowledged by the three chief apostles, but related many other particulars, by which his apostleship was raised beyond all doubt. This is the first reason for supposing that the epiftle to the Galatians was written foon after the council of Jerusalem.

2. The second reason is taken from the inscription of the epiftle, in which it is said, that all the brethren who were with Paul joined him in writing it. For as the only view with which any of the brethren could join the apostle in writing to the Galatians, was to attest the facts which he advanced, in the first and second chapters, for proving his apoftleship, the brethren who joined him in writing it, must have been such as knew the truth of these facts. Wherefore, they could be neither the brethren of Corinth, nor of Ephesus, nor of Rome, nor of Troas, nor of any other Gentile city where this epistle hath been dated, except Antioch. As little could they be the brethren who acą companied the apostle in his travels among the Gentiles, as Hammond conjectures. For none of them, except Silas, had any knowledge of the facts advanced in this epistle, but what they received from the apostle himself; so that their , testimony was, in reality, the apostle's own testimony. The only brethren who could bear effectual testimony to these things, were those

who lived in Judea and its neighbourhood; particularly the brethren of Antioch, who, by their intercourse with those of Jea rusalem, must have known what had happened to Paul there, as fully as they knew what happened to him in their own city, where he had resided often and long. I therefore have no doubt that the epistle to the Galatians was written from Antioch, and that the brethren who joined Paul in writing it, were the brethren there, whose testimony merited the highest credit. For, among them, were various prophets and teachers, whose names are mentioned, Acts xiii. 1. with others of respectable characters, whose place of residence, early conversion, eminent station in the church, and intercourse with the brethren in Jerusalem, gave them an opportunity of knowing Paul's manner of life before his conversion; his being made an apostle by Christ himself ; his being acknowledged as an apoftle by his brethren in Jerusalem; his teaching uniformly that men are saved by faith without obedience to the law of Moses ; his having ftrenuously maintained that doctrine in the hearing of the church at Antioch ; his having publicly reproved Peter for seeming to depart from it, by refusing to eat with the converted Gentiles; and that on being reproved by Paul, Peter acknowledged his misconduct by making no reply. All these things, the brethren of Antioch could attest, as matters which they knew and be. lieved; so that with the greatest propriety, they joined the apostle in writing the letter, wherein they are asserted.

3. That the epistle to the Galatians was written after the council of Jerusalem, and before Paul set out from Antioch on his second apoftolical journey, appears from his not giving the Galatians any exhortation therein, or direction concerning the collection for the saints. At the time Paul went into Galatia from Tarsus, he does not seem to have planned that collection. Neither had he it in view, when he went into Phrygia and Galatia with Barnabas from Lycaonia. What first suggested the idea to him, was, if I mistake not, the exhortation of the apostles, when they gave him the right hands of fellowship, and agreed that he should go among the Gentiles, namely, that he would remember the poor ; that is, remember to make collections among the converted Gentiles, for the poor of the saints in Judea. Or he may have formed the resolution, in consequence of some con


[ocr errors]

And no

versation on the subject which he had with the three apostles, before he left Jerusalem. But in whatever manner it originated, as Paul doth not seem to have formed that resolution, till he went up to the council and conversed with the other apostles, he could not with propriety mention it to the Galatians in any letter, till he had explained the matter to them in conversation. And this I doubt not the apostle did, when he carried to them the decrees of the council, in his second apostolical journey through Phrygia and Galatia. And the Galatians having agreed to make the collections, he directed them in what manner to make them with the least inconvenience to themselves. doubt received from them their collections, when he went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, in his way to Ephesus, as mentioned Acts xviii. 23.-Or if any of the Galatian and Phrygian churches had not then finished their collections, they may have sent them to him during his three years abode in Ephesus. These things I infer from the following circumstance. In his first epistle to the Corinthians, chap. xvi. 1, 2. which was written from Ephesus after he had gone over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, he mentioned the directions concerning the method of making the collections, which he had given to the Galatians before he wrote that letter ; and desired the Corinthians to follow these directions in making their collections. Wherefore, as he did not after that go into Galatia, but went from Ephesus to. Corinth, and from Corinth straightway to Jerusalem with the collections, he must have re. ceived the collections of the Galatian churches, in the manner I have described.

4. When the apostle wrote his epistle to the Galatians, he had heard of the defection of some of them from the true doctrine of the gospel. This defection he represents as having happened soon after they were converted, Gal. i. 6. I wonder that ye are fo foon removed from him who called you into the grace of Christ. But if the epistle to the Galatians was written, either from Rome during the apostle's first confinement there; or from Corinth during his eighteen months abode in that city; or from Ephesus where he abode three years; or from Troas in his way "to Jerusalem with the collections, the defection of the Galatians must have happened a confiderable time after their conversion, even on the supposition that they were first called, when Paul and


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Barnabas went into their country, from Lycaonia. Wherefore, if the apostle's expression, I wonder that ye are so foon removed, is proper, the epistle to the Galatians could not be written later than the interval between the council of Jerusalem, and the apostle's second journey into the Gentile countries with Silas, when they delivered to the churches the decrees of the council.

The foregoing arguments for the early date of the epistle to the Galatians, afford to that date a degree of probability, not usually obtained in a matter so dark and so remote.--Suppofing then, that this epistle was written soon after the council of Jerusalem, the apostle at Antioch may have heard of the defection of the Galatians, by letters from some of the faithful among them, which he received before he went to the council. Or he may have been informed of it in Jerusalem, during the council, by some who had lately come from Galatia. And after he returned to Antioch, he may have written this epistle to the Galatians by Titus, notwithstanding he resolved to visit them soon, for the purpose of delivering the decrees of the council. For the dans ger they were in from the false teachers, and the number of those who already had gone over to Judaism, made it necessary that the apostle should write immediately, to reclaim those who had apoftatised, and to prevent others from following their example.

Sect. III. Of the Occasion of writing the Epifle to the


[ocr errors]

Not long after the Galatians embraced the gospel, certain Jewish Christians zealous of the law of Moses, came among them and taught them, that unless they were circumised and obeyed the law, they could not be saved, Gal. v. 2. And so fuccessful were these Jewish zealots in propagating this error, that fome of the Galatians actually submitted to be circumcised, Gal. v. 2.-12.

The doctrine of the Judaizers, concerning the necessity of circumcision to men's salvation, the apostle termed another gospel ; or rather, he declared it to be no gospel at all, because the Judaizers, utterly ignorant of the nature and efficacy of Christ's


death, affirmed that the gospel had no sacrifice for fin; and that pardon and justification were only to be obtained through the Levitical atonements; for which reason they exhorted the Galatians to be circumcised, that they might be entitled to the benefit of these atonements. However, as they acknowledged Jesus to be a prophet sent of God, and considered his doctrines and precepts as an excellent institute of morality, they did not require the Galatians to renounce the gospel, but exhorted them to join the law with it, that by adopting the expiatory rites of the law, the gospel might be rendered a complete and effectual form of religion.

Some however of the Galatians, better instructed, opposed these errors as contrary to the doctrine of Paul, whom they still respected as their spiritual father. Wherefore the Judaizers, to lessen his credit, represented to the Galatians, that he was none of those who had accompanied Jesus during his ministry on earth, and from that circumstance they inferred that he was no apostle ; or at best an apostle of men ; that he received his commission to preach the gospel from the brethren at Antioch, or from the apostles at Jerusalem ; that any knowledge of the gospel which he poffefsed, had been communicated to him by those who gave him his commission; that very little regard was due to the doctrine of such a teacher, that the apostles who accompanied Christ in his lifetime, being well acquainted with the true nature of the gospel, had a better claim to be followed, especially Peter, James, and John, who, as the false teachers affirmed, themselves obeyed the law, and enjoined it to all, as necessary to salvation; and that if Paul taught differently from them, it might be presumed, either that he did not rightly understand their doctrine, or that he did not faithfully interpret it. They even went so far as to affirm, that Paul himself had now changed his doctrine, and preached the neceflity of circumcision, chap. v. II.

To these calumnies the Galatians gave the more heed, that Paul's apostleship was not generally known in the church at that time. And as a few were already drawn away, and others were in danger of following, it is not improbable that some of the faithful among them judged it necessary to give the apostle an account of the Galatian churches, in a letter, which, as was


« PreviousContinue »