by John Brown of Haddington
This is one of the best commentaries you will find on Galatians as John Brown is a great expositor of Scripture. Spurgeon said in his Commenting and Commentaries, ‘Brown is a modern Puritan of the utmost value.’
"THE times which are passing over us," after making every fair allowance for the tendency to exaggerate what is present, may he safely reckoned among the remarkable periods of human history. The "signs" of our times stand out in such bold relief that the most careless must observe them, though, with regard to the import of some of them, the most considerate find it difficult to form a decided judgment. Many of them are obviously of the nature of portents or omens, and inevitably lead the mind to think of "the things that are coming upon the earth:" and not a few of them seem to wear a lowering aspect on the near futurities both of churches and of nations.
There are, however, others of them bright with promise; and among these perhaps none is more fitted to excite hope in the Christian mind, than the increasing attention which the Bible is drawing to itself. This is manifested in the more thorough study and sifting of its substance and its evidence—in the more searching investigation into the meaning of the sacred books generally, and especially of the writings of the Apostle Paul, and in the more unequivocal and general avowal, among Christians of almost all denominations, of the principle, that, on matters of religious faith and duty, the first application, as well as the last appeal, should be made to "the oracles of God." These characters, which belong to our age even still more remarkably than they did to the era of the Reformation, shine like a light in a dark place.
The happy change in the state of the church and the world, on which the desires of good men are so intensely fixed, is to be accomplished by Divine truth, accompanied by Divine influence. Such a pure theology as will prove the suitable instrument of heavenly influence in transforming individuals, and churches, and nations, must be based on a well-understood Bible, and especially on a well-understood New Testament: for we run into no vicious circle when we say, we must learn to read the Old Testament in the light of the New, in order to our deriving illustration to the New Testament from the Old.
As the New Testament is the complement of the Old Testament, so the Pauline epistles are a concentration of the common doctrine of both respecting the method of human salvation. That wondrous economy in its fundamental principles, and practical applications, is, in no portion of the inspired volumes, so compendiously, yet so fully, unfolded, as in these remarkable writings. They are, indeed, remarkable writings. "His letters are weighty and powerful," was the reluctant acknowledgment of some of the Apostle's contemporaries, who, disbelieving his doctrine, and disliking his spirit, endeavoured to undermine his authority; and all judges, in all ages, possessed of the adequate intellect and information, however prejudiced against the system of doctrine taught in these wonderful compositions, have been constrained to admit, that, apart altogether from the question of their inspiration, they must have proceeded from a mind rich in the highest endowments and acquisitions of which the human spirit is capable.
There is an inextinguishable vitality, an innate vigour, an indestructible symmetry, an ineffaceable beauty, in the saving truth—the glorious gospel of the grace of God as stated in these epistles. It has been successively, as it were, laid on the Procrustean beds of the Oriental, the Neo-Platonic, the Aristotelian, and the Scholastic Philosophies; but it has outlived all the rackings and amputations which were requisite to fit it to enter into these artificial forms, and it needs only to be "loosed and let go," to start up "whole, as it was," and to resume its interrupted march through the world, to scatter light and life, liberty and blessedness, among men of "every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people." Thus to loose the truth, which has been unhappily so long fettered, is the great end of a true exegesis.
Much was done towards the attainment of this end by the expositors of the age of the Reformation, numbering among them some of the greatest men of an age singularly fruitful in great men; Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Melancthon, Zuingle, Ecolampade, and Martyr, and others of scarcely inferior ability, learning, and piety.
In the age that followed, the fetters which had been shattered were strangely repaired by many of the second and third series of Protestant expositors; and, with some noble exceptions, humanly constructed theories for harmonising the varied statements of Divine Revelation, under the plausible name of "The Analogy of Faith," were by them not only used as a direct means of interpreting the Scriptures, but so elevated above all other means as to control, and, indeed, in a great degree, to supersede them.
A better course has been entered on. The true nature and design of Exegesis appear to be more clearly apprehended. Christian Expositors seem now generally of opinion that, however true may be their "systems of divinity," and however manifold and important their uses (and, for my own part, I would find it difficult to overstate my sense of the value of that system of divinity held, in common with all evangelical churches, by that religious denomination to which it is my privilege to belong), it is wiser and safer to make the Bible the basis and the test of the system, than to make the system the principal, and in effect sole, means of the interpretation of the Bible; and that if, in any case, the system, fairly interpreted, should forbid the reception of a doctrine, which the well-established principles of interpretation, fairly and cautiously applied, bring out of a passage of Scripture, there must be no hesitation as to whether it would be better to modify the system, or to misinterpret the Bible.
To aid, in however small a measure, the removal of these bandages and entanglements which have surrounded inspired truth, so that it may walk at liberty, and perform those high and holy functions which are its exclusive prerogative—in reforming the church, and converting the world,—has been the main object of my public life, and especially of those exegetical works, which I have—perhaps in too great number—of late years sent from the press.
The present publication has the same object, and substantially the same character, as its precursors. Like most of them, though published at an advanced age, it is the result of the inquiries and studies of youth and manhood. This statement deprives the Exposition and its Author of some claims, which they otherwise might have had, on the indulgence of the readers. But it is right that the truth should be told. The Horatian period for retaining in the Author's repositories forthcoming publications, has been considerably more than trebled since the first sketch of this Exposition was produced; and during the period which has since elapsed, the manuscript has often been reviewed, corrected, curtailed, and added to. In its substance, it has been delivered to a Christian congregation; and, with its philological appendages, repeatedly read in the Class of Exegetical Theology, over which I have presided for nearly twenty years
In examining some old papers, I found an application made to me, nearly thirty years ago, by a numerous class of Students in Theology, of various Christian denominations, who at that time were accustomed to spend an hour with me weekly in critically reading the New Testament in the original Greek, requesting me to publish the Notes on the Epistle to the Galatians, which I had read to them. I was gratified with the expressed approbation of my young friends, but do not regret that I declined complying with their request. The Notes are now a somewhat less inadequate exposition of this important Epistle than they then were.
Many of these Students are honourably occupying important stations in different sections of Christ's church, in distant quarters of God's world. It is in the indulgence of a better feeling than vanity that I mention two of their names (and I am sure none of their fellow-students will find fault with the selection), the one from among those "who have fallen asleep," and the other from among those "who continue to this day." The first—the dead,—my near kinsman and dear friend, JOHN BROWN PATTERSON, the gifted and saintly minister of Falkirk; the second—the living,—and long may he live in honour and usefulness, WILLIAM CUNNINGHAM, D.D., Principal and Professor of Ecclesiastical History in the New College in this city.
I have endeavoured, though, I am afraid, with doubtful success, to make this Exposition at once a readable book for intelligent Christians, though unacquainted with the Sacred Languages, and a satisfactory statement of the facts and principles on which the Exegesis is based, to critical Students of the New Testament. It would have been easier—perhaps more advantageous—to have sought these ends in separate publications.
Such works as the present, to serve their purpose, must, to a great extent, be compilations. The principal merit of their authors is in making themselves acquainted, as far as possible, with all that has been done for the elucidation of the subject of exposition, and presenting the substance of all that, in the exercise of their best judgment, they think has been well done—supplementing this, as they are able, by the results of their own independent research. This is what I have attempted to do. I have appended to this Preface a list of the authors whom I have consulted in preparing this work. Where my obligations have been of a kind that admitted it, they have been noticed in the text or in the margin; but he who shall go over the field I have traversed, will find that I have been materially helped by hints and suggestions of so indirect and remote a kind, as precluded the possibility of being intelligibly acknowledged.
It is a remark of ANDREW MARVELL, that "whosoever he be that comes in print, whereas he might have sat at home in quiet, does either make a treat, or send a challenge to all readers: in the first of which cases, it concerns him to have no scarcity of provisions, and in the other to be completely armed; for if anything be amiss on either part, men are subject to scorn the weakness of the attack, or laugh at the meanness of the entertainment. This is the common condition to which every man that will write a book must be content with patience to submit."
The condition appears to me perfectly reasonable. Had I not thought the provision I bring forward wholesome and nourishing, and, moreover, somewhat rare and savoury withal, it would not have been presented. Had I not thought the positions taken tenable, I should never have occupied them. Nevertheless, it will be a satisfaction to me to see a table more abundantly covered with viands from the same exhaustless repository—more rich, more varied, and more skilfully prepared; and in surrendering when fairly conquered, I will feel gratitude rather than shame; for, to allude to the fine figure of JORTIN, next to attending and gracing the triumphs of truth, as her successful soldier, the object of my most fervent wish is to be "a captive tied to her chariot wheels, if I have undesignedly committed any offence against her."
I cannot conclude without expressing how deeply I feel the favour shown the Author, and the benefit done to his work, by the careful revision which the sheets have received in passing through the press, from the Rev. WILLIAM VEITCH of this city, and from my kinsman, the Rev. J. B. JOHNSTON of Kirkcaldy. The former of these gentlemen, so extensively and so favourably known to scholars by his edition of the "Iliad," and his elaborate and accurate work on the "Irregular Greek Verbs," kindly undertook the charge of the Greek quotations; and by his careful attention to these, as well as by his ingenious and learned suggestions on various points of Greek criticism, he has rendered the work less faulty than it would otherwise have been.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART I: INSCRIPTION OF THE EPISTLE - GAL. 1:1–5
PART II: INTRODUCTION TO THE EPISTLE - GAL. 1:6–10
PART III: THE APOSTLE'S HISTORICAL DEFENCE OF HIMSELF AND OF HIS OFFICE - GAL. 1:11–2:21
PART IV: THE APOSTLE'S DEFENCE OF HIS DOCTRINE - GAL. 3:1–4:1–7
PART V: THE APOSTLE'S EXPOSTULATIONS WITH AND WARNING OF THE GALATIANS - GAL. 4:8–5:12
PART VI: PRACTICAL INJUNCTIONS - GAL. 5:13–6:10
PART VII: POSTSCRIPT - GAL. 6:11–18
NOTE A. —Calvin's Exposition of Gal. 4:1–7
B. —Period of the Appearance of the Messiah
C. —Elements of Christianity
D. —Remarks on the principle of the Support of the Christian Ministry, stated Gal. 6:6
E. —Opposition of the Natural Mind to the peculiar doctrines of Christianity, especially the doctrine of the Cross
F. —Practical Power of Christian Truth
G. —Tendency of Man to rest in a mere External Religion
H. —Paul's Mode of considering Judaism and Christianity in their various relations.—WINER
LIST OF AUTHORS CONSULTED DURING THE PREPARATION OF THIS EXPOSITION
Prolegomena, § 1
Prolegomena, § 8, p. 14
Galatians 2:15, 16
Galatians 3:1, ἐν ὑμῖν,
Galatians 3:15, ὅμως,
Galatians 6:7, 8