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We proceed to give an account of St. Paul's connection with this remarkable people. In Acts xvi. 6, we read that the Apostle, who had, in company with Silas, revisited the churches previously founded by him in Lycaonia, 'went through the Phrygian and Galatian country-for so the words should be read. No more is here said. It would appear from Gal. iv. 3, that his intention had been merely to pass through, but that he was detained by a sickness. (See below the correction of reading in this passage.) What sickness that was, is no matter of doubt; for the same passage contains a distinct allusion to his constitutional infirmity, his 'thorn in the flesh' (2 Cor. xii.), whatever that may have been. He appears to have taken occasion by this detention to preach to them the Gospel; and to found the Galatian churches, of which churches we have no particular account.
His description of the reception which they gave to his message is in accordance with their fervent national temperament. They took no account of the temptation in his flesh, which made him appear contemptible; they received him as an angel of God, nay, as if he had been our Lord himself. In an expression which must ever remain somewhat
obscure, but which testifies to the exaggerated nature of their affectionate excitement, they were ready to have plucked out their own eyes and have given them to him, in the self-congratulations which they expressed at his being among them (chap. iv. 14, 15).
But this was not his only visit. We find him in Acts xviii. 23, carrying out a more formal visi tation going through the whole country in order, confirming all the disciples. This was after an interval of at least three years; and it is to this second visit that some allusions of an instructive character, occurring in the Epistle, must be referred. In chap. iv. 16, he asks them reproachingly, whether he had become their enemy by telling them the truth? These words cannot of course apply to that first visit; as little can they be interpreted of anything in the Epistle, which the Galatians had not yet received; but their reference must be found in something that happened on the second presence of the Apostle among them. Then he must have found the evil beginning to be apparent, and have spoken to them his mind about it. Some hints are given of the character of his plain-spoken warnings. In chap. i. 9, he says,
'As we said before, so now I say again, If any man preacheth unto you any other gospel than that which ye received, let him be accursed.' The perverters of the Gospel had already begun their teaching; they were preaching conformity to the Jewish law; for he says, chap. v. 3, 'I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.' This also had formed a portion of his warning at the second visit. But matters were even worse than this. In chap. v. 21, having enumerated the works of the flesh, he adds,' of the which I forewarn you, as I also forewarned you before, that they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.'
After this second visit, the Apostle remained a considerable time-three years, as he himself calls it, Acts xx. 31-at Ephesus. There he would hear frequently of the progress of error among the Galatian churches; thence we know that he sent to them an order to contribute for the help of the poor brethren at Jerusalem (1 Cor. xvi. 1-6). A very general opinion has been, that this Epistle was written during the stay at Ephesus. The expression in chap. i. 6, ‘I marvel that ye are so soon removing from Him that called you,' seems hardly
to allow of a longer interval than three years having elapsed since that calling took place. Still, this is not the only consideration to be taken into account. The Epistles of St. Paul form themselves naturally into various groups, each of which is pervaded by a similar spirit and tone of the Apostle's mind, not found to prevail in others. We shall have occasion hereafter to follow out this idea in more instances than one. At present, let us bear it in mind while comparing 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans. It cannot be denied that remarkable affinities bind together these three Epistles. The necessity of self-vindication, existing with regard to both churches, causes the personal portions of 2 Corinthians and Galatians to have much in common. Very differently, it is true, does the Apostle shape his 'apology' to the two churches. The great hard lines of his vigorous self-assertion to the Galatians are softened into delicate and subtle irony of compliment to the Corinthians. But the same anxiety for his influence and office as bound up with the declaration of Christ's truth, causes the same spirit, in spite of the differing vehicle, to pervade both Epistles, and binds them inseparably together as works of
the same period. Still more strikingly is our Epistle united to the Epistle to the Romans. Whole passages, consisting of arguments on the relation of Christians to the law and its ordinances, are almost identical in the two. Compare together Gal. iii. 6-29 and Rom. iv. 3, 10, 11, 17, 18, i. 17, x. 5, xi. 32, vi. 3, and xiii. 14; Gal. iv. 5-7 and Rom. viii. 14--17; Gal. ii. 16 and Rom. iii. 20; Gal. v. 14 and Rom. xiii. 8—10; ver. 16 and Rom. viii. 4; ver. 17 and Rom. vii. 15, 23, 25; and many other passages and expressions. As Professor Lightfoot has remarked, 'there is no parallel to this close resemblance in St. Paul's Epistles, except in the case of the letters to the Colossians and Ephesians. Those letters were written about the same time and sent by the same messenger, and I cannot but think that we should be doing violence to historic probability by separating the Epistles to the Galatians and Romans from each other by an interval of more than a few months.' He finds a common link between the three Epistles, serving to place this one intermediate between the two others, in the lists of sins, 2 Cor. xii. 20, 21; Gal. v. 19—21; Rom. xiii. 13.
If we adopt this view, then St. Paul must have