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carried to Antioch; which was, “ Ye must be circumcised and keep the law of Moses.” At Antioch Paul and Barnabas withstood them; the apostles, who had the keys of the kingdom, to bind and loose, at their synod at Jerusalem condemned them; the release sent to Antioch exposed them to contempt there; and the disciples of that city received their liberty with much joy and consolation. Antioch grew too hot for these ministers of Satan; therefore their master sent them into the regions of Galatia, where perhaps the apostle's decision was not yet known; and here they laboured hard with the old text, “ Except ye be circumcised, and keep the law of Moses, ye cannot be saved.” The apostle Paul acquaints them with the affair at Jerusalem; of the intention of the false brethren, who came in to spy out their liberty and bring them into bondage; and of their not giving place to them for a moment, that the truth of the gospel might continue with them; but he becomes their enemy for telling the truth. They are for circumcision, and for keeping the law; the former is to bring them in debtors to the latter. These things were found in the scriptures, and appeared right to these simple souls; and the devil's drift in it was to bring them under the ministration of the letter, and to set aside the satisfaction of Christ. And, in order to make an outward shew, and blind their eyes, he led them to the old Jewish sabbath, and to other days and months and times and years. And
they thought that circumcision and the moral law, and adhering to these things, would make them perfect. But Paul knew that perfection, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, were all in Christ; and that those who went to the law would neither enjoy Christ, nor any of these things in him; for he is king at Zion, not at Sinai; and all his springs, rivers, and streams, are in the city, not in the wilderness; it is the rebellious, not the obedient, that dwell in a dry land. This is the yoke in which they wanted to entangle them, that they might have the liberty of sons, and be influenced with the bondage of servants; that God might be viewed as a master, not as a father; that they might work for God, and not God work in them; that the reward might be reckoned to them of debt, not of grace; that they might be excluded from Christ the advocate, and go to the accusations of Moses; reject the surety, and work at their own debt-book. This is the devil's witchcraft, and this is the Galatians' foolishness; and because this branch of priestcraft required much infernal wisdom and policy to entangle these Galatians in this yoke, it is called witchcraft.
The word, entangled, seems to be an allusion to fish entangled by a hook or net, to a bird entangled in a snare, or to a sheep or deer entangled in a bush; into which they are all brought unawares. And, as believers are compared to fish, to fowls, to sheep, and to harts with horns, Satan employs various artists against the household of faith, in order to ensnare them; some of which are compared to fowlers, others to fishers, who sacrifice to their own net, and burn incense to their own drag. And legal preachers, who handle the law unlawfully, make the Jewish altars and the two tables of stone, which are intended for our welfare, a trap, and a stumblingblock, to the people. And such entanglers are in their sins, and under the curse; and, while they entangle the sheep of Christ, themselves are nothing but thorns and briers, who are nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned. This Paul knew, and declares that they should bear their own judgment, whoever they were, being accursed of God; and he wished those cut off that troubled them; pronouncing a curse upon all, either angels or men, that should preach any other gospel than that which he had preached. Which leads me,
Fifthly, To treat of the possibility of a believer's being entangled again with the yoke of legal bondage. This is a point that will not easily go down with many professors in our days. Men, who have been healed without being wounded; saved before they were lost; and justified by grace before they were condemned by the law; who have made their calling and election sure, without crying day and night unto God; who understand all mysteries, but are destitute of charity; whose faith stands in the word of the gospel, but not in the power thereof; who have escaped the task of self-denial, and shunned the perilous path of tribulation; who have no changes in their life, nor bands in their death; whose own will is their rule and whose self-sufficiency is their god, and the object of their adoration; who know every thing but their own ignorance, and all men but themselves; who have never been chastened every day, nor plagued every morning; who have defeated Satan without receiving one fiery dart, and overcome the world without one war with it, or frown from it; who are got into the large room, and into the wealthy place, without coming either through fire or through water; who are purified without either the fiery trial, or the furnace of affliction: these have not only overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil; but they can defy the armies of the living God, without being able to describe one part of the experience or sufferings of a Christian soldier, or one piece of the saints' heavenly panoply. They have defied both death and the devil, without ever resisting unto blood, or striving against sin. The war of these men is not with Satan, but with Christ; not with the enemies of God, but with the ministers of Jesus; not with the worldlings, but with the saints. These are not the weak who are to say they are strong; these do not wait upon God to renew their strength, but to gainsay the mouth and wisdom that God has promised to give to his servants. God's strength is not expected to be made perfect in the weakness of these, their strength is firm: such a champion is as Solomon's lion, the strongest among beasts,
who trusts in his paws, and turns not away for any. He is the he-goat that is comely in his going, whose trust is in his horns; the greyhound, who confides in his heels; and the king against whom there is no rising up; having never been engaged in the fight of faith.
Some tell us that a believer cannot be entangled again with the yoke of bondage. They cannot allow that the north wind can awake, and the south wind, which are quite opposite to each other, blow upon one and the same garden. They think it is impossible for a disciple of Jesus to be puffed up and soured with the leaven of the pharisees; and that the Lord's kind caution to them to take heed and beware of their doctrines of free-will, self-righteousness, and legal bondage, was altogether useless and impertinent. But surely the Lord says nothing in vain. And, if the Galatians were in no danger of this leaven, Paul must be in great fear where no fear was. But Paul knew what this bondage is, and could see that the greatest part of the Galatians were infected with it; he therefore tells them a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
Others, who are wiser in their own conceit than seven men that can render a reason, tell us that these Galatians were never converted at all, and therefore they might be entangled again with this yoke. If they had never been delivered from it previous to this re-entanglement, Paul's speech must be tinctured with either flattery or falsehood