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HAYDOCK CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
Ver. 1. Before whose eyes Jesus Christ . . . . crucified among you. The common exposition is, that S. Paul had before described and set before them Christ crucified. Others, that it had been clearly foretold by the prophets that Christ was crucified for them. Wi.
Ver. 2. Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law? As if he said, you esteem it a great favour to have received those spiritual gifts of working miracles, &c. When you were made Christians, had you these favours by the works of the law, or was it not by the hearing of faith, and by the faith of Christ, that you had such extraordinary graces? and when you have begun thus happily by the spirit of Christ and his spiritual gifts, are you for finishing and thinking to make yourselves more perfect by the exterior works of the law, the circumcision of the flesh, and such like ceremonies? Wi.
Ver. 4-5. If yet in vain: i.e. I have still good hopes, that what you have already suffered by persecutions and self-denials, since your conversion, will not be in vain; as they would be, if you sought to be justified by the works and ceremonies of the law of Moses, and not by the faith and law of Christ, by which only you can be truly sanctified. Wi. — S. Jerom, S. Aug. and others, suppose that the power of working miracles still remained in the Galatians, notwithstanding what had passed; but S. Chrysostom and several others, explain it of a power they had formerly possessed. Calmet.
Ver. 6. As it is written: Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him unto justice. See Rom. iv. 3. They only who imitate the faith of Abraham shall be blessed with him, and are his spiritual children, whether Jews or Gentiles, whom God promised to bless by the seed of Abraham; i.e. by Christ, who descended from Abraham. Wi. — The apostle thus argues with the Galatians; Abraham, who was never under the law, still received the grace of justification in reward of his faith, even before he had received circumcision. Now, if a person can be justified without the law, the law can be no ways necessary to salvation. Calmet.
Ver. 10-14. Are under a curse . . . . cursed is every man, &c. The sense of these is to be found Deut. xxvii. 26. in the Sept. Some expound them thus: curses are pronounced against every one who keeps not all the precepts of the law, but there is not any one; i.e. scarce any one, who keepeth them all; therefore all under the law are under some curse. But as it cannot be said that no one kept all the precepts, especially the moral precepts of the law, mentioned in that place of Deuteronomy; (for Zacharias and Elizabeth were both just in the sight of God, Luke i. and doubtless many others lived so as not to incur those curses, but were just and were saved, though not by virtue of the works of the law only, nor without faith in God, and in their Redeemer, who was to come) therefore others understand that all such persons fall under these curses, who think to comply with all these precepts by their own strength, or who confide in the works of the law only, without faith in Christ, the Messias, and without which they cannot be saved. This agrees with what follows, that the just man liveth by faith. Habac. ii. 4. See Rom. i. 17. — Now the law is not of faith, i.e. the works done merely in compliance with the law, are not works of faith that can save a man: but he that doth those things of the law, shall live in them; i.e. says S. Jerom, shall have a long temporal life promised in the law; or, as others say, shall have life everlasting, if they are done with faith. — Christ hath redeemed us from these curses; but to do this, hath made himself a curse for our sake, by taking upon himself the similitude of a sinner, and by dying upon the cross, as if he had been guilty of the greatest sins, having only charged himself with our sins, inasmuch as it is written: (Deut. xxi. 23.) cursed is every one who hangeth on a tree; which is to be understood, in case he deserve it for his own sins. — That the blessing of Abraham (or promised to Abraham) might be fulfilled; i.e. Christ redeemed us, that these blessings might be fulfilled on all nations, and that all might receive the promise of the Spirit, or the promised spirit of grace believing in Christ, who is now come. Wi.
Ver. 15, &c. I speak after the manner of man; or, by a comparison, says S. Chrys. common among men. If a man make or execute his last will, or any deed or contract, it stands good; no one contemns it, or pretends to annul it, or add any thing to it: how much more shall the testament, the covenant, or solemn promise which God made to Abraham, to bless all nations, stand firm and have its effect? And he said to his seed, to one, i.e. in Christ only, not to his seeds, as it were by many. It is observed, that the word seed being a collective signification, may grammatically be taken for the plural as well as for the singular number; so that we are to have more regard to S. Paul's authority, who expounds to us what is here signified by the word seed, than to the word itself. — The law which was made after four hundred and thirty years (consult the chronologists) does not make void the testament: nor the promise which God himself made to Abraham, that mankind should be blessed only by Christ. These blessings could not be by the law of Moses ordained, or delivered by angels in the hand of a mediator, to wit, of Moses, according to the common interpretation, who, in receiving and publishing the law, was as it were a mediator betwixt God and his people. — And a mediator is not of one, (but is called so, as mediating betwixt two parties) but God is one. This is to signify, that when he made the covenant or promise to Abraham, he made this promise himself, and did not make use of a mediator inferior to himself, as when he gave the law; and the law, in this respect, was inferior to the promise; but the chief difference was, that true justice and sanctification was not given by the law, for so it would have contradicted and have made void the promise made before to Moses, that the blessings of true sanctification should only be by his seed and by faith in Christ, the Son of Abraham and of David. According to the Scriptures all things (i.e. all men) were shut up together under sin, under the slavery of sin, from which they were not to be redeemed but by the accomplishment of the promise, and by the coming of Christ, by his grace, and faith in him. Wi. — Because of transgressions. To restrain them from sin, by fear and threats. — Ordained by Angels. The law was delivered by Angels, speaking in the name and person of God to Moses, who was the mediator on this occasion between God and the people. Ch. — The law was established not to occasion sin, but to manifest sin, and to punish sin. Ezechiel (xx. 11.) shews the meaning of the apostle, when he says: that God, after bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, imposed laws upon them that gave life to such as observed them. This was the decalogue, published immediately after the passage of the Red Sea; but violating these commandments, they became guilty of idolatry. To punish them, God imposed upon them precepts which are not good, and which give not life. v. 24, 25. This is the ceremonial law, which was established and published by degrees during the forty years the Israelites sojourned in the desert. It is then evident that this law was given to punish transgressions in the Israelites, and to prevent relapses. This is the sense of S. Paul.
Ver. 22. Hath concluded all under sin; i.e. hath declared all to be under sin, from which they could not be delivered but by faith in Jesus Christ, the promised seed. Ch. — The law was not given to all; but all its precepts and prohibitions were binding under sin, and all violators of the law were guilty of sin.
Ver. 24. As for the law, it was put or given because of transgressions, to put a stop, by the punishments prescribed, to idolatry and other crimes, which the Jews had learnt from other nations, particularly in Egypt. The law was a pedagogue, or schoolmaster, to direct and correct and bring men to Christ, our chief Master, our great Mediator, who being now come, we are no longer under our former pedagogue. Christ hath by his grace made all, who believe in him and follow his doctrine, his sons and his adoptive children, whether they were before Jews or Gentiles; now they are all one, united in the same faith, and in the same spirit of charity. All the faithful are to be accounted of the seed of Abraham, and his spiritual children by the accomplishment of the promise. Wi. — Pedagogue; i.e. schoolmaster, conductor, or instructor. Ch.
Ver. 27. The baptism of infants shews that the sacrament gives grace of itself, by divine appointment; or, as divines say, ex opere operato.
Ver. 28. Neither Jew, &c. That is, no distinction of Jew, &c. Ch.