Substance of a Gospel Address on Galatians 4:1-7
I desire to draw your attention to two great lines of truth, which run through the whole of Scripture from beginning to end. One is the line of blessing, and the other that of cursing. And on one or other of these lines is every soul upon earth. It is not only that those under the law are cursed, though that is so in a special way, but “the curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked” (Prov. 3:33), whoever, and wherever such may be. There is no intermingling of these two principles, as indeed this is self-evident; neither is there any neutral ground, for the principle upon which the soul is in relationship with God determines for that soul which of these he is under.
Now the blessing of the creature lies in his knowledge and enjoyment of God. He cannot do without an object; and to be happy that object must be something greater than himself. His moral and spiritual being is capable of being greatly and pleasantly excited, but if this pleasurable excitement springs from the enjoyment of things on a level with himself, not to say anything of things beneath him, it is not lasting, and his subsequent depression is often greater than it would have been had he not partaken of the stimulant. His object must be something greatly above him; and not only that, but it must be infinite; something that is inexhaustible; something in which he will be finding for a whole eternity fresh delight.
God alone is sufficient for Himself. He requires nothing external to Himself to make His happiness supreme. The creation, which is the work of His hands, has added nothing to His happiness. He brought it into existence for His own pleasure. But that fact does not prove that He could not have done without it. He created it to please Himself, and when created, He had pleasure in it, for His thought was expressed in it; and that thought could not be otherwise than pleasing to Him. But it could not increase His happiness, for all that He saw in it was, so far as it went, the reflex of Himself, and by it nothing was added to the infinite wealth of felicity which lay in Himself.
But it is different with the creature who is set in relationship with his Creator. He is not sufficient for himself, but must find all his delight in God. All he has is from the bounty of God, but God is greater than all He gives; and it is Himself, and not merely that which He gives, that makes man’s cup of happiness overflow. Our Lord, when here upon earth, in the days of His humiliation, found all His delight in God. He says, “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup” (Ps. 16:5). And this was not to end upon earth, for He also says, “In Thy presence is fullness of joy: at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” True happiness, therefore, is found in the knowledge and enjoyment of God Himself; and that His creature might find his happiness here, He has made Himself manifest in His beloved Son. In Him we find God, and in Him we are brought to the fountain of all blessing.
And God delights in the blessing of His creature. He blessed the living creatures as soon as they were brought into existence (Gen. 1); and man, who was to have dominion over all things that He had made, He blessed also. He Himself is called “the Blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:11); for whatever state in which His creation may be found through the presence of evil, the blessedness in which He dwells cannot be disturbed.
Unfortunately, we have to hear the voice of cursing, as well as the voice of blessing, for expression must be given to that which is hateful to Himself. Hence as soon as man has fallen away from Him we hear the curse pronounced, and that as distinctly and forcibly as ever the blessing was; “Cursed,” God says, “is the ground for thy sake” (Gen. 3:17); and later on, when Cain had stained his hands with his brother’s blood, it is said to him, “Now art thou cursed from the earth, which has opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand.” And under the law the curse falls upon the transgressor:” Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them” (Deut. 27:26). Blessing, however, is the first thing we read of.
But though the curse must come upon everything that lifts up its head in rebellion against God, yet has He at infinite cost to Himself established blessing for men, and in a place to which there is ready access, and where it may be secured without money and without price. But outside that spot in which the blessing has been situated, there is nothing but curse for any human being. The blessing must be found where He has placed it, for it is nowhere else, and to abstain from visiting that place, and securing the blessing placed so convenient to all, is forever to inherit the curse.
This blessing, according to Genesis 12, was placed in Abraham, and confirmed to his seed in Genesis 22:18. And this seed, we are told in Galatians 3:16, is Christ. When death had passed upon Isaac, and his father had in figure received him from the dead, God speaks of the blessing as established in his seed. But here Isaac was but a type of Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father. The blessing, therefore, is established in Christ risen and glorified, and to Him the gospel directs the attention of all to whom it comes in the grace of God.
None but the children of Abraham inherit the blessing. But this is not the natural seed, but the spiritual. Abraham was the father of the faithful. They who are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham (Gal. 3:7). The natural seed do not count. Abraham is the father of all them that believe, whoever they may be. His line is the line of blessing, and all who believe are on that line; for all who believe are Christ’s, and all who are Christ’s are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Now the law is not on the principle of faith, but on the principle of works, for “the man that does these things shall live in them.” That is to say, the man who fulfils his obligations shall have his days prolonged. If he fail in a single point his previous law-keeping goes for nothing. He is a sinner, and must be dealt with accordingly. Having offended in one point, he has become guilty of all (Jas. 2:10). Every single transgression of the law is a capital offence. According to the law of England it does not require a man to commit two murders to forfeit his life. But the forfeiture of life is attached to the breach of each single commandment of the ten. A man may not steal, but if he covets, he has forfeited his right to live. It is not hard to see that, this being so, no one under law can escape the curse. For one offence Adam lost Paradise, and came under death. For one offence Moses forfeited his right to enter the land of promise. For one offence Saul was rejected from being king.
The blessing cannot be inherited on the ground of law; the curse is connected with that administration, for it is written, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” An entirely different principle was brought in in connection with Abraham, and that was the principle of faith, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). Having no works except those that would have condemned him, your God” (John 20:17). Here we learn that the place Jesus has in relationship with the Father and God is the place we have. His place determines ours. And what a place that is!
But we have also power given to us by which we enjoy that place. In this same scripture we read that Jesus came Himself into their midst, when they were gathered together, and breathed on them, and said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” And in this passage in Galatians: “And because ye are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” The place is ours, and the affections that belong to the place are ours also. We have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ, and fullness of joy is our portion.
Dear friends, is this place yours? Can you look up into the face of God, and in the consciousness of sonship before His face call Him Father? Perhaps I had better ask if the place has the least attraction for you. You might not care to be so near to Him. You would rather be a little farther away from His presence. You would not, perhaps, wish to be always under His holy eye. Such a nearness to God has no charm for you. The world has too great a hold upon your heart. You would prefer it to the blessing of God. Are you like the faithless sons of Israel who despised the pleasant land, and in their hearts turned back into Egypt? What a choice! The curse chosen instead of the blessing!
And what about the curse? It is Just the antithesis of the blessing. The blessing is, as we have seen, to be taken into favour in the Beloved, to be in the Son’s place and relationship before the face of the Father, in all the love of which He is the worthy Object. The curse is to be driven out from that Presence into the most distant place that is possible for the enemy of God to be driven. It is set forth in those terrible words, which by the Spirit of God are put into the lips of Jesus, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew). Could anything be more terrible than this, to have one’s portion for ever in that place of utter and unspeakable woe? But such is the nature of the curse; and from this there is no way of escape, other than the acceptance of the grace presented to all in Christ. This leads into the blessing of God, which makes rich, and with which He adds no sorrow (Prov. 10:22).
Dear friends, I have put before you blessing and cursing. The blessing is preached to you, forced upon you; you are entreated to lay hold of it. You have been told where it is. It is in Jesus; and there free for all. You have been told on what principle it is to be obtained. It is by faith. You cannot merit it. You require no merit to possess it. If you believe in Jesus it is yours. You have had both the height of the blessing and the depth of the curse placed before you. You can have no excuse if on the day of judgment you are found to have despised the blessing, and to have inherited the curse. You will only have yourselves to blame. God grant this may not be the portion of any here.