Ver. 21. "Tell me," he says, "ye that desire to be under the Law, do ye
not hear the Law?"107
He says rightly, "ye that desire," for the matter was not one of a proper
and orderly succession of things but of their own unseasonable
contentiousness. It is the Book of Creation which he here calls the Law,
which name he often gives to the whole Old Testament.
Ver. 22. "For it is written, (Gen. xv: 16.) that Abraham had two sons,
one by the hand-maid and the other by the freewoman."
He returns again to Abraham, not in the way of repetition, but, inasmuch
as the Patriarch's fame was great among the Jews, to show that the types had
their origin from thence, and that present events were pictured aforetime in
him. Having previously shown that the Galatians were sons of Abraham, now,
in that the Patriarch's sons were not of equal dignity, one being by a
bondwoman, the other by a free-woman, he shows that they were not only his
sons, but sons in the same sense as he that was freeborn and noble. Such is
the power of Faith.
Ver 23. "Howbeit the son by the handmaid is born after the flesh; but the
son by the freewoman is born through promise."
What is the meaning of "after the flesh?" Having said that Faith united
us to Abraham, and it having seemed incredible to his hearers, that those
who were not begotten by Abraham should be called his sons, he proves that
this paradox had actually happened long ago; for that Isaac, born not
according to the order of nature, nor the law of marriage, nor the power of
the flesh, was yet truly his own son. He was the issue of bodies that were
dead, and of a womb that was dead; his conception was not by the flesh, nor
his birth by the seed, for the womb was dead both through age and
barrenness, but the Word of God fashioned Him. Not so in the case of the
bondman; He came by virtue of the laws of nature, and after the manner of
marriage. Nevertheless, he that was not according to the flesh was more
honorable than he that was born after the flesh. Therefore let it not
disturb you that ye are not born after the flesh; for from the very reason
that ye are not so born, are ye most of all Abraham's kindred. The being
born after the flesh renders one not more honorable, but less so, for a
birth not after the flesh is more marvellous and more spiritual. And this is
plain from the case of those who were born of old time; Ishmael, for
instance, who was born according to the flesh, was not only a bondman, but
was cast out of his father's house; but Isaac, who was born according to the
promise, being a true son and free, was lord of all.
Ver. 24. "Which things contain an allegory."108
Contrary to usage, he calls a type an allegory; his meaning is as
follows; this history not only declares that which appears on the face of
it, but announces somewhat farther, whence it is called an allegory. And
what hath it announced? no less than all the things now present.
Ver. 24. "For these women" he says, "are two covenants; one from mount
Sinai, bearing children unto bondage, which is Hagar."
"These:" who? the mothers of those children, Sarah and Hagar; and what
are they? Two covenants, two laws. As the names of the women were given in
the history, he abides by this designation of the two races, showing how
much follows from the very names. How from the names?
Ver. 25. "Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia:"
The bond-woman was called Hagar, and "Hagar" is the word for Mount Sinai
in the language of that country.109
So that it is necessary that all who are born of the Old Covenant should be
bondmen, for that mountain where the Old Covenant was delivered hath a name
in common with the bondwoman. And it includes Jerusalem, for this is the
Ver. 25. "And answereth to Jerusalem that now is."
That is, it borders on, and is contiguous to it.110
Ver. 25. "For she is in bondage with her children."
What follows from hence? Not only that she was in bondage and brought
forth bondmen, but that this Covenant is so too, whereof the bondwoman was a
type. For Jerusalem is adjacent to the mountain of the same name with the
bondwoman, and in this mountain the Covenant was delivered. Now where is the
type of Sarah?
Ver. 26. "But Jerusalem that is above is free."
Those therefore, who are born of her are not bondmen. Thus the type
of the Jerusalem below was Hagar, as is plain from the mountain being so
called; but of that which is above is the Church. Nevertheless he is not
content with these types, but adds the testimony of Isaiah to what he has
spoken. Having said that Jerusalem which is above "is our Mother," and
having given that name to the Church, he cites the suffrage of the Prophet
in his favor,
Ver. 27. "Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not, break forth and
cry, thou that travailest not, for more are the children of the desolate
than of her which hath the husband." (Isa. liv: I.)
Who is this who before was "barren," and "desolate?" Clearly it is the
Church of the Gentiles, that was before deprived of the knowledge of God?
Who, "she which hath the husband?" plainly the Synagogue. Yet the barren
woman surpassed her in the number of her children, for the other embraces
one nation, but the children of the Church have filled the country of the
Greeks and of the Barbarians, the earth and sea, the whole habitable world.
Observe how Sarah by acts, and the Prophet by words, have described the
events about to befal us. Observe too, that he whom Isaiah called barren,
Paul hath proved to have many children, which also happened typically in
the case of Sarah. For she too, although barren, became the mother of a
numerous progeny. This however does not suffice Paul, but he carefully
follows out the mode whereby the barren woman became a mother, that in
this particular likewise the type might harmonize with the truth. Wherefore
Ver. 28. "Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise."
It is not merely that the Church was barren like Sarah, or became a
mother of many children like her, but she bore them in the way Sarah did.
As it was not nature but the promise of God which rendered Sarah a mother,
[for the word of God which said, "At the time appointed I will return unto
thee, and Sarah shall have a son," (Gen. xviii: 14.) this entered into
the womb and formed the babe,] so also in our regeneration it is not nature,
but the Words of God spoken by the Priest, (the faithful know them,) which
in the Bath of water as in a sort of womb, form and regenerate him who
Wherefore if we are sons of the barren woman, then are we free. But
what kind of freedom, it might be objected, is this, when the Jews seize
and scourge the believers, and those who have this pretence of liberty
are persecuted? for these things then occurred, in the persecution of the
faithful. Neither let this disturb you, he replies, this also is anticipated
in the type, for Isaac, who was free, was persecuted by Ishmael the bondman.
Wherefore he adds,
Ver. 29, 30. "But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted
him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Howbeit what saith
the Scripture? (Gen. xxi: 10.) Cast out the handmaid and her son: for the
son of the handmaid shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman."
What! does all this consolation consist in showing that freemen are
persecuted by bond-men? By no means, he says, I do not stop here, listen
to what follows, and then, if you be not pusillanimous under persecution,
you will be sufficiently comforted. And what is it that follows? "Cast
out the son of the handmaid, for he shall not inherit with the son of the
freewoman." Behold the reward of tyranny for a season, and of reckleness
out of season! the son is cast out of his father's house, and becomes,
together with his mother, an exile and a wanderer. And consider too the
wisdom of the remark; for he says not that he was cast forth merely because
he persecuted, but that he should not be heir. For this punishment was
not exacted from him on account of his temporary persecution, (for that
would have been of little moment, and nothing to the point,) but he was
not suffered to participate in the inheritance provided for the son. And
this proves that, putting the persecution aside, this very thing had been
typified from the beginning, and did not originate in the persecution,
but in the purpose of God. Nor does he say, "the son of Abraham shall not
be heir," but, "the son of the handmaid," distinguishing him by his inferior
descent. Now Sarah was barren, and so is the Gentile Church; observe how
the type is preserved in every particular, as the former, through all the
by-gone years, conceived not, and in extreme old age became a mother, so
the latter, when the fulness of time is come, brings forth. And this the
prophets have proclaimed, saying, "Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not;
break forth and cry, thou that travailest not; for more are the children
of the desolate than of her which hath the husband." And hereby they intend
the Church; for she knew not God, but as soon as she knew Him, she surpassed
the fruitful synagogue.
Ver 31. "Wherefore, brethren, we are not children of a handmaid but
of the freewoman."
He turns and discusses this on all sides, desiring to prove that what
had taken place was no novelty, but had been before typified many ages
ago. How then can it be otherwise than absurd for those who had been set
apart so long and who had obtained freedom, willingly to subject themselves
to the yoke of bondage?
Next he states another inducement to them to abide in his doctrine.
Verse 1.-"With freedom did Christ set us free;stand fast therefore.
Have ye wrought your own deliverance, that ye run back again to the
dominion ye were under before? It is Another who hath redeemed you, it
is Another who hath paid the ransom for you. Observe in how many ways he
leads them away from the error of Judaism; by showing, first, that it was
the extreme of folly for those, who had become free instead of slaves,
to desire to become slaves instead of free; secondly, that they would be
convicted of neglect and ingratitude to their Benefactor, in despising
Him who had delivered, and loving him who had enslaved them; thirdly, that
it was impossible. For Another having once for all redeemed all of us from
it, the Law ceases to have any sway. By the word, "stand fast," he indicates
Ver 1. "And be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage."
By the word "yoke" he signifies to them the burdensomeness of such a
course, and by the word "again" he points out their utter senselessness.
Had ye never experienced this burden, ye would not have deserved so severe
a censure, but for you who by trial have learnt how irksome this yoke is,
again to subject yourself to it, is justly unpardonable.