Verse 31. "So then" - We - Jews and Gentiles, who believe on the Lord Jesus, are not children of the bond woman - are not in subjection to the Jewish law, but of the free; and, consequently, are delivered from all its bondage, obligation, and curse.
Thus the apostle, from their own Scripture, explained by their own allegory, proves that it is only by Jesus Christ that they can have redemption; and because they have not believed in him, therefore they continue to be in bondage; and that shortly God will deliver them up into a long and grievous captivity: for we may naturally suppose that the apostle has reference to what had been so often foretold by the prophets, and confirmed by Jesus Christ himself; and this was the strongest argument he could use, to show the Galatians their folly and their danger in submitting again to the bondage from which they had escaped, and exposing themselves to the most dreadful calamities of an earthly kind, as well as to the final ruin of their souls. They desired to be under the law; then they must take all the consequences; and these the apostle sets fairly before them.
1. WE sometimes pity the Jews, who continue to reject the Gospel. Many who do so have no pity for themselves; for is not the state of a Jew, who systematically rejects Christ, because he does not believe him to be the promised Messiah, infinitely better than his, who, believing every thing that the Scripture teaches concerning Christ, lives under the power and guilt of sin? If the Jews be in a state of nonage, because they believe not the doctrines of Christianity, he is in a worse state than that of infancy who is not born again by the power of the Holy Ghost. Reader, whosoever thou art, lay this to heart.
2. The 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th verses of this chapter (ver. 4- 7) contain the sum and marrow of Christian divinity. (1.) The determination of God to redeem the world by the incarnation of his Son. (2.) The manifestation of this Son in the fullness of time. (3.) The circumstances in which this Son appeared: sent forth; made of a woman; made under the law; to be a sufferer; and to die as a sacrifice. (4.) The redemption of the world, by the death of Christ: he came to redeem them that were under the law, who were condemned and cursed by it. (5.) By the redemption price he purchases sonship or adoption for mankind. (6.) He, God the Father, sends the Spirit, God the Holy Ghost, of God the Son, into the hearts of believers, by which they, through the full confidence of their adoption, call him their Father. (7.) Being made children, they become heirs, and God is their portion throughout eternity. Thus, in a few words, the whole doctrine of grace is contained, and an astonishing display made of the unutterable mercy of God. See the notes on these verses.
3. While the Jews were rejecting the easy yoke of Christ, they were painfully observing days, and months, and times and years. Superstition has far more labour to perform than true religion has; and at last profits nothing! Most men, either from false views of religion, or through the power and prevalency of their own evil passions and habits, have ten thousand times more trouble to get to hell, than the followers of God have to get to heaven.
4. Even in the perverted Galatians the apostle finds some good; and he mentions with great feeling those amiable qualities which they once possessed. The only way to encourage men to seek farther good is to show them what they have got, and to make this a reason why they should seek more. He who wishes to do good to men, and is constantly dwelling on their bad qualities and graceless state, either irritates or drives them to despair. There is, perhaps, no sinner on this side perdition who has not something good in him. Mention the good-it is God's work; and show what a pity it is that he should not have more, and how ready God is to supply all his wants through Christ Jesus. This plan should especially be used in addressing Christian societies, and particularly those which are in a declining state.
5. The Galatians were once the firm friends of the apostle, and loved him so well that they would have even plucked out their eyes for him; and yet these very people cast him off, and counted and treated him as an enemy! O sad fickleness of human nature! O uncertainty of human friendships! An undesigned word, or look, or action, becomes the reason to a fickle heart why it should divest itself of the spirit of friendship; and he who was as dear to them as their own souls, is neglected and forgotten! Blessed God! hast thou not said that there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother? Where is he? Can such a one be trusted long on this unkindly earth? He is fit for the society of angels and the spirits of just men made perfect; and thou takest him in mercy lest he should lose his friendly heart, or lest his own heart should be broken in losing that of his friend. Hasten, Lord, a more perfect state, where the spirit of thy own love in thy followers shall expand, without control or hinderance, throughout eternity! Amen.
6. On allegorizing, in explaining the word of God, something has already been said, under ver. 24; but on the subject of allegory in general much might be said. The very learned and accurate critic, Dr. Lowth, in his work, Deuteronomy Sacra Poesi Hebraeorum, has entered at large into the subject of allegory, as existing in the sacred writings, in which he has discovered three species of this rhetorical figure. 1. That which rhetoricians term a continued metaphor. See Solomon's portraiture of old age, Eccles. xii. 2-6. A second kind of allegory is that which, in a more proper and restricted sense, may be called parable. See Matthew 13, and the note on Matt. xiii. 3, &c. The third species of allegory is that in which a double meaning is couched under the same words. These are called mystical allegories, and the two meanings are termed the literal and mystical senses. For examples of all these kinds I must refer to the learned prelate above named.