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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles

Chapter 6 - Galatians 5:7 - The Stoppage in the Heavenly Race Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius




The Stoppage In The Heavenly Race.


"Ye did run well; who did hinder you, that ye should not obey the truth?"

-Galatians 5:7.



     A brief, strange, sad history is contained in these words; the history of an apostolic Church; the history of Christian men.

     Fair beginning, but woeful end; yet we must not call it end, for in all likelihood many of these Galatians returned to their first love and first faith. Still the words are sad; these Christians were not what they once had been; and the apostle's paternal (maternal we might call it, ch. 4:19) heart was bowed down with sorrow at their departure from the faith,-their stoppage in the race so well begun.

     So has it ever been with creature-hood. Such is its inherent tendency,-decline, decay, death. To Godhead alone pertains perpetual stability, needing no external prop or help. Angels left their first estate. Adam fell; and creation went down along with man. Man being in honour, did not abide; and now all creation groans. The blessing did not abide; and in its place came the curse. Israel once ran well. 'I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals.' But Israel went back. The early Churches ran well; but soon they left their first love. Declension is written everywhere in all the records of the Churches. Our Church courts may not discern or avow this; their minute books may contain no record of apostasy. Yet apostasy is there; the running well, and then the stoppage,-the sad and fatal stoppage!

     I. The race well begun.-The Acts of the Apostles is the record of such beginnings. At Jerusalem, Samaria, Antioch, Ephesus, Derbe, and many other places, we see the race well begun. Glorious beginnings indeed! Ah, these primitive startings, these noble outsets, how they put us to shame! The simple faith; the full-hearted joy; the buoyant fervor; the exulting liberty; the separation from the world; the glorying in tribulation; the unity of faith and fellowship; the love of the brethren,-what a spectacle!

     II. The wearying.-Strength for the race is needed, hourly strength, superhuman strength; for it is no earthly race, but something lofty, supernatural, divine. Forgetting the supernal source of strength, we betake ourselves to the internal or the simply external. And so we weary. For only God can supply the power which keeps us running. By Him only shall we run, and not be weary.

     III. The slackening.-Becoming weary, we soon slacken our pace. Forgetting the source of strength above, we become slower and slower; gradually, perhaps,-almost imperceptibly; but still with diminished speed. Instead of increasing our swiftness as we move on, we slacken it. Oh this slackening of speed in the Christian race! How sorrowful, yet how common!

     IV. The halting.-The inevitable issue of the slackening is the halting or stoppage. There must be motion, either onwards or backwards, either downwards or upwards. The first arrest of speed is the beginning of a downward movement, which, unless prevented by grace, will end in complete stoppage and abandonment of the race.

     This 'running well' is in connection with the truth; this slackening and halting is in connection with error. 'Who hath hindered you, that ye should not obey the truth?' The starting-point in the race was 'the word of the truth of the gospel.' With this the Galatians began, and with this they went on for a season. The good news of the righteousness without works of the law sent them off at full speed; as at Pentecost, when the three thousand started in the same race, under the influence and power of the same wondrous gospel. For the good news, believed by them, brought liberty, release from guilt, disburdening of the conscience, elasticity of spirit, joy of heart, strength and vigor to the whole being. What is there, like the truth of God, in His gospel, for lifting a man up, and setting him forward in the race of God?

     Departure from the truth is the beginning of our failure in the race. As the truth is the animating or energizing influence, the quickening and strengthening principle; so every departure from the truth is so much taken from our strength and zeal and energy. It may be a small defection at first, but it will introduce the evil; for 'a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.' We cannot let go truth without suffering loss; we cannot receive a falsehood without suffering greater loss. The end is the 'strong delusion.' And this is true of a Church as well as of an individual believer. No man can estimate the extent of the evil done by, the loss of a single truth. The keystone of the arch is not always the largest stone. The most valuable coin is not necessarily the biggest in size.

     The departure of the Galatians from the truth was a peculiar one.[2] They did not deny Christ or His gospel, His blood, or cross, or righteousness. They simply added a little bit of the law to Christ's gospel. They wished to append circumcision to the gospel. This was subverting the whole gospel, says the apostle. This little addition was the transformation of gospel into law; of grace into work.

     Are not many perversions of the gospel like this? We say, 'The gospel is not of itself enough to give us peace; we must have feelings, evidences, convictions, experiences; not only faith, but a consciousness of faith; nay, a consciousness that our faith is of the right kind.' All these additions are subversions. Jesus only. That is our resting-place. Not feeling, nor prayers, nor convictions; but Christ alone! 'Nothing in our hands we bring,' either at first or any after time. We take the cross just as we find it; ourselves just as we are. Thus, taking as true the good news of the finished sacrifice, we rest there. We need nothing else. All beyond this is Galatian error; the subversion of the cross; the stoppage of the race.