You see how large a letter I have written to you with my own hand.
It has been supposed that some disorder of the eyes made it painful for the apostle to write. Earlier in this Epistle, where he tries to gain these childish Galatians by a recital of his own sorrows for them, he praises their affection by saying, "I bear you record that if it had been possible ye would have plucked out your own eyes and have given them to me." In the adjoining sentence he speaks of the "temptation in his flesh," for which they neither despised nor rejected him, but entertained him "as an angel of God." Doubtless the use of the pen or style was costly to his comfort. All the better if it only helps in the least degree to draw them, through his Christlike sacrifice in their behalf, nearer to Christ Himself. Suppose he had not been so thoughtful; suppose he had just followed the custom and had dictated his letter to an amanuensis —every truth recorded, every appeal for fidelity, every part of the intellectual demonstration of the doctrine would have stood there just as it stands now. Nothing of the literal contents of the message he was bidden to deliver would have been lost. And yet one thing would not have been there. The Galatian reader, and we here, would have missed the sign-manual of personal interest and personal sympathy so vividly and yet so delicately stamped on the whole face of the manuscript in the painstaking writing of his "own hand." There is the additional power of personal feeling and personal character. The secret value is not what we say in words; it is not in our specific actions, much less in our professions. Terms are not competent to define it. Science has never analyzed it. Yet there it is — the personal quality, a power that is perpetually and mightily at work wherever men are, for or against the Love and Truth of God. It is the thing, too, which more than all else makes people love one another, unites them in companionships, and colours society. Mere abstract truth is not sufficient to change men's motives, to rouse their hearts or to save their souls. The gospel is not delivered to us as a mere string of propositions, however striking, however true, however inspired — and we may be thankful it is not. For no such treatise, law-book, moral philosophy, "Aids to Reflection," or "Whole Duty of Man," call it a gospel or by any other name — would ever have led the race from darkness to light, or lifted it up from death to life. As a matter of history, that never happened. True enough, we have our gospel, our Christianity through a book. It is a "Word of Life," but it is more. The Word is "made flesh" in the Person Christ. He is the gospel. It was not Christianity that regenerated mankind and changed the face of the earth; it was Christ. We have much more than a Book. We have even that through living men; it brings before us living characters — men whose personality was taken up by the Holy Ghost and made part of the vehicle of Revelation. I take it that what was personal to each one of the twelve men that were grouped about our Lord was put there in order to give the glad tidings of His life to mankind in a twelvefold shape, so that it would be "twelve manner of fruits" for the healing of many nations. Peter's impulsiveness, John's ardour, Philip's curiosity, Matthew the publican's sagacity, the square-dealing of James, every peculiarity amongst them all was just as much a part of the apparatus of Revelation as the words of the Beatitudes, or the stone tables of the law. The Bible, all through it, is quick and brilliant with these personal tokens. There were occasions, too, in Christ's intercourse with His followers when, beyond anything that could be described in words, His personal soul went into His manner, motions, glances, yielding marvellous effects. His "Follow Me," His "Daughter, be of good cheer," His look at Peter, His woes upon the Pharisees, His aspect before the trained soldiers of the imperial army, sent out to arrest Him, are instances. Since His ascension, in every land and period, Christian piety has been vigorous in preportion to the attachment and devotion to the Saviour's person. It is the vital aroma of the best hymns of the ages. It sheds the holiest unction into the most memorable sermons. If there is a personal power like this in the faith of Christ at all, we are not Christ's true followers till we have it and use it. Which of us has come in and goes out in a personal communion, face to face, with God, holding the promises, doing the service, with his own hand? Which of us will return this week, to business, to study, to housework, to society, with new personal purposes, more truly Christ's follower, more thoroughly in earnest in keeping this world. under foot, and so using it for God as to mount up by it to heavenly places?
(Bishop F. D. Huntington.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.