Galatians 5:18


1. A bad man has his better self. When temptation is away, in calm thoughtful moments, or when he is stricken by mortal illness or bowed with a great sorrow, or perhaps when the beauty of a sunset or the strains of sweet music call up memories of childhood, the true self will rise in the heart of a wicked man with pain and unutterable regrets.

2. A good man has his lower self. The human saint is far removed from the heavenly angel. The body and its appetites are with him; the soul has its meaner powers, its earthly passions, its self-regarding interests. There are times when the spiritual life is dull and feeble; then some sudden temptation, or even without that the depressing atmosphere of the world, will reveal to a man his worse side.

II. THE TWO SELVES ARE IN CONFLICT. They are not content to lie at peace each in its own domain. Both are ambitious to rule the whole man. While the flesh brooks any restraint, the Spirit strives to bring the body into subjection. Thus it comes to pass that life is a warfare and the Christian a soldier. The battle of life is not mainly a fighting against adverse circumstances and external concrete evils of the world. "A man's foes are they of his own household," nay, of his own heart. The great conflict is internal. It is civil war - rebellion and the effort to quell it; of all wars the most fierce.

III. THE CONFLICT BETWEEN THE TWO SELVES IS SUCH THAT EACH IS HELD IN CHECK BY THE OTHER. "Ye cannot do the things that ye would." There is a dead-lock. Each army holds itself safe in its own entrenchments. Neither can turn the enemy's position. Not that there is perfect balance of power. In most of us one or other force gives a temporary advantage. In many the lower self has the upper hand; in many, let us thank God, the better self maintains the supremacy. But neither has the victory that will enable it to drive the other off the field. Bad men, now and again, see yawning before them deep, black pits of wickedness, from the brink of which they start back in horror, arrested by the invisible hand of conscience. No man is wholly bad, or he would cease to be a man - he would be a devil. On the other hand, it is clear to all of us that no good man is wholly good.

IV. IN THE STRENGTH OF THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST THE BETTER SELF OF THE CHRISTIAN WILL ULTIMATELY OBTAIN COMPLETE VICTORY. The stress and strain of the war is but for a time. In the end all enemies shall be subdued. Meanwhile the secret of success is with those who "walk by the Spirit." So great a hope should lighten "the burden of the mystery."

"The heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world." Now life is broken, confused, inconsistent, discordant. But this is but the time of passing conflict. With victory there will come true harmony of being and growth to the full stature of the soul. - W.F.A.

But if ye be led of the Spirit ye are not under the law.
1. The Spirit is a person. The personality of the Spirit is a doctrine freely confessed by us in our creed, but often denied by us in thought, converse, prayers. He comes to have with us only the indefiniteness of an impulse and the impersonalness of an influence, with none of that substantive being, intelligence, and will that constitutes the Holy Spirit a true and complete personality.

2. The Spirit is in some way the continuance to us, under altered conditions, of that same Jesus, who once walked among men in visible form, and in the utterance of tones that were audible. In a way He is the Son's messenger; and so, in letting ourselves be actuated by the Spirit, we are living still under the same personal regime as did the disciples who walked in the companionship of Jesus.

(Chas. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

The text has its affirmative and also its negative element. In neglecting the latter, and addressing ourselves (as is more satisfactory) only to its affirmative and constructive aspect, it needs to be accepted as our basal principle, that through whatever stages God's government passes, God's government never ceases, and that changes of dispensation are not breaks in Divine authority, but alterations simply in God's method of administering His authority. This principle is distinctly implied in the text. The Jew as such is under the law, amenable to God's authority as exercised through Moses: the Christian as a Christian is also under a kind of law, amenable to God's authority as exercised through the Son, the Holy Spirit — sovereignty, Divine sovereignty, carrying its exercise through both dispensations in one uninterrupted continuity without hint of break or interregnum. Now the conception we are likely to have of Christianity is of a system under which there is larger liberty enjoyed than under the system of Moses; and this conception, provided only we associate with the word "liberty" its true notion, is justified, and justified by the Scripture (John 8:32, 33, 36; 1 Corinthians 7:22; 2 Corinthians 3:17). But I question if we are all of us, or even most of us, quite careful or accurate in the notion we have of the thing called "freedom." Freedom is not exemption from government; rather is freedom a form of government. Anarchy, lawlessness, is the opposite of government; freedom is a special variety of government. Political freedom is civil authority vested in a particular way. Christian freedom is Divine authority vested in a particular way; so that in coming out from the bondage of a Jew into the freedom of a Christian, there is no inquiry to be had respecting the abatement of authority, but only respecting the new point at which authority is vested and the new manner in which it is exercised.

(Chas. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

"If... A man may live in an age of gospel, but it does not follow from that that he lives under the administration of the gospel. Christ has come into the world, but it does not follow that He has come into my heart and set up His throne there. The Holy Spirit is abroad in society, and there are thousands and hundreds of thousands that are being led by that Spirit. It does not follow from that, that I am being led by it. If I am led by it, I am not under the law; if I am not led by it, of course I am under the law. I have not escaped the pressure of Divine authority at one point until I have first put myself under the pressure of Divine authority at another point. We read in the Book of Numbers that a man gathered sticks on the .Sabbath, and he was stoned at the Lord's command; and our thought perhaps is that God used to be very particular. We read in the book of Joshua that Achan, the son of Zerah, was guilty of embezzlement, and that at the Lord's command he and his sons and his daughters were stoned with stones and burned with fire; and our thought perhaps is that the Lord used to be very particular. He used to be particular to be obeyed. There is so much in the New Testament respecting love, liberty, and the abolition of old ordinances, that we allow ourselves sometimes to be betrayed into supposing that the old dispensation was the dispensation of man's submission to God, and that the new dispensation is the dispensation of God's submission to man; that the gospel is a kind of giving up on God's part, a sort of confession that He is not disposed to be particular about little things any more, and that it hardly avails Him to attempt to be particular about little things. Now, this conception of the gospel as an economy of Divine relaxation," Divine "letting down," Divine "giving up," is one that yields bitter fruit; it makes the gospel contemptible by making it irresolute... Calvary proves that the truth is exactly the opposite of such a notion as this — that God thinks so much of His own sovereignty that He would rather have Divine blood shed than not have you and me respect that sovereignty and come into terms of gentle allegiance to it .... The man who discards the punctilious observance of God's outward statutes because he lives in an age of gospel, without having first submitted himself to the governance of an inward Christ, and to the laws written by the Spirit upon the fleshly tables of the heart, has detached himself from God at one point, without having first attached himself to God at another point.

(Chas. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

The old administration was an administration of exterior lines that men could see: the new administration is an administration of interior personal impulses that men can feel. God drew the lines: God gives the impulses. Moses was the agency then: Christ is the agency now; one government underlying both, one sovereign administrative in both. In one case it was government by communicated statute; in the other it is government by immanent leadings. In one the law was a thing distinct from us, and laid down for us to run upon, like railroad-irons spiked and bedded before a locomotive; in the other the impulse is a thing inwardly contained and inseparable from us, in a certain way like the instinct of a bird guiding it southward at the approach of winter. In various ways might this distinction between government by applied constraint and government by contained motive be illustrated to us. Any bar of wood or metal you can balance upon a pivot and constrain into a north and south direction; a magnetic needle delicately suspended in the same way will constantly constrain itself into a north and south direction. An applied constraint in one instance, an immanent tendency in the other. Although it will occur to you, I hope, that even this immanent tendency of the magnetized needle becomes operative only as celestial polarity makes itself in a delicate way inwardly felt. The needle would not move only as the heavens move in it. Or again — one pupil solves a problem according to the rule stated in his arithmetic; another pupil solves the same problem purely at the direction of his own mathematical insight. The result may be the same — the steps by which the result is reached may be the same; but in the latter instance the process will be purely intellectual, and in the former to a considerable degree mechanical; for between such constrained operations of mind and the operations of a Babbage's calculating machine the points of resemblance are obvious and striking. This contrast, however, must not betray us into supposing that our gifted problem-worker is not as amenable, quite as amenable, to authority, as the boy who ciphers with his finger on the rule. When a man becomes a genius, a mathematical genius if you please, he passes out from under the constraints of his book, but not from under the supremacy of his science. There is no caprice about genius. Genius does not care much for a set of explicit regulations, but that does not mean that genius is lawless; in fact no mind comes so close to, and into such loyal intimacy with, the very substance of mathematical law as the free and the gifted mathematician. So far from genius discarding law, rather is it the supreme joy of genius to re-enact the eternal and unwritten law in the chamber of its own intellect. And however the Christian, the moral genius, may discard systems of detailed ordainment suited to a slow-paced Hebrew, so far from a Christian's denying the great supremacy beneath which he stands, rather is it his sovereign joy to re-enact in the senate-chamber of his own conscience the unwritten law that abides eternal in the bosom of his Lord.

(Chas. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

We cannot put one foot before another in religion, except as we are led; and if there be difficulty of a more than common order, it is that which encounters the man who takes upon himself to be his own guide in seeking salvation. We are not, indeed, machines; we are not to be the subjects of an uncontrollable impulse, or a rigid compulsion, destroying free will, and forcing us into righteousness; but if we be not, drawn, we must be led; if there be no bending of the will which would destroy our moral responsibility, there must be a bending of the will which would incline us to godliness. Helpless and hopeless is man's natural estate: born in sin, cradled in sorrow. The Spirit of the living God enters into this alienated creature, lifts him. from the dust, urges him with vigour, and introduces him into the circle of the celestial family, leading him to the knowledge of all that is most blessed and to the love of all that is most beautiful, leading him from ruin to triumph, from the wreck of all that Adam was to the fulness of all that Christ Jesus is. Whom else, then, shall I take as my guide? Shall I be led by reason? Meteor of a day, I cannot trust thee. Shall I be led by philosophy? Device of man, thou canst not bring me to God. hie; Spirit of light, Spirit of truth, enter Thou into our souls, and. go Thou before us, as went the fiery cloudy pillar before Israel of old; and we will follow Thee, and we will obey Thee; making it our confidence, that, if we are led of Thee, we are sons of God and heirs of immortality.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

The case is not merely that the man has. lost his way. The traveller who is conscious that he has wandered from the road is uneasy at advancing, so that he will climb every little eminence as that from which he may hope to catch some landmark; and if none be around him, he will look up to the stars, and seek to learn from the constellations the direction he should take; and all his actions will betray his anxiety. If he hear but the barking of a shepherd's dog, or discern a glimmering light amongst distant trees, there will be an eagerness in endeavouring to procure intelligence, and to seek guidance. But there is nothing of all this in the moral traveller. He will follow with obstinate determination the path upon which he has entered. And though there be much to assure him of his error — the rugged rocks, and deep mountains, and tangled forests — he will nevertheless push desperately on, pausing now and then for a moment, as though half conscious that all is not right, and then with a more dogged resolution hurrying forward in the same hopeless course. Thus he requires something more than a guide; he must be furnished with a disposition to follow. And when we say that the Spirit of God leads the true Christian, we do not mean that it merely goes before him as a guide and a director to the city of refuge. Nay, but that it takes hold on him, as did the angel when he brought Lot out of Sodom. We rather mean that the Spirit literally leads him by dwelling in him, residing in him as a quickening and actuating principle.

(Chas. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)

These words have before now been must mischievously mistaken by ignorant persons who were glad enough to suppose that by Christian privilege they were put out of the reach of the law. The meaning is as follows: — The Holy Spirit of God puts into the heart of man the Spirit of Christ, and this is the Spirit to think and do "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report." Now if a man have in himself the spirit for a thing, what needs he any outward ordinance to compel him to it? To the man who is led by the Spirit the works of the law of God are the natural outward, working of his spirit, as natural to him as the very motion of his limbs; he does not want them to be written down, any more than he requires to be told that he must move his arms and legs, and they can neither condemn him nor justify him; he is what he is without them, before he comes to them; and, as St. Paul says, he, "through the Spirit, waits for the hope of righteousness by faith;" so independent is he of them. Is it not manifest, then, that he who is led by the Spirit is not, under the law? Let us go on, then, to know more concerning this Spirit, in which we are called into such glorious liberty. It is, as I have said, the Spirit of Christ within a man, formed there by the renewing power of the Holy Spirit; it is the new, the inner, the spiritual man, and the walk of this man is, of course, a following of Christ, a continual working out of that which he believes; for instance, he believes that Christ was crucified, therefore he crucifies the flesh with the affections and lusts; he believes that Christ died, therefore he reckons himself dead unto sin; he believes that Christ rose again, therefore he reckons himself alive unto God through Him; he believes that Christ ascended into heaven, therefore he sets his affections on things above; he believes that Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, administering His kingdom and interceding for His people, therefore he does all that His kingdom may come and His will be done, and is instant in prayer; he believes that Christ will come again to judge the quick and the dead, therefore he does the part of a faithful servant in watching and waiting for his Lord. Our notion of perfect liberty in the flesh is to do everything that we like; but experience soon tells us that the notion is impossible. But the true Christian does everything that he likes, for he does everything from the heart, because of the spirit which is within him. This it is to be led by the Spirit; this is the liberty wherewith Christ hath made His people free. Shall we not desire to stand fast in it? Shall we surrender ourselves to the bondage of the law? Let us only consider a little farther the difference of these two states.

1. To be under the bondage of the law, is either to take merit to ourselves for obeying it, or to bring its vengeance upon us by disobeying it; in either ease it is a hard master indeed.

2. Surely, then, there is no real liberty but that wherewith the gospel of Christ makes us free. Let me state a few particulars of this also. The man of God, continuing in the word of Christ, and led by the Spirit, uses the law as he does a road; he is not guided by it, any more than a man perfectly acquainted with a country is guided by it, but he uses it to travel along through this world, and he delights in it, as in a road to a better place, and as in the exercise of his spirit. As for the commandments of God, he loves them, and in His statutes he meditates. The word of God is a lamp unto his feet and a light unto his path. He feels no unwillingness; he has no mind for pleading excuses and making delays; but he deplores the weakness of the flesh, which in this body of sin cannot follow up the willingness of the spirit, and he strives to put to full account all the means which God hath so graciously given in Jesus Christ our Lord for enabling him to keep the precepts and testimonies of the Lord. He takes to himself no merit for keeping them, any more than for eating or drinking, or satisfying any craving of his nature; the leading of the Spirit makes the will of God his will, and therefore doing the will of God is doing his own will, so that while he keeps the law he is not subject to it.

(R. W. Evans, B. D.)Beside the spirit of our mind (Ephesians 4:23) every man is led by some spirit or other.

1. One is led by the spirit of error (1 Timothy 4:1).

2. Another by the spirit of giddiness (Isaiah 19:14).

3. Another by the spirit of bondage (ver. 1; Romans 8:15).

4. Another by the spirit of the world (1 Corinthians 2:12).

5. The regenerate by the Spirit of God.


1. In a right way: the way of God's commandment.

2. By a just rule: the word of truth.

3. Sweetly and justly.

4. In a constant way of progression, from grace to grace.

5. In a way opposed to the flesh.


1. Those who go in a known evil way.

2. Those who are led by their own imaginations without any warrant from the Word of God.

3. Those who are carried by passions and distempers even in a good way.

4. Those who make no progress.

5. Those who fulfil the lust of the flesh.

(Bishop Hall.)


1. We are ignorant of the road.

2. Have defective vision and cannot see our way.

3. Are lame and impotent.

II. WE SHOULD SEEK FOR THIS GUIDANCE AND HELP. This is what a lost, benighted, or disabled traveller does. Man, however, does the opposite, and pursues his journey perversely, blindly, helplessly.


1. A disposition to seek the right way.

2. A willingness to receive every help in the pursuit of it.


1. He leads by dwelling in the believer as a quickening and actuating principle ever aspiring after knowledge and holiness.

2. Under His guidance the believer advances —(1) in knowledge

(a)of the person and work of Christ;

(b)of the issues of obedience and suffering;

(c)of Christ's spiritual kingdom.(2) In holiness.

(a)In inward graces;

(b)in outward deportment.


1. The free will is not destroyed by uncontrollable impulses or rigid compulsion.

2. The will is so influenced as to be inclined to holiness.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

I. NEGATIVELY. I am not under the law — of picking pockets. If the law were abolished to-morrow, I would not pick anybody's pocket. I am not under the law of murder; for if there were no gallows, nor officer, nor judge, nor court, I would not murder. I am not under the law to drunkenness. I can go by a whole regiment of shops and never think of turning in. I am above it. I have the law within me. I do not abstain from gambling because gambling is disreputable, and I fear losses. I do not gamble because I do not want to. I do not avoid bad company because I should lose respectability; but for the same reason that musicians do not sit down and work out discords, and who keep to harmony because harmony is so sweet, and discord so painful. And so in regard to spiritual things, we are led by the Divine Spirit into such a state of approbation and satisfaction in the higher things, that we do not want the inferior, the antagonistic, the antithetic.

II. POSITIVELY. There is not in all the statute books in the world one single word saying to the mother, "Thou shalt love thy babe." There is not a Church or creed which says, "Thou shalt feed thy babe." But see the mother as the twilight darkens, sitting with her child as it draws sustenance from her own bosom, and singing sweet carols, and counting it the proudest of all the hours of the day. She has the love of the mother in her, and does the things that ought to be done, because she loves to do them — it is automatic. So if ye be led of the Spirit ye do the things by the law that is in you, and by your spiritual preferences and loves and likes, which otherwise are commandments.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Consider how many laws there are which affect a man's body — the laws of light, of heat, of gravitation, of sleep, of digestion, of exercise, dec., etc. When men are young and inexperienced, and have no one to teach them they get into trouble by violating these laws. They have no mind to keep them, and they suffer in consequence. They are in bondage respecting these laws. But as they learn more perfectly, so that they use their eyes according to the law of light, and their ears according to the law of sound, and their mouth according to the law of health; selecting this thing because the law requires, rejecting that because the law forbids it — then they are set free from these trials, and pass out of a state of bondage into a state of liberty. The little child when it begins to walk has to think where it shall put this foot and where it shall put that, and has to poise itself carefully, and use its mind as well as its body. But a man walks without thinking. What is the difference? One is under the law — has not learned it — is yet subject to it; the other has learned it so perfectly that he is emancipated from it. The man does automatically, what it requires an effort on the part of the child to do. The child is in bondage and the man is free, because the child does not keep the law, and the man does.

(H. W. Beecher.)

A man has lost his way in a dark and dreary mine. By the light of one candle, which he carries in his hand, he is groping for the road to sunshine and to home. That light is essential to his safety. The mine has many winding passages, in which he may be hopelessly bewildered. Here and there marks have been made on the rocks to point out the true path, but he cannot see them without that light. There are many deep pits into which, if unwary, he may suddenly fall; but he cannot avoid the danger without that. Should it go out, that mine will be his tomb. How carefully he carries it! How anxiously he shields it from sudden gusts of air, from water dropping on it, from everything that might quench it! The case described is our own.

(Newman Hall.)

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