The Church of Galatia was the scene of a conflict between the law and the gospel, or Sarah and Hagar. We have in the progress of Scripture many such scenes. The house of Abraham was such. There Hagar and Sarah for a season dwelt together, but in sad discord and strife. Again, the family of Jacob presented the same. Leah and Rachel, the two wives, dwelt together, but between them there was again the same disturbance, upbraiding and envy. Elkanah's house was the same. Peninnah and Hannah were the Leah and Rachel again--pride and provocations from the one, and constant sorrow of heart from the other. And all these scenes were the expression of the conflict between the flesh and the spirit, or the law and the gospel, of which conflict the Church in Galatia was the scene, when we reach the times of the apostolic ministry. The trouble was brought in through unbelief, and could be removed only by strengthening the freewoman. Thus it was Sarah's unbelief that brought Hagar into the family. Had she, in the patience of faith, waited the Lord's time, and not given her maid to Abraham, she would have been spared fourteen years of sorrow from Hagar and Ishmael. It was Jacob's craft on Isaac that brought down Laban's craft on himself in giving him Leah, and thus his getting her into his house as well as Rachel. Had his faith been more simple, his faith would have been more undistracted. And nothing healed all this sorrow and quieted this disturbance, but the fruitfulness of the beloved, or the freewoman. Then Sarah gets rid of Hagar, Rachel rejoices, and Hannah sings her song of holy triumph. So Israel brought the law, or the bondwoman, on themselves by their unbelief and self-confidence (Ex. 19); and Galatia, and the flesh in each of us, is the same cause of trouble. And nothing drives it away, nothing heals the house, the Church, or the heart, but strengthening the spirit, the gospel, or the freewoman, thus giving fruitfulness to the seed of God, the spirit of adoption, the principle of liberty in us. Bring forth Isaac, and then send away Ishmael, and dwell in an undivided house, breathe the pure element of liberty, "Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free." Indeed we ought to do justice (may I so speak?) to the wondrous love of our God. It claims our happy confidence, our filial confidence. To render it merely a diffident or suspicious glance, as it were, is treating it unworthily. May the Sarah in our hearts cry out, and cry out lustily, "Cast out the bondwoman and her son."
January 11, 1840.
MY BELOVED SISTER,
I know not dear G . . . 's address exactly, and this gives me this happy occasion of writing a little word to you, as you will kindly give the enclosed to Mrs. B and she will forward it for me.
I should be glad to be paying you a visit now and then, dear sister, to tell to one another of the blessed Jesus. But the principal thing I could tell you of would be discoveries of my weakness and poor, poor faith. We find out that much of energy and grace that may appear in us passes off like chaff before the wind. O, dear sister, we are brought to learn humbling lessons at times. But I am sure some of us are too, disposed to look at the death in Adam, rather than the life in Christ; the ruin and sorrow that have come in through the first man, rather than the mighty, everlasting relief that has been introduced by the Second.
What a thought it is, that corruption and glory so closely touch each other in us! We carry within us the seeds of both. What an illustration is poor Lazarus of that: one moment the feast of dogs at the gate of a rich neighbour; the next, the holy, happy charge of angels carrying him to bright and glowing scenes on high. And this is comforting; and it should help to withdraw our eye from the seed of corruption to the seed of glory in us. Some of us are tempted to brood over the one, and scarcely to lift ourselves up to the other. But Jesus in resurrection invites our eye, and there faith turns.
Our united love awaits you. O, dear sister, I desire to know the power of a little truth, rather, far rather, than increase the stock of truths. Farewell. The Lord be with your spirit. A little letter would be pleasant to me, but I do not put it on you. Believe me, very unfeignedly,
Ever your affectionate brother, J. G. B.
Limerick, April 10, 1840.
The reading of your last letter, beloved sister, was indeed very sweet to my mind, and it has come into my heart to write to you again, though far in the country at present, having come to a small prophetic meeting in the county Tipperary. We have, however, been very happy together. All peace among us, and much valued truth communicated, and a strong sense of this precious doctrine--that nothing intervenes between the present moment and the catching of the saints into the air, but the fulness of the body of Christ. I shall not be in Dublin, please God, for another fortnight, but through the unwearied love of my heavenly Father (who, knowing my weakness, deals with me in constant tenderness), I hear comfortably of all there. However, accept our united love, dear sister, for indeed it is easy to remember you with love. I should like, indeed, to see you all again, but that desire is not to determine any movement.
Tell dear . . . . (and surely he has my love as well as my message), that the thought of building a house troubles some of his Irish brethren. Several (indeed well-instructed brothers) think it is sadly departing from the spirit of the dispensation, and that, sooner or later, Satan will get advantage of all such houses--perhaps into them, dear sister. I was always indisposed to ours in Dublin. I could, indeed, greatly desire "the upper rooms" still; but I only just tell what many felt and expressed at our meeting.
The accounts you give of the Lord's good hand are very sweet.