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St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, the 6th Chapter and the 8th Verse.
" FOR HE THAT SOWETH TO HIS FLESH SHALL OF THE FLESH REAP
CORRUPTION ; BUT HE THAT SOWETH TO THE SPIRIT SIIALL OF THE
My text, in the first place, applies to those who are hearers and who have been taught in the Word of God. This, perhaps, may not at first sight strike you, but if you will look at the 6th verse, and read the connection, you will see that what I have said is true. “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.” Here
have the taught and the teacher,—and the Apostle gives instruction to the one how he is to treat the other. Then, in the 7th verse, there is this advice given :-“Be not deceived ; God is not mocked : for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." This part of the 7th verse seems to be taken, in a measure, from the Book of Proverbs. I read, in the 11th chapter and the 18th verse, that he “that soweth righteousness shall” reap “a sure reward.” I read again, in the 22nd chapter and the 8th verse, that “he that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity.”
This part of the 7th verse appears not to have been new in the time of the Apostle, but it had been a principle long before recognized by the wisest of men, that “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” This, too, we find to be true in nature. sow wheat, you expect to reap a harvest of wheat; if you sow barley, you expect to reap a harvest of barley ; and so of every other kind of seed which you sow, you expect to reap a harvest of the same kind. So here the Apostle speaks in the language of the text, enlarging somewhat upon the principle or proverb which had been stated in the 7th verse. “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." This is the practical application of the principle by St. Paul himself.
Now, we may divide our text in various ways. Thus we find implied or suggested two kinds of sowers—bad and good ; two kinds of seedbad and good ; two kinds of soil—bad and good—the flesh and the spirit; two kinds of harvest—bad and good. You see that the things stand thus before us. But if I were to pursue this order it might be somewhat difficult for you to remember. On this account I shall pursue another order in the consideration of this verse, which will be more easy for you to remember, and also one more natural and easy for me to handle.
Let us look at it in two ways :—First, in a bad sense “ For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption." Three questions arise under this first head :—What is the flesh ? secondly, What is it to sow to his flesh ? and, thirdly, What is it to reap corruption ? Now, these are fair questions you will perceive, and they arise out of the natural order of this first part of the text. Then in the second part of the verse we shall pursue the same order in a good sense :- -What is the Spirit ?—“ he that soweth to the Spirit”—What is it to sow to the Spirit ? and, What is it to reap a harvest from the Spirit, or - by the Spirit, of everlasting life ? You will see that the order of my text now stands very simple. Now, the first question under the first head is this :- What is the
flesh? Think for a moment what answer you would give. I put this question in this way because it is one that engages the minds of Theologians and Philosophers of the present day. However, I am not about to run after their thoughts, sayings, and doings. But I shall endeavour to give you such an answer as I find contained in God's Word.
What is the flesh? I find three applications of this word in the Scriptures to which I shall draw your attention. The first is this :-It is applied to man in his perfect state before the fall, and, as I like to establish what I say from the Scriptures themselves, you may look at the 2nd chapter of Genesis, and read there what the Holy Ghost has recorded. “ And Adam said, this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh : she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Now, you see from this that the word flesh is used of our first parents before they fell. Then this would apply to our first parents in their perfection of creation, their perfection of creation in a good sense, in their unfallen condition, I leave this to show you how it is applied in the second place, and for perfection in deed and in truth. lf
you look to the 1st chapter of John and the 14th verse, you will read “and the Word was made flesh. Now, who was this—the Word ? Why, it was the Second Person in the glorious Godhead. It is said that He was made flesh, that is, that He took our human nature ; but whilst He took our human nature, He took it without sin, for though He was “made of the seed of David according to the flesh,”—being in all points like us—yet He was without sin-sin excepted. Now you see the term flesh is here used in its highest and best sense. It is said of the Lord Jesus, by Peter, that He was “put to death in the flesh.” He was a perfect man put to death in the flesh for the transgressions of his people, that they may have bold
“to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh" (Heb. x. 19, 20). I think you will see, and I might
” ( give you many more instances to shew you, that this term flesh is not only applied to man in his perfect state before the fall, but also to the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the perfection of human flesh. He is the Mighty God manifest in the flesh. Jesus Christ is come in the flesh
(I John iv. 2). But this term flesh has a third application, which approaches nearer to its use in the text. It is said in the 6th chapter of Genesis that “all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.” Now, this is what the Holy Ghost has recorded of it,—but this is not what every one will say of it. With man's opinion I have nothing to do. I have to do with what the Scriptures say,--and they say, " All flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.” David was of this opinion when he wrote the 14th Psalm, and the 53rd–He said that all flesh had “ Gone aside, they are altogether become filthy ; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Our Lord was of this opinion. He said, in that third of John, to Nicodemus, and the sixth verse—“That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” that is, corrupt human nature in its fallen estate. Now, this flesh of which I am speaking is very much enlarged upon by St, Paul, and he knew something about the flesh. Let us see what he says in the 8th of Romans. I find there these words in the first verse" There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” The flesh has no power in it for good, it is evil, and that continually. See the 5th
-“ They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.” The flesh is just opposed to the Spirit. The 6th versc—“ To be carnally minded
is death ; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” “Carnally minded; what is it? The fallen fleshly mind.
The 7th versecarnal mind is enmity against God : for it is not subject to the law of God.” Now, notice it, this is flesh in its fallen state. flesh, and my flesh, as we came down from Adam. Keep this clearly before your minds, and listen to what follows—“For it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” It cannot be subject to the law.
There is no obtaining help in this way to give us a lift heavenward. What more? “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” They “cannot please God.” To be carnally minded is to be spiritually dead. It is to have enmity against God. The Apostle says in the 7th of Romans and the 18th verse,—“That in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing." An unregenerate man does not know that, he thinks that there is some good thing in him, and he thinks that he shall be able to improve that good thing some day-what a delusion! But, “in my flesh dwelleth no good thing.” Paul's words, and not mine. In my flesh I cannot keep the law; in my flesh I cannot submit to the law; in my ftesh I cannot please God. Now, he says, I know this—that there is no good in me,
flesh, Well, now, I think you will have a clear idea from what has been said, and I might give you many more passages to show you as to what is meant by flesh. It is descriptive of human depravity, and this is its meaning in the text.
This brings me to the second question--- What is it to sow to his flesh? Now, what is it to sow to his flesh ? Because whatever kind of seed you sow you expect to reap a barvest of the same kind. look into this sowing, and let us try to find out its meaning. The fifth
This is your
chapter of this Epistle will help us. And there is a verse in the 8th of Romans that tells us expressly—“ They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the fleshi."* That word “mind” means to be given up to the flesh, to do as the flesh suggests; and not only so, but to speak and think as this corrupt nature suggests. This is sowing to the flesh. I find in this 5th chapter of Galatians, that sowing to the flesh is conforming to what the flesh suggests; and what does it suggest ? “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these : Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.” Now, for a person to conform to these things is to sow to his flesh—so I understand it. It is thus described, if you look into the 8th of Romans—“ Walking after the flesh.” I make a great difference between this expression, walking after the flesh, and being in the flesh. “ They that are in the flesh,” is the opposite of “They that are in the Spirit.” Now you know that those who are in the flesh cannot please God. In the flesh is descriptive of man in his unregenerate state. And, now, notice the difference between the word “in,” and the words “according to.” A christian man frequently walks “according to” the flesh. What ? A christian man !—Yes! But it is not the spiritual part of the christian man that influences him to do so, but the corruption of nature which remaineth in him. The regenerate have not done with the flesh.
An unregenerate man, or he that is “in the flesh never does anything else but walk after the flesh. There is this difference between the two. You know that when the Apostle had that vision and was
caught up to the third heaven,” and heard“ unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter,” there was given to him “ a thorn in the flesh." See the 2nd of Corinthians, the 12th chapter, and the 7th verse, “ A thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan.” It is the messenger—Satan, in the original. It is this Satan that works upon corrupt nature. Paul cried out, “ Lord, let this depart from me.” Exactly so, he wanted to have done with the flesh, with the buffeting of Satan, with sin, and with all this pricking corruption. But the Lord said, “No! No! Not so ! but I will do something for thee that will close thy mouth, so that thou shalt not ask for this thing again.” Well, what was it the Lord would do for him? “My grace is sufficient for thee ; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. And so Paul was silenced that he might joyfully acquiesce in the Lord's work. “ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” While the unregenerate never do anything but sow to the flesh, because they are in the flesh, the children of God sow sometimes to the flesh, and sometimes to the Spirit, because they are in the Spirit.
Now according to the Spirit, and now according to the flesh—conforming to the dictates of corrupt nature.
Flesh in the child of God comes out only too frequently. This causes great bitterness of soul. Sometimes a look and sometimes a word come from natural corruption, which betray the child of God in his sowing and walking according to his
flesh. Well, now, with regard to this walking according to the flesh, or sowing to his flesh, if you will. There are many ways in which persons may sow to the flesh. Suppose, now, some persons have a preference for a church, and some for a chapel, and some for one minister and some for another. Is there no flesh about this? There is one of Paul, another of Apollos, and another of Cephas. Or some, like these Galatians, begin well and yet do not go on well. I do not mean to say that they are not Christians,—but let us look at the 3rd chapter and the first two or three verses- “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you,
ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you ; received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith ?” Did it come by the way of Moses and Mount Sinai? or did it come by the way of Christ, by Mount Zion, by the Gospel ? Which way did it come? But what says he ?—“Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain." “ Are ye so foolish ? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh ?”— By pandering to the flesh? What is all this sowing to the flesh about ? What are you going to do? Are ye so foolish, having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh ? Paul says in the 9th and 10th verses of the 4th chapter, “Now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage ?” “Beggarly elements"-Ritualism, Romanism, Rationalism, mere chapelism, or mere churchism,—“ beggarly elements,” in themselves they are nothing worth. The latter of these, our churches and chapels, may do very well, my brethren, as workshops for the real ministers of God, but after having served this purpose, they will have to be removed. “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years." By these things they were trying to make the way of God perfect, but they were “ beggarly elements.” In the 5th chapter, the Apostle says, 26. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing." You see there were some that wanted them to be circumcised, this was Ritualism and consequent bondage. Now, bear in mind that circumcision was one of God's ordinances, and some of these persons wanted to tack it on to Christianity. It is true there are ordinances which God Himself has commanded to be observed, but which are now done away in Christ. This circumcision was one of them. Still some wanted it to be added to Christianity, which was sowing to the flesh. Now, he says—“I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law ; ye are fallen from grace.' These Galatians were very fleshly, very legal
, and very ritualistic
. These ceremonial Christians are referred to in the 6th chapter and the 3rd verse,—When “ a man thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” What more? We read again in the