« PreviousContinue »
ceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."" He who thinks, he knows any thing," and glories in his supposed knowledge, "knows nothing yet as he ought to know," Let us be careful to know ourselves, that "we may not think of ourselves above that which we ought to think, but may think soberly."
The Apostle" made mention of the Ephesians in his, prayers.? He directs, that "intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men." He was no less constant in his prayers, than in his labors, for the spiritual interest of mankind. He knew that the success of all his labors depended on God's blessing; he, therefore, added to them his fervent prayers.
If ministers ought to labor and pray for the salvation of others, surely you all ought to do much for your own. The labors of a minister will do you little good, if you are inattentive to your own condition. What will his preaching do for you, if you will not hear or apply it? Will his prayers save you, while you cast off fear and restrain prayer? When ministers and people strive together in their prayers, there is reason to hope for God's blessing on both. We proceed to observe,
IV. The Apostle prayed for the Ephesians," that God would give them the spirit of wisdom and revela tion, in the acknowledgment of Christ; and would grant, that the eyes of their understanding might be opened."
They had already known the revelation of the mys tery of God's will: The eyes of their understanding had already been enlightened to see and acknowledge the truth of the gospel. But still the Apostle prays, "that God would give them the spirit of wisdom, and intellectual eyes well enlightened." Thus also he prays for the Colossians" that they might be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding-and might be fruitful in every good work, increasing in the knowledge of God."
His aim, in all his preaching and writing, was to promote spiritual knowledge, and thus to advance real godliness. He considered religion as a reasonable service, and he would have men believe it on competent evidence, understand its nature, feel its importance, and obey it on suitable motives. His sermons, like his epistles, were full of instruction. His design was, not to amuse the fancy of his hearers, but to " open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God."" He did not handle the word of God deceitfully," or confusedly; "but used great plainness of speech, and by manifestation of the truth commended himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God."
His prayers corresponded with his labors. By tell. ing the Ephesians, what were his prayers for them, he instructs them, what should be their chief desires for themselves;-he teaches them, that they ought to seek "the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the acknowl edgement of Christ;" or wisdom from God to under. stand the revelation, which he had given them, and which they had acknowledged; and such an illumination of their minds as to discern the nature and per. ceive the excellence of the things contained in this rev elation.
Christians must not content themselves with their present knowledge, but aspire to "all riches of the full assurance of understanding, and to the knowledge of the mystery of God, and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom." For this end, they must converse with the holy scriptures-attend on the instituted ministrations of the word-compare spiritu al things with spiritual, and compare themselves with the spiritual things which they have learned-guard against prejudices, especially against spiritual pride and selfconfidence-keep their minds open to conviction, and apply all their knowledge to practical uses.
V. We will consider the several things, which the Apostle prayed, that the Ephesians might understand. These are "the hope of the calling, the glory of the inheritance, and the power of God toward them who believe."
1. He prays, that they might know, "what is the hope of the divine calling;" or the hope to which God had called them.
He says, elsewhere, "God hath called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his purpose and grace." And he exhorts us to "walk worthy of him, who hath called us to his kingdom and glory." The gospel calls us to holiness, as a necessary preparative for glory; and to newness of heart and life, as an indispensable qualification for admission into the kingdom of God. They in whom this call is by divine grace made effectual, " put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." Being thus renewed in the temper of their minds, "they walk in newness of life." To "walk worthy of God unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work," is to "walk worthy of him, who hath called us to his kingdom."
This calling is accompanied with hope. The external call of the gospel is attended with a general hope of the heavenly kingdom, as what is attainable. Where the call becomes effectual to the renovation of the heart and life, there is a special hope of the kingdom, as what is already attained. When we find the power of the gospel operating in our souls to real holiness, we may then apply to ourselves its great and precious promises.
It is of great importance that we know the hope of this calling-that we understand the way in which we are called to God's kingdom, the terms on which we may enter into it, and the evidence by which we may ascertain our title to it. We should be watchful, that VOL. III.
we do not misconceive of the conditions of salvation, or mistake our own characters, and so imagine ourselves to be heirs of the kingdom of glory, while we remain in the kingdom of darkness. We should always bear in mind, that God has called us with an holy calling-has chosen us to be holy and without blame has appointed us to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit, and that none are entitled to the heavenly inheritance, but those who, by the renewing of their minds are made meet to be partakers of it. We, are therefore, to hope for it only in a way of holiness; and the proper influence of this hope, is to purify our souls as Christ is pure.
2. The Apostle prays, that they may know-"what is the riches of the glory of God's inheritance in the saints;" or, what a rich and glorious inheritance God has prepared for, and promised to them.
This is what none can fully comprehend. We may, however, by revelation know so much of it, as to be well assured, that it is rich and glorious. It is "an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, fading not away, reserved in heaven for the faithful."
It is GOD's inheritance; that which he has provided and reserved for his own children; and he gives liberally-It is a purchased possession; and the purchase was not made with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Jesus the Son of God:-It is an inheritance for the saints; for them whom God hath chosen to be holy, and predestinated to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ, and whom he hath sanctified by his Spirit, and sealed unto the day of redemption :-It is an inheritance bestowed by God's abundant love; and as it comes from the riches of the glory of his grace, the gift itself must be rich and glorious. Though we cannot comprehend its dimensions, nor compute its value, yet when we consider the grace of the Being who conveys it, the riches of the price which bought it, and the divine prepara.
tion by which the heirs are formed to enjoy it, we must conceive it to be unspeakably glorious.-Many important properties of this inheritance the scripture enumerates; and finally sums up all in these comprehensive words, "He that overcometh shall inherit ALL THINGS."
Lastly: The Apostle desires, that Christians may know, "what is the exceeding greatness of God's power toward them that believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead."
When the Christian contemplates the glorious inheritance, which awaits him in the heavenly world, the joy which begins to kindle in his soul is, sometimes, damped by the thought of that gloomy valley which lies in the way. Death and the grave are before him ;— the body must be dissolved-must moulder away under the clods of the earth, and be reduced to its primitive dust ;-and this soul-this conscious, thinking mind, which has never yet existed without a body ;Where, and what will it be? It can have little conception of a separate, unbodied state; for this is wholly unexperienced. How dark the prospect !-But this gloomy scene the gospel has enlightened; it reveals to us a resurrection of the body, and a happy reunion of it to the soul; in which new state we shall exist for ever. To strengthen our faith it refers us to the work of God's mighty power in raising Christ from the dead; and from this glorious instance leads us to conceive the exceeding greatness of his power in raising from the dead them who believe in Jesus, and in transforming these vile bodies to such a spiritual and immortal state, and they shall be forever capable of enjoying the heavenly inheritance. Of this power the believer has already had some experience in the quickening of his soul, once dead in trespasses and in sins, to a holy and divine life.