« PreviousContinue »
The common blessings of providence, as food and raiment, health and liberty, are valuable for the present, and call for daily returns of praise. But these are only temporal and earthly goods. The blessings revealed in the gospel, and dispensed to us through Christ, are of a different nature and of higher importance. They are called spiritual and heavenly things. They are accommodated to our spiritual wants and desires—they come down from heaven, prepare us for heaven, and will be completed in our admission to heaven. The influences of the spirit are heavenly gifts—the renovation of the heart by a divine operation is wisdom from above-the renewed Christian is born from above and become a spiritual man--the state of immortality which Christ has purchased for believers, is an inheritance reserved for them in heaven-in the resurrection they will be clothed with a house from heaven, with spiritual and heavenly bodies, and they will be made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. The Apostle says,
“God has blessed us with ALL spiritual blessings in heavenly things"--with all things necessary to bring us to the enjoyment of himself in heaven. “ The divine power,” says St. Peter, “ hath given us all things which pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who hath called us to glory and virtue—and hath given us exceeding great and precious promises, that by them we might be partakers of a divine nature."
The particular blessings vouchsafed to, and designed for believers, are enumerated in the following verses ; such as election and vocation to be the people of God-predestination to the adoption of children- acceptance in Christ Jesus and redemption through his bicod-the revelation of the mystery of God's will--a title to the heavenly inheritance and the sanctification and sealing of the holy spirit. To display the nature and importance of these blessings we shall have occasion hereafter in the prosecution of our design.
I would now observe, that the blessings granted to the Ephesian believers, are also tendered to us. God, in his sovereign goodness has chosen us from among the nations of the world to be his peculiar people, and to enjoy his oracles and ordinances. He offer', to us the honors and felicities of adoption, and the remission of all our sins through the atonement of his Son. He has proposed for our acceptance an inheritance incor. ruptible in the heavens. He grants the motions of his blessed spirit to awaken our minds to these important concerns. And to true believers, he affords the sanctifying, sealing and comforting influence of his grace. He has made known to us the mystery of his will, which is still hidden from the greater part
he greater part of our race. He has favored us with a complete revelation, and placed us in a condition, which allows our frequent attendance on the dispensation of his word and ordinances.
We are in some respects privileged far beyond the Christians to whom this epistle was written. They for a season enjoyed the preaching of an inspired Apostle. In his absence he wrote to them this letter, which doubtless contains the substance of the things which he taught, while he was among them.
But of this letter they could have the benefit only by hearing it read in one place and another. While he preached in Asia, he confined his ministry chiefly to this capital city. They who lived in the remoter parts could not, without much labor, enjoy the benefit of his preaching. But we have in our hands not only this epistle, but the other writings of Paul and his fellow Apostles, and we may daily converse with them. Places of divine worship are near us, and, without the expence of distant journeys, we may attend on the preaching of the word and other sacred exercises of religion. We have therefore happier advantages to become acquainted with the doctrines and precepts of the gospel, than the primitive Christians could enjoy. If they were bound
to give thanks for their privileges; how criminal must be ingratitude under ours !
It is said, While Paul preached in Ephesus, all they who dwelt in Asia, heard the word of the Lord. What pains must they have taken ! For divers of them came from far. Consider Paul as preaching in the Jewish synagogue at Ephesus, as long as he could have admittance; and, when he was driven from thence, remov. ing to a public school, and there reasoning daily in defence of the gospel. See all the country around com. ing together, from time to time, to hear this inspired teacher, Observe what pains they took to become ac, quainted with a religion, which condemned their for. mer sentiments and practices. Remark, how they yielded to the conviction of truth, renounced their idol. atry, confessed their evil deeds, condemned their pretended intercourse with invisible spirits, and submitted to the pure and rational religion of the gospel ; and then say, whether we have not cause to be deeply humbled, that this same gospel, which we enjoy under superior advantages, has so little influence on our own hearts and the hearts of others ? Is there not occasion to lament, that the word of God, which then so mighti. ly grew and prevailed, is now treated with so much indifference ?
Ye who neglect to attend on the word now brought near to you, What will you say in excuse for yourselves, when you see how all who dwelt in Asia came to Ephesus to hear this same word ?-Ye who can rel. ish nothing, but what accords with your own fancies and humors, and who are at once disgusted with the preaching which contradicts your former sentiments and practices, How will you justify this perverse temper, when you see what humility and candor appeared in those Asiatic heathens ?- They could hear Paul disputing daily against their preconceived opinions; could listen with patience to his arguments, which all tended to confound them ; and on conviction could give up
their errors and confess their evil deeds.-Ye who treat the worship and ordinances of God with contempt ; what will you plead in your vindication, when you ob. serve, with how much gratitude and reverence the same were received at Ephesus ? --Ye who attend on God's word in vain—who feel no influence from it-who, though you hear it, yet live in habitual opposition to it, What will you urge in your defence, when you recol. lect, how mightily it grew in Ephesus, and how it transformed idolaters, sorcerers, and the grossest transgressors into saints, believers and the worshippers of the true God ?
Remember, that you must one day answer before God for all the spiritual blessings which he has sent you. It is not a matter of indifference, whether you receive or reject them. If you put them from you, you will suffer the loss of them, and be punished with aw. ful severity for your contempt.
When God shall bring every work into judgment, he will take into consideration all the privileges which you have enjoyed, as well as all the works which you have done, and according to both will he judge you. They who have never heard of the gospel, will meet a more tolerable doom, than such as have known and despised it.
These will perish wonderfully. Their punishment will be such as they would not believe and could not imagine, though one should declare it to them. The men of Sodom, in their days, were sinners of distinguished guilt, and their destruction, in the conflagration of their city, is set forth as an example of God's righteous severity. But justice has not done with them. In the day of judgment they will receive a still sorer condemnation ; and after all, it will be more tolerable for them, than for those who despise the gospel.
To us the word of salvation is sent. Let us hear it with care and receive it with joy, accept the blessings which it offers and walk worthy of him who has called us to his kingdom and glory.
EPHESIANS i. 4, 56.
dlccording as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the
world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love, having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us ac. cepted in the beloved
IN the verse preceding the words now read, the Apostle thankfully acknowledges the great mercy of God, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ Jesus. — These blessings he proceeds to enumerate ; and the first which he mentions is, God's choosing us to be an holy people to himself, and adopting us to the privileges of children.
The Jews, for many ages, had been the peculiar people of God, separated from other nationis, and distinguished by special advantages. God had now seen fit to take the Gentiles into covenant with himself, and to abolish the distinction between them and his ancient people.
The Jews believed that God, from the beginning, had chosen them to salvation, and had appointed the Messiah in due time to appear in the world, that none of them might perish. But the Apostle, to remove from the Jews all cause of boasting, and from the Gentiles all ground of discouragement, here declares, that God