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EPHESIANS, iii. 18, 19. “ That ye may be able to comprehend with all saints
what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.”
MY BRETHREN, The apostle Paul is so profound a scholar, that I cannot pretend to follow him; every time I read him he sets me, as it were, a task impossible. I therefore am obliged to make up a sermon of bits and scraps. In the beginning of this chapter the apostle treats largely of the dispensation of the grace of God towards him. 2dly. He speaks also of a mystery hidden in God from the world, which was, that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs with the Jews of the promise of life, ver. 6. 3dly. That he was made a minister of this grace to the Gentiles, ver. 7. 4thly. He expresses with all 'humility his unworthiness of this grace; and yet to him was this grace given, that he should preach VOL. II.
among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, ver. 8. 5thly. He informs us, That even now is made known to the principalities and powers that reside in the heavenly places by the church the:manifold wisdom of God, ver. 10. And the whole of this sprung from the eternal purpose of God, which he purposed in Christ Jesus, ver. 11; in whom, that is in Christ, we have a holy boldness, and free access to God: and that with confidence of being accepted by the faith of him, in whom all the promises of God are yea and amen, to the glory of God the Father, ver. 12. The apostle desires that the Ephesians might not faint at the tribulation which he endured; signifying that God did not set the sufferings of his servants before them with a view to discourage but to embolden them, and strengthen their faith; therefore they ought rather to glory in than be dismayed at them, ver. 13. The apostle begins praying in the middle of this epistle, and addresses the Father of Christ, of whom all the elect angels, and all the elect of the human race, called the family of heaven and earth, are named, ver. 15. The blessing that the apostle craves of God is, that the Ephesians might be strengthened by his Spirits might in the inner man. By the inner man he means the whole work of grace which is in every renewed soul, and is called the new, or the inner man, as corruption and pollution are called the old man. It is as though the apostle had said, the grace and Spirit of God, which hath humbled and inclined
your wills to choose Christ, in subordination to the will of God, has also appointed Christ to be your everlasting portion. And, as the apostle took it for granted that humbling grace had subdued their wills, and purifying grace had renewed them in the spirit of their minds, so likewise he judged that the love of God had influenced their affections, and kindled an intense desire after the enjoyment of Christ Jesus. The apostle wishes and prays that the sovereign and all-conquering grace of God might reign and rule in their hearts and consciences.
Therefore he desires the ever-blessed Redeemer to reign and rule unmolested, and without a rival, in their affections, as if they were seated with him on his throne. The apostle well knew that erroneous men would be busy in besieging their understandings, and that carnal objects would be labouring to engross their affections; vanity to entertain their minds, pleasures to attract their desires, and legality to entangle and govern their consciences. Therefore he wishes their inner man to be strengthened with spiritual might: hinting thereby that all our resolutions, efforts, and watchfulness, would not be sufficient bulwarks against the attempts and attacks of Satan, unless they were strengthened by the spiritual might of God Almighty.
The apostle well knew, by his own experience, that Satan would lay strong siege to such souls ; and he knew for a truth that, if one sin found acceptance and entertainment in the soul, that sin
when it had engrossed the affections, would let in many more, and consequently leave a gap, or breach, for a whole troop of specious sins to follow.
When any sin has gained the ascendancy it will influence the saint's conversation, and prove a stumbling-block to those who are weak in faith; for the life and walk of such a saint would appear froward, and the tongue perverse; as saith the wise man, “ A wholesome tongue is a tree of life; but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit," Prov. xv. 4. When sin is indulged by us the Spirit of God suspends, in a measure, his fortifying influence, that the backslider in heart may be filled with his own ways, Prov. xiv. 14.
When this is the case the hedge, to our feelings, is broken down, and we lie exposed to every temptation; as says the Psalmist, “ Why hast thou broken down her hedges, so that all they that pass by the way do pluck her?" Psalm lxxx. 12. When thus entangled we try to resist, but are s-ill rebuffed or beaten back; this causes rebellion and murmuring to take possession of our hearts; and it is thus that “ the foolishness of man perverteth his way, and his heart fretteth against the Lord.”
We now expect Christ to step in to heal the breach, bind up the wound, and put all our false gods to flight; and for this we pray, but he says, "No; Where are thy gods?' And he adds, “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways.” When in our backslidings we find this to