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therefore, not deceive ourselves with a vain imagination that we are' something, when we are nothing ; and not be satisfied to rest in the good opinion which others have of us, so as to have our rejoicing in them. And, whatsoever duty be required of us, let us not amuse ourselves with trifling excuses, which never can deceive that God who is not to be mocked ; but let us set ourselves in earnest, ever to cultivate true inward religion, even that of the heart, in the sight of him who scarcheth it: then will the testimony of our conscience be a source of joy : and we shall find that joy solid and permanent. And if God bless the ministers of his gospel, as the instruments of bringing this joy to the soul, it will be attended with that readiness which the apostle requires, to communicate 10 them in all good things, while, if they understand their character and office, there will be in them that moderation of desire on the one hand, and that zeal and love for souls on the other, which will make it a thousand times more pleasant to cominunicate spirituals, than to receive temporals, even from those who give with the most willing mind, and so double the gift, whether it be greater or less.
The apostle concludes with cautioning them against the Judaizing teachers, declaring the indifference of external rites, and his glorying in the cross. Ch. vi. 11, Eic.
11 V OU see with what large letters* I have written to you with 12 1 my own hand. As many as desire to make a fair appearance
in the flesh, these constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they 13 should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For (not even]
they themselves, who are circumcised, keep the law; but they
desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh, 14. and boast of you as their converts, But God forbid that I should
glory, unless it be in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which , 15 the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in
· Christ Jesus neither circuncision availeth any thing, nor uncir16 cumcision ; but there is a new creation. And as many as shall ,
walk according to this rule, and act upon this maxim, may peace • and mercy be upon them, even upon the whole Israel of God! 17 For the future, let no man trouble ine with disputes concerning
circumcision; for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus,
on which I value myself much more than on that of this Jewish rite ; 18 even the scars occasioned by my sufferings in his cause. Brethren,
the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
REFLECTIONS. What meanness is there in those views and objects in which the generality of mankind are so apt to glory! How little satisfaction can
* What large or inelegant characters; probably not being used to write Greek. D.-M. prefers the common translation, as referring to his epistle itself. But this cannot properly be called large. En.
there be in making proselytes to a party, and spreading forms and notions, when compared with the joy of promoting true religion in the hearts of men, and thereby advancing the glory of God and the salvation of immortal souls! And of what service will it be to make a fair appearance, and to be zealous for the externals of religion, so as to gain the applause of men, and to have many followers, if at the same time we have so little veneration for the cross of Christ as to be afraid or ashamed of owning the necessity of relying on his righteous. ness alone for justification, lest we should suffer persecution upon that account, or be exposed to the reproaches of the world about us ! May divine grace teach us to esteem the cross of Christ more highly, and to glory in nothing but our knowledge of it, and our hopes and expectations from it ! May we all feel its vital efficacy, to crucify us to the world, and the world to us ; that we may look upon the world but as a dead and worthless thing, which neither can afford us any advantage, nor yicld us any pleasure, to engage our hearts to choose it for our portion : and, being crucified, and dead to all things in it, may we be so entirely weaned from all affection to it, as not to make it any more our principal design and study to pursue it ; but, being indifferent both to its smiles and frowns, as to the influence which once they had upon us, may we be neither moved by any prospect of selfinterest on the one hand, nor terrified by the fear of persecution on the other!
Let us not lay the stress of our religion on the name we bear, or ground the hope of our acceptance on being of this or that denomi." nation of Christians : but let it be our chief concern to have experience of a thorough change of heart and life, and to obtain that renovation of soul, that new creation, without which neither circumcision nor uncircumcison can dvail any thing, and with which the one, as well as the other, will be accepted of God. It is the written word of God that is the Rule we are to go by, both in the doctrines and the precepts of it; let us be careful that we walk according to it, and regulate our principles and conduct by it: then will God own us as his true Israel, and then shall peace and mercy be upon us. And surely, how diligently soever we observe this rule, how exactly soever we conform to it, and how much soever we may suffer for our adherence to it, we depend upon mercy for the comniunication of preace, and must asçribe all our hopes of happiness to pardoning clemency and free grace. May that grace ever be with our spirit, to sanctify, to quicken, and to cheer us; and may we always be ready to maintain the honour of. that, which is indeed our very life! Amen.
THE EPISTLE OF PAUL TO THE EPHESIANS.
FPHESUS was the chief city of the Proconsular Asia. It was famous
for the temple of Diana, and its inhabitants were noted, in their Gentile state, for idolatry, magical arts, luxury, and lasciviousness. Paul spent one sabbath there in the year 54, and returned the year following, when he preached with great success, and formed a numerous church, chiefly of Gentile converts, with whom he continued about three years. In the year 58 he sent for the elders of this church to Miletus, and took his final leave of theni. See Acts xviii. xix. xx.
This epistle was written by him during his first imprisonment at Rome, A. D. 63. The former part of it is doctrinal, and the latter practical. The design of it was-10 establish the Ephesians in the faith; to which end he gives them the most exalted views of the eternal love of God, and of the glorious excellence and dignity of Christ ; shews them that they were saved by grace, and from the most wretched state brought to equal privileges with the Jews; and to encourage them, he declares with what steadfastness he himself suffered for the truth, and with what ferruour he prayed for their establishment and perseverance in it. And finally, to engage them to the practice becoming them as Christians, he gives them, in the three last chapters, several weighty exhortations, particularly respecting relative duties, and the right use of the whole armour of God in their spiritual warfare.
Paul testifies his joy that the Ephesians were called to the participation of
Christian privileges. Ch.i.1-14,
I D AUL an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the
r saints who are at Ephesus, even to the faithful in Christ Je2 sus : Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from 3 the Lord Jesus Christ.-Blessed be the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual bles4 sing in heavenly things in Christ, according as he hath chosen us
in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy 5 and unblamable before him in love; having predestinated us to
the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself, according 6 to the good pleasure of his will; to the praise of his glorious 7 grace, wherein he hath made us accepied in the beloved ; in
whom we have redemption through his blood, the remission of 8 sins, according to the riches of his grace ; in which he hath 9 abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence : having made
known unto us the mystery or grand secret of his will, according
to his good pleasure, which he had before purposed in himself: 10 that in the economy of the fulness of the times", he might re
* Or, when that time was fully come, which he in his wise distribution of things, had judged most suitable.
unite under one head all things in Christ, both which are in heav11 en, and which are on earth ; both angels and men, even in him, in
whom also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predesti
nated according to the purpose of him, who worketh all things 12 agreeable to the counsel of his own will: that we should be to 13 the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye
also trusted, when ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your
salvation : in whom also, having believed, ye were sealed with · 14 the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the carnest of our inheritance,
till the complete redemption of the purchased possession * to the praise of his glory.
REFLECTIONS. Are we not by divine grace and mercy partakers of those blessings which Paul here celebrates with so much delight? and in the review of which, familiar as they were to his thoughts and discourses, he breaks forth as it were into a rapturous anthem in the very beginning of this epistle, as he likewise does in so many others. Ought not · our hearts to be as warm in such devout acknowledgments? Are
spiritual blessings in heavenly things or places in Christ Jesus less valuable now than they were seventeen hundred years ago? Are not the necessities of our souls the same? Is not their immortality the same? Let us then join with the most grateful sentiments in the acclama. tion ; and, in proportion to the degree in which we feel the importance of what God hath already done, and is doing for our souls, let us go back with unutterable pleasure to the gracious purpose which he was pleased to form in his own compassionate breast, when he chose us in Chrisę before the foundation of the world, when he firedestinated us through him to the adoption of children. Let us acknowledge the freedom of his grace in it, that we are thus predestinated according to the purpose of him who, with proper regard to the nature of his intelligent and free creatures, worketh all things agreeably to the good pleasure of his will, and maketh us accepted in the Beloved, that we may be to the praise of the glory of his grace.
Let these united displays of wisdom and love affect our hearts, for he hath indeed abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence. And let that holiness which mingles its glories in the whole scheme be also remembered. Let it never be forgotten that we are predestinated to be holy and without blame before him in love, that we might attain to that blameless temper which love alone can inspire and support. For this purpose ihe mystery of his will is made known to us, and that grand illustrious plan is displayed, which is so well worthy of all the perfections of a God; even his design to gather together in one all things in Christ, to unite all good and happy spirits under him as the common Head, and to make him the bond of their eternal union to God and to each other. What are we sinful creatures, that we should be received into such an association ? Let us never forget it on earth, as we shall for ever commemorate it in heaven, that it is through his blood that
* The people whom Christ has purchased to be his peculiar property.
we have redemption ; eternal redemption, which he who has begun the happy work will certainly complete, in favour of those whom he hath purchased to be an everlasting possession unto himself.- In the mean time, may his Spirit be given us as the seal of the promises, and the earnest of our inheritance! And by more abundant communications of his sanctifying influences, may he raise our souls to a blessed anticipation of those enjoyments which will endure for ever, and will be for ever new and delightful.
The apostle assures them how forvently he prayed that they might have high
er conceptions of the gospel, and of its glorious Author. Ch. i. 15, &c.
-15 LOR this cause, I also having heard of the faith you have in · T the Lord Jesus, and of the love you bear to all the saints,
16 ce:se not to give thanks for you: making mention of you in my .17 prayers ; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of
glory, would give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the 18 acknowledgment of him : the eyes of your understanding being
enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, 19 and what the glorious riches of his inheritance in the saints; and
what is the exceeding greatness of his power towards us who be20 lieve, according to the energy of the power of his might; which
he exerted in Christ, in raising him from the dead, and seated him 21 at his own right hand in heavenly places, far above all principality,
and power, and might, and dominion, and every naine, that is
named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come : 22 and hath subjected all things under his feet, and given him to be 23 head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness
of him, who filleil all in all.
REFLECTIONS. FAITH in Chris', and love to all the saints, are here with great propriety put by the apostle for the whole of a Christian temper. May they be more apparent and operative in all who call themselves by the Christian name! Even a firm and active faith, a warm and unbounded love, which shall forget every thing that would alienate our hearts from our brethren; and only remember, that they are saints, consecrated to God, and sanctified by him ; that they are bre lievers in Christ Jesus, and therefore one with him, who is our Head, and our All; whose love hath given to us, and to them, whatever is lovely in either ; who will save the whole body, and make it so bappy together, that the very thought of that happiness should cause our hearts to overflow with every benevolent affection, as well as with perpetual gratitude, to our divine deliverer, who is the source of it.
Let us learn by this excellent and pathetic prayer of the apostle what are the most important petitions we can ofier for ourselves and our Christian friends. Surely this must be numbered among them,