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poses the most powerful motives to beneficence in all its doctrines and discoveries. Faith, viewing and applying the examples and doctrines of the gospel
, purifies the soul unto unfeigned love of the brethren.” The end of the cammandment is charity out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeign
The gospel requires us to love all men, sinners as well as saints ; enemies, as well as friends. The love which we owe to mankind in common, is benevolence or good will. This consists in a desire of their happiness, and a disposition to promote it. But, besides this, there is another kind of love, which we owe to the saints, or those who appear to be such. This consists in an approbation and esteem of their character. , This is the same kind of love, as that which we owe to the Deity. So St. John teaches us : "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar ; for he that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how shall be love God, whom he hath not seen ? Every one that loveth him who begit, loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know, that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments."
Love to God is an approbation of, and pleasedness with his moral character-his holiness, justice, truth, goodness and mercy. It supposes a conformity to this character, and it implies a desire of becoming more and more assimilated to it. The saints are partakers of a divine nature :" They are “ renewed after the image of God in righteousness and true holiness.” If, therefore, we love God for his moral perfections, we shall love the saints, as far as they appear to have these divine qualities wrought into their temper. It is absurd to pretend, that we love the character of God, as long as we disregard this character in our fellow men.
But though love to God, and love to the saints, are the same in their general nature, yet, as they respect
different objects, they must be diverse in many of their operations. As God is an all perfect Being, love to him will express itscif by an intire submission to his will-by a choice of him for our portion by a prefer. ence of his favor to every worldly interest by a ful complicence in him as our happiness--and by a bumble acquiescence in all his dispensations and com. mands. As the saints are but dependent creatures, and as they are holy in a very imperfect measure, they can. not be the objects of these high operations of love. God only we are to love with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and mind. The saints we are to love with a pure heart fervently, but not with all the heart supremely. Our love to them we must express by choosing them for our companions—by delighting in their virtuous example and heavenly conversation-by cheerfully assisting them in their spiritual interests, and meekly accepting their assistance in ours—by studying the things which make for peace and editi, cation--by communing with them in instituted ordi. nances by bearing their infirmities—by condescend. ing to them in cases of difference--and by seeking their profit, as well as our own, that both they and we may be saved,
These Ephesians manifested their love to all saints. Their charity was not confined to a party —to those who lived in the same city, and worshipped in the same sanctuary ; but it embraced all, who in
every place called on the name of Jesus Christ their common Lord. $ If our love consists in an attachment to a particular sect, with which we are connected in sentiment, inter. est, or worldly design, it has nothing of the nature of Christian love.* The love which regards the saints for their holy character, will regard all in whom this character appears, wherever they dwell, and whatever name they bear. "To judge then, whether our love is sineere, we must consider its extent, as well as its effects.
II. Paul expresses his great thankfulness to God for the happy success of the gospel among these Ephe, sians.
After I heard of your faith and love, I cease not to give thanks.”
He jo ced in the honor which rebounded to the erucified Jesus, u ho, having made his soul an offering for sin, now saw his seed increasing, and the pleasure of the Lord prospering in his hands. He rejoiced to think, how many immortal souls were now rescued from the power of Satan, delivered from guilt and con: demnation, and brought into a state of pardon and fafety. He rejoiced in the happy consequences, which might ensue to others from the glorious
success of the gospel in Ephesus. He hoped, that from hence the word of God might sound forth to all around, and that the knowledge of the truth might be transmitted to succeeding ages. Here were many pious families, in which religion was maintained, and children trained up in the ad nonition of the Lord. The blessed effects of Paul's preaching here might hopefully reach to mul, titudes around, and descend to generations yet unborn. He rejoiced the more in their faith and love, because these were the effects of his own preaching. The good minister is pleased to hear of the success
of the gospel in any place; but he feels a peculiar pleasure in see. ing the success of his own ministry. Paul had an un. common affection for those, whom he had begotten by the gospel, and he conceived a special joy in the prose pect of meeting thein in heaven. He says to the Thessalonians" What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing ?-Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? Ye are our glory and our joy."
If the prevalence of religion is, on so many accounts, matter of thankfulness, we should spare no pains to, give it success. Not only ministers, but all Christians should labor in this glorious cause.
We should all bę solicitous to experience the power of religion in our
own souls, and to promote it among others, as far as our influence can extend. Ministers should labor abundantly in the work to which they are called, be. cause it is a work, which concerns the honor of Christ's kingdom, and the salvation of men's souls. Professors of religion should so walk, that others may, by their example, be encouraged to walk with them in the way to glory. They and ministers should strive together, in their labors and prayers, for the advancement of the common cause. Heads of families by their prayers, instructions and example should support religion in their houses, and unite their influence for the general maintenance of family government and or. der. The happy change, which religion makes in the hearts where it is received, and among the people where it prevails, will be a powerful motive with the benevolent Christian, whether in a public or private. station, to contribute his influence for its success.
Ill. The Apostle, not only gives thanks for the past, but prays for the future success of the gospel in Ephe.
“I cease not to give thanks, making mention of you in my prayers." Though he had heard much of ther faith and love, he did not consider them, and would not have them consider themselves, as already made perfect; he therefore informs them, that he prayed for them, and thus admonishes them to pray for themselves, that their faith and love might still more abound.
The best Christians have need to make continual improvements. The Apostle exhorts as many as are perfect, to be likeminded with him, who " pressed toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” The greater progress Christians mike in knowledge and grace, the more humble they will be under a sense of their deficiency, and the more solicitous to make advances in both. There cannot be a more unfavorable sign, than great confidence in our own attainments. “ If we say, we have no sin, we de.
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 scberly.”
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 suc. cess 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 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 revelation 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."
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