Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
ORIGINAL SIN STATED, AND IMPROVED
Ephesians 2:3. And were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
AMONG the many beautiful traits which mark the character of St. Paul, we cannot but notice particularly his readiness to place himself on a level with the least and lowest of mankind, and to confess his obligations to the sovereign grace of God for all the difference that had been made between him and others. In his Epistle to Titus he gives such a representation of himself and his fellow-Apostles in their unconverted state, as was most humiliating to them, whilst it afforded rich encouragement to all who felt the plague of their own hearts. In like manner, in the epistle before us, after shewing that the Gentile world had been altogether in a state of bondage to sin and Satan, he declares, that he himself, and all others without exception, had in fact been in a condition no less deplorable, both by nature and practice;—by practice having habitually fulfilled the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and being “by nature children of wrath, even as others.”
That we may fully enter into the confession which he here makes, we shall,
I. Explain the terms here used—
We may notice them,
[As in the preceding verse the words “children of disobedience” mean “disobedient children,” so, in our text, “children of wrath” must be understood as importing “children doomed to wrath:” just as a similar expression of St. Peter is actually translated: what in the Greek is “sons of a curse,” is in our translation “cursed children [Note: 2 Peter 2:14.].” It is a Hebraism, common throughout all the inspired writings.
Such, we are told, is the state of all “by nature.” Those who are adverse to the doctrine of original sin, would interpret these words as importing, that men were in this state “by habit or custom:” but the words cannot with any propriety be so construed: the only true and proper sense of them is that which our translators have here assigned to them [Note: See Guyse’s note on the text.].
The Apostle further says, that he and his fellow-Apostles were in this state, “even as others.” The Jews were ready enough to account the Gentiles accursed; but they thought that no curse could attach to them, because they were children of Abraham. This mistake St. Paul rectifies in our text, declaring, that whatever privileges the Jews might enjoy above the Gentiles, there was in this respect no difference between them; the Jews, yea the Apostles themselves, being, by nature, children of wrath, even as others.]
2. Taken in their collective sense—
[According to their plain and obvious and undeniable import, they declare, that every child of man, whatever be his privileges, or whatever his attainments, is by nature under the wrath of God.
All, as fallen in Adam, deserve God’s wrath. Adam was the covenant-head and representative of all his descendants. Had he stood, they would have stood in him: and as he fell, they fell in him. If it be thought strange, that his posterity should be responsible for his act, let it suffice to say, that, if he fell, there can be no doubt but that we, if subjected to the same trial, should have fallen also: yea, considering all the circumstances in which he was placed, (created in the fullest possession of all his faculties, having a perfect nature, and subjected only to one single trial, and having dependent on him the welfare, not of himself alone, but of all his posterity,) it was infinitely more probable that he would stand, than that we should, who come into the world in a state of infantine weakness. But, whether we approve of it or not, so the matter is; and so it was ordained of God: and, exactly as Levi is said to have paid tithes in Abraham, (though he was not born till one hundred and fifty years after the circumstance of paying tithes occurred,) merely because he was in the loins of Abraham at the time that he paid tithes to Melchizedec, so may we be justly said to have sinned in Adam, because we were in the loins of Adam when he sinned. Hence it is declared by God himself, that, “in Adam all have sinned [Note: Romans 5:12.],” and “in Adam all have died [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:22.].”
[Moreover, all, as partakers of Adam’s fallen nature, are fit for the wrath of God. Adam begat children in his own fallen likeness. Indeed, being corrupt himself, he could transmit nothing but corruption to his descendants; “for who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” Now in whomsoever iniquity be found, God cannot look upon it without abhorrence: and hence it is said, that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” “neither can corruption inherit incorruption.”
Further, all, both as fallen in Adam, and corrupt in themselves are actually under a sentence of wrath, and actually doomed to it. This is indeed an awful truth; but it is explicitly declared by an inspired Apostle, that, “by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners,” yea, that “by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation [Note: Romans 5:18-19.].”]
Having endeavoured to ascertain the precise import of the words, we proceed to,
II. Establish the truth contained in them—
In proof of what our text asserts, we appeal,
1. To Scripture—
[Consult the declarations of Almighty God. In the Old Testament he has testified, that every human being, without exception, is corrupt, not in act only, but “in every imagination and thought of his heart [Note: Genesis 6:5.].” And this testimony which the heart-searching God himself bore before the flood, as a reason for destroying the earth, he renewed after the flood, as a reason why he would deluge the earth no more; seeing that, if he should proceed to destroy it as soon as it should become universally corrupt, he would have to repeat his judgments continually, there being nothing but iniquity in every child of man [Note: Genesis 8:21.]. In the New Testament we have a similar declaration from our blessed Lord. He, assigning a reason why no unregenerate man can possibly behold the kingdom of God, says, “That which is born of the flesh, is flesh [Note: John 3:6.],” and therefore incapable of enjoying a spiritual kingdom.
With these declarations of God agree the confessions of his most eminent saints. To his original corruption David traced the sin which he had committed in the matter of Uriah; not intending thereby to extenuate, but rather to aggravate, its guilt: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin hath my mother conceived me [Note: Psalms 51:5.].” St. Paul also, speaking of the conflicts which he yet had to maintain against the corruption that remained within him, says, “In me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing [Note: Romans 7:18.]:” “I see a law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members [Note: Romans 7:23.].” Thus we see both these eminent saints confessing that their nature, as derived from their first parents, was altogether corrupt.
To these we may add the promises which God has made to his fallen creatures: “A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh [Note: Ezekiel 36:26.].” What can be the meaning of this? What need they a new heart, if the old heart be not corrupt? or why should he promise to take away the stony heart, if the heart be not by nature hard and obdurate?
Not to multiply passages, which yet might be multiplied to a great extent, we will further appeal,]
2. To experience—
[Let any one make his observations on what passes all around him, or trace the records of his own heart, and say, whether children, as born into the world, be not partakers both of Adam’s corruption, and Adam’s punishment.
Is not every child full of evil tempers and dispositions? There is, it is true, more evil in some than in others: but who ever saw “a child in whose heart folly and iniquity were not bound up?” If a child be even tolerably free from fretfulness, and impatience, and selfishness, and falsehood, is it not admired as a prodigy? And when children grow up to the exercise of reason, do they improve that reason in seeking after God? Do they not invariably shew that their dispositions are altogether earthly, and that by nature they affect only the things of time and sense? Nor is this the case with children of one age or one nation only, but of every age, and every nation, yea, of the most godly parents too, as well as of the ungodly.
And, as they inherit the corruption of Adam, so do they also his guilt and punishment. Death, we know, was the penalty of Adam’s transgression; “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” But children who have never sinned in their own persons, are subjected to death: we see little new-born infants oppressed with sickness, and racked with pain, and cut off by an untimely stroke of death. For whose sin are they thus punished? Their own? They are not capable of actual sin. It is for Adam’s sin therefore that they are punished [Note: Romans 5:12; Romans 5:14.]: and that indisputably proves, that they are, as they are represented in our text, “children of wrath.”
We do not say that children, dying before they have committed actual sin, are consigned over to everlasting death: we hope, and believe, that God does, for Christ’s sake, extend his mercy to them: but this alters not the case at all: we consider only what they are in themselves, and what they deserve at God’s hands, and to what, as fallen creatures, they are doomed by God’s righteous law: the relief which may be afforded them by the Gospel is not the present subject of our consideration: our present position which we are to establish, and which we think we have fully established, is, that all, as born into the world, are “children of wrath.”]
We will now endeavour to,
III. Suggest a suitable improvement of the subject—
Surely we may see from hence—
1. In what a deplorable condition are all they who are yet in a state of nature—
[Children of wrath were they born, and children of wrath have they continued to the present hour. We know indeed how strenuously it is asserted by many, that baptism and regeneration are the same thing, and that to look for a new nature in conversion is unnecessary. But we would ask every parent here present, have you invariably found that your children, from the moment that they were baptized, put away their evil dispositions, and instantly became new creatures? Is it even generally found, that this change takes place at baptism? I might almost proceed to ask, did you ever see this change so wrought by baptism, that you could not do otherwise than refer it to baptism as the means which God made use of for that end? We do not presume to say, that God never does confer a new heart in baptism; but we say, that if that be the usual, and still more the constant, means of regeneration to the children of men, it is very extraordinary that the change wrought is so rarely visible, that, if it were undeniably to appear, it would be universally esteemed a miracle. The truth is, that they who are so strenuous for this opinion, have invariably but very low notions of original sin. It is their low sense of their disease that leads them to rest in such a remedy. But, as “the fault and corruption of their nature is such as deserves God’s wrath and damnation [Note: See the Ninth Article of our Church.],” they must have a new nature given to them by the operation of the Holy Ghost: they must be renewed, not externally, or partially, but inwardly, and in all the powers of their souls: they must “be renewed in the spirit of their minds [Note: Ephesians 4:23.],” their whole dispositions being changed from earthly and carnal to spiritual and heavenly: in a word, they must be created anew in Christ Jesus [Note: ver. 10.], and become altogether “new creatures, old things passing away, and all things becoming new [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:17.].” The change may not unfitly be compared with a river where the tide comes: one while it flows with great rapidity from the fountain-head to the ocean: a few hours afterwards it flows with equal rapidity back again towards the fountain-head: and this change is wrought by the invisible, yet undisputed, influence of the moon. In like manner does the soul of every truly regenerate man flow back towards God, from whom but lately, with all its faculties and powers, it receded: and this change is effected by the invisible, but real and undoubted, operation of the Spirit of God: and till this change is effected, we remain under the wrath of Almighty God. O consider the wrath of God: how terrible the thought! To all eternity it will be “the wrath to come.” May God stir us all up to flee from it, and, in newness of heart and life, to “lay hold on eternal life!”]
2. In what a happy condition are they who have been brought from a state of nature to a state of grace—
[Such, whilst they humbly acknowledge that they “were children of wrath,” may with adoring gratitude assure themselves, that they are so no longer. But let them never forget what they were, or what obligations they owe to that grace of God which has delivered them. Hear how strongly St. Paul inculcates this on those to whom our text was addressed: “We were by nature children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, of his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ”. …“Wherefore remember,” (O beloved brethren, remember,) “that at that time ye were without Christ, (O, think of that!) being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ [Note: ver. 4, 5, 11–13.].” Dear brethren, remember this transition; and let every syllable that records it fill your souls with gratitude to your almighty Saviour and Deliverer.]
3. What attention should be shewn to the welfare of the rising generation—
[They are “all by nature children of wrath.” And should they be left in that awful state? Should no means be used to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God?
O parents, look at your dear offspring; and whilst fondling them in your arms, or delighting in their progress, remember what they are, and cry mightily to God for them night and day. Be not contented with their advancement in bodily strength, or intellectual power, or temporal condition; but seek above all things to behold them turning to God, and growing in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let all your plans for them have respect to this one point, the changing of them from children of wrath to children of the living God.
Let those also who have the care of children [Note: If this be the subject of a Sermon for Sunday Schools or Charity Schools, the Instructors in particular may be here addressed.] endeavour to get their own minds impressed with the thought, that their office is not so much to convey instruction in worldly knowledge, as to lead the souls of the children to Christ, that they may be partakers of his salvation: and let them engage in their work with hearts full of tender compassion to their scholars, and of zeal for God.
And, my dear children, let me address also a few words to you. Think me not unkind if I remind you of what you are by nature. If I speak to you as children of wrath, it is not to wound your feelings, but to stir you up to improve the opportunities that are afforded you for attaining a better and a happier state. What would you do, my dear children, if you were shut up in a house that was on fire, and a number of benevolent persons were exerting themselves to rescue you from the devouring element? would you not strive which should first be partakers of the benefit? Know then, that this is a just representation of your state: you are children of wrath, and are in danger of dwelling with everlasting burnings: and the object of your instructors is, to shew you how you may flee from the wrath to come. O listen to their instructions with all possible care; treasure up in your minds all their exhortations and advice; and beg of God, that through those Scriptures which they explain to you, you may be made wise unto salvation by faith in Christ Jesus.]
THE RICHES OF DIVINE GRACE DISPLAYED
Ephesians 2:4-7. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ ……and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
WHAT an accumulation of sublime ideas is here presented to our view! Well might the Psalmist say that the meditation of God was sweet to him. We scarcely know whether to admire more the grace of the Benefactor, or the felicity of those who participate his blessings. But the text requires us to fix our attention on that most delightful of all subjects, the riches of divine grace. The Apostle has in the preceding verses described the state of the unregenerate world. He now displays the grace of God towards the regenerate,
I. In its source—
God is “rich in mercy,” and “abundant in love”—
[Mercy and love are, as it were, the favourite attributes of the Deity [Note: Exodus 34:6-7.]: and the exercise of these perfections is peculiarly grateful to him [Note: Micah 7:18.]. There is an inexhaustible fountain of them in the heart of God [Note: Romans 10:12.]: they have flowed down upon the most unworthy of the human race; and will flow undiminished to all eternity. While he retains his nature, he cannot but exercise these perfections [Note: 1 John 4:8.].]
These are the true sources of all the grace displayed towards fallen man—
[Man had nothing in him whereby he could merit the attention of his Maker. He was fallen into the lowest state of guilt and misery: but the bowels of his Creator yearned over him [Note: In this view, God’s solicitude to find Adam, and his affectionate (perhaps plaintive) inquiry after him, Genesis 3:9. are very striking.]. God felt (if we may so speak) an irresistible impulse of compassion towards him [Note: We may conceive of God as expressing himself in the language of the prophet. Hosea 11:8-9.]. Hence was it that the Son of God was sent into the world [Note: John 3:16.]: hence also were so many offers of mercy made to man; and to this alone is it owing that so much as one has ever found acceptance with God.]
But, to judge how great the love was wherewith he loved us, we must trace it,
II. In its operations—
The grace of God has been displayed towards us in ten thousand ways; but we must confine our attention to its operations, as they are set forth in the text.
God has “quickened us even when we were dead in sins”—
[What is meant by “dead in sins,” appears from the preceding verses. We were walking according to the course of this world; we were the willing servants of Satan; we were indulging all kinds of “filthiness, both of flesh and spirit;” we were demonstrating ourselves to be “by nature” as well as practice, “children of wrath;” and we were utterly destitute of all power to help and save ourselves [Note: Romans 5:6.]. Yet even then did God look upon us in tender compassion [Note: This may be illustrated by Ezekiel 16:4-6.]: he quickened us by the same Spirit whereby he raised Christ from the dead [Note: Compare 1 Peter 3:18. with Romans 8:11.]. In so doing, he united us “together with Christ,” and rendered us conformable to him as our Head. What an astonishing instance of divine grace was this!]
He has also “raised us up, and enthroned us together with Christ in heaven”—
[The Apostle had before expatiated on what God had wrought for Christ [Note: Ephesians 1:19-20. “quickened, raised, enthroned.”]: he now draws a parallel between believers and Christ. What was done for Christ our head and representative, may be considered as done for all the members of his mystical body. In this view Christians may be considered figuratively as risen with Christ, and as already seated on his throne: their hearts, their conversation, their rest, is in heaven [Note: Colossians 3:1-2. Philippians 3:20.]. How has he thus verified the declaration of Hannah [Note: 1 Samuel 2:8.]!—How has he thus discovered “the exceeding riches of his grace!”]
How worthy of God such a stupendous display of grace is, we shall see if we consider it,
III. In its end—
God is not only the author, but also the end of all things [Note: Romans 11:36.]; nor would it become him to do any thing but with a view to his own glory. The manifestation of his own glory was the express end for which he revealed his grace [Note: Ephesians 1:6.], and this end is already in some measure attained—
[All ages, to the end of time, must admire the grace of God towards both the Jewish and the Gentile world. Every one, who partakes of that grace, must of necessity admire it: the “exceeding riches of it” are unsearchable. God’s “kindness” too is infinitely enhanced by flowing to us “through Christ Jesus.” The price paid by Christ will to eternity endear to us the blessings purchased: at present, however, the design of God in revealing his grace is not fully answered.]
But it will be completely answered in the day of judgment—
[Then, how exceeding rich and glorious will this grace appear! Then the depth of misery, into which we were fallen, will be more fully known; the spring and source of that grace will be more clearly discovered; and all the operations will be seen in one view. Then Christ, the one channel in which it flows, will be more intimately revealed to us. How will every eye then admire, and every tongue then adore! Surely nothing but such an end could account for such operations of the Divine grace; let every one therefore seek to experience these operations in his own soul. Let those who have been favoured with them glorify God with their whole hearts.]
SALVATION BY GRACE NOT HOSTILE TO GOOD WORKS
Ephesians 2:8-10. By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
ALL God’s works, of whatever kind they be, are designed to praise him. His works of creation proclaim his wisdom and his power: his works of providence display his goodness: his works of redemption magnify his grace. It is of these last that the Apostle is speaking in the preceding context, even of all that God has done for us in the Son of his love; and he declares that it was all done, “that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus.” The Gospel is too rarely viewed in this light: it is by many scarcely distinguished from the law; being considered rather as a code of laws enforced with penalties, than as an exhibition of mercies confirmed with promises. But it is as an exhibition of mercy only that we ought to view it; precisely as it is set forth in the words before us: from which we shall take occasion to shew,
I. That salvation is altogether of grace—
By “salvation” I understand the whole work of grace, whether as revealed in the word, or as experienced in the soul: and it is altogether of grace:
1. It is so—
[Trace it to its first origin, when the plan of it was fixed in the council of peace between the Father and the Son [Note: Zechariah 6:13.]: Who devised it? who merited it? who desired it? It was the fruit of God’s sovereign grace, and of grace alone. Trace it in all its parts;—the gift of God’s only-begotten Son to be our surety and our substitute; the acceptance of his vicarious sacrifice in our behalf; and the revelation of that mystery in the written word: who will arrogate to himself the honour of haying acquired these, or of having contributed to the acquisition of them in the smallest degree?
It may be thought perhaps, that, because an interest in these things is obtained by faith, we may claim some honour on account of the faith which apprehends them; which, being exercised by us, may be considered in some respects as giving us a ground of glorying before God. But this also is the gift of God, no less than the plan of salvation itself: it is not in any man by nature; nor is it to be wrought in man by any human power: it is not the effect of reasoning: for then the acutest reasoners would be the strongest believers; which is frequently far from being the case: it is solely the gift of God: and hence they who have believed, are said to “have believed through grace [Note: Acts 18:27.].” It is expressly said to be given us [Note: Philippians 1:29.]: and when Peter declared his faith in Jesus as the true Messiah, Jesus said to him, “Flesh and blood had not revealed this truth unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” This is the true reason why many believed the testimony of Christ and his Apostles, whilst others were hardened in unbelief: those “whose hearts God opened,” as he did Lydia’s, received the truth; whilst all others treated the word, either with open scorn, or secret indifference.]
2. It must be so—
[Salvation must either be of grace or of works: the two cannot be mixed together, or reconciled with each other: if it be of works in any degree, it is no more of grace [Note: Romans 11:6.]; and in whatever degree it is of works, it so far affords us an occasion of boasting; seeing that it is then a debt paid, and not a gift bestowed [Note: Romans 4:4.].
To avoid this conclusion, some will say, that salvation may be of works, and still be also of grace; because the works being wrought in us by God, he is entitled to all the glory of them. But, granting that they are wrought in us by God, yet, inasmuch as they are our works, they afford us a ground of glorying: and, to say that they do not afford us a ground of glorying, is directly to contradict the Apostle in our text, where he says, “It is not of works, lest any man should boast.” The same Apostle elsewhere says, “It is of faith, that it may be by grace [Note: Romans 4:16.]:” from both which passages it is evident, that, if it be of works, from whatever source those works proceed, it can no longer be by grace.
But here it may be asked, ‘If works, notwithstanding they are wrought in us by God, afford us a ground of glorying in ourselves, does not faith afford us the same ground of glorying?’ I answer, No: for it is of the very nature of faith to renounce all hope in ourselves, and to found our hopes solely on the merits of another: it disclaims all glorying in self, and gives all the glory to Him from whom it derives its blessings. In this it differs essentially from every other work: other works, though wrought in us by God, bring a glory to ourselves; but this, of necessity, transfers to God all the glory resulting from its exercise; and, consequently, neither does, nor can, nor desires to, arrogate any thing to itself.
Thus we hope that the point is clear,—salvation is altogether of grace from first to last. The plan of salvation as originally devised, the Saviour who wrought it out for us, the acceptance of his vicarious sacrifice in our behalf, and the faith whereby we are made partakers of his sacrifice, are all the gifts of free and sovereign grace: the foundation and the superstructure are wholly of grace: and, “when the headstone shall be brought forth, it must be with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it [Note: Zechariah 4:7.]!”]
If to this it be objected, that by such doctrines we subvert the very foundations of morality, we answer,
II. That, though good works are wholly excluded from all share in the office of justifying the soul, yet is the performance of them effectually secured—
Believers are “the workmanship of God” altogether, as much as the world itself is: and as the world was created by Christ Jesus, so are they “created anew in Christ Jesus.” But we are “created unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.”
The concluding words of our text shew us,
1. That God has ordained good works as the path wherein we are to walk—
[This is an unquestionable truth: the whole of the moral law demonstrates it: every promise, every threatening in the whole Bible attests it. Not a word can be found in the whole sacred volume, that dispenses with the performance of good works: on the contrary, it is expressly said, that “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” The least idea of reaching heaven in any other path, is invariably reprobated as a most fatal delusion. The means and the end are indissolubly connected in the councils of heaven [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:13.]: and to hope that they shall ever be separated, is to deceive and ruin our own souls. If we are not careful to maintain good works, we entirely counteract all the purposes of God in his Gospel, and cut ourselves off from all hope of salvation [Note: Titus 2:4-8. Mark the eighth verse especially.].]
2. That God has prepared and fitted his people to walk in them [Note: This perhaps is, of the two, the more exact sense of the original.]—
[He has given to his people a new nature, and infused into their souls a new and heavenly principle, by which they “have passed from death unto life.” They have received from Christ “that living water, which is in them as a well of water springing up unto everlasting life [Note: John 4:14.].” They can no more sin in the way they did before [Note: 1 John 3:9.]. Under the influence of the Holy Ghost, they move in a new direction, affecting the things of the Spirit, as formerly they affected the things of the flesh [Note: Romans 8:1-5 and Galatians 5:17.]. They are created in Christ Jesus unto good works; and the impulse given them in this new creation they obey. The metaphor here used, may, if not pressed too far, illustrate the matter, and set it in a clear point of view. God, when he created the heavenly bodies, appointed them their respective paths in the regions of space. To each he gave its proper impulse, having previously fitted it for the performance of the revolutions assigned it: and in their respective orbits he has ever since upheld them, so that they all without exception fulfil the ends for which they were created. Thus in the new creation, God has appointed to all their destined course through the vast expanse of moral and religious duty. He has also, at the time of its new creation, given to each soul the impulse necessary for it, together with all the qualities and dispositions proper for the regulation of its motions according to his will: and he yet further, by his continual, though invisible, agency, preserves them in their appointed way [Note: Men fit themselves for perdition: but it is God alone who fits any for glory. See Romans 9:23. where the same word is used as in the text. See also Isaiah 26:12.]. But further than this the metaphor must not be pressed: for the heavenly bodies have neither consciousness nor volition; but we have both: they too carry with them nothing that can cause an aberration from their destined course; whereas we have innumerable impediments, both within and without: hence they fulfil their destinies without the smallest intermission; whilst we, alas! deviate from the path assigned us in instances without number. Still however, in the event, the purposes of God are at last accomplished, as with them, so with us also: and, notwithstanding, in the estimation of a self-righteous Pharisee, the chief reason for performing good works is taken away, yet are they performed, and shall be performed by every one that has “received the grace of God in truth.”]
Observe then from hence,
1. What need we have of humility—
[The pride of the human heart can never endure the doctrines of grace. So tenacious are men of every thing that may give them a ground of glorying in themselves, that they will rather perish in their own righteousness, than submit to be saved by the righteousness of another [Note: Romans 9:30-33; Romans 10:3.]? But, brethren, you must submit. God will not condescend to your terms. It is in vain to contest the matter with him: it is folly, it is madness, so to do. You know full well, that the fallen angels have no claim on God for mercy: and what have you more than they? But God, who has passed by the angels, has given a Saviour to you, yea, and salvation too, if you will receive it as a gift of grace. Let it not be a hard matter with you to accept the proffered benefit. Would the fallen angels, think you, refuse it, if a tender of it were made to them? O then, prostrate yourselves before your God, as deserving nothing but wrath; and let him glorify in you the unsearchable riches of his grace!]
2. The vast importance of faith—
[It is by faith alone that you can apprehend the Saviour, or be made partakers of his benefits. You must “be saved by grace, through faith.” Your whole life must be a life of faith, according to what St. Paul has said, “The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” But this faith you must receive from above. You can neither come to Christ, nor know Christ, except as you are taught and drawn by the Father [Note: Matthew 11:27. John 6:65.]. Pray to him, saying, “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief.” Pray also to him to “increase your faith” yet more and more: for it is only by being strong in faith that you will approve yourselves to God, or abound, as you ought, in all the fruits of righteousness to his praise and glory.]
3. What obligations lie upon you to serve and glorify your God—
[Be it so; you are not to be saved by good works: but is there no other motive that you can find for the performance of them? Do you feel no obligation to Him who sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that you might live through him? When you know that God has “ordained that you should walk in the daily exercise of good works,” have you no desire to please him? And when you know that this is the only path in which it is possible for you ever to arrive at your Father’s house, will you wilfully turn aside from it? If gratitude will not constrain you, will you be insensible to fear? But further, it is by your works that men will judge of your principles: and, though they represent the doctrines of grace as leading to licentiousness, they will expect to see you more holy than others; and if they are disappointed in this, they will cast the blame upon your principles, and upon the Gospel itself. Will you then put a stumbling-block in the way of others, and cause “the name of your God and Saviour to be blasphemed?” No; “you have not so learned Christ, if so be ye have heard him and been taught by him as the truth is in Jesus.” See then that ye abound in every good word and work; and “put to silence the ignorance of foolish men by well-doing.”]
THE STATES OF THE REGENERATE AND THE UNREGENERATE CONTRASTED
Ephesians 2:12-13. Ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
THERE is scarcely any thing which has a greater tendency to impress our minds with exalted views of the grace of God, than to compare the guilt and misery of an unconverted state, with the purity and happiness into which we are brought by the Gospel of Christ. As a shipwrecked person, viewing the tempest from a rock on which he has been cast, feels a solemn and grateful sense of the mercy vouchsafed unto him; so surely must every one, who “looks unto the rock whence he has been hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence he has been digged,” stand amazed at the Divine goodness, and be quickened to pour out his soul in grateful adorations. To produce this frame, is the scope of the whole preceding part of this epistle, wherein the Apostle extols and magnifies the grace of God, as manifested to his redeemed people. Having shewn what their state had been previous to conversion, and contrasted it with that to which they are introduced by the Gospel, he exhorts them to bear it in remembrance: “Wherefore remember;” remember what ye were, that ye may be thankful for what ye are [Note: ver. 11. with the text.].
We propose to shew,
I. The state of unregenerate men—
The state of the Jews and Gentiles represented in a very lively manner the conditions of persons under the Gospel: the external privileges of the Jews, typifying the internal and spiritual privileges of the regenerate; and the abhorred state of the Gentiles marking with equal clearness the ignorance and misery of the unregenerate. In this view, what the Apostle says of the Ephesians, previous to their conversion to Christianity, may be considered as applicable to all at this day, who are not truly and savingly converted:
1. They are “without Christ”—
[The Gentiles, of course, had no knowledge of, nor any interest in, the Lord Jesus Christ. And thus it is with the unregenerate amongst ourselves: they are without Christ [Note: χωρὶς χριστοῦ. Comp. John 15:5.]; they are separated from him as branches cut off from the vine: they do not depend upon him, or receive sap and nutriment from him. They indeed call themselves Christians; but they have no union with Christ, nor any communications from him.]
2. They are “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel”—
[Israel are called a commonwealth, because they were governed by laws different from all other people, and possessed privileges unknown to the rest of the world. Thus the true Israel at this day may be considered in the same light; because they, and they only, acknowledge Christ as their governor: they alone yield obedience to his laws, and they alone enjoy the privileges of his people. Now as the Gentiles were “aliens” from the commonwealth of the Jews, so are all unconverted men “aliens” from the commonwealth of the converted. They are governed by different laws; following the customs, fashions, and erroneous maxims of the world: they are separated from them in heart and affection; and though, from necessity, they must sometimes have intercourse with the godly, they never unite with them as one people, or desire to have one lot together with them.]
3. They are “strangers from the covenants of promise”—
[There is, strictly speaking, but one covenant of grace: but the Apostle speaks of it in the plural number; because it was given at different times, and always with increasing fulness and perspicuity. Whether given to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, or to Moses, it was always the same: only the promises annexed to it were more copious and explicit. It is called “the covenant of promise,” to distinguish it from the covenant of works, which consisted only in requirements; whereas this consists chiefly in promises: under the covenant of works, men were to do all; under the covenant of grace they were to receive all.
It is obvious that the Gentiles were “strangers” to this covenant: and though it is not alike obvious, it is equally true, that the unconverted are strangers to it also. We confess they are admitted into the external bond of it in their baptism: but they do not become partakers of the promised blessings till they sue for them in the excercise of faith and prayer. And we will venture to appeal to the generality of baptized persons, Whether they are not as much strangers to the covenant of promise, as if no such covenant existed? Do they rest upon the promises? Do they treasure them up in their minds? Do they plead them in prayer before God? Do they found all their hopes of happiness upon them? Alas! they have little acquaintance with the nature of the covenant, and no submission to its terms: and consequently they are utter strangers to the covenant, and to the promises contained in it.]
4. They are without hope—
[The Gentile world are always represented as in a hopeless state; and though we presume not to say, that God will not extend uncovenanted mercy to any, yet we have no warrant to affirm that he will. If indeed they perfectly fulfilled the law-written in their hearts, there is reason to think God would have mercy on them [Note: Romans 2:26-27.]: but who amongst them does perfectly fulfil that law? But, waving this, there is an absolute certainty that the state of unconverted men under the Gospel is hopeless: no mercy can possibly be extended to them, if they continue unconverted: they must inevitably and eternally perish. For, how should they have any hope, when they are “without Christ” (who is the Head of all vital influence), and “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel” (to which alone any saving blessings are communicated), and “strangers from the covenant of promise” (which is the only channel by which those blessings are conveyed to us)? From whence then can they derive any hope? or what foundation can they have for it?]
5. They are “without God in the world”—
[The gods of the heathen were no gods: therefore they to whom the God of Israel was unknown, were “without God in the world.” And thus it is with the unconverted amongst ourselves: for though they acknowledge the being of a God, they know not what a just and holy God he is; nor do they glorify him as God, by a conformity to his revealed will. They love not to hear of him: they endeavour to blot out the remembrance of him from their minds; their whole conduct accords with that of Pharaoh, when he said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go [Note: Exodus 5:2.].” In a word, the language of their hearts is like that of the fool whom David speaks of, “No God;” there is no God to controul or punish me; or, if there be, I wish there were none [Note: Psalms 14:1.].]
But that all do not continue in that deplorable condition, will appear by considering,
II. The state to which they are introduced by the Gospel—
Every living man once was in the state above described; but in conversion, men “who were sometimes afar off, are made nigh to God”—
[In what the nearness of converted men to God consists, will appear by the very same considerations as have already been used to illustrate their distance from him in their unconverted state. The Gentiles had no liberty of access to God among the Jews: they had an outer court assigned them; and it would have been at the peril of their lives, if they had presumed to enter the place appropriated to the Jews. But on conversion to Judaism, they were admitted to a participation of all the rights and privileges of the Jews themselves. Thus persons truly converted to God have liberty to approach, the Majesty of heaven; yea, since the vail of the temple was rent in twain, a new and living way is opened for them into the holiest of all: they may go even to the throne of God, and draw nigh to him as their reconciled God and Father. As soon as ever they are “in Christ Jesus,” united to him by faith, and interested in his merits, they have every privilege which the most eminent saints enjoy: their sins are pardoned; they have peace with God; and, though they may not be so full of joy as others, yet they have the same grounds of joy, inasmuch as “their Beloved is theirs, and they are his.”]
To this happy state they are brought “by the blood of Christ”—
[It was the blood of the sacrifice that availed for the restoration of sinners to the Divine favour under the law: and in the same manner it is the blood of Christ, and that only, that can avail for us. But as in the former case, so also in this, two things are necessary: the blood must be shed as an atonement for sin; and it must be sprinkled on the offender himself, to intimate his entire affiance in it. Now the shedding of Christ’s blood was effected on Calvary, many hundred years ago: and that one offering is sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world. Nothing more therefore is wanting to reconcile us to the Deity. But the sprinkling of his blood upon our hearts and consciences must be done by every one for himself: we must, as it were, dip the hyssop in the blood, and apply it to our own souls: or, in other words, we must exercise faith on the atonement of Christ as the only ground of our acceptance before God. In this way, and in this only, are we ever brought to a state of favour with God, and of fellowship with his people.]
This subject being mentioned as that which was deserving of continual remembrance, we would call upon you to “remember” it—
1. As a criterion whereby to judge of your state—
[It is evident, that, if once we were afar off from God, and now we are nigh to him, there must have been a transition from the one state to the other, or, as the Scripture expresses it, a “passing from death unto life.” Has this transition then ever taken place in your souls? It is not necessary that you should be able to trace the precise time when it began, and the various steps by which it was accomplished: but there is an impossibility for it to have taken place, without your having sought it humbly, and laboured for it diligently. Have you then this evidence at least that it has been accomplished? If not, you can have no reason to think that you have ever yet experienced the change, which characterizes all who are made heirs of salvation.]
2. As a ground of humiliation—
[If you were the most eminent saint that ever lived, it would be well to bear in mind what you once were, and what you would still have been, if Divine grace had not wrought a change within you. Look then at those who “are afar off;” and, when you see their alienation from God, their enmity against his people, their distance from even a hope of salvation, behold your own image, and be confounded on account of your past abominations: yea, “walk softly also before God all the days of your life,” in the recollection, that, as that once was your state, so it would be again, if the grace that originally interposed to change you, do not continually maintain that change in your souls.]
3. As a source of gratitude and joy—
[It is scarcely needful to say, that they who have experienced a restoration to God’s favour, should bless and magnify their Benefactor and Redeemer. But have not those also, who are at the greatest distance from God, reason to rejoice and sing? Yes surely; for they may look at those who are now in heaven, and say, “The blood which availed to bring them nigh to God will also avail for me.” O joyful thought! Ponder it in your hearts, ye careless sinners: consider what the Lord Jesus Christ is both able and willing to do for you. Every saint, whether on earth or in heaven, was once in your state; and if you will seek remission through the blood of Christ, you shall be partakers of their privileges, both in this world and in the world to come.]
ACCESS TO GOD BY THE PRIESTHOOD
Ephesians 2:18. Through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
AS there is no question more important, so there is none more beyond the reach of unassisted reason, than that which Balak put to Balaam, “Wherewith shall I come before the Most High God?” Many are the expedients which have been devised for obtaining acceptance with God: but there has been only one true way from the beginning, namely, through the sacrifice of Christ. This has been gradually revealed to man with increasing clearness; but was never fully manifested till the days of the Apostles. The sacrifices of the Mosaic law threw considerable light upon this interesting subject: yet, while they revealed, they tended also to obscure, it: for the Gentiles were forbidden to enter into the sanctuary; and had a court assigned them, called the court of the Gentiles [Note: Ezekiel 42:20.]. If they became proselytes to the Jewish religion, they were, together with the Jews, received into the sanctuary, or outer court of the temple. The priests and Levites were admitted into the inner court; and the high-priest into the holy of holies; but that only on one day in the year. Now the Apostle tells us, that by these distinctions “the Holy Ghost signified, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest.” But in due time Christ himself appeared; and by his death, both fulfilled and abrogated the ceremonial law: since which period the difference between Jew and Gentile has no longer subsisted; the partition wall was thrown down; and the vail of the temple was rent in twain, in token that all, whether Jews or Gentiles, were henceforth to have an equal access to God through Christ.
It is our present intention to shew,
I. The way of access to the Father—
The text contains a brief summary of all that God has revealed upon this subject: it informs us that the way to the Father is,
1. Through the Son—
[The high-priest under the law was the mediator through whom the people drew nigh to God: and by his typical mediation we see how we are to approach our God. He entered into the holy place with the blood of the sacrifices, and afterwards burnt incense before the mercy-seat; representing, by the former, the sacrifice of Christ; and, by the latter, his prevailing intercession. Without the blood of Christ offered in sacrifice for us, no man could ever have found acceptance with God. Nor would that have availed, if he had not also gone within the vail to be “our advocate with the Father, as well as the propitiation for our sins.” Even if we had been pardoned in consideration of his death, our reconciliation with God would not have continued long; we should soon have renewed our transgressions, and have provoked God utterly to destroy us. But, by this twofold mediation of Christ, Divine justice is satisfied for the offences we have already committed, and the peace that has been effected is maintained inviolate. Now our Lord himself declares that there is no other way to the Father but this [Note: John 14:6.]: and St. Paul assures us, that, in this way, we may all draw nigh to God with boldness and confidence [Note: Hebrews 10:19-22.].]
2. By the Spirit—
[We know not how to pray to God aright, unless the Holy Spirit help our infirmities and teach us [Note: Romans 8:26.]. We have no will to approach him, unless the Holy Spirit incline our hearts [Note: Song of Solomon 1:4.]. Even in the regenerate there still remains so strong a disinclination to prayer, that unless God draw them by the influences of his Spirit, they find an almost insuperable reluctance to that duty. Moreover, we have no power to exercise spiritual affections at a throne of grace, unless the Spirit, as “a Spirit of grace and of supplication,” give us a broken and a contrite heart [Note: Zechariah 12:10.]. Without his aid, we are only like a ship, whose sails are spread in vain, unless there be a wind to fill them. Even Paul, it should seem, had never prayed aright till his conversion; and then it was said, “Behold he prayeth.” Lastly, without the Spirit, we have no confidence to address the Majesty of heaven. We are deterred by a sense of guilt; and are ready to think that it would be presumption in us to ask any thing at his hands. The Holy Ghost must be in us as “a Spirit of adoption, before we can cry, Abba, Father [Note: Romans 8:15.]”. Yea, to such a degree are the mouths of God’s dearest children sometimes shut by a sense of guilt, that the Holy Spirit himself maketh intercession in them no other way than by sighs and groans [Note: Romans 8:26, latter part.]. Thus, as there is a necessity for the mediation of Christ to remove our guilt, so is there also of the Spirit’s influence on account of our weakness; since, without his assistance, we have no knowledge of our wants, no will to seek a supply of them, no power to spread them before God, nor any confidence to plead with importunity and faith.]
The path being thus clearly marked, let us consider,
II. The excellency of this way—
Waving many things whereby this topic might be illustrated, we shall content ourselves with observing, that this way of access to God,
1. Gives us a wonderful discovery of God himself—
[What an astonishing view does this give us of the Divine nature! Here we see manifestly the existence of three persons in the Godhead. Here we see the Father, to whom we are to draw nigh, together with the Son, through whom, and the Spirit, by whom, we are to approach him. These are evidently distinct, though subsisting in one undivided essence. Moveover the offices of the Three Persons in the Trinity are so appropriate, that we cannot speak of them otherwise than they are here declared: we cannot say, that through the Spirit, and by the Father, we have access to Christ; or that through the Father, and by Christ, we have access to the Spirit: this would be to confound what the Scripture keeps perfectly distinct. The Father is the Original Fountain of the Deity: Christ is the Mediator, through whom we approach him: and the Spirit is the Agent, by whom we are enabled to approach him. That each of these divine Persons is God, is as plainly revealed, as that there is a God: and yet we are sure that there is but one God. It is not for us to unravel this mystery; but with humility and gratitude to adore that God, who has so mysteriously revealed his nature to us.
While we are led thus to view God as he exists in himself, we cannot but contemplate also his goodness to us. What greater mark of it can he conceived, than that the sacred Three should so interest themselves in our salvation? That the Father should devise such a way for our acceptance with him; that the Son should open the way by his meritorious death, and his prevailing intercession; and that the Holy Spirit should condescend to guide us into it, and to keep us in it, even to the end! That these offices should be sustained and executed for the salvation of such insignificant and worthless, yea, such guilty and rebellious creatures, may well excite our wonder, and furnish us with matter of endless praise and thanksgiving.]
2. Is calculated to produce the most salutary effects on the minds of men—
[What consideration can be more awakening than that which necessarily arises from the subject before us? Was such a dispensation necessary in order to our restoration to the Divine favour? Must the Father send his only Son to die for us? Must the Son atone and intercede for us? Must the Holy Ghost descend and dwell in our hearts? Can none of us be saved in any other way than this? How deep then must have been our fall; how desperate our condition! And how inconceivably dreadful must our state be, if we neglect so great salvation!
On the other hand, what can be more encouraging than to see that such abundant provision has been made for us? What can a sinner desire more? What clearer evidence can he have of the Father’s willingness to receive him? What firmer ground of confidence can he desire, than the sacrifice and intercession of the Lord Jesus? What further aid can he want, who has the Holy Spirit to instruct, assist, and sanctify him? Surely none can despond, however great their guilt may be, or however inveterate their corruptions.]
1. Those who never seek access to God in prayer—
[Our Lord told the Jews that “if he had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin; but that now they had no cloak for their sin.” How truly may this be said to those, who refuse to come to God in the way pointed out for them! Surely they must be without excuse, and, if they continue in their sin, without hope also: for in no other way than this can we draw nigh to God; nor will God in any other way draw nigh to us.]
2. Those who fear that they shall not find acceptance with God—
[There can be no ground for such fears, provided we really desire to go to God in his appointed way. The more we consider the condescension and grace of God in providing such means for our recovery, the more must we be persuaded that God will cast out none that come unto him. Only let us “open our mouths wide, and he will fill them.” We may “ask what we will in the name of Jesus, and it shall be done unto us.”]
3. Those who enjoy sweet communion with God—
[This is the highest of all privileges, and the richest of all enjoyments. To have access to the Father with boldness and confidence is a foretaste even of heaven itself. Let us then abound more and more in the duty of prayer; for when we can say with the Apostle, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ,” we may also add with a full assurance, “And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”]
THE EXALTED PRIVILEGES OF TRUE CHRISTIANS
Ephesians 2:19-22. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
IT is well for Christians to contemplate their high privileges. But, in order to estimate them aright, it is necessary that they should bear in mind the state in which they were, previous to their embracing the Gospel. The difference between the Jews and Gentiles was great; yet scarcely greater than that between the nominal and the real Christian. The nominal Christian, though possessed of many external advantages, is, with respect to the spiritual enjoyment of them, on a level with the heathen; or rather, I should say, below the heathen, inasmuch as his abuse of those advantages has entailed upon him the deeper guilt. We may therefore apply to the unconverted Christians what St. Paul speaks of the Ephesians in their unconverted state; “They are without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world [Note: ver. 12.].” From this state however they are delivered, as soon as they truly believe in Christ. They are then, as my text expresses it, “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” The exalted state to which they are brought is represented by the Apostle under two distinct metaphors: they are made,
I. The people of God, amongst whom he dwells—
They are “fellow-citizens with the saints”—
[Bodies that are incorporated, whether in cities, boroughs, or societies of any kind, have their peculiar privileges, to which others who belong not to them are not entitled. Thus it is with the saints, who are formed into one body in Christ, and have the most distinguished privileges confirmed to them by a charter from the court of heaven. That charter is the Gospel, in which all their immunities and all their claims are fully described. What externally belonged to the Jewish nation at large, is internally and spiritually made over to them: “to them belong the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God and the promises [Note: Romans 9:4.]:” yes, all that God has revealed in his Gospel, all that he has promised to his believing people, all that he has engaged to them in his everlasting covenant, all that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob enjoyed on earth, and all that they now possess in heaven, all without exception is theirs; “All things are theirs when they are Christ’s.” They are “citizens of no mean city,” seeing that “they are come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God [Note: Hebrews 12:22.]:?” and whatever pertains to that is the lot of their inheritance.]
They are also “of the household of God”—
[As in the days of old there was an outer court for the Gentiles, and an inner court into which the native servants and children of Jehovah were privileged to enter, so now believers have access to God as his more immediate children and servants. They go in and out before him with a liberty unknown to the natural man; they hear his voice; they enjoy his protection; they subsist from day to day by the provision which he assigns them: the family to which they belong comprehends “an innumerable company of angels, and the general assembly and Church of the first-born which are written in heaven,” together with myriads who are yet on their way to Zion: but all regard him as their common Head, their Lord, their Master, their Father and their Friend.]
Exalted as this privilege is, it is far surpassed by that which is contained under that other metaphor,
II. The temple wherein he dwells—
The whole body of true believers is the temple of the living God—
[Their foundation properly is Christ. But, in the text, the Church is said to be “built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets,” because they with one voice testified of Christ; and on their testimony the Church is built. This is the import of what our Saviour said to Peter; “Thou art Peter, and on this rock will I build ray Church:” he did not mean, that he would build it on the person of Peter, but on the testimony of Peter just before delivered, namely, that “Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God [Note: Matthew 16:16-18.].” Of the Church Christ is also “the chief corner-stone,” which, whilst it supports the building, connects the parts of it together, and gives it stability through the whole remaining superstructure.
The building raised on this foundation consists of “living stones [Note: 1 Peter 2:4-5.],” all selected by sovereign grace, and with unerring wisdom “fitly framed together,” so as mutually to confirm and strengthen one another, and collectively to constitute an edifice for the Lord. Various degrees of labour are bestowed on these, according to the situation they are to occupy. Some, which are designed for a more conspicuous place in that building, have many strokes: others, which have a less honourable place assigned them, are sooner and more easily brought to the measure of perfection which is necessary for them.
But, in all, this work is carried on silently, and in a way unnoticed by the world around them. As in the temple of Solomon, “every stone was made ready before it was brought thither, so that there was neither hammer, nor axe, nor any tool of iron, heard in the house while it was in building [Note: 1 Kings 6:7.];” so it is in this spiritual building: every stone is fitted in secret: the work is carried on in each, without attracting the notice and observation of men: but all will at last be found so precisely fitted for their respective stations, as to demonstrate the infinite skill and unerring wisdom of the Divine Architect.]
The end for which this structure is raised, is, the inhabitation of the Deity—
[For this end fresh converts are “added to the Church daily, even such as shall be saved.” For this end the work is carried on and perfected in the heart of every individual believer. For this end all the means of grace, like the scaffolding, are continued, till the whole shall have received its final completion. For this end the Holy Spirit is imparted to all, so that all are compacted together, standing firm on the one foundation, and united to each other by indissoluble bonds. And at last the Deity shall take possession of it, as he did in the days of Solomon, when by the bright cloud he filled the house, so that the priest could no longer stand to minister before him [Note: 1 Kings 8:10-11.].
In all this honour every saint partakes. Every one, even in his individual capacity, is a temple of the Lord [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:19.], and has the Spirit of God dwelling in him [Note: John 14:17; John 14:23.]. “In his heart Christ dwells by faith [Note: Ephesians 3:17.]:” and, through the effectual operation of the Holy Spirit, “he grows continually, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Yes, this honour has the Church at large; and this honour have all the saints of every successive age.]
1. How thankful should we be for such inestimable privileges!
[Believers, whoever ye are, ye were once lying in the quarry, as insensible as any that are still there. It was not by any agency of yours, no, nor for any superior goodness in you, that ye were taken thence; but purely by God’s power, for the praise of the glory of his own grace. He it is that has made the difference between you and others, between you also and your former selves. O! “look unto the rock, whence ye have been hewn, and to the hole of the pit, whence ye have been digged.” Never forget what ye once were, or what ye would still have continued to be, if God, of his own good pleasure, had not brought you thence, and made you what ye now are.
Be thankful also for the means which God, of his own infinite mercy, is yet using with you, to carry on and perfect his work in your souls. If ye have many strokes of the hammer, complain not of it: you have not one too many, not one that could be spared, if you are to occupy aright the place ordained for you. Lie meekly and submissively before your God; and let him perfect his work in his own way.
And contemplate the end for which you are destined, even “to be an habitation of God, through the Spirit,” to all eternity! Shall not this prospect make you “joyful in all your tribulation?” Shall so much as an hour pass, and you not give praise and thanksgiving to your God? Look forward to the end, even to “this grace that shall be given you at the appearing of Jesus Christ;” and beg of your God and Saviour not to intermit his work one single moment, till you are rendered completely meet for the station you are to hold, and the honour you are to enjoy in the eternal world.]
2. How studious should we be to walk worthy of them!
[This improvement of our privileges we should never overlook: it is the use which the inspired writers continually teach us to make of them. Are we the temples of the Holy Ghost? we must be far removed from all connexion with ungodly men [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:16-17.] — — — and from all hateful and polluting passions [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.] — — — And in us must be offered up continually the sacrifices of prayer and praise [Note: 1 Peter 2:4-5.]; from which “God will smell a sweet odour,” and by which he will eternally be glorified. Surely “holiness becomes God’s house for ever;” and “this is the law of the house,” that every part of it, and its very precincts, even to “its utmost limits, should be holy [Note: Ezekiel 43:12.].” Labour then for this. Consider “what manner of persons ye ought to be in all holy conversation and godliness:” and, as every vessel of the sanctuary was holy, so let your every action, your every word, your every thought, be such as becometh your high calling and your heavenly destination.]
EPHESIANS, III. 8.
See Sermons on 1 Timothy 1:11. where it forms the second Sermon of a series.
Monday, March 27th, 2017
the Fourth Week of Lent
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